Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Terror Threat; Unrest in Ferguson; Ebola Fears; Ferguson Protestor: 'All Hell is Going to Break Loose'; NBC Freelance Cameraman Declared Ebola Free; Final Florida Governor's Debate Minutes Away

Aired October 21, 2014 - 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: Happening now, breaking news.

Terror threat. A disturbing new warning. In an exclusive interview with Washington's former counterterrorism chief, he says, despite U.S. airstrikes, an attack may be imminent.

Ebola emergency, a change in the condition of one of the American nurses infected with the virus, as the government implements new rules designed to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States.

Fear in Ferguson, new protests and a high-profile arrest as leaked details about the Michael Brown shooting investigation turn the town into an emotional tinderbox.

Palin family brawl. A dramatic recording of Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol describing a violent confrontation involving her and other family members.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

Let's get right to the breaking news, a possible imminent terror threat. The former head of the U.S. counterterrorism now telling CNN in an exclusive interview that airstrikes against the so-called Khorasan group in Syria believed to be targeting the U.S. homeland have not eliminated its terror capabilities.

And it is only one of several threats facing the United States right now.

We're covering all angles this hour with our correspondents and our guests.

Let's begin with CNN's chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He spoke exclusively with the former U.S. counterterrorism chief. Jim, tell our viewers what he told you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Matt -- Wolf, when you speak to people like Matt Olsen who until two weeks was the head of the NCTC, you wonder how they sleep at night because there are so many different terror threats, so disparate at this time. He said that ISIS is a growing threat with the potential to strike the U.S. Homeland.

But he said today groups like the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Khorasan group have both the capability and the ambition to strike today. You'll remember the first night of those air strikes against Syria a month ago, there were eight strikes up here in the northwestern part of the country against Khorasan group. I asked him one month later if we're safer from the imminent threat posed by group today than we were then. He said the answer is no.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: The night the air campaign over Syria began, the U.S. targeted a new terror group and a new threat. A team of former al Qaeda leaders called the Khorasan group warned U.S. officials were in the advanced stages of plotting an attack on the U.S. One month later, however, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen, said the campaign has not degraded that threat.

(on camera): Is that threat still imminent?

MATTHEW OLSEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: By everything I've seen, I think that threat is in the same place it was before. That is, this group was in a position to train without any sort of interference. They were able to recruit operatives. We saw that they were looking to test explosives.

So they were in the advanced stages of plotting. And again, they had both that intent, and what we saw was that capability that put them into this, nearing an execution phase of an attack.

SCIUTTO: Is there any evidence the first night of strikes damaged that capability?

OLSEN: I don't think, you know, there is any realistic likelihood that some limited air strikes, even just for a period of time will degrade that threat altogether. That's the kind of -- those individuals, they're -- again -- hardened, seasoned veterans. And they have an ability to operate pretty freely in Syria. So I think it is unlikely that that threat altogether has been eliminated.

SCIUTTO: Olsen told CNN the Khorasan group and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are the two most severe threats to Americans, with both the greatest ambition and capability to carry out terror attacks on the U.S.

However, he said the most likely threat is here at home. So-called -- lone wolf attacks -- by American citizens and residents radicalized on their own, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.

(on camera): Is the risk of a Boston-like attack greater today with the rise of ISIS?

OLSEN: I would say the most likely type of attack is one of these homegrown, violent extremists or lone offenders in the United States, perhaps. And the rise of ISIS and the number of people going to Syria, whether they're fighting with ISIS or fighting just in the conflict there against Assad, the likelihood, I think, does go up because of the number of people who are there, who have gained some degree of training and radicalization.

SCIUTTO: However, tracking known terrorists is now proving much more difficult for U.S. intelligence. Due to the revelation by Edward Snowden of once-secret surveillance programs designed to monitor suspect's phone and Internet communications.

OLSEN: They've changed how they encrypt their communications and adopted more stringent encryption techniques. They've changed service providers and e-mail addresses and they've in some cases, just dropped off altogether.

Again, they suspected we had this capability before the NSA's stolen documents were made public, but it has really become a real concerted effort now by a number of these targets, people we were following. And it's made it harder for us to collect against them.

SCIUTTO: Have we lost some of them as a result of that?

OLSEN: Yes. We've lost collection against some individuals. People that we were concerned about, we are no longer collecting their communication. So we've lost insight into what they were doing.

SCIUTTO: Does that include AQAP and Khorasan Group?

OLSEN: I'm going to tell you that it's people we're concerned about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: A real focus now is on tracking the some 100 Americans who have gone to fight in Syria or attempted to go. Matt Olsen told me they know to some degree who all those Americans are. To some degree: that means they know for some a full name, a location. For others, they might just know an alias or a partial name. That's a real concern.

But Wolf, he also said after ISIS's lightning advance through Iraq, there's rally been a focused attention, not only in the U.S. on ISIS but from other allies. Turkey on the border there, other Arab states, to stop that flow of foreign fighters. He said they're much better now than they were just a few weeks ago.

BLITZER: Is he suggesting Turkey could be doing more to stop that flow?

SCIUTTO: He said that Turkey is, and not just Turkey. He said also allies in the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, others doing better, not just at the stopping the flow of foreign fighters but also money, which you know is key through some of these fake charities, et cetera. And of course. they use that money to get weapons, explosives, et cetera. So he says there's also much better control of that now.

BLITZER: Well, that's encouraging to hear that. All right, thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that exclusive report. Meanwhile, there is also concern about a growing number of Western

teenagers trying to join ISIS forces, among them, get this, three American high schoolgirls.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is working this story for us.

What are you finding out, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have learned that the teens are now back home in Denver after making it halfway on their journey to fight in Syria, according to law enforcement sources.

They join a growing class of young people who through their online activity are getting swept up in the idea of committing jihad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Three high school girls from Denver are the latest American teenagers drawn in by the radical world of Islamic extremism, only 15 and 16 years old, two of them sisters of Somali descent, allegedly aspiring to join the fight in Syria.

According to law enforcement sources, the teens boarded a flight in Denver over the weekend and made to it Frankfurt, Germany, where police arrested them before they could continue to Turkey and then Syria. CNN has learned they allegedly self-radicalized online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're oftentimes searching for an identity, because what the jihadis are actually pushing is a specific narrative, which is, your people are being oppressed in this place called Syria. Your government is doing nothing. We're the only ones who are actually going to help out. Why don't you join the fight?

BROWN: The only reason the teens were caught, one of their parents called police and the FBI quickly flagged their passports.

Across the border in Canada, new concerns tonight after a 25-year-old man ran over two soldiers with his car, killing one and injuring another. Police shot and killed him. Canadian authorities say the man may have been radicalized and had been on their radar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a terrible act of violence against our country, against our military, against our value.

BROWN: And this 17-year-old Australian teenager raising alarm bells after he showed up in video alongside ISIS fighters in Syria threatening to behead Western leaders, including President Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And officials I have been speaking with say teens being radicalized is a dynamic that has existed for years. It fluctuates depending on the conflict.

But what seems most troubling is that it appears the demographic is getting younger -- Wolf. BLITZER: It's very troubling indeed. Pamela Brown, thanks very much.

Let's dig deeper right now.

Joining us, CNN CIA counterterrorism analyst, the former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Mudd, and CNN global affairs analyst Lieutenant colonel James Reese, formerly with the U.S. Army's Delta Force. He's now retired.

Phil, what does that tell you these girls, what, 15, 16 years old, traveling on U.S. passports, made it all the way from Denver to Frankfurt before they were apprehended?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The surprise in this story, Wolf, is not necessarily their age. What happens when you get kids this vulnerable is they're not necessarily joining ISIS.

They're joining people who have told them, look, your responsibility is to go defend women and children because your government is not defending them. That's a very powerful draw. But the real surprise to me here and the real risk you face is that they actually got on an airplane to Frankfurt.

If you're in the counterterrorism business, you do not want to be calling your German colleague and saying, hey, we just off-loaded a problem to you. Please pick them up at the airport. This shows you how easy it is to get to a European airport and potentially on to Turkey from a place like Denver.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel Reese, all three of these girls U.S. citizens traveling on U.S. passports, two of the sisters of Somali descent, one of Sudanese descent. Here's the question. How global is this ISIS draw, this attraction, if you will?

JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: We have been watching this now for a couple weeks to a month. Now what you're starting to see is, now you're getting the U.S., we have the European aspect coming in. We have folks coming in from Australia. This is getting to be a global -- we will watch this over the next couple months to see how many more people are radicalized and want to come into Europe and try to come in to Turkey and then go onto Syria to help with ISIS.

BLITZER: Because the suspicion is they were radicalized, inspired, if you will, online by some of these ISIS-related Web sites. That's very, very worrisome.

Phil, you have sat on the advisory board of the National Counterterrorism Center. That was Matt Olsen's main job, obviously, as you know, just leaving, the director. Jim Sciutto just interviewed them. What does it tell you that he's saying the threat from this Khorasan group is still imminent despite that U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile in Syria not that long ago?

MUDD: Wolf, we have got to draw a sharp contrast between what's visible in Iraq, that is striking ISIS targets that are out there on the battlefield with things like tanks, artillery, and striking what is invisible in Syria.

When you follow a terror group, you're talking about a shadowy organization that doesn't community much. They might be using human couriers. You have got facilitators, planners, operatives. It's nothing like the kind of targeting you're seeing in Iraq.

To my mind, the surprise here is not that there remains an imminent threat from Khorasan group. The surprise to me is that people believe you can destroy a group like that with just a couple of strikes in Syria. Over time we will have to degrade these guys with more attacks than we are seeing today in Syria. The challenge is not in Iraq alone.

BLITZER: Because reading between lines of what Matt Olsen, Phil, told Jim Sciutto, the goals of ISIS, the goal of ISIS is specifically create that caliphate in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, other parts of the Middle East, Turkey, if you will, but the goal of the Khorasan group, and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, for that matter, is to go after U.S. targets in the homeland. Is that a fair analysis?

MUDD: I think that's fair. And operationally speaking, that is hugely significant for a simple reason.

If you're ISIS in Iraq, you're fighting the Syrian Kurds, you're fighting the Iraqi Kurds, you're fighting the Iraqi security forces, that's a lot of energy for your leadership and they are not going to spend that much time thinking how do I get to New York City?

The contract with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, When they tried to attack that airliner in Detroit in 2009, and what we're seeing with the Khorasan group now in Syria, is they're not worried about going after people like the Iraqi security forces. They're worried about going after U.S. cities. They're focused in terms of their energies and that raises the threat level significantly.

BLITZER: As you know, Colonel Reese, Matt Olsen told Jim Sciutto the strikes, the airstrikes don't always necessarily work. How difficult is it to stop a plot, a terror plot, to stop anything along these lines by using airstrikes?

REESE: Well, Wolf, the bottom line is we actually did degrade some of the capability for the Khorasan group that night when we dropped the bombs.

As you know, we have been watching this for years now. These people are resilient. They will move. We killed some senior leadership there. They will take that information they have. They will try to continually come after us.

The world changed after 9/11 and they are not going to stop after one bombing, just because we bombed, killed some senior leaders, and then they will move on again and they will continue to try to come to us on the homeland.

BLITZER: Phil, were you surprised that Matt Olsen said he was mostly concerned about what is described as that lone wolf attack, an individual inspired by these terrorist organizations, maybe from stuff he or she reads online? That's the biggest threat right now?

MUDD: No, I was not surprised. I was listening to Jim Sciutto talk about how people like me slept at night.

The problem you have in this situation is if you're facing an al Qaeda organization, the threat is strategic, that is, 19 hijackers, four aircraft. But they give you an intelligence target to hunt and kill. That is a nerve central that communicates, it sends out operatives. You look at what happened in Canada this morning where you have a couple of Canadian police officers attacked by somebody in a vehicle who might have been radicalized online or elsewhere, how do you stop that in a country of 330 million people?

The strategic threat from a homegrown kit is less, but the likelihood is much higher. That's why I would agree with Matt on that one.

BLITZER: All right, Philip Mudd, James Reese, guys, thanks very much. Very disturbing information.

Coming up, more breaking news. A change in the condition of one of the American nurses infected with the Ebola virus.

Plus, leaked information leaves Ferguson, Missouri, right now a tinderbox, as tension there over the shooting of Michael Brown about to explode.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, a change in the condition of the Dallas nurse Nina Pham, one of the two nurses who were affected with Ebola while treating a patient who later died.

The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, has now upgraded her condition from fair to good. That comes as the Department of Homeland Security is now implementing brand-new rules to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is over at Washington Dulles airport just outside D.C.

What is the latest? What are you hearing, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, effective tomorrow, Dulles International Airport, along with four others, they will be the airports receiving every single passenger flying in from Ebola hot spots.

We're talking about three very specific countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone, as well as Guinea, this announcement made by the Department of Homeland Security today. What they're doing here is funneling everyone from Ebola hot spots to these five airports where enhanced screening is under way.

You remember just last week, we talked about the rollout of the enhanced screening, which entails temperature checks, as well as a very detailed CDC questionnaire that people have to fill out. We know that those five were chosen because the administration says that 94 percent of the travelers from those West African countries will arrive at those airports.

But the argument was, what about that other 6 percent? Are they simply slipping through the cracks? Fast forward to today and we now know that the Department of Homeland Security is working with the airlines to track every single passenger's itinerary to make sure if you're coming from one of those three countries, you must, you must land at one of these five airports.

They don't believe this will be difficult because they say on average, we're talking about 150 people per day coming from these Ebola hot spots to the United States. So they believe they can effectively do this and make sure that they're funneled through these airports. In the meantime, we are getting a better picture from Customs and Border Protection about just how many people have arrived from the Ebola hot spots and have been screened since they rolled this all out.

These numbers we just got from the CDC today, 521 people have received enhanced screening at these five airports. Three people had elevated temperatures. Four rose to the event of having to transport them to the hospital. But at the end of this all, Wolf, none of those cases turned out to be Ebola -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Rene, Thanks very much. Rene Marsh is at Dulles Airport outside Washington.

Let's get some more now with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former CDC disease detective, now writes for "The Dallas Morning News."

Sanjay, the Department of Homeland Security announced these new travel guidelines. But how likely is it someone could still get through these measures? They have a little elevated fever, for example, they could take an Aspirin, Tylenol, that temperature would go down.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no question, Wolf.

These are not going to be 100 percent effective for the reasons that you mention and also because there's this whole notion of what we call the incubation period, right? Between the time someone is exposed to Ebola before they develop symptoms can be anywhere from two to 21 days.

Someone could have been exposed to Ebola, fly, and arrive somewhere, pass through all the screening and really have no problems getting through. That is probably what happened with even Mr. Duncan. Remember, he came through and had no temperature, had symptoms for the first few days.

It will be of some help. You do obviously want to have some sort of screening protocol. You also want to be able to flag people who you might be concerned about, so that you can follow up with them, track them if necessary. But in terms of screenings, it's not going to be a 100 percent effective tool.

BLITZER: What do you think, Seema? You have studied this.

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, DALLAS: I think it is really important to have these additional layers of public health intervention, so 100 percent of people leaving Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are screened.

Perhaps if we miss some of those people there, they may then be caught on this other level of screening here in the U.S. As Dr. Gupta mentioned, though, it is not 100 percent completely foolproof. It is just trying to capture anyone who could have been missed.

BLITZER: Sanjay, a week ago we found out these nurses, they were being transported in hazmat suits. But now is this over or should we expect someone else in the United States potentially to come down with Ebola? Because, what, there are several dozen people still being monitored.

GUPTA: It is possible. That's the reason they're being monitored. I think the risk is probably pretty low.

I think some of the highest-risk people now are people that we have identified and many of them have already gotten through this 21-day incubation period. Suffice to say, Wolf, going back to the earlier point, though, that is it possible that someone else could arrive in the United States like Mr. Duncan did, be perfectly healthy, get through screening and then a few days later be diagnosed with Ebola?

That could happen. I think that that's part of what we thought could back in April. It happened with Mr. Duncan. It's possible it could happen again. Hopefully, Wolf, I think this is a lot of lessons learned that we have learn from Dallas and that troops hospitals will be more prepared and more able to take care of this.

BLITZER: Seema, why weren't these requirements mandated earlier? The gloves, the shields, all the protective gear, what happened here? How did this slim through the cracks?

YASMIN: These guidelines, Wolf, they're based on 38 years of experience with Ebola in Africa.

This is a steep learning curve. We're seeing the disease for the very first time here in the U.S. and so we're learning lots about this. For example, Mr. Duncan received high-level procedures in the intensive care unit.

He had kidney dialysis, he was intubated. A machine helped him breathe, these interventions that don't typically happen for Ebola patients in Africa, whether it's Central Africa, East Africa or West Africa. These are high-risk procedures. They put the health care workers at risk.

It was time to reevaluate, say what else could be done. The more experts I speak to about the protective gear, the more I hear it is not just about the gear. Wolf, it has to be a high level of training. Many opportunities for health care workers to try on the equipment, practice taking it on and off.

BLITZER: Because, Seema, taking it off can be very, very dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.

YASMIN: Absolutely. It can be very tricky, because that's the point where you just had contact with a patient. You're potentially contaminated already.

You have to be so careful as to how you remove that. So we have now instituted a measure where there is a buddy system and somebody else, a health care worker who is wearing the same equipment as you is watching you really carefully and really helping you.

And some hospitals are already doing this. In fact, that first CDC health alert about Ebola, Wolf, that went out on July 28. Many hospitals across the country and many in New York City, in fact, geared up at that point and started doing. Unfortunately, Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas didn't do that.

They have now apologized and said they didn't have that level of in- person training that they should have had.

BLITZER: They're all learning from these blunders, obviously.

Sanjay, the World Health Organization now says testing is under way at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, for an Ebola vaccine. There's also a trial for a second at the Walter Reed Army Medical Institute.

When do you think they will be ready with some sort of vaccine?

GUPTA: This is a clinical trial process. Typically, there are three phases to a clinical trial, so this is the first phase. What they're trying to find out in this phase, is this safe in and also get some idea about effectiveness. But it is really the second phase of the trial where you really start getting more and more people involved in the trial and really determining how effective it is.

My guess is, and I talked to Dr. Fauci about this one of the trials, as you mentioned, happening at the NIH -- he said maybe early next year they would start incorporating many more people into the trial. Probably most of those people would be in West Africa, because that's obviously where the problem is. That's where the vaccine could most be used.

Ultimately, the question I think a lot of people are going to ask is, could health care workers who might possibly take care of someone with Ebola, should they be vaccinated as well? We're nowhere near able to answer that question yet, but I think that's where we may be headed.

BLITZER: And we're very happy that Nina Pham, one of the two nurses with Ebola, her condition at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, has been upgraded from fair to good. That is very, very encouraging news.

Seema Yasmin, thanks very much. Sanjay, of course thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, fresh protests and rising tension in Ferguson, Missouri. We're learning new details of a high-profile arrest.

Plus, newly released audio of Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol giving a profanity-laced description of a fight involving her and other family members.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The tense situation at Ferguson, Missouri, is rapidly escalating following leaked information about the investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown.

Protesters are demanding charges against the white police officer who killed the unarmed black teen, and one demonstrator is warning, and I'm quoting now, "All hell is going to break loose if there's no indictment."

CNN's Sara Sidner is in St. Louis for us.

Sara, tell us what you're seeing, what you're hearing. What's going on over there?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, every single night, there are protests outside the Ferguson Police Department. Sometimes there are a few dozen people. Sometime there are more than 100 people. And sometimes, there are arrests, and that is what happened last night. There were people who were angry with everyone from the media to the police to politicians.

And one of the politicians who showed up, the state senator Jamilah Nasheed, she got into the middle of the street. Police told her to move. She did not, and they arrested her and an aide; took them both in to the police department.

We know that we've seen this scene over and over again. And tensions wax and wane with whatever information, new information that comes out where people feel that justice is not going to be served.

Of course, the justice system is still going along, and the grand jury is still looking at evidence. We are expecting there to be some sort of decision likely by mid-November. The protesters say they are going to be there every night until then and even after that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Going to be a tense situation. No doubt about that. Sara, thanks very much.

Let's get some more now. Joining us, the community activist, John Gaskin; CNN anchor Don Lemon, who covered the violence in Ferguson; CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

And John, let me start with you. The Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, he just announced the formation of what's called the Ferguson Commission, challenging leaders to solve the problems plaguing his state. But he cautioned it wouldn't be focusing directly on Michael Brown's death, saying that was the responsibility of investigators.

So here's the question. Was Governor Nixon's hand forced in creating this commission by all the recent unrest? What's your analysis?

JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Well, I had the opportunity of speaking with several leaders today and protesters, and many people within the community are feeling as though this is window dressing. This is almost too little too late. They feel that if he's going to appoint anybody, it should be a special prosecutor and not a commission.

You know, we know the issues that Ferguson and other urban areas in our state are facing. We need tangible, realistic, measurable results. And this is really too little too late. And the governor, you know, really sat back and allowed this to unfold while many of the citizens on the ground were dealing with these difficulties.

And, you know, now he wants to appoint a commission of leaders to discuss this matter. You know, the community wants to see immediate results.

BLITZER: You know, Don, in his remarks, the governor, Governor Nixon, he contrasted the concern in the community, saying the problems Missourians face are shared problems. I want you to listen to this little clip of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: I think of the mother of an African- American teenager as she kisses him goodbye each morning. Hands him his backpack and watches him head off to school, knowing that he might never come home again. She lives with that fear every day.

I think about the wife of a cop as she kisses her husband goodbye. Hands him a cup of coffee and watches him drive off to work, knowing he might never come home again. She lives with that fear every day. That is the world we live in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Don. You heard that. What's your reaction?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I think he has a very good point there. We see a lot of video lately of police officers and police officers being aggressive with people, especially young black men.

But we also, what we don't see a lot of is police officers who are in the line of duty, who are getting shot, who are putting their lives on the line. Police have a very tough job. And so no one denies that and I think the governor is right.

But in this particular situation, people in that community want to see some change, and they want to see the governor act. That said, though, I think at some point, the protesters stand -- they're getting very close to the line of jumping the shark, where they're losing public support. They're in a vacuum now, where they're listening to only the people around them.

And they -- I think they need someone from the outside. You know, Wolf, we talk a lot about, you should know, have self-awareness. They have every right to protest. They're upset for a very good reason. But they need to look at their tactics, and possibly it's time to evolve and go to the negotiation table with the governor and at least start to talk at this point.

BLITZER: Let me follow up with you, Don. The state senator, Jamilah Nasheed, was arrested in the streets of Ferguson last night after she refused to move. According to police, protesters continue to rally outside the police department, but as Michael Brown supporters chanted for justice, the protester on the ground, we're telling CNN, what is taking place on the ground is a violation of civil rights.

Here's the question. Does Ferguson need another peacemaker to come in, someone along the lines of Captain Ron Johnson, a man you met when you were out there in the early days following the shooting?

LEMON: I think they do. And I think they need someone who is not so close to the situation, as I said before. And they also need people who are not going to come in, who are not -- who don't want to regain relevance or gain relevance because of this situation. So they need someone who can come in and tell them the truth about their tactics and what they're doing and how they're looking to the broader country and not just to a few people online and to a few angry protesters who are there.

BLITZER: I want to get to Jeffrey in a second, but John, Senator Nasheed was released from jail this morning. Called her arrest symbolic, saying that "Ferguson has a long road ahead of us." That's a direct quote from her. The next three weeks or so until that grand jury apparently decides what to do. Do you think we're going to see more violence in the lead-up to the grand jury finding?

GASKIN: Well, I certainly hope not. You know, although Senator Nasheed's efforts surrounding this entire issue and the unrest in Ferguson, dealing with Michael Brown are commendable. But Wolf, at the same time, you know, when she was arrested, she was armed. And she had a gun with several bullets in addition to the gun. And she refused to take a breathalyzer test.

And so we have to step back, you know, as Don just mentioned and take a look. You know, what kind of message are we trying to send to the young people that are protesting? What kind of message are we trying to send to the people that are in the situation that is very volatile right now?

We do not, by any means, want to promote a message that says that it is OK to have a gun, to have weapons in a situation that is already very tense. But her -- her accomplishments are definitely commendable, but I think there have been questions.

BLITZER: I want everybody to stand by. Jeffrey, we're going to get back to you. We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Ebola. NBC News freelance cameraman who had been in a Nebraska hospital has now been declared Ebola free. The Nebraska Medical Center says he will be allowed to leave the unit tomorrow morning.

Ashoka Mukpo arrived in the Nebraska Medical Center October 6 for treatment after contracting Ebola in Liberia. A news release put out by the University of Nebraska Medical Center says -- quotes him as saying, "Recovering from Ebola is a truly humbling feeling. Too many are not as fortunate and as lucky as I have been. I'm very happy to be alive."

He goes on to say, "I was around a lot of sick people the week before I got sick." He's referring to what he was doing in Liberia. "I thought I was keeping a good distance and I wish I knew exactly what went wrong."

Don Lemon is still here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You had a chance, Don, to speak with Ashoka Mukpo's parents. They must be thrilled that he's getting ready to leave the hospital tomorrow morning. He is now Ebola-free.

LEMON: Yes. And they were very hopeful that that would happen. They said during the time he was suffering with Ebola, that he was in good condition and they were comforted by the fact that he went to the hospital early and received treatment early. So they were hopeful, they were very positive about that. So, it appears now that, as you said, he is Ebola-free and that is good news.

And, also, Wolf, they talked about, you know, his mom talked about when he found out he was going to go back over to work with people who had been diagnosed with Ebola and she was upset by it. But she said, that's the kind of guy he is. That's what he wants to do.

BLITZER: That's really great news.

Dr. Seema Yasmin is joining us on the phone right now. She's a specialist in infectious diseases.

So, he leaves the hospital. He is free and clear, right? He doesn't have to worry about this anymore? Is that right, Seema?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE (via telephone): That's right, Wolf. He has had at least two blood tests to confirm that he is now Ebola-free. But it's very reassuring, really good news for both him and his family. And it just shows, a quick diagnosis, quick treatment can really make all the difference with Ebola.

BLITZER: It certainly can. And people who he gets in contact with, they don't have to worry about being close to him, within three feet of him, or touching him. He cannot be contagious any longer. Is that right?

YASMIN: That's absolutely correct. And we have to emphasize this so people's fear does not get in the way of their compassion and their empathy. This gentleman has had this blood test that confirm that is free of Ebola. He is now being released to continue with his life and it is important that people embrace him, support him and understand that he is not contagious.

BLITZER: What about the people who are being watched, who have been in contact with him, including the NBC News physician, Dr. Nancy Snyderman? She is sort of in isolation right now. What does this say to them?

YASMIN: Well, this shows to them that they have to continue self- monitoring, continue taking that temperature from 21 days from the last time that they had contact with him. Continue checking with his physician about any signs or symptoms of Ebola. But I'm sure this is a person who's very close to them, that there's relief and happiness that he's recovered. And as they approach the end of that 21-day period, they'll also be able to continue living their lives.

BLITZER: All right. Seema Yasmin, thanks very much.

Don Lemon will be back later tonight, 11:00 p.m. Eastern, "CNN TONIGHT", a special broadcast on his part.

Just ahead, we're counting down to the Florida governor's debate here on CNN. The incumbent Rick Scott, the former Governor Charlie Crist, they face off right at the top of the hour.

CNN's Jake Tapper will be moderating. We'll get a preview when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The midterm elections are exactly two weeks from today, but right now, we are counting down to a crucial debate in Florida. The Republican Governor Rick Scott, the former Governor Charlie Crist, he's now a Democrat -- they are about to face off for the last time before the election.

CNN's Jake Tapper is moderating and you will be able to give instant feedback on the answers.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us with a preview.

Explain what's going on, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. We often have focus groups watch these debates and give us impressions.

Tonight, every one of you out there can be part of our focus group by going to the web page Bing.com/CNN. Once there, you can let us know if you are Republican or Democrat or independent, if you're male or female. We're not tracking you. We just want to know who's taking part.

And then as the debate goes on, you can click and show us whether you dislike or agree or disagree or whatever with what's being said. And all of your inputs will create a graph showing the high points and the low points of your collective reaction. And we'll go over that later on in the evening.

And remember, you can participate by going to Bing.com/CNN, and more than jut watch this debate, Wolf, you can go there if you stay at CNN.

BLITZER: You can go there. Good point. Thanks very much, Tom.

As we count down to this Florida debate right at the top of the hour, I'm joined by chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Two weeks until election day here in the United States.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BLITZER: Rick Scott, the Florida governor, Charlie Crist, the challenger, about to face-off. The stakes tonight are pretty significant.

BORGER: Oh, they are, Wolf.

Look, there are a lot of important governors race but this is the one that's going to be the most closely watched because, of course, as you know, this is the all-important state of Florida. These guys are in a dead heat right now, Wolf. There is about $75 million to $100 million in ad money alone that's been spent in this campaign.

And this is a huge prize, because whoever runs for president, Democrat or Republican, wants to have a governor of their own party running the important swing state of Florida.

So, you cannot overemphasize how important this race is for the people of the state of Florida, as well as in 2016.

BLITZER: We've got to talk, Gloria, about the fan. The fan. The rules for tonight's debut say it's not allowed -- that the former Governor Charlie Crist will not be allowed to have his fan. He has grown accustomed at the debates, at public appearances, to have a fan.

So, is there going to be another fight?

BORGER: Well, you know, I mean, think about this today, Wolf. If I were Charlie Crist or Rick Scott for that matter, I would deflect all of the controversy over this with a little bit sense of humor. Maybe I'd would come out fanning myself or I'd say, "I have plenty of fans here", something like that.

I'm not sure I would want to relitigate the fight because -- they didn't look great, particularly Scott. So, I think a bit of humor is sort of in order here tonight on that.

BLITZER: I think you're right.

All right. Listen to this, Gloria. I want to play some audio. We just received it and it's from Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol talking to police in Anchorage, Alaska. She's describing a fight at a party that allegedly involved her, her brother Track, as well as her father Todd.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BRISTOL PALIN: Some lady with gray hair who wants to push my little 20-year-old sister, I'm going to defend my sister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a guy came out of nowhere and pushed you on the ground.

PALIN: A guy comes out of nowhere and pushes me on the ground, takes me by feet and my dress, and my thong dress in front of everybody. Come you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Come on you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I don't know this guy. I've never seen this guy in my life.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Gloria, no charges were filed, as a result of that brawl. We know the Palin family has presented a united front on social media, with Sarah Palin posting on Facebook, how proud she was of her daughter Bristol. So, what's going on? What's the reaction out there to this audio?

BORGER: You know, I think, Wolf, it's kind of what we -- the audio is what we expected that it would be, and it was clearly a drunken brawl that occurred. And you heard her talk about it and you heard her voice, and you heard her language, which I think is regrettable.

You know, we've already seen one reality show at the Palins. This is the real reality show. Look, I'm sure the family is going to present a united front. Nobody was charged here, as you point out. It's clear everybody just needed to go home from this event and calm down -- which I think they've finally done.

BLITZER: Yes. I hope so. Let's move on.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: Today's briefing at the White House, Gloria, our own senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta asked the White House press secretary Josh Earnest if the administration had given any consideration to what life would be like with a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.

Earnest said, no. He said they have been focusing on boosting the candidacy of Democratic candidates across the country. I guess there's got to be some people in the White House who have at least thinking about, at least a little bit, if the Republicans do become the majority party in the Senate.

BORGER: Wolf, of course. But they're not going to talk about it, because with just two weeks to go until this election, with President Obama being a major issue in a lot of these red states, they don't want to -- you know, they don't want to talk about the possibility that they could actually lose control of the Senate. I mean, why would they? That would be silly for them to discuss. They want to talk about winning.

You know, the president himself made a little bit of a mistake when he said yesterday that the folks in all of those red states, you know, they may be distancing themselves from him but actually they vote with him. That's not exactly what those red state senators wanted to hear as they do distance themselves from the president.

But, you know, from the White House right now we are not hearing anything about the possibility of losing control of the Senate. They're not entertaining it. They don't want to talk about it. They just want to push right up until Election Day and see what happens.

BLITZER: Let's not forget -- if the Republicans become the majority part in the Senate, they are already the majority party in the House of Representatives.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And will remain the majority in the House of Representatives.

But if they are the majority in the -- they have subpoena power, as the Republicans do in the House. They'll be able to go and question the final two years of the Obama administration on all sorts of areas that the administration, the White House might not want to go.

BORGER: That's right. Unless, Wolf, if Republicans win control, they decide that they have to prove to the American people that they can govern, that everything that went on in Washington was Harry Reid's fault and that if they take charge, that they're actually going to be able to make things happen.

They may feel that they have more of a stake in getting things done because, as you head into 2016, you have to make the case that you can actually function as a governing party. We'll see.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, thanks very much.

The Florida governor's debate begins just a few minutes from now, actually, less than a minute, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Right at the top of the hour, 35 seconds or so from now. Jake Tapper will moderate.

And this Thursday night, I'll be monitoring the New Hampshire debate between the incumbent Democrat, Democratic Senator Jean Shaheen, and the challenger, the former Massachusetts Republican senator, Scott Brown. He's running for the Senate in neighboring New Hampshire.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead, tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

Please be sure to join us again tomorrow, every day Monday through Friday, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can watch us live, DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

Debate night in America starts right now.