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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  August 27, 2014 2:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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so they'll be keeping a close eye on that. akiko fujita thank you so much. check out the page on the lead for video blogs and extras. that is it for "the lead." i am jake tapper and i turn you over to wolf blitzer in the situation room. wolf? thanks very much, jake. happening now, syria air strikes. u.s. drones already scouting targets as president obama weighs his options for expanding the attacks on isis. jihadists on the border and it spills over into israeli-held territory as al qaeda allies seize a key crossing point. and a mother's plea. after the brutal murder of one american, the mother of another american hostage begs isis to release her son. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." -- captions by vitac -- >> we are tracking major developments this hour in the
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middle east and the war in syria threatens to drag in israel as a group seizes a key border post. a second american has been killed fighting for isis and with one american hostage murdered, the mother of another is pleading with isis for his freedom. president obama is considering whether to pull the trigger on air strikes against isis targets in syria. >> our correspondents are standing by with full coverage and let's begin with our senior white house correspondent jim acosta on a very tough decision facing the president. >> with a growing chorus of republicans calling on president obama to lay out his plan for dealing with isis. the president has been meeting with top officials all week on potential options for striking the group in syria, but no decision yet. >> secretary of state john kerry and top administration officials were spotted leaving the west wing today as the white house continues to weigh options on the isis threat. the president has called isis a cancer. >> if isis is a cancer does he
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want to defeat it? >> well, of course. >> reporter: as the pentagon announced new air strikes against isis targets in iraq, the white house remained keiji over whether syria is next and soon. >> is it crunch time? >> i would say this is a situation that the president and his team is watching very closely. >> reporter: the u.s. is also working to rescue a small number of americans held hostage by isis as recently freed urn joalist theo curtis is back on american soil. >> to all those people i say a huge thank you from my heart, from the bottom of my heart. >> the mother of steven sotloff pleaded for mercy. >> i ask you to please release my child. >> the administration is also eyeing another potential humanitarian crisis in northern iraq and ethnic shiite turkmen fleeing their homes to escape isis fighters. the isis arm of terror is growing. militants posted this video on
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youtube boasting the group now wields this american-made howitzer, a claim cnn cannot verify. lawmakers are calling on the president to make his case. >> we are launching air strikes in iraq for reasons which are really not totally specified yet, but surveillance if syria. how does that work? there is no strategy. >> even as one top republican told cnn, a get tough approach would be popular. >> i'm anxious to hear what the president has in mind and he's very likely to get support. but targeting isis in syria would be more complicated than the mission in iraq. there would be no coordination with the syrian leadership. >> the administration has said that they are not seek the cooperation or approval of the a assad regime and on the ground intelligence because we've not the presence in syria that we had iraq. they want more international
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partners to deal with isis and that's happening in iraq, but in syria that is another question. a spokesperson told cnn that air strikes at this point in syria are not under discussion and however all of that, wolf, will be on the table when the president meets with nato. >> jim acostaa the the white house. >> they're helping to slow the isis advance in iraq, but they concede that's about all air strikes can can do even as the president considers extending the air campaign to syria. barbara, the president under an enormous amount of pressure to hit isis hard including in syria. what's the view you're getting from inside the pentagon. >> wolf, when you walk the hallways around the pentagon, what you hear mainly is nobody right now is going to be rushed into a decision. not the president, not the secretary of defense, not the chairman of the joint chiefs. when and if the president makes a decision they will be ready to go, but right now they are continuing to gather intelligence from those drones
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flying overhead in the region about where isis positions are in. syria, where their troops are and how they're moving around and all of that, where the weapons are, but they're only able to get that overhead intelligence right now, so if they're going to do air strikes they need to keep that up because isis is always on the move. no real rush to do it by all accounts at this point. what officials are saying that everybody needs to have an understanding of what the understanding is and what they're trying to do and what threat those isis fighters on the ground inside syria pose to the united states. wolf? >> what you are hearing now, barbara is that drones are fliing reconnaissance missions and surveillance over potential isis targetses in syria, but manned aircraft not yet, is that right? >> no manned aircraft at this point and our understanding from several sources is that what is continuing to happen is very high altitude-flying drones are just on the other side and staying inside the iraq side of the border and from these
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positions they can basically, if you will peek into syria and gather some of the intelligence. the real time targeting intelligence that will be needed when and if the president needs to make a decision. wolf? >> barbara starr at the pentagon, thanks very much. >> a new development into the bleed civil war. the jihadist tied to al qaeda has seized a key crossing point on syria's border with the golan heights. during the clash they fell in syrian territory. ben wiedman is joining us live from the border area and up in the golan heights and this is a potentially worrisome development especially for israel. what's the latest there, ben? >> reporter: yes, it's a very sensitive situation at this point, wolf. at this point we understand that the distance between israeli forces on the demarcation line in the golan heights and up
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front that al qaeda-affiliated group is only about 200 yards. now there was a lot of -- we heard, actually, we were just about two kilometers away from the border where that crossing is and we heard a lot of shells landing on the syrian side and in fact, one every few minutes and they were quite loud. so their fighting is continuing on that area and the israelis really are going to pains to stress that those shells that landed within the territory, they control or are errant in their words and so far this morning, one israeli officer was wounded by one of those errant shells and two civilians also were wounded, as well and we were told by one eyewitness who has experience in these things that these shells really didn't look so errant. that two of them apparently landed very close to the israeli
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position at that crossing. this evening we also saw a lot of armor on the move, armored personnel carriers being moved around in transport vehicles. so certainly, the atmosphere is very tense. many of the areas around the demarcation line between the golan and syria have been declared as closed military areas. nobody's been allowed in and some of these israeli communities near that line and some people have been informed or advised to stay in their safe room. so a very tense situation here. the feeling is, however, that it would be a serious step on the part of the syrian rebels including the front to actually engage directly with the israeli forces because the israeli forces here are large in number. this is a very militarized area and it appears that the israelis are preparing for all
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eventualities. >> i've been told by israeli sources that if, in fact that al nusra and some of these forces that were to attack which has been relatively quiet, bashar al assad being careful that it remains quiet, but if would heat up the israelis would pound quickly and i suppose that's what you're seeing with the tanks and the other equipment up in the golan heights and ben wiedman is there and we'll check back in with him as well. >> retired u.s. general, the former nato supreme allied commander. you know that situation up on the golan heights very, very well. i think you'll agree that if rockets start coming in from al nusra positions they've taken over this key border checkpoint of the golan heights and the israelis will react strongly. in they will react and react very quickly and with a great deal of firepower. >> do you think al nusra is itching for a fight with israel to establish some credentials,
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if you will, with their base? >> it's hard to say. i think both isis and the current threat on the golan you're seeing the steps here of trying to make it a much wider engagement. what has to happen here is some intelligence has to be gathered on exactly what the intentions are, and i believe that's what you see all of the activity going on, but if we're talking air strikes, u.s. airstrikes then you have to on have rules of engagement and that's going to be how to take out those air defenses in syria and others that would threaten them. >> we'll get in depth with that. stand by. general is here and we have a lot to discuss with him. we'll take a quick break. much more right after this. over 20 million kids everyday in our country
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our top story, the united states gathering intelligence on possible target as president obama considers whether to order air strikes against isis in syria. those air strikes are going on in iraq and we're back with the former nato allied supreme commander. they're mulling, it's a very difficult decision. it was one thing to launch air strikes inside iraq and you have the support of the irk iraqi military as crumby as it might sxbt peshmerga forces. what do you have in syria? >> what you have right now is a very robust air defense system by the syrians and that has to be taken into account if we're going to do air strikes in
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syria. and i'm not sure where the rebelses are in. all of this. it it seems that they've been on the defensive for? time, but if we're going to do air strikes and there's a whole planning process that has to go through that and it includes rules of engagement, hostile intent and hostile act and if they turn on a radar and those are the sorts of things that the supreme allied commander that the u.s. and nato is prepared. >> you need to define the mission and you need clarity as you like to say. the president's meeting with the nato allies next week in wales. where are the nato allies? because so many people write to me why does the united states always have to do these kind of things? where are all of the nato allies? they are very, very concerned both with what's occurring in the ukraine and syria and elsewhere within the larger area of operations. i really think that here is an
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opportunity for the president of the united states -- if nato doesn't work unless the u.s. leads. let me be very candid here and he has to at this heads of state summit which is what we call the 28 nations of nato. he has to lay out his assessment of what he sees happening and what needs to be done and he has to lay out a format for nato to act and that's very important. >> can air strikes alone destroy isis inside syria? >> they can really prevent some of the momentum that isis has now. but like in the kurdish region. you combine air strikes with a maneuver then it can be effective. >> are you saying the u.s. should be involved on the ground in syria? >> not in syria. the kurdish forces and i'm not
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sure which of the rebel forces, but let's remember isis is they enemy of the syrian government right now and so that has to be worked out. that's why i think it's a very difficult situation right now. >> what was shocking to me and i'm anxious to get your thought that the syrian military, bashar al arc assad and they lose control of this key checkpoint to the forces on the golan heights? what does that say it to you about the syrian military? >> it makes them suspect because there's no reason, unless that -- they were pulling back for more important targets elsewhere in the north of syria, but that is, to me, indication that perhaps this force is not as strong as we think it is. >> it's an indication to me that this regime potentially could be crumbling right now in the face of this enormous threat. they're losing all sorts of areas to isis and other forces there. >> but there is an opportunity
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here to say as we look at threats, the danger of isis and what it can do and not just in syria, but in iraq and elsewhere, even in israel needs to be taken into account and we need to say timewise, i think it's better to act sooner rather than later. >> if the president of the united states, you're a man of experience, you know these issues. what is worse from the u.s. national security perspective? syria controlled by bashar al assad's regime and syria controlled by isis and al nusra? >> tough question. i would say that -- i would still think that the syrian regime as we see it now with bashar al assad is more dangerous to me than isis, but i think isis, to the wider region, presents a greater threat. it's a sunni-based threat that i think is of great concern for the larger middle east.
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>> and it's a great concern because i'm hearing more and more westerners including americans joining forces and it's shocking to see what's going on on. >> it's something that the intelligence needs to look at very carefully and the intent is at least isis proclaimed objective is the united states. >> how worried should we be that the u.s. intelligence doesn't necessarily have a good handle on what's going on? >> ied be very worried. i wouldn't exaggerate the threat, but i would be very worried that i would think they would trisome targeting of u.s. assets and we have a lot of target, not just embassies and consulates, et cetera. i think it's something that we really need to put the hammer down on intelligence here and we have ways to do that and there are things going on now on the collection side they think need
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to be ramped up and targeted specifically on where isis is going and what their leadership is and start targeting the leadership. >> general, thanks very much for joining us? thank you. >> the former nato supreme allied commander. coming up, officials are stunned at the growing strength of isis and how well it's performing on the battlefield. we'll show you what's behind this terror group's success and should the u.s. target isis inside syria and i'll ask the house are to inaffairs committee. congressman ed royce, you see him there. we'll discuss right here in "the situation room." i'm mom at the playground and the dog park.
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>> as the obama administration weighs air strikes against syria, they weigh the performance on the battlefield, not only in syria. brian todd is looking at this. >> ice sis growing more formidable on the battlefield. one analyst says they're borrowing tactics that rangers use and they're using howitzers. if the u.s. will grow the campaign against isis in syria the americans will be up against a tougher enemy. they're vicious, battle hardened and most frighteningly, they learn fast. that's the word from u.s. officials who tell cnn isis is getting better on the battlefield. one u.s. official sayses they show uncanny discipline. a pentagon official says isis is a learning, adapting, reacting organization. >> their battlefield discipline
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continues to surprise us to show us that they're really a first-tier force that they're trained. >> combat veteran says on the battlefield, isis is likely using what he calls a react to contact drill. that means in a fire fight they make initial contact against their enemy using the smallest number of fighters three or four. >> put down fire because those three or four guys can keep 20, 30 of the enemy focused on them. >> then a larger group of isis fighters comes around, flanking the enemy on one side. finds a weakness, attacks it. >> this is something that the u.s. army ranger regiment has practiced for years. it's been their hallmark. >> isis has demonstrated it has a powerful arsenal. an american howitzer canon, posted by isis shows them firing on a military base in syria and unmanned aerial vehicles. this propaganda shows aerial
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footage of a military base and brags it is from the army of the islamic state. the ranks they're building in part due to their savvy use of social media. experts say their outside supporters use social media to help them recruit and promote. >> what makes them so powerful is there are hundreds of people on twitter on facebook and insta gram that are forwarding messagy, disseminating them and republishing them. >> isis t-shirts, hoodies and toys are marketed online by its supporters and sold in shops around the middle east. that all started with the well-known isis flag which experts say is an important tool in the mrarnting of isis. we've seen it including the mosul dam. one scholar told us that symbol you see on the flag there is the distortion of islam and it is the declaration of faith the in the koran and there is no god,
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but god and mohammed is the messenger, creating an enduring, regional symbol. >> what's the estimate on the number of isis fighters who may be around right now? >> one u.s. official told us their latest estimate is ices has 10,000 fighters overall and maybe more could be creeping up as we speak and that includes several hundred from europe, and a handful from the united states and their numbers are growing and they're using social media to recruit and with all of the media coverage of them now, a lot of jihadists around the middle east know about them and want to join them. >> it's pretty shocking. 10,000 isis fighters, basically embarrassing and humiliating the hundreds of thousands of iraqi military forces who abandoned mosul and other positions that ran away in the force of these fighters and their military credentials are impressive. thanks for that, very much, brian todd. he'll have more information to share with you and he'll be jumping on twit tore answer your
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questions about the growth and capability of isis and tweet your question. use the hash tag sit room. let's go to ed royce of california, the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee. thanks for joining us. how powerful is isis? >> isis is powerful, but any group like this it needs sanctuary and a base in order to resupply and one of the questions is can can you remove that sanctuary? i think it's powerful in the sense that half of those fighters, 5,000 of them are from outside of the region. many from europe, from off tau a australia, from the united states and central asia and the great concern, of course, for other governments is that these individuals might return with the skill set that they learned on the battlefield. >> so they represent a real danger upon. they represent a potential feature to the american homeland and there are about 100 fighters
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with u.s. passports and as you heard, there are probably 150 from australia, so this is a concern, this is what is driving turkey, australia, britain to look for potential low air operations, air power, against isis targets. >> they knew about douglas macarthur mccain, the man who died as an isis fighter and now we hear there is another american that died and we don't know his name, but we do know douglas macarthur mccain. it's hard to believe that americans would willingly go over there, join with these isis forces, but he was known. he was known to u.s. intelligence. he was on some sort of watch list. the hundred or so americans are there. do you think the united states knows who they are and they're watching in case they want to leave syria or iraq, go to
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turkey and get on a plane and try to come back to the united states with their passports? >> for those hundred we do know and there were 200 more that we doan have's handle on. we don't know, best efforts, you can imagine from europe and the united states who how difficult this is to do. >> would you support a decision by president obama to launch strikes against isis targets inside syria? >> i think what the president would have to do is go on national television, come to congress, specifically lay out a strategic plan. yes, i would if that plan includes a focus on what we can do to suppress the terrorist area where they're maintained. the reason that we see that the infantry is having such trouble
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against isis on the ground whether it's the kurdish forces or iraqi or free syrian army is because they are able to go through that intensive training in syria. i think the president needs to lay this out. it's a nonstarter to have u.s. troops on the ground. we won't support that, but we would support the use of armed drones and we would support, you know, if done with europe, tactical strikes against isis forces especially given the fact that they're about to overrun the turkman maynority up in midwestern iraq and i think i'll hear from the president shrly on that subject. >> help buy your missiles from drones and came up with precision thatties and going insider is wra and would you require congressional authorization of vote and the
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house and the senate authorizing the use of force in syria? >> yes. i think under the war powers act it would. i think the administration would have to come forward with a plan. they migh able to do this with armed drone attacks and i say that because it was very effective against al qaeda and pakistan against al qaeda. they tend to mass in formation and as the secretary of state said you often catch them in open convoys and open trucks. it's an easy target. so if armed drones can do that then armed drones would be very effective based on past performance. likewise, if that is what is laid out as a plan, but we would need to see, i think, the country would have to know a comprehensive strategy for what you will see from other western countries and probablingy from turkey because there's
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increasinging concern will continue to expabdz this notion of a caliphate and go home to carry on on attacks on their homeland. >> you are also a politician and you can count votes. if the president came before the house of representatives and the republican majority in the house and asked for a vote authorizing the use of force in syria would he get it? >> i think from both sides of the aisle he would get it, but it would only on come after he laid out a strategic plan. the administration would have to have a focused strategy that they would sell congress and the american people. in other words, they would have to lead in order to generate that support, but yes, i think they could do that. >> do you think the president will do it? >> i suspect he probably will under the war powers act. he's knot 60 days from the commencement of these types of hostility, but it will launch
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the strike income? i am not sure what the timing the administration will choose here, but the commander in chief has 60 days under the historical interpretation of the war powers act here before he has to have that authorization from congress. i think he will ask for it, but i think he does need to lay out the case. >> ed royce is the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee. congressman, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. >> still ahead, you will hear a mother's desperate plea to those in syria. please release my child. a terrorist suspected for two years in captivity comes home.
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>> i u.s. journalist has spent perly two years in captivity in syria is home with his family tonight. he told reporters in cambridge, massachusetts, he's overwhelmed by the welcome he's received. miguel marques is standing by live. j such an extraordinary day for this man and his family after 22 months in the dark of captivity today into the blaring lights of his new reality. >> i want to thank you all for coming out here on this beautiful wednesday morning. >> freed american journalist peter theo curtis and his first morning in the u.s. after his nearly two years' captivity in syria, from steps from his mother's home, he expressed gratitude and surprise at the overwhelming support during his captivity and after his release. >> i have learned bit by bit
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that there have been literally hundreds of people, brave, determined and big-hearted people all over the world working for my release. i'm also overwhelmed by one other thing and that is that total strangers that been coming up to me and saying we're glad you're home. welcome home. glad you're safe. great to see you. i suddenly remember how good the american people are and what kindness they have in their hearts. >> all this following a beaming reunion at boston's logan airport. >> first on the axe jenneda this morning, curtis placing an american flag outside his mother's home. >> my name is peter theo curtis and i'm a journalist from the city of boston, massachusetts, usa. while reporting on the syrian conflict, curtis was captured and held by an al qaeda affilia affiliate. the deal it to release him brokered by qatari officials though now free, his struggles continue. >> i am glad that he spoke so
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soon. it means that for the moment he's doing okay. one of the things about post traumatic stress disorder you learn to numb out and it's that numbing out that allows you to get through day to day torture and uncertainty. >> psychiatrist harry kroft, a former army doctor and ptsd specialist. what unfortunately, we don't see often is what happens weeks and months later when the emotional turmoil begins. >> in the future i promise i will respond to your emails and i will be present and i will help you guys do your job, and i'm one of you, and i know what you guys are going through and i want to help you guys and i will be there, and i will respond, but i can't do it now. >> for now, the questions will wait, but curtis is free and his mother relieved. >> just take it as it comes. i think -- i think he's going to be exhausted after a long -- a
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long trip. i can tell you i'm exhausted. we'll just be really quiet for a while. >> reporter: for as sweet a day as it is for the curtis family, it also comes with bitterness and they became good friends with the foley family, john and diane foley, the parents of jim foley who was killed brutally a couple of weeks ago. they had hoped that jim would have a family reunion and that dampens their spirits and their hearts and thoughts are with the foley family. >> during captivity, nancy curtis was helped by the fbi and the personnel recovery program. listen to what she told cnn about the moment she learned of of her son's release. >> i got a call from the fbi agent who has been working with us the whole time.
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she flew to the middle east and she called me and said i'm standing on the golan heights with your son by my side. and he wants to talk to you, but he needs some time to compose himself. that was all she needed to say. i knew that he was healthy and safe and it was a huge relief. >> let's discuss with our cnn law enforcement analyst tom fuentes who used to work at that fbi personnel recovery program. take us behind the scenes a little bit, tom. what's it like? what do you do there trying to help these families and these individuals who may be held hostage? >> first of all, they would work to try to locate where is this person being held? what are the conditions? who has, you know, holding them in captivity and then work with other u.s. law enforcement, the intelligence community, the military, the state department and all of the foreign partners around the world to try to find
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more information and try to either rescue or get the release of an individual. here in the states, the fbi as the mother has said works with the family and tries to help them, help them through that, give them information so they have an idea that there is an effort under way to recover them and rescue their family member. >> you want to make sure that he recovers well and you want to give this person a little time, but you also as a fbi agent and cia analyst you want to debrief this person and collect information on what they may have learned that could be useful to the u.s. over the two years in captivity. >> as soon as the person is recovered they want to find out whatever medical leads the person has and mental health assistance they may need and to debrief to find out as much intelligence as possible especially concerning a bad group, in this case, al nusra. the other is the victim
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assistance program also administered by the fbi and this is where families, if necessary, are flown to europe if he had required a medical evacuation, say to ramstein in germany or to london then that program kicks in to get the family over there to reunite and help in any way possible. so it's really a strong program and it's been very effective and successful. >> i'm sure this family is grateful to the fbi for the help they provided and obviously getting their son back home. tom, thanks very much. tom fuentes helping us. >> another u.s. journalist remains in dire peril in syria. next, his mother's plea to the terror group and we're talking about isis and right here in the situation room, someone gives an uzi to a 9-year-old girl, now her gun instructor is dead. we'll have a full report on what happened. where the reward was that what if tnew car smelledit card and the freedom of the open road?
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the a ra bib bik language broadcast a mother's plea. she asked for the release of her son, a journalist. we are live in northern iraq with more. tell us what happened. >> reporter: we can only imagine what this woman must be going through. making a desperate appeal to the leader of isis. this so-called islamic state but that's what shirley did. her son disappeared a year ago in august of last year while covereding the civil war in
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syria. now the family had decided, wolf, to keep this quiet because they obviously didn't want to further endanger their son's life. that all changed last week when we saw that horrific execution video of james foley. steven appearing at the end with the militant believed to be foley's executioner with his british accent telling president obama that his fate was in his hand. let's listen to shirley earlier today. >> since steven's capture i have learned a lot about islam. i have learned that islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others. steven has no control over the actions of the u.s. government. he's an innocent journalist. i've always learned that you can grant amnesty. i ask you to please release my
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child. >> reporter: with this emotional plea save her son's life, we just don't know. we're talking about a terrorist organization that's barbaric, that beheads its enemies, executes anyone who does not believe in their warped idea of islam. we just don't know how they will receive this. but obviously foley was executed because of the u.s. airstrikes here in iraq and i can tell you according to central command will will be more today taking the total to 101 u.s. airstrikes. >> so those airstrikes clearly continuing even as we speak. does it look, from your perspective, like they are causing some damage to isis? >> reporter: definitely they are containing isis. you have to say that isis is on the back foot. they are allowing the kurdish and iraqi forces to move in on the ground.
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we've been out there on the battlefield and seen for ourselves what the u.s. airstrikes do. they talk out humvees, which are seized from iraqi when is they fled. humvees, artillery, they conv s convoys. it's hurting isis burks as we know, it's not defeating them. >> in northern iraq for us, be careful over there. thanks pr that report. coming up, president obama considers his options for airstrikes in syria. plus questions after a deadly accident at an arizona gun range. should sunshine sm give a should sunshine sm give a machine gun to a 9-year-old. -- captions by vitac --
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happening now, a dangerous new victory for islamic militants on israel's doorstep as terror and instability spreads across the maes. is the u.s. any closer to attacking terrorists in syria? we're getting new information about air strike options on the table right now. and a 9-year-old accidently becomes a killer when she's taught to fire a machine gun. what went so horribly wrong. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer, you're in the "the situation room." right now a brutal terrorist land at power grab is widening across the middle east.
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syrian rebels with ties to al qaeda have seized control of the only border crossing opening up another front in the fight against terror. also in syria, opposition groups now claim a second american in addition to douglas mccain has been killed while fighting with terrorists from isis. no name was given. there's no confirmation from u.s. officials, at least not yet. u.s. military says its forces are continuing to attack isis targets in iraq with three new airstrikes launched today. president obama now considering options for striking isis in syria as well. we have our correspondents and analysts and news makers all standing by as we cover all the breaking developments. first, let's go to our pentagon correspondent barbara starr with the very latest. >> at this hour, question number one, when will president obama make a decision about whether to strike inside syria?
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desperate iraqis again on the run from isis, this time minority turkman in northern iraq under siege for weeks. people desperate for food, water and, above all, safety. the u.s. military is prepared to potentially expand operations to air drop humanitarian supplies and bomb isis positions to help break its grip here if president obama orders it. across the border in syria, no decision yet by the white house on whether to begin airstrikes against isis strongholds inside syria. >> i would not at this point set up a time frame for a presidential decision. >> reporter: president obama's critics, as expected, impatient. >> could i just say with the secretary of defense and joint chiefs talk about how much of a threat this is and there's
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nothing to follow that up because there's no strategy. >> reporter: for now pentagon drones continue flying inside iraq looking into syria for possible future targets, including isis convoys, weapons, personnel, anything that could be hit to stop its momentum as a capable military force. it's critical military intelligence needed first before the president is expected to make a decision about ordering airstrikes. >> if we could locate insurgent trucks, humvees, armored vehicles, tanks, airstrikes would be most effective at eliminating those pieces of the isis arsenal. >> reporter: but the reality of airstrikes also settling in. >> it's not a panacea to destroying the group because it will simply melt into the areas it already controls and then comes the much more difficult
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problem, how to root them out. >> perhaps in an effort to continue to manage expectation, senior defense officials continue to point out that airstrikes can only take you so far. that they alone will not defeat isis. they may stop the momentum, but it will not defeat that organization. >> barbara, thank you. now to some dangerous new gains by another militant group. syrian rebels with ties to al qaeda have seized control of the only border crossing into the area. ben wedeman is there. what happened? >> what happened today, wolf, there was an intense exchange of artillery fire, mortar fire between the syrian army and the syrian rebels near the nature crossing between israel and syria.
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and in the course of that fighting, several shells fell inside of israel wounding several israelis, but at the end of the day, the rebels including elements of the front, which is a group affiliated with al qaeda were able to take over this syrian position at that critical crossing between the two sides. this represents quite a dramatic change of the situation on the ground. at this point, there's just 200 yards separating this al qaeda affiliate from the israeli army, which obviously is now on high alert because of that. in fact, the israelis did respond to some of these what they call shells that fell inside of israel. now what's interesting is that until now, there has been a it is a sid sort of relationship between israel and the rebels in southern syria.
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i have been to hospitals in northern israel where the israelis were treating syrians who were wounded in the fighting in southern syria, including some of them fighters. but the presence of the front really sort of changes that secret relationship that existed between israel and some of the elements within the syrian rebels in southern syria. so much more tense situation here than we have seen in quite some time since the outbreak of the syrian uprising in the beginning of 2011. >> and ben, when you're talking about the rebels in southern syria, you're talking about moderate syrian rebels were opposed to the regime of bashar al assad, but also opposed to isis and these other militant terrorist groups, right? >> reporter: that's correct, but what we have seen, there's sort
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of a variety of rebel groups in southern syria. it wasn't just the front that took over this position on the border. it was other groups as well with them. but what we have seen recently is that the junior partner in the rebel makeup in southern syria seems to be playing an ever greater role in the battlefield. wolf? >> split with isis so there's very different terrorist elements going on in syria right now. ben wedeman, thanks very much for joining us. let's bring in our syrian opposition adviser. he's based here in washington. thank you pr joining us. does the moderate syrian opposition have a working cooperative relationship, which the u.s. regards as a terrorist organization? >> since january the free syrian army launched a concerted come pain against al qaeda affiliates
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and isis. in fact, al qaeda's chief commander himself in late january denounced the free syrian army and the syrian opposition coalition. the spokesperson who the united states designated as a special global terrorist, also released a statement that specifically targeted the syrian opposition coalition and the free syrian army as the adversary of isis. >> you support the free syrian army chrks is considered the moderate rebel group. the president said the united states would like to strengthen moderate syrian rebels. but here's the question. do you have a relationship with the check point, the syrian army was defeated there. other elements came in. from the free syrian army part of that? >> the free syrian army is absolutely fighting against
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nursra. we saw clashes. there are independent brigades in southern syria, some of whom who have the relationship. >> brigades of the free syrian army? >> would part of your free syrian army, part of the group that took command of the check point between the israeli occupied area and syria? >> the main brigades three weeks ago issued a clear statement for the whole world there will be no coordination and no cooperation with the front. >> who killed douglas mcarthur mccain, the american working as a fighter with isis. did your group do that? >> the moderate free syrian army absolutely was responsible for taking him off the battlefield. an operation center has been set up a few miles north of the city by the free syrian army fighters who are engaged in an ongoing
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battle against isis. the ompbl force on the ground with a proven record of success in syria to hold the line against isis and al qaeda has been the free syrian army. >> so talk about that operation. how did he die? what was he doing? what were your forces doing? >> what isis is attempting to do is attempting to encircle the city. there are about 500,000 civilians in the city. there's a strategic city that isis is attempting to capture. now for the past two weeks, isis has been launching suicide bombers, artillery shells, everything they have against the free syrian army stronghold in that area. and the foreign fighter that was killed was part of that operation against the moderates skblp that's douglas mccain. we're now told there was a second american killed. another american fighting with isis. what can you tell us about that?
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>> i spoke to the rebel operations center recently to gain confirmation. we have not received any specific confirmation or any evidence of an american passport of other foreign fighters. what we do know is there are many other foreign fighters engaged in this battle by isis ens the free syrian army. >> yes the president of the united states said he wants to strengthen the moderate syrian opposition forces. have you guys, the free syrian army, the moderate opposition to bashar al assad's e regime, received any direct military equipment from the united states? >> first of all, the syrian opposition supports president obama in this position to strengthen the moderates as the alternative. >> there has been some weapons that have been received by the free syrian army in northern syria in the fight against isis? >> u.s. weapons? >> u.s.-facilitated. small arms ammunition. >> coming from other countries like the uae? >> from friendly regional
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countri countries. >> like saudi arabia, other countries? nothing direct pr the united states, right? >> not yet. now what the rebels on the ground tell us is they are hoping for significant increase in american direct military aid because they view themselves as the last line of defense against isis. >> the fear is, and i heard this from u.s. military personnel and u.s. intelligence, if the u.s. were to give you, the free syrian army, sophisticated weapons, tanks, armor, anti-aircraft, whatever, it could wind up in the hands of isis. >> there are safeguards to guard against that. thousands of rebels have gone through u.s.-supported training programs in regional countries that border syria. there's a program that ensures individuals receive the necessary training to guard against these weapons falling into the wrong hands. furthermore, the rebels are fighting extremists.
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so the people that america does not want weapons to fall into their hand, they are fighting against these people. >> you must be disappointed that no u.s. weapons have been provided. they are providing to the kurdish forces, iraqi military, but the free syrian army has received nothing so far. >> they have received a small amount, but it's certainly not enough to sustain a campaign against isis. >> let's take a look. you love syria. you hate bashar al assad's regime. i don't know how many people have died, maybe 200,000 people. millions have been made homeless internally, externally. you hate his regime. what would be worse for the future of syria? bashar al assad staying in power or isis taking over? >> bashar al assad has played a cynical game where he's actually allowed isis room to gain control over syrian territory over the year so that bashar al assad could present the world this false choice.
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either assad or isis. so we in the opposition and those that support the opposition view assad as part of the problem when it comes to syria being turned into a -- >> is it realistic to defeat isis and bashar al assad? >> i think what is realistic is the u.s. can play a role to at least level the playing field to provide the free syrian army the necessary equipment and to prevent assad from gaining a military victory. >> you want strikes right? >> absolutely. it will be in the interest of the syrian people and u.s. national security. >> thanks very much for coming in. appreciate it very much. he's with the moderate syrian opposition. still ahead, we're learning more about the american isis fighter who was killed and when he first landed on the radar of u.s. authorities. and what was a 9-year-old girl firing an uzi? a shooting lesson turns deadly and raises all sorts of very serious questions.
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been killed in syria while fighting for the terror group isis. u.s. officials cannot confirm the announcement from a coalition of syrian rebels. the news comes a day after authorities did confirm that douglas mcarthur mccain was killed in syria alongside isis fighters. we're learning details about who he was. pamela brown is joining us from san diego where mccain lived and studied before heading over to the middle east. what are you hearing?
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>> reporter: we have spoken to a couple people who know him and are shocked to learn about his alleged involvement with isis. according to law enforcement officials we have been speaking with, authorities became aware of mccain in the 2000s based on his connection with someone they were interested in. however, most recently mccain became the subject of scrutiny based on information gleaned pr his negotiations in minneapolis. it was just months ago that douglas mccain began to attract the attention of u.s. intelligence. u.s. law enforcement tells cnn the government was investigating his overseas connection to the brutal isis terror group, but the extent of his radical side was not evident to his american family. the 33-year-old american told them just last week that he was in turkey. >> last time i communicated with him was on facebook last friday
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on a picture i posted. he commented about my boys growing up. >> reporter: within days of his post, mccain was killed in a battle between rival extremist groups in syria. after his death a rival group released photos of the body and u.s. passport seen here. >> this is so outlandish. for him to be in syria fighting for a terrorist group, that did you want make sense. >> reporter: he converted to islam a decade ago. it appears he radicalized gradually. >> his religion was very important to him, but those people, the isis people, they don't represent what my cousin's believes are or were. >> reporter: his family tells cnn they weren't alarmed by his conversion, but his recent posts caught their attention. on a twitter account reported to be mccain's, he wrote, i will be
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joining you guys soon. the next day he wrote i'm with the brothers now. on june 26th, he retweeted this post which says, it takes a warrior to understand a warrior. pray for isis. it's not clear if he was in syria when he tweeted. he grew up near minneapolis and later moved to san diego where he attended college. between 2000 and 2008 he was arrested six times for minor offenses. his death in syria stunned loved ones back home. >> he was a good person. that's what hurts the most. >> reporter: after authorities learned mccain had traveled to turkey and then on to syria, he was put on a special list of americans believed to be a parking lot of militant groups. that means if he tried to travel back to the u.s. he would be subject to additional scrutiny. >> thanks very much. let's dig a little deeper now. joining us our security analyst.
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peter, what are they doing in syria? why do they get motivated to do this? you have studied this. >> i think that assad presents a very attractive enemy to fight against if you're motivated by these believes. he's a secular dictator. he's imposing a totalitarian war on his population killing at least 200,000 in the war so far. so there's a very attractive pull. europeans are being drawn to this much more than the iraq war, which had an american army. >> can the u.s. keep track of these americans who go over there to fight to join with a terrorist group like isis? >> i think the numbers are -- we have had eight indictments and two people have die ued. maybe three now with the news today of the second person that
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hasn't been identified. everybody in the u.s. government who is paid to worry about this wakes up and does something about this every day. so there's a huge effort. i think the numbers when you're looking at 700 french people who have gone, 450 brits, 270 germans, that's a much larger group and hard for the brits to keep track of everybody or the french. >> peter, you wrote a provocative article and subjected it would be reckless for the u.s. to start bombing isis targets inside syria. why would it be reckless? >> well, the thing that worries me is that the obama administration has spent the last couple years basically saying that we don't have good allies in syria. that the moderate opposition is weak and also that we can't necessarily tell very well where the line is between them and people who were more militant. but you're not really going to accomplish anything by a bombing unless you do so in conjunction with allies on the ground. you can't take territory.
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i'm open to being persuaded that the nonjihadist opposition in syria is now strong enough and we have a good enough understanding to act in conjunction with them. it's striking that it's the obama administration that was saying just the opposite. >> it's interesting because in the last interview we did with the representative of the free syrian army, the moderate opposition, he did acknowledge while in the north there's no cooperation between the free syrian army and some of these terror groups, in the southern part he said there are some brigades that have worked with a terror group, so this dividing line that's being talked about, it's murky out there. >> peter is right. this has been going on for months where the al qaeda affiliate is fighting alongside against isis. so that's very tricky. the other issue here is the
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authorization is not clear at all. there's no nato operation. the use of military force that covers u.s. actions in places like pakistan or yemen may not apply. and also the syrian government isn't asking us to do this. it's quite the opposite. so that leaves you with going to congress. i think probably what the president. wants to do and should do. >> what do you make of the heart wrenching appeal by the mother of steven sotloff. obviously she wants her son, a journalist being held now for two years to be freed. is this going to help or potentially, and there's some fear it could hurt for all this publicity to be going out there? >> i really don't know. i gather that they decided to go public because his name had become publicized by isis itself. i wouldn't really second guess the mother of anyone in this horrifying situation that none
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of us could even imagine being in. she must have advisers who are telling her that this is the best way. certainly it's not appealing to have an american citizen beseeching a brutal madman like the leader of isis, but if it were any of our children, we would do whatever it took. >> well said. guys, thanks, very much. a horrifying moment in arizona. a 9-year-old girl with a machine gun kills her instructor. what was she doing with such a powerful weapon in the first place and will anybody be held responsible for his death. leag legal experts are standing by to discuss this incident that's causing so much outrage. get ready to crack, dunk, dip... it's crabfest at red lobster! the year's largest variety of crab! like new! crab lover's trio! or try new! jumbo lump crab over wood-grilled salmon. crabfest is now...
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these places involved in machine begin tourism. for a fee you can go fire all sorts of weapons. this gun range was about 20 minutes south of vegas. that's where this young girl from new jersey was handed this gun. >> reporter: at bullets and burgers gun range, this instructor is leaning over the girl how to handle the uzi as she squeezes off a shot and moments later she pulls the trigger for a burst of fire and the machine gun jumps towards his head and mortally wounded. >> our guys are trained to basically hover over people when they are shooting. and if they are shooting right-handed, we have our hand behind them. >> reporter: developed in the 1950s the uzi can fire ten rounds per second at close to
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900 miles an hour. in the hands of a skilled marksman, it can be highly effective. but groups have long argued that guns in the hands of young people bring inherent risks. 28 states plus washington, d.c. have laws to prosecute adults who allow unsupervised access to guns, but they point out such laws don't apply to supervised use. >> there might not be a law on the books, but it's one of the situations where we think common sense should dictate our behaviors. it just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to give young children access, particularly to very powerful automatic weapons. >> till still it's happened before. in 2008 an 8-year-old boy at a gun show in massachusetts shot himself in the head while firing an uzi. the former police chief who organized the show could have gone to prison for more than 20 years, but he was acquitted and local authorities say so far in this latest incident charges will not be fired against anyone
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calling the death the result of an industrial accident. >> we reached out to the nra for comment. we haven't heard anything from them. what we have heard all day is people really saying this is at the nex us is between the gun debate and the question of the responsibility of adults when young people are involved with things like this. there's a lot of power here. this is a very serious weapon compared to many guns out there. all guns are serious. every gun owner will tell you this. but this is in a class that goes beyond something you'd normally expect in the hands of a child. >> this is an uzi machine gun. you have to be strong to control it to begin with. >> sure, absolutely. when they shoot in rapid fire, the gun starts walking. that's why trained professionals have a hard time holding it it. . very difficult task. >> thanks very much. let's dig a little deeper on the legal issues. joining us our senior legal
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analyst jeffrey toobin. also the former fbi assistant director. you heard about this story, tom. it's a shocking, shocking development. can anyone ever make a case that a 9-year-old little girl should be given an uzi machine gun to start shooting? >> no, i don't think so. i was a police firearm instructor, an fbi firearm instructor. even there, even if it's an adult that's never handled a weapon like that, you don't let go. you hold on to the gun or come behind them and hold both of their arms. make sure it remains pointed down range just in case the recoil. >> you have to be strong to make sure you can contain it. the way it's described when you shoot the machine gun, you have to be powerful. >> that's why we teach our personnel that when you fire just three-round bursts so you don't lose control like in the movies shooting 30 rounds nonstop, wrour going to lose
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control. but to allow a 9-year-old and let go of the gun and let her be in control of that, this could have even been worse. had there been other people shooting at the same time, there could have been a massacre. >> we know the instructor was tragically killed in this accident. were any laws as far as you can tell broken? should any crime be charged right now? >> you know, my mentor in journalism was michael kinsly. he has kinsly's law. which is the can dal isn't what's illegal. the scandal is what's legal. the scandal is what we choose not to punish. what society says is okay is often the biggest scandal of all. as far as i can tell, this was all perfectly legal. in arizona where this took place, if a 9-year-old is supervised by an instructor and her parents, both of which were present, that's okay.
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it's insane. it's ridiculous. it's not a way a civilized country should operate, but those are what our rules are and this is what happens. >> as you know, this is not the first time this has happened. there's something called negligence homicide, right? >> there is, but this is not -- this was a supervised gun range. the procedures were in place. that gun range, as i understand it, had permission for 8 years old and up. this child was 9 years old. look at the photograph. the photograph, this girl can barely hold on to it. it's so insane that she had this gun in her hands, but the gun laws in states like arizona, in the more red states, they are only getting more lax.
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>> let me ask tom. how do you fix this so it doesn't happen again? >> as long as the law is there, you can't fix it. there has to be some form of legislation that places a higher age that maybe a person has to be 18 and the qualifications of the instructor is also known and published. apparently according to this law, they are saying not only a firearm instructor is qualified, but it could be a parent. the parents are not qualified if. just being older doesn't make it smarter when it comes to handling this weapon. >> this poor 9-year-old girl unfortunately she's going to have to live with this for the rest of her life. when you think about it, here's the question, obviously laws have to be changed to prevent this kind of accident from occurring down the road. how likely is that? >> zero. e we didn't change the laws after newtown where 21 children
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were killed. the second amendment has become inviolent. for most of american history, people thought the second amendment didn't protect an individual right to bare arms at all. but. starting in the 1960s, '70s rksz the national rifle association gt the courts to start to change it. in 2008 the supreme court said there's an individual right to bare arms. politically it is unassailable. arizona will not change these laws. i don't see anything happening as a result of this awful event. >> jeffrey toobin and tom fuentes, a shocking development. just ahead, we'll tell you how a prosecutor's bizarre drunken driving arrest led to the indictment of the texas governor rick perry. we're investigating the legal drama, the political fallout for a possible presidential contender. they think salmon and energy.
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governor rick perry's lawyers are formally asking a judge to throw out a felony indictment alleging he abused his power. we're digging deeper into the charges against the possible 2016 presidential candidate and finding a web of partisan politi politics, old grudges and even a drunken driving arrest. here's correspondent drew griffin. >> reporter: the mug shot so far tell it all. one, a drunken texas prosecutor, the other a smiling texas governor. two characters in a bitter political feud that reached a boiling point one april night. the drunk woman was swerving in and out of bike lanes. police pulled her over. >> have you been drinking
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tonight? >> i had a couple drinks. >> reporter: took one whiff and realized it was time to do a field sobriety test. >> i can't do it. >> reporter: what they also soon realized. >> you're kidding me e. >> reporter: was the suspected drunk was none other than the travis county district attorney. a very belligerent rose mary. >> he's trying to keep her from tipping over. >> reporter: the county's top prosecutor was really drunk. failed to walk the line. >> but i have a bad back and it hurts. >> you're falling backwards. >> i'm not going to fall. >> reporter: had a blood alcohol level almost three times the legal limit and verbally assaulted, even threatened the arresting officers. >> you think i'm going to hurt
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you? >> reporter: jailers strapped her in a chair and put a spit hood. >> reporter: former district attorney along with many others saw this video and demanded his former boss step down. >> i'm not drunk. y'all are just ruined my career. >> she attempted to bully these sheriffs deputies into either releasing her or calling the sheriff himself so that she could avoid these charges. an abuse of power. unquestionably. >> reporter: governor rick perry insisted she step down too. it was so embarrassing. but rose mary lynnberg is still in office. >> i'm going to enter this
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courthouse with my head held high. >> it's now republican governor rick perry who has just been indicted related to the case. >> count one of the indictment charges him with abuse of official capacity, a first degree felony, and count two charges him with coercion of a public servant. >> reporter: here's how it happened. she's perhaps the most powerful democrat in the state of texas and a long-time thorn in the side of texas republicans. her district attorney's office r runs the state's office of public integrity, which ironically investigates wrong doing by state officials. when she got drunk, perry saw his chance to get rid of her, threatening to veto funds for the office of public integrity unless she steps down. a liberal group filed a complaint alleging that governor's threat is illegal.
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>> your complaint is basically based on the fact that he threatened to fire or get rid of or coerce her to leave. >> that's exactly right. our complaint was about the threat. it wasn't about the veto. >> reporter: the honorable risk perry, that's because under the law the governor of texas has the right to veto anything he wants. but, mcdonald says, the governor does not have the right to use the threat of a veto to get anything he wants. . >> let me understand this from a layman's point of view. we have this it drunk lady who is the head of a public integrity prosecution unit who is doing her own e threats. and the governor wants to get rid of her and she won't leave. he says i'm going to execute my constitutional authority to veto this legislation unless you step down or resign. what's wrong with but he doesn't have the authority to threaten a person who doesn't work under his control. >> in most criminal cases you
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say, well, let's see how the jury decides. in this case everyone's first question is, forget the jury. is this a crime at all? >> cnn's legal aimist and former federal prosecutor jeff toobin and many others question the indictment. >> the governor has the power to veto this money. so the question is, how can it be a crime to threaten to use a power that is entirely within the powers of your office? >> i refer to travis county as the blueberry in the tomato soup. if you know what i mean. >> reporter: perry's colorful explanation of what happened is all about politics. travis county and its county seat, the self-proclaimed weird city of austin, is all blue in the middle of a very red state. and the grand jury pool here
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reflects a democratic slant. a cnn analysis found some grand jury members openly democratic and openly liberal. others are cautious about political affiliation. none of them, we found, you would consider to be strongly republican. grand jurors we talked to say the indictment was not political and the special prosecutor laid out a convincing case. one did admit the vote was not unanimous. perry's defense lawyer says the indictment is nothing more than banana republic politics and asked them to dismiss the case. legal experts say unless there's evidence of an actual crime that indictment will likely be thrown out into the hot texas wind. drew griffin, cnn, austin. >> just ahead, will rick perry's legal battle hurt his presidential hopes in 2016? we'll talk about the possible fallout. gloria borger is standing by.
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as you just saw in the drew griffin piece, cnn is investigating the indictment of the texas governor rick perry, the possible fallout if he decides to run again for the republican presidential nomination in 2016. let's bring in our chief political analyst gloria borger. an excellent piece by drew griffin. a lot of liberals, democrats, are saying rick perry in this particular case is right. >> yeah, david axelrod former advisor to president obama, "the new york times" had editorialized about this. look, presidents, governors threaten vetoes every single
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day. there is nothing criminal about threatening a veto, which is what you heard in drew griffin's piece. look, he can veto things. he just can't threaten it. you have to say, look, even if you disagree with whether he should have threatened to veto the funding, maybe he should have called for a recall of this person and left it up to the voters. you can disagree with him on that political maneuver, but taking it one step further and saying actually he should have been indicted criminally for threatening to do something that he is legally allowed to do is kind of head scratching to me. i don't really get it. >> and when you see the video of her after she's clearly drunk. >> right. >> she was not only arrested for drunk driving, but she was convicted of drunk driving. you hear what she's saying, you see how drunk she is. it's very, very powerful evidence. >> right. and what the governor was saying was like, look, i don't think
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she's fit to hold this office. are they political enemies? absolutely. so he was saying, i don't think she's fit to hold this office. if she doesn't resign, i'm gonna, i'm going to veto that funding. he had every right to do that. ironically, though, wolf, this is helping rick perry politically. i was talking to one of his senior advisers today who say, look, you know, people got one view of him in 2012, remember the oops, the famous oops moment. they didn't like it very much. he said now you get a second chance for them to look at him, to look at his temperament, the way he's handled this. lots of people have said that he's handled this kind of gracefully and with some humor, as drew pointed out in his piece, his mug shot looked more like he was posing for a glam shot kind of not taking it that seriously, and so his aides say, look, this gives him an opportunity to show a little bit of leadership here, a little bit of strength, continue with the
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business that he's got to do and handle this in the appropriate manner. >> we'll see what the courts decide now. >> right. >> because this goes before the courts. >> they're trying to get this dismissed. >> yeah. >> we'll learn about that in 30 to 60 days, i'm told, about whether it will be dismissed. in the meantime, he's milking this for everything he possibly can with the republican party. and even some democrats are looking at him and saying, gee, you know, doesn't seem so crazy at least in this instance. >> drew's report was pretty eye opening for people who haven't necessarily followed it all that closely. you say this seems to be crazy, this woman really was convicted of drunk driving. >> right. so if you're looking at rick perry and you're taking another look at him, you're saying, wait a minute, he doesn't seem on the wrong side of this one. >> this is not out of the question it could actually wind up helping his chances. >> for now, sure. it's a long way between now and then. >> gloria borger is back.
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>> you can tweet m me @wolfblitzer, tweet the show @cnnsitroom. you can always watch us live of dvr the show so you won't miss a moment. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." erin burnett "outfront" starts right now. "outfront" next, not just one american killed fighting for isis but potentially now two. what we're learning tonight about douglas mcauthur mccain. plus how many more americans are willing to put their lives on the line for jihad? we speak to a former western jihadi about what drew him to the fight. and a horrible accident at a shooting range. a 9-year-old girl loses control of a gun, killing her instructor. why was she firing an uzi? let's go "outfront."