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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Ed Royce; Riot Charges?; Major ISIS Arrest; ISIS Leader's Family Members Captured; FBI Warns ISIS May Attack U.S. Troops at Home; New GOP Moves on Government Shutdown Threat
Aired December 2, 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, threats in Ferguson. We're learning more about the danger the former Police Officer Darren Wilson may be facing right now and the lengths police are going to protect him.
Plus, did Michael Brown's stepfather intend to start riots? Stand by for new details of a controversial investigation that is now underway.
Another racially charged case involving a white police officer, an African-American man, and a deadly chokehold. A grand jury decision is expected soon. Will New York erupt at any unrest?
And a new blow to the ruthless leader of ISIS hitting at the heart of his family and the terror group's powerful inner circle.
We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Angry words from Michael Brown's stepfather now at the center of a formal investigation in Ferguson, Missouri. Police are trying to determine if Louis Head intended to spark fiery riots last week. The unrest exploded after his enraged response to the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who shot and killed his stepson. All this raising the possibility of a stunning twist. Will Head face criminal charges while the former police officer Darren Wilson walks free?
We're learning more, by the way, about Wilson's life right now and police efforts to protect him and his family from death threats.
Our correspondents and analysts are standing by. They're covering all the new developments in Ferguson, Missouri.
Let's begin with our correspondent Brian Todd. He has the very latest -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we have got new information on the unusual level of security being provided to Darren Wilson. He has a detail of off-duty police officers guarding him. But even with that, the threats to Wilson don't seem to be subsiding.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): He has been threatened over the phone, in e-mails, on social media. Apparently, there are bounties on his head. Now CNN has learned Darren Wilson is protected by a detail of off-duty police officers who have been buy his side since the August shooting of Michael Brown.
JIM PASCO, NATIONAL FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: The Fraternal Order of Police members from the surrounding area have volunteered and have provided him with security from that time, right up until the present.
TODD (on camera): How long will you be doing this?
PASCO: We will do it as long as we have to.
TODD (voice-over): Fraternal Order of Police director Jim Pasco says the off-duty police officers are not being paid by Wilson or anyone else to protect him. Pasco would not elaborate on the nature of the protection. It is likely very discreet.
RON HOSKO, LAW ENFORCEMENT LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: A low-key protection and not a marked unit in front of the house that draws as much attention as it may divert, maybe one person, maybe two people so that officer Wilson, former officer Wilson can sleep at night.
TODD: Wilson's lawyers say it is not just Darren Wilson these officers are protecting.
GREG KLOEPPEL, ATTORNEY FOR DARREN WILSON: There are threats out there not only against himself, but his family as well.
TODD: Including Wilson's new wife who is pregnant and on leave from the Ferguson police. One concern the attorneys and law enforcement experts have, efforts by hackers and others to track Darren Wilson down.
HOSKO: There are cyber-activists in our world who are going to be actively trying to find out, where is Darren Wilson? They are going to be trying to find out where did Darren Wilson spend his last dollar, so that they can track and put out in public where he is and really create an enhanced threat to him.
TODD: Fraternal Order of Police director Jim Pasco is critical of the Ferguson Police Department saying it was "unwilling or unable" to protect Darren Wilson while he was still formally part of the force after the Michael Brown shooting.
Pasco said the Ferguson police never protected Wilson and "That's what the police department is supposed to do."
We tried several times to get response from the Ferguson police to that. We did not hear back -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So no one is actually being paid to protect Wilson. How much would it cost, for example, if a police officer were actually getting paid to do that?
TODD: Ron Hosko, the law enforcement expert we spoke to, said if you're paying a police officer a standard rate, they could get maybe $30 an hour minimum. You're also talking here about multiple officers over the course of a day or a week working in shifts to protect him. Then you have the cost of food, of rental properties where you might have to move him around. This could be a very expensive due set and right now the police aren't being paid for it and we're not sure who is paying for it.
BLITZER: They want to make sure that he is protected and his wife as well. All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Now to the investigation of Michael Brown's stepfather.
CNN's George Howell is joining us live from Ferguson, Missouri.
Tell us what's going on as far as this part of the story is concerned, George.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good day.
Yes, we're talking about a lot of property damage here in Ferguson. A lot of business owners who are struggling. So the question now, was there a singular voice, a singular event that helped to spark and incite the looting and the riots we saw here in Ferguson? That's the question we understand the police chief of Ferguson, Tom Jackson, is looking into.
Also, Saint Louis County police are looking into this case. They're going to look at that video, the video you have seen where Mr. Head, according to his family, was very emotional. But police are questioning whether he helped to incite a riot. We also understand that they are going to question people who know Head and also plan to question him as well. But they're not just singling him out.
Keep in mind, there is a lot of damage here. A lot of businesses have been burned down. They're boarded up. So police plan to pursue, Wolf, every angle they can to try to find anyone responsible for what happened here.
BLITZER: Last hour, I spoke with Representative Emanuel Cleaver, the immediate past chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, congressman.
He thought -- he was under the impression that Louis Head, the stepfather, had in fact apologized, expressed remorse. I haven't seen that or heard that. I wonder if you have, George.
HOWELL: I haven't heard it directly, but I have heard what you have heard. And as well when you think about what we have heard from Brown's family, Lesley McSpadden, we understand obviously that she put it out there that it was a very emotional moment, that Mr. Head was acting out of frustration and she makes the fact, the point that she said that he did not act. Still, police are looking at that video. They're questioning whether
the words that he used there, whether the emotions in that moment, whether that help to change the mood of that crowd that night, whether it helped to incite the riot, the looting that we saw play out here in Ferguson.
BLITZER: George Howell on the streets of Ferguson for us, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our panel.
Joining us, our CNN anchor Don Lemon, our senior legal analyst Sunny Hostin, the community activist John Gaskin and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the FBI.
Tom, do you think the Ferguson police would have a strong case against the stepfather for inciting violence?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No,because I think they will have a hard time proving that somebody that heard him in the midst of all that noise actually went over and did an arson or committed an act of starting a fire.
I think most of the people you see in that crowd are not watching CNN. They're not watching media reporting of him saying that. So it is probably a very few number of people that actually heard it at that time. The other argument being that I think many of the people that were there were bent on what they did from the beginning, with or without him inciting them. So I think the cause and effect of his words will be hard to prove.
BLITZER: Would it also be a factor in whether to go ahead with a charge against the stepfather, the anger that that would generate, that that there could be some violence as a result of that?
FUENTES: I think it is a political question. I think it is becoming unfortunate to me that criminal justice is based on whether people get angry if the charge is brought or angry if the charge isn't brought.
We really have to investigate crimes, if the crime is committed, bring prosecution. I think there has become so much politics on both sides of this issue that I doubt he will be prosecuted, in my opinion.
BLITZER: Sunny, you probably know this. The lieutenant governor of Missouri, he has actually called saying for Head's arrest, saying he acted criminally that night. What do you think?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I agree with Tom. I think that would be a difficult case to prove. It is that cause and effect that Tom referred to. How do you prove really, if you're a prosecutor, that someone heard it and then reacted to that?
But certainly if you look just at the law, Wolf, and you look at whether or not he intended to cause a riot and then urged people to riot, urged people to burn property, the elements may be there, but very, very difficult to prove. And I think just any prosecutor that looks at a case like this, given, quite frankly, what is going on, what has gone on in Ferguson, would never touch this case.
You would have to be really tone-deaf to the larger issues that are at play here to bring a case like that.
BLITZER: Sunny, this is the same prosecutor who brought all that information before the grand jury that did not indict the police officer, right?
HOSTIN: That's right. And again, the backlash would just be incredible. Of course, prosecutors are in the business of sending a message out to the community as to what will and will not be tolerated.
But there is that prosecutorial discretion. And any prosecutor looking at something like this I think would run in the other direction. It would be a very difficult case to prove. And, again, look at the climate. I have got to tell you, when you look at the Ferguson police chief's actions, the fact that he has never reached out to the family, has never reached out to Michael Brown's mother, released that surveillance videotape, leaked it and now is coming forward and saying this, there just really seems to be an agenda.
And that is something that really shouldn't be tolerated from our police departments across the country.
BLITZER: Don, as you know, Michael Brown's mother has said her husband, the stepfather of Michael Brown, that his comments were a result of deep anger, overwhelming frustration. I don't know if you -- has he apologized though? Have you heard a formal apology and the expression of regret, remorse by the stepfather?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I have not heard one personally.
But according to his attorneys, according to Benjamin Crump, yes, there has been -- he has expressed remorse for it. Again, I haven't heard it personally.
But I think Sunny and I think Tom are right. Listen, as we look as fires, I'm just going to say it. Talk about throwing gasoline on a fire. Imagine the irony that the man who shot your son, killed your son is not charged and then your husband or the stepfather is charged?
People would be outraged. I'm not sure what would happen in that community. Anything can happen, but if anyone -- I think they would be really, really silly, quite honestly, to charge this man considering what is going on there. But again to answer your question directly, I have heard from the attorneys that he's expressed remorse. I have not heard personally from him.
BLITZER: Don't you think it would be a good idea for him, for example, to do an interview with you or me or somebody and to express that kind of regret?
LEMON: Certainly, it would. But think about it. Look how long it took Darren Wilson to come forward to do an interview. These are people -- and his words were reprehensible. But I don't know how I would feel if a loved one had died. I will
give him that. But his words are reprehensible. There's no excuse for it. Yes, he should probably come forward. But these are, as Jeffrey Toobin always says, ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances.
And he may not want to subject himself to the media circus, just like Darren Wilson didn't want to do it. It would be great if he did it and he came and he apologized, but I'm not sure if he is the kind of person who wants to go under that type of scrutiny.
BLITZER: John, let me get to weigh in on our reporting that the police officer, Darren Wilson, I should say the former police officer, he is receiving extensive protection from volunteer Saint Louis officers, Saint Louis area police officers. They're voluntary their off-duty time to provide security for him.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver told me last hour he thinks that's appropriate. Do you agree?
JOHN GASKIN, NAACP BOARD MEMBER: It certainly is the right of those police officers to use their time and resources to protect him if they feel as though that's something they want to do. They certainly have that right.
I have said this before. It definitely doesn't solve anything by individuals resorting to violence to take justice into their own hands by hurting Darren Wilson or putting bounties out for his life or try to hurt his wife. That doesn't help our situation. That doesn't help in healing the region or healing the city of Ferguson.
So there's probably a good reason why he is having security. I would not be surprised if threats have been made on his life and people were obviously trying to do him harm. I definitely think that if he needs security to protect his life, then that is what is warranted.
BLITZER: I also heard Congressman Emanuel Cleaver tell me, John, that he didn't think it would be a good idea for the president to come to Ferguson right now. He pointed out he is the president of the United States. He's not the president of the NAACP. It would probably be a bad idea for him to come to Ferguson. What do the folks there think? Do they want to see the president there?
GASKIN: Well, Wolf, yesterday you interviewed a business owner there in Ferguson that owned a salon. I think people like her, that would mean a lot to them. It would mean a lot to the family to see the president has heard their cries and wants to be there to support them, to hear their story, to see Ferguson, to see the ruins of that town.
I think it would definitely send the message that race relations is at the forefront of social conversations in this country. I think by him making a decision to come, that could definitely start the healing with meeting with local law enforcement to evaluate the situation. I think it would make a major difference.
BLITZER: Don, let's get to a sensitive issue. One of the bigger issues at hand in Ferguson is this whole issue, whether young black males in the United States are unfairly targeted by police. So one study published earlier, a ProPublica study pointed out that it found that among young black men, ages 15 to 19, they were shot by police at a rate 21 times higher than whites the same age.
You can see the numbers up there on the screen, 1.47 per million among whites, 31.17 per million among blacks. That's a problem, right?
LEMON: It is. And if you look at it, what ProPublica means, that is per capita or by percentage.
So if you look at the percentage of blacks and look at the percentage of whites, then you get that. It is not done by population. So, yes, it is a problem when you look at one is 1.47 per million and the other one is 31.7 per million. Again, you have to remember, African- Americans only make up 12 percent of the population. Some of that quite honestly is probably attributed to the fact that maybe there is more interaction with law enforcement.
But still, those numbers, those numbers are jarring when you look at it, 31 times or 21 times more or 24 times more? That's a huge number.
BLITZER: Last night, Don, Bill O'Reilly, he had some other statistics suggesting police shootings aren't necessarily unreasonably high in the black community. He said when you include all age groups, more than twice as many whites were killed by police in 2012 by blacks. He said, 123 blacks were killed by -- in 2012 by police, 326 whites were killed. You see the numbers right there. Is that a fairer statistic?
LEMON: He's right and he is wrong. Here's the thing. The reason I'm looking down is because I think this is very important and I want to get the numbers correct.
The first one that we looked at, these were 15-to-19-year-olds and that was over a two-year period from 2010 to 2012. So, 21 times greater than whites. And then the stat that you just showed from Bill O'Reilly, this was in 2012, 123 in 2012 and 326 were killed by cops, I should say, and then 123 whites were killed by cops.
LEMON: And 326 whites were killed by cops.
But he's not doing it percentage wise. If you look it, again, 12 percent of the population, he is not doing it by percentages. He's doing it by total population. Even yet, with those numbers, when you think it is only 12 percent of the population, that's still a large number.
HOSTIN: Can I weigh in? I think when you really look at the statistics, the statistics, rather, are really faulty, because when you talk about officer-involved shootings, Wolf, there isn't a mandatory reporting. Right? It is a self-reporting. It's almost on the honor system. Although the FBI does have some statistics, most people know that
those statistics can't even be counted upon, because they are self- reported. So my suggestion has been all along that we need mandatory reporting from our law enforcement agencies around the country and I think that the number of officer shootings involving young black males is actually much higher than is even self-reported. That's something that really needs to be part of the conversation.
HOSTIN: In terms of change.
LEMON: And Sunny is right because it is hard even to get confirmation from the Justice Department for some of these numbers for the very reasons.
HOSTIN: Because they don't have it.
BLITZER: Let me let Tom Fuentes weigh in as well.
Go ahead, Tom.
FUENTES: What they do have is that when there is an officer-involved shooting, it is investigated. We have heard Paul Callan on the air talking about the Manhattan, the DA's office.
They conduct a grand jury investigation and every officers-involved shooting in New York and treat the grand jury as an investigative body to look into every detail of it, not just try to get an indictment, but look at all the facts of the case. I think it is true that there should be mandatory reporting on all crime issues that go into the uniformed crime reports and there isn't.
But at the same time, there needs to be an analysis of what occurred in these shootings. Yes, there are some shootings that should not have happened. There's no question. But I think again we need look more factually at the circumstances behind each shooting.
LEMON: That is the reason. Everyone says this whole hands up thing, the narrative is false. The evidence didn't show -- that hands up thing, rightly or wrongly, it is not just about Michael Brown. It is about the numbers and the percentages and the statistics that we have been talking about. That's what that is about.
BLITZER: Stand by. Everybody, stand by. We have a lot more to assess, to discuss. The panel will be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with our Ferguson panel to talk about another racially charged case. A grand jury is expected to vote tomorrow on whether a white New York
City police officer will face criminal charges in the death of an African-American man. Look at the video. Cell phone video showed the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, grabbing Eric Garner and putting him in a chokehold, a tactic banned by the New York city police department.
Garner is heard on right video repeatedly telling police he couldn't breathe. Anti-police protests erupted soon after the incident back in July. Garner was stopped for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.
Sunny Hostin, what do you make of this? Because we're expecting a grand jury decision tomorrow. When you look at the video, all of it was caught on videotape. What is your assessment?
HOSTIN: The first thing that's striking to me is that it is all caught on video, that we have that kind of evidence. That's the evidence quite frankly I think we need when you have interactions with police officers.
That's why I have always been in support of police officers throughout our country having body cameras. I think it protects not only people that are interacting with police, but I think it protects police. When I do look at this, though, Wolf, I'm surprised the grand jury is still out on this. It seems to me that that kind of chokehold and that kind of show of force with that many officers for someone whose infraction was allegedly selling loose cigarettes seems to be excessive to me.
That's what this would be. It would be an excessive force case. I think you put your common sense hat on and you think, was that kind of force necessary? A chokehold? There seems to be one officer in particular, the one with the green shirt with the numbers on the back, that seem to be acting in an excessive way. If I were a prosecutor looking at this tape, that would be my assessment.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, the New York City Police Department prohibits that chokehold. You look at the videotape. What do you think?
FUENTES: For a while police departments were teaching that chokehold as a nonviolent way to get somebody to be subdued and discovered that it is very easy to accidentally kill someone.
It is supposed to just put someone to sleep and make them faint, but, unfortunately, it is not too difficult to actually kill someone by accident. But what I also see in this is four police officers are trying to place this person under arrest and he won't comply.
I think we're getting to the point now where are we saying, OK, it is a minor infraction. Either don't arrest them and walk away from it if that's the case because it is such a minor charge. Or if the decision is made to make an arrest, do people on the street debate the police now? If they don't want to get out of the car, don't get out of the car.
If you don't want to be taken into custody, no problem, you decide. We're asking police officers to become a debating society with subjects. We're asking police officers now to become Olympic wrestlers with subjects that don't want to be taken into custody. That's not the way.
If it is a false arrest, you can have your day in court. In 2011, New York City paid out $286 million in claims against the police. If it is a false arrest, if it is excessive force being used, you can have your day in court later.
BLITZER: Don Lemon, you live in New York. You have been following this case. Let's say he is not indicted, the police officer, for manslaughter or neglect or whatever. What do you anticipate happening there?
LEMON: New York City is a much different city than Ferguson, Missouri. But, Wolf, can I just say, it is tough to watch that video, because you're watching somebody dying in that video. Someone's loved one.
So I sat there and I saw the split-screen between Tom and the video. Listen, yes, you should always comply with police officers. Police officers have a very tough job. I'm not making excuses for people who don't comply. But there is the issue of excessive force and what Sunny said for what happened because of selling loose cigarettes that you can buy in most bodegas around the city.
It's a tough job. But I don't know the answer to your question. Honestly, I don't know what will happen. I don't think there will be the level of violence in Ferguson, Missouri, because New York City is a much different place and people here deal with issues differently than there.
BLITZER: Don Lemon, we will see you later tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern "CNN TONIGHT," right?
LEMON: Yes, absolutely.
LEMON: We will be talking about all this.
BLITZER: And a lot more Don Lemon coming up later tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
Sunny, John, Tom, thanks to you guys as well.
Just ahead, an influential figure in ISIS. She was seen during a prisoner swap. Now sources say she has been captured herself. And it's hitting the leader of the terror group very close to home.
I'm going to talk about that and a lot more. The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce, walking into THE SITUATION ROOM.
Congressman, good to have you. Stand by. We're going to discuss.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: New arrests in the war against ISIS. We're told the ex-wife
of the terror group's mysterious leader now is in custody along with one of their children. This is a woman who may have critical information about ISIS and its deadliest secrets.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us now. He has new information -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was a coordinated operation. Weeks in the planning Lebanese authorities tell CNN, with Lebanon, Syria and Iraq working together.
An overseas intelligence force tells CNN that they received help, as well, from U.S. intelligence. On that, the CIA would not comment.
The target, a former wife of the ISIS leader, wanted for both her personal connection to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and for her potentially significant role in the terrorist organization.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): She's a former wife of the feared ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Lebanese sources tell CNN the woman, reportedly identified as Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi and seen here during a prisoner exchange in March, had a potentially significant role in the terror group.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We will gain some intelligence from her. We may gain insights into al-Baghdadi's movement, who he surrounds himself with, whether he was injured and the degree of his injuries.
SCIUTTO: The capture, along with one of al-Baghdadi's children, took place as she was entering to enter Lebanon from Syria using a fake I.D. card and followed weeks of planning, say Lebanese authorities.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: I'm not going to speak about a Lebanese military operation. We've long said that he's the recognized leader of ISIL, command and control of the organization which stems from leadership and makes him valid, in our minds, from a targeting perspective.
SCIUTTO: The capture deals a potential blow to ISIS as Iraqi and Kurdish leaders reached a landmark agreement to join forces to fight the group together. Iraq's Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, striking a far-reaching deal with Kurdish forces in the north. It will send $1 billion in arms to Kurdish fighters; ease the flow of American-supplied arms to the Kurds through Baghdad; and crucially, share oil revenue between Kurdish areas and the south.
SCHIFF: The Kurds will be much better provisioned with salaries to help maintain their fighting force but also that they can get more sophisticated weapons. Weapons that we wanted to provide them but haven't wanted to, if it threatened to divide or rupture the country.
SCIUTTO: It's a significant achievement for the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, narrowing a deep divide just three months into his term in office his predecessors could not or would not breach through years before him.
SCIUTTO: The ex-wife and her child were captured more than a week ago. An overseas intelligence source adds this detail to CNN, that al-Baghdadi had been in contact with his former wife, calling for the release of his son. Wolf, that's of course, one potential value here. Does she know where he is? Does she have information about his injuries, et cetera.
But apparently, it is more than that, as well; that she had some role in this organization that makes her a valuable target.
BLITZER: Yes. She could have useful information, indeed. All right, Jim, thanks very much.
With us now, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
What can you add as far as this ex-wife? I believe she's the ex-wife, the child now in Lebanese custody.
REP. ED ROYCE (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: We once had al-Baghdadi in custody. You know, the United States had him in custody. Since that time...
BLITZER: He was in custody in Iraq.
ROYCE: In Iraq. And since that time, we've had very little information on him directly. This will be our first opportunity to really get some intel. And the Lebanese are, of course, running the operation, but that will be shared with us.
The other observation I would make is that, in the interim, we haven't had many setbacks for ISIS. As a matter of fact, we have seen over the last few months that they've been able to hold their ground, including around Kobani. And they continue to recruit at about 1,000 per -- per month. And so given this set of circumstances, this is perhaps the first insights we will gain in terms of their operations.
BLITZER: But what I hear you saying is, despite the U.S. coalition airstrikes pounding that has been going on against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they remain formidable?
ROYCE: Very formidable. And not only that, but a lot of that offensive capability that we're taking is still pretty de minimus. We've got an average over the last four months of about 250 airstrikes a month. It's not -- it's not a tremendous amount.
And at the same time, the pre-Syrian army is out of ammunition. The Kurds, until this deal was struck yesterday, have not had arms. And it's still going to be a while before they have anything except small arms.
We just had a situation this September where we saw a unit overrun, coalition unit overrun. They called for airstrikes. By the time we'd scrambled, it was two and a half hours later. And by that time, ISIS had done their work with armor. They had ten armored vehicles there with 50-caliber machine guns, and they just mowed down the Kurds. We've got to get that support to these allies.
BLITZER: We heard in the last hour from the Pentagon press secretary, Admiral John Kirby, saying the vetting -- the vetting of the Free Syrian Army rebels, the opponents of Bashar al-Assad, the opponents of ISIS, they're going to be trained, he told us, in Saudi Arabia. They're going to be trained in Qatar. They're going to be trained in Turkey. But the vetting hasn't even started yet.
ROYCE: None of it has started. It's going to take a year to do it. In the meantime, you have the micromanagement of the bureaucracy or some say the political element. And this is what the Pentagon is -- has rebelled against, because they want to be able to -- to take those airstrikes when they -- when they've got them. They want to be able to extend the weaponry. And yet, well, it basically cost a secretary of state his job. I mean, that's -- that's what this fight was over.
BLITZER: Explain what you mean. Chuck Hagel lost his job...?
ROYCE: Chuck Hagel was pushing, as the Pentagon was pushing, for more decisive action, calling attention to the fact that the Free Syrian Army, you know, was out of ammunition; calling attention to the fact the Kurds still weren't getting the armaments they need and that air strikes were going through a political process that took so long and was so cumbersome and so strict in terms of targeting that it was not defeating ISIS on the ground.
And this is an argument that's going -- been going on between the White House and the Pentagon. And it is one that has been, frankly, amplified by the evidence from the Jordanians, the Gulf states, Turkey, other allies in the region that say if you want to stop ISIS from recruiting, you've got to set them back and defeat them on the battlefield. And you can't do that until you start giving your allies on the ground the weaponry they need and a more serious strategy for airstrikes against ISIS.
BLITZER: This will be a long, long process. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in. Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Just ahead, we're going to break down all the new terror developments. Our panel of experts standing by.
BLITZER: A potential blow to ISIS even as the terror group may be plotting attacks against U.S. troops on American soil.
Let's bring in our military analyst, retired General Mark Hertling; CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd; and our CNN national security analyst, Robert Baer.
Bob, if this is al-Baghdadi's ex-wife or wife, child, what does this tell us? Why were they fleeing to Lebanon?
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, she might have felt safer there, you know. With all the bombings in Raqqah, she probably didn't want to stay in harm's way. And if she made her way to places like Tripoli, a Sunni-controlled town, she would have been fairly safe. Lebanon is still a neutral country in that sense. And so she was taking refuge, I would imagine.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, do you think she has information that could be helpful to the U.S., others in locating al Baghdadi?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think there's a chance. Let's look back at the bin Laden operation. You don't get a piece of light bulb intelligence that lets you take somebody down. You get a thousand bits of sand that you have to piece together, a thousand pieces of a puzzle.
She may know somebody he met two years ago. She may know a pattern of activity. So, I don't think she alone can lead to his takedown. But she might have a tiny piece of a puzzle that fits into a broader mosaic that helps us understand what he's up to and helps us take him down.
BLITZER: Every little piece of information adds up. It helps.
MUDD: That's right.
BLITZER: General Hertling, you've seen this bulletin warning that ISIS is calling for attacks against U.S. military personnel on American soil, and that U.S. military personnel should be careful in their social media postings. Maybe they shouldn't always be wearing their uniforms when off-duty. What do you make of this?
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's a report that we receive a lot in the military, Wolf. It's something that I think as Admiral Kirby says, you know, al Baghdadi is casting a net, or ISIL is casting a net trying to get help, even from untrained potential supporters of his organization. That in and of itself is dangerous but these are not terrorists. These are potential murderers and there's the potential for someone to attack a service member, as we've seen many time in the past, where it might not be a trained, organized kill. But it is someone who is trying to support the organization. That's always dangerous.
But military commanders have means to get their personnel to make sure that you're traveling in pairs, you're not wearing the uniform unless you have to, that you're more situationally aware, and that word has gone out for several months to all military personnel.
But as we approach Christmas and people going home on leave, some folks coming out of theater in uniform that don't have civilian clothes to wear. It becomes a little bit difficult to have that policy across the board. BLITZER: And, Bob Baer, you heard the Pentagon press secretary,
Admiral John Kirby, tell us in the last hour that he thinks it's a bad idea for anyone in the U.S. military, on duty, off-duty, to be doing any social postings about where they are, what their troops are, where they're being deployed, what's going on. He just thinks that's dangerous. That's pretty worrisome, isn't it?
BAER: Absolutely. With Facebook and Twitter and the rest of it, it's so easy to track these people down. And I think definitely the military is a target of ISIS and other Islamic groups. But more than that, the fact the FBI has publicized this warning.
Keep in mind, Wolf, they get dozens of these a day. They take this one seriously. And I think the military has to, too. There's something different about this one that -- you know, I think they have a solid piece of information there.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, how worried are you about these reports that the Khorasan, al Qaeda, they're planning attacks on commercial aircraft going into Christmas.
MUDD: Look, there are a couple pieces we've got to put together, Wolf. The first is terrorist organizations are like earth worms. You cut off little pieces of them, they regenerate. We've been bombing in Syria for months, but we have not taken down the key bomb maker here. You can assume there are elements and plotters left from the Khorasan group we first started bombing months ago. That's the first piece of the puzzle that's still there.
The second and final is, we had warnings out of the U.S. government months ago about the potential that Khorasan was trying to put together, improvise explosive devices, electronic devices on aircraft. In my experience at the agency, once they get on to a plot, maybe they have a device that they think will work, the plotters were still there. The pieces of the earth worm that will regenerate among the plotters will return to the same plot, to another attempt to take down an aircraft. This sounds credible to me.
BLITZER: All right. Phil Mudd, Bob Baer, and General Hertling, guys, thanks very much for joining us.
Much more news coming up, including the latest out of Ferguson, Missouri. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Standby for more on the latest developments from Ferguson, Missouri. That's coming up.
But first, new fireworks over the president's executive action on immigration. Are Republicans willing to fight back by shutting down the government?
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here. She has new information.
What are you learning, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's a really odd dynamic on Capitol Hill today. You had a committee in the House where Republicans were beating up on a key member of the president's cabinet for overstepping his authority on immigration, and practically the same time, Republican leaders were privately telling their rank and file that there is nothing in the short term that they can do about it.
BASH (voice-over): Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson came to Capitol Hill knowing he'd be in for a scolding.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: The president's unilateral actions to bypass Congress undermine the Constitution and threaten our democracy.
BASH: Republicans raked him over the coals for the president's executive action allowing some 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally.
REP. PATRICK MEEHAN (R-PA), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: He's acting in the capacity beyond where he has the ability to do so.
JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Sir, I respectfully disagree.
MEEHAN: On what basis?
JOHNSON: They are present -- they are lawfully present in this --
BASH: Despite their outrage, Republicans decided today not to take the immigration fight so far that it risks a government shut down.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Frankly, we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly.
BASH: That's because the Republican's sharpest weapon is the power of the purse, cutting funding. But if the GOP goes down that road, it would risk a shut down, since the government runs out of money next week, December 11th.
(on camera): Everybody wants to know if there's going be a government shut down.
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R), OHIO: I don't think anyone has any intention of wanting the government to shut down.
REP. DENNIS ROSS (R), FLORIDA: That's not even the topic I think we're going to discuss at this point. I don't think that's an issue that we even want to address. We're not going to take that bait.
BASH: Why is it bait? ROSS: Well, I mean, that's been the president's biggest bully pulpit
is trying to scare the American public into thinking we're going to shut down the government.
BASH (voice-over): So, the leading GOP plan is to fund most of the government through next year, but only extend funding for homeland security, which oversees immigration, for a few months to buy time.
BOEHNER: It's going to be difficult to take meaningful action as long as we have got Democratic control in the Senate.
BASH: But powerful conservative groups are impatient and unhappy, one accusing GOP leaders of writing a blank check for amnesty.
(on camera): What do you say to groups who think this is caving?
REP. ROBERT PITTENGER (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, I don't think you're caving when you're trying to restrict the actions of the president that has been unconstitutional. I think you're taking every initiative that is possible at this point.
BASH: House Republicans will hold a vote this week on a bill that says the president violated the Constitution by using his executive authority to change immigration policy. But since the Democrats still run the Senate, have no intention of bringing that up, the vote will largely be symbolic, a way to mollify frustrated conservatives. But, Wolf, it's an open question about whether that's going to be enough.
BLITZER: So, it's safe to say no government shut down?
BLITZER: All right.
Gloria, stand by. Dana, stand by. Gloria Borger is here with us as well.
Let's talk about politics right now. Our new CNN/ORC poll, most likely GOP presidential candidates right now still early. Mitt Romney, 20 percent, Ben Carson, 10 percent, Jeb Bush, 9 percent, Chris Christie, 8 percent.
Are you surprised by any of these numbers right now?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's all about name recognition certainly for Mitt Romney. Ben Carson is somebody who is well-known within the red red base of the Republican Party. He's a FOX News contributor.
BORGER: That's right, was a FOX News contributor.
And so, I think at this stage, it's all about whose names people recognize. So, as Carson's support surprising at that level? Yes. But, you know, will this -- does the law shake out?
BLITZER: He's a pediatric neurosurgeon, retire right now from Johns Hopkins.
BORGER: But he's, you know --
BLITZER: He does have an amazing personal story.
BORGER: He has an amazing personal story, Wolf, but he also has compared the American government to Nazi Germany. He has said that Obamacare is the worst thing to happen in this country since slavery. So, it's kind of -- he has said some inflammatory things.
BASH: But I think it also is proof that for, you know, sort of the average person out there who is not an avid Republican when it comes to the consumption of conservative media, they might be surprised.
BASH: Other people might be surprised about it, but they like him, they know him, they like him. If he goes down that road, if he runs, that things that Gloria, you know, talked about are going to be big issues out there.
BLITZER: Senator Rand Paul was only at 6 percent. Are you surprised?
BASH: You know, in some ways yes and in some ways no. I mean, I think this speaks to the challenge that Rand Paul is going have but also maybe the plus that Rand Paul has in that he's not your average Republican candidate. He doesn't appeal to the traditional right, the traditional conservative primary voter in a lot of ways on national security, case in point. I mean, he certainly is just now hawkish. So, I think that's part of the issue.
BORGER: You know, in this day and age, name ID happens overnight. People recognize you. It's not like back in the day when it took a while to get name recognition. Now, they see you and suddenly they know who you are.
BLITZER: Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, he's got good name recognition. He does well.
BORGER: Some would say it's good karma. Some would say --
BLITZER: He says he's seriously thinking about it.
BORGER: He's seriously thinking about it. I have been talking to sources all day about this. I think he's obviously considering it more seriously than he was six months ago but I think he has not made any decision, Wolf. He has not asked for commitments from either funders or staffers. He has not laid the ground work for any kind of a campaign. We're just going to have to wait to the beginning of the New Year to find out.
BLITZER: It's wide open on the Republican side. Democratic side, our CNN/ORC poll numbers, take a look at this.
Hillary Clinton, way, way ahead, 65 percent. Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, 10 percent, Vice President Joe Biden, 9 percent, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, 5 percent.
It's hers if she wants it. Is that fair?
BASH: Oh, very fair. It is hers if she wants it. The question is whether there's going to be even a remotely credible opponent in the Democratic primary.
BLITZER: So, if she runs and we should know within a month or two if she's running. Everybody assumes --
BORGER: I think Hillary Clinton may be the only Democrat who thinks she might not run at this point.
BLITZER: Yes, I think she thinks she's running as well.
All right guys, thanks very, very much.
That's it for me. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @wolfblitzer, or tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.