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Trump Rising; Grand Slam; Bernie Sanders Surging; Pentagon Probing Allegations of Skewed ISIS Intelligence; Former Tennis Star Roughed Up by NYPD. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired September 10, 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: Can Trump continue to fend off his closest challengers?
Burning up the polls. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders makes a dramatic surge in Iowa, where he's now in a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton, whose campaign is being forced to look for new strategies. This hour, I get Sanders' reaction on developments even he is now calling stunning.
Skewed intelligence? New allegations that ISIS assessments by the U.S. military were altered to paint a better picture of the war against the terrorist forces. What will a Pentagon investigation reveal?
And grand slam. A former U.S. tennis star tackled, slammed to the ground, and handcuffed in a botched sting operation by the New York City police force. Now James Blake is speaking out and officials are apologizing. Who's at fault?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump strengthening his front-runner status and passing a major milestone in our brand-new CNN/ORC poll. He's now the first GOP candidate to top 30 percent, adding eight points to his lead nationwide since August. Now some of his rivals are stepping up their attacks on Trump as he's lobbing new verbal bombshells at him, all of this just six days ahead of the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in California, now shaping up to be a fierce face-off.
We're covering all that and much more this hour with our correspondents and our guests.
Let's begin with the escalating war of words among the Republican hopefuls.
Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash is joining us with the latest details -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the top two candidates are questioning each other's faith in God. Now a third is calling the front-runner an egomaniacal narcissist, that as Donald Trump continues to defy political convention and gravity, reaching new heights.
BASH (voice-over): Donald Trump is surging to a new lead, 32 percent, and is on the attack against his second-place rival Ben Carson.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Very low-key. Frankly, he looks like -- he makes Bush look like the Energizer Bunny.
BASH: After saying Carson was too nice to criticize, Trump pushed back when Carson questioned his faith.
TRUMP: I cannot hit him.
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't in any way deny my faith in God. And I think that probably is a big differentiator.
BASH: Trump counterpunched.
TRUMP: Ben Carson, you look at his faith, and I think you're not going to find so much. And you look at his views on abortion, which were horrendous. And that's I think why I'm leading with all of the evangelicals.
BASH: CNN/ORC's new poll does have Trump on top with evangelicals, 32 percent, and Carson not far behind at 28 percent.
TRUMP: Who is he to question my faith when I am -- he doesn't even know me. I have met him a few times. But I don't know Ben Carson. He was a doctor, perhaps an OK doctor.
BASH: To be sure, Carson is a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon who pioneered separating conjoined twins.
Trump is also getting into trouble again talking about women's appearances, quoted in a new "Rolling Stone" article as saying this when seeing Carly Fiorina on TV. "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that the face of our next president?"
The brash billionaire tried to clarify on CNN this morning.
TRUMP: The statement on Carly, I'm talking about her persona. Her persona is not going to be -- she's not going to be president.
BASH: Fiorina's strategy is to not take the bait, saying instead she's getting under his skin. Yet another candidate unleashed on Trump today.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reality of Donald Trump, however, is absurd. He's non-serious. He's a carnival act.
BASH: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, struggling in the polls, threw a political Hail Mary.
JINDAL: I have enjoyed him as a reality TV show star, but just because a lot of people like watching Kim Kardashian, we wouldn't put her in the White House either. He's an unserious, unstable, narcissistic egomaniac.
BASH: The only thing worse than getting hit by Donald Trump is not getting his classic counterpunch when you do hit first.
Trump's statement responding to Bobby Jindal was devastating in how tame it was. He said -- quote -- "I only respond to people that register more than 1 percent in the polls." Wolf, he continued by saying, "I never thought he had a chance and I have been proven right." Ouch.
BLITZER: All right, ouch indeed. Stand by, we will get back to you in a moment, Dana.
On the Democratic side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says he is stunned by the dramatic surge in a new Quinnipiac University poll. He's up 21 points in Iowa from two months ago and now edges Hillary Clinton in that critical first caucus state.
Let's go to our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. She is in Ohio, where Hillary Clinton has been campaigning.
What is the latest on the Democratic side, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it really is absolutely stunning. When you take a look at those numbers, the Quinnipiac poll showing that Sanders is neck and neck with Hillary Clinton, now at 41 percent in Iowa, 40 percent for Hillary Clinton, 12 percent for Biden. He hasn't even announced that he's jumping in. And 3 percent for Martin O'Malley.
That's 21 points down for Hillary Clinton despite the fact she does better with women, she does better in dealing with leadership and international issues. Where she lags and suffers is honesty and trustworthiness.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It wasn't easy. It never is easy.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): In Ohio, Hillary Clinton sticking to her message of helping women and families get ahead. But in the Democratic horse race, Clinton risks falling behind. A new Quinnipiac poll shows progressive underdog Bernie Sanders has caught up to Clinton in Iowa.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want me to tell you the truth? Yes, I'm stunned.
MALVEAUX: Sanders already leads Clinton in New Hampshire, putting her in danger of losing the first two early voting states.
SANDERS: If you come to the rallies that we hold, what you're going to see is a lot of working-class people. You're going to see a lot of young people. I think I can do a good job in expanding the voter turnout.
MALVEAUX: Clinton facing more bad news today, as a former aide who worked for her at the State Department walked into a congressional hearing and walked out 21 minutes later, pleading the Fifth instead of testifying about managing Clinton's private server.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He has a right to not answer questions that he thinks may incriminate him and you have a right to glean whatever inference you want.
MALVEAUX: Clinton has found herself losing ground in early states once before, in 2008. And once again she's trying to turn things around, taking aim at her rivals, particularly Donald Trump.
CLINTON: There is one particular candidate who just seems to delight in insulting women every chance he gets. I have to say, if he emerges, I would love to debate him.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MALVEAUX: And pitching herself as a rare deal-maker in today's politics.
CLINTON: I get accused of being kind of moderate and center. I plead guilty. I think sometimes it's important when you're in the elected arena, you try to figure out how do you bring people together to get something done, instead of just standing on the opposite sides yelling at each other.
MALVEAUX: Sanders' response to that?
SANDERS: I am a proud progressive.
MALVEAUX: And so read moderate as electable, Wolf. That is what she is trying to say. It was a relatively small crowd for the venue, but it's very specific. It was women for Hillary. It's really addressing the issues that resonate with women, she believes, reproductive rights, child care, equal pay, things like that, trying to win over the moderates, the independents, and those young families, the females that she desperately needs, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thank you.
Let's get some on what is going on.
Joining us, our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Jeff, I want to play this exchange I had with Senator Bernie Sanders. He's now significantly ahead, according to one poll, in New Hampshire, and now he's ahead slightly, at least numerically, in Iowa as well. And we talked about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We've had many conversations over these months. You must be stunned. And be honest, be honest, that you're ahead in Iowa. You're ahead in New Hampshire. This other Monmouth University poll in New Hampshire has you up by nine points in New Hampshire, now up one point, according to this Quinnipiac poll in Iowa.
SANDERS: So, you want me to tell you the truth.
BLITZER: Tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
SANDERS: Yes, I'm stunned. Look, we have a message that I believe -- I believed, from day one, was going to resonate with the American people. And the message is there's something wrong in this country when the great middle class continues to disappear.
Almost all new income and wealth goes to the top 1 percent, when millions of families cannot afford to send their kids to college, when we're not addressing the planetary crisis of climate change.
And, Wolf, a huge issue out there, we have a corrupt campaign finance system as a result of Citizens United, where billionaires are able to buy elections. The American people are saying, no, this is not the kind of country we want to be. So, I thought that those issues would resonate. But did I think they would resonate as quickly as they have? The answer is no.
BLITZER: Could you really see yourself as being president of the United States?
SANDERS: Increasingly, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Great moment.
BLITZER: He admits, Jeff, he himself was stunned at how well he's doing.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Sure.
And if this is the year of authentic politicians, if that's what people are craving, it doesn't get much more authentic than that. He was very almost childlike, so excited that he was being -- he's being taken seriously.
But the polls are little bit lagging behind here. Bernie Sanders knows that he's doing well. Just look at the size of his crowds across the country, tens of thousands of people now, if you add them up, hundreds of thousands of people. But in Iowa as well, in New Hampshire as well, people like what he's saying.
This is happening all at the same time when Hillary Clinton has been having problems, so these things are interrelated, of course. But I'm still struck by when you talk to Sanders voters they're more pro-Sanders than anti-Clinton. They like his message. Elizabeth Warren decided not to run. Bernie Sanders ran. He has that same energy.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Has he pledged to only serve one term yet, 74 years old?
ZELENY: He's not. He's not.
BLITZER: Yes, but he says he's in great physical shape, he feels very strong, and, what, Joe Biden is 72 years old, Donald Trump 69, Hillary Clinton's about to be 68. They're all not necessarily spring chickens.
Let's talk a little bit about the Democratic establishment right now. Are they beginning, at least some elements of it, beginning to sense that maybe Bernie Sanders could get the Democratic presidential nomination?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think. I still don't think so, really. I think that they still see Bernie Sanders as someone who will pull Hillary Clinton perhaps to the left, although she really already has been.
I think at this point the money is very much behind Hillary Clinton. She is a behemoth when it comes to the money, when it comes to the backing of the Democratic establishment. But if you're Bernie Sanders, and he says he's stunned. It takes me back to the beginning before he even said he was going to run. He wasn't planning on running unless he saw a pathway to run.
A lot of people, really even though he got in the race, didn't think that he had one. So, you know, if I were him, I would be pretty impressed with myself right now. This must be a pretty heady experience, when you're really the one believing that you can do something and initially no one else believed that you could.
BORGER: He's an outsider. He's an outsider and this is the year of the outsider. If you look at the Republican side, it's Donald Trump. It's Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. That's very hard for Hillary Clinton, with the name Clinton, or Jeb Bush, with the name Bush, you know, to run against.
BORGER: But he announces that he's a socialist, for example. By the way, today, Hillary in your piece said, I'm a moderate,
right? So she is sort of counterpunching a little bit, not actually moving to her left, but saying, you know what? I reside in the center.
KEILAR: And she's taking it all, though. I think she feels like right now she's positioned well to attract some on the left, although obviously Bernie Sanders is giving her a run for her money. She's trying to grab for the center now as she...
KEILAR: ... Donald Trump.
BASH: Hillary Clinton, she keeps saying, I'm a good Democrat, I'm a true Democrat, the implication being that Bernie Sanders, who is an independent, not necessarily a real Democrat.
BASH: Right, and the people who are supporting Bernie Sanders don't seem to really care right now.
Bernie Sanders isn't necessarily an outsider. And I'm going to come up with a new word here maybe. He's an under-the-radar-er, because he has been for a long time. We have covered him in the Senate.
BORGER: But he's outside the political parties.
BASH: That's the point, exactly. He has for some time well before he decided to run for president -- maybe this propelled his run for president. He has had a reach online, in social media. When he has done things that most people just don't pay any attention to, it lights up the people who are now supporting him under the radar. Now it's just coming to the fore.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, including Donald Trump, the latest on what's going on there, our brand-new poll numbers.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're now just six days from the CNN Republican presidential debate, and the verbal jabs between the rivals getting more and more pointed.
But it's front-runner Donald Trump who is once again taking heat for a remark he made about a woman. We're back with Brianna Keilar, Dana Bash, Jeff Zeleny, and Gloria Borger.
He's trying to clean it up, the comment he gave to "Rolling Stone" magazine, which he said of Carly Fiorina: "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that the face of our next president?"
Now he's saying -- he told our Chris Cuomo earlier today on CNN's "NEW DAY," he is saying he was referring to her persona, not necessarily her face.
And Chris Cuomo, I think, did a masterful job at pushing back, saying, well, if that's the case, why didn't you say that? Why did you talk about her face? Because Trump kept going on and on beyond her persona, about her experience, about her time at Hewlett-Packard, which he said was terrible, and that she did a terrible job there, and at her job before that at Lucent, the fact that she lost in a landslide in California against a beatable senator, Barbara Boxer.
And so the bottom line is that those are all things that he now says he meant to say. But it doesn't matter because that's not what he said to "Rolling Stone." Whether or not that was in a moment that he didn't necessarily think was going to be on the record or not, that's debatable, and that's maybe a question for people, anybody who wants to do a "Rolling Stone" interview. You have got to remember everything is on the record.
BASH: Everything is on the record. But guess what? To a point early bear him sort of defying all convention, in this latest CNN poll, which is out today, he's winning among Republican women handily, despite all of this controversy.
BLITZER: I want to play for you, Gloria, how Hillary Clinton responded to these latest Trump comments about Carly Fiorina's face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: And there is one particular candidate who just seems to delight in insulting women every chance he gets. I have to say, if he emerges, I would love to debate him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's interesting. She's already thinking about possibly a Trump/Hillary Clinton race.
BORGER: You know, but this was a no-brainer for her today. Right? I mean, honestly, if there was ever anything that was teed up for a female candidate, it was Donald Trump insulting Carly Fiorina. By the way, Carly Fiorina decided to kind of brush it aside, and
I think that was very...
ZELENY: For now.
BORGER: For now.
ZELENY: We will see if she does at the debate next week.
BORGER: That's right. We will see what she does. This persona thing, I don't buy it. I am really sorry.
He was talking about her appearance. And Hillary Clinton will continue to use that against him. And she can also find a way to use it against other candidates who signed that loyalty pledge and said, whoever's the nominee, if it's Donald Trump, I'm going to support him. So she can use it over and over again.
KEILAR: I look at that, Hillary Clinton, and I'm reading her body language there. When she's really ticked off, Wolf, and she really is disagreeing and going after someone, you see a sharpness.
I don't see that in that Hillary Clinton. That's a Hillary Clinton who is exciting Democrats and is sort of saying, more Trump, bring it on, because I'm going to town on this on Republicans.
BLITZER: I spoke to another Republican presidential candidate, Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, twice elected there. He's doing really badly in the polls right now.
But he went to the National Press Club. He came on my show. He's really going after Donald Trump. And we had this exchange, because he was among all 17 Republican candidates who pledged that they would support whoever the Republican nominee is. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, you obviously don't think he's qualified to be president of the United States.
JINDAL: Oh, absolutely not.
BLITZER: Will you vote for him if he's the Republican nominee?
JINDAL: I'm working hard to make sure he's not going to be nominee.
BLITZER: I know you keep saying that.
But the pledge is -- and this is the pledge that Reince Priebus, the chair of the RNC, forced Donald Trump to sign, he would support the eventual nominee.
I'm asking you, would you support Donald Trump as president of the United States if he wins the Republican nomination?
JINDAL: We're not going to let him win the nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I pressed him several times on that.
And, finally, I said, OK, we're not going to get a direct answer. But they all signed that pledge, didn't they?
It's a reminder that the pledge is not worth much more than the paper it's printed on. It's not binding in any way. But it's kind of a sad statement for Bobby Jindal. The only way he gets into the conversation, which is too bad, it's just so crowded, is by sort of making a statement about Donald Trump, saying he's a carnival barker.
We have seen others go down this road before, Rick Perry, Rand Paul. I'm not sure how it's going to work out for him. But I think Bobby Jindal is a very smart candidate, so many policy ideas. But he's being crowded out of this race.
BASH: Yes. And the difference -- in fact, this is something that Jindal pointed out to me in the hallway after your interview.
The difference between his attack today on Donald Trump and the way Rick Perry and even Jeb Bush has done it is, he's getting personal. What Rick Perry did was attack Trump's conservatism and say that he's not really conservative, just like Jeb Bush is, but not Jindal.
He's saying, look, he's not real, he's a phony, he shouldn't be taken seriously. And that was his attack.
BORGER: He's out-Trumping Trump.
BASH: He's out-Trumping Trump, except for the fact that, as we reported earlier in the hour, the fact that Trump isn't responding is like probably the worst kind of response that you can get. He's not worth his time.
BORGER: He's sort of treating him like a piece of dandruff on his shoulder, like, I don't need to deal with this right now.
BLITZER: Jeb Bush did a sit-down interview with Jake Tapper today as well, and Jake and Jeb Bush spoke about the Bobby Jindal attack on Trump. Listen to how this exchange went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that Mr. Trump, as the front-runner, needs to be treated like all candidates and he needs to share what his experiences are to be president of the United States, what his ideas are, and so far, at least, he has not been serious about that. I think he believes that he can insult his way through the
presidency and I don't think history is a really good guide for that. I think he needs to begin to say what his vision is for the future and up until now, I think Governor Jindal is absolutely correct that he's not a serious candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: At this moment in time, this sort of reminds -- this makes me think of someone who is selling the concept of ideas and policies, when this niche of the Republican primary audience, what they really want is a food fight in a way.
And that's why Donald Trump is being successful. It's sort of to me like a soldier who practices conventional warfare looking at someone who practices guerrilla warfare and saying, you're not playing by the rules. They don't often come out on top.
And I think that's what we're seeing at this moment in time. I think maybe what needs to happen, as a candidate, you have to offer something else to compete. And if you can't at this point in time, which I think is what we're seeing with some of the Republicans.
BORGER: Republicans want to win. And at a certain point, if they believe that Donald Trump is not an electable candidate, then perhaps he won't be number one in the polls.
ZELENY: ... the new face of the campaign...
BORGER: But they won't be -- they're not there yet.
BLITZER: We will see what happens.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we're going to continue to stay on top of this story.
The Republican presidential candidates, by the way, only six days away from their second debate. It will air right here on CNN September 16. That's next Wednesday, live from the Reagan Library in California.
Just ahead: Did the U.S. military skew intelligence when it comes to ISIS? We're learning new details of a disturbing Pentagon investigation.
And New York's top cop now apologizing to a former tennis star who was roughed up by police in New York City in a botched sting operation. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Were top U.S. military officials deliberately misled about ISIS and the U.S.-led war against terrorist forces? That's the question at the heart of a major new Pentagon investigation.
[18:31:02] Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's working this disturbing story for us. Barbara, what are you picking up?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the investigation is supposed to provide the answers to that question. But already, even before the report is done, some actions are under way.
STARR (voice-over): Allegations that military intelligence about ISIS was altered to make senior officials possibly even President Obama, think the war was going better than it was, are now being investigated by the Pentagon's watchdog, the inspector general.
LT. GEN. VINCENT STEWART, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: The investigation will play itself out. We'll figure out if we did something wrong. And we will be better as a result of a very open investigation.
STARR: The investigation, first reported by the "New York Times," has already led to action by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
PETER COOK, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The secretary has directed the acting undersecretary for intelligence to consult with his leadership, with the combat and commands, to reinforce that message: unvarnished, transparent intelligence.
STARR: Intelligence analysts claim their reports were manipulated by their military bosses, accordingly to the news site, "Daily Beast."
STEWART: There are variations of views on what the data says. And so you have this clash, this tension, among the analysts about what it really means. But at some point, someone has to say, "This is the best judgment" and present that to our decision makers.
STARR: Two defense officials say commanders can put their own interpretations in a report but cannot change the underlying analysis.
So far, it's not clear how widespread the allegations may be and when the potential problem happened. There's no suggestion yet that this is a repeat of the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when faulty intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction formed the U.S. justification for war.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.
STARR: The current war against ISIS remains a mixed picture. The Pentagon says ISIS can no longer operate freely in up to 30 percent of the areas of Iraq it once controlled. But notes its influence in Syria remains unchanged.
And General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs, warned the fight against ISIS is, quote, "stalemated," though he adds, its long-term prospects are getting, quote, "dimmer."
STARR: So at the end of the day, did everyone just have different opinions about the intelligence, about what it said about how well the war was going? Or was there some fundamental effort to mislead policymakers about what was going on -- Wolf?
BLITZER: That's a serious, serious issue. Thanks, Barbara, very much.
Let's dig deeper right now with the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, the Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. I'm very worried. Pretty disturbing if, in fact, they're trying to spin or manipulate this intelligence. What are you hearing about this inspector general's investigation?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: As you said, this is among the most serious allegations that we ever get. That is, that intelligence may be politicized about something as serious as war. And so we take this very seriously.
We're awaiting what the inspector general will report to us. And certainly, we'll be looking into this more thoroughly once we get that report to see, as Barbara Starr pointed out, whether this is a different perception of the events or whether there was an effort to take the analysts' opinion and doctor it in some manner.
I will say I have noticed a great difference since the lead-up to the Iraq war. Our intelligence, the work product that we receive as members of the committee, contains a lot of dissenting opinions. It contains a lot of discussion of what level of confidence the analysts have in their conclusions. We get red team analysis where they take the devil's advocacy position. So they really have tried to change the culture, make sure that all of those views get to us so that we can evaluate them.
[18:35:14] But I'm going to give a perfect illustration of how you can have people of good faith interpreting the same intelligence very differently. If you look at the Iran debate that we're in the middle of right now, all of the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, on their understanding of the intelligence, have come out against the agreement. All the Democratic members of the same committee, looking at the same intelligence, have come out in favor of the agreement.
So you can have quite a different policy conclusion based on even the same intelligence.
BLITZER: The critics will argue you guys are politicians, and it's a political debate, not just an intelligence debate. But that's what the critics will argue.
SCHIFF: That's true.
BLITZER: The disturbing part about this investigation, though, it brings back awful memories of during the Vietnam War when the intelligence analysts in the military were saying, "Everything is great. The Viet Cong are getting killed. The U.S. is winning. Troops are going to be coming home soon." And obviously, none of that ever happened.
SCHIFF: Well, that's exactly right. And in fact, I remember at times during the Iraq War where I had serious questions about some of the information we were receiving. You have to know many times the right questions to ask, because even accurate information can be misleading.
Just to give you one illustration, I remember getting briefed on how we were doing in defeating IEDs in Iraq, which were an increasing cause of lethality against our troops. And they were showing our increasing effectiveness. But what they weren't showing us were they were far greater increases in the number of IEDs being used, so the net result was more of our people getting killed.
BLITZER: We're getting these very disturbing reports about Russia now building a new military base, supposedly on the border with Ukraine, going ahead and sending troops and equipment into Syria to bolster Bashar al-Assad's regime. What's going on?
SCHIFF: Well, this is undoubtedly a base for those Russian troops who are, evidently, in Ukraine.
Well, I think it's a show of force by Russia. They are trying to demonstrate -- telegraph to Kiev, telegraph to NATO, which is beefing up some of its forces in the region and in the Baltics, that they mean business. So I think that's very much what they're intending to do.
BLITZER: The White House announced today the president is going to propose allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees to come into the United States next year, whatever it costs. Are you with him on that?
SCHIFF: I am. In fact, I think we should go further. And for some years now, I've been arguing that we should give a humanitarian parole to the many thousands of Syrians who have applied to emigrate to the United States. They have family in the United States. They have immigrant-based petitions, immigration petitions that have been approved. But because of a cap on visas, they can't come.
This is a way that we, in addition to financial support, can show that we're really willing to step up to the plate for this humanitarian cause.
BLITZER: On a procedural filibuster vote in the Senate today, the Republicans failed to get enough. They got 58; they didn't get 60 votes. So it looks like the Iran nuclear deal is about to go forward, unless something else happens.
There's some legal maneuvers under way in the House of Representatives where you sit. They say the 60 days really hasn't started because the administration has kept secret some of the annexes that were supposedly -- everything was supposed to be made available. Is it over, though, for all practical purposes?
SCHIFF: It's over. And I think the GOP must acknowledge as much. Because while they offered a Bill today to say we can't go forward with a vote, because we haven't gotten all the documents, they're offering a vote tomorrow on the agreement itself.
They are internally at war, and as a result we're having these internally inconsistent votes. But the reality is there isn't enough support in the House to overturn the agreement. And I think we would be wise to move beyond this fight and figure out how can we strengthen the constraints in the agreement; how do we mitigate the risks; how do we work together to join forces with our allies in the region, contain Iran conventionally?
BLITZER: You're OK within nine months Iran's going to start getting tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets?
SCHIFF: Well, I can't say that I'm enthusiastic about that. But that's a necessarily result of any agreement. No matter what the provisions are. Would have to relieve the sanctions on Iran. Otherwise there's no reason for Iran to even negotiate.
I think as a practical matter, though, if you look at what Iran spends on its defense, which is about $15 billion, and the $130 billion that the gulf states spend on theirs, we need to work with them to make sure they're spending as effectively and directed at containing Iran's support of these Shia militias like Hezbollah and Hamas.
BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Adam Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Just ahead, Republican presidential hopefuls unleash on Donald Trump even as the frontrunner expands his lead in the polls.
Plus, get this: A tennis star tackled, slammed to the ground, handcuffed by New York City police. Now officials, they are apologizing. And he's speaking out.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The New York City police commissioner is apologizing to
a former tennis star who was tackled and handcuffed in a botched sting operation. A law enforcement source tells CNN that, just a short time ago, the commissioner, Bill Bratton, spoke by phone to James Blake, who accepted his apology.
Blake, by the way, once ranked No. 4 in the world, was outside his hotel in New York City on his way to the U.S. Open, when he was slammed to the ground. He described what happened on ABC's "Good Morning America."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES BLAKE, FORMER TENNIS STAR TACKLED, CUFFED BY POLICE: They picked me up and body slammed me, put me on the ground, told me to turn over and shut my mouth and put the cuffs on me. And I told them the first words out of my mouth were, "I'm going to 100 percent cooperate, I don't want any incident." I had my credential for the U.S. Open in my back pocket. "Please, check that, you can tell that I'm a former player, it's a final eight badge, it means I did pretty well at the U.S. Open, I'd like to clear my name."
And I told him that and he wasn't having any. "We'll see, we're running your license, we'll figure it out." I said, "You're running my license, the worst you'll find is a speeding ticket."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get some more from our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, the former federal prosecutor, and legal analyst of CNN, Sunny Hostin, our anchor Don Lemon.
Don, he was simply waiting for a car to pick him up and go to the U.S. Open. All of a sudden slammed to the ground, supposedly he was mistaken. He looked like somebody else they were looking for in a credit card fraud case.
What's your reaction to this?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this was they say, according to the commissioner, a case of mistaken identity. But his story is the story of so many especially young men of color.
It's my story. I have a very similar story. I wasn't waiting on a car, I was walking to my car, and I was accosted by a security guard. I called the police. The police came. They thought the other guy, security guard, who's white, called the police. This happened years ago.
So I think it's outrageous. I think it's ridiculous. But I do have to -- what I have to say is that this young man is a standup guy. And I admire him, because he handled himself in the best way that he could.
He did not fight back. He did not go get outrageous. He did the best that he could. And so, the situation didn't escalate.
Unfortunately, the police officers who allegedly threw him to the ground, who are supposed to be the professionals and not allow it to escalate, they did not do the right thing.
But he did the right thing. And here he is to talk about it. He is alive. He is able to bring light to a situation that is so horrific for so many people, this happens around the country and they do not have a voice. He is giving those people a voice by his unfortunate situation.
BLITZER: Listen, Sunny, to the police commissioner, Bill Bratton, as he apologized today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMM. WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK POLICE: I would be very interested as well as the mayor to talk with him to extend my apologies for the incident which he found himself involved in yesterday around noontime in front of the Grand Hyatt. We have determined as a result of the investigation over these last now almost 24 hours that Mr. Blake had no role of involvement in the criminal investigation that we were conducting, and was totally innocent of any involvement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Sunny, since then the commissioner and Blake, they have actually spoken. He formally apologized to him. Is it over? Is that enough?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it's enough. I mean, the bottom line is you're talking about what is increasingly apparent, which is the use of excessive force against young people, young men of color. And so I think it opens up the dialogue. I think James Blake now does become the voice of so many others.
But let's be clear. While he said race may have been a part, I think we have to look at the stats, Wolf. And I think we have to realize that men are more likely than women to be the subjects of excessive force, that African-American men are more likely to be the subjects of excessive force, rather than their white and Latino counterparts.
I think when you look at the stats, 21 young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot by police officers. The comments made recently by the FBI head, James Comey, that racial profiling just does exist.
I think when you look at all of that and take it and put it into context, this is a real problem that we're having here and this is a real opportunity for James Blake to sort of become the face of so many young African-American men who experience this, just like Don, and for people like me, the mothers of young African-American men, who worry about their children as they are simply just walking down the street.
And so I don't think it's enough. Is he going to apologize to all the other young African-American men that have experienced this?
LEMON: What about those people? Yes.
HOSTIN: We need real change.
BLITZER: Let me get Jeffrey Toobin into this.
He was apparently mistaken for a suspect in some sort of credit card fraud case. But still, it sounds like excessive force, to go out there for a nonviolent crime, to tackle someone, take them to the ground.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I responded as a New Yorker. And, you know, for people who don't live here or know New York City well, the Grand Hyatt Hotel is 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. It's right next door to Grand Central Terminal. It's practically the dead center of New York City.
[18:50:01] LEMON: Busiest.
TOOBIN: If this is how African-Americans are treated in front of thousands of passersby, which is what goes on, imagine -- imagine what it's like to be a young African-American man in a quiet part of the city where the police don't expect lots of people to see.
I mean, the story is so awful. We are so fortunate that James Blake behaved in such an appropriate way. But, you know, why does James Blake have to be now the spokesman for this? He didn't ask for this. It's such an unfortunate thing.
Here is this Harvard educated tennis star. He has to be the face of police brutality. It's so unfair at so many different levels. But that's the world we live in.
LEMON: Jeffrey, where was he going to go? It was for a cell phone. It's not like he was attacking people. He wasn't a suspected rapist or murderer.
HOSTIN: It was a non-violent offense that they were looking into.
BLITZER: We've got to wrap it up.
HOSTIN: I know James Blake's -- oh, got to go. I know James Blake's sister. This is a lovely family.
BLITZER: He is a terrific guy. I remember watching him at the U.S. open. I was fortunate to go several types. He is a great, great guy.
Guys, thanks very much. Don, by the way, will be back later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
Just ahead, the Trump juggernaut continues, passing a potentially major milestone.
[18:55:58] BLITZER: Now a CNN exclusive. A remarkable and emotional gathering of gun violence survivors and their families. CNN's Brooke Baldwin spoke to 40 people whose lives have been turned upside down by gun violence as they prepare to lobby Congress for gun safety measures. Among them a woman whose family was torn apart by the Charleston church massacre.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: In that Charleston church, you lost your mother and two cousins.
REV. SHARON RISHER, DAUGHTER AND COUSION OF CHARLESTON VICTIMS: Yes, yes. I was at work when my nephew called and said, "Auntie, there was a shooting at the church." And I said, "What church?" And he said, "Granny's church."
BALDWIN: When you heard about what happened at that church in Charleston, Lucy, what was the first thing you did?
LUCY MCBATH, MOTHER OF "LOUD MUSIC" TRIAL VICTIM: I was weeping. I wept literally on my knees for a good hour and a half, two hours. Because I felt like the last bastion of safety --
BALDWIN: Is a church.
MCBATH: -- is church.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Brooke Baldwin joins us now.
Brooke, this was an incredible event. You assembled survivors, family members of those affected by gun violence. How much of a support system has this group been for each other?
BALDWIN: It has been tremendous. I mean, what you don't see is the tissue boxes, Wolf, being passed back and forth. There wasn't a dry eye in the room last night in Washington. This really was a journalistic first.
I mean, look at this room, all these people holding up these photos of loved ones. I mean, this is how they're all touched by tragedy and how they've all bounded together, with the fact that all 40 of these people shared with us and allowed our cameras to roll as they told their stories.
You just heard, you know, from Sharon and Lucy, who were bonded by tragedy. Lucy lost her son because he was playing loud music and got into an argument and he was shot and killed. Sharon, as you heard, lost her mother and two cousins. Another example of two people coming together in a way they never thought they could. A woman who lost her sister at Sandy Hook made the wedding dress for a man who lost his son in the Aurora theater shooting.
And so, that's what all of this is about, because these people, not only sympathize, Wolf, they empathize with one another. They've all cried as they told me the shower of tears and this is about calmness and coming together and forging this, you know, initially, unwanted but much needed friendship.
BLITZER: Really amazing. You also had a chance to interview Andy Parker, Brooke, the father of the journalist Allison Parker who was murdered while reporting in Virginia, just what, a couple of so weeks ago. He wants Congress to do more when it comes to gun control. Explain what he wants to do here in Washington.
BALDWIN: Well, you know, he is hoping a -- you heard what he said, whatever it takes. And that's the phrase they have grabbed on to. They have made this rally the "whatever it takes" rally in Washington. Here he is, Rich Martinez, over his right shoulder, he who lost his son, Chris, in the Isla Vista shooting.
And so, what they want -- by the way, the biggest misconception among all these folks, a third of the people in the room, Wolf, a third of the people own guns. We don't want to get rid of people's guns. Andy Parker says he's all for the Second Amendment. I talked to his daughter's boyfriend. He owns a shotgun.
What they all really kind of coalesce on was this issue of background checks. That's number one. It should take 90 seconds for anyone and it should just be a mandatory thing everywhere. And, two, a lot of the conversation is about mental health and mental illness. When you talk to also Sharon who lost family members in Charleston, she said for her in that incident, it's about rape.
But, you know, Every Town for Gun Safety, they are 750 strong. The question really is, how much larger does this group have to grow before change actually happens in Washington, Wolf?
BLITZER: A really powerful material. Brooke, thanks so much for doing this.
And to our viewers, you can see Brooke every day on "CNN NEWSROOM", 2:00 to 4:00 Eastern Monday through Friday.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead, tweet me @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitroom.
Please be sure to join us again tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.