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THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama Rules Out Another "Ground War" in Iraq; Interview with Josh Earnest; House Votes to Arm Syrian Rebels in Fight with ISIS; Obama: Some Things Only America Can Do; Interview with Tim Kaine

Aired September 17, 2014 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, no combat troops -- President Obama defends his ISIS strategy, saying the U.S. will not fight another ground war in Iraq. I'll speak live shortly with the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest.

Chilling ISIS message -- the terror group answers President Obama with a flashy new video, warning that the flames of war are coming soon.

And new anger in Ferguson, Missouri, as the police officer who fatally shot the unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, reportedly testifies before a grand jury.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama is trying hard to ease growing concerns that his plan to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS will lead down a slippery slope into a long, bloody ground war in Iraq.

Standing in front of U.S. troops, the commander-in-chief today said flatly the United States will not have a combat mission there.

Secretary of State John Kerry has been saying the same thing up on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are ready to approve and pay for the president's initial plan.

And in a slick new video, ISIS is making clear it is ready for whatever the U.S. military has in mind.

Our correspondents and analysts and guests, including the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, they are all standing by.

Let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from the president today, from Secretary Kerry, it appears that the administration has settled on its message about the war against ISIS, what it will be and what it will not be. They say it will not be a grand ground invasion like you had in Iraq in 2003 and that U.S. troops will not have a combat mission, but they may, indeed see combat, be involved in combat. You heard that from the White House podium today. And if they do, they may very well face danger.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): At Central Command today, the headquarters for all U.S. military operations against ISIS, President Obama reiterated his now familiar promise -- no U.S. ground troops.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I want to be clear, the American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.

SCIUTTO: Today's pledge triggered by his commander's repeated comments just a day ago that, in fact, there are several circumstances under which the U.S. may need ground forces.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraq troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I'll recommend that to the president.

SCIUTTO: Administration officials insist vehemently there is no daylight between the statements. Still, the comments alarmed and confused many, including some of the president's fellow Democrats.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I would not vote for combat troops to engage in war. We are not there to support combat troops in any of these engagements.

SCIUTTO: Today, the president's own former Defense secretary, Robert Gates, said on CBS that mission creep is inevitable.

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: So there will be boots on the ground if there is to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that, the president, in effect, traps himself.

SCIUTTO: A blistering editorial in "The New York Times" went further, arguing, quote, "Even though General Dempsey's remarks were conditional, the Obama administration has turned on a dime in record time and opened the door to deeper, more costly American involvement."

Today, 1,700 U.S. troops are now in Iraq. At the peak of the Iraq War, there were nearly 100 times that.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I assume what the president means when he says no ground forces in Iraq, he means no organized division or corps of the type that we did deploy to Iraq in 2003. This is a different American military operation. It's primarily an air campaign, but it has to be assisted by some people on the ground, Special Forces, trainers.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SCIUTTO: Another message that came clearly from Secretary Kerry today, that this war against ISIS will be long and it will be hard. He called it "a multi-year effort" and he got into more of the endgame, as well, Wolf, saying that, in effect, the goal here -- and he grants, you cannot eliminate every single ISIS fighter. And he made the point that 13 years after 9/11, the U.S., after many wars, has not eliminated every al Qaeda fighter.

Just to clarify more, what does it mean to degrade and destroy?

They're going to reduce their effort, their ability to hold that they in Iraq, to carry out terror attacks. But they grant, you're not going to be able to eliminate it from the face of the Earth going forward, similar to what we've seen with al Qaeda.

BLITZER: Yes. And with al Qaeda, the new number one, former number two, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, he still remains at large 13 years after helping to plot the 9/11 attacks. Jim Sciutto...

SCIUTTO: And he's still considered a major threat from al Qaeda from U.S. intelligence.

BLITZER: Obviously, Al Qaeda, of course, is still a major threat...

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BLITZER: -- as we heard testimony today up on Capitol Hill.

SCIUTTO: Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

The ISIS terrorists are stepping up their recruiting and propaganda efforts following President Obama's vow to destroy ISIS. A flashy new video from the terror organization is warning that the so- called "flames of war" are coming soon.

Brian Todd has been taking a closer look.

What are you seeing -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a U.S. counterterrorism official tells me with this video, ISIS is showing its intent to pursue its, quote, "violent a nihilistic goals." Another U.S. official says among ISIS sympathizers, this could incite someone to commit a violent act. And top U.S. law enforcement authorities throughout the country, especially in New York, they're paying close attention to this video, even marveling at its production value.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): It's got the visual effects of a Hollywood blockbuster, the heavy breathing of jihadists in combat. Seconds later, they're recoiling from a blast in stylized slow motion. This is the new ISIS propaganda video, "Flames of War." Its release less than a week after President Obama's announcement of an intensified military campaign against ISIS.

(on camera): U.S. troops under attack loading a wounded combat into a vehicle.

The message here is?

DAWOOD RAJIHA, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: To two different groups. One is to the recruits that they want to draw to the theater, it's saying that this is the kind of action that you'll get, this is the kind of casualties that we'll inflict upon the enemy.

The second one is to Americans, saying that if you send ground troops back, this is what you're going to get.

TODD (voice-over): There's a flash frame of the infamous "mission accomplished" banner in the Iraq War, a recent clip of the president saying U.S. combat troops won't be returning to fight in Iraq. And this...

(on camera): What do you make of this shaky nighttime drive-by video of the White House?

RAJIHA: The message is we're here and we can come after you.

TODD (voice-over): One U.S. official tells us, in that section, ISIS is taking a cheap shot to threaten the West.

This comes on the heels of three beheading videos, a combat video and other postings from ISIS, taking the group's message directly to the West.

RAJIHA: The ISIS social media strategy is primarily designed to make sure that they keep a steady stream of recruits that they've got, starting with their territorial expansion.

TODD: Today, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he's concerned with ISIS' use of social media.

BILL BRATTON, NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER:

Their level of sophistication, from my perspective, seems to be much more significant than the al Qaeda level of sophistication.

TODD: A new alert for them, postings by ISIS sympathizers on a blog in Arabic, discussing how to make simple bombs. The targets, Times Square and Las Vegas. Officials caution while these are not orders from ISIS itself, they're still taking the threat seriously.

RAFAEL PINEIRO, NYC DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Today, you would likely see a higher police presence in and around Times Square, in and around mass transit, in and around other targets, while we assess this information.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: And ISIS, of course, keeps playing this cat and mouse game with mainstream media sites. It keeps posting these videos, often managing to quickly get them onto YouTube and other media sharing venues. YouTube today did take this latest video down. They did that this morning. But it was up long enough for CNN to capture, certainly long enough for ISIS sympathizers to view -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very sophisticated, slick video.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Indeed, 55 seconds. It looked like a movie trailer, as you point out.

TODD: It sure did.

BLITZER: Thanks, Brian, very much.

TODD: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, we've got breaking news up on Capitol Hill, where the House of Representatives has just voted yes to giving the Obama administration the authority to train and quip moderate Syrian rebels. It's a narrow measure that contains no new spending.

Let's go to our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

What was the vote -- Dana?

How did the administration do?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a pretty healthy margin. They got 273 votes of 218 needed. But what was most fascinating about this was the split, because it was not along party lines at all. Eighty-five Democrats voted against it, 71 Republicans. Those could shift when we get the final numbers.

But what this shows is that there were actually more Democrats against the president's request than Republicans, definitely not something we usually see.

And it also shows that this is just not something that is falling along party lines. All day long we heard debate on the floor from Republicans saying that they were concerned, Democrats saying they were concerned, and the opposite when you're talking about support, as well.

So what this means is that this is going to fold into the larger bill to fund the government that is going to pass before Congress leaves. But the thing to keep in mind is that the Senate, they're not likely to take this kind of independent vote. They're probably just going to fold it, frankly, hide it, in a bill to fund the government before they leave town -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And then get out of town as quickly as they possibly can.

All right, Dana, thanks very much.

This ISIS threat is serious. The Obama administration has a plan to deal with it.

Let's go in depth right now with the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, who's joining us from the White House right now.

Josh, give us your quick reaction to the fact that so many Democrats, fellow Democrats, voted against what the president worried.

How much of a setback is that?

JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Wolf, I think we were gratified by the bipartisan show of support for the president's strategy, to make sure that we are ramping up our support to Syrian opposition fighters so that they can be responsible for taking the fight to ISIL on the ground in their country.

In some of your previous segments, you were talking about the need for boots on the ground. The president is determined that we're not going to put American combat troops on the ground in a combat role in Iraq and in Syria.

But somebody needs to take the fight to ISIL on the ground in Syria. And it's the role, it's the proper role, for the United States military, to train, to ramp up our training and assistance in equipping to those Syrian opposition fighters so that they can take the fight to ISIL in their own country. And this is part of the president's strategy to deny ISIL a safe haven. And it's consistent with the strategy that the president has successfully deployed in other places where we're mitigating the threats from extremist terrorist organizations.

BLITZER: Why do you have to take any option off the table?

Why can't you keep the terrorists guessing?

They're boasting in that new slick video we just saw that the president says no U.S. combat boots on the ground.

Why not just say the U.S. will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS and say you know what, we're not going to tell you how we're going to do it.

EARNEST: Well, Wolf, the commander-in-chief of the United States of America feels a responsibility to communicate clearly with the American public about what our strategy is going to be to confront this threat to our national security. So the president believes that he has a responsibility to be transparent with the American public about what our strategy ISIS.

The second thing that's important for people to understand is it's also important for the Iraqi government and for Syrian opposition fighters to understand that this is a mission that the United States military is not going to take on for them. We certainly are willing to support them. There are things that we can do to support them, in terms of training and equipping them. The president has already ordered military airstrikes, American airstrikes, in support of their efforts on the ground. But ultimately, it's going to be their responsibility to take the fight on the ground to ISIL in their own country. The era has passed where the United States is going to be

responsible for -- you know, solely responsible for taking on the security situation of other countries.

So, ultimately, we're going to stand with our partners in other countries to give them the support that they need to take responsibility for the security in their own country.

BLITZER: Would you not even use combat ground troops to go in there and kill the leader, for example, of ISIS, Al-Baghdadi, or, if necessary -- and let's hope it's not necessary -- to rescue American pilots whose planes could go down?

EARNEST: Well, Wolf, there's already been one situation in Syria where the president has ordered military action. It was reported and it's been widely reported that earlier this summer, the president authorized a pretty high risk military operation to try to rescue American hostages who are being held in Syria right now.

That mission was executed successfully. However, it did not result in the rescue of these American hostages. That is an indication that the president is willing to take a significant risk and expend significant resources to try to rescue American hostages that are being held there.

That's an example of a situation where you have American troops who are going in to secure a specific objective. But, Wolf, what we're not going to do, is we're not going to get back into a ground war in Iraq and Syria. The president was very clear when he was talking to our servicemen and women at MacDill Air Force Base about this earlier today.

BLITZER: When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, testified yesterday and left open the possibility that he might have to recommend to the president down the road the use of ground troops, U.S. combat ground troops, if, in fact, the air war itself doesn't work and the coalition doesn't get its act together, did the White House, did the president specifically know that that was in his prepared statement?

EARNEST: Wolf, what Chairman Dempsey said is entirely consistent with the policy that the president has laid out. Chairman Dempsey was talking about the possibility that in the future, he may recommend to the president some of -- that some of the American military personnel who are already in Iraq right now could be in a position where they would forward deploy with some Iraq security forces.

What they would do in that role is that they would be offering some advice, some tactical advice to Iraq's security forces, who are taking the fight to ISIL on the ground.

You could imagine a scenario where those American military personnel would be calling in airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces -- in support of missions that are being conducted by Iraqi security forces. But those American ground troops, if they're forward deployed,

would not be in a position where they are personally or directly engaging the enemy in combat. The president is not going to put American servicemen and women in a combat role on the ground in Iraq.

Chairman Dempsey did not raise that prospect. The president has not raised that prospect. In fact, the president has ruled it out.

So what Chairman Dempsey was talking about is he was talking about the American troops who are already in Iraq, who are already there in a capacity to offer some advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces. And what he said is that he can imagine a scenario where he would ask, recommend to the president that some of those advisers forward deploy with Iraqi security forces to offer advice and assistance from those forward deployed locations.

That's different than a combat role, and it's certainly significantly different from the kind of combat role that was carried out during the previous -- during the previous conflict in Iraq. So I'm glad you gave me the opportunity to clarify this, because it's important for people to understand what the mission is and it's important for people to understand exactly what the mission is, and it's important for people to understand that what Chairman Dempsey was describing is entirely consistent with the strategy that the president was putting forth to the American people in his national address that he delivered one week ago today.

BLITZER: I know we're out of time, but one quick follow-up. Did the president authorize? Was the president onboard? Did he know that that would be in General Dempsey's opening statement before Congress?

EARNEST: Well, Wolf, the president communicated to Chairman Dempsey that, if it was necessary to forward deploy, that if Chairman Dempsey was prepared to recommend to the president that American service personnel should forward deploy with Iraqi security forces to serve this advise-and-assist mission, that the president would consider those recommendations on a case by case-basis.

That's a conversation that the president has already had with his national security team including Chairman Dempsey. But as Chairman Dempsey pointed out, that so far the president has not authorized the forward deployment of those -- of those military personnel to do advise-and-assist security forces. But the president did reserve the ability to have that option.

BLITZER: So the general's statement was authorized by the White House. It was cleared in advance?

EARNEST: Well, the general statement made by Chairman Dempsey is entirely consistent with the strategy that the president has laid out and is consistent with the private conversations that the president has had with Chairman Dempsey and other members of the national security team.

BLITZER: We'll leave it at that sort of ambiguous final note.

EARNEST: OK.

BLITZER: Josh Earnest, thanks very much for joining us.

EARNEST: Thank you, Wolf. I appreciate the opportunity.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Up next, the proposal to authorize the president's campaign against ISIS while sharply limiting the commander in chief. I'll speak with its author, Democrat senator Tim Kaine. He's standing by live.

And there's new anger in Ferguson, Missouri, as a grand jury reportedly hears from the police officer that fatally shot the unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the world is threatened and the world needs help, it calls on America. Even the countries that complain about America, when they need help, who do they call? They call us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Obama today told troops that the U.S. military's Central Command headquarters down in Florida, there will be no U.S. combat ground mission in Iraq.

The secretary of state, John Kerry, followed up telling lawmakers that the only thing that matters is that ISIS, in his words, must be defeated, period. End of story.

Let's dig deeper. Joining us, our CNN political commentator, Peter Beinart. He's a contributing editor for Atlantic Media. And Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute.

Were you surprised by the president's comments, Peter, that sometimes it's only the United States that can do this kind of stuff, because back in May when he addressed cadets at West Point, he said the U.S. can't be the world's policeman.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think he's imagining the U.S. as the world's policeman. I think Obama -- President Obama, compared to some of his critics on Capitol Hill, still favors making more of an effort to get an international coalition, even if that means sometimes delaying the speed at which America can act; even if it means giving more influence to other countries. We saw that with Libya, where America played a slightly less overt role than we have in past humanitarian interventions.

So I think Obama is on -- basically on a pretty fixed place in the American political spectrum. He's willing to take military action, but he's more concerned about multilateralism and many of his...

BLITZER: Peter, that Libya example, that's a disaster, what's going on in Libya today. The place is basically run by terror. Gadhafi may have been horrible, but the place is being run by terrorists and the U.S. was kicked out.

BEINART: Right. No, I wasn't suggesting this was a success story from the Obama administration, by any means. I was only using the example of the fact that Obama didn't go in it alone. He let the Europeans play a pretty significant role. I imagine John McCain would probably be a little less focused on the multilateral aspect.

BLITZER: Danielle, let me let you weigh in. Is the president's strategy on track? Will it degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS?

DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I think the president has a problem, because on the one hand he wants to say we won't have any troops on the ground. Of course, we've already got troops on the ground.

On the other hand, he has the secretary of state saying we want to degrade and destroy ISIS, period. Period, except without ground forces.

BLITZER: The ground forces that would be the Iraqi troops that the U.S. has helped to train over the past decade or so. Plus, Kurdish forces in Iraq and the ground forces in Syria, since no other Arab countries are apparently willing to send ground troops in and no NATO ally is willing to send ground troops in, including neighboring Turkey. The ground troops in Syria would be the Free Syrian Army and the moderate Syrian opposition.

PLETKA: You know I've been long advocating that we should be helping the Free Syrian Army, that we should have left troops in Iraq to help the Iraqis. We wouldn't be in this place now if we'd done those things, but we are where we are. And what we need to understand is, either ISIS is a threat to the United States or it isn't. If it is, then the president has to do what's necessary and not keep telling people what he doesn't want to do.

As for as building a coalition, that's great, and I believe we always should have a coalition. We've got less than half the countries that George Bush had when he went into Iraq. Thus far, that strategy doesn't seem to be a great success.

BLITZER: Peter, do you agree with Josh Earnest that what the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey is totally consistent with what the president has been saying?

BEINART: Look, Danielle's right. We already have boots on the ground. We have 1,700. We're going to have more. And the truth -- the debate is actually, if there's a debate between Dempsey and the White House, it's on the narrow question of whether you have close combat advisers, which is to say whether you send U.S. troops in with the Iraqis or maybe even the Syrians to call in air support But even that debate, I think, is a false debate because you know

what? We are going to have that. We may have it covertly. Remember, in Afghanistan, a lot of this was done under the auspices of the CIA so it was covert.

I would bet anything that we are going have, for better or for worse, close combat advisers, probably under the auspices of the CIA covertly calling in some of these air strikes. So I think, actually, a lot of this debate about combat troops and boots on the ground is really a diversion.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

PLETKA: I do, but it's the president's diversion and doing it for political reasons. This expression has become popular because the president likes to use it, and he likes to use it to contrast himself with George Bush.

At the end of the day, this has to be about the mission and the strategy, not about boots on the ground. It is a false argument, but it's one that the president keeps putting out there.

BLITZER: Do you think, Peter, any of the friendly Arab countries in the region or any European NATO allies or Turkey, for that matter, which is a NATO ally, will really step up and get involved in a serious way to try militarily to try to destroy ISIS?

BEINART: Well, the question -- maybe the Brits and the French will do something militarily, but you have to remember: a lot of these countries don't have very effective militaries anyway. The things we want from countries like Saudi Arabia and the gulf countries are other things. There's a division of labor.

If you look at the Balkans, for instance, the Europeans tend to be better at some of the softer efforts: training police, various kind of humanitarian missions. So there could be different roles for different parts of this effort.

I disagree with Danielle. There is a fundamental difference between George W. Bush, and that is that the United States is not going put two big large brigades and divisions in as lead combat efforts. And that may seem obvious to all of us, but there's nothing wrong with President Obama reminding Americans that that's true.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Danielle.

PLETKA: I think that the problem that President Obama reminding everybody that that's not true is that it indicates that his focus is really much more on the politics of what's happening and not on the threat to the United States and not on the national security imperative. That's what's worried all of us for the last three years as we've seen ISIS rise.

BLITZER: I will just...

BEINART: You actually support sending large numbers of U.S. troops to be the lead -- to have brigades and divisions fighting in Iraq?

PLETKA: No. 1, Peter, I don't think that's the question. At the end of the day, they're not asking whether there should be large numbers of troops on the ground. We're asking whether the president is willing to do what is necessary to degrade and destroy ISIS, and the problem is that apparently he, in his own words, isn't necessarily ready.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we've got to leave it there. Peter, I know we can continue this conversation. Peter Beinart, Danielle Pletka.

I would just add one point. Saudi Arabia has a very large, sophisticated air force. Mostly U.S. jet fighters, F-15s and F-16s. If they wanted to they could use aircraft to launch airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, but clearly Saudi Arabia is not ready to do so, at least not yet.

Still ahead, a proposal to authorize the president's campaign against ISIS but with very sharp limits, and it comes from a Democratic senator. We're going to speak to him when we come back.

And later, we're following report of a major development involving the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who fired the shots that killed Michael Brown.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following an important new development in the death of the Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown. "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch" newspaper reports that Officer Darren Wilson -- he's the police officer who shot and killed Brown -- spent nearly four hours testifying before a grand jury. The shooting happened back on August 9, but the grand jury's deadline to decide on charges have been extended until early next year.

Joining us now the St. Louis County alderman, Antonio French, along with our CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Antonio, what do you make of this report? What's been the reaction that the police officer spent four hours before that grand jury?

ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY ALDERMAN: Yes. And so first people were already shocked and alarmed that the period for the grand jury had been extended into next year. And then to hear that Officer Wilson had a chance to present his side of the story for four hours yesterday.

People were just very anxious right now. We have what we call a fragile piece, and people are looking for a resolution and an arrest and indictment pretty soon.

BLITZER: But isn't it fair to allow this police officer to try to make his case? What would be wrong with that?

FRENCH: Well, with the evidence that we've seen so far in public, especially with the six witnesses so far, folks believe that there is enough evidence to warrant an arrest, which does not mean there's a guilt implied there, but at least a trial, in a public trial, an opportunity for everyone to publicly see the information.

This grand jury process, as you know, is a private process. It is completely controlled by the county executive who is already a controversial figure here. And so a lot of people believe that it's not a fair process right now. And in order to maintain the public peace, we need to get back to getting people feeling good about the process.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Jeffrey Toobin. Is it unusual that this police officer spent four hours, presumably defending himself before the members of the grand jury?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's very unusual for a defense attorney to allow a client who is clearly under investigation to testify at all before a grand jury. I was very surprised by this development, because the usual defense attorney 101 is to not testify before the grand jury. Take the Fifth Amendment, especially if you think it's likely that your client is going to get indicted.

So apparently, this is a sign of some confidence or hope that Officer Wilson can talk the grand jurors into not voting an indictment, but it's a very risky strategy.

BLITZER: Presumably, he's got good defense attorneys on his team over there giving him advice. What's your reaction when you heard that he did spend four hours before that grand jury?

When you go before a grand jury -- correct me if I'm wrong, Tom, and you're former assistant member of the FBI -- your defense -- your lawyers don't go in that room with you. You're in there all by yourself.

FUENTES: You're in there all by yourself. The prosecutor controls the proceeding, and all of the statements that he's making over a four-hour period have to match exactly the statements he's given in interviews to the police investigation, interviews to the FBI investigation and if there's a future prosecution and either local court or federal court, those statements have to match that.

And the odds of having that many different statements be exactly the same, and if they're not the same it's referred to as impeachable. It means that, well, he's not being truthful or he can't remember and it's a tremendous risk being taken by the officer and as Jeffrey said, by his attorney not advising him don't do it.

BLITZER: I want on follow up. I want all three of you to stand by. We have more to discuss. So we're going to talk about the mood in Ferguson right now. St. Louis County council meeting turned ugly last night with protests slipping into the street. Can further violence be avoided?

(Commercial Break)

BLITZER: Anger boiling over, at least partially because of the police shooting of the unarmed teenager, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, as well as new delays in the investigation. St. Louis County council meeting was interrupted by calls for immediate -- the immediate arrest of the officer, Darren Wilson, the Ferguson policeman who shot Michael Brown. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issues that we face are bigger than any one of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is Darren Wilson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is Darren Wilson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arrest Darren Wilson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country and the world are looking to see if we can bridge this divide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arrest Darren Wilson!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Protesters took to the streets after the meeting. This video, by the way, was taken by St. Louis alderman, Antonio French, who's joining us once again, along with our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes and our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Antonio, what's the mood over there? Because they're even talking about protests going over to the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Rams, sporting events. What's going on?

FRENCH: Well, there's still a lot of anger and frustration. And so just because you don't see the large protests we had a few weeks ago, it does not mean that people are any less angry or frustrated. But what they are now is a little bit more organized, and so they're directing these protests to specific targets.

Last night was a city council meeting, and they talked about taking it to the Rams game this weekend. And, should the Cardinals make it to the post-season, to the Cardinals games.

BLITZER: As you know, Jeffrey, a lot of these protesters and folks in the community, they want the county prosecutor to be removed, to be recused from this case. They say it can't be fair because his own father was a police officer. What do you make of that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the governor and the prosecutor himself, McCulloch, has said they're not doing it. And based on what I've seen, I did not see that those were necessarily grounds for recusal, but ultimately, the proof in the quality of this investigation is going to be what comes out later. Was this a thorough grand jury investigation? Was it fair?

Obviously indictment or no indictment, criminal conviction or an acquittal, it's going to take a while for us to know whether this was a competent investigation.

BLITZER: It would be a huge deal if they did remove this prosecutor at this stage. Right?

FUENTES: It would be, but in our system, the prosecutor's offices and law enforcement are almost always close and have some form of partnership.

You know, I know when I was in the FBI, we had close relationship with the strike force attorneys that prosecuted our organized crime cases. And that's a natural close relationship to be able to be effective, requiring you to work together.

BLITZER: Let's hope the protests -- I assume they will continue -- will be non-violent. Guys, thanks very much. We'll continue this conversation.

Up next, a proposal to authorize the president's campaign against ISIS while sharply limiting the commander in chief. I'll speak with the legislation's author, the Democratic senator from Virginia -- there he is -- Tim Kaine. He's up on Capitol Hill.

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BLITZER: Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia has proposed a bill authorizing the president to go ahead and use force against ISIS, but only for a year and sharply limiting any use of ground troops.

Senator Kaine is a member of the Armed Services Committee, the Budget Committee, Foreign Relations Committee, he's a very busy guy. He's joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

You bet.

BLITZER: You say -- your legislation would not allow any ground troops, would repeal the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force. It would be only for one year, give the president authority to do what he wants to do against ISIS for a year. The president says he's got the authority to do it. He doesn't need any addition legislation.

Here's the question. Do you not trust this commander-in-chief?

KAINE: Well, you know, it's not a question of trust, Wolf. It's really a question of the constitutional requirement. I do not believe, and there are many colleagues in both parties and both houses who share my view, that the president does have the legal authority to do the full mission as he described to the American public last week. And the White House and everyone agrees getting Congress on board

is at least advisable, if not mandatory. So that's why I introduced this resolution today. The resolution supports each of the four pillars the president laid out last week. But with four limitations. Some drawn from the president's speech, but some drawn from some painful lessons. No ground troops, that's what the president committed to.

And General Dempsey yesterday testified that we cannot be using ground troops because the whole -- the whole sort of origin of this mission is to have ISIL delegitimized by the region willing to stand up against it itself with us as supporters, rather than being a campaign of the West against ISIL.

Second limitation, a sunset. You know, the 2001 AUMF and the '02 AUMF were open ended forever. No geographic limitation. A sunset to allow the continuous dialogue about going forward is important.

Third, as you pointed out, the repeal of the '02 Iraqi AUMF so we don't have dueling AUMFs out on the field. And finally, a very narrow definition of what is an associated force. If we're going after ISIL, we shouldn't say we're going to go after ISIL, and then a whole lot of other groups, too. We need to be narrow in our focus.

Those four limitations, I think, will be consistent with the president's speech and will enable the mission to gain bipartisan support.

BLITZER: I've spoken with the lawyers for the administration. They make the case that ISIS or ISIL, whatever you want to call it, is really al Qaeda. It started off as al Qaeda, later changed its name but it's basically al Qaeda and there still is authority that from 2001, 2003 in the authorization of the use of military force, which the president believes gives him the authority to go after and destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He doesn't need any addition legislation.

What do you make of that argument?

KAINE: Wolf, I don't accept it and I'll tell you why. Could you be a creative lawyer and really stretch the language of the '01 authorization to cover ISIL? Yes, if that's what you want to do, but I don't think we should be doing that. The wording of the authorization says it's to go after those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. ISIL did not form until years after 9/11.

The administrations, both the Bush and Obama administration, have said well, it can extend to associated forces. But ISIL is not an associate of al Qaeda now, they're at -- they're at odds with each other. They've disclaimed in each other. And in some parts of Syria, ISIL and al Qaeda affiliates are at war with each other.

You have to stretch this language to the breaking point. And we shouldn't do it because the president, in May of 2013, gave a speech at the National Defense University, and he said, we should be taking that authorization and narrowing it, and refining it, and ultimately repealing it. Not taking it and stretching it even further. That's why I think it's so important to get Congress.

And I think Congress is supposed to do it. I just came from the hearing with Secretary Kerry. There's some differences of opinion, but on the core mission as described by the president, especially with respect to activities in Iraq, I think he's going to have bipartisan support.

BLITZER: For your legislation, even -- so why does he say he doesn't want legislation? The argument, the legal argument, as I pointed out, they say ISIS started off as al Qaeda in Iraq but eventually they changed their name because they wanted to go ahead and create this caliphate not only in Iraq and in Syria, presumably in Lebanon and Jordan when they talked about Sham or Levant.

KAINE: Right.

BLITZER: That's what they mean. And they say so it's the authority is already there.

KAINE: Well, we had a hearing in May of 2013 about this question of the authority. And administration witnesses looked us in the eye on the Armed Services Commission -- Armed Services Committee and said they thought the '01 authorization allowed war that would probably go on for another 25 to 30 years. This is not what Congress contemplated when they acted in the days right after 9/11.

Again, put a creative lawyer, try to make an argument, sure. But it's contrary to what Congress proposed.

And, Wolf, remember this. The president, President Bush came to Congress with a draft of the AUMF that said this, give me the president, the ability to go after groups to stop them from engaging in terrorist attacks on the United States. Congress rejected that wording because they didn't want to hand to the president a blank check.

Even against legitimate bad guys to just decide who they were and go after them themselves. This system works better when we work together for this reason. If Congress and the president work together and bless a mission as important, we are much more able to ask our servicemen and women to risk their lives on a mission than if we do it on a presidential say-so without the approval of Congress.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for joining us. We'll see how far your legislation goes. We'll see if the president were to sign it into law. We'll see what happens. There's a lot of steps that have to go forward.

KAINE: Many chapters left here. Many chapters.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of chapters left.

Tim Kaine of Virginia, thanks very much.

Coming up, a competition between al Qaeda and ISIS. So what does that mean for the security of the U.S. homeland? We're taking a closer look at the threat.

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BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. New U.S. air strikes against ISIS as President Obama vows the war against the terrorists will not include U.S. boots on the ground.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As your commander- in-chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is the president making a mistake? And is he on the same page as his top military commanders?

Airline threat. Officials tell lawmakers al Qaeda is determined to target U.S. flights. Is it a bigger threat to homeland security than ISIS?