Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; Trump's New Weapon; Suicide or Murder?. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired July 21, 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: Suicide or murder? New video and details in the jail cell hanging death of a woman who was arrested after a traffic stop. We are going to tell you what officials are revealing tonight.
Trump's new weapon. He is unleashing a new kind of attack, releasing the personal phone number of a Republican rival on national TV. Are voters eating it up?
And flying gun. A teenager mounts a homemade firearm on a drone, records a video that goes viral and triggers a federal investigation. Is this remote-controlled shooting machine legal?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news, nearly a year after the United States revealed it was targeting a shadowy terrorist cell in Syria, the Pentagon now says a U.S. drone strike just killed the leader of the Khorasan group.
That's an offshoot of al Qaeda that includes some of its most dangerous veteran operatives. Also tonight, law enforcement officials tell CNN there is growing evidence that the Chattanooga gunman was influenced by one of al Qaeda's most notorious figures, and that he had terrorist motives when he opened fire.
I will talk about the terror threat with a leading Democrat of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman John Garamendi. Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by as we cover all the news breaking right now.
First, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has more on the death of a top terrorist -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
The Pentagon issuing a formal statement today saying that they killed Muhsin al-Fadhli on July 8 in Northern Syria. This is a top operative of this al Qaeda known as the Khorasan group that has been operating in Syria for some time. Muhsin al-Fadhli, as part of the Khorasan group, they had vowed
to carry out external attacks, attacks outside of Syria against the United States and Western interests. Deeper than that, al-Fadhli is said to be one of the top al Qaeda operatives, one of the few that had advanced warning of the 9/11 attacks so many years ago.
And then in October 2002, he is said to have been involved in another terrorist attack against U.S. Marines in Kuwait and a French merchant vessel, cargo vessel there at the time. So this is someone that the U.S. had been trying to get very badly. There had been a number of strikes against the Khorasan group over the months, but very interesting development, Wolf.
He was riding in a car in a vehicle in Northern Syria, west of Aleppo, when a U.S. drone overhead fired a missile at him. That means the U.S. had enough surveillance, enough intelligence about what was happening in Northern Syria at that very moment to strike him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So it was a drone with a Hellfire missile, not an F-16, not a fighter aircraft?
STARR: We are told it was a drone. And it would be very typical. Drones are typically used when they are chasing down moving convoys of vehicles or a single vehicle. They can stay up. They have a good deal of fidelity about what's happening on the ground. They can stay up for a period of time and follow that vehicle until it gets to an area where they feel they can strike it without the risk of civilian casualties -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, thanks very much. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Let's bring in our terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.
Paul, you have monitored this Khorasan group for a while, the leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli. Give us the significance of his death.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, this is a deeply significant breakthrough.
This makes the United States more safe. Al-Fadhli was leading al Qaeda's efforts in Syria to use that as a base to attack the United States, to attack Europe, to attack Western aviation for al Qaeda. Syria has become a sort of promised land. There are a lot of Western recruits there, thousands of them. Al-Fadhli was leading efforts to talent-spot European recruits, potential American recruits, to send them back to training to launch sophisticated terrorist attacks in the West.
So this is a very significant breakthrough against a group -- this is a group that still poses a danger. There are still a number of Khorasan operatives, very dangerous man, still out there operating in Syria, particularly in Idlib province, where this strike took place.
BLITZER: So it sends a message. But presumably the Khorasan group, this al Qaeda offshoot, someone else will now emerge to take his place.
CRUICKSHANK: That's the thought.
And one of the candidates will be a Saudi called Abdul Rahman al- Juhani, somebody with a lot of experience in al Qaeda circles, someone who was with al Qaeda in Pakistan, somebody skilled in explosives and toxins. He has emerged as a very senior figure in the group in Syria.
There is also a French bomb-maker who is still at large. He was injured in November in a U.S. strike. He is thought to be quite skilled in making explosives that potentially could even get on board airplanes. There's been concern that al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen has been sharing technology with the group in Syria and of course that affiliate in Yemen three times has plotted to blow up U.S. aviations.
BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, thank you.
Let's get to al Qaeda's influence now on that Chattanooga gunman who killed five U.S. service members in a shooting spree at two military facilities. President Obama today ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House in honor of the victims after days of criticism for his not doing so.
Let's bring in our national correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty. She is in Chattanooga for us with the very latest on the investigation.
Sunlen, what are you learning?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are new details about the scope and the depth of how big this investigation really is.
Tonight, we're learning that Abdulazeez's uncle who lives in Jordan, he is being questioned and held by officials there in Jordan. There's no reason to believe he was involved in the shooting in any way or at all in the wrong, but this just adds another layer to this already very complex investigation.
SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, investigators are focusing on how this man, Anwar al-Awlaki, may have been a motivation behind the Tennessee shooting spree.
In writings examined by the FBI, Abdulazeez as far back as 2013 wrote he agreed with some parts of the American-born Yemeni cleric radical teachings. Al-Awlaki, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed by a U.S. drone strike, but has inspired a series of recent terror attacks, including the shooting at "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris and the Boston Marathon bombings.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: He was the pre-Twitter inspiration for a lot of different terrorist attacks, someone who would show up again and again in various attacks as being a figure who they looked upon as being particularly inspirational and also particularly authoritative.
SERFATY: Investigators have also uncovered data found on Abdulazeez's smartphone, showing Internet searches as recently as the day before the shooting, questioning whether someone could use martyrdom to atone for sins, like being drunk.
The references came at a time when Abdulazeez was coping with losing his job because of drug issues and attempting to hide it from his family. Three months ago, Abdulazeez was arrested and charged with DUI. Police say they noticed a white powder under his nose at the time.
Tonight, the FBI is focusing in on the 48 to 72 hours leading up to the shootings, putting together a timeline, interviewing those who came into contact with him, leading up the to point he rented the Mustang convertible to Thursday's attack.
So far, investigators have found no communication or coordination with any terror group, but they continue to sort through what has emerged as a complicated and conflicting web of political and religious views.
GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Assuming that Abdulazeez wasn't connected to any group, that's the kind of lone wolf that is very difficult to stop, someone who doesn't really have traces of communicating with, say, a terrorist operative, someone who isn't acting at a group's behest.
SERFATY: And all the signs here really do seem to be pointing toward the motive being terrorism, but investigators continue to say that there is no conclusive motive as this investigation moves forward -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They're moving forward, indeed.
And all right, Sunlen, thank you.
Let's get back to the breaking news of the U.S. killing a top terrorist leader.
We're joined now by Congressman John Garamendi. He's a leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
We got lots to talk about, including Iran.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Sure.
BLITZER: But let's talk about this targeted killing of this Khorasan leader, this al Qaeda offshoot, a guy by the name of Muhsin al-Fadhli.
Big deal or little deal?
GARAMENDI: It's very important. It's very important in that this was a very dangerous group.
Khorasans were known to be dangerous, one of the reasons we went into Syria in the first place. And it's also a message to every other terrorist group out there. We will find you. We will know where you are, and you're at serious risk and you will learn what a Hellfire missile is all about.
BLITZER: Because Khorasan -- Hellfire missile on a drone is the missile that killed this guy and presumably others who were with him.
BLITZER: But Khorasan's main objective, this offshoot of al Qaeda, is to go after U.S. targets outside the region, presumably right here in the United States.
GARAMENDI: Exactly. And that's what made them so very, very dangerous.
But we can find them and we will, wherever they happen to be in the world. You take a look at Somalia, you look at what goes in Yemen, Afghanistan, even in Pakistan, we have ways of knowing where these people are and eventually -- Mr. Baghdadi is on the list too.
I noticed just today he is spreading his operation in anticipation that he is going to be welcomed with a Hellfire missile before too long.
BLITZER: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of the ISIS group, and as...
BLITZER: You have no problem with the U.S. going out targeting these guys for assassinations?
GARAMENDI: I have no problem at all. These are known terrorists. These are guys that are out to get us in America. And we are going to get to them first.
BLITZER: What is your analysis of what happened in Chattanooga last week? Because we're getting more and more disturbing information about the killer, the shooter, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez.
GARAMENDI: There seems to be a common thread through all of these, whether it's the situation in the South Carolina or in Colorado.
There is a disturbed person, usually a younger person that is disturbed for some reason. And they lock up on some sort of an ideology. And that ideology then gives them license to commit murder. And in this case, we're finding that this probably goes back to al- Awlaki and his influence on this individual. We will know more. And this always starts with a disturbed young individual. And
the real point for us as citizens in this community is to watch, to be aware, families to watch. Apparently, he was able to hide it. But I'm not sure he was really able to hide the trouble. Reach out. Get the help that is needed in a family. And if you see something, say something.
BLITZER: His family said, yes, he did have some serious problems, depression, bipolar, or couldn't hold on to a job. Clearly, he had some drug-related, alcohol-related problems. But he did go spend several months last year in Jordan. His uncle now in Jordan is being questioned by Jordanian authorities.
We don't know who he met with. We don't know if he got instructions to do this or he was simply inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric, the AQAP killer who was killed by the U.S., by the U.S. in a drone strike, as you well remember.
GARAMENDI: Well, it may be all of the above.
We will find out what happened in Jordan. Undoubtedly, in Jordan, there was a lot of discussion about ISIS, about what it was doing, about its glory, if you would call it that. And he probably picked up on a lot of that.
Al-Awlaki apparently now very much inspired him. So, all of these things add up, the drugs, the depression, the trouble at home, the fact that he was known to want guns, and that he had acquired guns. All of these are things. Can we put together the dots and protect ourselves from it? We are going to have to work really hard at that.
But there are signs. And it is up to all of us in our own families to understand what's going. These tragedies are not just limited to this kind of activity against the military, but it happens in the communities. We have seen it most recently in Modesto, California, near where I live.
BLITZER: In your district.
GARAMENDI: Just outside my district, five people killed. Troubled young man took out his wife, or his soon-to-be-wife, child.
So these things happen.
BLITZER: But he wasn't inspired by some...
GARAMENDI: No, no, this has nothing to do with terrorism. This has something to do with what takes place in our communities.
BLITZER: He was just a mentally sick person.
GARAMENDI: Apparently so. BLITZER: Do you have confidence that the men and women who work
at U.S. military recruiting centers in your district in California right now -- because they're not armed. Are they safe, are they secure, given the edict that has gone out from ISIS and other terrorist groups to target U.S. military personnel?
GARAMENDI: Well, they certainly stepped up their own protection. They're much more careful. They're much more aware. They're doing things that are very simple to be done.
BLITZER: Should they be armed?
GARAMENDI: I don't think that is going to really work.
We know that the local police need to be more vigilant, more security in the area, more patrols in the area. We also know that there are things you can do to make these recruiting centers safer.
BLITZER: Because usually they're just in a strip center. They're in a mall or whatever. They want people to come in and feel at ease. But what's wrong with letting trained military personnel have a weapon?
GARAMENDI: Well, you just said the right word, trained. Many of these people are trained for combat in the field, but not necessarily for what might happen in a particular area.
BLITZER: Maybe they should be trained for that.
GARAMENDI: They're going to have to be more aware of what's going on.
We need to take a very careful look at this. Who are these individuals who are doing the recruiting? What is their background? What is their training? Clearly, the military police have a role to play in this. I met yesterday with the commanders at the Travis Air Force Base and we went through this in detail about that base and how they are protecting themselves on that base. And, frankly, it is very impressive.
BLITZER: All right. Congressman Garamendi, we have more to discuss. I want to you stay with us.
Much more with Congressman John Garamendi when we come back.
BLITZER: We're back with Congressman John Garamendi. He's a leading Democratic on the House Armed Services Committee.
I want him to stand by for a moment.
Congressman, we're getting an update on the Obama administration's attempts to sell the world, including the American public, members of Congress, on the Iran nuclear deal.
Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is working the story for us.
You're getting new information. Elise, what are you learning?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's very little that Israel and its enemies in the Middle East can agree upon, except for the fact they all see Iran as a threat and they are opposed to this nuclear deal.
LABOTT (voice-over): Despite an all-out charm offensive, the U.S. admits it is making little progress convincing anyone in the Middle East to support the Iran nuclear deal, especially Israel.
ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The prime minister it quite clear that he disagreed with us with respect to the nuclear deal in Iran. But friends can disagree.
LABOTT: Tonight, after failing to convince Israel, the U.S. secretary of defense, Ash Carter, must now try to sell it to America's allies in the Gulf. Sunni Muslim leaders fear the nuclear deal will embolden Iran, their Shia rival, and worry an Iran flush with cash will ignite sectarian conflicts in the region and threaten their regimes.
JEFFREY MARTINI, RAND CORPORATION: They do think that this deal legitimizes Iran's role in the region and that it signals a warming between Iran and the United States, which will come at their expense.
LABOTT: Today, President Obama again tried to sell the deal, arguing it is better than the alternative.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The same politicians and pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program are the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq and said it would take a few months.
LABOTT: But even as Mr. Obama makes his push, his counterparts in Iran are adding fuel to the opponents' fire. Iran's supreme leader continues to draw crowds chanting death to America, telling one crowd, a deal does not mean a change in Iran's policy in the U.S. And Ayatollah Khamenei continues to promise Iran's proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen continued support.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: That is his policy. LABOTT: In a new interview with Al-Arabiya TV, even U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who makes his own swing through the region next month, admitted Khamenei's threats are frustrating.
KERRY: It is very disturbing. It is very troubling. It is unacceptable.
LABOTT: And, Wolf, tonight, in just a sign of how concerned the administration is about making sure this deal is accepted in the U.S. and abroad, the White House has created a special Twitter account promising to "set the record straight" over the agreement.
Tomorrow, Secretary of State Kerry starts briefing the Hill on the agreement and aides say he is looking forward to a good back and forth, looking forward to defending that agreement.
BLITZER: I'm sure there will be an excellent back and forth during those meetings. Elise, thanks very much, Elise Labott reporting for us.
Let's get back to Representative John Garamendi. He's a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
You support the president on this deal, right?
GARAMENDI: I do.
BLITZER: You think this is a good deal?
GARAMENDI: I think this is the very best deal and I think it accomplishes its purpose.
It takes the nuclear weapon off the table for at least 10 years, quite possibly 15 or even longer. That's important.
BLITZER: Is that long enough, from your perspective? Because after 10 or 15 years, they have got the money, they have got the capability, they have got the research, they can go ahead and build a bomb. Is that OK?
GARAMENDI: No deal, they can do it in three months. If there's no deal, they can do it right now in three months. This takes it off the table for 10, 15 years, maybe even longer, because they are a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
So, that's also in place. This is not a simple situation, but, as they say, what's the option? You are looking here at the option, which is no deal, Iran is prepared to build a bomb today. And you tell all of those countries in the Middle East that are worried about Iran without a bomb, think what they would be thinking about if Iran had a bomb.
BLITZER: They would not be very happy, because the closer you are to Iran, it seems the more you are opposed to this deal, whether the Israelis, the Saudis, the Emirates, the Kuwaitis, the Bahrainis.
All of these countries, they're very firmly opposed. What they say, there is another option, namely the military option, if the U.S. were willing to launch a concussion bomb, a deep-penetration bomb and go ahead and get the job done and end it once and for all.
GARAMENDI: You think Iran doesn't have a significant military? They have got a very, very significant military. And there would be immediate retaliation.
We have the Seventh Fleet in that area. That fleet would be at risk, no doubt about it. Also, you have set in place the reason why Iran will build a bomb. They would know that, if there was a bomb, they would not likely be attacked because there would be nuclear retaliation.
BLITZER: But you think the military option should be off the table?
GARAMENDI: No, I think the military option has to be on the table, but we should never underestimate how dangerous that is, not only to Iran, which it certainly would be, but also to our allies and to us.
BLITZER: What do you say to the Israelis, for instance, who are -- the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, so fiercely opposed to this deal?
GARAMENDI: I say that we're going to get this deal in place and then we're going to make sure that Israel is safe and secure, that their armaments are both in qualitative and quantitatively better than anything else in the area. We are going to have to do the same thing with our other allies in the area.
That is step two. Step one is to get this deal in place. Step two is, we're going to have bolster our position in that area to deal with the reality that Iran is still a very nasty place.
BLITZER: Representative Garamendi, thanks very much for joining us.
GARAMENDI: Thank you.
BLITZER: John Garamendi is a Democrat from California.
Just ahead, new information on the arrest and the jail cell hanging death of a woman in Texas. It was ruled a suicide. But the DAA -- the DA, I should say, now says he is investigating it like a murder. We are going to tell you what else we're learning from authorities tonight.
And imagine what a killer could do with this, a drone that fires a gun. A teenager's makeshift weapon has federal authorities now very concerned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're standing by for a new police dash cam video in a controversial case; 28-year-old Sandra Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell three days after being arrested in a routine traffic stop.
Police say she killed herself, but now the district attorney says the case is being investigated like a murder. And Texas officials say the officer violated procedures.
CNN's Ryan Young is working the story for us near Houston.
What's the latest over there, Ryan?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a lot of conversation about this case.
You can really break it up in two sides, one, the actual pullover, the stop, that traffic stop, and then what happened to her at the jail. Now, I can tell you that traffic stop, now we're being told, has violated all kinds of protocol in terms of the way the officer acted.
But that doesn't tell the story about what happened at the jail. And we will show you this video that we shot just this afternoon. Just before 1:00, we went inside the cell where Sandy Bland was found. In fact, some of the food that she was supposed to eat was still in that room.
And the sheriff actually took us through and showed us where, apparently, the young woman hung herself. There's a lot of conversation about this case and a lot of answers still to be found out in terms of this investigation.
YOUNG (voice-over): Tonight, newly-released surveillance video from just outside the jail cell where 28-year-old Sandra Bland died, raising more questions about her death.
ELTON MATHIS, WALLER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This investigation is still being treated just as it would be a murder investigation.
YOUNG: Bland was found unresponsive in her jail cell three days after she was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer during a routine traffic stop.
Police say she hanged herself with a plastic bag and have ruled her death a suicide. The Texas Rangers and FBI are investigating.
There are no cameras inside Bland's cell, but surveillance footage of the hallway showed no one entering or leaving before her body was discovered. A Waller County sheriff's official said that Bland refused a breakfast tray around 6:30 a.m. and responded to a jailer conducting rounds around 7 a.m., telling him, "I'm fine."
SHERIFF R. GLENN SMITH, WALLER COUNTY, TEXAS: At 8 a.m., she was on the intercom requesting, "Hey, I want to make a phone call. I can't do it in here." OK? And then I believe, it was like 8:56 a.m. is when the female jailer walks back here, looks in to ask her if she wants to go out in the recreation yard.
YOUNG: Surveillance video of the jail shows officers checking on Bland and calling for emergency response. But she was pronounced dead a short time later.
CANNON LAMBERT, BLAND FAMILY ATTORNEY: There's a whole lot more questions that we have than answers, for sure. It leaves you doing more than just scratch your head.
YOUNG: Bland family attorney Cannon Lambert says he was able to identify glitches and jumps in the video which uses motion activation. He question what, if any, medical attention she received when she was booked. He also wants to know, what's in the arrest report? Bland's family says there is no way she would have committed suicide.
SHARON COOPER, SANDRA BLAND'S SISTER: Seven days later, I still don't know what happened to my baby sister.
YOUNG: The family's attorney says an independent autopsy shows deep tissue bruising to Bland's back, what he says is consistent with someone having kneed her in the back. The arresting officer has been placed on administrative leave, and the district attorney, after talking with the family and people who last talked with her, including a bail bondsman, says there are questions that need to be answered.
MATHIS: It needs a thorough and exhaustive review. It will go to grand jury.
YOUNG: Now, a lot of people have questions about the plastic bag she used, according to the sheriff's department. They say she twisted it and then used to it brace it on the metal. And that's how, between her weight and how the bag was distributed, that's how they believe she committed suicide.
Another question we asked, did anyone walk up and down that hallway? A very narrow hallway. And apparently that is triggered by motion sensors. So any time someone walks in that hallway, it triggers the cameras.
And I'm told investigators tried to crouch under the motion sensors, tried to walk past it; and every time they did it, it triggered the motion sensors. So they believe that video will hold up so far. That's what we're being told by the sheriff -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ryan Young, on the scene for us near Houston. Thank you.
Let's dig deeper now. Joining us, our CNN anchor, Don Lemon; the former federal prosecutor, our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin; and former assistant FBI director and CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.
Tom, first of all, the initial arrest. We've seen the video; we've seen the exchange. What's your analysis of what happened there?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think right now, Wolf, you know, this is so suspicious looking and sounding. Everything we've heard about it.
But on the other hand we don't have all of the dash cam video yet. We don't know the basis of the stop. We haven't seen the entirety of it. It does look excessive when they have her on the ground, but we didn't see what preceded that.
And then as far as the jail itself, the same thing. We haven't heard yet of what the crime scene investigation consisted of when they found her hanging in the cell and everything that happened after that.
So I think that the best course here is that, you know, we have independent investigation that's not being conducted by people at the jail or the arresting officer, including the FBI in this case.
BLITZER: Sunny, you heard the local district attorney who's investigating her death say it's being investigated, treated like a murder investigation. What does that say to you?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it says to me that that is the protocol. I had the opportunity, actually, to interview that district attorney just recently, Wolf, and he told me that that is the protocol in his jurisdiction. That he intends to take this in front of the grand jury. The grand jury is going to reconvene, I believe, in September.
And so I think they are going to be very careful, and they are certainly going to treat this case with the respect that it clearly deserves.
[18:35:08] I think one thing that's worth noting, though, is that this -- in this same jail in 2012, another inmate committed -- allegedly, committed suicide. And the district attorney told me that he was the D.A. during that case, as well.
So I think it is odd that you have not one now but two alleged suicides in that hotel [SIC]. And while in county jails, believe it or not, the suicide rate is about three time greater than the general population, it still -- it's very, very suspicious that a young woman, by all accounts who had so very much to look forward to -- a new job, after all -- would commit suicide. Something just seems amiss.
BLITZER: As you know, Don, her family, her friends all say that she was, as Sunny said, looking forward to that new job. There's no way she would commit suicide. What's your take on this?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first of all, my heart goes out to the family. I can't imagine any family dealing with this. Regardless of what was going on in her life, no one deserves to die for whatever circumstances in jail. I think what's going to be important is seeing this dash cam
video come out, because the dash cam video will decide excessive force. If the officer needed to do what he did. Was it just his ego when he said, you know, get out of the car or stop smoking the cigarette or what have you. So that will determine that part.
The video that's -- the important video, though, that everyone should really know about is the one that we're seeing right now. I think it's important. The other one's important, but this one's more important, because it tells you about her death. And that is the video that was taken inside the jail with the motion cameras, as Ryan talked about.
And at least right now, it doesn't seem that there's anything amiss with anyone going -- going inside of herself to do some harm to her. So that's important.
But you know, I think the family is right. It deserves an independent investigation. It deserves and independent autopsy. And I think we should be patient, as Tom said, and see how this plays out before we jump to any conclusions.
BLITZER: We're not jumping to any conclusions. Don Lemon, Sunny Hostin, Tom Fuentes. Guys, thanks very, very much. We'll stay on top of this story.
Just ahead, a teenager's video of firing a gun attached to a drone. It's getting huge attention online right now. And now the potentially deadly device is getting the attention of federal investigators.
And Donald Trump is not dialing it back at all. He's found a new way to attack and anger his Republican rivals. Stand by for his reaction to -- getting reaction to a surprise release of Senator Lindsey Graham's personal cell phone number on live TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He gave me his number, and I found the card. I wrote the number down. I don't know if it's the right number. Let's try it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:42:29] BLITZER: Tonight another surprise from Donald Trump is revving up his supporters, riling up at least one of his Republican presidential opponents. Trump revealing Senator Lindsey Graham's personal cell phone number during remarks seen live on national television.
Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us from South Carolina, where Trump held a rally today. It was rather lively, wasn't it, Dana? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can say
that again. And this was Donald Trump's very first campaign stop here in the first in the south primary state. He did he draw some impressive crowds, some of whom came to see his celebrity. But, you know, he certainly did deliver more of a one-man show than a traditional stump speech.
BASH (voice-over): Donald Trump, unbowed by a barrage of criticism.
TRUMP: They say they didn't like the way that, you know, I'm a little -- I'm a little loud. I'm a little too strong. They don't like it.
BASH: The reality TV star with a flair for drama took presidential politics to yet another surreal level.
TRUMP: I see your senator. What a stiff. What a stiff.
BASH: Responding to fellow Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham saying this to CNN.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's becoming a jackass.
TRUMP: I watch this idiot, Lindsey Graham on television today, and he calls me a jackass. "He's a jackass."
BASH: Standing in Graham's home state of South Carolina, Trump retaliated by reading aloud the senator's personal cell phone number.
TRUMP: He gave me his number, and I found the card. I wrote the number down. I don't know if it's the right number. Let's try it.
BASH: We asked why.
(on camera): Why did you read Lindsey Graham's cell phone number?
TRUMP: So people can call him so he can maybe get something done, but he won't be able to.
BASH (voice-over): Graham, now unable to be reached by cell, responded through his campaign manager, saying, "Donald Trump continues to show hourly that he is ill-prepared to be commander in chief."
All this amid a back and forth with Iowa's largest newspaper, "The Des Moines Register," whose editorial board called for him to pull the plug on his bloviating side show.
Trump shot back about the newspaper's sagging sales.
He appears to be buoyed by the politics of personal warfare. That and crowds like this. All told, some 1,100 people in the main auditorium and an overflow room Trump visited after his speech. Many at this retirement community waited online for hours to get in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a doer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got a set of balls. I think he's terrific, because he tells the truth.
BASH: Not everyone who came was a supporter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He scares me.
BASH (on camera): He scares you, but you're still here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Well, I want to see him. He's a celebrity.
[18:45:00] BASH voice-over): Despite causing so much controversy with comments about John McCain's war service, some veterans here in military rich South Carolina came to hear him.
JIM BACON, KOREAN WAR VETERAN: He just disappointed me. I wasn't offended but I was disappointed.
BASH (on camera): And yet, it's not a deal breaker?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not yet.
BASH (voice-over): All this, as the 16th GOP White House hopeful John Kasich was making his candidacy official.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to take the lessons of the heartland and straighten out Washington, D.C., and fix our country.
BASH: A strong speech from a governor overseeing a recovering Ohio, largely overshadowed by the Donald.
BASH: And back to Lindsey Graham, the home state senator here, Wolf, he tried to make a bit light of the cell phone issue. Later in the day, his campaign issuing a tweet, saying that he clearly needs a new phone, asking whether it should be an iPhone or an Android. He is a self-proclaimed Luddite, that would be a big upgrade from the flip phone that he had.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He has acknowledged, correct me if I'm wrong, Dana, he doesn't e-mail, right?
BASH: Nope. Not at all, not at all. His only form of communication is a telephone or talking in person.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by.
I want to bring in our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
Gloria, we've covered politics for a long time. What do you make of this latest twist in the developments, because Trump really is, if you believe this latest "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, he is the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: At least right now.
BORGER: He is the clear front runner. He is fearless. As Dana points out, a Lindsey Graham's home turf. He criticized him and then portrayed him as kind of a supplicant, like he likes to portray every other candidates, saying, you know what? The reason he gave out that cell phone number was because, oh, Lindsey Graham wanted to get on "Fox and Friends" and he wanted me to put in a good word for him, so he gave me his cell phone number.
So, he belittled him to a home state audience, which is probably not cool when you're playing politics the way politics is normally played. But Trump doesn't play by anybody else's rules, Wolf. And he makes that very clear every time he gets in front of an audience, every time.
BLITZER: You heard Dana also reports, Brianna, "The Des Moines Register", the largest newspaper in Iowa, an editorial calling Trump a feckless blowhard who can generate name recognition and polling numbers not by provoking thought, but provoking outrage. But some of his supporters say that's what works for Trump, namely going against the news media. The news mainstream news media, if you will, including "The Des Moines Register" going after him, that will help in a Republican contest.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I think that may actually be the case. When you look at "The Des Moines Register", and you look at the ed board there, it tends to lean left, although it did endorse Mitt Romney in 2012. But for about 40 years before that, it went for a Democrat. So, even if it shifted a little bit right in recent cycles, it's still to the left of Donald Trump. So, I think that works for him.
What I think what is more hurtful to Donald Trump, ultimately, maybe these comments that he made before questioning John McCain's war record about religion where he could offend evangelicals and Catholics about sort of what he said about, really kind of I think marginalizing the impact of religion in his life. That doesn't normally play well with Republican primary voters.
BLITZER: Yes. Because you got a lot of religious evangelicals out there, especially in these early Republican contests.
Dana, I got you -- we spoke earlier. You told me that it was a packed crowd. They had an overflow room. They were very enthusiastic. He is generating that kind of reaction out there. It's very impressive, especially when you compare the attendance of his events to some of the others. BASH: There's no question about it. And I really think that
there are two reasons, two very strong reasons. And I got this in talking to a number of people who are there.
Number one is, people are definitely drawn to his politically incorrect speak, to the fact that he doesn't talk like other politicians. But second, he is a celebrity. There are people I talked to who came to the events this morning who said that he scares them and they will never vote for him, but they want to see what he's like in person because he's a celebrity, it's the culture of celebrity.
But I do think that the -- you can't discount the fact that about 1,100 people came to this event in this retirement community here and you just don't see that kind of crowd from most of the other candidates, pretty much all the other candidates at this point.
BORGER: You know, Wolf, he is a showman and he puts on a good show as we all saw this morning, taking on Lindsey Graham at home.
And, you know, this is his reality show. We're all a part of that reality show right now. And I think you can't underestimate the appeal of that showmanship. And also the fact that he is an anti- politician, that he is ant-establishment, that he is anti-Washington, that he is an insurgent, and he is different from everybody else lining up to run for the Republican nomination.
[18:50:11] And this should give the rest of the candidates a clue about what Republicans are looking for this time around. It's clear to me they don't want another Mitt Romney-lite.
BLITZER: I want to quickly, and, Dana, while I have you, talk a little bit about Jeb Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, former governor of Florida. He has criticized Donald Trump's comments about Senator McCain when he was a POW in Vietnam.
But, what, back in 2004, when John Kerry was then the Democratic presidential nominee was being attacked by those so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for his service during Vietnam, that time, Jeb Bush wrote a letter to one of those veterans praising what he was doing, saying they had courage to go up against John Kerry in his record.
Today, Jeb Bush was asked about that. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about the swift boat attacks on John Kerry?
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wrote a letter to Bud Day who at that time was still alive and I would consider Bud Day the greatest patriot and most highly decorated war veteran at the time, at the time when he was alive. I'm not going to change my beliefs about that at all. I wish Bud Day was here with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: So, what's the reaction on this front? Because there
are some saying that Jeb Bush and other Republicans are being hypocritical of?
BASH: That's exactly the reason why this is being brought up in the first place, because of the fact that the last time a Vietnam veteran ran for president on the Democratic side before John McCain was John Kerry and he was very much ridiculed by Republicans and, of course, by those now infamous swift vote ads questioning his record, questioning his purple hearts, so on and so forth.
And what was interesting, I thought, about that Jeb Bush reaction was that he didn't actually talk about the criticism. Didn't talk about the criticism or whether or not he was truly praising the ads in the attacks on John Kerry, he simply kept his answer limited to Bud Day, who was a decorated war veteran since passed away.
So, there is still a lot more exploring to do when it comes to the question and issue, and what he really meant when he wrote that letter, which really does on its face look like he was praising the tactics used against John Kerry.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much. We're going to stay on top of this political story obviously for our viewers.
Just ahead, how a teenager's video of a gun firing drone prompted a federal investigations and what could happen if killers got ahold of a shooting machine like this.
[18:57:14] BLITZER: It shoots, it flies and it could kill. Tonight, federal authorities are investigating a gun-carrying drone built by a teenager and shown to the world online.
CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A closer look. Pretty scary stuff.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It is. Very alarming video. This so-called "flying gun", a drone with a firearm attached now has the attention of federal investigators. But as alarming as this could be, does it violate any standing law?
But police in Connecticut say no, it doesn't.
MARSH (voice-over): This is the video that caught federal investigators' attention, police say 18-year-old Austin Haughwout of Clinton, Connecticut, is the mastermind behind his homemade gun- mounted drone.
The video posted to YouTube gained more than 1.7 million views, one person writing quote, "Strange and a scary thought for someone to be using a drone to carry a firing gun."
Police say Haughwout opened fire on his private property, and that's not illegal if done safety. Police have no evidence anyone's life was in danger.
The FAA is now investigating whether he violated the agency's rules.
PETER SACHS, CONNECTICUT LAWYER: There are countless ways the drones can be useful. Using one as a remote controlled weapon is not one of them.
MARSH: This comes after a man crashed a drone on the White House lawn earlier this year. In the end, prosecutors did not pursue charges. From his online postings, the Connecticut teen appears to be a drone enthusiast. He has posted additional videos including this one.
He says a woman assaulted him after he flew a drone above her. The woman allegedly believes he was recording her at a Connecticut beach.
AUSTIN HAUGHWOUT, DRONE ENTHUSIAST: She took a swing at me, and I began falling to the ground.
MARSH: The woman was charged. He was not.
But when it comes to this video, no indication yet whether there is any law to be enforced.
JIM WILLIAMS, FORMER FAA DRONE CHIEF: Laws, you know, they take awhile. Well, technology doesn't wait. It moves forward.
MARSH: There is no federal law that explicitly prohibits arming a drone but the FAA does have regulations that say you cannot drop an object from an aircraft and a drone is considered an aircraft. So, at the very least, this could be a violation of FAA operating rules.
BLITZER: Very scary stuff, as I said. Thanks very much for that.
Finally, I want to tell our viewers about an honor for the man who founded CNN and revolutionized the TV business. That would be our former boss, Ted Turner. He was on hand today as officials in Atlanta unveiled Ted Turner Drive. They renamed a stretch of the street in recognition of his contributions to the city, to the world.
It's well-deserved. Congratulations, Ted.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.