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THE SITUATION ROOM
New York Protests; Terror in Australia; Captor Forces Hostages to Use Social Media to Spread Message; Documents Raise Questions about Ferguson Jury; New Questions About Ferguson Testimony; Jeb Bush to Release Email, Plans Book
Aired December 15, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're covering this live news conference from the New York City Police Department on the protests in New York over the past couple of days, as well as we anticipate the reaction from the NYPD to what has happened in Sydney, Australia, that nearly 17-hour siege, the hostage siege in downtown Sydney.
Let's go back to the news conference.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many families, many community members who wanted to express their outrage.
So the legal bureau is out there to protect the rights of protesters and to protect the rights of those who are arrested when they cross the line and commit a crime.
WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Let me give you a little sense of the extent of what we were dealing with over these last several weeks, that to date, since Wednesday of December 3, we have made 331 arrests total, six arrests for willful assault on members of the New York City Police Department.
We have also policed successfully with the actual minimums of violence and levels of violence and vandalism, other than those directed at our police officers, successfully been able to ensure the First Amendment constitutional rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers and others to demonstrate peacefully on the streets of New York.
However, when agitators and others would seek to take over these events, we will deal very quickly and effectively with them. And as indicated by the investigations that we're conducting, our outfit will be focused on anybody who seeks to assault a New York City police officer or anybody who seeks to disrupt these demonstrations through acts of violence or vandalism.
We will aggressively pursue them, arrest them, charge them and prosecute them. These events are proving very costly for the city of New York, that since their inception, that we have fielded the equivalent of 38,700 tours of duty. That's 38,700 tours of duty since December 3.
We have expended now almost $23 million, $22.9 million. So these events have been costly and they have been a significant drain on the manpower of the city, manpower that's been pulled in from many of the precincts around the city.
But all our efforts are to ensure that in New York people have the ability to demonstrate peacefully. And we encourage that they do that. And then if they have individuals such as this group in their midst, that they work with us to get them out of their midst, because they do nothing to support the efforts that they're demonstrating for. Rather, they take away from those efforts.
I was very disappointed. There's a national lawyers guild that assigns individuals to help monitor these events. And you will clearly see in the video and maybe even some of the still photos a couple of these individuals in the bright green hats that they wear to identify them.
I was very disappointed to not see them taking any action whatsoever to assist the police officers or to try to mitigate the assault on our police officers. So I just wanted to this evening work with your support to get the word out that we are actively looking for these individuals and we will continue looking for them until we apprehend them.
BRATTON: That's the overtime we have expended on these demonstrations, $22 million, $23 million on taxpayers' money on these demonstrations so far.
QUESTION: Commissioner, do acts like this change things and strategy and tactics that the police may use in managing these protests?
BRATTON: The tactics that we use are designed -- and there's no police department in the world better prepared to design and implement the constantly changing tactics and strategies to deal with changing circumstances.
And, again, we will continually adjust our strategies to deal with changing circumstances. I would point out that those arrests have been made with minimum issue, by and large, and that the city has not experienced significant violence or vandalism, except directed at the officers of this department, who I have to applaud.
You really have to and I think you in the media have to applaud them also. You're on those front lines, many of you. You see what they're facing, people in their face deliberately trying to taunt them into taking assertive action. All of them carrying cameras to record every move of the police. The language being directed at them does not serve the demonstrators very well of the causes that they are seeking to support.
So I'm publicly applauding the actions of the members of my department, the thousands of officers that are involved night after night out in the cold and the rain. And many of you have been out in those same streets. They have done an outstanding job protecting First Amendment rights and attempting to protect the rights of every person in this city.
BLITZER: So there's Bill Bratton, the New York City police commissioner. He's angry. He's angry at some of the protesters, a small number. Most of the protesters in New York over the weekend were very peaceful, doing what they have a right to do, but there were some he says who went after police, severely injured several police officers.
Now a major manhunt under way in New York City for those responsible for injuring those New York City cops.
Happening now, breaking news. Deadly siege. The world watches in horror as grenades and gunfire bring a 16-hour hostage drama to a violent end. The gunman, a self-proclaimed Islamic cleric, already charged in other cases. Why was he free on bail?
Lone terrorist. A hatchet attack in New York. A gunman storming the Canadian parliament. We're seeing more of the kinds of attacks U.S. officials fear most. Can they be stopped?
Massive protests. Tens of thousands of people march nationwide protesting police killings of unarmed African-Americans, as new documents are released in the Michael Brown case. What questions are they raising about the grand jury testimony?
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, the dramatic and deadly climax of a terrifying 16-hour hostage drama. A self- proclaimed Muslim cleric, apparently inspired by ISIS, holding 17 people captive in a cafe in downtown Sydney, Australia, forcing some to relay his demands on social media.
It all came to an explosive end with a series of flash grenades and a barrage of bullets. The gunman and two hostages are dead.
We're covering all angles of the breaking news with our correspondents, our guests. Full coverage coming up this hour.
CNN's Anna Coren in Sydney has the very latest.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police storm a cafe in Sydney, Australia, filled with hostages held for nearly 17 hours. Stun grenades are thrown into the building. Gunfire erupts and the battle lasts for almost five minutes.
Through the windows, flashes of gunfire and stun grenades exploding. In midst of the chaos, hostages can be seen fleeing the cafe in groups. One man runs towards police with his hands in the air. An injured woman is carried from the scene.
When it's all over, paramedics rush in. At least three are dead, including the gunman.
ANDREW P. SCIPIONE, NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE COMMISSIONER: Two deceased amongst the hostages and six that were uninjured. We also have a lone gunman who has been shot and killed. And we have a male police officer who has been injured as a result of a gunshot would to the face.
COREN: The gunman, Man Haron Monis, is an Iranian native and self- proclaimed sheik. He's well-known to police and is currently out on bail for a 2013 charge as an accessory to murder of his former wife.
The siege started when the gunman walked into the Lindt chocolate cafe just before 10:00 a.m. local and took 17 hostages, turning normally bustling city streets silent. During the standoff, some hostages were able to escape and run to safety. He had hostages hold a black flag in the cafe window demanding an ISIS flag to replace it.
Chilling images of hostages with hands and faces pressed against the windows shocked Australians. At one point, hostages were forced to record videos making demands for the gunman. A local radio host spoke directly with one of the hostages.
RAY HADLEY, RADIO HOST: They phoned my program. Obviously, I didn't want to put them to air. So I took their calls off air and at the same time could hear the hostage-taker giving the young man who spoke to me, a 23-year-old, instructions on what he wanted to do.
COREN: Shortly after 2:00 a.m. local, a gunshot is heard from inside the cafe and a hostage goes down. Heavily armed tactical police storm the building from two different directions. There were at least nine people inside the building at the time. Some hostages are able to escape. Monis is shot and killed.
SCIPIONE: There was a number of gunshots that were heard, which caused officers to move straight to what we call an E.A, an emergency action plan. And that caused them to enter.
BLITZER: Anna Coren reporting for us from Sydney, Australia. This is certainly the kind of attack that U.S. officials increasingly worry about, a lone terrorist inspired to strike by groups like ISIS and al Qaeda.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working this part of the story for us.
So, what are you finding out, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. officials have told me for some time that lone wolf attacks like today's in Sydney are the most likely attack to take place here on U.S. soil, in large part because they are extremely difficult both to police and prevent.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): The brazen hostage taking in a downtown Sydney cafe ended with a risky police operation and bloodshed. The assailant, Man Haron Monis, well known to police, believed to have planned and carried out the attack on his own.
U.S. officials have told CNN consistently that such lone wolves are the terrorists most likely to strike on U.S. soil.
JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The new phenomena that I see, that I'm very concerned about is somebody who's never met another member of that terrorist organization, never trained at one of the camps, who is simply inspired by the social media, the literature, the propaganda, the message to commit an act of violence in this country.
MATTHEW OLSEN, FORMER NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM DIRECTOR: I would say the most likely type of attack is one of these homegrown violent extremists or lone offenders in the United States. And the rise of ISIS and the number of people going to Syria, whether they're fighting with ISIS or foreign just in the conflict there against Assad, the likelihood I think does go up.
SCIUTTO: The threat grew more grave with an alarming fatwa, or Islamic declaration, in September by this man, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. The senior ISIS leader that called for lone wolf attacks against all members of the anti-ISIS coalition, including the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.
Since then, investigators have traced the shooting of a Canadian soldier in Ottawa, a hatchet attack on police in New York, and a plot in the U.K. to shoot police officers back to the ISIS fatwa. The unique danger of lone wolves is they're difficult to police and prevent. They often do not enter the country from abroad, where they could be tracked and caught at immigration.
And they often don't communicate by e-mail or telephone with operational leaders, making them harder for intelligence agencies such as the NSA to track and capture them.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: While we're never going to stop these kinds of attacks, the good news is that they tend to have limited impact. There are fewer victims, there are fewer dead. And in the end, that may be the standard for success in this new era of terrorism.
SCIUTTO: How do you police these kinds of attacks? A big focus of counterterror officials now is working with and inside Muslim communities. The U.S. learning a great deal from the U.K. on that to help identify possible recruits, possible attackers, and undercover operations play a big role, also encouraging members of the public to report suspicious activity. But the fact is, Wolf, it may be impossible for many of these possible
suspects to know what's inside the mind of every Islamist sympathizer until he or she strikes. Of course, the trouble in this case, Wolf, is that this attacker did have a track record with police. And the question is, did they not act sooner to identify him as a possible attacker down the road?
BLITZER: A critically important question that they will have to answer. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto.
I want to go back to the NYPD news conference in New York.
John Miller, who is the deputy commissioner in charge of intelligence and counterterrorism, speaking about the lessons learned from what happened in Sydney, Australia, for cops in New York.
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JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: ... is to go to locations that can be potential threat locations, were redeployed to increase police presence at the Empire State Building, the financial district.
As you know, this target in Sydney was in the heart of their financial district. Columbus Circle, other high-profile locations. Mobile field forces, from Chief O'Neill and Chief Gomez's shop that are out there as part of the detail working on the demonstrations to be available to respond anywhere were also redeployed to a number of those locations, including Times Square.
So what you saw today was a lot of intelligence-driven, strategically based, high-profile police coverage, including the heavily armed Hercules teams, which deployed to number of locations, including the consul general's office for Australia and other commonwealth countries
We have been in regular contact with the New Wales South police. As Commissioner Bratton said, we have a long-term and very close relationship with them, both professionally between the agencies and personally between the commissioner and myself and others here.
We also were in contact with their officials here in New York, and their representative in Washington, trying to make sure that we got a steady flow and exchange of information, as well as offering them any assistance in terms of taskings to run any leads here, in terms of contacts, individuals, associations of the gunman.
The Intelligence Bureau, as you know, oversees a dozen foreign posts in other countries, and we are going to dispatch our post from Singapore to Sydney, Australia, to work with the Australian Federal Police, the AFP, as well as the New South Sales police in learning more about these incidents.
What we look for is who was the actor involved in the incident, were there any people behind that actor, what message or messages was that person or people responding to, what was their original intent, in terms of the plan they had to take action, how did they execute that, how did the authorities respond to it, in other words, all the elements that we can look at that can help us learn from it.
And then of course we always put the New York overlay there and say if that incident happened here, what would be the dynamics that are the same and those that are different? So that is an overview of an awful lot that was happening, some that was very obvious to the public because you could see it and a good deal of it that happened behind the scenes.
BLITZER: All right.
So there you have John Miller. He's the deputy commissioner in New York City, NYPD intelligence and counterterrorism, explaining a much more severe New York City police presence around various locations, the Empire State Building, he said, Times Square, major business intersections in New York as a result of what happened in Sydney, Australia.
The New York City Police clearly determined to make sure what happened in Sydney does not take place in New York, namely a 16-hour hostage situation, a siege, as you will.
We're going to continue to stay on the breaking news. Let's take a quick break. We will reassess. Will get you all the very latest information right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the hostage drama that unfolded in Sydney, Australia. The crisis unfolded in fact directly across the street from the studios of Australia's Seven Network, a major television network in Australia.
Chris Reason is one of its correspondents and he witnessed the drama as it happened. Chris is joining us now from Sydney.
You were an eyewitness to what was going on. Chris, explain what you saw.
CHRIS REASON, SEVEN NETWORK: Yes. Hello to you, Wolf.
Look, it was a dramatic day in any man's language. We were here yesterday morning about 9:45 when the movements first started happening here at the cafe, the Lindt cafe just behind my shoulder here.
It's only 30 meters away from the studio. We live in a big glass fishbowl of a television studio here in Sydney. And our cameras were all set out looking out over Martin Place and we could see straight into the cafe and see the events very clearly from the get-go.
The police though realized this and moved in quickly and within about a half-an-hour decided this was a dangerous area, that we're basically in the line of fire of the gunman should he decide to point his weapon in this direction, so they evacuated this building.
Fortunately, the police allowed me and the cameraman to stay behind and come back in a couple of hours later. What we saw through the day, mate, was really something quite extraordinary. By our count, about 16 hostages in all, a mix of demographics, old, young, male, female, the youngest perhaps a man in his early 20s, no children thankfully were involved.
But we could clearly see from our position here, particularly with our cameras, zooming in through those four windows, you can see behind me the main four front windows of the Lindt cafe. Throughout the day, we saw with great clarity, great to detail exactly what was going on.
I will give you some of the color of the moment. We saw hostages being put up against the plate glass windows for -- some for prolonged durations, from half-an-hour. One blonde woman we saw was forced to stand there with her hands up against the windows for two hours.
We could see the pain and the exhaustion in her face through the afternoon. Wolf, we could see the bloodshot red eyes. She had been crying for some time, understandably so. Beside her, the young man, his head in his hands up against that window. Each of the hostages was forced at some stage to hold up the black banner, the black Islamic flag that's been tied to the I.S. cause.
At various times of the day, we had three hostages in those windows, down to one hostage. The day ebbed and flowed. We saw them come and go from those windows, the scene very calm and very collected though through most of the day, until this morning about 2:00 local time.
A frenzy of activity. First, I saw still inside this building, in the darkness from up here on level four, right beside a New South Wales sharpshooter, a sniper. We watching with our cameras in through the windows. Again, we saw some great activity about 2:00 this morning, as the gunman, looking agitated and looking concerned, moved the hostages around the cafe, first to one side, then the other.
As he gathered some on this side, Wolf, the guys over on this side, seven of them by my count, managed to run out the side door and escape. That started a whole new process, a whole new ball game. The gunman at that point seems to have panicked and taken a shot at one of the hostages.
The sniper that was standing beside me said into his radio, and I will never forget these words, Wolf, "window two, hostage down, window two, hostage down." From that point, the police decided to ramp up their efforts here.
Within seconds, squads of tactical response group officers, armed to the teeth, wearing black, NVG, night-vision goggles on, in through both doors, flash bang weapons happening everywhere, a series of sharp explosions over a couple of minutes, some gunfire exchanged and within those two minutes, bang, the gunman was killed, dead on the floor and then of course we saw the removal of the hostages very quickly onto hospital gurneys, down to waiting ambulances where they were given treatment. Two, unfortunately, as you have reported, passed away.
BLITZER: Very unfortunately indeed. So,Chris, describe the hostage taker, this man. His name is Man Haron Monis. You had a good view of him. Describe what he looked like, his
interactions specifically with the hostages.
REASON: Yes, look, we could see him in and out of those window shots throughout the day, Wolf.
He was wearing a white shirt, black cap, and he was unshaven, not sporting a beard, but just unshaven. You could see that menacing gun he had one side strapped on his left shoulder. It was a pump-action shotgun. At times, he would take that off and he would jab it in the ribs of the hostages as they were there.
He was always present somewhere lurking in the background. You can only imagine what was going through the minds of the hostages who were trapped underneath his gaze. But basically he never really left them.
We didn't see much emotional reaction from the gunman. At one stage in the afternoon, about 4:00 local time, a group of five hostages managed to escape from this side of the cafe. At that point, we could see from in here the face of the gunman turned aggressive.
He was very aggressive and he was very annoyed. He started shouting at the hostages, and I presume that he was saying something about stay still, get down, don't move. And you could see the fear and aggression on his face at that point. Very tense moment.
And then the next time we see him is through the night as he comes in and out of the shot. We saw him one time again with his gun sort of waving it around and at one point holding an iPad and we could see his face reflected in the glow of that iPad and the deep darkness just over my shoulder in the cafe in the early hours.
BLITZER: Chris Reason of Seven Network, one of the correspondents, an eyewitness, very excellent report for us. Good detail. Thank you very much, Chris, for that report. We really appreciate it.
REASON: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we're going to more on the breaking news, the shocking role of social media in this unfolding drama. Hostages forced to relay the gunman's demands online.
Plus, new documents raising serious new questions about the grand jury in the Michael Brown shooting case. We have details of testimony controversy.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, the hostage drama in Sydney, Australia. A self-proclaimed Muslim cleric, apparently inspired by ISIS, holding 17 people captive in a downtown cafe. He and two hostages died as police stormed the building.
And throughout the long ordeal, there were chilling threats and desperate pleas as the gunman forced his hostages to post his demands on social media. CNN's Tom Foreman is working this part of the story for us. It's
pretty dramatic what was going on. What are you finding out, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from the beginning this man used social media as a dangerous force multiplier, constantly implying that he represented a much bigger and much more broad strike.
FOREMAN (voice-over): From the beginning, right until the bitter end, the gunman put social media in play, and police were sharply aware of the impact.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER CATHERINE BURN, NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE: I think that there's probably a number of mediums that have been used, but we all have to be very careful not to completely overreact at this time.
FOREMAN: Four times the gunman apparently forced hostages to record video of his demands and post them online. In the final one, a woman says urgently, "This is all he wants. It's not hard. Why are we still here? Please help us. I'm begging."
But the gunman also used these messages to say he had bombs planted elsewhere, and to imply he had outside operatives to set them off. Police have found no evidence of that.
COMMISSIONER ANDREW SCIPIONE, NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE: To the people of Sydney, this was an isolated incident. It is an isolated incident.
FOREMAN: Still, as authorities tried to calm fears, the gunman was ramping them up, apparently urging his hostages to urge their social media accounts to publicize their plight.
TIFFANY GENDERS, 2GB RADIO: This whole thing is playing out on Facebook, Twitter, you know, through radio announcers. It is a very bizarre situation.
FOREMAN: Radio announcers? Yes, four times a radio station host says he was called by a 23-year-old hostage, apparently under orders from the gunman, who was ranting in the background.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calling me a scumbag, calling me the media generally scumbags for incorrectly reporting ISIL as being a group of people who are murderous bastards who have no regard for human life.
FOREMAN: Authorities scrambled to shut down the gunman's social media outlets, but with so many in play, it was not easy.
FOREMAN: And for a period of time, he undeniably succeeded in at least raising serious questions about whether or not this was the vanguard of something bigger. And even now, as police say no, he was just using social media to inflate himself, Wolf, there are questions on social media where the debate wages. Maybe -- maybe he represented a much more distant and much more fearsome enemy in this attack -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you very much.
Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, our CNN national security analyst, Bob Baer; our CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phillip Mudd; our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes; and our national security analyst, Peter Bergen.
Phillip, how unusual is it that the gunman forced hostages to actually post messages to these various social media sites?
PHILLIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I remember back -- Wolf, you'll probably remember those highly-publicized attacks in Mumbai, going back six or seven years, when people in the attack group from Pakistan and India were using smartphones over the course of a couple days to broadcast live around the world. It was incredible the power then of the rapidity of social media to transmit those -- those messages.
I think the question we're going to have after this is, for example, how do we give police immediately the tools to shut down somebody's phone, to shut down somebody's social media access on site. So these kinds of people can't get access from a site like we saw in Sydney today.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, the Congress, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Representative Mike McCaul, he spoke with me earlier about these radicalized terror threats being posed online. How do you combat against these online threats and also the inspiration for these individuals to go ahead and engage in these terror activities?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, the problem, Wolf, that makes it so hard to combat this is, you know, the online threats, and at least the inspiration to do the online attacks, aren't specific to date and time and city. And they don't provide those details. They just say to everybody that received these messages around the world, especially in western countries, go do it. And they give them a variety of different ways, whether it's run somebody over with a car or stab them or take a hatchet, shoot them, whatever the methodology might be. And that's what makes it so difficult. You don't have enough specifics to stop it, because you don't know when and where it's going to happen.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, do these lone wolves, if you will, they're out there, but what a lot of U.S. officials are worried about right now are these copycat attacks. How worried should they be?
BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think they should be very worried. I mean, clearly, Wolf, this guy in Sydney was a lunatic. He could have done a lot more damage, especially if he had an automatic weapon and explosives.
And I think what the FBI and the police officials are really worried about is somebody like the Chechen in Boston, Tsarnaev, who did understand bombs, who probably learned that in Dagestan, comes back and takes that sort of lethality and applies it to a lone-wolf attack.
And I'm still worried, by the way, about people coming back from Syria. There's nothing like playing around with explosives, setting them off, being in combat to get people trained enough to launch a full-scale attack in the United States. And that is still a possibility, because remember, the French and the British, all western Europeans can come into this country without visas. And unless the FBI has a heads up, there's not much they can do.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, you spent a lot of time studying terror threats to the United States. How worried should the U.S. be right now about a copycat attack?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I'm going to disagree slightly with Bob. I think the concern, as we've seen, is actually people who are becoming sort of self-radicalized in the countries that we live in, not people who are veterans in the Syria conflict.
In the case of Syria, 12 Americans have gone to join ISIS or the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Two of them are dead. Often, it's a one- way ticket. People go there; they don't know how to fight.
But what is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is people self-radicalizing, and we've seen that in Canada and now in Australia, and to some degree in the United States, who in the name of ISIS would carry out an attack there. That's really more of an issue.
But at the end of the day, even that isn't that big of an issue, because they're going to be probably a lone wolf, almost certainly, and there's a natural ceiling to what a lone wolf can do. We saw in Boston, basically a pair of them, Wolf, the Tsarnaev brothers, I think they killed three or four people. That was a tragedy, but it wasn't a national catastrophe like 9/11 was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you know...
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, Phillip Mudd, Bob Baer, Tom Fuentes, guys, unfortunately, we've got to leave it right there. We'll continue this conversation, certainly, tomorrow. Lots more to appreciate and understand.
Just ahead, massive marches, tens of thousands of people protesting the police killings of unarmed African-American men. And now new documents are raising serious new questions about the grand jury testimony in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri.
Plus, Jeb Bush acting more and more like a presidential candidate. We have details of what he's now doing that's fueling new questions about a possible run for the White House.
BLITZER: Massive protests nationwide against the police killings of unarmed black men, including Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and others. They come as newly-released documents raising some serious new questions about the grand jury testimony in the Ferguson, Missouri, case.
Let's get some more. Joining us, our CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; the community activist John Gaskin. Our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, is also back with us.
Jeffrey, the St. Louis County prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, he released more grand jury evidence over the weekend, and it revealed some testimony that was called into question. Some witnesses admitted to lying. One wasn't even in Ferguson during the shootings, had posted racist comments on social media the day before Michael Brown was shot. Is this another black eye, as some critics are suggesting, for the county, for the prosecutor?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, look, certainly, the prosecutor said -- Mr. McCulloch said at the beginning of the investigation that he was going to put absolutely everything before the grand jury, and this apparently was not placed before the grand jury.
But even so, I don't think any of the larger questions of the case are affected by these -- by these documents. But it is something that the prosecutor said he was going to do and he didn't do. It's also just not -- but I don't think it really would change anyone's view of the case, one way or the other.
BLITZER: Why would the prosecutors though, have called some of these witnesses, if the prosecutors themselves had doubts about their credibility?
TOOBIN: Well, this goes to the larger question of the entire approach to the grand jury here. Usually, prosecutors use the grand jury to present the credible evidence that they believe will lead to an indictment. It's usually a fairly narrow tailored presentation. What the prosecutor here did was, I'm going to put everything in front of the grand jury, and let them decide.
And there was some evidence, obviously, that the prosecutor and his team thought was not credible. But it just underlines the peculiarity of the underlying theory, which is put everything in front the grand jury. Usually prosecutors say, I'm only going to put what we regard as credible before the grand jury.
BLITZER: Another part of the evidence, Tom Fuentes, involved Dorian Johnson, as you know, he was there on the street with Michael Brown. And a lot of the people that questioned the reliability, raised questions about his reliability, but his testimony seemed to be pretty consistent throughout. That's what we're learning, right?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It appears so. You're right, Wolf. He's been very controversial. He's the only eyewitness to what happened in the convenience store, besides the convenience store clerk. He's the only eyewitness that was present when the altercation happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson at the squad car by the time the shots are fired there, then we have more people taking notice in the nearby apartments and then watching and/or taking video, pictures of what was going on. So, he is a key figure about what he has to say about what he saw,
especially as it pertains to the forensic evidence is very important.
BLITZER: While I have you, Tom, I want you to react what we heard from the New York City police commissioner. As you know, two police officers were attacked brutally over the weekend by some of these protesters. A very small number, but they were assaulted, and the -- Bill de Blasio called the assault, and I'm quoting him now, "fundamentally unacceptable." Bill Bratton, the police commissioner, he was really angry. They were looking for the assailants right now.
This is another side of the story, isn't it?
FUENTES: It sure is. You have many police officers thinking that the Mayor de Blasio threw them under the bus with everything, you know, in terms of the Garner grand jury investigation, saying basically, you know, the cops were at fault. But, you know, the last thing they want to do is have the police on the street taking punches in the face, being kicked and beaten and all of that by hoodlums and hooligans. Not by protesters.
When these events happen at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, this is what the police department regularly deals with on a nightly basis. The group of people that come out of all races and ethnic backgrounds, that they've been drinking or doing drugs and they're on the street and they do bad things. This is not the peaceful protesters earlier in the evening, exercising their First Amendment rights. That's what the police have to deal with, is protect the protesters, ensure that their rights are -- you know, enabling them to march.
But then these hoodlums and hooligans get in the middle of that and they have to deal with that. They cannot allow their police officers to get beat up on the street.
BLITZER: Yes, that's really an awful situation, too.
John Gaskin, I'm curious to get your reaction. Over the weekend, we saw the Cleveland, Ohio, police demanding an apology after a Cleveland Browns organization after the team's wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt that read and the exact, quote, "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford".
What do you think? Do athletes have a responsibility in a situation like this? Because a lot of these investigations obviously are ongoing.
JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Right. Well, you know, I call it sports al advocacy. We've seen it since dating back to activist and athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, Jackie Robinson, and the list goes on and on.
In my opinion, I feel as though prominent African-American athletes and athletes of all races have an opportunity to use their name, to use their position of power and influence to bring questions -- to bring questions of race and other pivotal social issues into the light in this country. I don't think that player for the Browns needs to apologize for anything. I believe the police union really has no need to comment on that. As an athlete, as an American, he has the right to lift his voice and make his grievances known, whether on or off the field. And I commend him for his courage and his bravely by making a stand on such a big issue in the state of Ohio, when you've had two major killings there recently. I think that's pivotal.
BLITZER: And, John, as you know, the protests have continued today. Earlier we saw protesters chaining themselves to the entrance of the Oakland Police Department. They raised a flag with the faces of Eric Garner and Michael Brown on it, 25 people were arrested in total. How long do you think these protests are going to continue?
GASKIN: I think they're going to continue and they're going to continue for possibly months until people see significant accountability and change. Wolf, what I was most impressed with was this weekend, the peaceful protests. You know, I commend Tom for putting a separation between the peaceful protesters and those that try to come in and undermined what people are doing.
But I was impressed this weekend with how well things were organized and the fact that you had tens of thousands of people in both New York and in Washington, D.C. that were able to be mobilized in such a short period of time. Most of those marches and direct actions were planned, bringing people in from across the country in a little over a week. And I think that's impressive. It speaks to the message many people were trying to send.
African-Americans and many activists that are speaking on this issue are not asking for special treatment of African-American men. They're not asking for African-American men to be held above the law. They're simply asking that young men of color are not tried and convicted on America's sidewalks and executed. They're asking for a thorough process and for accountability and for justice in these situations.
BLITZER: John Gaskin, thanks very much. Tom Fuentes, Jeffrey Toobin, guys, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, it's what you might expect from a presidential candidate. Details of what Jeb Bush is now doing, sparking a whole new round of speculation about a possible White House run.
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JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: -- is focused each day on getting stuff done.
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BLITZER: The former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gave the commencement speech today at the University of South Carolina. He didn't say anything about a possible White House run but his actions may be speaking louder than his words. Let's dig deeper. Joining us, our CNN chief political analyst Gloria
Borger, and our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, the editorial director of "The National Journal".
Gloria, Jeb Bush is releasing, what, 250,000 e-mails --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: -- during his eight years as Florida's governor. He is writing an e-book. He is going to South Carolina, as you know, and an early primary state. What does all of this say to you?
BORGER: Look, I think it means, Wolf, that he is more likely to run than not run. And I think what he is trying to do is be very transparent. Presidential candidates write books about themselves. They like to tell their own narrative before anybody else does. So, that's what the e-book is about.
Releasing the e-mail is about transparency and perhaps saying to other Republicans, OK, I'm doing this. What about you folks? You've got to be transparent, too.
And I think he is sort of putting it all out there saying, these are my ideas. These are my e-mail from when I was governor. Now, you decide.
BLITZER: Ron, could some of those e-mails, though, ruffle some feathers out there?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's hard to believe there won't be some out of 250,000 e-mails in the modern era that won't raise some hackles in the party. But I think with Jeb Bush, what's in front of the curtain is more significant than anything that's behind the curtain.
BROWNSTEIN: We already know he supports a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, that he supports the Common Core, that there's a variety of other positions that were in tune with the party during his brother's presidency but have become much more controversial since. And I think it's what's in front of the curtain that are going to be the biggest issues for him.
BORGER: You know, and, Wolf, I've been told by people who are close to him, that actually, he doesn't shy away from these fights. He understands that he may be out of touch with one wing of the Republican Party, and he said publicly last week, look, sometimes, you know, you've got to lose a primary in order to be true to yourself in a general election. And I think so he clearly understands that.
But he is not shying away from the issues that Ron is talking about. They're important to him. They're at his core. And, clearly, they were at the core of his governorship.
BLITZER: You know, Ron, I want to play a little clip of what the former Florida governor said at the commencement event today at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Listen to this.
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BUSH: As I was preparing my remarks, I asked the chief adviser of all important things in the Bush family, Barbara Bush, what I should speak about. And she thought about it briefly and said, Jeb, speak about 10 minutes and then sit down and shut up. So, that is going to be --
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BLITZER: Very cute line. Remember, his mother earlier didn't think he necessarily should run, a third Bush should run for the White House. You remember that.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, it seems like a lifetime ago, Wolf, but in the fall of 1994, I spent a week consequentially with George W. Bush and Jeb Bush when they were both running for governor for the first time. And at that time, more people in the Bush family probably thought of Jeb than George W. as a future presidential candidate. But, of course, George W. Bush won. Jeb Bush didn't win until 1998. And that put the older brother ahead on the track.
I suspect in the end, the family would rally around. And more importantly, the question is what happens to the donor base, not only for the Bush traditional donor base, but that kind of more managerial, somewhat more fiscally moderate wing of the Republican Party. Do they rally behind him? Because he would need that I think to overcome what maybe some resistance from the more populist elements of the party.
BLITZER: And, Gloria, very quickly. Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat senator from Massachusetts, lots of talk. She potentially could run. What are you hearing?
BORGER: Well, I think I asked her ten times and she said she's not running ten times. So I don't believe she is running this time for the presidency if Hillary Clinton runs. If Hillary Clinton doesn't run, I think all bets are off.
Elizabeth Warren doesn't particularly adhere to a lot of Clinton's policies. She thinks she is too close to Wall Street, et cetera, et cetera. She's really popular with that wing of the party, but I don't think she's going to take on Clinton.
BLITZER: All right.
BORGER: She will, however, continue to take on those issues that attack Wall Street.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks. Ron, thanks to you.
That's it for me.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.