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California Fires; Darren Wilson Speaks; Republican Debate Field. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired August 4, 2015 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:03]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: California inferno. Almost two dozen fires are ravaging the state, one of them charring 20 square miles in just five hours. Thousands of people have evacuated as flames close in on their homes. Will they have anything to return to?

Lineup revealed. We're about to learn who will be joining Donald Trump in the highly anticipated first Republican presidential debate just two days from now. Any of his rivals steal the spotlight from the undisputed GOP front-runner?

And Darren Wilson speaks. The former Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown gives a revealing interview. He talks candidly about death threats, his struggle to find a new job and the encounter that changed his life forever. How is Michael Brown's family reacting to his controversial remarks?

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.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We're following breaking news. Al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate calling on followers and would-be jihadis to launch new strikes inside the U.S. A top terror leader offering praise for the lone gunman who killed four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And even more disturbing, what appears to be a rare message from the group's notorious bomb-making wizard. Is his sudden surfacing a signal for sympathizers inside the U.S. to unleash terror rampages?

We're covering this breaking news and more this hour with our correspondents, our expert analysts and our guests.

We want to begin with the chilling new messages from al Qaeda.

CNN's Brian Todd working this story for us.

What are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, tonight, al Qaeda is reasserting itself in two messages from its dangerous affiliate in Yemen. The terror group tries to extend past ISIS' reach to young jihadists. One message is from a notorious bomb-maker whose has targeted America, the other from a seasoned militant who not long ago broke out of a prison in Yemen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The new messages are stunning and stark. Al Qaeda's dangerous wing in Yemen, AQAP, calling for attacks against the United States. In this video released online today, Khalid Batarfi, who has emerged as the top leader in al Qaeda, praises the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks in Paris and the shooting at two military officers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by Mohammad Abdulazeez.

KHALID BATARFI, AL QAEDA (through translator): He penetrated the base, killing and injuring American Marines in a blessed jihadi operation. We ask Allah to accept him and raise his status among martyrs.

TODD: Batarfi call for more lone wolf attacks against America. A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN the tape is legitimate. Batarfi has become a top spokesman for the terror group since his escape from a Yemeni prison this spring.

But what may be more concerning to U.S. intelligence, analysts say, is what appears to be a second even more chilling new message from AQAP's master bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri. In an article linked on Twitter, a writer believed to be al-Asiri tells al Qaeda affiliates, "We urge you to strike America in its own home and beyond." CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the writing, but analysts say it has the hallmarks of the elusive explosives expert.

If real, it would be a striking develop many because intelligence officials say al-Asiri almost never makes public statements. Experts say with up to a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, there must be a reason he would take an enormous risk.

KATHERINE ZIMMERMAN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The concern for Asiri would be that somehow the message would be traceable back to him, whether by courier or some digital stamp inside of the message.

TODD: Intelligence officials say Ibrahim al-Asiri was behind the 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomb plot and the attempt to place bombs in printer cartridges. Both targeted the United States. Both plots failed, but could have killed hundreds. Al-Asiri once even placed a bomb inside the body of his own brother in an attempt to kill Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism chief. The bomb killed his brother, but the minister survived.

ZIMMERMAN: He is able to take family members and use them as bombs. That's something that we would never even conceive of here. That is something that makes him into a threat. He can imagine outside of the Western mind.

TODD: So why would Al-Asiri emerge from the shadows now? Tonight, that could be of real concern to U.S. intelligence, especially when paired with this new al Qaeda video. WILLIAM BRANIFF, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: If there are others who

have learned his craft and remain anonymous, perhaps now they realize that his greatest value isn't remaining clandestine as a bomb-maker, but becoming a public figure who can rally troops.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Analysts say if this message really is from al-Asiri, it is likely an attempt to steal some of ISIS' thunder in the effort to use star power to recruit young terrorists. They say Western intelligence official will be poring over this apparent message for clues to Ibrahim al-Asiri's whereabouts and that it may actually bring criticism on him from other jihadists for the risk it poses to his operational security.

[18:05:05]

Brianna, the jihadists in AQAP do not want this man to leave their ranks.

KEILAR: And they're actually, Brian, under threat inside Yemen now. This plays into their calculations in these messages.

TODD: That's right. AQAP is under threat inside Yemen. Analysts say that ISIS has established a small foothold in Yemen and is competing for recruits there.

Also, the Shia rebel group the Houthis have been challenged AQAP in Yemen. One analyst says the result of all this competition will be more lethal attacks as ISIS and AQAP try to outdo each other.

KEILAR: Brian Todd, thanks so much.

We're also following a huge complication in the Pentagon's plan for fighting ISIS in Syria. Rebel forces trained by the U.S. to take on the terrorists have now been captured by al Qaeda.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on this.

What can you tell us, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brianna.

The Pentagon had wanted to train up to 5,000 so-called moderate Syrian rebels. So far, they have managed to train 54 of them. That group already under attack. Already, some of them are captured and crucial questions being asked about whether this really can and will work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): In Northern Syria, at least five of the initial 54 U.S.-trained Syrian rebels now captured by the al Qaeda affiliate known as al-Nusra. It is near disaster for the U.S. plan to train a rebel force that is supposed to be the boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: That's the main focus of our efforts. But we also want to protect them from other possible attacks.

STARR: The rebels captured after fleeing their compound in the wake of being attacked by al-Nusra. The Pentagon now scrambling to figure out what to do next.

LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF: There is no military logic for putting that small a force in the field. One, they're incredibly vulnerable. And, two, they are certainly not going to attack anybody with just 40 or 50 people out there.

STARR: Senior Pentagon officials privately admit the decision to put the small group of rebels into this area of Northern Syria was a major intelligence failure. The U.S. did not think al Qaeda would attack. They only thought ISIS would. Just a few weeks ago, Defense Secretary Ash Carter did not seem to think this could happen.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: My presumption would be, we assist them from defending themselves from attack. Is that a fair estimate?

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think we have an obligation to do so. You're right. I don't expect that occasion to arise any time soon.

STARR: In Iraq, slow going. More Iraqi troops undergoing training, but little sign they are ready to begin the all-important battle to retake Ramadi from ISIS. It is a must-win.

OLLIVANT: If we don't have an Iraqi success in the next couple months, then we are going to have to start questioning the strategy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And five additional moderate Syrian rebels affiliated with the U.S. also captured by al-Nusra tonight. The Pentagon looking at what options it may have, what obligations it may have to try and help move some of the remaining rebels to safety inside Syria -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

We want to talk more about all of these disturbing developments with CNN national Mike Rogers. He was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. We have CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank and former CIA operative and CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer.

Congressman, first to you. Certainly, you're very familiar with al-Asiri, Ibrahim al-Asiri. He is basically a bomb-making mastermind. The fact that he is alive is a huge development. Tell us more about him. MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is not the first time he has

resurfaced as someone who we thought had met his demise. There was no real proof. There was lots of DNA testing, but it was all inconclusive.

So having him come out in a public way, which he had not done in the past to this level, tells that you they have some serious change of strategy going on in AQAP. The Saudis are putting pressure there. You have ISIS now setting up recruiting camps there, the Houthis are there. It tells me they're under duress and they're changing a little bit of direction.

The reason we're so concerned about him is because he is absolutely obsessed with developing a bomb, either body cavity bomb or underwear bomb, which he has done all, or a package bomb or ink cartridge bomb. He's done all of those things, designed specifically to get on aircraft. And that's what I think people are worried about.

KEILAR: Undetectable explosives. And really he is on the cutting edge of that. If it seems like at times there's intel that he may be gone, that he's been wounded, perhaps he's even killed, how is he able to evade that?

ROGERS: Well, again, they take, in some cases, a strike where there were about 65 individuals all believed to be al Qaeda associates meeting up for a meeting. And that site was struck.

[18:10:08]

They had intelligence information after the fact that he was in that group. And so it is pretty hard to determine it. Normally, even in any type of those airstrikes, would take sometimes days, weeks or months and it would be -- you would have to go through the process of vetting that information to decide if in fact who had been killed and if he was one of the killed. They did have some DNA evidence.

I remember that part as chairman. It was inconclusive at the time which tells you they weren't quite sure. But they also had chatter, intelligence chatter from people who did survive saying, no, no, we think he was there. He was in hiding. He was doing all the things he is supposed to do to avoid detection. Of course, the intelligence community was trying to find out desperately if he was alive. He is a serious target because of his sophistication in his bomb-making.

KEILAR: That's what is interesting, Paul. He is a serious target because he is a mastermind when it comes to trying to figure out ways to use PETN for undetectable bombs. So by him coming out in this video, you make this point, he is really putting himself at risk.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think it is a rather big surprise that he's come out with this written statement in the past few days. He's taking a very big risk in doing this, because presumably, he would need some kind of courier to transport this message. And of course, the CIA got bin Laden by tracking couriers. And

he actually admits it in the statement that he will be criticized by some jihadis for breaking this operational security. And the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies will be poring over this statement. It is several pages long -- for clues about his whereabouts. It, for example, suggests that he is in a rural area rather than a city, Brianna.

KEILAR: You have this message, Bob, from Asiri. You have AQAP releasing a new video today urging more "Charlie Hebdo"-style attacks.

Do you see this as AQAP competing with ISIS for possible recruits? We have heard that theory, certainly, from, for instance, Senator Tom Cotton.

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I agree totally, Brianna. This is competition. The Islamic State has got territory, has got a country, it is surviving.

But right now, Yemen is broken up into pieces and Asiri has essentially its own country. There is no central government there. So he is planting the flag. One way is to plant is to go public, just as the Islamic State did. Another way to plant it is to actually succeed in hitting an American target, whether it is an airplane or getting a lone wolf attacker to strike in this country.

Yes, it is competition.

KEILAR: So you don't -- and I wonder if you see any -- perhaps, if you see this competition, does this work into the U.S.' favor or not?

BAER: Well, we're a ways so far behind in the Middle East. You have Yemen. There is nothing to be done with it. The intelligence on the ground there is nonexistent.

Asiri and these other people in AQAP have learned to beat drones and learned to beat intercepts and the rest of it. They're very good at it. They can hide. They have got mountains. We are not winning in the Middle East the war against takfiri Islam, these crazies.

The question is can they hit the United States? Now is not the time to go into panic mode because these guys have not established serious networks in this country. I don't think we're under imminent attack. But again it is always the lone wolf which we can't account for.

KEILAR: Congressman, there is a report in "The New York Times." We see the Obama administration officials are split over who is more dangerous to U.S., ISIS or AQAP or al Qaeda? What do you think?

ROGERS: Well, two different strategies by two different groups. Remember, they have the same goals and desires and political aims and they were at one time the same group.

The ISIS threat is real here and I think why you hear from FBI agents that they're worried about it because we know we had so many open cases by the FBI in every major field office in America for ISIS sympathizers. That is always a risk, that homegrown radicalization nudged on by ISIS to do a very low technical type attack in the United States. You have seen the level of arrests.

On the other hand, al Qaeda loves these very sophisticated, spectacular events, blowing up an airplane. That's what you worry about. If they are in fact competition, I believe they are, which is why he is so public. He is the last mystery figure in AQAP that can be shown to have beaten the West. That tells you that they're serious about performing another sophisticated attack.

Two different things. You cannot say one is more than the other. It is two different styles and two different techniques to beat them.

KEILAR: Both dangerous in different ways.

Congressman Mike Rogers, thank you so much. Paul Cruickshank, Bob Baer, thanks to you as well.

[18:15:02]

And just ahead, the fire emergency that is unfolding over hundreds of square miles in California, we will go live to the biggest and most destructive blaze that is burning as we speak.

And he's the undisputed front-runner. But which other GOP candidates will face with Donald Trump in this week's first presidential debate? We're about to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:15]

KEILAR: Breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The final lineup for the first presidential debate being revealed this hour. The first face-off will feature only the top polling candidates, while a separate debate will be held for the second-tier White House hopefuls.

Dana Bash and our other political experts are here poring over the list. I want to bring in our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash with the list. She is sitting next to Jeff Zeleny, our senior Washington correspondent, and Ron Brownstein, one of our political contributors.

You have got it in your hand. Tell us about it.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK. Let's go through it.

Number one is the front-runner we have been talking just a little bit about, Donald Trump. Next, Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. Scott Walker, the sitting governor of Wisconsin. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas. New to politics, Ben Carson, who is a neurosurgeon. Ted Cruz, senator from Texas. Marco Rubio, senator from Florida. Rand Paul, senator from

Kentucky. And two sitting governors, Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich from Ohio. And it is that 10th slot that is kind of the upset, if you will, because Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, the longest serving governor in Texas history, was very much hoping to be on this debate stage for a whole host of reasons, but most recently because he was the guy who was being most adamant and most vocal about taking on Donald Trump as a cancer on conservatism.

He is not going to be able to be on the stage with him now.

KEILAR: Any surprises to you guys in this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Rick Perry is the biggest surprise. And as you said, Dana, he's the longest serving Republican governor in Texas. He ran for president before. He's not alone.

Rick Santorum, the former senator of Pennsylvania, also ran for president in 2012, was the last man standing to Mitt Romney. Lindsey Graham has been around forever. The reality is, it's just too many people running. This is how it is.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I wouldn't say surprises, given, as Jeff said, the candidates like Perry and Santorum have been trouble tracking notice and support all the way through, but significant I think that the last two slots, and the kind of validation that comes with that, go to candidates more from the centrist wing of the party, Chris Christie and John Kasich, as opposed to alternatives like Perry and Santorum from the more conservative side.

Christie and Kasich are candidates to the extent they succeed are more likely to take votes away from Bush than they are from Trump, Walker, Huckabee, that side of the party.

KEILAR: Could this be the beginning of the end for Rick Perry? Or might he because ends up in this earlier debate ahead of time, where he is not competing with Donald Trump, have a chance to shine?

What do you think?

ZELENY: I think he could have a chance to shine. I do not think it is not the end for Rick Perry at all.

Debates obviously are not his strong suit. At least they were not in 2012. But I see a different Rick Perry this time. He's been preparing, studying up. He seems much more prepared for this than he did in 2012. I think that 5:00 debate offers a lot, kind of a clutter-free environment, if you will, to put forward your message. And that could be good for Rick Perry or Lindsey Graham or even Bobby Jindal. It is far, far, far too early in August to say who the final 10 will be.

BASH: And, remember, the people who will be in the sort of kids table, if you will, these are like serious people, most of whom have pretty outstanding resumes. In any other year, it would be unheard of for the senior senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, not to be there or the sitting senator from Louisiana, and you go on down on the list.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: And the only woman in the GOP presidential field.

BASH: And an Indian American in Bobby Jindal.

BROWNSTEIN: In terms of thinking about what this will mean in the long run, despite all the activity, the enormous activity of going -- this is one of the highest levels we have seen in the year before the voting.

I have been covering the races since '84 and there's really been very few where you have had this level of intensity. I still think we are beyond where the voters are. I think there's still a lot of room much later when the weather is colder for opinions to change and many of the things happening now are probably not set in concrete.

The idea that a Rick Perry or Rick Santorum should look at this and say, I'm done, we're way ahead of that.

KEILAR: Maybe not.

So Donald Trump says not going to punch. I'm only going on counterpunch. I know there are so many advisers to these candidates who are saying, look, guys, don't get in it with him. But I struggle to believe there isn't going to be some kind of moment. What do you think?

ZELENY: I think that's what we always look for in these debates, some kind of moment, if it is scripted or unscripted.

Every candidate will all be coming to that stage with a potential barb, I think, perhaps humor. I think we will see humor being used to the extent they can pull it off. But, sure, I think -- but beyond Trump, I think Jeb Bush, who will be standing right next to him, he may get more of the sort of jabs as well.

We have already heard Scott Walker say we need a fresh face. I think we will hear some more things like that. But I think Donald Trump is the person I'm watching for. Does he come as boardroom Donald Trump? I think he might.

[18:25:00]

BASH: The last hour, you and I talked about kind of the number one thing for most of these candidates is do no harm.

I believe it was the first debate of the last cycle that Tim Pawlenty, who everybody thought was going to be this breakout star, it was the beginning of the end.

(CROSSTALK) KEILAR: Fizzle.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: He fizzled and he dropped out like the next day after CNN's debate.

It was primarily because he didn't take it to the candidate who he was talking about from the stump to his face. If the moderators sort of set this up as, OK, Jeb Bush, let's hear what you have to say about Donald Trump, if he doesn't do it...

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: It is a moment to be seized.

Jeff, I want to ask you about Jeb Bush, because he is taking some heat, is that right, over a comment he made about women's health?

ZELENY: He is taking some heat from the Hillary -- the Clinton campaign this afternoon for a comment he made this afternoon at an evangelical forum.

He was talking about -- the whole Planned Parenthood debate is such a big issue right now in this Republican primary. And he sort of had -- it sounded a bit like a dismissive comment about the funding for women's health programs.

So her campaign and she herself tweeted immediately afterward that it was an outrageous comment. He has tried to clean it up a little bit. The context here is that should money to go Planned Parenthood or should it go to other agencies that provide reproductive services, but not abortion services?

So he is taking some controversy from her. But in the Republican primary, let's be clear. It is a fine thing for him to say.

KEILAR: But he keeps doing this, Ron, because, remember, he was talking about part-time workers. He meant to be talking about part- time workers who want more hours and he was talking about Americans should be working longer hours. Hillary Clinton jumped all over him for that.

BROWNSTEIN: This is a candidate last on the ballot, what, in 2002?

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: He is rusty.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: It is not only very difficult to begin with. It has gotten immeasurably more difficult over that period, as the entire pace has accelerated. And I think for Jeb Bush, that is one reason why this debate is

important. Despite Trump's surge in the polls, I think most Republican professionals still consider Jeb Bush the nominal front- runner. But I think these concerns about his skills as a candidate are very real. He has an important debate tomorrow to begin to reassure voters -- kind of professionals that he can handle it at this level.

KEILAR: I watched Jeb Bush in the forum last night, Dana. This was a less pressured situation than we will see on Thursday. He seemed really nervous. He seemed to kind of stumble through some of his answers. What does he need to do on Thursday?

BASH: Be comfortable. What, let Jeb be Jeb. But the question is, is he the guy who told me on the streets of Estonia this past summer that -- this summer, I should say -- that he is an introvert?

Well, if you're an introvert, standing next to the biggest extrovert who has ever run for office on the planet, you know, it might be difficult. And I think that's what you saw in that forum last night.

KEILAR: It is time to come out of your shell, Jeb Bush, might be sort of the message, at least from what we saw last night. What are you guys hoping to see? What are you looking for?

BROWNSTEIN: I think to me the big question is Trump, because the conundrum of Donald Trump is that what has worked to deepen his attachment to the disaffected component of the Republican electorate threatens to put a ceiling on his support and kind of raise doubts in the broader Republican coalition about whether he is plausible as a nominee, much less a president.

The question is does he kind of double down on this very aggressive and kind of impolitic language or does he try to become someone who more people can imagine actually as the party nominee?

KEILAR: Real quick, what do you want to -- what are you looking for?

ZELENY: For Scott Walker, I think it is a pretty high bar as well. He's been on the stage a lot in Wisconsin. We don't yet know how he performs on a national stage with foreign policy issues and other things. So I think Scott Walker has a bit of a burden here tonight -- or Thursday night as well.

KEILAR: On Thursday night. It will be a big day.

Dana Bash, Jeff Zeleny, Ron Brownstein, thanks so much, you guys.

And just ahead, the former police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, speaks out in a surprisingly candid interview.

Plus, 20,000 acres burned in just five hours. We will be going live to California for the latest on the unfolding fire disaster. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: The former Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown speaking out now in a revealing new interview. Darren Wilson talks candidly about death threats he's received, his struggle to find a new job and more.

[18:34:05] I want to talk about this with CNN anchor Don Lemon, as well as former legal -- federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin. And here with me in Washington, former FBI assistant director and CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.

Don, this is interesting. You get a sense of Darren Wilson. He's interviewed over several days at his home. I also know that you have spoken with Darren Wilson and his now wife on a number of occasions, as well.

In addressing whether he had ever reflected on what kind of person Michael Brown was, whose death will be one year ago this Sunday, Wilson said, quote, "Do I think about who he was as a person? Not really. Because it doesn't matter at this point." Your reaction to that?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It sounds harsh on paper. And it's a harsh comment. But -- and I'm not defending Darren Wilson here. But he goes on to say that "I met him for just a few minutes, and he was trying to kill me." It's probably not the best thing to say, considering the position that he's in and that, you know, for the family.

But oftentimes, when you read something in print, if you do a magazine article, it's hard to get a context of what it is and everything in one statement. I think a television interview would probably have been better, because you could see his facial expressions. You could also get more -- more in the interview. But in print it sounds really harsh.

KEILAR: And Sunny, Wilson also said in his job as a police officer that it wasn't to serve as a psychologist. He said, quote, "to delve into people's lifelong history and to figure out why they're feeling a certain way in a certain moment."

He seems to be talking -- he is talking about sort of just this idea, I think, of how at odds many in Ferguson felt under -- when it came to the police, when it came to historical references to police. But do you think that Darren Wilson really understands the controversy that he is still very much in the center of?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he understands the controversy very well. And I think that his interview exemplifies all that's wrong with policing of African-American communities by those that have disdain and disrespect for those communities.

Not only does he say that he's not there to be a psychologist for the communities, he says other things like, that young people use the legacy of racism as an excuse. He says that what happened to his great-grandfather is not happening to him, so he can't base his actions off of what happened to him. He says he can't fix in 30 months what happened 30 years ago. He's not going to try...

LEMON: Thirty minutes.

HOSTIN: Thirty minutes ago, rather. He's not going to delve into people's lifelong history.

I mean, he has this clear disdain for the communities that he policed asked the communities that he worked with and he was supposed to serve and protect. Quite frankly, in reading the article, I thought to myself, Brianna, "My God. This is the problem with the state of policing in our country today."

KEILAR: Tom, you have the experience of being on the streets in law enforcement. What's your perspective here?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I was just going to say, in that article, when I read, and especially discussing his field training officer, McCarthy from Jennings, I don't hear disdain. I hear someone that did community policing. He played basketball and tried to talk with and relate to the students. He did other thing.

HOSTIN: What? My gosh.

FUENTES: When he was in Jennings before that department was dissolved.

As far as his opinion of Brown, Brown -- in a span of 45 seconds, Brown attacked him twice. And the fact that he has death threats now, witnesses who the FBI later found that begged the FBI to keep their name secret said, "We saw the entire incident. Brown did attack Wilson while he was sitting in the police car, when he got shot in the hand. Brown did turn around and attack him a second time when he finally was fatally shot. And we would rather our names not become public, because we fear that something will happen to us."

So he's not out of line in being fearful for his life when witnesses are fearful for their lives if they tell the truth that contradicted the witnesses that first came out that were lying.

HOSTIN: Brianna, I have to comment. I'm not quite sure which article Tom Fuentes read. But you know, what he -- what Darren Wilson does say about his time in 2009 in the Jennings Police Department, which was shuttered amidst a lot of allegations of institutional racism, I might add, he says he describes feeling intimidated, unprepared. He also says he'd never been in an area where there was that much poverty. And in my view, in my reading, he definitely describes this "us versus them" mentality in the Jennings Police Department. And so you know...

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: He also asks his field training officer to "Help me. I want to learn. I want to be able to relate to the people in the community here. I want to be able to talk to these kids." So this isn't somebody that went in there...

HOSTIN: But he didn't -- he didn't succeed in that. Because he talks about his time in Ferguson, and he says basically the same exact thing. That he's not there to be a psychologist. He's not there to understand the people that he's policing. So...

LEMON: But Sunny, if you're going to -- if there is...

HOSTIN: Let's call it what it is.

LEMON: Yes, OK. But if there's any credit to be given here, is at least you can credit him for being honest about what he experienced, even if you think it is racist or not, whatever. However you form your opinion. You should at least give him credit for being honest about what he saw.

HOSTIN: I don't think I need to give him credit at all for...

LEMON: And then now -- and now one can learn...

HOSTIN: ... his disdain and disrespect for the community he was policing.

LEMON: One can learn from that...

HOSTIN: He gets no credit from me.

LEMON: Sunny, please let me finish. And now one can learn, or you and everybody else can learn what it's like to be an officer there and if there is indeed a disconnect, as he is saying there, as you are rightfully saying. There is a disconnect there.

And that is a problem again with -- sometimes with print. Because you can take certain quotes, and then people come to -- you know, they decide whatever they want it to mean. That's why I think that this article was a bad idea for him. If he wanted to come off as human, and I think that's what this article was about, he probably should have done it in another venue and another form so that you could get some context and some nuance.

Because when you pull those quotes like that, you see he's saying one quote and he sounds flippant. And then everybody is left to figure out what it is.

Yes, there probably is a disconnect there. Yes, he probably does not understand what it's like for -- to be in certain communities. Is there some racism there? Maybe so. Is it overt? I'm not so sure that it's overt, but I think at this point he's being honest about it.

HOSTIN: The Justice Department found that there were significant...

LEMON: With the department. But they also found...

HOSTIN: ... problems with the department that he was a part of, Don. LEMON: Yes.

HOSTIN: And it's very clear during his interview, which is several pages long, over several days, that he was being transparent. And in that transparency, it is very clear that he had disdain and disrespect for the very people in the community he was supposed to serve.

LEMON: OK. Fine, Sunny. You're arguing something -- again, you're arguing something that I'm not arguing. That's a straw man argument.

Yes, he was -- there was racism found. I'm not -- I'm not going to argue with that, and it's absolutely true. But he has also been exonerated twice. And so he was found to have done nothing wrong in that situation. Whether he is racist or not, that's a whole other thing.

But for Darren Wilson to say, "You know, I don't really know how to feel about Mike Brown, because in the moment, he tried to kill me." That's what the evidence shows so far for him. Unless something else comes out, that's what it shows. That was his interaction with Mike Brown.

He probably could have said it nicely. He probably could have taken the family into consideration. He probably could have taken into consideration that somebody died. But for now, that's what the evidence sadly shows.

HOSTIN: Look, Don, the people tell you...

FUENTES: Michael Brown -- Michael Brown committed three violent acts in the span of ten minutes. The first one in the grocery store, where he shoved that clerk that was about half his size. And then two separate attacks on Officer Wilson. That's ten -- I mean, three violent acts in ten minutes.

HOSTIN: We are talking about, in my view, Darren Wilson's perspective as a former police officer in the Ferguson Police Department. And in his -- and in that interview, his perspective, I think, is emblematic of the issues that we are seeing across our country.

Law enforcement officers do not understand the communities that they are supposed to be policing. They do not understand or have empathy, sympathy, any -- they have disdain for those that they are supposed to serve and protect. And this article is a clear, clear example of everything that is wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Help me out about that, because you say -- you say there is disdain. He did seek out the help of this Officer McCarthy, who was very close to the community in Jennings, a nearby community where Wilson served before going to Ferguson.

HOSTIN: That's right.

KEILAR: And he sought him out, and he said that he was able to relate to everyone. And you have McCarthy saying, "Darren was probably the best officer that I've ever trained. Just his willingness to learn."

He said that Wilson came to him and said, "Mike, I don't know what I'm doing. This is a culture shock. Would you help me? Because you obviously have that connection, and you can relate to them." And I'm quoting there. He said, "You may be white, but they still respect you. So why can they respect you and not me?" And that they would actually walk the beat together.

And that he was -- he said that Wilson was more comfortable on the streets after they did this. You know, in all of our conversations over the last several months, isn't this the aim of what police departments should be doing, trying to...?

LEMON: You just said what I was trying to say there. You're just saying what I'm trying to say there.

HOSTIN: That certainly, Brianna, is the aim. We want our police officers not to have this "us and them" mentality. We want our police officers to understand the communities in which they police.

But, while Officer -- ex-Officer Wilson does say all of those things, he wanted to understand the community. He also said that he didn't understand the community. He said that he felt intimidated and unprepared. He says that he isn't interested in fixing the community. I mean, you know, it is very clear, again in my view, that while he may have tried, he certainly didn't succeed.

FUENTES: And you give him no credit for even trying? You just say he had disdain for the community.

KEILAR: And you guys...

FUENTES: He worked hard to relate.

HOSTIN: And he still has it.

KEILAR: You guys, I am so sorry. I'm going to have to cut you off as you agree to disagree here. Sunny, Don, Tom, appreciate it.

LEMON: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Next, this is what we'll talk about. Thousands of people fleeing a wildfire, a vast wildfire.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:48:57] KEILAR: Thousands of firefighters battling flames in California. That's where we find CNN's Paul Vercammen, northwest of Sacramento -- Paul. PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, a lot of

optimism here in northern California. If you have very good eyesight, you might even be able to see slight rain drops, we have cooler temperatures. The humidity way up and no devilish winds right now.

We also do have an update related to another northern California, it was last week in Modoc County that Dave Rule (ph), who's from the Black Hills National Forest, the captain, he was out scouting fire. They now have revealed an autopsy that said he died of carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation.

Back here on the biggest of the fires, the Rocky Fire, they are doing a great job today of getting it under control and they are getting help from this weather. As we said, slight rain, Mother Nature cooperating.

And then, earlier, we saw something in California, Brianna, you might appreciate. Tule elk out grazing in between the burn areas, and perhaps that is a very good omen of things to come here in fire- ravaged northern California.

[18:50:02] Back to you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Let's hope. It is a beautiful scene there. But, certainly, we know firefighters are keeping their eyes on things.

Paul Vercammen, thank you so much.

Breaking news ahead: Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump learns who will share the stage with him at the first GOP debate. Can Trump maintain his lead as the spotlight gets hotter?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:55:03] KEILAR: We're following the breaking news: the announcement of the final lineup for the debate this Thursday. Donald Trump will be in the spotlight as he surges in the polls.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman.

What's the latest with Trump, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Bri? That's what everyone is asking, because the simple truth is when we roared into the Republican race, many D.C. insiders thought he was a joke and now, the joke is on them. And the headlines, topping the polls and now center stage in the first debate, it is Trump, Trump, Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Donald Trump is dominating the race like no one else on the Republican side. And he's doing it while violating almost every rule of politically correct campaigning.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They are rapist. FOREMAN: He has infuriated some minorities, insulted some women.

TRUMP: She wanted to breast pump in front of me. I thought it was terrible.

FOREMAN: He summarily dismisses his opponents' plans as all talk.

TRUMP: I don't talk about it, I get it done.

FOREMAN: And he goes directly after anyone that opposes him attacking the media.

TRUMP: 202 --

FOREMAN: Giving out Lindsey Graham's phone number, mocking war hero John McCain --

TRUMP: I like people that weren't captured, OK?

FOREMAN: That was so far beyond the pale that even Democrat Hillary Clinton came to the defense.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's shameful.

FOREMAN: But look at the results. In May, polls had Trump at 3 percent. By June, he was in the teens, July saw him still rising, and now, he has a whopping 23 percent in CNN's latest poll of polls, leaving all the other GOP contenders in the dust trying to explain what is happening in their own party.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this is a temporary sort of loss of sanity.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anybody can do well for a month in this business, especially if you have talent and you have personality. The Donald has both those things.

FOREMAN: It is a measure of his impact that more than a dozen other GOP candidates participated in a forum in New Hampshire talking about their issues, professional and private.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My dad is probably the most perfect man alive.

FOREMAN: And almost every article covering the event began by asking, where is Trump?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: It didn't even matter that they knew he wasn't going to participate. That became the headline and that really is the culmination of this decision tonight that he's going to be in the middle of this debate. When you think about it, there are many people who said all along that he would fail to this point, that he would fail miserably in a general election, but he's been able to spin everything into gold at this primary battle, even to the point that when Gawker published his phone number, he turned around and put an election message on it so anybody who called would get him saying, "Hey, I'm Donald Trump vote for me."

I'm telling you, Brianna, in political terms, he's turned this town on its head and he will get the reward of that by standing right in the middle of the discussion when the first debate comes up.

KEILAR: Sure has. Tom Foreman, thank you.

Let's turn now to a special report airing tonight. It's been five years since 33 Chilean miners were trapped half a mile under ground in a collapsed mine.

CNN's Rosa Flores is looking back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rescuers take several hours to pull up the bit.

LAURENCE GOLBORNE, FORMER MINING MINISTER: The hammer came out with a cross painted in red, and I said to one of them, it's painted. They said, yes, that wasn't there. Are you sure? Yes, Minister, I'm beep sure that there wasn't anything. And then in the hammer, there was tied a plastic bag with a message inside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Rosa Flores joining us now.

You have heard some new details about this rescue. Tell us.

FLORES: You know, this is such an emotional story, Brianna, and so these men allow us into their homes and they tell us about this amazing feat. First of all, surviving 69 days under ground, 17 of those days before the world even knew that they were alive, so they are down there, they're starving, and they have murky water that they are drinking.

And then, one day that happens, what you just saw, when the world knows these men are alive. And so, the world is watching that these men are being rescued, one at a time and, Brianna, for a moment in time, that rescue is actually on a replay. We reveal what happened during this special.

KEILAR: Wow. We will watch. Rosa Flores, thanks so much.

CNN Special Report, "A MINER MIRACLE: FIVE YEARS AFTER THE CHILEAN RESCUE". It airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

Thanks so much for watching. I'm Brianna Keilar in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.