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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama Phones Netanyahu with Post-Election Congratulations; ISIS Claims Responsibly for Museum Attack in Tunisia; Obama Phones Netanyahu After Post-Election Flap; Kim Jong-un To Visit Putin's Russia; Interview with Ed Royce; Black Man Found Hanging in Mississippi; Police Investigating Black Student's Bloody Arrest; Secret Service Chief Calls Reports Exaggerated. Aired 5:00-6p ET
Aired March 19, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:20] WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, taking credit for terror. As the death toll rises in a deadly museum attack, a Web post from ISIS now claims its knights -- they're calling them knights -- are behind the attack and warning it's just the start.
Complete reversal -- just days after saying he doesn't support a Palestinian state, fresh off his party's election victory, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, suddenly flip-flops and says a two-state solution is OK.
But will President Obama trust him?
Power couple -- North Korea's Kim Jong-un is invited to visit Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Is it the start of a dangerous threat to the U.S. and world peace?
And is this excessive force?
Pictures of a college student covered in blood and angry allegations he was roughed up by police. Tonight, we have new details about the investigation and the outrage.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Breaking new, a brazen new claim from ISIS. An audio statement posted online claims the terror group is behind the deadly attack that killed at least 23 people at a museum in Tunisia's capital city. The statement singles out two suicide gunmen, calling them knights. And, ominously, it warns the attack is just the start.
We're also following breaking news in Mississippi, where police have now found the body of an African-American man hanging from a tree. The man has been missing for days and we're awaiting word on whether it's a suicide or murder.
We'll be discussing U.S. race relations with the head of the National Urban League and the president of the NAACP.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Our correspondents and experts, they've been working their sources. They're all standing by to bring us the latest on all of this evening's breaking stories.
But let's begin with the ISIS claim it's behind that museum attack.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has the latest -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an audio claim from ISIS that they were, indeed, behind the attack against the museum in Tunis yesterday not totally verified yet. But the U.S. is saying that right now, it has no reason to doubt the authenticity of the claim, that according to a U.S. official I spoke to.
Meanwhile, the Tunisian government cracking down. They have now made nine arrests, they say, four of them directly linked to the attacks. The Tunisian prime minister naming two people that were involved in this. Not clear if they are, in fact, the two dead gunmen. But Tunis really trying to make an effort to show the world it is on top of this and it is trying to get to the perpetrators of this attack.
Nonetheless, Wolf, as you can well imagine, a lot of concern about who exactly was behind this and what may come next -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, stand by.
We're getting some breaking news coming in from the White House right now. We're told President Obama has finally spoken to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, congratulating him on his party's election victory. It comes amid U.S. irritation over the Israeli leader's flip-flop on the latest issue of whether or not he supports the creation of a Palestinian state, whether he would work toward that so-called two-state solution.
Monday, the day before the election, he said he no longer thought there could be a Palestinian state on his watch. Today, though, a different message coming from the prime minister of Israel.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
First, the details on the breaking news we're following, that phone conversation between the president and the prime minister.
What have you learned?
JIM ACOSTA, HOST: Wolf, I wish I had details about that phone call between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. All we know from what we're hearing at the White House at this point is that that call, indeed, did happen. The White House was forecasting that we might get that earlier today.
And, in fact, the two leaders have now spoken. And we'll find out within the next couple of hours, I would think, perhaps within this hour, exactly how that phone call went down.
But, Wolf, simply put, we do know that he congratulated Netanyahu on his victory. But that's the extent of it at this point.
But simply put, Wolf, the White House is not buying what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is selling today. Administration officials are much more focused on Netanyahu's remarks in the final moments of his re-election campaign, when he rejected Palestinian statehood. The White House sees that comment as a key reversal that could damage prospects for Middle East peace.
Top aides to the president are also outraged over Netanyahu's remark that Arab voters were heading to the polls in droves, a remark officials here blasted as racially tinged and un-democratic. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called that statement "a cynical election day tactic aimed at marginalizing Arab-Israeli voters."
Netanyahu, he tried to walk all of that back today in an interview. He flip-flopped again on the Palestinian issue, saying he now supports a two-state solution.
But Earnest said earlier today, Wolf, that is not enough.
Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Words matter. And that is certainly true in this instance. And I know very well that the Israeli prime minister is aware of that. And he was talking about something that even he would acknowledge is a very important issue, and an issue that has serious consequences for the country that he leads.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, what's the White House going to do about all of this. Officials here are suggesting they may allow votes at the United Nations in favor of a Palestinian state. As you know, Wolf, that is a measure the U.S. has blocked before.
And the other question of the hour, what does the president have to say about all of this?
The president declined to weigh in during his earlier public appearances. But, of course, that phone call did happen. We just don't know exactly what was said during the conversation -- but, Wolf, oh to be a fly on the wall for that phone call -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you're working your sources at the White House. We're working sources in Jerusalem, as well, to see if we can get some information from the prime minister on how that phone call -- conversation between the president and the prime minister actually went.
We'll get back to you.
Jim Acosta at the White House.
There's also another story that's breaking right now. Russia confirming it has invited the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to visit Moscow in early May and says North Korea has accepted the invitation.
Our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is joining us live from Moscow right now. More on the prospects of two of the world's most unpredictable leaders, shall we say, getting together.
What do we know about this -- Matthew?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Vladimir Putin could be standing shoulder to shoulder with Kim Jong-un at the upcoming Victory Day celebrations that take place in the Russian capital. If it happens. It will be the first time the reclusive North Korean leader has made an official visit outside of his own country.
And, of course, it comes at a time when Moscow and Pyongyang, both under Western sanctions, are looking to deepen their ties.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (voice-over): Facing a backlash from the West, Russia is looking East. President Vladimir Putin inviting North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to Moscow to attend upcoming World War II anniversary celebrations. The Russian official says North Korea's supreme leader is expected to attend. But so far, no formal confirmation from Pyongyang.
STEVEN PIFER, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: You have seen the number of meetings that he's had with Western leaders in Europe decline. And so the Russians have talked about this Asian alternative. And this is including outreach to China, but other countries in Asia, to try to portray Mr. Putin as not isolated, which, in fact, is the case.
CHANCE: The Kremlin says 68 world leaders were invited to the Victory Day celebrations on May the 9th. But some leaders, including President Obama, have declined.
Relations with the West are strained following Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. But recently, Russia and Pyongyang have been fostering warmer relations, the two countries even declared 2015 their Year of Friendship.
If Kim attends, it would be his first official trip outside North Korea since inheriting the leadership in late 2011.
PROF. VICTOR CHU, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: If he's able to go to meet Putin in Moscow or elsewhere in Russia, this would appear to be a sign that he has completely consolidated control and he's confident enough to leave the nest and go do statesmanlike things around the world.
CHANCE: And Putin continues to flex Russia's military muscles. Defense officials saying nearly 80,000 troops have been placed on full combat alert. On Wednesday, NATO jets intercepted a number of Russian military aircraft as they neared Latvian air space, further rattling nerves among Russia's neighbors.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHANCE: And, Wolf, the blossoming relationship between Moscow and North Korea is another source of concern, potentially complicating U.S. efforts to isolate North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.
Back to you.
BLITZER: Matthew Chance, good report.
Thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper. The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California, is joining me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.
The fact that Kim Jong-un of North Korea is now apparently going to be going to Moscow in early May for these celebrations, if you will, is that good or bad?
REP. ED ROYCE (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, it is bad. And we recently were in negotiations with representatives of the government of China, that shared with us, and some of their think tanks also shared with us, the fact that even China has been very concerned about the direction Kim Jong-un has taken in terms of this acceleration of his nuclear weapons program. They put pressure on North Korea.
And yet here the Russians come in with a lifeline to Kim Jong-un at a time when even the Chinese are trying to get more responsible behavior out of Kim Jong-un.
BLITZER: Do you have a good idea what Putin, what Vladimir Putin, is up to right now?
Because over the past year, since his annexation of Crimea, you see these war games that are going on.
Latvia is a member of NATO and if one NATO ally is attacked, all NATO allies are attacked.
ROYCE: And the irresponsibility of the embrace of Kim Jong-un at a time when, as you'll remember, Kim Jong-un killed his uncle, who was close to China, given this dictatorial rule and the arbitrary nature of it, it's making Putin look just as arbitrary to embrace a dictator like this.
So I think all of this, along with, as you say, these very aggressive moves against our NATO allies by doing these overflights just send the message that he's not particularly in a mood to recognize that the sanctions that are on him, that are slowly imploding the economy in Russia, need to be addressed with a change of behavior.
BLITZER: He -- as you know, he's now basically confirmed, admitted that he's ordered -- he ordered the takeover of Crimea from Ukraine to annex it and make it part of Russia.
But is that territory, all the territory he wants?
Or are you fearful he's going to try to grab some more?
ROYCE: If you'll recall, what he said at the celebration ceremony, it was that as a Russian, he viewed the Ukrainians as Russians. You can imagine how that's going down in Kiev right now, because they do not view themselves -- as I shared with you, I was in Eastern Ukraine. And I talked with a lot of the Russian speaking Ukrainians. And all across Russia or -- you know, there is this attitude now, as people begin to follow the dictator and listen to Putin, that he's very menacing for the people of Ukraine.
BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, I want you to stand by.
We're getting some more information on the phone call that President Obama just placed to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
We're getting some details just coming in.
Much more with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news from the White House. President Obama has just spoken on the phone with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, congratulating him on his party's victory and affirming -- reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Israel.
[17:16:55] We're back with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.
We're told in this conversation the president reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to working towards that two-state solution, Israel living alongside a new state of Palestine. And as you know, on the eve of the election, the prime minister said there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch. Today he flip-flopped and said he does support a two-state solution.
What's your reaction to this uproar? Because the administration, the Obama administration, is very angry. They're saying they have to reassess their options with Israel because of this kind of statement by the prime minister.
ROYCE: What the prime minister said today, as I recall, the statement was that he supported -- he did not support a one-state solution. He did support a two-state solution. The timing wasn't right at the moment, but it put him back on the same page, I would say, as those of us that support a...
BLITZER: Because it sounds like he flip-flopped: 48 hours or 72 hours ago he was saying it's not going to happen, the new state of Palestine. Now he's saying, in his words, "I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution."
ROYCE: But I think there's a certain danger here in terms of this whole election overseas in a Democratic state. I've had a number of delegations I've led to Israel. We've met multiple times with Herzog. We've met multiple times with Netanyahu...
BLITZER: The opposition leader.
ROYCE: Exactly. And -- and we have always been very careful on the Foreign Affairs Committee in a Democratic state not to support one candidate over the other in an election. And in this particular case, those close to the president were very involved on the ground on one said in this election and made it very, very clear who should win and who should lose. And I would just make the observation that, in the middle of that, we -- you can end up with unintended consequences.
BLITZER: But there have always been American political consultants -- I've covered this story for a long time, who have gone over to Israel and gotten involved in Israeli elections. They're hired; they're political, you know, guns, if you will. A lot of the Democrats, top political strategists, they go over and work for the Labour Party. A lot of the Republicans, though, have gone over and worked for the Likud. Now that's happened for at least 20 years as far as I can remember.
ROYCE: But in the past our government has tried to really distance itself from the machinations in the elections itself.
BLITZER: Was it your...
ROYCE: In this particular case...
BLITZER: Pardon me for interrupting, but you're saying is the Obama administration tried to interfere in the democratic elections.
ROYCE: Because of the level of intensity, Wolf, in these feelings between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel, it seems as though this became an election issue.
And so this is why Elliott Engel and I, as we talk about these issues together in a bipartisan way, we attempt, when approaching other Democratic states, when we're involved as election observers or we're involved in trips over there before an election as we took, we try to -- we try to avoid speaking on issues that are going to inflame passions. And we are in a situation right now where those passions are still high.
BLITZER: Because the accusation was that the prime minister, in effect, only two weeks before the election, came here at the invitation of the House speaker, John Boehner, was effectively siding with the Republican leadership at a time when U.S./Israeli relationship has always been built on bipartisan cooperation, bipartisan support for Israel. And he seemed to be aligning himself with the Republicans.
[17:20:12] ROYCE: And it seemed as though it was a counter effort against what was coming out of the White House. And so what I'm saying is we should all step back from this and maybe, maybe look again at our principle of not getting involved and maybe not having our lieutenants directly involved in these campaigns, because there are unintended consequences and now we're trying to sort this out.
The sooner we get back on track to our objectives in the region and off of the politics of it, the better.
BLITZER: Let me ask you a quick question about what's going on in Tunisia right now. Is it confirmed -- we know ISIS has now issued this audio tape, saying they were responsible for this massacre at the -- at this museum, killing 23 people in Tunisia, in Tunis, injuring another 30. Many of them remain critically -- in critical care in hospitals right now.
Do we know for sure this was ISIS, or was it al Qaeda in the Maghreb, some other al Qaeda spin-off, if you will?
ROYCE: Besides the other admission, the reason why I think it is ISIS is because of the level of recruitment: 3,000 fighters from ISIS out of Tunis to go fight alongside ISIS.
So when you have the largest recruitment effort in any -- in any region in the world coming out of Tunisia, you can readily see how easy it would be for ISIS to recruit and train fighters and send them back.
This speaks to the problem that Tunisia is going to have in the future but also Saudi Arabia, 2,500 fighters out of Saudi Arabia, may face as a consequence of these recruits not just being further indoctrinated but trained in the fighting on the ground.
BLITZER: Serious situation. Mr. Chairman Ed Royce, thanks very much for joining us.
ROYCE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, a very different story we're following right now. There's breaking news out of Mississippi. Shocking news. Police have discovered the body of an African-American man hanging from a tree. We'll have the latest on this investigation.
Also, there's outrage after the bloody arrest of a University of Virginia honor student. Is it a case of excessive force by police? Much more on this coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:27:00] BLITZER: Breaking now. ISIS apparently claiming responsibility for the museum attack that left 23 people dead, most of them tourists from Europe and Asia. It happened in the capital of Tunisia, the country where the so-called Arab Spring started some four years ago.
Let's dig deeper with our national security analyst, Peter Bergen; our CNN counterterrorism analyst, the former CIA counterterrorism official, Philip Mudd. And joining us from Baghdad, our global affairs analyst, retired Delta Force officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Reese.
Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
ISIS in this audio, it says it's just the start. Get ready for more. Your reaction?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, there has been a battle for influence across the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring. You have moderate Islamists. You have governments. You have militaries.
ISIS just conducted something they consider a major success. This is an ISIS billboard going out to potential recruits, saying, "Before you consider going with the moderates or al Qaeda, which is an adversary of ISIS, come to us. We're the biggest players in town." It's an advertisement.
BLITZER: And we're being told that the two terrorists who died apparently killed themselves. They were carrying explosives, the Tunisian president has just said.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. So it was the Tunisians didn't stop the operation. These two guys blew themselves up. So they went into this operation knowing they would die, a so- called Fedayeen attack, which means those who will sacrifice themselves. And, you know -- and they also went into it knowing that they would get quite a lot of media coverage, because the story continues. We have three people still on the loose.
BLITZER: How do you prevent these kinds of attacks, Colonel Reese, from going on? Tourists, they come into Tunis, a relatively quiet place, unlike next door in Libya, which has become, for all practical purposes, a failed state run by a bunch of terrorists right now. How do you prevent these kinds of terror attacks, these massacres that have occurred?
LT. COL. JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Wolf, bottom line is it has to be a combined intelligence operation, both intel and operations have got to be talking together all the time.
One thing you've got to remember, Tunisia has had probably the largest elements of the population that have gone to Syria to fight with ISIS over the last year, year and a half. So that to me from a government official, I would be very concerned about that. But it is an ongoing process, as we've seen throughout the months,
over the last year and a half, with ISIS. What you have to do, it's difficult but again, because of their past, I would -- I would think they would have their elements in those key positions locked down a lot better than they did.
BLITZER: They clearly didn't. Should we be bracing for more of this in Tunisia right now? I hope it doesn't happen but could that state wind up like Libya, a total disaster?
MUDD: I don't think so. I think the real interesting point here that you're touching on, though, is when states aren't in chaos -- we've seen al Qaeda and ISIS take advantage of chaos in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan. When they're not in chaos, very smooth transition in Tunisia after the revolution of 2011. Can governments and security services in those stable environments keep a lid on this? I think they can. But we might see episodic incidents, just because it's impossible to contain everything.
[17:30:01] BLITZER: Is there any collaboration going on now? You've studied this for a long time, Peter. ISIS claiming responsibility. There's another group called Ansar al-Sharia, apparently they're claiming responsibility, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Maghreb in northern -- the North Africa. They are apparently claiming responsibility.
Are they all working together maybe?
BERGEN: I kind of doubt it. I mean, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and ISIS wouldn't cooperate, I don't think. I mean, it's possible. Ansar al-Sharia, a local group, might collaborate with either one of those. But, you know, ISIS is the biggest, you know, kid on the block right now. I mean, we've seen an attack in Libya last month that killed 10 foreigners at an upscale hotel, including an American.
We've seen an attack in the Sinai last month, in Egypt, where 26 people were killed by an ISIS affiliate. So --
BLITZER: Egyptian Christians.
BERGEN: Well, in fact this was even a separate issue, which was --
BERGEN: Police and military officials. So ISIS is really -- you know, I find it -- I find it very hard to believe that al Qaeda and ISIS will cooperate.
BLITZER: Let me ask, Colonel Reese, you're there in the region. Is there collaboration going on between these various terror groups, all of whom, by the way, consist largely of Sunni Arabs?
LT. COL. JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, right now what we're seeing here is like Peter said, ISIS is the big dog on the block. They have pushed some of their senior leaders out to some of these failed states like we have seen recently in Libya with the attacks there, but I don't think the more power -- the more positions are going to work together. You saw what happened last week with Boko Haram.
But one thing I will tell you, we noticed here is ISIS is getting whacked pretty hard right now north of Baghdad into Tikrit. They're going to have a major blow defeat here when this is all finished up. And I think what ISIS might look at understanding is that their ability to fight an army is not going to be very good for them and they might have to get back to more of those traditional terrorist roles we've seen in the past with some of these bombings, these lightning fast hits and the suicide attempts. Because they're not going to be able to fight these armies one-on-one as they get prepared more -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to -- we're going to have more on this story coming up.
Stand by, guys.
But there's a disturbing report coming out of Mississippi right now where the body of an African-American man has been found hanging from a tree. The FBI we're now told is on the scene. We're getting details. Stand by for that.
And a 20-year-old African-American honor student bloody and pinned down by officers. New details on the investigation into allegations of excessive force.
[17:37:07] BLITZER: We have breaking news out of Mississippi where the body of an African-American man has been found hanging in a tree. The FBI is now on the scene. We are told they are investigating as well as others from the Justice Department.
Our justice reporter Evan Perez is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Evan, it's pretty shocking. What are we learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Wolf. This is going down in Claiborne County, Southern Mississippi, it's about an hour from Jackson, Mississippi. According to the FBI, the local authorities there called them in after they found this African- American man hanging from a tree. It's about a half mile behind the last known residence that he had. It's in some very deep woods and -- the local authorities have been looking for him because he was reported missing on March 2nd.
Now there is at this point no indication of what happened. They don't know if it's a suicide or if it was something that -- whether he was killed by someone. And so that is something now that has gotten the interest of the FBI. They've got their civil rights inspectors there, their investigators there, they've got the Justice Department Civil Rights Division is involved and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Southern Mississippi is also investigating. Obviously the context here is that there's not a lot known. Whether
or not they know it's a suspicious death but they don't know more than that. And so they've got to do all the forensics and make sure they can check out whether he's got some known enemies and all these things before they decide what to do.
BLITZER: It's pretty unusual, though, so quickly representatives from the Civil Rights Division.
BLITZER: Of the Justice Department, the FBI, they're already there on the scene.
What do we know about this individual?
PEREZ: Well, we know that he was reported missing on March 2nd. According to sources I've talked to he was somebody who had a criminal record. Again, this goes into the investigation, whether or not this is somebody who perhaps had something against him and would want him dead. And so that's the reason why they're doing all of this investigative work. Again, suicide has not been ruled out but it is something they are looking into.
BLITZER: All right. Evan, we'll stay on top of this story. Pretty disturbing development. Thanks very much.
Police are also investigating now the bloody arrest of an African- American honor student at the University of Virginia after this photo surfaced. Twenty-year-old Martese Johnson is seen pinned down to the ground by alcohol control agents. His head cut open and bleeding.
The incident has sparked protests on the campus of the University of Virginia and calls for an investigation by the Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us from Charlottesville with more.
What do we know, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight the Virginia State Police are confirming to CNN they are conducting a criminal investigation into the conduct of the officers involved in the arrest of 20-year-old Martese Johnson. Those officers from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. A criminal investigation now going on into their conduct.
This as we're learning more and more about this investigation. And here, we can show you Martese Johnson's blood still on the sidewalk almost 48 hours after that incident occurred early Wednesday morning.
[17:40:06] TODD: This is an incident and the treatment of which -- Martese Johnson's treatment is being called brutal and animalistic by the Black Student Alliance of the University of Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, his head is bleeding. Yo, his head is bleeding. No, his head is bleeding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I go to UVA. I go to UVA, (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I go to UVA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop fighting?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You (EXPLETIVE DELETED) racists.
TODD (voice-over): A disturbing scene on the sidewalk just a few feet from the University of Virginia campus. Martese Johnson, a 20-year- old UVA student, is pinned to the ground by agents for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. An injury to his head requiring 10 stitches.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did this happen, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) racist?
TODD (on camera): What's your opinion of the way police treated him?
JENNIFER GOLDMAN, WITNESSED ARREST OF UVA STUDENT: I mean, I didn't necessarily see any violence but then again, I didn't see any of them trying to help him.
TODD (voice-over): UVA student Jennifer Goldman witnessed part of the confrontation early Wednesday when Johnson was already on the ground. She recognized him from an orientation session he had led this year.
GOLDMAN: He introduced himself to the entire group and was very outgoing and nice and bright and cheerful.
TODD: Virginia's governor ordered an investigation into whether excessive force was used. Concerned over these images of Johnson's head bloodied.
For young African-Americans who have protested on the streets of Charlottesville, this reopens the wounds of Ferguson. Madison. Staten Island.
NQOBILE MTHETHWA, UVA STUDENT: We're pissed. We're angry. We want answers. We want people to be punished for, you know, the mistreatment that they had on, you know, the young man, Martese, and we just need -- you know, we need people to be held accountable.
TODD: UVA's Black Student Alliance calls Johnson's treatment brutal and animalistic. Johnson himself addressed the rally in a measured tone.
MARTESE JOHNSON, ARRESTED UVA STUDENT: We are all part of one community. We deserve to respect each other, especially in times like this.
TODD: But even at Wednesday night's protest, police got one woman in a headlock. The officers who arrested Johnson are from a state agency known as ABC. An official of that agency would not respond to the allegations of excessive force.
In charging documents, Johnson's described as being intoxicated, agitated and belligerent, that he had just been turned away from a bar on St. Patrick's Day. It's not clear how he sustained these wounds or what happened in the moments before this scene was videotaped.
(On camera): As you come back to the scene here, you see his blood still here, how do you feel?
GOLDMAN: Now seeing it all in the daylight, it's definitely surreal. I can't believe I saw it firsthand.
TODD: Martese Johnson's lawyer says that Johnson is, quote, "absolutely devastated" by what happened. He points out that Johnson prior to this incident had no criminal record and that he holds positions of leadership at the University of Virginia. We should hear from Mr. Johnson's attorney in just a few minutes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, on the scene for us, thanks very much. We'll stand by to hear what he has to say.
Let's get some more now with the presidents of two of America's leading civil rights organizations. Marc Morial is president of the National Urban League, Cornell William Brooks is the head of the NAACP.
Gentlemen, thanks to both of you.
MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: For joining us. So, Cornell, you're a father. You've got a son who's about to go to college next year. You see something like this, what goes through your mind?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, NAACP PRESIDENT: It's absolutely horrific to see a young man full of promise, majoring in Italian and media studies, who is a campus leader on the ground with his face bloodied over what appears to be some kind of minor offense. But we don't know that. But what we do know is we have a young person on the ground with a face smashed in. It's absolutely terrible.
BLITZER: Your reaction?
MORIAL: This is the University of Virginia. This is a young man who represents the best. High-performing student, a leader on campus who finds himself down on the ground with blood on his face at the hands of these law enforcement officers. I was happy to see him speak and speak forcefully about the need to unify people and the fact that we're all part of one community.
Wolf, as you know, the governor, Terry McAuliffe, has called for an immediate investigation and we certainly look forward to the results. But this is yet another disturbing incident of -- it seems to be needless and unnecessary law enforcement violence against a young black man.
BLITZER: How do we fix these kinds of things, Cornell? I know the NAACP has been working for a long time to get everybody more sensitive, aware of what's going on. What do we need to do?
BROOKS: I think one of the things we need to make clear is that policing that is in fact community sensitive is effective policing. In other words, when you talk to criminologists, when you talk to leading law enforcement officials, what they say is building relationships of trust. It is also important that you respond to interactions with the community in a proportionate way.
[17:45:02] You don't use a sledge hammer when a tap hammer will do. We saw that in the DOJ report. And we see this in instances all across the country where police officers have to exercise judgment. We don't know all the facts here, but we have seen too many instances where police officers have engaged in a great deal of aggression that wasn't warranted.
BLITZER: The National Urban League, you just released your 2015 State of Black America.
BLITZER: Obviously, if you go through it, there's a lot of work that needs to be done. But let's just talk briefly about what -- this image that we now have from Mississippi of an African-American man hanging from a tree, obviously his body hanging from a tree. The FBI is now down there investigating, representatives from the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, they are down in Mississippi.
We don't know if it's suicide. We don't know what happened. But it's so disturbing --
MORIAL: A death that's tragic, period. We need to find out what the facts are. As I sit here, I'm hopeful that it isn't what we think and anticipate. This is the symbol of one of the most awful forms of, if you will, terror and murder, the use of the noose that was propagated in large numbers in the early part of the 20th century.
But, you know, the report that we released, the State of Black America report, Wolf, one thing I would point out is that there's the justice crisis that we certainly have talked about, but the recovery, which I applaud, the job creation that's taking place in this country, but it's leaving lots of Americans behind. We found that in 33 of the top 70 cities in America, the black unemployment rate exceeded 15 percent and in seven it exceed 20 percent.
BLITZER: It's 5.5 percent nationwide. What is it nationwide for African-Americans?
MORIAL: It's in the 10 range. It's double that. But in urban communities, 33 of these urban communities, it's triple that. It's in the 15 plus percent range and seven cities, Wolf, have unemployment rates in the black community over 20 percent.
BLITZER: And has it been getting better over these past, let's say, six years?
BROOKS: The facts are these. Certainly over the course of a generation, the unemployment rate among African-Americans has always been double that of their white counterparts. So while unemployment has gotten better, the unemployment differential, racial differential, has not.
BLITZER: So it stays like that. I recommend this 2015 State of Black America.
MORIAL: Yes. StateofBlackAmerica.org. You can get it. And we've got recommendations for solutions, too, Wolf.
BLITZER: If you guys can stand by, we're expecting a news conference, by the way, coming up. Both from Charlottesville on the University of Virginia campus on what happened there. Also, Mississippi. We're going to get some information on what happened there. Body of an African-American man discovered hanging from a tree. You never want to see that because you're right, it brings up that awful, awful memory.
Coming up, there's other news we're following. The U.S. Secret Service is pushing back against reports its agents drunkenly crashed into a White House barricade. So what actually happened that night? Stand by.
[17:52:37] BLITZER: A stunning revelation from the head of the U.S. Secret Service. The director Joseph Clancy told lawmakers today reports of a drunken agent or agents crashing a car at a White House barricade are exaggerated. But that has -- that his organization may have erased, erased surveillance tape of the incident.
Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns has been following the story for us.
Joe, what are you discovering?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is his third grilling on Capitol Hill in a couple of days. The head of the Secret Service telling lawmakers that surveillance video shows that initial reports were wrong of agents crashing that car into a barricade outside the White House. He said that vehicle was only moving at one or two miles an hour.
JOHNS (voice-over): Serious questions about the Secret Service incident remain tonight, especially about critical surveillance video that was recorded over before it could be reviewed.
JOE CLANCY, SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: We understand it's a concern. We're doing everything we can to retrieve those images.
JOHNS: The director said it's standard practice for video to be eliminated after 72 hours. The problem is, he was not alerted to the incident until nearly a week later.
CLANCY: The fact that I did not learn of this allegation until five days after it is said to have occurred is unacceptable. I'm very unhappy about it.
JOHNS: Following a retirement party in early March, two senior agents drove under police tape into the middle of a bomb investigation outside the White House, bumping a plastic barrel with their car. It's unclear if the agents were drinking that night but the director said he is prepared to take disciplinary action depending on the outcome of an inspector general's investigation.
CLANCY: And if they felt that the driver or the supervisor were under the influence of alcohol, they should have taken appropriate action. And that action would have been certainly to notify the chain of command all the way up to my office.
JOHNS: For the highly trained agents of the Secret Service, it's another black mark on an institution that prides itself on professionalism. Some experts now question whether Director Clancy is the right person to get the service back on track.
ROBERT KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE FIRST FAMILY DETAIL": Clancy is part of the problem. And you know, what's needed here is an FBI investigation into what happened. Because you simply can't to trust Clancy and the Secret Service to impartially investigate what happened.
JOHNS: Now Clancy supporters on the Hill say he needs more time to fix what's broken at the agency. Clancy has admitted that he is frustrated but he's also been asking lawmakers for patience.
BLITZER: Pretty disturbing, the whole development.
All right. Joe Johns, thanks very much.
During the next hour, we're going to live coverage of two of our breaking stories we're following. We're awaiting a news conference on the accusations of excessive force against the University of Virginia honor student.
There will also be a news conference in Mississippi where the FBI is now investigating why a black man's body was found hanging from a tree.
BLITZER: Happening now, claiming credit. ISIS now says its terrorist forces are behind that museum massacre. The death toll is climbing. ISIS is making a chilling new threat.