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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. Ambassador Attacked; Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf; Justice Department Releases Report on Ferguson Police Department; Hillary Clinton Under Fire
Aired March 4, 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: One of America's most dangerous adversaries is helping the U.S.-led war against ISIS.
And new subpoenas for Hillary Clinton. We're learning that she went to surprising lengths to use a private e-mail account in her official capacity as secretary of state. Was she hiding anything? I will ask a State Department spokeswoman.
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: And let's get right to breaking news.
Searing new evidence of racial bias and outright hatred. Tonight, the attorney general, Eric Holder, says it's not hard to understand why the city of Ferguson, Missouri, exploded in violence after the shooting death of Michael Brown. He says there's been a highly toxic environment between Ferguson police and the city's African-American community.
Holder is speaking out about a new Justice Department report that includes deeply offensive racist e-mails sent by police and court officials often targeting President Obama and the first lady.
We're standing by for reaction from the Ferguson police chief and the mayor, live coverage coming up this hour.
Also tonight, official confirmation that no federal civil rights charges are being filed against Darren Wilson in Michael Brown's death. This hour, I will talk to a lawyer for the Brown family. There he is, Daryl Parks.
We have our correspondents and analysts and newsmakers. They are all standing by as we cover all of the news that is breaking right now.
First, let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's joining us live from Ferguson, Missouri, with the very latest -- Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this report might be eye- opening to some people. But here in Ferguson, many people say this report finally proves and documents what they have lived and experienced for years.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Months after violent racially charged protests in Ferguson, a new Justice Department report is exposing the ugly and pervasive culture of racial bias that ignited the unrest.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: our view of the evidence found no, no alternative explanation for the disproportionate impact on African-American residents, other than implicit and explicit racial bias.
LAVANDERA: The Justice Department's more-than-100-page report reveals a pattern of practice and discrimination against African- Americans by Ferguson police and municipal court employees.
It's filled with specific cases and shocking racially offensive e-mails targeting the president and first lady. One e-mail depicts the president as a chimpanzee. Another includes a photo of a group of bare-chested women in what appears to be Africa with a caption that reads, "Michelle Obama's high school reunion."
Community leaders in Ferguson are outraged.
REV. TRACI BLACKMON, FERGUSON COMMISSION: If they would say that about the president of the United States, what do you think they would say about poor black men and poor black women living in a racialized area of the city?
LAVANDERA: The report shows that African-Americans in Ferguson faced that kind of discrimination day in and day out. In one example, an African-American man was pulled out of his apartment after an argument. When he told police you don't have a reason to lock me up, the officer responded using the N-word and saying, I can find something to lock you up on.
Despite the Justice Department's finding of a pattern of racist behavior by police, the second report cleared Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
HOLDER: The facts do not support the filing of criminal charges against officer Darren Wilson in this case.
LAVANDERA: Tonight, Michael Brown's parents are disappointed, but say they are "encouraged the DOJ will hold the Ferguson Police Department accountable for the pattern of racial bias and profiling they found in their handling of interactions with people of color."
LAVANDERA: Wolf, many people are hoping that -- community organizers -- excuse me -- it's freezing here. Community organizers and advocates here in Ferguson hope this is a wakeup call to not just the city of Ferguson, but to other cities around the Saint Louis area who say this should be a wakeup call, because many cities around here, they say, operate just like the city of Ferguson as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's pretty sad to hear that. Ed, go inside. Thanks very much.
The attorney general says, Ferguson police weren't only motivated by racial bias when they targeted African-Americans, they apparently also were trying to bring in cash.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent Pamela Brown and our justice reporter Evan Perez.
Evan, Ferguson police, they were under pressure to write tickets to collect money.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They were under pressure. Wolf, the city government of Ferguson apparently was running a booming business in writing traffic citations against motorists who went through the city.
I will give you a couple statistics. In 2010 -- I'm sorry -- in the past year, the city has written 50 percent more citations than in 2010. Also in 2010, the Ferguson courts collected $1.3 million in fines and fees. In 2015, they are expecting $3 million. It's a big increase. Attorney General Eric Holder had some criticism of this practice. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: The city relies on the police force to serve essentially as a collection agency for the municipal court, rather than as a law enforcement entity focused primarily on maintaining and promoting public safety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: Wolf, beyond the practices of the police department and the courts, the Justice Department uncovered some really shocking e- mails that really describe what the attitude within the police department was.
I will give you one e-mail from 2011 which described a woman in New Orleans going in for an abortion. "And after she gets out of the hospital, she gets a check for $5,000." This is a joke that was being shared in the department, Ferguson Police Department. "She called the hospital to ask why she was getting this money. And the answer was, Crime Stoppers."
In other words, African-Americans are born criminals.
BLITZER: That's pretty shocking.
In this report also, they decided that there was not enough evidence to go ahead and file federal charges against the white police officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown. You are getting more information on that conclusion.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
It's really interesting because you have this one report that everyone was just talking about showing that there were systemic issues with racial bias and then this other report from the Justice Department, a lengthy report saying that no civil rights charges will be filed against Darren Wilson, basically saying that Darren Wilson did not use unreasonable force when he shot and killed Michael Brown.
There's a few key points in this lengthy report, Wolf. First, it talks about the fact that the autopsy results confirm that Brown was actually walking toward Wilson. Also it talk about Wilson's account that Michael Brown grabbed for his gun at the SUV.
The report says, there's nothing to directly corroborate Wilson's account, but nothing to disprove it either. That's really key here. They couldn't find anyone to disprove that. And then with the witness accounts, many we have already heard from the prosecutor's office, it focused on fact that many of the witness accounts were conflicting, that they didn't line up.
All of this together, this is what the report says. "The evidence when viewed as a whole does not support the conclusion that Wilson's use of deadly force were objectively unreasonable under the Supreme Court's definition." Now we know he will not face civil rights charges from the Justice Department, Wolf.
BLITZER: Evan Perez and Pamela Brown, guys, thanks very much.
Tonight, Michael Brown's parents say his death won't have been in vein if real change happens in the Ferguson police force and indeed throughout the city.
Joining us now, one of the lawyers for the Brown family, Daryl Parks.
Daryl, thanks very much for joining us.
I want to play the clip from Attorney General Eric Holder. He said he personally reviewed this decision on whether to whether or not to file charges against the former police Darren Wilson. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Michael Brown's death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of officer Wilson. Now, this conclusion represents the sound, considered, and independent judgment of the expert career prosecutors within the Department of Justice.
I have been personally briefed on multiple occasions about these findings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I know the family, the Michael Brown family is disappointed. But do you accept what Eric Holder said, that he personally reviewed everything and this was his conclusion?
DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF MICHAEL BROWN: Not only do we accept it, Wolf, but we thank the attorney general for his involvement.
We also thank the line prosecutors who also -- Fara Gold, who was one of the assistant U.S. attorneys from D.C. involved and many other FBI agents. If nothing else, I think that their involvement allowed us to get closer to the truth in this case.
I think the truth plays a big role in that now we know what happened. Whether or not they were able to file a federal civil rights criminal complaint against Darren Wilson is a total different issue. I think that the family, although very disappointed, in that the killer of their son continues to go free, is very disappointing to them and would be disappointing to any person who has lost their child.
However, they are, as we said earlier, encouraged by the fact that the Justice Department has found the things that it found within the department. When you think about Michael Brown, think about the first thing that officer Darren Wilson said to the boys as he approached them. He told them to "get the F on the sidewalk."
That's just not a way that an officer should greet young men who are walking in their own neighborhood. So we are hopeful that this action by the Department of Justice in Ferguson, Missouri, will lead to some positive change.
PARKS: Go ahead.
BLITZER: I was going to say, we know that some officials from the Department of Justice I believe have met with the Brown family. But has the attorney general been in touch over the past day or two or anyone else in the federal government to explain their decisions?
PARKS: No, what happened, Wolf, the officials from the Department of Justice arrived in Saint Louis late last night. We met at 9:00 this morning here at the FBI headquarters in Saint Louis.
I was in that meeting, along with other members of our legal team and members from the Department of Justice. At that time, they went through the report, answered any questions that the family might have had regarding it. We are thankful to both the FBI in Saint Louis and Department of Justice in Saint Louis and in Washington for what they did.
If nothing else, I think it gave them a little bit of clarity. We don't agree with everything that the DOJ said about the findings. A lot of it is their interpretation of it. You will probably hear our interpretation of the same set of facts as we go forward.
However, we remain very grateful though at least for the oversight of the attorney general and the other prosecutors and FBI agents in the department for their work on this case.
BLITZER: You have confidence in Eric Holder, the outgoing attorney general, and his team? You believe they did their best, right?
PARKS: I believe he gave -- I am very proud of the attorney general for his work and for standing up.
It's really clear that this was a very tough case that tended to really bring emotion within the country. And it was a tough decision for them to get involved in this decision. However, the Department of Justice under Attorney General Holder's leadership, they stepped up and did a thorough investigation.
We never intended for him to do exactly what we wanted him to do. We wanted a fair and impartial investigation and oversight over both the Saint Louis County police and the Ferguson police in their efforts here in Missouri. And we got that. And so to them, we are grateful for their involvement.
It was certainly a lot of resources, time spent by many people within the Department of Justice. And we are grateful for what they did to try to at least move us a little closer to justice. We don't quite agree with their conclusions, but their conclusions are based upon federal law. And a federal requirement is a very heightened requirement that they're required to follow.
As a lawyer, I understand that part of it. But my clients, who are loving parents, continue to grieve very hard for the loss. To hear the news that they heard today went to their core, to know that their son is no longer with us and person who did it as of now has not had to pay a price.
BLITZER: There was no grand jury indictment. The federal government now is not going to file any charges. Are you planning a civil lawsuit right now against Darren Wilson and/or the local police, the city of Ferguson?
PARKS: Well, without question, obviously, when you have civil rights violations, although the Department of Justice couldn't file criminal charges, the civil aspect is one that resides with the parents. They obviously are moving in that direction.
BLITZER: They are? Any idea when those papers will be filed?
PARKS: We will let you know.
BLITZER: All right.
I want you to stand by, Daryl Parks.
We are also standing by to hear from the Ferguson police chief, Tom Jackson, the mayor, James Knowles. We're going to have live coverage of that. Daryl Parks is staying with us. He's the family attorney for the Michael Brown family. Much more right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We have very disturbing breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Government sources here in the United States and South Korea are now confirming that the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, the United States ambassador to South Korea -- there you see a picture -- Mark Lippert, has been attacked. The ambassador is injured. He is being treated right now.
Let's get some details.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by.
Barbara, I know details are just coming in. The U.S. ambassador to South Korea has been attacked. What do we know?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this hour, the information is sketchy. But what CNN is hearing that Ambassador Lippert was attacked in South Korea, possibly by more than one person, according to both U.S. and South Korean sources.
There are indications, we are told, that the attackers were armed. But it's not clear yet that the ambassador was actually attacked with a gun, all of this still emerging. I will tell you that Ambassador Lippert, Mark Lippert, is someone very well-known in Washington national security circles and especially here at the Pentagon.
He served for some time as chief of staff to the former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He served in top positions advising on Asian affairs. This was his specialty in national security. He also previously served at the National Security Council at the White House and served on the Obama/Biden transition team.
Mark Lippert is someone that is very well-known to President Obama, has been a top aid in all of the positions over the years. He recently left the Pentagon after being confirmed as ambassador to South Korea. And if you followed any of his social media, you saw that he was moving. He moved around Seoul all the time, often with his basset hound on the street, walking, getting stopped by the people on the street who wanted to say hello to him, who wanted to say hello to his dog.
Right now, of course, as you say, he is being treated. All indications are he will be OK.
BLITZER: Barbara, I want to show our viewers video, some pictures just coming in.
You can see he has been attacked. We don't necessarily believe attacked with a gun, but attacked with some sort of weapon. He clearly has been injured. There you see him with his hand to his face. We don't know the extent of the injuries. We do know, according to government sources, he is being treated for those injuries right now. We have no idea who attacked him, how many individuals may have attacked him.
But maybe Marie Harf, the deputy spokeswoman at the State Department who is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, has some additional information.
Marie, this is shocking, what's going on. What can you share with us?
MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, details are still coming in, obviously. And this has just happened.
I have seen the photos that I think you just showed of our ambassador, Mark Lippert, who is, as Barbara said, a longtime Asia policy specialist, one of our top ambassadors that we have certainly. And from seeing the photos -- and I'm not a doctor -- but they don't appear life-threatening. Obviously, our team on the ground and our security folks are talking to the South Koreans, will be, and to folks there to really get a sense for what happened here, but a lot of details really unknown at this point.
BLITZER: But under normal circumstances, Marie, when a United States ambassador in Seoul, South Korea, walks around, he has got security guards, right?
HARF: I don't know, Wolf. I don't know the answer to that. Obviously, our ambassadors have security around the world. South Korea is a pretty safe place, I think. But I don't know the details here. We will get more facts and see what exactly transpired.
Again, hope that it wasn't too serious. Doesn't appear life- threatening, but don't know all the facts yet.
BLITZER: Yes. I know you are going to check with your sources in South Korea. I'm going to get back to you, Marie, so stand by.
But, Barbara, it dawned on me, as someone who has studied the Korean Peninsula, this comes at a sensitive moment. I have no idea if this was just some random thug on the streets of Seoul, South Korea, if this was some sort of planned political statement or whatever. But U.S.-South Korea military operations, exercises, they are under way right now. North Korea doesn't like those. Right?
STARR: That's right. Wolf, there's always some certain level of tension on the peninsula, something that Ambassador Lippert probably knows a great deal about, more than most of us.
These exercises under way, the U.S. and South Korea, North Korea making a lot of noise about it in recent days, as they often do. But the U.S. and the South Koreans exercise routinely the military program. So the U.S. shows its support for South Korea and tries to encourage stability on the peninsula. As you look at these pictures, Wolf, again, I'm no doctor and I'm
no photo experts. It looks like possibly he was potentially maybe at some sort of event or indoors. He is in his business suit. I have seen pictures of Ambassador Lippert as he walks around Seoul perhaps more casually dressed with his family, with his dog.
So this looks like it was some sort of official appearance or official -- something official that he was doing in his capacity as ambassador. I think it will indeed raise questions about what his security was. Were they there with him at the time? Ambassadors often sometimes ask their security people to hang back just a little bit potentially in more safe areas of the world when they are trying to interact with the local population. We just don't have the answers here.
It looks like he did sustain an injury to his face, because you see him with his hand up there. And I think Marie Harf is exactly right. The facts are just barely emerging right now. Everyone of course wishes him the best. He just arrived in South Korea a few short months ago after leaving the Pentagon. And this is a man whose expertise and career really has been devoted to Asia security issues.
This was the job he wanted so badly. He would talk about it in the hallways of the Pentagon. He was very much looking forward to becoming ambassador to South Korea and had really wanted to move there and serve U.S. interests there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And he had extensive military service as well, serving in the United States Navy, was an intelligence adviser back in 2007 and 2008 to SEAL Team One.
I just want to report now for our viewers here in the United States and around the world what we know. The United States ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, we have now confirmed through U.S. and South Korean sources, was attacked in Seoul, South Korea. He was injured. We don't know the extent of the injuries. But there you can see him with his hand to his face.
We don't know what kind of weapon was used, although there was some weapon that was used. We are told it might not necessarily have been a gun. The ambassador was injured. He is being treated right now. Once again, we don't know the extent of the injuries, Mark Lippert, the United States ambassador to South Korea, highly unusual, because the situation in Seoul, South Korea, and South Korea is usually extremely safe for American diplomats, and U.S. officials are very popular in South Korea.
This is very extraordinary right now, which raises all sorts of questions to those of us who have covered the Korean Peninsula.
Marie Harf is still with us, the deputy spokeswoman at the State Department.
We have no idea who is responsible. As I said before, it could have been some random thug on the streets of South Korea. Could have been someone trying to make some sort of political statement. What we know now is that there are U.S.-South Korean exercises, annual exercises going on. The North Koreans have made some tough statements in recent days warning against these exercises.
I remember vividly five years ago when the U.S. had these exercises with South Korea, the North Koreans actually shot a South Korean ship, killing a lot of South Korean sailors, to make a point, to make a statement. Give us a little perspective, Marie, on what's going on in the Korean Peninsula right now.
HARF: Well, again, you are right.
We don't know what was behind what appears to be an attack on our ambassador in South Korea. But we do regular exercises with the South Korean military. They are not aggressive in nature. They are transparent. We are very open about them and speak publicly about them. And they are not intended to be directed towards any country or threatening.
And we repeatedly say that. When the North Koreans make noise publicly and complain about them and take escalatory actions, we say very clearly, these are part of our relationship with the South Koreans, a longstanding alliance. And they're not designed to be aggressive in any way.
But we have seen unfortunately, Wolf, you know this better than anyone, the North Koreans take increasingly escalatory steps. They have raised tensions by trying to launch missiles, obviously going back to nuclear tests. But this is a serious problem on the peninsula. And we are very committed to seeing if we can stand by our allies to try to reduce tensions there.
BLITZER: And 46 South Korean sailors died when that ship was attacked by North Korea, supposedly in disputed waters. But it was a tense moment. Those U.S./South Korean exercises were taking place, this five years ago. Clearly, the North Koreans wanted to make a statement.
Paula Hancocks is joining us now from Seoul, South Korea.
Paula, what's going on? Because it's very disturbing information. The U.S. ambassador, Mark Lippert, to South Korea has been attacked.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
We have confirmation now from the embassy, an embassy spokesman in Seoul saying that they can confirm there was an incident this morning. It's now 8:30 in the morning local time. They said that Ambassador Lippert is currently in hospital. But he is in a stable condition.
We know that he was at an event this morning. It was the reconciliation of the two Koreas. So, he was at a public event. We don't know exactly how this went -- how this was carried out. But it was about 7:42.
BLITZER: Paula -- hold on one second, Paula, because we are now being told he was attacked by a razor blade. Someone took a razor blade and went to his right cheek and slit it.
That's why he is holding his hand there.
But go ahead, finish your report.
HANCOCKS: That's right. This is what we have from the police at the moment, that it was a suspect in his 60s. He used a small razor blade.
He had -- the ambassador has injuries on his right check, also on his hand, which obviously coincides with those pictures that we're seeing. The suspect at this point has been detained. He is under investigation. Police tell us they have no idea what the motive of this attack -- but these are the latest details that we have, that it was a small razor blade attack.
And it was at a public event this morning, the reconciliation of two Koreas. The ambassador is in hospital and in a stable condition, according to the embassy.
BLITZER: Any indications, Paula, that this could have been politically motivated, that this 60-year-old individual who allegedly took a razor blade and went to the ambassador's right cheek with it -- we can see him holding his hand there. Clearly, he is bleeding as he is being rushed to the hospital for treatment.
Any indication there was some sort of political motive or what?
HANCOCKS: Well, police say they don't have a motive at this point. But they are going to be looking at everything. Obviously, this is not just an attack that happened in North Korea -- in South Korea.
They are going to be looking at possible implications from North Korea. They are going to be looking at all sorts of different possibilities, whether or not there was an attack against the United States, whether or not it was North Korea-related.
There are a number of different implications with this attack, or whether or not this was just a lone attacker who had problems. It's really too early to tell. Police say they do not know at this point. They are questioning the man. He is under investigation. He has been detained. He is with authorities right now. So, they are talking to him right now to try and find out why he did this.
BLITZER: According to South Korea's YTN news channel, Paula -- and let me just share with our viewers what they are reporting.
Ambassador Lippert was about to deliver a speech, as you noted, at a breakfast being held at a hall in Seoul. The witness -- one witness, eyewitness, claims to have heard someone yelling something like, "North Korea and South Korea should be unified." This report from South Korean television says nothing specific
about the attack, only that the yelling was heard when the bloodied ambassador was rushed to hospital.
The report also says the suspect is identified only by the last name Kim, which obviously, is a very common Korean name. He was detained. The report also says ambassador was injured around his face as well as on his arm.
Marie Harf, the State Department deputy spokeswoman is still here. I don't know if you're getting more information that you can share with our viewers.
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Not a lot yet. The ambassador is at the hospital being treated. His injuries are not life-threatening, as I think we can see from the photos. There's no known motive yet, but a full investigation will follow. Obviously, you're hearing that from other sources, as well. But before jumping to conclusions, we just want to get more facts, talk to someone that has been apprehended. At this point, no known motive, but we will do a full investigation, work with the South Koreans on this.
BLITZER: I assume, Paula, you're there in Seoul, South Korea. You've seen the U.S. ambassador in operations. This was an event designed to support North and South Korea, the unification of North and South Korea at some point down the road. I assume at an event like this, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea would have security protection. Right?
HANCOCKS: Well, certainly there would be security around him. I mean, I've seen him travel in the past. And they're obviously very careful about his travel.
This is not, obviously, something that you would expect to happen, especially not in South Korea. Obviously, there are many tensions between the North and the South.
South Korea on the whole is a very safe country. This is not a country where you would expect ambassadors to have to have extra security and the likes of what you would see in the Middle East, for example. Even though this is a country that is still technically at war, it is a very safe country. He was at a public event. Quite often at these public events, there's not a lot of security to go into the event itself. Certainly, there would -- there may be, if it was a high-profile guest like an ambassador, there may be a metal detector. But it's not a country where it's regular to have this high level of security going in to hear these kinds of -- these meetings, these breakfast meetings, these speeches.
So certainly, that's something that I think will now be looked at. But of course, the ambassador would have security around him but not as high a level as he would in a more tense or dangerous country.
BLITZER: And just to reiterate what's going on, Mark Lippert, the United States ambassador of South Korea, was attacked. Someone came up, an individual thought to be around 60 years old, a man shouting about North and South Korea unification with a small razor blade and slit his right cheek and apparently also parts of his arm.
The ambassador has been rushed to the hospital for treatment. This is not life-threatening, fortunately. But clearly, something is going on.
Kyung Lah, who has spent a lot of time in South Korea, is joining us on the phone. Well, Kyung Lah, you know something about the security environment in South Korea. I think all of us who have been there know it's a pretty safe place.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very safe place. I just want to reiterate what Paula was saying, that the security level in South Korea, specifically in Seoul, is quite different than you might see in Washington, D.C., or anywhere else in a large city in America.
And the reason for that is, frankly, it's guns. It's much more difficult to get a gun in South Korea than it is in the United States. So that's the first context we want to put on this.
But also, as far as access to these ambassadors, when you talk about access, just as a reporter, there is a bit lower security profile. You do have a bit more access. When Christopher Hill was the envoy to North Korea, the U.S. envoy to North Korea, we had much more access to him than you might expect in the United States. So there is a bit more access at a public speaking event that would also be more access for the public. And again, that's because of the security profile of the country at large.
As Paula was saying, yes, North and South Korea, we hear about that all the time, that this is a country still technically at war, that the war ended in truce, but the level of security in Seoul is certainly much lower.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a very disturbing development. Of course, we're going to stay on top of this story of the United States ambassador to South Korea. He's been attacked with a razor blade, a small razor blade. He's now in the hospital getting some treatment. Fortunately, not life-threatening. We don't know what the motive was of this 60-year-old who went after the U.S. ambassador to South Korea at a public event.
We're getting more information. Marie -- Marie Harf is still with us, the deputy spokeswoman at the State Department. You know this ambassador? Right?
HARF: I do, very well.
BLITZER: You met him. And by all accounts, a gentleman, a very intelligent guy; very impressive military background, as well.
HARF: Absolutely. And he's one of our top Asia policy expects in the U.S. government. Obviously, ambassador now was chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel who I also used to work for and also was at the National Security Council working on Asia policy.
So a widely-regarded expert on these issues, well-liked by people. Don't, again, at this point, know what motive was behind this attack. But thankful that the injuries are not life-threatening, that he's being treated. And we will get to the bottom of what happened here and do a full investigation.
BLITZER: Marie Harf, I know we invited you to speak about other information. But thanks very much for joining us. Kyung Lah, we're going to be checking back with you.
Paula Hancocks, Barbara Starr, as well.
There's another breaking story we're following. Very disturbing story. The U.S. Justice Department issuing a very, very scathing report on the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department. The report suggesting that there has been widespread racism -- racism in Ferguson, Missouri, in the police force as well as in the court system.
Daryl Parks is still with us. He's the attorney representing Michael Brown's family. We're only a few minutes away from hearing from the mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles, the Ferguson police chief, Tom Jackson.
Daryl, what would you like to hear from them? What would you like to hear them say?
PARKS: Well, you know, this family is yet to hear them be apologetic for causing the death of Michael Brown. And so on behalf of my clients, they certainly would want to hear from them, you know, that they are apologetic for causing his death. Now, that may or may not happen. But that's what we would like to hear.
BLITZER: And anything else specifically? Anything else you'd like to hear from the mayor and the police chief? Because this report, it outlines a horrendous record as far as the African-American community in Ferguson is concerned.
PARKS: Well, but also, too, I think that No. 1, we would want to hear from them that they want to accept the findings of the Department of Justice.
Two, that they're committed to changing all of the problems that are shown in the report. For example, showing the issues with racial profiling, the issues with using the process pretty much to make money for the city.
And so a real commitment to change the city at all levels would be something that we would want to see happen within this department.
And the other part of it would be one of the things we saw in the Michael Brown case, in that it was obvious that this police officer had a disdain for young black men and that there be some commitment to making sure that community policing but also a sense of respect in how you treat citizens of Ferguson moving forward.
These are things that we would want to see them mention in this press conference. BLITZER: All right, Daryl, I want you to stand by as we await
the mayor and the police chief of Ferguson, Missouri. This will be their first reaction to the scathing report released by the Justice Department here in Washington outlining a really awful record of racism against the African-American community there. Stand by for that.
I also want to bring in the community activist, John Gaskin, as well as our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin. Sunny, do you accept Eric Holder's decision not to go ahead and file any charges against the white police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, I think that we all understood that that was the probability. The federal legal standard for bringing a civil rights case is very, very high. They are very difficult to prove. And so I think those of us that had reviewed this case knew that that was the likely result.
I do think, though, that it bares worth knowing that while the Justice Department in this scathing report says that they're making recommendations, in reality, Wolf, those are really almost mandates. Because if the Ferguson City Police Department and city doesn't, at this pressure, admit or accept this report, accept the recommendations, and agree to be monitored and agree to this wholesale reform, the Justice Department will sue. And the Justice Department will win. And so the end result will be the same.
So I think that we will be seeing this wholesale reform in the Ferguson Police Department and these municipal reports. The attorney general made it very, very clear that he is looking for concrete action and that everything is on the table.
I also suspect that we're going to see a change in leadership. I know the Police Chief Jackson has indicated that he's not stepping off the job, that he is not stepping down, that he certainly intends to see this through. I just can't imagine giving the findings in this report that that is going to happen. I can't see that.
BLITZER: And we're waiting for this news conference to begin. The first official reaction from the Ferguson mayor, the Ferguson police chief to the scathing report released by the Department of Justice here in Washington.
John Gaskin, you've got your finger on the pulse of the community there. What's been the reaction to what we've learned, both the decision not to file charges against the former police officer Darren Wilson, as well as the history of really overt racism there that is documented in this new report?
JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Well, many are not surprised by the statistics. As I have said along with many activists and other community leaders, the numbers are not shocking. This report merely validates the protest, the civil disobedience that we have seen since the killing of Michael Brown. The thing that is most shocking to the community, to be honest
with you, are the e-mails that circulated amongst people that work for the city of Ferguson. To read the atrocious content of some of those that were shared in that report was really disheartening. You know, reading some of the quotes from different officers, listening to some of the things that people that have been victims of the this police brutality said what happened to them, it would make you think you were living in the Jim Crow South. And we're in 2015.
And so the statistics are disappointing. They are what they are. I'm hoping and the community is hoping at this press conference that, hopefully, the police chief will make it clear that he plans to step down. Because I don't know how anyone can lead and admit to those type of failures that took place up under their leadership.
BLITZER: I would be surprised if the police chief announces at this press conference he's stepping down.
Tom Fuentes, our CNN law enforcement analyst is here, a former assistant director of the FBI; also Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is here, as well.
What do they need to say, Tom, right now, given this report? It's an extensive report, 100-plus pages. What does -- the mayor, what does the police chief, they need to say right now?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I agree with John in this case. Somebody needs to say, we're going to step down, because we were in charge and responsible for what's occurred over the last few years.
BLITZER: They've got a lot of work to do to reassure the community right now what's going on. We're being told that we're three minutes away from the mayor and the police chief walking in.
So we'll get Jeffrey Toobin to weigh in, as well. You've gone through this report, Jeffrey. It's a scathing report. There was a high bar that they had to go over if they were going to file charges against the former police officer.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I never thought it was likely that they were going to -- criminal charges against Darren Wilson. But the scope of the racism and appalling behavior is worse than I expected.
And I think what really needs to happen is that the Ferguson Police Department needs to be shut down. Other communities have done it. It would probably save the taxpayers money. It is time for real -- for real change. They could be absorbed into other police districts.
And somebody needs to have some accountability here. And given the scope, it seems like the entire police department should pay -- should pay a price. And the citizens of Ferguson will probably be better off as a result. BLITZER: As we await the mayor and the police chief of Ferguson,
Daryl Parks is still with us. He's the attorney for Michael Brown's family.
I know the family, Daryl, they've been disappointed that no charges are going to be filed against the former police officer who shot and killed their son, Michael Brown. But they are looking forward to some dramatic changes that potentially could take place to ease some of the pain that they've gone through. Right?
PARKS: Well, Wolf, I would like to say yes to that. But I believe this family is still at a point where they are grieving heavily. And I was with them today several times today. And the pain that they continue to have -- I think you have to, in the back of your mind, remember that on a day like today when you have a rehashing of the facts, where you have a major announcement by the government officials, it has a tendency to make all those wounds very fresh.
And so although some of us are talking about the other report that's there, the report that they are focused on are the 80-something pages where the Justice Department talks about why they can't charge Darren Wilson under the federal law.
They're parents. They're parents who for no reason and just untimely, their son was taken away. They didn't get a chance to say good-bye. So it's very emotional for them, highly emotional. It's the highest level to their hearts, to their core that they have suffered. So their analysis is a lot difference from the analysis that we're going to in terms of this report that DOJ put out. Their analysis is more my son was taken and I don't know why. And there's nothing that we can do about it right now.
BLITZER: All right. I want you to stand by, Daryl.
We're being told, by the way, that the police chief, Tom Jackson, will not -- at least this is what we are being told -- will not be participating in this event right now. We're also being told that the mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles, will make a statement but will not answer reporters' questions. We'll see if that changes for whatever reason.
But once again, Tom Jackson, the police chief of Ferguson who has been under a lot of criticism over the many months, apparently is not going to be attending this event, what was described as a news conference. But it may be making a statement and they're not answering questions. It's only the mayor. It's not much of a news conference. It's a statement from the mayor reacting to this investigation of the Ferguson police department by the federal government.
How unusual, Jeffrey Toobin, as we await the mayor, is all of this?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't want to talk over the mayor there. It looks like something is happening. I'll -- BLITZER: I think the mayor is coming in right now, although they
keep saying that. But let's see if the mayor -- this is the mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles, we're told who is going to be walking in. Let's listen to his statement.
Obviously, the mayor is under enormous pressure right now given the scathing report. There he is walking to the microphone.
MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES, FERGUSON, MISSOURI: More space for microphones than my remarks.
Good afternoon. I'm James Knowles, mayor of the city of Ferguson.
Yesterday, Ferguson City Manager John Shaw, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson and Ferguson City Attorney Stephanie Carr, along with myself, met with Department of Justice officials in downtown St. Louis, to receive the final report of their investigation into the policies and practices of the city of Ferguson Police Department.
The 100-page document outlined five specific areas of concern in which the Ferguson Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct that violates the United States Constitution and federal law. The Department of Justice began their investigation of the Ferguson Police Department on September 4, 2014.
During the past six months, city officials have cooperated with the Department of Justice to supply tens of thousands of documents which included thousands of e-mails from 75 employees of the city of Ferguson and other electronic materials from the Ferguson Police Department. The city also arranged ride-alongs for Department of Justice investigators to observe police officers while on duty.
During the meeting on Tuesday, Department of Justice officials informed the city of Ferguson that a review of city emails uncovered explicit racial bias by three individuals who are employed by the city of Ferguson police department.
Let me be clear: this type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Ferguson Police Department or in any department of the city of Ferguson.
Immediately upon leaving that meeting, the three individuals were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. One has been terminated since. The other two are still awaiting the outcome of an internal investigation. These actions taken by these individuals are in no way representative of the employees of the city of Ferguson.
Today's report allows the city of Ferguson to identify the problems not only in our police department but in the entire St. Louis region. We must do better not only as a city but as a state and a country. We must all work to address issues of racial disparity in all aspects of society.
As mentioned by the Department of Justice, there are several initiatives taking place in the city of Ferguson and in the police department. They are as follows: the Ferguson police department is in the process of hiring three new officers. We hope to have an update on the positions and the racial makeup of these new hires sometime in the next week. The Ferguson
Police Department has hired one correction officer since August 9th of 2014. One African-American female candidate was hired for that position out of a pool of approximately 91 applicants. The Ferguson Police Department has also hired two assistant court clerks since August 9th of 2014. Both positions were filled by African-American females from a pool of 64 applicants.
All Ferguson Police Department officers have completed mandatory diversity training as of December 31st, 2014.
The Ferguson Police Department has also begun an explorer program in the Ferguson Florissant School District beginning in January of 2015. The goal of the program is for officers to engage youth in the law enforcement profession as well as potentially recruit them for police positions in the future.
I've also convened a task force made up of residents, businesses and law enforcement to create a civilian oversight board that will review complaints and provide citizen input into the policies and procedures of the Ferguson Police Department. The task force meets weekly and efforts are already under way. This groundbreaking initiative will be one of the first of its kind in this region.
Lastly, the city of Ferguson has retained the services of an independent consultant recommended by the Department of Justice to conduct a patrol staffing and deployment study.
Finally, I would like to speak briefly about our efforts to reform the Ferguson municipal court. The city of Ferguson has acted in August and September of 2014 to implement several additional reforms and programs. The city of Ferguson was the first community in this region to undertake such steps.
In September 2014, the Ferguson city council repealed several provisions of the municipal code relating to fees such as an administrative fee of the police department when overseeing the release of a towed vehicle or on the recall of a warrant upon request.
In addition, there's no longer a specific offense for failing to appear which will eliminate certain additional fees and court costs for individuals in the court system. Pending charges of failing to appear which were issued prior to the reforms taking place are being dismissed as they come before the municipal court.
Finally, the municipal court judge has also implemented new procedures and programs. A new docket was established for those who are having trouble paying fines. A defendant may appear and speak to the judge and/or prosecutor about different payment plans or potential alternative sentencing.
The city has also passed an ordinance in September of 2014 to cap municipal court revenues at 15 percent of the city's overall budget. This is half of the legal limit allowed under state of Missouri law. This ordinance is also specified that any access municipal court revenue will be appropriated for community projects. These are just some of the initiatives that the city of Ferguson has taken and will continue to take moving forward to hopefully move this city, its residents and our entire community forward.
BLITZER: All right. There you hear it. The mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles, making a statement, not answering reporters' questions. The police chief, Tom Jackson, not available, not attending this statement that we just saw.
Let's get immediate reaction.
Daryl Parks is the attorney representing Michael Brown's family.
What did you think, Daryl?
PARKS: Well, without question. We obviously saw there wasn't a change in the leadership of the police department. Also, although I was hopeful, no mention of the loss of Michael Brown's life or any apology.
So, I hope that the things that he talked about will do it. I don't know if it fully addresses the magnitude of the problem there in Ferguson. But that's something we'll have to go through an analysis to determine based upon what's in report and the things he talked about to what length it goes to make real change there.
At a minimum, though, we hope and pray that things will get better for citizens who live there and Michael Brown has many relatives who live within that area and some of things he mentioned could have a direct effect upon them. So, all we could do is hope they're going to do what they said they're going to do.
But most importantly, Wolf, over to the Department of Justice will stay steadfastly involved in seeing that these changes going forward and go to the extent of suggesting other things that they believe would be helpful to this department.
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring the community activist John Gaskin.
You heard the mayor say, at least one individual is now been terminated. Two others, they've been suspended at least for the time being, for those racist emails. Your reaction, John?
JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Honestly, Wolf, I kept listening for one thing, and that was the resignation of Chief Jackson.
To be quite honest with you, it wouldn't even hurt for James Knowles to resign. For those type of blunders to take place under your leadership, those type of pervasive blunders, is sickening. And, you know, it should not be tolerated. And someone needs to take accountability for what has taken place.
So, to hear that Chief Jackson is not going to step down or has not step down after these findings is disappointing.
I will say this, Wolf, I encourage the activists within the community, the people that live in that community to continue to seek justice and reforms and not revenge. And to continue to do it in a dignified way that they had continued to do this entire time.
BLITZER: We just received a statement from the governor of Missouri, Governor Nixon, who says, among other things, he said, "Facts exposing the Department of Justice's report on Ferguson Police Department are deeply disturbing and demonstrate the urgent need for the reforms I have called for, some of which the general assembly is now considering, including reforms to municipal courts. Discrimination, there's no place in our justice system and no place in a democratic society."
Sunny Hostin, what's your reaction to what the governor has said and what we heard from the mayor of Ferguson?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think what we heard from the mayor of Ferguson, quite frankly, was woefully inadequate. I mean, to not take questions and to say three individuals have been placed on administrative leave and that there will be -- there's some diversity training and that there's going to be this task force established calling that groundbreaking, which is not groundbreaking. There are civilian police oversight boards all over our country.
I think it was just woefully inadequate. I wanted to hear a real acceptance of the Justice Department's findings. I want to hear an apology to the citizens of Ferguson. I remember Mayor Knowles was the same mayor when I was in Ferguson that made several statements about how there was no problem in Ferguson. No racial disparity. No racial bias on his watch.
And so, I would echo what Mr. Gaskin said. I mean, I would have expected resignation from this mayor. I expect a resignation from Chief Jackson. And I think a change in leadership at this point and acceptance of all the recommendations is what would be acceptable given the dense, scathing report from the department of justice. This was woefully inadequate.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of people have a hard time believing the police chief, Tom Jackson, is still the police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, given everything that's happened there.
Let's get the reaction of Tom Fuentes, our law enforcement analyst.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I would agree that I think it was much less than what we expected. We were looking for more changes. And, you know, we don't know who the three are. Are they patrol officers with no accountability of sergeants, lieutenants, captain, the chief himself or others? So, that's important.
I'd like to make a comment about we've gotten the Darren Wilson non-charges interwoven with this practice and pattern of the department. I'd like to say one of the things that struck me in the report by DOJ as to why they weren't charging him. They talk about witnesses who changed their statements, made one public statement to the media but behind closed doors with the FBI recanted and said something else.
In their report, they say there were credible accounts that Brown was moving toward Wilson at the time Wilson fired upon him. That's critical to this because it takes out the story that Michael Brown only was standing still, hands in the air, surrender position that he was gunned down. You have witnesses that said he was not only moving toward Wilson, Wilson was actually backpedaling when he fired the fatal shots. I think that should be brought out.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, the grand jury didn't file charges, the Department of Justice, attorney general, no charges. But we heard from Daryl Parks, the attorney for the Michael Brown family, they're still planning a civil lawsuit against Darren Wilson and presumably the city or the police force.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. And you know what they're going to need? They're going to need a great big armored car to get all the money that they are going to get from the city of Ferguson because they're behavior throughout has been appalling. You know, that was a pitiful appearance by the mayor.
You read this report and one officer loses his job. You translate the bureaucratic gobbledygook of the mayor, that's all that happened there. And, you know, this civil lawsuit is going to cost the taxpayers an enormous amount of money because, you know, Tom, you're view of what happened, you know, yes, he was moving towards Darren Wilson. That doesn't mean he should have been shot. That's a very different decision.
FUENTES: Now, but what I disagree, we've got both these results coming out simultaneously, both decisions being announced simultaneously and the criminal investigation of Wilson is a completely different standard of justice.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue our coverage. Obviously, important news coming in, very damning report from the Justice Department. You heard the reaction from the mayor of Ferguson. You heard it live.
That's it for me. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom. Please be sure to join us again tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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