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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Arizona Senator Jeff Flake; Brink of War in Ukraine; ISIS Sleeper Cells?; ISIS Smuggling Fighters Into Europe; Pathologist to Provide Critical Testimony to Michael Brown Grand Jury; Battle Line Over Climate Change
Aired November 12, 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 HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Brink of war. Russian troops and weapons set to be moving into Ukraine as fighting escalates between government forces and separatists loyal to Moscow. Is this conflict about to reach a deadly new level?
American ISIS recruits. We have new details of how the terrorists lured three teenage girls to join their brutal campaign. Is ISIS now smuggling its fighters into Europe?
And critical testimony -- the pathologist hired by Michael Brown's family will appear tomorrow before the grand jury investigating his killing. Will the autopsy findings sway the panel to charge the police officer who shot the unarmed teen?
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.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Ukraine right now on the brink of war with Russian-backed separatists and disturbing allegations that Russian tanks, artillery and troops are all moving into Ukraine right now, along with warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, begins our coverage.
What's the latest, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I have spoken today with Ukrainian officials in Kiev who express alarm at Russia's actions. They believe separatists are now preparing for a new offensive inside Eastern Ukraine.
As for NATO's warning about nuclear capable weapons in Crimea, the best U.S. assessment is Russia has the delivery systems, specifically TU-22 bombers and MiG-34 fighters, in Crimea. It is not clear if they have nuclear weapons on board. But it's viewed as a provocation, nonetheless, and comes as a hard-won cease-fire negotiated just last month appears to be falling apart.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): Russian forces on the move again into Eastern Ukraine, preparations Ukrainian officials tell CNN for a new offensive by pro-Russian separatists.
GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops, entering into Ukraine.
SCIUTTO: And NATO says they have observed something even more alarming, Russian warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons deployed to Crimea.
Annexed by Russia illegally earlier this year, if confirmed the step could violate multiple international treaties.
BREEDLOVE: We see forces that are capable of being nuclear that are being moved to Crimea. Whether they are or not, we do not know, but they do have the kind of equipment there that could support that mission.
SCIUTTO: Russia's FOREIGN MINISTRY immediately denied the claims, calling them "unfounded."
The new weapons accompanied by renewed fierce fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists has all but ended a brief, shaky cease-fire. Stressing alarm in both public and private, Ukrainian officials say they are now preparing to fight.
STEPAN POLTORAK, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): We expect unexpected actions from them. I see it as our main task to prepare for military action.
SCIUTTO: Today at a U.N. Security Council session on the situation in Ukraine, Ambassador Samantha Power condemned Russia's actions.
SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Russia has negotiated a peace plan and then systematically undermined it at every step. It talks of peace, but it keeps fueling war.
SCIUTTO: As the situation on the ground in Ukraine has escalated, so have provocations in the air, close encounters between Russian forces and American and NATO forces. We have already seen that up along the Atlantic coast numerous times, down just 50 miles off the California coast. We have seen them in the Atlantic Ocean multiple times both in the air and under the water even in Europe.
But just today, the Russian Defense Ministry expanded their areas of operation, say that now they're going to carry those flights as close to the U.S. as here, the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean as well.
I can tell you, Wolf, the Defense Department treats these provocations very seriously, and if they expand that close to U.S. territory, this could be a very alarming situation. BLITZER: What does it say to you, Jim, that the NATO supreme allied
commander, General Philip Breedlove, we just saw him in your report, he raises this really ominous specter that some of the military equipment bring brought into Crimea could have nuclear capability?
SCIUTTO: It's interesting. It's an alarming thought just to talk about it.
The best assessment, I have spoken to intelligence officials and defense officials about this today, is that, yes, they brought in aircraft that are capable of carrying nuclear missiles. That said, a lot of things can carry nuclear missiles and there's no intelligence to say that those particular planes they now have on the ground in Crimea are carrying them.
But to say that so publicly shows the concern NATO has about this. I think it's something they're watching very closely. Remember, it's the same on the ground in Ukraine because even without nuclear weapons, remember you have very heavy weapons already on the ground in Ukrainian territory. More of them today, missile launchers, tanks, et cetera. Ukrainian officials preparing for an escalation.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper now with our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance. He's the following the latest developments from Moscow.
What does Russia want, what does Putin want right now, Matthew, based on everything you're hearing over there?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question.
One of the features unfortunately of this whole conflict since it began in early March is it's very difficult to read what the Kremlin wants. The Russians aren't being explicit what they want, the opposite.
They're saying they're not involved in this at all, and that none of this weaponry is actually coming from them. But if you look at the situation on the ground, you can see that it would be very convenient, shall we say, for the Russians to establish a land corridor from Eastern Ukraine to the territory they have already annexed in Crimea. They annexed Crimea back in March, of course.
It's very difficult to resupply that Crimean Peninsula with fuel, with food, with essential products. At the moment, the Russians are mainly doing it by ferry from the Russian mainland. It would be much more sustainable for them, perhaps much more sustainable for them to have a land corridor connecting Russia to Crimea. And perhaps that's what the military objective is in the medium term.
BLITZER: The Russian president, Matthew, as you know, shows no signs at all of backing down when it comes to Ukraine. If anything, that situation is clearly escalating. Do you sense there -- you're in Moscow for us -- that these Western, U.S.-led sanctions, the reduction in the cost of oil, for example, which is a major Russian exporting item, is having any impact at all on the Russian government?
CHANCE: It doesn't seem to be, does it? There have been plenty of scope for the sanctions, the fundamentals, the geopolitics to have an impact on Russia's government, because the economy is really kind of in negative territory now.
The ruble is at record lows against the dollar and against other currencies. GDP growth has been estimated by the country's own central bank to be completely flat, zero percent for the next year. So there are enormous economic problems. At moment, the Russian population are tolerating that. It's not being turned into unpopularity for Putin. He is still an extremely popular politician and I think it's clear so far the sanctions have had no impact whatsoever on Russia's policy except perhaps to actually get it to be inflamed.
They're doing even more of what they were doing in the past that provoked the sanctions in the first place. Whether or not that will continue as the sanctions continue to bite, I think this is something we're going to have to wait and see with interest here in Russia.
BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Moscow for us, all right, Matthew, thanks. We will stay in touch with you.
Let's get some more now on the breaking news.
Joining us, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's get right to this breaking news involving Ukraine. It's escalating. Clearly, the tensions are escalating. You heard the NATO supreme commander today, General Breedlove, saying this cease-fire is a cease-fire in name only.
How ominous, from your perspective, Senator, is this crisis in Ukraine right now?
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: It's extremely troubling.
It seems like these are, as Congressman Royce said before, very thinly veiled attempts to shore up the opposition, if you will, there. There are Russian soldiers in Southern Ukraine. And this is a bad situation and it seems to be getting worse.
BLITZER: And it doesn't look like Putin is backing down at all, right?
It just -- I think it puzzles everyone why, with the sanctions in place and the price of oil dropping precipitously, that that hasn't had an effect yet. It's unbelievable that he could retain his popularity. Maybe they aren't looking very long-term there, but it's just puzzling to a lot of people.
BLITZER: All right, Senator, I want you to stand by. We have a lot more to discuss. I know you're just back from Havana, Cuba. You met with an imprisoned American over there. You have got some thoughts on what is going on as far as the future of this American Alan Gross is concerned, other subjects.
We will take a quick break. More with Senator Flake right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, NATO now saying Russian troops and weapons are pouring into Ukraine, including warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and it's raising fears of an all- out war between Ukrainian forces and those separatists loyal to Moscow.
We're back with Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Russians also announcing amidst all of this plans to potentially build nuclear reactors, new nuclear reactors, Senator Flake, inside Iran at a time when these negotiations are going on. Here's the question. Do you trust Putin to oversee what's supposedly going to be a peaceful nuclear program inside Iran?
FLAKE: No. I don't think anybody trusts him there.
I'm anxious to see what that proposal is. But as far as trusting Putin, I don't. And I don't know of any of my colleagues that do.
BLITZER: Are you hopeful that the U.S. and these other permanent members of the Security Council in Germany reach a deal with Iran by November 24 to end its nuclear program?
FLAKE: Obviously, all of us would like a deal if it sticks for them to end their nuclear program.
But, obviously, many of us are skeptical as well that they will get to that point. But I, for one, I want to deal. I think all of us want a good deal, but not a deal for the sake of a deal.
BLITZER: Some of your colleagues, Rand Paul, who is a Republican, Tim Kaine, who is a Democrat, they're raising questions about the U.S.-led war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, whether the president has the legal authority to do it. Some are suggesting that maybe what the president is doing is illegal. You say what?
FLAKE: I say the president should come to Congress. Putting the legal aspect aside, you ought to have buy-in.
If you want to have our allies with us in a war that's going to last a long time, long beyond this presidency, then he ought to come to Congress for a new AUMF. Putting whatever legal arguments aside, he needs to do that.
BLITZER: Do you think it is legal what he's doing right now?
FLAKE: You know, I think responding to threats to America, as is under the Constitution, he has Article II power there. But I wouldn't put it that it's illegal.
But if he wants to be effective over time, and if the U.S. as a whole wants to be effective, then the president ought to come to Congress, because you're unlikely to get our allies to be with us as well if they know that it's going to be a back-and-forth battle between the Congress and the president. So he needs to come to the Congress. He needs a new AUMF.
BLITZER: So you're just back from Havana, Cuba. You had a chance to meet with the American prisoner Alan Gross. He's been in that Cuban prison now for five years. I think you said you feel that there are efforts under way maybe closer to freeing him right now.
First of all, how did the visit go? What do you think, can Alan Gross be freed?
FLAKE: Well, it was nice to meet with him. I can tell you, he's been through a -- I'm sorry.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
I was saying, he's been through a lot in five years. My hat's off to him for keeping the faith. And he's got to feel abandoned, to be there for five years. And I can just tell you, I think the world of him and I hope we can get him freed. He wants to come home. And we need to make that happen.
BLITZER: I know you were there with Senator Udall. How much time did you get to spend with Alan Gross?
FLAKE: We were there for a full two hours. We could have spent another few if we had been able to. He was very engaging and certainly he is well-informed about his situation there, and extremely articulate on these issues. But he's just been through a lot. His family has been through a lot. And he wants to come home. And he needs to come home.
BLITZER: How is his health? Because some of his family members, his wife and others, they have raised questions about his deteriorating health.
FLAKE: I will leave that to his family to talk about. I don't want to characterize it.
But I will just say that it was great to meet with him. And we had a very good conversation for a couple of hours.
BLITZER: I know in the past the Cubans, the Cuban government, they have said they will free him, but they want Cuban prisoners held in American jails to be released. Is that what they told you on this visit?
FLAKE: That's been their script and they have stuck to it. And they stuck to it on this visit.
I don't think they're going to tell us anything differently, a couple of senators down there. But you have got to hope that they realize, Cubans realize that any public relations value that they think they had is certainly gone and just hope that they, for whatever reason they want to, they just release him. He needs to come home.
BLITZER: Would you support a prisoner exchange?
FLAKE: I will leave that to the president. I will leave that to the administration. That's not for me to decide.
BLITZER: Jeff Flake, the senator, member of the Foreign Relations Committee, thanks very much for joining us. Thanks for your reporting on what is going on in Cuba right now as well.
Just ahead, we have new details of how ISIS recruited three American teenage girls to join the terrorist forces.
Plus, details of the testimony that could change so much in the Michael Brown shooting investigation.
BLITZER: We're learning new details about ISIS recruitment tactics and how they're being used to lure Westerners to join the terrorist forces, including three teenage American girls.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is working the story for us and is getting new information.
Pamela, what are you finding out?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. counterterrorism officials I have been speaking with today say this case in particular is alarming.
We're now learning these Denver teens were interacting online with other Westerners who had already made it to Syria and were trying to convince the girls to do the same. Officials say this case yielded a wealth of information that shows just how ISIS is using Westerners already in its rank to recruit others through social media.
BROWN (voice-over): CNN has learned hardened jihadists currently fighting with ISIS overseas had direct contact with three Denver teens, 15- and 17-year-old sisters and their 16-year-old friend, using social media to lure them to jihad.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: These were role models to them and people they could be in contact with. And social media, which is both more immediate and allows you to immerse yourself in an extremist environment being used as a recruiting platform.
BROWN: A law enforcement official says some of the jihadist recruiters were Westerners fighting in Syria. They were encouraging the girls to join ISIS, even giving them a road map of how to go from Denver all the way to Syria and eventually link up with the brutal terrorist group.
GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: If they're interested in extremism, rather than simply reading an article or reading posts on a message board, they can interact in real time with other people through tweets. And this is very immersive to them.
BROWN: In October, the teens made it halfway to Syria before they were stopped by authorities in Frankfurt, Germany. After the teens didn't show up for school, their parents alerted authorities, who found a treasure trove of information on the teens' social media profiles.
RITA KATZ, DIRECTOR, SEARCH FOR INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST ENTITIES: It's literally a case study of recruiting through the Internet.
BROWN: The SITE intelligence group tracks international terrorists and analyzed the teen's online activity.
KATZ: The same girl that was asked one day how many hours of music do you listen to on a daily basis and she used to say, I don't know, I can't count, but I would dance and I listen to music hours and hours, then a few months later she was asked how many hours of music do you listen to, she said music is forbidden.
BROWN: U.S. officials say this case is a unique opportunity to track efforts by terrorist groups to recruit Westerners. ISIS members have successfully played a role recruiting several Americans online, including Minnesota native Douglas McCain, who was killed in Syria in August.
BROWN: And this most recent case reflects a relatively new phenomenon of American teens being lured through social media to fight in Syria. Sources say there are other cases involving radicalized American teens that we don't even know about because it's difficult to bring federal charges against juveniles. The teens in this case, Wolf, have not been charged.
BLITZER: Pamela, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now.
Joining us, our terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, BuzzFeed Middle East correspondent Michael Giglio. He's reported extensive on ISIS recruiting. And CNN counterterrorism analyst, the former CIA operative Phil Mudd.
Phil, how difficult it is it for intelligence, law enforcement officials to monitor this type of social media recruitment, if you will?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Look, you can't monitor this -- 330 million Americans, you want to sort through the haystack of Twitter, Facebook, their e-mail accounts? You have got sort of social issues related to that, legal issues related to that.
Do you want to follow people in America like that? You have also got the volume problem. The easier way to do this and the way that might have worked in this case is you don't want to look at 330 million Americans. You want to look at the recruiter and see who is being filtered through the recruiting process so you don't have to sort of through that haystack. You can only focus on a few people overseas who are pulling people from Denver in.
BLITZER: Why, Paul, is this social media recruitment so effective?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, Wolf, it's the interactivity which is key.
These youngsters aren't just passively soaking up jihadist propaganda, but they're interacting in real time with ISIS fighters from the West here in Syria and Iraq, in some cases people they know and they constantly encourage them to go and travel to Syria, constantly trying to reinforce this ideology. It's like this virtual radical echo chamber, Wolf.
BLITZER: Mike Giglio, you recently interviewed an individual who claims, claims that he alone smuggled more than 10 ISIS fighters into Europe, I assume from Syria. This is one of the scenarios intelligence and law enforcement communities have been deeply concerned about, as you well know.
Tell us what you're learning about the various smuggling operations of these ISIS fighters from Turkey or Syria into mainland Europe.
MICHAEL GIGLIO, BUZZFEED: Thanks, Wolf.
Yes, so this is a human trafficker based in Turkey, who, for the last four years, has been sending refugees from Turkey by boat to Greece. He told me that over the summer he struck up a friendship with someone in ISIS who was posing as a refugee in one of his boats. The guy admitted that he was an ISIS fighter and told him that he was going over to Europe to wait for orders.
And the man, the smuggler himself is an ISIS supporter and he sent the guy, later received a phone call from him and said, send our brothers too. He said over the next three months he sent about 10 ISIS fighters who were clients directed to him by this original fighter into Greece.
BLITZER: Do you know where these 10 fighters may have wound up?
GIGLIO: The smuggler told me that after Greece, he believes they're moving deeper into Europe, but that he doesn't know for sure. He just knows he sent them to Greece with the other refugees.
BLITZER: Did they have like a plot in their briefcase, if you will, ready to go?
GIGLIO: I don't think so. He was only telling me what he knew. I think the details he got were pretty sparing.
His opinion -- and I want to just say this is just his opinion -- was that they were waiting for orders for an attack. But he said he didn't know for sure. And I think it's pretty important that I say I don't know for sure either.
BLITZER: Yes, because, Phil, this sounds like sleepers potentially being smuggled into Europe waiting for that order to do something.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. I didn't see many sleeper cells. What I saw were circumstances like this, which is more worrisome.
Sleeper cells might have connectivity to a center of operations for al Qaeda that you can follow. When you've got a kid who's 15 years old, who decides over the course of months, that's your time frame to collect intelligence in a country of several hundred million people.
BLITZER: That's the problem. Paul, what do you make of this report that Mike just told us about, that maybe this one smuggler claiming ten ISIS fighters were smuggled into Greece and maybe elsewhere in Europe right now.
CRUICKSHANK: Well, Wolf, it's certainly a concern that ISIS could take advantage of the fact there's so many refugees going from Syria and Iraq to Europe right now to take advantage of those trouble (ph), to try and get operatives into Europe to try to launch attacks.
ISIS have signaled that they will attack the west at some point. Their spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, has made this abundantly clear. So this could be one way they could do it. The biggest concern, though, is about operatives with European passports. It's estimated about 1,000 Europeans are fighting with ISIS right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Did this smuggler, Mike, suggest that any of these ISIS terrorists may have not necessarily have Europe as their final destination but maybe the United States?
GIGLIO: No, he didn't. They were Syrian or Iraqi nationals, and they were all posing as Syrian refugees, planning on either blending in with Syrian refugee populations in European countries or applying for asylum there. He didn't say anything about the United States.
BLITZER: All right. Phil, let's talk about Elise Labott's report you heard here in THE SITUATION ROOM, that the president now considering a new strategy: Don't only go after ISIS, but simultaneously go after the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, as well. It sounds complicated.
MUDD: You know, in the era of complexity, which is what we're dealing with, my experience in The Situation Room at the White House is that you've got to boil it down to simplicity. Put yourself in the shoes of a Syrian oppositionist. The Americans are -- from their perspective, several years behind the curve. We're saying go after ISIS. Their objective is Assad. We're saying, "Assad is in our sights. Yet, please only focus on the ISIS objective."
You've got to be stepping back if you're in opposition, as saying, "What are we up to here with our partners, the Americans? They don't share an objective, and they're three years behind the curve."
I think in the White House, you've got to step back and say, "Where are we going here?" Because over the long-term, this position is not tenable.
BLITZER: As you know, Paul, there's a report out there that ISIS may be discovering some sort of merger with another terrorist group, the al-Nusra Front, and that the Khorasan group, another al Qaeda splinter group, if you will, they may be brokering this kind of merger deal. What do you make of this?
CRUICKSHANK: Wolf, what we do know is that the Khorasan group tried to do this before when they were dispatched from Pakistan by Ayman al- Zawahiri to Syria. One of their tasks was to try and mend fences between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. So it's possible that they're trying to do this again. And the fact that Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS have both been hit by U.S. air strikes means that the atmosphere might be right for some kind of reconciliation.
But I think it's premature to talk about a merger. There's a lot of bad blood between these groups. They have been fighting each other for the last year. And Al Qaeda threw ISIS out of the global al Qaeda network in February. So there may be some cooperation at the local level. But I think premature to talk about a merger. But in fact, there was greater cooperation between these two groups. That would be very worrying for all our security, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly would be. Mike, let me ask you about another story we reported earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You're joining us from Istanbul, Turkey, right now.
Earlier, three American sailors from the USS Ross -- that's a warship -- and dock in the NATO ally of Turkey. They were assaulted. We're showing our viewers the really awful pictures. They were taunted. They got bags thrown over their heads. This group called the Turkish Youth Union later claimed responsibility for it.
Tell us what you know about this, because to Americans, you see three American sailors on shore leave in civilian clothes, not wearing any uniforms, and they're getting these bags thrown over their head. They're being hit. They wound up OK. They're back on their ship, but what do you make of this?
GIGLIO: You know, if America is watching that, and I saw the video, I would say that's not something to worry about. This is a very fringe group. This is a very rare instance. Walking around the streets of Turkey, I mean, this is not something that's common at all. Any kind of aggression towards Americans like this. I mean, you have groups in every country. I really don't think this is something to be alarmed about.
BLITZER: There are some people who suspect -- who worry that maybe there were some elements in Turkey who may actually welcome this kind of assault on three U.S. sailors.
GIGLIO: I mean, like I said, there might be. But I think the majority of Turks would be disgusted by this. And it's really not something that's common here at all. And again, this is a real fringe group. I think it's -- it's almost a shame they get so much attention for this video.
BLITZER: Phil, what do you think about it?
MUDD: Look, if you're in an American decision-making position, you can analytically -- I agree with this, analytically say this is a fringe group. In the wake of Benghazi, when there's so much political pressure on the administration to respond to allegations they did not protect Americans, you're going to look at this and say, with all the violence, insecurity in the Middle East, are we sure -- are we sure we don't have a problem in Turkey? And I'm not sure what the answer is.
BLITZER: It's a NATO ally. And already, they had been told earlier U.S. military personnel, even though Turkey is a NATO ally, don't wear a uniform. If you go on shore leave, just wear civilian clothes. And obviously, this is going to escalate those kinds of fears. We'll see what happens. Hopefully, the Turkish government will take action against those who acted against these three American sailors.
Mike, thanks very much. Always good to have you with us.
Phil Mudd, thanks to you, as well.
Paul Cruickshank, appreciate it.
Just ahead, a private pathologist now set to appear before the grand jury looking into the death of Michael Brown. Could his testimony lead to the indictment of a police officer who shot the teen in Ferguson, Missouri? I'll talk about that and more with the Brown family attorney, along with our panel of experts.
BLITZER: A potential major development in the Michael Brown shooting case in Ferguson, Missouri. A pathologist hired by Brown's family to do an autopsy on the teenager will testify tomorrow before the grand jury deciding whether to charge a police officer in the killing.
Let's get some more. Joining us, Benjamin Crump. He's the attorney for Michael Brown's family and represented the family of Trayvon Martin.
Mr. Crump, thank you very much for joining us.
Michael Baden, as you know, he's a well-known pathologist, hired by Michael Brown's parents, will be testifying before the grand jury tomorrow. Can you share with us what he plans to say? BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL BROWN'S FAMILY: He's going to
testify consistent with his autopsy report, Wolf. And we believe it will be very insightful, because Michael Brown's parents have always wanted an independent outside person not associated with the local police department to be able to give unbiased testimony.
BLITZER: What does it say to you that he was invited to testify before the St. Louis county prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch. How important will this testimony be? It's sort of unusual decision, wasn't it, by the prosecuting attorney?
CRUMP: Well, everything about this is unusual. We -- and we're not sure how it came to be. We understood that there was a member of the grand jury that may have asked to hear from the family pathologist, which makes us say somebody on that jury wants to know what really happened and they're not just accepting just the police version and the prosecutor's version of what happened. And so we think that's important, Wolf.
We also think that Dr. Baden needs to get all the information. He requested a lot of information that the police and the medical examiner had, and we don't know if he's going to get all that information. So that's a little troubling.
But you know, they control the system. They control the prosecution. All the family can do is depend on the mercy of the system and hope that it works fairly for them, too.
BLITZER: Because as you know, Mr. Baden, as you pointed out, he wants access to some of that tissue, for example, examined by the county medical examiner's office, in addition to the autopsy performed by the Department of Justice. You don't know yet whether he's been able to get that kind of evidence, if you will, to review it before his testimony tomorrow?
CRUMP: Exactly, Wolf. He also wants the medical records of the police officer. You know, he claimed to have this blown-out fracture to the eye. He thinks that's important to his opinions.
Also, he wants the clothing that the officer was wearing. He wants to look inside the car to see where this blood splatter is supposed to be so he can have his independent analysis and don't have to rely on the police department.
And so all he wants is to have a fair shot at looking at all the evidence. And what we've said all along, Wolf, we want due process not only for the police but for Michael Brown. Again, we don't agree with this process. We think he should be charged, and it should all be vetted out. Because nobody is cross-examining Dr. Baden or the other doctors. And we don't think that's American. The Constitution says we have the right to face the evidence and the witnesses against us.
BLITZER: But Dr. Baden's autopsy report, is that consistent with the other autopsies that were done by the county, by the Department of Justice? CRUMP: As far as we know now, Wolf. But we think there are going to
be some stuff after Dr. Baden gets a chance to look at everything, there may be new relevant information. And so we're waiting for that there.
And that's the problem with having this secret proceeding. You don't know who's saying what, and you can't vet it.
And so, in this situation in Ferguson, Wolf, as we talked about often, there's a great mistrust with the citizens of Ferguson and people across America. And so, what would be better than to have it very transparent where everybody can see everything.
So, Dr. Baden wants to see everything. He's not been allowed to see everything. And I think the public isn't allowed to see everything. So, when the decision comes out, people may not accept it.
BLITZER: As you know, you're a lawyer. Grand jury testimony is secret.
CRUMP: Yes, that's the problem. It didn't have to be a grand jury. This is a choice, and everybody keeps saying when the police shoot a young person of color, shoot somebody, we do grand juries because that's what they allow.
Well, that's not -- if there's probable cause, they can be charged like anybody else. We're all Americans. We all deserve due process. When you have seven witnesses saying his hands was up and you got evidence from Dr. Baden's autopsy and a medical examiner presumably saying that his hands was up and he got shot from behind, why don't you let that be before a jury. You charge him and he will have his day in court.
Nobody is saying he's guilty until proven innocent, but we want due process for Michael Brown, too.
BLITZER: How are Michael Brown's parents doing?
CRUMP: Well, as you know, they're over in Geneva now making their presentation to the United Nations, talking about their son was executed in broad daylight as many young people of color and normally when that happens, their deaths are swept under the rug. They're trying to make some positive change so this does happen to anybody else's child.
BLITZER: There's been some criticism, as you know, about this decision to go over to Switzerland testify before this United Nations panel, even before any grand jury decision has been released. What do you say to that kind of criticism?
CRUMP: I think the people who are criticizing them are going to criticize them no matter what, because we believe that they don't share the same value for our children that they share for other people. This is about our children. If this was your child and you were believing his death was going to be swept under the rug, wouldn't you go all over the world to try to argue that my child's life matters too?
And that's what they're doing, because our child -- our children lives matter.
BLITZER: We don't know when the grand jury decision will come out. I assume the parents will be back in Ferguson around that time. Do you know when they're expected to leave Switzerland and when they're going to be back in Missouri?
CRUMP: Yes, sir, Wolf. They'll be back on Friday.
BLITZER: And do you have any indication at all when the grand jury will reach a decision?
CRUMP: We do not.
BLITZER: Benjamin Crump, thank you very much for joining us.
CRUMP: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll stay in touch with you.
Benjamin Crump is the attorney for Michael Brown's family.
Let's dig deeper now. Joining us, the community activist John Gaskin. He's in Missouri. Also, our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director, and our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey, I want you to react from the legal perspective what we just heard that Dr. Baden, the pathologist. Is it a gesture on the part of the county prosecutor to invite a pathologist privately hired by the family to go in there and to testify before the grand jury?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Robert McCulloch, who is the prosecuting attorney, said from the beginning that he's going to present every piece of evidence in this case to the grand jury. Michael Baden's autopsy is a piece of evidence. And he's a distinguished pathologist. So, it seems very consistent with that promise.
Now, it is not a complete autopsy. Michael Baden didn't have access to everything, as you heard from Ben Crump. Not to the clothing, not to the car evidence. So, it's not complete. But certainly, if you want all the evidence, Michael Baden's autopsy would be something that's very appropriate to put before the grand jury.
BLITZER: Tom, how unusual is it, though, for a privately hired pathologist to go before a grand jury?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, once the autopsy is done by the private pathologist, I think you would expect that. It's part of the investigation. It's going to be included for the grand jury.
It's not -- (CROSSTALK)
BLITZER: Is it a gesture on the part of the prosecuting attorney to say, you know what, we're going to let everything come in, whatever evidence is out there, is it a gesture to the family, for example?
FUENTES: It's a gesture to try to say we're trying to achieve justice and we want' everything to be before the grand jury, not have criticism later that they withheld something or they didn't think that autopsy would help the prosecution, so don't do it.
So, I think it's standard to go ahead and do that. It's unusual to have three autopsies in the same case. That part of it is. So you've got a state autopsy, the Department of Justice autopsy and the private autopsy for the family. That is unusual.
TOOBIN: But don't kid yourself, this decision, while nominally in the hands of the grand jury, is really in the hands of the prosecutors. Prosecutors by and large decide who gets indicted. So, McCulloch can try to hide behind the grand jury, but this decision really falls on him.
BLITZER: What's the reaction over there in the community, John Gaskin?
JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Well, many people, when we received the news that Dr. Baden would go before the grand jury, many were surprised because many at the beginning with that "USA Today" article, Dr. Baden had asked to go before the grand jury, said he was interested in going before them and he said he had information they needed to hear. So, it is encouraging to hear that he is going to testify tomorrow before the grand jury.
But as Attorney Crump has already stated, many people feel as though details are being swept under the rug and many people do not trust the system. And at this point, they are hoping that the cards will fall in the proper way. But many people do not trust the system. They are very concerned about how this grand jury process has taken place.
And I agree completely with Mr. Toobin. You know, the prosecutor controls this system. And if there is no indictment, it's quite clear that the prosecutor does not want there to be an indictment.
BLITZER: We heard today, John, from the St. Louis County executive Charlie Dooley, once again calling for calm. Is there going to be a calm situation, irrespective of the grand jury decision?
GASKIN: Well, leadership within the community is encouraging people to obviously make their voices heard but do it in a peaceful way so that no one is injured and so that we do not have a system of chaos. But in terms of -- I don't want to prejudge a situation, but I think personally that when the decision comes out, especially if there is a non-indictment, there will be a lot of angry and upset people that will want their voices to be heard. And there will be a lot of protests.
BLITZER: Let's hope the protests are peaceful indeed, as all of us want.
All right, guys, stand by. We're going to have much more news right after this.
BLITZER: The climate agreement with China getting a chilly reception from Republicans and drawing a new battle line between President Obama and the incoming Republican-controlled Congress.
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here. She's got details.
Dana, this deal on carbon emissions, it could be historic but a lot of Republicans say they don't like it.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
Look, last week when Republicans took over control of the Senate and, of course, total control of the house, people asked, well, is it going to be different? The answer is yes. And the issue of climate change is exhibit A.
BASH (voice-over): Mitch McConnell hosting newly elected Senate Republicans in his Capitol office for the first time since their victories put him in charge as majority leader and made him a more powerful adversary for the president.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The president continues to send signals that he has no intention of moving toward the middle.
BASH: McConnell was eager to express outrage about a sweeping deal President Obama struck hours earlier in China to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an ambitious goal, but it is an achievable goal.
BASH: China agreed to peak its carbon emissions by 2030. The U.S., to reduce by nearly a third by the year 2025.
McConnell isn't buying it.
MCCONNELL: It requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states around the country.
BASH: Fighting government regulation was a key part of McConnell's regulation campaign in coal-rich Kentucky.
MCCONNELL: It's jobs for people who are hurting and stops the war on coal now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch is a friend of coal. BASH: In fact, partisan differences over climate change are among the
deepest in the newly divided government.
Many high profile congressional Republicans don't buy the science behind climate change.
(on camera): Do you believe climate change is real?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I'm always troubled by a theory that fits every perfect situation.
BASH: You don't believe that there is any manmade reason for global warming or climate change?
CRUZ: What I think is the data are not supporting what the advocates are arguing.
BASH (voice-over): Perhaps the most stark difference with the GOP Senate takeover is control of the committee overseeing environmental regulation. Staunch Democratic environmentalist Barbara Boxer will hand the gavel to Republican James Inhofe, who wrote the book literally on man-made climate change being a hoax, saying only God can affect the climate.
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: My point is God is still up there, and this is the arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what he is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.
BASH: Since there is no chance Congress will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Republicans fully expect the president is going to use his executive powers to at least start as he's done before. But McConnell has promised that when he is in charge next year, Republicans will try to reverse environmental regulations by using Congress' power of the purse and, Wolf, that sets up another showdown and threatens another shutdown if they take this all the way.
BLITZER: And the immediate issue is going to be immigration, if the president uses the executive authority to change the rules on immigration.
BASH: In the lame duck.
Right, that's in this coming --
BLITZER: He says he's going to do it before the end of the year if Congress doesn't pass legislation.
BASH: He did. He promised to that. Congress has to pass legislation to keep the government running by December 11th, the second week in December. If there are already threats by Republicans if the president uses his executive authority before that, the Republicans are going to try to do away with that again with the power of the purse. BLITZER: All right. Dana, thanks very, very much.
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