tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN October 30, 2015 2:00pm-4:01pm PDT
exorcist" later tonight. more proof of the lasting legacy. the film. that's it for "the lead." i turn you over to wolf blitzer who is, as always, in "the situation room." happening now -- breaking news. u.s. troops to syria. president obama reverses course authorizing special forces commandos to deploy to syria and assist in the fight against isis on the ground. opening yet another war front in the middle east. iran at the table. america's adversary joins the us, russia and others in syrian peace talks finding common ground. but deep divides remain over the future of the syrian dictator. will the u.s. be able to force out bashar al assad? plucking the peacock. the republican national committee suspending its debate with nbc. the gop fuming over the candidates' face-off on cnbc, calling the tone of the questioning, "petty and
mean-spirited." tonight, cnn is learning what the campaigns are doing in response. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." >> announcer: this is cnn, breaking news -- we're following the breaking news. a major shift by president obama now formally authorizing u.s. boots on the ground in syria for the first time to help fight isis forces. the white house says less than 50 special forces commandos will deploy to kurdish-controlled territory in northern syria to advise and assist local troops already battling the terrorists. at the same time, the united states is sitting down with iran, russia and and other countries for talks on ending the bloody war in syria that led to the rapid spread of isis. still on the table, the future of the syrian president bashar al assad. covering all that and much more this hour with correspondents and 2k3we69s including
democratic congressman john garamendi, a member of the armed services committee. let's go to our pentagon correspondent barbara starr first to begin our coverage. barbara, you have new information about what this new u.s. mission on the ground in syria will entail. >> reporter: good evening, wolf. the white house started it all off today saying it would be a small number of special forces on the ground, but behind the scenes, here at the pentagon, there is already talk the mission could grow. president obama secretly told defense secretary ash carter weeks ago he wanted faster progress in the war against isis, in both syria and iraq, and to come up with a plan, a u.s. official tells cnn. now, the president has ordered a small number of special operations forces into northern syria to help local forces fight isis. >> the president does expect that they can have an impact in intensifying our strategy for
building the capacity of local forces inside of syria to taking the fight on the ground to isil. >> reporter: the team's, less than 50 troops could, include members of the delta force, glee b green berets and navy s.e.a.l.s. the mission provide communications and supplies to local arab and kurdish forces on the ground. the danger -- they could wind up coming under fire from isis fighters. until now, the president had long said he would not put troops in combat, especially in syria. >> i do not foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in sear jahr -- syria. american boots on the ground in syria, would not only be good for america, but also would be good for syria. >> reporter: and the white house insists that is still true. >> these force doss not have a combat mission. this is not an, in any way an attempt to diminish the risk,
that they will face, or the bravery that they will need to summon to carry out these operations. >> reporter: the special operations forces are expected to be sent from erbil, iraq, across the border into this area of northern syria. the u.s. will use f-15 and a-10 jets at nearby incirlik air bass in turkey to strike bases around raqqah, the isis capital. the u.s. wants anti-isis forces to be able to take back the city. the top u.s. special operations commander recently underscored what the u.s. troops can provide. >> a lot of our intelligence comes from talking to people on the ground. this is a very unique capability that special forces offers for us, because they are out there with the people. they talk to local leaders. >> reporter: you are all going to hear a lot about that city of
raqqah. that is the center of isis power fighters, money, communications, in syria. it is going to be officials know a very tall order to get it back from isis hands. wolf? >> still a significant shift in u.s. policy under way right now, barbara, thanks very much. the white house announcement came as secretary of state john kerry was meeting in vienna with dip ma diplomats with russian and iranian counterparts to broker some political solution to the 4-year-old syrian civil war. one of the thorniest issue, the future of the syrian president, bashar al assad. our global affairs correspondent is here with me with new details. elise what are you hearing about this initial round of talks? is there any indication they've moved closer getting russians and riiranians to agree to get d of bashar al assad? >> reporter: supposed to be a conference about political transfer of power to someone other than assad, and the group agreed on 11 points, but nowhere in that was talking about a
political transition. there was talking about governance, and keeping state institutions intact. now, everybody that follows syria knows that the regime and the institutions of the state are very closely together. a lot of them allies. it's not like you can cut the head off of the snake and the snake acts the same way. assad is really the state. take a listen to secretary of state john kerry speaking today. >> sergey lavrov and foreign minister zarif are and i and others agree to disagree. the united states' position is, there is no way that president assad can unite and govern syria. >> reporter: so that says to me, wolf, no agreement on assad. they'll meet again in a couple of weeks but have not unlocked this main sticking point of what to do with president assad and that says to me they're moving towards a deal with the opposition where at least if not assad himself, very top members of the regime are going to be
still in government at the end of this. >> and in the midst of all think, the u.s. invites iran to come in for the first time pap significant shift in u.s. policy as well to participate in discussions involving the future of syria. at the same time, iran goes ahead and arrests, detains yet another american citizen in iran. seemingly poking their eyes at the united states -- their fingers in the eyes of the united states? >> reporter: that's right. he is, according to reports, a 40-something-year-old businessman, iranian and american citizenship, arrested earlier this month while visiting a friend in iran, doing business there and he had spoken out actually against u.s. sanctions in favlger of building prichs between the u.s. and iran and it says, listen, even though the u.s. and iran are at the same table, hard-liners in iran are still trying to make sure that everybody knows that they are not open for business. still trying to torpedo that nuclear deal, wolf, which is expected to be adopted in a few days.
so i would expect that they'll be more of these accesses by iranian hard-liners to say that it's not -- things have not really changed. >> one other theory in addition to that, that they're arresting more americans potentially to hold as some sort of swap bea think want iranians held in american jails to be released. they want to do a prisoner swap if they think they can get more americans under their, in their prison system, maybe they can -- publicly spoken about some sort of swap like this. maybe one of their intentions as well. we'll see what happens on that. >> reporter: right. >> worrisome development. thanks, elise for that. more on all of this. joining us is the democratic congressman, john gare mendy of california, key member of the house armed services committee. thanks for joining us. >> good to be with you, wolf. very, very interesting day today. >> an important day and several significant changes unfolding. your sense of whats going on. first the decision to send up to 50 u.s. special operations
commandos into syria. seems to suggest all of a sudden the president now does support having combat boots on the ground in syria, albeit very limited, at least for now? >> we've always known this to be a very slippery slope. we always knew there would be an es calation that would take plae and those that watch this closely anticipated this would happen. that's one of the reasons we wanted an authorization to use force specifically for syria. we never have had that. so the president is basically free to go about this in any way he likes, and we'll see what happens here. i think the real trouble will come if we go in with brigades or heavy infantry, armor and the like. we've not done that yet. we're clearly looking at these as special operations. are they dangerous? americans are going to be in harm's way. we've already seen one death. the question is, will it make a difference? well, let's hope so, but what is
really making a difference is the negotiations that are now underway and specifically the people that, the countries that are involved in those negotiations. this is a very, very important change. >> i know you and several other members of congress including a bunch of democrats as well as republicans think the president needs new congressional authorization to move these troops into syria. does he have the authorization? he says he doesn't need that kind of authorization. he's already got it. what's your argument why he doesn't have that authorization? >> well, he's basically using the 2002, '03 authorization to use force in afghanistan, where it said, go after al qaeda and the taliban. well, he's able to stretch all the way across iran, iraq, and into syria, saying that these isil folks are really part of the al qaeda, taliban network.
it's a, a legal argument. we could probably argue it federal reserver and a day. the fact of the matter is there will not be a new authorization to use force because frankly, congress doesn't want to run the rick of having to vote. much better to stand back, blame the president for any failure, and then take whatever credit would fall towards the congressional representatives. it's unfortunate, because this is a war. this is not just a police action. it is a war, and the constitution's quite clear that only congress can declare war and what's important here is that when congress is involved, and if congress does approve it, then we have the american public buying in to what is going to be a dangerous situation. now, we could be hopeful. while this is going to put american forces at greater risk, we can be hopeful of the other things that are taking place
simultaneously, and we'll see what happens. this is a very, very important day, as you've said a moment ago. >> yeah. >> it's going to play out in ways that we would hope would be positive. >> and a lot of people say 50 u.s. commandos special operations forces, going after the isis stronghold, the capital of isis, really, in raqqah, which they hold with an iron grip is certainly not necessarily enough. a lot more u.s. troops potentially would be necessary, not only air power but on the ground as well. more to discuss, congressman. other developments are happening now. much more right after this quick break.
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more now on breaking news. president obama authorizing formally, american boots go into seaveria for the first time. less than 50 will advise and assist local kurdish forces likely in northern syria battling the isis terrorists. a senior defense department official tells cnn about two dozen u.s. commandos could be in syria within a month. we're back with democratic congressman john garamendi of california pap k california. a key member of the house armed services committee. are you afraid of what may be unfolding right now, congressman?
>> not afraid, but it's happening. i've anticipated this from the very beginning of the bombing more than a year ago, that we would, eventually, have troops. i've always thought they would be exactly what's happening now. special operation forces of various kinds operating there, and actually i don't think this is the first time. as i recall a raid of special operations forces into iran, excuse me, into syria, it time ago, but the fact of the matter is, we're there. we're in for a dime. we're clearly in for a dlaollar and will be in for billions before this is over. the question is, what will be the result of it? clearly, we have managed to stop isis' advance, rolled them back in a few places, but they are very, very lethal. just as nasty and terroristic as ever and they are creating together with the syrian civil war an incredible amount of pressure on our allies, on jordan, on turkey, and now with the exodus in europe, we're
seeing a different political landscape developing in which a whole lot of countries want the civil war to end, in part, because of the carnage, because of the deaths, in the country, as well as the exodus of, and the pressure that the refugees are putting on the surrounding countries and europe. and you take a look at russia. the isil situation's presents a very serious problem for russia. radical jihadism is alive and well in russia today, and there are perhaps a couple of thousand or maybe more russians, muslims, who are working in the isil camps, part of that learning the -- learning all that they need to know to come back to russia and cause problems here. all of this coming together and takes us to what is really the most hopeful event of this day.
which would be the vienna negotiations that are under way. >> well, you're not really confident that that's going to convince the iranians or russians for that matter to abandon support for bashar al assad, do you? >> no. not at all. i would expect that they would continue to support assad, and the question then is, what kind of negotiations would, then, result from this multipartied event? probably, and hopefully, an end to the syrian war and a transition to a broad-based government without assad. that's not going to be easy, but i think that's possible. >> well, let's see if they can do that. if they do that, nobel peace prizes out there for key players involved. i'm not holding my breath, though, suspecting that that's going to take a long, long time. let's get into this linguistic battle underway right now. the white house says these forces now about to be deployed into northern syria do not have a combat mission.
but they're clearly going into a combat zone. they will have a combat role. do you understand why they're refusing to say these are combat boots on the ground right now? even though these young men and women going in there will clearly be in danger and engaged in combat with isis? >> i really think the white house ought to just be, just up front and very clear. these troops are going to be in harm's way. they're going to be either in active combat or very, very near it. we know that artillery and rockets can reach out miles and miles. so let's just recognize that these troops are in harm's way. they are going to be in, near and quite possibly actively engaged on their own part in combat. i fully expect that. i'm sure that they expect it. and with -- let's not dance around words. let's be very clear what's happening here. what's happening is the united states is actually actively
engaged in a combat against isis on the ground. not with a lot of troops, but with special forces on the ground. are those boots, yes, those are definitely boots. what do we have? a couple dozen. multiply by two, lots of boots and more coming. what's going to be the result of this? well, americans are going to be in harm's way and there's going to be some, i would suspect, tragedies. >> yep. >> that's the nature of war. now, what will be the result of it? i think that has an awful lot to do with the kind of pressure that russia is putting on the, on other factions, including isil, from the syrian government's point of view. assad's pressure that we're putting on, pressure that turkey's putting on. can we see some sort of a victory? possibly. can we see a stalemate? yes, we already have that. can we see a negotiated settlement of the civil war and then everybody go after isis? let's hope so.
>> that would be good, if they were to happen. all right, congressman. as usual, thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you. coming up, the republican party takes revenge after a debate party, a debate party official says it was unfair. plus, the chaotic scene as protestors disrupt a hillary clinton speech. big day? ah, the usual. moved some new cars. hauled a bunch of steel. kept the supermarket shelves stocked. made sure everyone got their latest gadgets. what's up for the next shift? ah, nothing much. just keeping the lights on. (laugh) nice. doing the big things that move an economy. see you tomorrow, mac. see you tomorrow, sam. just another day at norfolk southern.
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we're following the breaking news today, stunning reversal by the obama administration now ordering u.s. special forces ground troops into syria to help in the fight against isis. joining us now in "the situation room," our cnn counterterrorism analyst philip mudd, former cia official and military analyst james spider marks, retired u.s. army major general and clarissa ward, just back in london after spending time on the front lines in syria and iraq. general marx, what's the point now, 50 u.s. combat special operations commandos going in. what can they do? >> far too little, too late. what they can do, however, clearly a conscious decision to do this, they can provide real tactical training for those elements, those platoons and companies they can be a part of, but these are 50 highly trained guys who are gawk r going to be able to gather forces together
and maybe improve that capability on the front lines, but in terms of are making a game-change move, this truly is just simply a political -- >> these isis terrorists withstood all opposition from the syrian regime of bashar al assad who's got a lot of are manpower, fire power. the iranians are in, there thousands of troops with hezbollah from lebanon, all russians now in there as well. kurdish fight moderate rebels trying to fight them. they've withstad all that. you think 50 u.s. commandos going in will get the job done? >> not the point, wolf. you mentioned iran, russia, how much they're doubling down in syria. in the last 48 hours secretary of state kerry shows up in vee anne inn. russians are big time you know in syria including conducting air strikes. iranians lost flag office, generals in syria and secretary ker hey to show up and say, we're serious in the conversation an end game. americans have given him a pair of deuces, not a pair of kings, a pair of deuces saying you are big in this. we're into it as well.
got to negotiate to get assad out. >> clarissa, spoke yesterday. in erbil in northern iraq now back in london. you were in syria, saw these kurdish fighters who are trying to deal with these isis troops in northern syria. is this white house move now to send up to 50 u.s. combat troops, commandos, if you will, is it really going to have a significant role? >> well, it's hard to really see, wolf, what kind of an impact such a small amount of advisers could have, other than as we were just saying, training, helping them out with tactical procedures, but what they really need from all experience on the front lines, talking to these fighters, what they don't have, are heavier weapons, armor-piercing weapons, body armor. armored vehicles. if we're talking about potentially sending this newly formed coalition into raqqah, which is an isis stronghold, an arab stronghold, predominantly kurdish fight it's going to take more than a
few dozen advisers to vi real impact. my guess personally based on the time spent on the ground would be that these advisers are there more at first to really just get the lay of the land, to see what's possible. and, also, to try to facilitate this coalition. you'll hear a narrative over and over again from the pentagon. this isn't the kurds. it's a coalition. it's the syrian democratic forces. they're very keen to show that it will be arabs who are at the tip of the spear of any sort of offensive on raqqah, but currently you have an 30,000 kurds and 5,000 arabs and i'm guessesing part of the role of these advisers, try to get all of them to play nice together. >> the problem, phil, you well know and the kurds, courageous fighters, good fighters, but as clarissa reported, don't have the arms, body armor or, some of them are in sneakers or sandals. don't even some combat boots to deal with this. they need a lot of help and so far the u.s. has been reluctant to do so without the authorization of the regime in
baghdad. >> i don't see that changing. critical players on the battlefield. isis, obviously, al qaeda affiliate, one. russians along with syrians, hezbollah, we support a sliver of the oppositions that does not have a snowball's chance in hell of ousting assad. this is about us saying we want a place at the table but does not change life on the ground in iraq. >> you heard the general say, sees a slippery slope. it's already started. 50 now but that number's going to grow, if the u.s. really want to get the job done. >> i disagree. i don't see this as a slippery slope. as phil described. this is the united states trying to put smomething on the table but insignificant to make a difference. we've acknowledged assad will remain in power, with this type of insertion of forces, assad will remain in power and we want to make a small compliment to this and it's not in our best interests. that's our strategy. >> guy, stand by. we'll continue to follow the breaking news, a significant day
here in washington. right now as far at the wars in iraq and syria are concerned, but other breaking news we're following. this breaking news in the presidential race. hillary clinton's speech turned into a bit of bedlam today when protestors starting chanting and wouldn't stop. we'll tell you what happened. and the republican party hits back at nbc, because of this week's controversial debate. you can't breathed. through your nose. suddenly, you're a mouthbreather. well, just put on a breathe right strip which instantly opens your nose up to 38% more than cold medicine alone. shut your mouth and say goodnight mouthbreathers. breathe right whei just put in the namey, of my parents and my grandparents. and as soon as i did that, literally it was like you're getting 7, 9, 10, 15 leaves that are just
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race. amid the fallout from this week's debate, the republican party today suspended plans for an upcoming debate on nbc. also, the campaigns are getting together to make new demands about debate formats and questions. let's bring in cnn's correspondent. tell us about what the republican national committee decided to do suspending its participation in the nbc news debate. >> reporter: right, wolf. an unprecedented move by the rnc, very angry with the way this week's cnbc debate went and are announcing they have suspended their participation and partnership in the upcoming february debate with nbc. basically, in essence, to get a little revenge at nbc here. the chairman today sending a letter to the top brass at nbc announcing this move. they said, "cnbc's moderators engaged in a series of gacha questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone and designed to embarrass our candidates."
now, nbc has responded tonight. they say they are disappointed and that they will work in good faith to try to resolve this, but all of this, also, comes at the same time this weekend on sunday, many of the campaigns will gather in washington to discuss how they can really join forces to push for changes in the next debate up. that's in just two weeks, wolf, on the fox business channel. >> there's another development. you're out there on the campaign trail right now with marco rubio. after being criticized. now, criticized for missing lots of senates votes and changed his campaign schedule showing up for an important vote overnight. what's the late effort ast on t? >> reporter: right, wolf. marco rubio just arrived in sioux city but cancelled and earlier event to show up for that 3:00 a.m. vote in washington against the budget deal. of course, in the midst of the scrutiny in him as a senator, hasn't showed up for many votes while running for president.
the rube yoio campaign saying h very much against the budget deal and wanted to show up on big votes. >> speaking now. showing viewers live pictures. thanks very much. discuss what's going on here in "the situation room." joining us, rebecca berg, and chief political correspondent dana bash, political analyst gloria and commentator of "the new yorker" magazine washington's correspondent ryan lizza. is marco rubio the biggest threat to jeb bush's path to the nomination? >> i think he is a huge threat to jeb bush, which is why you saw jeb attack him the other night. albeit a little unartfully, because rubio kind of hammered him in his response on the voting record. i think when you see marco rubio's debate skills and as republican voters watch marco rubio debate, you can see republicans saying who do i want going up against potentially
hillary clinton? somebody who's really sharp, as a debater. marco rubio. also, he looks like change. younger, newer, not a dynastic candidate and also look at the polling. he is viewed very favorably and enthusiastically by republican voters, is republican voters second choice if he like trump or carson. he's very acceptable to those people. so he kind of blends the establishment lane with the tea party lane, and could become a consensus candidate. so that's a long way of saying, yes. big threat. >> as you know, dana, some of the bush supporters out there, they're really going after rubio on his record of personal finances, and they're even suggesting that mitt romney back in 2012 didn't select him as his vice president running mate because of questions there in his background. what are you hearing about this? >> right. the former romney chief of staffer, top aide, beth meyers, insists that's not true.
he passed the vetting and wasn't chosing because they wanted paul ryan more. regardless of that, whether or not that wasn't the reason in 2012, of course, this is an issue people who don't want marco rubio to be president have been pushing, from the beginning. we've seen soft the evidence of the opposition research trickled around about the mortgage he had foreclosed on when he was house speaker in the state up in tallahassee. about, you know, the fact that he is and had been in debt. the fact he cashed out of one of his 401(k)s or i.r.a.s. regardless, i think there's no question, there was no question leading into the debate this week that marco rubio was seen as the biggest threat to jeb bush, and there's no question that -- they are playing for the same people and we know from after the debate that a lot of donors who were on the fence between marco rubio and jeb bush said, you know, wooe're going wh
marco. kansasling a campaign. >> i think he's wanted to show up for the vote. not only to push back against criticism but to say he's against -- >> right. much more -- >> make the deal, rand paul would be there, you know, sort of to filibuster it, although he didn't really filibuster it. ted cruz came out against it. for campaign reason bes had to be there and show he didn't back this deal. i do think the -- rubio the other night got a pass on finances because by that point in the debate the crowd turned against the moderators. everyone onstage frustrated with the questioning and he said i'm not going to answer that question, because that's research. i don't think that's enough going forward. we have primaries so candidates get vetted. he'll have to talk about the litany of things dana just
mentioned with a little more specificity. answered it before, talked about it in his memoir, didn't have great bookkeeping skills. not enough to say this is the biased media throwing op-ed research at me. >> what do you hear about reince priebus suspending the upcoming republican presidential debate that nbc was going to host? >> they have a few considerations now from the rnc's per spespectivperspective. had to send a message to media out letts holding debates, they did putting nbc on notice and needed to send a message to the campaigns they're doing something about this. the campaigns obviously cmored publicly for changes after the cnbc debate but differ is they're also making these points privately to the rnc and putting a lot of pressure on the rnc to try to push the networks, rein them in, and make sure that the questions are going to be more appropriate moving forward. that's exactly what they did. >> stand by. more to discuss including
disturbances at a hillary clinton campaign event today down in atlanta. stay with us. much more with our panel right after this. ♪ while you're watching this, i'm hacking your company. grabbing your data. stealing your customers' secrets. there's an army of us. relentlessly unpicking your patchwork of security. think you'll spot us? ♪ you haven't so far. the next wave of the internet requires the next wave of security. we're ready. are you?
there's more breaking political news we're following. black lives matter activists interrupted a speech by hillary clinton this afternoon in atlanta where she came to announce support for criminal sentencing reforms and racial profiles. watch this. >> using the power -- >> black lives matter! >> -- of the feels that come forward -- >> black lives matter. >> and yes, they do.
yes, they do! yes, they do, and i'm going to talk a lot about that in a minute [ chanting ] ♪ [ inaudible ] >> now -- >> hillary! >> now, my friends, i am going to get to some very important points that actually prove that black lives do matter and we have to take action together. >> she went on with her speech despite the protest. the counter chance including john lewis was there to support her, tried to quiet the crowd
but the hall went through a lot of serious problems. kasim reid was trying to quiet the black lives matter protesters, as well. we're back with dana bash, gloria boringer, ryan, presumably there will be more of these disruptions down the road, these candidates, bernie sanders had to deal with it. >> they had a big impact on bernie sanders. he coames from a state that's overwhelmingly white and had not addressed issues and he met with them. they protested him and it worked. he's now talking about their issues. he has policy propels protesters support. sometimes putting pressure on politicians works. what is unusual is it's a historically black college. lewis was there and he i understand helped quiet down the protesters. >> and kasim reid.
>> she met with black lives matters protesters in the past. >> hasn't gone so well. >> the meeting didn't go so well according to the people in the room. >> it's so hard as a candidate, can i just say, to be speaking and you can see how she's struggling there because she's sort of not a natural to begin with and struggling there on stage because she was trying to relate to the demonstrators but it didn't really work out. >> it is hard especially when, you know, look, the fact of the matter is she was speaking to the issues that they were protesting about. >> the irony of the case. >> the irony and the idea she had john leawis there. you couldn't ask for better backup in the idea of supporting these issues. if they don't listen to him, i'm not sure what will. >> it will be a problem down the road, i'm sure you agree. >> these protesters the only
issue i presume is not hillary clinton agreeing or disagreeing or doing enough but to get attention and attention for their cause and so this was a huge event, obviously, we in the media were covering it closely and so they got exactly what they wanted. they got some attention for their cause and i think that's why we're going to keep seeing the protest. >> dana, you're going to be hosting state of the union. you already interviewed the out going, former speaker. we got a clip from the new speaker of the house, paul ryan. >> do you think this means the end of the road for any hope of being president? >> oh, i don't -- hope of being president. >> meaning when you're speaking of the house, it's just a lot harder -- >> that's okay with me. that doesn't really bother me. if i really wanted to be president, i would have run in this cycle for the presidency. i had the chance and opportunity. i chose not to do that. i'm perfectly happy and content with this decision. >> i think he would have liked
to have been president, but i think he's figured out that god has another plan in mind for him and that's to be speaker of the house. >> he's only, what, 45, 44 years old. >> 45. >> 45 years old. the question is this, if you're speaker of the house and do a good job, why can't you become president of the united states? >> look, anything is possible. it's just a lot harder to do. >> why? >> because it's a really messy job. you're really in the in this case of it and unless there are roses and rainbows and everything is great in the world, which is probably not likely, it's hard to do. one thing i just want to say, one more teaser, the why that john boehner described to me how he finally convinced paul ryan to run was very interesting and i'll just say that it had a lot to do with catholic guilt. >> catholic guilt. >> catholic guilt. >> the line to the president. he's closer to the presidency than ever. >> right. if you're a good speaker, you're going to make everybody angry
because your job is to try and accomplish something and if you actually do that job -- >> if you accomplish something, you might be popular. >> you might be -- it's possible but it's -- >> let's be honest, the best way to become president is for the president to die. [ laughter ] >> here is the important programming note. the speaker, paul ryan, john boehner will be among dana's guest on "state of the union" that will air at 9:00 a.m. eastern and pacific. the u.s. deploying ground forces to syria for the first time to help in the fight against isis. details of the controversial mission and growing military tension with china. did one chinese admiral threaten war with the united states? feet start to kinda wrap itself around me... and the next thing i know it's morning. >>with tempur-flex, you got the spring and bounce of a traditional mattress, then it also adjusts to my body. ahhh. >>my cloud feels so comfortable. it feels like somebody's hugging you. how can a bed do that?!
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happening now, breaking news, troops on the ground. the u.s. is sending special forces to syria, a first in the war against isis. is president obama going back on a promise? threat from china, rising tensions over a u.s. warship travels through waters claimed by beijing. is a top military official trying to provoke a war? shouting down clinton, a stunning scene as black lives matter protesters disrupt the campaign event. what does it say about anger in the african american community now? republicans retaliatretaliate. they are taking their outrage to a new level. tonight the party is pulling out of an upcoming candidate face-off hoping to make nbc news pay a praise. we want to welcome the viewers
in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're "the situation room." the breaking news tonight, the most significant escalation and a major shift in policy. the u.s. military is preparing to send ground troops to syria for the first time. the white house says a small number of special operations forces will be deployed to northern syria to advice and assist rebels fighting isis. this after president obama repeatedly declared he would not put american boots on the ground in syria. also breaking, soaring tensions over the voyage of a u.s. warship through waters claimed by china. a new report suggest as top chinese military official may have threatened war with the united states. i'll talk about all of this and much more with retired u.s. navy
admiral, a former nato supreme ally correspondents and analysts are standing by. jim, you had a strong and important exchange with the white house press secretary. you tried to down play the significance of this major military shift today. >> reporter: they are trying to down play it. today aids said it again and again, this move into syria is an intensifying to battle isis but the white house denies this marks any reversal for president obama even though he repeatedly assured americans u.s. forces would not be engage in combat and the fight against isis. it's an escalation in the war on isis, the white house announced 50 special operations forces will be deployed to northern syria as part of what is being described as an intensifying strategy including targeted raids against isis positions in iraq and syria and a new push to
retake the city of ramadi. >> this is an important thing for the american people to understand. these forces do not have a combat mission. >> reporter: white house officials maintain this won't be a repeat of the war on iraq in 2003. but more like the raid u.s. forces joined last week to rescue iraqi hostages and administration is not ruling out future deployments. >> it is possible there could be further deployments. >> well, jim, i don't want to try to predict the future. >> reporter: despite repeated promises from mr. obama u.s. forces won't be engaged in combat. >> i will not put american boots on the ground in syria. i will not pursue an open-ended action like iraq or afghanistan. with respect to the situation on the ground in syria, we will not be placing the u.s. ground
troops to try to control the areas that are part of the conflict inside of syria. >> reporter: press secretary josh earnest insists that's when the president talks about using boots on the ground to topple bashar al-assad. >> it would be great to have a moment of clarity and acre knowledge, yes, this mission is changing and not what it was said it was going to be at the onset. >> to say that, jim, would only confuse the situation. >> reporter: contrast that with how the pentagon describes the situation in iraq where they are in an advice and assist role. >> we're in combat. of course, this is a combat zone, right? there is a war going on in iraq if folks haven't noticed, so we're here and it's all around us. >> reporter: lawmakers from both parties are asking questions. paul ryan said this commitment of u.s. forces must come with a
co-h cohaerent strategy. lindsey graham isn't being that diplomatic. >> this is a half butt strategy at best. >> reporter: they won't say how long the special operations forces will be in syria or who they are working with, saying that is being kept secret but aids to the president agree this push is not what they would consider a game changer and that the battle against the terror group will likely last well intointo the next administration. tonight, there is another breaking story. a possible threat of war against the united states against a top chinese military official. brian, this could be a serious escalation of tensions between the u.s. and china. what do we know? >> certainly could be, wolf, at a time when tensions are at a boil over these disputed man made islands. we're told tonight of a fairly tense meeting between a chinese admiral and american. there are serious questions over
whether the chinese officer might have made the ultimate threat. tonight, sources say there is new escalation, an apparent threat that came in a meeting between top officials for the first time since a destroyer steamed through waters through these man made islands on tuesday. translations vary. according to reuters, chinese leader in a video conference with john richardson, said if the u.s. continues with those kinds of maneuvers, there could be a serious confrontation, quote or a minor incident that sparks war. others say the word was fire or misfire, not war. one translation has the chinese admiral saying the pistol you're cleaning could go off in your hands. tonight, neither the u.s. or chinese would say if it was meant or interpreted as a threatening confrontation but certainly raising eyebrows.
is it still a provocation? >> so i think it's like for like and so he wants to get across the very serious things can happen. >> reporter: tensions between the nations have been growing over china's construction of man made islands in the south china sea. they used the area as international waters and fears the islands could be used as a military out post. china says the islands and waters are theirs. in may, jim sciutto was reporting from a u.s. navy surveillance plane near the islands when the plane received this warning. >> you are approaching our military alert zone. leave immediately. >> reporter: then on tuesday, another warning after the u.s. sailed just 12 miles from the construction. >> translator: it may force china to draw the conclusion we may have to build up the capabilities. i advice the u.s. not to create
such a self-fulfilling prophesy. >> reporter: there are serious concerns the u.s. navy may be out gunned by the chinese in these waters. >> china may station military aircraft on these islands before too long, naval or coast guard vessels off these islands. there is no question this buildup may facilitate the military capabilities that could in fact lead to a clash. >> reporter: i just corresponded with a u.s. navy official who said he did not interpret what the chinese admiral said as being a threat but heard the words mistakes or miscalculations about that meeting. american and chinese military leaders will have a chance to work out broader differences in the coming days when the chief of u.s. pacific command goes to china to meet with the counter parts. analysts say the two sides will have to figure out a way to deescalate, the consequences of moving to a broader conflict are simply too dangerous. wolf? >> that's right. you've been doing sole digging on the chinese admiral who might
have made that threat of war. what do we know about him? >> analysts are telling us, he is a commander of the chinese navy and commanded what protected chinese and fleets from pirates off the arabian peninsula and known as a polished, savvy commander that speaks english rare in the chinese navy, wolf. he's not known as a loose cannon, so if he made a threat or implied one, it could be serious. joining us now is the former nato supreme ally commander, james who is now the dean of the fletcher school of law and diplomacy. thanks for joining us. >> good to see you, wolf. >> first, let's talk about syria right now, what it was only in 2013 the president said flatly, you heard him, say there will not be u.s. boots on the ground in syria today they announced there will be boots on the ground in syria. why? >> because we're losing in simplest terms, the islamic
state meets objectives. it's expanding highly dangerous organization and let's face it, we're nowhere in terms of even containing or destroying or defeating. we got to adjust. >> as recently as 30 days ago, 30 days ago, the white house press secretary josh earnest said this. >> the u.s. recognizes boots will be on the ground to stabilize the situation in syria and rule out isil. the u.s. made clear those not be u.s. boots on the ground. >> what changed because today they announced there will be 50 sets of boots on the ground? >> i think, wolf, there is a dream beat from a lot of different quarters from the congress, international observers, military analysts that have consistently been saying we need boots on the ground, special forces to really drive the bombing campaign to
begin with. we need more, frankly and they have to help the kurds. if we put isis under that three after acquisition pressure, we got to start somewhere and put boots into syria. >> no one seriously thinks 50 u.s. special operations as excellent as they may be will make a difference. >> not at all and i would, this will sound harsh but i would categorize 50 going in too few and too late but we can still recover but it's certainly going to take more over time. >> how many more, would you think? >> at a total mission package to take on, i think you're looking at 10,000 u.s. troops including those in iraq. we have about 4,000 there now. i think over time we're going to have to drive that number up to around 10,000 if we're really going to make a dent. >> that also works on the assumption that the allies that the united states has, whether iraqi military in iraq, which is very disappointing as we know,
the kurdish fighters who are courageous but don't have military equipment they need. some are running around not with combat boots but sandals and sneakers will need training and equipment. this is a long-material proposition. >> it absolutely is long-term. the other key will be getting the turks involved. at some point, we have to get their ground forces. they are the second largest army in nato after the united states. they have terrific ground capabilities. they are on that boarder. they have skin in the game. i think that is the other piece that will need to be deployed. >> explain this to me. nato supreme ally commander. nato got involved in afghanistan but not getting involved in the war against isis. what's up with that? >> it's a weakness in my view on the part of nato because of the 28 nations can't move forward unless all 28 of them -- >> don't they recognize isis as a threat to all 28 nato allies, not just the united states and
turkey? >> i think there is realization, wolf, but not yet tripped over to the point that would see a major nato deployment like we've seen in afghanistan, but you're seeing nato in a serious discussion about a nato training mission for the iraqi security forces. obviously, nato is involved with turkey. you're seeing the first steps over time, i think, there is potential to see nato involved. >> some members of congress, an iraq war veteran herself from hawaii. >> i know her. >> she said as painful as it might be and a butcher that bashar al-assad is, in the scheme of things, keep him in power more important than him is to get rid of isis. you say? >> there are two things going on. we need to be careful to separate. one is isis we need to destroy them. they are evil. bashar al-assad, we'll need a diplomatic solution. that's what we see going on. if you think back 20 years ago, eventually it was a diplomatic
solution and ended up in the hague and died there. i think that's what will happen to assad but we'll have to go through a diplomatic path. >> stand by, we have a lot more to talk about. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto had an important interview with james clapper. we'll play that interview for our viewers and much more and your analysis of what is going on right after this. if youthen you'll know howouth, uncomfortable it can be. but did you know that the lack of saliva
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>> we're back with the former nato commander, the dean of the fletcher school of law and diplomacy. stand by. we have a disturbing new assessment from america's top assessment official to monitor compliance with the agreement. jim sciutto spoke exclusively with the dni, james clapper not necessarily sounding that confident. >> not a ringing endorsement. one of the jobs is to monitor iran's nuclear program, north korea's nuclear programs. these are things they are watching closely and the deal negotiated with iran was built on part by monitoring u.s.
intelligence. you'll hear u.s. officials say listen, if they cheat, we're going to know but you speak to director clapper and he says he gave conservative assessments, not only to congress but to the white house about their ability to do that. have a listen to his answer. with regard to iran, why does the u.s. intelligence have confidence it with track iran's nuclear program in light of past failures, for instance with india and pakistan? why the confidence now? >> well, let me see, the confidence. we were required by the congress to provide a rather detailed assessment, rather classified assessment of exactly what we could and couldn't do. we were very conservative in that assessment, so yes, there are some things we can do pretty well but we also acre knowledge that there are other things like
plans and intentions of leadership that have been difficult with iran anyway and will continue to be. so i'd say we have moderate confidence that we can monitor compliance with the agreement. >> moderate confidence. not exactly -- >> well, it vary -- it depends on what the issue is. i'm just giving you a kind of overall summery, some areas we think are quite high and others not so much and depends on the discipline by discipline basis. the iranians and we've said this, as well, we'll exploit every ambiguity they can. >> i will say he has confidence about the ability to monitor on the ground in sir syria and watching those closely as iran was sending military asset sboos
syria, wolf? >> not necessarily a ringing endorsement, the confidence level. jim sciutto, thanks very much. we're back with the former nato supreme ally commander. you agree with the dni, the director of national intelligence? >> i absolutely do. i'm very concerned about that particular issue and i'll tell you where we need to up our game is the cyber world to the degree we will track things through big data and cyber. we probably also need to invest in clandestant. >> india knowing at their program and north korea, there was a deal with them in the 90s. that didn't exactly work out so great. >> and of course famously in iraq we thought we had the ability to find weapons of mass destruction and we did not. so i think there is no reason to have a high level of confidence, certainly. >> what about brian todd's report on this exchange with this chinese admiral who was
effective he reportedly threatening war if the u.s. continues to move that destroyer into that area? >> yeah, this of course is a result of the destroyer similar to one i commanded doing a freedom of navigation run through what the chinese claim is territorial seas which is frankly a preposterous claim. the exchange is concerning. the chinese do not do things off the cuff, this is a very sophisticated officer, an english speaker. i met him. we should reserve judgment until the command next week will have talks in a very direct way. we'll get a better sense then, but it certainly rings disturbing bell. >> certainly does. admiral, thanks very much for coming in. >> pleasure. fallout from the latest debate. the party isn't just complaining about the questions, it's retaliating against nbc news and hillary clinton's african american allies couldn't protect her from the protests.
stand by for reaction to an astounding scene as black lives matter activists disrupted her event. ♪ while you're watching this, i'm hacking your company. grabbing your data. stealing your customers' secrets. there's an army of us. relentlessly unpicking your patchwork of security. think you'll spot us? ♪ you haven't so far. the next wave of the internet requires the next wave of security. we're ready. are you?
the rnc is accusing cnbc of badly mishandling the candidate's forum in colorado earlier in the week. cnn is in iowa covering the race. they have been in revolt against the debate that occurred earlier in the week. >> that's right, wolf. candidates have been loud and angry about the unhappiness with the debate and this unprecedented move by the rnc to step in. nbc says they will work in good faith to resolve this but tonight there is no resolution in sight. tonight, the republican party is taking revenge on nbc. >> i was very disappointed in the moderators. i'm disappointed in cnbc. >> reporter: the chairman of the republican national committee telling nbc in a letter it is suspending the partnership for february's debate saying this week's debate moderated by cnbc
was conduct in bad faith. in the letter it says the moderators engaged in a series of got ya questions, petty and mean spirited and designed to embarrass candidates. the move comes after days of fierce and relentless criticism. >> what it's turned into is a got ya. that's silly. >> was about figuring out the got ya question. >> you would think in a debate with cnbc they would talk about the economy. >> i don't like the questions, so they are a little tough. >> among the complaints about the debate, the moderators targeted specific candidates. >> is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign? >> it's not a comic book campaign and that's not a nice question. >> a hand full of campaigners will meet in washington sunday to make changes to the next debate hosted by the fox business channel in two weeks. this as candidates try to get back on the trail and handle the
fallout from their debate performances. today marco rubio cancelled an event in iowa after casting a vote in the senate overnight. he was hammered by his mentor jeb bush for not showing up to vote. >> you should be showing up to work. >> i don't like missing votes. i hate it. we cancelled campaign events for important votes. >> reporter: missing votes and poor management of his personal finances are two lines of attack the bush campaign is stacking up against the freshman senator. according to a 112-page memo, the bush's campaign goal to paint marco as a risky bet, no accomplishments and no credible experience beyond government. now this stepped up strategy by the bush campaign also comes as he's had to downsize some personnel including pushing out the coo of his campaign. they will try, however, to hit the reset button they are launching a jeb can fix it tour
next week in florida to highlight his record as governor and take him to south carolina, new hampshire as well. >> thanks very much. let's bring in our chief political correspondent dana bash and executive editor mark preston and ryan lizza. you've gone through this leaked bush memo. any surprises there, any hints of the next moves? >> one of the things you can tell from this memo they built this enormous campaign, right? there is things about data and all of this sort of state of the art stuff modern presidential campaigns do and tens of thousands of contacts they made and you read that document and think wow, this campaign was built for a candidate that should be at 30, 40% here. and i think that's the big surprise and then the other thing is the one that someone mentioned, which is the research on marco rubio making crystal clear what everyone knows is that jeb's path to the nomination to the extent he has
one goes straight through marco rubio and they are sort of shoveling some of this negative information about rubio into the press. this will be a moment for rubio. he'll be under intense scrutiny because he had a big debate performance and it will be a testing moment for him now. >> these two men, these floridians were very close at one point. that under scores how bitter this relationship has become. >> really. i talked about the political mentor and four of the house speaker that was serving at the elbow of the governor and now they are political rivals. look, what we saw on the stage the other night was something i don't think we actually saw, have ever seen and that was them standing together and you could feel the tension at that time. you have to wonder could they ever repair their relationship now that certainly marco rubio is looking at things job is lobbing at them. >> when you look at the political cale dndar, i troofwag
to figure out and it dawned on me, the answer is florida. the florida primary will be the key primary if both of them get that far, and people on both sides say only one of them is going to come out of florida and so, by jeb bush making clear to florida voters, florida republicans that marco rubio isn't there for them anymore, it's going to matter at that florida primary. >> this is a consit went issue. >> this is jeb bush speaking how genuine it is just a little while ago. >> i get a lot of advice these days. wow, do i get a lot of advice. the simple fact is you have to be who you are and i know who i am. my compass points north. i'm comfortable in my own skin and i believe that what people are looking for is authenticity. they are looking for genuineness and someone who has a heart for people. >> is that enough, though? >> no, no, i mean, they are
looking for somebody who is authent authentic, has heart, desire. we talk about this week after week, month after month. donald trump is doing so well because people think he'll be a fighter on their behalf. jeb is doing this, jeb work, he's going to florida where he'll talk about how he cut taxes and up public employees there. the fact is it's not about his resume. we never heard anything about jeb doesn't have, you know, the background or skills or the knowledge of how to be president. we've heard that he just doesn't really want to be president. >> maybe it was just me but i wonder if you agree when i heard that exchange that jeb bush had with marco rubio and started questioning why he isn't voting, doing his day job, i got the sense he didn't feel that comfortable going after hill if a public forum but his advisor said this is what you got to win. >> marco rubio picked up on
that. what did he say? he said someone probably told you to say this. devastating response. >> that's not traditional jeb bush. he's basically a nice guy. >> basically a nice guy and been pushed into going into attack mode. the trump line and you don't have a backbone. i think he's trapped in this on the one hand he doesn't want to go on the attack. that's not who he is and has to prove he's tough. >> that moment of him saying i'm getting a lot of advice, boy, am i getting a lot of advice. that's what that was. the reason why that moment with marco rubio and bush was so devastating for bush is rubio is right. there is no question what bush was doing was political. he's a fighter, of course he's a competitor and wants to win but he's not, you know, that guy when it comes to the personal political battle that you have to do these days and that's why i think it was not good and, you know, in jeb bush's defense, the
moderators didn't let it play out and didn't let him respond. >> this is maybe the most important moment of this campaign so far, right? there are a lot of smart republicans who believe whoever wins the jeb, rubio smack down here is the most likely nominee. >> absolutely. >> a lot of people don't think trump or carson can do it and will come from a more establishment person and this is the sort of subprimary of the year. >> stand by because there is more political news coming up. important programming note. join dana this sunday when she hosts "cnn state of the union." her guests include paul ryan, the former speaker john boehner, good duo there sunday 9:00 a.m. eastern and pacific if. >> just ahead, black lives matter activist chant over hillary clinton and disrupt her campaign event. we'll talk about the dramatic protest and what it could mean for the presidential race. an unprecedented early release of federal prisoners beginning. thousands are heading home,
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feelings that come forward and yes, they do. yes, they do. >> black lives matter! >> yes, they do and i'm going to talk a lot about that in a minute. >> hillary, hillary, hillary! >> now, my friends, i'm going to get to some very important points that actually prove that black lives do matter and we have to take action together.
>> as the situation escalated, john lewis personally tried to break up the protest. demonstrators were eventu twell escorted out. she wanted to call an end to racial profiling. let's bring in cnn anchor don lemon, our criminal defense attorney, the cnn legal analyst joey jackson and cnn politics editor still with us, as well. don, the scene was very heated and representative john lewis, as you know, and i said he's a civil rights activist icon, he had to go in there and really try to stop it. how unusual is this going to be going down the road? will there be more of these protests? >> there certainly will be more. i would hope not. john lewis, you said an icon, activist and corrected yourself, wolf, and said icon and i would add legend, someone who when he
walks into the room, i get very quiet with reverence because he's a person who marched with dr. king and part of the reason i'm able to sit here on television now and be in the position that i'm in and if you don't respect him who asks you to have some manners, at least, and listen to secretary clinton, then i don't know who you will listen to. listen, i know that black lives matter, you know, it was formed out of anger, but now they are at the table and their tactics need to change. they need to grow up and start listening. hillary clinton is an ally, nothing says black lives matter or don't matter when you're shouting down an ally. she wants to help. she's open. she may very well be the next leader of the free world. you don't want to shout that person down. you want that person in your corner to take care of issues. >> you saw joey jackson, not only representative lewis but kasim reed and other civil rights leaders there, as well,
trying to intervene and ironically, this protest was occurring as hillary clinton was saying so many things, as far as racial profiling, other sensitive issues those folks really would like to her. >> wolf, people are frustrated and if anybody recognizes understands and appreciates someone's right to protest, no matter at what event, as long as its peaceful, it would be that man john lewis. i don't begrudge anyone for exercising their first amendment rights or anyone for being frustrated. our leaders have two responsibilities, in my view a, to listen, and b, to take action where effective and appropriate. there is a lot of builtup frustration, wolf, and therefore you're going to see protest and continued protest because people are not happy. as lodge ng as they are within confines of the rules, allow them to protest. it's been a long strug and will there are so many issues that
need to be brought. you talk about criminal justice reform, where do we begin? it starts with te partnership between policing and communities, so there is a mutual trust, a mutual respect and you don't have issues like michael brown, eric garner, tamir rice and we're releasing 6,000 prisoners from the justice department, releasing them to what? is thered a kit housing, education, mental health treatment, is there substance abuse treatment. there is all of that frustration and rehabilitation issues that come with that. again, wolf, i do not begrudge them at all for exercising their right as long as they do it in accordance with the law. >> not the first time black lives protesters black lives matters protesters have been atten have end. bernie sanders had the same problem a few months ago, right? >> as did martin o'malley. the big problem for hillary clinton and after this happened, i called a long-time activist,
african american and said what you you do in a case like this? the answer is she's in a hard place. i don't know what to do. i don't know what to tell her. if you saw what happened, wolf, she handled that well. she did. she sat back talking about issues of importance not only to the african american community but everybody but she has to listen at this point. >> don, after the disruption, representative lewis told cnn the protesters in his words represent another time, another period. what do you think he meant by that? >> and he said it's unfortunate they didn't listen to the secretary. listen, joey is right, no one is begrudging anyone for protesting but when a person says okay, i hear you, how do we work this out? do we do? how do we sit down and talk? not only does hillary clinton have to listen, she's telling you i want to listen to you. you have to listen, as well.
it takes both sides to listen. yeah, there's a lot of frustration but if you have the ear and meeting with hillary clinton and you're behind closed doors with her and you're at the table and you got her, why do you have to keep yelling at her? there is no need to do it. so she's telling you i'm listening, so now you have to start listening to her, as well, to her message up on that stage. she said i'm going to address that later. if she didn't address it, then you say but you didn't address the issue. so i think it's, you know, goes both ways here. i don't know what the context is. he could mean it like oh my gosh, these kids are something else or he could mean their issues are different than mine when i was leading protests. i'm not sure how he meant it. if john lewis tells you, hey, listen, i'm with you, hillary clinton says hey, i'm with you, kasim reed, kasim reid a major of a black city like atlanta says i'm listening with you,
then, you know, take a pause and listen for a second. >> yeah. good advice. thanks very much for that. don, by the way will be back with a lot more later tonight. 9:00 p.m. eastern on his program "cnn tonight" 9:00 p.m. eastern. thank you. we'll have much much more news ahead. first, this impact your world. >> once dubbed the female michael jordan, she dominated women's basketball. she had the focus of a champion but off she spent decades in what she calls a mental prison. >> i was feeling like these extreme highs and lows. when you're the star of a team, you sweep things under a rug. >> reporter: the national alliance on mental illness says one in five americans live with a mental disorder but most don't seek treatment. >> ultimately, sweeping things under a rug, you explode.
>> reporter: chamique was misdiagnosed and found out then she was bipolar. she's now an advocate for mental health. >> i realized when i opened my mouth and said i struggle with this, a lot of people were going through the same thing. >> my feet haven't grown. imagine these feet. >> reporter: she started a foundation and a program called mentally driven. >> what i try to do is use basketball as a decoy. i bring them in and get them talking about their emotions and feelings. we champion for cancer and heart disease and mental health awareness.
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tonight, the largest single release of federal prisoners in u.s. history is under way. thousands of convicted felons are starting to return to communities across america. they are being freed early because of a change in sentencing guidelines for drug offenders. let's bring in our justice correspondent pamela brown. there are concerns about what is about to happen? >> that's absolutely right. as you mentioned, thousands of prisoners being released. they have all been serving time in federal prison for drug offenses but critics worry their release could lead to an increase of crime in cities
across the u.s. 58-year-old convicted drug dealer brad nelson is going home today after spending several months in prison and months in a maryland halfway house. >> they introduce you back into society but do it slowly. >> reporter: he was supposed to get out in 2016 but his sentence was cut short. >> i was a functioning addict. >> reporter: nelson is among 6,000 prisoners being released starting today as part of a sentencing reform plan touted by president obama. >> we've got to be able to distinguish between dangerous individuals who need to be incapacitated and incarcerated versus young people who are in an environment in which they are adapting but given different opportunities, a different vision of life, could be thriving the way we are. >> reporter: some of these people being released today are your clients, right? >> yes, some of them are my
clients. they made bad decisions and deserve a second chance. >> reporter: public defender caroline platt says many of the inmates are first-time offenders. >> federal drug sentences in this country have been too long for the past couple of decades. >> reporter: texas is currently releasing the most prisoners followed by florida, illinois and california. on average, they served 8 1/2 years in prison for drugs. >> drug addicts oftentimes have to resort to robbery and theft in order to feed their habits. drug traffickers routinely carry firearms and engage in acts of violence in order to protect their turf. >> reporter: that's one reason the early release will lead to more crime, say some critics. a study by the u.s. sentencing commission shows inmates released early were less likely to reoffend compared to those who served the full term.
a justice official tells cnn judges exam every case and 20% of the petitions for early release were denied. >> i'm thankful just to be out. >> reporter: the thousands that did pass muster, like nelson, are now enjoying their freedom today for the first time in years. and all the prisoners released today will be under mandatory supervision. a majority of them were already living in halfway houses and more than 1700 inmates are being handed over to immigration and custom enforcement for possible deportation. >> there are more that will be released in the coming months and years. >> that's right. over the next few years, you're going to see an estimated 40,000 prisoners be released from federal prisoners as a result of this initiative. wolf? >> thank you very much. let's hope that people can adjust and do well in their new, free lives. go ahead and tweet
me @wolfblitzer. be sure to join us right here on monday in "the situation room." in the meantime, thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. have a great weekend. erin burnett "outfront" starts right now. "outfront" next, boots back on the ground. the white house in an about-face announcing u.s. special forces are headed to syria to fight isis. is this the start of another ground war? plus, marco rubio leaving the campaign trail to cast his vote. and a deadly shootout at a strip mall. investigators pouring over that video tonight. what do they see? we'll show you. let's go "outfront." good evening. i'm erin burnett. "outfront" tonight, the breaking news, an about-face. the white house announcing today that american forces will be deployed to syria.