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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; Donald Trump Visits Border; Interview With FBI Director James Comey; Trump's New Immigration Warnings at Mexican Border; Prosecutor: Sandra Bland's Death A Suicide By Hanging. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired July 23, 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: the number one terrorist threat. The FBI director tells me he's now worried about the danger from ISIS than al Qaeda. Stand by for his unprecedented warning and more in my exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: ISIL is not your parents' al Qaeda. It's currently the threat that we're worrying about in the homeland most of all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senate Republicans accuse Secretary of State John Kerry of being deceived by Iran. Is the administration stumbling in its attempt to sell Congress on a nuclear deal?
Trump's threats. He visits the U.S./Mexican border, stirring new controversy on immigration and issuing a new challenge to the GOP. Is he seriously considering a third-party presidential bid?
Suicide ruling. A prosecutor reveals early autopsy results on Sandra Bland and her hanging death in a Texas jail -- tonight, an inmate in a nearby cell tells CNN what she saw and heard in the hours before Bland died.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight: an alarming new assessment of the ISIS threat to the United States in terms no U.S. official has used before, the FBI director, James Comey, telling me the terrorist group is a greater threat to the homeland than al Qaeda, acknowledging the rapidly growing danger posed by ISIS and its supporters plotting attacks here in the United States and around the world.
Stand by for more of my in-depth and exclusive interview with one of America's top national security officials.
And we're also following the Republican presidential front-runner right now, Donald Trump. He's finding new ways today to grab the spotlight with a visit to the U.S./Mexican border and a threat to run as a third-party candidate if, if the Republican Party doesn't treat him right. We have our correspondents, analysts and newsmakers. They're standing by as we cover all the news breaking right now.
First, let's go to our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns. He has a complete wrap-up of the director of the FBI's most powerful warnings to date.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that public appearance by the FBI director and your interview with him really covered all the waterfronts, a global assessment as well as a deep dive into the law enforcement situation here at home.
JOHNS (voice-over): The sober warning from the nation's top law enforcement official, ISIS, not al Qaeda, is now the most serious domestic terror threat facing the United States.
COMEY: The threat that ISIL presents, poses to the United States, is very different in kind, in type, in degree, than al Qaeda.
JOHNS: It's a 180-degree turn from just last year.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no evidence to indicate that ISIL right now is actively plotting.
JOHNS: When U.S. officials told the public they had no credible concerns ISIS would try to strike inside the country.
COMEY: ISIL is not your parents' al Qaeda. It's a very different model.
JOHNS: That model, recording and disseminating sophisticated and gruesome propaganda videos, using social media to spread the message, recruit new followers, and encourage sympathizers to take action.
COMEY: They are preaching through social media to troubled souls, urging them to join their so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Well, if you can't join, kill where you are. My job along with a lot of our partners is to find the travelers and stop them and most urgently to stop those who want to kill where they are.
JOHNS: On Twitter, ISIS has 21,000 English-language followers, according to Comey. Hundreds or even thousands, he says, are living in the United States, the attack carried out in Garland, Texas, two months ago an example of ISIS supporters in the U.S.
One of the shooters, Elton Simpson, was communicating online with ISIS recruiting Junaid Hussain. The job of identifying would-be terrorists made more complicated, Comey warns, by the terror group's use of encryption that scrambles communication online, making it invisible to law enforcement.
COMEY: Then they will move them to an encrypted mobile messaging app where they go dark to us. We can, with court authority, get access to the Twitter contacts. But we don't have the ability to break strong encryption.
JOHNS: And, Wolf, another threat that Comey has been talking about has been diminished. That is of the Khorasan group, an al Qaeda affiliate that was thought to have been planning attacks on airliners last year. I know you have a portion of that interview just ahead.
BLITZER: Yes, I will have much more coming up. Joe Johns, thank you.
Now harsh words, high stakes, as Secretary of State John Kerry faces his former colleagues in the U.S. Senate to try so sell them on the Iran nuclear deal. He's accusing the deal's critics of spinning a fantasy, his word, fantasy, while Republicans are accusing the administration of being fleeced and bamboozled.
Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is here on more of this heated debate.
And it is heating up, I must say, Elise.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, four grueling hours for Secretary Kerry. He received a warm welcome when he came in from the public. But once the questioning started, it was pretty clear Republicans were not buying what John Kerry was selling.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I believe you have been fleeced.
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: With all due respect, you guys have been bamboozled and the American people are going to pay for that.
LABOTT (voice-over): In a ferocious counterattack to Republican critics of the deal, the secretary of state warned rejecting it would give Iran a -- quote -- "great big green light to build a nuclear weapon."
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Now, let me underscore, the alternative to the deal that we have reached is not some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran's complete capitulation. That is a fantasy.
LABOTT: Lawmakers accuse Kerry of treating the agreement as if it was already a done deal.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Convince me that this, what we're going through right now, isn't just a big charade.
LABOTT: Making Congress the guilty party.
CORKER: What you have really done here is you have turned Iran from being a pariah to now Congress, Congress being a pariah.
LABOTT: In a new line of attack, Kerry said, like it or not, Iran's nuclear know-how is here to stay.
KERRY: We set out to dismantle their ability to be able to build a nuclear weapon. And we have achieved that. We can't bomb that knowledge away, nor can we sanction the knowledge away.
LABOTT: Republican presidential hopefuls seized on the spotlight.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody that's for the agreement, yourself included, are saying this will prevent them from having a nuclear weapon and the ayatollahs saying exactly the opposite.
LABOTT: And put Kerry on notice, if elected, they would not be bound by the deal.
RUBIO: The Iranian regime and the world should know that the majority of members of this Congress do not support this deal and that the deal could go away on the day President Obama leaves office.
KERRY: There's no alternative that you or anybody else has proposed as to what you...
RUBIO: I sure have, Secretary Kerry.
KERRY: Nobody has a plan that is articulated, that is reasonable.
LABOTT: The tension even coming from some in Kerry's own party.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: If you're going to snap back, you have got to snap back to something. So if you're not snapping back...
MENENDEZ: Secretary, please, don't eat up my time. I'm sorry. With all due respect, don't eat up my time.
LABOTT: I'm not sure that Secretary Kerry changed many minds during this hearing. If Congress blocks the deal, the president has promised to veto, and, Wolf, he just has to maintain a veto-proof majority, which the White House thinks they have as of now.
BLITZER: Yes, to override a veto, you need two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate, a tough challenge for the opponents of this deal.
LABOTT: That's right. BLITZER: Elise, thanks very, very much.
Now back to my exclusive interview with the FBI director, James Comey, about America's security and terrorist threats. Here's more of our rare one-on-one conversation at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, where he explained why ISIS is now the number one terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.
COMEY: The threat that ISIL presents, poses to the United States, is very different in kind, in type, in degree than al Qaeda. ISIL is not your -- your parents' al Qaeda. It's a very different model.
BLITZER: Why is ISIS so powerful?
COMEY: Well, they have adopted a model that takes advantage of social media in a way to crowd source terrorism.
With al Qaeda, if you wanted to consume their propaganda, you had to go find it somewhere on the Web. You'd read their magazine. If you wanted to talk to a terrorist, you might send an e-mail in to their magazine and hope that somebody answers you.
ISIL has changed that model entirely, because ISIL is buzzing on your hip, right. That message is being pushed all day long.
And if you want to talk to a terrorist, they're right there on Twitter direct messaging for you to communicate with.
The people that ISIL's trying to reach are people that Al Qaeda would never use as an operative.
BLITZER: Why is that?
COMEY: Because they are often unstable, troubled, drug users and -- and ISIL also does something that Al Qaeda would never do. They'll vet an operative by tasking them. Right? Give them as assignment, go kill somebody, as a way of checking out whether they are a real person or an informant of some kind.
BLITZER: So when ISIS publicly puts out there on social media, if you can't come over to Iraq and Syria and fight with us, go out there and kill U.S. military personnel or law enforcement officers, you take that seriously.
BLITZER: You told us recently that you and your colleagues thwarted a July 4 attack or attacks, right?
BLITZER: What can you tell us about that?
COMEY: Not much.
COMEY: There were a number of -- what's interesting about the ISIL model there too is the normal terms of inspired, directed or enabled blend together with ISIL, because they just push it -- they're like a devil on somebody's shoulders saying kill, kill, kill all day long. So figuring out whether someone was directed or inspired or enabled is actually a waste of time in many cases.
There were a number of people who were bent on engaging in attacks in the United States, killing innocent people, timed to the July 4 holiday. And thanks to great work, not just by the FBI, but by our partners, State, local and Federal law enforcement, it was disrupted.
BLITZER: And that's why you've concluded now that ISIS represents the major threat to the U.S. homeland, as far as terrorism is concerned?
COMEY: Right. And one of the reasons I say that is the sheer volume. Again I have investigations -- the FBI has investigations related to this threat all across the country. There are hundreds of investigations. We're trying to understand where somebody is on the spectrum between a consumer of this poison on Twitter, to an actor who's about to try and murder innocent people.
BLITZER: Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, the killer of these four Marines, the one sailor, he was not inspired by ISIS or ISIL.
COMEY: Well, we're not in a position to say yet. I mean we're still combing through his entire life, including his electronic media, to understand, so, who was he communicating with and about what?
BLITZER: Because the assumption, what we're hearing is he was inspired by more like AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born cleric, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike back in 2011, but whose messages are still out there, right?
COMEY: The messages are very much still out there. I mean that's a dimension to the threat we haven't taken our eye off of.
BLITZER: He spent seven months in Jordan last year with his uncle, who's now under arrest by Jordanian authorities. The FBI is there in Jordan right now.
COMEY: That's part of combing through his life to understand so what happened in Jordan, who influenced him, who did he meet, what did he consume, that sort of thing.
BLITZER: The Khorasan group -- because the guy they, they said -- killed Mushin al-Fadhli in a U.S. air strike, the is the one who was apparently plotting attacks, not against people in the Middle East, but against people here in the United States. That's, that was the main mission of the Khorasan group. I think, back in September, you thought some sort of an attack could be potentially imminent. That was the word you used, right?
COMEY: They were a very serious threat to the United States, more in the, in sort of the classic Al Qaeda model, airplane based, sophisticated long tail, long planning and surveillance type operations.
BLITZER: Is that threat from the Khorasan group in the United States, to the American homeland, still imminent? Or have they been diminished in their capabilities?
COMEY: They've been diminished by virtue of the work done by our great military. It hasn't gone away, but they've been diminished.
BLITZER: As you know, the office of Personnel Management, which is the U.S. government agency that's in charge of all the Federal employees, their secure sites were hacked. You assume whoever hacked the computers of the office of personnel management in Washington, they have all that information about you and your family?
COMEY: I do. I assume that the actors in that intrusion have my SF-86. It's the world's most detailed resume and there are -- everyone who's ever worked in a cleared position has filled one out. Even if you didn't get the job, if you were disqualified because of some problem on that form, that's in that data base. So we have to assume that the intrusion netted those.
BLITZER: Who are the main cyber threats? Where do they come from right now?
COMEY: The primary state actors, I don't want to give you too long a list, to name two, China and Russia. And then there are others.
BLITZER: We assume North Korea too.
COMEY: I don't want to name any others.
BLITZER: OK. But China and Russia are major threats, and they have this information. I don't know what information they have, but I'll say they have sensitive information. That could be incredibly useful to them, couldn't it? Not only in terms of stealing sensitive business technologies and stuff like that, but in terms of recruiting spies and the FBI is in charge of preventing that?
COMEY: You mean information like we just talked about?
COMEY: Sure, in the hands of a state actor, it would be a -- a gold mine for intelligence operations. You could craft recruitment strategies. You could craft the world's best spear fishing e-mails. So you could send me an e-mail that appears to be from my sister about some family event that you figured out from my background forms, with an attachment. And I would click on that attachment and then you'd be into my system.
BLITZER: I want to quickly get your thoughts on Dylann Roof in Charleston, because we all know what happened. And he got a gun because, within three days, no one bothered to say he shouldn't be allowed to purchase a gun, right?
COMEY: Well, he got the gun because we, the FBI runs the National Instant Background Check system. We made a mistake and through a geographic mix-up, didn't figure out within three days that he had admitted to using drugs in a police report, and so shouldn't get the gun.
In his case, the mistake meant we didn't figure that out within that time window and so the -- the gun was sold, which was lawful. It was lawful for the dealer to transfer it.
BLITZER: So how do we fix that?
COMEY: The piece that I'm responsible for at the FBI is, I've sent a team in to figure out, so what exactly went wrong, how can our training be better, how can our process be better?
That's our piece of the world. It's a very hard job to process tens of thousands of gun purchases, but the law, that's the burden the law puts on us. And so we need to meet it.
BLITZER: We will have more of my interview coming up.
But I'm joined also by Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the top Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee.
We have lots to discuss, Congressman.
We will take a quick break. We will get your reaction to what we just heard from the director of the FBI and a whole lot more. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We just heard the FBI director, James Comey, tell me that ISIS has now surpassed al Qaeda as the biggest terror threat to the U.S. homeland.
Let's get reaction to that exclusive interview.
Joining us, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Adam Schiff of California is joining us.
You agree with the director of the FBI? REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think, on balance, I
probably do, the sheer volume of attacks now from ISIS, the extraordinary number of followers they have on social media, and the fact that these attacks are very difficult to prevent because it can be a single person acting in a single impulse.
But I will tell you on respect where al Qaeda still concerns me more than ISIS. And that is ISIS is all about the quantity of attacks. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is focused on the quality of the attack. The kind of attacks al Qaeda wants to do, going after our aircraft, trying to blow them up over our skies, those are nation- altering terrorist acts that would have a far bigger impact if they're successful.
And for that reason, al Qaeda still in that respect very much concerns me and even more than the quantity of ISIS attacks.
BLITZER: And it concerns him as well. But he says, right now, those lone individuals being inspired by ISIS, they can kill -- those guys could kill a lot of Americans and they're really worried about that.
And one of the reasons he's probably reaching that conclusion too is that we have been very successful in going after the core of al Qaeda. And we have been successful on a number of the hits on the Khorasan group, that group in Syria that is focused on attacking us here in our homeland.
We have kept a lot of pressure on al Qaeda and that I think has helped marginalize al Qaeda. But even at the same time, we have seen ISIS grow.
BLITZER: How did ISIS grow so quickly? Because it wasn't that long ago, you remember the president of the United States called them the J.V. team.
SCHIFF: Well, it was this horrible combination of what used to be al Qaeda in Iraq teaming up with a lot of former Baathists.
You had people with military skills and capabilities that used to be part of Saddam Hussein's military. You had some of the most experienced al Qaeda people from al Qaeda in Iraq. And then you had al-Baghdadi and suddenly this organization holding territory, which I think inspired a lot of followers. And that's still what we're confronting.
BLITZER: I know you are being briefed. You met with the president of the United States together with some of your colleagues on the Iran nuclear deal.
I asked the FBI director about all the money that Iran was about to get, $100 billion or so, if the nuclear deal goes through, if they live up to the expectations that the United Nations and everyone has put up to them. I want you to listen to what James Comey, the FBI director, told me about that potential cash inflow to Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There's a huge debate underway about the $100 billion that Iran is about to get, if they follow this nuclear deal, and that that money will flow in over the next year or two. They could spend it to build hospitals and schools, or bridges in Iran, or they could spend it, give it to some of their terror partners, if you will. And I'm wondering if you fear that some of that money could be spent watching terror strikes here in the United States?
COMEY: I think all I can say about that is Iran sponsorship of terrorism remains a focus of the entire intelligence community, including the FBI.
We're responsible here in the United States. And I don't expect that threat to change, to diminish certainly, in the wake of the additional money being available.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You agree with him that Iran's going to have potentially a lot more money to spend in these kinds of state sponsor of terrorism ways?
SCHIFF: Absolutely they will have greater resources.
Now, it may not be in excess of $100 billion. The real number may be closer to $56 billion, when you consider funds that are already obligated, but, nonetheless, a big infusion of money. Certainly, some of that, they're going to have to plow into their economy. That's what Rouhani's been making the case for in Iran.
But Iran has proven very -- proved very cost-effective in their support of Hezbollah. They have been able to stretch a few dollars a long way. Now they will have a lot more dollars. And this was certainly a topic of our discussion with the president and our discussion with Secretary Kerry today.
And that is how -- if this agreement were to go through, how do we counter an Iran that is that much more enriched and how can we work with our allies in the region, with Israel, with the Gulf states, to more effectively push back?
And one of the things that I really think comes through in this discussion is, when you look at the Gulf nations, they're spending a fortune on defense, many times more than Iran. If Iran is spending $16 billion, they're spending $130 billion. And yet Iran has been so much more cost-effective in the utilization of its defense and terrorism funding.
BLITZER: He did confirm, the FBI director, that the U.S. concluded Iran was directly responsible for the failed, fortunately, failed assassination attempt of the then-Saudi ambassador to the United States at a restaurant here in Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir, who is now the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia. He says the FBI concluded that Iran was responsible for that.
SCHIFF: Well, and that's such a shocking thing too, which just goes to show you that Iran, in addition to its various terrorist activities around the world, is willing and capable of an attack here on the homeland in the most brazen of fashions.
That whole chapter was just so shocking. Usually, frankly, Iran is much more rational, if that's even the right word, in its use of force around the world. It's a state sponsor of terror. It's responsible for horrible acts of murder, but they don't usually act in such an extraordinarily risky way and risk the blowback that would have accompanied that. So, it was a really startling case.
BLITZER: All right, Adam Schiff, thanks very much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Congressman.
Just ahead, politics. Donald Trump takes his presidential campaign to the U.S./Mexican border, threatening the Republican Party along the way. Stand by to hear what he's now saying about immigration and his opponents.
Plus, we have new details from the autopsy on Sandra Bland, as an inmate reveals what she saw and heard before Bland died in a nearby cell. Was there any hint of foul play?
[18:30:54] BLITZER: Tonight, a new warning from Donald Trump that undocumented immigrants pose a great danger. He went to the U.S./Mexican border to drive in more attention to his most provocative presidential campaign theme. It wasn't the typical backdrop for the mogul-turned-candidate, but it was vintage Donald Trump.
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now live from Laredo, Texas.
Dana, tell us how it went down.
DANA BASH, CNN CHEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was vintage Donald Trump. He came in with all of his glory on his plane with his name written on the side, of course. And it is also -- it was also vintage Trump because he drew an enormous crowd outside the airport, or inside the airport, I should say, standing by the fences waiting to see him.
There were a lot of people there who supported him, there were some people who didn't. But the one group of people that he thought he was going to be with, those who invited him, the border patrol union locally, they had to take back their invitation. Here's how some of the day went. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: How do you feel about the union, the border union, backing out?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they're petrified and they're afraid of saying what's happening. And, you know, they're the ones that invited me. They wanted to give me an award.
And the border patrol, they're petrified of saying what's happening because they have a real problem here. And I'm talking about the whole border. And they invited me, then all of a sudden they were told silencio! They want silence.
So, it's a problem we'll get straightened out.
REPORTER: Have you seen any evidence to confirm your fears about Mexico sending its criminals across the border?
TRUMP: Yes, I have.
REPORTER: What evidence specifically have you seen?
TRUMP: We'll be showing you the evidence.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) this morning who called you a racist?
TRUMP: Well, you know, I have --we just landed and there were a lot of people at the airport and they were all waving American flags and they were all in favor of Trump and what I'm doing.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) Hispanics who have felt insulted by your words?
TRUMP: No, they weren't insulted, because the press misinterprets my words.
This man, I'm going to steal him, to run something for me.
BASH: Do you agree with Mr. Trump, that the way to make the border safe is to build this long wall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's a -- that's a federal issue. And we have our comments on that.
BASH: What is your comment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't think that's necessary at this time. I think there's other ways that we can work together with the federal government --
REPORTER: Is that your proposal, Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: No, no, not at all. They're different sections, this is one section. But they're different section.
I just want to thank, again, because this is about you, it's not about me -- law enforcement, border patrol, all of you folks for being here, because this was actually an extra stop, a special stop. I heard you were here. I wanted to come and see you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, at the end there you saw that happened right behind me. Donald Trump did get to meet briefly with some local law enforcement officials. Some did come and were sitting in the crowd to hear his remarks. So, it was certainly I think probably the same that you get any time you have Donald Trump in a room, whether it's here in South Texas or anywhere else. He draws a lot of passions, and because this wasn't a traditional campaign stop, it was a different kind of passion.
But I will say, Wolf, this town of Laredo, Texas, more than 90 percent of the people who live here are of Mexican heritage. Certainly the fact that he had any supporters I think that his campaign will argue that that shows that he has the support, at least some of the support, he claims he does with some in the Hispanic community.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, I want you to stand by because I want to expand our conversation with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Gloria, what's Donald Trump up to in this visit to the U.S./Mexico border?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Dana is there. She knows better than anyone.
To me, watching it, it looked like a border drop-by photo-op that only someone like Donald Trump can actually pull off.
He was trying to pivot back to his original message -- get away from all that John McCain mess over the last weekend.
[18:35:00] I do think, though, there was a real mixed message here because you had one of the local officials answering Dana's good question about whether a wall is necessary. One of the local officials said, no, we don't think a wall is necessary at this time.
And then when Trump was asked that question he's sort of like, well, certain sections have to have a wall. So we had some of the people out there with him disagreeing with his solution. And I'm not sure that he would be particularly pleased by that.
BLITZER: And, Jeff, he seems to now be going back and forth on this threat, potentially a threat, to run as a third-party candidate if the Republican Party doesn't treat him well. Here's his latest comment on this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look, I'm a Republican. I'm a conservative. I'm running, I'm in first place by a lot, it seems, according to other polls. I want to run as a Republican. I think I'll get the nomination. We'll see soon enough. But I think I'll get the nomination.
The best way to win is for me to get the nomination and run probably against Hillary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of this? Some people say he's threatening the Republican Party?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He didn't agree with "The Hill" newspaper. He said if the RNC, Republican National Committee, does not start treating him well, he, you know, would not rule out a third-party run.
So, the bottom line is he's totally unpredictable. And he has a ton of money. So, who knows what he'll do? That's what worries Republicans at the end of the day, that he could, you know, sort of throw his hat in. But he has said more often than not that he does not believe -- he believes it would take a Republican to beat the Democrat who he believes is Hillary Clinton.
But, you know, it's one of the reasons Republicans don't want to agitate him. I think that he's not -- he hasn't totally ruled it out. But he's pretty much ruled out that he would not run as a third party. But he's not predictable. He doesn't play by normal political rules.
BORGER: You know, they're worried, if they get him angry that he just could do it. You don't have to win 19 percent of the vote like Ross Perot. I mean, look back at the election of 2000. Ralph Nader had less than 3 percent of the vote. And through three states, the Democrats still believe that Gore would be president.
ZELENY: But what would that do to his brand? That would brand him the biggest loser. And --
BORGER: Well, he doesn't want to be a loser.
ZELENY: Right. So, I think that at the end of the day may keep him away from doing a third-party run.
BLITZER: But, Dana, it would be a nightmare scenario for the Republicans, because presumably if he did run as a third-party candidate, he'd take a lot more votes away from the Republican nominee than from the Democratic nominee.
BASH: Sure. Absolutely. The ABC News/"Washington Post" poll that came out this week showed in a head-to-head matchup between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, for example, Hillary Clinton would win, but not by a very large margin. Donald Trump is in that race. It's a three-way race. He gets about 20 percent of the vote. And it's almost entirely from Jeb Bush.
The Republicans know that, whether it's Bush or somebody else. Donald Trump knows that, which is why I think today when he was asked that question again, he seemed to be leaning a lot more into the fact that he is a Republican, he is a conservative.
A lot of people are talking about maybe trying to force him to take a pledge before he gets on that debate stage that he will support whomever the Republican nominee is. And what I'm hearing from people in Trumpland as well, they should take a pledge to support him if he's the Republican nominee. Let's see if that happens.
BLITZER: I'm sure Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, would love a pledge from all Republican candidates out there that whoever gets the nomination, they will support that individual.
BORGER: Maybe he'll call him again, how do you think that will go?
BLITZER: Yes, lively. With Trump on the debate stage, though, it could be a lively session.
ZELENY: No question about it. We don't know which Trump will show up. I think a more serious one will show up, we'll see.
BLITZER: Certainly, a couple of weeks from today, I think. The first Republican debate.
BORGER: Every campaign has a little Trump card in their back pocket, because they're ready -- sorry about that -- they're ready with zingers for him.
BLITZER: You know what? You go after Trump, he goes right back after you.
BORGER: They know it.
BLITZER: Zing him, he's going to zing right back.
Guys, thanks very much.
Just ahead, another major story we're following. There are now new revelations in the jailhouse death of Sandra Bland, including preliminary autopsy results, and how her guards violated policy.
Plus, an inmate comes forward revealing to CNN the noises she heard coming from Sandra Bland's cell.
Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:43:54] BLITZER: Tonight, a Texas prosecutor is offering new
details about Sandra Bland's jail cell death, saying the evidence appears to support the initial ruling that it was a suicide. We're also learning more about the hours before bland died from an inmate who was in a nearby cell.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from Texas right now. He has the very latest -- Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just a short while ago, officials here in Waller County health a press conference and showed a picture of the plastic bag that was essentially they say turned into a noose in the hanging death of Sandra Bland.
And we've also spoken with a woman who was an inmate just across the hallway, and her account of what she saw during the three days that Bland was in jail here seems to support what officials are saying.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): A Waller County jail inmate who was being held in a cell across from Sandra Bland tells CNN she did not hear any commotion or screaming, suggesting foul play, before the 28- year-old woman was found dead.
This is consistent with the nearly three hours of jailhouse video released showing nothing unusual outside Bland's cell before Bland's body was found by a sheriff's deputy.
[18:45:01] The woman who asked not to be identified tells CNN Bland was emotional and often crying during her three days in the jail. The inmate says she spoke with Bland twice. She says Bland was worried about not being able to connect with family members and stressed over missing her first day of work at her new job.
Bland's family has insisted they do not believe the 28-year-old woman would kill herself.
CANNON LAMBER, BLAND FAMILY ATTORNEY: We take issue with the notion that she was suffering from depression. She was never clinically diagnosed, there was no medication that we are aware of that she was taking to address any sort of epilepsy or depression.
LAVANDERA: This afternoon, Waller County officials held a press conference with new details from Bland's autopsy report. Officials say while the investigation is not finished, the report shows high levels of marijuana in Bland's system and as many as 30 cut marks on her wrists. The report does not show any signs of a violent struggle.
WARREN DIEPRAAM, WALLER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: There was no indication of any hemorrhaging or any damage to her hyoid valve. The same holds true for her trachea and her esophagus and any other internal organs inside her neck. During a violent struggle, one would typically expect to see hemorrhaging or injuries to those particular body portions. LAVANDERA: But Bland's medical intake records are not
consistent. On one page, it shows Bland attempted to commit suicide in the last year after a miscarriage by taking pills. But then on another page, the question of whether she's attempted suicide is "no."
It's the inconsistencies that make the Bland family skeptical.
SHARON COOPER, SANDRA BLAND'S SISTER: I have a hard time dealing with inconsistency. That seems to have been the theme over the last couple of days here. So I don't have a problem still asking questions.
LAVANDERA: And social media has seized on all sorts of possible conspiracies. Some are even suggesting Sandra Bland's mugshot was taken after she had died, despite that it was on her booking sheet, made available right after she was arrested.
LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, throughout all of this, the Bland family has been saying they had ordered their own independent autopsy. Those results are back. But we haven't gotten any clear answers yet on whether or not the Bland family will release any details from that account. And it sounded like they were open to doing that earlier in the week. But now it's not so clear -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera with the very latest, thank you.
Let's bring in our CNN anchor Don Lemon, our CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, and our law enforcement analysts Tom Fuentes and Cedric Alexander.
Don, in the video, you can see that Sandra Bland does get visibly frustrated, does talk back to the police officers. That's not excusing obviously what happened by any means. But there's debate over whether, when you get pulled over, you show frustration, you fight back, the cop says put out the cigarette, you don't put out the cigarette -- what do you think about that initial exchange that occurred after she was stopped for failing to turn on her blinker for changing lanes?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so here's -- whatever you're doing at home, listen to this. I've said this a number of times on your show, whether it's in regard to anyone. And, again, we're not blaming the victim here -- if in this environment that you believe that interactions between police officers of any color and black citizens, if they can become volatile, if they are dangerous, if they're violent, then you need to do what the cop says.
That's not selling out. That's not being a -- whatever you want to call it, you know, someone who kowtows to the white man or to the cop or to authority. That is someone who wants to stay alive and who does not want to be brutalized.
So, in this environment, keep your cool. The cop says get out of the car? Get out of the car. He says stay in the car -- stay in the car. If he says don't mouth off, don't mouth off.
And then, afterwards, you deal with the situation. You don't try to deal with him in that moment because you are never, ever, ever going to win in that moment.
And here's what I say -- when you have an issue at your house or you're on the street or if you're ever in a position to call a police officer, that officer is a peace officer. He is an authority figure. If you want them to have authority over someone who has harmed you, has robbed your house, has done you wrong, then when it's your turn, that officer needs to have authority over you.
It does not go one way. It must work both ways. End of story.
BLITZER: Cedric, do you agree?
CEDRICK ALEXANDERA, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, I do agree with him, Wolf, but let me back up and say this -- I think in this particular circumstance, as we look at that video, we can find a lot of wrong on both sides. The officer certainly could have just given her warning and went on about his business, as opposed to being concerned about whether she was smoking or not.
But however, to Don's point, I think it's important, particularly in this day and time, that any time that you are given an order by police officer, just go ahead and comply. If there's a demonstration of unprofessionalism that that officer exhibits, then you take his name and badge number.
[18:50:01] But there's no need to escalate a situation. But in this case, this officer did not do anything to deescalate. In fact, he escalated this information.
LEMON: Right on, right on.
BLITZER: Sunny, Sandra -- yes, you guys agree on that.
Sunny, Sandra Bland, she left a voicemail for a friend of hers from inside her jail cell. I want to play it for you and our viewers. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SANDRA BLAND VOICEMAIL: I'm still just at a loss for words about this whole process, how they are switching lanes with no signal turned into all of this, I don't even know. I'm still here. Just call me back when you can.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Yes. So, she spent three days in the jail for what initially was just a minor traffic infraction. And all of a sudden, she's dead. So, that's why this has caused such a stir.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's right. A lot of the questions that people have is how could you end up in jail for three days after this minor traffic violation, alleged minor traffic violation?
The bottom line is this officer charged her with a felony. He charged with assault on a public safety officer. So, that's why she was in jail, because she was charged with a felony, a $5,000 bond. And her family hadn't gotten the money to her yet.
But I really need to mention something about Don's monologue that he just mentioned. You know, I don't think anybody is saying that you shouldn't comply with police officers. I don't think anyone is suggesting -- I teach street law. I always say, when you have these encounters, you want to make them as short as sweet as possible.
But let's remember that as United States citizens, black, brown or otherwise, we do have our constitutional rights. And we can't let police officers just trample on our constitutional rights against freedom of speech, against --
LEMON: Sunny, no one is denying that. You are making an argument.
HOSTIN: I let you speak.
LEMON: But you are talking about someone no one is saying --
HOSTIN: I refuse to allow you, Don, to --
LEMON: That's not my argument.
BLITZER: Hold on, guys.
HOSTIN: That's what you were doing.
LEMON: We're not blaming the victim.
HOSTIN: That the professional here is the officer, Don --
LEMON: Absolutely, Sunny.
HOSTIN: He was unprofessional.
BLITZER: Don, hold on for a second.
LEMON: Something that I did not say.
BLITZER: I want one of you at a time. Finish your thoughts, Sunny. And then I'm going to let Don respond. HOSTIN: My thought, again, is that the -- we can't blame the
victim here. This victim -- she was a victim -- had her right constitutional right not to -- freedom of speech, her constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, her constitutional rights were trampled on when we all saw that dashcam video.
And so, the suggestion somehow that had she simply complied, she would be alive today. I think we need to look at this officer's actions and need to look at the fact that he is the trained professional who failed to be a professional who escalated the matter and I question even --
BLITZER: Go ahead, Don.
HOSTIN: -- lawful orders, alleged --
LEMON: Sunny, did you even hear the question that Wolf asked me?
HOSTIN: I heard your response. I heard your response.
LEMON: Let me answer. In his questioning he said, we're not blaming her for anything. In my response I said, we're not blaming her for anything.
And I said, if in this environment that you believe that everything you just said is true, if you want to stay alive, then comply. I'm not blaming the victim on anything.
BLITZER: Hold on. Hold your thoughts. The story unfortunately not going away.
I want to remind our viewers, Don, course, is going to have more on this on his program later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, "CNN TONIGHT".
We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:57:54] BLITZER: FBI agents undergo a tremendous amount of training. But there's one aspect that probably will come as a surprise to many people. The FBI director James Comey explains in our exclusive interview at the Aspen Security Forum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Last April, you were the keynote speaker. I was there in Washington at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum dinner and you delivered a brilliant speech. And one of the things that stood out in my mind, you explained to everyone there why every FBI agent, every FBI intelligence analyst, has to go visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and study it. I want you to share that story with our friends here. JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Yes, they go for two reasons. First,
we want them to see, in a gut-wrenching, nauseating way, what the abuse of power on an almost unimaginable scale looks and feels like, because we're about to give them extraordinary power. And then there's a second reason that is I want them to see what we are capable of.
I want them to understand what human beings are capable of, that we are -- one of our greatest strengths is our ability to convince ourselves of the righteousness of our own cause. And one of our greatest weaknesses is our capacity to surrender our moral authority to the group, so it can be hijacked by the least common denominator. I want them to stare at that and understand the weaknesses that we all share, because they are about to have tremendous power and I want them to have sense of that in a way that will last them their whole career.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Powerful words from the director of the FBI, James Comey.
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