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Plane in Flames; Police in Schools; Debate Winners and Losers; Jeb Bush Campaign 'Not on Life Support' After Debate; Trump: I Think Obama 'Hates Israel'; Sheriff Speaks Out About Student's Violent Arrest; Ryan Elected House Speaker, Boehner Says Good-Bye. Aired 18- 19:00p ET

Aired October 29, 2015 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I will ask the former NTSB chief, Deborah Hersman, what went wrong.

Winging it. A blunt new assessment about Russia's growing aggression, the national intelligence director talking exclusively to CNN about Vladimir Putin's volatile moves and broader strategy.

Trump claims victory. He's touting his debate performance, despite mixed review, while rival Jeb Bush is forced to deny that his campaign is on death's door. Did the Republican presidential race change overnight?

And schoolroom brawls. Two stunning new videos raise serious questions about the role police officers play in cracking down on unruly students. Should they be in the schools at all?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news.

Federal investigators are heading to Florida right now to determine why the engine of a commercial airliner erupted in flames as the plane was heading to the runway. The fire and the billowing smoke causing fear and gridlock at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Passengers and crew members escaped down the emergency slide. Tonight, at least 15 people are injured including a child.

Also breaking, America's top spy says Russian President Vladimir Putin is winging it, his words, winging it as he steps up his aggressive moves around the globe. The director of national intelligence talking exclusively to CNN just hours after the U.S. Navy launched four fighter jets to intercept Russian jets flying near a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

We have our correspondents, analysts and newsmakers standing by to cover all the news that is breaking right now.

First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, we're told one person was seriously burned in that plane fire. What else are you learning?


In fact, we're learning 15 passengers were brought to the hospital following that incident, one with serious burns, two with less and then the others had walking injuries, officials say. And new audio shows how the pilots in the burning plane reacted when they learned what was happening.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Engine on fire. Engine on fire.

BROWN (voice-over): Smoke pours from a Boeing 767, as frightened passengers scramble to the emergency evacuation slide. The Dynamic Airways flight was about to take off from Fort Lauderdale Airport to Caracas, Venezuela, at 12:45 this afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emergency. Call the fire truck.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ground to 119. we're going to do a 180 here and and (INAUDIBLE) taxi instructions.

GREG MEYER, BROWARD COUNTY AVIATION DEPARTMENT: His left engine was on fire. The plane was loaded with passengers. They were taxiing. The plane is behind me now. They were taxiing to the north runway to depart for Caracas.

BROWN: Moments before the fire, a pilot on another plane on the same runway noticed fuel was pouring from the engine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Dynamic, the left engine looks like it's leaking a lot of -- I don't know if it's fuel. It's fluid leaking out of the left engine.

BROWN: After the frightened passengers scurried down the plane's chute, some were taken away in stretchers and wheelchairs, while others were able to walk away from the jet.

The Fort Lauderdale airport was quickly shut down. Stunned passengers on other planes filmed the scene unfolding. Emergency crews sprayed the left wing with foam to extinguish the fire before investigators could move in to find out what happened and why.

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: You know, a fuel leak is not something that you can readily determine from the cockpit. It's just not possible to see that until you have a fuel loss situation.

BROWN: Dynamic Airways started just five years ago in Greensboro, North Carolina, and only goes to two international destinations from the U.S., Venezuela and Guyana. Its fleet consists only of Boeing 767s.

The plane that caught fire was 29 years old. It was a similar scene in Las Vegas last month when a British Airways plane's left engine caught fire on the runway; 13 of the 159 passengers were taken to the hospital, mainly from going down the plane slides.


BROWN: In total, 101 passengers were on board this flight. The NTSB is sending a four-person crew to investigate what happened and Boeing has offered to help with the investigation, a lot to learn, Wolf.

BLITZER: There certainly is, Pamela. Thanks very much.

The Fort Lauderdale Airport was closed for most of the day, causing dozens of delays and cancellations.

CNN's Alina Machado is on the scene for us now at the airport.

Has one of the runways opened up yet, Alina?



BLITZER: Hold on one second.

Alina, Alina, Alina, hold on for a moment.


BLITZER: We weren't hearing you from the beginning, so start again. I asked you if one of the runways has reopened.

MACHADO: Yes, one of the runways has reopened. The south runway reopened just before 3:30 this afternoon. The north runway here at Fort Lauderdale International Airport remains shut down and the plane, this Dynamic Airlines plane that was involved in the incident, look behind me, it is still sitting there in the same place where this all unfolded. We have seen planes taxiing around that plane as activity here has started to pick up at the airport.

It's unclear how long this plane will be sitting there, but hours after the fire, authorities here at the airport were still on standby because the plane was still hot from the fire and they were concerned that it might start up again.

Now, as Pamela mentioned, 15 people were taken to the hospital. The passengers who were not hurt were transferred to a different terminal here at the airport, where many of them were reunited with her families and they were very, very happy and thankful to be alive, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Alina, thanks for much. We will stay in touch and get the latest from the airport. Alina Machado is at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport.

Let's bring in the former head of the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board. Deborah Hersman is joining us. She's now president of the National Safety Council, joining us on the phone.

Deborah, thanks very much for joining us.

The NTSB sending a team to investigate. Tell us what they will be looking for in the short-term.

DEBORAH HERSMAN, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Well, one of the first things they will take a look at is if they see anything that needs to be looked at fleetwide.

They have Boeing, Pratt & Whitney and the FAA coming with them. It's been the case in the past if they find something that needs to be addressed, that they can get that information out quickly and get those inspections done across the fleet. They will be looking closely at any maintenance or any work that might have been done recently on that aircraft.

BLITZER: At least 17 passengers, we're now told, have been hospitalized with injuries, some more serious than others. Do we know anything about the extent of the injuries or specifically how they were sustained in going down the chute, smoke inhalation? What was going on?

HERSMAN: There is challenge when you are doing an evacuation.

Airlines have aircraft that has been tested. They have to demonstrate that they can evacuate an airplane in 90 seconds with 50 percent of the exits blocked and so it's really critical to get those passengers off the plane. But, you know, in that rush to get off the plane, a lot of things can happen, sprains.

People can get hurt coming down the slides, getting off the slides, falling on each other. And so they will be looking at that. With some of the things the NTSB does is they look how the evacuation worked and what injuries were sustained, where those passengers were when the injuries occurred and certainly those pictures show a lot of smoke out there, so we will have to wait and see what they find.

BLITZER: What can you tell us, Deborah, about the safety record of this airline? A lot of people are not familiar with the Dynamic International Airlines.

HERSMAN: You know, Wolf, I'm not familiar with this airline's safety record, but I know that that is something the FAA will be taking a look at.

Certainly, they are responsible for regulatory oversight of this aircraft and this airline is a new airline, so you can bet that they will probably be under very close scrutiny now after this event.

BLITZER: On the slides that were opened, we noticed that passengers were allowed to get off the plane on the left side where the fuel spill was happening. It sounds counterintuitive. Would that be a mistake?

HERSMAN: You know, generally, you're having folks assess, in particular the crew that is trained, the flight attendants manning the doors.

In general, you are not going to open a door into the fire or into that fuel, but I will say that some of the challenges for folks that can't see things, and as this fire developed, smoke developed, circumstances may have changed. You want to get the passengers off on the side that's the safest, but perhaps they couldn't see what they couldn't see at the time before it developed.

But the good news is, the evacuation worked. You had good crew resource management with other pilots conveying information about the leaking fluids coming out of the engine and so all of this is really important. This is a success. No one was killed.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. It could have been a whole lot worse.

Deborah Hersman, the president of the National Safety Council, former NTSB chair, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien, and the former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz.

These 767s, do they have a good safety record, a bad safety record? What do we know about the Boeing 767?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: They are perfectly fine aircraft. They are a workhorse on the European runs.


They are a workhorse on the South American runs. They were the first -- they were a wide-body range anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 miles. Just under 300 passengers you can get into them. They are a nice plane and they have got a long successful life.

BLITZER: From my days covering the Pentagon, I remember when the U.S. Navy had an aircraft that had a problem or the Air Force had an aircraft that had a problem, they would ground those planes for a day or two, all of those same models just to make sure there was nothing bigger. They don't do this with commercial airliners, do they?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, let's remember that Boeing makes the airframe, but Pratt & Whitney makes this engine. So, let's focus on that first and foremost.

The problem happened in and around the engine, clearly, whether it was a fragmentation of the compressor or some component of the jet engine. We don't know if that's where it began or if it began with a fuel spill. Either way, we're talking about something around the engine and it does not necessarily reflect on the Boeing 767, which is in fact a safe workhorse. BLITZER: The reputation is a very good reputation, but it was 29

years old, this particular 767, this Boeing 767. That sounds like it's an old plane.

GOELZ: But if regular maintenance was done, they tear these planes down on what they call their major checks, the C check and D check.

This plane, there is probably very few parts of the plane that are 29 years old, except perhaps the actual frame. They redo it from the ground up. The plane could be a virtually new plane.

BLITZER: But we're relying on Dynamic, this airline that's relatively knew and only flies, what, to Guyana or Venezuela, to have a good safety record and have good maintenance requirements.

O'BRIEN: You rely on them, but it's trust but verifiable, Wolf.

The FAA and the NTSB in this case will be looking very carefully at the maintenance records and there will be a level of scrutiny brought upon this airline, particularly since it's relatively speaking an unknown quantity in the aviation industry to see exactly how they are running the business.

Is there a heavy reliance on outsourcing? Are they minding the store as they should be? Those will be key questions.

BLITZER: Peter, the goal now of the NTSB investigation, to learn what happened and to make sure it doesn't happen again, but that will take, what, six months, a year? How long does that take?

GOELZ: This investigation will probably take a year, but there will be preliminary reports that come out during the next weeks and months that will give us a real picture of what happened.

BLITZER: You think we will know?

O'BRIEN: We will. We will get an early indication where the failure began at least and then there will be layer upon layer after that, the culture of the airline, the safety culture, the maintenance outsourcing practices if at all. Those kinds of things take time and those are also very important, just as important as knowing why that particular piece of metal might have failed.

BLITZER: Miles O'Brien, Peter Goelz, guys, thanks very much. Whenever there is an aviation issue, we call in the two of you. Appreciate it.

Just ahead, does Vladimir Putin have a plan? One of America's top national security officials now speaking exclusively to CNN about the Russian president's aggressive moves around the world.

And we will also have the latest on the violent arrest of a high school student caught on video. The officer has been fired. Why are the two teenage girls still facing criminal charges?



BLITZER: Breaking news, the country's top intelligence official now says the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is "winging it" in Syria.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, spoke exclusively with the director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

Jim is joining us now.

What else did he tell you, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'll tell you, very interesting interview.

We spoke a lot about Russia and particularly about Russia's new military activity in Syria. He said one of the most difficult things for the intelligence community to do is to judge the plans and intentions of a foreign leader, in fact look inside their mind.

He said that's particularly difficult with Vladimir Putin, because he's in the words of the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, inside a decision bubble, a very small circle, not very many people challenging him. He was somewhat dismissive. He said he's opportunistic, he's impulsive.

And when I asked if he has a plan, Vladimir Putin has a plan in Syria, he said in his words he is winging it. Here is how he described that.


JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: We're expected to know that a decision has been made by a foreign head of state before he makes it. Putin is case in point.

I think he's very impulsive, very opportunistic. I think it's a debate, but I personally question whether he has some long-term strategy or whether he is, you know, being very opportunistic on a day-to-day basis. And I think his intervention into Syria is another manifestation of that.


SCIUTTO: The director of intelligence, Clapper, has a similar view of Vladimir Putin's plans in Ukraine, that he has got a short- term plan, he's being more reactive there than having any sort of long-term thinking.

But I also asked him this, Wolf. I said, was he, was the U.S. intelligence community surprised by Russian military action in Syria? He said no. He said they had warned the president and that they had seen these signs for sometime. He says they saw it coming.


BLITZER: The whole notion of the U.S. intelligence community, based on my reporting of it over the years and I'm sure yours as well, Jim, there are different views.

There is not always one particular view that's a consensus. There are minority opinions and majority opinions. The director of national intelligence, Clapper in this particular case, he has to come up with the best assessment.

How much of a debate is there within the intelligence community about what Putin is up to?

SCIUTTO: Enormous debate.

There is this misconception -- you know this, Wolf, better than I -- that intelligence is somehow perfect, that it can be clairvoyant. And I even talked about that with DNI Clapper.

It can't be. You have enormous resources. No one has more than the U.S. today, from satellites to intercepted communications, to human intelligence on the ground, to drones, et cetera, but that gives you only a partial picture. And every day, they have to make judgments like this, and as you say within that intelligence community, one person is going to have one view, one is going to have the other.

And that comes across in those assessments and it's particularly difficult, he says, with Vladimir Putin, exactly because of what I was talking about earlier, very tight group that really often the only person who knows what he's going to do is Vladimir Putin himself. That makes it extremely difficult for them to predict his next move.

BLITZER: Really fascinating material. And I know you will be releasing more of this exclusive interview with Clapper himself. Appreciate it very much.

And we will continue to follow this story, Jim Sciutto doing excellent work for us, as he always does.

Meanwhile, there is new international -- the new international talks on the war in Syria have -- will begin just hours from now with Iran participating for the first time, as Secretary of State John Kerry says the meeting offers the best hope to chart a course in his words out of hell.

Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is getting new details on what we can expect from this important meeting in Vienna, Austria.

What are you learning?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials say that Secretary Kerry wants to put together some framework, a road map for what a political transition for an Assad free government would look like and what would it look like? We're talking about maybe some kind of talks on a political

council, a transitional body that would eventually take over some of Assad's powers. And, listen, the time frame is very uncertain, but if this transitional body can take over some of those duties for Assad, then there would be elections, but there's certainly no agreement.

Kerry just wants agreement on even the broad strokes. And I think even at this initial session Friday, officials say it's very slim. They say this is going to be the beginning of a long and painful process.

BLITZER: Because the U.S. officials I have been speaking to over the past few days say they see no evidence that either Iran or Russia will back away from their support for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus.

LABOTT: And that's the real sticking point is Assad's future. You have about 19 countries going to be at this conference. OK?

One on end, you have Saudi Arabia, who says at the end of this political process, we want to guarantee Assad will be out. Russia is saying, let's get that process started, and we will worry about the time frame later.

The Iranians refuse to even believe that he should leave. So everyone agrees there needs to be some political way out of this. But when you get into the time frame, it's very uncertain. And the Syrians themselves, the power brokers of the Middle East getting together to talk about the future of Syria, the opposition is not even invited to this meeting.

The U.S. says they are not ready, they need to be more organized and that is going to be part of this plan. But the Syrians themselves say there is a real disconnect between this meeting and what is going on on the ground.

BLITZER: Yes, the Saudis, the Bahrainis, a lot of these Sunni Arab states, they are not happy that Iran is invited. They are going to the meeting in Vienna, but very reluctantly. They're very skeptical.

Thanks very much, Elise, for that.

Let's go to the region right now.

Our senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us from Northern Iraq. She's in Irbil. She's been reporting from there, from Syria, talking to rebel forces.

What do they think about these international peace talks that are about to begin in Vienna, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think Elise really said it there when she talked about the disconnect, the disconnect that these rebel forces see between the people who are going into Vienna to attend these talks and then the people who are fighting and dying on the ground in Syria.

They feel very strongly their needs and their concerns are not being represented, and I actually reached out to a few different leaders of various rebel groups on the ground to get a sense of what their perspective is and I wanted to just share some of their comments.

One of the leaders of the one of the major Islamist groups on the ground, Ahrar ash-Sham, said a meeting to discuss the future of a country without the people of that country is very indicative, clearly being somewhat caustic with that comment.

I also spoke to someone from al Qaeda's affiliate on the ground in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra. He called the talks pointless and said, "They can talk all they want, but it won't change anything that we're doing here."


And, of course, the main issue of contention when you're talking about all these various different rebel groups running the gamut from the moderates to the extremists, they all feel very strongly that Bashar al-Assad must go. And for them, this is a non-negotiable issue.

And so any type of diplomatic gathering or talks where his departure is not on the table simply in their eyes ceases to be legitimate.

BLITZER: Are they suggesting what the secretary of state of the United States is about to do, Clarissa, is a blunder, bring in these other powers like Russia and Iran that support Bashar al-Assad into these talks? Are they angry at the U.S.?

WARD: I think they feel -- from conversations I have had with them, they feel very let down by the U.S., but there's a sense as well, at this stage, that they are almost used to it. Their expectations are so low, rather than shifting the focus to Russia and Iran, they would like to have a seat at the table.

And of course you can't put all the blame here on the international community. The reality is that the Syrian opposition is very fragmented and very disorganized, and in some ways they have been their own worst enemy in that sense.

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward in Northern Iraq, for us.

Clarissa, as I say to you every day, be careful over there. We will stay in close touch.

Just ahead, Jeb Bush still promising to make a major comeback, but did his latest debate performance doom his campaign? We're getting new reaction.

And a brawl breaks out in a school lunchroom. The principal is thrown to the ground. What was a police officer doing during the melee?


BLITZER: Tonight, Jeb Bush is denying that his campaign is on life support, but some of his supporters very worried that his presidential hopes died before their eyes overnight during the latest Republican presidential debate.

[18:31:33] Many viewers gave Bush's performance a big thumbs down. Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us from New Hampshire right now. That's where Bush had an event today. He's still promising he can bounce back.

What's the latest, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He was certainly clearly frustrated, I thought you could see that today here in Portsmouth, Wolf. He said he wished that more substantive questions had been asked at the debate.

But he also was humbled, telling this crowd here essentially that he understood that he hadn't performed very well.

But even as some Republicans who have long wanted Bush to be the Republican nominee are now doubting him, he says that he has the money, the organization, and perhaps most importantly, the heart to see this campaign through.


KEILAR (voice-over): Jeb Bush is back on the trail today, trying to connect with New Hampshire voters.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's about fixing problems. It's about solving problems. It's about bringing people together, rather than tearing them apart. It's not about the big personalities on the stage. It's not about performance. It's about leadership. And the leader today in this country needs to be a unifier.

KEILAR: This after critics, including many Republicans, are panning his third debate performance.

BUSH: I'm running with heart. I'm not a performer. If they're looking for entertainer in chief, I'm probably not the guy.

KEILAR: Bush struggled to make a mark and gave Marco Rubio a huge opening.

BUSH: Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term and you should be showing up to work. I mean, literally the Senate, what is it, like a French workweek? You get, like, three days where you have to show up? You can campaign or just resign and let someone else take the job.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't remember you ever complaining about John McCain's vote record. The only reason why you're doing it now is because we're running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.

KEILAR: Ann exchange that must have stung even more coming from a man Bush mentored and helped get elected to the Senate.

BUSH: The most principled, centered leader I know, Marco Rubio.

KEILAR: But five years and a presidential campaign later...

BUSH: His attendance of attendance was low prior to his announcement of his campaign, and I just think that's wrong.

KEILAR: Bush, the once presumed frontrunner, who's raised $25 million for his campaign and is backed by a super PAC that's hauled in more than $100 million, has had to cut payroll costs by 40 percent and has dropped shortly in the polls.

BUSH: It's not on life support. We have the most money. We have the greatest organization. We're doing fine.

KEILAR: Now some political observers are concluding that Bush's presidential prospects are doomed, even as he tries to project confidence he can make a comeback.

BUSH: There are two types of politicians. There are the talkers, and there are the doers. I wish I could talk as well as some of the people on the stage, the big personalities on the stage, but I'm a doer.


KEILAR: The Jeb Bush campaign is really banking on his organization in the early states. Bush is going to begin another event here very shortly in New London, New Hampshire, not too far from where we are now, a couple hours away, Wolf.

but he's also got a book coming out Monday. It's called "Reply All." It's about his sort of prolific e-mailing while he was the governor of Florida, trying to show that he would really talk to anybody. And that's something that I think his campaign is hoping will help him connect with voters in a way that perhaps his debate performance did not.

BLITZER: We'll see if he can recover from that, and I'm sure he's going to work hard to try. Thanks very much, Brianna, for that report.

As you might expect, Donald Trump is declaring himself a big winner after last night's debate. He's also making some tough new accusations against President Obama. Our political reporter Sara Murray is joining us live from Nevada where Trump has been campaigning today.

So what is he saying, Sara? [18:30:15] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.

No surprise, Donald Trump does think he won the debate, even though many others believe it was actually a standout night for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

And here in Sparks, Nevada, today, Trump was actually very complimentary toward the other gentlemen and women who were on stage with him. He talked about solid debate performances from Rubio, complimented Mike Huckabee.

But he had much harsher words for President Obama. Take a listen to what he said about Obama's handling of Israel.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So many friends in Israel, they don't know what happened. They have a president who -- they actually think Obama hates Israel. I think he does. This pact is so bad for Israel, so dangerous. We will save -- I think Israel -- honestly, I think Israel is in a massive amount of trouble because of the agreement.


MURRAY: And you can see there the crowd is pretty responsive to what Trump had to say. It looks like he decided to train his fire on the Democrats today, rather than on his fellow Republicans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sara. Thank you.

Let's talk a little bit more about the Republican race with our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar; our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny; and our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, the editorial director for "The National Journal."

Iran, you heard Trump said he believes Obama hates Israel. He was very passionate on that. Is that -- does that resonate with that Republican base out there?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's interesting. The evangelical foundation of the Republican coalition has become one of the most pro-Israeli constituencies in American politics, but pro-Israeli in a very specific way around kind of the Likud vision of what an Israeli foreign policy and defense policy should look like.

Look, there's a lot of division in the American Jewish community about Israel, and President Obama, I think, has been -- has conflicted with Prime Minister Netanyahu quite a bit, as did President Bill Clinton. I mean, there is a -- there is a gap in world view between kind of a Likud Israeli, who was closer to the neocon perspective in the U.S. and a Democratic president.

So it resonates with portions of the Republican base, but in kind of the broader Jewish electorate, there is probably much more of a divide than there has been in the past on how the U.S. should orient itself toward a very ideological Israeli government.

BLITZER: But Jeff, it doesn't seem to suggest that Trump is toning it down at all when he declares like that Obama hates Israel.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No, he's not toning it down. Look, I mean, I think Donald Trump has known what he's doing all along here, from his comments on immigration and other things. This inflames the base. It gives him some headlines that takes away from other questions that we might want to be asking about his policies, his specific things on this.

No, I don't think he'll be toning it down at all, but again, I do think we're seeing that all the Republicans are starting to turn their fire toward the Democrats. This is not an example of him taking on Jeb Bush or John Kasich. They're going after Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to try and rally this Republican base.

BLITZER: Brianna, you've been with Jeb Bush out on the campaign trail today, all day. He says his campaign isn't on life support. What do the folks around him, including some of his close supporters, say?

KEILAR: It's interesting, Wolf, because the campaign is really emphasizing that they have the organization, that he has the heart. And also, yes, that he does have the money.

But when you talk to Republicans who are backing a Jeb Bush run, they say it really comes down, at this point, to the money, that there is just a lot of it for him, both in his campaign and the super PAC that's backing him. The super PAC that's backing him has raised $100 million. So there are certainly ads that are already bought by that super PAC. They are ready to go, it seems, for a real winter push, I think into January.

And talking to Republicans who support Jeb Bush, they say yes, this ideal no, that he's not popping here in October and November. But there are more debates ahead. And it's most important that he pops in January ahead of the Iowa caucuses and ahead of the New Hampshire primary, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brianna Keilar, thanks very much. Ron Brownstein and Jeff Zeleny. We'll continue to watch this race for the White House.

Just ahead, the sheriff who fired a deputy over this violent arrest of a student talks to CNN about the fallout. Are other deputies assigned to the school making any changes?

Plus there's another new video of another disturbing incident, a principal thrown to the ground during a fight. It's raising new questions about school resource officers or deputy sheriffs.


[18:44:25] BLITZER: We're following the criminal and civil rights investigation into the violent and controversial classroom arrest of an African-American teenager by a white sheriff's deputy who was fired over the incident. CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us from Columbia, South Carolina.

Miguel, you just spoke to the sheriff about this case. What did he say?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he said, look, it has caused a real difficult time in the community here. The Richland County Sheriff's Office is actually here at a preplanned community event. I was able to speak to him here.

He said parents, he has heard from all sides on this. And I've spoken to parents here in the crowd tonight, mostly African-American parents, say it is unfortunate it had to come to the firing of Ben Fields for that video. Mostly white parents here are saying the sheriff should have done a lot more to protect his deputies.

[18:45:05] The SROs themselves, the school resource officers, the sheriff says they may not like the decision but they understand it and they will continue working, continue doing their jobs.


SHERIFF LEON LOTT, RICHLAND COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: None whatsoever. We're going to do our job. We've already expressed that. I want them to do their job. No changes whatsoever and learn from this mistake of their fellow SRO. Use this as a learning opportunity, and we're going to go forward and keep doing our job. You're not going to see them slow down. You're not seeing them slow down tonight.


MARQUEZ: Now, I want to point out the reason is in that blue apron is because he was serving ice cream at this event, and he had refused to take it off for us. He wanted to prove he is serving the community here.

He did want to make a serious point about that, as well, because they do these sorts of events and worked with the community so far along over the years and decades that he's been sheriff for 20 years now, he said they were able to sort of absorb this terrible video that they saw, they were able to absorb this and not have this sort of protest and anger that we have seen in other places in the country. So, his advice to other departments out there is: be as engaged in the community as possible -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Which is very, have had good advice. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

Let's dig deeper with our CNN anchor Don Lemon, also joining us, the former federal prosecutor, our legal analyst Sunny Hostin, and our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and the former assistant FBI director, our CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes is with us as well. The sheriff says his officers, Tom, are not afraid to go out and

do their jobs. They are doing their jobs even though some of them might be concerned that they go ahead and to get videotaped doing something controversial, which could be the end of their career.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think the problem in this case, wolf, it seems to demonstrate a lack of training or understanding how to deal with a situation. If you have an unruly person in a crowd, or in a mob situation, it doesn't matter in the classroom, on the street, at a sporting event, you know, you're taught to try to separate the person causing the trouble from the crowd because they will be showing off for the crowd.

So, in this case, I think he should have asked that administrator and teacher, asked the other students to step out in the hallway and have a talk with this student and find out what's going on, and see if it could be deescalated peacefully and have the girl come out of the class peacefully without having to be wrestled out of the chair and wrestled across the room.

BLITZER: She's a 16-year-old teenager.

FUENTES: Well, I know, it just seems to be mishandled from the first part of it.

BLITZER: It certainly was.

Jeffrey, the NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, he told me yesterday here THE SITUATION ROOM that the charges against both of these teenage girls who were arrested in that classroom, he believes they should be dropped. What do you think?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, just as a general matter, arresting teenagers is generally a terrible thing to do when you put teenagers in the criminal justice system, you in effect sentence them to a life of a more difficult, more difficulty getting a job. So, that's just the general point.

As for the specific case, you know, I don't want to sit here in New York City and say what an incident that I didn't see that took place in South Carolina, I don't know whether that -- an arrest is justified under those circumstances, but I do think people should be aware in general that arresting teenagers unless it's a really, really serious offense is something that really society should try to avoid.

BLITZER: That's good advice, indeed.

Don, I want to show you and our viewers some other video. This is a Sacramento principal tossed aside by a student during a fight this week as a school resource officer, that police officer simply stood by. Do schools need to rethink how they are using these officers?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: They do and even if you speak to the sheriff down in Richland County in South Carolina, he'll tell you he doesn't believe that the, that his resource officers or his police officers or deputies should be in the classroom as far as disciplining students. They are there to protect students, but when you have this sort of fight in the middle of school, what do you do?

Because the administrators and the teachers are certainly not going to jump in. The principal is not going to jump in to separate. They probably have to end up calling a police officer. I don't know the solution, but no one should be tossing anyone around but certainly schools have changed. When I was a kid, I never saw anything like this in any school that I've ever been in and I went to both public and private schools.

So, I don't know what -- I think better training is probably the best way to go but when you have someone in school with a uniform, you know, it does sometimes look like the kids are occupied in someway. I don't know what the solution is, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunny, what's your take?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, I think when you look at the violence that we're looking at in this particular video, that is I think the time that a school resource officer would be involved.

[18:50:01] I don't think a school resource officer should arrest, you know, the South Carolina, the young girl that we saw and we've that we saw and we've been talking about for a couple of days. And I'm going to go further than Jeff, and I do think the charges should be dismissed. I mean, if that was a very different situation but I think if you're going to have these sort of school safety officers or resource officers there to not enforce necessarily school rules but deal with assaults and crimes like this, this is the prime place for them to be involved.

BLITZER: Because theoretically, they were there at some of the schools, as you know, Don, and everyone else because of gang warfare going on in some of the schools. That was presumably why they were initially brought in.

I want to show you, Don, some another video. This is an Oklahoma City police officer, watch this, working as a school resource officer at a local high school. He's accused of hitting this 16-year-old student twice in the face. The officer has been charged with one count of assault and battery. This is the second assault on a student we've seen on tape in one week. Are these school resource officers, Don, supposed to keep these students safe? What is going on here?

LEMON: They are supposed to keep the students safe. They are not there and shouldn't be there as far as disciplining students. That's left up to the parents. That should be up to the school to decide what the discipline should be and certainly not a physical discipline, at least in schools now.

When I was in school, you could -- teachers could physically discipline us. The nuns could spank us all the time, put us on the corner and make us get on our knees and do whatever. You can't do that anymore. Those days are gone. But I do think that, looking at this situation, he said -- now,

this is according to him -- that the student took an aggressive stance. This is -- I think he's a 25-year veteran of the police department? Yes, he's 25-year veteran of the police department there. That still does not warrant what happened.


BLITZER: Hold on very quickly. Very quickly.

TOOBIN: You know, I think we need to not put too much faith in these videos. There are no punches on that video. That's a staggered series of still photographs. You know, it may be that he hit him but the video, whatever it is, the collection of still photographs doesn't show that. And so, I think we need to recognize that individual testimony, eye witness, all of that matters, too.

BLITZER: Good point as well. All right, guys. Thanks very much.

Important note: Don will be back with much more on all of this, all the day's important news, 10:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight, on his program "CNN TONIGHT".

Just ahead, a passing of the torch up on Capitol Hill. A new House speaker takes power and the old one sheds some tears.


[18:57:13] BLITZER: History was made up on Capitol Hill today as 45-year-old Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin became the youngest speaker of the House since right after the civil war in the late 1960s. Ryan accepted the gavel from the Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after receiving 236 votes from the Republican majority. He was elected to Congress back in 1998.

Today, the speaker, Ryan, promised he won't pass the hard issues facing the country.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The cynics will scoff. They will say it's not possible.

You better believe we're going to try. We will not duck the tough issues. We will take them head on.


BLITZER: There are also several ovations as lawmakers said good- bye to former Speaker John Boehner leaving Congress as well as the speaker's post.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), OUTGOING HOUSE SPEAKER: I describe my life as a chase for the American Dream. The chase began at the bottom of the hill off the main drag in Redding, Ohio, right outside of Cincinnati, a top of the hill was a small house with a big family, a shiny city in its own right. The hill had twists, the hill had turns and even a few tears -- nothing wrong with that.

If you falter, and you will, you can just pick yourself up and dust yourself off and go, do it again, because hope always springs eternal. And if you just do the right things for the right reasons, good things will happen and this, too, could really happen to you. God bless you and God bless our great country.



BLITZER: Senior political reporter Manu Raja is live on Capitol Hill.

So, where do we go from here?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, today is a day of celebration, celebrating John Boehner's 25 years on Capitol Hill and celebrating Paul Ryan coming in and taking the speakership. Now, the big choice has come before Paul Ryan. After today, he's going to have to make some big decisions about funding the government starting December 11th. They're going to get a budget deal passed in the House and Senate this week, but the problem is going to be actually figuring out the program by program funding levels.

In addition, highway funding, another big issue that Paul Ryan will have to deal with. The question will be whether or not he can deal with the same problems that Boehner had a very hard time dealing with as speaker for five years, Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, thanks very much.

This final, a personal note, I want to give a special thank you to Temple University ion Philadelphia for the opportunity today to meet with some of the aspiring young journalists at Temple's School of Media and Communication, and to be honored by them with the Lew Klein Award. It's also heartening to spend time with the next line of reporters and producers and reporters who will you the news. They're a very impressive group.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.