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Interview With Reps. Cedric Richmond, Keith Ellison, and Marc Veasey; Protests Continue Against Police Shootings; Shooting in Michigan; Dallas Investigation; Obama, Bush to Speak at Memorial for Slain Officers; Trump: 'I am the Law and Order Candidate'; U.S. Sending 560 More Troops to Iraq. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 11, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Chilling new information, including the shooter's apparent plan to devastate the city with bombs. What were his ties to radical groups, calling for attacks on police, and what was the meaning of that cryptic message he scrawled in his own blood?

Anger and frustration, protests in cities across the country against police shootings. The Dallas police chief urging demonstrators to stop protesting and join police instead to help solve the problem. Will thousands more people take to the streets again tonight?

And left behind. Donald Trump weighs in on the wave of violence, saying that's America's inner cities that have been left behind, and that he's -- quote -- "the law and order candidate" who can turn the country around. With the Republican Convention just a week away, how close is Trump to picking a running mate?

We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We are following breaking news. A courthouse shooting that has left at least three people dead in southwest Michigan.

Berrien County officials now confirming that two bailiffs were shot and killed, as well as the suspected gunman. We're standing by for a news conference on the latest information.

We're also learning new details tonight of the Dallas gunman who killed five police officers. Micah Johnson's parents are speaking publicly now for the first time since the ambush. And investigators release very disturbing new information about his arsenal of guns and bomb-making components, his taunting behavior during his hours-long standoff with police, and a mysterious message he scrawled with his own blood.

We are covering all angles of the breaking news this hour. Our guests include three U.S. congressmen whose districts in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas have been rocked by the deadly violence of the past week. They will join me for a rare and unique conversation. And our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with the breaking news, the deadly courthouse shooting in Michigan.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, you're getting new information.


Here's the latest we know coming from Sheriff Paul Bailey of Berrien County, Michigan. He says a suspect shot and killed two bailiffs this afternoon. But Bailey says -- quote -- "Brave officers were able to intervene and take the shooter down. The shooter is dead."

At least one law enforcement officer and one civilian were wounded. The sheriff's office says the courthouse is now secured and the scene has been rendered safe. The incident occurred, the sheriff says, at about 2:25 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon and it occurred on the third floor of the courthouse in Berrien County.

This town is located in the -- this is located in the town of St. Joseph in the southwest corner of Michigan. That's about 100 miles by car from Chicago. The undersheriff of the county tells CNN one civilian and another officer were indeed wounded in this incident, possibly more civilians, though.

A short time ago, I spoke with Chris Gautz. He's the public information officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections. They run a probation office inside that courthouse. Mr. Gautz told me one of their employees, a female probation agent, was in or near a third- floor courtroom in that building when the gunman ran right past her and some other people.

Gautz is not sure if that agent actually witnessed the shooting. It's also Gautz's understanding that this happened either inside or very near a courtroom in the third floor of that building, Wolf. Sheriff Bailey says the deputy table now is in stable condition. He says there are -- quote -- "several other people in stable condition."

The deputy and apparently some civilians now being treated at the Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph, according to the media rep at the medical center.

The key questions now, though, how did the shooter get a gun inside that courthouse? Did the shooter grab a weapon from law enforcement officers? Sheriff Bailey says his office, plus the local homicide task force, the St. Joseph Public Safety Department, the FBI, and the Michigan police will be investigating just how the suspect got their hands on that weapon, and may be able to learn also the identity of the suspect in just a short time, Wolf.

But, again, the suspect getting their hands on a weapon inside a courthouse in the United States these days especially, with the jitters going around with security over law enforcement and everything like that, that is a key question that has be answered tonight.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a very disturbing, worrisome question as well.

We will get the information. All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Let's go to Dallas now and the latest on the ambush that left five officers dead.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is on the scene for us.

Ed, we are learning some disturbing new information tonight as well. What are you picking up?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Investigators are very focused on trying to piece together exactly what the intentions of Micah Johnson may have been based on what they discovered inside of his home.


The only known conversation they had with him was in those moments during standoff, but they feel there's much more to what's going on with him.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Dallas police investigators are piecing together more than 170 hours of officers' body-cam video, plus dash- cam footage and surveillance camera images to determine how the deadly attack unfolded.

Dallas Police chief David Brown says investigators are still working to confirm that Micah Johnson acted alone.

DAVID BROWN, DALLAS POLICE CHIEF: We are going to follow every lead until it is exhausted, until I am satisfied that this was the lone person.

LAVANDERA: Detectives are analyzing Johnson's weapon seized on the scene and in his home. Law enforcement sources tell CNN Johnson brought two handguns and assault-style rifle to the attack, and was wearing a bulletproof vest. Sources say it appears weapons were legally purchased, some bought online.

But there are still questions about what his plans were for the explosives found in his home.

BROWN: There was a large stockpile. One of the bomb techs called me at home to describe his concern of how large a stockpile of bomb- making materials he had.

LAVANDERA: And there are questions about letters R.B. Johnson wrote in his own blood inside the community college where he was killed.

BROWN: I think that this killer obviously had some delusion. There was quite a bit of rambling in the journal that's hard to decipher.

JAMES JOHNSON, FATHER OF MICAH XAVIER JOHNSON: I love my son with all my heart. I hate what he id.

LAVANDERA: The parents of Micah Johnson speaking out for the first time in an interview with TheBlaze. His mother says Johnson left the military after six years, highly disillusioned, but calling him a good son.

DELPHINE JOHNSON, MOTHER OF MICAH XAVIER JOHNSON: The ideal that he thought of our government, of what he thought the military represented, it just didn't live up to his expectations.

LAVANDERA: School records show Johnson was a poor student, graduating near the bottom of his class with 1.98 GPA, all this as protesters took to the streets across the country this weekend with more than 300 arrests.

In Atlanta, thousands shut down major highways. In St. Paul, Minnesota, police say some protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at officers. In Baton Rouge, police in riot gear took on protesters and this photo of Ieshia Evans, a mother from Pennsylvania standing in the street as Baton Rouge officers rushed in to arrest her, that photo has gone viral on social media. Chief Brown is addressing the protests today.

BROWN: Don't be part of the problem. We're hiring. We're hiring. Get out that protest line, and put an application in.


LAVANDERA: Wolf, on this Monday, it is the beginning of a very emotional week here, the Dallas Police Association planning a vigil for tonight in front of city hall. President Obama visits Dallas tomorrow as well as funerals beginning here in this city, the beginning of an extremely emotional week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: President George W. Bush will be speaking as well. Ed Lavandera in Dallas for us, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, we are also learning right now more about Johnson's apparent support for some black nationalist groups, including one calling for violence against police.

Our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin is joining us from Dallas right now.

Drew, investigators are looking at the shooter's online activities. What are they finding out?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're trying to find out if there was anything connecting him to these various hate groups beyond his Facebook likes and his follows, in other words, if there was any interaction between the shooter and, for instance, the New Black Panther Party, the Black Riders Liberation Party, Nation of Islam.

All these groups considered hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. We also know he liked another site, the African-American Defense League. That was the group that posted actually calls for action before last Thursday's attacks to spill pigs' blood, and in once case calling on gang members to attack everything in blue.

What investigators know is, he followed them, he liked them, but what they have not been able to determine and what we have not been able to determine is if he was a member, joined, or had any connection with that group.

We did speak to the leader of the New Black Panthers Party in Dallas, and he said he never heard of this guy, never met this guy. We did, though, today, Wolf, meet one person that did meet Micah Johnson and this was on May 21. It is fitting, because his Facebook photo, the one we have been seeing the last several days, apparently was taken outside her bookstore on May 21, a bookstore which was holding a Malcolm X celebration, birthday celebration.


The owner there says Micah Johnson came to the festival, came to her bookstore, was very polite. She was absolutely stunned when she found out that he was the killer.

She said she wished she had more time with him to steer this young man in a much better direction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If she would have been able to do that, that would have been good. Drew, thank you very much.

Let's get some more now from three U.S. members of Congress whose districts have been rocked.

Representative Marc Veasey's district includes parts of Dallas. Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana represents Baton Rouge. And Representative Keith Ellison's district is only a couple miles from where Philando Castile was shot and killed.

Congressmen, thanks very much for joining us.

Congressman Ellison, 21 police officers were injured in St. Paul, as you know, Saturday night. What's the situation like in your community right now?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: The St. Paul Police Department has done a lot to de-escalate violence, do anti-racism training.

In fact, they had nothing to do with happened in Falcon Heights. It was completely different departments. The activists, the protesters, who have every right to protest, were actually trying to de-escalate harm and have condemned the violence against the officers. The officers -- I talked to the mayor, Chris Coleman, today. He's proud of his department, and his department wasn't implicated. They have done a lot of work.

BLITZER: Who was responsible for injuring 21 police officers?

ELLISON: Some people who were not part of the peaceful protest, but who thought that the right thing for them to do was to escalate the problem.

And this is the challenge of the peaceful protesters. Not only are we trying to raise important issues around police violence, but the other end, the extreme end is, we have to try to control them so that we can stay on focus and try to bring the needed reform.

BLITZER: We also know over the weekend, Congressman Richmond, hundreds were arrested in Baton Rouge. What are you hearing from your constituents?

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: In Baton Rouge, we have had a number of protests and they started back early last week.

And we have only had arrested the last two days' worth of protests, which are unfortunate, but our governor and others have decided that once roadways are obstructed, that they would arrest.

My concern is more along the lines of when it escalates to violence and when police officers are heavy-handed in those arrests. And I would just tell you that we had young people in the capitol, on the state capitol, on the steps. We have had young people at police headquarters protesting. But we haven't seen the overall violence.

But the big question that we have in terms of our arrests are, where is the escalation coming from between people who were protesting peacefully for almost a week and now...


BLITZER: But if protesters are blocking highways, for example, that's against the law.

RICHMOND: Well, we're asking them not to block highways, because especially in Baton Rouge, where we have not great access to emergency care and other things, that you're actually putting other people's lives in danger.

And they have made their point and they continue to make their point. But they are -- for the most part, our protests have been very peaceful.

BLITZER: You represent, Congressman Veasey, the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The police chief, David Brown, he is a very impressive guy. I don't know if you know him personally.


BLITZER: You know him well.

He said this today. Let me play the clip for you and then we will discuss.


BROWN: They're just asking us to do too much. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve it. Not enough mental health funding, let the cop handle it.

Not enough drug conviction funding, let's give it to the cops. Here in Dallas, we have got a loose dog problem. Let's have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail. Give it to the cops; 70 percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women. Let's give it to the cops to solve that as well. That's too much to ask.


BLITZER: What's your thoughts?

VEASEY: The police do need more help.

Chief David Brown is doing a great job, but I do think on the congressional level, for instance, that we can do more to promote the passage of money for community policing grants, for instance.

President Obama is really trying to put together a great initiative with his 21st Century Task Force on Community Policing. What can we do in Congress to promote things like that? And the answer is that we need more money so we can spread that type of message nationwide.

BLITZER: Is there support legislatively in the House and the Senate for that kind of legislation?

VEASEY: There needs to be, obviously. I think that we can prevent a lot of a lot of interactions that we see, a lot of the devastation that has been caused by some of these police shootings, if we had more programs like that.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

ELLISON: I totally agree.

Look, people are inadequately housed, they're not making enough money, they're relying on all these -- they're all these social programs and we say to police officers go handle these problems. We need to invest in our country with good wages, good jobs, good education, and not just say police deal with it, and if they can't deal with it, then put them in prison.


It is a societal cop-out that the officers have all this stuff to handle.

BLITZER: Congressman Richmond, you know Congress. Is there any chance that is going to pass anytime soon?

RICHMOND: I have had conversations with both the speaker, the majority leader, and the whip about more money for community policing, the COPS program, also Safe Neighborhood grants, and other things.

And I think there's an openness and a willingness to do it. Also, Dave Reichert out of Washington, who is a former sheriff, I just left there talking to him about it. And I think it is something that both sides can come together on. And it is not something we should play politics about. This is our future and this is far too serious. So, I think it is something that we can accomplish.

BLITZER: That's encouraging.

Stand by, Congressmen. We have much more to assess.

We're also getting new information. Much more right after this.



BLITZER: We are back with Democratic Congressmen Marc Veasey, Cedric Richmond, Keith Ellison. Each of their districts was directly touched by the violence of the past week.

Tomorrow, President Obama will travel to Dallas to speak at a memorial service for the five slain police officers. Former President George W. Bush will be there, and he will speak as well.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is over at the White House now.

Sunlen, the president will also meet privately with the officers' families. What else do we know?


He will meet with families first, and then President Obama is anticipated to speak at the memorial service. It is very clear that he's taking a very active and personal role in the crafting of the speech. The White House saying he is spending a significant portion of the day today huddling with his speechwriters.

The White House saying that he hopes to bring some measure of comfort tomorrow in his speech, not just to the families of the victims in the Dallas community, but also notably the White House saying he wants to bring some comfort to people all over the nation who are confused and concerned about the violence that they're seeing on TV.

So the tone of the message, the tone of his delivery is so important, especially as this president has constantly had to straddle this line between showing respect for the law enforcement community and also hearing and showing concerns of the African-American community and the protesters. The White House acknowledging today that the president very well understands the anxiety and the frustration that Americans across the country of all races are feeling right now and that he will specifically speak to that in the context of the setting being a memorial service.

Tomorrow also brings the very unusual joint appearance between President Obama and former President George W. Bush. He was invited by the mayor of Dallas. The White House embracing his role also in tomorrow's event. They say that this is a reminder that even though there's political differences between them, tomorrow, they will come together, Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thanks very much, Sunlen Serfaty over at

the White House.

We're back with the three members of Congress.

I want to get your thoughts on what you want to hear specifically from the president tomorrow, very important address he's going to be delivering at this memorial service. But, first, there were some powerful words today we heard from Dr. Brian Williams, a trauma surgeon who was treating the victims of this massacre in Dallas.

I want you to listen to what he said.


DR. BRIAN WILLIAMS, PARKLAND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: We routinely care for the multiple-gunshot victims.

But the preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me. I think the reasons are obvious. I fit that demographic of individuals, but I abhor what's been done to these officers and I grieve with their families.

I understand the anger and the frustration and the distrust of law enforcement. But they are not the problem.

The problem is the lack of open discussions about the impact of race relations in this country. And I think about it every day, that I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night. It weighs on my mind constantly.

This killing, it has to stop, black men dying and being forgotten, people retaliating against the people that are sworn to defend us. We have to come together and end all this.


BLITZER: The trauma surgeon of Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Congressman, he treated so many of the victims, but you see how emotional he is on this issue. I wonder if you can relate to what he just said?

VEASEY: Oh, absolutely.

I think that each and every one of us -- I have a young son, like Cedric has a young son. And I worry, as my son gets older -- he is in elementary school now -- what his interactions with police will be like.

On the other hand, I understand that if we are going to have a civil society, a society with a free press, a society with the democracy that we have, that we have to have police protect us, or we will have anarchy. And so it's a balance.

And I hope that President Obama will talk about bringing the community together, that we need the police and the community to have a better relationship. I think that he will touch on those things. And I think it is a message the nation needs to hear.

BLITZER: You heard Dr. Williams say, we're not talking enough about it. We're sort of ignoring it right now.

RICHMOND: Well, I think that, whenever we lose a life, it's whether by the hands of police officer, or when we lose a police officer, the whole country mourns. But we're not having enough dialogue about what's happening on the streets in inner cities.


And the president's words tomorrow can heal, but they can't stop what's going on. Congress has to act. We have to put more money back into community policing from when Clinton was president, whether we call it Safe Neighborhoods.

But unless Congress sends a message to the country that we hear you, that we understand these young people, I just -- I am very fearful that it is going to be a long, hot, bloody summer. And I think that that blood will be on the hands of Congress if we don't do something to act.

BLITZER: What do you want the president to say tomorrow, Congressman Ellison?

ELLISON: The president has to convey to the whole of America that we can be safer and have good police service and have racial justice and inclusion.

It is not one or the other, as so often is characterized. We actually need both, and we can have both. But we also got to -- he needs to challenge all of us to come out of our comfort zone a little bit, police and community, all of us.

We have 100 -- we had 246 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow, and only 50 years of anything else. We do have a racist -- racial legacy to overcome, but we can overcome it if the president will help lead us in that direction and help everyone have their heart and their mind open a little bit more to real change.

BLITZER: You heard the president say on Saturday race relations in our country right now not as bad as some people are suggesting. Do you agree with him?

VEASEY: Oh, I completely agree with that.

I think that we have made huge improvements. I can tell you, I grew up in Fort Worth. And, of course, we have the same news as Dallas. Dallas is not far at all from Fort Worth. And the police department that Dallas had in the 1980s vs. Chief Brown today as far as racial tension and animosity is concerned, huge improvement. Yes, we have made huge strides.

BLITZER: Same in Baton Rouge? RICHMOND: Well, I wouldn't talk about Baton Rouge. I would just say

inner cities.

And I don't think that race relations have actually changed all that much, especially...

BLITZER: You don't think it is getting better over the years?

RICHMOND: I don't.

I think that we had a point in time where race relations were getting better, but I think, as the economy turned, President Obama became president, I think that everybody retreated back to their respective corners.

But I can only speak for young African-American males. Young African- American males, because of overincarceration, because of the war on drugs, feel like they're targets and law enforcement views them as danger to law enforcement, and unfortunately they view law enforcement as a danger to them.

And I think that, if we can't fix that, then a lot of what we're doing will not reach the ultimate conclusion and won't hit home.

BLITZER: You see that in Minnesota as well?

ELLISON: Yes, you know, in my state of Minnesota, wonderful state, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the whole country, and yet the disparities are very, very wide.

Average income in Minnesota is $61,000 a year. For African-Americans, it was $31,000, until it dropped to $27,000. And so there are vast disparities. And I think that, look, are things better than they were? Sure. But we come out of Jim Crow. We come out of a very bad history.

And to be doing better than ever is not to be doing good. And so I just think we have got to work a lot harder on healing and we have got to call on the business community, the law enforcement, and all sectors of American society to open up the doors of opportunity and make sure that everybody feels included in the society.

BLITZER: Has the awful news of the past week brought, for example, the three of you closer together on these issues?

VEASEY: It has.

And let me just say, because I want to be fair, the political discourse in this country has also added, I believe, to the bad race relations.

BLITZER: You think it has gotten -- it's deteriorated?

VEASEY: Absolutely.

And I think that we bear a lot of the brunt of it. If we can't sit down and talk to each other, if we can't get past our differences, then what example are we setting for the country? But we're so negative and we're so nasty that I think that people feed into it.

But I think the events of the last week have brought this Congress closer together. And I think it is going to bring the country closer together if we can all sit down, keep our eye on what's important. And that's a very peaceful, safe community, with mutual respect.

ELLISON: The three of us were together last week talking about, as relatively young black men, we all feel like that surgeon feels.

We may have kids, but we also know that you take off the suit and put on the T-shirts, and we could be going through what Alton or Philando were going through. And we feel that personally and directly.

BLITZER: So, when you're casually dressed, and you're driving around Texas, are you fearful that a cop might stop you?

VEASEY: I have anxiety every day about being pulled over.

BLITZER: Every day?

VEASEY: Every day when I'm back home and in D.C., for that matter.

BLITZER: Really?

VEASEY: When I'm not in a suit.

BLITZER: You too?

RICHMOND: We're treated much -- when I have on my suit and my congressional pin, even in the halls of the Capitol, I'm treated a lot differently by visitors and spectators when I have -- when I am dressed down and people don't realize that I am a congressman.

And I just think it is the world we live in. And I think that that's part of what we have to deal with. And then flip it, where, in New Orleans, you have 52 percent unemployment with African-American men.

And I just think that we have to look at as a direct problem, and try to fix that problem. And I think that everything else will kind of come along with it.

[18:30:10] BLITZER: Because we do have...

ELLISON: If we can face it, we can fix it. I believe that we can. But we've got to face it. And the president can help us face the reality.

See, the problem is we can't talk about race relations in America without somebody feeling blamed. And so we've got to get out of this thing of blame shame and say we've got a problem, we're not meeting liberty and justice for all, and we've all got to step up and make that a reality.

BLITZER: We do have an African-American president... ELLISON: We've got one.

BLITZER: ... an African-American attorney general, an African- American secretary of homeland security.

ELLISON: Forty-six African-American members of the Black Caucus.

BLITZER: Yes. You would think, and what I'm hearing you suggest, that race relations is not necessarily getting better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when you start looking at 52 percent unemployment with African-American males, the question becomes how does that affect race relations? And I think it absolutely affects race relations when you start talking about the economic divide.

And if I'm at the bottom end of that economic divide, I'm angry. And I think that that manifests itself in a bunch of different ways. But we have to look at the economic fight of most people.

ELLISON: Truth is, we have some of the most severe economic disparity since the Great Depression. And so it might be true, that if you're an African-American surgeon or member of Congress and you look the part, maybe you can lead a certain life for a little while, unless you're mistaken.

But the divide is so wide that the African-American poor and working classes, I think, are dealing with much...

BLITZER: I'll give you, Congressman Veasey, the last word.

VEASEY: No, I think that, again, we've made huge improvements. We do -- we still have a long way to go. And -- and again, I will be at the funeral tomorrow, the memorial service with the president, and very interested to hear what he has to say.

BLITZER: Are you flying on Air Force One?


BLITZER: All right. We'll have coverage, of course, of that all day tomorrow. Let's continue this conversation...


BLITZER: ... because as that surgeon, the trauma surgeon said, we need a dialogue on these issues. People try to avoid discussing these issues. We don't want to avoid that any more.


BLITZER: Thank you very much for joining me.



BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[18:36:49] BLITZER: Shock waves from the Dallas police ambush are roiling the race for the White House right now. The Trump and Clinton campaigns subdued in the immediate aftermath but now back on the attack full force.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, has the very latest. Jim, you were at Donald Trump's rally there in Virginia Beach a little while ago. Tell our viewers what he had to say.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Donald Trump weighed in on the Dallas police killings, and he also dubbed himself the law and order candidate here in Virginia today. Just one week before the Republican convention, the presumptive GOP nominee was taking one of his potential running mates out for a test drive, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And this was another sign his short list for vice president appears to be getting shorter.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump seized on the attack on police officers in Dallas as a turning point in the campaign.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time for our hostility against our police and against all members of law enforcement to end and end immediately, right now.

ACOSTA: Presenting voters with a critical choice.

TRUMP: I am the law and order candidate. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is weak, ineffective, pandering, and, as proven by her recent e-mail scandal, she's either a liar or grossly incompetent. One or the other. Very simple.

ACOSTA: After delaying his attacks on Clinton in the aftermath of the carnage in Dallas, Trump returned to bashing the former secretary of state over her use of a private e-mail server.

TRUMP: Crooked Hillary Clinton is the secretary of the status quo. And wherever Hillary Clinton goes, corruption and scandal follow.

ACOSTA: The Clinton campaign appeared ready for the attacks, with a preemptive web video highlighting Trump's past comments, seemingly supporting some of the world's worst actors.

TRUMP: Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right? You know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good.

ACOSTA: But at an event on veterans in Virginia, Trump had backup.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We need to stand behind the men and women in blue in this country.

ACOSTA: Just as Trump is in the final days of selecting a running mate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was ripping into Clinton, too.

CHRISTIE: That's not a person who will stand for the rule of law. That's a person who will stand for the rule of her.

ACOSTA: Sources familiar with Trump's vice-presidential search say Christie has now been fully vetted. But there are other apparent finalists. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is said to be high on the short list, while former House speaker Newt Gingrich is actively lobbying for the spot. Pence will be with Trump in Indiana Tuesday.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: And I'm prepared to make that case anywhere across Indiana and anywhere across this country that Donald Trump would want me to.

ACOSTA: Just days after Trump auditioned Gingrich in Ohio.

TRUMP: Newt has been my friend a long time. In one form or another, Newt Gingrich is going to be involved with our government.

ACOSTA: But others in the hunt may be losing their luster. Retired General Mike Flynn, who was under consideration, said he was in favor of abortion rights over the weekend.

LT. GEN. MIKE FLYNN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I think women have to be able to choose what they -- you know, sort of the right of choice.

[18:40:01] ACOSTA: Then today he seemed to flip, describing himself as a pro-life Democrat.


ACOSTA: Now, as for Trump's rally with Mike Pence tomorrow, there are rumblings back in Indiana, Wolf, that the governor could be the odds- on favorite in this election process. State GOP officials in Indiana are scrambling to find a replacement for Pence this week.

Right now, Pence is running for re-election as governor but not any more if he is tapped as Donald Trump's running mate. Pence has to decide by Friday whether he wants to be Trump's vice president. State law in Indiana will simply not allow him to run for both jobs. So there is a time frame on this, Wolf, that will force the issue.

BLITZER: Yes, clearly, the clock is ticking. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's dig deeper into all of this. Joining us, our CNN political analyst, Rebecca Berg. She's the national political reporter for Real Clear Politic. Also, our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; "The Washington Post" assistant editor David Swerdlick; and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Actually, guys, stand by for a moment. We're going to take a quick break. We'll assess what we just heard and a lot more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:45:49] BLITZER: We're back with our political experts. We're following the latest developments.

Gloria, at the rally today, Trump called himself the law and order candidate. He told police the nation will always, always, always in his words give them the support they need, but given tensions right now is Trump taking sides? Is he taking a more realistic position? What's your analysis?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he is trying to walk a fine line here. He said he was the law and order candidate but then followed on by also saying he's the candidate of compassion. This is a campaign that knows that after the attack in Orlando, they made a big mistake. Trump was at his political rally right afterwards and launched into a speech that was against American Muslims, and they know that that backfired.

What they're trying to do is calm down their candidate, let him show a little bit of leadership but be true to who he is. So, he has said he is the law and order candidate echoing, you know, the 1960s with Richard Nixon. But he also went out of his way to point out today that he can be compassionate, which is what -- in this kind of a time, people are looking for. They're looking for someone with a little bit of calm, a little bit of grace and an awful lot of leadership, and you've got two presidential candidates here who are both struggling, albeit in very different ways, to show that kind of humane compassion that came so easily to someone like Bill Clinton, for example.

BLITZER: It's interesting, as far as vice presidential selection process for Trump, Rebecca, is concerned, Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general, former head of the defense intelligence agency, yesterday suggested he was pro-choice on the issue of abortion, today says he is pro-life on the issue of abortion.

Is he still in the mix based on what you're hearing or is he out of the mix right now?

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, as Jim Acosta noted in his report a few minutes ago, this is causing some backlash for Flynn and it is creating heartburn among Trump's allies. Mike Huckabee said today that those remarks actually disqualified Flynn from holding the vice president slot on Trump's campaign, and, of course, Mike Huckabee has endorsed Donald Trump, his daughter works for the campaign, so he is a close ally.

And I spoke with another Trump ally today who said this really is causing heartburn in the campaign, he has fallen out of favor, and he is also a tough sell, a much tougher sell than someone like Newt Gingrich or Mike Pence, for example, and those two are where the smart money is.

DAVID SWERDLICK, THE WASHINGTON POST: In that interview yesterday, other than foreign policy, he seemed fairly uncomfortable with some of --

BLITZER: He is not used to this kind of stuff. He is a general. SWERDLICK: Yes.

BLITZER: What about Mike Pence?


BLITZER: The governor of Indiana. We knew him when he was a member of Congress. He is well known. He knows Washington. He's a governor. His stock seems to be rising now.

BASH: It does. It certainly does. I have done a bit of reporting on this today, talking to people in and around the process and it does seem like some ways maybe it is too obvious because his name is out there in such an intense way right now, but the people I have spoken to say he fits the bill for a lot of reasons.

Number one, Donald Trump said he wants somebody who gets Washington. Mike Pence is as somebody said to me today, somebody who gets Washington but is not of Washington because he is gone. He is the governor of an important Midwestern state.

And also, he is the anti-Trump in that again, somebody said to me today, he takes a deep breath, when Donald Trump shots from the hip, he's the guy who takes -- stands back and takes a deep breath. So, that's one of the reasons why he's high on the list right now.

BLITZER: Gloria, you did reporting on this. Chris Christie, he is supposedly on the short list. Newt Gingrich on the short list. What are you hearing?

BORGER: Well, I spoke with somebody who was at this relatively small Trump fund-raiser over the weekend and he said to me that it sounded to him like Christie was not high on Trump's list, while Trump praised him, he praised all kinds of other things that Christie is doing for the campaign.

[18:50:02] You know, he's running the transition, for example. And that Trump actually solicited people's opinion in the audience and this audience in particular seemed to like Newt and Trump, in particular, seemed a little surprised by that.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff.

You know, Senator Sanders finally tomorrow is going to be out on the campaign trail, Dana, with Hillary Clinton. Going to endorse Hillary Clinton by all accounts. It's a pretty significant moment.

BASH: It absolutely is. I think it's going to really put to question whether that old adage better late that never is still a cliche that we should use, because it is -- has been quite a long time. But at the end of the day, this is the unity moment that Hillary Clinton needs, that Bernie Sanders, I think probably ultimately needs. And, more importantly, just the party in general before the convention comes, rather, needs to put everything behind them.

BLITZER: What is it that Hillary Clinton needs to do, not only to win Bernie Sanders' support but his supporters support?

SWERDLICK: Well, I think what she should do is pick Senator Warren as her running mate. She has the energy in the party to the greatest extent of anyone else other than Senator Sanders among the young voters, among the left-leaning folks in the Democratic Party.

As far as Secretary Clinton, she will have to make some concessions to Senator Sanders on issues like maybe minimum wage.

BERG: She already is on college affordability --



SWERDLICK: Yes. Yes, but what I was going to say is that I don't think there's that much more she can do other than picking a running mate and other than sort of at least appearing to be in unity with Sanders.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by, because there's more coming in. I want to take a quick break.

There's other important news we're following, including involving U.S. military personnel. The United States about to send hundreds more U.S. troops to Iraq. What will their role be in the fight against ISIS?


[18:56:39] BLITZER: The U.S. is sending 560 more troops to Iraq to help drive back ISIS forces in that country.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has got details.

Barbara, the defense secretary made the announcement himself in Baghdad.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: He did, indeed, Wolf. He wanted to go to Iraq, check in with the Iraqis, make sure they were OK with it, and then he made the announcement about the new plan.


STARR (voice-over): Another 560 U.S. troops will head to Iraq.

ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This contingent will help the Iraqis establish logistical springboard for their offensive in Mosul, which Prime Minister Abadi reaffirm to me that he wants to accomplish this year.

STARR: It's a massive step forward in the campaign. Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, captured by ISIS two years ago after U.S.-trained Iraqi forces fled in the face of ISIS lightning raids. Now Iraqi forces are punching back. Over the weekend, seizing a crucial air field at Qayyarah, about 40

miles south of the city. Many of the U.S. troops will operate out of the newly captured air base, supporting thousands of Iraqi forces that will be part of the assault on Mosul from the south, as Kurdish forces attack from the north.

CARTER: Just to remind you the importance of Qayyarah West. It is one of the two locations, (INAUDIBLE) and other ones, objectives that we set some months ago as places from which the Iraqi security forces would position themselves for the southern-most envelopment of Mosul.

STARR: With the 560 additional U.S. troops beginning to arrive within weeks, the overall U.S. force levels in Iraq could rise to over 4,600, plus another 2,400 contractors already in the country.

The U.S. has spent more than $7.5 billion fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, about $11.7 million a day. Commanders believe it's paying off with ISIS losing key territory and capability, including the ability to plan terror attacks.

LT. GEN. SEAN MACFARLAND, COMMANDER OF THE ANTI-ISIS CAMPAIGN: They lose a base of operation s, they lose finances, they lose the ability to plan, to create the fake documentation that they need to get around the world, and they lose financial resources.


STARR: So, U.S. troop levels in Iraq now approaching the 5,000 mark and Pentagon making very clear, there could still be additional U.S. forces sent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. A lot of troops in Iraq, U.S. troops in Iraq, still almost 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Thanks very much, Barbara Starr, for that report.

Finally, tonight, some good news, very good news. We want to congratulate Ben Krolowitz, one of our producers, and his wife, Lynn, on the birth of their son, Cameron Joel. There he is. He was born Saturday, weighing just over eight pounds. How beautiful is Cameron?

We want to send our best wishes to mom, dad and new big sister, Ayla. Congratulations. Cameron, what a beautiful, beautiful baby.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Much more coming up right here tomorrow. Stay with us throughout the night for expanded coverage, the aftermath of the Dallas massacre.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.