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tv   Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield  CNN  February 10, 2015 9:00am-10:01am PST

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with a guaranteed 2 hour appointment window and a 97% on-time rate, xfinity is perfect for people with a busy life. hello, everyone. i'm ashleigh banfield. welcome to "legal view." for more than a year, very few people knew kayla mueller was being held hostage by isis. and that was very much on purpose. days ago, her captors claimed that she was killed. they said by a coalition air strike. but they didn't give proof of that. so the young arizona woman's family, u.s. officials and everyone who knew her incredible story or her terrible plight, they all held out hope. and that hope has now ended.
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late this morning, the white house confirmed that kayla jane mueller is dead, dead at the hands of hateful and abhorrent terrorists. aides say that president obama has spoken with kayla's family who we understand received word -- personal word from isis, personal word accompanied by photographs that came just this past weekend. and as if this family hasn't suffered enough, after she was taken hostage more than a year and a half ago, wondering if she'd be okay and then wondering since last week if it was true, was she really dead, now comes the news that they just have to accommodate, she is dead. and they've released this statement. i just want to read it for you. this is from kayla mueller's parents, carl and marsha and her brother eric and his family. "we are heartbroken to share we've received information,
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confirmation that kayla mueller has lost her life. kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. she dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in those in need of freedom, justice and peace. in a letter to her father on his birthday in 2011, this is before kayla had been taken hostage, kayla wrote this, i find god in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. if this is how you are revealed to me, this is how i will forever seek you. i will always seek god. some people find god in church. some people find god in nature. some people find god in love. i find god in suffering. i've known for some time what my life's work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering. kayla was drawn to help those displaced by the syrian civil war. she first traveled to turkey in december of 2012 to provide humanitarian aid to syrian refugees.
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she told us of the great joy that she took in helping syrian children and their families. we are so proud of the person kayla was and the work that she did while she was here with us. she lived with a purpose and we will work every day to honor her legacy. our hearts are breaking for our only daughter. but we will continue on in peace, dignity and love for her. we remain heartbroken also for the families of the other captives who did not make it home safely. and who remain in our thoughts and prayers. and we pray for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in syria." the family has requested kayla's mission of humanitarian work, donations be made to causes that kayla would have supported. additional information will be made available in the coming weeks. those the messages from a family
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now in mourning but a family at least with answer, the answers they certainly did not want to get. i want to bring in cnn's kyung lah who is live now in mueller's hometown of prescott, arizona. and cnn justice correspondent pamela brown is in washington, d.c. kyung, if i could just go to you, i cannot imagine what this family is going through, thinking what they've been through and now thinking what they're learning. will there be any more response from this family do we know where they go from here? >> reporter: it's hard to imagine where they go from here because this is a private hell that i think most of us can't even imagine. we haven't gotten any word of whether or not there is going to be any public memorial for this woman, this extraordinary young woman, only 26 years old. but there is a sign here on the town square. you can see it sort of over my shoulder. but here's a closer look at it. it's a sign that says "pray for
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kayla." you can see there are flowers beginning to grow beneath it. throughout the weekend, there has been a restraint by a lot of people in this town of 40,000. they haven't really wanted to acknowledge it yet until the parents came out with a statement. but now that they have acknowledged it, you can see that there is grief becoming palatable here in this town. the family's also been telling us through spokespeople that they want people to understand who kayla was. she was an extraordinary humanitarian who went around the world helping people who couldn't help themselves. they delivered a handwritten letter that kayla wrote while in captivity. it's a long handwritten letter. but i want to highlight part of it. it gets to the heart of what the family wants to -- for people to know her. she says, i have been shown
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darkness, light and i have learned even in prison one can be free. i am grateful. i have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. in the darkest corners of the globe, that is what she tried to do, bring light to people who have no light. that's something that her parents want people to know about their daughter even in death. >> i can't imagine, kyung, that they're even thinking about further communication with these murderers. but ultimately are they trying to get her body back and if so, how? >> reporter: it's very hard to know. in this sort of situation, the likelihood of it, if you talk to u.s. officials, is very unknown what the possibility of that is. we do know that in a public statement released friday evening, the family had sent out a statement -- a public statement directly to the isis captors saying, we want to talk to you directly and privately. we later learned that the family said that they wanted to be
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reached through the original channels. we don't know what those original channels are. we now know that they got that photo confirmation of her death. so as difficult as it is to perhaps see those pictures, not knowing from what we know from the people who are in touch with the family, not knowing would have been far worse. >> of course. pamela, i want to bring you in on this if i may. the administration has been a part of this with that family. private communication or not, they definitely authenticated these photos and confirmed this death. but there is still the question, isis said it was a jordanian air strike that killed kayla and yet the administration is saying that her captors are responsible for her death. but are they being more clear than that? >> no, they're not. the bottom line here is that kayla died while she was being held captive by isis. isis is responsible for her death no matter how she was killed, ashleigh. that's the bottom line. but from the new information that's come to light, these
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pictures that the family received from kayla's isis captors over the weekend, they don't clarify how she was killed, whether it was in fact an air strike or whether she was executed by isis before or after the air strikes on friday that -- where isis claims she was killed. so that is very much a question. but after a forensic analysis of these pictures coupled with the feeling that she can't turn up alive now that isis already said she is dead, that led the family and the government to this very sad conclusion. >> there is another question here. and that is that while americans may not fully get their heads around this notion, isis or not isis, one of their chief tenets is that they care for their guests. it is a twisted logic when you think of these people that they have abducted and murdered so violently, but that is an issue. and if she was a guest of theirs, as she even noted in her
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letter, is there any talk of this in channels overseas that this will backfire like perhaps no other brutal hostage killing on video has? >> that is a concern. of course, she is also a woman. and that also changes the calculus and some are speculating at this point that that's why isis didn't sort of exploit her death as they have with other hostages, the beheadings and so forth that they've used as propaganda, the fact that she is a woman changes things. there's also a concern, ashleigh, mueller was the last known american being held captive by isis. there's a concern that perhaps they could try to take more western hostages by going to refugee camps in neighboring countries. so this is an ongoing concern and threat, ashleigh? >> we have seen that concern that intelligence has pointed to this being a brand-new strategy to go to jordan and syria and even lebanon and capture hostages and bring them through
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that porous border to hold them so there is an even more dire concern for people living, working or doing this humanitarian work. pamela, thank you for that. our thanks to kyung lah as well in prescott, arizona, where the family is grieving. there is more coming on the death of this u.s. aid worker, kayla mueller, at the hands of isis terrorists, or at least as she was being held by them. what is the next move of this president and the united states? and this congress to defeat the killers? that's just ahead. [ male announcer ] at northrop grumman,
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cnn terrorism analyst paul cruickshank joins us. we're still waiting on clarification as to whether this administration thinks isis killed her or if it was an air strike that killed her while she was being held. >> absolutely. and isis bear responsibility for this one way or the other. it's not clear at this point whether it was in some kind of air strike last week or whether they killed her and sort of framed it to make it look like it was an air strike. obviously the family for their o own peace of mind will want the answer to that question. >> you've written that isis has a new strategy afoot to actually expand out to the neighboring country, to lebanon, throughout
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syria as well already, and jordan even where i think a lot of journalists would feel it was more safe to be reporting. to grab western hostages and pull them into their strongholds and then ultimately build their hostage machine. >> they want more western hostages. the intelligence suggests that they've been developing plans to try and abduct them from neighboring countries like jordan and lebanon that they've been developing these plans for some time. obviously they calculate that it's useful to them from a propaganda point of view -- >> and the human shield point of view -- >> and from a human shield point of view. but particularly from a propaganda point of view to make these threats, to make it seem to their followers around the world that they're retaliating for these u.s. and coalition air strikes. so a lot of concern about neighboring countries but also about egypt because there's a very active isis affiliate in egypt and there are all those western tourists that go to egypt. just yesterday it released a
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video where it beheaded eight spies, already killed an american in a carjacking last summer in egypt. a lot of concern about the wider region for the threats to westerners traveling. >> and an american hostage named austin tice who's not been heard from, his mother and father were on erin burnett's program last night. this is a photo of him. this is heartbreaking when you see a fellow hostage's family with this awful news. this is what he said to erin last night. >> we've experienced what other families have experienced in the course of austin's captivity and working with the government that there are not clear guidelines, clear directions, clear accountability for bringing hostages home safely. >> is there any clear guideline or strategy in the wake of this sort of new phenomenon of
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repetitive murderous acts against western hostages that this administration could put into play? is anyone accusing the administration of being feckless? >> it's very hard. how can you negotiate with terrorists, how can you give money to terrorists who are now it appears starting to pivot towards plotting attacks against the west and also brutalizing the population of syria and iraq? how can western countries give this group the tens of millions of dollars that it wants? obviously there's been a lot of criticism, a number of european governments have allegedly provided ransom, got their citizens back. the united states and britain do not negotiate with these kinds of group. if they did, it may incentivize them to try and snatch more hostages. >> if that is in fact the strategy, and if that in fact bears out, what does that do to the coalition strategy of air strikes on isis strongholds, isis positions, isis buildings,
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knowing now that it is possible -- and again, i wouldn't put anything past isis given what we've seen them do -- that it is possible that there may be hostages being held there or being used as shields? >> we know already they have a british hostage, jonathan cantlie, who's been held, moved around between syria and iraq. we don't know about any other western hostages specifically that isis is holding. there are a couple of american journalists who have gone missing in syria. tice is one of them. but no information suggesting that they're specifically with isis at this point. but obviously a concern that when you're targeting some of these sites that there could be hostages. there's also a wider concern that isis is mixing in with the local population, using them as human shields. this is a group that's present in urban areas. it's not like al qaeda in afghanistan and pakistan where they're in remote mountain areas. they're in urban areas, towns with millions of people --
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>> right, where collateral damage, that awful term, takes on an even more important role in these wars because they have caused the wars to get worse. it's the hearts and minds you lose much faster when there's so much more collateral damage. paul, thank you. appreciate your insight. thank you. six months after the start of the u.s. military attacks on isis, the white house is certainly now ready to ask congress for something formal, authority to do this. the paperwork could arrive on capitol hill as soon as today. but what happens after that is a whole lot less clear. our sources inside the white house are saying the measure will not be open-ended but might just expire after three years. there may or may not be geographic limit, meaning iraq and syria. but the real question is whether to authorize those boots on the ground. ground troops.
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a lot of democrats are opposed to this and many republicans don't want entirely to have that ruled out. and this is a sure topic to come up at the daily white house media briefing. that's happening at the bottom of this hour. we'll bring it tot you live the moment that it happens.
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in the wake of this tragic
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news that the isis hostage, kayla mueller, has in fact been killed, we are watching another young woman's family grieving as the state of virginia back months ago launched one of its biggest searches in the history of that state. they were looking for missing university of virginia student hannah graham, just 18 years old. she disappeared september 13th and her body was found the next month. but finally today, months later, a murder charge for the man they suspected all along. this man, jesse matthew. he has been the prime suspect, the only suspect in her disappearance. but why did it take this long before the action, the murder charge finally came down? want to bring in brian todd who is live in charlottesville, virginia, along with former courtv anchor jack ford and also attorney joey jackson.
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finally a murder charge and what else are they telling us about this? >> reporter: they're not telling us a whole lot else about this case. the police and the county attorney's office, essentially the d.a. down here, just announced that jesse matthew has been charged with first-degree murder in the hannah graham case, along with a charge of abduction with the intent to defile hannah graham, in addition to that, a couple of reckless driving charges have been filed against jesse matthew in this case. as far as evidence is concerned, they're not talking about evidence. they're not talking about much else here. this is the commonwealth's attorney here a few minutes ago. >> the prosecutions for the abduction and murder of hannah will bring mr. matthew to justice for this crime.
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>> reporter: again, we pressed the commonwealth's attorney about what evidence they have to charge jesse matthew with the death of hannah graham. hannah graham went missing on september 13th. her body was found a few miles away from the point where she was last seen about a month later. and the only thing that was left of her body was a skull and some bones at the site where the body was left in rural albamoro county. they will not discuss the evidence or whether any kind of a deal was made. they've said this is not a capital murder charge against jesse matthew. for the moment, they are not going to be seeking the death penalty. but it is a first-degree murder charge and the maximum of life in prison comes with that. in addition to this, they are not really discussing the timing of when this case is going to go to trial. jesse matthew is also being tried in fairfax county, virginia, for a 2005 rape.
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he is on trial. he's going to be on trial for rape in that case, a 2005 rape in fairfax county. he's pleaded not guilty in that case. it's not clear exactly when that case is going to go forward. the defense has asked for a delay in that case and that's been granted. that trial was going to start on march 9th. but that's been delayed. they'll set a new date for that this week. not really clear when the county murder case will go forward in relationship to the fairfax county case. a few minutes ago, i gout aft phone with jesse matthew's attorney. he has no comment on the murder charge. >> i suppose that would be what most attorneys would say at this point until they get their ducks in a row. stand by, brian todd, for a moment. jack ford, i want to bring you in on this as well, and joey jackson. five months before an actual murder charge. is that because you must have everything in order before you go that route? >> one of the things that
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prosecutors if they didn't know it before learned from the first o.j. simpson trial is, don't go rushing into a case. you'll remember in the o.j. simpson trial, the prosecutors were still getting evidence results back in the middle of the trial. part of that was a defense strategy where the defense pushed them. but if you're the prosecutor in a high-profile case such as this, it's a small community down there. i've been teaching at the university of virginia for the last two years. and this just did terrible things to the sense of that community. and you're the prosecutor, you want to make sure you've got everything lined up before you bring these charges. and this has been a difficult case. we don't know what the facts are. joey and i were talking about this before. you don't know exactly how many hard facts there are out there. they have some circumstantial stuff bringing him into the beginning here. but if you're the prosecutor, you're saying, let's wait till everything is lined up and we're ready to move forward first degree. they're not making this a death penalty case yet. >> yet. >> but i would be fairly surprised if they didn't down the road someplace.
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>> and you both attach law. this is confounding to most people. why wouldn't you come out of the gate -- paeople are angry, it'sa small community. why wouldn't you say, and it's death penalty? what's there to lose? >> it's a good question. and i understand the press conference ended abruptly when that question was posed. one of the elements is premeditation. the first charge was abduction with intent to defile, a sex charge. but to jack's point, it could be upgraded at some later time. but you have to think, although we don't know the evidence, we have to think they've been investigating it over the course of time and they would have to have compelling evidence. they searched his car, they searched his home. in addition to that, the body was found. you have to wonder what dna came about as a result of that. >> in terrible conditions. >> horrible. and they have the circumstantial evidence. they have the consciousness of
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guilt. he goes to the police precinct. then he leaves the police precinct and is found 1,300 miles away on a beach in texas. >> and the prosecutor might want to hold onto the death penalty. if you're trying to get a plea, the prosecutor might say, look, here's the deal, i will stop considering the death penalty, in return, i want pleas of guilty from you for this, from the other charges against you. it still could be a negotiation tool. >> glad you mentioned that because i'm looking at the list in front of me. one, two, three, four -- at least four other cases that are sort of interconnected, linked somehow but not officially linked necessarily. i have to drop that down as the last point. but if you could both stay, i have a couple of other things i want to ask you about. we are also looking at the clock. it is 12:30, typically the time for the press conference at the white house to begin.
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we are waiting for white house briefer in chief so to speak, josh earnest, to take to that podium. typically, it's news of the day and with the confirmation of the death of the american hostage from prescott, arizona, clearly that will be a question without question from the press corps. we want to make sure we fit a quick break in. when we come back, we'll go live to that press conference. as millions of americans are packing into the theaters to see "american sniper," a texas jury is getting into their seats into what might be considered the real-life sequel of that movie. the killing of the man who inspired the film, next.
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and virtually no referrals needed. see why millions of people have already enrolled in the only medicare supplement insurance plans endorsed by aarp. don't wait. call now. live pictures for you right now. the interiors of the white house press briefing room where the reporters are assembled, cameramen are waiting, 12:30 is the typical time for these briefings. obviously given the news that we've just had about the now confirmed death of american hostage kayla mueller at the hands of her isis captors or at least while she was in the hands of the isis captors, we're wondering if the administration is going to comment publicly on this. clearly questions will be asked in that briefing roochlt this news comes days after isis made
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the claim that she was killed by the jets overhead carrying out air strikes against them. mueller's heartbroken parents are saying this in a statement. "kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. she dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice and peace. we are so proud of the person kayla was and the work that she did while she was here with us. she lived with purpose and we will work every day to honor her legacy." we'll watch for that statement in a moment. in the meantime, we'll carry on with some other news because the white house press briefing room is not yet ready. but there is a jury that is. they are ready. they're seated and opening statements in their case are set for tomorrow. it is the capital murder trial of this man, eddie ralph. he's the man charged with killing the real american sniper. that movie was based on chris kyle's life. kyle's story has become
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legendary after the blockbuster oscar-nominated film starring bradley cooper as chris kyle. cnn's ed lavandera is in texas where it is all playing out in real life. >> reporter: if you live in texas, chances are you've heard of chris kyle. in fact, the story of chris kyle has reached legendary status across the country. the navy s.e.a.l. is considered the deadliest sniper in u.s. military history with at least 160 confirmed kills over four tours of duty in iraq. >> i'm ready. >> reporter: "american sniper" is a huge hit at movie theaters across the country. it's now the highest grossing war film ever, earning more than $300 million and it's nominated for six academy awards including best picture and best actor. but chris kyle's life from rodeo and ranches to war hero doesn't have a hollywood ending. kyle and his wife made no secret of how their marriage almost fell apart after he returned home from war. it's what inspired kyle to
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devote so much of his time and energy to helping other veterans transition back to everyday life. in february of 2013, kyle and his friend chad littlefield brought a marine suffering from ptsd named eddie ray ralph to the rough creek lodge and resort. kyle and littlefield take ralph to this gun range so they can talk and bond. but instead, police say ralph turned the guns on the two men trying to help him. ralph left the scene in kyle's pick-up truck and drove to his sister's house right after the killing. >> my brother just came by her and told me he's committed a murder. >> who did he say he had killed? >> he says he killed two guys. they went out to a shooting range. he's crazy, he's psychotic. >> ralph is expected to plead not guilty by reason of insanity in the deaths of kyle and littlefield. ralph served four years in the marines including a tour of duty in iraq in a humanitarian
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mission to haiti. he made several visits to the v.a. hospital in dallas and was treated for mental health issues. this author says shortly before the shooting, ralph's mother turned to kyle desperate for help. >> clearly they feel like he could have gotten better care and had he gotten better care, she would not have approached chris kyle. that's one important thing to remember. she only did it as an act of desperation. >> reporter: ralph's murder trial will unfold in stevenville, texas, a town of nearly 20,000. chris kyle went to college here in the early 1990s. the second anniversary of his death was declared chris kyle day by the texas governor. but that popularity has eddie ralph's attorney saying the trial should be moved out of this small texas county. the judge denied the request. after three days of screening
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potential jurors, the jury is now set to hear the case, the panel will be made up of ten women and two men. opening statements will begin wednesday morning. ed lavandera, cnn, stevenville, texas. >> as we pivot from the story in stevenville, texas, we are also standing by live in washington, d.c. where the white house press briefing is just getting under way, probably a little late today. it was scheduled for about ten minutes ago. we're expecting josh earnest to take to the podium. the live mikes are hot. that press corps likely to ask questions about what the administration knows about the devastating news that kayla mueller, the american hostage from prescott, arizona, is in fact dead after being held for over a year and a half by isis. more on that in just a moment. and also, for better or for worse, the united states supreme clears the way for same-sex couples to say "i do" in alabama. but, wait, it doesn't clear up the confusion with dozens of
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counties sticking by the voter-approved ban in a bitter new fight over state's rights. but is that fight legal and who is at the helm of that fight if it's not? that's next.
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we're awaiting a live news conference. it's a daily press briefing for the white house press corps. we will be there live just as soon as josh earnest emerges from the door behind that pillar and the questions begin. undoubtedly questions about kayla mueller, the confirmation from the administration and from her family that she is dead while being held by isis, captured over a year and a half ago. in the meantime, in the last
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couple of days, they've been filled with frustration and celebration all at the same time for gay couples in alabama. the same day that same-sex marriage became legal, some of the judges there refused to issue the marriage licenses to gay couples. >> very disturbing to see our taxpayer money being wasted to sit behind closed doors and hide when people are waiting to get married. >> it's a bit of a legal mess. i think that's an easy way to say it. here to help sort it all out is cnn's senior legal analyst, jeffrey toobin, who's live with us from washington, and also joining us is attorney roberta caplan who's argued for gay marriage before the fifth circuit court of appeals and before the united states supreme court on behalf of her famous client, edith windsor. jeff, i'm going to begin with you on the reporting side of it.
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to make it real simple here, the supreme court said to alabama, marriage for gay couples is a go. and then the supreme court judge, the state level judge in alabama said, no, even though he's not supposed to, nor does it seem legally he can, although that's in question. and some people decided to follow his order. what's missing? why are they doing that? and can they? >> well, what's missing is that the supreme court justice, the chief justice of the alabama supreme court, roy moore, is an eccentric. he's kind of a nut. and he has a long history of defying federal court orders. he was thrown off the alabama supreme court a while ago. and what he's doing essentially is defying the will of the -- >> i have to interrupt you only for the white house press briefing. they're speaking about kayla
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mueller. >> the mueller family and all those who worked with kayla in here all-too-short life. she dedicated her life to serving others. not just serving other people but serving those who were in crisis situations, who faced dire circumstances. and we're relying on the generosity and kindness of fellow human beings to try and meet their needs. kayla was willing to put herself in harm's way to try to offer that relief. she saw this as a way to honor the god that she worshipped. and i will also indicate that i was personally moved by her comments that she saw god in the eyes of people who were dealing with terrible crisis. that is a particularly profound, wise statement from such a young woman. but i think it does go to the character and generosity of
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spirit that she embodied. over the weekend, kayla's parents received a private message from her isil captors with additional information about her death. that information was shared with the intelligence community. they conducted a review and an analysis and after that analysis was completed, they concluded that kayla has, in fact, died and the information that they reviewed did not allow them to arrive at a conclusion about her precise cause of death. but it did allow them to conclude that she had, in fact, died. >> was there any information they were able to glean about when she died? >> it is -- that's a good question. i do not believe that they were able to arrive at any conclusion about the timing, the precise
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timing of her death. >> do you know if they were able to determine whether she was killed in a jordanian air strike on friday, which is what the islamic state has claimed? >> i have seen those claims. the intelligence community did not have a specific assessment about the cause of death. there are some things, however, that i can share with you about this air strike that i know that isil has referenced. and this is something that military officials have indicated as well. the air strike that was carried out by the royal jordanian air force on february 6th was against an isil weapons compound that that group maintained near raqqa, syria. this was a facility that had been struck on previous occasions and it's not unusual for targets like this to be hit more than once. in previous strikes, this facility had been damaged. but like i said, it's not unusual for strikes like this to be carried out once again. the information that we have is that -- again, we have this
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information because this air strike was coordinated with the united states military. and the information that we have is that there's no evidence of civilians in the target area prior to the coalition strike taking place. and that certainly would call into question the claims that are made by isil. what is not possible to call into question is that isil, regardless of her cause of death, is responsible for it. this, after all, was the organization that was holding her against her will. that means they are responsible for her safety and her well being and they are therefore responsible for her death. >> the president has held up the counterterrorism campaign in yemen as a model for what he's trying to do concerning the islamic state. and today u.s. officials say they are closing the embassy there. can you realistically hold that up now as the model for what you're trying to do in yemen given the problems happening with the government there, with rebels taking over the capital and now having to close the american embassy? >> julie, at this point, i don't
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have an update on the status of the embassy. we have indicated for a number of weeks now that we have been closely monitoring the security situation on the ground in sanaa and throughout yemen. with an eye toward taking the necessary steps to protect the safety and security of american personnel who are in yemen. in recent weeks, there have been some personnel that had been drawn down from the facility in sanaa because of concerns about their safety and security. but for a status update about the facility itself, i'd refer you to the state department. if there is an announcement to make about a change in that facility's status, it will come from the state department. but the president has indicated that the counterterrorism strategy that we have successfully pursued in yemen is consistent with the kind of strategy that we are pursuing against isil. the reason for that is that it's consistent with our broader national security interests,
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what we've done in yemen is sought to work with local officials in yemen. we have sought to support ground forces in yemen who can take the fight to the extremists in their own country and we have backed up those ground forces with intelligence and with air strike capabilities that have succeeded in applying significant pressure to extremists that are operating in that country and curtail their ability to strike american targets. this is a threat that we remain very vigilant about. this is a dangerous organization that's operating in yemen and we continue to be very focused on taking the steps that are necessary to mitigate that threat. but the point that the president has made on previous occasions and one you've heard me talk about, too, that is consistent with the kind of strategy that we're employing against isil, that this administration is working closely with the iraqi government to build up the capacity of local forces in iraq to take the fight on the ground
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to isil, they are being backed by coalition military airpower and with intelligence capabilities and with even some training capability to maximize their effectiveness. and they have succeeded in blunting the advance of isil and even rolling back some of the progress that they've made. there is an analogous strategy in place in syria. there is of course no central government with which we're coordinating in syria. so it means we have to draw on different resources to coordinate with ground fighters in syria. so you've seen this administration try to work with the moderate syrian opposition and some of our partners in the region to train and equip those fighters so that they can take the fight on the ground against isil in their own country. and they will be backed by coalition aircraft as well. and in the example of kobani, a border town that had previously been seized by isil, that local fighters, in this case, peshmerga kurdish fighters, have succeeded with the backing of
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coalition air strikes in driving isil out of that town. that's one isolated example but is an indication that this strategy of the president can work. jeff? >> can you give us an update on the president's plans for seeking authorization of force against isil with congress? >> i don't have a timing update for you, jeff, as you'll recall, even the day after the midterm elections back in november, the president convened a news conference in which somebody in this room asked the president about an authorization to use military force. at that point, he indicated very clearly that he would like congress to act in bipartisan fashion to pass an authorization to use military force. the president at that time was clear then and has been since that he wanted congress to take that action not because he believes it's legally necessary. the president and his lawyers have concluded that he already has the authority that he needs to order military action against isil. but he does believe it would be
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a powerful symbol for the congress to send to the american people, to our allies and even to our enemies that the united states of america is united behind the strategy that the president has laid out to degrade and ultimately destroy isil. and we are hopeful that congress will act on authorization to use military force relatively soon. i should say that in the intervening period since the president first discussed this back in november and even before the president made this announcement back in november, administration officials had been engaged in conversations with democrats and republicans in both the house and the senate to try to arrive at language that could be supported by democrats and republicans in the house and the senate. the president does believe that this message is even more powerful if it has bipartisan support. so certainly in recent days we've stepped up our engagement to -- with democrats and republicans on the hill, to try to finalize language that could be submitted by the administration to congress. and we're hopeful that we can provide that information
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relatively soon, that language relatively soon. and hopefully there will not be a significant delay in congress acting on that legislative language. >> i believe you said last week that the language would be coming this week. others say it would be arriving by wednesday. is that no longer the case? >> well, relatively soon would include any of the days remaining in this week. >> it could also be the following week or the week thereafter. can you give us sort of a time window for when we should expect this to happen, whether it's been delayed or not? >> i'm not aware of any delay. this has been a part of a continuous effort on the part of the administration. there have been senior n.s.e. officials involved, there have been other senior members of the president's national security team who participated in these discussions, individuals -- officials at the department of defense, department of state and other places. so this is a broad effort. there are a number of conversations that have taken place. i think the fact that some of
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these details have been leaked by congressional sources is an indication of the large number of conversations that are ongoing between administration officials and officials in congress. but i don't have a more detailed timing estimate to offer you other than relatively soon and acknowledge that that could include any of the days remaining in this week. >> "newsweek" agree's twitter account has been hacked and the hackers issued a threat against the president and his family. how concerned are you about that hacking and how seriously are you taking that? >> i don't have any response to the claims that are made by these hackers. i can tell you that we've seen a number of high-profile incidents in recent months where media organizations and other important institutions have been compromised in some way or at least their computer systems have been compromised in some way. this particular intrusion is one
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that is already being investigated by the fbi. so i refer you to them for specific questions on that matter. but as a general matter, it is a good reminder of how important it is for congress to act on the cybersecurity legislation that the president put forward just last month. there are commonsense things we can do to better protect the american people and their data and better respond to these incidents when they occur. jim? >> getting back to the amf, it is fair to say the president wants this to be tailored to the war against isis, is that right? >> well, jim, i don't want to get into the contents of the legislative language that will be produced by this ongoing process. but it is fair for you and your viewers to assume the reason the president is seeking this right-sized aumf, the way he's previously described it, is because of his desire to see congress act in support or at least demonstrate their support for the strategy to degrade and
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ultimately destroy isil. >> and will isis be defeated while the president is in office? >> jim, i think we've been pretty clear and the president's been pretty clear about the fact that what we're looking at here is a longer-term challenge. and the president's been pretty forthright about that. there are a couple of reasons for that. the most important reason for that is that ultimately this is not a situation where it's the united states alone that's at war against isil, that this is a broader effort that involves the entire international community and that is focused on ensuring that there are local capabilities that are built up to take the fight to isil on the ground. the president does not believe it is any longer in our national security interest for us to put a large deployment of american military personnel on the ground in a combat role in iraq and in syria, that what we need to do is build up -- >> we hear it from the administration that this large deployment of ground forces in
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iraq or in syria to go after isis -- who is recommending that? >> i've seen a number of people who imagine themselves sitting in that office in 2017 who have advocated at least keeping on the table sending a large number of combat troops to iraq and syria. and they're certainly welcome to make that case. that is not a view that the president believes is in the best interest of the united states. >> and can i ask you about an interview that syrian president bashar al assad did with the bbc and perhaps you've seen this and taken note of this. but during that interview, assad says that communications have been occurring between the united states and syria through third parties, such as iraq, when it comes to the telegraphing or communicating about air strikes that might be taking place in syria, so as to avoid any potential confrontations between the u.s. and syria. is that going on? >> jim, i can tell you that -- we have said this from the very first day that air strikes commenced against isil targets in syria -- that the united states is no


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