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THE SITUATION ROOM
Flight 370 Search; Trump Rising; Will Biden Run?. Aired 18- 19:00p ET
Aired August 3, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Embedding with Baltimore police, as the city reels from a deadly spike in crime following the riots after the death of Freddie Gray. Can this drastic move end the murder epidemic that is sweeping the city?
Biden, his time? Efforts to draft the vice president into the presidential race gaining momentum, as questions grow about Hillary Clinton's vulnerabilities and unfavorable ratings. Will Joe Biden enter the 2016 race?
Trump and center. Donald Trump stealing the spotlight as new polls affirm his front-runner status and rival Republicans scramble to assure a spot in the main GOP debate just three days from now. Will Trump cement his position, or implode under pressure?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We are following the desperate situation in California, where almost two dozen wildfires are burning, many of them out of control. More than 13,000 people are under evacuation orders this hour as thousands of firefighters work in scorching temperatures to stop the flames.
We're also following a major potential shakeup in the race for the White House. Growing efforts to draft Vice President Joe Biden to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Surprising new developments combined with concern about Hillary Clinton's unfavorable poll ratings has speculation swirling about Biden's political future.
We're covering the day's top news this hour with our correspondents, our expert analysts, and our guests.
And we begin with those wildfires burning out of control in California.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Colusa County. This is northwest of Sacramento, where the largest blaze, the Rocky Fire, has burned more than 93 square miles.
Stephanie, give us the latest. STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a really big fire we're
talking about, Brianna; 60,000 acres, they say, have burned. They're also saying they have containment of 12 percent.
But there is one big issue here for these firefighters and that's the weather.
ELAM (voice-over): At least 21 major fires raging in California, fueled by lightning, gusty winds and low humidity. More than 9,000 firefighters on the ground and in the air, coordinating all available resources to battle the flames.
STEVE KAUFMANN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, CALFIRE: The term that I'm using is historic. And the reason I say that is there are firefighters that have 20, 25, 30 years on the job that have never seen fire behavior like we have seen in the last couple days.
ELAM: The largest blaze, the Rocky Fire, it has torched some 60,000 acres in three counties just north of wine country.
Only 12 percent contained, California fire officials say at least 6,000 structures are threatened. Crews on the scene scrambling to build control lines and maintain the perimeter. In some cases, this means setting fire to remove fuel for the inferno.
DANIEL BERLANT, CALIFORNIA STATE FIRE DEPARTMENT: Last night, we burned out much of the grass that, by the time the actual fired burned there, we have a much larger area to really make a stand.
ELAM: But the conditions are daunting. A severe four-year-long drought in 100-degree heat are a deadly combination. A U.S. Forest Service firefighters from South Dakota was killed while working a fire in Modoc County.
Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency and evacuations have been ordered for more than 12,000 Californians.
ELAM: And as you take a look at what is happening with my hair, it's how I measure the wind. You can see it's really picking up here and that is a problem. The wind picks up in the afternoon, the daylight hours, and that can spread those embers from branch to branch.
A lot of this area out here, Brianna, they are telling me has not been burned before. At least they don't know when it last burned. And with this drought, this really dry kindling out here, that makes for really good fire-burning material and that is what they want to curtail as best they can, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, it's hard to fight those dry conditions and that wind. Stephanie Elam in the fire zone there, thank you so much. I want to bring in CNN's Paul Vercammen. He is also in the fire
zone and he more on how these crews are trying to fight the Rocky Fire.
What are you seeing there, Paul?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're talking about fighting the fire in the wind, Brianna.
If you look behind me, the result of excellently choreographed backfires. We had crews go into this area, go about 35 yards up this mountainside and start a series of backfires, all of it, as we said, expertly thought out, planned out before. First, it was an Orange County crew using a mix of what they call torch mix, which is gasoline and diesel, more diesel than anything.
And then another crew went below, several of them, from L.A. County, and they set a fire along that road behind me to meet those flames. Why did they do this? Because they want to cut off the fire's advance, of course. And there's nothing like fighting fire with fire. If you get nice, dark, black zones like that behind me, you are giving the fire no chance to go ahead and do what we do right here, which would be to jump this road on the eastern plank of the fire and cause more mayhem.
So they have built a pretty good stand here, put up a pretty good stand right here, Brianna.
KEILAR: It's so interesting, some people might think, Paul, to have to light other fires, basically fighting this fire with fire. Right?
VERCAMMEN: Absolutely. It's part of a really important strategy here in California. There are opportunities, of course, to go ahead and try to drop water on fire and, of course, get hoses out there. But look at how difficult it is to get up in this terrain. Firefighters talking over the last couple of days about just how tough it is. It is steep. You have got these winds coming up.
You have got really, really difficult access points. We're in an extremely rural area right now, not a whole lot of road, so fighting fire with fire certainly an option and, as you look behind me, extremely well executed, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Paul Vercammen.
I want to head over now to Stephanie Elam also there in the fire zone. I want to get back to her
Stephanie, you have covered so many, unfortunately, of these wildfires here in recent years. Speak a little bit to what people who -- you're in a rural area. Paul's in a rural area. But there are many people who are maybe not too far from there or they're worried that this fuel is just going to go up in flames and encroach on their properties, on their homes.
What are people going through and what are their concerns at this point in time?
ELAM: Right. We heard some of that yesterday as we were out.
There's no cell signal where we are. Right? We're out in a rural area watching this fire, this Rocky Fire. But, still, there are a lot of people who live within these confines. And while we took off down Highway 16 here yesterday, our sat truck operator stayed behind, because we just wanted to make sure a big truck like that is safer. He was in place, the firefighters came him and told him to move.
He could hear some people up in the house above him and they were yelling, hey, grab this, grab this. They're anxious because now they knew the fire was cresting that way. They stay as long as they can to try to protect their property, but at some point you have got to make that call and you have got to get out of there. That's the problem with this fire. It is not acting in the way that other fires have acted.
Normally at night, humidity rises, right, the temperature goes down. It gets cooler here in California overnight. It actually was cool when we got out of here about 4:00 in the morning. But that has not happened. Over the weekend, the fire almost doubled at the nighttime hours and that is really odd. So because of that, it's been a much more difficult fire to fight and making it harder for people to be able to get back into their homes.
And such, that being the case, the evacuation area expanded today, Brianna.
KEILAR: It is so dry with those drought conditions there in California. Stephanie Elam, thanks so much talking to us there from Calusa County in the fire zone.
I want to talk to Ken Pimlott. He's joining us on the phone, and he's director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Ken, just give us a sense of where we are at this point. What's the latest?
KEN PIMLOTT, DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION: Both reporters on the ground really painted the picture. We're in extremely dry conditions across all of California, four years of drought. All of the fires, including this Rocky Fire, are burning with just -- at explosive rates.
Many of our firefighters who are veterans are saying they have never seen fire spread the way it's spreading.
KEILAR: And so I was in the Sacramento area just a few days ago and I could smell the wildfires as they were starting and I could just look around and see, no one is watering lawns. They are conserving. But it also means those conditions are just really terrible when you're talking about the brush, and when you're talking about trees. Is this just sort of a disaster waiting to happen?
PIMLOTT: Well, it's really -- it's what we have been saying for the last two years as we have been monitoring conditions of the vegetation.
It is extremely dry. We had over 500 lightning strikes over the weekend in Northern California. And literally 80 percent of those lightning strikes started fires. So imagine that much fire across the landscape, being that dry.
KEILAR: Tell us -- I certainly wonder about people whose homes may be in danger here. How many people are you concerned about at this point? How close is this to encroaching on where humans are in a great way?
PIMLOTT: Well, as we talked about in the Rocky Fire in particular, which is our fire that's closest to most of the urbanized areas, almost 13,000 people evacuated right now.
And that includes almost 500 residential structures. And so we're absolutely concerned. That's why we have evacuations going on, on both sides of the fire that are of most concern. We're watching. We have -- 24 homes have been destroyed to date and 26 outbuildings. And obviously we would like to limit that and keep that as the number. But as a precaution, we want to ensure we have got evacuations on the sides of the fire that are of most concern.
KEILAR: Well, Ken, we see your crews are hard at work there and we certainly wish you luck as you battle this Rocky Fire and also the other blazes in the area. Thanks so much, Ken.
PIMLOTT: Thank you.
KEILAR: And just ahead, there's new urgency, new hope in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, as tests begin on a suspected piece of wreckage.
Plus, republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump making the rounds. Is he trying to lower expectations ahead of the first debate of the 2016 race?
KEILAR: There's new urgency and new hope in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The discovery of a suspected piece of debris from the plane has officials scouring vast new swathes of the ocean for possible wreckage thousands of miles from where this plane is believed to have gone down.
CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is working this story for us.
What are you finding out, Rene?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, tonight, the search expands for anything that resembles a part of an airplane. Regular people are joining in on that search.
Meantime, preparations are under way tonight to determine if that one promising piece discovered last week is a match for MH370.
MARSH (voice-over): Reunion Island shoreline being searched inch by inch, every object that washes ashore scrutinized by investigators looking for parts of the missing Malaysia airliner. The hunt for even more aircraft debris has now expanded to nearby Seychelles and Mauritius islands.
CNN on board a boat with volunteers looking for anything floating at sea that could belong to a plane -- so far, nothing is promising as this find, which officials now confirm is a piece of a Boeing 777's wing.
LIOW TONG LAI, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: It's a Boeing 777 part. But whether it is MH370 or part is yet to be verified. I want to emphasize that has yet to be verified.
MARSH: Wednesday, investigators will begin running tests to verify if it's part of the missing plane. The French lab where the flaperon will be examined has sophisticated equipment and experts to quickly identify which plane it belongs to.
The paint is one of the many things they will examine.
DAVID GALLO, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION: Unfortunately, until we find the main wreckage on the bottom of the ocean, none of the pieces that we find in between now and then are going to solve the riddle or satisfy the government agencies or the families involved.
MARSH: Steve Wang's mother was on board MH370. He tells CNN's Will Ripley he still listens to her last voice-mail. But even if this is confirmed to be part of the missing plane, Wang says it won't bring closure.
STEVE WANG, SON OF PASSENGER: I think the only closure will come at the time when they find the plane and find everybody and find the truth.
MARSH: Malaysian officials and French investigators met today in Paris, ahead of Wednesday's tests, which could ultimately determine if this is the first piece of tangible evidence connected to aviation's biggest mystery.
MARSH: Well, there's a storm system in the area that could hamper the search for more debris. It will be breezy, the water choppy. Oceanographers and our meteorologists say that the ocean will get churned up, but that doesn't necessarily mean that more debris from this potential -- potentially from...
KEILAR: Part of 370, yes.
MARSH: Right. Exactly -- will get washed up.
KEILAR: Yes. Some have said it's like a lightning strike. Maybe it won't strike twice. OK, Rene, stay with us.
We're going to dig deeper on this. Joining us, we have former FBI Assistant Director and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. We have former FAA safety inspector and CNN safety analyst David Soucie, CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien, Geoffrey Thomas. He's the editor in chief and managing director at AirlineRatings.com.
David, give us a sense as you look at this how long it would take for investigators, once they get started here on Wednesday, to determine whether this flaperon is indeed from MH370?
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: That identification piece is going to take a matter of minutes, honestly.
There is an identifying part on it. They have told us there is a serial number and a part number. It's going to start with 113W. That will distinguish to it a 777 and that specific part. The rest of it will take quite some time, though, trying to figure out how it was torn off the aircraft, if it was post- or pre-collision with the water.
KEILAR: Do you have a sense, Miles, of what the search area, how it may change when you're looking at this coming onshore on Reunion Island? You have searchers that are scouring the waters around Mauritius. This is an island about 110 miles east-northeast of Reunion.
There's coast guard you have in the Seychelles, and that's 1,100 miles north of Reunion Island. What do you think happens to this search area?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I do think it should be aggressively searched, Brianna, because there is very likely to be other pieces that are in the general vicinity of this piece. It's hard to imagine just one item of debris coming off of a 777 in a crash like this.
But it's a big ocean, as we have learned from the search of the underwater search off the coast of Australia. Having said that, this is an opportunity I think to get out there and see if there's some other pieces, see if they can shed a little bit more light on the mystery, maybe also help scientists as they try to use those drift models to sort of reverse-engineer where it came from originally.
It's a lot of time and a lot of ocean. So it's very difficult to pinpoint it much more than we know. But it's worth a try.
KEILAR: Tom, this is just one piece. We have been talking about this. It's like a strike of lightning, a lot of experts say. They don't know that more debris might wash up there on Reunion Island. But now you have this search beyond Reunion Island. Does it seem to you that it's coordinated, keeping in mind what's going on in France with the investigation? Do you feel like this is cohesive?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think we haven't heard enough about how they're coordinating the air search. What we expect is that the currents that brought that piece to Reunion have brought other pieces, either in Reunion beaches, to Reunion beaches, or the Seychelles or Madagascar or later on to the shores of Africa.
How many aircraft are available from all these different countries and who's coordinating that effort, I don't think we know enough about that yet to say that it's really well-coordinated or not.
KEILAR: Certainly, it's an important part of this whole process, to make sure that it is.
KEILAR: We saw that in the initial search as well.
Rene, what are you hearing about this investigation? Do you have people who are saying, you know, this is a great sign, maybe it will yield more? Are they trying to say, you know what, this may not, this may just be one little thing and we can't be for sure it leads to other clues?
MARSH: Well, I think most people who you speak to will say, look, in an ideal situation, you need more than this one piece that they have.
But in the absence of any other evidence, they will take this. I just learned a short time ago from a source close to the investigation that, tomorrow, the investigators will all be getting together. They're going to be or they're expected to be talking about the game plan for how they go about examining this one piece of potential evidence potentially connected to MH370.
We know that's happening tomorrow. And then, of course, we know Wednesday, the actual analysis will begin.
KEILAR: Geoffrey, talk to us about the search off of Perth. Some people may look at this, the west coast of Australia, and they will say, but, hey, Reunion Island is quite a ways from this. But we're talking about a current that goes counterclockwise in a circle and so it's very important to look at this wide area.
How are things going in that area of the ocean?
GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, Brianna, absolutely. In fact, before I answer that question specifically, the University of Western Australia in March/April last year, assuming that the plane landed or crashed where we believe it did, predicted that debris would end up on the East Coast of Africa, Reunion Island, Mauritius, around about this time.
It also predicted that debris would end up on the south coast of Australia around as far as South Australia and even as far as Tasmania, because it drifts both ways. But to get back to the actual search itself, it's about 1,800 kilometers, 1,500 miles southwest of Perth. It's on a long line of about 1,000 miles.
And it's about 120,000 square kilometers which is being searched, and they're approximately halfway through that search. They have done about 58,000, 59,000 square kilometers. And they say that if they have to search the entire area of highest interest, it will take them another 12 months.
KEILAR: Another 12 months. That is some timeline.
Geoffrey Thomas, thanks so much for joining us from Australia. Thanks so much to David Soucie, Tom Fuentes, Rene Marsh, and Miles O'Brien as well.
And just ahead, growing signs the vice president, Joe Biden, may be about to join the Democratic race for the White House. Is that going to happen? We don't know. Maybe some signs. There is a move under way to draft him and it's gaining momentum.
Plus, the deadly crime wave sweeping Baltimore in the wake of the Freddie Gray riots or the riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray, it's prompting a rare and dramatic move by federal agents.
KEILAR: All eyes on Donald Trump. The Republican presidential front-runner ahead of the first debate of the campaign in just three days. The questions now: which Republican rivals will share the stage with him, and is Trump himself trying to lower expectations?
CNN's Athena Jones is in Manchester, New Hampshire, where a voter forum is taking place tonight. What's the latest on Donald Trump, Athena?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.
Well, he's leading in yet another poll out today. But while Trump has been winning in the polls, he's also warning his fans and his detractors that he doesn't have any experience on the debate stage, and so he doesn't really know how it's all going to go, come Thursday night.
JONES (voice-over): With the first Republican primary debate just days away...
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): I'm not a debater. I've never debated.
JONES: ... front-runner Donald Trump is making the rounds, trying to lower expectations for his performance. He's also expanding on his critique of President Obama, explaining why he thinks America won't see another black president for generations.
TRUMP: I think that he has set a very low bar, and I think it's a shame for the African-American people. And by the way, he has done nothing for African-Americans.
JONES: All this as Trump leads the GOP pack in recent polls. He's at 26 percent in the Monmouth University poll out today, more than double the support of former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you!
JONES: Trump's favorability numbers are on the rise, with 52 percent of Republicans now saying they view him favorably. That's up from 40 percent three weeks ago.
But when it comes to battling the rest of the field on the debate stage, the typically confident real estate mogul told CBS...
TRUMP: I'm not a debater. I don't stand up and debate like these politicians.
JONES: But he's not afraid of a fight, and Walker, for one, says he's ready.
WALKER: I don't back off of anything.
JONES: Trump's poll position means he's assured a spot at center stage Thursday night when the top ten candidates face off in Cleveland. In fact, the top eight spots appear set, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Texas governor Rick Perry vying for the final two spots, based on CNN's poll of polls.
FOX will decide who's in based on an average of poll standings come tomorrow afternoon.
Christie says he's feeling good about his chances.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll be very happy on Tuesday when the ten names come out and I'm in there.
JONES: With Trump dominating the debate, some candidates are looking for creative ways to get noticed, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz...
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course in Texas, we cook bacon a little differently than most folks. JONES: ... using an online video to showcase his culinary and
CRUZ: Machine gun bacon!
CRUZ: Something you never thought you'd see on TV.
Now, I should mention tonight's forum is a forum. It's not a debate, so candidates will be appearing on stage answering questions one by one. Still, it's a chance for them to practice talking about their policy positions in a concise way.
Trump is skipping tonight's event. One reason he gave was that too many candidates are taking part. And anyway, for his part, he has said that you can't, quote, "artificially prepare" for something like a debate. So it doesn't sound like he's going to be doing any rehearsing ahead of time -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Huh. Maybe not surprising, though. Athena, thank you so much.
I want to get more now with CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny; CNN political reporter Sara Murray; and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. Guys, thanks for being with me to talk about this.
Jeff, you look at this strong standing in the polls that Donald Trump has. How does this affect the entire field going into this very important debate?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, first and foremost, it means he will be center stage quite literally. The leader of the polls is right in the middle. So Jeb Bush will be on one side. Scott Walker will be on the other. So all the attention will be on Mr. Trump from the beginning to the end.
But even beyond that, I mean, he will certainly get the most time. If you're a Mike Huckabee, if you're someone else who happens to be lucky enough to make it to the debate stage on the ends, the best way for you to get the most time is by saying something about Donald Trump, perhaps. So I think -- I think this is going to revolve around him.
One thing to keep in mind, this is essentially a TV show. He is the only one on that stage -- or one of two I guess, Mike Huckabee, as well -- who knows television. He's been on "The Apprentice," other things. So I expect he'll use some of his TV skills.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: How will Donald Trump get used to all this attention?
KEILAR: But speak about that. Because if the candidates who are not doing as well in the polls or even close to doing as well as he is in the polls, can capitalize on having a moment with him, there's -- that's -- it's high risk. It's high reward, perhaps?
CASTELLANOS: It is. And that's a good way to get your fingers burned.
Donald Trump is sucking up all the oxygen, the anti-establishment oxygen, in the room. You don't want to attack that. You want to harness that heat to fuel your engine.
KEILAR: So make an appeal to those disaffected voters rather than attacking the guy they're following?
CASTELLANOS: If you think Donald Trump is not going to make it all the way, you want those voters to end up in your court. So what do you do? You give Donald Trump's message a hug, but you keep your distance from the messenger. You don't want to get into that fistfight. What do you do? You post up against Jeb Bush, who's probably seen as the establishment candidate in this field.
KEILAR: And so how do you do that? How do you -- because that's one of the things I'm looking for with these candidates. How do you channel the allure of Donald Trump? What kind of message do you incorporate if you're a candidate that Donald is working for him?
CASTELLANOS: You say, :Kook, we're all disgusted with Washington. Democrats and Republicans, they don't listen. They don't love us; they don't care. Our country's going down the drain, and they don't do anything. Well, let me tell you. Donald Trump may be right about that, but let me tell you what we're going to do."
And you take the ball from him. And you execute. You say, "Here's how we make real change happen in Washington."
KEILAR: Check out these polls, Sara, that we're seeing. This is the latest Monmouth University poll surveying Republican voters. And it shows just what a lead he has. More than 2-1 over his closest competitor, Jeb Bush. Then there's Walker. And then you've got this basically a big tie with the rest of the guys in this poll. What do you make of these numbers?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that the reality here is this is a big lead. Look, we're talking about a 14- point lead. This is not a within the margin of error thing.
And that also means this isn't just an angry, disaffected, white man vote. We're talking about a Donald Trump who is appealing to more quarters of the Republican Party than I think any of us really expected him to early on.
And so that means you do have to be really careful about how you're attacking him. Because you're not just worried about offending an angry white guy here and there. You're worried about offending 1 in 4 Republican primary voters.
KEILAR: That's a very good point. Why -- why is he seeing this bump? We look at a new FOX News poll. His popularity is growing. It's standing at 26 percent. What is he harnessing that others aren't?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think first and foremost is the attention. I mean, he's getting, as Rand Paul said, I think rightly so last week, "If others of us would get as much attention as Donald Trump, we would be doing better, as well." That's part of it.
But it's what Alex said earlier. It's this outside Washington, this Washington can't do anything right; government can't do anything right. So I think that's why -- if you're a senator on that stage, if you're of Washington, it's a little bit tougher to make the argument. But if you're, you know, Scott Walker, a governor, you can sort of run on Washington.
But Donald Trump, that's exactly what he's been doing. He's just saying, "The whole system's a mess." So people like his bravado and his -- how tall he stands. But don't you think people want specifics from him now? That's what I'm wondering.
CASTELLANOS: Well, it's funny. That might be a trap for Trump, but I kind of doubt it. Because I think Trump can say, you know, "I don't know how to lay bricks, but I build skyscrapers. I'm the get- it-done guy. I might hire some of these turkeys here on the stage to do some of that policy stuff and all that, but it's going to be fantastic. I'm going to build it fantastic."
KEILAR: That's a word I think you might hear. Definitely a word...
CASTELLANOS: As long as he remains the get-it-done guy, he can probably get away without having a lot of policy specifics.
KEILAR: All right, guys. Stay with me. We're going to talk about Joe Biden. Might he get in the race? Certainly, some people close to him, as you've reported, Jeff, want him to. We'll see if the Democratic field might get a little more crowded after a quick break.
[18:44:32] KEILAR: We are watching a potentially huge shakeup in the Democratic race for the White House. Growing pressure on Vice President Joe Biden to challenge Hillary Clinton for the party's nomination.
There's speculation about Biden's plan, and it is ramping up, especially now that a friend and aide to his late son, Beau, has joined the super PAC trying to draft the vice president into the 2016 campaign.
I'm back here now with my political panel to talk about this.
Sara, you look at this recent Quinnipiac University poll, and you see that 57 percent of voters say Hillary Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. Then you look at what they say about Joe Biden, and they say he is, 58 percent of them, almost 6 in 10. And also, this issue of whether he cares about my problems, as voters were asked about that, very important, they overwhelmingly say Biden is, not as much with Hillary Clinton.
Is this sort of the weakness that those around Biden are eyeing?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. So, clearly these are not good numbers for Hillary Clinton. If you are Joe Biden and you are sort of familiar with what it takes to run for president, you can wait a little longer, you can watch these numbers and say, hey, these are looking pretty good for me. This is a reason for me to run.
The one caveat that I would say is, Clinton's numbers were much better before she became a candidate. It's much easier to trust your secretary of state. It's much easier to trust your vice president, than when they become an actual candidate for the presidency. And so, Joe Biden's numbers could take a hit if he decides to get in the race as well.
KEILAR: He could, right? Politics don't always wear well on politicians once they get into campaign mode. We heard in this report from "The New York Times", from Maureen Dowd, that actually Beau Biden, his son who he was so close to who recently died, said that once he realized that he was going to die that he wanted his dad to run.
How much does that matter to the vice president?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And I think it weighs on him incredibly. He was so close to his son, his oldest son. And, of course, he's had so much tragedy in his life. And Beau was there, along with his other son Hunter through all of that back in the '70s when his first wife died. So, Beau is central to his life.
I think something like that must weigh very heavily as it's a central part of his decision-making. The friends and advisers of his that I have spoken to, they say that that is why they really do not know what he's going to do because this is something that's so personal. This is not out of a survey, a public opinion poll. This is something much deeper, more personal.
The question is, how deep was that promise that the vice president made to Beau? So, I think that is something we cannot discount at all.
KEILAR: You said something in the break fascinating to me, Alex, and that's because I've heard a lot of people say, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton would be grabbing from the same pie of voters. They're in the same lane when it comes to their policy positions. But you actually think he could really make a play, a populist play?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I do. There's populist anger burning through both parties. Bernie Sanders for the Democrats, Donald Trump for the Republicans. Hillary doesn't fit that slot very well. But Joe Biden, "Every Guy Joe" who rides the train, who understands my problems? Yes, he could. So, I think there is a vote for him.
KEILAR: You think that he could pull from Bernie Sanders' support, maybe, from some of that -- what is really where the enthusiasm in the party is?
CASTELLANOS: Working Class Joe, that's what the Democratic Party says it's all about.
KEILAR: All right.
ZELENY: Some say on ABC, anybody but Clinton.
KEILAR: That's a very good point.
Sara, Jeff, Alex, thanks so much to all of you.
And just ahead, federal agents embedding with Baltimore police as the city reels from a deadly spike in crime following the riots that came after the death of Freddie Gray. Can this drastic move end the murder epidemic sweeping the city?
[18:52:38] KEILAR: Staggering crime numbers in Baltimore, 45 homicides in July alone. It was the city's deadliest month in more than four decades. Crime has spiked in the wake of the riots following Freddie Gray's death in police custody.
And now, a rare move -- FBI and ATF agents embedding with police in a drastic effort to stem the violence.
CNN's Miguel Marquez has more on this.
Miguel, tell us what prompted officials to announce this latest effort?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, because they had a horrible July and even worse beginning to August. They had nine shootings in the first weekend of August, two of them fatal.
And if you look at the numbers across the entire city, the murder rates up 56 percent. These are as of late July, 94 percent up, the number of nonfatal shootings. If you look at the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested and where the bulk of the riots were, the nonfatal shootings are up 159 percent for the year, the murder rate in that area, up a staggering 175 percent.
It is horrible in Baltimore. Here's how the new police commissioner says they're going to deal with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERIM COMMISSIONER KEVIN DAVIS, BALTIMORE POLICE: We are putting analysts and detectives and prosecutors in a room together to sort out the puzzle pieces of some of these cases in Baltimore, these violent strands where the same people over and over and over again are involved in violent crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Now, two individuals, two agents from each of the following agencies, FBI, DEA, ATF, the Secret Service and the U.S. Marshals, all lending a hand, basically looking for ways to charge people that are already on the radar in Baltimore so that they can get more and more criminals off the street.
KEILAR: Will this, Miguel, actually help control this violence, get it under control?
MARQUEZ: It's going to take a lot more. Look, arrests are still not up to where they were last year. I checked those today. Last July 2014, arrests were about almost 4,000 arrests a month by Baltimore police. They have rebounded a little bit since May. But still, they're just under 2,000 arrests by Baltimore police. They are going to have to get those arrest numbers up, they're going to have to get much more aggressive in policing and they're going to need a lot of help from the feds and everybody across the board -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Miguel Marquez, thanks so much.
I want to get more now with CNN justice reporter Evan Perez. We also have CNN anchor Don Lemon, as well as former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin.
[18:55:00] And we have former FBI assistant director and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.
Evan, to you first. What more can you tell us about this plan? It's pretty unusual, right, embedding federal officers with local police?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Right, it's usually done the other way around, Brianna. Usually, you have local police embedded in task forces run by the feds. And this case, part of what's happening is there's an effort to try to boost the morale there, trying to get the homicide unit in the Baltimore Police Department to realize that they have got the support of the federal government here.
The ATF is also assigned ten agents from around the country to work with the Baltimore Police Department's ceasefire units. These are -- this is a unit of police officers who are basically working in cases targeting about -- roughly about 100, several dozen people who are on the radar, believed to be causing a lot of the violence in this city.
I've got to tell you, Miguel mentioned a little bit of this, but you know, the problem in Baltimore is that people -- criminals in Baltimore have no fear of leaving their home carrying a gun right now.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
PEREZ: It used to be that, you know, if you are a criminal and you had a fear of perhaps a stop and frisk or that you are going to encounter police, that you didn't leave home with a gun.
PEREZ: But now, they are leaving home because they know they are not going to get stopped. And when they have a beef with someone else, they settle it immediately because they have a gun on them.
KEILAR: So, they are operating without limits, Tom.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Exactly right. The major cities have stopped stop and frisk because it offended the community, people didn't like it, the police were racist in using it. And now, just as Evan has said and what the police on the street know in Baltimore and Chicago and New York and Washington is that they are going out the door with their guns, with their knives, and not having the slightest worry that a police officer is going to take it away from them.
Now, this particular movement here to put a handful of federal agents in the Baltimore police department is almost next to worthless. And the reason in the past that we had police officers embed with the FBI and become part of the FBI-run task forces is so we could treat those gangs as mafia gangs, as mafia families use the RICO statute of the federal government, use federal prosecutors, use all the sensitive sophisticated organized crime technique at the FBI's disposal, including wiretaps, uncover operations, checking, monitoring e-mails, all of that, and then identify these people and put them in federal prison -- not put them in a Baltimore jail where the Black Gorilla Family runs the prison.
KEILAR: Don, weigh in on that.
LEMON: Well, you heard, you had the police chief on earlier today, and they said that most of the violent crime is committed by a small group of people who spend hardly any time in jail, and that there needs to be more oversight and changes at the federal level.
So, I don't know if it's worthless what they are doing but I think at this point they have to try something to have as many murders as they have had so far this year exceeding last year.
KEILAR: Sure. And, Sunny, weigh in on that, because I did talk with these two police chiefs earlier. They are having a summit, including prosecutors. Bring that perspective to the table here.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, to be clear, in west Baltimore, this particular area of Baltimore, it has been crime ridden for some time, certainly not to this extent. But I do think that police can act in a way to help prosecutors and also to solve crime without crouching on people's constitutional rights.
And so my sense is that something -- this is a move in the right direction because you have guidance from federal law enforcement, perhaps teaching these detectives things and tool that they haven't used before like the RICO statute and using I think those tools to combat this sort of gang violence which is probably what we are seeing, because the bottom line is Don is right. Generally, when you look at prosecutions of violent crime, it's usually committed by a small group of people within a particular neighborhood, not necessarily every one is committing crime.
So, I think this sort of targeted analysis, targeted policing should be rather effective. I actually disagree with Tom. I don't think this is sort of much ado about nothing. I think when you are talking about streamlining the police department, adding federal -- not oversight but adding federal agents that can teach them how to approach this sort of gang violence in a different way I think that could be a game changer.
KEILAR: Don --
LEMON: It's not just Baltimore. It's happening in cities all across the country if you look at homicide. Crime is down in most cities. But violent crime is on the rise. And that's happening in a lot of cities, not just Baltimore.
KEILAR: All right. Don, Tom, Evan, Sunny, thanks so much to all of you.
Great panel, even though we do have disagreement. That's part of it.
Don, you will be back with much more at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on your program, "CNN TONIGHT".
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom. Be sure to join us tomorrow as well on THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching. I'm Brianna Keilar.
And, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.