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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki; Interview With White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest; Ukraine- Russia Conflict Escalates; President Obama: Russia Responsible for Ukraine Violence; Company: Audio from Same Time as Brown Shooting; New Clue Revealed in Flight 370 Mystery
Aired August 28, 2014 - 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, the president is blaming Russia for the escalating warfare in Ukraine, where officials now say Moscow has launched a full-scale invasion. The Pentagon's top spokesman is standing by to talk about that, the fight against ISIS. I should say the State Department's spokeswoman is getting ready to talk about all of that.
And new confirmation that audio of gunshots was recorded about the time that Michael Brown was killed by a police officer. What does it mean for the investigation in Ferguson, Missouri?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And let's get right to the breaking news this hour. President Obama holds crisis talks in his Situation Room and speaks out about two escalating wars. He's acknowledging that the United States doesn't have a clear strategy, at least not yet, for launching possible airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Syria, and is making it clear the U.S. won't take military action to solve problems in Ukraine, despite blatant aggression and defiance by Russia.
We have our correspondents, our analysts, our newsmakers. They are all standing by as we cover the breaking news here in the United States and around the world.
First to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who's monitoring all of these developments for us -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a senior White House official said the president came into the Briefing Room this afternoon in part to tamp down speculation that he was on the verge of launching airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, but in making those comments to reporters and being peppered with questions about how soon he might launch those airstrikes in Syria, the president made a remark about his strategy when it comes to ISIS that perhaps he did not intend to make.
Here's what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will continue to consult with Congress and I do think it will be important for Congress to weigh in and or that our consultations with Congress continue to develop, so that the American people are part of the debate. But I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, it's important to point out that immediately after the president wrapped up his remarks in the Briefing Room, we were contacted by a senior White House official who said that the president was talking when he made that remark, "We don't have a strategy yet," that he was talking about ISIS airstrikes in Syria, that, of course, this White House official said, the president has a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Iraq.
That is why they say it has been limited in scope, no boots on the ground, hitting those ISIS targets around the Mosul dam in Northern Iraq and also protecting American personnel. They say that's the strategy for is in Iraq right now. But when it comes to dealing with ISIS in Syria, they are just not there yet. They want to have more consultations with the president's national security team.
They also want to organize a more multinational effort in the region. That's why he's dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to the region to start lining up allies for potential military airstrikes against Syria down the road, but, Wolf, almost immediately after that briefing was over and people were starting to seize on that "We don't have a strategy" remark, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, was on Twitter, trying to explain it, put it in context, and make the case that the president does have a larger strategy to deal with ISIS.
But, Wolf, I don't have to tell you, the president was blowing up on Twitter, and not the way he had intended. Republicans had already started tweeting out what the president had said, "We don't have a strategy yet," and making it sound as if he was talking about his overall strategy for ISIS. The White House firmly insists that that is not the case, that he was talking about ISIS in Syria -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Josh Earnest, the president's press secretary, he's going to be joining us momentarily. He's going to try to clarify precisely what the president had to say as well.
Jim Acosta, thanks very much for that.
Let's get some more now on the warfare under way in Ukraine and new evidence of a large-scale move by Russian troops across the board.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's watching that developing crisis -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.N. Security Council was called into an emergency session today to discuss all of this. Ukraine says they got invaded by Russia. Russia says, no, they didn't. The White House had no new strategy, no new options to offer.
STARR (voice-over): Amateur video shows alleged Russian battle tanks moving into southern Ukraine. In the last 24 hours, up to 1,000 Russian troops with heavy weapons moved into the area, according to U.S. military intelligence.
OBAMA: Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.
STARR: Moving from Rostov, Russia, the 1,000 troops crossed into southern Ukraine, moving to the city of Mariupol. This opens another front in fighting beyond the other 1,000 Russian troops already in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The Polish foreign minister calls it the most serious security crisis in Europe in decades. Has Russia invaded Ukraine?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't think it really matters what you call it. But what you're seeing is an opening of a new front. And this time, I would classify it more in the invasion category, because there are regular troops that are observable.
STARR: At NATO, commercial satellite imagery made public of Russian forces on the move for the last several days, this, a convoy of Russian artillery, inside Eastern Ukraine.
Russia also moving in with armored vehicles and multiple rocket launchers and SA-22 anti-air weapons like these, to keep Ukraine's air force from flying. The prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic denies an invasion. It's all about vacations, he says.
ALEKSANDR ZAKHARCHENKO, PRIME MINISTER, DONETSK PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC (through translator): Current Russian military are also fighting with us who prefer to spend their holiday not on the seaside, but amongst us.
STARR: Another crisis that comes at a very awkward, tough time for the president. He travels next week to a NATO summit, where Russia and Ukraine were already likely to be topic number one. No indication of any new ideas to offer, other than to talk a lot about how much they want to contain Russia's moves -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Another crisis, obviously, for the United States, indeed, the world, what's going on, on that border between Russia and Ukraine, what's going on in the Middle East. Lots to worry about. Barbara, thanks very, very much.
We're joined now by the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, who's joining us from the North Lawn of the White House.
Josh, thanks very much for coming in. I know you wanted to come on the program to clarify what the president meant when he said we don't have a strategy yet because the commotion that those words generated was enormous. So go ahead and tell us what the president precisely was referring to.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Wolf, the president was asked a specific question about what approach he was going to pursue when it came to possible military action in Syria against ISIL. That was the specific question he was asked and the president was explicit, that he is still waiting for plans that are being developed by the Pentagon for military options that he has for going into Syria.
But when it comes to confronting ISIL, the president has been very clear for months about what our comprehensive strategy is for confronting the ISIL threat in Iraq. It starts with a unified Iraq government, that can unite that country to meet the threat that's facing their country right now.
It includes strengthening our relationship with the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, to make sure that they have the equipment and training that they need, to take the fight to ISIL on the ground in their country.
The third component of our strategy is engaging regional governments. It's certainly not in the interest of governments in that neighborhood to have ISIL wreaking havoc and perpetrating terrible acts of violence in the region.
The fourth aspect of the strategy is engaging countries around the world in this effort.
And then, of course, the fifth aspect of the strategy, the fifth component, is the use of American military force.
And the president has authorized American military strikes in Iraq to protect American personnel and to avert humanitarian disasters in some -- that's being perpetrated against some religious and ethnic minorities by ISIL.
So the president has been clear about what our strategy is. The president is clear that the strategy is one that's not going to solve this problem overnight, but he's also clear about the fact that our strategy can't only be the American military.
If we've learned anything over the last 10 or 12 years, Wolf, it's that a strategy that only includes military force will not be an enduring solution to this problem.
BLITZER: All right. So let me be precise there.
Is the U.S. strategy, the president does have a strategy in dealing with ISIS, the terrorists in Iraq, but he does not yet have a strategy in dealing with ISIS, the same terrorists who operate in Syria.
Is that right?
EARNEST: Well, no, well, Wolf, what's clear is we have a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL. One component of our broader strategy is the use of military force. The president has authorized the use of military force in Iraq to protect American personnel and to protect religious and ethnic minorities who are vulnerable to persecution by ISIL.
The aspect of the strategy that is still being developed by the Pentagon and the president is discussing in The Situation Room at the White House right now is what sort of military options are available for using military force against ISIL in Syria. Those options are still being developed.
But when it comes to our broader comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL, the president has been clear about what that strategy is. And it is ensuring that Iraq has the support from the international community that it needs to take care of their own security situation.
The United States military can no longer be solely responsible for stabilizing the security situation in Iraq. It's time for Iraq's government and Iraq's security forces to be integrated, to be united, and to confront the ISIL threat in their own country themselves.
BLITZER: So, when the president used those words, we don't have a strategy yet, I want to be precise and I don't want to harp too much on this, but when he says, "we don't have a strategy yet," what precisely was he referring to?
EARNEST: He was referring to military options for striking ISIL in Syria. Those options are still being developed by the Pentagon. They, obviously, have spent a lot of time working on this and they're still working through it. It's the subject of some discussion in The Situation Room at the White House right now.
But in terms of our broader strategy for confronting ISIL, the president has been very clear about what that is, and it can't rely only on the use of American military force.
The American military is very effective and, thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we've already enjoyed significant success in Iraq so far in confronting ISIL. We averted a humanitarian disaster at Sinjar Mountain and that thousands of Yazidis were able to escape persecution.
The American military was able to support Iraq and Kurdish security forces in retaking Mosul Dam. The American military airstrikes were also effective in blunting what had been a pretty aggressive advance by ISIL on Irbil, a location where the United States has a consulate and where many Americans live.
So there has been an effective use of American military force in Iraq so far against ISIL, but what the president is crystal clear about is that our strategy is much broader than just the use of military force.
We need to engage the international community and the strategy needs to begin with an inclusive Iraqi government that can unite the country of Iraq to meet the threat that's facing their country right now.
BLITZER: So the president basically is waiting for the Pentagon, the military, the intelligence community to give him all the information they can, to develop the various options for dealing with ISIS terrorist targets in Syria.
At that point, the president, as commander in chief, Josh, will review all of the evidence and then come up with a strategy, is that right?
EARNEST: Well, what the president will do is he will consider the options that are presented to him by the Pentagon and, at that point, the president will make a determination about how those options fit in as a component of our broader strategy for confronting ISIL.
Again, any sort of strategy that's predicated only on the use of American military force will not be an enduring solution to this -- to this challenge.
What will -- what -- that enduring solution will require the Iraqi government stepping up, stepping forward, uniting that country, strengthening their security forces, so that they can meet the threat, the security threat that exists in their home country.
BLITZER: How much time do you think is needed before that strategy evolves and is actually put on paper?
How much more time do you think before the president decides whether or not to launch airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria?
EARNEST: Well, I know that the president will be in regular communication with his national security team on this issue as he is every aspect of our strategy. The president is sending the secretary of state, John Kerry, to the region, where he'll be meeting with regional governments who have a clear interest in working with the United States and the broader international community to confront this threat.
The president is eager to get regularly updated on the status of those conversations, in the same way that he's ready to get updated on a regular basis by the Defense Department about the success and progress that's being made as a result of military strikes the president has already authorized in Iraq.
And this is also part of the way in which he's updated on military planning as it relates to options that are available to the president in Syria.
So there is a broad, comprehensive strategy that has a range of components here. So it's understandable, Wolf, that you and your viewers are very focused on what sort of military action the president is contemplating and may ultimately authorize.
It's just important to understand that that is only one component of a broader strategy for dealing with this situation.
We clearly have learned, over last 10 or 12 years, that American military force cannot be the only component of a strategy.
If it is, that will succeed in temporarily stabilizing the security situation, but without the Iraqis stepping up and assuming their responsibility for the security of their own country, any sort of military action, any sort of military progress that's made, will only be temporary.
BLITZER: Does the president believe, if he is going to go ahead with military action against targets inside Syria, he first needs congressional authorization?
Would you go for a roll call vote in the House and the Senate before military strikes are ordered?
EARNEST: Well, Wolf, the president did address this in the news conference today. And what he made clear is he believes that it's important for Congress to be consulted.
The president's been consulting with Congress since June, when this issue first publicly appeared on the radar screen. The United States had for some time been warning the Iraqis about the threat of ISIL.
But the president has been regularly consulting with members of Congress and ultimately the president does believe that right now he has the authority that he needs to authorize the kind of military action required to protect Americans in Iraq.
But if the --
BLITZER: What about in Syria?
EARNEST: Well, the Syria situation is -- depends on what our goal is. And the president was pretty clear about that.
I don't want to get ahead of whether congressional authorization would be required for a decision the president hasn't made yet.
If we get to a point where the president does decide that he's going to take advantage of some of the military options that are presented to him in Syria, then we'll have a discussion about what sort of proper role Congress should play in weighing in on those options.
But, I will say that -- I can say definitively, Wolf, that, throughout this process, Congress will continue to be regularly consulted as the president develops this strategy and continues to implement it.
BLITZER: One final question, because you know the criticism coming in from Republicans and even some others, what's taking so long?
You know this problem of ISIS or ISIL, as you call it, in Syria has been around for months, if not longer.
What's taking so long to come up with a strategy to deal with this threat inside Syria?
EARNEST: Well, Wolf, to be clear, we've -- the United States and the Obama administration has been very aggressive for a number of years now in dealing with the situation in Syria.
The United States, under the leadership of President Obama, is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to try to meet the needs of those Syrians who have been displaced by violence in their country.
The United States has also been engaged in an effort to support the moderate Syrian opposition, as they fight both the Assad regime, but also the more extremist elements like ISIL that are operating in their country.
So there are a number of things the United States has been doing for years to try to address the situation in Syria. The reason that this is on the front page of every newspaper across the country is that we saw a political failure in Iraq that created an opening for some of the violent extremists in Syria to spread into Iraq in a way that was pretty alarming.
And that's the challenge that we're dealing with right now. So the president has put forward this comprehensive strategy that starts with the Iraqi people and Iraq's political leaders, uniting that country to meet the existential threat that's facing their country.
So the United States is not, and the United States military, more importantly, is not solely responsible for preserving the security situation in Iraq. It's time for the Iraq's government and Iraq's security forces and the Iraqi people to step forward and take responsibility for the security situation in that country.
BLITZER: It certainly is. It's way beyond time for the Iraqi government to do that. That's been a huge, huge disappointment to all of us who have covered that story for so long.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, thanks very much for joining us.
EARNEST: Yes, Wolf, thank you.
BLITZER: Still ahead, we're going to have much more on the battle against ISIS and the war that's undergoing -- that's on the way right now in Ukraine. The State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, she is standing by live. There she is.
And new evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown may be stronger now. The timing of an audio recording of the gunshots now has been confirmed.
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news, President Obama acknowledging a little while ago the United States doesn't have a firm strategy yet for launching airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
He also spoke out a little while ago about the battle that's under way right now in Ukraine along the border with Russia.
Let's talk about all of that with the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki. She's joining us from the State Department.
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Hi, Wolf.
BLITZER: Hi, Jen. Thanks very much for joining us.
PSAKI: My pleasure.
BLITZER: Do you want to weigh in at all on this whole issue about the president acknowledging he doesn't have a strategy yet for dealing with ISIS in Syria? He does have a strategy, according to Josh Earnest, for dealing with ISIS in Iraq, but not yet in Syria.
PSAKI: Well, I think it's important to note here the president has already begun implementing his strategy to defeat ISIL, but that's not just a military strategy. We have done strikes in Iraq. We have made clear, we're not going to be limited by borders, but he's also building an international coalition.
Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel will be headed out after NATO to the region, to the Middle East, to continue to build this coalition, because it's not an overnight issue that we can address. It's one that we need a long-term strategy that has multiple components, including a financial aspect, a political aspect, a diplomatic aspect, as well as a military aspect.
And that's something the president has directed his team to do.
BLITZER: So will Secretary Kerry be heading to the Middle East after the NATO summit in Wales next week or before?
PSAKI: He will be heading after the NATO summit. He will also be having a meeting he will be co-chairing with Secretary Hagel while he's at the NATO summit with their counterparts to continue to discuss what roles every country can play, not just countries in the Arab world, not just countries in Europe, but countries around the world, in addressing the threat of ISIL.
It's one that there's a growing concern about and one we're taking a leading role in fighting.
BLITZER: What countries is the secretary of state planning on visiting?
PSAKI: Well, we're still determining that, Wolf, so I expect we will know more in the coming 24 to 48 hours, but certainly you can expect countries throughout the Middle East will be countries the secretary will be meeting with as part of his travel.
BLITZER: Because the president said the U.S. is trying to get support of Sunnis, Sunni Muslims, Sunni Arabs. I assume you're talking about Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE. I don't know who else. Who else are you talking about?
PSAKI: Well, these are all countries that have a stake here, have a role to play, have contributions they have already made to the threat against ISIL.
However, Wolf, I think this is also a threat that many countries in the world want to address. Look at the fact that Australia, other countries in Asia have taken steps to provide humanitarian assistance. There's an international and growing global concern about this issue, and the secretary will be speaking with his counterparts from around the world about this.
BLITZER: Does the secretary of state and the president, for that matter, hope to establish some sort of NATO strategy in dealing with ISIS in Iraq and Syria?
PSAKI: Well, certainly, this will be a big topic of discussion next week, when the president, the secretary, and Secretary Hagel are all at NATO. And this meeting that Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry will host there with their counterparts to talk about this coalition and how to take on this threat will be taking place there.
So it will be a big topic of discussion, but, of course, there are a range of other issues and discussions that will take place at NATO, including about Afghanistan, including about Ukraine. And so I think it will be a shared -- shared issues that will be discussed while they're all in Wales.
BLITZER: Have you confirmed the identity of the second American who was working or fighting with ISIS who apparently was killed?
PSAKI: There have been a range of reports, I know by CNN as well. I don't have any additional confirmation of that.
Of course, we're looking into it, but unfortunately no update at this point.
BLITZER: The Ukrainian government say the Russians have launched what they call a full-scale invasion of their sovereign territory. Does the United States government agree with the Ukrainian government?
PSAKI: Well, the United States government has not held back in conveying our strong concern about the steps that Russia, Russian- backed separatists have taken.
What we're looking at here is an incursion, one supported by Russia, one that involves arms. It involves people. It involves financing. It's illegal. It's one that violates the international norms that are accepted across the world. That's why we have put a range of sanctions in place and while we will continue to consider additional options, along with our European counterparts, about how we can help Ukraine and how we can hold Russia accountable.
BLITZER: But you're not calling it an invasion, right?
PSAKI: Well, Wolf, it doesn't really matter what we call it. It is -- these steps are an illegal incursion. They do violate the sovereignty of Ukraine.
We're more focused on what Russia's doing, what we can do to help Ukraine, what we can do about it, and how we can bring an end to this situation that is causing great concern, not only in the region, but in Europe and certainly in the United States.
BLITZER: But if you call it an illegal incursion, isn't that the same as calling it an invasion? I know words are important, especially for diplomats like you at the State Department. What's the difference between an illegal incursion by Russia into Ukraine, as opposed to an invasion by Russia into Ukraine?
PSAKI: Well, I think what's important for the American people to know, or many of the watchers of CNN to know, is that whatever it is called, it doesn't change the options that where -- the United States is considering, in conjunction with Europe, in conjunction with our counterparts around the world.
We have a range of requests from Ukraine. We have been in very close contact with our European partners about what additional steps we can take. And that's not changed by terminology or phrasing. So that's something that we will continue to discuss through the course of the week leading into NATO and certainly there while we're in Wales.
BLITZER: How much of a gap is there between the United States on the one hand and some of the NATO allies on the other hand when it comes to strengthening, even going further in terms of sanctions against Russia?
PSAKI: Well, we have been working in lockstep with Europe all along. There's no question that many European countries have much more significant trade relationships in a variety of industries with Russia. We understand that.
At the same time, Europe has shown clearly by the different sanctions they have put in place, including with some financial institutions and others, that they are -- they want to send a strong message and a strong message that's backed by steps and by action that the steps Russia is taking are unacceptable.
Of course they factor in their own economies, but we have been working closely with them. And I really -- I don't think there has been a gap to date. We all share a concern. We all want to put more costs in place, and we have all been clear that there will be continued consequences if Russia does not de-escalate.
BLITZER: One final question, Jen Psaki, before I let you go. Before the president heads to Wales for the NATO summit, he's going to make a very important visit to Estonia, one of the Baltic states, a former Soviet republic, a member of NATO.
A lot of those Eastern European, Central European countries, they are members of NATO right now. They're very worried, though, about Russia. How worried should they be?
PSAKI: Well, the NATO alliance is a strong alliance. It's backed by Article V.
I think one of the reasons the president is making that stop is why the secretary and Secretary Hagel have made similar stops. We support our NATO allies. We have their backs. We have continued to increase assistance, increase training. And that's something I'm certain he will be talking about next week when he's there.
BLITZER: Jen Psaki, I know you are going to be traveling with the secretary.
BLITZER: So, safe travels. We will see you soon.
PSAKI: Thank you. Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.
PSAKI: My pleasure.
BLITZER: Thank you.
We're getting new details about a second American who may have been killed for ISIS, fighting for ISIS in Syria. U.S. officials have identified the man as Abdirahmaan Muhumed, and as we learn more about it, we're also discovering a startling condition connection among other Americans fighting for various terrorist groups.
CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Minneapolis. He's joining us now. He's been investigating.
What are you finding out, Ted?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Muhumed and Douglas McCain, Wolf, fought together for ISIS in Syria and died on the same battlefield, but McCain was following in the footsteps of a friend that he met in high school.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Two Americans, friends in high school, both killed while fighting for extremist groups overseas. Douglas McArthur McCain and Troy Kastigar reportedly struck up a close friendship while attending Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.
While neither of them were raised Muslim, they had many friends who were members of Minneapolis's large population of Somali immigrants, and eventually they both converted to Islam. KERRYATA MCCAIN, COUSIN OF DOUGLAS MCARTHUR MCCAIN: He grew to
have, like, really strong Muslim beliefs, so much to the fact like, where, like, he was almost like turning into a Somalian. Because he had like a lot of Somalian friends.
ROWLANDS: Kastigar's mother tries to explain how these two young men who played basketball together in high school ended up fighting together overseas.
JULIE BOADA, MOTHER OF TROY KASTIGAR: I think there was like wanting to be -- have a, you know, wanting to have a purpose, wanting to be a valuable human being and not finding that.
ROWLANDS: Kastigar was killed five years ago in Somalia while fighting for the terror group, Al-Shabaab. That group made it clear they were trying to recruit more fighters like him. Kastigar and two other men, calling themselves the Minnesota Martyrs, starred in this video.
TROY KASTIGAR, KILLED FIGHTING FOR TERRORIST GROUP: If you guys only knew how much fun we have here, come here and join us.
ROWLANDS: Before becoming jihadis, McCain and Kastigar seemed more like troubled teenagers. While living in the U.S., Kastigar had a few run-ins with the law. Ten years ago, he was charged with giving false information to police and two DWIs.
McCain was also arrested at least six times, all for minor offenses, but he went under U.S. law enforcement's radar in early 2000, due to his association with other known terrorists.
The State Department says they knew about McCain's ties to ISIS, and his body was identified when the rebel group who killed him found his U.S. passport.
Minneapolis Somali divinity leader Omar Jamal says he's worried there are more would-be terrorists who've made their way from Minnesota to Syria and may want to come back, bringing jihad with them.
OMAR JAMAL, SOMALI COMMUNITY LEADER: Those kids with the U.S. passport, not only U.S. passport, but also European (ph) passports might one day come here and do something.
ROWLANDS: And Wolf, the FBI here in Minneapolis is very concerned, not only about the ongoing recruiting effort that continues in the Twin Cities, but also with about a dozen people they say, citizens of the United States, that are now overseas fighting for ISIS -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Who would have thought in Minnesota, of all places, these kinds of developments could occur. Thanks very much for that report. Ted Rowlands. Just ahead, a tech company confirms an audio recording of gunfire
at Ferguson, Missouri, was made at the time, the same time as Michael Brown's shooting. So how will that tape change this investigation? Stand by.
And a new clue in the world's greatest mystery. We're going to tell you about a new detail nearly six months, six months after MH-370 disappeared.
BLITZER: There's breaking news coming in from Ferguson, Missouri. Six people are now filing a lawsuit against police, saying their civil rights were violated. They're asking for $40 million in damages for false arrest, emotional distress, and assault, among other accusations.
Meanwhile, the company whose video chat service may have captured audio of Michael Brown's shooting has now verified the time stamp of the recording, saying it was created at the same time of the incident. Listen to the tape.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are pretty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're so fine. Just going over some of your videos. How could I forget?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Don Lemon helped uncover this audio. He's joining us from New York, along with CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, the former FBI assistant director.
Don, people had some doubts about the authenticity of this audio, but those doubts, I guess the audio, the company that provides this service says they shouldn't have those doubts.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The doubts came from a conversation that happened on television that were comments that were taken out of context.
But now since this company, and it's called Glide, which is a social messaging service, it's verified the time stamp. And the time stamp, 12:02:14 p.m. Central Time, Wolf, and that's around the exact time that Michael Brown was shot by the police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. So now that they are verifying that and the FBI is looking into it, as well, it adds another layer of authentication on top of this.
BLITZER: So Tom, now that the time has been verified, how does that impact this investigation?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think the same issue is still going to be that, you know, we still wonder about the first shot, because the chief of police said the day after the shooting that there was a struggle at the car and the gun was fired, and that matches Dorian Johnson's statement that there was a struggle at the car and the gun was fired.
So we don't hear that one single shot, so maybe the call wasn't initiated yet when that shot took place, but right around that time. Then we do have the series of shots, the pause, and four more shots.
So, it will have to be matched up with all the various witness statements, the ones that we know already, and then, of course, whatever statement that later Officer Wilson provides us to exactly the time sequence.
BLITZER: Do we know when that audio recording started, Don?
LEMON: We do. Again, the time stamp is 12:02:14 p.m. Central Time. And the interesting thing is, in the beginning, everyone thought it was an interactive web chat, but it wasn't. It was he was recording on this messaging service to send it to someone else. And apparently, there's only 12 seconds of the recording. So the recording, the shot could have happened before he started...
BLITZER: The shot in the car, you mean?
LEMON: The shot in the car, if it indeed happened. It could have started -- happened before he started recording, as Tom said.
BLITZER: But on that audio chat, that video, you don't hear. If there was a shot in the car, we don't hear that.
LEMON: No, we don't hear. We don't hear. We only hear the first shots and then that pause of about three seconds, as the audio expert has said, and then four shots. And some people hear five shots outside of that, but four and maybe an echo.
BLITZER: Tell us how we got this audio recording?
LEMON: Well, there was -- there was someone in the neighborhood, producers who were out there, and came up -- someone came up and said, "I think someone I know has a copy -- audio recording." And so we checked into it, and nothing came about.
And then a couple of days later, I got a source that had information that this tape existed. And so we tracked down the attorney, and through the attorney, we were able to verify.
The interesting thing, Wolf, is -- is that as I was calling the attorney, the attorney and her client were both meeting with the FBI at that very moment. And then minutes later, they called me back. And then a short time after that, after we verified it with our attorneys, they were on the air, or she was on the air, at least, giving us the information with the recording. BLITZER: And Tom, even though there is no shot heard on this
audio recording from this video chat, there's plenty of ways they could determine whether or not there's any forensic evidence to confirm there was a gunshot inside the vehicle.
FUENTES: That's correct. The scientific examination of the vehicle, of the clothing, of Michael Brown's clothing will absolutely determine whether there's gunpowder residue, muzzle flash residue, any remnants. The bullet casing would have probably been still in the car.
So they'll be able to very definitively determine if a shot was fired at or near that car, especially if the officer is still inside the car.
And really, it doesn't -- it doesn't change much, other than, you know, because the supporters of Brown or the supporters of the police officer can argue either way as far as the number of shots, what happened and what was Michael Brown's position, the proximity to the officer during those shots, the three-second pause followed by four more shots. That's been speculated both ways to favor Brown, to favor the officer.
So there's still more that has to be matched up, but it's a great piece of evidence. It just has to be matched with all of the other accounts and the forensic examinations.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes and Don Lemon, guys, thanks very much.
Don is going to have a lot more on this later tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. He's got a two-hour show coming up, 10 p.m. Eastern.
Still ahead, we're going to tell you about new information that's just been revealed about Malaysia Flight 370 as the underwater search is about to resume.
And will President Obama ask for congressional authorization if he decides to launch air strikes against ISIS in Syria? We're going to talk about the serious challenges ahead.
BLITZER: There's new information today about the world's most baffling unsolved mystery, the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Investigators are revealing a potentially important new detail, just as the underwater search for the jet is finally about to resume.
Let's bring in our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh.
What are you learning, Rene?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the big news today, a phone call someone on the ground made to the plane's satellite phone is giving authorities new clues about where the missing plane may be. Experts now have a new data point, nearly six months after the 777 vanished.
MARSH (voice-over): A new clue, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may have turned south earlier than originally thought. The new detail based on examination of data from an unsuccessful satellite phone call made to the doomed passenger yet.
WARREN TRUSS, AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Malaysian Airlines ground staff sought to make contact with the aircraft using a satellite phone. The detailed research that's being done now has been able to identify or trace that phone call and help to position the aircraft.
MARSH: The new details put a sharp focus on the southernmost section of the current search area. It's still believed the missing Boeing 777 is some place along this seventh arc, where the plane made its last satellite connection. It's been more than five months since the plane with 239 people onboard vanished from radar. Not one piece of debris has been found.
DATO' SRI LIOW TIONG LAI, MALAYSIAN MINISTER OF TRANSPORT: We need to find the flight. We need to find the black box in the plane so we can have a conclusion.
MARSH: The deep sea surge is expected to resume in three weeks using tow sonar equipment and video cameras. The price tag for a 300- day search -- $48 million.
In the meantime, two ships have been mapping the ocean floor. What they've discovered below is dramatic.
TRUSS: Quite remarkable geographical features, including a couple of volcanoes. In some places the sea depth is as little as 600 meter, and then falls away in just a very short distance to 6,600 meters.
MARSH: After Flight 370 went missing, a second disaster for Malaysia Airlines when pro-Russia militants shot a plane out of the sky over Ukraine. All 298 people on board died.
The twin disasters have created a financial catastrophe for the airline. It lost $97.4 million in the most recent quarter. As people tweet photos purportedly showing empty seats.
MARSH: Well, Malaysia Airlines is poised for a major restructuring. Thousands of job cuts are on the horizon. Also today, we know that representatives from Malaysia as well as China and Australia, they met to get an update on the progress as far as the search and the investigation. We don't -- do know as far as the investigation goes, they've gathered all factual information, records and interviews from the relevant individuals. Now, they're analyzing all that. But what continues to be a roadblock is the lack of physical evidence -- Wolf. BLITZER: What a mystery this remains. Thanks very much, Rene,
for that report.
Still ahead, ISIS terrorists are executing prisoners as a growing number of radicalized Americans join their ranks. The group seizes more land in Iraq and Syria, that's so say nothing of Ukraine or even domestic politics. Is President Obama -- got a lot of challenges right now. We're going to assess what's going on.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.
During a White House news conference earlier this afternoon, President Obama was asked about possible U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria. The president replied, I'm quoting now, "We don't have a strategy yet."
In THE SITUATION ROOM, his spokesman, the Press Secretary Josh Earnest clarified that while the president has an overall strategy, he said as far as ISIS is concerned, he's awaiting military options for strikes in Syria.
Let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
What are you hearing from your sources, Gloria, about the timing, about those options, and when the president will come up with a specific strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, you know, nothing is definitive on this, but I spoke with the senior administration official who said that we could expect a decision in a week or so. Now, that can drag on, Wolf, because, as we know, the secretary of state, John Kerry, has been dispatched to the region and he will go there after the NATO conference. So, we're not -- you know, we're not quite exactly sure when we will get a decision, but this source did say to me a week or so.
As you know, the president's feeling an awful lot of pressure on making a decision, and that's why, in fact, he held his press conference today because he was trying to take some of the pressure off himself. He made it clear that he didn't want to get railroaded into a decision he wasn't ready to make. And as this source said to me, we want a better package, we want to know where some countries in the region stand, and that's why John Kerry's headed over there.
BLITZER: What are you hearing about whether or not the president will seek formal congressional authorization before any such airstrikes?
BORGER: Well, as you heard in his press conference today, Wolf, the president was very careful to not distinguish between asking for permission and consulting with Congress. And what I was told by this senior administration official is that in some private sessions with members of Congress, members have made it very clear, you know, they're not exactly eager to vote on this, this close to the midterm elections.
So, it also depends, Wolf, on exactly what the president decides to do because what he's doing is what he's doing right now and if he decides to do anything further, he would have to seek -- or he would seek congressional approval, but they don't know what he's going to do yet and they also think that Congress wouldn't be eager to vote on anything.
So, again, it all remains quite murky.
BLITZER: Yes, he's got to deal with Ukraine, too, on top of Syria -- these are tough issues.
BORGER: Right. I was told by this same senior administration official that they are looking at more sanctions when it comes to Ukraine, that I was told, quote, "We want to extract a price from Putin and keep him isolated. We need to keep the pressure on him and make these sanctions hurt."
So, you can be sure at the NATO meeting, that's probably going to be topic A.
BLITZER: It's going to be lively indeed and critical. Gloria, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
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That's it for me. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.