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THE SITUATION ROOM
More U.S. Troops to Iraq; Manhunt; Interview With Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke; Police Employee Who 'Befriended' Escapees Not Under Arrest; Feds: Help Us Find Rioters Who Used Explosives; Cops Speak Out on Baltimore Violence; Jeb Bush Goes After "Bully" Vladimir Putin. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 10, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're getting new information about the investigation right now.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, dragnet in Vermont. Authorities say two killers who escaped from a supermax prison in New York state talked of fleeing to the state next door. House-to-house searches under way in this widening international manhunt.
Also breaking, President Obama adds more U.S. military power to the fight against ISIS, responding to new gains by the terrorists and criticism of his policy. The White House says up to 450 additional American troops will be ordered to Iraq to advise and train local forces on the front lines with a new emphasis on assisting Sunni tribal fighters. Tonight, some members of the president's own party are warning of dangerous similarities to the Vietnam War.
Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke is here to weigh in. He's an Iraq War veteran, a former Navy SEAL commander. He now serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
Our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by to cover all the news that is breaking right now.
First, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, talk to us a little bit about this new deployment of forces to Iraq.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this deployment could open the door to U.S. troops going out into Anbar province in Western Iraq, the Sunni heartland, the heart of the combat with ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice-over): Iraqi forces continue to struggle in the battle against ISIS in Anbar province, their goal now, to try to retake Ramadi and push ISIS back.
To do that, President Obama is sending up to 450 additional troops, this time with a major new task, coordinate with Sunni tribes who will turn against ISIS and eventually agree to be trained by the U.S. to fight alongside the Shia-led government units, something Defense Secretary Ash Carter hinted at in an interview with CNN.
ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Remember, the people who live in that territory, particularly the Sunni tribes, they're the ones who have to get in the fight and win the fight and then hold the territory after ISIL is defeated.
STARR: It's a tall order, given past history.
JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: They worked with us once. We bailed on them once. And now we're back again. Those Sunni leaders, the ones that I know out there, are looking for assurances that, hey, this is not just going to be a shot in the dark again.
STARR: For the first time, the new U.S. troops will head to Al- Taqaddum Air Base southeast of Ramadi, where Iraqi forces fled after ISIS captured Ramadi last month, since then, constant skirmishes.
Now, closer to the fight, it's a security risk for U.S. personnel, especially with ISIS now using mega-IEDs.
REESE: Probably up to half of those soldiers going out there will be for security of the trainers out there, so we don't have to get into any issues with any green-on-blue or attacks by ISIS that we cannot repel.
STARR: The new U.S. advisers will join more than 3,000 U.S. troops already in Iraq; 9,000 Iraqis have been trained; 3,000 are in the program, but tens of thousands more may be needed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm up.
STARR: Politicians on both sides of the aisle unsure of the plan.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: This is exactly how Vietnam started, and if you don't think you're putting them in harm's way, then you're not living in the real world.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: More needs to be happened -- happening on the ground, and we or our allies need to be playing a stronger role.
STARR: Now, I have talked to a number of Iraq War veterans, combat tours under their belt. And to each and every one of them are telling us they have a lot of skepticism about whether this really can make a difference on the ground -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.
The U.S. military presence in Iraq is growing only a few years after President Obama promised it was ending. Listen to what the president said in October of 2011.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, there is growing concern. We heard from Charlie Rangel -- he's a Korean War veteran -- of mission creep in Iraq, as was the case in Vietnam. Tell our viewers what is going on.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's look back at the numbers here.
So, we will look back to President Obama made that announcement in 2008 -- 2011, rather, elected in 2008. We are nowhere near the peak levels of more than 150,000 troops at his election. Here's 2011, down, when we were just below 50,000, and went to near zero.
But let's look in the last two years, as we have creeped up from zero, going back to just June of last year, a year ago. And, remember, that is when ISIS first swept into Iraq from Syria, really surprising everyone, the U.S. and Iraqi forces as well. And as ISIS made further advances, remember the siege of Mount Sinjar, when it had the Yazidi people cornered there, more troops sent in.
Then, again, the battle for Mosul dam, a key piece of infrastructure up north, we begin to see it ticking up. Now, with the fall of Ramadi, we're here. And this is where we're going to jump again from the 3,050 that we have today, another 450 largely trainers joining in. So, we are nowhere near those levels of 150,000 troops of several years ago, but, casually, quietly, gradually, creeping up, higher and higher in just the last 12 months.
BLITZER: Yes, clearly what the president said, America's war in Iraq will be over by end of 2011, clearly, that has not occurred. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana. He's an Iraq War veteran. He's a former Navy SEAL commander. He's a member of the SEAL Team Six as well. He serves now on the House Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. RYAN ZINKE (R), MONTANA: Great to be here.
BLITZER: You served in Iraq. You served in Fallujah, Ramadi. You know the territory well. Is this, first of all, from your perspective mission creep?
ZINKE: Well, it is a freefall. And it won't make a difference putting more troops in unless we change the policy.
Air operations alone is not effective. It will not be effective. We don't have the intelligence on the ground. We are using Facebook in some type cases to target. And what's the objective? What are we going to do in Syria? And how is it we are going to look at the growing influence of Iran?
Before we put troops on the ground, more troops on the ground, we need to change our policy. This president has to recognize the path we are on has failed. What are we going to do different? Because putting more troops alone in won't make a difference unless we change our policy.
BLITZER: The administration says the policy is, the mission is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS. Do you see that happening?
ZINKE: No, no, you could another 1,000 troops in. The problem with putting light troops in is that what if one of our sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines get captured? If you don't put sufficient force in where they can't defend themselves, then you're put in position where they are going to be burned alive in a cave.
You also need medevac. If one of our guys gets hurt, you have got to get them out within an hour. You also need logistics. So, if you going to degrade and defeat ISIS, that package, that force package has to be sufficient to defend itself and get the job done.
The problem is, is, if you take ISIS territory, and the only result is you are going to cede it to an Iranian-influenced Shia militia, what's the point? Our policy has to change. We have to look at what we are going to do with Syria. Are we going to accept a regime change? Are we're going to move to a regime change? And what are we going to do about an ever-increasing Iranian influence?
BLITZER: Because they announced today, the Pentagon, the White House, another 450 U.S. troops will go out to Iraq, but they're not going to Baghdad. They're going to the front lines.
And what worries me is a force protection is -- as you call it in the military, force protection will largely be dependent on the Iraqi military. Can you depend on the Iraqi military to protect those 450 U.S. advisers who are going out there?
ZINKE: You know, I think the troops deserve the best equipment on the battlefield, the best training, and American armor if they get in trouble. You look at Benghazi, what happened, is we didn't have a quick reaction force of our weight to go in and help these guys. And the same situation is at risk here. Again, if we are going to degrade and defeat ISIS, I think, at the core of it, we have to change our tactics on the ground.
BLITZER: What would you change, Congressman? What would you -- what do you want to see happen? And you served there. You speak with authority.
ZINKE: Well, I think you look at the Kurds. I think we need to arm the Kurds directly, support the Kurds.
BLITZER: And forget about the Baghdad government?
ZINKE: Well, for now, because the question is, what about Iran?
BLITZER: All right, but the Kurds are not going to go into Ramadi in the Anbar province. They're going to protect their territory. They're not going to go protect Sunni territory or Shia territory.
ZINKE: No, and nor are they going to go into Mosul because of the refugee problem. So, it's really a multiple problem,solution.
BLITZER: What do you do to liberate Ramadi from ISIS?
ZINKE: I think you look at the Sunni tribes we fought with. And I fought with a lot of them. They're still willing to fight. But they're not going to fight unless we show resolve.
BLITZER: And so should the U.S. be arming them directly?
ZINKE: I think so.
BLITZER: Without the central government of Baghdad? Because that will infuriate the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, and his team over there, largely Shiite-led team.
ZINKE: Well, to this point, they have given no support to the Sunnis at all. That's part of the problem. The Sunnis no longer recognize the centralized government as a legitimate power.
The Shia militia that is moving around is calling out war crimes that are anti-Sunni. So, the Sunnis are in a tough spot. Do they move to an ISIS, which is a radical Islamic terrorist organization? Or do they defend themselves? Or do they give up? So, I think we do look at the tribal relationships that we had.
Arm the Sunnis. Help them with logistics. But at the core of it, we have to change our tactics on the ground. Figure out what we are going to do with Sunni. And how are we going to remove Iranian influence to the extent it is in the territory of Iraq? BLITZER: You spent 23 years, correct me if I'm wrong, as a Navy SEAL,
ZINKE: I did.
BLITZER: All right, so when you're a Navy SEAL, you salute, you obey, you go follow the mission, you give -- they give you an order, you do it.
You are a United States Congressman right now. Do you trust the guys who are making these decisions, the men and women at the Pentagon, the White House, the intelligence community? Do they know what they're doing?
ZINKE: I trust our military advisers.
What I don't trust is this administration, when his core group around -- his advisers. I think they're giving him bad advice. And I don't think it is the military in this case. I think -- I have spoken to the senior military officers. They understand. Former military officers, General Abizaid, General Conway all say the same thing. Air operations alone will not be effective. We knew this coming in.
We have seen it where we have emboldened Iraq -- the ISIS forces. And now we have fewer options, but the options today still are, I think, arm the Kurds, find the Sunni Shia that will fight. Make sure they have the logistics, and what they need to fight. And figure out a policy about what we are going to do about the central problem is Iran.
BLITZER: Congressman, I want you to stand by. We have much more to talk about, including this, why the U.S. Congress, the Senate and the House, they have not approved any legislation authorizing military force against ISIS in Iraq, or Syria, for that matter.
Much more with Congressman Ryan Zinke when we come back.
BLITZER: We're back with Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana. He's member of the House Armed Services Committee. He's a former Navy SEAL commander. He served in Iraq.
And we're talking about the president's decision to send up to another 450 U.S. troops to Iraq to train and advise local forces on the front lines in the battle against ISIS.
What do you make of the fact, Congressman, there is still no congressional authorization that has been passed in the Senate or the House authorizing the president to use military force in this new war against ISIS?
ZINKE: Well, the present authorization is sufficient to do anything the president... BLITZER: The authorization after what, after 9/11?
ZINKE: That he's operating right under now.
BLITZER: So, you think that's enough?
ZINKE: It is.
BLITZER: Because there are a lot of your colleagues in the House and the Senate who don't think that is enough, that that was to fight al Qaeda. This is not al Qaeda.
ZINKE: Well, the consensus is, it is enough.
What the president asked -- and I was in a room when the White House counsel came over -- is he asked for that -- for his ability to be restricted, because, in his mind, you can fight it from over the horizon. So, he actually asked Congress to further restrict his ability to fight.
And, as a former Navy commander, is that I think we deserve to make sure our troops that we put in harm's way have a full array of rules of engagement. And what you have don't want to do is tie one hand behind their back or restrict their ability to fight. I think we deserve and our troops to have everything made available to them so they can fight and win decisively on the field of battle.
BLITZER: So, when you hear like senators like Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Democrat, Republican, say, we need legislation authorizing the use of military force, you say that authorization is already there, new legislation is not necessary?
ZINKE: That's my belief. The president has all the powers. He needs to fight and win this war.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the Navy SEALs for a moment, because in recent days there was this very long, thousand-of-words article in "The New York Times." You were quoted in that article. I am sure you read it.
One of the quotes in the article about the Navy SEALs was this. And it was critical -- quote -- "America's new way of war in which conflict is distinguished not by battlefield wins and losses, but by the relentless killing of suspected militants, spurring recurring concerns about excessive killing and civilian deaths."
Give me your reaction to that?
ZINKE: SEAL Team Six and our Tier 1 forces are highly scrutinized.
These guys are professional. What they're trained to do is identify a threat and nonthreat. And it is a risky business. They're not angels. They're professionals. And you know what? We owe them our gratitude and thanks.
Not everyone can do this job. Not everyone is capable of doing this job. They put themselves in harm's way repeatedly. And what America needs to do is thank. Thank you, SEAL Team Six. Thank you, Delta, for everything you do.
BLITZER: But you think in recent years there's been, in the word of this "New York Times" story, excessive killing and civilian deaths?
ZINKE: I don't.
They are highly scrutinized. They have multiple chain of command. When I conducted an operation in Bosnia, we were being armchair- quarterbacked all the way from Washington, D.C., and these missions that are high-value target, they're being watched by everybody, multiple layers.
And they don't have a lot of leeway, other than threat/nonthreat, do what you need to do to protect your buddy and carry out the mission successfully. I'm convinced that these are the best in the world. And we need to support them.
BLITZER: Ryan Zinke, thanks very much for joining us.
ZINKE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks, Congressman.
Just ahead, new warnings to residents of Vermont, and New York, and beyond that two very dangerous escaped inmates could be in their midst. We are following the breaking news on the expanding manhunt.
Plus, was a bloody baseball bat used in the D.C. mansion murders? We're going to talk about the new information that has just been unsealed by a court.
And on a very, very different note, get ready for what some might call a big reveal. You are going to see me without my beard. That's coming up.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news in the search for two very dangerous killers who broke out of a maximum security prison in New York.
Officials say they now have reason to believe the pair may have headed to Vermont, not far from site of their dramatic escape.
CNN's national correspondent, Jason Carroll, is just outside the prison in Upstate New York.
Authorities are conducting an exhaustive search. What's the latest, Jason?
[18:25:00] JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well that exhaustive
search includes retracing their steps including right here in this neighborhood in front of the prison, checking every building, knocking on every door, expanding the search to Vermont, all this as the daughter-in-law of that prison employee that was brought in for questioning is now coming out in her defense.
CARROLL (voice-over): Authorities say Vermont is now also a potential search area and the manhunt for two escaped murderers.
JOSEPH D'AMICO, NEW YORK STATE POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: We did develop information that had been discussed by these men prior to their escape, the possibility of going to Vermont and finding a location in Vermont.
CARROLL: Officials say they are conducting searches in the state, including campgrounds in the Lake Champlain area. The search also continues in neighborhoods near the prison, in Upstate New York, with officers checking garages and backyards with search dogs and automatic weapons.
Others are searching cars at checkpoints. No further word on a lead that dozens of officers pursued yesterday in Willsboro, 40 miles southeast of the prison.
SHAUN GILLILAND, WILLSBORO TOWN SUPERVISOR: Motorists observed two men walking down a very rural road in the middle of farmland. And when the car approached them, they took off into the field.
CARROLL: But authorities have been able to speak with one lead, Joyce Mitchell, a prison employee who worked with inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat, tailoring clothing.
A source familiar with the investigation says her phone was used to call an associate of Matt's and that she may have planned to pick the two up after they escaped through a manhole, but changed her mind at the last minute.
Authorities have not said whether they suspect Mitchell of being involved in smuggling the tools or of her knowing her phone was used for the calls.
D'AMICO: She was befriended, or she befriended the inmates and may have had some sort of role in assisting them. But I am not prepared to go into details on that.
CARROLL: But her daughter-in-law says Mitchell would never help smuggle tools or help an inmate get away in a car -- quote -- "It's appalling to me. I'm totally disgusting that anyone would think that she would knowingly help them," she told CNN.
As to those phone calls, she said Matt was interested in art. "I believe she was persuaded to contact people for him who knew about an art piece of work of art," she said. "She was trying to do something nice and it backfired."
Authorities warning the public not to engage with the inmates if they see them. A former accomplice of Matt's tells CNN he's a master manipulator.
LEE BATES, KNEW ESCAPEE: A very cunning and dangerous individual. And there's nothing that can stop him.
CARROLL: Law enforcement also telling the public to report anything suspicious and to remain vigilant.
As for Paige Mitchell, she also talked about that report that is out there that says that perhaps her mother-in-law had some sort of a plan to help these two inmates once they were on outside and then changed her mind at the last minute. When I asked her about that, Wolf, she called that report -- quote -- "absolutely ridiculous" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jason Carroll is outside that prison in Upstate New York. Thank you.
Let's discuss what is going on.
Joining us, the former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes. He's our CNN law enforcement analyst. Also joining us, Cedric Alexander of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. He's a CNN law enforcement analyst. And Matthew Horace, he's a former ATF special agent in charge.
Cedric, we heard the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. He says the escaped prisoners could be headed toward Vermont. They might already be in Vermont, for all we know. Officials are working to secure that border area between the two states. Will it be harder for authorities to find these two killers if they actually make it out of New York State?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it is not going to be any harder than it was, would be in New York State.
They're going to work very closely with the Vermont officials there. And I'm quite sure they're in contact with Canadian officials as well too. So, any state or community that is contiguous to where this escape took place, they're going to be very much part of the search and very much part of the investigation as well too as it goes forward.
BLITZER: Tom, what do you make of this woman, Joyce Mitchell, who worked in the prison, has been questioned by authorities? She knew these two guys. Her family says she absolutely had nothing involved. But it is an intriguing element in what is going on right now.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, it is, Wolf.
And the unfortunate thing is, in many of the escapes that have happened out of prisons all over the country, some employee of the prison becomes either a friend or somehow gets involved with the inmate and provides some kind of assistance. Now, sometimes, if it's an organized crime figure, and they know they have a lot of money and that could take care of the guard or whoever the employee might be, that's one thing.
But, oftentimes, it can be a personal relationship, not necessarily romantic, but just someone that gets involved and wants to help them. And maybe it got too far.
BLITZER: And this woman, Joyce Mitchell, she seems to be cooperating with authorities.
BLITZER: And she certainly has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing. So, we will see what happens on that front.
Matthew, is there a chance, though, that these prisoners could have been threatening her, that she was coerced into cooperating? We have seen that before. We also know that, the night of their escape, she went to the hospital. She was complaining of chest pains.
[18:30:01] MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF AGENT: Well, there's always a chance that that could have happened. However you look at this, she was involved in some way. And the police now know information that we don't, which is leading them to expand their search out to the contiguous states and look at other people and other factors.
BLITZER: How would they know that? Because we heard the governor of Vermont, the governor of New York say there is information that suggests these two guys may have tried to go into Vermont. How did they get that kind of information, Matthew? What do you think?
HORACE: Well, I suspect that, when she spoke to authorities, because she was a part of the failed escape plan, she more than likely gave them some information that she had about what was the ultimate plan. Obviously, this plan went awry when the escape stopped, so now they're on the run. And they don't have that sense of security of knowing who's going to take them where.
She may have very well given authorities information about where she planned to take them as a part of the next step.
BLITZER: Cedric, Nick Harris says his father, Richard Matt, has a, quote, "genius I.Q." and escaped from prison before. Is it possible that this so-called genius could have plotted a perfect escape plan? Because officials now, they know it's day five of the search. They certainly have not been able to track either of these two men down.
ALEXANDER: Well, it's not unusual, Wolf, for someone who may have some type of psychopathology still to be a person who is highly intelligent. So he still could be a very well-functioning, very highly intelligent individual.
But at the same time, as well, too, could be suffering with some other issues that have brought him to where he is. Which of course you look at this crimes, that have been reported, they certainly have been very heinous in nature. So I think we all can pretty much suspect or conclude that there is something else going on with him, mental health-wise. But that does not negate the fact that he still could be a very high-functioning, very intelligent individual.
BLITZER: Matthew, let me switch gears for a moment. Because we've just got some documents that have been unsealed in the D.C. mansion murders case. Investigators now say they found a baseball bat with what appears to be blood on it in one of the bedrooms where three of the victims were found. Daron Wint is currently the sole individual charged in connection with this case. Do you think others may have been involved, are still at large right now?
HORACE: I think that the facts would indicate that there has to be more than one person who is involved in this crime. I mean, it involves too many crimes over a course of a monumental time.
And I think you know, you've got to look at this -- extortion, robbery, arson, assault, all those things happen over a course of a day and a half. There had to be more than one person involved. And the fact that we found a bat that had blood on it, that adds to the voracity and the violence of Mr. Wint and whoever was with him during the execution of this crime.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, what do you think?
FUENTES: Well, I think by now, Wolf, they should have been able to find other DNA that would not belong to the victims, belong to normal visitors, the housekeepers, their husbands. So if they found other DNA either on that bat or in the house in general, that that may indicate already to them that they know there were more people involved in here that have not been accounted for.
BLITZER: Cedric, what do you think?
ALEXANDER: Well, I certainly agree with Tom in terms of what he's saying. And certainly, as more and more evidence is collected, there's going to be further testing.
And we also have to keep in mind, too, Wolf, is that I'm quite sure that those investigators there in D.C. also operating on information which we may not be privy to yet. They're following up as well, too.
BLITZER: And these unsealed documents clearly suggest how brutal...
BLITZER: ... these killings definitely were in this D.C. mansion.
All right, guys. Thanks very, very much.
Just ahead, authorities are offering big rewards to find suspects accused of starting fires with explosives during the riots in Baltimore.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:39:00] BLITZER: The federal government is teaming up with the city of Baltimore to crack down on rioters suspected of using improvised explosive devices to start fires during the violent unrest in April. Authorities are releasing pictures of the suspects, along with rewards of $10,000.
Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, was at the announcement today. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me right now. What are you learning, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you'll remember just a couple weeks ago, the Baltimore Police commissioner, Anthony Batts, made a plea for federal help to try to stem some of the violence that's plaguing Baltimore right now.
And so today we see some of that federal help coming in the form of the ATF making this announcement, showing some of this video of the incendiary devices, the IEDs, basically, that some people were using to set fires to drug stores and to some of the businesses that were looted in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray protests.
And we also -- I was also there for the -- a press conference that was held by Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney. He announced the indictment against 14 people who are members of this Black Guerrilla Family gang, which is a gang that is responsible, according to the feds, for a lot of the murder and a lot of the narcotics trafficking that's plaguing Baltimore.
The FBI chief in Baltimore, Steve Vogt, had this warning for members of the gang.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE VOGT, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, BALTIMORE: For gang members, listening to these intercepts, and I personally was there listening to many of them, it's a pretty bleak life you have out there. You've got a couple options. You're going to go to the morgue or you're going to go to jail if you don't get out of those gangs. So this is your chance. If you're in BGF and you're in the city, we may be coming for you next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: And Wolf, the -- right there you saw a couple of the federal officials that were in attendance for this press conference. Also there was Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney and the police chief, the police commissioner, Anthony Batts. And obviously, you know that there's a strained relationship there between those two offices.
BLITZER: Certainly is. All right, thanks very much, Evan, for that report. One quick question, though, before I let you go. What does this mean as far as what happened today to try to end this spike of violence that we've seen in recent weeks?
PEREZ: Well, that's -- that's part of the big question. Now we see that these folks are going to have to work together to try to stem some of these -- some of this violence.
I mean, one of the people who was indicted today, Wolf, was a guy, a member of this gang, who shot a kid, a juvenile in the head and then was caught on wiretaps threatening witnesses. This is something that the federal government can do with the violence there in Baltimore. A lot of times these guys intimidate witnesses. And that's why they never go to jail.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a really bad situation right now in Baltimore. Thanks very much for that, Evan.
The city of Baltimore clearly has suffered through a dramatic increase in violence and homicides in recent weeks. And tonight, we're hearing from a pair of Baltimore Police officers who say they fear facing charges for doing their jobs, and the police are looking the other way to avoid confronting criminals. CNN's Brooke Baldwin sat down with these officers for an exclusive interview.
Brooke, tell our viewers how it went.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. I mean, I sat with them for about an hour. But let me just preface this by saying, in order to allow these officers to feel like they could speak with me candidly, we're not sharing their names; we're not showing their faces; we've even modulated their voices. But let's be clear: These are veteran officers.
And to the question as far as Evan was just referencing, this uptick in violence in Baltimore, I mean, just the month of May, in the wake of the riots, the deadliest month in 42 years.
They say, "Listen, criminals are taking the time now to settle old beefs," because they don't think police officers are going to come after them.
I said, "Listen, to both of you" -- to these officers -- "you took this oath to protect and serve."
And they said, "Yes." But when they see what happened in the week of Freddie Gray's death, there's six colleagues, all of whom are criminally charged. And they, by the way, these officers believe their actions were justified. They told me they're afraid of being prosecuted, as well. They are being reactive, not proactive. They're saying essentially to the city of Baltimore, "You want a softer, more gentle police department? Here you go."
BALDWIN: Are the criminals right in thinking that you all will not arrest people as you would before?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to -- you have to take on the risk of, you have to look at it like -- if I chase this guy who possibly has a gun and he gets hit by a car, will I be charged with criminal negligence for chasing a possibly armed suspect if I did not see the gun? That roll of the dice is greater than me just riding to the next call and writing a report.
So these are the things that we have to weigh when we're riding past a group of guys on the corner. And we can't make the decision, like, because we will be -- we run the risk of being criminally charged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, referencing riding past guys on a corner, especially guys with bulges in their waistbands, potentially being armed, they said, Wolf, they will pass by nine times out of ten. I said, "What's your biggest fear, waking up and working as a cop each and every day on these city streets?"
And they said, "Brooke, it's not being shot. It's going to jail" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You asked these police officers also whether or not they feel that the police commissioner, the state's attorney, the mayor of Baltimore support them. What did they -- what do they tell you?
BALDWIN: Essentially they're all saying they think all of these leaders, A, don't have their backs; B, are playing politics. I mean, this is the first time we've been able to get two active officers on the record on a lot of these issues.
And you know, we talked to them about when it was Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney, standing on the front steps of the war memorial some weeks ago announcing those officers being criminally charged. They said, "Brooke, that was a campaign speech."
But I think I would be remiss not to mention that we have heard from the police commissioner today. In fact it was his second reference to our interview, and he essentially said, "Listen, I've gone out on calls with some of my officers. They are engaged." He was saying that these men and women take an oath to serve and protect the city. They're ethically bound to do so. And essentially, if they're not, they're not doing their job. Stern words, essentially, for these two officers and any officers who think like them.
BLITZER: And Brooke, you also asked about the public's biggest misconception regarding the Freddie Gay -- Freddie Gray incident.
[18:45:04] What did they tell you?
BALDWIN: I did, you know, and their answer was they said these officers didn't wake up that morning wanting to kill anyone. They think the whole issue about this is intent. They believe, based upon everything they know, that Freddie Gray was not acting compliantly.
I asked specifically, because there was much made about placing Freddie Gray in those leg restraints and not buckling him in the back of the van. They said, Brooke, when someone is not compliant, that happens often, that they are not buckled up.
As far as the rough rides that we've talked about, they say that is an anomaly in the city of Baltimore. Again, no one intended to kill anyone that day. They say the officers were doing their jobs -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brooke Baldwin, good work as usual. Thanks very much for joining us.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. Brooke, stick around, because I want you on a very, very different note and our viewers to see something that you have never seen before. Me, without my beard.
[18:50:43] BLITZER: Tonight, Jeb Bush is trying to look like a global leader as he prepares to launch his Republican presidential campaign just five days from now. He's also been taking another shot at distancing himself from his brother by taking aim at a man he calls a bully.
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is covering Jeb Bush's trip to Europe. She is joining us live from Poland.
How did it go, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's right in the middle of it. It's kind of a rite of passage, Wolf, for a presidential hopeful to make his or her way abroad. But it is unusual to do it just days before he formally announced. What his campaign in waiting is hoping is that this is sort of a reset button before it becomes official.
BASH (voice-over): This overseas trip was supposed to show Jeb Bush can look presidential on the world stage. But his inability to pull ahead at home followed him to Europe.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I don't read the polls. Polls are, you know -- it's fun to see them when you are winning. Not so fun when you're not. It doesn't matter, though. It's June, for crying out loud.
BASH: American reporters traveling with the former Florida governor asked about changes in his campaign staff before his campaign is even official.
J. BUSH: This is an adjustment based on the skills of people I got to know during the last three months. And next Monday, I'll announce what my decision is. I'm excited about it and I have a really good team.
BASH: Despite all his advantages, his deep pocket and famous last name, Bush has failed to scare away competitors the way his brother did in 2000. Here in Europe, Jeb Bush is trying to intimidate a vexing world leader, Russia's Vladimir Putin.
J. BUSH: He is a bully. You enable bad behavior when you are nuanced with a guy like that.
BASH: A far different assessment than the one his brother made when he first became president in 2001.
GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: I look the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.
BASH: Bush's first stop in Germany and trips to Poland and Estonia are designed to promise former Soviet countries he would protect them from Putin's aggression.
J. BUSH: Putin has changed as well. But --
REPORTER: In what way?
J. BUSH: He's much more brazen -- he just invaded another country. That was different than it was a decade ago.
BASH: The country he is talking about is Ukraine. But Putin did, in fact, invade another country when George W. Bush was president, Georgia.
So far, Jeb Bush hasn't talked much about his brother, unpopular still here, thanks largely to the Iraq war. But he is talking up his dad, for pushing to unite Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
J. BUSH: My father was deeply supportive. The work was done today. And because of that, Germany is whole and Germany is free.
BASH: Jeb Bush is now here in Warsaw, Poland. Tomorrow, he's going to have some meetings with leaders here, as well as some time to take in the sometimes unfortunate sights that make up the complicated history, Wolf, here in Poland. He is going to go to perhaps the most notorious Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, where more than one million Jews were killed during World War II -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Dana Bash, reporting live from Warsaw in Poland -- Dana, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar, CNN politics reporter Sara Murray, and our senior digital correspondent Chris Moody.
Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
Sara, why are we seeing Jeb Bush campaign -- I will call it a campaign because it really is for all practical purposes seemingly struggling at this stage right now. Were the expectations simply too high?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I think there are two issues.
And one was unrealistic expectations, the idea that Jeb Bush was going to sort of flirt with jumping in. Like you said, it basically is a campaign already and just run away with this early. It was probably unrealistic and that's what people are saying.
But the other reality is he's not as polished as people thought he was going to be. He didn't have the campaign staff lined up in the right way. We saw that with his staff reshuffling, and we have seen that just with the way Jeb Bush handled questions on the stump, whether it's about the Iraq War, whether it was about the controversial law in Indiana, he's not just as prepared as people thought.
BLITZER: Chris, what do you make of the staff shakeup that he has done in recent days, even in advance of his formal announcement Monday?
CHRIS MOODY, CNN SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, given that it's happened right before the announcement, it's very interesting. We saw David Kochel who knows Iowa, was going to be possibly the campaign manager, now senior strategist.
[18:55:06] He knows these early stays well. And with such a wide field, his campaign realizes that they're going to need someone on the ground that can win those. It's very difficult because the competition is fierce.
What is going to be interesting is seeing the new staff with Jeb Bush and how they interact with the longtime staff that has been with him for an exceptional amount of time.
BLITZER: How is Hillary Clinton campaign dealing with this? Do they fear a Jeb Bush campaign?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure they do, I think. I think right now, if the election were in a week, I think they would feel like they were in a pretty good place against Jeb Bush. But it's so far away from the election. It's so far away even from really the primary process that they're not ruling Jeb Bush out. I don't think anyone really is at this point.
It's more of like a wake-up call that Jeb Bush really needs to perform or you are going to have the donor class on the Republican side questioning him. But Democrats certainly I think that they worry that he could be someone who could give Hillary Clinton a run for her money. You see the way they're hitting at Jeb Bush, but also certainly taking Marco Rubio seriously and Scott Walker.
BLITZER: Well, Florida is a key state, obviously, either Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, potentially could carry Florida. That would be a huge setback for any Democratic candidate.
MURRAY: Yes, absolutely. Anyone who gets in Florida early on and is able to build those relationships, build that ground game, that carries over to the general election. And that's a big deal.
But it's also going to cost Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio a lot of money to be fighting head to head. You come away with that with scars. It's not like voters in the state all of a sudden forget all of this stuff that's been dredged up during the primaries. BLITZER: I keep hearing, Chris, from Democrats, including people
close to Hillary Clinton, they really fear the possibility, let's say Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, as a presidential nominee and potentially carrying Florida, picking someone like John Kasich, a popular governor of Ohio, and that could potentially help them carry Ohio if they take Florida and Ohio, that could be significant in the Electoral College win.
MOODY: Well, anyone who follows politics knows that it's all about the map when it comes to election night. I'm talking about the real election night, the general. And if you lose Florida, you have to have a contingency plan to win in number of other states. I'm sure that that is something that Hillary Clinton campaign is certainly looking at. How do we win this thing if Florida is out of the picture? It always makes it harder when you can't win a state like that.
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton, all of a sudden, she starts an Instagram account and she posted a picture of herself. Take a look at not necessarily herself -- red, white and blue pants suits, with the caption, #hardchoices.
KEILAR: That's right. And she's actually I think -- this is the first, but she's posted three pictures at this point. So, you know, she's being patriotic. She's being self-deprecating. She's promoting her book and the fact that she's a grandmother in the bio there.
But what this is really about is just another way to reach out to young voters. Most young people, more than 50 percent of them have an Instagram account. And also, it's popular with women. So, there are key constituencies for Hillary Clinton.
But just some quick numbers, seven hours -- Bernie Sanders has an Instagram account, Wolf, which I know you have as well. He's been posting photos for two weeks. He has 8,000 followers. Hillary has been posting for seven hours, she has 46,000.
BLITZER: Already, 48,000, that's pretty good, huh?
MOODY: Not bad.
BLITZER: I want to --
KEILAR: I want that many.
BLITZER: -- reveal something. Tomorrow night, CNN is starting a new documentary series, "The Seventies". So, I was around in '70s, and I've been promising our viewers, you know what? What do I look like without a beard? None of you have seen me without a beard.
MURRAY: I'm excited.
BLITZER: Have ever seen me without a beard?
BLITZER: I will show a picture we will post. There he is. There's Wolf Blitzer, groovy play list. We put on some of my favorite songs on Spotify. So, if you want to listen to some of my favorite songs -- you will know a lot of these songs, even though you probably weren't around in the '70s, you're going to like these songs if you go Spotify. And you're going to love our documentary on the '70s tomorrow night.
KEILAR: When did you switch to the beard?
BLITZER: Shortly after that picture I said, you know what, let me try growing a beard. I didn't like shaving that much. So, I've had the beard ever since. It used to be a little bit darker.
KEILAR: Yes, a little bit. It's a great hair do of the era.
MURRAY: I do think the wave, I really like that.
BLITZER: Do I look older right now, is that what you're saying?
KEILAR: We want to see it again. No. But we would love to see that hair do now.
MURRAY: Exactly. Maybe we can get a wig.
BLITZER: All right, guys, sink into your chair. Put on some disco music.
Be sure to catch CNN's original series "The Seventies". It debuts tomorrow night, right here on CNN, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You're going to want to see it.
It's really terrific. We'll bring a lot of back for all of our viewers. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @wolfblitzer. Love to hear from you. Tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. You can watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.