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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; George Zimmerman Shot; ISIS Message; Tom Brady Suspended. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired May 11, 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: Brady suspended. The NFL hands down a severe punishment and a scathing reprimand to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for the Deflategate scandal. How long will the star quarterback be sidelined?
At any moment. With ISIS terrorists believed to be inside the United States, the homeland security secretary issues a dire warning saying a lone militant could attack at any time. What message is ISIS sending to America in a new video that's just been released?
Putin on a show. The Russian leader marches troops and nuclear missiles through Red Square as Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Russia for his meeting with Putin in two years. Is there a way to fix the fractured relationship between Washington and Moscow?
And Zimmerman targeted. The man notorious for killing Trayvon Martin is apparently fired at and injured as an ongoing dispute escalates. Who is the man police say pulled the gun?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news,the National Football League just announcing that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of next season as punishment for the Deflategate scandal.
The team is also facing fines and punishment.
We're also following the ISIS threat and the disturbing new warning by the homeland security secretary that a lone terrorist inside the United States could attack -- quote -- "at any time," chilling words as the FBI investigates hundreds of suspected ISIS sympathizers and U.S. military bases ramp up security out of concern over a possible attack.
We're covering that story, much more this hour, with our correspondents and our guests, including Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a key member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.
Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has more on the ISIS threat. What are you picking up, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, Wolf, there is a new intelligence assessment about the fate of the leader of ISIS.
STARR (voice-over): U.S. intelligence believes ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for now remains firmly in charge. There's no intelligence indicating he's been injured in a recent coalition airstrike, despite press reports.
The U.S. has already identified these men as potential successors to the ISIS leadership, putting millions of dollars of reward on each of their heads. There's no shortage of supporters on the ground or online.
The latest, this video from a fringe pro-ISIS hacking group threatening a cyber-attack is coming.
ADM. MICHAEL ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR/COMMANDER OF U.S. CYBER COMMAND: The thing I always look for is, at what points do groups decide that they need to move from viewing the Internet as a source of recruitment, as a way to spread ideology, do we see it more from that into something of greater concern, as viewing it as a potential weapons system?
STARR: Those attacks are toughest to detect, especially when the Internet can so easily recruit ISIS sympathizers.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You have a lot of people springing up in various areas around the world that are all interested in joining this organization.
STARR: The move to ISIS going viral online, even inspiring the attack in Texas, is as worrisome for the U.S. as what is happening in Syria and Iraq.
JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We're very definitely in a new phase in the global terrorist threat, where the so-called lone wolf could strike at any moment.
STARR: That threat from the Internet giving the authorities less time to catch terrorists.
JOHNSON: Because of the use of the Internet, we could have little or no notice in advance of an independent actor attempting to strike.
STARR: Don't miss those words from Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency's. Cyber could be becoming a weapons system that ISIS is using against the United States -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you. We're also following other breaking news, a phone call from
President Obama to the Saudi king, who suddenly pulled out of a White House summit of Persian Gulf leaders this week. Some see the move by the king as a snub of President Obama over the nuclear deal in the works with Iran.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
What's the latest you're hearing over there, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, aides to the president are straining to push back on this notion that this is any kind of snub.
They note that the president and King Salman spoke by phone earlier today, just days after the Saudi monarch pulled out of this Gulf state summit that is happening here at the White House and up at Camp David later this week. Officials though concede that they had confirmed the king was coming, but then, just this last weekend, the Saudis pulled out -- their king pulled out, suddenly informing the administration that he will instead be represented by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, and the king's son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
The Saudis say the king's absence is due to the timing of the summit, the scheduled humanitarian cease-fire in Yemen, and the opening of something called the King Salman Center for Humanitarian Aid. But with Bahrain's king also announcing he won't be attending, that leaves only two of the invited six Gulf state monarchs, the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait, slated to come.
That is not the summit that the president envisioned, just as he's trying to ease concerns of Gulf state leaders who are far from convinced that this Iran nuclear deal will stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Still, the White House insists this was no snub. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Been some speculation that this -- the change in travel plans was an attempt to send a message to the United States. If so, that message was not received, because all the feedback that we have received from the Saudis has been positive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And administration officials say privately they do believe the king's health is a factor in his last-minute decision to pull out of the summit.
But the Saudi foreign minister, Wolf, as you know, he's denying that. Either way, the White House says the president is not disappointed in his guest list for Camp David, adding that they believe that the right people are attending.
And just in a conference call within the last hour that wrapped up here at the White House, Wolf, one top official here said that they have not picked up a hint of disappointment from the Saudis about what is happening right now with respect to the president's foreign policy.
So they're really pushing back hard on this notion that this was any kind of a snub -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.
Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, got an unquestionable snub by many European leaders as he put on a massive show of Russian force just days before he's scheduled to meet with the secretary of state, John Kerry.
Let's go to our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's working the story for us.
So, Elise, what's the latest with Putin?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It was one of the largest displays of Russian military might since the fall of the Soviet Union, a show of force directed at the West and an unmistakable message of how Putin views Russia's role in the world.
But Moscow's role in Ukraine caused many leaders to skip the party and rain on Putin's parade.
LABOTT (voice-over): Vladimir Putin celebrating Russia's power and glory, the Kremlin parading more than 16,000 troops and its newest weapons through Red Square to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War II victory over the Nazis and the Soviet army's key role in the defeat.
Putin was joined by 30 world leaders, including China's president. But the guest list was more notable for who wasn't there, most of Europe's leaders boycotting Putin's show of military might. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in town for the festivities, skipped the parade, the West giving Putin the cold shoulder, as tensions grow over Russia's meddling in Ukraine.
Today, the NATO chief warned, Ukraine is spiraling out of control, with civilian deaths mounting and clashes between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists in violation of a cease-fire that appears to be in name only.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: This is a disturbing trend in the wrong direction.
LABOTT: For the first time in two years, since the crisis in Ukraine began, the U.S. secretary of state is headed to Russia to meet with Putin in Sochi, where Putin last sought to project Russia as a world power in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The U.S. needs Putin's help striking a nuclear deal with Iran and
ending the civil war in Syria, where he's one of President Assad's closest allies.
MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: This is part of our ongoing effort to have these lines of communication, to talk about all of these issues, where we agree, where we're working together, but also where we disagree.
LABOTT: The U.S. relations remain at an all-time low over Russia's role in Ukraine, and Putin's latest display of military prowess even more concerning, given this recent warning by NATO's top commander.
GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Many of their actions are consistent for preparations for another offensive.
LABOTT: And there is a sense that Putin could be ready to end Russia's isolation. He's eager to get those sanctions lifted and reaffirm Russia's role on the world stage.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it hopes Kerry's visit will normalize relations with the U.S. Secretary Kerry, Wolf, is going to be trying to assess whether Putin is serious about peace in Ukraine or whether he is intent on muscle-flexing there in Ukraine and throughout Europe -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A significant meeting, getting ready for that. Thanks very much, Elise Labott, reporting.
Let's get some more on all of the dramatic news happening right now.
Joining us now, the Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, also a Gulf War veteran.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Aloha, Wolf. Good to be here.
BLITZER: Let's talk, first of all, about the message these Gulf leaders, by refusing to come to Washington, Camp David for the highly anticipated summit, what message did the Saudi king, these other Gulf leaders who are not coming, what message are they sending?
GABBARD: Well, I think each of them have their own reasons why they say they're not being here.
But I think the overarching concern that we hear consistently across the board is their concern about this negotiated deal with Iran. I think they share the same concern that we all share. And that is making sure that this deal is airtight, making sure that there are very strong, any time, anywhere inspection provisions in there that ultimately make it so that Iran is prevented from developing a nuclear weapon.
BLITZER: Because, if they're not satisfied, you -- last hour, we had the new foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Adel Al-Jubeir, sitting where you are right now. And he's not ruling out the possibility that Saudi Arabia would go ahead with a nuclear weapons program if they're concerned about the Iranian program, if this is not a good deal. That's pretty alarming.
GABBARD: It is, and it is understandable, given the fact that Iran is right on their doorstep and this threat from Iran remains a constant concern from each of those countries in the region and to countries around the world.
And this is where I think it's very important for the president and the White House to really hear the concerns coming from the countries in the region, as they hear the concerns coming from Congress and the American people about making sure that this deal doesn't end up just for the sake of being a deal, but actually making sure that it's a good deal that makes sure that Iran doesn't get this nuclear weapon capability.
BLITZER: And, as you know, these Gulf states, whether the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, they also want better security guarantees from the United States, making sure they get the weapons they think they potentially could need against Iran or others, for that matter.
Some of them want to be elevated to what is called major non-NATO ally status of the United States. I'm not sure they were getting the kind of reassurances that they wanted in advance of this summit. What are you hearing?
GABBARD: I think there are mixed messages going around.
And I think that the concerns that we heard from the foreign minister just last hour, I think, highlighted again what many of those concerns are, is, if we go forward with the picture that we're seeing in the Middle East, with the picture that we're seeing with Iran, with this threat of ISIS continuing to grow, making sure that we have strong partnerships there to be able to defend and work with our allies and work with strong partners who will work with us to defeat enemies like ISIS and Islamist extremists.
BLITZER: I want to pick up that ISIS notion in a moment.
Congresswoman, we have a much more to discuss. We will take a quick break -- more with Tulsi Gabbard right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the growing concern over a possible attack by a lone terrorist right here inside the United States.
The homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, is now warning that such a terror attack could happen, in his words, at any moment.
We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.
You have got some military bases in your district in Hawaii. They have got on a heightened state of alert. What does that mean?
GABBARD: Each of them has gone on this heightened state of alert. I have got a military base really on each island in my district in the state of Hawaii.
And what that means is, there is an increased awareness of a potential threat that could exist, that they're checking 100 percent of I.D. cards as they go in through the military bases. And really it's making sure that people are understanding this heightened state of awareness and potential threat that exists, not just for military bases, but that we're seeing unfortunately become more prevalent here in the United States.
BLITZER: Because, when they go on a higher state, they raise it up to threat level Bravo, as it's called, that's -- it's expensive. It's a major burden.
They say there's no specific plot out there, but there's just an abundance of, what, chatter? Is that what they're concerned about? What are you hearing?
GABBARD: Yes, I think it's -- you look at, what are the threats that are out there, what are people talking about, and you look at the potential and the possibility, and making sure that we are prepared.
In other instances, where this FPCON threat has been raised has been for, for example, on the anniversary of 9/11. They look at situations where potentially there could be a terrorist threat or a threat of an attack and make sure that our military bases are ready and prepared.
BLITZER: That's from people coming in from the outside.
But there is a possibility that someone, a civilian or a military personnel, they could be radicalized, they could be inspired by ISIS on social media. We remember Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas. He wound up killing a lot of fellow soldiers.
What do you do about that, somebody who is already on a base and all of a sudden becomes an ISIS terrorist?
GABBARD: What happened there at Fort Hood that you mentioned, that major who went and killed so many of our service members, I stood in that exact same building where he opened fire just a year before he did that attack.
That was the outprocessing building for soldiers who were coming back from those long deployments. I think the key here is, when you look at social media, the fact that there are still tens of thousands of accounts on various social media platforms, different Web sites where you have people who are either directing terrorist attacks, they're recruiting, they're spreading their propaganda, these Web site, these social media platforms, these social media accounts, they need to be shut down.
There's no question about the fact that the strategy that has been in place in allowing these to go really without check has failed, because we're seeing this threat growing here at home, this radicalization threat here on the home front.
BLITZER: What about freedom of speech, First Amendment and stuff like that?
GABBARD: People who are threatening violence, terrorists, are not protected by the First Amendment.
We have to protect and keep the American people safe.
BLITZER: James Comey, the FBI director, you know him. He is a serious guy. He says in the aftermath of what happened outside of Dallas in Garland, Texas, he said: "I know there are other Elton Simpsons" -- he's one of the shooters -- "out there. It's almost as if there's a devil sitting on the shoulder saying kill, kill, kill, kill all day long."
What can Congress do about this? Can Congress itself -- and you're a member -- do anything?
GABBARD: Well, the federal government needs to do a couple of things.
The government needs to crack down on these Web sites, these social media accounts and platforms, and shut them down. So you're turning down the volume. Yes, they may try to look for other places, but the point is, you want to reduce the amount of propaganda and access that people have towards this Islamic extremist terrorist propaganda.
And the second thing is, what that does is, it narrows the pool. So, we need to focus our resources, whether it's through the NSA or other federal agencies. Stop wasting money on spying on innocent Americans all across the country, because that is actually counterproductive to us being able to defeat our enemy.
It's making it so that we don't have the resources necessary in order to focus on the bad guys. So we need to stop spying on the American people as a whole and use those resources in a very targeted way to track down these lone wolves, these potential lone wolves, those who are really looking to take action based on this Islamic extremist terrorist propaganda that they have taken.
BLITZER: We have heard it takes maybe 20 or 30 people, individuals to do full-time surveillance on somebody who might be sympathetic, could become radicalized, could go out and commit a terror attack, and there simply aren't enough personnel to get that job done. You have heard that.
GABBARD: I have heard that many times. And that goes back to the point where we are spending hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars on these surveillance operations, on gathering and collecting this data, on spying on innocent Americans, which is actually counterproductive.
First of all, it's never been proven to be effective. There are zero cases that have shown that this policy that is in place through the Patriot Act has been effective in thwarting a terrorist act. Not only that -- it's actually wasting resources that do need to be focused on providing the surveillance, tracking down and targeting those who are these potential threats to the safety of the American people.
BLITZER: We have got to end it. We have got to leave it on that note, but I want to just point out, on a very happier note, since the last time we spoke -- and we will show our viewers a nice little picture. There you are. You got married. Congratulations, a beautiful wedding in Hawaii.
GABBARD: Thank you.
BLITZER: How did it go?
GABBARD: Oh, it was wonderful. It was a magical, perfect, spiritual, awesome day spent with my husband, Abraham, and our family and friends.
BLITZER: I saw a video, and you guys were having a great, great time, a beautiful wedding.
Tulsi Gabbard, congratulations.
GABBARD: Thank you very much, Wolf. Aloha.
BLITZER: This programming note to our viewers: Tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, be sure to tune in for "Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World." Our Fareed Zakaria reports. That's only here on CNN. It's a one-hour special.
Breaking news coming up next: The NFL suspends Tom Brady. We're learning new details of the punishment he and the Patriots will now face for the so-called Deflategate scandal.
And George Zimmerman targeted -- the man who shot Trayvon Martin injured in a new shooting incident. We're learning new details.
[18:28:33] BLITZER: We're following breaking news, a four-game suspension
without pay for the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, he and the team facing serious punishment, a scathing reprimand for the use of deflated footballs, a scandal now known as Deflategate.
Let's get some more details.
Joining us, our CNN sports anchor Rachel Nichols and our CNN sports correspondent Coy Wire. They're both joining us on the phone.
Coy, were you surprised by this penalty?
COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, Wolf, it was kind of in line with what I was thinking and a couple of other players, former players and current players that I have spoken to.
The thought was four to six games, and that the organization as well should be fined at least, if not more, than they were -- at least as much -- excuse me -- than they were for the Spygate scandal, which was $250,000 for the organization, $500,000 for Bill Belichick. And they did have that loss of a first round pick.
As it turns out, Wolf, it actually is more for the organization, a $1 million fine for the organization. They lost a first round pick in next year's draft and a fourth round pick in the draft the following year, Brady being the four-game suspension without pay.
Certainly, it's understood. It's justifiable. I think, when you really look at this, his failure to cooperate -- Troy Vincent said in his statement that was released that his failure to cooperate with the investigation, turning over the text message correspondences with John Jastremski, Jim McNally, any of those members involved in this, did play into the factor as well.
So, they didn't like, Wolf, that he lied.
[18:30:12] BLITZER: What about -- Rachel, were you surprised by this? Is there really a serious precedent for actions, punishment like this by the NFL?
NICHOLS: Well, it's a precedent the NFL wants to set. Two precedents, in fact. First is that cheating is unacceptable, no matter what the infraction is, no matter whether it's the kind of cheating that wins you an entire football game or just gives you a little bit of an advantage. They don't want to leave it up to players' discretion of how much cheating is OK. They have to draw a line and say no cheating; these are the rules. So that is one precedent they have to set.
The other precedent they want to set is "When we launch an investigation into what you have done, you have to answer us." Remember, the NFL doesn't have subpoena power here, so they're basically relying on their employees, these teams' employees, to tell them the truth.
And so because the Patriots did not fully cooperate with the investigation, in their eyes: one of the equipment guys, Jim McNally, was not made available for a second interview; Tom Brady's interview was maybe not what the investigators wanted to determine how forthcoming he was with details. He didn't turn over his electronic communication, which is something they asked for, and then in fact, tried to make great accommodations for him to keep his communications private. He still said, "No, I'm not interested." Even just voluntarily sending them a few text messages that he thought proved his innocence. He didn't even want to do that.
So they see that as efforts by the Patriots to not fully cooperate. They want to set a precedent there too, Wolf, because in the future when other teams and other players commit what they see are -- as offenses, they want those players and teams to know, if they don't fully cooperate, whatever you think you're hiding, whatever you think you're benefiting by hiding something, the punishment is going to come down on you worse for hiding it than whatever you would have turned over.
BLITZER: Can he appeal this, Rachel?
NICHOLS: He can. He has three days to appeal. That appeal is either going to be heard by Roger Goodell or a commissioner designee. Now, the NFL Players' Association can petition to have an outsider hear the appeal. We've seen that happen in a few cases; we saw that happen with Adrian Peterson. We saw that happen with the Saints investigation.
Now, in those cases when an outside person has heard the appeal, that appeal has usually not gone the NFL's way. And the NFL's Roger Goodell has to give permission to that outsider to come in. So I would be curious to see if they're going to give permission for an outsider to come in, because they've not had great experiences with that in the past. And I think that they want this discipline to stick.
Now, on appeal, would he get some of those games reduced, the suspension reduced, even if he does appeal to Roger Goodell? Maybe he would. We've seen that, again, in recent disciplinary cases: a suspension of six games goes down to four games, a suspension of four games goes down to two games. We shall see.
If it stands right now, one of the real ironies in all of this is that if Tom Brady is suspended for four games, what game is he going to come back for, Wolf? He's going to come back for a game against the Indianapolis Colts. And Indianapolis, this is the team, of course, that he played in the AFC championship that launched the Deflategate investigation.
So there's a lot of curiosity here. We'll have to see how it plays out. This is not over by any means, but this is a huge blow for the Patriots' organization.
BLITZER: And for Tom Brady personally.
And Coy, you played in the NFL for years. I want to get your sense on the buzz among players about the suspension, the fine, the strong words condemning the Patriots, condemning Tom Brady for that matter, especially since the report was not 100 percent conclusive. They said probably, more likely than not. You know, words along those lines. What's the buzz among players?
WIRE: The buzz among players is simply this. Look, I played against the Patriots for six years when I played with the Bills. And I played them twice a year. And the general consensus is, and still in my book, Tom Brady is still one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. I don't think this scandal is going to hurt his legacy on the field.
However, like most players, they also feel that off the field his legacy, his character has certainly been tainted. And the reason for that, look at the guys that he essentially threw under the bus by not admitting to this. You're talking about two equipment men, two people that work in the locker room that made maybe 25,000 $30,000 a year, who we found out in this report were suspended last week by Robert Kraft from the New England Patriots without pay. So they were suspended without pay, but not Tom Brady.
So I think, again not taking blame for this, and saying you know, "Those guys were just doing what I asked them to do," now they are sitting at home, on the couch, and maybe never able to return to the NFL again. So his off-the-field legacy, Wolf, certainly tarnished in my book and in those of the players with whom I've spoken.
BLITZER: And Rachel, in that letter that the NFL sent to Brady, they said his conduct constituted "conduct detrimental to the integrity of and the public confidence in the game of professional football." Those words will hang over him for a long time.
[18:35:10] NICHOLS: Yes. Those are heavy words. That's basically calling Tom Brady a cheater. And that is something that will not go on his Hall of Fame plaque, but certainly when he has his Hall of Fame induction and they list off all his accomplishments, they will talk about this.
Something interesting also, Wolf, to notice in this report, in the statement from the NFL, they took the Patriots' past actions, the Spygate controversy, into consideration here. This was treated as a second offense. And that goes to the legacy question, as well.
When you look at the Super Bowls that Tom Brady has won, when you look at the Patriots' record over this last dozen years or so, is the fact that they were twice convicted in the NFL courts of having shady business, going to impact how people think of this dynasty?
BLITZER: Rachel Nichols, Coy Wire, guys thanks very much for updating us on the breaking news.
Other news we're following today. The man known for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin has yet another run-in with the law. George Zimmerman hospitalized in a new shooting. We have the details. That's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:40:55] BLITZER: George Zimmerman, the man notoriously
acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin, was injured today when a simmering dispute escalated into gunfire.
His lawyer says a car pulled up next to Zimmerman as he was driving near Sanford, Florida. The driver, someone Zimmerman had previously fought with, allegedly fired at least one shot. Zimmerman wasn't hit but suffered minor injuries from flying glass.
Let's get more with the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, CNN law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander; CNN anchor Don Lemon; and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, our CNN legal analyst.
All right, Don, George Zimmerman's attorney said Zimmerman was almost hit in the head with the bullet. What's your reaction to this latest development of this long saga?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my gosh. Well, there are two different versions. There's George Zimmerman's version. There's probably more than two. George Zimmerman's version; the other guy, Apperson -- I forget his first name, Mr. Apperson's version; and then there's the real version of it.
I just -- I have never in my life witnessed someone who has so many issues when it comes to law enforcement, especially someone who has been in the public eye and who is really infamous.
I spoke to someone who was deeply involved in the George Zimmerman case, and that person said to me, she said, "You know what? He should probably leave the country or, you know, at least leave the state of Florida." And I think that would be good advice.
The best advice that I would have and I think anyone would have for George Zimmerman is just to stay out of the public eye. And he probably should not be carrying a gun at this point.
BLITZER: What do you think about that, Sunny? What's your reaction? Because all of us remember, of course, Zimmerman was acquitted in the Trayvon -- in the Trayvon Martin death.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, certainly, I've seen people with long rap sheets as a former prosecutor, Wolf. But I do think it's odd that, since he was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, over and over and over again, has had violent altercations with other people.
In September of 2013, he was arrested for domestic violence not only against his ex-wife but also against his father-in-law, his former father-in-law. A couple of months later, he was arrested for an aggravated assault and waving -- pointing a gun at a girlfriend. The following year, there was a road rage incident in which he sort of threatened another driver, waving a gun.
And then we have another incident where he was arrested for domestic violence with a girlfriend. And now we have this incident. I will say that I think it's very odd that, time and time again,
he claims to be the victim, yet there is evidence, at least from other people, that he's waving a gun at people and being aggressive and being violent. And I think that's cause for some concern.
BLITZER: Cedric, let's talk a little bit about what's going on in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Two police officers, as you know, Liquori Tate, Benjamin Deen, they were gunned down during a traffic stop this past weekend. Here's the question. Do you remember a time when there's been more violence against police than in the past year?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it certainly is on the uprise. We know that statistically, Wolf.
But let me say this: my heart and prayers go out to the family and to the friends of those officers. It's very painful, having been in this profession over 38 years myself and seeing countless acts of violence towards police officers and deaths, as well, too.
But it also speaks to the fact, in light of everything that's going on and the questions that are being raised by police and some of their actions, in light of all that, we have to remember, Wolf, that these men and women put their lives -- to protect us all every day. And these are two men who, on that particular night, doing their jobs, that in the line of duty, protecting their community, protecting the citizenry.
And I'm still very troubled and saddened by the loss of two of these officers, the more recent loss of these two officers, among others that we're beginning to see an uptick on this particular year, in 2015.
BLITZER: First time in 30 years that a police officer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, has been killed in the line of duty.
[18:45:01] Don, the FBI reports killing a police officer in the line of duty up 89 percent in 2014 over 2013. What do you make of this spike?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I don't know the numbers. The FBI, you know, I take them at their word, but in my estimation, it's always a very dangerous time for police officers. I think police officers, and firefighters and, of course, members of our military have the most dangerous jobs on earth. They actually run into trouble instead of running away from it. They give us the luxury of being able to run away from it.
They get -- you know, especially police officers lately, have been beat up in the media and I think we should be careful about that, about just how much we report on officers who, you know, do things wrong and how much we report on officers who do good things. Not to say that all officers are perfect. They do some things that are untoward sometimes that they should not be doing. Some police departments need to be fixed, as we see in many cases around the country. But I think that we need to honor our men and women in uniform,
and that means police uniform, as well. And we need to not beat up on them so much and talk about the good things they do.
I just watched the end of last week and this weekend, just this particular memorial service for the police officer killed here in New York City. And it reminded us of the danger, reminded me of the danger that police officers face every single moment. There is no routine stop for a police officer or a routine day.
BLITZER: Well said.
Sunny, let me get your thought what's happening in Baltimore over the weekend. Prince held a concert in honor really of Freddie Gray, invited Marilyn Mosby, the states attorney on stage. Some people are wondering if that was smart on her part giving the fact that she's prosecuting six Baltimore police officers.
Was it smart for her to be there?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I thought it was a wonderful thing that Prince had this rally for Baltimore. A lot of the funds that were raised are going to improve Baltimore.
But I do think that, as a prosecutor, someone that is elected in office, you have to be very careful in terms of appearances. You know, you have officers, defendants now that have filed a motion to -- asking her to recuse herself because of certain conflicts of interest or alleged conflicts of interest. It certainly doesn't help this case, and I don't think it helps the cause of prosecutors when you see this type of prosecutor, high profile prosecutor at this point, on stage at a rally for peace and a rally in support of Freddie Gray's family.
I would think that the better tact, quite frankly, is to get off the stage, get to the business of making sure that your case is airtight and getting to the business of seeking justice.
BLITZER: Sunny, thank you very much.
Don -- he's going to have a lot more on all this coming up later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern on his program, "CNN TONIGHT". Don, we will be watching as we do every night.
Cedric, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, a commencement speech gets very personal as the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, talks about race and says she was held to a different standard.
[18:52:21] BLITZER: The cost of the Iraq war is looming over the 2016 race for the White House.with Jeb Bush saying he would have made the same decision as his brother, President George W. Bush did, authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq back in 2003. Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here.
So, what's the latest with Jeb Bush? Some controversy moving right now.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, Wolf, the story of Jeb Bush so far in this 2016 race is he is doing well in national polls. But where it really matters, the early primary and caucus states, he's failed to break away from the very large Republican pack running for president. There are lots of reasons for that, but one big one is his name.
BASH (voice-over): Invading Iraq was the most controversial decision of George W. Bush's presidency. But his brother says he would have done it too.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I would have. And so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.
BASH: Jeb Bush was quick to link himself to Hillary Clinton because she voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002.
THEN-SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: So it is with conviction that I support this resolution.
BASH: It's a vote she later said she regretted. And even Jeb Bush was quick to cite mistakes in the war that marred his brother's legacy.
BUSH: In retrospect, the intelligence that the everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty. Once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn't focus on security first.
And the Iraqis in this incredibly insecure environment turned on the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families.
BASH: Backing the Iraq war when your name is Bush and you want to be president is risky business, and Jeb Bush knows that.
BUSH: I'm my own man. And my viewed are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.
BASH: But George W. Bush is not the pariah he was when leaving office, especially among the GOP base. New poll numbers in the first caucus state of Iowa showed George W. Bush with a sky-high favorable rating, 81 percent. But Jeb Bush is underwater, only 39 percent favorable.
And in South Carolina recently, this was Jeb's biggest applause line. BUSH: I'm a proud brother of George W. Bush. And he is doing
pretty good, too.
BASH: Beyond policy and politics is family. And Jeb Bush is consistently loyal. He told CNN in 2010 that he was the only Republican who never disagreed with his brother when Jeb Bush was Florida governor and George W. Bush was president.
So, Wolf, don't expect that change now that Jeb Bush wants the job in the Oval Office.
[18:55:00] BLITZER: Good point.
All right. Thanks very much. Stand by. We're going to continue our conversation.
Joining us, our CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein.
What is the strategy, Gloria, if you're Jeb Bush?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a good question. Look, I think that 3/4 of Republicans, when you look at the polling, approve of using some sort of ground force to support -- to combat ISIS. So, when you look at the Republican primary, let's keep the general election aside, supporting W., as Dana points out, who is not at all unpopular in certain places, is not a bad strategy when you're trying to push your conservative credentials.
Now, when you get into a general election campaign, it's completely different because Democratic voters are not there and independent voters are not there.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: Yes, but in the Republican primary --
BROWNSTEIN: -- is the but, one of the two main concerns about Jeb Bush as a Republican primary candidate, one is he may be too moderate on common issues, Common Core and immigration. But the other is that many Republicans do not want to have to relitigate the issues of the George W. Bush years, and they fear he would make it too easy for Democrats to have it, do you want to go back argument in the general election. And I think this kind of magnifies that risk.
BORGER: Although Hillary voted for the war in Iraq, although she said it was a mistake.
BLITZER: And he was quick to point that out. He didn't waste any time. He said, my brother may have been getting bad intelligence. Hillary Clinton was getting bad intelligence. She voted to go to war as well.
BASH: That's right. And there is no accident that he did that.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the Republican electorate of 2010, just a couple of years after George W. Bush left office, was very much inward looking, all about fixing America's books, being more isolationist, or maybe the better way to say it is to be less hawkish on the international stage. That's changed a lot.
And now, the Republican Party has already swung more towards being more interventionist, which is why you see Marco Rubio doing better and even Rand Paul, who was more focused at home trying to make it himself less so. So, that does benefit Jeb Bush.
BLITZER: Gloria, the first lady, Michelle Obama, she was at the commencement address at Tuskegee University over the weekend. She got very personal in their comments.
Let me play a little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: As potentially the first African American first lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations, conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud or too angry or too emasculating?
Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
BORGER: Well, look, I think this is a liberated first lady who understands that her husband is not running for reelection. She says she is not running for anything. We'll have to wait and see about that. And with that liberation comes reflection.
And I think what you hear from her is the truth. Not only as somebody who is African American, but also quite honestly, as a woman, who has to figure out when your husband is running whether you can be too strong or whether you've got to be softer. And I think she was completely refreshingly honest.
BLITZER: She also -- Ron, mentioned that controversial cover in the "New Yorker" magazine, and I'll show it to viewers to remind them. She was portrayed with an afro and machine gun, fist bumping President Obama. And now, she says, "Yes, it was satire. But if I'm really being honest, it knocked me back."
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, that is striking because it was certainly meant to satirize and criticize the conservatives who were portraying them that way. And to have that effect, I thought it was one of the most striking parts of the speech.
I think, look, what we're seeing her is parallel to what we're seeing from President Obama, more comfort and more interest I think in talking about race and the special challenges facing much of the African American community. He was very focused for much of his presidency on sending the message that he is president of all the people. But I think you can see that his interest, his heart is in dealing with these issues more directly and I think with her as well.
BASH: Initially, look, when any president or any politician leaves office, you start to get oh, this is what they were really thinking at the time.
They're doing it before they leave, which is fascinating for journalists. We're kind of getting a real sense of history maybe a little earlier than we normally do.
And I think to Gloria's point, just as a woman, to hear her say that she wasn't sure sort of how to be not that long after Hillary Clinton, of course, now wants to be president herself, get in so much trouble for saying she wasn't just staying home, standing by her man or staying home baking cookies.
BORGER: Right, right.
BASH: It's like 2015. And it's still the same old question for women, and whether it's Michelle Obama or anybody else.
BORGER: Right, and I think what you see with Michelle's speech is a woman who kind of feels she has a responsibility in a way.
BORGER: Like her husband, to talk about these things before they leave office. And they're not getting anybody else in trouble. This is about them and their legacy.
BLITZER: She is a very accomplished woman. She went to Harvard Law School, graduated. So, she is a very smart lady.
We're going to continue our conversations down the road, guys. Thanks very much.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.