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THE SITUATION ROOM
ISIS Battles Iraqi Troops for Key Oil Refinery; GOP and Dems Agree on Oversight of Iran Deal; Iraqi P.M. Asks U.S. for More Help Against ISIS; Slager Wouldn't Talk to Investigators After Shooting. Aired 5-6:00p ET
Aired April 14, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, under fire. ISIS fights to take control of Iraq's largest oil refinery. This on the same day that Iraq's prime minister is over at the White House asking for help. How big a threat does the terror group pose to world oil supplies?
Nuclear fallout. Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing: They want oversight of the Iran nuclear deal. Will the White House let them have it? And will there even be a deal after a Russian missile sale to Iran?
Didn't deserve to die. The mysterious passenger in Walter Scott's car speaks out about the fatal shooting by a police officer, and there's now new video that now ex-officer using a stun gun in an earlier traffic stop.
And accidental stowaway. Passengers hear frantic knocking and screaming from the cargo hold while their plane is in midair.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a person in there, so we're going to have to circle back around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what was a baggage worker doing in the cargo hold? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Iraq's largest oil refinery now under siege. ISIS posts dramatic new images of bitter fighting as government forces try to keep the terror group from overrunning the crucial oil facility.
All this comes as Iraq's prime minister has been meeting with President Obama today over at the White House, looking for even more U.S. military and economic assistance. And as Congress is muscling its way into the Iran nuclear deal, Senate Republicans and Democrats agree they want oversight, and the White House may let them have it.
But could a major Russian arms deal with Iran scuttle the whole deal? I'll speak live with Senator Jeff Flake of the Foreign Relations Committee Also our correspondents, analysts and guests, they're standing by
with all the latest developments, but let's begin with the very latest. Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this meeting today between President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi comes at a critical time, just as the White House is touting the gains of U.S.-led coalition forces in the fight against ISIS. The terror group is trying to seize control of Iraq's largest oil refinery. ISIS posted this video. We'll put it up on screen, showing its fighters in this siege at the Baiji oil refinery. It's just north of Tikrit.
The video shows militants firing weapon, huge plumes of smoke and portions of that refinery on fire.
Wolf, I can tell you, from talking to a senior Iraqi official, that one thing that Prime Minister Abadi said to the president during his Oval Office meeting, his other meetings here at the White House, is that he would like to see increased airstrikes on ISIS targets.
The Iraqis are pointing to the siege at Baiji right now as a key reason of why they need to see that enhanced air power coming from the U.S.-led coalition. The president in the Oval Office with Prime Minister Abadi earlier today was asked whether or not the U.S. would be providing more weapons to the Iraqis, namely drones, Apache helicopter, F-16s.
And the president said that's why he's here. He's here to listen to the Iraqi prime minister. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA,, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think this is why we are having this meeting, to make sure that we're continually improving our coordination, to make sure that Iraqi security forces are in a position to succeed in our common mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, as for that assault on the Baiji oil refinery a senior Iraqi official tells CNN that they don't believe at this point that ISIS has control of that facility at this point, though they do acknowledge that that attack and that siege has been taking place there.
In the meantime, Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, he's not leaving Washington empty-handed. The president announced during his Oval Office visit with the prime minister that the U.S. is offering $200 million in humanitarian support to the Iraqis and that there have been some reports, we should mention, Wolf, that Abadi came to Washington with specific requests for those drones, for those Apache helicopters.
The White House denied that Abadi made that specific request of the president, although senior Iraqi official told me, Wolf, that they do have a long-standing request for the U.S. to purchase that type of military hardware. They say they need it, and they need it badly, Wolf.
BLITZER: Two hundred million dollars in U.S. economic assistance to Iraq. I wonder how that's going to be received up on Capitol Hill during these types of tight -- tight money, as they say.
All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much. There's one thing that congressional Republicans and Democrats agree on. They want to supervise any final nuclear deal with Iran and now looks like they'll get their way. If, if there's still a deal to supervise. The latest serious complication, Russia.
Russia's now moving to go ahead with the sale of sophisticated missiles to Iran.
[17:05:04] Let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, first of all about this Senate legislation, what's the latest?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president is not particularly thrilled with the legislation, but he indicated that he will sign it. In fact, he'll almost certainly have little choice.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approving the bill, 19-0 vote. It will now go to the Senate, the full Senate later this month, where it appears to have the support of a veto-proof majority.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): After months of the White House fighting to keep lawmakers out of the Iran nuclear negotiations, today Congress forcing its way in.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: More fully than ever, I believe Congress should play a role an in ensuring that all the details that need to be in place are there.
SCIUTTO: Republicans and Democrats united behind a compromised bill giving lawmakers oversight of any final agreement.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think it's the congressional prerogative, and we're the ones who imposed the sanctions, and we're the ones who are going to have to take it up for permanent changes.
SCIUTTO: Under a compromise struck between Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin, the original 60-day review period cut to 30 days. And a provision requiring the president to certify every 90 days that Iran is no longer backing terrorism against Americans, watered down to periodic reports on Iran's terror and missile-related activities. Faced with what looks increasingly like a veto-proof majority in
the Senate, today the White House said the changes appear to be enough to merit the president's signature.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Republican chairman, working with the Democratic ranking member, Ben Cardin have agreed to address a large number of the concerns that we've raised and provide the kind of clarity we need to give our negotiators the time and space to try to reach an agreement.
SCIUTTO: For Iran, however, congressional action injects new doubts into already difficult nuclear talks and highlights a key sticking point. Sanctions.
MOHAMMED JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN SECRETARY: As long as this instrument of urgency and pressure is kept I think people will never have the peace of mind that is needed in order to implement a good agreement.
SCIUTTO: The Iran deal is already an issue in the 2016 presidential race. Today Republican candidate Marco Rubio agreed to remove his amendment that would have required Iran to recognize the state of Israel.
SCIUTTO: He removed that amendment, because he didn't warrant to stand in the way of what looked to be a unanimous approval here.
I will tell you Iran watching Capitol Hill closely today. I was just in touch with a senior Iranian diplomat for reaction to the passage of this legislation. Here's what he told me.
"If we reach a deal, it is the U.S. administration, not any other entity in the states, which is responsible to do its commitments based on the agreement that we only deal with the administration and expect it to deliver by any method it deems appropriate."
So, Wolf, there, the Iranian side saying, "Hey, Mr. President, if you're making this deal with us, we expect you to follow through on this deal, regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill."
BLITZER: Let's see if there is a deal. They've still got 2 and a half months to negotiate it. The fine points are going to be significant.
Russia, meanwhile, as you know, Jim, is going ahead, delivering surface-to-air missiles to Iran. How much of a complication potentially could this be, even when the sanctions are theoretically still supposed to be in effect? The Russians announced a major missile sale to Iran.
SCIUTTO: That's right. This has enormous implications for a couple of reasons. This is the missile here, the S-300, Russian. It's an advanced missile system. What is it designed to do, take down low-flying aircraft and low-flying missile, the kind of weapons the U.S. or Israel might use if these talks fail to strike Iranian nuclear sites.
Now, I'm told that the S-300. U.S. warplanes, U.S. technology could likely get by it. Israeli technology could not. Of course, there's a scenario where the U.S. decides not to strike. Israel does.
But there's another implication here, because these missiles could be used to protect Iranian medium-range missile sites, which could threaten Europe, so there are implications for NATO, as well. It shows you that that relationship the U.S. has with Russia, always precarious. Russia involved in these talks or part of these talks, but very quickly injecting some uncertainty not just about Iran but also for NATO going forward.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Let's get more on what's going on. Joining us now, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us. Let's get through some of these points.
First of all, the White House announcing $200 million in what is being described as humanitarian aid to Iraq. Iraq, after all, is a pretty oil-rich country. You support $200 million, giving $200 million to Iraq?
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, I'll have to see the White House's justification for it. Many of us will sit down with the prime minister tomorrow and see what justification he has, and we'll weigh it against other priorities that we have.
BLITZER: A lot of domestic priorities. You can do a lot with $200 million back in Arizona, for example, right?
FLAKE: Sure, sure, and so they'll have to justify it; and I think it'll be a tough sell.
[17:10:04] BLITZER: But as of right now you have an open mind?
FLAKE: Yes, yes, certainly we'll hear them out. But it'll be a tough sell.
BLITZER: What about providing Iraq with more heavy artillery, more Apache helicopters? Are you supportive of that, given Iraq's military coordination relationship with Iran?
FLAKE: Well, we've committed to help Iraq, to stand up that government and make sure it prevails against ISIS. And, you know, we don't want U.S. troops on the ground, obviously, but we've committed to help them in other ways; and that would be another way. I think that you'd find pretty broad support to supply arms and munitions.
BLITZER: Because a lot of experts say the Iraqis, even under this new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, who's at the White House today they still have an incredibly close relationship with Tehran, and I wonder if that worries you.
FLAKE: Oh, it does. Obviously, that's a concern; and we've seen in the battles in Tikrit and other places that there's been heavy Iranian influence. That is a big concern. So is ISIS. So we have to play those priorities against each other and make a decision.
BLITZER: The question is for the Iraqis, as you know, when ISIS came into Mosul in the second largest city in Iraq, 2 million people there, the Iraqi army simply fled. And they left all sorts of U.S. military equipment behind in the hands of ISIS right now or in the hands of other terror groups.
I wonder if the Apache helicopters, heavy artillery. How concerned are you that the Iraqi military could simply flee once again and leave all that military hardware to ISIS or the Iranians or Shiite militias or other terror groups?
FLAKE: Well, it's been a long-term concern of ours that the Iraqi military just hasn't been you have to snuff, and they seem to be getting better. Certainly, the new government is helping there. But as we go along, we'll get recommendations from our own Department of Defense and that of our allies, as well.
So we're into the going to do this if we believe that there's a good chance that this will just fall into the hands of ISIS. If we think that it'll help win the battle, we'll provide it.
BLITZER: A lot of U.S. military personnel are pretty distraught when they see these ISIS forces driving around in American-made Humvees and tanks, stuff that the U.S. left behind when they pulled out of Iraq and now in the hands of ISIS.
Let's talk also about the breaking news, ISIS claiming it now controls Iraq's largest oil refinery in Baiji. So despite the victory, so-called victory in Tikrit, is the army of Iraq strong enough to fight ISIS? And how worried are you about this assault on this oil refinery?
FLAKE: Well, they obviously haven't been on their own, and that's why they've needed help from us, from our allies and -- and, oddly enough, from Iran, as well. And so, no, they haven't been strong enough.
We hope that they're gaining strength, as -- as ISIS seems to have been beaten back in certain areas. But it remains to be seen. And it's a big concern of ours, certainly the strength of the Iranian -- or I'm sorry the Iraqi military. We'll ask that of the prime minister tomorrow.
BLITZER: I'm sure you'll have some good questions for Haider al- Abadi. When he joins me. We invited him to join us here on CNN. So far they haven't been able to find enough time for him to do an interview with me. Let's see if that changes over the next few days. It would be good to hear him directly answer questions on these very important, sensitive issues, given the U.S. involvement in Iraq going back to 2003. Senator, we have a lot more to talk about, including what
happened today in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iran. Lots more with Senator Jeff Flake when we come back.
[17:18:06] BLITZER: Back with Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, President Obama said -- says now, according to the White House, he's willing to sign that Corker/Cardin compromise legislation as it stands now that would give Congress a say in any eventual nuclear deal worked out with Iran.
Who blinked in these negotiations, because you know, going into the 19-0 unanimous vote in your committee today, the White House said they hated this and they threatened the president might veto it.
FLAKE: Well, my advice to them all along was work with Congress on this, rather than try to deny that Congress has any role. Congress imposed the sanctions, and only Congress can lift them permanently. So we always had a role, and I'm glad the White House recognizes that now.
BLITZER: So you think the White House blinked?
FLAKE: Yes, certainly.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about an AQAP leader, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader, an ex-detainee at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, died. There you see him, Ibrahim al-Rubaish. He was killed in Yemen today, according to the terror group, supposedly by a U.S. drone missile. He was released from Gitmo in 2006 under President Bush.
Here's the question. Looking back at all of the Gitmo detainees who have been released, a lot of them simply go back and go out there on the terror field, right?
FLAKE: Yes, that's been the case.
BLITZER: You have a problem with releasing detainees from Gitmo?
FLAKE: Well, obviously, we can't hold them forever, and there's a process that they go through. And you're always going to have some that go back to the battlefield. There are some people, criminals released from prison, who go back to crime.
But I do think it behooves us to make sure that we have a process that tries, to the best extent possible, to ensure that they don't.
BLITZER: You don't have a problem, though, with the U.S. using Hellfire missiles on these drones, let's say in Yemen, to look for these guys, go out there and target them and kill them?
FLAKE: No, I don't have a problem with that. Obviously, there's a process there that we try to ensure that we've got the right people and that we have minimal, you know -- that there's minimal collateral damage, obviously. And that's a process that we ought to go through, but I don't have a problem targeting terrorist.
BLITZER: Were you surprised that the U.S. was able to do this in Yemen now, even after Yemen has become this horrible situation now, the U.S. embassy has been evacuated, all U.S. military personnel have been pulled out? But somehow the U.S. still manages, supposedly, to pull off an airstrike like this with a drone missile?
FLAKE: No, I'm not surprised. We do have intelligence in those areas, and we can continue to carry out these strikes. And I think we should.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Cuba. I know you visited Cuba. You're a supporter of an effort to reach out and try to improve the relationship after all of these years. What do you think of the president's decision today to submit word to Congress that he wants to take Cuba off the list of countries that sponsor terrorism?
FLAKE: I think it's a good move. That list ought to mean something, and it means more now than it did just before the president made this action. I think it's a good move. It hopefully will lead to full diplomatic relations, and then we'll be able to put more pressure on the Cubans, frankly, on areas that we have disagreement on.
BLITZER: So you would say this move today is long overdue?
FLAKE: Yes, long overdue.
BLITZER: You know, there's a lot of other Republican, some Democrats like Bob Menendez who totally disagree with you. Have you been getting some grief on your position?
FLAKE: I know that I don't -- they don't agree with me on this issue, but I think it was a right move to take. And I'm glad the president did it.
BLITZER: Senator Flake, thanks very much for joining us.
FLAKE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Jeff Flake of Arizona, the Foreign Relations Committee.
Coming up we're learning new details about the South Carolina police shooting. Why didn't the officer talk with investigators for three days?
Also, we have new details from people who were inside the airliner when a man trapped in the baggage compartment started yelling for help, while the plane was already in the air.
[17:26:31] BLITZER: Breaking now, we're learning some surprising new details about the aftermath of the South Carolina police shooting. Let's go to Brian Todd, who's got the very latest for us -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we have learned when state investigators first arrived on the scene after the Walter Scott shooting on April 4. Officer Michael Slager refused to talk to them, referring them to his lawyer.
Slager wasn't interviewed by investigators until three days after that. Then he was charged with murder.
And tonight, one of the most important mysteries surrounding this case has been solved.
TODD (voice-over): There's now a name with the shadow. The mysterious passenger inside Walter Scott's car in those critical moments before Scott was gunned down is 30-year-old Pierre Fulton. Tonight Fulton has come forward with a statement to CNN about Scott: "I'll never know why he ran, but I know he didn't deserve to die."
Even with that claim, Fulton may be able to fill in some critical gaps in this story. A former NYPD detective takes us inside the interview room and the questions investigators have for Fulton.
TOM VERNI, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: Did he mention to you why he -- why the police may be after him specifically, what did you see after Mr. Scott ran? Did you see the tussle? Did you see some sort of physical altercation?
TODD: Fulton's been interviewed by the law enforcement division. But so far all he said publicly is what's in his statement. "Walter was a dear friend, and I miss him every day."
Tonight the state prosecutor leading the investigation says Officer Michael Slager, who fired the fatal shots, likely won't face the death penalty because, quote, "There are no statutory aggravating circumstances present."
Veteran criminal defense attorney Keith Watters says Slager could eventually face one of three specific charges.
KEITH WATTERS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Probably murder in the second degree, manslaughter, maybe even first-degree murder on a plea with a cap on the number of years he's going to do in jail.
TODD: But Slager has got other legal challenges: two lawsuits over his use of force. Julius Wilson suing for civil rights violations over this incident from last August captured on dash cam video. After Wilson's pulled out of his vehicle at a traffic stop, Slager Tases him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been Tased. (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn over or you're going to get hit again.
TODD: His lawyer says his client was Tased after he'd been put in a submissive position. No response from Slager's attorney or the North Charleston police.
And another Tasing incident from 2013. Mario Givens says Slager pulled him out of a house and Tased him, even though a witness said he wasn't the burglary suspect Slager was looking for.
Watters says others may follow.
WATTERS: Chances are there are other people out there right now who say, "I remember that police officer. Let me call a lawyer right now or let me go file a complaint right now, because it happened to me also."
TODD: But these are not slam dunks against Slager. He was exonerated in the complaint filed in that Mario Givens Tasing case. Keith Watters says a judge probably won't allow those lawsuits to be mentioned in Slager's criminal trial, because they would be prejudicial. And in criminal and civil cases, juries often give more weight to a police officer's testimony, given the authority they have and the stresses they face on the beat -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What other details, Brian, have you learned about Michael Slager, the ex-police officer there in North Charleston, putting off investigators, I take it, on the day of the shooting?
TODD: We're told by an official of South Carolina's Law Enforcement Division that its agents got to the scene less than an hour after the shooting. He then referred them to his attorney before that agency could even interview Slager. The attorney at the time, David Aylor, issued a statement claiming that Slager and Scott had wrestled for control of Slager's stun gun.
[17:30:11] But the law enforcement division interviewed Slager the very next day. Then they charged him with murder, and Slager's attorney quit the case. He's now got another lawyer, who's not commenting on any of this.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.
With us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, Philip Banks. He's the former chief of department for the New York City police force. Also joining us, the National Urban League president Marc Morial and the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, a CNN law enforcement analyst.
Chief Banks, the passenger from Walter Scott's car says he doesn't know why Scott ran out of that vehicle. We've all seen the video by now, but he also says Scott certainly didn't deserve to die. What's your reaction, first of all, to the shooting?
PHILIP BANKS, FORMER CHIEF OF DEPARTMENT FOR THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE FORCE: Well, basically, Wolf, what I saw here, it's one of the those indefensible acts that I have seen. I don't like to make judgments until I'm privy to all of the facts in the investigation.
But this one is pretty difficult for me to fathom that something could be introduced that could justify -- even if there was some type of physical conflict that took place at the time of the shooting, Walter Scott was clearly regressing. He was going in the opposite direction. He didn't appear to have any weapons on him, so I'm really not sure what possibly could have gone through this officer's mind of why he decided to use deadly force, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you think race played a role in Scott's death?
BANKS: I can't answer that question. I do know that, historically, the criminal justice system, race plays a part in a lot of the injustices in the criminal justice system. Did it play a part in this one? I don't know this officer. I certainly can't condemn him to say that race did play a part in it. I'm not sure.
BLITZER: What do you think, Marc Morial? Did race play a part in this?
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: I'd say this, Wolf. In the case of this officer, all three people, Walter Scott and the other two incidents even if he were clear, involved the use of force, questions about the use of force, and they were all African- American men. So that suggests a racial dimension, but whether race is a factor or not, and my view is that it is, it was wrong, wrong and wrong, no matter who the perpetrator or the victim was in this case. It was a wrong-headed, heinous criminal act.
BLITZER: Let me ask Tom Fuentes to talk about him, the ex-police officer now charged with murder. He refused to speak to investigators on the day of the shooting, saying he was being represented by an attorney. Was arrested only after being interviewed a few days later following the shooting. How unusual is this?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think it's unusual, but it's also unusual, Wolf, to have an officer facing a murder charge. So, you know, under our criminal justice system, if he was under the impression that those officers were interviewing him, and it was going to be used as evidence in a criminal prosecution, in which he was possibly going to get the death penalty, he's well within his rights to refuse to talk.
BLITZER: Chief Banks, you agree with him, right?
BANKS: Yes, I certainly agree with him. And, Wolf, in New York City, when we have a police-involved shooting, we do not, for the most part, speak to the officers. And that's at the request of the local district attorneys, because the person certainly has rights; and it is a criminal investigation. Anything that he says to the investigators can be used against him. So he has the right to not to incriminate himself.
So that's standard, and certainly in New York City and is possibly standard in other police departments, as well.
BLITZER: Marc Morial. Go ahead, Marc.
MORIAL: Yes, I was going to add, and this was a moment where -- it may be a teaching moment. And that is that people have an absolute right to consult a lawyer or to remain silent, whether this person is a police officer or not.
So I think, in this case I hope all of the viewers understand that very important constitutional right, which is the right to remain silent and also the right to have counsel president -- present if you're interrogated by the police.
So it would be a lot -- a lot better if more people understand that. So for this officer to exercise his right, I'll always defend the right of anyone to utilize and take advantage of the Constitution of this country. And that's what I think he did.
BLITZER: Chief Banks, Tulsa County reserve deputy, the 73-year- old man, Bob Bates, he turned himself in today on second-degree manslaughter charges after fatally shooting a man he says -- mistakenly shooting him with a gun instead of his stun gun.
But the sheriff's department is still standing behind him, saying he did nothing criminally wrong. He faces potentially a maximum four years in prison if convicted. Are you surprised by the way this case has been handled?
[17:35:04] BANKS: Well, I don't know if I'm surprised how it's handled, but I'm certainly disappointed on how, when you're reaching for your weapon, that you can mistake such as -- a situation such as that.
So not being privy to it, in New York City, that is the reason why the officer has the Taser on a different side of his waist than he would his or her firearm. So if your firearm on your right side, you place your Taser on the left to certainly separate and draw some type of distinction between it.
You have to make a conference effort now, when you're looking to reach for your weapon, under the training that you have, it's almost like natural that you would be reaching towards the side that it's on, as compared to the opposite side. So utilized that -- I'd have to take and do an investigation to reveal if it's anything different. But it's certainly disappointing that once again we have a person at the hands of law enforcement who is deceased, and it looks like it didn't have to be that way.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, should a reserve deputy, a volunteer, if you will, be involved in a sting operation of this nature?
FUENTES: No. I don't think so, Wolf. And I think that that's why, probably, the department is being so defensive, because this is a management decision that they put somebody out there. Now, they may have serious budgetary constraints, like other law enforcement agencies, and want to use reserves.
But in this actual situation, with a potentially dangerous arrest of a subject selling guns, no, I don't think it should be anybody but a full-time police officer. And I think the fact that the department put that person in the position is why they're defending themselves now.
BLITZER: What do you think, Marc Morial?
MORIAL: You know, one thing that was interesting about this, he's the sheriff's deputy, who apparently is the sugar daddy and is provided free trips and all sorts of emoluments (ph) to the sheriff. And that's the reason why he has sort of this special status as a reserve deputy.
Clearly, the department is going to be on the hook for negligence, for -- and I agree with Tom -- a poor management decision to place a reserve deputy in the line of fire in a sensitive law- enforcement situation. So I think that, while the department may be defensive, this is certainly a case that should be prosecuted. This is certainly a dead person, and while it was a mistake, it's a dead person who did not need to die.
BLITZER: A good point indeed. Marc Morial, thanks very much. Philip Banks and Tom Fuentes, thanks to both of you, as well.
Coming up, passengers recount the scary moments after they started hearing screams below their feet. Why did the plane take off with a baggage handler still in the cargo hold? We have new information.
And at the top of the hour outrage over U.S. drug agents attending sex parties. How much of your tax money has been wasted? The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, standing by right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:42:39] BLITZER: Congress is now back at work after a two- week recess, but senators still can't break the gridlock blocking confirmation of Loretta Lynch. She would be the first African- American woman to serve as attorney general of the United States.
CNN's Chris Frates with CNN Investigations has some new details on what's going on. This is an extraordinary delay.
CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And President Obama has pick to replace Attorney General Eric Holder has waited almost six months for the Senate to vote on her nomination, and Democrats can't decide whether to laugh or whine.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to Eric, our nation is safer.
FRATES (voice-over): The political standoff to replace him as attorney general has gone on so long it's become a kind of joke inside the Justice Department, staffers wearing black wristbands that read "Free Eric Holder."
OBAMA: U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch. FRATES: Holden's chosen successor, Loretta Lynch, has waited
longer for a Senate vote on her nomination than the past seven nominees combined.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman voted to be attorney general is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar. That is unfair. It's unjust. It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate.
FRATES: Democrats blame Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the delay.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: The Republican leader said that she would receive fair consideration by the Senate. Well, that hasn't happened. Miss Lynch has a spotless record. No one can question her integrity, her background; and there's no question she shouldn't have to wait any longer.
FRATES: But the problem isn't with Lynch. She has enough votes for confirmation. Republicans are delaying her confirmation vote to gain leverage in an unrelated fight over abortion funding.
Republicans want to ban victims of sex trafficking from using a compensation fund to pay for most abortions. But Democrats argue that move would open up similar victim compensation funds to new abortion restrictions.
On the Senate floor last month, Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican John Cornyn had this powerful exchange.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: Why is there an objection to processing those amendments and allowing the Senate to work its will? Why can't we vote on it?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Because there are many of us that believe this is one small step for womankind. It's one battle that we can win. And we have had loss after loss after loss.
[17:45:00] FRATES: And Attorney General Holder, the man Republicans had loved to hate, cracking jokes.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's almost as if the Republicans in Congress have discovered a new fondness for me. I'm feeling love there that I haven't felt for some time and, where was all this affection over the last six years? You know?
FRATES: The irony there, of course, is that the same Republicans who couldn't wait to get rid of Eric Holder are the same ones delaying his departure. I talked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday. And he made it clear he's still not backing down. He said he'd bring up Lynch for a confirmation vote after senators strike a deal on abortion funding. Telling me, quote, "That's been my position for a month now and it remains the same." Wolf. BLITZER: But a lot of Republicans say they'll never vote to
confirm her because she agrees with the president's position on these executive orders on immigration reform which they say are unconstitutional.
FRATES: Absolutely and she didn't engender a lot of Republican support during her confirmation hearing when she agreed with the president on those executive actions, but we know that there are at least five Republicans now who have said they will vote for her so with the -- all the Democrats voting for her she has the 51 votes to become the next attorney general should McConnell decide to bring her up.
BLITZER: Let's see if there's a vote. That would be obviously significant.
Thanks very much, Chris Frates, reporting.
Coming up, an airliner takes off with a baggage worker in the cargo hold and now passengers are telling us stories about hearing a screams that got the plane to turn around and land. Stand by for new information.
[17:50:58] BLITZER: An investigation is now under way to determine why an Alaska Airlines plane took off with a baggage worker asleep inside the cargo hold. The airliner turned around, landed after passengers and crewmembers heard frantic banging and screaming from below.
Let's go to our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh. She's got new details for us.
What are you learning, Rene?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the company contracted to hire this man tells me this was an experienced employee who hid behind luggage to take a nap. Now some pilots are sounding the alarm about what they call lapses in safety and security protocols on the ground at some of the nation's airports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the sudden we just hear some banging right underneath our feet.
MARSH (voice-over): Passengers heard it, and so did the pilots flying Alaska Airlines Flight 448.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we have heard a noise from the baggage compartment. Could be a person in there. So we're going to have to come back around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started hearing voices underneath us and pounding significantly louder and louder. MARSH: The baggage handler trapped inside the cargo hold of the
737. One passenger captured cell phone video of what he believes was the man banging for help.
JOSH BARTON, COMMERCIAL PILOT: That's gross incompetence. The bottom line is an incident like this happening shows negligence somewhere along the way in the process. And that has safety implications and security implications.
MARSH: When pilots made an emergency landing back to Seattle's airport, the trapped man emerged, walking himself to a waiting ambulance. The unidentified ramp agent is a contracted worker who was loading luggage into the belly of the plane with three others when, according to Alaska Airlines, he fell asleep. The airline says his team noticed he was missing. They called into the cargo hold for him, called and texted his cell phone, but no answer. They assumed he finished his shift and went home.
BARTON: The relentless cost-cutting procedures of the airlines has outsourced a lot of our work. And it's resulted in not good fruit.
MARSH: The man was released from a local hospital overnight. The investigation into how this could have happened continues.
MARSH: Well, tonight we are learning more about this ramp worker. A source close to the investigation tells me he was off for two days prior to all of this. And on the day of the incident, he had a lunch break and another break in the afternoon. So they're still working to determine why he was so sleepy. He had no major prior past issues. And we do know he passed a drug test.
While we know this is rare, you know, an individual getting stuck in the cargo hold, it has happened before. 2009, a JetBlue flight baggage handler stuck in the cargo hold, traveling from New York to Boston before they realized.
BLITZER: Pretty shocking stuff indeed.
All right. Thanks very much, Rene, for that report.
Coming up, Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing. They want oversight of the potential Iran nuclear deal. But will there still be a deal for them to supervise? And government agents holding sex parties with prostitutes paid by international drug cartels. Did U.S. taxpayers also foot the bill?
But first, CNN is set to debut a new series that looks at a couple's quest to become marijuana moguls. "HIGH PROFITS" premiers Sunday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Here's some exclusive look at the new trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're parasites.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've got no contribution to this society.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are preying on our community and our kids. This is going to end badly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got exactly $100,000 in cash back in his car. I bet there's guys right there in that prison who are doing just what we're about to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the Breckenridge Cannabis Club to be a household name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is us pioneering a new industry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going after every resort town in Colorado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His plan is really good.
[17:55:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a big boy operation now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not the Amsterdam or the Rockies. We're Breckenridge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is absolutely unbelievable to us that this has happened so quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's when the town erupted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All hell could break loose.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we have an image to protect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The powerful elite has definitely put the pressure on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone is playing everyone. They're going to have a target pinned on their back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a real threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's $2 billion to be had next year. I plan to take more than my fair share.
ANNOUNCER: "HIGH PROFITS," series premieres Sunday night at 10:00.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Happening now, sex party scandal. Lurid new details about Federal Drug Enforcement agents repeatedly hooking up with prostitutes with American taxpayers' money, and the drug cartels also footing the bill. Why hasn't anyone been fired?