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Michael Brown Laid to Rest; On Trail of ISIS Killer; New Details on Brown Shooting Investigation; U.S. Considering Air Strikes in Syria; British Close to I.D.'ing James Foley's Killer; ISIS Gains in Syria as U.S. Considers Airstrikes; Three Mothers of Slain Sons Share Grief

Aired August 25, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now:


PASTOR CHARLES EWING, UNCLE OF MICHAEL BROWN: Michael Brown's blood is crying from the ground, crying for vengeance, crying for justice.


BLITZER: Raw emotion and a new rally in Missouri at the funeral for the teenager gunned down by a police officer. The Brown's family lawyer is standing by to talk about demands for justice and new information about the investigation.

Thousands of mourners came together today. Was it a first step toward healing in a community torn by Michael Brown's death and weeks of unrest?

Plus, authorities now say they're close to identifying the ISIS terrorist who beheaded an American. We're going to tell you how they're zeroing in on James Foley's executioner.

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

Michael Brown's family says today is about saying goodbye and staying peaceful, but tomorrow the fight for justice will go on. Several thousand mourners turned out for the 18-year-old's funeral more than two weeks after his killing by a police officer that turned Ferguson, Missouri, into a battlefield. This hour we're covering the service, the investigation, and what comes next. Our correspondents, our analysts, and newsmakers are standing by in Ferguson as well as here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First to CNN's Victor Blackwell. Let's go to Ferguson right now. He has the very latest on this important day -- Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the funeral was part traditional Baptist ceremony and also a political rally in many ways calling for action from the community. There were speakers who said that they will hear our voices, our shouts will shake the heavens. Now, there was plenty of shouting today, but for a different reason. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Organizers called it a celebration of the life of Michael Brown. Family members and complete strangers jumped to their feet clapping and shouting, but not Lesley McSpadden. At the start of the service she stood, staring at her son's casket and photos, more than two weeks after he was shot on the street in Ferguson, Missouri.

EWING: Michael Brown's blood is crying from the ground, crying for vengeance, crying for justice.

BLACKWELL: Justice, Brown's great uncle, says for more than just his nephew.

EWING: There is a cry being made from the ground, not just for Michael Brown, but for the Trayvon Martins, for those children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, for the Columbine massacre, for the black-on-black crime. There is a cry being made from the ground.

RENITA CONWAY, ATTENDED SERVICE: There was definitely a message of keep it peaceful. And it starts at home. Excuse me. It starts at home and goes out to the community and then into the world. We have to start with ourselves and then go out, you know, and spread peace and be respectful definitely, first and foremost, be respectful of others.

BLACKWELL: Renita Conway never met Brown. Likely neither had many of the estimated 4,500 attendees, some wearing a memorial T-shirt or sharing a story about someone they have lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know the grieving over lost grandchildren that will never be born.

BLACKWELL: Celebrities and notables like Spike Lee and Jesse Jackson sat in a seemingly reserved VIP section next to politicians from the state capital and the nation's capital and there was plenty of politics.

ERIC DAVIS, COUSIN OF MICHAEL BROWN: What you guys can do to continue this, show up at the voting polls, let your voices be heard and let everyone know that we have had enough of all of this.

BLACKWELL: But after weeks of protests with moments of violence, fogs of tear gas, and standoffs with police, a plea.

TY PRUITT, COUSIN OF MICHAEL BROWN: Today is for peace, peace and quiet. We will lay our son, brother, cousin, uncle, our family, young man, young black man, young human being. But we don't say goodbye. We say good journey until we meet again.


BLACKWELL: Wolf, I sat in the balcony during the service, and listening to the conversations and speaking with people around me, I could really get an understanding why people, so many thousands of people came to today's funeral.

The woman who sat to my right, she was an older woman who was a member of the church and she wanted to be there just to support the family during this difficult time. Behind me, two younger women were talking about policies that should change and policing in the United States.

Just in front of me there was a woman I recognized from the protests on Friday night. She was dressed. She wore dark glasses, a T-shirt that said revolutions and cargo pants and military-style boots. That night she was telling the protesters to get off the route they were being ordered to follow and to really start a revolution. She sat there quietly during the program. I asked a few people afterward, would the family get their wish, would there be peace tonight?

Most said they didn't know, but they were hoping for it.

BLITZER: Let's all hope for that. Victor Blackwell, thanks for that report.

Let's bring in our anchor Don Lemon. He's in Ferguson for us. He's been there now almost from the very beginning.

Give me your impressions of how this day unfolded, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, Someone, earlier, one of the officials Here said, you know, it's over. I knew what he meant. He meant it's over in the sense that finally there is something -- there is at least some closure -- and I hate that word -- but some closure for Michael Brown's family, but it's really far from over when it comes to the community.

It's far from over when it comes to the reality setting in for the Brown family, because this is the day really when you have the funeral, everyone has come together, all the dignitaries and all the officials and all the celebrities. This is really when, quite honestly, the media is going to start pulling out. You're going to see less and less coverage and the Brown family will be left with the fact that their loved one is no longer here and all the attention is turned away.

They're going to have to figure out what to do next for people in the town, the officials calling for some sort of change and asking them to be a part of that. I think it went well as far as being organized, as far as being peaceful, as far as being respectful.

And I thought it was also very respectful of the minister and I thought it was very smart of the minister to say, some of you who came here to speak, you're not going to be heard from today and if you want to be heard from, we welcome to come next Sunday and we will have Sunday's service, sort of weeding out the people who were coming here to make this just to get some sort of attention from the media and to get in front of the cameras.

I thought it was handled very well today. I thought the mother was very strong having seen her yesterday, Wolf, and really right after she had come from the funeral home to see her son for the first time. I thought she was very strong today. But we will see what happens in the coming hours and coming days. It's going to be really tough for the family.

BLITZER: Let's talk about tonight. What can we expect tonight? Because a lot of people are worried.

LEMON: Well, speaking to officials, they say they don't know what to expect tonight.

They think that it is helpful that Michael Brown's father called for calm and peace and for a day of silence, and so if there are any protests, they're hoping the protests will be silent protests and that those protests will be peaceful ones. In your initial question to me, Wolf, I neglected to show this to you. This is -- this is a program from today's ceremony, and I thought it was very poignant and very nice that the mother wrote a letter to her son.

And there's a picture of Michael Brown and his mother, Lesley, at the skating rink and they're laughing and having a good time. And then the father -- let's not forget about the father who was involved in his son's life. We want to make that clear. He wrote a letter to his son as well. You see there's a picture of them in here.

It's a very respectful day here. Let's hope that the people tonight who may come out to demonstrate really observe that as well and observe, heed the father's wish that it be peaceful and quiet.

BLITZER: Let's hope the folks do that exactly as the father and the family is asking. Don, we're going to get back to you. Thanks very much.

We're joined now by Daryl Parks. He's a lawyer representing the Brown family.

Mr. Parks, thanks very much. First of all, how is the family doing?

DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF MICHAEL BROWN: You know, I think the dad said it best yesterday, Wolf, when he said that we're hurting.

They're in deep pain. The walk they had to make today from the front of the church to the back of the church behind that coffin is the toughest walk any parent could ever have to make. They had to make that walk today and they're still standing tall, but they're hurting. And so they're surrounded by all of their family.

They're surrounded by the community. And we hope that folks will stay calm and will just have some silence in honor of Mike Brown's legacy. So that's our prayer and our hope today on behalf of this family.

BLITZER: Is that your sense that there will be an evening tonight, a night of peace?

PARKS: We have no reason to believe that people would not honor the wishes of this family. You heard the father ask the public to please, please, please, let's honor his legacy. I would hope everyone that heard his voice and those who hear my voice right now would honor that request that he made.

BLITZER: What do you think? It's getting a lot of play on social media, "The New York Times"' description of Michael Brown, the 18- year-old teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer as -- quote -- "no angel."

What did you think of that description of him as no angel? They were specifically referring to the videotape of the robbery that occurred at that convenience store only moments before he was shot and killed?

PARKS: Well, he was like any other teenager.

He lived a life and we all know that teenagers live lives. They enjoy things, they do things. Sometimes, they get into things. However, though, I think we have to be very careful in our country not to blame victims. It shouldn't be a situation where if you happen to be a victim who may have had an incident or a situation that your killers can use that to get away or to bring less honor to you in your death.

We have to stop that. Whatever he did then had nothing do with what happened in the situation where he lost his life, where the officer had the choice and chose to take his life, you know, at his own discretion. He shouldn't have done that.

So I think we have to be careful about how we allow them to paint a picture of a victim whose life certainly was not -- was not -- should not have been lost because of what happened at that store that day, but this officer made a decision who had no respect for the value of Michael Brown's life that he could have made a different decision and not taken his life. But because he saw him for whatever he saw him as, he chose to make the decision that he made and to shoot him in the head twice.

BLITZER: We know that there's a federal investigation, the Justice Department, the FBI. They're investigating the civil rights aspects of this. There's a Saint Louis County separate investigation. The grand jury, as you know, meeting right now.

But what about from your perspective a civil lawsuit? Is that something that you as the lawyer for the family are considering?

PARKS: Certainly, we're going to consider that down the line. However, as you know, with two criminal investigations going on, they have precedence over the witnesses right now. Thus, things that we could do in a civil regards would be less likely right now given those two actions taking place, as you know.

BLITZER: As far as you know, Mr. Parks, are there other eyewitnesses that we haven't heard from yet?

PARKS: Yes, there are. In fact, as we were leaving today from the church, we had a witness walk up to us and said, hey, no one's talked to me yet. So there are still witnesses out there who have not been contacted.

We urge them to either contact the FBI or to contact the Saint Louis County police who's investigating the situation. But -- and also contact us, you know, as the lawyers on the civil side, if there are witnesses out there. Many people saw this. That's why we're so -- we really believe strongly that this officer's going to be convicted of this situation, because there are many, many witnesses who saw what happened.

And at a minimum, he should have been arrested a long time ago, but given the great weight of the witnesses that we have thus far, this prosecutor has a great responsibility to go to this grand jury and to come back with an indictment. We will accept nothing less than that.

BLITZER: What about other videos that haven't been shown yet? Are there, as far as you know, other videos of the incident?

PARKS: I'm not aware of any other videos that may be out there, but if there are people out there who may have videos, we certainly urge them to come forward to the authorities, because we want both prosecuting authorities in this case to have as much evidence as they can.

We believe that there's already enough evidence from the great number of witnesses present for this officer to be arrested.

BLITZER: We know the Justice Department, the FBI investigation, that could go on for months and months and months, maybe a year or two. The grand jury, though, is meeting right now. When do you anticipate we will get a decision from the grand jury?

PARKS: I really can't say, though, Wolf.

But I must say in a case like this one, where there's such great public concern for what's going on and justice taking place in this case, we believe this is of public importance that both officials move with due diligence to come some conclusion with their investigations.

We're of the opinion that given the resources that both agencies have, both the federal and the state, that they should come to a conclusion sooner than later on these investigations.

BLITZER: Daryl Parks represents the Brown family.

Mr. Parks, thanks very much for joining us.

PARKS: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Still ahead, we're learning new details about the investigation into Michael Brown's death and the contradictory stories told by police and witnesses.

And later, the ISIS executioner with the British accent who beheaded American James Foley. We're show you how authorities are now closing in on a suspected terrorist.


BLITZER: Just hours after the funeral for 18-year-old Michael Brown, we're getting new information about the investigation into his killing by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson.

Let's go to our justice reporter, Evan Perez. He's joining us now from Ferguson.

You're learning new information from your sources about what officer Wilson is telling investigators, is that right, Evan?


We're hearing that he has told investigators that as he was coming back from answering a medical call, a medical emergency call nearby, he came across these two young men, Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson, the friend, and he found them walking down the middle of the street.

And according to the account that he's provided to investigators, he told them to move out of the way out of the middle of the street and to go onto the sidewalk. He said they refused, that they were blocking his path as he was trying to make his way down the road and that's how this confrontation began.

Obviously, this is very important because some of the portrayals frankly from the accounts has been that Michael Brown was shot down, you know, essentially for jaywalking and the officer is telling a more complicated story perhaps, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are your sources telling you, Evan, about the grand jury that's now been convened?

PEREZ: We know, Wolf, that the grand jury is going to meet on Wednesday and hear a second set of evidence that will be presented by the county prosecutors.

We're told they're already seeing some problems with witnesses who have various accounts that contradict each other or are shifting and they also have seen some witnesses that have shown up and are frankly just reciting things that they saw on television, which often happens in big cases like this where there's media attention. It's not uncommon at all for them to come across this problem.

BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right. Evan, thanks very much, Evan Perez reporting for us from Ferguson.

Let's discuss what is going on with our panel.

Joining us, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, our CNN political commentator Donna Brazile, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, and our CNN political commentator Cornell Belcher.

Guys, thanks very much.

It's pretty common, Tom. You're a former assistant of the FBI. Let's say there are 10 eyewitnesses and you get not necessarily 10 different accounts, but you could get two or three pretty radically different accounts, right?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You could not only get 10 different accounts. Wolf, you could get 30 different accounts if they change their story three times each. That's the other problem with this is they may have given one story to CNN reporters that day or the next day and then later give a different series of stories to the investigators and then later yet in front of the grand jury telling other stories.

That's not completely uncommon to have stories shift within the same person's account.

BLITZER: But as far as we know, Jeffrey, there's no actual video of the shooting incident. There is video of what happened after he was shot and killed, but no video that we have seen, at least not yet of the actual incident, right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. That's certainly as far as I know and as far as anything I have seen.

But what's important to keep in mind about these multiple versions, especially multiple versions potentially influenced by news media coverage, is that all of that becomes grist for cross-examination if there's a trial. Isn't it a fact that you said a different thing back in August? What about what you said in September?

These things make a criminal case more difficult by having multiple versions, and if it's all in the grand jury there are lots of transcripts there, which, again, are fodder for cross-examination.

That's why some people, some prosecutors don't like to put people in the grand jury, because they don't want to generate transcripts that can be used cross-examination.

BLITZER: Yes, because we heard Daryl Parks, the lawyer for the family, Jeffrey, say there are other eyewitnesses that claim they say what happened but they haven't yet been public about it, but he doesn't know of any other videotape that hasn't yet surfaced.

Donna, when you look at the funeral today, there were three officials from the White House, senior officials who went representing obviously the president of the United States. There's some criticism that that may have been inappropriate in a sensitive criminal -- potentially criminal case like this, it was sort of tilting the wheel of the -- the hands of justice, if you will. What's your reaction to that criminal?


DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, I disagree with the criticism.

Look, Marlon Marshall, one of the White House officials who attended, went to high school with Ms. Lesley McSpadden. So there's no reason to criticize the White House officials who attended. There's no reason to criticize Eric Holder's involvement.

Look, the day after this incident, the Justice Department Division of Community Relations, they were there to help not just the local officials but also the protesters. So there's no question that the White House and I think the Justice Department has played a very important role.

BLITZER: When you take a look at the situation out there for the president of the United States, how has he been dealing with this? We know Eric Holder, the attorney general, went out there, was very well- received by the community. But is there something else that the president, you think, Cornell, should be doing?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: A couple of things, Wolf. One, I think the president can be unique in this, being the first African- American president, being the first president, quite frankly, on record from a mixed white and black couple.

But first and foremost, this is a ghost that's been haunting me. What did any of the presidents do? This is a ghost that's been haunting us for a long time. The president certainly can't legislate changing people's hearts. But one of the things that we were very hopeful after the president was elected in 2008 was that somehow we could bring African-Americans and Hispanics and the country could come together more as one.

What we have seen, quite frankly, is the opposite if that. We have seen more polarization. We talk a about the political polarization in this country. The political polarization in this country actually an attribute of the racial polarization in this country. You don't have to look any further than last years, 2012 election results to see the polarization.

But the president is unique in that he has an ability not through the legislation, but from who he is, to give voice to the need to bring all Americans together.

BLITZER: Has he done what you want him to do?

BELCHER: He's been a little busy, you know, from Syria to economic -- he's been a little busy. I'm hoping and a lot of us are hoping that toward the end of his presidency when we can get away from some of these other pressing problems, this is a problem that the president can speak to in a very unique way and help bring more Americans together across racial lines.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, having three White House officials there at the funeral service today, was that prejudicial to whatever the legal case is?

TOOBIN: Not a bit.

I mean, you know, if there is a legal case, it will be months down the line. There is no way a defendant in this case could prove prejudice by three aides going to the to this funeral. Keep in mind also this wasn't just the shooting of an African-American young man. This was a riot. There was looting.

I mean, this was a major national event. That's why we have a White House. That's why we have the Justice Department to pay attention to major national events. So the idea that these people going to the funeral is somehow crazy or inappropriate just seems wrong to me.

BLITZER: Tom, you worked with the FBI. What do you think?

FUENTES: I agree completely. I would like to add that sending Eric Holder there, the attorney general, to have the credibility to be able to tell the family and indirectly the family's supporters that the federal investigation, there will be no transparency, don't expect it. The FBI investigation will be a secret and it will take time.

So don't expect a hurried investigation. We need patience, we need time, we need peace in the meantime, and I think that message coming from him had credibility that it might not have had from any official.

BLITZER: If there's no indictment, no criminal charge against the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, what happens?

BRAZILE: Well, let's hope that the wheels of justice will work their way so that we will have a fair trial and a fair outcome, so that the people of Ferguson know that everything, everybody exhausted themselves to find justice for what happened to this young man, unarmed, murdered, laying on the street for four hours. I think that is what is going to haunt us for the next couple of months.

BLITZER: I still don't understand.

Do you understand why that body was out there for so many hours before somebody came and collected the body or at least put a cover over the body?

FUENTES: Well, I think there were probably -- and I agree that it looks terrible, but I think they may have in their minds said that we don't want to lay a cloth on top or tamper with him that might affect hairs and fibers and other forensic evidence on the body.

They should have put something around the body so you couldn't see ill, cordoned off some kind of a curtain system around him, while they were waiting for the forensic team to come out there.

BELCHER: Quickly, Wolf, can I get in around quickly on this ideal of justice?

It's something that Eric Davis, I think, who was a family member, talked about today, is there is no justice without political power. Political power, if you have political power, justice comes more swift. If you don't have political power, you're at the mercy or the convenience of those with power.

When you look at -- and this is something Reverend Jackson talked about over the weekend. If you look at the turnout patterns and those participating in elections in that area, understand the political system and understand the elected officials they have right now, we need to wake up and understand that your justice is connected to your political power.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks.

BRAZILE: Politics will come. But we need peace. I'm with Michael Brown's father on that.

BLITZER: Let's hope it's a peaceful night and peaceful days and weeks and months to come, whatever happens.

Guys, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Just ahead, Michael Brown's mother shares her grief with two women who know all too well what she's going through. This is an exclusive CNN interview you will see this hour.

Up next, investigators are analyzing the video of James Foley's beheading frame by frame. And they're on the brink right now, we're told, of identifying his killer. We're going to show you how they're closing in on the suspected terrorist right now.


BLITZER: The fighters of ISIS are flaunting their newest victory. The terror group has seized control of a key military air base in Syria. And right now the White House is actively considering whether to expand its air strikes on ISIS in Syria.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He has the very latest.

What's going on, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today the White House says President Obama has not made any decisions to take military action against ISIS inside Syria. An aide sounded somewhat cautious about the prospect of that happening any time soon.

That was a cooling of the temperature over here at the White House after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week described ISIS as beyond anything we've seen.

Today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said ISIS does not pose a threat to the U.S. homeland, and he pointed to something Joint Chief Chairman Martin Dempsey said over the weekend, saying, quote, "I can tell you with great certainty and clarity," Dempsey said, "that if the threat -- if that threat existed inside of Syria, that it would be certainly my strong recommendation that we would deal with it."

Here's what Earnest had to say about that.


ACOSTA: And you said that there's no evidence of an active plot right now against the United States by --

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's what the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said.

ACOSTA: And that's what the chairman of the joint chief said, as well. That seems to be a different question, though, than does ISIS pose a national security threat to the United States?

EARNEST: That's correct.

ACOSTA: And the answer is what?

EARNEST: The answer to that is we are concerned about the threat that's posed by ISIL.


ACOSTA: But not much more clarity than that.

And meanwhile, Syria's foreign minister today demanded that the U.S. government consult with the government of Bashar al-Assad before any air strikes against ISIS. That's the same government President Obama considered attacking last year. Senior administration officials say, no, the White House will not be asking Damascus for permission before air strikes are authorized, Wolf.

BLITZER: Speaking of consultation, what about consultation with Congress? Will the president have to go to Congress first to get authorization if the U.S. is to launch air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria?

ACOSTA: That's right. We flash back to last year when the president said Bashar al-Assad crossed his red line of using chemical weapons. He called on Congress to authorize air strikes, but the White House suggested today that will not happen this time around. As Josh Earnest said, this operation would be different -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House. Thanks very much.

British officials now say they're close to identifying the ISIS militant who beheaded the American reporter, James Foley. The executioner spoke with a British accent on the gruesome video of the killing. Brian Todd has more on the investigation.

Brian, where does it stand right now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've been speaking with government sources in the United States and in Britain, and the sense we're getting is that the naming of James Foley's killer is imminent.

Intelligence agencies have picked apart this video. Analysts have narrowed down where this militant could be from, and other clues are emerging.


TODD (voice-over): Intelligence officials are on the cusp of identifying the man who may have killed James Foley.

PETER WESTMACOTT, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: We are close. But forgive me if I can't go much further than that at this point.

TODD: Is it the man seen in this video? One British official tells us they're picking apart the video, looking at the background, the terrain and, of course, his voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their results of liberty and safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.

TODD: CNN has had language and voice analysts examine that audio. Some believe because of the way he speaks generally about Muslims, he could be a convert to Islam, possibly from South London or that city's East End.

JOHN OLSSON, LINGUIST: He's very well educated and from what you would loosely call a middle-class professional background. The voice to me seems to be someone under the age of 30.

TODD: But Matthew Levitt, former counterterrorism analyst with the FBI, says intelligence officials will look at other physical traits.

MATTHEW LEVITT, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FBI: The first thing you're going to look at is his height, his build. You're going to see, as we play the video that he's left-handed. You're going to get a close look at his eyes.

TODD: But there are still doubts. The video is edited and goes dark at the purported moment of the murder. You don't actually see him killing James Foley.

LEVITT: Some are even speculating that this individual didn't do the actual murder. He's just being used as -- as the spokesperson because of his fluency in English and his British accent.

TODD: Other communications could give clues. A letter from James Foley to his family, written while he was in captivity, gives a small hint of the size of at least one place he was held. "Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell," he writes.

But even when authorities identify Foley's killer, how will they respond? Various reports say the killer is likely in Syria with ISIS, probably moving around, but U.S. officials say no one is out of reach.

BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We've made very clear time and again if you come after Americans, we're going to come after you, wherever you are.


TODD: And analyst Matthew Levitt points out the reports that British special forces are on the ground in that area, looking for the man in the video. The clock is ticking. ISIS is still holding three Americans, including freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, and they are threatening to kill him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

We've been speaking about this threat from ISIS and what the U.S. should do next. We have two former CIA officers standing by, Robert Baer and Reuel Marc Gerecht. They're both here. We're going to discuss what's coming on. That's coming up.

Also ahead, an exclusive and emotional interview with Michael Brown's mother, joined by two other women whose sons were also gunned down, the mothers of sons Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell.


BLITZER: We're back now with the latest on the battle against ISIS terrorists. Is the United States considering expanding air strikes in Syria? We're joined now by two former CIA officials: CNN national security analyst Bob Baer and Reuel Marc Gerecht. He's a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Bob Baer, I know air strikes against ISIS targets can punish ISIS, can hurt ISIS, but you can't really defeat ISIS by air alone, right?

BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, Wolf. They're putting down roots. It's very clear now they've set up in Mosul. They've established their own state. They're issuing I.D. cards. You know, they've been beating the Kurds the last couple of days. They're here to stay.

And a few air strikes is precisely what they want. They want to characterize themselves as the enemies of the United States. They're not being hurt by this. We have to go beyond that.

BLITZER: In Iraq, Reuel, you can't really defeat ISIS just with the air power. You've got to go on the ground, so whether the Iraqi military or the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military or that they do it, if they can go it. You've got to go in there. U.S. doesn't want to put boots on the ground, as they say. Somebody's going to have to go and do a ground assault against ISIS.

REUEL MARC GERECHT, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: I think someone -- I mean, obviously, the Kurds can do it within their own domain. They don't have the manpower to go outside proper Kurdish territory. The Iraqi army obviously now is in no state after the withdrawal of the American forces, the Iraqi army obviously went into a nosedive.

So, the Americans were obviously increasing the number of troops there. I don't think the White House is being terribly forthright about that, but you're going to have a lot more troops from somewhere to dislodge them --

BLITZER: Yes, Bob, if you didn't U.S. troops, boots on the ground, ground forces in Iraq to go after ISIS, you're going to need a lot more, whether about 1,000 U.S. active duty military personnel in Iraq right now. You need a lot more than that.

BAER: You know, with those number of troops you could go in and make a few strikes against, you know, in Raqa and things like that, but it's not going to destroy the organization.

The problem is, Wolf, you would need thousands and thousands of troops. We'd have to reoccupy big parts of Iraq as well as Syria. And I just don't think the American people are going to stand for it. There's got to be an in-between solution. I'm not quite sure what that is, but the people living in there, in ISIS area, tell me that this is for the long term. They are establishing a state which is going to be very difficult to destroy.

BLITZER: If the U.S. were, the president's considering this option of launching air strikes into Syria, not just in Iraq against ISIS targets, how much damage would that do to ISIS?

GERECHT: Well, I mean it could do a fair amount. The problem, I think, in Syria, it's going to take them a long time to really establish sufficient intelligence to go after key targets. I mean, they obviously can hit some of the weapon depots and things like that and that's important but I think a Syria operation, they've got to be more clever about. And again, I think they need to have troops on the ground.

BLITZER: And you don't have in Syria, Bob, any of the ground support that you have in Iraq. In Iraq, you have some Iraqi military who are with you. You have the Peshmerga and the Kurdish military with you.

In Syria, what do you have?

BAER: You have nothing. The Free Syrian Army is not reliable. We have no allies to speak of. Zero intelligence where ISIS is located. Don't forget, Wolf, you have in that country, you got SA-11 missiles, the same missile system that took down the Malay airliner. So, it's going to be a lot more difficult to go in there and protect our forces.

BLITZER: Which raises the question, Reuel, is it totally unrealistic, out of the question for the U.S. to coordinate airstrikes in Syria against the common enemy of Bashar al Assad, the president of Syria, and the common enemy of the U.S., the ISIS forces? Would it be totally absurd to think the U.S. might coordinate airstrikes with the regime in Damascus?

GERECHT: Oh, I suspect the administration knows that cooperation with the Assad regime is pretty precarious, and I don't think they really need to do that if they're going to use --

BLITZER: But they have good surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft systems. U.S. planes, helicopters, they could be in trouble.

GERECHT: They could be. But I think the United States, if the Assad regime were to launch those in fairly quick order the U.S. Navy would be able to take care of those if they want to do so.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Bob?

BAER: I think we would have to respond, yes. But I mean the problem is with cooperating with Bashar al Assad, he's a Shia Muslim essentially, and we would look like we're taking sides in that civil war which has a lot of downsides. We don't want to get in the middle of a sectarian conflict. And this is why it's such a fine line this administration is walking.

BLITZER: OK, Bob Baer, Reuel Marc Gerecht -- guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up: Don Lemon's exclusive interview with Michael Brown's mother and the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell. They talk about the worst part of burying a young son much too soon, their words of comfort and their words of grief. That's just ahead.


BLITZER: Michael Brown's mother was told that his funeral today would be the worst day of her life. The warning comes from two women who attended the service and know what she is going through, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell. All three women sat down with our Don Lemon for an exclusive and emotional interview about what it is like to have your young son gunned down and than try to carry on.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: What with these moms, these women, they can offer you something that the guys can't, right? That husbands can't.


LEMON: What can they --what can they offer you?

MCSPADDEN: They're speaking to me from experience, you know? They're offering me something right now. I can't tell you what it is. But it's something. And something is more than nothing.

LEMON: When we were standing there waiting to meet her, you turned to Valerie and Sybrina, and you said, are you having flashbacks of this moment?


LEMON: When it was the day before, the home going --

BELL: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) strong part of flashback is my son eight years ago, that was my flashback, and thinking of her at that time. Her son was 10 years old when it happened.

And I thought to say to her, keep the memories in your heart that's going to help you to continue to carry on with your son and believe and have a faith in God who also help you, and close family members. That's what keeps the memories of my son. He used to tell me, "Ma, I got this." So, I'm telling you, ma, you got this. It's OK to cry, scream, I still do with eight years, but you got this.

SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: You have to focus on when he was smiling. You have to focus on his first day of school. And you have to focus on Christmas Day and things like that, the happier times and put a picture up when he was happy, and you have to focus on those. Just don't focus on the death. That's going to eat away at you. LEMON: And, Lesley, you know, it's hard and you're probably thinking

right now that I'm sure it doesn't seem real to you, but these ladies are examples that you can survive this. I don't know -- I can't -- maybe I'm not putting it in the right words, but can you ever be whole again or can you ever -- how would you put it?

FULTON: Yes, I don't think it's a matter of being whole. What I think it is is a matter of a new life and this is the new life. This is -- I can never go back to who I was and what I was because I'm missing something very precious in my life and something very special.

BELL: Losing my son was like losing a part of your body, but you remember. You remember what that part of your body has done for you. If you lose an arm, you know what that arm did. So, my thing is keeping the memories that will keep you carry on.

LEMON: I want you guys to talk about it, because it's going to be very difficult and you have dealt with it, is character assassination. I think you describe it as character assassination, one of you. What do you mean by that?

FULTON: That means that people that don't even know her son is going to say negative things about him just to portray him in a different light, in a negative light, just to try to justify what happened.

LEMON: Is that one of the hardest parts, or are you on thinking about people talking about your son?

FULTON: No, the hardest part for her is going to be the home going service. As I have said, that is the absolutely worst day of her life as a mother, because there is no words that can bring comfort to her as a mother by seeing her son in a casket.

LEMON: Do you go around the house in the kitchen, do you talk to Trayvon?

FULTON: Absolutely, absolutely.

LEMON: Do you?

BELL: Yes. If I know something has to be done, "Ma, I got this," that's his favorite saying, "Ma, I got this."

LEMON: Do you do the same thing, Lesley?

MCSPADDEN: Especially when it rains.

LEMON: When it rains. Why?

MCSPADDEN: Something about the rain. Something about it.

LEMON: That makes you want to --

MCSPADDEN: I feel him.

FULTON: He's there. He's there. He's watching over you. LEMON: What was it like meeting her?

BELL: I'm glad I did meet you. It brought back memories for my son. And I just thought of your son.

FULTON: It's hurtful, but at the same time it's comforting because I know she needs people that understand what she's going through.

LEMON: And, Lesley, what was it like meeting these ladies. They've been saying everything, how they feel about you. What's it like meeting them? What do you want to say to them?

MCSPADDEN: I'm sorry what you had to go through. And I'm sorry about yours, too.

LEMON: Thank you all.

FULTON: He got you. He got you, baby. He got you.


BLITZER: Pretty powerful interview. You can catch a lot more of that interview later tonight. Don will be reporting from Ferguson. There's a full report coming up later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. You can tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. Please be sure to join us again tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can certainly watch us live or you can DVR the show so you won't miss a moment. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.