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Police Union: Something Happened in That Van; Iranian Warships Heading Toward U.S. Fleet; : Interview with Brett McGurk; Radioactive Drone Lands on Japan's Government Office. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired April 22, 2015 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, taking to the streets -- angry residents get ready for a new round of protesters, as local and federal investigators try to learn how and why a Baltimore man died of a broken neck in police custody.

We have new video of the arrest of Freddie Gray.

Police union respond -- an attorney for the officer says something happened in that van that took Freddie Gray away, adding we just don't know what.

Show of force -- U.S. warships and thousands of U.S. military personnel -- they're ready to block any Iranian attempts to arm rebels in Yemen.

But could it turn into a showdown with Iran's navy?

And drone scare -- a drone carrying radioactive material is found on the roof of Japan's equivalent of the White House.

Could it happen here?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: And let's begin with the breaking news. Angry Baltimore residents get ready for a new protest over the death of Freddie Gray. His fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody has unleashed pent-up rage in a city where violence is all too common.

A police union lawyer for the arresting officers says something happened in that van, we just don't know what.

New video has emerged appearing to showing Gray being shackled before he was put in a police van. And police now say five of the six officers suspended after the incident have given statements to investigators.

But there are still many unanswered questions and the Justice Department here in Washington is looking to see if there were civil rights violations in Gray's arrest.

I'll speak live this hour with Congressman Elijah Cummings.

And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they're are all standing by for complete coverage.

Let's begin in Baltimore.

Brian Todd in on the scene for us.

He has the very latest. -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're at the corner of Presbury and North Mount Streets in Baltimore. A small group of protesters starting to gather behind me. A protest expected to begin in a couple of minutes. We're not sure how strong it's going to be tonight.

This is the very spot where Freddie Gray was arrested. He was arrested right down there by that stone wall. Makeshift memorials set up here all along this place. The protests, when they begin, are expected to go down North Mount Street toward the police precinct right there.

You know, so much palpable anger on the streets in the last couple of days, so much emotion, a lot of it not only over Freddie Gray's death itself, but over the fact that we've now got four investigations going on in this case and so few answers.



TODD (voice-over): A neighborhood on edge and just plain angry. In the wake of Freddie Gray's death, members of his community are in a mood to vent.


TODD: A big part of their frustration -- comments from city officials that they'll share everything about the investigations.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), BALTIMORE: We're pushing out as much information as we have as soon as we're able to confirm it.

CAPT. ERIC KOWALCZKY, BALTIMORE POLICE: We've promised to be open and transparent.

TODD: But representatives for Gray's family say they're still in the dark on some key questions.


TODD: They're not saying if they believe Baltimore police know what caused Gray's spinal cord injury, but they're pressing for more answers. JASON DOWNS, GRAY FAMILY ATTORNEY: We do expect that the police

should be made to answer questions as to exactly what happened to Mr. Gray once Mr. Gray came into their custody.


TODD: Baltimore's mayor says authorities are concerned that giving out too much information might compromise the investigation.

Could this be a clue?

New bystander video shows one stop the police van made after Gray was arrested and placed inside. Police say they stopped to restrain him because he became agitated.

Councilman Nick Mosby, who represents Gray's neighborhood, says the police haven't been transparent over another aspect of the case.

NICK MOSBY, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCILMAN: So the police coming out and just saying that we arrested him, but we're -- we don't have the details now on why we arrested him, it's just unacceptable.

TODD: Police have said they arrested Gray because they believed he was committing a crime. But they haven't said what that crime was.

Tonight, new information on the background of one of the officers under suspension in the Gray case.

Court documents show Lieutenant Brian Rice faced allegations of domestic violence in 2008 and 2013. In the second case, he was ordered not to contact, go to the home or workplace of the person who filed the complaint. But in both cases, protective orders were not authorized by the courts.

Neither Rice's attorney nor the Baltimore police responded to requests for comment.

The head of the Baltimore police union, who knows Rice, said this.

GENE RYAN, PRESIDENT, BALTIMORE CITY FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: I can't really comment on what happened in his past. I mean I -- that is -- what happened in his home life shouldn't play nor factor into what happened on the job.


TODD: Now the head of that police union, Gene Ryan, told us that police throughout this city are very concerned about possible retaliation for Freddie Gray's death. He says they are all thinking about the murders of those two New York City police officers following the Ferguson and Staten Island cases -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There's also, Brian, new information tonight about the suspended officers' meeting with investigators, right? TODD: That's right, Wolf. Baltimore police have just said that

five of the six suspended officers in this case gave statements to investigators the very day that Freddie Gray was arrested. That was on April 12th. But they gave statements to them. They're not giving a lot of detail about these statements. They've also said that the second person who was with Freddie Gray in that police van in those crucial moments is now a witness in a criminal investigation. His name is not being released -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brown, we're going to get back to you.

Let's see what happens on the streets of Baltimore tonight.

Let's get some more now on the Justice Department investigation into the death of this young man. Justice reporter, Evan Perez, has been looking into this part of the story.

So what are they going to be looking for, specifically, FBI, Justice Department officials?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, it's very unusual for them to get involved so quickly. But that gives you an impression -- that gives you -- that's one sign of how they are looking at this case. It looks a lot more like Ferguson, where they want to make sure that everything is being done very, very according to plan there.

And one of the things they're looking for, Wolf, is to see whether or not this -- whether these five, or six officers, rather, violated his civil rights, whether they were intentionally looking to violate his civil rights. And that always is a tough thing for them to prove.

BLITZER: The bar for prosecution in the civil rights allegation charge is very, very high.

PEREZ: It is. And as we saw with Officer Darren Wilson down in Ferguson, you know, despite, you have, you know, 100 witnesses who were saying all kinds of things, they could not reach the level to bring -- to prosecute this officer. And his statements ended up winning the day.

We'll see whether these five officers who have now given statements, something the FBI is going to be looking at immediately, also trying to interview this second prisoner who was in the van, those are all the things that are going to be playing into this (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: The civil rights division, I take it, at the Justice Department...

PEREZ: Right.

BLITZER: -- they're in charge, is that right?

PEREZ: Right. The civil rights division. Also, they have lawyers in the Baltimore U.S. Attorney's Office who handle these types of cases, as well as the FBI's civil rights investigators -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's going to take a long time, though. It could take years.

PEREZ: It takes a while.

BLITZER: Sometimes two years for an investigation of that nature...

PEREZ: It sure can, yes.

BLITZER: -- to go forward.

All right, thanks very much, Evan Perez, for that.

Joining us now is Marc Morial.

He's the president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Marc, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: So the police union, you just heard them here. We had live coverage. They're making the case these six police officers who were apparently involved, five of them are cooperating, giving statements to the police. One has not, which, of course, is that individual's right under the "US Constitution."

Your reaction to what we just heard?

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT & CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: So here's the thing. There's a context behind all of this, Wolf, and that is, one, just last Thursday, the Department of Justice held a meeting at Coppin State University in Baltimore, at which over 300 people showed up to voice complaints against the Baltimore Police Department.

Number two, "The Baltimore Sun" documented, in a 2014 article, numerous cases of police misconduct, police violations and the like. Thirdly, the Maryland state legislature just rejected an effort by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, just recently to amend The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights,


To give the Baltimore Police Department stronger disciplinary enforcement authority.

There is a history, there's a context. And this incident, Wolf, may simply be the tip of the iceberg on a police department with numerous problems of a longstanding nature. So the protest, like we saw in Ferguson, is not just about this incident, but seems to have to do with longstanding feelings that have existed in that city for a long time.

So I think all the viewers should understand the context behind this is certainly this tragic incident, but it goes beyond that.

BLITZER: Marc Morial, I want you to stand by, because I also want to bring in Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. His district certainly includes Baltimore.

And I take it, Congressman, your district also includes the specific area where this arrest was made, right?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: It's a five minute drive from my house, where I've lived for 33 years.

BLITZER: So you know this district. Tell us...

CUMMINGS: I know the district.

BLITZER: Tell us what's going on, Congressman.

CUMMINGS: Well, I think what's happened, over the years, a tremendous distrust between the police and the community has arisen. And there are probably a lot of systemic problems of abuse by police.

As a matter of fact, several months ago, we asked the DOJ to come in and take a look at our police department because we were concerned about systemic problems.

And so this incident, I think, as Marc Morial just said, is probably the tip of the iceberg. And that's why I was pleased to join with Senator Cardin and Senator Mikulski to make sure that DOJ came in and took a look at this incident, because I think it's symbolic of many others, sadly.

BLITZER: Have they shared, the investigators, information with you that they haven't shared with the public?

And I assume if they did, you don't want to release that information. I'm just wondering if they're keeping you, the congressman who represents this district, up to speed in the investigation.

CUMMINGS: Yes, I talked to the commissioner of police today, a few hours ago. And they are keeping me abreast. They still are gathering information. There is, I think, information that will be released soon.

But I'm still not satisfied. And I don't think the commissioner is satisfied.

I mean when we look at what happened to this young man, who was basically in an area they claim was drug infested, but like so many areas in Baltimore, we have drug infestation. And apparently they looked at the -- the policeman said he looked him in the eye and the next thing you know, he started running.

And so -- but they had no real cause to arrest this gentleman. And so I am -- I'm very concerned about that. But then they -- he ends up with a severed spinal cord. And the

police are saying there was no force. And they're saying that it was, you know, not an unusual arrest in any way.

And, so, you know, the result is that we have a young man who is now dead, but the police are basically saying nothing happened.

And so that -- that -- it goes against just common sense. And so I can understand folks being very, very upset.

But, you know, I've reiterated to the people in my neighborhood, you know, to maintain a sense of calm, make sure nothing -- I mean there's nothing wrong with protests. As a matter of fact, I think it's healthy. But we've got to make sure that we aim for trying to come up with some solutions.

Now, one of the things that we haven't talked about...

BLITZER: All right...

CUMMINGS: -- Wolf, if you've got a minute.

BLITZER: I do have a minute, but I want to just interrupt for one minute, Congressman.

CUMMINGS: Go ahead.

BLITZER: I've got to take a quick break.


BLITZER: I want you to stay with us if you can.


BLITZER: I know you've got votes up there.


BLITZER: I want Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, to stay with us. We have several more questions.

This is your district. You have a lot of these answers.

We'll take a quick break.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're back with Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, whose district includes Baltimore, specifically the area where this incident occurred. He's the senior Democrat on the oversight government reform committee.

[17:19:22] Also joining us, Marc Morial. He's the president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Congressman Cummings, I interrupted you. You wanted to make another point about this investigation. Go ahead.

CUMMINGS: One of the things that a lot of people don't realize about Baltimore is we just elected a brilliant young African-American woman named Marilyn Mosby as our state's attorney. And she is conducting her investigation in conjunction with the police.

By May 1, she should have in her hand the preliminary report from the police, and she'll combine that with the information she has to determine whether to file charges.

Folks in Baltimore have a lot of confidence in her. She's a young lady, a career prosecutor. And I have a lot of faith in her, too. And so -- you know, but as Marc Morial was saying, there's a lot to be done. But first we have to figure out all of the problems. And we are looking for a Ferguson-type review of our police department.

And, Wolf, this is a transformative moment. If we don't get this right now, things will only get worse.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Marc Morial about that, because Marc, "The Baltimore Sun," as you know, they had reported the city has already paid about nearly $6 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming police brutality. There's been a federal involvement investigation. These issues there, they've been under way for a while, right?

MORIAL: There's no doubt there's a long history here. But I would also note, Wolf, in agreeing with Congressman Cummings, the opportunity, the transformative nature of this moment. The opportunity that is there for the Baltimore Police Department, for the community, for the mayor to aggressively, assertively and without fear put into place a reform plan which fixing these longstanding problems and build working bridges between the police department and the community.

There is an opportunity in a tragic crisis. And that opportunity is to build strong momentum for the kind of systematic change that's needed.

This is a major big city department. This is a major American city. This is a city with a diverse community. It's a city with African-American elected officials. My hope is that they're going to take up this charge to bring about the kind of reform and lead the nation in demonstrating how you fix a broken police department, because obviously with the history, it's broken. With the outrage, it's now spilled over with the unfortunate death of this young man. But it's an opportunity for the community, and the community must seize it.

BLITZER: So you have confidence, Congressman Cummings, in the state attorney, an African-American woman, you point out, the mayor of Baltimore, another African-American woman, the police commissioner, African-American -- do you have confidence in the leadership right now in your community that they can get to the bottom of this? CUMMING: Yes, I have tremendous faith in the leadership.

Our police commissioner is fairly new. But all three of them, I know, will get to the bottom of this, particularly in cooperation with the Justice Department.

The mayor herself and the police commissioner a few months ago asked for DOJ to come in and take a look at the police department. They wanted to make sure things began to -- somebody began to look at the department and look at those problems, so as they could then move to best practices.

But Marc Morial is right. I mean, we can definitely do this. And I've often said to my citizens in Baltimore, "I want us to be a model for the nation of how policing is supposed to be done." And I have tremendous faith that we'll get there.

BLITZER: Congressman Cummings, I know you're hoping the protesters remain peaceful, they don't get out of control.

CUMMINGS: Yes, that's right.

BLITZER: But that would be a horrible situation if we see violence or anything like that.

CUMMINGS: And it would be distracting.

BLITZER: Certainly would.

CUMMINGS: But I'm sure they will be.

BLITZER: All right. Let's hope. Let's hope. I know that sometimes we're all afraid of outside agitators, anarchists coming in. Is that one of your fears? You know your community, Congressman? What do you say?

CUMMINGS: I am concerned about that. That's why, you know, I'm going to be spending as much time in the area as I possibly can while of course doing my duty here in Washington. But it's my community. It's like I said, I've been in that community for 33 years, and I'm not leaving. And so I think we have to make sure that, if we're going to protest, protest in a way where it does not distract from getting to solutions to the problem.

BLITZER: Congressman Elijah Cummings, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in the community. Thanks very much for joining us.

Marc Morial, as usual, thanks to you, as well.

MORIAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, more on this story. The police union now says something happened in that van. We have a new step-by-step look from the time Freddie Gray was arrested until the time he died.

And a radioactive drone -- yes, a drone -- is found on the roof of Japan's equivalent of the White House. Given recent security breaches in Washington, how big is the threat right here in this country?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:29:10] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news out of Baltimore, which is bracing for more protests after a young African- American man died while in police custody. Only moments ago, an attorney for the officers involved and the head of the police union spoke out.

CNN's Jason Carroll is joining us from Baltimore right now.

So update our viewers, Jason. What were the main points they were making?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a few main points, Wolf, that they were making at the press conference that wrapped up just about ten minutes or so ago.

As you heard earlier, they did confirm that five of the six officers did, in fact, they said, on the same day that Freddie Gray was taken into custody on April 12, that five of the six officers did voluntarily give statements in terms of what happened. One of the officers chose not to. They did not identify which officer that was.

One of the also -- one of the other points that was made, when asked if they thought any of the officers had committed a criminal act, Michael Davey, the attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police said, based on the information that he has received so far, he believes that none of the officers committed a criminal act.

They also released a statement before the press conference got under way, Wolf. And that caused a bit of tension in the room, because when you read through the statement that Gene Ryan, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, released, he referred to the protesters as a lynch mob, an unfortunate choice of words given the history in this country of lynching African-Americans. When he was asked about that, the use of that particular term, he responded this way.


GENE RYAN, PRESIDENT, FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: They've already tried and convicted the officers. And that's just unfair. They still get their day in court. They did not give up their constitutional rights when they became a law enforcement officer. That's what I was getting at today. Some of the protesters and some of the stuff I've been watching on the news, they want him put in prison. They haven't been charged.


CARROLL: Later on, when repeatedly pressed on the use of that particular term, Wolf, he did back down and said perhaps he should have used a different term.

But he also made one other point, Wolf. He said that he wants the investigative process to play itself out. He wants everyone here in the community to wait for the results of that investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jason, we're going to get back to you. Stand by. I want to dig deeper with our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director, and our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, a former federal prosecutor.

Tom, the Department of Justice is now investigating, the state is investigating, the local community police, the mayor. A lot of people are investigating. We still don't really know what happened. We don't even know why this guy was arrested to begin with, right?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, and I think some statements have been made about what his thought was, reasonable suspicion to go ahead and chase after him when he ran.

But I think the essence of this case that's missing is, what was the actually physical cause of the injuries that he received that proved fatal? And we don't have a video of him being struck, him being shot, him being in any way brutalized that way during the arrest process. They're carrying him, basically, to the paddy wagon. But that's common. You see many people, many arrests that I am aware, they don't want to cooperate. They don't want to fight, but they don't want to cooperate. So they make you carry them to the transport.

And you see him what appears to be him standing on his own two feet and yelling as he's getting into the van. And once you see that, you say, how could your spinal cord be severed or your larynx, voice box, be crushed if you're able to do that? So it appears that whatever happened to him happened after he was put in that van. There's no camera, there's no witness yet that we know of to what happened in that. And that's what's the mystery here.

BLITZER: It's a huge mystery indeed.

Sunny, let's take look at the time line here. For instance, we know that Freddie Gray asked for an inhaler, saying he couldn't breathe before he was even dragged into the van. Police stopped the van at about 8:46 a.m. to put leg irons on Gray. Then the van picked up another prisoner at 8:59 a.m.

It wasn't until 9:24 a.m. that the ambulance was called for Gray. That's a lot of time that passed.

Why would the van, A, have made so many stops before he got to central booking? And why wouldn't they have called for an ambulance or some medics if he was in pain or whatever while they were driving? I ask you the question, I want to point out -- and you've pointed this out yourself -- you're friendly with the mayor of Baltimore.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right. She's a close friend, and I wanted, in all candor, to reveal that to our viewers.

You know, bottom line is I don't know the answer to those questions, Wolf. I don't think anyone other than the officers involved in this arrest know the answers to those very important questions as to the time line.

How can someone sort of end up with a severed spine, a fatal injury and have that happen in a van that no one is in other than this man, Mr. Gray.

And I have to disagree with Tom Fuentes. You know, yes, certain times there are people that feign injury and that need to be dragged into a police van. But it is very clear in my mind when I look at this video that this is a man who is screaming in pain. This is a man who is clearly injured. This is a man that doesn't have any strength in his legs. He's acting sort of like -- he looks like a ragdoll.

And the suggestion somehow that, oh, my goodness, he was perfectly fine, but something must have happened in the van when he was by himself is, you know, sort of the explanation. And I think that that is -- it's just ridiculous, and it looks to me as if, you know, the officers are using that as an excuse for what really happened here. It's a less-than-transparent investigation.

[17:35:07] BLITZER: All right. I'm going to have both of you to stand by. Hold your thought. We're going to have much more on this story coming up.

Also coming up, another major story that's breaking right now. Thousands of Americans, they're aboard these ships. They're prepared to block an approaching Iranian fleet that might be carrying weapons. Are they nearing a major showdown? We have new information.

And authorities are also scrambling right now after a drone -- a drone -- carrying radioactive material makes a mysterious landing. Stand by for details.


[17:40:05] BLITZER: Breaking news out of Baltimore, where crowds are marching to police headquarters to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a young African-American man who died in police country -- police custody, I should say. We'll monitor the growing protest there for you. Stand by for that.

But there's another major story we're following. A fleet of Iranian vessels heading closer and closer to nine U.S. warships off the coast of Yemen with thousands of American sailors and Marines on board. And we're getting new details tonight about Iran's warships in the convoy.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is tracking this tense situation for us. What's the latest, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Some new details today. First of all, we learned in this Iranian convoy, it's not just cargo ships. There are small Iranian warships in there.

The other detail, it is moving closer to the Yemeni coast. Still in international waters but now here just southwest of the Yemeni/Oman border.

The U.S. and allied ships are distributed between the southern Red Sea, along the strait here, and into the Gulf of Aden. We know that today the distance between the U.S. ships and the Iranian ships just a few miles. They're within visual distance now. No plans to get any closer. Certainly no plan to board or blockade those ships.

But still, sending that signal that the U.S. is watching. The president said yesterday that, in this area, it is the U.S. that is the dominant power.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Inside the Iranian convoy lurking off the coast of Yemen are, a U.S. military official says, small Iranian warships, raising the stakes in an already tense standoff as nine U.S. warships keep watch nearby, by sea and from the air with U.S. FA-18 Hornets flying reconnaissance missions.

The convoy, though still in international waters, is now moving deeper into the Gulf of Aden.

CHRISTOPHER HARMER, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: This is purely messaging the U.S. Navy messaging to the Iranian navy, we are here. We're bigger than you are. We're more capable than you are. We've got more situational awareness than you do. If we decide, we can interdict your supply lines to the Houthis.

SCIUTTO: In public, U.S. officials insist the naval show of force is purely about protecting commerce.

MARIE HARF, ACTING STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: I want to be very clear, just so no one has the wrong impression, that they are not there to intercept Iranian ships, to do issues like that. The purpose of moving them is only to ensure the shipping lanes remain open and safe.

SCIUTTO: In private, military officials tell CNN that monitoring the Iranian convoy is certainly part of the mission, something the president appeared to acknowledge in an interview with MSNBC.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately when it comes to the seas, we are obviously the dominant force. And we're coordinating closely with all of our allies in the region, sending a message that, rather than another conflict in the region, we need to settle this now.

SCIUTTO: Under U.S. pressure, Saudi Arabia abruptly announced the end of its air campaign in Yemen, only to restart airstrikes today. Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Abdel al-Jubeir said his country remains committed to defeating the Houthi rebels. ABDEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: The Houthis

should be under no illusion that we will continue to use force, to stop them from taking Yemen over by aggressive actions.

SCIUTTO: But on the ground, pro-government forces in southern Yemen vowed to keep fighting.


SCIUTTO: We learned today that two U.S. drone strikes in southern Yemen killed six suspected AQAP militants. That's the second time in three days. Previous strikes nearby on Monday killed another six. That's crucial, because though the U.S. has pulled out from the embassy here, taken Special Forces off the ground, still demonstrating a capability to carry out counterterror strikes inside Yemen. That's essential.

That said, though, Wolf, U.S. counterterror officials, intelligence officials told me repeatedly that the U.S. ability, counterterror pressure there on AQAP, is less because of that pullout. But they're still demonstrating they can pull off some of these strikes. They're maintaining vision and having that U.S. carrier off there certainly provides counterintelligence and intelligence capability, as well.

Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that.

Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, the Obama administration's point man on this war with ISIS, who is the deputy special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran and Iraq, Brett McGuirk. Thanks very much for coming in.

Do you understand what Iran is trying to achieve in Yemen?

BRETT MCGUIRK, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR IRAN AND IRAQ: Well, we know that they've been supplying arms to the Houthis for some time, as the president spoke to yesterday. And we're supporting our allies, the Saudis in this operation.

Of course, we're very encouraged by the announcement yesterday that they'll shift to a more humanitarian phase in the operation. We'll see how that plays out.

But right now, any supply to the Houthis is in violation of the new Chapter 17 U.N. Security Council resolution. I think the president spoke to this. Our presence in the gulf is about maintaining that critical international commerce way. That's something we've been doing for decades to begin with.

BLITZER: What happens -- there are, what, nine U.S. warships including an aircraft carrier there, and there are a whole bunch of Iranian ships. Are those ships warships, as well. The U.S. suspects that one of those ships has entered Yemeni territorial waters and is carrying weapons to the Houthis, what's the U.S. going to do? [17:45:03] MCGURK: I'd refer you to the Pentagon on that. I

think the president spoke but our presence in the Gulf is a substantial one as has been for some time and that will continue.

BLITZER: But you have no doubt that the Iranians are lying when they say they're not providing weapons, shipping arms to the Houthis?

MCGURK: We know that they supplied our weapons to the Houthis and the U.N. Security Council has also spoken to that so this is a statement of the broader international community.

BLITZER: In Iraq right now, do you welcome what Iran and their Shiite-backed militias are doing to help the Iraqi military fight ISIS or do you think they're playing a destabilizing role, Iran?

MCGURK: Well, Wolf, you've covered this for a long time. The situation of Iran and Iraq is very complicated. The Iranians are going to have substantial influence in Iraq. But there's also significant pillars in Iraq that resist that influence. Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has a very different conception of Shia Islam than Ayatollah Khomeini stands for.

And when Prime Minister al-Abadi was here last week, he spoke very firmly about any act by the Iranians to control a proxy force within Iraq under their command will be a hostile act against the Iraqi state. So it's a position of Iraq that they'll have a relationship with Iran. But there are certain lines that they don't want the Iranians to cross. That's certainly something that we share.

BLITZER: Because as you know there's been a lot of -- a lot of people who have pointed out, you know, in Iraq, the U.S. and Iran are on the same side, they're fighting ISIS, they're not coordinating directly but they're on the same side. In Yemen, they're on very different sides.

MCGURK: I think that's a pretty simplistic way to analyze the situation. If you look at Iraq right now, just over the last week, I know the situation in Tikrit has stabilized somewhat and ISIS moved into the Baiji oil refinery and they tried to move into Ramadi. Ramadi of course is the heart of Anbar Province. It's all Sunnis. And we have about 100,000 Sunnis flee from Anbar towards Baghdad.

The entire country really came together. The Grand Ayatollah Sistani said we have to support the Anbaris. The Iraqis, as soon as Prime Minister Abadi landed in Baghdad, he met with the Anbari leadership, he ordered reinforcements to Anbar Province, a reinforcement column got into Ramadi about 48 hours ago. The head of operations of that column is a Kurd, named Pado Barari (ph). So this situation is going to continue but the Sunnis of Anbar have been fighting ISIS now for 16 months in the city of Ramadi. And they're determined to hold their city. We're going to help them hold it.

BLITZER: So who controls Ramadi right now?

MCGURK: Iraqi Security Forces control the center of the city. We've done about 33 airstrikes in the last four, five days, and we're going to --

BLITZER: And they're going to stay and fight. They're not going to drop their arms and run away?

MCGURK: We're working directly with them and some of their best units now in Ramadi and we're going to help hold that city.

BLITZER: And Baiji, the main oil field?

MCGURK: And Baiji refinery is another example of how the professionalism and capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces after the collapse we saw last summer, Wolf, is really starting to regenerate. We've been very clear. This is going to be a long-term campaign, it's going to take years. But we saw in Baiji, when ISIS move into Baiji, the Iraqi organized a relief column and they organized a counterattack and that's ongoing now.

BLITZER: Let's continue this conversation.

Bret McGurk, thanks very much for coming in.

MCGURK: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

Coming up, Baltimore bracing for another round of protests. We're going to take you there live as crowds gather in anger over the death of Freddie Gray.

And listen to this. A drone with radioactive material lands on the roof of a major U.S. ally's leader, in Tokyo, on the residence. Their version of the White House. Who's behind the threat? And what potentially are the risks at the White House here in Washington?


[17:47:37] BLITZER: Authorities are now scrambling for answers after a drone carrying radioactive material landed on the roof of Japan's prime minister's office. Raising new fears about the use of drones as weapons just months after a drone actually crashed on the White House lawn right here in Washington.

CNN's Will Ripley is joining us live from Tokyo with the latest developments.

Will, this is pretty disturbing information. What do we know?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that investigators are very alarmed about this bizarre discovery, Wolf, that somebody they believe deliberately put radioactive material into a drone and able to fly it within feet of where the prime minister and his staff members work in the prime minister's residence. The Primary Office is raising very serious concerns here in Tokyo and around the world about terrorist activities in these small, unmanned aircraft.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RIPLEY (voice-over): A drone carrying trace amounts of a

radioactive material found on the roof of Japan's prime minister's residence. The equivalent of the United States White House. One of Shinzo Abe's staffers first spotted the drone. Within minutes a swarm of police were on scene. Investigators say the 20-inch four-propeller device was carrying a camera, four flares and a small plastic bottle containing radioactive material cesium.

Though no one's claiming responsibility at this hour, the timing and the drone's content may draw clues. Cesium is one of the elements contaminating the area around the Fukushima nuclear plant destroyed by a tsunami in 2011. And this incident comes on the same day a Japanese court ruled on the restarting of two nuclear reactors. A move seen as controversial by many Japanese, still reeling from the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

Regardless of the motivation the potential for drones as weapons has Japanese government officials on alert.

YOSHIHIDE SUGA, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (Through Translator): There may be terrorism attempts in the future for Olympic and G-7 summits using drones. So we would like to examine and review continuously the way small, unmanned vehicles, like these drones, should be operated.

RIPLEY: U.S. officials are taking note as well. Following a pair of similar incidents. In January, a drone crashed on the grounds of the White House. In that case, the operator lost control of the device and self-reported the area. And just last week, a Florida man landed his gyrocopter on Capitol lawn in a protest of campaign finance practices.


[17:55:10] RIPLEY: Wolf, right now the motive for this latest drone incident remains a mystery. The prime minister was out of the country in Indonesia. He will return back later today and he'll be taking a very close look at the laws in Japan that right now do not restrict drones from flying dangerously close to not only the prime minister's residence but sensitive government buildings, as well.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a real mystery with ramifications not only in Japan, but around the world.

Will Ripley, thanks very much.

Coming up, we'll have more on our breaking news here in the United States as Baltimore braces for the fresh protest over the death of a young man in police custody. An attorney for the police officers now says something happened in that van that took Freddie Gray away, adding we just don't know what.