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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki; Ferguson Controversy; Terror Manhunt; Boehner Invites Israeli Leader To Congress, Sidesteps Obama

Aired January 21, 2015 - 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: Plus, terror manhunt, urgent new raids in Europe and new evidence that several cohorts of the Paris attackers may be hiding in plain sight right now, getting ready to strike.

And Ferguson controversy. As a new video of looting surfaces, there's now a new report that the Justice Department is nearing a bombshell decision in its investigation of the police officer Darren Wilson.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight.

ISIS invades al Qaeda's turf, battling to be the top terrorist group. CNN has learned ISIS is actively recruiting inside of Yemen and the country is the home to al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate known as AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Yemen's government has been fighting off attacks by rebels for days and teetering on the brink of collapse. The violence and the chaos are threatening a crucial U.S. ally and emboldening brutal killers.

The State Department's top spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, there you see her, she is standing by over at the State Department along with our correspondents, our analysts, and they're covering all the news that is breaking right now.

But, first, let's get the very latest.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is part of the brutal competition under way terror groups fighting for attention, recruits and territory. We're now seeing that extending into Yemen.

Yemeni officials telling CNN, including our Brian Todd, that perhaps dozens of fighters now loyal to ISIS in Yemen and they are attempting to recruit more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): The terror group ISIS, a Yemeni officials tells CNN, now active and recruiting on a new front in Yemen. ISIS competing for influence in a country now dominated by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP believed to have hundreds of members in Yemen, compared to dozens from ISIS.

MOHAMMED ALBASHA, YEMENI EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: They are promoting themselves as ISIS. It's the rebranding of a new militant group. The understanding that we have is they initially started recruiting from within AQAP ranks. But now they are expanding and trying to recruit within the tribal areas.

SCIUTTO: As the ISIS threat expands, President Obama used his State of the Union address to call on Congress for new authority to fight ISIS.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, this effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.

SCIUTTO: Still, since the start of military action against ISIS in August, the president has already authorized a deployment of some 3,000 troops to Iraq, and U.S. warplanes have conducted more than 1,900 airstrikes.

The president's new call continues a delicate constitutional balancing act for the White House, simultaneously arguing the U.S. needs new authorization, while continuing to expand the war under the old one, dating back to the 9/11 attacks. Even Democrats in Congress are demanding quicker legislative action.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: American servicemen have already lost their lives as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, this war against ISIL. If we are asking people to go out and risk their lives, it would seem that we could approach with seriousness and speed. So why everybody is slow-walking this thing is a mystery.

SCIUTTO: The call for new action comes even as administration officials are making great efforts not to overplay the immediate threat from ISIS to the U.S.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no existential threat to the United States because of what is going on there, but there is a threat in the region. We are making progress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: The ISIS presence in Yemen highlights the growing threat that failed states pose directly to U.S. interests, ISIS gains in Iraq and Syria giving it enormous recruiting power which was seen as far afield as Libya, the Sinai, Afghanistan and now Yemen.

Wolf, I have been in touch with a U.S. counterterror official and they make the point that in Yemen you do have this tremendous competition among these various groups, including AQAP, which remains the dominant force there, but ISIS making strides. You are also seeing some AQAP loyalists who share goals with ISIS, some sympathy, et cetera, who don't necessarily leave AQAP, but they show a new allegiance to ISIS.

This is one of the things you see. A lot of these groups, they are competing for power, but they are also competing for the same group of fighters here. It's possible that a fighter can be loyal to one group, but also supportive of the other group's goals.

BLITZER: With the exception of the Yemeni government, which is in tatters right now, seems to be on the verge of collapse, all these other groups have one thing in common. They hate the United States of America.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. No question. And it's yet another group taking advantage of a failed state. You see in Somalia you have got Al- Shabab. You certainly see in Yemen. You see Libya becoming an increasing haven for these kinds of groups. It's a real problem going forward.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Breaking now in the Paris terror investigation, CNN has learned that the terrorists appear to have urged about six associates to leave France before the plot was carried out. That would allow them to launch more attacks possibly soon.

Let's go to Paris.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has uncovered new information.

What are you learning, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the concern among officials I have been speaking with is that these associates of the Paris suspects could pop up in ISIS propaganda videos, or, even worse, be recruited to attack the West, this as we learn more about the four suspects already in custody here in Paris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Today, for the first time, the Paris prosecutor is identifying four suspects charged in connection with the Paris attacks whose DNA was allegedly found on Amedy Coulibaly's car, gun and glove found at the crime scene.

But the prosecutor says authorities are still investigating whether the four suspects were actually complicit in the attacks. He says, "We think that there's a group of individuals who contributed as part of an agreement and that this has effectively served the terrorists who commit the attack."

But it's the others who are still on the run, suspected cohorts of Amedy Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers, that have authorities on edge. Sources tell CNN it's believed that terrorists urged around half-a-dozen of their associates to leave France just before the attacks, including Coulibaly's wife, Hayat Boumeddiene. A law enforcement source tells CNN the concern is they could all be hiding in the terrorist safe haven of Syria and soon try to attack the West.

Meanwhile, two weeks after the attacks, Paris remains under heightened security with soldiers and police guarding landmarks and Jewish sites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seeing on CNN all the security, the Eiffel Tower and around the city, I never once felt threatened.

BROWN: Today, the French prime minister announced new details of suspected jihadis living in France. He says 3,000 people with jihadist ties need to be under surveillance. And the number of people linked to terror networks in Iraq and Syria has jumped 130 percent in just one year.

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they're talking they have 3,000 people they need to cover and you have the massive amount of resources it takes, people, vehicles, equipment, photography equipment, radio equipment, and extensive training, this is no small chore on their part.

BROWN: Another jihadi hotbed, Belgium. Tuesday night, Belgium police evacuated a neighborhood as they raided a home at the request of French authorities, part of the wider anti-terrorism operation, this as the manhunt continues for suspected Belgian ISIS operative Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Authorities believe he was directing a plot from Greece that may have included attempts to murder Belgian police officers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And, today, the French prime minister announcing that nearly half-a-billion dollars will be spent in emergency funding to track -- spending, rather -- to track those 3,000 jihadis living in France. Wolf, that news today very unnerving for people here.

BLITZER: You said a half-a-billion dollars, right?

BROWN: Nearly half-a-billion dollars in emergency spending, that's right. They say that money will come from savings from other public service funds that they have -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Pamela Brown, thanks very much.

Tonight, a new terrorist call to attack the West in a video released by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP may be even growing more dangerous right now, given the turmoil in its home base of Yemen. Yemen has been under siege now by the rebels for days and now there's a report the two sides may have reached some sort of tentative deal.

But chaos and instability remain a very serious threat to a critical U.S. ally in the war against terror.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is the only Western TV correspondent inside Yemen right now.

Nick, you went to the president's home. You had a chance to see what was going on. Looks like this whole country is on the verge of being a failed state. Tell our viewers what you saw.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Around the president's residence today, it was clear he was inside. It was clear that part of his security detail had, as we were told by one Yemeni official, run away the day before in the violence.

But guarding him, sharing the duty with the guards still inside were the young Houthi militia in charge of a tank. If you ask them who is in charge, who is the president, they pointed to themselves and said it's the people now. They really began a day in which was clear President Hadi's power was going to be diminished in some way.

Talks continued. Of course, the Houthi militia were in charge of the presidential palace and many other key buildings too. In the last few hours we heard of the tentative peace plan. Both the Houthis and the presidential administration seem to be more or less on side. It's a pretty one-sided deal, frankly.

The Houthis have to pull their guys back from the key buildings and good vantage points in the city, release the presidential chief of staff. Fine. But on the other side, the government has to allow an editing, a rewriting in some degree, we don't know how significant, but pretty substantial under the text of the agreement, of the new constitution that the Houthis originally objected to.

They have to let the Houthis have key figures in government and they have to give the Houthis some sort of concession in Marib, the province to the east of the capital here, where there have been potential clashes against al Qaeda. A substantial concession from the government. We just don't know, Wolf, at this stage whether or not the president is president in alone or still will retain some sort of lever -- sorry -- hand on the levers of power here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nick, tell us a little bit about this new AQAP, this al Qaeda video that was released today telling its supporters out there, don't worry about coming to Yemen where they are, just go ahead and start killing people, killing Americans in particular.

WALSH: This was recorded ahead of the Paris attacks, but is being pushed out again as I think al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula try to reinvigorate their following around the world, sickeningly, after what they claimed responsibility for against "Charlie Hebdo" magazine.

But this message is pretty stark, really. It says, look, you may be -- I'm paraphrasing here -- you may be depressed, living with the infidels in the West, but you may want to leave. Don't do that. Stay where you are and launch attacks against the West where they are.

A remarkable call really for lone wolves, people who share this kind of ideological, not to seek to leave the countries they're in, but stay there and cause violent attacks there. It goes on, Nasr Al-Ansi, the spokesperson we saw in the claim for responsibility for the "Hebdo" attacks about a week ago now, he goes on to say that they believe they have managed to close 16 embassies through what they refer to as external work, and that's operations against the West, terror attacks, as you refer to them.

And basically says that this jihad and incitement will stop the severity of the disbelievers, a very troubling message there from the spokesperson for AQAP. They clearly feel they are on the front foot and encouraging people to stay where they are and cause attacks in the West rather than try and leave.

BLITZER: That's very, very disturbing. Thanks very much, Nick Paton Walsh. Be careful over there.

Let's go to the State Department now. Joining us, the State Department's top spokeswoman, Jen Psaki.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Hi, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jen, thanks very much for joining us.

All right, so how worried are you about this new al Qaeda video telling people out there, their supporters, don't worry about coming here, just stay where you are and kill Westerners, kill Americans?

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: I think you heard the president of the United States talk last night about how committed we are to taking on the threats of terrorism around the world.

It's not just al Qaeda. It's ISIL. It's Boko Haram. But certainly we're not only aware and concerned. It's one of the top priorities of the administration to fight this terrorism, to work with partners around the world, including the Yemeni government.

BLITZER: When you have groups like ISIS and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula competing with each other now for dominance, if you will, that makes these terrorist organizations even more dangerous, doesn't it?

PSAKI: Well, there's no question it's a sick race to the bottom, Wolf.

I don't have any confirmation of the level of recruitment or the success of recruitment of ISIL in Yemen. But I can tell you that our partnership with the Yemeni government on counterterrorism operations, which is ongoing, and is one of the reasons why it's so important we have a presence in Yemen, is something that we're focused on taking on all threats of terrorism.

Yes, AQAP, as you have been talking about, certainly has a large presence there. But any threat that is -- any counterterrorism threat that we can take on there is one we will continue to work with the government on.

BLITZER: We heard the spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy here in Washington tell us just a little while ago there are hundreds of American diplomats, military personnel, sort of official Americans in Yemen right now, but there are thousands of U.S. citizens, many of them Yemeni-American dual citizens who are there right now. Here is the question. Are they safe?

PSAKI: We don't get into numbers because we think it puts the men and women serving at risk.

We certainly understand there are a lot of numbers out there. I can tell you that one of the top priorities of the president of the United States, the secretary of state, everybody who works in this building that I'm standing in right now is the safety and security of American citizens.

And we weigh that very, very heavily. But we look at a range of factors. And that's a conversation that's ongoing. We're not just monitoring it. We're discussing internally the situation and what the right steps are. But nothing has changed at this point in time in terms of our presence there.

BLITZER: Where does the evacuation proposal, the evacuation plan stand right now? We know there are two U.S. warships, the Iwo Jima, the Fort McHenry, right off the coast of Yemen.

How close are you, the State Department, to ordering an evacuation of all American diplomats?

PSAKI: Well, Wolf, we always have to be ready. There's no question there's a lot of violence happening in Yemen right now. There's a lot of tension on the ground.

And it's our responsibility to take every step necessary as a government to be prepared. But we have not changed or made a decision to move forward with an evacuation. Obviously, we continue to discuss internally what the right steps are.

Now, you talked a little bit about steps that were taken, a tentative political agreement. Obviously, that's a positive step. Implementation is key from here. But we're going to continue to work with the government and see if we can move toward a more peaceful path on the ground.

BLITZER: Because Angus King, the senator from Maine, independent senator from Maine, he's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he was on CNN earlier today on "NEW DAY." He is concerned that some of those Americans could be held hostage, taken hostage by these terrorists who are out there.

You are concerned about that as well, I assume?

PSAKI: Well, of course. We're concerned about any man or woman serving us, whether that's in Yemen or any high-threat post around the world.

And obviously taking care of American citizens is one of the primary responsibilities of the State Department. And that's something we take incredibly seriously. We have a lot of information we look at. And we have a lot of internal consultations that are ongoing. And I can assure you that, if this is a step that we believe is warranted, we will take it.

BLITZER: You have taken it in Libya. You have taken it Somalia and have taken it in Syria. We will see what happens in Yemen next. Those other embassies, they are all shut down, as we know.

Jen Psaki, I want to you stay -- stand with us. We have a lot more to discuss. There's other breaking news we're following. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with the top State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki. We are talking about new terror threats.

Jen, just after midnight Thursday, time will be up for those two Japanese hostages being held by ISIS. They are being threatened with beheadings unless Japan hands over, what, $200 million.

Here is the question. This overall U.S. strategy against ISIS in Syria and Iraq doesn't look like it's making a whole lot of progress, does it?

PSAKI: Well, I think you are combining a few things there, Wolf.

Let me just take the opportunity to say something about the hostages. This is horrific, terrible. Our hearts and thoughts are with the people of Japan. The secretary has spoken with the foreign minister. And certainly we are calling for and will do everything we can to help them bring their two citizens home.

I would say on Iraq and Syria, there's an international coalition. We have seen ISIL pushed back. We have seen our efforts working. And we have seen the Iraqi army start to pick up and fight back in a number of areas. That's happened pretty quickly.

Syria is an area where we're going to start the train and equip program soon. These are challenging, thorny issues. We are not naive about that. We're clear-eyed about that. But we're working with countries around the world to take them on. And I think that's a success on its own.

BLITZER: The U.S. Embassy, as you know, in Tel Aviv, they have just issued some new travel restrictions asking government employees not to take public buses after nine people were stabbed by a Palestinian man in Tel Aviv earlier today. How concerning is the string of stabbing attacks we have recently seen in Israel?

PSAKI: Well, it's very concerning, Wolf.

And I know you have spent a fair amount of time there. It's hard to imagine getting on a bus in Tel Aviv and having someone stab a number of individuals. It's something that we're not only watching closely. We just wanted to provide citizens in Israel and in Tel Aviv with relevant information. And that's our responsibility. Make sure they are aware of the news that happened, cognizant of what to watch for. And certainly we warn them about the risks involved, so that they will take steps accordingly.

BLITZER: So, what you are saying to American citizens visiting Israel, and a lot of them do, don't go on public buses? Is that what I'm hearing?

PSAKI: Well, I think we provide information on an updated, regular basis. That's where we stand today in terms of being cognizant of the events that have been happened and the news that happened today. But we update that regularly.

And we just want to make sure people are aware of their surroundings and take into account events that are happening on the ground.

BLITZER: Speaking of Israel, there was a pretty extraordinary development up on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner extending an invitation to the Israel prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to come address a joint session of Congress in February, to talk about Iran.

And Boehner said he never notified the president, never notified the administration. Is this appropriate, what Boehner is doing? The prime minister has accepted the invitation, as you know.

PSAKI: Well, I will let others be the judge of what's appropriate or not. It's certainly unusual.

Obviously, we have a close relationship with Israel. We heard, as you know and have reported on from Speaker Boehner, not from Israel, about plans for the prime minister to come here. He has come before, many times before. Many prime ministers have come before. So it was a little -- it was a bit of an episode of the bizarre today seeing all of this unfold.

Now, he will come here. He will talk about Iran and other issues. We have some disagreements on that, not on the fundamental goal. And, certainly, we will continue our dialogue.

BLITZER: The secretary of state, your boss, I assume he was irritated by Boehner's decision. Right?

PSAKI: Well, he doesn't get irritated that easily, as you know. You know him pretty well.

I think he's focused on lots of issues we work with Israel on, whether it's security or the tensions on the ground. He is keeping his eyes on those balls. He is not particularly worried about the protocol of when someone is told they are coming to speak here. He thought it was a little unusual, too.

BLITZER: The opposition political parties in Israel, they are pretty upset about this. As you know, a month after this meeting of the joint session that the prime minister will have in Washington, Israeli elections are scheduled, what, for March 17.

And they think this is interference in Israeli domestic political -- Israeli domestic politics, because they think this will elevate, this will enhance Netanyahu. And he has had problems, as you know. Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, they are all pretty upset about this.

You understand the concern that this could be seen as interfering in Israeli politics by trying to promote Netanyahu?

PSAKI: Well, Wolf, in an effort not to interfere in Israeli politics, I'm not going to weigh in too much on that, other than to convey that a range of officials in Israel are certainly the experts on what interferes and what doesn't.

And, certainly, we're all aware of the timing here and the timing of the Israeli elections.

BLITZER: What about taking a tougher stance against Iran in these negotiations? That's what these Republicans want, certainly the Israeli government wants, that even a whole bunch of Democrats, like Bob Menendez of the Foreign Relations Committee. They want that as well, right?

PSAKI: Well, I think the question, Wolf, is, what does that mean exactly?

Our goal and our objective here is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We want to cut off all paths to do that. We are not going to accept a deal that doesn't accomplish that. We have a disagreement on tactics here. We have a disagreement on the best way to get there.

Without the JPOA, the program would have been moving forward and the secretary said this today. Many of these same individuals thought the JPOA would be a disaster and would cause the program from rapidly moving forward.

That's not what happened. We need to give this negotiation time to move forward, time to progress, see if it works out. We don't know that it will. But it certainly deserves that time and we deserve -- the negotiators deserve that space.

BLITZER: Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, thanks very much for joining us.

PSAKI: Thanks, Wolf. Great to be here.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead, the federal investigation of the former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, there's now a new report that a controversial decision is in the works. We are going to talk about this, the breaking story right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: New tonight, a move that could reignite some tensions

over the Ferguson shooting case. "The New York Times" is now reporting the Justice Department here in Washington is moving toward recommending that no civil rights charges be filed against the former police officer Darren Wilson.

We're joined now by "The New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt. He reported this story. Also joining us, our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes; our CNN anchor, Don Lemon; HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson; and the St. Louis alderman Antonio French. Guys, very much thanks for joining us.

Michael, tell us what you've learned about this justice -- this is major -- a major development. What exactly have you learned?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, "NEW YORK TIMES": Prosecutors at the Justice Department have begun putting together the legal memo to basically rationalize why they're not going to bring federal civil rights charges against Mr. Wilson. It's a very high bar to make one of these cases. You have to be -- have some of his mindset. You have to -- he has to be able to prove his history of being -- of having racial issues. And the evidence here does not support that.

BLITZER: It seems like they moved pretty quickly, relatively speaking, on this, right?

SCHMIDT: Well, the FBI really pushed hard in the days after the shooting. They sent about 40 agents into Ferguson. They interviewed 200 people. And they found no real evidence to support -- to support the civil rights case. And that's sort of where we are.

BLITZER: Joey Jackson, what do you think? Are you surprised?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm not surprised for the following reason, Wolf. In any case, what you do is you examine two things. You examine the law, and you examine the facts.

Now, remember in a civil rights prosecution, the bar is extraordinarily high. What do I mean? I mean, you have to show an intentional deprivation of a civil right. And what is that right? The right to remain freely.

But when you look at the statute and when you look at the jury instruction, it says you have had to act willfully. That is with motive of an improper purpose, with malice and with wickedness. And as a result of that, it certainly would be problematic if, at the state level, you can't get an indictment to show, at the federal level, that you would be able to move forward. It doesn't surprise me.

Now, the other thing, when you look at the facts of it -- and remember, you have to show intent, not recklessness, that he was reckless in his actions, that he was negligent or careless in his actions. And when you have conflicting facts that have come out of that grand jury, were Michael Brown's hands up? Were the hands down? Did he grab for his waist band? Did he not grab for his waistband? What kind of interaction was there initially at the car? What did that lead to?

And so based upon the many questions and based upon the standard of, that I discussed, beyond a reasonable doubt, it would be very -- very difficult, Wolf, to move forward federally with a civil rights charge.

BLITZER: Antonio French, you're there. How is this going to play, the reaction that we're likely to see in St. Louis County and Ferguson and elsewhere?

ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS ALDERMAN: Yes, I think you have a lot of people who will be disappointed if this does turn out to be the case. I think the community and the family wanted a day in court, an opportunity to see all the evidence laid out, cross-examined. And it looks like that's not going to happen.

I hope we do not have any violence as a result of this. The next steps, I think, are legislative change, try to make sure that in cases like this we get a special prosecutor by law. And to create a new level of civilian oversight over police departments here in St. Louis. I hope it remains peaceful.

BLITZER: Antonio, we're also seeing new video from St. Louis County. Police are looking for, what, about 180 suspects who looted the store after that grand jury decision. Could we see more chaos, anger on the streets if Wilson, for example, doesn't face charges related to Michael Brown's death?

FRENCH: Well, I hope not. You know, people have a right to protest. And we will probably continue to see that. And that's a good thing. But we want to keep them peaceful, non-violent, because violence actually makes the situation worse, I think. And it further divides the community in a time that we need to be coming together to figure out how to make this a better place, and to make everyone feel like they can get equal protection under the law.

BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, you're not surprised by this decision, assuming "The New York Times" report is accurate?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I wouldn't be terribly surprised, no, Wolf. And I think that, you know, in this case, you have, as Mike mentioned, an intensive investigation. But the decision is actually made by the civil rights division attorneys in Washington from the Department of Justice. So, you know, they're looking at what it takes to bring one of these cases forward. And, you know, it's a difficult case to make.

BLITZER: Don, as you know, the president in the State of the Union address last night, he had some pointed words. I'm going to play the clip, and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Surely, we can understand a father who fears his son can't walk home without being harassed. And surely, we can understand the wife who won't rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. And surely, we can agree that it's a good thing that, for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together.

And use that as a starting appointment for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement to reform America's criminal justice system so that it protects and serves all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: so he was walking, clearly, a very delicate line, trying to make sure that everything he said was sensitive and important. When you heard him say that, Don, what was your reaction?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I said, bravo. Because as awful as these events are, at some point, as I -- you've heard me say here on THE SITUATION ROOM, Wolf, we all have to sit down and talk about it. He's saying at this point, at least we're at the point now where we can have some sort of discussion, where there is something positive that can come out of these terrible events and that the justice system and law enforcement can be changed in ways that they need to be changed.

I was also very happy that he mentioned a father or a mother who are worried about their kids being harassed as they walk home, and he mentioned police officers, because that is a very real thing for the family members of police officers. They worry about their loved ones not coming home at night. I'm glad he did that.

And I hope, as Alderman French said, there is no violence. Because they'd have to march on Washington, right, rather than marching on the streets of Ferguson. Because the decision came from Washington.

BLITZER: Because you're right. When he said those words, surely, we can understand a father who fears his son can't walk home without being harassed. Don, he meant being harassed by police, right?

LEMON: Right. That's what he meant, being harassed by police.

And listen, parents worry about their children being harassed by a number of different, you know, events or people. But he meant by police officers in that particular case.

BLITZER: Joey Jackson, the federal investigation isn't over yet. There's a broader civil rights investigation into the entire Ferguson Police Department. That's open?

JACKSON: That's absolutely right, Wolf. In addition to the actual civil rights violation that was pointed to Darren Wilson, there was a broader pattern and practice issue. And what does that mean? It means that they will be looking into whether or not there's a pattern or practice of excessive force. Were they stopping people of color in disproportionate numbers? And exactly what is going on in the police department? I think based upon that, we may or may not see structural changes

within that organization moving forward, so that it's more inclusive and the patterns and practices are ultimately carried out in a way that I think would make that community a little bit more secure, a little bit safe and a little bit more trusting of the law enforcement officials.

BLITZER: Antonio, this broader civil rights investigation, this could go on for a year or two or even three, right? These things don't go quickly.

FRENCH: Yes, it could. And frankly, I would like to see the Department of Justice expand this beyond just the city of Ferguson. Ferguson is a very small municipality in St. Louis County, one of 90 municipalities. Dozens of municipalities have similar circumstances and the same patterns. They really target young African-American men.

BLITZER: What are you hearing about this broader investigation, Michael?

SCHMIDT: Well, certainly, if there's going to be action, that's where it's going to be. And it will, as they were saying, take time. But what could happen is they're bringing an outsider, a quarter- pointed person, to oversee the department and make sure that they're not violating the law as they were in the past.

BLITZER: You're familiar with the second investigation, as well, Tom, right?

FUENTES: Right. That was not being conducted against Officer Wilson. It's the patterns and practices of the entire department. Is the department engaged in activity which is violating people's rights and abusive techniques?

BLITZER: Don Lemon, you spent a lot of time in Ferguson. And I don't know the exact numbers, but there were, like, 60 police officers in Ferguson. All but two or three of them were white, right?

LEMON: All but a handful of them were white. And listen, that is an issue, you know, within itself. And if you looked at police departments in Illinois as a whole, you will find that they're very similar and across the country, in many ways it's similar.

Not in all places, but in many places. But the problem goes beyond that. The problem is also that it is tough to find minority officers. Many people who are minorities have a distrust of police -- police departments, and they don't necessarily want to be police officers.

And those who do really have their pick about which departments they'll join. So would you rather join a Ferguson Police Department or a St. Louis Police Department or a New York City Police Department? If you're a minority and you are a good police officer, you have really your choice as to which department.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point you're making. Don Lemon, thanks very much. Antonio French, Michael Schmidt, Tom Fuentes, Joey Jackson, guys, all of you, thanks you very much.

Just ahead, more breaking news on the terror front. And one of the most talked-about moments during the president's State of the Union address, the statement John Boehner made by sitting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More now on that apparent jab at President Obama and his Iran policy only hours after his State of the Union Address. The House Speaker John Boehner has invited the Israeli prime minister to speak to Congress about the threat from Iran. There are serious differences between President Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran. Boehner kept the White House out of the loop until the decision was announced today. The prime minister accepted Boehner's invitation.

Let's bring in our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Dana, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this. What exactly happened here? Because it's pretty extraordinary.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. What happened that weeks ago, January 8th we are told, the House speaker reached out to the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. saying, maybe would he be interested, he meaning the prime minister be coming here? They apparently got an immediate yet. And so, it's been in the works for week.

The speaker sat behind the president of the United States, delivering an address to the Congress last night, talking about this main issue that we're discussing here, which is Iran, knowing full well that he had invited Benjamin Netanyahu to stand in that same spot, address the same Congress, without telling the president to tell the Congress the opposite, which is that he believes there should be sanctions against Iran, which the president, of course, said last night there should not be.

Speaker didn't tell the White House until this morning, did it on purpose because it's technically the prerogative of the speaker, of course, to invite whomever he wants to speak to a joint meeting of Congress. But, traditionally, the protocol is that they tell the White House before a leader comes.

BLITZER: They go through the traditional diplomatic channels.

(CROSSTALK)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: On so many levels, as Jen Psaki just said on your show earlier --

BLITZER: She's the State Department spokeswoman.

BORGER: -- this is an episode of the bizarre, as she called it. I think we could all agree to that. Look, this is good for Bibi Netanyahu at home. He comes and addresses

the United States Congress, tough on Iran. This is good for Republicans. They want to have this vote because they know they can get a bipartisan vote on this on sanctions. They can embarrass the president. It works for all of them.

Over at the White House, Wolf, they are obviously steaming. When they call this unusual, when they call this unusual publicly, that means, we are really mad about this. By the way, I think they have a right to be.

And the question that I have is, will Bibi Netanyahu make a stop at the White House or at the State Department?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: If he's invited, right.

BASH: Wolf, I mean, you know this better than anybody, what is so rich about this is that Boehner is taking advantage of terrible relations between Netanyahu and Obama since practically day one of the Obama administration. So, he is taking advantage of that.

And, you know, as you said, the whole concept of Netanyahu coming here will help him back home. That matters because Republicans want him in office because he's the hawkish guy in Israel.

BLITZER: Gloria, I want to shift girls, talk about something that happened last night.

BORGER: This is so much fun. Yes.

BLITZER: The president of the United States was speaking about the importance of equal pay for women. I want -- let me to play this clip. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You see Joe Biden, the vice president, standing. You see John Boehner sitting. Even though I assume he thinks if a woman does exactly the same thing as a man, the woman deserves equal pay.

BORGER: You know, there's the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was raised before the 2014 midterm elections by Democrats. They wanted Republicans to vote on this measure. It didn't pass. Republicans don't think it's right way to do things. It would give women the right to sue if they discover that their male counterparts are not making as much money. For whatever reason, and they disagree on this, he needed to stand up.

Because in theory, pay equity is something that I think a lot of Republicans support. And it's -- look at that. I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The Republicans are reaching out. They are trying to get more support.

BASH: They are. And just on this particular note, what the speaker's office says is that he didn't stand up because he doesn't like the way Democrats want to go about it, not that he isn't for equal pay for women. The optics of this when to stand, when to not, it's tricky for both parties.

But on your point about reaching out to women, what is going on right now on Capitol Hill is fascinating. Great story from Deirdre Walsh, that's on CNN.com now. There's a rebellion among House Republican women because of a bill that's probably going to come to the floor tomorrow on abortion. Their issue is that it's a late-term abortion bill. And there's an exception because of rape, but there is a reporting requirement. If you are alleging rape, you have to have a police report.

There was a meeting behind closed doors today. House Republican female lawmakers were emotional. They kicked back (AUDIO GAP) really pushing back on this requirement saying it's not fair. And we're going a really interesting bit of tension --

BORGER: That's what happens when you let 22 women into the Republican Caucus.

BASH: Of 200 and what?

BORGER: I don't know, whatever, a lot.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Can't let them in.

BLITZER: Gloria, Dana, thanks very much.

Just ahead, we'll have more on the breaking news of the threat to the U.S. ISIS battling for power against al Qaeda.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, Morgan Spurlock is on the hunt for the next big thing. And it just could be car that drives itself. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN SPURLOCK, "INSIDE MAN" (voice-over): As it turns out a car pushed to the limit on the racetrack is a window into the type of stress a regular car encounters in a crisis. It's a great way to figure out what it takes to regain control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, our idea was, if we could make a self-driving car that would have the same skills as the best human race car drivers, we could really go a long way towards improving safety.

SPURLOCK: Cool. Let's check it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our test is in the palm of your hand.

SPURLOCK: This is it. Ready.

There's nothing quite as scary as watching the wheel turn by itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People tend to be terrified initially.

SPURLOCK: And so, it's knowing how far out it needs to go to make this turn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. It's actually taking the racing line like a driver would.

Here's a fun one on the top of the turn five. She has to brake, turn and accelerate.

SPURLOCK: Wow. All on a hill. That's incredible.

And you can feel it starting to get that little bit of drift as it goes around --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. You can feel the rear end sliding and her correcting a little.

SPURLOCK: Shelly recalculates the correction at an outstanding 200 times a second, with the help of a laser scanner which finds the edge of the road and looks out for obstacles along the way. And two GPS antennas that communicate speed and the exact position on the track.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Wow. Our Morgan Spurlock is joining us live.

The new season of your CNN series "INSIDE MAN" premiers tomorrow, Morgan. Excellent work. You really weren't driving that car at all, were you?

SPURLOCK: It's incredible. Like robotic cars, they're finally coming. It's exciting. To be in car going about 90 miles an hour that's steering itself around the track is also probably one of the most terrifying experiences you could ever have. BLITZER: Well, take us inside. What was it like?

SPURLOCK: You know, for me, it was one of those where you dreamt of these things in the future for so long. You imagine what's going to happen.

You know, every time I face time with my kid, I already feel like I'm living in a science fiction movie. But now, to be in the car that's going around the track that's gauging every second, every moment, you know, at speeds of 90 to 110 miles an hour is fascinating. And for me, this whole season of "INSIDE MAN" and kicking off with the robots episode tomorrow night, we'll take you into the world of robotics and Shelly, this car, is a perfect example of what you're going to see.

BLITZER: I know you have a pretty fascinating season coming up. Tell us a little bit more about some of the highlights.

SPURLOCK: Well, for me, there's so many good highlights. Like one, we're doing an episode all about trash. Every time you and I throw something away, where is away? So, we talk you to exactly where away is and show where all of our garbage ends up.

We look at zoos and you know, a lot of people talking about, should we still have animals, you know, in these types of environments. Or are they a good thing for these animals? And probably, one of the most important things that I think we're going to cover this season is finally explain to folks like you and I, we let them know what Bitcoin actually is. We're going to explain to you what Bitcoin is and why it matters.

BLITZER: Well, what is that? Tell us about Bitcoin.

SPURLOCK: Well, Bitcoin is this amazing, fascinating digital currency that, you know, people will upend the government or upend our financial system. But it also has some incredibly valuable properties which enables people to transfer money internationally without getting hit by big banking rates or, you know, wire fees. So, there are upsides. But a lot of people still think it's much too volatile to invest in.

BLITZER: What's it like surviving bear attack?

(LAUGHTER)

SPURLOCK: Well, I think, just being able to -- so you know what to do in a bear attack is important. And we do this episode about the national parks in America. You know, every year fewer and fewer people are going to these national treasures that we have. So, in this episode, we go to Denali National Park where one of the rangers, he shows me exactly what I should do and I'm about to be attack by a bear. And anyone who goes out into the woods, you should watch this episode just for this because it's some good knowledge.

BLITZER: And a glacier -- you fall into a glacier, too? Is that right?

SPURLOCK: I'm working with the search and rescue teams who -- they are working on the top of Denali, finding guys who will either go mountaineering and falling into these giant crevices. And they basically throw me into a crevice to show me how they rescue these people on the daily basis.

BLITZER: Who comes up with all these ideas? SPURLOCK: You know, it's me and my brilliant team of producers down

at our office. We're very lucky to have a great team and the folks here at CNN are just like super to work with.

BLITZER: I know you have a lot of fun doing it in the process. And all our viewers, we love watching it. Morgan, thanks very much for doing what you're doing.

SPURLOCK: Thank you, Wolf. Love being in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Yes, you're always welcome in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The season premiere of "MORGAN SPURLOCK: INSIDE MAN" airs tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. You can tweet me @wolfblitzer, tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.