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Donald Trump Latest Polling; Hillary Clinton Still Leads In Latest Democratic Poll; FBI Investigates South Carolina Student Abuse Case; Interview with Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott; U.S. Considers Ways to Step Up Military Involvement in Fight Against ISIS. Aired 8-9p ETAired 8-8:30p ET

Aired October 27, 2015 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Tonight, how Donald Trump is dealing with life at some place other than the top of the pack. For week after week in poll after poll, he's defied both political gravity and conventional wisdom. That began changing though several days ago in Iowa. And today, for the first time nationwide since July, Trump is trailing Ben Carson by just four points in a new CBS News and "The New York Times" poll. Right now, as you can see, he is speaking at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa. This morning he started downplaying the polls, calling them not very scientific. Tonight he spoke again about the new numbers.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And get a little shake-up in Iowa. I don't know what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, keep going, Donald, keep going!

TRUMP: Somebody said, are you going straight to New Hampshire? Now, I love New Hampshire. We've got great numbers, 38-12. That's good. But we fell a little behind in Iowa. And some people are saying, how could it be? In every poll, this isn't just here, that the people that are with Trump are with Trump. They don't go anywhere. They're staying. It's true. I see it. I see it. You know, a couple of times, they say, well, that could be the end. Then they do something, I'm ten points up. It's the craziest thing, right? But we'll take it.


COOPER: That was Donald Trump just moments ago. And in a moment, we will run all the numbers in detail for you. But first, let's go to CNN's Sara Murray, who's at the event tonight.

It is interesting, Sara just to see how he is now kind of questioning the scientific merit of some of these polls.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, he certainly is. And you know, you can understand why he's confused, because he comes to events like this, he draws a bigger crowd than any other Republican candidate, and he wonders why it's not showing up in the poll numbers. Now, as I'm talking to some of his campaign staff, they say, look, maybe these polls aren't capturing our supporters. Trump is drawing a lot of new people into the process. Maybe these are people who have not caucused before who will show up for us on Election Day.

But Trump is certainly not pleased with the numbers. He talked a little bit more about the polls tonight, saying, I'm a great Christian, evangelicals let me down, basically saying, it's terrible to be in second place. This is not where Trump wants to be in the first nominating state, Anderson.

COOPER: And there had been some questions about whether or not he would basically bypass Iowa, give it up, essentially, and focus on New Hampshire and South Carolina, but he's saying tonight he's not going to do that.

MURRAY: Yes, I don't think we have any sense of that here. If anything, Trump seems like he wants to work harder to get back in the lead here in Iowa, and he's been building a robust ground game. His team has been working for months, teaching people how to caucus, making sure that they're going to show up. But it's clear that if you're not the front-runner, even if you are, you need to stay in contact with your supporters if you want to make sure that they're going to show up and actually caucus for you, come February.

COOPER: And he has set his sights on Carson in the last couple days. Did he talk more about Carson tonight?

MURRAY: He's only made a couple passing references to Carson tonight, sort of mocking the idea that Ben Carson could really be his competition. You heard him just now over my shoulder saying he still believes he's going to win in Iowa. What I think will be interesting is tomorrow night on the debate stage how he makes this contrast with Ben Carson. It's an economic, business, tax-focused debate. This is Donald Trump's wheelhouse. I think we can expect to see him make a contrast and say, look, I'm a guy who's created jobs. I'm a guy who understands the economy. How is Ben Carson qualified to deal with issues like this?

COOPER: All right, Sara, appreciate the reporting.

We want to get the latest now on the polling, just drill down on this, including the evangelical factor that Sara just mentioned as well as new results on the Democratic side that could provide a boost for Hillary Clinton.

Chief national correspondent John King breaks it all down by numbers.

So John, this is the first national poll since early July with Trump not in the lead, right?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, and that's worth repeating. For the first time since early July, Donald Trump is not in the lead of a national Republican poll. Now, it's within the margin of error, so he can say statistically it's still a tie, but the CBS/"The New York Times" poll has Ben Carson at 26, Trump at 22, then you have Rubio, Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina rounding out the pack.

Heading into the debate, Anderson, tomorrow night, because Trump has said I'm winning. I'm the winner. The interesting part will be how does he react to this? And look at the trend line. This goes all the way back a few months, when Carson was at six, then 23, now 26. So he goes into the debate moving up.

Trump is still considered the front-runner. But he is coming down. He won't like that. The big challenge for these other candidates, not just Trump and Carson tomorrow night, Anderson, but Rubio, Bush, Fiorina and the others. If you are down here, you're still looking at the two outsiders. And they are in by far, in the dominant position.

One of the reasons Carson is going up is his support among evangelicals. Look at this, in the CBS/"New York Times" poll, Carson up 10 points among the evangelicals, just in the few weeks. Donald Trump down 12. This is one of the big reasons the Republican race at the moment is in flux.

COOPER: And I'm sure the people who have been waiting for Donald Trump to fade are going to herald this as the beginning of the end. Is there any sign that's actually the case, though?

KING: Not so fast. Certainly, he is slipping. He is plateaued. He is down in some polls, but he still has considerable strength. Again, if you look at the Real Clear Politics average of the polls in Iowa, Carson now has on averaging nine-point lead in Iowa, which votes first, in just 96 days. So that's good for Carson, but Iowa's history is it nominates - it picks somebody, but then New Hampshire and South Carolina tend to actually pick the Republican nominee. And in those states, Anderson, Trump is plus 16 in New Hampshire right now, on average, plus 13 in South Carolina on average. The question is, as he drops a little bit in the national polls, as he drops in Iowa, will there be an effect in New Hampshire and South Carolina? We don't see it yet because of Carson's strength.

Just to look at the Iowa poll, again, if you look quickly, a new Iowa poll has Carson at 32 percent, just to show, Trump is down there. He's going to have to make a strategic choice. He's in Iowa today. Does he keep fighting in Iowa or say forget about it, let it be, Ben Carson can be like Mike Huckabee in 2008, move on to somewhere else. Because in Iowa, just like we saw nationally, Carson is going up among evangelicals, Trump is going down. So, one of the key questions for Donald Trump might be, do I compete everywhere or do I say, see you later, Iowa, and focus on New Hampshire and South Carolina?

[20:05:59] COOPER: Also on the Democratic side, some interesting stuff going on in Iowa.

KING: An eye-popping number in a new Iowa poll. And as I show it to you, I want to ask you to discount it just a bit. The Monmouth University poll out today. Look at this, 65 percent for Hillary Clinton, 24 percent for Bernie Sanders. This is the first poll taken completely post Joe Biden saying I'm not running and post her testimony to the Benghazi select committee, and that is a whopping lead. Now, just a week earlier, Quinnipiac had a strong poll for Clinton.

She was at 51-40. This poll has a methodology that tends to favor Secretary Clinton, so I wouldn't buy into 65-24. But you should buy into the fact that she's had a couple very strong weeks and her support is growing.

The more important number than the horse race, Anderson, look at this. In both Monmouth and Quinnipiac polls, 88 percent favorable in one, 82 percent favorable in the other among Iowa Democrats, very low unfavorable rating. So the combination of her debate performance, Joe Biden saying I'm not running and the Benghazi testimony, Hillary Clinton's favorability among Democrats is going off the charts, and it's helping her in Iowa, without a doubt.

COOPER: Incredible numbers. John, thanks very much.

KING: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, back to the Republican side. In addition to touching on the poll numbers, Donald Trump spoke briefly tonight as Sara Murray just reported about Ben Carson.


TRUMP: Will you get the numbers up, Iowa, please? This is ridiculous! I mean, what is my competition? In all fairness, in all fairness, what is my competition? Do you think these guys -- I'm not going to say Carson. I'm not going to say Rubio, who really is way down. I mean, I am second. It's not like terrible. But I don't like being second. Second is terrible, to me. But do you think that Ben is going to go to China?


COOPER: Want to get some immediate reaction now from the Carson camp.

Joining us now is radio host and Carson business manager Armstrong Williams.

Mr. Williams, great to have you on again. I want to you about Trump's comments tonight. He said quote "what is my competition? Is ben going to go to China?" how do you respond to that?

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, DR. BEN CARSON'S BUSINESS MANAGER: Well, good evening, again. Thank you for having me.

You know, Dr. Carson only competes with himself, Anderson. Dr. Carson realizes that this is a marathon, it is not a sprint. And he is not obsessed with polls, whether it shows that he's in the lead in Iowa or any other place. He realizes that this election is way off. And what he has to do is continue to hone his message, introduce himself to Iowans, South Carolinians in the nations where they make the difference, they make the votes. And what he has to do -- what he realizes is that the more people get to know him, the more they understand his message, the more they understand his temperament, his judgment, his resolve, and the fact that he is out there, that he is also trustworthy, and it's shown in his favorability ratings, that he believes that this is a steady drip, he will continue to do well.

And it doesn't matter about the attacks that Mr. Trump may levy. We understand that's his personality, that's what he's going to do. And he is absolutely right. He hates being in second place, but Dr. Carson doesn't mind leading from behind, leading ahead. He realizes there's a lot of work to be done. He has a lot of ground to cover between now and when the real horse race starts in February, and he is quite confident that not only will he continue to grow in Iowa, but he can close the gap in other states that you've shown, like South Carolina and places like New Hampshire.

COOPER: Well, let me ask you. I mean, obviously, he's preparing for the debate tomorrow night. You know, if past is any indication, Donald Trump is likely to, whether he does it in a nice way or not, try to strongly contrast himself to Dr. Carson, given that they are trading places now for the lead here.

Does Dr. Carson need to respond to Trump on that debate stage when he's standing next to him? And you even had Donald Trump the other day, you know, bringing up Dr. Carson's religion and sort of, you know, an oblique reference to it, saying he didn't, you know, really understand what it was about or know what it was about. I don't want to misquote him. Is that something that Dr. Carson needs to respond to when he's on that debate stage?

[20:10:11] WILLIAMS: Anderson, the only thing that Dr. Carson will respond to tomorrow night on that debate stage are issues about the debt ceiling, issues about how do you close the economic gap in these places like Baltimore, Ferguson, in these inner cities. How do you make taxes fair for everyone? How do you liberate the poor and make them realize that they, too, can realize the American dream?

While we understand that tomorrow, especially given that this is the third debate, people don't want combativeness, they don't want disrespect, they don't want rudeness, they want to see gentlemen who are vying for the highest office in America to show that they have a grasp of the issues. And obviously, Mr. Trump clearly feels that the economy and creating jobs and the kind of issues that are being discussed tomorrow by CNBC plays to his strength. But I will tell you, Dr. Carson will be no slouch tomorrow. He's well prepared.

COOPER: Let me ask you, obviously, we were just looking at numbers with John King. In Iowa, you know, there's strong evangelical turnout. In past years, we've seen governor Huckabee winning. We have seen Senator Santorum winning in Iowa. They obviously did not go on to win in other states and to get the nomination.

Does Dr. Carson believe that after Iowa, however he does, whether he wins, or however he places, that he has to in any way change his focus, his message, particularly if he makes it into a general election?

WILLIAMS: Of course, his message will evolve, Anderson. Of course, his policies, the more depth. And also, as you get to that point that you just mentioned, hopefully, if Dr. Carson is still in the top tier, there will be less candidates on that debate stage, and you will have a more robust debate where you really get really in depth and to the issues, you have more time for responding and answering.

So, obviously, as this progresses along, there will be less people vying for that two-hour, precious time. And so, that will make a huge difference. It will really give him an opportunity where he does best, getting into the real details of the issues.

COOPER: Armstrong Williams, always good to have you on. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, we'll dig deeper into where the GOP race now stands and how big of a momentum shift, if any, we're now experiencing.

Plus, we'll talk to this guy's boss, the South Carolina sheriff who is now weighing what to do about the deputy and school resource officer who was caught on this video. Today, the sheriff said the female student hit the deputy. We will ask him exactly where he sees that and if he believes that had anything to do with how the deputy responded and whether it justified this use of force.


[20:16:33] COOPER: We talked about at the top of the broadcast new polling that could spell trouble for Donald Trump going into tomorrow's debate in Boulder, Colorado. He now faces what might, and we should stress the word might be a shifting political landscape. Remember, this isn't within the margin of error.

One this is certain, though, it threatens to take away what until now has been his most effective sales pitch. He says it almost every chance he can in a phrase, I'm number one.


TRUMP: I say to people, when they always say, you love to mention the polls, nobody else does. That is because they're losing. They're not stupid people. I have probably spent less than anybody else, and I have the highest poll numbers. So, instead of criticizing, I should be given credit for that.

CNN did this really very expensive, very well-done poll. It's only well done because I was leading by a lot. If it wasn't, I would say it wasn't.

We're winning everything, everything, every state. We're winning everything!

I love polls. Everybody knows I love polls. And they said, I wonder what would happen if Trump wasn't number one in the polls. And somebody said, oh, if he wasn't number one, maybe he'd drop out of the race! Believe me, I'm not dropping out of anything. I'm in love with polls!

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Again, that began changing with the Iowa polling late last week, then new national results today.

Let's dig deeper with CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Jeffrey Lord. He is a Trump supporter and a former Reagan White House political director. She's a Jeb Bush supporter and friend of Marco Rubio's.

Jeffrey, is the Trump campaign trying to have it both ways? I mean, Trump is very vocal when he's leading in the polls, constantly pointing at them, now saying they're sort of unreliable.

JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, he said the other day that he took them seriously, that he was paying attention to them. One of the details in this poll, this CBS/"The New York Times" poll that I found fascinating, 55 percent, according to the poll, said that they were -- and we're talking Iowa here -- were very firm in their support, they had made up their mind, they were sticking with Donald Trump. Eighty percent of the Carson supporters said they really weren't so sure, that allowed that maybe they could change their mind down the road. I find that a very fascinating statistic here. And I think it's probably indicative of the mind-set of a lot of folks there.

COOPER: Ana, I want to point to something else that Trump said about polling just tonight.


TRUMP: From the time I announced, I've been at the top of the polls, almost at the top, you know, we're doing well. Iowa, will you get your numbers up, please?


COOPER: I heard, I think it was Ryan Lizza from "the New Yorker" and also with CNN, saying earlier on Wolf Blitzer's show that the establishment candidates, Bush, Rubio, some of the others, would love it if Carson and Trump got into a slugfest, and essentially weakened each other and kind of provided a lane for them.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't even want to talk about it because I'm so afraid of jinxing it.

COOPER: You're so hopeful that will happen.

NAVARRO: I'm so giddy about the idea of that happening, I don't really want to discuss it on air. But look, it's, you know, he is right, you know. He has led in the polls for a long, long time. But you know, Donald Trump has been known to fall in love and fall out of love before, so it's not a surprise that he'd be doing it with polls. It's going to be interesting to see how he reacts to it, because he's only had leading poll numbers. So, now he's heading into a debate, he's heading into the fall, people are focusing on policy, people are getting a lot more laser focused on these elections coming up in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. And we don't know how Donald Trump is going to react. Is he going to be the same Donald Trump we've seen for the last six months, or are we going to see a new facet of Donald Trump?

[20:19:59] COOPER: I mean, Jeffrey, the big support, obviously, for Ben Carson among evangelicals, and a growing support among evangelicals. I mean, Donald Trump likes to say the evangelicals love me, but clearly, they seem to be going for Dr. Ben Carson. I'm wondering if they start to believe that Carson is not the candidate who actually could win the nomination and win the presidency, if those evangelicals who are supporting Carson would go to Donald Trump, or if they, in fact, would go to somebody else, a Marco Rubio, a Cruz, somebody else.

LORD: I think they probably would go to Donald Trump. One of the things that I think is in play -- well, first of all, as I have said before, and I was, as I said, talking to somebody in Iowa the other day who said to me what I've been saying, that evangelicals are not stick figures. One of their biggest concerns, for example, is illegal immigration, and Donald Trump is very strong on that.

But one of the things that I think is important here that's sort of coming out, if you will, left or maybe right field, is this budget deal in Washington and the debt ceiling deal, et cetera, which is already vastly unpopular with the base of the Republican Party. That kind of thing can only fuel the Trump campaign, because it says everything exactly about the insiders versus the outsiders. And I think we need to keep our eye on that as we go along and get into this next debate.

COOPER: Ana, do you think Dr. Carson is electable in a general election?

NAVARRO: I think he has got to prove a lot more than he has so far in this primary. I think he has to sound a lot more knowledgeable and present a lot more policy and be more electable by knowing federal policy and about the national security issues that face this country.

But you know, look, I give a lot of credit to Donald Trump. You know, sticking to the religious theme, it's a small miracle that he has stayed on top in Iowa for so long, a place which is all about Iowa, which where faith is so important. This is a guy who's been nothing but bluster, who's insulted everybody and their brother and mother and sister, and yet, he has stayed on top. He has defied logic, Iowa logic.

Now, Iowa's notorious for being a late decider. Sometimes people change their mind on their way to the caucus or in the caucus room itself. So, you know, I think we shouldn't read that much into the polls, but I do think that we're beginning to see a trend line, and the hot air come out of Donald Trump's balloon.

COOPER: Ana Navarro --

LORD: You know --

COOPER: Yes, Jeff? LORD: One last thought, Anderson, that Ronald Reagan lost the Iowa

caucuses in 1980 and went on to win both New Hampshire, South Carolina, and then eventually, over a long period of time, he won the nomination. So, there's a long way to go here, and Iowa is not necessarily determinant.

COOPER: Right. And we've certainly seen that with Rick Santorum and Huckabee as well.

NAVARRO: McCain lost the Iowa caucuses, Romney lost the Iowa caucus after the recount.

COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, thank you. Ana Navarro as well.

Just ahead tonight, the FBI investigating whether this school resource officer committed a crime when he did this to a high school student who refused to leave the classroom. Today the officer's boss said the student bears some responsibility for what happened. I'll talk to him ahead.


[2026:57] COOPER: Tonight, the violent arrest of a South Carolina high school student is now the focus of an FBI investigation and a federal civil rights investigation as well. Several students videotaped the incident as it went down inside an Algebra classroom. If you haven't seen the images, we want to warn you, they are hard to watch.

There's a school resource officer slamming a 16-year-old girl to the ground, taking her from the desk after she allegedly refused to leave the classroom. The officer was called to the classroom after the student allegedly disrupted class by taking out her cell phone. The officer, sheriff's deputy Ben Fields, has been suspended without pay, pending an internal investigation by the sheriff's department. And the student, she is facing a charge of disturbing schools. Now, this all happened yesterday. Within hours, the videos went viral.

Gary Tuchman joins me now with the latest.

You're in South Carolina. What have you learned?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, behind me in this school, a regularly scheduled board of education meeting that's been anything but regular because the first topic under discussion was this incident. Members of the public were allowed to come in today to speak out. It has been very civil. Most people very angry about what happened, but others defending the deputy.

Meanwhile, the sheriff of this county says that within 24 hours, at this time tomorrow, he will make a decision about the fate of his deputy. This sheriff, Leon Lott, says he felt like throwing up when he saw the two videos yesterday. And he saw a third video that was made today, which he says shows more than the other two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERIFF LEON LOTT, RICHLAND COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: It actually shows the student hitting the school resource officer with her fist and striking him. Now, what she does is not what I'm looking at. What I'm looking at is what our school resource officer did. What was his actions? What did he do? That's where I'll make my determination, based on that. So, even though she was wrong for disturbing the class, even though she refused to abide by the directions of the teacher, the school administrator, and then also the verbal commands of our deputy, I'm looking at what our deputy did.


TUCHMAN: The sheriff says, to his knowledge, the teenager at the center of all this was not injured - Anderson.

COOPER: And what do school officials, what are they saying?

COOPER: Well, we got a chance today to talk to the principal of the school, the superintendent of the school district, the chairman of the board of education and others, and none of them wanted to say what they think the fate of this deputy should be until all the investigations are over. But nobody differed from this assessment by the chairman of the board of education. Listen.


JAMES MANNING, CHAIRMAN, RICHLAND DISTRICT 2 SCHOOL BOARD: Yesterday's incident was an outrageous exception to the culture, conduct and standards in which we so strongly believe in in this district. There is absolutely no place in this district or any other district, for that matter, for what happened here yesterday. Our tolerance for it is zero.


TUCHMAN: It seems very clear, Anderson, that among the educators, among the sheriff, that nobody, none of them are blowing this off.

[20:30:03] COOPER: Yes, certainly not. Gary, thank you very much.

I want to bring in Sheriff Leon Lott now.

Sheriff, thanks for being with us. And I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. You said in that press conference that we played earlier that one of the videos shows the student punching the officer, and I want to play that for our viewers in slow motion. They get a sense of what it is you mean. It does seem like it's after the officer has grabbed her around the neck and is moving the desk backwards, about to flip it over, you see her sort of swing or flail with her right hand, and then she seems to try to hold on to his right shoulder for balance before the desk actually flips over and then she's dragged across the ground. In any - do you believe that strike was in any way justification for what the officer did?

SHERIFF LEON LOTT, RICHLAND COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: No, I never said that and I'll never say that. There is no justification for some of his actions, and that's what we're looking at. So, I don't want anybody to think that just the fact that she did strike also - that's justifications for some of the actions that he took.

COOPER: How should -- I mean, look, this is a difficult situation -- how should a police officer have handled this?

LOTT: Well, my feeling to begin with is that the police officer should have never been called in the first place. You know, this is something the school should have handled. But once they called us there and said, you know, remove her from the classroom, then the officer had to do something. Now, his methods of doing it is what we're examining, and that's what's going to determine his fate as continuing as the deputy sheriff for Richland County.

COOPER: So, when - it's really his methods -- I mean, can you say now what methods you believe he should have used, if it actually came to the point where he had to remove her, what he should have done?

LOTT: Well, I really don't want to go into details on that until this investigation's finished, and it will be finished tomorrow. But we want to de-escalate situations instead of escalate them. When you have somebody on fire, you don't want to throw gasoline on them. You want to put the fire out. And that's what we trying our deputies to do, is try to de-escalate a situation so we don't have to use physical force. You know, that's one option that's there. There's other options that our deputies are taught when they do have to put their hands on someone, how they do it. And that's what we're looking at. Did he follow our proper procedures that we're training them to do? And if he didn't, then he's in violation of our policy.

COOPER: Does the age of the student matter here? And the fact that this was a minor, should that impact things one way or another?

LOTT: It's not going to impact my decision. My decision will be based on did he follow our procedures. Now, I asked the FBI to come in and do a criminal investigation. That may have something to do with their findings, but my finding's going to be based on what he did after he puts his hands on her. Was that our proper procedures that we train our deputies to do. You know.

COOPER: It clearly ...

LOTT: His size, her size, you know, that's all factors that are involved in this.

COOPER: You're clearly moving quickly. You hope to make a determination within 24 hours. As you said, you asked the Justice Department and FBI to investigate. Why did you feel necessary to reach out to the FBI, to the Justice Department?

LOTT: Well, our position is to investigate the internal policy. Did he violate them, not the criminal intent, if he had any. An independent agency needs to do that, and there's no one more respected that does a thorough investigation and a fair investigation than the FBI. And we work very closely with the FBI and immediately called them and asked them to come in and do the investigation, contacted our U.S. attorney and spoke with him and asked him to see if the Justice Department could do a civil rights investigation, and they both agreed, you know. I think the people of Richland County and the people of the world have seen this. They want somebody to investigate this and come up with some answers and find out if he did violate her rights, if he did violate the law. What I'm looking at is did he violate our policies. That will determine his employment here at the sheriff's department.

COOPER: And regardless of whatever you decide, regardless of the investigations, do you hope that, or do you expect to try to kind of pinpoint in the future between your department and the school when it's appropriate to actually call the school resource officer in, when to call the police in?

LOTT: Yeah, I think that's an issue that we need to address and that the schools need to understand that when they call us in and ask us to do something, our deputies are going to respond. And sometimes, it may be physical force that we're doing, because that's what they want us to do. That's what they're asking us to do. So, they need to determine, you know, at what time is that necessary, or is this something that the school should handle. And that's some discussions that we're going to have with the school district and maybe come up with some better procedures.

COOPER: Sheriff Lott, I do appreciate your time, sir. Thank you very much.

LOTT: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, we'll have more about the deputy whose job now hangs in the balance. We'll dig deeper on his track record as a school resource officer.



COOPER: As we reported earlier, Richland County, South Carolina Deputy Ben Fields has been suspended without pay after his arrest of a high school student inside a math classroom. Several cell phone videos showing the violent takedown have gone viral, sparking FBI and Justice Department investigations. The deputy at the center of the firestorm isn't new to the job. He's been a school resource officer for seven years and has also helped coach the high school's football team. Until yesterday, he was virtually unknown outside his community. Tonight, though, he is certainly - is very well known. Miguel Marquez joins me now from South Carolina with more details. So, the officer does have -- what do we know about his history?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, he's not only been a resource officer since 2008, he's been with the sheriff's office since 2004. This is a guy who last year got one of the highest commendations for a school resource officer in this district, the cultural excellence award. This is also somebody who was named in two federal civil rights lawsuits. One of them has been dealt with, and a jury found that he had -- did nothing wrong and nobody involved in that case did anything wrong.


The other one, which also involves allegations of abusive force, is set to go before a judge this January. So, we'll hear on that one.

COOPER: There are also allegations that there's a racial element to this incident. You've been digging in on that. What have you found?

MARQUEZ: Look, the people here are very attuned to everything that is going on across the country. They see this incident in terms of the other incidents that we have seen, whether in New York or in Ferguson or in Florida, wherever else across this country, certainly here in South Carolina with the church shooting here very, very fresh in people's minds. And they see all of these things as related to each other. There have been claims that this is a little more than race. There was a board meeting, the school board meeting that just wrapped up. They allowed people to speak a lot of anger from some of the parents there about the racism that they feel is directed at their kids at this school. That said, the sheriff said something very interesting during his press conference today, which was, this is an officer they've never seen exhibit any sort of racial attitudes, whatsoever, and perhaps most surprising, the sheriff almost didn't want to admit it, but said this is a guy who has had a long-term relationship with an African-American woman, so he thought, if it cut any way, it would cut toward the direction of the young woman that he's accused of assaulting. So, I think they are going to - the sheriff's going to give it a good, long think over the next 24 hours or 18 hours now and come up with a decision very, very quickly, Anderson.

COOPER: Miguel Marquez, thank you a lot. To talk about it, joining me now CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, CNN law enforcement analyst, a retired NYPD detective Harry Houck, also Michael Dorn, a public safety expert for 25 years. He's the former chief of police for the Bibb County Georgia public schools system and executive director of Safe Havens International. Safe Havens works with individual schools and school systems to improve crisis preparedness and campus safety. So, Michael, what do you make of this video? What do you make of what you see in it?

MICHAEL DORN, PUBLIC SAFETY EXPERT: Well, it's hard to get an exact picture just from video, but I will say that what I see depicted is troubling. Assuming - let's - if you take the standpoint that the arrest was valid, needed to be made, the techniques used are not consistent with the way officers are typically trained, so it definitely bears scrutiny with independent and thorough investigation, which this proceeding, from what you're reporting.

COOPER: You're saying assuming the arrest was valid, that there were other methods to use that would not have resulted in the same, what we see on the video?

DORN: Yes, sir. The techniques used by the officer as I see it on the video are inconsistent with the way police officers are trained. If you have got a noncompliant individual and you do have cause to arrest. In addition, questions have been raised -- the sheriff mentioned de-escalation training. There are evidence-based techniques that can reduce the chances that you'll have to -- this would accelerate to an arrest. And there are procedures, such as -- we urge our clients to have a broom clear protocol, once it got to the situation where the officer was there with the administrator, and the child wouldn't comply. We would clear the students from the room with the staff member to lower the tensions, and then let's have a little bit more discussion when you've got an individual that's not threatening anybody, or - and is simply noncompliant, and perhaps, as alleged, in violation of state law, but they're not immediately threatening anybody.

COOPER: Harry, how does that sound to you?

HARRY HOUCK, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE: Well, it's a good strategy, you know, clearing the classroom and taking care of the child by yourself, or you know, having a backup come in. I think that's a very good idea and that's what they should have done, but clearly, it shows that the police department had no protocol to be able to deal with the situation like that. And of course, the chief had said when he was speaking regarding this investigation. You know, Anderson, you don't hear any district attorney's office talking about anything in this case. You heard an internal affairs investigation that's going to be conducted. All right, tomorrow we're going to find out from the chief exactly what they're going to charge this officer with. And if he's going to be charged with anything at all. The main concern here with the chief when he was talking was the fact that, did this officer follow directions for the police department protocol for this incident? So, if that officer gets fired, he's not going to get fired for a criminal case. He's going to get fired because he did not follow the protocol, you know, or the procedures the department laid out for a situation like that.

COOPER: It does seem, Sunny, I mean, when you talk to -- we just heard from Michael Dorn, even the sheriff there saying that the fact that he's focusing on the actual techniques that were used doesn't seem to weigh in the favor of this officer.

SUNNY HOSTIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely not. I mean, I think it's very clear, at least to my eyes, having seen a lot of videotapes of police takedowns as a prosecutor, of course, I looked at tapes on arrest. Bottom line is, you don't use what he called in his incident report a muscling technique to arrest a 16-year-old. It is clear in my view that he uses what is -- appears to be almost a choke hold and takes her down and tosses her across the room. The legal standard is whether or not the force used was reasonable and necessary, reasonable and necessary.


Anyone looking at that videotape and every single law enforcement officer's saying I find it disturbing, because anyone looking at it knows that that was unreasonable and unnecessary.

COOPER: Harry, I mean, the sheriff pointed to the punch, saying, look, that doesn't justify what the officer did. HOUCK: Of course, it does --

COOPER: You think that it actually does justify ...

HOUCK: Of course. I mean - I don't know where this chief's talking from, you know what I mean? The fact that he gets punched in the face as he's trying to ...

HOSTIN: Punched in the face, wow.

HOUCK: ... trying to pull her from the chair.

HOSTIN: And here it begins.

HOUCK: Do you mind - Let me speak, please.

HOSTIN: The victim blaming begins.

HOUCK: Let me speak.

COOPER: So, Harry.

HOUCK: She gets - you know, she's resisting all the way. I slowed this video down today and I watched it like 10, 15 times. I think that desk went over by mistake as a result of her trying to keep away from the police officer.

COOPER: But doesn't the punch only occur long after this is already in progress?

HOUCK: Yes, it does, but ...

COOPER: I mean, it looks like she's already on the way to going down.

HOUCK: There was no choke hold. What happened was he came behind, around her like this, all right? And he tried to -- he had her leg and he tried to pull her out of the chair, and that's what it looks like to me. And then she comes around and punches him, and that's when the thing escalates.

HOSTIN: Punches him?


COOPER: Michael, do you think this punch has any bearing or any - should have any bearing on how the sheriff decides this case? Because he's saying it doesn't. The sheriff is saying it should not, that he's solely focused on what this officer did, not what she did.

DORN: Well, you know, again, you've got multiple issues here. This officer under our legal system can actually be tried four different times, twice in civil - in civil situations, and twice in criminal jurisdictions, federal and superior court, depending on what the facts bear. And those things -- I know it looks obvious to everybody when you watch video, but I've worked many, many cases where you see video and then you get more information and it does sometimes change what you see. But you know, there is a basic point that if the sheriff's department's procedures, the training methodologies are violated, that could be an area of focus. You know, I think to fully clarify the situation's going to require a very thorough and detailed investigation, but the sheriff is talking from a standpoint as a police administrator. But what he's going to focus on to take his action, and he's already referred this case to the federal government for an independent investigation.

COOPER: So, Sunny from a legal standpoint, the FBI could bring charges separate from whatever determination the sheriff himself makes.

HOSTIN: Well, absolutely. You know, I think the sheriff is going to make this administrative decision, whether or not this is an officer that should still be working as an officer. The FBI is going to look at whether or not there was a civil rights violation. And I'm not talking about race. I'm talking about unreasonable search and seizure, I'm talking about everyone's Fourth Amendment right to be free from someone taking them and tossing them around like a rag doll. We have that constitutional right not to be seized, not to be searched. And I think the FBI doesn't take these cases on lightly. And so, the fact that this officer has been suspended without pay, the fact that this sheriff is talking about a 24-hour decision-making process as to whether or not this officer could keep his job, and the fact that the FBI is involved, I think really shows you just how serious this officer's actions were.

HOUCK: Well, that's typical, the FBI's going to come in and take a look at this anyway. I don't see anything ...

HOSTIN: Typical?


HOSTIN: That's the FBI just comes in and ...

HOUCK: Every chief of police is now going to ask in a situation like this for the FBI to come in.

HOSTIN: Come on.

HOUCK: And I'll tell you right now, the FBI's going to find nothing.

COOPER: Do you think he'll be punished administratively?

HOUCK: There's a possibility, yes.

COOPER: Harry Houck, Michael Dorn, good to have you on, Sunny Hostin as well.

Coming up, the United States weighing its options for increasing its attacks on ISIS. Question is, will there be more American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria? The latest on that next.



COOPER: The United States is considering ways to step up the fight against ISIS. That could mean more air strikes as well as more military action on the ground, according to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee today. Now, the White House has not made a decision yet, but defense and administration sources say one of the possibilities is more American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now with the latest. How real a possibility is this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Anderson, this is exactly what the president said he would not do, have combat forces on the ground. Now we're hearing about it, so how real? Officials are telling me there's two things in play here. One is presidential legacy. The president having only so many months left in office and he wants to show more progress in Iraq and Syria than the current strategy is currently getting. And second, Russia. Russia certainly throwing a bit of a wrench in the works. A lot of chatter out there, underground, so to speak, that Russia and Iraq may be cozying up to each other, and the U.S. wants to show more progress to the Iraqi government, keep them in the U.C. court, rather than having them shift to Moscow.

So, what are we talking about? In fact, Defense Secretary Carter talking about direct action by U.S. Forces, and that means Special Operations forces on the ground in these high-stakes raids, Carter saying he wanted to step up the action in places like Raqqah, in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq, both ISIS strongholds. How soon could this start happening? The president still has to approve all of this, but what they're really talking about is getting ready for it and saying, you know, it's opportunistic. When they see the opportunities, such as the raid that we saw last week in northern Iraq, they want to take advantage of those opportunities. That raid, of course, leading to the first combat death of a U.S. service member, Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler. Just really underscoring that all of this is very dangerous business.

COOPER: Yeah. Barbara, appreciate the reporting. Let's get the other stories we're following. Amara Walker has our "360" news and business bulletin. Amara.

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anderson. Republican leaders say they're hoping to pass a budget deal as early as tomorrow, but the vote could be close with the number of lawmakers refusing to endorse it. Senator Rand Paul says the debt ceiling should be used to enforce spending restraints, and he'll do everything he can to stop the current budget deal, including a filibuster.


WALKER: China says it tracked a U.S. Navy warship in the South China Sea and gave a warning with its own warships and Naval warplanes. A U.S. defense official says it was a routine operation in accordance with international law. More trouble in the national park in Zimbabwe, where an American

dentist killed Cecil the lion. Park officials say, 22 elephants were found dead, poisoned by cyanide, which poachers favors since it is a silent death.

And on a lighter note, a celestial happy hour. Scientists say a comet is pumping out alcohol, it's called Comet Lovejoy, and it's emitting, get this, the equivalent of 500 bottles of wine every second. It's the first time ethyl alcohol has been observed in a comet. Pretty cool. I wonder if that means the comet is drunk.

COOPER: I don't know. I didn't do very well in science.


COOPER: Amara, thanks very much. We'll be right back.