Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Al Qaeda's Threat; New Video in South Carolina Police Shooting; Hillary Clinton Preparing to Launch; Feds: American Tried to Bomb U.S. Base for ISIS; Pentagon Chief's New Warning about Terror in U.S.; Iran Challenging U.S. Terms for Nuclear Deal; Hillary Clinton to Launch Presidential Bid Sunday; Safety Experts Study Commercial Jets Without Pilots. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 10, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:01:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: brand-new dash cam video in the South Carolina police shooting case. We're seeing critical angles for first time. We're also getting new information about the mystery man in the car with the victim. U.S. base targeted. An ex-U.S. Army recruit is charged with
attempting a U.S. bomb attack on a major U.S. military base. Was he acting on the orders of ISIS?
Al Qaeda vs. ISIS. CNN asks the defense secretary, Ash Carter, which terrorist group is a greater danger to the United States right now in his first major interview since taking the top job at the Pentagon.
Hillary Clinton is in. The former secretary of state sets a date to launch her long-awaited 2016 presidential campaign. Her big announcement, that's coming up.
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 breaking news tonight. New police dash cam video in the South Carolina shooting investigation. It is taken from the patrol car of an officer who arrived on the scene after the initial traffic stop.
We're seeing for the first time a glimpse of the man who recorded the actual shooting while he was using his cell phone to capture the now widely seen horrific video showing the police officer Michael Slager shooting the suspect Walter Scott in the back while he was fleeing. Also breaking, investigators now confirm that they have questioned the passenger who was in Scott's car. We're told he has been released. He is not facing any charges.
The head of the NAACP, Cornell Brooks, there he is, he standing by to join us live. We also have our correspondents and analysts, they are standing by. We are covering all the news breaking right now.
First, let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's in South Carolina with much more on the very latest -- Brian. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some important new developments
tonight. We have told you about that mystery man, that passenger in the car that Walter Scott was driving.
As you mentioned, he has met with officials from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, met with them, been released without charge. His name is not being released. Also tonight, a serious complaint from officer Michael Slager's attorney, Andy Savage, who says that despite his repeated requests, he has not received the kind of cooperation from law enforcement that the media has, that he has not received investigative documents, has not received audio and video tapes, that he has only gotten Slager's arrest warrant.
We reached out the North Charleston police for response to that. We have not heard back. This all comes on a very dramatic day, as you mentioned, that we got new sets of images from additional dash cam video from another police officer.
TODD (voice-over): CNN has obtained stunning new dash cam video from other officers arriving on the scene moments after Walter Scott is shot. You can see officer James Gann speeding from a traffic call when he hears shots are fired. Here, it appears you can see Feidin Santana at a nearby fence shooting his cell phone video, the key evidence in the murder case against officer Michael Slager.
Tonight, man at the epicenter of the case is now in isolation. Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager is being held alone in a jail cell, the Charleston County sheriff tells CNN. And he is being monitored for his mental health. CNN is told investigators from the state Law Enforcement Division are combing through every frame of the video of the shooting, as well as of officer Michael Slager's dash cam video.
A former prosecutor says the video still leaves gaps.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know whether they were fighting over his gun, his Taser, or just fighting and the officer was trying to subdue him.
TODD: There are also new revelations tonight from state investigators who say initial clues in the vacant lot where Walter Scott was killed just didn't add up. A spokesman for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division says there were inconsistencies and questions about what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds in Mr. Scott's back.
They say -- quote -- "Something was not right about what happened in that encounter."
[18:05:00] The new details come as African-American leaders in North Charleston are growing more vocal in their criticism of the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enough is enough.
TODD: They say police disproportionately target black motorists for traffic stops, one leader telling CNN police officers look for broken taillights. The dash cam video from Scott's traffic stop shows the center light on his back windshield was out, but that his lower brake lights worked. That kind of stop, critics say, is a daily occurrence.
ELDER JAMES JOHNSON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: There's a major street here called Dorchester Road. Any time you ride down the street in any given day, you will see four to five policemen has pulled someone over that's black. Any given day. And people see that and it brings anger.
TODD: We reached out to the North Charleston police for response to those complaints. We have not heard back -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd on the scene for us in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Another breaking story we're following, a police scandal in Florida that is getting the Justice Department's attention right here in Washington. Four officers have now been forced out after sending racially offensive texts and making a shocking video.
Tonight, dozens of cases they investigated are being thrown out.
Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is following the story for us.
Evan, it's a pretty shocking story as well.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
This is an amazing story. We have 11 felony cases now that have been dropped, eight misdemeanor case, one juvenile case. We are talking about cocaine possession, burglary, assault cases that are being dropped, all the result of this internal investigation that found that these officers, four officers were exchanging these racist text messages, some of them mocking President Obama, some of them mocking some of the people that they encountered, people they are supposed to be protecting and serving.
One officer made a video, a mock movie trailer titled "The Hoods" which depicted an image of President Obama wearing gold teeth, images of a Ku Klux Klan hood. These are all things that now the police department there says that they are trying to fix. The FBI and Justice Department are monitoring the case. They are very interested to see whether this is a wider problem in the police department.
One issue for the Broward County state attorney's office, they talked to us today, they are looking at 11 misdemeanor cases, Wolf, where defendants have already pled guilty. Now they are reviewing them, whether they can drop those charges, whether a judge would allow them to withdraw those charges against these individuals. I should add that these are all cases involving African-Americans.
BLITZER: This is in Fort Lauderdale. Right?
PEREZ: This is in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, correct.
BLITZER: A major city obviously in South Florida.
All right, shocking development over there as well. Evan, thank you.
Let's get back to breaking news, the South Carolina police shooting case.
We're joined by the president and CEO of NAACP, Cornell Brooks.
Cornell, thanks very much for joining us.
I will talk to you later about what we just -- what Evan just reported in Fort Lauderdale. But you have now seen the video, the horrific video, the shooting, the killing of this 50-year-old African-American man in North Charleston, South Carolina. You have now seen the dash cam video. I'm anxious to get your reaction, because we haven't spoken over the past couple of days.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Wolf, the video is, in fact, heartbreaking, heart-wrenching.
It's also the kind of thing that creates a sense of determination within us as a people to respond to this seemingly unrelenting procession of victims at the hands of our police officers. It is a sad thing to watch.
BLITZER: What does this incident, this latest incident, another shooting of an unarmed African-American man, say to you about the continued tensions that exist not only in North Charleston, but around the country between police and the African-American community?
BROOKS: I think what it says is that the focus on simply reducing crime without focusing on the manner in which we reduce crime is simply insufficient law enforcement.
We have to think about encouraging respect in our communities. We have to look very carefully at this notion, this practice of responding to seemingly minor offenses with major uses of force, often lethal, that it's simply not enough to reduce crime in the most heavy- handed, iron-fisted manner. We have to go beyond that.
And the best research and the best practices suggest that we can. It's a moment in this country where the weight of recent history suggests to us that we have to do better and we can do better. And we have to respond to this crisis with a sense of urgency.
BLITZER: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice King, a woman you know, a woman I know, I spoke with her earlier today about the role race may have played in the shooting in North Charleston. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We all have seen that horrific video. But do you believe that there is an element of race that played into that? [18:10:00] BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Oh. Oh,
no doubt. I do think there is an element of race, obviously. I don't think it's the only element, but I certainly think it is an element.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree with her, Cornell?
When we look at the color and complexion of the victims, it suggests that we have a major problem. And the fact of the matter is, when you look at the stop-and-frisk policies in New York City, where we have had thousands of African-American men and Latino men stopped and frisked without guns or drugs found on the overwhelming majority of them, when we look at cities and towns all across the country, we have a set of practices that disproportionately affects communities of color.
Race is an undeniable element of the tragedy we find ourselves in the midst of. And so we cannot simply blink away this problem. We can't suffer the delusion, the illusion that we are in the midst of a post- racial society. This problem is real. And the fact of the matter is, when we see families grieving over the loss of fathers and grandfathers, loved ones, it's not enough to say that this is simply another tragedy unrelated to the previous tragedy, unrelated to the previous tragedy.
BLITZER: You are a lawyer. Is there a federal case here? Because we know the Justice Department, the FBI, they are investigating right now.
But based on the dash cam video -- we heard about the initial stop. When he went over, he said you have a broken taillight. Can we see your driver's license, your registration, your insurance? It didn't sound like there was any anti-black, racist talk or anything along those lines. And you are a lawyer. Is there a federal case here, a civil rights case?
BROOKS: We don't know whether or not there is a federal case here. What we do know is that there's enough to call for a federal pattern and practice investigation.
As we have seen in other police departments around the country, facts matter. And initial facts don't necessarily suggest, make clear where later conclusions will be. But there's enough here to be concerned. The fact of the matter is that we have an unarmed civilian fleeing from a police officer in a traffic stop.
There's enough here. There's enough here.
BLITZER: All right. Cornell, I want you to stand by, because there's more to discuss, including some other disturbing incidents that have been uncovered in recent days as well. Much more with Cornell Brooks of the NAACP when we come back.
[18:17:08] BLITZER: We're back with the president and CEO of the NAACP. We are talking about the breaking news in South Carolina, the police shooting case there, including new police dash cam video that show a new angle of the aftermath of the shooting.
Cornell, let's talk about body cameras. I understand that the NAACP is calling for what's described as a citizen review board, wants body cameras on all police officers nationwide, is that right?
When we think about the fact that we have bystanders who happen to have cell phone cameras, that we have communities who are essentially relying on chance and happenstance for their protection, we need body cameras on the officers' uniforms, so that they might be protected from false charges, but that a community might be protected from police officers engaged in unlawful behavior.
We have the technology. It's readily available. We need to deploy it. It's not a panacea, but it's needed. And the time has arrived for us to bring this technology to bear on this problem.
BLITZER: What's your reaction to the report -- you heard Evan Perez, our justice reporter, mention it earlier, this report of these Fort Lauderdale police officers who exchanged these text messages, a video containing racial slurs, depicting President Obama with gold teeth. There was a Ku Klux Klan image. I don't know if you have been following this case, but this is a major city, Fort Lauderdale.
BROOKS: It is quite sad.
And it is, I would like to believe, an aberration. I would like to believe only a minority of officers engage in this kind of conduct. But we have to appreciate the fact that a law enforcement culture has to be a culture of respect. Bigotry, racism, bias does not contribute to a culture of respect.
And so when you have officers engaged in this kind of behavior, by definition, they are not qualified to protect the communities that they ostensibly serve. They are not qualified to wear a uniform or to carry a badge. We have to create that kind of culture. That has do with recruitment and training. It has a lot to do with standard setting.
And the fact of the matter is, when you see that kind of behavior, you have to ask yourself, is this reflective of just these officers or of a broader culture?
BLITZER: Stand by, Cornell.
I want to also bring in our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. he's a former FBI assistant director. And our HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson.
You want to respond, Tom, to this horrific video, the text messages, the racist slurs by members of the police force of Fort Lauderdale? Is there a culture problem there? Or is this just an aberration?
[18:20:00] TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't know the situation in Fort Lauderdale. But I agree with Cornell completely.
These officers have no business being in uniform. And I think the answer is, isn't just training and all of that, because I don't think you can train away bad character. These officers have to be not hired. I think that what I see across the country and I consult on this is a lack of adequate screening for good character before you hire a cop.
When they don't do it, they put people in uniform, give them a stick, give them a gun, give them a Taser, send them out on the street and bad things happen. And then these cities are wondering, gee, how did that happen? What happened? Maybe we're not doing good enough training. Maybe we need community policing.
You can't community police your way out of hiring bad people and putting them in uniform.
BLITZER: We need better pay for police officers?
FUENTES: We need better selection right on the front end. There are plenty of people applying for these jobs that have good character. You need to find the ones that don't have good character and keep them off the police department.
BLITZER: All right, well said.
Joey Jackson, in addition to all of this, we also have some amazing video we have seen that -- another incident in California. I want you to look at this video from California, where 10 deputies have been put on leave after aerial footage showed San Bernardino sheriff deputies brutally punching and kicking a suspect after he fled on a horse.
Watch what's going on over here, because it is really horrific. And you can see, these deputies, they just go over there. The guy is on the ground right now. And they're just punching him. They're beating him. It's a pretty awful spectacle. They kicked at least -- we went through it -- 17 times, punched 37 times. They hit him with a baton four times.
When you see this kind of -- he is just lying there. What's your reaction to when you see this kind of behavior?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, outrage would be a mild statement in looking at and evaluating what we are looking at there.
When you look at police and community relations -- and we know the person here, the victim here was white. But that's no matter. The reality is that the community has to trust and has to respect law enforcement. And there has to be mutual trust and mutual respect. When you look at law enforcement, there's a wide deal of discretion that law enforcement has. As a former prosecutor, there was a wide deal of discretion I had with
regard to who was going to be charged, what were they going to be charged with, the degree of misdemeanor, felony, et cetera. And that affects people's lives in a very drastic way. When you see police encounters like this and when you see a person who is seemingly fully surrendered, fully on the ground, fully compliant, at least it appears to be -- and, of course, this tape will be subjected to further analysis.
But when you look at a number of deputies who apparently have control of the situation and who are exceeding that by just hitting and punching and kicking the amount of times, it's tragic, needs to be investigated. And there needs to be a two-tier investigation.
The first, obviously, a criminal investigation needs to be engaged in because if you crossed a line, you have to be held accountable no matter who you are. The second of course is administrative. Do they deserve to wear a badge? If the answer to that question is no, seemingly from this video, then they should be duly removed of that responsibility.
BLITZER: I want Cornell to weigh in. But, Tom Fuentes, what do you think?
FUENTES: I agree, completely.
BLITZER: There's no excuse for this behavior.
FUENTES: They need to be removed. The investigation has to determine the identity of each officer that did participate and any other officers that enabled it and go with prosecution on that, remove them, fire them, incarcerate them.
There is no -- there has to be zero tolerance for this kind of behavior, white or black victim or anyone.
BLITZER: Right. We will show you the mug shot of the victim in this particular case.
Cornell, your thoughts?
BROOKS: I notice that the horse was treated infinitely better than the human being lying on the ground. It's animalistic behavior. It's brutal behavior.
And the only question I would have beyond the comments that have been made is, what is that police department like when you have so many officers engaged in this kind of conduct? Is this kind of conduct sanctioned? And I would want them to look more broadly.
BLITZER: Cornell, we wouldn't know about this, but by chance a news aerial helicopter was flying over capturing all of this. It's a new age right now with all the video, the dash cam video, the cell phone video, the helicopter video. It's a whole new world, right?
BROOKS: Absolutely. But I also believe that we need not rush to judgment, nor delegate to
technology the responsibility to assess all the facts. But we need to be clear about this. We are in a new age. And it's a new age where the technology can enhance a sense of accountability. And we need to use that technology to the extent we're able and to also use it appropriately and to bring our best judgment to bear on policing in the country.
[18:25:10] BLITZER: So, Joey, just wrap this up for us.
I assume these police officers, these sheriffs, they are going to be charged, right?
JACKSON: Without question.
What I think you are going to see is certainly you're going to see administratively discipline taking place. And that will be, should be swift and immediate. And then, of course, you will see prosecution based upon what their conduct is. And under the statute, it's assault and battery. You are hitting someone. You are punching someone. You are kicking someone and thereby causing injury.
And that injury could be significant. And, Wolf, as you showed the mug shot there, you know, that mug shot looks like a person who has gone through something. And we don't know what if any internal injuries there are. And we are just looking at his face. We know that there were kicks to various other parts of his body. It's about accountability, whether you wear a badge or not a badge. No one is above the law. They need to be held accountable and hopefully they will be.
BLITZER: All right, Joey Jackson, Cornell Brooks, Tom Fuentes, guys, thanks very, very much. Good discussion, unfortunately, bad news, as we all know.
Just ahead, an American charged with attempting to bomb a major United States military base all in the name of ISIS. He tried to enlist in the United States Army so he could launch an attack. That's the accusation. We have details.
And is al Qaeda more dangerous to the U.S. now than ISIS? The answer ahead from the defense secretary, his first in-depth interview since taking the job.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight. A former U.S. Army recruit now charged with trying to bomb a major U.S. military base in the heartland of the country. The latest in a series of Americans accused of plotting attacks, all in the name of ISIS.
[18:31:24] Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is back with us. He's got details. Tell us what's going on here, Evan.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the 21st ISIS- related arrest that the Justice Department has announced since January. This is John T. Booker. He was arrested today as he prepared to carry out what the FBI says -- what the FBI says was a suicide bombing at Fort Riley in Kansas.
Now, he didn't actually have any bombs. This was an FBI sting operation. And the inert bomb was actually provided by a couple of informants that the FBI had working for them.
But as you mentioned, he had signed up for the Army back in last year, in February 2014. He was supposed to show up for basic training in April. But in between that time, the FBI found a couple of Facebook messages in which he said that he wanted to leave the country to go fight jihad.
They interviewed him, and he confirmed that indeed that's exactly what he wanted to do. The FBI left him alone and introduced a couple of informants over the next series of months. And it appears that, despite being talked to by the FBI, he was not dissuaded. He recorded a couple of videos -- video messages claiming that he had sworn allegiance to ISIS and that he was doing this bombing today -- he was trying to do it today -- on behalf of ISIS.
BLITZER: And he formally converted to Islam, changed his name, right?
PEREZ: Right. He changed his name to Mohammed Abdullah Hassan. That is the name he went by. Also, on social media. And he said that he was inspired by some of the ISIS propaganda messages. In particular, an American, Mohamad Abu-Saleh (ph). This is an American who carried out a suicide bombing in Syria against Syrian -- Syrian military installation. He goes by the name -- went by the name Jihad Joe. He said he wanted to do exactly what Jihad Joe had done.
BLITZER: Twenty-first American arrested this year in the United States, allegedly trying to work with ISIS. Very disturbing information. Thank you.
Now a new warning about the terrorist threat here in the United States from ISIS and al Qaeda. Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke with CNN's Erin Burnett, his first in-depth interview as the new Pentagon chief. Erin traveled to Seoul, South Korea. She's joining us now.
That's where you interviewed Ash Carter right there. And tell us how that went.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, Wolf, it was very interesting, because he had a lot to say about Iran, about ISIS and about al Qaeda. And he talked about ISIS, how it was a barbaric group, sort of of unknown proportions in terms of how it's been able to recruit people.
But I asked him directly on the key difference. What is the biggest threat to the United States right now, al Qaeda, which of course, Americans have gotten used to being concerned about, or ISIS as a new threat? And the answer was a bit surprising, because he chose to highlight al Qaeda. Here's the defense secretary.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BURNETT: What's a bigger threat to the United States right now? Is it ISIS or al Qaeda?
ASH CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Al Qaeda has now suffered more than a decade of constant pounding by the United States. So they are much reduced, compared to what they were and their ambitions.
However, they still have a serious preoccupation with direct attacks upon the United States. Particularly several branches of them, like AQAP. And so I think we have to remain worried about al Qaeda because of their determination.
BURNETT: You said AQAP is growing in strength.
CARTER: Well, AQAP has opportunities in Yemen that it didn't have when there was a government. That Yemen is in the middle of a civil war now. That obviously creates opportunities for terrorist groups.
BURNETT: And Wolf, one of the interesting things that he said, in addition to choosing to highlight al Qaeda, that he said, yes, it has been set back but that he still thinks their ambition is to strike the United States, which clearly he thinks is a more near and present danger than a direct attack on the homeland by ISIS. You know, that was a pretty interesting thing.
He also said, though, in terms of troops, he said categorically, he will not hesitate to recommend them to the president, but he doesn't think we're quite at that point yet in terms of actual American boots on the ground when it comes to the fight against ISIS. So again, he said this is not at that point yet.
But it was very clear to me that he was not taking that off the table and not saying, "Oh, the fight is at such a point where we wouldn't need American troops."
And of course, Wolf, in terms of Iran, he had very tough words. As you know, the supreme leader this week in the highly rated response to the deal said there will be no access to military sites.
The secretary of defense said absolutely not, that there would be abscess to military sites. And furthermore, that their big bomb, as you know, Wolf, they've been testing and they built, really, for the express purpose of being able to strike Iran's deepest and most fortified nuclear sites. We keep hearing they've been working on that bomb. It's been in tests. It's not quite ready. He said without hesitation, it is ready. It could strike that site today and be able to destroy it if it needed to, Wolf.
BLITZER: Got some important information from the defense secretary. Erin, thanks very much.
This note to our viewers: you can watch the interview, Erin Burnett's interview with the defense secretary, during a special edition of "OUT FRONT" live from South Korea. That's coming up right at the top of the hour only here on CNN. Let's thank Erin for that.
Tonight, as Erin just mentioned, there's growing skepticism that a landmark nuclear deal with Iran will ever be finalized. That's because Iran's top leaders are making some provocative statements about the tentative agreement that contradict directly what U.S. officials have been saying.
Let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's got the latest on the discrepancies coming from Iranian leaders, including the grand ayatollah, as opposed to the president of the United States and the secretary of state.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is an essential problem with this interim deal. It's a framework agreement. Nothing was written down on paper. So now you have Iranian officials in public citing differences with U.S. officials. Pace of sanctions relief. Also, access to the most sensitive military sites.
The open question is, is that political posturing, or is it a public renegotiation of this deal?
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Applause as Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, showed off advancements in nuclear technology, a very public display of Iran's commitment to keeping its nuclear program.
HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): We will not let go of our peaceful nuclear technology. Enrichment will continue. We have over 1,000 centrifuges in place in Fordo (ph), and they will remain in place.
SCIUTTO: After the euphoria on the streets of Iran immediately after the sides worked a framework deal, now comes the political reality.
In a nationally-televised speech and a series of comments on his Twitter account, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, with the final say on any deal, drawing a line in the sand. No agreement on their nuclear program unless sanctions are lifted immediately on the day of the deal.
Speaking exclusively to CNN, the administration's point man on the Middle East, Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGuirk, dismissed the comments as background noise that negotiators will tune out.
BRETT MCGUIRK, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR IRAQ AND IRAN: Let the negotiators do their work. There's about three months here to hammer out the details. And they'll do that behind closed doors. There's going to be a lot of background noise.
SCIUTTO: However, close followers of the negotiations see the danger of something more. Iran pushing the limits on the assumption that the Obama administration wants and needs an agreement more than Tehran.
KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: The Iranians at the moment feel that the United States is so eager to finalize this deal, that they can afford to drive a harder bargain.
SCIUTTO: It's an odd fact that, even with these differences between U.S. and Iranian officials, the strongest language in the last 24 hours is not between the U.S. and Iran, but within the U.S. between Democrats and Republicans in the White House.
You had Senator McCain saying in an interview that John Kerry was delusional, trying to sell a bill of goods with this deal, to which the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, responded today via Twitter with this, saying, John McCain is naive and reckless for him to believe every word of the supreme leader's political speech. He shouldn't.
And Wolf, that is the essential comeback from the administration. This is political posturing by Iran. It's speaking to a domestic audience. They have their agreements that they made in Switzerland. It's a framework that they believe in. And they believe they can bridge the remaining differences in time for this June 30 deadline.
I'll tell you one more thing, Wolf. The other headline you're hearing from Iranian leaders is that the June 30 deadline is not so hard and fast. That might break, too. They might need more time, days or weeks after that, to bridge those remaining differences. So we might be waiting some time.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. All right. Thanks very much. Jim Sciutto reporting for us.
Let's bring in our national security analyst, Peter Bergen, and CNN counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd. He's the author of a brand-new book, entitled "The Head Game." We have it here. Here it is on the screen.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- on the book.
Peter, the ayatollah, the grand ayatollah -- not the president, Rouhani, not the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, but the grand ayatollah -- says all sanctions will be released -- will be suspended immediately once they sign an agreement and that there will be no inspections of any military facilities. If they back away from that, he looks weak and awkward. Doesn't he?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. But he may be trying to placate the hardliners in his country. I mean, there are hardliners in the United States; but there's hardliners in Iran.
BLITZER: Those are two positions that the U.S. and the other allies say those are non-negotiable. There has to be free access to inspect military no immediate suspension of all of those sanctions but gradual depending on compliance. BERGEN: Right. So if he sticks to those points of view, he will
scuttle the agreement. So the question is, is this a political statement he is making to placate the hardliners in his country, or is it something more? We don't know.
BLITZER: And but if the U.S. later, June 30, has a deal, and they say there can be free access to inspections, Phil, and that the sanctions are not immediately being suspended, what happens?
MUDD: We're talking about Iran. Let me give you another four-letter word, and it's Iraq. I remember when we were dealing with Saddam Hussein, and the technical negotiations about what we could have access to, what's sensitive, what's military.
What I see happening here, as Peter suggests, is both sides, the Americans and the Iranians, interested in a deal but trying to placate individuals and the political sphere who want to avoid a deal. Even if we get one, I can bet you a paycheck what we're going to have is endless negotiations about how long you're going to need to advise before you get access, whether you can go to sensitive facilities. Even if we get in there, I think this is going to be a difficult deal to go through.
It sounds like opposition is also building up on Capitol Hill, not just from Republicans but all those Democrats, right?
BERGEN: Right. And we'll see how this plays out.
BLITZER: It's by no means a done deal. Is it still doable? On life support? What do you think?
MUDD: No, I don't think it's on life support. I think it's surprising that a supreme leader in a society that is so conservative has to come out and say to his people -- he's playing to his audience. We're interpreting this from Washington. He is saying to his people, "Hey, we're going to get what we want." Even as the president here says the same thing. Not surprising, I think this is politics, not reality.
BLITZER: And if there's a deal at its side, can the Iranian leadership say one thing and the U.S. say something else, even if it's signed?
BERGEN: I think we're seeing that already. And I think a deal that signs, as Phil indicated, you know, then there's the implementation. And there could be a lot of negotiations around the implementation.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Remember the new book, "Head Games: High- Efficiency Analytic Decision Making and the Art of Solving Complex Problems," particularly, by Philip Mudd.
MUDD: Thank you.
BLITZER: A very nice title. Thanks very much.
This note to our viewers. If you want to find out what you can do to help civilians affected by the violence in the Middle East, including in Yemen, go to CNN.com/impact.
Just ahead, more of the breaking news. The American charged with trying to bomb a U.S. military base and the worst fears inside the Pentagon about the terror threat in this country.
And we now know when Hillary Clinton will announce her presidential campaign. What will her message be? We have new information. Stand by for that.
[18:48:31] BLITZER: Stand by for more of the breaking news. New police dash cam video showing the South Carolina shooting aftermath from a different angle.
But right now, Hillary Clinton is about to say the words that her supporters and her rivals have been expecting to hear.
Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar has more now on Clinton's presidential campaign kickoff weekend -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Hillary Clinton's video and her travel to the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire is about introducing her rationale for running for president. And we're learning in part, she'll be campaigning as a grandmother who wants to improve opportunities for her granddaughter's generation.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Don't you some day want to see a woman president of the United States of America?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
KEILAR: Sweeping aside months, even years of speculation, CNN has learned Hillary Clinton will announce her presidential campaign this Sunday. Like her 2007 announcement --
HILLARY CLINTON: I announced today that I'm forming a presidential exploratory committee.
KEILAR: It will come via video, a message she's already filmed to be released on social media.
But that is where Clinton advisers hope the comparisons to her failed 2008 bid will end. In a newly released to her book "Hard Choices", Clinton lays out a rationale for her presidency, that the birth of her granddaughter Charlotte pushed her to run, and will fuel a campaign message about equal opportunity. "Unfortunately," she writes, "too few of the children born in the United States and around the world today will grow up with the same opportunities as Charlotte."
[18:50:03] Clinton says that becoming a grandmother "rather than make me want to slow down, it has spurred me to speed."
She will follow her announcement Sunday with a trip to the early caucus state of Iowa.
HILLARY CLINTON: I'm back.
KEILAR: In 2008, her third place finish there signaled the beginning of the end for her campaign.
HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you.
KEILAR: A new Quinnipiac University poll shows her admission she used a personnel e-mail account to conduct government business as secretary of state may have affected her favorability there. And Clinton will need to navigation other challenges, distinguishing herself from a relatively unpopular President Obama without alienating his vast coalition of loyal voters, handling one of the most controversial part of Obama's record, foreign policy. She served as his secretary of state and was in charge during the Benghazi attack in 2012.
And questions about her age -- if elected, she would be 69 when she took office, making her the second oldest president in history. And there's also the Bill factor, how will the campaign manage the sometimes unpredictable former president?
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: This whole thing is the biggest fairytale I've ever seen.
KEILAR: Questions Clinton's new staff working out of office space already leased in Brooklyn, New York, hope to be better poised when the campaign becomes official.
(on camera): Clinton insiders say Hillary Clinton's first stop in Iowa shows this campaign is going to be different, that she's showing some humility and that she wants to aggressively campaign for the Democratic nomination, even though she's the front-runner in the polls. But then it's onto New Hampshire which was much more friendly to Clinton in 2008. She had an unexpected but ultimately insufficient win there after her loss in Iowa -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, thanks very much.
Up next, would you fly on a plane with no one in the cockpit?
[18:56:38] BLITZER: More ahead of the breaking news. New dash cam video of the South Carolina police shooting case.
But there's another story we're following tonight. The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 is prompting new scrutiny of technology that would allow commercial airlines to fly without a pilot.
Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is looking into the story for us.
Rene, it's pretty amazing. RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It is. You know, aircraft --
they already fly without pilots in war zones. But the world has yet to see commercial planes without pilots on board, following the crashes, including Germanwings where pilots were to blame. Some are asking whether no pilot on board is a safer option.
MARSH (voice-over): The military has used planes without pilots for decades and watch as this commercial airline pilot takes Boeing 777 in for landing, his hands on his lap as the plane lands itself using auto pilot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty, 30, 20, 10 --
MARSH: But after tragedies like Germanwings 9525 and Asiana Flight 214 --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God!
MARSH: -- where pilots were blamed for the crashes, some are asking if planes should be flown from the ground or by computer. Duke University professor and former Air Force pilot Missy Cummings said it's an interesting concept, especially because the technology exists and is already being used.
MISSY CUMMINGS, DUKE UNIVERSITY: Pilots who are flying aircraft Airbus said at the maximum, they are touching the controls for three minutes during the flight. And so, the technology is here. The question is, when's it's going to be legal?
MARSH: The FAA has not approved pilotless flights and the agency said it's not been asked to do so. But in other countries, tests are being conducted.
CNN flew through U.K. air space aboard a modified test plane. The pilot controlled it from the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on control.
MARSH: The people on board only there in the event of an emergency. Cummings says taking pilots out of cockpit could make flying safer.
CUMMINGS: It's undisputed that about 80 percent of the all crashes commercial and military are due to human error.
MARSH: Georgia Institute of Technology professor Amy Pritchett who is also a private pilot said automation can fail and depending solely on technology could be deadly.
AMY PRITCHETT, GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: The place that we've seen pilotless aircraft or drones flown the most is with the military, some 400 or more crashes within a decade of those drones. That crash rate would not be acceptable in commercial aviation. MARSH: And critics say, even if technology could be perfected, there's no evidence flyers would warm to the idea of taking a flight without a pilot at the controls.
MARSH: And it is worth noting, more than 100,000 flights with pilots at the controls take off and land every day, and the vast majority of them do so without incident.
Now, I spoke with airlines about this idea of the pilotless commercial plane and they are all mum on the topic. That said, government agencies like NASA, as well as the research arm of the Department of Defense, they are currently doing research to further increase automation in the cockpit.
BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Amazing stuff, I should say.
All right. Thanks very much, Rene Marsh, with that report.
That's it for me.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.