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THE SITUATION ROOM

Economic Rebound; Remembering Selma; Ferguson Fallout; Growing U.S. Alarm Over Iran's Role in Battling ISIS; Obama Administration Battered with Clinton E-mail Questions

Aired March 6, 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: Happening now: under fire. CNN presses the Ferguson police chief about the future of his job and what he knew about racist e-mails, as we learn about members of his police department who were just forced out.

Brazen Iran. Its commanders are now more open than ever about their role in the battle against ISIS. And now U.S. military officials sound more concerned than ever.

New low, unemployment falling to the lowest level in seven years before the financial crisis. How much credit does President Obama deserve for this important rebound?

Remembering Selma. Congressman John Lewis returns to the scene of Bloody Sunday to share his moving account of the civil rights march 50 years ago and his role in history.

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: Let's get to the breaking news tonight.

The first heads to roll in the Ferguson Police Department after a federal investigation exposing rampant racial discrimination in the police force. Two officers who were suspended over racist e-mails now have stepped down, this as the Ferguson police chief isn't ruling out the possibility he will resign as well.

CNN's Sara Sidner tried to pin him down about his future and those racist e-mails that were sent within his department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don't you think you should have known some of the things that came out, the racist e-mails, the numbers? Were you just trying to bilk people out of money instead of protesting them? Telling your department to just go ticket them?

TOM JACKSON, FERGUSON POLICE CHIEF: OK, thank you. I will be in touch. Get ahold of Jeff.

SIDNER: We have been talking for days and days and days. All we want is an answer from you. What do you think of this DOJ

report and what are you going to do about it? Just any idea what it is you are going to do yourself about this, as chief of the department?

JACKSON: I'm going to analyze the report and take action where necessary.

SIDNER: Are you planning or resigning?

JACKSON: I will let you know.

SIDNER: Are you thinking about it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning more about the high-level pressure on Ferguson officials to clean house in the wake of the rioting and the Justice Department's report.

The president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, he is standing by live along with our correspondents and analysts and they're all covering the news that's breaking right now.

First, let's go to our justice reporter, Evan Perez.

Evan, Attorney General Eric Holder just speaking out about the Ferguson Police Department. Tell our viewers what he said.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The attorney general is not mincing any words about what he wants to see happen with the Ferguson Police Department in light of this report from the Justice Department. Here is what he had to say. He was traveling with President Obama just a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are prepared to use all the power that we have, all the power that we have to ensure that the situation changes there. And that means everything from working with them to coming up with an entirely new structure.

QUESTION: And does that include dismantling the police force?

HOLDER: If that's what's necessary, we're prepared to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: You know, one of the things that they had discussed some months ago was that in the future after the Justice Department investigation was over that perhaps the Ferguson Police Department would cease to exist and the Saint Louis County police would take over policing duties in that city.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Evan, about the resignations at the police department, two police officers today, the pressure on the Ferguson police chief to resign as well?

PEREZ: That's right, Wolf. There is a new effort down there by local officials to try to ease him out.

And this was a deal that they had cut with him some months ago. And then he reneged on that. Today, we know that now three officials, part of the department there, have now resigned, have been forced to resign. Pictures right we're showing are of two officers, Rick Henke and William Mudd.

And earlier, there was a resignation of Mary Twitty, who was the head of the municipal court system. As you remember, Wolf, the Justice Department found that many African-Americans were being targeted for fines. When they couldn't pay the fines, they were thrown in jail.

BLITZER: In an unrelated story, you broke it earlier today, you reported that the Justice Department is preparing corruption charges against the Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. What you have learned?

PEREZ: Well, Wolf, the attorney general, Eric Holder, has approved for prosecutors to bring these charges against Senator Menendez because of what they say was a corrupt relationship he had with a prominent donor who goes way back with the senator.

He's a former -- he's a friend and a prominent donor to the Democratic Party. His name is Salomon Melgen. He's a doctor down in Florida. According to the Justice Department, which has been investigating this for now five years, Menendez used his office on behalf of Dr. Melgen and in return received gifts and favors and obviously some of the donations as well, according to the Justice Department.

We expect to hear from the senator later, probably in the next hour or so. But we do have a statement from his spokeswoman, Tricia Enright. Here's what she had to say about this. She said: "We believe all of the senator's actions have been appropriate and lawful and the facts will ultimately confirm that."

Wolf, this is going to be a tough case for the Justice Department simply because a sitting senator has a lot of constitutional protections about the type of things he is allowed to do in carrying out his job. So that's the argument that Menendez is expected to make.

BLITZER: Good point. All right, thanks very much for that, Evan Perez.

Tonight, President Obama is offering his most forceful reaction yet to the revelations of racial discrimination by the Ferguson Police Department.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

Tell us what the president said, Michelle. MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, for

days, we have been trying to find out, what is the president's take on this scathing DOJ report? How does he personally feel about it, especially since we now know some of those racist e-mails within the Ferguson system were directed at the president himself and even his family?

You ask the White House about his take on it and they haven't wanted to say. Remember, from the beginning of Ferguson, the president has wanted to take this very careful line, not wanting to accuse anyone, not wanting to take sides. Well, today, finally speaking in blunt, specific terms, speaking directly to the black community, he let his voice be heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It systematically was biased against African-Americans in that city, who were stopped, harassed, mistreated, abused, called names, fined.

What's striking about the report is, a lot of this was just using e-mails from the officials themselves. And it wasn't like folks were just making it up. And our goal should be to stop circumstances such as Ferguson or what happened in New York from happening again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI: Well, if that wasn't clear enough, the president called Ferguson a clearly broken racially biased system and said Ferguson essentially has a choice, to fix that broken system or the DOJ will sue and make sure that those changes are implemented.

And we asked the White House today about the president's reaction. They said he actually was not surprised about what was in that DOJ report, even those racist e-mails. The White House has tried to give a real civil rights focus this week. They had their Task Force on Policing that was created because of Ferguson deliver its recommendations on building trust between law enforcement and communities.

Today, he had the town hall before a traditionally black college in South Carolina, gave two radio interviews to broadcasters that have a predominantly black audience. And this weekend, he heads to Selma for the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march and violence.

The president said he found it important to bring not only the first lady with him, but his teenage daughters, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good idea, indeed. Thanks very much, Michelle, for that.

At a time when race relations clearly are front and center in this country, the top Republican leaders in the House and the Senate, they are raising some eyebrows tonight, because they will conspicuously be absent from the ceremonies this weekend marking the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Our congressional correspondent, Athena Jones, is here with

details.

Other Republicans will be there, but not the leaders, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And this is a big event. More than 100 members of Congress are going down to Selma. It's the biggest delegation ever. Of course, President Obama and his family will be there, as will former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush. So, it's a bipartisan group.

But who is not going? It's the top Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

You will remember that Representative Scalise came under fire last year when he admitted that he had spoken before a group of white supremacists connected to David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

It is certainly raising eyebrows that these folks are not going. But as you mentioned, we will have at least two dozen rank and file Republican members who will be in Selma. While we have been focusing on the Republicans who aren't going, I should mention that while some top House Democrats are going, like Leader Pelosi and others, three Senate -- top Senate Democrats won't be there.

Senate Majority -- Senate Minority Leader, I should say, Harry Reid, who is, of course, still recovering from eye surgery. He won't be there. But neither will Senator Dick Durbin. Neither will Senator Chuck Schumer.

But, frankly, Wolf, it's the Republicans who have more of a perception problem when it comes to black voters in particular. And so it's notable that the leaders are skipping this event at a time when the party wants to expand its base and appeal to more minority voters for 2016.

And in case you were wondering, Republican presidential hopefuls also won't be going. Senator Ted Cruz is going to be in Iowa. Senator Rand Paul will be in Kentucky and Senator Marco Rubio's folks won't say where he's going to be, just that he won't be in Selma. So, it's a big deal.

BLITZER: It's certainly -- a lot of political ramifications on this. I know you are going to be heading down there as well. You have a major report later this hour on the history of Selma. We're looking forward to that as well. So, stand by.

Joining us now from Selma, Alabama, is the president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial.

Marc, thanks very much for joining us. MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I assume you would have preferred to have the top Republican and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate there with you this weekend.

MORIAL: Wolf, civil rights in the 1960s was bipartisan, Republican leadership, Democratic leadership, a Democratic president named Lyndon Johnson. Civil rights leaders were not all Democrats.

Therefore, I think that for members of Congress to recognize that historical fact would be important. But it is their miss for not coming. Those of us who are here are excited that the president will be here, excited that people who were part of 1965 will be here and that citizens from all over the world will watch this both commemoration and a commitment to a continuation that will take place in Selma over the weekend.

BLITZER: I know you are probably disappointed. Yes, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, will be there. But none of the major Democratic leaders in the Senate, Harry Reid obviously still recovering from his eye surgery. He can't travel, apparently.

But you heard Athena report the other top leaders on the Senate Democratic side won't be there either.

MORIAL: And we would like to see all of the leaders here.

And the reason why, Wolf, is this is an important event in American history, the commemoration of the Bloody Sunday event, where people were brutalized in the fight for the basic, and I would say the most basic right in our democracy. And that's the right to vote.

But notwithstanding any of that, Wolf, this is what is important, is why this is taking place, to commemorate 50 years ago the struggles, the work, the effort and the victory, and also to commit to continuation, because whether it's in Ferguson or a Supreme Court which seeks to dismantle the Voting Rights Act or any of the issues we face on the justice front today, this generation of Americans must recommit to continue this battle to protect democracy.

BLITZER: Yes. And to their credit, I know the former President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, they will be there. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the African-American senator from South Carolina, he will be there; 30 other Republicans will be there. But the leadership decided they won't be there.

Marc, I want you to stand by. I want to talk about what is the breaking news that we have been following coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, because the racial overtones as far as Selma and this 50th anniversary are significant.

Stand by -- much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLDER: The power that we have, all the power that we have to ensure that the situation changes there. And that means everything from working with them to coming up with an entirely new structure.

QUESTION: And does that include dismantling the police force?

HOLDER: If that's what's necessary, we're prepared to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, that was the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, speaking to reporters just a little while ago.

We're back with the president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial.

We're following the breaking news. Two Ferguson police officers have now called it quits over those racist e-mails that were revealed in that scathing Justice Department report.

Your reaction, first of all, to what we heard, Marc, from the attorney general, Eric Holder, saying if necessary they are ready to dismantle the police department in Ferguson.

MORIAL: The attorney general is being resolute, and he has got, if you will, the ammunition of a comprehensive report, Wolf, which documents case after case, instance after instance of constitutional violations and intentional discrimination.

So I appreciate the way the attorney general is proceeding. But as I shared with you yesterday, I think it may be best for the Ferguson Police Department to be dismantled. And if not dismantled, I think that a reform effort, including a temporary receiver or executive monitor, needs to be put into place as quickly as possible in order to protect the citizens of Ferguson.

But I also think that the court system and the very structure, the mayor and the city manager -- this is a city manager form of government. We have not heard from the city manager. And, in effect, the police department reports to the city manager. So that dimension and that element needs to be part of this conversation. And it is time for real change there in Ferguson.

BLITZER: The president, President Obama, said today he doesn't believe Ferguson is an isolated incident. First of all, do you agree?

MORIAL: Wolf, here is what the evidence shows, is maybe 10 to 15 -- and don't hold me to the number at this point -- cities are currently under consent decrees.

And that means these are cities whose police departments have been found to have engaged in systematic pattern and practice constitutional violations. Number two, the Justice Department has brought many, many cases across the nation against individual police officers for violating the constitutional rights of citizens. So I don't think it's isolated at all.

But it's not mere conjecture. It's really what the evidence shows in terms of the work of the Justice Department over the last six years that has not gotten all the media attention that Ferguson has received. So Ferguson is not alone, is not isolated. But it may be that what has happened in Ferguson is more extreme in terms of the use of petty violations to finance one's government.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe this kind of stuff is still going -- you are standing in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge there in Selma, Alabama, getting ready for historic 50th anniversary commemorations this week. It's hard to believe this kind of stuff is still going on in the United States, at least to me. But what do you think?

MORIAL: Wolf, that's why the 50th anniversary celebration is indeed a commemoration, but it's also a continuation.

It's not simply about looking back on the struggles and the victories of 50 years ago. But it's also a time to commit. So President Obama's presence, former President Bush, who I might add signed the last extension of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, their presence, along with activists and citizens and members of Congress, I think we're all here to reaffirm a commitment to democracy, to equal rights, to fairness and to justice.

And that element I think is one of the most significant reasons why this event, this 50-year event is going to receive both national and international attention.

BLITZER: One final question, Marc, before I let you go. Good numbers, the unemployment rate in the country last month went down to 5.5 percent. That's the lowest it has been, I guess, in six or seven years. Almost 300,000 people got jobs in February alone.

But the number of -- the unemployment rate for African-Americans, especially young men, is way, way higher. It's falling, but it's not falling enough. What do we need to do?

MORIAL: So what we really, really need is, we need a comprehensive summer youth employment program for young people, Wolf.

If the economy is producing almost 300,000 jobs a month, and that unemployment rate is still that high, what it says is, we need a dose of policy medicine to address this. So, I think it's a positive sign that this job creation is taking place, but there's still a real crisis, in that many people are being left behind by this economic recovery.

So, again, much more work to do. But, look, let's vote for our kids. Let's say that we have confidence in them by finding every means available to give them a chance to work this summer.

BLITZER: Yes. We all have got a lot of work to do on all of these fronts.

Marc Morial of the National Urban League, I'm glad you are down there in Selma already.

MORIAL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We are going to have extensive live coverage throughout the day tomorrow and Sunday as well right here on CNN.

Marc Morial is the president of the National Urban League.

Just ahead: growing alarm inside the Pentagon that Iran's influence in Iraq will extend far beyond the war against ISIS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Days after ISIS boasted of its destruction of priceless antiquities in Iraq, calling them false gods, the terror group has now committed a stunning new atrocity, bulldozing one of the world's cultural treasures, the ancient city of Nimrud, dating back 3,000 years.

This comes as the United States and Iraqi forces are stepping up efforts to try and roll back ISIS gains. But Iran is also flexing its military muscles inside Iraq more boldly than ever.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has new details.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there may be some short-term military gain to having Iran on the ground fighting in Iraq, but the Pentagon is deeply concerned about some of the long- term implications.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The latest U.S. military intelligence assessment? Most of the fighters here are Iranian-backed Shia militia with Iranian weapons fighting to reclaim the city of Tikrit, signs of Iran's influence everywhere, Iran's Farsi language heard here as field commanders review their plans.

The Pentagon watching Iran with a close eye, happy to have the Iranians doing the bulk of the ground fighting, but worried it could again open up a cauldron of Shia-vs.-Sunni violent.

JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: As far as the Sunni and Shia sectarianism that has happened for thousands of years, it could be strategically disastrous.

STARR: U.S. officials also worry the fragile Iraqi government in the long run will become a client state of Tehran. With the U.S. spending millions to train Iraqi units, the risk is it all falls into Iranian hands.

GEN. LLOYD AUSTEN, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: In terms of ensuring that our resources don't migrate over to Shia militia, there's no easy way to be certain that that can't happen.

STARR: The U.S. wants Iraq's Prime Minister Abadi to guarantee a government and a military with Sunni representation, vital to stopping Sunni support for ISIS.

Abadi just announcing his security forces east of Fallujah and west of Ramadi are launching new operations in the Sunni heartland.

Iraq's reliance on Iran, apparently working in al-Dura (ph), south of Tikrit, which Baghdad says has been liberated.

And a potential U.S. victory of sorts. These Marines in western Iraq helping advise Iraqis the nearby town of al-Baghdadi, now liberated from ISIS, according to the coalition.

Just don't count on the U.S. joining forces with Iran.

AUSTEN: There is no cooperation between us and the Iranian forces. We're going to have to count on the Iraqi government to do those things necessary to, No. 1, ensure that things don't trend towards greater sectarian violence.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: No cooperation, no communication with the Iranians on this issue, Wolf. That's what the Pentagon is saying.

But here's the reality. A senior U.S. military official tells me, when coalition warplanes are in the skies flying those bombing runs, they inform the Iraqi government of where they are and rely on the Iraqis to tell the Iranians to steer clear. So it's becoming a very complex battlefield -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It is. Barbara, thank you.

Let's bring in our national security analyst, Peter Bergen; and our counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd. It looks like Iran is becoming increasingly aggressive in Iraq right now. They have an end game in mind, don't they?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Pretty straightforward ending. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for the Iranian leadership. After the revolution in Iran in 1979, extensive influence in Lebanon and Syria, there's a huge piece of territory before that, though. And that was Iraq ruled by a Sunni dictator.

Now as the Americans leave and you have a Shia leadership in Baghdad, the Iranians have a simple idea in mind, and that is extend influence again, and that's what we've seen today.

BLITZER: We heard alarming words from General Martin Dempsey yesterday, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. He raised the specter, at least he was fearful of ethnic cleansing down the road in Iraq. The tension between Shiites and Sunnis, they've been going on for hundreds of years, and the Kurds, as well. PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I have spoken to

U.S. Army officers who are concerned about the same issue. Tikrit is going to be -- which is where the action is happening now, is going to be kind of a test case. The Shia militia that are outside Tikrit could go in and could interpret any Sunnis who are still there as people basically supporting ISIS.

And if we see ethnic cleansing in Tikrit, that would certainly be an indicator that there will be cleansing in Mosul, which is a much bigger story to come.

BLITZER: Are the Shiite militias, they're pretty powerful right now. They're really helping the Iraqi military. There are advisors, presumably, from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and all of that. But are they really a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran or are they really loyal Iraqis, shall we say?

MUDD: I think they would listen to the Iraqi leadership, the clerical leadership that owns...

Blitzer: The Iranian leadership.

MUDD: The Iranian leadership. The Iraqi Shia. But those Shia have been trained in Iran. They have close relationships with Iran. So the ability of Iran to exert influence over these militias through leadership that they've talked to for decades, I think, is extensive.

I agree with Peter. This is a test case. I don't have a lot of faith that the militias and the Shia leadership in Baghdad is going to be able to control ethnic violence.

BLITZER: So there are powerful Shia militias in Iraq. But there are Sunni militias, as well. Both of them are not related to the Iraqi government or the Iraqi military.

BERGEN: I mean, the Iraqi army is a militia itself. Shia dominated. It's probably one of the weakest forces. I mean, it's ISIS. It's the Quds Force on the Shia side, Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guard supporting Shia militias. These are people with extensive military experience.

BLITZER: Because I've heard, and correct me if I'm wrong, and U.S. analysts suggest what Iran's goal is to really build an arc of influence from Iran through Iraq in Syria into Lebanon.

BERGEN: Yes. And then down to Yemen, as well. Right? I mean, they're...

BLITZER: They've got an inroad in Yemen right now.

BERGEN: Yes. So, you know, the Iraq war had the unintended consequence of giving Iran a lot more space to...

BLITZER: Look at this map over here. You can see the potential that the Iranians have. They're smelling some victories. MUDD: They are. Look how quickly this has changed just in a

couple years. If you put Baghdad at the center of a map and you look at influence in Syria and Lebanon, now extending into Iraq, going south into Yemen, you start to see an arc of influence that's not only significant for Iran. It's significant for Sunni states like Saudi Arabia, who say, where does this come to an end?

BLITZER: A worrisome development. Peter, our friends at the Brookings Institution, they've got a new study that just came out because September and December 2014. They found at least 46,000 Twitter accounts used by ISIS supporters in the Middle East and Europe, as well as here in the United States. That sounds enormous to me.

BERGEN: Well, we've also heard from the U.S. government that ISIS is producing 90,000-plus tweets a day. So this is a group that is appealing to a group of people who are very active on social media. People in their teens and early twenties, principally.

BLITZER: I have heard from the highest U.S. officials that their social media skills, these ISIS terrorists, they're enormous right now. They're really winning this battle. I assume you agree?

MUDD: I agree. It is really hard to understand where this game ends. We start 25 years ago, let's say, in Afghanistan with al Qaeda. You've got to touch an al Qaeda member to be indoctrinated. Twenty- five years fast forward, whether you're in Paris, New York, Washington, you're engaged in a media battle that's 90,000 tweets a day. Remarkable.

BLITZER: All right. Phil Mudd, thanks very much.

Peter Bergen, thanks to you, as well.

To find out more about the escalating battle against ISIS, specifically what you can do to help protect Iraqi children impacted by all of the violence, go to CNN.com/Impact.

Just ahead, a barrage of new questions about Hillary Clinton's private e-mails when she was secretary of state. Did she require her employees to do one thing while breaking the rules herself?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, a senior administration official tells CNN there has been some concern for some time about Hillary Clinton's use of private e-mails while she served as secretary of state. The controversy has been growing by the day as new questions emerge about whether Secretary Clinton was breaking her own rules.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She has the very latest -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Actually, the White House, we're learning from reporting from White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski, knew about the fact that Hillary Clinton was using a personal e-mail address all the way back in 2009.

They weren't concerned because they thought that she was cataloging these e-mails in the State Department system. But then this past summer, they found out, as House Republicans subpoenaed Benghazi documents, that she was relying on this account, and that's when they became alarmed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): The firestorm over Clinton's use of personal e-mail while secretary of state dominated the State Department briefing Friday.

MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, STATE DEPARTMENT: I'm not the spokesperson for her office. People may be confused about that this week.

KEILAR: Reporters asked if Clinton failed to follow the e-mail rules she signed off on, including an internal department cable from 2011 that said employees should avoid using personal e-mail to conduct government business.

But State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf downplayed those guidelines, calling them...

HARF: Helpful tips when you're using personal e-mail. This cable is a guidance on best practices. It's certainly not regulation.

KEILAR: Just three years ago, a scathing inspector general report admonished the ambassador to Kenya, Scott Gration, for among other things, using his personal e-mail to conduct government business. At the same time Clinton, his boss, was doing the same. Gration today told CNN he was very surprised at the double standard.

At Clinton's request, the State Department will review 55,000 pages of e-mails the Obama administration directed her to turn over last year. A Clinton aide has said she turned over anything having to do with her work at the State Department.

But Harf conceded the State Department is taking Secretary Clinton's word for it when she says she's handing over what's relevant and keeping what's not.

Meanwhile, the White House says Clinton abided by the federal records act, even as it touts an e-mail policy Clinton did not follow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did members of the administration receive e- mails from Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state?

VALERIE JARRETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: That I don't know. I do know the president has a very firm policy that e-mails should be kept on government systems. He believes in transparency.

KEILAR: Some political observers wonder if the controversy leaves an opening for any other potential Democratic candidates to challenge Clinton's expected run for president. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is real.

KEILAR: Like former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, traveling in the coming weeks to the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": There's rumors that former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley may enter the race and challenge Hillary for the Democratic nomination. Yes. Hillary's not worried. I mean, who's going to go from being totally unknown to beating her for the presidency? You know, how does that -- how does that ever happen?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But unlike in 2007, 2008, a lot of political folks think that isn't going to happen this time. Many strategists say Hillary Clinton is really, Wolf, the only show in town. They say more episodes like this may happen, but, really, she's in a primary against herself. And even so, you can see that the competition is pretty stiff.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, let me bring in Gloria Borger and Ron Brownstein.

Gloria, you've got have a column you just wrote on CNN.com about Democrats essentially stuck with Hillary Clinton no matter what happens. You write this, "The truth is simple. Your job is to defend Hillary not to bury her. Yes, it could be hard, even annoying, but think about it this way -- if you don't, her problems become your own."

So, is that it? If she runs, she's definitely solid?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me just say that the Democrats over the years of the Obama presidency have not exactly been nation-building throughout the country. They have lost a huge number of governorships. There are almost 2-1, Republicans outnumber them. They've lost a huge number of legislative seats historically.

They don't have a large bench. Yes, Martin O'Malley, yes, we're talking Jim Webb.

BLITZER: What about Joe Biden, the vice president?

BORGER: Maybe the vice president. I don't -- I don't think so.

But the truth of the matter is that she is their putative nomination should she decide to run. She's got overwhelming odds with her.

If they start campaigning against her this early, they are only hurting themselves in a presidential race. Their problem is, they want to talk more to the Clinton camp so they know what they are defending. And we haven't heard from Hillary Clinton.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Even from Clinton supporters, this is a reminder that this is the package. As political figures, they bring a lot of assets to the table. They are tenacious, they're dogged, they're good at connecting with voters.

But they also have a history of pushing the envelope, pushing into gray areas on many fronts. And that is part of the full package.

I'm sure it's uncomfortable sense of deja vu for a lot of Democrats. Are we going to answer these questions in 2016? But there's that whole other side of the ledger, all of their strengths. And I don't see the Democratic Party walking away from those.

BLITZER: At some point, Brianna, she's going to have to say more than a tweet, Hillary Clinton.

KEILAR: That's right. She's going to be asked at some point, there will -- if she doesn't say something -- there's an event tomorrow, a CGI University event. She could say something.

BLITZER: Clinton Global Initiative.

KEILAR: Clinton Global Initiative at CGI University today.

She could say something there. We don't know. We're waiting to see. Very carefully we will watch. She has events Monday and Tuesday.

But at some point, someone is going to --

BLITZER: Let's talk about the jobs numbers, because it's a major significant development. Very good job numbers. Unemployment rate going down 5.5 percent, that's the lowest in six or seven years, almost 300,000 jobs created last month alone.

But, Gloria, does the president get enough credit for this turnaround in the jobs market in the United States?

BORGER: He's getting some credit for it. The problem that the White House has is that the wages haven't grown. The wage growth in February was 2 percent, which is really about half of what they would like to see it at.

But if you look at the president's approval rating on the economy, it has gone up by ten points. It's still under water, under 50 percent, but it's going in the right direction for him.

BROWNSTEIN: The wages are the big problem. Second problem is that the issues get framed better in a presidential campaign than any other time.

The fact is that after this month, they are now up to 7.8 million jobs created since the first full month of the Obama presidency, February '09. That compares to 1.2 in the entire years of Bush. It's possible 2016, the Democrats will say there were 10 times as many jobs created over Obama's terms as Bush's terms. That could be a more powerful argument than we have had so far. But it depends on wages. BLITZER: Let's say Hillary is the Democratic nominee. Good jobs

numbers, the economy improving, unemployment rate down. Presumably that would help her.

KEILAR: It is -- it would help her. Then I think we will expect -- we talked about this. You know, some of these times like this week, we don't want this flashback to the '90s. When it it comes to the economy, it's not a bad thing. We might hear her invoke that.

BLITZER: It's the economy stupid.

KEILAR: But anything that -- here is what you are seeing, even as we see White House officials being annoyed at defending her. What's good for President Obama is good for Hillary Clinton, even if she tries to distance herself from him, maybe a little on the economy, maybe on foreign policy. They have to work together. His approval ratings need to be -- they matter a lot for her.

BORGER: This is a challenge for her, because she's already distanced herself on foreign policy, for example, to a degree on Syria we know. And then, if the economy is going well, she's going to be all for President Obama, Obama's solutions on the economy.

But, you know, there may be back and forth. And then people start questioning your authenticity.

BLITZER: Let's say the Republican nominee is Jeb Bush, you know? Let's just assume, maybe the Democratic nominee will be Hillary Clinton. What do we do when he takes a look at the economy? Jobs, a lot of jobs have been created. The stock market has record highs. The NASDAQ, the Dow Jones.

What does he do about that?

BROWNSTEIN: They'll talk about incomes and wages. But as you're talking, Gloria, kind of the risk for a Bush in particular is you had 22 million jobs under Bill Clinton in his two terms in the '90s. You could have 12 million or so jobs under Barack Obama --

BLITZER: Created.

BROWNSTEIN: -- created.

BORGER: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: You could have 1.2 million under eight years of a Republican president in the middle. And again, I think that's the kind of argument you can focus more on a presidential campaign than you can on a midterm. And that will be a challenge for him.

The challenge for Democrats will be rising incomes and wages.

BORGER: But I think for once you're going to see the conversations converging, because you see a lot of Republican candidates like Jeb Bush, potentially like John Kasich, talking about pay gaps, rising wages for the middle class. You heard John Boehner talking about Keystone jobs.

I think Democrats and Republicans may be singing from the same page on income inequality.

BLITZER: We'll have a lot of time to talk about all of this. Guys, thanks very much.

Just ahead, back to the bridge where civil rights history was made. Congressman John Lewis shares his emotional memories of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, 50 years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. This coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM: the Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will -- will go to Selma tomorrow to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday civil rights march in Selma and how it changed the country.

Congressman John Lewis was actually there. And he has the scars to prove it. He spoke with CNN's Athena Jones on the now famous bridge where history was made.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: The bridge at Selma is almost a holy place. It is a place where people gave a little blood to redeem the soul of America. In this city, people couldn't register to vote simply because of the color of their skin. So they had to change that.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Lewis, who has spent almost three decades in Congress, was just 25 years old.

LEWIS: I can never forget what it felt like to be on this bridge on Bloody Sunday. We came to the highest point, down below we saw a sea of blue, Alabama state troopers. And behind the state troopers, we saw men on horseback. So, we got within hearing distance of the state troopers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're ordered to disperse. Go home or go to your church.

LEWIS: And the major said, "Troopers advance." I thought over and over again, they were going to arrest us. They came toward us, beating us with night sticks, trampling us with horses. I went down on my knees. My legs went out from under me. I thought I was going to die.

JONES: He was carried back to the church where the march had begun. It was there he issued a challenge to President Lyndon Johnson.

LEWIS: I stood up and said, "I don't understand it. How President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam but cannot send troops to Selma, Alabama, to protect people whose only desire is to register to vote." JONES: After Bloody Sunday, President Johnson spoke before

Congress.

LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT: It is wrong, deadly wrong to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. It's not just Negroes, but really, it's all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.

(APPLAUSE)

LEWIS: He was the first American president to use the theme song of the civil rights movement. I looked at Dr. King. Tears came down his face. I started crying along. I didn't like for anybody to see me cry, but I cried.

President Johnson federalized Alabama National Guard, called out part of the United States military to protect us all the way from Selma to Montgomery.

JONES: On August 6th, President Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act, ensuring that all citizens could vote, regardless of their color.

It was Bloody Sunday that helped make that day possible. It's also why Lewis returns to this bridge every year.

LEWIS: The vote is as powerful. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society. And I don't want people to forget that people paid the price.

JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, Selma, Alabama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Athena, for that report.

CNN will bring you special live coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. Our coverage begins tomorrow morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Please join us.

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

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Have a great weekend.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.