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The Situation Room

American Beheaded By ISIS; National Guard Activated In Ferguson; State of Emergency Declared in Missouri; Surprise Federal Checks on NFL Teams; How the GOP Used Twitter

Aired November 17, 2014 - 18:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, terrorists unmasked in the most brutal ISIS video yet. We are getting new clues about these killers, including the executioner known as Jihadi John.

Plus, new details about the beheading of another American, and his parents are now speaking out.

State of emergency, as protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, brace for a critical grand jury decision. The National Guard is being reactivated in case there is new violence.

And the NFL takes a new hit. What did federal agents find during surprise drug checks of several teams?

And a CNN exclusive, how Republicans used Twitter to bend campaign finance laws and possibly break them.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, anti-terror investigators are poring over the newest ISIS video, hoping to identify and punish cold-blooded killers who showed their faces to the world. President Obama called it pure evil that took the life of another American, apparently beheaded by ISIS.

The parents of the slain U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig shared their heartbreak publicly a short while ago.

Our correspondent and analysts are standing by with all the new details on these ISIS beheadings.

First to our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.

Nic, this was heartbreaking.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, absolutely. A very emotionally charged press conference. Hearts went out to the family there. They talked -- the parents talked about their love for their son and their grief at his loss.


PAULA KASSIG, MOTHER OF PETER KASSIG: Our hearts are battered, but they will mend. The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end. And good will prevail.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Peter Kassig's parents are asking for prayers and privacy the day after a video was released showing the aftermath of the beheading of their son, a U.S. aid worker.

The 16-minute video also depicts the slayings of several men described by the terror group as pilots for the Syrian government, which is battling ISIS forces. ISIS says the video was filmed in the Syrian town of Dabiq near the Turkish border, significant for them as they say it's the site they predict for a final Christian-Muslim battle.

Kassig, the former Army-Ranger-turned-humanitarian-aid-worker, told CNN he felt compelled to helm victims of this war.

PETER KASSIG, AID WORKER: There's this impression, this belief that there is no hope. That's when it's more important than ever that we come in against all odds and try to do something.

ROBERTSON: The 26-year-old started his own nonprofit to deliver humanitarian aid and medical assistance to Syrian refugees.

PAULA KASSIG: In 26 years, he has witnessed and experienced firsthand more of the harsh realities of life than most of us can imagine. But, rather than letting the darkness overwhelm him, he has chosen to believe in the good in himself and in others.

ROBERTSON: Kassig used his medical background to treat wounded Syrians until he was captured in Syria a year ago. While in captivity, Kassig converted to Islam. And he went by the name Abdul- Rahman Kassig.

The video released on Sunday doesn't show the Indiana native's death, nor does it show Kassig speaking before his death. But it does show a masked man dressed in black speaking in what sounds like a British accent. A similar figure appears in earlier videos depicting the beheading of Westerners. Unlike previous videos, ISIS didn't name the terror group's next victim. Neither did they mention their losses in U.S. airstrikes.

Kassig is the fifth Western hostage, third American, to be killed by ISIS since U.S. and allies began airstrikes against ISIS in August.

ED KASSIG, FATHER OF PETER KASSIG: Our hearts, though heavy, are held up by the love and support that has poured into our lives these last few days.


ROBERTSON: U.S. officials have said there may be a need for U.S. ground forces in this fight. That's certainly what this video was all about, taunting President Obama to do just that. But Prime Minister David Cameron, staunch ally of the U.S., says, Brianna, we will not be cowed by these sick terrorists. He's in the fight too.

KEILAR: Yes, very robust response.

Nic Robertson, thank you.

And as Nick mentioned, there was a familiar figure in that ISIS video, the killer now widely known around the world as Jihadi John.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has been following this.

This is really the hunt for this masked man in black, Pamela. Where does it stand?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. The hunt has been going on for months now. Brianna, as you point out, once again, the ISIS executioner known as Jihadi John surfaced in a beheading video. He was cloaked in black.

He spoke in that British accent and intelligence officials I have been speaking with today believe that this is the same man that we have seen in previous beheading videos.


BROWN (voice-over): U.S. intelligence officials believe that the ISIS executioner known as Jihadi John is also responsible for the beheadings of Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British nationals David Haines and Alan Henning.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Jihadi John is definitely a marked man. The world's intelligence agencies would love to get to him.

ROBERTSON: He's believed to have lived in London and had had ties to extremists living there, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You claim to have withdraw from Iraq four years ago.

BROWN: Investigators have used voice analysis to trace his British accent and used human sources to try and pinpoint his identity.

CRUICKSHANK: He's believed to have been based around Raqqa, the ISIS headquarters town in Syria which is a real stronghold for them.

BROWN: ISIS has ratcheted up the brutality in its latest video, appearing to show multiple beheadings of Syrian soldiers. But in a first, the video does not show the hostage Peter Kassig prior to his death. Experts say the video shows that ISIS may be wary of coalition airstrikes.

DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: They're afraid that having multiple cameras out in the open could serve as a giveaway for people targeting them from the sky.


BROWN: And U.S. officials I have been speaking with and intelligence and law enforcement, they say they want to bring this man to justice. One official said, whether that's on the battlefield or in a British or U.S. courtroom is to be determined -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Pamela Brown, thank you.

Other ISIS killers appear in that grisly new video. This is what is different. They're unmasked. You can see their faces. It's really a brazen move that has intelligence officials scrambling to put names with these faces.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Are they anywhere on this, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There is a wealth of hints in here, clues. They can't make conclusions from there, but there is interesting information.

And I'm just going to go through a few of them that the military and intelligence officials are looking at. One, why was this video different from previous ones? Why did they not have the victim kneeling on his knees in an orange uniform before and then another statement from another the next victim perhaps at the end? Were they rushed? Is this a sign, Brianna, that they're under pressure?

That's one thing. In the faces you see there, we know that the French have identified positively one of them as a French jihadi, and there's reports in the U.K. that a British father has identified another one there. You see the influence of these foreign fighters that we have talked so much about, very much at the forefront of this video, showing their faces even without like Jihadi John covering his face.

And one final thing, Brianna. From speaking to former Army commanders, as they look as the equipment that they have, they're wearing Patagonia winter gear. The knives they pick up are very expensive knives, and that gives a sense of the kind of funding they have.

One former commander told me that they're even better equipped, better dressed than many Iraqi soldiers that you see out in the field, and that is interesting as well because it really gets at how formidable an adversary they are.

KEILAR: Certainly does. Jim Sciutto, thank you.

I want to bring in our panel now. Lieutenant Colonel James Reese, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd and CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.

I want to ask all of you again this.

I will start with you, Peter. You have seen this video. You know what's in it. What does this tell you? What were your first thoughts about this and sort of analyzing this, a very different video from the others?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I guess the fact that they're not disguising these people's identities, that they're crowing about the -- as Jim mentioned, this Frenchman that's in this video, probably a Brit, and also other nationalities and that they're willing to be public with these grotesque executions.

KEILAR: Colonel, what struck you the most?

JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: First off, I would like to say to Peter Kassig's family, he's a very brave man. And as a former Ranger, Rangers lead the way for Peter.

But what really struck me is the youth and the strapness of these guys and, like Jim Sciutto talked about, the equipment that they have, and they're really trying to show themselves as a really squared-away type of organization that's not afraid of what's in front of them.

KEILAR: Also, Phil, you had this where you saw the faces, you could see that these were men of very different nationalities. That's not an accident. That's part of what ISIS is trying to communicate here.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. This isn't just a communication to the White House or to the French or the British, it's a communication to what they would call an ummah, a community of people that they want to absorb in this state they're creating.

Brianna, this is not terrorism, this is not an insurgency, this in their view is a cosmic fight that gives them the justification to use terror to pursue the fight. That's the real chilling piece here. We think of these people narrowly as terrorists. They think of themselves as justified by a religion.

KEILAR: Do you think it was rushed, Peter, rushed putting this video together?

BERGEN: It's hard to tell. Why would it be rushed?

KEILAR: I guess I think they thought the fact that some analysts have said you didn't see parts of the process that you might have seen before in other videos.

BERGEN: Oh, right.

Yes, I mean, it's quite possible that Peter fought back in some way. He knew what was coming. And he's an Army Ranger. He's been taught how to deal with hostage situations. He knew the end was inevitable and he may have not cooperated.

KEILAR: Do you think, Colonel, that they're under pressure? Does this video reveal that?

REESE: Well, again, it shows -- over the last week we had the attack on Baghdadi. This allows them to get their propaganda back out. They're trying to get their followers charged up. Again, it's a give and take. Some people will really turn off on this, but others, these young folks, it's "Grand Theft Auto" videos and everything. They get fired up and they want to come to the fight to see what this is like.

But once they get there, it's a whole different reality.

KEILAR: Stick with me. We will talk a little bit after the break about really perhaps some vulnerabilities that may have been revealed here, if there are clues to track down some of these jihadists. We will be right back.


KEILAR: We're back now with our terrorism experts talking about the brutal new ISIS beheading video.

We have Phil Mudd, we have Bob Baer, we have Peter Bergen and we have also Colonel James Reese with us.

And I wonder, Bob. I think some folks are looking at this latest video that we have seen and they wonder if there are some vulnerabilities perhaps revealed here. When you see all of these jihadists and you see their faces, does this allow intelligence agencies to go back really to perhaps where they're being radicalized and sort of get really at the root of the problem?

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think definitely. They're getting a little bit sloppy showing these faces. They didn't in the previous videos. We still have Jihadi John, which -- a man we have not identified so far.

But showing faces, and this is almost a random act, it looks like, because they didn't tie it to a current political message. I'm wondering if ISIS is not on the ropes. They lost in Kobani. They have lost around Baghdad. They haven't -- they have lost Baiji, the refinery, and the rest of it. You almost -- it looks like they're lashing out to remind people they're there.

KEILAR: Jihadi John, Peter, he mentioned him, and this is someone, the masked man in black. We just saw a report on that. How significant is Jihadi John and what all do we know about him?

BERGEN: Well, we know that British officials have identified him a long time ago. FBI Director James Comey also said that his identity is known. He's part of a group known as the Beatles who are basically from London that are basically the people who are the main captors of all these hostages.

KEILAR: What is I think really striking about this latest video is we know that there is another American, a woman, actually, a 26-year-old. She's not in this video. What does that tell us?

BERGEN: I think this is potentially good news. CNN is aware of her identity. We're not reporting it.

But ISIS has also not mentioned her name or produced her in any of these videos. As brutal and terrible as this group is, I think it would be a bridge too far for them to execute a woman. I find that very, very -- that would be something that they would have to consider very carefully.

KEILAR: The backlash that they would get. Certainly, we expect that they are considering that.

I want to get, Phil, your impression of a report that just came out. This just popped, the Daily Beast reporting that the president is ordering a hostage policy review. Obviously, the policy of the United States is not to negotiate with terrorists.

Yet we have seen other nations go ahead and negotiate, albeit quietly or find proxies to negotiate for them. Do you think that the administration should be reviewing the policy?

MUDD: Sure, I would be in favor of review, as long as we know what the parameters are. That is, there's a big difference between paying money for people who need to pay their own troops and doing what we did with the Taliban, for example, months ago, when we traded prisoners for prisoners.

We are on a battlefield engaged in a battle, and we're dealing with human life, but also human souls. If there's a way to get them out, I think it's worth considering. But I would like to see what the sidelines are on this battlefield. I would say no to money, but there might be other options here that might keep some of these people alive. And I think we ought to talk about it.

KEILAR: What do you think about that, Colonel Reese? You're a retired Delta Force Army officer. There are many in the military who would feel that their lives have currency then if this policy is changed.

REESE: Well, sure, Brianna. There's no time that we want to launch on a hostage rescue if there's a political way of getting these folks brought back.

But like Phil said, if we give them this money exchange aspect, that's a very slippery slope to go down. There are other items, like you said, a prisoner exchange. There could be some stability operation type aspects or medical relief to help people that might be injured.

But we have really got to watch that. At the end of the day, no one wants to launch on it. We want to try to get these people back in some kind of a political negotiation.

BERGEN: I think it's worth pointing out, Brianna, that -- I agree with everything Colonel Reese and Phil Mudd have said, but I think that there is a sort of provision here that's worth thinking about.

The family of James Foley was raising money to get him released. Should an American family who has their son being taken be in some way threatened with potential criminal action trying to get a release going?

I mean, of course, we should have this sort of blanket you don't negotiate. But there are exceptions where, when it's private funding, coming from somebody's family, that shouldn't necessarily be a criminal activity prosecuted by the government.

KEILAR: That was the thing, Bob. The Foleys said they were warned by doing something like that, they would be breaking the law. What do you think?

BAER: Well, I think technically they are.

You cannot exchange money with terrorist groups. This has been designated a terrorist group and it's been American standing policy for a long time. I won't address the morality of it. But it is illegal. It's whether the Justice Department decides to prosecute it or not. And I don't think they ever would have, but I can understand where that warning came from, because the administration thinks it will just encourage more terrorism.

KEILAR: And obviously when you're talking about ISIS trying to negotiate, you see a lot of times, with Americans, they have put the price so high. A lot of people view that to mean they're not really serious about negotiating.

BERGEN: I think that's absolutely right. They were asking for 150 million euros. It was not a serious offer for James Foley.


KEILAR: And in the case reported of this young woman, I think it's $6 million or something like that.

BERGEN: We have seen -- Americans have been released because money was exchanged and the government looked the other way. That's happened in the past.

So this review I think is a good one, because we have seen a lot of Americans dying as a result of this policy, Europeans being released. They can come to the same conclusion. But I think a review is a good idea.

KEILAR: Peter, thank you so much. Bob, thank you to you as well. Phil, really appreciate you being here. Colonel Reese, thanks for chatting With us.

And just ahead, breaking news. Missouri's governor declares a state of emergency and activates the National Guard as tensions rise in Ferguson.

And this regarding the NFL. Federal drug enforcement agents make surprise visits to several teams.


KEILAR: Breaking news this hour.

The Missouri governor just declared a state of emergency as the city of Ferguson braces for the possibility of new violence. A grand jury decision could come at any time on whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed the unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

The National Guard is now being acted.

And CNN's Sara Sidner joins us live to talk about it from Ferguson. This is a significant move by the governor, Sara.


The governor warned that he would activate the Guard if he thought that it was necessary. But it took quite a few folks, especially the protesters, by surprise, because it's been peaceful protests mostly for the past 90-plus days. They're wondering why he's making that decision now.

However, the decision was welcomed by the mayor of Saint Louis, who came out and said he supported the decision, because as he understood it there needed to be preparations put in place by the National Guard in order for them to be able to help out, if needed.

Earlier, on the weekend, we saw some of the first video we have seen of officer Darren Wilson from surveillance video obtained by "The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch" and some of the police calls that went back and forth that day on August 9.


SIDNER (voice-over): The public can now hear Ferguson police dispatch audio that gives insight into the timeline which led up to the death of Michael Brown and the moments after he died at the hands of officer Darren Wilson.

The audio and some surveillance video of Wilson was obtained by the "The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch." Minutes before officer Wilson and Brown's worlds collide in violence, you hear the dispatcher giving a description of a suspect in a robbery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, we have taking a stealing in progress from 9101 West Florissant.

SIDNER: Sources have said officer Wilson encountered Brown before the radio call, detailing this theft that Brown is accused in. It confirms what police said, that Wilson did not know Michael Brown was a potential suspect in their first encounter.

But the audio seems to confirm Wilson eventually realizes Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, do fit the description.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's with another male. He's got a red Cardinals hat and white T-shirt, yellow socks and khaki shorts. He's walking up...

SIDNER: Soon after, the audio suggests officer Wilson goes after Brown and Johnson and calls for backup.

DARREN WILSON, FERGUSON POLICE DEPARTMENT: Twenty-one, put me on Canfield with two and send me another car.

SIDNER: The confrontation ensues. What we do not hear is Wilson calling in to say he has shot someone. But when backup arrives, another officer on the scene calls for more support. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frank 25.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get us several more units over here. There's going to be a problem.

SIDNER: After killing Brown, these images show Wilson returning to the police department. They are some of the first images to surface of officer Wilson from August 9.

The surveillance video obtained by "The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch" shows officer Wilson entering and then leaving the police station two hours later to head to the hospital for X-rays. There are no major injuries visible, but police have said his face was slightly swollen.

These new discoveries come as Ferguson and the rest of the country await a grand jury decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown.





SIDNER: Supporters of Michael Brown have taken to the streets, holding a die-in to protest what they say was the unnecessary death of an unarmed teenager.


SIDNER: Protesters have been at it for more than 100 days, protesting every single day. They protested again today outside the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney's office, protesting the process and waiting to see what the grand jury decision is -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Sara Sidner for us in Ferguson, thanks. Let's talk about this now with St. Louis alderman Antonio French, community activist John Gaskin, CNN anchor Don Lemon and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.

John, I want to ask you the first question here. This activation of the Missouri National Guard, why do you think this is happening now?

JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Well, there definitely is a possibility that the governor and his staff are concerned about unrest. But I think it's preemptive, and I think it's premature. Because the last 90 days, the protests have been peaceful. Many of the protesters have policed themselves; they've been organized.

And to be honest with you, I think that kind of action this early is very premature. It creates a lot of chaos. If you look at social media, many people are wondering why this kind of action is taking place already, especially since no announcement has already been made. Now I understand the governor and his staff wants to make the

necessary preparations in terms of a public safety standpoint. However, I think we need to give people within that community that have been acting accordingly and have been peaceful a little more credit.

KEILAR: Give us the law enforcement perspective here, Tom. Does this make sense right now?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, two things. First, you hope for the best, but you plan for the worst. That's just common sense to be planning for, you know, when a number of people have spoken out and said there will be violence if the officer is not indicted in this case.

And secondly, the fact that they've been peaceful, there's been no major problem for 90 days, is true, but there's been no announcement for 90 days.

So that's what the fear is here for law enforcement, for the community, for the business people that are boarding up their businesses with plywood on the front as if a hurricane might come. So everybody in that community is on edge and tense, waiting for the announcement.

KEILAR: Alderman, you pleaded the National Guard being called in when policing has failed, and you said this military presence will, quote, "mark a historic failure." Explain what you mean there.

ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS ALDERMAN: Yes. I think at a time when we need to be calming people down, we had 100 days here to try to bring sides together, to try to give protesters and folks who agree with the protesters some degree of action to show their government is listening to them.

They have not received that. They have not gotten that. And so they rightfully, I think, would come out and protest.

But we should not escalate the situation. In fact, I think we should be working to deescalate it. And I worry that a military presence here sends the wrong message. It says that it's them versus us. And we're going to win. And I don't think that's helped anybody in the long-term.

KEILAR: Do you think that's the case, Don? Do you think that this could actually escalate things?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think anything could escalate things at this point. But I want to start my comments by saying everything Tom Fuentes said. Tom is right. You have to plan for the worse and hope for the best. And if a situation happened in Ferguson that got out of control, then people would be blaming the governor or whoever was in charge that they weren't prepared in the moment.

And yes, I think the protesters get credit for the mostly peaceful protests that have been going for the past 90 days, but we cannot forget what happened initially, and it did get out of control. So people do have to be prepared in case something happens.

And rightly so, there has been no announcement. And no one knows what's going to happen when the announcement does come down. And just because the National Guard is activated, it does not mean the National Guard will be standing there in front of people. They could be just at the outpost or what have you or the headquarters or the command post until they are activated to go out.

KEILAR: I'm going to ask the alderman this next question, but I want you all to weigh on this -- weigh in on this. This video of Officer Wilson, if we can show that. You see him leaving soon after the shooting, and it doesn't appear that there are really very visible injuries here. I just wonder, Alderman, what's your reaction to seeing this and also to the timing here?

FRENCH: Well, it's interesting. Obviously, in the first few days after August 9, there was some reports that there was a struggle and that Officer Wilson had suffered injuries to his face. It did not appear that way in the video, at least.

But you know, I worry about the timing of this again. In many cases we've had these videos released, and luckily, there's been a lot of restraint. We haven't seen reaction from the public because of it. But it also appears that there may be some kind of trying to prepare the community for a non-indictment.

And so, again, I give the protesters a lot of credit for really showing a lot of restraint. And I think that will continue.

LEMON: Right. And Brianna, can we just say that those reports about his eye socket and all the damage to his face, we never reported that.

KEILAR: CNN did not report that.

LEMON: We did not report that. I knocked it down. My colleague, Jason Carroll, initially was the first person to knock it down with the police chief, Tom Jackson, there. So there was no eye socket injury.

And then we have to remember, from the Zimmerman trial, everyone said, "Well, look, I see him on the video. There were no injuries." And then we finally saw the pictures, and there were injuries. I don't know if there are injuries or not, but from this, I don't think you can judge until we know what's coming out in the evidence.

KEILAR: Does it matter, Tom, if there were severe injuries?

FUENTES: Well, it doesn't matter if they're not visible, and you don't know that yet. I'd like to see what his face looked like the next day. If somebody punched him in the face and he's in shock from the shooting incident and everything that's transpired, so -- so he could be walking around basically in a daze, like an NFL quarterback with a concussion. Having gone through something like that, we just don't know. All I'm saying is you can't say that he's not injured. You can't say for sure that he is.

KEILAR: Certainly, no. And it would be very interesting to see the next day.

Do you think, John, as we heard the Alderman say, that perhaps this could be some sort of preparation for a non-indictment of Officer Wilson?

GASKIN: It could be, especially considering that it came out from the Post-Dispatch and it's my understanding that it came out late in the wee hours of the night. So it could very well be some trying to caution the community on what's coming down the pipe, potentially.

KEILAR: Do you think that -- I wonder, John, do you think the decision has already been made and maybe...

LEMON: You mean, John or Don?

KEILAR: Well, you can both weigh in, but John first. Do you think the decision may have already been made, and yet it's just being delayed so that law enforcement can get their ducks in a row and do their best to make sure that everyone is safe?

GASKIN: Well, there's definitely that possibility. But I think with a case that is as high profile as this one, with that many individuals in a room, I think it would probably be -- probably be very difficult to hold that kind of -- kind of very urgent information for that long a period of time. I think that would be extremely reckless and extremely difficult.

KEILAR: Hard to hold...

LEMON: When there have been so many leaks, Brianna.


LEMON: And you can't even get two forensic pathologists to agree on an autopsy, or three. And so imagine what a grand jurist is going through, someone who is a layperson.

I don't think the decision would be made in holding it. I think once that decision is made, everyone will get notice that a decision has been made and then how long before the actual announcement -- before they actually announce the decision.

KEILAR: That would be tough to hold onto that.

FUENTES: And I think the other fear is that somebody could leak something that's just not true and say there's been a decision or he's not going to be indicted, and there might not even be a decision. We just don't know.

But I'd be very cautious now and tell everybody, be careful of the social media accounts and all of that, because anybody can put anything out; and it might not be true.

KEILAR: Quick final word to you, Alderman, to people in the community there? FRENCH: You know, I think people just need to keep calm and keep a

level head. Regardless of which way this thing goes, the process is not over. There's still the Justice Department, and there are a lot of things going on right now.

But violence will solve nothing. And I don't think there's a military solution or a violent solution to anything we're trying to resolve here.

KEILAR: Alderman, thank you. Thank you so much. Really -- really appreciate that. Certainly, that sentiment is well said, as John said. John, Tom, Don, thanks to all of you, as well.

LEMON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just ahead, new problems for the NFL. We are learning more about surprise drug checks.

Plus, a "West Wing" character at the center of a Republican Twitter scandal. What's that all about? We'll have some exclusive details for you.


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: And what the class action lawsuit alleges is that doctors and even people like trainers who are not allowed to give out this level of prescription medication were giving these out kind of like candy, right, without the proper prescriptions, people being given prescriptions that weren't in their names, the idea of cocktailing, mixing prescriptions that shouldn't be mixed together.

Players being given these pills without being told, are they addictive or not, what are the side effects, all of that are things that are required by law.

And then, also, what the DEA was looking into, and you can tell by the fact that every team they visited yesterday were visiting teams, not the home teams at these games, is that physicians are only allowed to give out this level of really potent powerful prescription in the state where they're licensed to practice medicine. So, if they then travel with the team to another state, they're not supposed to be prescribing medication to players in that other state.

And what they are supposed to do if that player really needs medicine is they're supposed to go to the home team doctor and ask them to look at their player. That doesn't happen as often in the NFL, because, hey, you've got opposing teams, they don't like to help each other out. But that is the procedure that's supposed to happen. So, the DEA wanted to make sure that was being followed.

You have more than a thousand former players alleging that all of these rules are being broken, that they want to start looking into it.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Make sense of this for me, Evan, because you have the NFL saying these visits were administrative. EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Right.

KEILAR: Right? So, what -- one, what does that mean and also what kind of action might be taken if some wrongdoing is found here by a trainer or some other staff member carrying drugs they shouldn't be carrying?

PEREZ: Right now, the investigation is not criminal. That's what this means. It means that, you know, if there's a violation, it will be a civil penalty. That could be done.

And, you know, what Rachel was talking about, basically this is not focused so much on the players. It's focused on the staff, the trainers and the doctors, because they're not supposed to be traveling pharmacies. You know, they're not supposed to be carrying all these drugs with them.

So, that's what the DEA wanted to see. They want told see whether these guys were traveling with all these drugs and whether they could catch them in the act. And what's significant about this is this lawsuit, you know, was filed for players who played from 1969 to 2008. What this tells us is that the DEA thinks something more recent probably is going on.

KEILAR: And that's what they're looking for.

Rachel, are we going to see more of this, more teams being checked in on with these administrative visits?

NICHOLS: I certainly wouldn't be surprised. You've got to think that they don't launch as widespread investigation and they just sort of have it all be wrapped up in one day.

I think the NFL and NFL players and NFL physicians have been put on notice here that the DEA is serious about this. Previous to this, it was mostly a civil claim, right? This class action lawsuit, but I think that NFL teams are being made aware of, guess what, this is not something that happened in the past, that people are trying to litigate. This is something the federal government is concerned about and you better take it seriously.

KEILAR: And we know, Evan, that they went to check in with the 49ers, they checked in with the Bucs, they checked in with the Seahawks.

Can they legally check in with any teams?

PEREZ: They can go anywhere, and I think that's what -- this was like a signal to the NFL, you better make sure that your teams are following the law because they can go just about anywhere. And, you know, this investigation is only at the beginning. I mean, we will see where this goes. We don't know what the DEA found in these inspections and these random interviews that they did. And we don't know where else the investigation is going to go.

KEILAR: Aside from administrative, could it be legal? PEREZ: Oh, yes, I mean, it could be a criminal issue eventually if

they find any proof of that. Right now, it's just administrative. You know, the DEA, this is not an easily done thing. I mean, we're talking about, you know, the Cadillac of American sport here, the NFL. So this was not done lightly.

KEILAR: No, very big deal. Thanks for talking about it with me, Evan, Rachel. Appreciate it.

And just ahead, we'll ask this question: did Republicans skirt campaign finance laws through Twitter? We have a CNN exclusive with the answer.


KEILAR: Now an exclusive CNN Politics investigation revealing how Republican used anonymous Twitter accounts to apparently get around campaign finance laws. The question now, were those laws simply bent or were they broken?

I'll talk to CNN senior digital correspondent Chris Moody in just a moment. He broke this big story.

But, first, here's how the system worked in the months leading up to the midterm elections.


KEILAR (voice-over): Come January, Republicans will have their largest majority in the House of Representatives since World War II. The result of a dramatic GOP sweep in the midterm elections where we saw unprecedented spending on ads such as this.

POLITICAL AD: Shawn Patrick Maloney looking out for himself, not us.

KEILAR: Campaign ads funded by independent groups known as super PACs. These groups are allowed to spend unlimited supporting candidates and it's all legal as long as they don't coordinate in any way with the campaigns they're supporting.

But CNN has learned that's exactly how it may have happened, all publicly on one of the Internet's most popular sites.

CHRIS MOODY, CNN SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: So, when we got wind of this story, we found out there were Twitter accounts that very few people know about, that campaigns and outside groups would use to dump their internal polling data and share it with one another.

KEILAR: CNN senior digital correspondent Chris Moody discovered this was going on for months before the election. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the official arm of House Republicans, appears to have been swapping secret campaign data with super PACs like American Crossroads and the American Action Network.

MOODY: I knew I was on to something when minutes after I e-mailed the Republican groups asking about this story, all of the accounts were deleted.

KEILAR: The tweets were public, visible to anyone who followed the anonymous accounts. But to an outside observer, the tweets appeared to be gibberish, streams of seemingly random letters and numbers.

MOODY: If you were a pollster, you might be able to find out what these numbers mean. Now, they would start with an abbreviation that looks like a state. Let's say CA for California. Then it would have what look like top line poll numbers showing who's up, who's down, possibly favorability ratings, followed by a date that the poll was taken. And then at the end, we think is the district number, because these Twitter accounts were based on House races.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I do respect the voters.

KEILAR: One account was even named for Bruno Gianelli, a fictional campaign strategist on TV's "The West Wing".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the ad try to influence the outcome of the election? You can't use soft money, period.

TREVOR POTTER, FORMER FEC COMMISSIONER: All of this is because you have outside groups that have been able to use unlimited amount of money, very large sums. But they really want to be inside groups.

KEILAR: What's not clear tonight is exactly who posted the information or if any laws were broken.

POTTER: The gap again here is, the Supreme Court thought none of this was going to happen. They thought this would be an outside expenditure, totally independent. And the reality is it is a web of connection taken with campaigns and these outside groups and their donors.


KEILAR: Joining us now to talk about this, CNN senior digital correspondent, Chris Moody, who broke this story.

It's a great story, Chris. Congratulations on this.

MOODY: Thank you.

KEILAR: What's the reaction? If you've gotten any from the NRCC or from American Crossroads or American Action Network or any of the groups that appear to be communicating hear?

MOODY: Since we started reporting this story before the election, it's been absolute radio silence from them. We've had response that's said, we're not interested in commenting. And even after we broke the story today, no response.

We had no response from any FEC commissioners while we're working on the story. But this morning, one of the FEC commissioners posted on Twitter that said we might be looking into this, but it will be vey difficult because campaign finance laws are "murky" is the word that she used.

KEILAR: Meaning that this could have been bent, the rules, but maybe not broken?

MOODY: That's right, because the FEC hasn't issued very much guidance on what coordination actually means. And under the eyes of the law, there's a really high bar on what means coordination, and the FEC would have to prove it.

Now, they could go after these groups. They could subpoena them to try to find how they got together and decided where to find the Twitter accounts and how to read the code on the Twitter accounts, but the ability of them to actually successfully carry that outdoes not look good. A lot of the experts I talked to said, don't expect very much to happen other than exposure of this.

KEILAR: Wow, this part is so fascinating to me, the timing of this. You get a tip and you figure out, this is going on. And you call up the NRCC, which is -- that's the official campaign arm of House Republicans. How long did it take taken with you calling the NRCC and you starting to see these accounts on Twitter deleted?

MOODY: I sent an e-mail asking if they wanted to discuss the Twitter that I knew they had access to or I knew that they were reviewing. And within maybe an hour, they were all deleted.

KEILAR: OK. So make the cognitive leap for me. Do you feel someone at the NRCC transmitted to whoever had that Twitter handle and it was deleted?

MOODY: Well, because we don't know which groups were behind each account, we do know that they had access to view the data of the accounts. But because we don't know who is behind it, we don't know if they went ahead and just deleted their own or if they just sent a message out to say, hey, they're on to us. Because I did send messages out to the other groups as well, but they are all off the map now.

KEILAR: All right. So, Bruno Gianelli, this is also another fascinating tidbit. That is a "West Wing" character. So, what do we read into that?

MOODY: These people obviously had a sense of humor about what they were doing. Now, they were doing this before the election, but they were also for four years before the election. They've been doing this for a long time for several cycles. Bruno Gianelli argued in the show "West Wing" in favor of using soft money to peddle issue campaigns, and his colleagues actually overruled him because they didn't think it was ethical. So you can read into that what you want.

KEILAR: Certainly. OK. So, my final question to you, the question is, did they community? This official arm and maybe some of these other groups by saying, hey, here's the Twitter account that you need to check out for this, right?

MOODY: Right. So, merely posting this stuff on Twitter is not legal. The question is how did they know where to look and how to read it? And that's a question we don't have an answer for yet.

There could also be a question of, if you provide polling date to a campaign, that is an in-kind donation and you have to report it. So, these were not reported. And they were privately transmitted to the NRCC. That should be an in-kind donation, but it doesn't look like they were reported.

KEILAR: Chris Moody, great story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

And remember, you can follow us on Twitter. Tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.