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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; Rudy Giuliani Says President Obama Does Not Love America; Targeting ISIS; U.S. to Train Iraqi Troops to Take on ISIS; Bin Laden Told Couriers to Dress as Women; Ferguson Police: 'We're Complying with Justice Department
Aired February 19, 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 ANCHOR: And doubling down. The former New York City Rudy Giuliani, he is standing by his stunning suggestion that President Obama does not love America. Wait until you hear what he is now telling CNN.
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: The breaking news tonight, a dangerous ground offensive in the works against ISIS to free the largest city in the grip of the terror group. That would be Mosul in Northern Iraq.
We are getting critical new information from inside the U.S. military about the size, the scope and the timing of the operation and the role American forces might play. Stand by for all the breaking developments in the war against ISIS.
The homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, he is here. He is joining us live, along with our team of correspondents and our analysts.
First, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has the very latest.
What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of the commandments of U.S. military warfare, never talk about future operations. Today, the U.S. military did just that, one official saying they were revealing these details about the upcoming battle for Mosul because they want to show the Iraqi military commitment to it.
But here is what is on the table now, Wolf. The U.S. saying that the battle to retain Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, to take it back from ISIS, will begin in April or May, depending on conditions on the ground, that it will involve more than 25,000 Iraqi ground troops, five brigades trained by the United States, additional special forces, local forces and Peshmerga fighter forces that will take positions north and west of Mosul, all of this according to the U.S. official to cut off any escape route from ISIS from the city. But I know, Wolf, you are going to ask me, the question about,
will U.S. forces go in on the ground to help the Iraqis? No recommendation to President Obama yet. No decision made. But what is on the table, Wolf, the ISIS fighters, let's be very clear. They are building up their defenses inside Mosul. It's a populated area.
If the defenses become very dense, it will be hard for the Iraqis on their own to be able to pick out the targets. Where is ISIS? Where are the civilians? U.S. troops may have to assist them in helping to pick out those targets. They could be asked to go on the ground. They could stay at headquarters and help with intelligence.
If they had to go on the ground, that's a recommendation that has to go to the president. That's the critical decision for U.S. troops. It's not yet been made. But we're getting an awful lot of detail about what may be coming in the days and weeks ahead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Isn't there a risk to all of this information being released by the military, Barbara? Because if you tell ISIS, who is now in control of Mosul, a city of nearly two million people, that the ground troops, Iraqi ground troops, other ground troops are going to be coming in, in April, that gives them plenty of time to start preparing.
STARR: Well, they already are building their defenses up in the city. We know that. We know that some civilians for weeks, if not months now, have been fleeing the city, trying to get out. The airstrikes are trying to soften essentially ISIS positions around the city. The Peshmerga have been trying to cut off some of those supply routes.
But I think our own Ben Wedeman, who has been in and out of this area, will tell you that traffic in and out of Mosul is still going pretty strong. So it's not isolated yet. And that is what raises the risk, Wolf, exactly what you are saying, people are coming and going, the U.S. may not have perfect visibility about where ISIS is. About one to 2,000 foreign fighters inside of Mosul right now.
I have to tell you, every reporter that walked out of that briefing was a little surprised at the level of information and detail that was offered. Some of it has been said before, more broadly perhaps. But now they are really fine-tuning it. They say they're doing this because they want to show the world the Iraqi military's commitment to try and take the fight to Mosul. That's what the Pentagon is saying. We're reporting what they told us.
BLITZER: Barbara, thanks very much.
As the U.S.-led coalition plans to take on ISIS in Mosul, the terror group's reach is expanding rapidly way beyond Iraq and Syria.
Let's go to our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, what's going on?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, to this point, we have talked about very light fledgling footprints for ISIS outside of their stronghold in Iraq and Syria.
But we're seeing much more than that right now in Libya. Look at this today in central Libya, a convoy 70-vehicles-long of ISIS forces going through that city there. This is becoming a very powerful footprint. And as they carry the attacks even across the border into Egypt, residents there, the government asking, where is the international community as ISIS spreads further?
SCIUTTO (voice-over): ISIS under fire from the air. New Pentagon video shows an ISIS fighting position, staging area and building destroyed one by one.
Today, coalition defense ministers are meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the war in the air. This is the battle against ISIS expanding to new fronts, with Egyptian war planes bombing ISIS positions in Libya, just days after ISIS brutally murdered Egyptian Christians on the Libyan coastline.
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We have done thousands of air strikes. We are starting a train and equip program next month. We believe the military component is a very important component of taking fighters off the battlefield.
SCIUTTO: ISIS' answer to the coalition effort has been a series of new assaults, on Kurdish areas in northern Iraq and in the western province of Anbar. They are also making a show of force in the terror group's northern Iraqi stronghold of Mosul. Here, ISIS fighters under makeshift military training, an attempt at propaganda, perhaps, as Iraqi forces prepare for a springtime assault on the city.
Even under pressure of the U. S. -led campaign, ISIS recruiting remains strong. Here, a graduating class of newly trained fighters, some appearing barely in their teens in Iraq's Anbar province.
A steady stream of foreign fighters is fueling the group as well as recruiting within Syria, Iraq and new outposts in Libya, Yemen and beyond -- the result of a deft combination of money, ideology and often threats.
TOM SANDERSON, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: These guys know that there's a standing order to come to the defense of the caliphate of ISIS and to attack in place those who are attacking ISIS.
SCIUTTO: I spoke to a senior U.S. official who was at the defense ministers meeting in Riyadh. He said that among the coalition partners, there's no focus now on expanding the military campaign beyond Iraq and Syria. But short of that, the government in Libya, what remains of it, is asking for a U.N. Security Council ban on arm sales to Libya to be lifted. Egypt asking for that as well, but no movement on that yet.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
And while the focus is on ISIS, the U.S. remains at war against al Qaeda at the same time. And tonight we're learning more about that terror group's tactics under Osama bin Laden's command.
The information comes from evidence seized during the deadly raid on bin Laden's hideout, evidence that has now been made public.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is working the story for us.
Joe, what are you learning?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's another window on how al Qaeda operates, part of the treasure trove of secret documents the U.S. took possession of after that dramatic raid in the spring of 2011.
JOHNS (voice-over): The newly disclosed documents provide stunning new insights how into al Qaeda operates and were discovered by members of SEAL Team Six during the raid that killed the organization's leader, Osama bin Laden, four years ago.
Among the items seized, prosecutors say the text of an oath members had to take in order to join al Qaeda, accepting allegiance on behalf of Sheik Osama, pledging to listen in hardship and in ease and to follow whoever bin Laden assigned to lead them in jihad.
Until now, that oath and the other documents were closely held government secrets considered so valuable that an FBI special agent was flown into Afghanistan before the raid to handle them.
MICHAEL DALY, THE DAILY BEAST: He was there at the airport when they came back with the bin Laden body and with the documents that they seized. And he then began a chain of custody, which you need to have in order to introduce something in a criminal trial.
JOHNS: The documents first came to light this week when they were described by prosecutors at the federal trial of this man, Abid Naseer, a Pakistani charged with conspiracy and material support to al Qaeda. Naseer, who is representing himself, has denied any involvement in terrorist plots.
But among the other items prosecutors say the Navy SEALs found in bin Laden's compound were e-mails to al Qaeda operatives, including a letter updating bin Laden on operations that were in the works, a letter discussing plans for terror attacks in New York, the United Kingdom, as well as Copenhagen, all which prosecutors say the defendant was allegedly involved in.
Prosecutors say the e-mails also describe how al Qaeda used coded electronic messages with female-sounding e-mail addresses to communicate about their attacks.
JOHNS: Naseer's messages spoke of a marriage or a wedding. But prosecutors allege he was really talking about the terror plot when he wrote about choosing a wife or a woman to marry. He was allegedly discussing his thoughts about choosing which bomb to use. It's the same kind of coding prosecutors said they found in messages that led up to the September 11 attacks in 2001.
BLITZER: Fascinating material. Joe Johns, thanks very much.
President Obama issued a new appeal today for the Muslim world to unite against the terrorists and reject their lies. He spoke for a second day in a row at a summit here in Washington on preventing violent extremism, an event that has stirred up some controversy.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He has the latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he didn't use the words Islamic terrorism or extremism. But President Obama called on Muslim and Arab nations to start doing a better job of pushing back on what he repeatedly called lies from ISIS and al Qaeda in a speech at his Countering Violent Extremism summit to hundreds of world leaders at the State Department.
The president said the U.S.-led coalition would continue pounding ISIS with airstrikes, but he argued the Islamic world must take aim at the underlying reasons for radicalism, from income inequality to the lack of democratic freedoms.
It should be noted, many of these countries where those problems exist also happen to be members of the president's coalition against ISIS. Still, the president did prod those Muslims partners to develop a more effective countermeasure to the terrorists who are now all over social media. Here is what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: None of us, I think, should be immune from criticism in terms of specific policies. But the notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie. And all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, all week, critics have pounced on the president's refusal to use that term Islamic terrorism or variations of the phrase.
As soon as the president wrapped up his remarks today, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain jumped on Twitter saying, "The notion that radical Islam isn't at war with the West is an ugly lie," using the president's words there.
The White House had hoped, Wolf, to make great strides this week in communicating an inclusive message to the Islamic world. But really it's this message that had to do battle with this debate over semantics, a debate the president really seemed to want to have all week long and members of the administration they seem to want to have this debate over whether to call it Islamic terrorism and that's what they got, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
We're monitoring the breaking news, new details about a major spring offensive against ISIS in Mosul.
But right now let's talk about U.S. strategy, the threats to the U.S. homeland.
Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson.
Mr. Secretary, welcome back.
JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Thanks for inviting me, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.
Why are Americans going over there, joining ISIS and presumably coming back here to the United States and potentially getting ready to launch terror attacks?
JOHNSON: That's a good question.
First of all, there's no one profile of the kind of person who picks up and goes to a place like Syria to take up the fight there. What we do know is that groups like ISIL, AQAP have come a long way in a very short period of time in their ability to reach into homelands, into communities through the Internet, through effective use of social media.
And so we're seeing more and more through propaganda on the Internet the ability of these terrorist organizations to reach into our communities and recruit people. And that's something that we're addressing very aggressively right now. And that was part of the reason we had the summit today and the summit yesterday.
BLITZER: I understand there are about, U.S. government estimates, maybe 100 Americans who are back here in the United States who have actually gone over there and gotten training from ISIL; is that right?
JOHNSON: Well, there are a number that we're tracking very carefully who have either attempted to go to Syria and have been interdicted and arrested, those who have gone for various different reasons, and some who have come back.
And law enforcement does an excellent job of tracking these individuals. There's obviously an unknown factor there. But we have systems in place to track these individuals as they come and go. It's difficult to pick up so-called broken travel. (CROSSTALK)
BLITZER: What does that mean, broken travel?
JOHNSON: Where you fly to country A and then you go to country B on the ground, say, and we don't know that fact.
So working with our allies, we need to do a better job of tracking when somebody goes from country A to country B.
BLITZER: In other words, if somebody flies from the United States to Munich or Vienna and then winds up by train in Turkey.
JOHNSON: In Syria.
BLITZER: And then easily can cross that border into Syria, then comes back in some sort of convoluted way.
We did interview, those of us, our colleagues here at CNN, the FBI's counterterrorism assistant director, Michael Steinbach. I'm sure he's a man you know. He suggested that the U.S. does not necessarily have surveillance or control of all of these individuals who might have come back here from training over there. What can you tell us about that?
JOHNSON: Like I said, there's always an unknown factor. But I think we have, between Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Department of Justice and our intelligence community, systems in place to track these individuals either through travel information or through our intelligence collection efforts.
And so I have reasonable confidence that we're tracking these people. Do I have complete confidence? No, I can't say that to the American public. But I have reasonable confidence that we're tracking these people. And we're improving our methods for doing so all the time.
An important part of that is working with our allies, our counterterrorism partners, like the discussion we had today, on greater information sharing about who is traveling between and among our countries. Given where we are in the global terrorist threat, a lot of us think that's critical.
BLITZER: Your fear is that there could already be ISIS cells, sleeper cells in the United States?
JOHNSON: My concern is that ISIL makes effective use of the Internet to recruit and inspire people. There's also obviously a very heavy foreign fighter component to groups like ISIL.
You can see it in the videos you were just showing. And so we're working with our allies to track these individuals; here at home, Customs and Border Protection and other components of DHS do a pretty good job of tracking these people. We need to do more, though.
BLITZER: All right, we have a lot more to discuss. I want you to stand by if you can, Mr. Secretary. We are going to take a quick break.
Much more with the secretary of homeland security right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson.
The breaking news we have been following, up to 25,000 ground troops preparing a major offensive to try to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul starting in April.
We are going to get back to that shortly.
But clarify one thing for us. The Paris terror attacks, the two attacks, the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine, that kosher supermarket, the guys who operated were affiliated with ISIS and AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Are these two groups, ISIS and AQAP, now aligning and working together?
JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if it's simple to say yes or no. It's a more complicated world, definitely.
The terrorist threat is more decentralized, it's more diffuse. I'm not surprised that one of those actors in Paris would claim an affiliation with ISIS, while the other one claims an affiliation with AQAP. It's definitely a more complicated world.
But Paris also reflects the fact that we're seeing more and more smaller-scale attacks by people who were largely independent actors, either because they were there and they came back or they have been self-radicalized through watching things on the Internet and they are inclined to turn toward violence. So, Paris to me reflects the new phase we're in now in the global terrorist threat.
BLITZER: That's what keeps you up as at night as far as the threat here in the United States?
JOHNSON: I have a number of things that keep me up, including the global terrorist threat. That's correct.
BLITZER: That's a huge threat.
Here is another thing that might be keeping you up. In eight days, the Department of Homeland Security, hard to believe, will not have any money unless Congress appropriates funds. And there are a bunch of Republicans out there saying they are not going to vote for it unless you do away with the president's immigration reforms that he unilaterally enacted through his executive order, even though a Texas judge has now said he can't do that. It's all in abeyance.
What's going to happen? JOHNSON: Well, it's eight calendar days, but what does keep me
up at night is only four working days for Congress. Congress is in recess this week.
And we're on a continuing resolution right now, which expires, as you point out, next Friday. There are huge drawbacks just to being on a continuing resolution. So simply kicking the can down the road, which I'm afraid they might do for another couple of weeks or days, still hampers Homeland Security, because there are new initiatives that we need to spend for, for border security, for the Secret Service, for grants and so forth that we cannot fund as long as we're on a continuing resolution.
And I think your coverage throughout reflects the fact that in these challenging times, the American public needs a fully funded Department of Homeland Security. And I'm up on the Hill talking to Democrats and Republicans, as long as they will listen to me, about the importance of funding homeland security for this nation.
BLITZER: Because everybody agrees on that, that you have got to fund homeland security. You have got critically important agencies in the Department of Homeland Security.
If Congress came back in the coming days before the end of February, just passed a continuing resolution to keep you operating, funded through the end of the fiscal year, which is the end of September, is that good enough?
JOHNSON: No, it's not. There are huge drawbacks to being on a continuing resolution.
BLITZER: But at least you don't run out of money. If they don't even do that, you have nothing.
JOHNSON: Yes, but, Wolf, being on a continuing resolution is like driving across country on five gallons of gas at a time. And you don't know when the next gas station is.
The Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for the homeland security and the public safety of this nation, should not have to operate that way. The president has made plain he will veto a bill that comes to his desk that defunds our efforts to reform our immigration system.
So it's time for the House and Senate, in my view, to stop doing this and sit down and work this out so we get a fully funded Department of Homeland Security.
BLITZER: Well, since the president's actions are in abeyance, are suspended at least for the time being as the courts determine what can he do, how has that impacted your efforts to get new funding for the Department of Homeland Security? In your conversations with the Republicans, what are they saying to you?
JOHNSON: Well, we will see how that plays out when they come back next week? We disagree with that decision of the Texas judge. And we're going to appeal.
BLITZER: Right, but that's the law now. A federal judge in Texas has ruled the president was wrong, he can't do that. It's going to go to a court of appeals, maybe wind up at the Supreme Court. But that will take some time.
The question, though, is, in the interim, is that going to give the Republicans, if you will, an out and say, you know what, what we were trying to prevent isn't going to happen anyhow, so now go ahead and fund the Department of Homeland Security?
JOHNSON: Wolf, my message to Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, is consistent. We need a fully funded Department of Homeland Security unburdened by efforts to defund our efforts to fix the immigration system. That's what we need. That's what the public needs for the sake of public safety.
BLITZER: One final question, only because I know you worked for Rudy Giuliani when he was a U.S. attorney.
You heard the statement he made. And he said: "I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. He doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country."
That's pretty outrageous, when you think about it, that he's saying the president of the United States doesn't love America.
You know Rudy Giuliani. You worked for him. When you heard that, what was your reaction?
JOHNSON: You are correct. Rudy hired me to be an assistant U.S. attorney 26 years ago.
I was with Mayor Giuliani last 9/11 in New York City. We made the rounds together at fire stations, police stations. And I have to say to the former mayor, that is not a helpful comment, particularly in these times when we're facing so many challenges right now.
And so I just don't regard it as a helpful comment about the president of the United States.
BLITZER: He is not backing away from it, though. He is almost doubling down.
JOHNSON: I do not regard it as a helpful comment.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for joining us. I know you are disappointed in the mayor, the former mayor of New York.
Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.
JOHNSON: Thank you. BLITZER: Just ahead, our terror experts on the secrets revealed
from inside Osama bin Laden's hideout, what struck them about the documents seized in the bin Laden raid.
Also, the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department responding to a story we broke right here in THE SITUATION ROOM about a possible federal lawsuit against the police force in the aftermath of the riots.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight. A major offensive to retake Iraq's second largest city from ISIS control. A source telling CNN the U.S. will train up to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces for an operation that could begin as early as April.
Let's get some more with our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen; our counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd; our national security analyst Fran Townsend.
Fran, you heard Barbara Starr's report. The coalition will launch this major offensive to try to retake Mosul, including a lot of Iraqi Kurdish ground troops, American troops there in an advisory capacity. Is it still accurate to say, though, that there would be no U.S. combat troops on the ground if that operation were to begin?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Wolf, I think the administration and the Pentagon are going to try to make the distinction between those who actually go forward in tactical units in the fight and those who stay behind the line and advise the tactical units.
You know, Barbara made the point about how unusual it is the U.S. -- U.S. military doesn't signal before a battle that it's going to go into. Quite frankly, I think it's a little irresponsible that we're announcing that we are going to prepare Kurdish and Iraqi forces to go in six or eight weeks before they're going in. Because really, you're telling the enemy we're coming. And the enemy will set bobby traps and will have time to plan against us.
And so, look, regardless of whether or not we're going in, I don't think it's smart to signal your intention.
BLITZER: You agree, Phil?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I'm not sure I would agree with that. My point would be quite simple.
Look, we have a relatively small terror organization that over the past eight months has transformed itself into an insurgent group that owns a vast majority of territory in western and northwestern Iraq and also, obviously, in Syria.
For a long time now, ISIS has known we're coming after them in Mosul. So to say now we're training people for an operation they know is coming after them, to my mind, is not a big surprise. The most interesting aspect of this, Wolf, is pretty
straightforward. Can a terror group transition itself to be an organization that holds territory in the face of vast conventional superiority -- superiority that the Iraqi army, with the Americans behind them, will bring? I think this will be a fascinating battle. And I don't think the element of surprise has been with us. So I don't think this is a big shock.
BLITZER: Peter, let me get you to weigh in on bin Laden. We're getting new documents that were taken from his compound there in Abbottabad, saying that he was encouraging his couriers to dress up as women in disguises. Give us your perspective. You're an authority on this subject.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, bin Laden was in a part of the world which had a lot of Pashtuns living there, and of course, all the women are heavily covered, completely covered. So, you know, it's an ideal disguise, because there's a very heavy cultural construct that doesn't allow you to search women. So I mean, to me, it's not surprising. it makes sense. That's what I would do if I was a bin Laden courier.
BLITZER: Were you aware of this, Phil? Did you know that bin Laden's couriers were encouraged to dress up as women, wear the burkas, if you will, so they could get through various locations?
MUDD: Yes, we knew about this. In fact, I remember one operation where we took down a senior operator, not just a courier, who was dressed in women's clothing for exactly the reason Peter mentioned. You don't surveil somebody, you don't question somebody who's in women's clothing.
I do think there's a broader issue here that we're going to learn from all this information, these documents that are being revealed. And that is what I witnessed at the agency and the bureau is that al Qaeda in Pakistan, the core organization that was responsible for 9/11, was a learning organization.
And in the age of the Internet, they learned how to evade surveillance. They read media. They read court documents when we were prosecuting al Qaeda members to figure how the those al Qaeda members were picked up. So I've been surprised a lot in the 15 years. But one of the surprises certainly hasn't been these guys figuring out different ways to evade surveillance. We saw this quite often.
BLITZER: All right. Good information. Guys, stand by. We're going to continue to monitor the breaking news.
Also just ahead, is Rudy adding insult to injury after he suggested the president of the United States does not love his country? We're going to tell you what the former New York City mayor is now saying.
BLITZER: New tonight, the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department tells CNN it's trying to comply with the U.S. Justice Department as the threat of a federal lawsuit hangs over the police force. It's a story we broke right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Six months after the death of Michael Brown and the first wave of unrest, sources telling CNN the Justice Department is preparing a lawsuit, alleging a pattern of racially discriminatory tactics by police officers in Ferguson. The sources say the suit will be filed if the Ferguson police force doesn't agree to make changes on its own. The Justice Department also expected to announce that it won't -- won't -- charge Darren Wilson, the former police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.
Let's bring in the St. Louis alderman, Antonio French; the CNN anchor, Don Lemon; the CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes; and the CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey, legally, explain what it means for the Ferguson police department to be complying with the Justice Department? Could the Justice Department still sue? What's going on?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, the threat of a lawsuit is what's hanging over this whole situation. Clearly, the Justice Department believes that there are certain policies in place in Ferguson that are racially discriminatory. Obviously, we don't know all the details, because the suit hasn't been filed. But there's been a lot of investigation.
And in these situations, which happen with some regularity, Cincinnati, New Orleans have all been sued for these sorts of issues.
Is the training racially discriminatory? Are there policies in place about whom to arrest and when that are discriminatory? Are any of the people at the top -- should they be removed? All of these issues are up for debate and possibly settlement in advance of a lawsuit.
But if the Justice Department isn't satisfied with the changes that Ferguson is prepared to make, they will sue and get a judge to force it or a settlement down the road.
BLITZER: Alderman French, are you satisfied that the Ferguson Police Department is, in fact, trying to comply with all of this?
ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS ALDERMAN: No, I'm not at all. I think that Ferguson itself is just a small piece of a larger puzzle and that, even if the federal government was able to get Ferguson to change, that there are at least a dozen municipalities around Ferguson that engage in the same kind of conduct.
And so I really want the Department of Justice to expand their investigation and really try to right the situation that exists in St. Louis County right now.
BLITZER: As you know, Tom Fuentes, there's still a lot of tension going on in Ferguson and, as Alderman French says, in some other areas. What steps need to be taken to mend these relations between the community and law enforcement.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: The police department is going to have to say, here's what we're told we need to do, and here's how we're going to go about doing it and be more public about that and let the public know.
So right now we don't know details of exactly what the Department of Justice inquiry found and what's in their recommendations that they're telling the police department to do or be sued. We need to hear from the police department not just that they're going to comply but what is it they're complying with.
BLITZER: Don, you spent a lot of time reporting from Ferguson. You've interviewed the key officials there. What's your reaction to what needs -- what needs to happen right now?
LEMON: I can tell you very simply. And I'll give you five ways that they can do it. No. 1, that they need to admit that they have a problem. The police department needs to admit that it has a problem with dealing with minorities and with the disconnect within the community.
No. 2, both sides need to sit down and listen. They don't have to meet on the 50-yard line. They can meet on the 40, the 30, the 20- yard line. Whatever, on whatever side. On the police side or the protesters' side or the citizens' side. But you have to at least meet and sit down, listen more than talking.
The next thing they need to do is community policing. Police either need to live in the community, or if they don't live in the community, they need to move there so that they would have some connection to the community.
And number four, the metropolitan area needs to follow suit. It is not just Ferguson, Missouri. And five, as Tom said, transparency. Simple as that.
BLITZER: You believe, Alderman French, any of this is really going to make much of a difference at this stage?
FRENCH: Well, I think if there are concessions made by Ferguson at the behest of the federal government, that's a step in the right direction. But it's just the first step in a very long journey. As I said, there are many municipalities around Ferguson that engage in similar behavior. And what we need is a large-scale systemic change in order to remedy the situation.
So, I hope that the light that has been shed on the situation will lead to that change. But this is just the first step.
BLITZER: All right. Antonio French, Tom Fuentes, Jeffrey Toobin, Don Lemon -- guys, thanks very, very much.
An important note to our viewers, Don, of course, will be back later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern for "CNN TONIGHT". Stick around and see that. Just ahead, are Republicans willing to reject Giuliani and his
charge that President Obama doesn't love the United States of America? We're getting reaction as the controversy is really exploding.
BLITZER: The Obama White House is now hitting back at the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani saying he said a horrible thing about the president of the United States. Giuliani told a private group that President Obama doesn't love his country.
Tonight, the Republican isn't backing down.
Let's bring our national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's got all the details -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is rhetoric, Wolf, that we are starting to see more often is this highly charged emotion of patriotism again is taking center stage. And this as our country debates over whether or not we should engage in a full-blown war against ISIS.
MALVEAUX: Former New York mayor and one time presidential contender Rudy Giuliani created a firestorm when at a private Republican fundraiser, he said this about President Obama: "I know this is a horrible thing to say but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you and he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up, and I was brought up through love of this country."
Social media lit up after the comments were detailed in "Politico", as Democrats and critics demanded a retraction. Giuliani attempted to tone down his comments on FOX News this morning.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: I'm not questioning his patriotism. He's a patriot, I'm sure. What I'm seeing is in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear him say the things that I used hear Ronald Reagan say, the things I used to hear Bill Clinton say about how much he loves America. I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents.
MALVEAUX: But he doubled down on the remarks later, telling CNN off camera that Obama doesn't express a great deal of love at this country.
The White House made a thinly veiled attempt at seeming above the fray.
ERIC SCHULTZ, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He seems embarrassed enough to be doing damage control this morning. So, I'm not going to pile on from here. But I will say, I agree with him on one thing he said today, which is that it was a horrible thing to say.
MALVEAUX: The remarks were delivered in front of the featured guests, likely presidential candidate, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who remained silent during Giuliani's rant. Walker refused to denounce Giuliani's comments today.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: The mayor can speak for himself. I'm not going to comment on whether -- what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well. I'll tell you, I love America.
MALVEAUX: Walker's deflections stand in contrast to 2008 when Republican Senator John McCain politely rebuked a voter who suggested Obama was an Arab.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, ma'am, no, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that's what this campaign is all about. He's not. Thank you.
MALVEAUX: With the race for 2016 starting the heat up, some Republicans are already worried the rhetoric has become extreme.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Rudy Giuliani is a friend of mine. I like him very much. He's a passionate man. But I think his comments were inappropriate and we should not question President Obama's love of country.
MALVEAUX: Having covered Obama in 2008, what strikes me in Giuliani's comments is when he says Obama was not brought up the way you or I was brought up, it harkens back to when his opponents try to paint him as other, a narrative that his supporters believe opened the door for others to use racist remarks against him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our chief national correspondent John King, the host of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS", our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar, and our CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza.
John, what possibly could Rudy Giuliani, he's a very intelligent, smart guy, a lot of political experience, what could he have been thinking telling a group, there are a lot of people there, even though it was close door or whatever, that the president of the United States does not love America?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the fact he reiterated it and then on FOX News added, well, I think he's a patriot but he doesn't love America like you and me, doesn't talk about America like you and me, I think he was saying what he thinks, saying what he believes -- which has every right to do as a citizen.
The question is, a lot of people view Mayor Giuliani as a little bit different, because he isn't just a citizen. He's the man, a lot of Democrats and independents loved and respect after 9/11 for his leadership in New York City, and it's even more complicated by the fact he had a Republican presidential candidate sitting at the table. In a short sentence, Wolf, if he believes that, he said this is a
horrible thing to say. Didn't your mother teach you, if you're about to say something horrible thing, don't say it.
BLITZER: Especially in front of a whole lot of people, maybe he believes them, but he shouldn't necessarily, you don't say that.
What do you think, Ryan?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he thought -- I think he thought there were no reporters there and it was going to be off the record. So, he was truly saying what he believed because he didn't think it was going to be on camera or reported. You know, what strikes me about this whole episode is, as Suzanne's piece noted, you go from 2008 to now, this idea of Obama as alien, this idea of Obama as something other than an America, it has just migrated from the fringes of the Republican Party into the mainstream. If you have someone like Rudy Giuliani saying that, it has come into the mainstream.
I'm even more surprised that Scott Walker who is being talked about now as a possible front runner for the Republican nomination didn't feel necessary to establish himself, to separate himself from that wing of the party and come out strongly condemning this.
BLITZER: Sure, the way John McCain did when that woman at the town hall said, you know, he's an Arab.
LIZZA: Which is one of the greatest moments of McCain's career.
BLITZER: Yes, McCain had the decency to say to her, you know what, you're wrong.
But that was another time. And all of a sudden, we're remembering all those things.
Brianna, when you heard about it, what did you think?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think to Ryan's point about perhaps he thought it was a private moment, it's stunning, because at this point, we know that there's no such thing as a private moment for someone, I guess you could say, is a leader in their party whether they're a can understand or not. I think what you can take away from the comments is they are derivative of something a lot of Republicans believe and that is many in the GOP think that the president sees the world as an internationalist. That maybe he doesn't see things from a truly American perspective and it kind of -- can turn into a slippery slope certainly at times.
We heard Susan talking about this issue of racism, but I haven't talked to a single Republican who thought it was a good idea that Rudy Giuliani said this. And it may be good at some points for fundraising but it's not good for the GOP brand at all.
BLITZER: You know, is it realistic, John, for a politician, political -- he's not going to get back into politics, Rudy Giuliani, when he goes on television this morning. Could he have said, you know what, I screwed up. I made a mistake, I'm sorry, I -- of course, didn't mean that and I apologized to the president of the United States. What would have been so bad about saying that?
KING: Nothing. He didn't say that and he's an intelligent man. This is what he believes. This is what he wants to say. There's could be two different things but I suspect not. I think this is what he believes.
The question is, why would he say it in a public setting? He knows his role. He knows his influence. He also knows he was in the room with a likely presidential candidate who has risen in polls right now, and this is going to put the burden on Scott Walker and on the other Republican presidential debates.
I'm sorry -- Rudy Giuliani can say whatever he wants, that he's entitled to his opinion. I think it's foolish to question the president's policies, even questions the president's rhetoric and say, why doesn't he say "Islamic radicalism"? That's a fair debate. The president has reasons.
Those who criticize the president, criticize him on the substance. To say he's not a patriot, I'm sorry, he didn't he's not a patriot -- to say he doesn't love America, poppycock.
BLITZER: And, you know --
KING: But Scott Walker sitting in that room right now and he says, I'm not going to judge Rudy Giuliani. He wants to be president of the United States, Wolf. He has to decide who's in his cabinet. He signs peace deals with, who he trusts. He's not going to have to make judgments every single day as president of the United States.
BLITZER: Let's not forget. When he said Rudy Giuliani, that this is a guy who was not raised to love America -- remember who raised him. His grandparents, his grandfather served in World War II. His grandmother worked in a munitions factory in the United States to help the U.S. win World War II, and now, he's suggesting he wasn't raised that way to love America.
LIZZA: That's what's I think was so outrageous about this. What John pointed out, is there is a debate to have about how one projects American power in the world, about how one talks about errors that America has made in the past. I think that's at the core of what Giuliani is trying to say here. He doesn't like Obama, you know, apologizing for anything or talking about America is anything but a force for good in the world. Fine. That's a legitimate debate that everyone has.
But to just personalize it and to say that he's not American, that he didn't grow up like you and me, whatever that means, it's atrocious. It's one of the more atrocious commentaries in politics.
BLITZER: Brianna, has the Hillary Clinton camp reacted to this?
KEILAR: No, they haven't. We have seen her at times during some of these debates where Republicans sort of struggling or they're really talking themselves into a hole. We have seen her step in, for instance on the politics of vaccination. She tweeted about that.
She hasn't stepped in on this. We see her at times really just kind of letting Republicans hoist themselves on their own petard. I think some of this really kind of is still playing out, just like John said.
You know, Rudy Giuliani could have back-pedaled on this. If he had, he would have given, for instance, Scott Walker some cover to say, you know what? Rudy Giuliani has sort of taken back his comments, but he hasn't.
BLITZER: We invited Rudy Giuliani to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We hope he comes and explains what he wanted to say.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.