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Threats Force White House, Senate Evacuations; Police Search Farms, Fields 35 Miles South of Prison; Source: 1,000 More U.S. Troops Possible in Iraq. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired June 09, 2015 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, multiple threats. Parts of the White House and the U.S. Senate Office Building evacuated after bomb threats are phoned in. Were the threats connected? Is the White House as secured as it should be?

Manhunt for murderers. Helicopters and bloodhounds, they're called to an area three dozen miles from a security prison as farms and fields are combed for two escaped killers. Are police closing in?

Not guilty plea. The former speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, is surrounded as he makes his first public appearance since federal banking and lying charges uncovered a sex scandal.

And ISIS explosives. The terror group is changing the battlefield by using massive new bombs to scare up attacks.

Is there any way to counter these new weapons?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news. Bomb threats, forced evacuations at parts of the White House and the Senate Office Building today. The White House daily press briefing was suddenly interrupted with an urgent evacuation order. That came just hours after a bomb threat emptied a Homeland Security Committee hearing in the U.S. Senate Office Building.

The all-clear was later issued at both locations, still leaving a lot of questions and concerns. All of this as an urgent hunt is underway right now for two convicted killers, who made an extraordinary escape from a prison in upstate New York.

After a sighting of two so-called suspicious men, a massive sweep is now focusing in on an area some 35 miles from the maximum security prison. Our correspondents, analysts and guests, they're on top of both of these breaking stories. They're standing by with full coverage.

Let's begin with the bomb threats here in the nation's capital. Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is standing by with the latest.

Even, what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is an unusual situation. It all began around this afternoon, with a phone call threat to the Capitol police. The caller was very specific, saying there was a device in the offices of the Senate Homeland Security Committees.

Police cleared the nearby hearing room, where senators were discussing problems at the TSA. More than an hour later, another bomb threat call came in to the Metropolitan Police here in Washington. Again, the threat was specific to the press briefing room at the White House.

Cameras captured the unusual scene as Secret Service officers interrupted the press briefing already underway and cleared the room. Police are looking to see if the threats are related. And if there's also -- there's also been a spate of similar threats, Wolf, some against airlines, and authorities say that there reaction to these threats and the media coverage may be bringing forth some more of these threats.

BLITZER: Do they think there is a connection between the threats that went to these airlines coming -- flying in the United States, including from overseas, as well as this threat that went into the Senate today, and later at the White House?

PEREZ: Well, they don't know, but they are checking this out, because it is an unusual spate of these types -- of these types of threats, Wolf. And you know, it is tough for them, because they have to treat -- treat them seriously, especially when you have something as specific as someone telling you, there's a device inside the press briefing room or inside a specific office in the Senate Office Building, as happened today.

BLITZER: Two threats that were made here in Washington today in the Senate and the White House, do they believe those two threats came from the same source?

PEREZ: Well, it's certainly sufficient, because they came so close to each other. And that is something that they're looking at, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Evan, I want you to stand by. We're going to get much more on what's going on.

I want to go to the White House. White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is standing by. Michelle, you were inside the White House when all of a sudden the White House press secretary got the word from the Secret Service, evacuate the White House press briefing room. Walk us through what happened.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's kind of stunning to hear those words. Usually, when even the most serious threats here happen at the White House, we all know these things do happen periodically, something thrown over the White House fence. The most serious precaution as often taken is a lockdown, where

no one can leave this building, which is in the West Wing. No one can enter the White House grounds.

But this time was totally different. Even some of my colleagues who have worked at the White House for more than 20 years said they've never seen anything quite like this.

First, we are told to leave the briefing room, go out onto the North Lawn. Then that location was moved. It seemed clear that the Secret Service officers didn't want anyone to see what they were doing, and investigating this on the White House lawn with their dogs.

Then we were moved off of the premises, beyond the White House fence, to right next to the White House. Then we're moved inside of a building, across the street from the White House. That's what made this so unusual, that this seemed to be such an extraordinary threat, that those measures would have to be taken.

But now we find out that the president was in the Oval Office while this was going on. And the White House just revealed this moments ago. So he was essentially yards away from this briefing room, where the threat was directed, and he was not told to move from that location. He stayed there.

[17:05:14] Also, the first family was in the White House residence, both daughters and the first lady. Also stayed in place.

What's more, the press secretary and other White House staff who were also in the West Wing, yards away from the briefing room, did not move their location either.

So that's just one of the big questions here. I mean, since this bomb threat was connected to this room, if this were a real bomb, how do they feel about staying in place within this building? Wouldn't that threat still be present?

And for those of us who were told to move, well, if this bomb threat would have been connected to, say, a person who might have brought the threat into the building, we were all herded out in a small group, taken and put into a small place. That doesn't feel great for those of us who were in that group either.

How the White House responds to this is by saying, "We have full confidence in the methods taken by the Secret Service." The Secret Service right now also isn't giving any more detail on how this all played out, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, I just want to be precise, Michelle, and I speak as someone who spent 7 years covering the White House. I'm very familiar with the West Wing and the press briefing area, the offices nearby, certainly the Oval Office, not that far away.

What you're saying is they told all the media in the press briefing room, "Get out. Get out right away." But the people behind the press briefing room, the offices there, they were allowed to stay. And then you go 50 feet away to the Oval Office, the president is not evacuated. Explain -- I'm sort of confused. If this is taken as a serious threat, why wouldn't they at least move the president?

KOSINSKI: Right, I mean if it's taken seriously, to the point that we have to leave the premises, and people here, again, remained in place, you're right, not only are these offices yards away from this briefing room where the threat was directed. They're attached to it. They're in the same building.

So the president in the Oval Office is attached to the same building where the threat was directed.

So you might think ahead, well, OK, maybe they thought the threat could have been brought into the building. Well, then, everybody in the briefing room is told to get out, and they're kept in a small space away from the White House. Well, how does that feel for the people who might be within that small space of the threat?

We really don't know the wording of the threat, but we have to assume that they took it very seriously, because of the measures they took regarding the people in the briefing room. So that's a big question mark there.

Again, both the White House and the Secret Service aren't giving any more detail, the White House just saying that they have full confidence in how the Secret Service chose to handle this.

BLITZER: All right. Michelle, lots of questions. We'll get answers. Thank you. Michelle Kosinski at the White House.

There's other breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. In upstate New York, police right now, they're stepping up their manhunt for two very dangerous killers. They're swarming fields and farms in a town only a few dozen miles away from that maximum security prison, where they staged an elaborate escape using power tools.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. Pamela has the very latest. What are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning tonight that eyewitness reports and other indicators suggest that the killers are on foot, so it does not appear that anyone was waiting for them to give them a ride once they escaped, according to sources we've been speaking with.

And tonight police are searching the perimeter in Willsboro, New York. That's around 35 miles from the prison.


BROWN (voice-over): Tonight law enforcement officers using blood hounds and helicopters are canvassing upstate New York, around the town of Willsboro, after two suspicious men were spotted walking down the middle of the road, and took off when a car approached. Authorities are searching for two convicted killers, Richard

Matt, imprisoned for murdering his boss; and David Sweat, convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy.

RON HOSKO, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION: That presents an incredibly dangerous situation for innocent people in the community, who are going to stand in the way of them and food or them and a weapon that they want to have, or them and transportation or funding.

BROWN: A resident near the Clinton Correctional Facility told ABC News he believes he came face to face with the escaped killers the night they escaped, before authorities knew about the jail break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I go look at them and I see them. I ask them, "What the hell are you doing in my yard? Get the hell out of here." As soon as I came across, they ran out of my yard.

BROWN: Prison officials discovered the two inmates missing Saturday morning after they cut their way through a steel wall using power tools, navigated an elaborate series of pipes, and then surfaced through a manhole outside the prison.

RICH PLUMADORE, FORMER PRISON MAINTENANCE SUPERVISOR: So many tunnels, all the attics, all the catwalks. It's a big maze.


PLUMADORE: They used the maze. They knew exactly where to go.

BROWN: Authorities believe the two had help. Police have interviewed and searched the home of Joyce Mitchell, a prison employee. Investigators are trying to determine if Mitchell provided money, tools or a cell phone to the men.

[17:10:02] HOSKO: I don't see that cunning coming to a stop as soon as they got to free air. That cunning has a deeper plan, a more distant plan, whether that was a car that took them to a train where they could have been halfway across the country before the alarms were really sounding.


BROWN: We know that Mitchell worked with the men at a tailor shop in the prison. Sources say she has been somewhat cooperative. Her son told NBC News that she is not going to risk her life or other people's lives to help these guys escape. He's basically saying that she played no part in this. So far, Wolf, no arrests have been made.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thanks very much.

Let's get some analysis on what's going on. Joining us, our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director. And Arthur Roderick is joining us, as well. He's a retired U.S. marshal. Tom, if these two guys, these killers are on foot 30 miles or so

from this prison, this maximum security prison, what does that say as far as what's going on?

Let me ask -- let me ask Arthur. We're going to fix Tom's microphone. But go ahead.

ARTHUR RODERICK, RETIRED U.S. MARSHAL: It says to me that whatever they had planned post-escape, once they got out of the facility, didn't quite work out. They're on foot for a good 30 or 40 miles, and it's been four days. So at this point they had better be completely physically and mentally stressed out.

BLITZER: What do you think, Tom?

FUENTES: Yes, I think the same thing. If their plan went awry, and they didn't get away, didn't get the help, didn't get money, didn't get clothes, and they're in the woods, and even this time of year, it's still going to be cold up there at night. If they didn't have any plans for being in the woods, like we had in the Pennsylvania fugitive several months ago that killed the trooper, I'd say they're going to have a pretty good chance of being caught pretty soon.

BLITZER: If they're in that area, I suspect you're right. But the point has been made. It was a very sophisticated escape, with power tools, going through tunnels, going through brick walls, steel walls, too, at one point. So you would think if they're going to go through all that effort, come up through some manhole, if you will, they must have had help from the outside as far as an escape is concerned, as well.

FUENTES: Exactly. To go through all that planning and not have the real part of it to actually get away from the facility, you would think they would have that all mapped out. And I think that's the assumption we're making, because they're only 40 miles away, that whatever they had planned had either fallen through or they possibly didn't plan for it at all.

BLITZER: You agree?

FUENTES: Yes, whoever agreed to pick them up, let's say when they came out of that manhole, may have just assumed, "They're never going to make it. This is ridiculous. I'm never going to go out there."

So it could be that they popped that manhole cover, and there's nobody around. And now they've got to be on foot in the woods at night, and do the best they can. And that would account for only being 30 miles away if it's true they're in that neighboring town.

BLITZER: We've got more to talk about. Guys, stand by. We'll take a quick break. Much more analysis, all the breaking news that we're following right now. There's lots. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More on the breaking news, an active search underway

for escapees in a town some 35 miles away from that maximum-security prison in upstate New York. Authorities are combing the fields in Willsboro in upstate New York right now.

Our national correspondent, Jason Carroll, is there for us. He's joining us on the phone. Set the scene, Jason. What's going on?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, this is a rural area, Wolf. As you can imagine, there's still a number of law enforcement who are in the wooded area, where we are standing off of this deserted road here.

I spoke to one of the residents who live just off the road. He said about 50 members of law enforcement showed up at his house at about 10:30 this morning. They began their search, he said, walking arm in arm through the wooded fields behind his home. His home is bordered on one side by train tracks, on the other side by a river.

They've been out here, Wolf, now for several hours, not just out here, but also in town. I spoke to a woman who owns a business there, a meat shop. She says they came to look at her security cameras, did not find anything there.

But they were also going to his son's home, who actually also lives on the same road where we are now, to look at his trail cameras on his property, which normally is set there to take pictures of wildlife. They're going to be checking his cameras to see if anything was spotted there, as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason. Stand by. We'll get back to you. I want to bring back our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, the former FBI assistant director, and Arthur Roderick. He's a retired U.S. marshal.

So two other residents, Tom, you know, said they spotted what they believe these two guys carrying a guitar case or guitar cases. They used to break out of that prison. Do you believe that?

FUENTES: Well, I think that, you know, for now, it's the best thing they have to go on, so they might as well do everything they can to follow up on that. But you see these pictures of the wooded area there. It is dense forest. So they are going to need to be able to fly aircraft, especially at night, with infrared capability, to be looking for the heat signatures of people moving in the woods.

BLITZER: They have that capability, Arthur, right?

FUENTES: Absolutely.

BLITZER: The state police and the federal authorities were coming in to help.

RODERICK: This is what you've got, the task force scenario set up where you have all state, local and federal combined together with the New York State Police, sort of in charge of this loose federation, and making sure that everybody's doing their job.

[17:20:05] BLITZER: They can fly surveillance drones over that area, as well. I assume they have drones, Tom, right? So they can fly that -- they're looking for -- at the same time, Tom, you and I have been talking about this for three, four days almost right now, these two guys could be anywhere.

FUENTES: They could be. And they could be right there. And that's the funny thing about this case, is if they didn't get the help they expected when they popped out of that manhole cover and nobody was there to pick them up, and looked around and thought, "Oh, no. We're going to be on foot in the woods up here in northern New York, where it's going to be cold at night," and they're not provisioned for being out in the woods like that, they're going to have a tough time staying out there for any length of time, which makes it that much more dangerous to the local residents there.

They're going to invade a home, looking for food, weapons, water, cash, vehicles. Everybody in that general area, if they're there, is in extreme danger.

BLITZER: These are convicted killers, Arthur, so just remind viewers who are watching right now, that they suspect, they see one or both of these two guys, what should they do?

RODERICK: Absolutely. Just call 911. I'm sure if it's in the Willsboro area, there's police officers, law enforcement officers all over the place. Make contact with him as soon as you can. Obviously, both these persons are dangerous felons. They're both convicted for murder. One was doing life without parole. One was doing 25 to life.

So these are very desperate individuals, and I can guarantee you, they don't want to go back to jail.

BLITZER: Arthur Roderick, thanks very much.

Tom Fuentes, you'll be back later.

Coming up, more U.S. troops could be heading to Iraq, if U.S. military planners get their way. We're learning brand-new details out of the Pentagon.

And ISIS is changing the battlefield by using massive new bombs to spearhead attacks. Are these new weapons unstoppable?

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


[17:26:29] BLITZER: We've got breaking news. If some military planners here in Washington have their way, more U.S. boots could be on the ground in Iraq before long.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's picking up new information. Barbara, what are you learning? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, ever since

Ramadi fell last month, and the secretary of defense told CNN the Iraqis lacked the will to fight in Ramadi, front burner issue, what do you do to get the Iraqis back in the fight?

Now, CNN has learned that one option -- one option the Pentagon is presenting to the White House, send another 1,000 troops to Iraq. Many, not all of them, many will be trainers, if the option is approved to train more Iraqi forces.

The Pentagon's view -- and there is a lot of skepticism about this -- is that when they train the troops, the Iraqis will stay and fight. When the Iraqis have run away, these are troops that have not been through the confidence building of U.S. training. A good deal of skepticism about that.

And it's not likely that this option, if approved, is going to satisfy Republicans on Capitol Hill. Many of them want to see even more. More airstrikes. U.S. boots on the ground picking out targets. Don't look for that to happen. This is likely to be a decision to send more trainers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At the same time, Barbara, as you know, ISIS now utilizing weapons that the Iraqi army clearly is unable to stop. What are you learning about that?

STARR: These -- let's call them the mega IED's. These are massive IED explosions. Thousands and thousands of pounds of explosives, potentially packed into armored vehicles. So the Iraqis can't really destroy it. They have no weapons.

The U.S. is sending them anti-armor weapons to begin to do some of this, to begin to attack these IEDs. But this is also part of what that training is going to be about, trying to get the Iraqis trained up, so they can go after these armored IED's.

This is a much more significant threat than the U.S. faced in Iraq and Afghanistan in years past. But very much worth remembering over 3,000 U.S. troops lost their lives to first-generation IED's in a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Thank you. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Let's bring in our CNN counter terrorism analyst, the former CIA counterterrorism official, Philip Mudd. Also joining us, our national security analyst, Peter Bergen. And the former Democratic congresswoman, Jane Harman. She served on the Intelligence, Armed Services, Homeland Security committees. She's now president of the Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington.

Phil, was it just a matter of time before the military said 3,000 U.S. troops who were in Iraq, right now, not enough; send another thousand?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I think it was. When we saw this debate happen over the past few weeks and past few months, the drug beat was steady.

I think the question we're going to face eventually is bigger, though. The kinds of options we're talking about, whether you put forward controllers to help with bombing, whether we have another thousand trainers are insignificant compared to the bigger question.

Over time, the Iraqis are showing that they're only modestly successful against ISIS. Do we stick with them over the course of years if that's the pattern we see over time? And I think that's the question this president and the next are going to face.

BLITZER: Now what do you think, Peter? Because you just heard Barbara say, these ISIS terrorists, they now have these mega IEDs, these armored vehicles, mostly U.S.-made armored vehicles, captured from the Iraqi army, by these ISIS forces. They load them up with improvised explosive devices. They go into areas, populated areas and simply slaughter people. What do you do about that?

[17:30:05] PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it's very tough. Look, in Ramadi, we saw more than a dozen of these deployed. These are bombs the size of the Oklahoma City bomb, which completely destroyed that building.

So, you know, anti-armor is what they need if they're being deployed in these armored vehicles. Clearly, you know, those are the weapons that are needed to try and counter this threat.

BLITZER: Because the tactic -- the tactic, Peter, that they use to get Mosul a year ago, to get Ramadi more recently, before you even send a lot of troops, do a lot of terrorism, they scare the hell out of the Iraqi army. They flee. You go in and take it over, even though you're vastly outnumbered.

On this point Jane Harman, and you were there. You were a member of Congress when the war in 2003 was authorized, the end of 2003. The former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, he was in charge of the Pentagon at that time. He recently told the "Times" of London, and I'm quoting him now, the idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq, seemed to be unrealistic. Unrealistic. What do you make of that?

JANE HARMAN, PRESIDENT, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I'm stunned by that comment. Let's roll back the videotape and remember what the Pentagon was saying.

I remember Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense, telling me we would be treated as liberators and they'd throw rose petals. He still insists that that did happen. And democracy would flourish. The Bush freedom agenda was all about democracy starting in Iraq, and then moving to other countries in the Middle East.

And now, for Secretary Rumsfeld, 12 years later, to have a revisionist view is astounding.

He told Jake Tapper, Rumsfeld, that characterizing his words as somehow anti-President George W. Bush, in Rumsfeld's words, is ridiculous. Your reaction?

HARMAN: I don't -- I'm speechless. Speechless.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Peter, are you speechless?

BERGEN: I'm speechless, too. I mean, clearly, it's -- he didn't intend it to be anti-George W. Bush, but I mean, clearly, that was the intent of the president when he invaded, was to create this democratic Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld, I think, was always skeptical of nation building. I mean, so there is some wiggle room there. He was skeptical in Afghanistan. He wanted -- you recall that there was very little planning for phase four, the period after Saddam was toppled. And he seemed to not really care about that issue.

BLITZER: Let me get your -- all of your reaction. I interviewed the Iraqi ambassador to the United States today, Lukman Faily. And he basically said the problems that Iraq right now has, among other things, but he specifically cited what he called the U.S. abandonment of Iraq in 2011, when the U.S. pulled out of its troops. And he said all of its aircraft. That's the problem.

Basically, he told the other issues, other contributing factors. But he basically blamed the U.S. for what's going on right now.

MUDD: Can we have a reality check there? We were there for years, training those folks. We lost thousands of lives. We continue to have trainers on the ground there. We just talked about another thousand guys going there. We're mounting bombing campaigns.

And one more strategic comment for the ambassador. I'd tell him this if he were here. In counterinsurgency campaigns at some point, if the host country doesn't lead the fight -- I'm not talking about Iraq. I'm talking about 30 years of studies of counterinsurgency from Latin America to Asia, if the host country is not there, the counterinsurgency fails. This is not the U.S. It's Iraq.

HARMAN: And if the government doesn't -- or isn't capable of governing in a pluralist way that makes the moderate Sunnis feel like it represents them rather than only Shia, I think that government doesn't have any ability to cause the army to fight. Ash Carter is right. There's no will to fight, and pouring in more folks without preparing our country for U.S. casualties is something we ought to do very carefully.

I just would urge the president to have the right conversation with Congress. Good news is that Tim Caine and Jeff Flake of two different parties in the Senate are trying finally to push the authorization to use military force to have some congressional buy-in to a strategy for the region.

My view is that the thing I vote for the AUMF in 2001, 2001 doesn't apply any more, and now we need Congress and the American people ready to face the consequences if we send thousands of more people, even as trainers in harm's way in Iraq. BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much. Peter Bergen,

Philip Mudd, Jane Harman.

We'll obviously stay on top of this story, the breaking news from Barbara. The U.S. now considering military planners of the Pentagon, sending another 1,000 U.S. troops on top of the 3,000 who are already there in Iraq. We'll see what happens.

Coming up, he was one of the most powerful men in Washington, but only a few hours ago, he pushed his way through a pack of reporters and photographers on his way to court. Stand by for the breaking news on the former speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

And later, an incredible story of injustice. Why was a teenager locked up for nearly three years without a trial? Now that he's dead, how many others face the same ordeal?


BLITZER: We've got the breaking news out of Chicago. After pushing his way through shouting photographers and reporters, the former speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, pleaded not guilty to federal charges he did bank transactions and lied to the FBI to cover up suspected hush money payments.

This was Hastert's first public appearance since we learned of shocking allegations he sexually abused a student years ago when he was a high-school wrestling coach.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM watching what's going on. Dramatic day.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It was dramatic, Wolf. I mean, he was fingerprinted and photographed, just like any other suspect charged with a crime, before he made his appearance in front of a federal judge in Chicago. When he asked if he understood the charges against him, he simply said, yes, sir.


ZELENY (voice-over): After 12 days in hiding, Dennis Hastert arrived at federal court in Chicago to a spectacle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you have to say to people...

ZELENY: He fought his way through the biggest crush of cameras since his time as the longest serving Republican speaker of the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Hastert, do you have any comment on...

ZELENY: He's accused of paying millions of dollars in hush money to keep secret allegations of sexual misconduct from his time as a high-school wrestling coach.

Inside court today, he pleaded not guilty. He was ordered to surrender his passport, all firearms, and give a DNA sample. He was released on $4,500 bond and left the courthouse alone, not accompanied by his wife, children or other family members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

ZELENY: Former federal prosecutor Paul Butler says he expects Hastert will ultimately plead guilty to avoid a messy trial.

PAUL BUTLER, GEORGETOWN LAW SCHOOL: This is like going after Al Capone for tax evasion. The reason the department is bringing charges against a 73-year-old politician who's out of office has everything to do with the underlying allegations.

ZELENY: The allegations are from four decades ago when he was a teacher in Yorkville High School in Illinois. The name of the person receiving hush money, a former student, has not been disclosed. CNN has learned the FBI has identified at least three potential victims.


ZELENY: Hastert is not charged with sexual misconduct. The statute of limitations on any such allegations would have long expired. He faces these two counts. Illegally structuring bank withdrawals to hide more than $1.7 million in payments made to a person the indictment refers to as Individual A; and lying to the FBI about it.

Hastert allegedly said he was setting aside cash, because he didn't trust the banking system. Each charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine.


HASTERT: Now he left the courthouse without saying a word today, not offering any response to these explosive charges or how he intended to fight them. The judge, who was randomly assigned, once contributed $1,500 to Hastert's campaign. He said he could be impartial, but would step aside if either side disagreed.

BLITZER: So the prosecution, for example, said recuse yourself, the judge said he would.

ZELENY: That's right. And he said he'll decide that by Thursday.

BLITZER: OK. Thanks very much for that. Jeff Zeleny reporting.

Coming up, injustice exposed. Why was a teenager locked up for nearly three years without any trial? Haunted by his ordeal, even after his release, he's now taken his own life.

Also, we'll have a live update on the hunt for two dangerous escaped killers. Searchers are checking farms and fields after someone reported a pair of suspicious men about 35 miles from the prison where the breakout happened. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


[17:47:34] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're getting new information, a very disturbing information about the young man who spent three years in New York City's notorious Rikers Island Jail, even though he was only a teenager and never had been convicted of a crime.

Kalief Browder eventually was freed but he killed himself over the weekend.

Let's go to Brian Todd, he's got more details. A very disturbing story, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is one of the most jarring cases of injustice we've come across. Tonight I've just spoken with Kalief Browder's family's attorney who says they're suing the city of New York and the law enforcement agencies there for $20 million. The brutal treatment of this young man is unmistakable in this security camera video from the prison.


TODD (voice-over): Chaos inside New York's Rikers Island Prison. Gang members assault detainee Kalief Browder, a 17-year-old who never should have been there. This disturbing security camera footage from 2010 shows the gang beating Browder, being held back, then barging into an isolation cell and beating him again. Corrections officers were powerless.

(On camera): I mean, this seems like "Lord of the Flies." What's going on here?

ARNETT GASTON, FORMER COMMANDING OFFICER, RIKERS ISLAND PRISON: Or a confusion. There is obviously a lack of control. They do not have the capacity. And this is not to demean the officers, they're clearly outnumbered. And they do not have the physical capacity to totally protect the inmate.

TODD (voice-over): This video was obtained by the "New Yorker" magazine, which first reported Kalief Browder's story. Two years after the gang beating, this video shows Browder being slammed to the ground, his head smashed, this time by a corrections officer. After Browder appears to say something to him.

GASTON: Verbal assaults don't count. If we had in corrections responded to every verbal statement that was made that was derogatory in nature, we would be fighting every minute of every hour. That is commonplace. It is part of the culture.

TODD: Browder was sent to Rikers for allegedly stealing a backpack in the Bronx. He always maintained his innocence but was kept in prison for three years without a trial, two of those years in solitary confinement. He was ultimately released. The charges dropped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No apology, no nothing. They just said, case dismissed, don't worry about nothing. Like, what do you mean don't worry about nothing? You just took over three years of my life. I didn't get to go to prom, graduation, nothing. Those are the main years, I'm never going to get those years back. Never.

TODD: And he never did. This past Saturday Kalief Browder committed suicide, hanging himself out of the window of his mother's home. His family is now suing the New York Department of Corrections.

[17:50:08] Arnett Gaston, a former commanding officer at Rikers, is baffled by what happened to this young man.

GASTON: I cannot fathom why a person would be in that type of isolation for so long a period of time.


TODD: Contacted by CNN, an official with New York's Department of Corrections said Kalief Browder's death is a tragedy that their thoughts and prayers are with his family. The official said the officer who slammed Browder to the floor is being retrained. The inmates who beat him were disciplined and that the gang incident is still being investigated. Since Browder's release, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has introduced reforms moving to reduce the number of cases where inmates are held at Rikers Island for a year while their cases are pending and ending solitary confinement for teenage inmates.

That's among the many reforms that he's doing, Wolf. And we have to clarify, the Browder family is not only suing the Department of Corrections, they're suing the New York Police Department, the city, the Bronx D.A. and other law enforcement officials in that city. $20 million.

BLITZER: So shocking indeed.

All right, Brian. Thanks very much.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM is Jennifer Gonnerman of the "New Yorker" magazine. She profiled Kalief Browder in an article last year, did an amazing job in that article. Also joining us, our senior legal analyst, the former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jennifer, you covered Kalief Browder's story once he was released from Rikers. He told you how he felt, how he was robbed of his happiness. How could something like this actually have happened? In fact he spent two years in solitary for what?

JENNIFER GONNERMAN, THE NEW YORKER: You know, it's a -- you know, it's straight up American tragedy. It's almost beyond words. He was arrested in the spring of 2010 for a robbery he said he had not done. He was walking down the street late at night with a friend coming home from a party. A police -- a police car pulled up with somebody in the back seat who accused him of robbing them and there was confusion whether the robbery happened a week before, two weeks before.

And from the first moment, Kalief said I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything wrong. And there was no evidence that he had done anything wrong. There was no stolen property on him or anything. And he thought he was going to the precinct with the police officers for an hour or two and then ended up staying in custody for three years.

And the reason it dragged on and on and on and on is because he insisted on his innocence. He said I didn't do anything wrong. I'm not going to plead guilty. I want to take my case to trial. And it was his insistence on his right to a trial which got delayed and delayed and delayed because he was arrested in the Bronx which is notorious for its court delays, that's why he ended up spending three years in Rikers Island despite never being convicted of a crime and in the end, as he told you himself, the case against him was just dismissed.

BLITZER: And even two years in solitary, that's like torture.

Jeffrey, are there others like Kalief Browder out there? No run- ins really with the police, given a probation, youthful offender status, but sent away as a 16, 17-year-old, without a conviction, accused of stealing a backpack. They threw away the keys basically. And what a tragic ending when he killed himself.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think people need to focus on the difference between jails and prisons. Prisons are for people who have been convicted and sentenced to more than a year. Jails for the most part are about people awaiting trial or serving short sentences. But jails are not managed and not supervised the way prisons are. They are really law of the jungle.

Jennifer wrote this extraordinary story in the "New Yorker" about Rikers Island. I wrote a story in the "New Yorker" about Baltimore which had another scandal where guards were running -- were running riot and some of the gang members and the inmates were running wild. People on bail, people who were being held in lieu of bail, usually should be released quickly. Bail is abused terribly by the legal system and people wind up serving in effect longer sentences, just waiting for trial, than if they had been convicted after trial.

BLITZER: Is the criminal justice system, Jennifer, at least in this particular case, it was clearly broken but is it broken more widely?

GONNERMAN: Certainly. It's broken in many different ways all over the country. I mean, I think we see that again and again in the news. You know, we've been seeing all these cell phone videos recently of police officers acting horribly. And you've seen this huge push. You know, all these protests pushing for police -- for accountability from our police officers. And I think with the videos you're showing today, I think it could potentially be the beginning of a push for accountability behind bars. You know, really showing the public with video footage exactly what's happening.

From the first day I met Kalief, he was telling me, Jen, you have to get the footage from September 23rd, 2012. That's the day an officer took me out of my cell, was ostensibly going to bring him to the shower, instead slams him to the floor. And I was -- you know, I was thinking, how am I ever going to get that footage? And then I was also thinking how could Kalief -- how could you possibly remember that date?

[17:55:12] And he did because even though it was certainly not the only time that he endured this kind of abuse and it was certainly not even the worst incident, it was just so brazen. He knew exactly where the surveillance cameras were in Rikers as do all the inmates and he knew it happened right in front of the camera. It was as if the officer knew nothing was going to happen to him. And as you know, you said in the set-up, in fact nothing did.

BLITZER: All right.

GONNERMAN: The department saying he is being, quote, "retrained."

BLITZER: You did you an amazing job, Jennifer. I recommend reading your article to all our viewers out there.

Jennifer Gonnerman, Jeffrey Toobin, what a horrendous story. We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.