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THE SITUATION ROOM
Anthony Weiner Under Fire; Zimmerman Juror Speaks Out
Aired July 25, 2013 - 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: Plus, a woman who exchanged lewd messages with Anthony Weiner speaking out. She says she feels manipulated by the New York mayoral candidate.
And Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro may soon cut a deal to save his life.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
One of the six women who acquitted George Zimmerman now says she feels she owes Trayvon Martin's parents an apology, because she believes Zimmerman in her words got away with murder.
The breaking news this hour. The only minority juror in the Zimmerman trial is speaking out for the first time. She's showing her face to the world. In an interview with ABC News, Juror B-29 revealed she initially wanted to find Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder. But in the end, she says, the panel couldn't convict him based on Florida law.
She says she is still struggling with the verdict.
Let's bring in Lisa Bloom. She's a legal analyst. Also joining us, CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. He's a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Let me read the full quote to you, Paul, and I will start with. This is what this woman known only as Maddy -- we see here -- she didn't want to reveal her whole name. She is black Hispanic.
She says George: "Zimmerman got away from murder. But you can't get away from God. And at the end of the day, he's going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with. But the law couldn't prove it."
Paul, what did you make of that?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I know a lot of people will be shocked by this, that a juror so soon after the trial would make a statement like this.
But lawyers who try these cases see this happen all the time. Jurors have buyer's remorse. They -- she's listening to the press. She's reevaluating. She is feeling kind of guilty about her vote. So she's making this statement. I do note, though, that she does say that in following the law, prosecutors had not proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The thing you have to remember is you can't reopen a case just because a juror has had a change of heart post-verdict.
You really have to show something improper happened in the jury room. We will have to hear the details of the interview to see if that develops.
BLITZER: Is this damaging to the prosecution, Lisa, the way they operated, the way they conducted their case?
LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY: Well, I have been very critical of this prosecution team throughout this trial.
I think the evidence was there. I think the disease she expresses with this verdict is what many of us feel. The evidence in my opinion was there. I watched every minute of this trial. But the prosecution failed to argue effectively the strongest physical evidence it had in the case. Their closing argument was the worst I have ever seen in a high-profile case. They essentially were arguing reasonable doubt, just like the defense.
So, of course, the jury came to this conclusion. This juror though felt in her heart this was a murder case, she felt something was there. We know the voters initially voted 3-3 to convict or to acquit. I think if the prosecution had done its job, had argued its evidence, had been forceful with the theory of the case in closing arguments like prosecutors are in every other case, there could very well have been an acquittal here.
BLITZER: You agree with her, Paul?
CALLAN: No, I totally disagree.
I have tried a lot of murder cases as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney. This case, it is a horrific tragedy. Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die, but it was a mistake by George Zimmerman that was made because he thought that Trayvon was up to no good. It is quite possible under the theory presented by the defense that Trayvon Martin had circled back and jumped George Zimmerman and, frankly, there wasn't evidence to contradict the self-defense I claim. So I don't think any...
BLOOM: There was a lot of evidence.
CALLAN: I would also say, another reason I disagree with Lisa, a lot of times juries come in based on emotion.
Of course, the emotion of a 17-year-old young man dying like this is so great. It's such a horrific killing. But it would go up on appeal. It would have been thrown out by an appellate court. I think in the end the jury did the right thing on the evidence they had.
BLITZER: Lisa, listen to this, because here's another excerpt of what she told ABC news, this juror, B-29, as she is known, Maddy.
"You can't put the man in jail even though in our hearts we felt he was guilty, but we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence."
Now, contrast that to what Juror B-37 told Anderson Cooper about 10 days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you also want to find him guilty of something?
JUROR B-37: I wanted to find him guilty of not using his senses, but you can't fault anybody -- I mean, you can't charge anybody for not being, I guess, I don't know, you can't fault him -- you can't fault -- you can't charge him with anything, because he didn't do anything unlawful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Lisa. You see what these women are saying now, but go ahead.
BLOOM: Well, sure, and this juror is absolutely right. You need evidence to convict. You need more than a gut feeling. That's what the prosecutor should have done, what they do in every case, which is you take the jury instruction, you take the evidence you have, you present a theory of the case, and you match it up.
You show how the physical evidence shows that George Zimmerman was lying, that the gun was holstered inside his pants behind him. It is not possible he could have been laying down with Trayvon Martin laying on top of him and Trayvon Martin saw the gun. That was the essence of the self-defense case. The prosecution did not argue that.
So, in my view, because the prosecution did a half-hearted job in this case, we got an acquittal. These jurors are absolutely right, with the case the way it was presented to them, an acquittal was the only possible outcome.
BLITZER: Quickly, Paul, wrap it up.
CALLAN: This was the most vicious prosecution team you could assign to a case. They had been accused of ethical violations, and they pulled out every stop to prove guilt on the evidence they had. It just wasn't there, Wolf. Sometimes it's just not there and injustice is done. I think we are always going to feel badly about this verdict. But the jury did the right thing.
BLITZER: Paul Callan and Lisa Bloom, both of you, good analysis. Thanks very much.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We got some breaking news. The NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, now releasing new information about what caused the nose gear on that Southwest Airlines jetliner, a Boeing 787, to collapse during landing Monday at New York's La Guardia airport.
CNN's Rene Marsh is joining us. She's got the details of it.
Rene, what happened? What are they saying?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we literally just got this information just minutes ago.
So, here is what the NTSB is telling us. They say that based on some video and other sources that the nose gear actually made contact with the runway before the main gear. I can tell you, it's not supposed to go that way. The nose gear is not built to withstand that kind of force. It's supposed to be the main gear first and then the nose gear. That's the basics of landing a plane.
Just moments ago, we spoke with a pilot of a 737 and he was giving us a little bit of perspective on this. He says this is one of the first things you learn when you're landing a plane, which is essentially, you put the main gear down first, and then comes the nose gear. So he says hearing this information, this new information, it brings up the possibility, perhaps, pilot error. Of course, the NTSB is investigating all of this, so they will make the determination as far as what went wrong.
We also know they will continue to analyze the cockpit voice recorders and we may get even more information tomorrow.
BLITZER: Rene, hold on for a moment.
Kevin Hiatt is joining us now on the phone. He's president and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation, outside of Washington, Alexandria, Virginia. He is a former pilot who flew 787s.
Kevin, what do you make of this new information coming in from the NTSB?
KEVIN HIATT, FLIGHT SAFETY FOUNDATION: Well, it's very interesting. Rene hit the story very well.
You know, this aircraft is not designed to take the forces that are imposed on that nose gear if you land it with the nose first. So now that the investigating, the investigation is pointing towards this investigation the NTSB will look into some of the factors as to why.
BLITZER: Is it too early to determine if this was some sort of technology problem, equipment problem, or human error?
HIATT: Good points, Wolf. These could be all of the things that they will look at. Also, we want to mix in there some wind conditions and what was taking place in the cockpit just as the aircraft was coming over the threshold for the landing. And, as you said, human factors, technology and automation and speed could be a factor, too.
BLITZER: I know Rene has a question for you as well, Kevin.
Go ahead, Rene.
MARSH: Yes. We also are finding out from the NTSB the flaps on the wings they were set to 30 to 40 degrees about 56 seconds prior to touchdown. Does that tell you anything?
HIATT: Well, it could indicate that they were a bit on the approach. Not knowing the exact approach speeds right now, it's too early to tell. But in that particular situation, we will just have to wait for the NTSB to give us the final investigation.
BLITZER: And this investigation continuing. All right, Kevin, thanks very much.
Rene, thanks to you as well.
Still ahead, a whole new take on the George Zimmerman trial. Now that we have heard from the only minority juror, does it change perceptions about whether race played a role in the verdict? We are going to talk about that.
Also coming up, the woman who sexted with Anthony Weiner talks publicly about their relationship and what she calls his double life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYDNEY LEATHERS, HAD SEXTING RELATIONSHIP WITH ANTHONY WEINER: He's saying one thing to me, saying another thing to his wife, saying another thing on the campaign trail. I don't know who the real Anthony Weiner is, I guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The woman at the center of the latest Anthony Weiner sexting scandal says he got controlling and she feels manipulated. And 23-year-old Sydney Leathers is speaking publicly for the first time about her online and phone relationship with the New York mayoral candidate.
She spoke exclusively with "Inside Correspondent" chief correspondent Jim Moret. You will hear from Jim in a moment. First, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": How would you describe him? I read one quote that suggested you thought he was a dirty old man.
LEATHERS: He actually said that about himself to me. He -- the exact wording was that he is an argumentative, perpetually horny middle-aged man. And at the time, I was like, oh, no, you're not. But, yes, he is. I felt manipulated.
LEATHERS: Because, obviously, I felt like, you know, he's saying one thing to me, saying another thing to his wife, saying another thing on the campaign trail. I don't know who the real Anthony Weiner is, I guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk a little about this woman, Sydney Leathers. What was she like? What is her motivation? Give me a sense of who she is.
MORET: Well, she is a now 23-year-old college sophomore and she was enamored of Anthony Weiner, the politician, and was very disappointed when he fell from grace from Congress, and basically wrote to him online on his Facebook page telling him she was disappointed.
About a year later, last summer, she said that he reached out to her on a social media site under a pseudonym, Carlos Danger, who he soon revealed to be himself, and basically started an online relationship, which she said became explicit and dirty very quickly.
You know, I asked her, I said, how could you let this happen? You knew what he had done before. She said, she doesn't really even know. She was 22 at the time. She was caught up in the fantasy of it all. They never actually met. But the relationship soon went to sexting and then phone sex very quickly. And he spoke to her and had phone sex with her, according to her, at least twice a week, often more.
BLITZER: For how long a period did they have this online and phone relationship?
MORET: According to Sydney Leathers, she had this relationship with him for six months.
And what's interesting, Wolf, is that this was right around the time when "People" magazine ran the photo piece showing Anthony Weiner and his wife and their new baby, saying that all of this was behind him. He was a changed man, he was a good husband, his wife had forgiven him, and he had learned his lesson.
And within a matter of days after that article came out, he began this relationship with Sydney Leathers.
BLITZER: Let me play one more clip from your interview. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORET: So at what point did it break off and why?
LEATHERS: There wasn't really a specific reason why and neither one of us ever really officially ended it. It just kind of started to fizzle out. He got a little bit controlling with me towards the end.
MORET: How so?
LEATHERS: He would tell me that he would be jealous. He would like look at my Facebook frequently. And he would tell me he would get jealous if other men would compliment me and just little stuff like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Did she say how the relationship ended?
MORET: She said that -- it was interesting -- she posted on Facebook something from the show "House of Cards," in which Kevin Spacey plays a politician caught up with an affair with a reporter. She quoted that. She got a comment from him on Facebook saying, is this about me? Is that show about me?
And she felt he was very controlling. And they eventually broke it off. I want to be very clear about something, Wolf. She does not portray herself as the victim. She takes responsibility for what she's done. She knows it was a mistake. She does feel manipulated by Anthony Weiner. She said the one person who deserves an apology -- and, frankly, she did apologize to her on "Inside Edition" -- was to Anthony Weiner's wife.
She feels that is the only victim in this case. She is getting ready for the onslaught of bad publicity that she's sure to come her way, because she believes she is a target now by the Weiner campaign.
BLITZER: Jim Moret speaking with this woman, this 23-year-old woman now at the center of this scandal, Jim Moret of "Inside Edition."
Coming up, word of a possible plea deal in a horrifying crime. Will the man accused of holding three women captive for a decade avoid a trial and also avoid possibly the death penalty?
Plus, we're getting gripping new video of a deadly train disaster and important new clues about what may have caused it.
BLITZER: In Ohio right now, prosecutors have offered Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro a potential deal that would spare him the death penalty.
We're joined now by Scott Taylor of CNN affiliate WOIO in Cleveland.
What are the terms of this deal, Scott?
SCOTT TAYLOR, WOIO REPORTER: Right now, Wolf, it looks like it's going to be life in prison without parole.
There is negotiations still going on at this hour if they're going to leave it up to the judge for that final sentence or if they're going to have something as they head into court tomorrow morning around 10:00. Now, I do know that the defense team with Ariel Castro have asked from day one to drop the two aggravated murder charges, and that's in connection with the loss of Michelle Knight's baby, and I believe that will be dropped.
And then Ariel Castro will say, I will spend the rest of my life in jail.
BLITZER: How do the families of the victims and the women feel about this?
TAYLOR: Well, they have for quite some time came out publicly in statements over the last couple of months and said that they want swift justice. It appears to me from my sources that they do not want to go to trial. They want to spare Gina and also Amanda and -- Gina, Amanda, and Michelle any more nightmares going through 10 years of captivity.
They don't want them to relive it. Also, you have to remember that Amanda has that little girl Jocelyn only 6 years old. They want to spare any more emotional trauma to her. Also, Ariel Castro's defense team has said all along that they will go with plea deal of life in prison if the prosecutors drop those two aggravated murder charges.
It looks like they will. Over the last couple of days, the defense has gotten about 4,000 documents of evidence from the prosecution and also the BCI lab just got done itemizing and testing over 200 items of evidence and they were just back at Ariel Castro's house yesterday gathering some more evidence. So it looks like this tidal wave is going over Ariel Castro and his defense team. It looks like that plea deal might come together tomorrow morning.
BLITZER: We will watch it together with you, Scott. Thanks very much, Scott Taylor, from our affiliate WOIO in Cleveland.
Still ahead, race and the George Zimmerman trial, a new take. Now that we have heard from the only minority juror for the first time, she's anguished about the verdict.
And a leaker who paid the way for Edward Snowden could soon learn his fate in a military court. We will compare their leaks and the damage to national security.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news: another juror who acquitted George Zimmerman now speaking out. She says in her heart she believes he's guilty. We will tell you what she is saying about the role of race in the trial.
Plus, deadly impact. Security video showing the speed and the horror as a Spanish train crashes, flips and kills. We're live at the scene.
And a leaker who paved the way for Edward Snowden could soon learn his fate in a U.S. military court. We will compare their leaks and the damage to U.S. national security.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get back to the breaking news this hour, another juror in the George Zimmerman trial now speaking out. She says she believes Zimmerman got away with murdering Trayvon Martin. Juror B-29 is the only minority who served on the six-woman jury.
Despite her strong feelings about Zimmerman's actions, she told ABC News she never thought the case was about race.
We are joined now by the former Obama adviser Van Jones, one of the new co-hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." Also joining us, the conservative strategist Raynard Jackson. He is here.
The role of race -- let me start with you, Van. What do you think, based on what we are now hearing from this juror, what we have heard from the other juror, what do you think the role of race was in this case?
VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, it's interesting.
You have -- usually you think about race, you think about black and white. But now you got a situation where the only Latino who is involved in this case -- and Zimmerman is half-Latino -- says she wants to put him in jail. She says it's not about race. But then when you look at the reaction in the public, the majority of Latinos and black folks think that the case was decided wrongly, the vast majority of whites say it was decided correctly.
I think what have you is a bad and confusing law, the stand your ground law, which was introduced to the jury in the instruction, applied to bad and confusing facts with a bad and confusing outcome in a racially diverse country that is trying to come to terms with itself. So, race is there and it's not there.
I think what we got to learn how to do here is really listen to each other in our reaction. It's almost like an inkblot test, where you can show somebody an inkblot and somebody sees a butterfly, somebody else sees a dog. Who is right, who is wrong? You are learning more about the person who is looking at the image than you're learning about the image itself. That's where we are, white Americans having one set of reaction, a lot of folks having the opposite set of reaction.
Race is a factor, but it's a complicated one.
What about that, Raynard? RAYNARD JACKSON, CONSERVATIVE STRATEGIST: I don't disagree with what Van is saying. But I think there is a bifurcation of issues going on here.
The emotional side of the black community is saying some punishment should have been meted out to Zimmerman. And I think most people would agree with that. But based on the way the statute is written in Florida, I think the jurors made the correct decision. That's the difference.
BLITZER: So, where do we go, Raynard, from here? What -- where should the country go from here because it's caused such a commotion, as you well know?
JACKSON: Well, yes, I think to me the biggest opportunity is for the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, to show some leadership and bring the state of Florida together and to deal with this issue of the unequal application of the...
BLITZER: Stand your ground.
JACKSON: ... stand your ground, because you may be aware, Wolf, of the black female in Jacksonville, I think, who got 20 years for just shooting up in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marissa. Marissa Alexander.
JACKSON: Twenty years and the governor has not said anything. So I think there is an opportunity for the governor, especially as a Republican to show some leadership that could have national implications for polling the country, et cetera.
BLITZER: Like the governor, you're a Republican?
BLITZER: All right. What do you think about that idea, Van?
JONES: Yes. Well, look, I do think there are some big opportunities here.
First of all, you know, the conservatives have come out over and over. They've said, well, what about Chicago? What about the killings in Chicago? And I think a lot of African-American leaders took offense at that at first. It's almost like you're trying to dismiss Trayvon and making some kind of a dig at the civil rights leadership.
But I think we should look past that. It could be the case that this could bring us together. I know liberals are concerned about the amount of gun violence among black youth in places like Chicago. Conservatives now appear to be, as well.
What if we turned to each other, rather than turning on each other, and worked together to bring the violence down in these urban areas, using entrepreneurship, using public-private partnerships, using mentorships. I don't think that we should stay where we are right now. The binaries are fought working. The polarization is not working. And we're missing the common ground. I think the common ground is we want to see fewer kids in caskets. Both parties can work on that.
JACKSON: I think two people to watch in the House Republican Caucus is watch Eric Cantor, congressman from Virginia, majority leader, and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. These two guys understand the racial dynamic, and they have good will and history within the black community. Those are the two guys that are going to be the barometer of how Republicans deal with this thorny issue of race. And I'm optimistic.
BLITZER: You think, and you're a graduate of Yale Law School -- do you think the attorney general, Eric Holder, should move forward and press civil rights charges against George Zimmerman for committing what is called a hate crime?
JONES: I think the jury is still out on that, and I think that we should actually let the process go forward.
You know, it's so strange to me to hear people saying, "Well, the federal government should stay out of this." Look, on drug crimes, you see often people get prosecuted at the state level. Doesn't work. They get prosecuted at the federal level. With the Rodney King case, the cops were prosecuted at the local level. Then the feds. Nobody complained.
I think we should let the Department of Justice do its job, but at the end of the day this one case should not turn America into this almost a civil war. We're almost at tribal level. You listen to social media now. People are acting as if, because of this one case, we are -- we're going to be two different countries forever. We should turn to each other not on each other, I think.
BLITZER: Raynard, you agree, most black Americans think justice was not served here.
JACKSON: Well, yes. Exactly.
JONES: Absolutely not.
JACKSON: And a lot of whites don't understand that. Because I'm from Missouri. I had a situation in Missouri years ago. A black killed a state trooper on the highway in Missouri, got the death penalty. A month later, a white did the same crime in a different part of the state, got life in jail. And so it's -- the biggest problem is justice is not meted out equally between blacks and whites. There is...
BLITZER: How do you fix that?
JACKSON: Well, I think No. 1, you've got to start having dialogue and conversations. We're so polarized in the country. And I tell folks the most segregated hour in the U.S. is 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning when we all go to church. Most of us go to churches that look like us. We don't ever come together.
And I think with people like Van on his side, people like me on my side, there's an opportunity for us to come together and have a conversation like we're having with you.
BLITZER: It's a good idea. Let's see if we can make that happen.
JONES: One of the big...
BLITZER: Go ahead.
JONES: One of the big things, I just want to underscore, I don't think that a lot of white Americans look at the criminal justice system and see it the way that black ones do. You have white kids who are doing drugs at the same level as black kids, but black kids are going to prison ten times the rate. Those kind of things weigh heavily in the minds of African-Americans when we look at a verdict like this. And I think that, when white people hear those numbers, they say, "Well, that's not right. I don't want that in America."
There are things we can agree on we can work together to reduce. This should -- this should bring more light to those common ground issues. And I appreciate the earlier comments. We can work together on this stuff, along party lines and across racial lines.
BLITZER: Let's hope you do. Van Jones, Raynard Jackson. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Up next, dramatic new video and chilling new details. We're going to go live to the scene of one of the deadliest train accidents in years.
Plus, notorious leaks about questions about whether they were really as damaging as the federal government is claiming.
BLITZER: Closing arguments today in the court martial of Bradley Manning, the Army private and intelligence analyst charged with the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history. But there are questions about how damaging his leaks were and those of the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. How damaging are they?
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, reports.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two young men, both computer geeks, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, found themselves in jobs with access to critical national security secrets of the U.S. government. Both would leak classified documents, both accused of harming national security.
After Manning's leaks. HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems.
STARR: The same dire warnings when Snowden went public.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: People may die as a consequence of what this man did.
STARR: They seem to be too similar cases with the same question: how often damage was really caused?
Private First Class Bradley Manning downloaded thousands of classified documents with battlefield details about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department activities around the world. All of it ending up on WikiLeaks.
Kevin Zeese is raising money for Manning's defense. He says the government hyped the threats Manning's leaks posed.
KEVIN ZEESE, BRADLEY MANNING SUPPORTER: They really have not reported any great impact. I think that what it would be was more embarrassment than anything else.
STARR: The information from Manning's leaks was rapidly outdated.
Snowden's case is different, officials say, because he disclosed how the government actually collects telephone and online information, leaving the NSA to try to re-assemble its surveillance networks.
The NSA also says there's concrete proof terrorists are now changing their communications because of Snowden's leaks, but to what extent is unclear.
CHRIS INGLIS, NSA DEPUTY DIRECTOR: It's too soon to tell whether, in fact, adversaries will take great note of the things that he's disclosed.
JIM LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think this is going to follow the same trajectory as WikiLeaks: a lot of noise up front, and six months later, the only thing that's left is embarrassment.
STARR: Now perhaps the bigger impact will be on intelligence gathering, itself. As we have seen, there is a growing movement in Congress to try and change or at least modify the laws that govern these intelligence collection programs -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you. You can see it coming, a high-speed train racing around a curve and in moments on its side, off the tracks, broken in two. A Spanish official now confirms 80 people were killed. 178 people injured. Was the train going too fast? CNN's Karl Penhaul is on the scene for us. He's joining us from Spain. What are we learning, Karl?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Wolf, if you take a look at that video that was taken by a surveillance camera, and you see that train hurdling towards you. The locomotive seems to slide off the track and then the whole train comes sideways towards you. It does seem to be traveling at an extremely high speed.
But that said, these trains are designed and supposed to travel at high speed. And so the question is: was it, at that particular stage of the track, traveling too fast for the conditions?
Now, we heard from Spain's minister of development earlier this morning, and she suggested that excessive speed may have been a factor in this accident. But then later on in the day, we heard from the Spanish prime minister. And he said it was too early to reach any conclusions. And he urged that people kept an open mind, because all factors were under consideration.
The Spanish government has ruled out, until now at least, that any terrorist act has been to play here. They say there was no terrorist act here. But they say that everything else is under observation.
We also know that the train driver has been under investigation by police through the course of much of the day, but so far, authorities have not given any details about what he may have revealed, Wolf.
BLITZER: Karl Penhaul. So the latest numbers, though, we're getting once again 80 people killed, 178 injured. Has there been an update on that?
PENHAUL: I believe those figures may be somewhat skewed. We've heard from the state railway agency that there were 218 passengers on board, so those figures don't add up. But, yes, we do have confirmed 80 killed. Figure that out: that's more than one-third of the passengers on board this train were killed. That really does pay testimony to the scale of this tragedy.
We also note, from authorities, that right now as of tonight, around 100 passengers are still in hospitals, receiving treatment for their injuries. And they say about one-third of those are on the critical list. So there is always a danger that the death toll could rise higher, Wolf.
BLITZER: Karl Penhaul, reporting for us from the scene of this tragedy. All right. Thanks very much, Karl.
Up next, a blunt and very disturbing assessment of Iran. My exclusive interview with a former head of the U.S. military's Central Command.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: He's a four-star U.S. Marine Corps general who retired last month and doesn't mince any words. He was head of the U.S. military's Central Command, which includes the entire Middle East and South Asia.
And I questioned General James Mattis about Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and a lot more during a one-hour conversation we had in recent days over at the Aspen Security Forum.
BLITZER (voice-over): He's blunt in discussing his top concern.
GEN. JAMES MATTIS (RET.), FORMER HEAD OF CENTRAL COMMAND: The first three things I asked my briefers about when I woke every morning were Iran, Iran and Iran.
BLITZER: General Mattis was very candid in discussing what he described as an Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C.
(on camera): Did the Iranians want to blow up Cafe Milano and kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States?
MATTIS: Absolutely. That was their plan and, absent one fundamental mistake, they would have done it.
So they actually set out to do it. It was not a rogue agent off on his own. This decision was taken at the very highest level in Tehran. Again, absent one mistake, they would have murdered Adel and Americans at that restaurant a couple miles from the White House. And frankly, I'm not sure why again they haven't been held to account.
BLITZER: What was the one mistake they made?
MATTIS: I think going to the drug cartel that had a DEA agent as part of it. A memo to themselves, don't do that no more, you know? They got caught in the act.
BLITZER (voice-over): Mattis was disappointed in what he saw as the Obama administration's weak response.
MATTIS: When we finally caught them in the act of trying to kill Adel, we had a beleaguered attorney general -- fine man but beleaguered politically -- stand up and give a legal argument that, frankly, I couldn't understand.
BLITZER: Earlier this year, on Iranian-American used car salesman pleaded guilty to plotting to kill the ambassador and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. But Mattis wanted more.
MATTIS: I don't know why Adel's -- the attempt of Adel wasn't dealt with more strongly.
BLITZER: He said Iran is getting close to developing a nuclear bomb.
(on camera): How close is Iran to a nuclear weapon?
MATTIS: I'd say one year.
BLITZER: One year?
MATTIS: One year if they chose to. But then I don't believe they've made -- the supreme leader who will make the decision, I don't believe he's made the decision. If he does, I'm not completely confident that we would know immediately. We might know soon. But I don't think we'd know right away.
BLITZER: Do you think the Israelis would actually launch an air strike to try to deal with that.
MATTIS: I have no doubt they would.
BLITZER: Would the U.S. help Israel in an operation like that?
MATTIS: That one I don't want to speculate on. I mean, I -- I mean, we make our own decisions. We aren't in lock step with another country, even one that we're as committed to the survival of as we are of Israel.
But I think, you know, it would be a decision for the president and whether or not he would know in advance, I think, is at least questionable.
BLITZER (voice-over): But there are limits to military power.
MATTIS: Certainly, it can be delayed. You know, a month, six months, 18 months. What do you do with the delay is the question. And therein is where diplomacy and all the elements of statecraft come in.
What I'm saying is the military can buy our diplomats some time, but it cannot solve this problem straight up.
BLITZER: He says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would have been long gone if it were not for Iran's support.
MATTIS: As it is, he has been able to recently turn around with some tactical successes in western Syria, thanks to the Iranian support and the Lebanese Hezbollah support. Lebanese Hezbollah acting very much in concert with the orders out of Tehran. And now they are achieving, actually, some operational successes there that we didn't see six months ago.
BLITZER: And he's angry that Iraq is allowing Iranian aircraft to deliver weapons to the Syrian regime.
(on camera): You served in Iraq. You fought there. You know the sacrifices that Americans made in, starting in 2003. And you know how much money we spent. Hundreds of billions of dollars. To create an Iraq. And the question is this. And then I want to get back to years. The question is this. Knowing what you know now, the relationship between the government in Iraq and the Iranians, was it worth it?
MATTIS: Well, history is going to have to tell on that.
BLITZER: But you served there.
MATTIS: Right. I have.
BLITZER: You have some thoughts about whether or not the men and women who fought there and the American taxpayers who paid for it, was that war, knowing what we know now, worth it?
MATTIS: If Iraq, sitting at the geostrategic center of the Middle East, continues to mature in a democratic way, then I would say yes.
BLITZER (voice-over): Still, he's cautious about getting involved militarily in Syria. Even the kind of no-fly zone that Senator John McCain and others are proposing. Mattis recalls the ten- year U.S. experience in Iraq.
MATTIS: Otherwise, you're liable to invade a country, pull down a statue and then say, "Now what do we do?"
BLITZER: By the way, the interview with General Mattis, fascinating. We spent more than an hour talking about the entire region. All sorts of issues. If you're really interested in what he has to say, we posted the entire interview: CNN.com/situationroom. You'll learn a lot about the region from General Mattis.
And this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, new information right now. Halliburton Energy Services has agreed to plead guilty to destruction of evidence in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
The Justice Department says the company has agreed to pay the maximum available fine, be subject to three years of probation and to continue to cooperate in the government's ongoing criminal investigation.
In addition, Halliburton made a voluntary contribution of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. That was not conditioned on the court's acceptance of its plea agreement.
That information just coming in. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Jeanne Moos.
BLITZER: A raccoon goes flying with the help of an anxious dog owner. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Toaster the labradoodle could have been toast if his owner hadn't saved him. Kevin Rose let his dog out of his San Francisco home. Then heard frantic yelping as a raccoon tangled with Toaster. Kevin sprinted down the stairs, grabbed the raccoon and hurled it.
KEVIN ROSE, DOG OWNER: I was just scared that he was getting shredded up. You can tell he freaked out.
MOOS: Here's the replay from another security camera. Check out those eerie flying raccoon eyes.
Kevin said he had no choice.
ROSE: I wanted to get them separated. I didn't want to kick; I'd probably kick my own dog.
MOOS: Kevin is the founder of Digg, social news web site that spawns viral videos. And he found his own video going viral, but what did he find when he went warily down those stairs?
(on camera): Kevin says the raccoon definitely survived the toss, that he saw it get up and take off.
ROSE: It actually fit through those gate bars there.
MOOS (voice-over): Now it's even got its own fake Twitter account, @tossedraccoon.
Toaster the labradoodle came out of it with some scratches, and Kevin came away looking like a Major League pitcher. Admirers have put the toss to music.
Kevin told Twit TV the raccoon weighed about 25 pounds.
ROSE: It felt very greasy.
MOOS: Last time we saw a toss like this was when a raccoon stumbled into the chimp enclosure at the St. Louis Zoo. What a wind up.
And how did this raccoon wind up? Mad in the drainage pipe. We're told it eventually got out alive.
Kevin Rose came out of his encounter smelling like a rose.
(on camera): Believe it or not, even PETA gave Kevin a pass for hurling a raccoon.
(voice-over): PETA said "it was a crazy move that could have gone very wrong for man, dog and raccoon. But you can't fault a man for reacting to save his dog."
ROSE: It was just kind of one of those things where you care so much about an animal. They're like a family member.
MOOS: Strike three, raccoon. You're out.
Jeanne Moos, CNN...
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: By the way, Kevin said he really had only two choices. To throw raccoon up the stairs or down.
Let's wrap it up with a quick look at some of this hour's "Hot Shots."
In Indonesia, a native worshipper carries an offering to the crater of a volcano for a religious festival.
In Sri Lanka, a pair of elephants wrestle along the banks of the nature preserve's river.
In Spain -- look at this -- a Chinese diver soars through the air above the Barcelona skyline.
And in India, children play through the streets after very heavy rains.
"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.
Remember, you can always follow us, what's going on behind the scenes here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Go to Twitter. You can tweet me, @WolfBlitzer. Love to get some tweets. I'm tweeting, as well. Also, you can tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom.
Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Please join us again later tonight, an hour from now. I'll be filling in for Anderson Cooper on "AC 360."
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.