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THE SITUATION ROOM
Failed Rescue Raid; Protests Continue; New Details to be Released in Michael Brown Case; Protest in Brooklyn at Nets Game; New Protests Tonight Against Police Killings; One-on-One with Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Aired December 8, 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: 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: Breaking news tonight.
Protesters in the streets of the nation's capital. They're blocking traffic. They're sending a message. They're demanding racial justice after the police killings of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Ferguson -- Michael Brown, I should say, in Ferguson, Missouri.
Police and demonstrators clashed in California overnight. Now police across the United States are bracing for new protests. In New York, activists are threatening to disrupt the visit by the British royals. We have our correspondents, our analysts, our newsmakers, they're standing by, they're covering all the angles of this breaking story.
Let's go to CNN's Athena Jones. She's right in the middle of what is going on here in Washington, D.C. -- Athena.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. You can see this protest is on the move again. We're headed back towards the White House. This is a protest that has been going on here in Washington every night since Wednesday and it's also been going on all across the country.
The protesters here and their supporters are hoping that these demonstrations represent a tipping point as they will bring about real change in police tactics and more fairness in the justice system.
JONES (voice-over): From New York to Chicago to Washington, D.C., protesters across the country demanded justice this weekend for Eric Garner, Michael Brown and other black males who have died at the hands of the police.
Demonstrations in Berkeley, California, turned violent Saturday and Sunday night, with some protesters throwing rocks, bricks and bottles at police and damaging businesses. This man was attacked with a hammer when he tried to stop other protesters from looting a RadioShack.
Just up the road in Oakland, demonstrators blocked a highway; angry that no criminal charges have been brought against the police officers involved in the Brown and Garner cases, demonstrators say they're going to keep marching.
JONES: In an interview with BET, President Obama warned progress won't happen overnight.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to be persistent, because, typically, progress is in steps. It's in increments. You know, when you're dealing with something as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society, you have got to have vigilance, but you have got to recognize that it's going to take some time.
JONES: And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told ABC's "This Week" real change will require people to talk honestly about race.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We have to have an honest confidence about the problem that has caused parents to feel their children may be in danger in their dynamics with police, when in fact police are there to protect them.
JONES: Over the weekend, protesters staged a die-in at New York's Grand Central Station and sang so-called justice carols outside Macy's. As athletes leant they support from the gridiron to the basketball court, many sporting Garner's last words, I can't breathe, on their warmup gear.
And this morning in New York, a group briefly blocked traffic on the bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn, while protesters in Washington gathered outside the U.S. Capitol, calling for federal action in the Brown and Garner cases.
JONES: Now, Wolf, as you know, the federal government, the Justice Department has opened investigations, civil rights investigations into the Brown case and the Garner case. Here we are now, a few blocks -- a block closer to the White House, we're now three blocks from the White House. You can see that this group is trying to shut down a major intersection.
I should tell you that I just spoke with the D.C. Police Department and they confirmed for me there have been just two arrests since the major protests began last Wednesday. So they have been really trying here to make sure that this stays a peaceful protest. We will be watching all night to see if it remains that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very patient, the police in D.C., at least for now. We will see what happens. Athena, thank you very much.
We will have much more coming up on the violence that erupted around the country, especially during the protests out in California overnight. Let's go there, in fact. Let's go to Berkeley.
CNN's Dan Simon is standing by.
What's the latest over there, Dan?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Police here in Berkeley are certainly preparing for another round of protests tonight. The word has gone out on social media for the protesters to organize near the university later this evening. What has happened over the past few days is the marchers sort of roam the streets for a few hours and then the so-called splinter groups then take off and start vandalizing the area.
This is an example of what we have seen. You can see these Wells Fargo ATMs, they have been totally smashed up. This is a major thoroughfare throughout the town of Berkeley. Police are trying to keep these areas secure, but obviously when you have a group that's intent on causing violence, then it's hard to keep things contained. But police say they will do the best they can, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan, thank you very much.
Let's go to New York right now. Protests are planned outside the Brooklyn Nets basketball game tonight. It's being called a royal shutdown, because Prince William and the duchess Kate will be in the stands tonight. That's the schedule. The game is supposed to start a little more than an hour or so from now.
Our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is joining us from Brooklyn.
What's the latest over there, Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We can tell we have seen about 60 police officers who mobilized just a short while ago.
They have now taken to the perimeter of the Barclays Center. You can behind me those people in the yellow jackets providing extra security, but also if you swing the camera around this way, you can see you have got some NYPD folks and some community service police officers as well.
They're really safeguarding this area. Protesters all weekend took over various stores, staging die-ins. We're expecting the same thing to happen here tonight. LeBron James is playing, so this is expected to be a very popular game. On our way here, a number of people asked whether we had any tickets to sell.
But police security will be extremely tight here. That's the way it was last week as well. The protesters still managing to get inside different stores and disrupt activity and also blocking traffic as well. Police are going to try to not let that happen tonight. Obviously, security for the prince and duchess is very, very tight here at Barclays Stadium -- Wolf. BLITZER: We will check back with you as well, Deborah Feyerick in
Brooklyn outside Barclays Center, where the game is supposed to start a little bit more than an hour or so from now.
In the meantime, let's bring in Philip Banks, he's a former top official with the NYPD, New York Police Department. Spent 28 years there working his way up to become the number three cop, the chief of department. Also with us, Marc Morial, he's the president and CEO of the National Urban League.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
Chief Banks, let me start with you. When it comes to dealing with these really sensitive racial issues, how much of a change can the New York City Police Department really make in light of what's been going on over these past few years?
PHILIP BANKS, FORMER NYPD CHIEF: A change can be made. I think as the president said earlier today, sometimes change takes time.
But starting to change doesn't take time, we can start that change today. So certainly the law enforcement has to understand that change has to take place, and while the end result may take time, the starting of it should be taking place immediately. I certainly believe or I should say I'm hopeful that the start of that change really is going to get started.
BLITZER: Was it a good idea, Chief Banks, to drop that stop and frisk policy during the Bloomberg administration, now the de Blasio administration, that's gone away?
BANKS: I'm not so sure if the stop and frisk policy was dropped. I think it was managed a lot better. I think the most important thing when it comes to stop and frisk was there was a lot of disrespect that was associated with it.
I was very intimately involved with stop and frisk. I certainly spoke to many, many communities throughout New York City, and the gist of it that I received was that people were not -- didn't mind being stopped if it was done in a very respectful manner and they had their dignity. I think what I received out of it was that it was just a lot of disrespect.
So when I spoke to my commanders, I used to tell them that the stop and dis was a major, major issue, and people need to be treated we need to maintain our professionalism as much as possible. It's fortunate that it was managed and I think it went in the proper way over the last year under Mayor Bloomberg, and hopefully those changes continue.
BLITZER: Marc Morial, the National Urban League, as you well know, put out some suggestions for police reform suggesting, for example, retraining, a review of use of deadly force. But how do you get to the heart of all of this, restoring or at least creating some real trust between law enforcement and minority communities?
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: There's really got to be a commitment, Wolf, at the local level.
It comes from mayors and city council members and police chiefs working community by community with faith leaders and community leaders. Police chiefs work for mayors. Police chiefs are part of city governments. The hiring, the firing, the use of deadly force, the disciplinary policies are part of municipal and county governments around the nation.
I think we need to make sure that there's a focus on what happens in city governments. And where the rubber meets the road is at the local level. That's where change has to really take place. The role of the federal government is of course paramount in terms of setting the tone, overall policy.
Wolf, there are a number of police departments today that are under federal consent decrees, which means they have either admitted or a court has found they had a pattern and practice of violating the rights of their own citizens.
This issue is ripe for change. The evidence is there that the problems are widespread. That's not, if you will, to condemn all police or all communities. But what we have now is a need for comprehensive change to a new model of policing in this country that respects communities and focuses on public safety and holds those officers who offend, if you will, the rights of people accountable.
BLITZER: Chief Banks, I want to pick your brain on what's going on here in Washington, D.C., right now and we're showing our viewers live pictures here. Protesters are blocking a major intersection just a few blocks away from the White House, right in the middle of rush hour right now.
You spent 28 years in the NYPD. What do the cops do in a situation like this? It's obviously inconveniencing a lot of people who have to go home from work, shall we say. But what do you do in a situation like this?
BANKS: The success or failure in this is going to be what the leadership did to plan for this.
So getting accurate intel information about what's taking place and ensuring that that information gets to the men and women who are out there, actually out there with the protesters. One thing that I would suggest, and I'm certainly sure that the leadership of the Washington D.C. police, police officers have to maintain their professionalism.
They have to understand that 99 percent of the protesters are doing something that's lawful and legal. There's only a small percentage of them who will be -- and in fact will look to break the law. And you have to maintain your cool. You cannot have thin skin and you have to allow them to voice their concern.
This is something that's been taking place for a very, very long time. Right? So, it's not about any one incident. This comes through the lack of credibility or the perception of a lack of credibility that they have in the justice system. And it takes leadership and cool heads to prevail at a time like this.
BLITZER: It certainly does.
And the police, I must say, in Washington, D.C., Marc Morial, they have been very, very patient, even though it's inconveniencing folks. Clearly, there are local laws you can't block traffic, right in downtown especially during rush hour. Marc Morial, what do you recommend the local police do in a situation like this? These protesters obviously complaining about what happened in Staten Island and what happened in Ferguson, Missouri.
MORIAL: I mean, they have got to find a way to allow the traffic to come and go.
I think the New York Police Department was able to do that, even while protesters were in the streets. So they have got to balance the rights of protesters, if you will, to protest peacefully, while at the same time trying to allow people to get home. I think Chief Banks was right. It requires -- to the extent that there was a good plan and cool heads, I believe that the vast number, 99.9 percent of protesters want to do it peacefully.
And we shouldn't be distracted by those provocateurs who want to involve themselves in these efforts to carry out violence. We abhor that. We certainly condemn that. And civil rights across the country is not consistent with any of that, but peaceful protests, yes.
BLITZER: Chief Banks, if you were still a cop in New York City, you spent 28 years in the NYPD, and you did see a small number, but that small number getting violent, breaking windows, looting, you would go in immediately I assume and want to arrest those people?
BANKS: You know, you have to be actually on the scene, you have to be able to make that assessment.
If they were breaking some windows and I thought sending the police officers in there would endanger the police officers' health and would create more of a chaotic situation, then I may not make that decision. But ultimately that if you do allow those small percentage to break the law, then you have the potential for them to continue to break it and it to get out of hand.
So a decision will have to be made to actually go in and arrest those individuals at some people, but it certainly takes -- it's a tough situation. You have to be there on the scene and you have to be able to make that gutsy call.
BLITZER: Very tough situation, close calls, very sensitive issue, I must say, as well.
Philip Banks, former NYPD chief of department, thanks very much for joining us. Marc Morial, you have been very helpful to us and all of our viewers over these past several days, president and CEO of the National Urban League. Thanks to both of you very, very much.
Still ahead, we're monitoring these new protests. Are they making an impact on the nation and its views about race and justice? Our panel is standing by.
We're also learning more about what went wrong when U.S. commandos tried and failed to rescue an American journalist held hostage. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're following new demonstrations tonight against the police killings of unarmed African-American men in New York, Ferguson, Missouri, other cities as well.
We're joined by our panel. Our CNN legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, our CNN anchor Don Lemon, and the community activist John Gaskin.
Let me start. Don, I want you to pick up this first. I'm going to play a little clip. This is the president of the United States in a new interview he's given to BET. He spoke about a recent meeting he had here in Washington with 18-to-25-year-old civil rights leaders and law enforcement and he got rather personal, Don. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When they described their own personal experiences of having been stopped for no reason or having generated suspicion because they were in a community that supposedly they didn't belong, my mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18, 20.
As I told them, not only do I hear the pain and frustration of being subjected to that kind of constant suspicion, part of the reason I got into politics was to figure out how I can bridge some of those gaps and understandings, so that the larger country understands this is not just a black problem or a brown problem. This is an American problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think? What did you think of that answer, Don, has the president been able to sort this out? He said he was a community organizer. He's now the president of the United States, has been for six years.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I thought it was a great answer.
And, quite frankly, I like it when he gets personal like that. He did it during the Trayvon Martin -- or after the George Zimmerman verdict, when he talked about the perceptions of African-Americans or just perceptions that people have about certain people. That was a time that I remember before that he got as personal.
I think this president -- listen, I'm not a politico. I'm not in Washington. Right? I don't follow the president like you guys here in Washington. But my understanding is that he's a politician who sort of hates the politics of politics.
So I think this is his particular expertise that he can add as the first African-American president of the United States. And quite frankly, I wish he would lean in a little bit more when it comes to these sorts of issues, because if he doesn't, who will?
BLITZER: We're showing viewers, by the way, Don, live pictures of what's happening here in Washington, D.C. These protesters, they are blocking another intersection right during rush hour. Only a few blocks away from the White House, I must say. Right now, this is I think Connecticut Avenue, not far away from the White House to those folks who know what's going on. I think it's Connecticut and M Street, by the way.
In any case, John Gaskin, when you hear the president get personal like this, you like it when he gets personal like this and talks about his own personal experiences growing up in the United States, what he had to go through?
JOHN GASKIN, NAACP BOARD MEMBER: Absolutely, because it just shows you how many men of color can connect with the president, as Don just mentioned. It's a good thing when he gets personal like this, because when you hear his story, it's a story, it is an experience only from men of color that can describe it.
It really is humiliating to be pulled over in a neighborhood where you're not from and to be questioned really and to really be jerked around for no apparent reason. I think the president has a real opportunity to control the narrative on this issue, to bring about real systemic change, and to bring about some historic policies that can really change many of the problems that we're seeing within our police departments across this country.
This is a real opportunity for the president to really establish his legacy when it comes to race relations in this country.
BLITZER: Sunny, let me play another clip from the president's interview with BET and listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A country's conscience sometimes has to be triggered by some inconvenience, because I think a lot of people who saw the Eric Garner video are troubled, even if they haven't had that same experience themselves, even if they're not African-American or Latino. I think there are probably a lot of good, well-meaning people, I think there are probably a lot of police officers who might have looked at that and said, that is a tragedy what happened and we have got to figure out how to bring an end to these kinds of tragedies.
Then attention spans move on. Right? There's the next thing. There's some international crisis. There's something that happens here. And change doesn't really occur. And the value of peaceful protests, activism, organizing, it reminds the society this is not yet done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Sunny, go ahead and react to what we just heard from the president.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it's just spot on, his comments.
I have spent the day, a lot of the day, Wolf, speaking to a lot of these community organizers, these grassroot organizers, in fact the founds of the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
What they have explained to me is the Michael Brown shooting, the death of Eric Garner, sadly, these aren't isolated incidents. These are incidents that have happened in our country for the past several decades. But this is the first time there has been the opportunity for this movement to take hold because of the video, because this continuum of violence that we are seeing, and because of social media and because people realize that this is not a black or a brown problem.
This is an American problem that needs to be addressed. In my view, it's a seminal moment to address police brutality, to address this unconscious bias that we all believe exists in terms of racial profiling and sort of police encounters with men of color and people of color.
So I think the president is right, as Don mentioned, to sort of lean in a little bit and explain that this is a movement, a real movement, and it's important that it continue.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, we're showing our viewers these live pictures coming in from Washington, D.C. Police are there. They're on the outskirts, but these people have basically shut down traffic at a major intersection only a few blocks away from the White House right now. They're obviously angry.
You used to be a street cop before you became an FBI agent, wound up assistant director of the FBI. The cops have to be pretty patient to not allow what's going on to escalate, right?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They are being patient. We have seen that in all the cities for the last week with these protests. I agree they do have to be.
I would like to also say I agree with Don and John about the president getting personal. I would like to see him get personal about another story, the story of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who went from Chicago to Chicago and performed at his second inauguration events in January 2013.
She returned to Chicago and was gunned down and killed in a park near her home one mile from President Obama's Chicago South Side home. Killed by two gang members who thought that she was a rival gang member. Arrested by the police, and they said, yes, we thought she was in a rival gang, 18-to-20-year-olds.
I happened to be back in Chicago visiting my father and watching local news. There were a number of mothers who were being interviewed who said, we fear that we can't send our kids to school and they will return alive because of these gang members on the street, bullets flying through the doors and walls of homes killing people. Where are the police? Why are they only in downtown Chicago
protecting tourists and businesspeople? Why aren't they in our communities? So I think that that group of people, the mothers with young children at home in some of these neighborhoods aren't in a position to join these protests and if they were, they might have a different side to say about what the police mean to them.
BLITZER: All right, I want everybody to stand by.
We're going to continue to monitor these latest protests, including right here in Washington, D.C., a major intersection. You can see these live pictures, now disrupted by these protesters. We're going to get much more on what's going on.
Also, Barbara Starr is getting new information about that failed attempt to rescue an American hostage over the weekend and how the terrorists may have been tipped off.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. New demonstrations tonight against police killings of unarmed African-American men in New York, Ferguson, Missouri and other cities.
We're joined again by our panel: our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin; our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes; CNN anchor Don Lemon; and community activist John Gaskin.
Sunny, we just got word from the St. Louis County prosecutor's office -- St. Louis County prosecutor's office. They're about to release several documents from the grand jury testimony that weren't originally released, even though the prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, promised that everything would be released. Do you have any idea what they're -- what they're about to release?
HOSTIN: Well, we have heard murmurings that the Justice Department, while conducting its parallel investigation into the Michael Brown shooting, Wolf, required that some of those documents and some transcripts not be released.
In particular, I heard that Dorian Johnson was interviewed for quite some time, and that interview in and of itself, while it was referred to in front of the grand jury, it wasn't given to the grand jury. And it certainly wasn't -- or rather it wasn't released with the documents that we've seen. And so that perhaps is what we will be seeing.
And I think it's important at this point for us to see everything, because quite frankly, so many people have, you know, read a lot of these documents and have found some of the story to be incomplete, myself included. So I'd like to see all of the documents.
BLITZER: Yes. And Don Lemon, what she's talking about is Dorian Johnson is the young man who was walking with Michael Brown when the police officer stopped them. And there is this report. KSDK, one of the TV stations there in the Ferguson, Missouri, area in St. Louis County, they said that one of the FBI interviews with Dorian Johnson, maybe two hours, was not released. And this may now be released.
I guess it's important to try to see if there were deviations, changes in Dorian Johnson's eyewitness account of what happened, raising questions about his credibility. You've heard those questions raised.
LEMON: You just -- you hit the nail on the head. I think there are two reasons here. One is transparency, as Sunny said. Prosecutors said all along, "I want to be as transparent as possible," so they're doing as promised, getting information out.
But the second thing is that, you know, the public may not know that much about, as we have tried to report as much as we can with the information that we've had, is that Dorian Johnson's testimony may have changed during what he said to the FBI and what he said that went to the grand jury, and what he said in front of television cameras.
So this release of information could show that it did or it did not. But I would imagine if they are, at this point -- and again, I'm just assuming here -- if they are getting this out as quickly as possible in haste, what they're trying to do is back up, the prosecutor, back up their assertions that Dorian Johnson changed his testimony. So we'll see once the information is released.
BLITZER: You served in the FBI, Tom, for a long time. If in, fact there were 24 -- if, in fact, there was a two-hour FBI interview with Dorian Johnson that was not released, maybe it will be released now: the audio, maybe; we'll see the transcript. And if his testimony did change, this young man, Dorian Johnson, could he be penalized for that, perjury, for example?
FUENTES: Potentially, but you know, we don't know what statements he made under oath, which is what he would be held accountable for.
We did have Prosecutor McCulloch saying the night of the grand jury decision that several witnesses changed their testimony in the grand jury compared to other times that they made differing statements. So we don't know the details of that either. This may be one example. We'll wait and see.
BLITZER: We're supposed to get that -- Don, you wanted to ask a question?
LEMON: Didn't he get immunity, Tom or Sunny? I thought he -- I thought Dorian Johnson, in exchange for his testimony, was granted immunity for his testimony.
HOSTIN: I'm not sure. I'm not sure about that.
BLITZER: I haven't heard that. But we'll definitely check that.
John Gaskin, do you want to weigh in?
GASKIN: Sure. You know, I have to definitely agree with both Sunny and with Don. The prosecutor has said that this would be a transparent process. I think whatever is within that testimony, whatever documents are out there, I think they should definitely be brought forward, and I know that the community will welcome what's in that testimony, what he's had been to say. I don't think any of us really know. But I look forward to really hearing what he had to say, and hopefully, it will clear up some of the inconsistencies.
BLITZER: All right, guys. We're going to continue to monitor what's going on with (ph) all of you.
And an important note to all of our viewers. Later tonight, 9 -- repeat, 9 p.m. Eastern, Don will have a special look at the questions and the allegations swirling around Bill Cosby, "The Cosby Show: A Legend Under Fire." Don will host this special report on CNN, 9 p.m. Eastern. And of course, he'll have "CNN TONIGHT" at 10 p.m. Eastern following all the late breaking developments. Stay tuned for that.
Much more breaking news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Take a look at this. These are live pictures coming in from New York right now. Protests are planned outside the Brooklyn Nets NBA game. It's being called a royal shutdown, because Prince William and Duchess Kate, they will be in the stands tonight for the Nets- Cavaliers game.
Our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is outside Barclays Center, where this game is going to be taking place. What's going on over there, Deborah?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can tell you, in the last, really, 10, 15 minutes, the numbers swelled here outside the Barclays Center. You've got a couple hundred people. They are chanting, as you can hear them, "No justice, no peace." They're holding up signs.
One of them calling the police officer involved in the Eric Garner choking a coward.
The crowd is actually so large that there's a delay in the chanting. You hear a couple of people starting to say that "I can't breathe," and then you hear sort of a ten-second delay for those on the perimeter.
A lot of people here from Brooklyn. The Barclays Center, you can see some of the police officers there just behind me. We saw at least 100 different police officers, who were here guarding the perimeter of this game. They're expecting a very big crowd here, Wolf.
And we can tell you, in the last couple of minutes, it really got very, very large. And some people just passing by, joining in this demonstration, Wolf.
BLITZER: There's not only the duke and the duchess, but there's going to be a lot of other celebrities there. LeBron James is playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Nets. So it's obviously a huge crowd anticipated. FEYERICK: Yes, that's exactly right. And it's very interesting. You
know, some people want to be filmed. Some people do not want to be filmed.
We'll see what happens here, Wolf. But we are expecting a lot more people here tonight. We're understanding that some people are coming from Union Square over the bridge. So we'll keep an eye on all that, but you can see all the different people here now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's just hope it stays quiet and peaceful. Actually, let's just hope it stays peaceful. They can make noise, but let's hope there's no violence or anything like that.
All right, Deb, we're going to stay in close touch with you. We'll continue to follow the breaking news in Brooklyn.
Also what's going on here in Washington, D.C. A major intersection not far from the White House is blocked. Athena Jones is there. We'll check in with her when we come back. Much more coming up.
BLITZER: All right. We're following breaking news: protests erupting here in Washington, D.C., as well as in Brooklyn, New York.
Let's go to Athena Jones. She's right in downtown Washington, a few blocks away from the White House.
What's the latest where you are, Athena?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, as you can see behind me, there are people lying down in the street. We're in Dupont Circle. They've been lying there for about 4 1/2 minutes of silence. You can see it now ending. They're standing up again.
They have been doing it periodically at every protest I've been to, either holding what they call die-ins, or having (INAUDIBLE) for 4 1/2 minutes to represent that 4 1/2 hours that Michael Brown's body lay on the street in Ferguson, Missouri.
As you can see here, this is a major traffic circle in northwest Washington, about a mile north of the White House. They've been blocking traffic here as they are doing at various intersections around the city. Their goal, I heard other protesters say earlier, and another protester who I spoke with, they want to inconvenience people, because they believe that families of the black men and women killed by police have also been inconvenienced. So, they're trying, of course, to make a point here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena, we're going to get back to you. So, stand by.
Let's go to Deb Feyerick. She's outside the Barclays Center where the Brooklyn Nets are going to be playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in a half an hour or so. What's going on outside there, Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can tell you, the crowd absolutely has grown within the last 10 to 15 minutes. You can see some of the police officers that are standing guard in front of the Barclays Center. Security is tight because of the visit of the duke and duchess of Cambridge.
But you can hear the chanting that's going on here. They really feel that by coming out, by being here, they will make a difference. They will change what is going on with policing in this country.
But you can take a look. Even if it stretches all the way back here, and you're talking about a couple hundred people that are here now, and they plan to stay for the duration.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, we're going to stay in close touch with you. Let's hope it stays peaceful. Noisy is OK but let's hope it stays peaceful as we watch all of these new protests against police killings in New York, Ferguson, Missouri, elsewhere.
We're also getting reaction from the incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Might he see eye to eye with the president on these sensitive issues of race?
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash had an exclusive sit- down interview with Senator McConnell just a little while ago. Dana is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
So, Dana, first of all, what did he say about these protests?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was actually very understanding and circumspect about the protest and about race relations in general at this time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: What's your reaction to the tension that you see?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), INCOMING SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think, you know, our whole issue with race relations is a work in progress. We all know this was America's original sin. And we've been working on it for a couple of hundred years. Unfortunately, so much of the criminal justice system seems to be producing different reactions from different people based upon race.
At the end of the day, though, we have to trust the criminal justice system. They bring together people to review evidence to see whether an indictment is appropriate. When that happens, some people like it and some don't. It's sort of like being a member of Congress and I think we're not happy with where we are and we just have to keep working on it.
BASH: You are a son of the South. You've seen the way racial tensions have changed for the most part, certainly for the better. Do you believe that relations have gotten better since President Obama has been in office or has it made a difference?
MCCONNELL: Well, it has certainly gotten better. I mean, I think for example, my colleague, Tim Scott from South Carolina who defeated Strom Thurmond's son in a congressional district that included Ft. Sumter and it is now a member of the United States Senate. So, it's undeniable there's been remarkable progress for African-Americans in this country. They've been elected senators and governors and running major corporations.
But, obviously, we still have long way to go, and I'm not going to assess the president's role in all this. There have been a lot of survey data on that issue. People can draw their own conclusions. I think we've come a long way. But we probably have plenty more progress we need to make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And, Dana, you also had an interesting exchange with the incoming majority leader on whether or not there should be a formal declaration of war against ISIS.
BASH: That's right. Look, the lame duck Senate is going to be over at the end of the week. The Democrats still have control and they're going to have a hearing tomorrow with John Kerry and they're actually going to pass an authorization of force in this Senate foreign relations committee. But that's not going to go anywhere.
However, what Mitch McConnell told me is he's going to make sure it does when he comes in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Your colleague from Kentucky, Rand Paul, has said it should be an actual declaration of war, which is something different than what you said.
BASH: Authorization of force.
Do you think it needs to go that far?
MCCONNELL: No. I think it ought to be an authorization for the use of military force.
BASH: Why is that?
MCCONNELL: It would be better if the president asks us for what he wants. But we're not going to wait forever.
BASH: Is it somewhere where you actually think that you and the president can work together?
MCCONNELL: Well, we're certainly going to need to use force. There's no question about it. They're beheading Americans and posting it on the Internet. They're a serious threat to our national security and we're going to have to act.
I think the president is moving in that direction himself. He'd be in a much stronger position with an authorization with the use of military force. We've been sort of expecting him to ask for it. But if he doesn't, I think he will get one sometime soon after the first of the year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Did he think he could work with the president over these next two years?
BASH: He did. He was actually very forward-leaning in that. Much more than I thought he would be. I mean, obviously, he needs to prove and other Republicans need to prove that they can govern. But he talked specifics about things where he -- areas where he hopes he can work with the president and he even reminded me that in the times when Democrats were in control of the Senate, and things were in crisis mode, he was the guy who just stepped in and negotiated an end to the fiscal cliff and the government shutdown.
BLITZER: All right. Gloria Borger is with us as well.
Gloria, I want to play another little clip. This is another exchange on the specific issue of Mitch McConnell working potentially with the president. This is from Dana's interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Your meeting with the president went well. Why did it go so well?
MCCONNELL: Well, it was unusual. We had a chance to talk very much. In his defense on that issue, he didn't need us. You know, the first two years, he had huge majorities in the House and Senate. The last four years, he controlled the Senate and they guaranteed they never got anything he didn't like.
Now, he needs to talk to us, and that's good, because when the American people elect divided government, they're not saying they don't want anything done. What they are saying is they want things done in the political center, things that both sides can agree on. And in the conversation last week, we talked about the things where there may be some agreement.
BASH: You famously at the beginning of the Obama presidency said that your political goal was to make him a one-term president. What's your goal now that he just got two years left, but now, you're going to be the majority leader and it's your legacy, too?
MCCONNELL: Well, I think you can say both of us came up short. I had hoped to make him a one-term president and he had hoped to defeat me last fall. I think what the American people are saying is they want us both to be here, they want us to look for things to agree on and see if we can make some progress for the country.
BASH: And you feel like you can do that?
MCCONNELL: We're going to find out. We need to both --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So, Gloria, can they the next two years get some stuff done?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes, around the edges. Look, I think they can get some trade deals. I think they can get some agreements on fixing roads and bridges, which everyone understands is such a huge problem in this country, maybe some kind of corporate tax reform. Although I think that's actually less likely.
But on the large issues, Wolf, I think you're going to see immigration become an issue in the 2016 election. We're just setting the table now for 2016. So, there is actually a relatively small window here to get something done until the presidential candidates take over the agenda and Barack Obama sort of becomes a lame duck here.
BLITZER: You also asked them about this Senate intelligence committee report. It is supposed to come out tomorrow and what they call enhanced interrogation. Some say it's torture.
He really didn't want to discuss that at all with you, did he?
BASH: He didn't and he said it's because he's going to work on a joint statement with Saxby Chambliss, who's the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who has been very much opposed to releasing this.
McConnell agrees with that, meaning he disagrees with releasing the information. You've already heard from the White House and the State Department, from the Pentagon, that they're concerned about protests and so forth. Republicans who don't want to release it. They say they're worried about sources and methods and also retaliation. So, he didn't want to talk about it because he wants to defer, in a very Senate way, to defer to the --
BORGER: Yes. But it's an astonishing fight that we've seen play out in Washington between Central Intelligence Agency and the panel that oversees the Central Intelligence Agency in the Senate and its Democratic chairman, Diane Feinstein. I mean, you know, one accused the other of spying on them, right?
The Senate intelligence folks said the CIA was spying on us, hacked into the computers, wouldn't let us do our job. I mean, this is -- you know, this is real battle. This is the battle over the substance of whether you want torture. This is also a battle over who should be making the decisions on these important issues.
And it's also important moment in American history I think because you're going to see people say, you know what, we did the wrong thing. We have to move on, or someone like Dick Cheney or former President Bush who told Candy Crowley that, in fact, the Central Intelligence Agency behaved appropriately because that's what you have to do to fight terror. So, it's going to be a very important moment when this report is released.
BLITZER: And Barbara Starr says U.S. Marines are now, thousands are on a higher state of alert out of fear of retaliation against the United States.
Gloria, thanks very much. You have a great column on CNN.com, on Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, I recommended it highly for our viewers.
BLITZER: And, Dana, as usual, thanks for the excellent job with that exclusive with the incoming majority leader of the Senate.
BASH: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
We're going to continue our special coverage right now. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.