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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  October 27, 2015 2:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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we actually read them. join us tomorrow when rance priebus and cory booker will be my guests. i'm jake tapper. i'll turn you over to wolf blitzer who is in next door in this place we like to call "the situation room". happening now, breaking news -- iraq escalation, even as the dust clears after a special operation inside iraq. the pentagon says the u.s. will be stepping up its fight against isis with more air strikes and boots on the ground. on the front lines, we'll take you inside syria, kurdish fighters are battling isis and hoping for more u.s. help. they may be poorly armed but they do have a devastating secret weapon. school room shocker. the fbi is now investigating the violent takedown of a high school student by a sheriff's deputy who moved in after she allegedly refused to leave clasp standing by for a live news conference with the county
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sheriff. trump falls. ben carson delivers a one-two punch. according to one poll, taking a nationwide lead among republicans. trump is back on the attack but admits he doesn't get it. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> all that coming up. but breaking news right now, columbia, south carolina. a deputy was caught on video grabbing a teenage student, throwing her across a classroom floor. the incident in spring valley high school sparking national outrage. today the fbi announced it's going to investigate. a little while ago, school district officials called the video shameful and outrageous. the sheriff of the county is now speaking. leon lott. let's listen in. >> i also had a conversation with the united states attorney, william nettles, and followed up
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with a written request to dave thomas, fbi special agent in charge, and also u.s. attorney, followed up with a written request this morning asking them to investigate this as a civil rights violation, whatever violation that they deem is appropriate. i felt that it was very important that i do that very quickly. i don't want anybody in richland county or anyone in the world to say this is not being held -- handled properly. that's why i've asked for a very independent outside agency that we all respect and note it does a thorough and fair investigation to handle this. that's why i asked the fbi to come in and do it. they've agreed. they've opened up a civil rights investigation. they've already started their investigation. we're fully cooperate with them. and provide anything that they need. their timetable, i can't tell you. that's their investigation, they will handle that. the timetable on the internal
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investigation should be finished within probably the next 24 hours. within the next 24 hours, i'll have the results of our internal investigation. at that point, i'll make my decision on whether the deputy will continue to be employed here or not. i can't tell you now. i haven't seen results. i just got back in town. i haven't had a chance to get up to speed on everything. i will do that and then hopefully by tomorrow i'll be able to stand here before you and all of at citizens of richland county and give you the decision that i've reached based on our internal affairs investigation. again, this is very disturbing. we've seen one video, we've seen two video, and now we have learned there's a third video. we have a third one that's come forward, another child or student in that class videoed it also from a different angle it and it shows a different perspective.
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it actually shows the student hitting the school resource officer with her fist and striking him. now, what she does is not what i'm looking at. what i'm looking at is what our school resource officer did, what was his actions, what did he do? that's where i make my determination based on that. so even though she was wrong for disturbing the class, even though she refused to abide by the directions of the teacher, school administrator and then also the verbal commands of our deputy, i'm looking at what our deputy did, what was seen on the video, on all of the videos, and also what the witness statements. we've gotten statements from the teacher, from the assistant principal there. that will be in the whole packet that i'll look at, and make my determination. again, just like anybody else who saw it, i'm very disturbed by it. we're going to thanl
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appropriately and very quickly. this is not something that should drag out. this is a priority for our internal affairs division. they've been working on it since yesterday. and again, i feel by tomorrow i should have results of that. but to go back to the fbi investigation, that is something i really felt like i needed to make that request very quickly and i appreciate the fbi and united states attorney's office agreeing to take over the investigation and conduct that investigation very quickly. look forward to whatever the results. questions? >> sheriff, if you're talking about the third video, is there ever a scenario in which one of the your deputies does not necessarily feel his life in danger that's it's okay to do what he did? >> i don't want to comment right now until this is over with. but i think you understand when i say i'm disturbed by it also, you should be able to read
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between the lines on that. but again i want to get official results from our internal affairs. >> follow upquestion, that will be part of the investigation, he did according to the video -- >> welsh that to me that's really not relevant. what's relevant is his actions, what did he do? and how did he conduct himself when he made the arrest. that's what i'm looking at. yeah, i'm very concerned about her disrupting school and not allowing the teacher to teach and kids to learn. i'm concerned about that. but that's not my responsibility right now. my responsibility is appropriateness of the deputy's actions, that's what i'm looking at. >> what are the criteria you're looking at when you are making your evaluation as to whether or not he properly applied force? >> did he follow procedures we have and what we teach? our training unit will look at the videos, statements, they're
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the ones who teach the officers and deputies on the proper techniques and give me a report that he followed the proper techniques that he's been taught here at the department. >> sheriff, for folks, you talk broadly about the specific incident, about the sro program, how long it's been in place, how many officers are in how many schools, et cetera? >> we have 87 school resource officers. we're the largest in the state. every school in richland county, elementary school, middle school, high school, alternative schools, have a school resource officer assigned to them. some of the high schools have two school resource officers. i've been sheriff for 19 years and we've had these officers in our schools ever since i've been elected sheriff. by and large, they're doing a great job every single day. their job there is to in relationships with the kids, make sure the school's a safe environment, there as educators, teach kids things you might not
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learn from a book about a math, life skills, something dangerous, gangs and drugs. some are teachers, some are coaches. this officer was a football coach for spring valley high school also. we want them to be involved in the school, be a positive school model. they're there to assist administrators and teach to make sure it's a good, safe learning environment. that's what kids go to school for is to learn. >> concerns raised by many in the community about the sro program, whether that officer should have been in that room to begin with. is that something that going forward you will look into as well? she claims that she suffered injuries, lacerations, broken bones, do you have anything? >> i have no knowledge of that. my knowledge, she wasn't injured whatsoever. she may have a rug burn or something like that but she was not injured.
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as far as the officer being there, i have some concerns about that, too. i think sometimes our officers are put in very difficult positions. when a teacher can't control a student, is that our responsibility to remove that student or is that the responsibility of the teacher or the school administration. >> unfortunately our legislature passed a law, if a student disturbs school and that's a wide range of activities, disturbing schools, they can be arrested. our goal has always been let's see what ewe can do without arrests students. that's why we have many alternative programs to do that. should that officer have been called to come get involved? that's something the school district has to answer. we've had discussion about that in the past, you know. is it proper to call an sro to come in and discipline a child? is that our job?
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is that the school's job? >> do you have any new procedures that could be put in place after this investigation for sro officers? >> well, that's what we're going to look at. we'll look what he did and re-examine it and see if there's changes that we need to make. i don't know. maybe one of the first ones that jumped out at me, maybe the other students have should have been removed from the classroom so they weren't present when this happened that's not to prevent video recording but maybe they shouldn't been in there. we didn't know what point it could have escalated. why have other students in there? that's a decision we have to make with the school. the school may not want to completely disrupt the class by taking all of the students out. that's something to talk with them about. we'll re-examine everything and make sure our policies are sound and if we need to change something, improve it, we'll do that. >> you spoke of training. could you give us an idea of what training is in a case like
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this and maybe what he should have done in a case like this? >> i'm not going to address what he should have done. i'll let the investigation speak for that and then i'll speak toward that once i make my decision in the internal affairs investigation. school resource officers go to specialized training, training above what a normal deputy has. our law in the state you can't be a school resource officer until you're certified which means you have to go to a clasp these officers continuous education on procedures about how to be a school resource officer. and this officer in question was a certified school resource officer, he had been through training, and he was up to date on all of his training. >> how does that happen? does he apply for it? is that something that -- >> no, sometimes they move their way up. he started at middle school, when an opening came up to high school. sometimes we move them straight into high school. it's a joint decision made
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between us and the school districts. and again, with 87 school resource officers and 3 school districts, we have a very large program, it's a successful program. yesterday was not typical of what we do normally every single day. but right now we can't focus on all 0 successes. we have to focus on a possible failure we had yesterday and address that. >> was there any concern -- >> we'll continue to monitor the news conference. sheriff leon lott of richland, outside the county where columbia, south carolina is and where they have this disturbing incident yesterday. jason carroll has been covering all of this for us. jason, what we learned from the sheriff is there is yet a third video, third video he shows the young woman, student, junior in the school, resisting, hitting the police officer, the sheriff's deputy in that classroom. that's new information. he's now providing.
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>> reporter: that is correct. we'll have to take a look. what it's going to come down to, even that 16-year-old student did strike at that deputy, was his response, the one you see there, what so many have seen now, was that response still appropriate? that's part of the investigation going forward. a couple of headlines came out of that presser, wolf. namely, that the sheriff's department holding its own internal investigation, which according to sheriff lott, should be completed by some time tomorrow, at the very least, within the next 24 hours. they've already interviewed the teacher that was there in the math class, in addition to that they've also interviewed the assistant principal there in the class as well. you heard the sheriff's deputy say that he was disturbed by what he saw on that video and that whatever action if there's any action, to be taken, it it it will be both appropriate and that action will be taken quickly. just again to sort of reboot
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what happened here, taking a look at that video, this video caught on cell phone video by we're told three students in that math clasp apparently this was a student who had resisted, she had been told to leave the class, not once, not twice, but several times, if you count the teacher telling her to leave the class, the administrator telling her to leave the class, now this video that's gone viral, an internal investigation going on with the sheriff's department. also, with the u.s. justice department as well. wolf? >> more on this story as it develops here in "the situation room." jason carroll, stand by. there's other major news unfolding today as well. including an expanded u.s. role in the wars against isis and iraq and syria. new information, much more on this coming up right after a break. amerivest selects the funds and manages your portfolio.
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see car insurance in a whole new light. liberty mutual insurance. breaking news we're following. the u.s. stepping up its war against isis. straight to our pentagon correspondent, barbara starr. officials clearly indicating there will be more u.s. ground combat troops on the ground over there, like we saw potentially in that commando raid last week. >> well, that is the message they are definitely putting out, wolf. the question is, what point does all of this actually become a combat operation? >> reporter: isis fighting for
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control. of syrian army checkpoints near aleppo. just one moment on the complex battlefield of syria and iraq that defense secretary ash carter says, he now has a plan to change. >> we won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against isil or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground. >> reporter: direct action means u.s. special operations forces conducting high risk, ground raids like the one inside syria against abu sayyaf, a senior isis leader, and again last week's daring hostage rescue mission in northern iraq, where master sergeant joshua wheeler was killed in action. the pentagon also focusing directly on the self-declared capital of isis in syria, as well as ramadi in iraq, another key isis stronghold.
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the top u.s. general laying out his own call for u.s. boots on the ground. >> if it had operational or strategic impact and reinforce success, that would be the basic framework within which i'd make recommendation for additional forces to be co-located with iraqi units. >> reporter: president obama has to approve any new plans but the pentagon still resistant to establishing a no-fly zone to protect civilians and rebels on the ground. an idea backed by key republicans and hillary clinton. >> anyone we sent in and train, we're going to protect from russian air attacks. >> we have an obligation to do that. >> we haven't done it. >> he's killed 250,000. >> reporter: one republican senator and presidential candidate pressing for direct u.s. action against president al assad. >> when russia's going to fight for him, iran's going to fight for him, hezbollah's fighting for him, we're not going to do a
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damn thing to help people take him down. do you see any credible military threat to take him down, general dunford. >> i think the balance of forces are in assad's advantage. >> not his advantage. he is cure as the day is long. >> reporter: now, still, given all of this, many fighters, many groups 0 the ground in syria, in iraq, will say that what they really want right now is heavier weapons. u.s. supplying some small arms but many groups saying to make it work against isis they simply need heavier weapons. wolf? >> barbara, thank you. the united states relying on kurdish militias to carry the fight against isis. kurdish fighters in syria pushed isis back, they're preparing for a u.s.-backed defensive toward the terror group strongholds, including its headquarters in syria. cnn's newest senior international correspondent, clarissa ward went to the front
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lines where the fighters have a small, secret weapon against isis. back in northern iraq right now joining us live from erbil. talk to us about these kurdish fighters. you spent time with them. they're still facing constant isis attacks. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. there are skirmishes along the front lines that we visited almost every single day. just a few weeks ago, the u.s. did air drop 50 tons of ammunition to kurdish ypg fighters and their allies on the ground inside syria. but the fighters who we were with said they are going to need much more than that. >> reporter: these men are at the core of america's latest strategy to defeat isis. manning positions along a vast and desolate front line with isis entrenched in villages just through the haze. fighters with the ypg, a force of roughly 30,000 syrian kurds, which backed by coalition air
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power, has dealt decisive blows to islamic state militants across northern syria. commander is in charge of this front line position in the city, which the ypg took in august after months of fierce clashes. >> translator: they tried to attack us again ten days ago. we were prepared, so he didn't reach their target. >> reporter: but they keep trying. isis has control of the next village along which is over a mile in that direction. but the men at this base tell us isis fighters often go at night to that building just over there so that they can launch attacks on these positions. the u.s. hopes the ypg will soon move from defense to offense, taking the fight to isis' stronghold in raqqah, at makeshift bases across the front line, fighters were lightly armed, poorly equipped and exhausted by months of fighting.
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and and senior commander knows battles ahead will be tougher. can you take raqqah without heavier weapons from the coalition? >> translator: weapons we have are not high quality for this campaign. we'll need new, heavy weapons. >> reporter: the most important weapon they do have but don't want to talk about is this device, which help the ypg get exact coordinates for enemy positions. those coordinates are sent to a joint u.s. kurdish operations room, and minutes later fighter jets come screaming in. he told us he was given a week of training before using the device. who trained you how to use this? >> translator: believe me i can't say. when you finish training, you can't speak it. >> reporter: a mystery, so much
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of the unfolding u.s. strategy in this critical corner of syria. the main reason the u.s. is being so circumspect about its support for the ypg, the group has close relations with turkish count parts, pkk, branded a terrorist organization. and turkey, key diplomatic ally, considers it to be the prime domestic threat to turkey's stability. >> very complicated situation. thanks very much. stay safe. >> reporter: fight against isis rages so does syria's catastrophic civil war. iran has been invited to join international talks on end that conflict. let's talk about all of this and more with iraqi member of the house intelligence committee, congressman adam schiff of california. this represents a shift in u.s. policy. for the first time now the obama administration saying not only russia can participate in future
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talks involving syria but iran is invited to do so as well, are you okay with that? >> i'm not sure wiran will playa constructive role. they're not playing a constructive role where they're prolonging the civil war. i'm skeptical of iranian participation at this point. ultimately in a resolution, all of the regional powers, as well as the united states and russia, are going to have a role to play. but i'm skeptical al thi juncture iran will have anything positive to offer. >> several colleagues in the house and senate, include tom cotton, issued statements saying, this sends the wrong signal to the moderate rebels, that iran is now invited, russia's invited and two key backers of the bashar al assad regime. they're deeply concerned as you as well. >> i am. i would love to see us, frafknk
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provide stronger support to the kurds. we ought to be making sure that the syrian kurds, as well as the peshmerga, have all of the material they need and in the case of the peshmerga, if they're not getting it from the iraqi government we ought to be providing it directly. likewise for the syrian kurds, one of the only real effective fighting forces on the the ground. i understand that would offend turkish interests and sensibilities we ought to do it anyway. >> goals include taking over ramadi, which is in isis control in iraq, but raqqah in syria, headquarters of isis. that effectively will mean more u.s. troops on the ground, not only iraq where the u.s. has 4,000, but syria as well where the u.s. doesn't have troops. are you okay moving american troops into syria? >> well, i want to learn more about what the administration
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has in mind. here's my concern, wolf. you know, we're going to launch, it sounds like more special operations in the area along the lines of what we did in the effort to grab abu sayyaf. in order to have an impact on the battlefield, you're going to have to have them with, i think, great frequency, because the way that those forces -- and they're the best in the world, operated successfully in iraq, for example -- doing a raid, gathering intelligence, plo exploiting intelligence and doing another raid on what you learned in the first. if done infrequently they mate be enough to put our people at risk but may not be enough to change the dynamic on the battlefield. i suspect, wolf if we want to change the dynamic on the battlefield in syria, it may require imposition of a safe zone or no-fly zone, a number of different formulations of that. i think, much to the regret of the administration, they're going to have to take a fresh
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look at that. >> would that require this -- some people call it mission -- others say it's a dramatic expansion of the military role in syria -- would that require congressional authorization, in your opinion? >> ply opinion, it does require that, particularly if it puts us in conflict with the regime forces which i think it would. even without that, even in the present day, i think that we are operating well beyond the scope of the current authorization use force and i think well beyond the president's power under article ii. i think we're on shaky constitution the ground but if we escalate in those terms the president ought to come to congress and seek another resolution. >> congressman adam schiff, thanks very much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. a political shocker. new national poll shows donald trump isn't number one among republicans anymore.
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dr. ben carson now edging past donald trump for the first time. we're awaiting the start of a trump campaign rally in iowa, where several new polls also show he's fallen into second
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place. our cnn political reporter sara murray's in sioux city now. how's he reacting to being number two in iowa polls and now in a national poll? >> reporter: wolf, donald trump seems stunned to find that he's lost the lead. he's back here in iowa, speaking at a school. he was here a week ago talking to a crowd of thousands and seems to be coping with losing the lead by lashing out even harder against ben carson. dr. ben carson is going toe to toe with the entire republican field. and he's winning the latest round. >> this is the right color. that way if you get blood on them you can't tell. >> reporter: first time since taking the lead, donald trump is no longer on top nationwide, leading the businessman struggling to explain the shift. >> i don't get it, to be honest with you. i'm a little bit surprised. >> reporter: carson ekes past trump with republicans 26% to 22% nationwide.
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in a new cbs/"new york times" poll. today, carson picking up an endorsement from mma fighter. >> that's a good picture right there. >> reporter: the fight to lead the field increasingly looks like a two-way race as every other republican remains stuck in single digits. >> it's a marathon, it's not a sprint. poll go up and down over the next year. no one should be terribly alarmed, no one should be terribly excited. >> reporter: a cornerstone of carson's appeal, like trump, he too, is a washington outsider at a time of growing frustration with the political clasp it's an image he embraces in his latest campaign ad. >> i'm ben carson. i'm running for president and i'm very much outside the box. >> reporter: meantime, as trump loses the lead, he's lashing out. claiming carson wants to do away with medicare. >> ben wants to knock out medicare, i heard that over the weekend, abolish medicare, and i think abolishing medicare i
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don't think you're going to get away with that one. and it's actually a program that's worked. it's a program that some people love. >> reporter: a claim carson denies. >> the program that i have outlined using health savings account starting from the time you are born until the time you die, largely eliminates the need for people to be dependent on government programs like that. but i would never get rid of the program. >> reporter: as recently as sunday, trump says he was open to medicare alternative. >> also agree with ben carson when he says medicare probably won't be necessary? >> it's possible. you have to look at that. >> reporter: the other gop contenders are looking for new ways of getting noticed. >> i've about had it with these people. >> reporter: today everybody ohio governor john kasich going to call out other candidates on their rhetoric. >> i'm fed up. i'm sick and tired of listening to this nonsense and i'm going to have to call it like it is as long as i'm in this race.
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>> reporter: this tougher tone from kasich and the battle from carson and trump could come to a head on the gop debate stage tomorrow night. for tonight, here in sioux city, iowa, consider it something of a dry run for donald trump. this is another state where he's now trailing ben carson in the polls. >> stand by, see what he says. thanks very much for that. joining us in "the situation room," dan ta bash, we have a lot to discuss political news is intense right now. let's take a quick break. we'll reset when we come back. whatever you're doing, plan well and enjoy life... ♪ or, as we say at unitedhealthcare insurance company,
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back with ryan lizza, dana bash, brianna keilar. seeing a serious problem for donald trump right now? >> i think so, right. he's lived by the polls. sometimes all he talks about is how he's up in the polls. most candidates don't talk about being up in the polls, june, july, august, september, they know it's not sustainable. he set himself up to look like a failing candidate because he's not dominating the polls. and it's not just now in iowa, now a "new york times" poll that has carson ahead as well. and i think -- i think it undermines his main message is that he's a winner and he's always going to be ahead in the polls. the other thing is, if he and carson start getting locked in a mur si murder-suicide pact that's best for those beneath them. you want trump and carson to
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take each other out. >> how does he deal with this? how does he get his numbers back up to being number one? >> i don't exactly know then answer to that. i would be a well-paid consultant to donald trump. i think would help him would be if he laid a foundation of being very familiar with policy, showing that he's really smart on the issues in a way we haven't quite seen really at all in domestic or foreign policy in the first two debates. this is an opportunity for him tomorrow night, if he can show that he isn't a one-trick pony riding on sort of the fact that voters who honestly in a phase where they weren't paying attention much were gravitating towards him and his personality. we're seeing a sign of a desperate donald trump, this thing he said about ben carson's religion, i think that is -- that's really i think a swipe that's sort of a low blow for what we've seen from donald trump. >> dana, you're there in boulder, colorado, getting ready for the republican presidential
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debate. what are you hearing that the notion of trump, carson, how are they going to deal with each other? >> reporter: well, it's interesting, you know, despite the fact that ben carson is now leading in several polls in iowa and then this latest poll you were talking about nationally, "the new york times" poll, he's not going to have that center position in the debate here tomorrow night. that's still donald trump because it's based on a host of polls, as we know from our experience, hosting and moderating a republican debate. but, i think it's going to be quite different in that there's a lot more at stake for donald trump. he's got to really show his chops. and i think there's a lot more at stake for the other candidates. never mind ben carson but the other candidates who kind of see blood in the water with regard to trump especially and might strike in a way they were reluctant to before because, for the past, what, several months, i think the experience has been you strike at trump and you're
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the one who loses. so i think that's going to be fascinating to watch. but also, on ben carson, he has a lot to lose as well. he was -- he's been able to fade into the background a little bit at some of the debates and kind of wind up with a really strong finishing speech, for example. i think he's not going to have that opportunity. if he's leading in the polls, he's going to be kind of the target for a lot of candidates who want to take him down. >> i suspect you're absolutely right. stand by. much more on the political race for the white house coming up. also, another story, outrage pouring in over that video of a student being thrown across the classroom. the school board is meeting right now. the fbi is getting involved. stand by for the latest developments. and can you explain why you recommend synthetic over cedar?
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a while ago, president obama weighed in on the new congressional deal to avoid another government shutdown and a default on u.s. debts. >> last night, democrats and republicans in congress came together around a long-term budget agreement. i'm pretty happy about that. and it's an actual bipartisan compromise, which hasn't been happening in washington a lot lately. >> but not everyone is happy about this deal. our senior political reporter, manu, is up on capitol hill. although the president is welcoming this deal, it left a bunch of republicans fuming right now. what's in the deal?
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>> reporter: yeah, wolf, republicans are scrambling to lock down support as we speak, largely because a lot of those measures that are in the deal. this deal would raise domestic and defense spending by roughly $80 billion over the next two years, lifting budget caps that were set and enacted into law. in addition, it would spend roughly about $30 billion for emergency war spending. that is part of the money that is not offset. the areas that are offset, meaning there are corresponding cuts in the budget, come from cuts to things like crop insurance programs, an effort to cut social security disability benefit program as well as a slight shave off of medicare that leads to pay for that $80 billion. but another, bigger controversial thing in this proposal, wolf, is to raise the national debt ceiling into march of 2017. that will really take this fiscal fight off the table in this election year, in 2016. and republicans, some
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conservatives, are very upset about that, because they believe they're giving away a key tool to negotiate and force the white house to make concessions on spending. so, right now, republicans are trying to lock down support and alleviate a lot of those concerns that i just mentioned, wolf. >> you're talking to your sources up there on capitol hill, manu. can it pass if the conservative wing, shall we say, of the republican party doesn't support it? >> i think it still can. there is a lot of confidence among republican leaders right now that they can get this through by relying heavily on democratic support. we think that the republicans will be badly divided on the house floor tomorrow, but it still should be enough to push it over the finish line. but that one issue that i mentioned earlier, crop insurance, the cuts to that program has caused a lot of concern from rural lawmakers who are threatening to revolt against that. so, right now behind the scenes, republican leaders are trying to see if they can win over some of
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those lawmakers from those agriculture-heavy districts. we'll see if they're able to do that, wolf, but it looks like tomorrow will be a big day on capitol hill, not just with this vote, but also with the vote to nominate paul ryan as speaker, and john boehner wants to get all this off the table for ryan to assume the speakership this week. >> big day tomorrow. we'll cover it, obviously, together with you, manu. thanks very much. coming up, you saw the shocking video by now, and now the fbi is also investigating the violent takedown of a high school student by a sheriff's deputy who moved in after she allegedly refused to leave the class. ♪ prepare for challenges specific to your business by working with trusted advisors who help turn obstacles into opportunities. experience the power of being understood.
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happening now, boots on the ground. the pentagon chief says the u.s. military is ready for direct action on the battlefields of syria and iraq. will president obama give the order to escalate the war against isis? hostile waters. china sends an angry warning to the united states after an american warship sales near islands beijing claims as its territory. and tonight, tensions are rising and the u.s. isn't budging. an officer suspended. new fallout from that shockingly violent arrest of a high school student all caught on videotape. we're getting new information about the investigation and another video of the incident that surfaced. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." the breaking news tonight, new signals the united states is on the brink of a significant
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military escalation in both syria and iraq, going beyond air strikes to ramp up the battle against isis. the defense secretary, ash carter, acknowledging the pentagon is now prepared to face direct action on the ground, his words, direct action on the ground. president obama reportedly is weighing recommendations to american forces close to the front lines in a dangerous corner of the world where russia and iran are both flexing their muscles and expanding their influence. also breaking, another major shift. cnn has learned that iran has now been formally invited for the first time to join the united states, russia, other countries, in talks on syria's civil war, the future of president bashar al assad. a meeting is set for this friday in vienna. i'll talk about all of that and more with the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee, ed rice. he's standing by live. and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by as we cover all the news that's breaking right now. first, let's go to our pentagon
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correspondent, barbara starr. barbara, what is the defense secretary, ash carter, planning on doing? >> reporter: good evening, wolf. well, pentagon officials will tell you this carter plan begins with white house dissatisfaction with the campaign in syria and iraq. the white house wanting to see more action, so ash carter's come up with a plan, which he pretty much presented today on capitol hill. more air strikes, but much more significant, perhaps, ground action, direct action. that means u.s. special operations forces on the ground in iraq and potentially in syria. let's get right to it. here is part of what the secretary had to say. >> we won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against isil or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground. >> reporter: so, "direct action on the ground." now, president obama would have to sign off on this.
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this could take u.s. troops well beyond this standard construct -- train, equip, advise and accompany local forces into the field. that was how they explained the raid in northern iraq last week that killed master sergeant joshua wheeler, that they were accompanying kurdish commandos into the field. this looks to be opening the door to somethng quite different, carter saying he also wanted to press for more action in raqqah, syria, and ramadi, iraq, two isis strongholds. it's hard to see how this could lead to anything but taking u.s. troops closer to that line of combat, it being a combat mission and putting u.s. troops on the ground in combat, no matter how reluctant the pentagon is to say it. wolf? >> all right, barbara, thank you. let's get to the other breaking story we're following. u.s. officials now say iran has been invited to join the next round of international talks on syria. it's a major shift in the obama administration's diplomatic strategy as iran's military
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intervention in syria grows more deadly. brian todd is joining us. he's looking into iran's moves on the battlefield right now. brian, what are you learning? >> tonight, new information from u.s. military intelligence officials, who tell us iran's military involvement in syria is growing and they're watching it closely. images like this one, the very public funeral for a legendary iranian general show that the iranian government can no longer play down its role in syria. there are simply too many so-called advisers returning home in body bags. >> reporter: a massive, emotional funeral procession for a decorated iranian commander, general hossein habdani, killed on the battlefield in syria, one of mounting casualties which iran's leaders openly acknowledge. a top general of the revolutionary guard says iran has sent more troops into syria and it's led to more deaths. a u.s. defense intelligence official tells cnn tonight no fewer than eight senior iranian commanders have been killed in syria over the past two years,
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and at least six of them were generals. >> this could be their vietnam, just like others are expecting, is this going to be russia's next afghanistan? >> this is enormous, high-level losses for the iranians for the revolutionary guards. >> reporter: by comparison, in its more than ten years in vietnam, america lost a dozen generals. but only one u.s. general has been killed in the 40 years since vietnam. most western forces now place their top commanders in bunkers far from the front lines. analysts say iranian generals are getting gunned down in battle because they're directing hezbollah fighters, other militi militias, and an undisciplined syrian army that's been pummeled. >> there's a huge amount of coordination that goes on. the assad regime forces can't be relied on, have to be controlled by the iranians in a very hands-on way. so, you have to be close. >> reporter: among those killed, according to iranian state media, a bodyguard for former iranian president mahmoud
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ahmadinejad. with its top ranks decimated, the revolutionary guard may have to take more steps to protect its most valuable general, qassam seoul mannie, the shadowy, ruthless commander of the elite quds force, considered the architect of the campaign against isis. seo he is now spotted on key battlegrounds in syria. this photo showing him seemingly posing with troops there. analysts say with his right-hand commanders falling, there's now enormous pressure on sulimani. >> i think he knowls he has to win the fight. you'll see more of him. but he also has to deal with iraq, which is in a stalemate, and he should be worried that the islamic state will take this time to make another push in iraq. >> experts say expect iran to sustain more casualties in syria. they say the iranians believe they cannot back down now, they have to prop up the assad regime. it's the only way they can maintain their pipeline of weapons and aid to the terror group hezbollah and counter the
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influence of their arch rivals in the region, israel and saudi arabia. wolf? >> are you getting information, brian, on whether the iranians' presence over there has really changed the game on the battlefield of bashar al assad's forces, for example to make any kind of significant comeback? >> analysts are telling us tonight, wolf, the iranians have not changed the game against isis significantly. they have enabled assad's forces to push back and recapture some territory from the al nusra front and some other rebel groups, but not yet against isis, but they say one of the main reasons they've been able to push back against al nusra is because of russian airpower. that's significant as well. we'll see what the iranians can do on the ground. >> russians are helping bashar al assad's regime, so are the iranians. brian, thanks very much. joining us is the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee, republican congressman ed royce of california. mr. chairman, thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. >> did a specific event prompt this shift in u.s. tragedy now for the first time, formally inviting iran to participate in
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talks on the future of syria and the bashar al assad regime? >> i do not understand the calculus that impacted this decision, but i do think it's very concerning that the iranian quds forces and now the iranian revolutionary guard forces are on the ground with hezbollah fighters. this has complicated the situation and will lead to more refugees fleeing out of syria. >> because the argument that the administration's supporters make and those inside the administration, outside the administration, is it's reality, the russians have a lot of influence on what's going on in syria, the iranians have a lot of influence there. you've got to bring them into the talks if you're going to resolve this thing, this fight against isis, whether or not that bolsters bashar al assad or not. >> well, the difficulty is that some of the administration's actions have, in fact, empowered the iranians in this theater of operation, and now they've cut a deal with the russians and invited them in. so, this is not good news for
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the region and not good news for u.s. foreign policy. i hope we can do some damage control over the nature of the situation that we now find the region in. >> because i know the rebels, the opponents of bashar al assad, the rebels who have been working with the united states, they're deeply disappointed that the iranians are brought into the negotiations. so are the saudis and some of the other sunni arab states. >> right. >> the implication of the announcement, though, that iran will participate friday in the talks in vienna is that the u.s. has effectively, for all practical purposes, accepted, at least for the time being, bashar al assad will stay in power. is that correct? >> the first four air strikes were against the free syrian army, which the administration have been supplying and advising the first four russian air strikes. that does not sound like coincidence, does it? so, i think sort of the plan is in tatters, and now the
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administration is trying put together a fallback position, but we are not dealing with a situation here which is likely to have a happy outcome. and my real concern is that by not working with some of our other allies and friends in the region, we now have a situation where ethnic cleansing is going on and the shia are pushing these sunni majority population in iran out of the country, and frankly, this is causing a crisis in europe, and certainly, in turkey, in jordan and lebanon. so, this is a major problem right now. >> i assume that you're the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee, the administration has briefed you on this new shift. what did they say to you? >> i'm hearing more from the ambassadors in the region who are concerned about it at this moment than i am from the administration on their shift on policy, and perhaps that's simply because i have not had the same -- i don't share the same viewpoint as the
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administration with respect to iran becoming the hedgeman in the region. i'm a stern critic of allowing iran to run the tables on us, both in terms of the iranian nuclear agreement, and now in terms of these foreign poll suasion mass natisy masinations, and it's going to compound europe and we bringing stability in syria. >> mr. chairman, stand by. we have more to discuss, including another apparent shift in u.s. strategy, boots on the ground, not only in iraq, but maybe now in syria as well. much more with the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee when we come back.
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we're back with the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee, congressman ed royce. he's standing by up on capitol hill. congressman, i want you and our viewers to know there's an intense and potentially dangerous situation unfolding right now. china is accusing a u.s. warship
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of illegal passage, threatening its national security. jim sciutto is joining us right now. you were there in the south china sea flying over this area not that long ago, and it's incredibly tense right now. >> no question, extremely sensitive, and sailing a u.s. warship within 12 miles of these islands is the most serious u.s. protest to date. in response, china is threatening to "expand its capabilities," in the words of the foreign ministry, raising concerns about an expansion of military assets there and also possible escalation. >> reporter: the voyage of the guided missile destroyer "uss lappen" sparked out rage from china and a warning. >> translator: if rell rant parties make trouble out of nothing, it may force china to show that we have to hasten the build-up of our relevant capabilities. i would advise the u.s. not to fulfill such a self-fulfilling prophecy, but secretary ash
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carter testifying on capitol hill today made clear the missions will continue. >> you will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits and whenever our operation needs required. >> reporter: the ship sailed within 12 miles of five reefs claimed by china as sovereign territory, including subi reef, where china has constructed one of several manmade islands. the chinese defense ministry said chinese navy ships and aircraft trailed the "uss lassen" at all times. during the transit, one of the chinese vessels contacted the "lassen's" bridge, standard procedure when entering a country's national waters, but the u.s. doesn't recognize china's claim as legal or the manmade islands as territory at all, and this isn't the first time the u.s. navy has delivered that message. in may, we flew exclusively on a u.s. surveillance aircraft as it flew over the same islands, a demonstration the u.s. considers the air space international as well. >> go, go!
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>> reporter: during the flight, the chinese navy warned the u.s. aircraft away eight times. >> foreign military aircraft, this is chinese navy. you are approaching our military alert zone. leave immediately. >> reporter: the dispute was on the agenda for chinese president xi jinping's state visit to washington earlier this month. the confrontation on the high seas makes clear the two sides have made little progress towards resolution. the pentagon is drawing up plans to make these so-called transits routine, but where and how often is still the subject of debate inside the administration, and the ultimate question is what the administration can do not only to express its dissatisfaction, wolf, but to get china to reverse building land 600 miles from its shores, and that is certainly not clear at this point. >> and claiming it's their territory. >> absolutely. >> their territory. and the territorial waters around it as well. thanks very much, jim sciutto, for that. let's bring back the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee, ed royce. mr. chairman, chinese, you can
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see they're pretty upset about the voyage of this destroyer, the "uss lassen." we've seen conflicts between the u.s. and china over the south china sea before. but is this -- i'll ask you the question, is this different? >> it's not different in the sense that it's the same claim. the claim that china's making is that the entirety of the south china and east china sea is chinese territory, you know, up to the 12-mile limit of a half dozen countries to the east and south of china. and clearly, since there is some $5 trillion in trade every year, wolf, that traverses the south china sea, there is no way that the international community can take that seriously. international law is very clear, and it's also clear that you cannot build an island on a reef and then lay claim to it. so, china has no standing internationally on this. and what the united states is doing is simply reasserting international law by treating these as international waters.
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>> ash carter, the defense secretary, mr. chairman made it clear today the u.s. won't back down. so, what's the plan, should the chinese make good on their warnings to the united states? >> well, one of the things i looked at today as the coverage was coming in on this incident was the fact that the chinese destroyer was following at a safe distance. it wasn't closing in on the u.s.-guided missile destroyer. i think that the fact remains that if the united states is going to be engaged in international trade, and if the international community upholds the same worldwide standard and we have but one country that doesn't recognize it, we have to keep those sea lanes open. so, we will continue to have on and off ships in those waters. >> all right, i want to quickly, because i know your time is short, go back to the situation
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in syria and iraq right now. >> yes. >> if the u.s. does expand its ground capabilities, not through the air, but ground capabilities, not only in iraq, in syria, put boots on the ground, as they say, to fight isis, is that something that would be smart from your perspective? >> well, from what i've seen so far, none of this has to do with bringing in the 82nd airborne or putting brigades on the ground. what is already on the ground is special operations, special ops. and what is being considered here is basically allowing them to participate, for example, in the operations you just saw, where they found that a bunch of prisoners held by isis were about to be slaughtered. and they participated. the kurds did the attack, and we did lose a u.s. special operations person in that effort, but likewise, if we're going to hit isis positions -- and they've been expanding in the last year, their reach --
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then having special ops on the ground to call in the air strike, that's the kind of thing we're talking about here, or having within the brigade, the kurdish brigade, a special operations officer, not to be involved in the attack themselves, but to help coordinate and plan and communicate with our spy satellites on this, this will help u.s. forces be more effective. i think the important point is we're not talking about putting brigades into the battle. we're using special operations forces that are already in place more effectively, and i think that's the crux of the discussion here. >> and very quickly, would this require congressional authorization to expand the use of force? adam schiff from the intelligence committee tells me he believes it should require formal authorization by congress. >> well, remember, from the standpoint of the administration, that authorization has already been given. >> what do you think? >> and i think the administration can't operate under existing authority, but if
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they bring in brigades, if they bring in the 82nd airborne, then we are going to have to authorize it in congress and debate it, because people like me don't agree with that, don't agree with putting, you know, those brigades on the ground. we do agree with special operations because it will help save lives and it will help defeat isis, and it can help the kurds in their battle against isis. >> mr. chairman, thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. just ahead, a sheriff promises a quick decision on what will happen to the deputy seen throwing a student across a classroom. the outrage is growing right now. stand by for the latest. and does president obama believe that the racial unrest in ferguson, missouri, is having a chilling effect on police officers across the nation? he just weighed in on this controversy. [ screaming ] rate suckers! [ bell dinging ] your car insurance goes up because of their bad driving.
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tonight there are new developments in that violent arrest of a 16-year-old girl by a school resource police officer that was caught on camera. the deputy seen throwing the girl from her desk, slamming her to the ground after she refused orders to leave the classroom. our national correspondent, jason carroll, has new information for us tonight. jason, the fbi, the justice department, federal prosecutors, they've been brought into this investigation. >> reporter: without question. you know, the school district superintendent called what he saw on the video reprehensible and unforgivable, wolf.
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now there are several investigations that are going on to determine what happened and whether or not this sheriff's deputy should keep his job. >> are you going to come with me or am i going to make you? >> reporter: tonight, south carolina's sheriff's deputy benefield suspended without pay after his violent takedown of a 16-year-old high school student was caught on camera monday. you can see the deputy tossing a female student to the ground after she refused to get up from her desk. then throwing her across the classroom floor. >> hands behind your back. give me your hands. give me your hands. >> reporter: according to authorities, the spring valley high school student was asked to leave the classroom. when she refused that request from her teacher and a school administrator, fields, who was also a school resource officer, was called to arrest her. the richland county sheriff was troubled by what he saw on the video and says an internal investigation should be
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completed by tomorrow. >> again, just like anybody else who saw it i'm very disturbed by it. we're going to handle it appropriately and very quickly. this is not something that should drag out. this is a priority for our internal affairs division. >> reporter: the sheriff cautioning, it is still unclear what occurred before cameras started rolling. the school board calling the video extremely disturbing and has banned the deputy from all of the district's schools pending an investigation. parents also stunned by what happened. >> most school resource officers are great people. they do awesome work in our schools. but this is a shame. to get a phone call that that would have happened to my daughter, i don't know how i would have responded. >> when you see a video like what we've seen earlier today, it certainly alarms you and makes you a little bit afraid of what is actually happening within our schools. >> reporter: deputy fields has been a subject of two lawsuits in the last ten years.
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in 2007, a couple claimed he used excessive force when questioning them about a noise complaint. the plaintiff says fields slammed him to the ground, cuffed him and began kicking him, but the jury ruled in fields' favor in 2010. in 2013, a student claimed fields falsely accused him of being involved in a gang, the school expelling him. that lawsuit's still ongoing. the deputy has been working for the school district for seven years and was recently awarded the culture of excellence award in 2014 for proving to be what they say was an exceptional role model to the students. he also serves as a football coach at the school. and wolf, that 16-year-old girl who you saw being tossled there in the classroom faces a charge of disturbing schools, but she's not the only one. a second student who was also there in the classroom stood up and protested. she, too, was arrested, facing a charge of


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