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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Ed Royce; President Obama on ISIS Fight; Italy Warns of ISIS Danger after Threat to Rome; Justice Department May Act Against Ferguson Police; 2016 Prospect Jeb Bush: "I Am My Own Man"
Aired February 18, 2015 - 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: Happening now, taking on the terrorists, as the anti-ISIS coalition pushes back a new offensive. President Obama issues a challenge to Muslim leaders.
Targeting Rome. ISIS vows to conquer Italy's capital. And now that country is issuing a new warning about the danger from the killers who are on its doorstep.
And Ferguson lawsuit. Months after the riots, we're getting some exclusive new information about the U.S. Justice Department's investigation into the police force and the plans to take action.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight: President Obama is challenging Muslim leaders around the world to expose the lies of ISIS and other terrorists who have, in his words, perverted Islam. He spoke just a little while ago about ways to combat violent extremism, even as ISIS fought the U.S.-led coalition on several fronts, threatening world capitals and committing more gruesome atrocities.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Congressman Ed Royce, he is standing by, along with our correspondents, our analysts. They're all covering the news that is breaking right now.
First, let's get the very latest from our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today, President Obama confronted the criticism that he and his White House won't use the term Islamic terrorist as he called on communities across the country to come together to come together to confront violent extremism.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Trying to strike a careful balance, President Obama urged communities to be on the lookout for radicals seeking to spread terror in the U.S., as he defended the language he has used on the threat posed by ISIS. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Al Qaeda and ISIL and
groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.
ACOSTA: At a White House summit aimed at tackling violent extremism, the president pointed out Muslims are often ISIS victims. He also noted the young Muslim Americans recently killed in a high-profile murder case in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. While investigators haven't linked the attack to the victims' faith, their death prompted a Muslim prayer protest outside the White House.
OBAMA: I want to be as clear as I can be. As Americans, all faiths and backgrounds, we stand with you in your grief and we offer our love and we offer our support.
ACOSTA: The president's summit drew leaders from the Islamic faith and law enforcement exchanging ideas on how to steer young Muslims away from ISIS propaganda online.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Islam is not the issue or the problem.
ACOSTA: Even as the summit is focusing on Muslim communities, the administration has strained to avoid using terms like Islamic extremism. The White House has been inconsistent noting that the victims in the Chapel Hill murders were Muslim, but neglecting to mention the Christian faith of the Egyptian men beheaded by ISIS terrorists in Libya.
(on camera): If just seems like you're tiptoeing through the tulips here.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think I'm tiptoeing anyway. I think every been pretty clear about exactly what we're trying to fight here. This is not a religious war. This is not a war on Islam. Those individuals do not remember Islam. You noted that there has been flak that we have taken. It's worth it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): This imam from Minnesota who attended the summit argued the U.S. should focus on the terrorists' actions, not their professed faith.
ABDISALAM ADAM, IMAM: I think that's a problem. I'm not going to deny there are people of the Muslim faith who are doing wrong things. I'm not responsible for their actions. That should be very clear to all Americans and to everyone.
ACOSTA: Now, the president will take some of the lessons learned at the summit today from pilot programs aimed at countering extremism in places like Boston and Los Angeles and share them with world leaders who will be gathered at this summit at the State Department tomorrow. Wolf, I'm told the president will deliver another formal speech about the same length to dozens of foreign ministers gathered from around the world here in Washington tomorrow and that it will be, as one official called it, an address on the global challenge faced by Islamic and radical extremism.
BLITZER: We will have live coverage of the president's speech tomorrow morning during the 10 a.m. Eastern hour as well.
Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
I want to bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, our CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd, and our national security analyst Fran Townsend.
Phil Mudd, what do you think of the president's strategy as he outlined it today?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, I served under the Bush administration. I was nominated by President Obama. Let's take this out of Washington for a moment.
We should do what the adversary doesn't like and we should avoid what they like. They do not like to be referred to as murderers. Why have they declined to put video of the murder of that American woman a week ago on the Internet? It's because they don't have an explanation for murder. By contrast, they want to create a war between Islam and Christianity.
Anything we can do to avoid feeding their narrative, that is allowing them to say the Americans are the Christians, we are the Muslims, is a positive. I'm not a Democrat, I'm not a Republican. What I would say in this instance, I agree with the president. Don't do what they want us to do. Don't refer to us as anti-Islam because they will pervert that to say that they are defenders of Islam against the American Christians. I think what he did was OK.
BLITZER: Fran, you of course were President Bush's homeland security adviser. What did you think of the strategy the president outlined?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, I also served in the Clinton administration in the Justice Department.
I think it's ridiculous. I think this is a time for political correctness over accuracy. Look, these are not Buddhists or Hindu extremists. These are Islamic extremists.
The fact is the UAE ambassador just today posted an op-ed on Politico condemning Islamic extremism, because that's what it is. Look, the president is right to say this is not a war with Islam. It's a war with those who pervert it. I agree with that.
But to not call it what it is, is sort of ridiculous. The president rightly says we shouldn't -- people should not be targeted for their religious believes or their race. But he doesn't go on to -- he condemns the Chapel Hill atrocity, but he doesn't mention the execution of the Christians in Libya, the desecration of Jewish graves and Christian graves in France.
You can't -- this political correctness, I think it's quite right when Jim Acosta says the spokespeople at the White House and the president are tiptoeing through the tulips here.
BLITZER: You want to react to that, Philip Mudd?
MUDD: My answer is, of course it's Islamic extremism. That's factually correct. My question is, how do we play to the weakness of the adversary? The adversary wants us to create a war of civilizations.
Our responsibility is not to step into their game plan and to call them what they hate to be called. They do not want to be called murderers of innocence. That's what they are. We should call them murderers, not Islamic extremists. What they commit is murder. It's not an act of violence in furtherance of a religion. That's it.
BLITZER: How is this playing, Jim Sciutto? Because you cover national security for us. How is this playing not only here but around the world, the message the president was trying to convey today?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, spoke today -- I met today with an ambassador from one of the Arab countries that is taking part in this coalition.
What they say they want is a comprehensive strategy to fight back against this, which is a threat not only to the U.S. certainly, but to them more directly in the region. They want to see that from the military side. They want to see that from the ideological side, from the ideas side.
I think in that -- as Fran Townsend said, oftentimes you will hear from the leaders of some of the countries around here in the Gulf more forthright language. They call it is what it is, right, that this is coming from within Islam. It has to be addressed as such. It is not Islam. Doesn't mean that it is. But it's a problem within the religion that needs voices from within the religion to challenge it.
BLITZER: Let's get reaction to the president's speech.
Joining us now, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.
Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us.
I'm sure you listened carefully to the president today. What did you think?
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, from my standpoint, I think the 9/11 Commission was right. That was a bipartisan commission. I think what we want do is go with their recommendation, Islamist terrorism.
But regardless of what we call it, what's really missing here is a strategy that is going to defeat ISIS on the ground. Right? And so, as long as that is not happening, as long as there isn't visible evidence of ISIS being rolled back and defeated, I think we have got a problem in terms of recruitment.
That's what's really recruiting terrorists right now. And that's where our failing is right now.
BLITZER: Would it make really, practically speaking, on the ground in this war against ISIS any real difference if the president's rhetoric, his language changed and he spoke openly of Islamic radicalism or extremism?
ROYCE: From my standpoint, this is not the big issue. The big issue is the fact that we do not have a strategy that has been effective.
You and I talked. There were about eight months, nine months that went when ISIS was on the march on the open desert where we could have hit them with airstrikes and we did not. Now, as we begin to hit them, our spotters are not forward-deployed, as are the British and as are the Canadians. And as a result, it's very hard for us to get airstrikes in on them.
At the same time, we haven't armed the Kurds. We have not given the Jordanians the weapons their king says he needs. And you and I know what's happened with the Free Syrian Army in terms of lack of preparation or giving them any kind of training or weaponry.
If we are going to be effective here, we have got to have a strategy that shows decisive victory and decisive action. And that can't mean that you have got to wait for Washington, D.C., to sign off on every target. Those decisions have to be made by the spotters and by the airmen, just as the British and Canadians do it, in real time, because by the time the order comes back or the approval comes back from Washington, the target has moved. That's where we are losing ground right now.
BLITZER: Because the president also spoke about the issue of poverty, that sometimes these terrorists, they are motivated because they live in poverty, they have no education, they have nothing to do. They get motivated, inspired by these messages from ISIS and al Qaeda online. And as a result, they become terrorists.
Do you buy into that poverty angle, that part of the story?
ROYCE: This was the explanation given to me in terms of the problem with Boko Haram, poverty. And I remember the explanation and I remember my retort to it, which was I had talked to a Muslim governor who warned me of this problem.
He was from that area where Boko Haram operates. And he told me what was happening was that funding was coming in from the Gulf states. And they were setting up a madrasa and the young boys there were being converted into radical Islamist terrorists.
And he said, you know, it's only a matter of time before they come for me. He said, I grew up in a madrasa. But this one is 10 times the size with 100 times the budget. It has a Gulf state imam and they are learning jihad. And it will only be a matter of time before my state is in flames.
Well, today, that has happened. And blaming it on poverty or whatever other set of circumstances doesn't really address the issue of the brainwashing that is going on with young males in which they are being recruited into this particular philosophy of jihadist activity.
BLITZER: I want you, Congressman, Mr. Chairman, to stand by. I have many more questions for you.
But I just want Phil Mudd, our CNN counterterrorism analyst, to also weigh in on this issue of poverty that creates the opportunities for terror.
MUDD: I completely agree with that.
Look, when we looked at the originators of 9/11, a lot of these folks came from the middle class. For example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did not come from a poverty-stricken background. I think there are issues in the Middle East that contribute to violence, that relate to things like access to education and jobs.
I do not think that's the defining characteristic for a generation of people who are persuaded that murder is an acceptable way to get your political message across. We can't confuse these two messages. You can't commit murder. At the same time, I think it's perfectly appropriate to have a conversation that says, how do you create job opportunities in places like Nigeria, which is a place that has a lot of Islamic ferment. Two different questions.
BLITZER: Stand by, everyone. Stand by. Mr. Chairman, Ed Royce, stand by as well.
By the way, we are getting new information coming in on the education, the background of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. You might be surprised at his education -- much more coming up right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce.
Mr. Chairman, stand by. We have got some breaking news we're following.
The president of the United States, he says ISIS fighters and other terrorists don't speak for a billion Muslims around the world. Spoke out about violent extremism, even as ISIS reportedly has been committing some gruesome new atrocities that we're just learning about.
I want to bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, to update us on the awful nature of what we are learning.
SCIUTTO: No question. The president made clear today this is going to be a long war both in terms of military action, but also in ideas against terrorism. We got a reminder of that today. The Pentagon and the U.N. now investigating new claims of ISIS atrocities, accounts from the Western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, claiming that ISIS burned the bodies of Iraqi forces.
I have read situation reports from the ground indicating the bodies may have been burned after they were killed. Also today, Iraq's U.N. ambassador claiming ISIS selling the organs of its victims. In light of the terror group's history, no one ruling out any of these potential crimes.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): With ISIS locked in battle with Iraqi forces in al-Baghdadi, eyewitness accounts from the Western Iraqi town claim the terror group is burning the bodies of soldiers and tribesmen killed in the fighting to desecrate them.
Today, the Pentagon indicated there is video of the victims which it is now analyzing.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, it wouldn't surprise any of us here if it turns out to be authentic and true, given the kinds of atrocities that this group continues to wage against innocent civilians.
SCIUTTO: And from Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, another startling claim, that ISIS is harvesting human organs from its victims in Iraq and selling them on the black market in Europe for profit. A dozen doctors in Mosul who refused to operate, he says, were murdered.
MOHAMED ALHAKIM, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS (through translator): These are in fact crimes of genocide committed against humanity that must be held accountable before international justice, without even mentioning the traffic of human organs.
SCIUTTO: CNN has not been able to confirm the claims and the ambassador offered no proof. The U.N., however, tells CNN it is investigating. If true, what could be driving the terror group's increasingly extreme tactics?
ISIS financing has suffered as the U.S.-led air campaign has destroyed many of the group's lucrative oil facilities. And while ISIS recruiting remains strong, more and more attracting women and highly educated people, these extreme atrocities often filmed get attention, which in turn further fuels recruiting.
MICHAEL WEISS, CO-AUTHOR, "ISIS": They have basically peeled people away from al Qaeda, guys who were formerly part of the bin Laden- Zawahri network. They see that ISIS is now the going concern. They are the vanguard jihadi organization. They have managed to do what al Qaeda never could.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO: To push back against that ideology, the president outlined a number of steps today, raising voices of peace within the religion, taking on extremism online, as well as building cooperation within Muslim communities with police.
Wolf, these are important steps, but they are not a silver bullet. The U.K. has been using many of these steps for a number of years. It's had an effect, but they still have a massive jihadi problem. Some of the steps, particularly cooperation with police among Muslim communities, has raised questions of being surveilled being under observance and also questions about where their loyalties lie.
There are a lot of sensitivities here, again a reminder, this is going to be a long fight. None of this is going to solve this problem overnight.
BLITZER: Very long fight. All right, thanks, Jim Sciutto, for that report.
Let's get back to chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce.
Congressman, what do you know about these claims, the eyewitness accounts, if you will, that 45 Iraqi soldiers and tribesmen were burned by ISIS?
ROYCE: What we're trying to ascertain at this point, Wolf, was, were they burned alive before or after?
Now, we have seen that they used cages to hold some of their captives. These were the same types of cages that we saw the Jordanian pilot burned alive in. But whether or not this particular horrific crime was committed before or after they were executed, we don't know yet.
What we do know is, under the Koran, this is -- you are not supposed to burn bodies. But this particular terrorist organization has really taken to a new enthusiasm for crucifixions. I was with representatives today of the Egyptian community and of the Christian community in the Middle East.
And they were sharing with me the various horrendous ways in which Christians have been slaughtered by ISIS. So, I would not put anything past them.
BLITZER: When you say crucifixions, do you mean literally they have been crucified on crosses? Is that what you're saying?
ROYCE: Literally, they have crucified some victims. They have decapitated many.
And burning is one of the things they do. But, in addition, of course, this idea that they can take captive and make concubines from the wives and daughters of those they defeat, especially of Christians, is something that they cite. And they are using that as a recruiting methodology, amazingly. They are telling young men, part of the reward is being able to take
concubines on the battlefield. It's amazing how many psychopaths they can recruit. But, of course, the S.S. recruited a lot of psychopaths out of Germany during the war.
I guess we shouldn't be that surprised that, with the Internet, they can find human beings that respond to these incentives. But it's truly appalling.
BLITZER: Just I want to clear this up. The crucifying of these Egyptian Christians, that was taking...
ROYCE: No, of Middle East Christians.
BLITZER: Not necessarily Egyptian Christians, but other Christians in the Middle East.
ROYCE: Not Egyptian.
BLITZER: What countries were they crucified in? Do you know?
ROYCE: The case that I heard of was in Iraq. But I'm hearing this from Christians from the Middle East who are giving me examples.
And, of course, the Egyptian or the Coptic representative that I talked to today, you know, it was 21 Coptics who were decapitated. And these tactics are horrific tactics meant to scare the enemy, but also it drives recruitment.
BLITZER: Those Egyptian Christians, they were beheaded inside Libya. And the Egyptians are now -- Egyptian military is now responding.
ROYCE: In Libya.
BLITZER: Very quickly, do you know...
ROYCE: I talked to the ambassador today.
BLITZER: The Egyptian ambassador.
ROYCE: They are evacuating. They are evacuating Egyptians out of Libya.
And, of course, there is continued concern in Rome, because there's thousands of Libyans who are coming through Italy. It's not that far a trip from Tripoli. And the question is, how can the Italians, how can Rome keep its eyes on which of those might be jihadists?
BLITZER: Yes. Well, that's very, very disturbing stuff.
Mr. Chairman, Ed Royce, thanks very much for joining us.
ROYCE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead: as the chairman just said, ISIS terrorists setting their sights on Rome, Italy potentially in real danger of these terrorists. We have new information on that story. That's coming up right after the break.
And we're also learning new details about a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the police force in Ferguson, Missouri, and the action that's expected months after the fiery riots.
BLITZER: Italy is now issuing its strongest warnings yet about the danger from ISIS fighters who are establishing a stronghold in nearby Libya and who are vowing to conquer Rome.
All right. Justice correspondent Pamela Brown is in Europe tonight. She's watching all of this. She has more on the terror fears just days after those attacks in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in the wake of that recent disturbing ISIS video threatening Christians in Italy, there is a growing fear that those same militants in that video, only 200 miles south of Italy, could make it into the country, link up with criminals there and wreak havoc.
Today the foreign minister in Italy reiterated that concern.
BROWN (voice-over): In Italy today, a warning from the foreign minister of a, quote, "evident risk" of ISIS joining with the Italian militia. The country alarmed about ISIS on its shores, just a short boat ride from the beach where this heinous video, warning the country was filmed by ISIS last week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will conquer Rome.
BROWN: The latest propaganda effort coming as concerns about terrorists sweep across Europe.
Here in Denmark, new details on Omar El-Hussein, the shooter who appears to have pledged allegiance to ISIS on his apparent Facebook page before terrorizing Copenhagen.
Police have now released these pictures of El-Hussein, dressed after the initial attack dressed in black, a White Sox hat, his face covered in a dark cloth. One of the men he killed, a security guard at the synagogue he targeted, was laid to rest in Copenhagen under tight security.
El-Hussein, seen in a boxing video from 2013, used an M-95 rifle like this as one of his weapons. Police say it was a military weapon reported missing following a home robbery. Authorities believe it was here as an inmate at the Vestrovesing (ph) Prison where he became radicalized.
WASOUM HUSSAIN (ph), IMAM WORKING AT SHOOTER: It definitely is a concern that we have, and we're actually aware of this in the Danish prison service.
BROWN: Wasoum Hussain (ph) is an imam at the prison. The Copenhagen shooter served time here for a stabbing and was released just two weeks before the attacks. The imam says a third of the inmates are Muslim.
HUSSAIN: They have questions about what do I think about ISIS, or what's my opinion about ISIS. They want to know, actually. Is it actually good or are they bad guys, or what are they? And I tell them what my point of view is, that ISIS -- I mean, they're doing a lot of wrong things.
BROWN: He says radicalization in the prison isn't widespread. But propaganda messages from groups like ISIS reach inmates directly with access to televisions in their cells.
HUSSAIN: It's not uncommon to see people who are actually interested in the things that the media is focusing on, in jail, in prison, although they may not be that interested in it outside.
BROWN: And Wolf, we've been speaking to a lot of people on the ground here in Copenhagen within the Muslim community, including that imam. And a recurring theme is that the young Muslim men may feel isolated, like they're not part of society. And perhaps that may make them more vulnerable to extremist ideologies -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown reporting from Copenhagen in Denmark, thank you.
Joining us now are CNN counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd; our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank; and our national security analyst, Fran Townsend.
Paul, we know the number of terrorist cells across Europe is clearly growing. Groups like ISIS, AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, they obviously are expanding their reach. But now the French interior minister says they are tracking literally, he says, hundreds of cells in France right now. What can you tell us about this?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, that's right, Wolf. This is Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister of France, really sounding the alarm, saying that they're tracking 400 jihadis inside France. Their fear is these people may be poised to launch attacks. They may be people with links to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. There are broader concerns about 3,000 or so individuals they feel they have to have under surveillance.
But obviously, all of this of great concern. Just this last weekend, ISIS fighters in Iraq released a video, French-speaking video in which they threatened gun and car bomb attacks in Paris and Brussels. BLITZER: Phil, is there any overall profile that seems to be emerging
for these sleeper cell members, not only in France but, presumably, here in other -- Belgium, Spain, Italy, other countries, as well?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Not one that would be very effective as a practitioner. Let's look at what the word "profile" means to someone who served at the bureau, at the FBI and at the CIA. Information that would allow you to identify someone before they commit an act of violence.
Back 15 years ago, Wolf, you could look at the core al Qaeda organization in Pakistan and say, "Find me people who have gone to Pakistan, might have spent time there, might have communications contact with someone in Pakistan."
Go fast forward 15 years to today and look at what we've seen in western Europe in the past few weeks. You might have contacts in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan. You might be between the ages of 16 and 35. You might not have had any contact within the past five years, but you've returned from a war zone.
If you're a practitioner, sorting through that amount of data, I can't tell you that I can come up with a profile that is really actionable. That is just too many war zones and too many people to come up with a perfect profile.
BLITZER: So let me bring Fran here. And Fran, raising the question: how can you U.S. counterterrorism experts, law enforcement, deal with this kind of threat?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Wolf, that's exactly the factors -- the many, many factors that Phil articulates is exactly why the one defining thing that they're focusing on right now is the travel of these foreign fighters. We understand that ISIS is 21 to 35,000 strong. They know foreign fighters is some fraction of that. We know that they go to the battlefield. Some are killed. There's many return and often, it's to western Europe.
So that's -- they're working -- American authorities are working with foreign allies to try and track and identify these individuals. But that's just one of the ways. Right? We know these guys are also radicalized over the Internet.
And interestingly, while the president talked about the dissemination, the very slick dissemination of propaganda by ISIS and extremists on the Internet, he didn't talk about how they're going to combat that. How are we going to deny not only the physical safe haven in Iraq and Syria, but how are we going to begin to challenge and deny them the safe haven that they found on the Internet, which they use to disseminate the propaganda and recruit new foreign fighters?
BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note. Guys, thanks very much.
There's more breaking news we're following, including new details of the latest ISIS atrocities and President Obama's renewed vow to defeat the terrorists.
Plus, will the Justice Department actually sue the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department? Will that include the former officer who shot and killed Michael Brown? We're getting new information into THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Tonight, the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, is preparing to take new legal action aimed at the Ferguson, Missouri, police force six months after the shooting death of Michael Brown in the first wave of unrest. Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is here with exclusive details. Also with us, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.
Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, before the attorney general leaves office in the next couple of weeks, we expect he's going to wrap up a couple of matters on the Michael Brown situation.
The Justice Department has been doing a pattern practice investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. We expect that they're going to announce findings, the attorney general will announce findings that find that there was a pattern of discriminatory policing by the Ferguson Police Department. Now this includes the practice of doing traffic fines, targeting minorities. And in some cases, some of these people were not able to pay their fines and ended up serving time in jail.
Now, in addition to that, at the same time they announced these findings against the Ferguson police, we expect that they'll announce formally that there will be no charges against Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown. Obviously, those two findings will be a big deal to wrap up the attorney general's tenure before he leaves.
BLITZER: So what will they say specifically? Was there built-in racism? We know Ferguson, Missouri, is predominantly African- American, but they had a tiny number of African-American police officers.
PEREZ: Right. And these findings will basically target the department for a pattern of behavior against minorities, especially African-Americans who live in that area. There was a lawsuit recently against both Ferguson and Jennings, which is the town nearby, alleging some of these same things.
And Wolf, if the city of Ferguson does not fix some of these, we expect that then Eric Holder will announce a lawsuit against Ferguson for these -- for this pattern of behavior.
BLITZER: All right. So Jeffrey, walk us through the legal process. How does this play out? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this was really the
most likely outcome from the beginning. It's very difficult to make a federal criminal case against a police officer under these sorts of circumstances. So the answer is, there is no criminal prosecution. He is free to go.
As for the civil lawsuit against the city, that will almost certainly end in what's called a consent decree, a settlement where Ferguson will announce that they will make changes in their police department: improve training, perhaps change hiring, perhaps even change leadership. But that is a civil lawsuit; has nothing to do with criminal law. And those cases -- we've had them in Cincinnati; we've had them in New Orleans -- almost always end with an agreement to change practices, not an actual trial.
BLITZER: I know, Tom, you've been covering, watching what's going on in Ferguson from the very beginning. How does this play out in your mind?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I agree with Jeffrey. There's always been -- this is a dual track, separate investigations. One is the criminal investigation of the civil rights violation against Darren Wilson. And we've kind of expected from the very beginning that there was not going to be enough there to bring criminal charges against him.
Separately, this was -- this is a separate investigation by a different entity in DOJ that looks at patterns and practices. So I think we kind of expected that they would find some issue to bring up in that case.
BLITZER: What about the mayor of Ferguson, the police chief of Ferguson? What's the impact on them?
PEREZ: Well, you know, Wolf, he is still on the job. This is something that has been a bit of a problem between both Ferguson and the state and the county and Justice Department. He is probably going to be under pressure to either make these changes himself or probably step aside so that these changes can be made at the Ferguson police department.
BLITZER: And as you say, a lawsuit against the Ferguson -- do they have to pay a settlement? What do they have to do to resolve this, Jeffrey?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's really up to the Justice Department. It's an actual civil lawsuit. And then there will be negotiations about what is satisfactory to the Department of Justice that will address the problems. As I said, it could include the police chief has to step down. It could include that some of the police officers have to step down. Certainly, it will have something to do with changing the training practices.
And any sort of activity of the police department, how they interact with the population, that's all on the table. And the case will not be resolved until the Justice Department is satisfied that the changes are serious and really will address what they see is a problem.
BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey, Evan and Tom, guys, thanks very much.
Breaking news ahead: President Obama insists the U.S. is not at war with Islam, as he speaks out about the battle against ISIS. The president's remarks and the reaction, much more -- that's next.
BLITZER: The Republican aiming to be America's third President Bush is telling the world that he's his own man. The former Florida Governor Jeb Bush laid out his foreign policy views today in major speech in Chicago, trying to separate himself from the legacy of his father and especially his brother.
CNN's Athena Jones is joining us now from Chicago. She covered Jeb Bush's delivery there.
Athena, tell us how it went.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, that's right. Bush is a name that everybody knows. Jeb Bush is very much aware of that. And that's why today he began to try to distinguish himself from the two Presidents George Bush.
Did he do a good job of that? You decide.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I'm my own man.
JONES (voice-over): In the first major foreign policy speech of his potential presidential campaign, Jeb Bush, tried to distinguish himself from his father and his brother.
JEB BUSH: My views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.
JONES: It is perhaps the former Florida's governor biggest challenge as he explores a bid from the White House. President George W. Bush launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that grew increasingly unpopular over time.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I ask for your support.
JONES: George H.W. Bush also waged war against Iraq. The younger Bush brother did allow that mistakes were made in the second Iraq invasion in 2003. But he also hailed George W.'s surge strategy.
JEB BUSH: For sure. Using the intelligence capability that everybody embraced about weapons of mass destruction was not -- it turns out to not to be accurate. But my brother's administration through the surge, which is one of the most heroic acts of courage politically that any president's done because there was no support for this. And it was hugely successful. JONES: Bush bashed Obama for pulling troops out, saying it created a
void that's been filled by extremist like ISIS. But his plan to fight the terrorism group sounded a lot like the president's.
JEB BUSH: Restrain them. Tighten the noose and taking them out is the strategy.
JONES: And it's still not entirely clear what Jeb would do differently than his brother in the region. He said circumstances change.
JEB BUSH: Neither Twitter nor ISIS existed. New circumstances require no approaches.
JONES: In the 2010 interview, he refused to second guess the 43rd president.
JEB BUSH: I will tell you that I'm the only Republican that was in office when he was in office as president that never disagreed with him. I'm not going to start now. Why would I do that now after two years?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not one time did you call up and say don't do that?
JEB BUSH: I'm not going to start now.
JONES: As for the people Jeb is looking to for foreign policy advice, many of them also worked closely with previous Presidents Bush. From James Baker, his father's chief of staff, to Michael Chertoff, his brother's homeland security secretary, to Michael Hayden, CIA director under W.
Maybe that's why the latest CNN/ORC poll shows 64 percent of the Americans say Jeb Bush represents the past. While just 33 percent say he represents the future.
JONES: So, that poll show he's going have to do a lot more to convince the American people he'll be different from two President Bushes we already had -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena, thank you.
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar, our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, and our CNN political director David Chalian.
Iran -- so, he's walking this difficult line, Jeb Bush. How did he do?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, the overall roll out, everybody he's done has been professional. It followed on that track. He's not given his last word on his assessment of his brother's choices in foreign policy. It's fine for the winter of 2015. It will not be sufficient all the way through the fall 2016 if he gets that far.
BLITZER: David, you're shaking your head in agreement, right?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I'm agreeing he has a lot more to do. The I think the clearest indication that he understands that the Bush name is something he has to deal with is the fact at the very beginning of his campaign here, he went front and center with it. He does not think this is a one and done think. He's getting out early because he's laying groundwork for knowing he's going to have to come back and revisit this.
BLITZER: Brianna, and Jeb Bush is someone the Hillary Clinton camp fears because they fear he could carry the state of Florida, that's a huge state, a lot of electoral votes in Florida. They worry about him, don't they?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly do worry about Jeb Bush. But I think one of the things that they would be much smiling about today, Wolf, is this poll that we have out today, CNN/ORC poll. I would say the within thing that really sticks out here, the thing that sticks out the most from this poll has to do with who is the candidate of the future.
We've heard this discussion of the new car smell that President Obama talked about. It's really important, I think, to voters that kind of want something new. And something surprising was that 48 percent of voters surveyed described Hillary Clinton as a candidate of the past, 50 percent said she's of the future. That's a huge number, because when you look at the same question with Jeb Bush you have 64 percent of voters surveyed saying he's candidate of the past, and really just one out of three saying he's a candidate of the future. Same for Joe Biden as you see there.
This stunning to so many people, because Hillary Clinton has been in public life for decades, and yet the Bush family name has been around for even longer than that. And I think you see for Hillary Clinton, the fact she's a woman is really working for her. But you see in a way it's kind of cancelling out this dynastic concern that we're seeing.
BLITZER: Let me let Ron Brownstein weigh in on that. Go ahead, Ron.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, no, I think that's right. I mean, you know, Jeb Bush is a formidable candidate in many ways if he gets the nomination, particularly because he's probably the Republican other than Marco Rubio best suited to improve the party's with Hispanic voters. And without doing that, the math gets very difficult for Republicans in 2016.
On the other hand, his long history, as Brianna notes, makes it tougher for Republicans to paint Hillary Clinton as a return to the past. And in that way, he's a more favorable match up from a kind of issue point of view. But make no mistake: his ability potentially to attract more minority voters is something that could be absolutely critical for Republicans to be coming more competitive in 2016. BLITZER: David, in our new CNN/ORC poll, we asked Republican who
their choice was at this early stage for the nominee. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, he's at 16 percent. Jeb Bush, 14 percent. The Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, 11 percent, Ron Paul --Rand Paul, I should say, 10 percent. They are pretty much very, very close, well within the margin of error.
CHALIAN: Right. Those four guys that are in double digits, nobody else is in double digits, are basically your early front runners for the nomination, Wolf. But what is amazing to see is the jump.
Mike Huckabee was at 6 percent and he jumped all the way to 16 percent. This is because, you know, he finally went on FOX News and left his show, and said that he was very much considering this. He entered the fray. He went out on a book tour, very popular with conservative media.
Once the news media starts picking up that somebody is serious about running, they seem to get a look at folks. The same with Scott Walker who gave a well received speech in Iowa and he, too, got a lot of news coverage and he gets a bump in the poll.
BLITZER: He went from 4 percent in December to 11 percent now. But Jeb bush, take a look this, Ron, he was ahead 23 percent in December. He's gone down to 14 percent.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Right. Well, in the long run the rise of a candidate like Huckabee could be beneficial for someone like Bush. Bush is going to draw more from the upscale, more centrist part of the party.
Huckabee is very strong with evangelical voters. That's would allow him to win Iowa in 2008, also allow him to win a number of states in the South. He struggled enormously to expand beyond that. If you look at the primaries in 2008, he only won 10 percent of the voters who are not evangelicals.
So, the risk you have is that Huckabee could scoop up a lot of evangelical voters, deny them to another candidate who might be the Bush's right (ph), like Scott Walker, the son of a Baptist minister, and yet be unable to truly emerge as a full-scale challenger.
In the end, I think Jeb Bush would rather have Mike Huckabee than Scott Walker be his primary opposition.
BLITZER: And, Brianna, look, Hillary Clinton, she's way, way ahead of the other potential Democratic candidates, at least right now, 61 percent, Joe Biden, 14. Elizabeth warren 10. She's not even running. Bernie Sanders, 3 percent. She must be feeling pretty comfortable right now.
KEILAR: I think she does. And I also think that there's this thought in the Clinton camp, Wolf, that what goes up must come down. I think now as she becomes more political, we're really waiting for her to dip her toe into this. And even say, maybe unofficially, we think this could still happen in the spring that she's running, and maybe launch her campaign in earnest or more in a visible way come this summer.
As that happens, we're expecting she's going to dip in the pools. But I think it's interesting when you look at where Bernie Sanders is, or Martin O'Malley is. They are in single digits, low digits. And it makes you wonder if they're even going to get in the race.
BLITZER: That's it. We got to go right now.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.