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THE SITUATION ROOM
Suspect in Mansion Murders Appears in Court; ISIS Seizes Iraqi Town, Syrian Border Crossing; Report: U.S. Hostage Passed up Chance to Escape; FBI Investigates Man Found Hanging From Tree; UVA Students Targeted?; Monica Lewinsky Reemerges into the Spotlight. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 22, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:16] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: mansion murder. After an overnight arrest, the suspect in the killing of a prominent Washington family is charged with murder and makes his first court appearance. As gruesome new details emerge about the crime, prosecutors say others were involved.
Terror expansion. ISIS on the move, grinding out new battlefield victories in Syria and Iraq. As the terrorists move closer to Baghdad, will they try to take the Iraqi capital?
And rocking out. While North Korea's dictator cracks down on rivals at home, his older brother is spotted singing along at an Eric Clapton concert in London.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following two breaking stories right now. Prosecutors just now revealing shocking new details about the brutal murders of four people whose bodies were discovered inside a burning mansion right here in Washington.
The murder suspect, Daron Wint, was arrested last night and made his first court appearance this afternoon. In newly unsealed court papers, police say he had help from others, and they accused at least one important witness of lying.
Also breaking now: we have new evidence of ISIS on the move. Reports say its fighters have taken control of another Iraqi town and are getting closer to the capital of Baghdad. Is also taking credit for a pair of deadly bombings today at mosques in Yemen and inside the homeland of a vital U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia.
Our correspondents, analysts and guests are all standing by with the latest on all the breaking news. But let's begin with a surprising new revelations in these Washington mansion murders. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has been going through the court documents.
Pamela, authorities think Daron Wint, the man arrested overnight, may have had significant help. PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right.
These court documents we've been looking at suggest that Wint, who was arrested overnight in a massive police takedown, could not have acted alone, allegedly kidnapping and holding the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper hostage for 17 hours before brutally stabbing them and setting their House on fire.
Tonight CNN (ph) has learned that police believe Wint and others were involved in the elaborate shakedown of the family, one that involved Savopoulos asking the family's assistant to go to a nearby bank, to withdraw $40,000 in cash and then deliver to the House.
And here's the key language out of the affidavit that criminal complaints have been looking at and says your client believes that all four victims were held captive by Mr. Wint and others until the $40,000 was delivered to the residence. But we know at this point, Wint is the only one who has been arrested. No charges have been filed against anyone else at this stage.
BLITZER: What about what happened inside the House? There's new information emerging on that, as well.
BROWN: Yes, new grisly, horrifying details, Wolf. We have learned that the adults, the three adults, were in one bedroom on the second floor of the House and the little boy, the 10-year-old boy, Philip, was in his bedroom, where the fire started. We can see it here in the video. There were matches and gasoline found in the House, Wolf. The little boy, according to court documents, was stabbed and burned. The other adults were brutally beaten. It shows.
And also in the court documents, Wolf, it says that the housekeeper may have been alive, by the time the firefighters got there and then she died at the hospital. Really, really disturbing stuff here.
And it also talks about the pizza that was ordered to the House. Mrs. Savopoulos apparently ordered the pizza over the phone, paid by credit card, and told the delivery driver to leave it on the front porch, because she had a sick child.
BLITZER: The people who were in the car when he was captured, what do we know about these other people?
BROWN: We just learned from D.C. police chief, Cathy Lanier, that one of the people was Wint's brother and possibly a cousin, she said. So there were relatives were with him at the time that this happened.
We should note, though, that they're not -- no longer, the five people are no longer in police custody. They haven't faced charges or anything like that. This is still a very active investigation. And of course, one of the big questions, is why were these five people with a wanted fugitive who was on the run?
BLITZER: Good question. All right, Pamela. Thanks very much.
Let's get some more from CNN correspondent Tom Foreman. He's over at the courthouse where the murder suspect, Daron Wint, made his first court appearance before a judge just a little while ago. What did we learn there, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a really astonishing day. To start at the crime scene as I did today, where you knew these horrific crimes had occurred, and then to be, as I was 15 feet away from the man who's now been charged with this, to watch him walk in. He's not really that big. He's, like, 5'7", 155 pounds. He kept his head down much of the time. His lawyer walked over next to him, put his arm around him numerous times as if trying to calm him down, although he showed no signs of agitation.
[17:05:06] What we know is that he said two words the whole time he was there that we could hear. Just his name. That was it. And, despite the fact that his defense attorneys tried over and over to say, "Well, look, all of this stuff, all the material in here is circumstantial. It really doesn't pin it on him." And even the prosecution says a lot of other people could be involved, despite all of that, the judge says, "Yes, but it's a lot of circumstantial evidence, and I think this man cannot go free." Even if other people get picked up later on. Even if some of the evidence pointing to him isn't quite right, they've got to keep him in custody.
That's what it felt like in court, Wolf. And it was really interesting at the House and here today to be that close to the crime scene and the man suspected of it.
BLITZER: We'll see -- we'll see if there are more arrests coming down. Right now, he's the only one who has actually been arrested. We'll see what happens with him. We'll have more on the story coming up later.
Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
There's another story that's breaking right now, and it involves ISIS. They scored yet another victory today, seizing an Iraqi town east of Ramadi, moving closer and closer to an important military base. What's next? Maybe, some fear, Baghdad.
In Syria, the terror group is consolidating its hold on an ancient city and gaining more ground. And ISIS is claiming responsibility for bloody mosque bombings in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Under withering criticism from lawmakers, President Obama says he doesn't think the United States and its allies are losing this war against ISIS, but his administration is stepping up its foreign policy damage control.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's got more. What's the latest over there, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a big gamble for the president, just as he may be forced to rely on some Iranian-backed Shia militias to take the fight to ISIS in Iraq, President Obama tried to reassure Jewish-Americans today that he could keep Iran's nuclear program contained.
The president is on that tightrope as the second guessing in Washington is growing louder every day.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It's another alarming ISIS conquest. The city of Husayba, just outside of Ramadi, where ISIS forces may now have their sights set on a key military base that's on the road to Baghdad. More ammunition for critics of the president's strategy.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's just mind-boggling that the president could keep saying and his spokesperson and others in the administration could keep saying what they're saying.
ACOSTA: GOP senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are proposing an additional 10,000 U.S. troops for the fight against ISIS, mainly to gather intelligence and train Iraqi security forces. It's an idea that makes Democrats nervous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to be very, very careful before we start sending troops on the ground.
ACOSTA: Earlier this year the president claimed success against ISIS.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: American leadership, including our military power, is stopping ISIL's advance.
ACOSTA: Now the White House is leaving the door open just a crack to more U.S. forces, though aides insist not in a combat role.
(on camera): Are you saying under no circumstances will that ever be considered?
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has clearly ruled out the use of U.S. military personnel in a ground combat role in Iraq.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is doing foreign policy damage control on multiple fronts.
OBAMA: My commitment to Israel's security is and always will be unshakable.
ACOSTA: At a synagogue in Washington he vowed to Jewish-Americans that his nuclear deal with Iran will keep the bomb out of Tehran.
OBAMA: I will not accept a bad deal. This deal will have my name on it. So nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise.
ACOSTA: But analysts note this is the same Iran that's backing Shia militias in Iraq that will do battle with ISIS, now with the blessing of the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a policy fraught with contradictions and anomalies, but the reality is, Iran is being empowered.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Just this afternoon, the president signed into law the bill that will give Congress the ability to block a potential nuclear deal with Iran. Another piece of the president's foreign policy that is hanging in the balance tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah. He's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
ISIS seems to be on the move not only in Syria but in Iraq. They're now in control of Ramadi, this major city in the Anbar province. They seem to have control of the Baiji oil refinery in Iraq and Syria. As you know, they're now in control of about half, 50 percent of the country. Here's the question: is the U.S. losing this war with ISIS?
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I certainly hope not, and I hope to see some leadership from the president. As commander in chief, he's got the power to come up with a plan. A plan that he should deliver to Congress as to how he's going to resist the threat from ISIS.
BLITZER: Is the U.S. -- based on everything you've heard, is Baghdad itself, the capital of Iraq, in trouble?
LEE: Well, I think there is the potential that it could be. And if we ever get to that point, that's definitely cause for concern, but they're close enough now that we are understandably very justifiably concerned.
BLITZER: Several of your colleagues, Republican senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham among others, they think the U.S. should deploy combat troops. There are about 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq right now, but both of them now saying that number should go up to about 10,000. Do you agree with that?
LEE: You know, I'm waiting for leadership from president on this. He's the commander in chief. If he think that needs to happen, he needs to come to the Congress and give us a plan and let us consider it.
BLITZER: Are you at least willing to consider what they call boots on the ground?
LEE: Anytime the president of the United States wants to come to Congress and come up with a plan to make Americans safer, I think it's our duty as members of Congress to consider that.
BLITZER: Do you believe the Iraqi military is capable of fighting and winning this war to protect the people of Iraq?
LEE: Well, so far it -- we have reason to doubt that. So far we have reason to be very concerned that they're not. But, again, this is not my determination to make. This is the -- a determination that needs to be made by the president and his military advisers. BLITZER: So what you're saying is you want leadership from the
administration and you're willing to consider what they propose, but you're not ready to tell them what you think is necessary, is that right?
LEE: That's accurate.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Senator. We have more questions. A lot more to discuss. There's a lot going on. Lots of news that's breaking right now. We'll take a quick break. More with Mike Lee right after this.
[17:16:11] BLITZER: We're following two breaking stories. The first court appearance of the suspect in the murders of four people here in Washington. Police now say he did have accomplices. More on that story coming up.
But we're also watching alarming new developments involving ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
We're back with the Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee. Congress, as you know, Senator, is up against a deadline, June 1 to renew at least part of the Patriot Act that allows what's called the bulk collection of phone data. You opposed the program, but the critics -- your critics say that the U.S. will be a lot less safe if you don't renew this program. What do you say to those critics?
LEE: What I say to those critics is that the bill that I've introduced in the Senate, that bipartisan bill that I've introduced with my co-sponsor, Democratic Senator Pat Leahy, would accommodate both the privacy concerns that the American people have, concerns that are rooted in the Fourth Amendment, and also the security concerns that the American people understandably have.
You see, I don't think that our privacy and our security have to be in conflict with each other. I actually think our privacy is part of our security.
The USA Freedom Act, which was passed overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives last week, by a vote of 338-88, is now in front of the Senate. We have the opportunity to take that up and put it on the floor. I think that gives us our best chance at maintaining both our security and protecting our privacy.
BLITZER: As you know, we've seen a lot of Americans, dozens of Americans, arrested. Not that -- in recent months and weeks on charges that they've been working with ISIS, or at least sympathetic with ISIS, trying to become martyrs for ISIS.
The criticism of what you want to do, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Leahy and others, they say letting this program expire would hinder their efforts to track these kinds of ISIS sympathizers right here in the United States. Not around the world but in the United States. I want to get your reaction to that criticism.
LEE: Sure. First of all, the bill that Senator Leahy and I introduced in the Senate and then passed with this overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House last week would accommodate both privacy and security. So I don't think we have to choose between the two. We can make them consistent.
As I explained in an entire chapter of my new book that came out a few weeks ago -- it's called "Our Lost Constitution." This is one of those programs that I think can be made to work in a manner that respects both the spirit and the letter of the Fourth Amendment.
Currently, I don't think it does. Currently, the NSA's operating under a framework in which it just goes out and tells all the telephone companies, "Send us all your records. We want records on everyone, regardless of whether they've been taking calls to terrorists or people affiliated with terrorists. We just want you to send us all your records."
The American people aren't comfortable with this. And the truth is, we don't need all that data. We can find a better way, and we have found a better way with the USA Freedom Act.
BLITZER: So how do you think it's going to play out in the coming days? Because this deadline, as you well know, June 1, is quickly approaching. What's going to happen?
LEE: Yes, it's unfortunate that we've withheld consideration of this bill so long. I've been arguing all week long that we should turn to the bill now, now that it was passed by the House last week. Unfortunately, it hasn't come up yet. We've been stuck on a different bill.
But I want to make sure that we turn to this before we leave. We need to get this on the floor, and we need to have it considered so that we don't have to run up against this deadline.
This is the absolute worst way to govern, where we're up against a cliff, and we pass something on a rushed basis. And we're looking to file an extension, when the existing extension has been in place for four years. We have had four years, Wolf, to deal with this. It's high time we deal with it now and that we do so before we recess.
BLITZER: It's -- it's -- we'll see what happens, and it's a fascinating development, critically important, as you -- I'm sure you'll agree, because it's divided not only Democrats and Republicans but divided Republicans and divided Democrats. You've got a lot of Democrats on one side. A lot of Democrats on the other side, same with the Republicans. It's highly unusual that both -- both parties have been so split on this. You would agree with that?
[17:20:12] LEE: Yes. It certainly is unusual, but I would point out we've got this super majority in the House of Representatives consisting of 338 Republicans and Democrats. We do have a majority of the senators also supporting it. We're not yet sure how close we are to 60. We're getting closer and closer every day. I think there is a plausible path forward to get the 60 votes needed to get this on the floor of the Senate.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens in the next few days.
Senator Lee, thanks very much for joining us.
LEE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Mike Lee, he's a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Coming up, did the American hostage Kayla Mueller pass up a chance to escape before dying in captivity? Our terrorism experts are standing by with any new information.
And while North Korea's dictator cracks down on rivals at home, his older brother is spotted rocking out at an Eric Clapton concert in London.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:25:28] BLITZER: There's a stunning new report that an American hostage passed up an opportunity to escape before dying in captivity. Let's discuss what's going on.
Joining us, our CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, former CIA official; our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen; and retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He was the chief military spokesman in Iraq, had a key post in the State Department and the Defense Department. Thanks to all of you for joining us.
Phil, "Foreign Policy" now reporting that Kayla Mueller, this young American aid worker who was killed by ISIS, had a chance to escape; but she didn't escape because she was trying to protect. She wanted to stay with another aid worker who was being held by ISIS. I don't know if you could elaborate or tell us anything about this. But what do you think?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I heard the story the same time you did. You know, Wolf, especially after 9/11, the responsibility of the intelligence community, military services, what we call in the business, find, fix and finish the target.
You feel like you get jaded over time. But once in a while you step back and realize there is honor in the world. And if there's a memory for this woman that will live on -- obviously I never met her -- we're learning it today. What a story. It just makes people like me, despite what I've witnessed, reflect that there are still lessons to learn in this world.
BLITZER: Yes, she was trying to do good, and there's a foreign policy. Tom is right. She didn't want to leave behind a colleague, another female aid worker.
Peter, do we know who this other woman that was there, as well, do we know anything about her? PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The -- what we know
about her isn't public. She's a westerner, and she was working for a NGO.
BLITZER: That's about all we know.
BERGEN: That's all we...
BLITZER: She's still alive as far as we know?
BERGEN: I don't know.
BLITZER: That's all we know.
General, ISIS now in control of 50 percent of Syria.
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), FORMER CHIEF MILITARY SPOKESMAN IN IRAQ: Right.
BLITZER: And moving from Ramadi, now taking steps, moving closer and closer towards Baghdad. What's going on here?
KIMMITT: Well, first in Syria, I don't think they're a contested force there. It's clear that the Assad regime, the Assad military, is concentrated around Damascus and the Alory (ph) heartland. Far worse situation in Syria than it is inside of Iraq.
Inside of Iraq, I hear these stories about marching on Baghdad. I don't think we're going to see them in Baghdad anytime soon in a conventional sense. I would expect to see in Baghdad more car bombs, more IEDs, more suicide bombers, but they're not able to take Baghdad. It's too far -- too far of a pull for them. They don't have the forces, and that's a heavily fortified city.
BLITZER: Most of the 3,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq are still in Baghdad. Right?
KIMMITT: They're in Baghdad, and they're in what we call building partnership sites out there training the Iraqi security forces.
BLITZER: There used to be that Green Zone. I assume it's still there in Baghdad, Phil, where almost all the American diplomats, civilians, military personnel, basically, they hunker down there. I suspect that that's the most secure part still. Right?
MUDD: Sure. There are parts in Baghdad that will remain secure, like the Green Zone. I think General Kimmitt is right. If you think that ISIS moving on Baghdad is a mistake for ISIS because there's a large Shia population in Baghdad and because they can't take ISIS, this is a mistake.
BLITZER: By ISIS?
MUDD: By -- no, by us. That they wouldn't do that. Get in the mind of the adversary. They might go in, as General Kimmitt said, with car bombs, because they want to accelerate the divide between Sunni and Shia so they can go to Sunni populations and say, "Hey, look, there's a civil war afoot. There's our side, and we'll defend you. And there's their side. Don't side with them."
BLITZER: Because that's exactly what they did in Mosul. They went in with suicide bombers, car bombs. They did all sorts of explosives, and the Iraqi military ran away, left their military [SIC] behind. And that's what they did in Ramadi, as well. All these suicide bombings, all these attacks. They went in there with improvised explosive devices and the Iraqi army left their military equipment and ran away. I assume the fear is that they might try something like that in Baghdad?
BERGEN: That would be something that General Kimmitt would be quite familiar with, which is the al Qaeda in Iraq's Baghdad felt (ph) strategy, which is al Qaeda, which is of course, the parent organization of ISIS, had a strategy to try and strangle Baghdad, and my guess is, is that's something they would like to replicate if they can.
BLITZER: Can they do that?
KIMMITT: I think they can hold off parts of Baghdad, but I think in the main, Baghdad is a bridge too far for them to take.
BLITZER: Are the Americans in Baghdad, you think right now -- it's not -- the U.S. embassy is not as huge as it was when you were there, when you were there with thousands. This was the largest U.S. embassy in the world. But it was still pretty impressive? Right?
KIMMITT: Still pretty impressive.
BLITZER: If the Americans were there, do you think they're relatively safe? I think in the main, they're safe. At this point, foreigners had not become a target for ISIL. It is still Shia and others. But most Americans that can operate both inside...
[17:30:03] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Evan, what are you hearing? U.S. officials, you're in touch with them, they are worried about -- the ISIS threat right now, especially these teenagers. How worried are they that more American kids are going to be recruited and try to get over there to Syria or to Iraq, join forces with ISIS?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the alarming thing, Wolf, is that all the measures that they're taking, all the steps that they're doing to try to reach parents, to tell people in the community look, this is -- this is what you look for to try to prevent your young people from going over, those things don't seem to be ringing through. And part of the problem appears to be the White House had this big
conference recently to try to do counter radicalization but the problem is, you know, the people that you try to reach aren't necessarily going to listen to some of those people that the White House invited. So I think that's -- they're going to have to recalibrate how they try to reach out to those people.
BLITZER: OK. I want all of you to stand by. We have a lot more coming up on this growing -- escalating terror threats. Stand by.
But there's other news we're following as well. We have more on that -- the bloody arrest of the University of Virginia student that's sparking new allegations that students sometimes are targeted by those poorly trained, as they are accused of being, poorly trained agents who don't follow the rules.
And later, the re-emergence of Monica Lewinsky. Is she deliberately trying to cause trouble for the Democratic presidential front runner, Hillary Clinton? What's going on? We have new information.
[17:35:56] BLITZER: Tonight we're following two big stories, including fresh allegations in the wake of a University of Virginia student's bloody arrest. First, though, we have some new details about the mysterious death of an African-American man found hanging from a tree in Mississippi.
Fifty-four-year-old Otis Byrd was a convicted murderer. He had been paroled. Authorities don't know whether his death is suicide or a lynching, and the FBI has been called in.
Let's go to Mississippi. CNN's Ed Lavandera on the scene for us with the latest.
What do we know, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that investigators have spent the day interviewing Otis Byrd's family members and going through his belongings trying to figure out if he had a reason to kill himself. But today we were able to get to the very spot where Otis Byrd's body was found.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The ghost of the confederacy still looms over Port Gibson, Mississippi. So the news of a black man found hanging in a tree stirs the dark past back to life. Just a short drive from this confederate soldier memorial, 54-year-old Otis Byrd was found hanging from this tree with a bed sheet around his neck. It's not clear yet whether Byrd killed himself or was murdered. But as soon as Sheriff Marvin Lucas saw the scene, he called in federal and state investigators.
(On camera): Is that your biggest fear, that this was racially motivated? SHERIFF MARVIN LUCAS, CLAIBORNE COUNTY: Yes. I don't want to -- I
don't want the community to get excited saying it was a white on black thing. You know? That's the worst thing that could happen, is people making it into a race issue.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): On Thursday, search teams found his body in this thickly wooded area. They found him hanging from this tree 500 yards away from where he lived.
Otis Byrd's body, we're told, was about two to three feet off the ground. He was fully dressed, had his work boots on, his hands were not tied together. The sheriff says that there were also no stumps or chairs around the area that would have helped him prop himself up. And the sheriff said that if he did commit suicide, he would have had to have climbed the tree on his own.
(Voice-over): Johnny Baker owns the land where Byrd's body was found.
(On camera): But to get back there, I mean, that's not an area where people just go.
JOHNNY BAKER, LAND OWNER: No. Huh-uh. No. No.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Byrd was last seen on March 2nd. A friend drove him home from a casino that night. A week later his family officially reported him missing. A relative of Byrd says he seemed fine, nothing out of the ordinary. Relatives won't say if he had money troubles. In 1980, Otis Byrd was convicted of murdering and robbing a woman in Claiborne County. He was paroled in 2006.
Investigators say results from the preliminary autopsy report on Otis Byrd won't be complete until next week which means it's still not clear whether the death of Otis Byrd will become a murder investigation.
DON ALWAYS, FBI AGENT IN CHARGE: The community deserves answers, specifically the family deserves answers. So we're doing everything in our power to be transparent, to talk about what's going on. So far. But we want to reiterate that individual single pieces of information and bits of rumors we're going to hold off on speaking to those until we can collectively come to a conclusion.
LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, great deal of sensitivity based on just the way Otis Byrd's body was found in that wooded area. And it's interesting as you talk to many people around here, predominantly African-American in this town, they believe already that Otis Byrd was murdered -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. I know the FBI as you point out is on the scene. Representatives from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, they're part of the investigation as well as local and state police. We'll get more on this story as it comes in. We're also following new allegations that students at a major
prestigious university sometimes are targeted by what are described as poorly trained agents who aren't necessarily following the rules. This comes just days after an African-American honor student was bloodied when alcohol control agents arrested him, provoking outrage and accusations of excessive force.
Brian Todd has been on the campus once again for us. Today he's joining us live from Charlottesville.
What's the latest over there, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight the outrage is only growing on the University of Virginia campus and there is new and very intense pressure tonight on that Alcohol Enforcement Agency that arrested Martese Johnson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, his head is bleeding. Yo, his head is bleeding.
MARTESE JOHNSON, ARRESTED UVA STUDENT: I go to UVA. You (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're fighting.
JOHNSON: You (EXPLETIVE DELETED) racist.
TODD (voice-over): The arresting agents described him as agitated, belligerent and intoxicated. But Martese Johnson says he did nothing wrong, that Virginia's Department of Alcohol Beverage Control agents used excessive force. His attorney says Johnson had a valid Illinois state I.D. but when asked for his Zip code, Johnson gave his mother's current address, different from his I.D. card.
JOHNSON: How does this happen, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) racist?
TODD: Johnson suffered a head injury requiring 10 stitches. On the University of Virginia campus, outraged students pressed top law enforcement officials on the Johnson arrest. Martese Johnson was at this forum but didn't speak, neither did senior ABC agents who were there.
Virginia's top public safety official who oversees ABC says he doesn't know if this is about race, says the accusation of excessive force is being investigated, and --
(On camera): Any of the officers involved in that arrest had any disciplinary measures taken against them in the past?
BRIAN MORAN, VIRGINIA SECRETARY OF PUBLIC SAFETY: We are allowing the investigation to -- that type of information's important to gather and we've asked the state police to gather that information. TODD (voice-over): Tonight, a top Virginia legislator is putting
immense pressure on this alcohol enforcement agency.
DAVID TOSCANO (D), VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: They are not appropriately trained. They don't have the proper protocols and they don't implement them appropriately. And here's another example of them being overzealous in their enforcement.
TODD: David Toscano says it's time to consider taking weapons and the power to arrest away from ABC agents. Contacted by CNN, ABC officials would not comment. But this isn't the first time ABC agents have been accused of excessive force.
(On camera): In April of 2013, a young University of Virginia student was swarmed by ABC agents outside this Harris Teeter in Charlottesville. They surrounded her car. At least one of them pulled a gun. They thought she was buying alcohol underage. Turns out all she had was some sparkling water and cookie dough.
(Voice-over): On the 911 call from inside the student's car, fear and confusion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know if they're real police officers or not. And we're freaking out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does somebody have a gun or something?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god, oh, my god, oh, my god.
TODD: Student Elizabeth Daly was arrested that night but she later got that taken off her record and settled a lawsuit for more than $200,000.
TODD: Following that incident, the Virginia ABC Department disciplined those agents and reformed its practices. There could well be another round of that in the weeks ahead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Brian Todd is working his sources over there. We'll get more.
In the meantime let's bring in our analysts. Joining us, our CNN justice reporter Evan Perez along with our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI and CNN anchor, Don Lemon.
I know you have been getting some new reporting, Don, on the arrest of this young 20-year-old Martese Johnson. What are you learning?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And this is just in, Wolf. I just spoke with a source close to the family and what they're telling me is we'd hoped to get some new information to possibly be able to speak to Martese this afternoon. And in the process of doing that, that had to be halted because Martese had to be taken to the hospital. Again, this is close to -- this is a source close to the family that is saying this.
They say it is for -- they believe it is for swelling, he started to swell. At this point they don't know if it is external injuries, which means the bruises and the 10 stitches that he had, or if it's internal injuries meaning brain swelling, or a possible concussion. But at this moment, he is in the hospital being treated by doctors trying to figure out what those complications are.
Again, Martese Johnson taken to the hospital, being treated by a doctor now. A source close to the family is giving us that.
BLITZER: Yes. That's a very, very sad development indeed. He's an honor student, grew up in the south side of Chicago, single mother, and got accepted to the University of Virginia, one of the best schools in the country, and now this is all going on in his life. Let's hope for the best for him.
Evan, I know that one of the issues was that the allegation he was drunk, he was not 21 years old, they accuse him of having fake I.D.s, he says it was his real I.D. They asked for Zip codes, what was on the I.D. his mother had moved so it was a little complicated. But his lawyer says he was not drunk and it was not fake I.D.
PEREZ: Well, what this points to, Wolf, is that this all could have just been a misunderstanding. You know, you give the wrong zip code or what, someone thinks it's the wrong zip code and gives them the impression that you're using fake identification. According to the lawyer it was not fake, it was his real I.D., he just, you know, gave the wrong zip code, didn't give them one that they could see on the identification. And so that really does show that, you know, perhaps these officers, either they didn't have time to figure this all out, perhaps because there was an altercation, there's stuff we don't know what happened before this video was shot, but it really does leave us with this impression that this all resulted from a terrible misunderstanding.
[17:45:00] BLITZER: And even if you have fake I.D., you shouldn't be looking like that after a few minutes, right, Tom?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You have to believe, Wolf, that these police officers, this alcohol control group, that I have never heard of before, frankly, but you have to believe they come across hundreds of students even with fake I.D.s and they get into these kind of discussions all the time. So we don't know what happened from the time they were discussing his zip code until the time he's on the ground bleeding from his head wound. So we just don't know what brought that about.
BLITZER: You know, Don, I understand you had a chance to speak with Martese Johnson's roommate, is that right?
LEMON: I did. And I have also had the chance to speak to other sources there. And I can give you the background, and again this is just what they say. Now what they say is that, you know, people -- obviously he's 20, he's not 21, so the drinking age is 21. But they believe perhaps he knew someone at the bar, someone who may have been at the door, and that person would not let them in because -- or let him in because it was St. Patrick's Day and they were very busy and the alcohol control board was outside.
And as he turned to leave, it is believed that the owner or one of the owners of the bar is the one who wanted to know his zip code, and then the altercation started from there. And so that's that part of the story.
I did speak to his roommate and his roommate, you know, as everyone else who has spoken about this young man, and again, I preface this by saying we don't know what led up to this and it still must be investigated but everyone who has spoken about this young man has said that he is a man -- a young man of good character, and they have been having a great time before they went to the bar and he was shocked once he saw the video and saw the pictures of exactly what happened.
And then afterwards, you know, yesterday and today, they have been trying to cheer him up and try to pretend that this did not happen. So that's what I'm hearing from the roommate.
BLITZER: Let's hope he's OK. You know, as you have reported, you broke the story here, he's in the hospital now getting treatment for swelling.
Let's hope he's OK.
Evan, I understand you have been working your sources, you've got some new information. We heard Ed Lavandera, he's in Mississippi.
BLITZER: They found an African-American man there hanging from a tree. They can't determine whether it was suicide, at least not yet, they are not saying suicide or a lynching, if you will. What are you learning?
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, I'll preface this real quickly by saying that, you know, this is still early in the investigation. They are waiting to do laboratory tests on the body of Otis Byrd, but the indications they're getting, the law enforcement told me, is that this is not foul play. They believe that again, the operating theory they're going under is that this is likely a suicide.
Obviously it's terrible news for this family and -- but perhaps it will give them -- help give them some closure as to what exactly happened here. Again, they are still doing a lot of investigative work. There's still a long ways to go. And they don't know what else they will find.
BLITZER: And we know you are working your sources. We'll get more on this coming up.
We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Monica Lewinsky stirring up some memories of a scandal Hillary Clinton certainly would rather forget. More on what's going on right after this.
[17:52:26] BLITZER: It's a scandal that rocked the White House. Now we're hearing echoes of it again as Monica Lewinsky re-emerges into the spotlight. She's talking openly about the fallout from her relationship with Bill Clinton just as Hillary Clinton is on the verge of a likely launching of another White House run.
CNN's Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What is Monica Lewinsky doing?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what she's making it clear that she is no longer afraid to talk about her humiliating affair with former President Bill Clinton. And that is causing anxiety for fans of Hillary Clinton who believe she's finally ready to launch her presidential bid and doesn't need ghosts in the room.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Far from the hounded 20 something who became infamous for her involvement with former President Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky appears in this TED talk as a poised, confident 41- year-old transforming herself into an advocate against cyber bullying.
MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN: Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing -- you can survive it. I know it's hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story.
FOREMAN: For more than a decade, Lewinsky was almost completely silent about the scandal. Then last year, she emerged with a splashy article in "Vanity Fair", saying it was time to bury the beret and burn the blue dress. References to clothing she wore at the time. Then she popped up in a National Geographic mini-series, talking about how she was pilloried for her presidential infatuation.
LEWINSKY: A lot, too, had to do with the fact that I was a woman to be called stupid and a slut and a bimbo and ditsy, and to be taken out of context. It was excruciating.
FOREMAN: With even top stars like Beyonce making reference to her --
Late last year, Lewinsky spoke at a Forbes summit about bullying.
LEWINSKY: When I ask how best to describe how the last 16 years has felt, I always come back to that word -- shame. My own personal shame. Shame that befell my family and shame that befell my country, our country.
FOREMAN: At the time of the scandal, according to one friend's account, Hillary Clinton called Lewinsky a narcissistic loony tune. But last year when "People" magazine asked about Lewinsky's rising profile and the scandal, she said, "That was a long time ago. I certainly have moved on."
(END VIDEOTAPE) [17:55:11] FOREMAN: We asked for a response from Clinton about this new TED talk. Got nothing. But right now, as so many people are saying it is Hillary's moment, it appears to be Monica's moment, too. And Lewinsky's desire to confront the past poses a real challenge to Clinton who would clearly rather forget it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Tom Foreman, reporting for us.
Coming up, the frightening spread of ISIS. Terror attacks in two countries just days apart. We're learning new details.