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THE SITUATION ROOM
Investigating Baltimore Police Department; ISIS Threats; Bill Clinton Speaks Out Tornado Emergency in Oklahoma City, Moore; Mayor Seeks Civil Rights Probe of Baltimore Police; Clintons Calling for Criminal Justice Reform Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 6, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:03] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We are getting new video and monitoring the danger.
"You ain't seen nothing yet." That's the ominous new warning from a key ISIS terrorist. Are attacks like the one in the Texas in the works here in the United States right now?
Investigating police. Baltimore's force may soon be under more even scrutiny. Will the federal government step in, as new controversy rages over whether Freddie Gray was arrested illegally?
And Clinton talks cash. The former president is firing back at allegations about donations to his foundation and what it makes for his wife's 2016 presidential campaign. Stand by for a new CNN interview.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We are following breaking news, tornado danger in the Plains right now. A twister touched down in Oklahoma just a little while ago. It's one of several tornadoes confirmed in Oklahoma and Kansas.
Our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, is standing by in the CNN Severe Weather Center with new tornado warnings that were just posted.
Also breaking, a chilling new warning from ISIS that the attack in Texas is just the beginning of the group's plans to unleash terror in the United States. A top ISIS recruiter tweeting in English, "You ain't seen nothing yet," this as investigators connect more dots between ISIS and one oft Texas gunmen.
Our correspondents and analysts, they are all standing by with the newest information on these unfolding stories.
First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's joining us now from Phoenix, where the two Texas gunmen lived -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I spoke to a family member of Elton Simpson and a close family friend today. We're told that the family had been in touch with Elton just in the past couple of weeks. And he gave no indication apparently of what his plans were.
The family said -- telling this friend that we spoke with that they had no idea of his extremist leanings, that he was talking to terrorists overseas online. In fact, one of the ISIS terrorists he was speaking to online tweeted out a new warning, saying more attacks are to come.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, an ominous warning from a key ISIS operative U.S. investigators believe could be connected to this week's shooting in Texas, "You ain't seen nothing yet," this tweet thought to be from Junaid Hussain, an ISIS recruiter and hacker.
One U.S. official says Hussain is -- quote -- "a real problem" and could be inspiring other Americans to launch attacks in the West.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He's been somebody that they can follow, that they can get information from. And it would appear that he possibly helped instigate this attack.
BROWN: The British hacker is believed to be in Syria. Hussain exchanged messages on Twitter with Elton Simpson, one of the two American attackers in Texas. U.S. investigators are still trying to determine what degree Hussain inspired or had a role in the attack.
In the hours before the attack took place, Hussain tweeted: "The knives have been sharpened. Soon, we will come to your streets with death and slaughter."
Simpson was openly communicating online with terrorists overseas. A law enforcement official tells CNN, that led the FBI to open a new investigation in recent months. Simpson was considered a priority investigative subject, allowing law enforcement to use all available resources to keep tabs on him.
CNN is told he was monitored, but not under constant surveillance.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is consistent with what has previously been described as a lone wolf attack, that essentially you have two individuals that don't appear to be part of a broader conspiracy. And identifying those individuals and keeping tabs on them is difficult work.
BROWN: Officials believe Simpson and Nadir Soofi drove from Phoenix, Arizona, to Garland, Texas, with too long guns and four handguns in their car. Officials say they were bought legally.
Their Phoenix apartment was searched by the FBI. And according to one law enforcement, the inside was relatively barren. Officials did retrieve at least one hard drive, which is now being analyzed.
A Simpson family friend tells CNN the family had no idea about his extremist leanings.
KEVIN HAMILTON, NEIGHBOR: None. No indication at all. That's why I keep saying it's a big surprise to the family.
BROWN: I spoke to the brother of Elton Simpson. He was visibly shaken up, Wolf.
He said what happened was tragic. We know that FBI agents interviewed the family yesterday. They have been interviewing other people who knew the gunmen, the FBI trying to piece together how one of its investigative subjects was able to make it from the home here in Phoenix to Texas to launch this attack. The FBI though is staying tightlipped, Wolf, and not officially commenting on the investigation.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown in Phoenix, thank you.
The Texas attack is raising many new questions about U.S. intelligence. How did the Texas gunmen slip through the radar when at least one of them was under investigation?
Let's bring in our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who is watching this for us.
How big of a failure was this, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In retrospect, it was an intelligence failure.
This question is, is it an unavoidable one? This is the kind of decision that the FBI, DHS, intelligence officials have to make dozens of times, perhaps hundreds of times a year. In this case, they brought him back under investigation, put him under monitoring, but not constant surveillance.
The worry is here that they have been taking a harder look at a lot of these potential jihadis in recent months with the rising threat from groups such as ISIS and AQAP inspiring Americans to attack. They have been taking a harder look. Looks like they were taking a harder look at Elton Simpson, but not hard enough a look to protect this. One got through. Raises questions about how they tighten that net further to prevent attacks like this one from happening.
BLITZER: Good point. They have got to learn some lessons.
In Iraq, meanwhile, as you know, Jim, there's news that ISIS -- ISIS fighters have actually breached the perimeter of that major oil refinery in Baiji, which strategically obviously very, very important. What's going on? How key could this gain potentially be?
SCIUTTO: If they get it, key. This is a key piece of infrastructure. It's essential to Iraq's economy. This has been a running battle for a number of weeks now. A couple of weeks ago, they had been pushed back. Now they are back again.
And the thing is, in Iraq, this is the state of play in the fight between Iraqi forces, Kurdish forces and ISIS forces really in so many places across the country. You go down to Ramadi, the largest city in Anbar province, just to the west of Baghdad, still contested as we speak tonight. That's been a running battle for a number of weeks now.
And when you look at the map in Iraq, ISIS-controlled territory, ISIS- influenced territory, it hasn't changed very much in against last several weeks. You will hear of some success in stopping ISIS' forward progress, but no success, really, in pushing them back.
There is some success up here around Kobani, where Kurdish forces have taken back territory around Aleppo. Some of the Free Syrian Army, these are the moderate rebels, they have taken a lot of ground from the government of Bashar al-Assad. But in Iraq, it looks pretty much the same.
And when you think of all the efforts being concentrated there, U.S. military advisers, the U.S.-led air campaign, both those strikes here, to not have that progress, that's a real sign of how long it is going to take to gain, to win Iraq back from ISIS.
BLITZER: Yes, the Iraqi military not only gaining that support from the U.S. and the coalition, but from Iranian forces as well and Shiite-backed militias. So, ISIS seems to be rather formidable, right?
SCIUTTO: No question.
Think of the array of international forces, not just Iraqi forces, that they are standing up to here.
And when you look at Mosul -- so this is the key headquarters, in effect, for ISIS in Iraq. We are talking about pushing that back at least months, until the end of the year, possibly until next year, to gain back this key piece of territory as well. This is going to be a long fight, measured in years, not months.
BLITZER: And if they Baiji, that would be major indeed. All right, Jim, thank you.
Meanwhile, a new opening may be forming for ISIS to strengthen its position in Syria as the civil war there rages. Syria's strong man President Bashar al-Assad now is publicly admitting military defeats to rebel forces that are fighting to overthrow him. Could Bashar al- Assad's days in power finally be numbered?
What would that mean for the U.S.-led war against ISIS?
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She is working this story for us.
What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Assad forces in Syria, the president is acknowledging, have suffered some problems, some setbacks in recent weeks as rebels have gained ground. All of this comes as the U.S. military is just about to begin a very
controversial program to train other Syrian rebels to fight ISIS.
STARR (voice-over): Making a rare public appearance before supporters, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad honors children of his dead soldiers and acknowledges some setbacks.
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: (through translator): Syria is currently waging a war, not just a battle.
STARR: Islamist rebels, including some with links to al Qaeda and the more moderate Free Syrian Army, have scored key victories against the Assad regime in Northern Syria in recent days, raising the prospect of a change in the war's momentum.
It comes just as the Pentagon is poised to begin a controversial program to train other moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, not the regime, at basses in next-door Turkey and Jordan. CNN has learned the training on small arms could begin as soon as this week. It's a cornerstone of the U.S. fight against ISIS inside Syria.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: There has to be a ground component to the campaign against ISIL in Syria. And we believe that the path to develop that is the Syrian moderate opposition.
STARR: But it's a high-risk job for 400 U.S. military trainers, though a direct attack on them is not expected.
JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: What is more prevalent is what I could an insider threat, that either ISIS infiltrates and has fighters inside that then turn on U.S. forces.
STARR: Once trained on small arms and tactics to defend their towns, will the rebels return home to fight Assad and not ISIS? That's what Jordan and Turkey still want to happen.
REESE: They have been beating their drums about this for several years. And they believe, if we remove Assad, this will really help the situation throughout the region.
STARR: The U.S. also wants Assad out, but ISIS is now the most immediate target.
The Pentagon believes the rebels will fight locally. But officials say they still must find a way to protect them back home against ISIS and the regime.
DEMPSEY: The program won't succeed unless they believe themselves to have a reasonable chance of survival.
(END VIDEOTAPE) STARR: Now, the Syrian opposition says it needs 30,000 troops to be trained every year. The Pentagon plan calls for training about 5,000 a year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper on all of this.
Joining us, our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, our national security analyst Fran Townsend, and the retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, our CNN military analyst. Also joining us, the former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Mudd. He's also a CNN counterterrorism analyst.
In fact, guys, I want all of you to stand by for a moment.
BLITZER: Those pictures so ominous right now in the Oklahoma City area, moving towards, in fact, Moore, Oklahoma, where there was a horrible, horrible tornado back in 2013.
All right, we will have much more on this, much more on all the important other news. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: The breaking news we are following, look at these ominous clouds, courtesy of our affiliate KFOR in Oklahoma.
We are continuing to watch the tornado emergency. It's right near Oklahoma City again, the emergency right now is in Newcastle, Oklahoma. At last report, a confirmed tornado is located about four miles northwest of Middleberg, Oklahoma. Take a look at these pictures. Our affiliates KOCO and KFOR are bringing us these live pictures from Oklahoma City.
In fact, one of those tornadoes appears to be moving actually towards Moore, Oklahoma, the site of a horrible tornado back in 2013. These are helicopter pilots flying over this area. And you can see how ominous those pictures are right now, tornado emergencies, tornado alerts, actual tornadoes on the ground in Oklahoma right now.
We are going to follow all of this information for you, update our viewers more as it comes in.
But there's other disturbing information we are getting right now about that Texas terror attack by those two American gunmen, including the revelation that one of them actually exchanged Twitter messages with an ISIS recruiter.
Let's bring in our special guests who are joining us right now.
And, General Hertling, I want to pick up with you, first of all. You heard Barbara Starr's report that Bashar al-Assad acknowledging military defeats to rebel forces. If Bashar al-Assad, for example, were to lose power in Damascus -- and he's been resisting that now for the last four years or so, at a horrible price to the people of Syria, 200,000 people dead, some eight million displaced internally, externally.
What would be the impact, the fight against ISIS? For example, would ISIS expand or condense in Syria?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, potentially, Wolf, it could be very good.
I think we have to look at why, first of all, Assad is losing power. He's losing it because he -- his forces are being depleted. They are all getting killed. And he has nothing to replace them with. But the more important thing is, you have a combination of a couple of forces, Jaysh al Fateh, Free Syrian Army, some moderate and even conservative Islamists, and some al-Nusra.
The combination of those forces are all contrary to what ISIS believes. They key thing is, they continue their momentum and perhaps Assad loses support from Iran. You are going to see ISIS be depleted in the areas where they currently are in Syria.
But there's a problem there. If that all happens, who is going to govern if Assad actually does give up power or is overthrown? That's the critical piece. And there could be a formation of all kind of loose engagements between all of those groups later on, if they don't stay together.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit, Phil, about what's going on in the aftermath of the terror attack in Garland, Texas, outside of Dallas.
This American terrorist now dead, Elton Simpson, apparently, he was in Twitter contact with a guy named Junaid Hussain, well-known terrorist, a recruiter, a computer specialist, if you will. What does this say to you?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: A couple things.
There's a small story here. There's a well-target in Syria who is trying to radicalize people, well-known to the British. He's been arrested by the British, classic profile, 20, 21 years old, speaks English, the kind of person ISIS wants communicating with the U.K. and America.
The bigger story is this, Wolf, probability terrorism. In the past, if you are following a terror target, five, six, 10 people, in the case of 9/11, 19 people, small secret cell trying to communicate covertly. ISIS has flipped this on its head. Guys like this are saying, I will communicate with 10,000, 50,000 people.
If one in 1,000 decides to conduct an attack, if that is the level of probability I deal with, I can operate in the open, because that's a success. Remarkable change in the world of counterterrorism.
BLITZER: You have got an important article, Peter, on CNN.com, in which you describe some common characteristics of these Americans who have been recruited by ISIS -- ISIS.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, there's 62 Americans who have been recruited by ISIS or by Nusra, which in itself is somewhat surprising. And some of them -- a lot of are -- quite a number of them are women, about 20 percent.
But the one thing they share in common is quite young ages on average. And that leads to the next thing, which is eight out of 10 of them are prolific on social media, either downloading, sharing propaganda, and also communicating, as we see in this case, directly with people in ISIS in Syria.
BLITZER: Fran Townsend, I have heard from the highest U.S. officials that the big problem right now is that the U.S. really -- and it's hard to believe -- can't compete with ISIS when it comes to social media, that these ISIS terrorists apparently are a lot better at it than the U.S. is.
Is that what you are hearing as well?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, Wolf, there is the dual sort of purpose, if you will, on these social media accounts.
Of course the intelligence community minds social media and looks for leads. The problem is sort of keeping up. It's what Phil Mudd was just talking about. If each of these guys has got several hundred followers and they are all in contact, inspiring and encouraging attacks like Garland, Texas, it's difficult to know which of these followers, which of the people are most likely to operationalize themselves.
I mean, look, there's no question that the intelligence community, the FBI are going to go back and look sort of at the node, if you will, from social media and the contact to try and identify, what are the characteristics that might have predicted which of these guys was likely to go operational based on their contact with the recruiter?
BLITZER: General Hertling, we learned today that these ISIS forces in Iraq, they have actually breached the perimeter of that Baiji oil refinery, the refinery nonoperational, but it's located along a key route to the city of Mosul which ISIS continues to control.
We heard General Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint chiefs, the other day say that Baiji was strategically more important than Ramadi, where there are a lot of people, the capital of the Anbar province. If they take over this oil refinery, how big of a setback is that?
HERTLING: It would be a huge setback, Wolf. And, as you know, Baiji was part of my area of operation in 2008 and
'9. But what I will tell you is, the critical word is the term -- the military term breach. There's a 20-mile fence line around that square facility of Baiji. When you get inside that fence line and get inside the berms and the hills, then you have pipelines, aboveground pipelines, oil tanker facilities, buildings and all that.
ISIS and the Iraqi security forces have been fighting in this facility for the last 90 days. It's gone back and forth. So, when you say breach, I think that means they have probably two or three soldiers or ISIS insurgents through the wire. But I don't think it's significant. But it would be critical if the Iraqi security forces lost that facility. It's hugely strategic.
BLITZER: It's hard to believe that the Iraqi military, Phil, they can't seem to get the job done. They have got several hundred thousand troops trained by the United States. U.S. left behind tons of weapons. And they can't fight. These ISIS guys aren't making advances, necessarily, but they're holding on to a city like Mosul.
MUDD: They are holding onto some. But they lost the element of surprise through the last summer and last fall.
Once they lost that territory, regaining territory is much harder than defending it. And I think what we are finding now is the Iraqis took a while to gain the will to fight against ISIS. I think they will ultimately prevail. But the problem is, once they lost all that turf, it will take them years to get it back.
BLITZER: I want all of you to stand by, guys, because we have much more coming in.
We are following all the breaking news, more the threat of new ISIS attacks here in the United States after what happened over the weekend in Texas, and a new request for the federal government to investigate the Baltimore Police Department, after six police officers were charged in the death of Freddie Gray. We are digging deeper on questions about the knife that Freddie Gray was carrying, whether it was legal or illegal.
And we're of course monitoring the tornadoes in Oklahoma right now, significant tornado warnings, tornadoes on the ground right near Oklahoma City, actually moving towards Moore, Oklahoma, the site of those tornadoes back in 2013.
We will check in on that and much more when we come back.
BLITZER: We are following the breaking news. Look at these live pictures courtesy of our affiliate, KFOR, in Oklahoma. A tornado emergency around, now in parts of Oklahoma City itself. The emergency now does include Moore, Oklahoma. That was the scene of a horrible, horrible tornado back in 2013.
[18:33:28] Let's get the latest from our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. She is joining us from the CNN severe Weather Center. What is the latest, Jennifer?
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We do have a tornado emergency in effect right now that does include portions of Moore, as well as Oklahoma City.
We have two boxes that we're watching. The one on the north side, this is that tornado emergency. We do have a storm that's heading to the north and east, will impact portions of Oklahoma City, as well as Moore. We have heard that the airport is already evacuating. They're sending people to their emergency tunnel. Portions of the interstate have been shut down due to debris on the road. And so this is a very dangerous situation.
The one on the south side, this is a tornado warning. And this does include places like Norman, Newcastle. Wolf, as you mentioned, this is an area that has seen very destructive tornadoes. You mentioned 2013. You remember 1999, the strongest tornado ever recorded on earth was in this area. And so this has a history of very violent tornadoes. And it looks like we're seeing another one right now.
We have had reports of a very large and dangerous tornado on the ground in this area, and it is heading to the northeast at about 25 miles per hour. So if you are in the Norman area, Moore area, also Oklahoma City, be on the lookout. Get into your safe place. Get into your storm shelter.
We still have storms to the south side of this, as well. And so we're going to continue to see violent weather as we roll through the late evening hours and even into the overnight. And so, remember, that tornado emergency in effect for areas around Moore as well as Oklahoma City.
This has a long track. This is that storm that we've been watching the past several hours. And it's still holding together, very strong, very violent. And a tornado has been reported on the ground there, Wolf.
So things are changing by the second. New cities are added to that tornado warning. So if you're in the area and even cities northeast of the ones we mentioned, you do need to be on the lookout, get your plan together and be prepared, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, tornado warnings, tornado alerts. Tornado emergency, is that a specific term, as well, right?
GREY: Yes. It's almost a level above a tornado warning. It's when we have proof that a confirmed, very large, dangerous tornado is on the ground. So it's something to take very seriously. And that does impact places like Moore, Oklahoma City. You are under that tornado emergency.
BLITZER: Very significant moment. Stand by, Jennifer.
Joining us on the phone is Captain Paul Timmons of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Captain, tell us what you know; what's going on out there. CAPTAIN PAUL TIMMONS, OKLAHOMA HIGHWAY PATROL (via phone): Well, like
you said, we've got a confirmed tornado on the ground. I'm not sure how long. We do have reports of damage. Not sure on injuries, yet. The interstate, I-44, has been closed just around the Tibbit Bay (ph) for traffic heading north and at the Newcastle gate, traffic headed south.
BLITZER: It's true, I assume, this report that the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City, that's been shut down, as well? That people there have been evacuated into certain pedestrian tunnels; is that right?
TIMMONS: I can't confirm that. I've not been informed of that. But this tornado is very close to the airport area, so it wouldn't -- I wouldn't be surprised if they have taken those precautions already.
BLITZER: And how many tornadoes have actually hit the ground? Do you know?
TIMMONS: I don't know. I've not been able to get a confirmation on the number, yet.
BLITZER: What about where you are, Captain? How bad is it there?
TIMMONS: Well, I am actually on the north side of Oklahoma City right now. And the skies are just gray right here. We haven't really had any rain in the area where I'm at.
BLITZER: So what -- so what's the advice you're giving folks out there? You say Interstate 44 is shut down. If you're driving, what do you do?
TIMMONS: The best advice would be to tune a -- into one of the local radio stations or one of the television stations, or if people have the app on the smartphone, turn into -- tune into one of those apps and get the updates that they're putting out. They are extremely accurate. And if you're caught out there somewhere, try to get off and find a safe place to get to and take shelter. But if you don't have to be out, don't be out. Don't go out and go sightseeing or anything.
BLITZER: You don't have reports of injuries or destruction or damage yet?
TIMMONS: We have reports of destruction and damage. I'm not sure on injuries yet. We still have people trying to get to the areas and make sure that everyone is OK. So I can't confirm any injuries yet.
BLITZER: Where is the destruction and damage?
TIMMONS: It's going to be southwest of Oklahoma City between Newcastle and Chickasha (ph).
BLITZER: That's significant. We see these pictures coming in, courtesy of our affiliates KOCO and KFOR, and they are very, very ominous. I'll let you get back to work. Captain Paul Timmons of the Oklahoma
Jennifer, what else are you picking up over there at the CNN Severe Weather Center?
GRAY: Well, it looks like we have an update. That tornado emergency, that northern hot pink box we were watching, that tornado emergency has been dropped. It looks like they are now focusing on the tornado warning to the south side.
And just as he said, it is right over Newcastle right now, and it is heading to the northeast. And so folks in the area of Norman need to be on the lookout for that, as well as just on the south side of Moore. That, again, is a very dangerous storm that has produced tornadoes in the past and could likely have a tornado on the ground.
The other thing you need to worry about, a lot of these are rain wrapped, Wolf. And so folks look outside, and all they see is rain. They can't see the tornado. But take our word for it. These have been very destructive, and they have caused damage. And so, even if you can't see anything, the tornado warning is there for a reason. And so areas like Newcastle, again, Norman and just the south side of Moore, be on the lookout for that, as well as very damaging winds; as well as very large hail.
BLITZER: These are populated areas. This is not rural. This is part of Oklahoma City, the greater city area, the urban area around Oklahoma City. A lot of people in that area. We do have some video just coming in of some of the initial reports of damage and destruction. And it's pretty sad to see what's going on, Jennifer.
GRAY: Absolutely. Yes. These are the suburbs of Oklahoma City. A lot of people live here. Unfortunately, a lot of people have been through tornadoes before. It's a horrible thing. But the good part about that is they know what to do when something like this happens.
You can see pictures like this, the damage right there. We're going to see more pictures unfortunately, like that come in as the hours progress. Because we have had some nasty storms pull through these areas.
They are just now entering the more populated areas, Wolf, just as you mentioned. A few hours ago, they were more the rural areas. Now they're entering more populated areas. And it is very important that you have that plan together and you know where to go.
And you can see street level right here, West Franklin Road. We're looking at 72nd Avenue and 350th Street right there, just on the west side of Norman. This is where we are picking up circulation, a possible tornado on the ground.
[18:40:21] BLITZER: We got this report that the airport there in Oklahoma City, Will Rogers Airport, they're telling everybody inside to go to an underground pedestrian tunnel. They're evacuating that area. How close is the airport to this tornado activity? GRAY: About ten miles. And so, you know, you are going to get the
very, very strong winds. You're going to get hail in the area, possibly where the airport is. All of this, all of these are threats when you're talking about these severe storms.
And so, even though your area may not be where the tornado warning is, you're still going to feel some of these effects, the very gusty winds and the large hail, possibly. So even though you may not be right there where that circulation is, a lot of areas on the outskirts are still going to be affected in other ways.
BLITZER: People have got to be really, really careful. All right, Jennifer. Stand by. We'll have much more on the breaking news, the tornado emergency in Oklahoma. Let's take a quick break.
[18:45:35] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, tornado warnings and tornado emergency in effect in and around Oklahoma City, including Norman, the home of the University of Oklahoma.
Look at this live pictures coming in courtesy of our affiliate KOCO. We also have our other affiliate, KFOR, watching what's going on. These are ominous pictures, rush traffic, some of the destruction that you can see in the Oklahoma City area right now.
Just a little while ago, we learned that the international airport in Oklahoma City has been shut down for all practical purposes, people there had been told to go into an underground pedestrian tunnel. These are pictures coming in from choppers over the area, courtesy of our affiliates. But you can say how ominous this looks. We're going to stay on top of what's going on in Oklahoma.
But there's other important news we're watching as well. We'll get back to the tornadoes as this story develops.
The other story we're following: Baltimore's mayor, she is now asking the Justice Department here in Washington for a civil rights investigation, to conduct a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. The request follows the rioting that erupted over the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody. Six police officers have been charged in connection with that case.
Let's get the latest from our justice reporter, Evan Perez. He's joining us from Baltimore right now.
What is the latest, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Wolf. The mayor made this request of the Justice Department, of the Attorney General Loretta Lynch, herself during a meeting yesterday. The Justice Department says that they are reviewing the request to conduct what is known as a pattern and practice investigation into the police department. Now, this is just going to look at the pattern of arrest to see if
there's discrimination going on in the way the Baltimore police does its work. We should add that in addition to the mayor asking for this investigation, the governor also backed this request.
So, we expect that the Justice Department is almost certainly going to launch this investigation, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We are going to get back to you.
I want to bring in our panel of experts, the former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Cedric Alexander, he's a CNN law enforcement analyst, and the former FBI assistant director and the CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes -- I want all you to stand by for a moment.
Let's take a quick break. Much more on all these stories, including the tornado emergency in Oklahoma, when we come back.
[18:52:48] BLITZER: We continue to follow the breaking news, the tornados in and around Oklahoma City. We're also following -- look at these ominous pictures that are coming in from Oklahoma City right now. We'll stay on top of this story.
But we're also following what's going on in Baltimore right now, where the mayor is asking the Justice Department to conduct a civil rights investigation of the city's police department.
We're back with our analyst.
Sunny, in addition to surveillance in Baltimore, surveillance flights have been going on. They were flown over St. Louis.
What is this all about?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, my understanding is -- I'm not sure about the spy planes over Baltimore. But my understanding in terms of this request, this new request, of the Justice Department, Wolf -- bottom line is the mayor had already asked for what is called a collaborative review from the Justice Department. That basically means that the Justice Department would come in, give some suggestions, and the office of the mayor and the police department could decide or decide not to take those recommendations.
This new review is very, very different. This is a review that has teeth. This is a review that the Justice Department finds if there is a pattern and practice of discrimination, that means then the Justice Department can either sue the police department and the city if they decide not to agree to reform, or they can agree to what's called a consent degree and they will be forced to make those changes.
So, this is a very significant, significant request. And I suspect after Loretta Lynch's visit there, I suspect the Justice Department will start that investigation.
BLITZER: Cedric, you agree this is a good idea?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think it's a great idea, just as Sunny just indicated. However, I think it's important as well too that each step that they take is done very methodically so that we're able to get into each part of that department so we can make some determination over time as to what their strengths and weaknesses are. And a collaborative review will help that to happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment. Because I want to bring in what the former president of the United States Bill Clinton spoke about.
[18:55:03] He was speaking about Baltimore in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: My criminal justice initiative was to put 100,000 more police on the street, create more positive activities for young people, ban assault weapons, and limit the magazine size, pass the Brady Bill, and the Republicans basically wanted to emphasize three strikes you're out and all that, but I wanted to pass a bill. And so, I did go along with it and there was a whole movement toward emphasizing that -- especially that three strikes deal -- because we had evidence that a very small percentage of the criminal population created a very high percentage of the -- committed a very high percentage of the serious crimes.
The problem is, the way it was written and implemented, we cast too wide a net, we have too many people in prison. And we wound up putting so many people in prison that there wasn't enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs, and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives.
I strongly support what she's doing, and I think any policy that was adopted when I was president in federal law that contributed to it should be changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Gloria, is this a big deal right now, this criminal justice reform the president is talking about? Because Hillary Clinton is running for president. Seems to be distancing herself from some of the policies implemented by her husband.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, and this is Bill Clinton saying clearly, look, Hillary and I are on the same page on this. He said to Christiane, look, there was over-incarceration because of my three strikes and you're out policy. There are too many people in prison. And if what we did was wrong, we need to fix it.
He understands that Hillary Clinton has a problem with the liberal base of the Democratic Party on that particular issue, and as well as on issues like welfare reform, for example. So, I'm wondering whether we're going to hear from him more on that.
You know, I think it's very important, and I think he put it out there, that if she's going to disagree with what he did, you know, you might hear from him. You know, we're living in a different time now and I wasn't 100 percent right back in the day.
BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff? Because this is a big issue right now.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's a big issue for Democrats as well as Republicans. More Republicans are coming on to this line of thinking. A, it's so expensive to have all this -- all these long prison sentences.
So, it is going to be an issue in 2016. I don't think a lead organize central one. But interesting to see how they position themselves.
And Gloria's right, that is good opportunity for Hillary Clinton to say, look, times have changed. I'm thinking differently. I'm thinking out of the box now. But I would watch Republicans more to see what Rand Paul does on this, see what Ted Cruz does on this, and Jeb Bush does on this.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, you're a former assistant director of the FBI, is it time for major criminal justice reform?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think that what I'd like to see is recommendations to do right now. What does the shift commander tell his officers today at the 4:00 to midnight shift as they're getting ready to go on the street? What are the tactics they should use, how should they do their job, how they should interact with the community?
And I think we're hearing long-term societal issues that should be corrected, that's true. But they'll take 20, 30 years to do it. We need answers today of tell the police what they need to do and back them up when they do it.
BLITZER: Cedric, what do you think?
ALEXANDER: I certainly believe there needs to be some criminal justice reform without question, Wolf, and in a number of domains. Because this just does not totally follow up on police but it followed up on our court system, our juvenile system, our adult court system, right across the whole gamut.
So, yes, we need to be looking at some reform in this country in a way that we have not had in a very long time.
BLITZER: At some point, Gloria, Hillary Clinton's going to have to speak out a little bit more forcefully on all of these sensitive issues.
BORGER: Yes. I think she is. I think she's going to have to run as her own candidate. If she disagrees with her husband's past policies she's going to have to talk about it. I also think she's going to have to take head-on the controversy swirling around the Clinton Foundation and answer those questions about fund-raising for that foundation.
She's got to be an authentic candidate that people trust. She has some problems on that front and I think she's got to take it right on.
BLITZER: We certainly I think agree with you, Gloria, as we always do.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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