tv The Situation Room CNN June 29, 2015 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
because we should fit into your life. not the other way around. happening now. escapee tells all. captured david sweat is opening up to authorities from his hospital bed as a prison guard appears in court accused of aiding in the escape. who else might have helped the killers break free? heroin behind bars? the fbi now expanding its investigation beyond the escape uncovering alleged corruption and drug trafficking inside that so-called maximum security prison in upstate new york. new isis arrests. another american is charged with plotting to help the terrorists as the u.s. goes on alert for potential attacks around the fourth of july. and black churches burn. several houses of worship are in ashes across the south.
arson investigations are under way. is there a link to the charleston church shooting? i'll get reaction from the head of the naacp. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> the breaking news the case against the prison guard accused of aiding the escape of two killers now is headed to a grand jury. this after gene palmer made a brief court appearance just a little while ago. he's accused of giving tools and other contraband to the convicted killers. david sweat and richard matt. and tonight, sweat is spilling the beans from his hospital bed just hours after his capture near the canadian border. he's revealing new details about the escape plan and how it went wrong. and why he left his prison break partner rich art matt alone in the woods where he was shot dead by police. we have our correspondents analysts newsmakers standing by as we cover all the news breaking now. let's go to miguel marquez
outside the hospital where david sweat is being treated right now. miguel miguel, what's the latest? >> reporter: his condition has been upgraded to serious. it looks like he will make and it then be transferred somewhere else. but investigators really want to talk to him. he is the best link they have to figure out how they did all of this. there was a lot of discussion about whether or not joyce mitchell was their plan a. it's clear when she did not pick them up she left them scrambling for weeks. the prison break supposed to end in mexico. instead, convicted killer david sweat was captured just two miles from the canadian border. after three weeks on the run. authorities say sweat is talking saying the plan was for prison employee joyce mitchell to pick him and richard matt up and head south. >> it would kill mitchell's husband and then get in the car and drive to mexico on the theory that mitchell was in love with one or both of them.
>> reporter: instead, they headed into the woods. sources tell cnn sweat and matt split up five days ago because matt was slowing sweat down and had become ill. a new york state police officer out on patrol by himself spotted sweat wearing camouflage near a barn in the town of constable, new york. >> he spotted a male who was basically jogging up along the side of the road. he approached him. as he exited the car the male turned to him. he says hey, come over here. the male kind of ignored him. >> reporter: the officer pursued sweat on foot repeatedly ordering him to stop. when he refused the officer opened fire shooting sweat twice in the torso. sweat was unarmed. sweat airlifted to a trauma center in albany where he's now being treated under heavy guard. >> he will be basically 24/7 lockdown for the rest of his life. >> reporter: residents here taking to the streets in celebration. >> the nightmare is finally
over. it took 22 days. >> reporter: a search of sweat's backpack revealed it was loaded with supplies like maps bug repel leapt, wipes, and pop tarts. it's unknown how or from where he obtained the supplies. >> we believe that possibly these two males were using pepper to throw the scent off of the dogs that were tracking him. >> reporter: amazingly, dna from soiled underwear found near an outhouse helped lead authorities in the the manhunt to track down richard matt. matt was shot three times in the head and killed by police on friday night. after officers came upon a cabin where they smelled gunpowder. as they searched the woods they heard coughing. moments later matt armed with a 20-gauge shotgun was confronted and fatally shot. according to an official alcohol could be smelled on his body. they also believe he had been ill from possibly contaminated food or water. an autopsy of matt's body showed bug bites and blisters and sweat's backpack full of supplies led authorities to
believe both had been living in the woods on the run for 22 days. now these individuals only made it about 32 miles from the prison in 22 days. they're averaging about a mile and a half a day. that is a snail's pace for people trying to get away from authorities. so clearly they were under the gun and trying to figure out a plan all the way along. what happens to sweat now? he will eventually be charged with the escape with other crimes that he committed upon escaping from that prison. but he's not going anywhere any time soon. he'll stay here until he gets well enough to face those charges and back into a maximum security prison somewhere. wolf? >> miguel we're also learning new details from the coroner on richard matt who was shot and killed by law enforcement friday night. what can you tell us about that? >> reporter: yeah dressed very much like a hunter. he was pronounced dead about 10:55 p.m. after being shot in the afternoon. he had heavy clothes on heavy boots on was dressed basically
for camouflaging himself in the woods. also he had bug bites on him once they got his clothes off but they realize that his body wasn't that swelled. the bites weren't that swelled. the coroner coming to the conclusion he did not look like somebody who would spend all those days out in the woods. >> all right, miguel thank you. meanwhile, we're getting new information about the final hours of the manhunt and the clues that led police to the fugitive killer. cnn's alexandra field is joining us from constable in new york. you spoke with a cabin owner who played a key role in richard matt's capture. tell us about that. >> reporter: one of many people who were very alert who were looking for signs and reported those signs when he saw them to police to the proper authorities. all along throughout the course of this very intensive manhunt authorities said it might take a miss have take, a misstep of some sort in order to catch these two fugitives who were on the run. friday afternoon richard matt did just that. he blew his cover by firing off a few shots. one of those shots striking an
rv. the driver of that rv calling police. but we've now learned at the same time police were already headed to that area because the owner of a cabin had noticed something small but small enough to grab his attention. what was missing in the cabin, what was moved around what did you notice? >> nothing moved around just the bottle of gin moved off one counter to another and it was spilt. there was a ring, it was wet. the cap was on the floor. a thing of toothpicks in the cupboard. and that's all we really noticed. >> reporter: was anything missing? >> that's all. binoculars. we noticed afterwards. maybe possibly two pairs of boots. one, anyway. >> reporter: richard matt was killed some 16 miles south of the field that i'm standing in. this is where david sweat was shot and taken alive by sergeant jay cook the officer who was out and saw sweat and was able to pin him down out here. at this point authorities are saying they still need to go back and retrace all the steps these two men took until sweat
ended up in this field. they have publicly linked one or both of the fugitives to at least three cabins. they say they expect to find many more with signs of potential break-ins, places where these fugitives could have taken cover or grabbed resources. >> alexandra field on the scene for us thanks. there's breaking news. the fbi we're now learning investigating possible crimes within that so-called maximum security clinton correctional facility, crimes that potentially go far beyond this escape plot including an alleged heroin ring involving inmates and prison workers. our justice reporter evan perez is here in the situation room. these are shocking details what you're learning evan. >> it goes beyond that wolf. we've also learned just within the last hour that the fbi's also focusing on whether these two fugitives, richard matt and david sweat, were involved in this alleged heroin trafficking, drug trafficking ring within this maximum security prison. it's something that the fbi
stumbled upon really when they were helping the new york state police investigate the escape. and what they heard from employees at the prison in interviews was that there was a deeper corruption problem at this prison that there was crimes involving not only the inmates but also the employees. and also that these two prisoners in particular david sweat and richard matt one of the reasons why they had so many privileges we've talked so much that they were in this so-called honor block. one reason why was perhaps because they were involved in some of the criminality that was going on behind those prison walls. >> they've got to do a major investigation now to find out exactly what happened. the new york state's got to deal with this issue and deal with it quickly. i want to shift gears because you're also getting information about yet another american arrested allegedly plotting to support isis. >> right, wolf. the name of this young man is 23 years old, his name is allah
saddi, from west new york and no one. he is part of what we can safely call a cell, a group of young men, four have been arrested we remember there was a young man from queens a university student who was plotting according to the fbi, to detonate bombs around new york. they were studying he and other accomplices, according to the fbi, were studying how to make pressure cooker bombs. they've made all these arrests. what you're seeing wolf is a change in some of the tactics by the fbi, by the justice department's national security division. we've talked about the increased terror threat that they say is now -- that they're now dealing with. especially in light of the fourth of july holiday and the upcoming visit by the pope. this is what this is. they're roing up these guys simply because of the concern that they could do something at any moment. >> shocking stuff indeed. our thanks very much evan for that report. this latest arrest of yet another american allegedly supporting isis comes just days after a deadly series of terror attacks, all fueling growing concern about the possibility of
terror here in the united states in the coming days. our chief national secure correspondent jim sciutto is working this part of the story. what are you finding out? >> this is not just a usual pre-holiday warning. a senior counter terror official telling cnn the u.s. definitely at a heightened state of alert based on isis' open call to conduct attacks on the west. we saw the depth of that threat play out on that beach resort in tunisia on friday. the most deadly isis-inspired attack on westerners to date as it happened. gunfire ringing out at a tunisian resort friday leaving at least 38 foreign tourists dead. most of them british. >> bleeding so heavily. laying in blood. trying to keep her awake. drifted off. it was dretful. i've never witnessed anything like it.
>> reporter: all this from what was proving to be a lethal weapon for the terror group, the lone wolf attacker. in this case a ride callized tunisian university student seen here running away from the resort after the attack. and moments later shot dead by police after he stopped to pray. now with the july fourth holiday approaching here in the u.s. u.s. law enforcement senior counter terror official tells cnn, definitely on a heightened state of alert based on isis' call to conduct attacks on the west. >> there is a great deal of chatter, a high volume if you will that we're being on the cautious side to warn the public to remain vigilant. >> reporter: isis-inspired recruits are answering the call to attack anywhere anyhow during the muslim holy month of ramadan. spokesman and senior leader abu mohammed al mahadi offering ten
times the promises in heaven. a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in kuwait killing 27 worshippers. another assailant beheaded a man in southern france and attempted to blow up a u.s.-owned factory. >> isis is able and willing to inspire people to conduct attacks across multiple continents and they're willing to do relatively easy attacks to pull off. really armed assault-style attacks which are not that difficult to do. >> reporter: the fear of such attacks on the july fourth weekend prompting the fbi to issue a bulletin urging both law enforcement and the public to be vigilant. wolf this is visual proof of how isis has become just in the last year a very international threat. 3,097 attacks in the last year. you see them concentrated around syria and iraq. isis' home base. you see it now spreading beyond into egypt, lib yeah tunisia, saudi arabia yemen, afghanistan, pakistan. this is what truly worries not just law enforcement here but back in the u.s. this attack in tunisia, those
more than 37 killed a single gunman and also this attack in kuwait a suicide bomber inside that mosque more than 27 worshippers killed there. again, a single gunman. a lone wolf. very hard to prevent. of course, the concern is as the threat moves from there to europe and the u.s. we've seen it in garland texas. in new york an attack on a policeman. arrests in boston. and of course this attack on the same day as the tunisia and kuwait attacks. this is very much an international threat. the concern as july fourth approaches we see more of it in the u.s. >> we heard that warning from the secretary of homeland security a directive going out to law enforcement across the country. just be on the lookout and watch what's going on. thanks very much jim sciutto. let's get more on what's going on with the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee, republican congressman ed royce is joining us. mr. chairman, thanks very much for joining us. i want to talk about all these threats out there. you just heard police arrested a man in new jersey today on charges of conspiring to provide
what's called material support to isis. it seems like these arrests are happening almost every other day. would you consider today's arrest part of some sort of terror cell in the new york/new jersey area? >> well those cells have been there for a while, wolf. what we're looking at is the advice from the leadership in isis to rush to it to take things into your own hands and commence attacks in the united states. this is the one-year anniversary of isis and they want to celebrate that anniversary also with attacks not just on the three continents that we saw a few days ago but on the u.s. and so in an abundance of caution, as you can see, the fbi is bringing in anyone who has been in the process of associating with terrorist organizations and this is to preclude such an attack. >> i assume we'll be seeing more arrests in the coming days. i guess the bottom-line
question how long is it until someone slips through the cracks here? >> that's the difficult part and the real danger of allowing isis to establish its base. it's amazing how far they've come in one year. it's amazing how many fighters they've recruited. we talked a little bit about the attack in tunisia. they included several thousand foreign fighters from that country. and as they recruit people from around the world and train them they're also in the process of inspiring them through the internet. our failure to defeat isis, let me put it this way, the international community has not done the job needed. we did not attack isis on the open road when they were leaving syria to advance into iraq and to take these cities. and as a consequence of them taking some 18 cities before the united states even began to bomb and even began to attack their columns. and today, they-quarters of our
planes that go out come backdrop backdroping their ordnance because they're in a situation where we don't have forward observers on the ground we don't have special opes that really can assist in that way, and we haven't armed the kurds or the sunni tribes that are in fact fighting isis. we have not done that and because of pressure from iran baghdad is not arming them either. they're fighting without the weapons they need. they're fighting with small arms. so with all of this what i would say to you, wolf is it is time to get serious about arming those on the ground rolling back isis so that their supporters can see that they're not invincible in sending the opposite message that they will be defeated. >> i want you to stand by. we have more to discuss, especially as we get closer and closer to the july fourth holiday here in the united states. much more with the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee ed royce when we come back. it takes a lot of work... to run this business. i'm on the move all day long... and sometimes,
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breaking now, growing concerns that terrorism might be around the corner leading up to the upcoming fourth of july holiday. senior counterterrorism official now telling cnn that u.s. law enforcement is "definitely at a heightened state of alert" based on isis' open call to conduct attacks on the west. we're back with the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee, republican congressman ed royce. on friday, mr. chairman we saw three terror attacks on three continents a suicide bomber at a mosque in kuwait a shooting at a beach side resort in tunisia, key decapitation in france at an american-owned factory. is there any emerging evidence that these three attacks may have been coordinated?
>> well they were all in response to the messaging from isis that attempts to inspire these kinds of attacks. now because we're talking about messages that go out every day and in the words of the fbi are a constant tapping on the shoulder telling their followers, kill kill kill. we're to the point now where, how much of this is coordinated, as opposed to how much of it is isis' command, rush to it couple when you get the opportunity? this pathology of hate is something that is hard for us to understand. but i got briefed by the fbi today on some of this wolf. and the internet has become such a tool by isis in order to inspire young men to go out and kill this is what has the fbi concerned right now, now that that request has been made on the one-year anniversary here of the founding of the caliphate to
go out worldwide and kill infed dell s infidels and they specifically mention in the united states so that's of concern. >> the u.s. is facing a higher threat level of terrorism than before some say, than ever before even. where do we stand on that? >> because when we were talking about al qaeda a few years back we were talking about organizations with command and control where they would put some time into these spectacular attacks. and we could have our intelligence services and our allies actually get at the human intelligence that would help us unravel those plots. how different that is from this situation today where increasingly isis is trying to recruit via this virtual caliphate they've set up on the internet and tell their young enthusiasts, you take this into your own hands. you prepare the weapon.
here's how to do it. you look for the opportunity, and it's up to you. and we tell you, now is the time to act. so it's a very different kind of activity. and what the fbi would like to do of course is figure out a way to pull isis down in terms of their ability to communicate, or on a broader level, to watch isis be defeated so that they cannot inspire young people to believe that they're marching towards eventual victory and these young men should join the fight. >> mr. chairman, thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. >> ed royce, chairman of the house foreign affairs committee. there's breaking news we're following. that captured fugitive revealing new details about the escape plan and what went wrong. plus a series of fires at african-american churches across the south. some being investigated as possible arson. we're learning new details. put your hand over your heart. is
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we're back with breaking news. new allegations of crime and corruption inside that so-kaed maximum security prison where those two brutal killers busted loose. tonight the fbi is looking into a possible heroin ring inside the prison. inmates, prison workers, allegedly involved. whether escapees richard matt and david sweat played any role. let's bring in our cnn law enforcement analyst, the former fbi assistant director tom fuentes. the former atf special agent in charge matthew horace. tim williams a former chief inspector for the fugitive task
force in the new york/new jersey area, thanks for joining us. what does that mean investigating a heroin ring inside that prison? >> right. they would have jurisdiction for the drug trafficking of heroin but the political corruption or police corruption or public official corruption that enabled it. so any of the corrections officers, employees of the prison employees of the government that might be involved in this they could have them for corruption charges. and the actual heroin charges for any of the others that were trafficking or involved in the conspiracy. >> sounds like it was a horrible mistakes, blunders going on. could they shut this prison down? >> i don't know what new york's going to decide to do with this place. i think there could probably be a change of management expected. >> they've got to investigate this. tim, we heard david sweat, he's in serious condition, no longer in critical condition. he is talking to authorities about what was going on. i guess the bottom-line question is can you believe anything this guy says? >> well i think he's certainly
going to have enough to lose to cooperate but i don't think you can believe -- i'm sure he's a master manipulator. that's probably how he got himself in the position of escape anyway. i think there's a lot to be still investigated. i look forward to hearing what happens. >> i wouldn't believe a word he says. matthew, what about you? what do you think? this guy's apparently talking, he's saying he was going to escape and they had a plan to get to mexico. what do you make of this? >> i think it's believable based on what we know, what we've seen. let's face it i also would like to know how prisoners got cell phones how prisoners were able to have sex, how prisoners were getting items, how prisoners got tools in their cells without being inspected and checked. there's a lot that has to come together. some of it's going to come from sweat, the rest of it's going to come through the fbi investigation. i'm sure we'll learn what happened. >> these are all very very shocking developments. tom, you've got to admit, in order to make sure this doesn't happen again they've got to go
through, review everything learn from these mistakes punish those who may have been causing these kinds of blunders. >> certainly criminal charges for official corruption and heroin trafficking will be serious from the inmates' point of view and the correction officers and other employees and the management staff at that prison there's no question. >> sounds like they were having sex in there, drugs. if you believe all these allegations, it was wild. >> it's incredible that that could be going on in a maximum security prison. >> yeah and if there are two people who have now been arrested two prison employees, but potentially there could be a lot more. >> definitely definitely could be more. there's always unfortunately, these type of things happen all the time in these kind of escapes. >> i'm surprised people aren't trying to break into that place, sounds like they're having a lot of fun. >> having a good time up there. matthew, going forward right now, what do you do with this guy? assuming he cops out of surgery, he's okay what do you do? you throw him into lockdown
obviously. 23 out of 24 hours a day in solitary confinement, isolation? >> i think you do with him what should have been done prior to the security compromise. he should be in a situation where he has very limited access to resources, very limited access to other inmates, and certainly very limited access to guards and staff. and there's got to be some checks and balances in place. >> what do you do with them what do you think they need to do with him? he's not going to be in honor block anymore. >> no. >> he's not going to have all this free deposit he used to have in the good old days from his perspective. this is going to be a serious 23 out of 24 hours a day in solitary confinement. >> yeah, i think first of all you don't send him back to that facility. it may take awhile for this fbi investigation to actually determine who's involved in drug trafficking, who's involved in official corruption on the part of the corrections officers and other staff. so he's going to have to go somewhere else where he doesn't have pre-existing relationships in place. >> this guy's going to be a loner for a lrng time. thanks very much. we'll have more on the
breaking news coming up including new details of that fbi corruption investigation. of the press ton those two fugitives escaped from. an activist charged after pulling down the confederate flag at the south carolina state capitol. the head of the naacp supports her move. i'll talk to him next. cornell william brooks standing by live in "the situation room." milk has 8 grams of high-quality protein.
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take a look at this just getting this in from san francisco at the airport there. a crash landing at the airport. this coast guard, u.s. coast guard helicopter with two people on board, fortunately they escaped uninjured. it happened on the deck of the air station at the san francisco international airport. that's across the street across the interstate i should say, from the passenger runways. once again, fortunately, the two people on board that u.s. coast guard helicopter were not injured. but looks pretty ugly. another story we're following in "the situation room," investigations under way into a series of church fires in the south, some of them possibly arson. they come on the heels of the charleston church massacre and the ongoing controversy surrounding the confederate battle flag. let's go to our justice reporter evan perez, he's working his sources for us. first of all, what are you finding out about these church fires, evan?
>> wolf the timing is certainly what has gotten everybody's attention, including the federal government. the atf is the lead investigator on these types of incidents. there's a federal law that requires law enforcement, federal law enforcement, to investigate any suspicious religious institution fires. so that's what's at work here. the fbi is also involved looking whether or not there's any hate crime involved reserve of these six there is at least one of them that is actually a white congregation predominantly caucasian. and at least another one, it's an african-american congregation sharing a building with a nepalese congregation in shar ton, north carolina. we know in a couple of these, two fires, they believe that arson was involved. now that's two of the six. now, there's also one in tallahassee, florida, which they've determined was actually an electrical storm related. another one in tennessee that also was believed to be caused
by lightning. now, again, there are still suspicions about the remaining fires. the atf and fbi are investigating them. there have been no links established in any of these fires. they don't know whether or not they're related. they don't know whether or not they're related to some of the incidents we've been talking about, especially down in charleston and the whole debate about the confederate flag. >> evan, thanks very much. i want to get more on this and other issues. joining us in "the situation room," cornell william brooks president and ceo of the naacp, thanks very much for coming in. i know this is very disturbing. you hear predominantly african-american churches in the south on fire. what are you hearing about this? >> people have been very concerned. now, we understand that the correlation of tragedy doesn't necessarily suggest causation of tragedy, but bear this in mind. where we have nine people killed in the act of racial terrorism in a church a historic church -- >> in charleston. >> in charleston. emanuel ame church which was itself burned in an act of
racial vengeance. >> that was a long time. >> a >>. >> a long time ago but the shooter studies those burnings. we have a series of burnings some of which appear to be arson. we have a history in this country of targeting african-american churches. there's enough here for us to be concerned so that the naacp in our southern region where we have 1,060 branches we have those branches on heightened state of alert. we're convening the state conference leadership in five of the seven states which have experienced church burnings. so that we might respond in a united way. working with vest investigators, atf, department of justice. we've been in touch with them. we're taking this seriously because we can't afford not to. remember what happened in the 1990s. there appeared to be a series of
church burnings then. president clinton signed the church arson prevention act. the point being here is when we have our churches burning, we have to take that seriously, both as a matter of federal law and as a matter of students of history. >> are you recommending these churches tighten security maybe get metal detectors? what are you recommending? >> not necessarily recommending anyone go out and buy metal detecters. but we are recommending that people be vigilant. and that we use the eyes and ears that we have in our community to ensure that our communities are, in fact safe. we've done this in the past. we will do this in the present. but more importantly, we have to work with state and federal investigators and authorities to ensure that those who are responsible are caught and where they're accidents we determine the causes of those. >> what was your reaction when you heard about that individual who climbed up that pole and brought down the confederate battle flag of the columbia south carolina state capitol
grounds? we're showing our viewers some video of that. she was arrested as you know charged with a crime. what do you think about that? >> well candidly what i thought about it was that this young woman stands in the long tradition going back to henry david thoreau, to rosa parks, to martin luther king to any number of naacp activists who have engaged in acts of civil disobedience. so the fact that she brought down the flag temporarily only ratifies affirms the fact that the naacp for 15 years has pushed for economic sanctions against the state of south carolina to bring that flag down. so by were heartened by it. >> even though she committed a crime that was against the law in columbia south carolina? >> and she stood in court and was willing to take responsibility for her actions. that should be noted too. >> jeb bush the republican presidential candidate, the former governor of florida, who brought down the flag in florida when he was governor he is now saying that that confederate
battle flag is a symbol and it's the symbol that is racist that confederate battle flag is racist in effect what is he's saying. you hear that from jeb bush. what's your reaction? >> i think jeb bush is right on point. the question i pose to the viewers of this program is this. if you walked into a room filled with swastikas and nazi paraphernalia, would you feel safe? would you feel comfortable? would you feel that that's a place for you to be? in the same fashion, americans of every hue and heritage don't feel safe don't feel comfortable, with this racist symbol waving in the wind. it has to come down. we've said that for 50 years in south carolina. we will continue to say it. and we expect south carolina to bring it down along with other states. >> you probably didn't expect the republican governor of south carolina republican governor of alabama, other republicans, to move as quickly as they have in recent days to bring -- try to bring those flags down. >> racial enlightenment is bipartisan. >> cornell william brooks thanks very much for joining us.
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we are seeing new fractures within the republican field. the u.s. stream court reeling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states is casting a shadow over the gop race. more on what's going on. a lot of tension behind the scenes. >> public opinion is changing. but there's a fault line on gay rights in this country. it runs through the republican party's 2016 bench. gob divided. the decision to legalize same-sex marriage splitting the party. >> the court has injected itself into politics. >> chief critics back an amendment to make it a state issue. many republican candidates don't. >> it's not going to happen. i'm focused on solving problems. i'm not running to make a point. >> they are making an argument to protect religious freedom.
>> accept the ruling. fight for the religious liberties of every american. >> some in the gop are calling for businesses and religious institutions to object to providing services to practice civil disobedience. >> they will go the path of dr. martin luther king who in his essay the letters from a jail remind us that an unjust law is no law at all. >> chris christie and john kasich are more tempered in their paul for a new fight. >> i know this. religious institutions entities, like the catholic church they need to be honored. there's an ability to strike a balance. >> this argument may be dangerous. this spring mike pence signed a law.
two-thirds oppose same-sex marriage but a group is growing fast as donald trump points out. >> i'm traditional marriage. it's changing rapidly. >> what do you say to a lesbian who is married or gay man who is married who says donald trump, what's traditional about being married three times? >> they have a very good point. >> a tricky issue for donald trump personally. but it's a delicate issue politically for so many republican candidates. that's perhaps best illustrated by kentucky senator rand paul after taking more than two days to react, he criticized government involvement in marriage but he defended so-called traditional marriages as well as the right of individuals to enter into economic and personal contracts. he had it all covered. >> personal contract snzs? >> meaning in a way that if people are going to enjoy economic rights in a partnership, that he supports that ability to do so.
>> stand by. i want to bring in gloria borger and jeff. how tricky of an issue will this be for republicans? >> listen to rand paul. that's how tricky it is. you can't understand the gobble here. they understand the demographics are against them. almost 60% of millennial republicans support same-sex marriage. what they are trying to do is either look at it as a settled issue and look as you saw with jeb bush and kasich for example, or turn this into a debate over states' rights popular in the republican party, question of religious liberty, like mike huckabee because they understand that while they may be in line with republican primary voters the older republican primary voters, when it couldmes time for a general election public opinion has shifted and a majority supports it. >> some republican candidates
like mike huckabee ted cruz they are serious candidates but are raising questions about the u.s. supreme court, whether it really is -- should be followed as the law of the land. >> it's a bit of a pander-fest out there. there's where this contest is beginning and this is a real raw issue in iowa. they have had same-sex marriage for six years or so. one other thing they are doing in addition to this -- some of these questions are judges. they are campaigning against activist judges. they believe this court is an activist one. that's one issue getting a lot of traction. gloria you are right, it's a short-term gain long-term pain for this party. every establishment member knows this. that's why jeb bush was in south carolina this afternoon saying we have to move on. this is not why i'm running. >> how are the democrats reacting? >> they are loving it. all you have to do is go to hillary clinton's online store.
she has a series of t-shirts that support the lgbt community. remember she's made a change here in the last eight years. she is more in line with where the country is overall, with where independents are, with where young people are, whether republican or democrat. democrats are feeling really good about this. >> let's switch gears and talk about the vice president, joe biden. a story today, we read it suggesting that his late son and hunter they both have told joe biden, you know what run for president if you want. what are you hearing? >> i spoke to one democrat today very close to joe biden who said to me that there's absolutely no difference in his position now than it was a month ago. this is a man who is in an incredible amount of pain and he hasn't changed his mind one way or the other about running for the presidency. they said now that all of this talk about him running puts him
in a box, i was told. he will have to say something. he probably will in august. but the death of his son has only not made him think about this right now. he is trying to get through his grief. >> some people are pointing out, as you know he's not necessarily completely ruling it out. he is leaving that door slightly open. some people are saying look at bernie sanders, the independent senator from vermont is doing, maybe that's going to encourage the sitting vice president to challenge hillary clinton. >> there's a hanger and appetite inside the democratic party for a contest but also a choice. everyone is not signing on to hillary clinton. joe biden would have had to have something in place. people revere him, respect him, like him. i talked to an activist who really liked him. she said have i not heard from him. he hope he doesn't run.
they know it's painful. >> you have people who are either anti-clinton or they are pro-biden who feel that maybe he should not rule this out. this is also very much a human story. these are people who believe in joe biden. they are his friends. they believe he got a bum deal because he is very clearly been side stepped by the establishment. all the money going to hillary clinton, the support. president obama's support going to hillary clinton. so i think these are people on his behalf who are a little bit upset. they feel like he is a statesman who should be considered. but i think ultimately it's just this waiting game until the window really closes. until it does he is not going to roll over on this. >> there are people out there saying if something should happen to hillary: clinton, if she falls on her face there are people waiting in the wings. john kerry, joe biden, the party will say, you have to step up to the plate. but i don't see that scenario
happening. >> she would have to fall flat. and she hasn't. >> exactly. >> see what happens. we will get final word from biden by august. thanks very much. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." erin burnett "out front" starts right now. convicted killer david sweat speaking for the first time since he is captured revealing stunning new details about his three weeks on the run. what was the killer's true escape plan? more breaking news. the fbi launching a major investigation. were they part of a heroin ring inside the prison? nbc dumps trump cutting all ties to the presidential candidate. wait until you hear how trump fires back. let's go "out front." good evening. i'm erin