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THE SITUATION ROOM
Police Tracing Theater Gunman's Troubled Past; President Obama on Theater Shootings; Convicted Israeli Spy May Be Released; Interview with James Woolsey; Clinton Sent Classified Info by Private E-Mail. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 24, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:06] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, mass shooting at the movies. We're following the rush of breaking development as investigators reveal more about a gunman's bloody rampage in a Louisiana movie theater, including new details about how the attack unfolded and the heroism by people in the audience and by police.
Escape plan. Police reveal troubling information about the theater gunman's violent pass and about his elaborate getaway plans, including his wigs and how he parked his car.
And release and re-catch. Alleged terrorist once held at the United States' detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, then let go, they are now captured again. Officials say they were planning much more than just a burglary.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Information is coming in from across the south on the troubling and very violent history of the gunman who opened fire on an audience inside a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater. John Russell Houser killed two women and wounded nine other people than shot and killed himself as police rushed to stop him. Their quick response apparently foiled his elaborate getaway plan.
And now the unfolding investigation is revealing Houser's moves from Georgia to Alabama, and ultimately to Louisiana. His treatment for mental health problems, his antigovernment ranting, and domestic abuse allegations.
As we await a news briefing by police, we'll be joined by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. He helped spearhead an effort to reform and expand background checks for gun buyers.
Our reporters and analysts, they're working their sources, they have new information on all today's top stories. But let's begin with our national correspondent Ryan Nobles. He's joining us from Lafayette, Louisiana, with the very latest -- Ryan.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: Wolf, this theater behind me remains a crime scene. Investigators have been in and out all day long as they try and figure out what happened here last night.
NOBLES (voice-over): A gunman opens fire in a movie theater.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Standing up, went straight down, and like the light from the end of his gun, it's almost like a flash.
NOBLES: It was 20 minutes into the showing of the comedy "Train Wreck" at the Grand 16 Theater. An alarm was quickly triggered and chaos ensued.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was blood everywhere. That's when we realized what was going on. So we ran.
NOBLES: Twenty-one-year-old Mayci Breaux and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson were shot dead, and nine others injured, one critically. The shooter, 59-year-old John Russell Houser fired off at least 13 rounds before ending the carnage and killing himself. But authorities believe that was not his plan. He intended to escape.
CHIEF JIM CRAFT, LAFAYETTE, LOUISIANA POLICE: Within 60 seconds or less we had four officers who made entry into the theater to engage. We feel that when he spotted those officers, he retreated back into the theater. And that's when he self-inflicted.
NOBLES: Officials say one 40-caliber handgun was recovered at the scene and they found wigs and other disguises in Houser's hotel room. A profile of Houser is developing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As best we can tell, Mr. Houser lived --
NOBLES: According to Alabama law enforcement he was denied a concealed carry permit in 2006 after an arrest involving arson. And he was treated for mental health issues more than once.
COL. MICHAEL EDMONSON, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE: Here we are in Lafayette, Louisiana in the middle of a neighborhood of a movie theater. Why did he come here? Why did he do that? We don't know that.
NOBLES: As the local, state and federal officials gather evidence and look for a motive, friends and family of the victims pray for the slain and injured.
DR. FOSTER C. KORDISCH, LAFAYETTE GENERAL MEDICAL CENTER: Most of them were extremity wounds. One person -- one patient had a torso wound.
NOBLES: All this bloodshed and sorrow as Colorado theater shooter James Holmes faces the death penalty for his 2012 theater ramp which left 12 people dead and 70 wounded.
NOBLES: And more now on that attempted getaway by Houser, he actually left the keys to his Lincoln Continental on the tire of the vehicle. As he left the theater, he spotted police. That's when he stop, reloaded, went back inside and shot and killed himself -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ryan, thanks very much. Ryan Nobles reporting.
As authorities look for the gunman's motive, they're uncovering plenty of information about his very troubled past.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us now, he's got more on this part of the story. What else are you learning?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Terribly troubled, Wolf. In 2008 may be the best glimpse that we have into his mental state. His own family took out a protective order against him and asked the judge to involuntary commit Mr. Houser because of mental instability, saying that he suffered from everything from manic depression to possibly bipolar disorder.
[17:05:03] A judge granted that request by the family. This is a man who clearly grew apart from his family over the years. His brother spoke to CNN just a short time ago. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REM HOUSER, BROTHER OF SHOOTER: We haven't been close in years. And we -- I'm not sure, we were just separated from the family, and just different emotional depression issues, psychological problems, and that type of things.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When was the last time you saw him?
HOUSER: Probably about a month ago.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Under what type of circumstance?
HOUSER: He just needed some money to continue moving on, living on, you know, living and surviving, and so we gave him some and that was the last we'd heard of him. We hadn't heard of him probably in 10 years prior to that and haven't heard from him since. We didn't know where he was, we didn't know anything about him. And so this was a complete shock. We didn't have any contact except that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Now he was evicted from his home in Alabama last year. He was living in a Motel 6. And in 2006 he applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. That was denied because of an arrest on arson that they found on his record, and also a report of domestic violence -- Wolf.
BLITZER: When did his problems begin? What do we know about that, Miguel?
MARQUEZ: Well, we know that one of the charges of arson goes all the way back to 1989, but really it was 2009, 2000, 2001 period when he had a bar in Georgia, in Lagrange, Georgia. He lost that bar because he was convicted several times of selling alcohol to minors. After that he really took off. At one point during that process, blaming the government he hung a flag, a swastika -- with a swastika on it outside of the building so that the entire town could see, claiming that they were like the Nazis. And if you look through his rantings which is literally what they are
online and several different Web sites, he talks about Hitler, expressing admiration for Hitler and extremist Muslims because they stand up for their religion in his mind, also expressing great hatred for liberals on his Facebook. One of the few things that he liked on his Facebook page was "I Hate Liberals," a group on that social media site. He also just had a great distrust and hatred of not only the government, but of gays, any sort of those race, he's expressing great concern that white America was falling apart.
One thing you see throughout his writings is a concern that the country is falling apart and he believed that it was going to become what he called a "Mad Max" situation very soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, and we also know from a neighbor that he had a confederate flag on his lawn when he was living in Georgia.
All right, thanks very much for that, Miguel Marquez reporting.
The Louisiana shootings happened only hours after President Obama called his inability to reform U.S. gun laws his greatest frustration as president of the United States. He was briefed on the shootings, as he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. He arrived there just a few hours ago.
Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the president, he's joining us live.
Jim, the president almost eerily was speaking out about this issue of guns in that BBC interview just before what occurred in -- just before what occurred in Louisiana.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, the president admitting that this will likely be one of those items of unfinished business when he leaves office in 2017. And as you said, President Obama has returned to his father's homeland in Kenya for a trip designed in part to be an opportunity to get back in touch with his roots, as well as focus on African security and economic issues.
But the president will almost certainly face questions about gun violence in the U.S. once again as this movie theater mass shooting in Louisiana has forced this issue back into the president's lap. Even before he touched down in Kenya, as you said, the president was briefed on the situation in Louisiana by his Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco.
The president to be honest has abandoned gun control, he abandoned the issue after efforts for new restrictions on firearms failed in Congress, but as you said, just before this latest rampage happened, the third mass shooting in less than two months, the president talked about this as being his greatest frustration in an interview with the BBC. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The one area where I feel that I've been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common sense, gun safety laws, even in the face of repeated mass killings. And you know, if you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:10:02] ACOSTA: But the White House has all but determined that new gun control measures will not happen during President Obama's remaining time in office. As one official recently told me, they understand the political realities up on Capitol Hill and that means the votes simply are not there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, traveling with the president in Kenya, thanks, Jim, very much.
Joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He co-sponsored a proposal to try to tighten up the criminal and mental health background checks for gun buyers. It was blocked by a filibuster back in 2013.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: You agree with the president, what we just heard from him?
MANCHIN: Well, the thing that I have said. I know, and I hunt and I shoot with an awful lot of my friends. And these are law-abiding gun owners. There's no law-abiding gun owner that I know of that wishes that a mentally impaired person or mentally sick person would be able to get a gun. And that's all we try to do. We just try to say that person, if they went to someone who didn't know at a -- at a gun show or on the Internet, but they were able to do it because we don't have a background check there. There's a loophole. That's all we tried to close.
BLITZER: So what's the problem?
MANCHIN: Well, the problem is we can't get enough votes from our friends and colleagues on the Republican side because people are believing that basically it's just invading on your Second Amendment rights. My goodness, there's no one defense the Second Amendment rights more than I do, but the bottom line is you have to be a responsible gun owner. I don't want someone who is mentally impaired, who had a record, or is a criminal to be able to go to a gun show and go to somebody on the table and says listen, I want to buy that gun, nobody asks questions, or on the Internet, nobody asks questions.
That's all we were trying to do. That's most reasonable. And I would like to think that we can move that forward again but until we get our friends on the other side of the aisle to help us, we don't have the votes to do it.
BLITZER: So you don't think anything --
MANCHIN: Well --
BLITZER: Let's say between now and the time the president leaves office, another year and a half.
MANCHIN: I think mental illness is one, Wolf, that we could maybe because most of these people are mentally ill. They are affected by mental illness.
BLITZER: Like this guy in Louisiana.
MANCHIN: Yes. But we have to make sure that NICS records, we have to make they're turned over. We have HIPAA rules, we have a lot of things that stand in our way but we've got to get past these barriers for the sake of this society. We're getting innocent people --
BLITZER: What's the main argument from the other side, for those, for example, the NRA supporters who didn't like what you were trying to do?
MANCHIN: Let me just -- I went all over the state of West Virginia. I talked to my friends and they looked at the bill, and they said this is a good bill, Joe. I said, I know it is. I said, why wouldn't you support it? They just don't trust government. They don't think they'd stop right there. They would go further and take more of their rights and liberties. This bill basically treated a law-abiding gun owner with the respect they should be treated. We've got a lot of the rules overturned, if you will, but on the other hand we had to be responsible. And all the law-abiding gun owners I know are responsible, I didn't think there was a problem but they don't trust government.
BLITZER: Will you make another push?
MANCHIN: We'll make a push if we can get our friends on the Republican side. I need 13, 14, 15 votes on that side right now.
BLITZER: To get to 60, to break the filibuster?
MANCHIN: Yes. Yes. If every Democrat -- you know, and we have a few of our friends on the Democrat side who had difficulties with it, too, so we're going to need some help and we're trying to find the most reasonable responsible approach that doesn't infringe in anyone's rights, and as a law-abiding gun owner makes all the sense in the world and it's something we should do and show that we can govern this.
BLITZER: Your support for those reforms, did it hurt you politically back in West Virginia?
MANCHIN: Most certainly. Absolutely. The question was asked of me this, Wolf, are you sorry you did it? I said no. I have knowledge of gun. I grew up in a gun culture. If I'm not going to do it, who is? And for me saying, I wish I hadn't because it hurt me politically, why would they send me here if I don't use the knowledge I have and try to better things and make it safer and better? We did not infringe on anybody's rights. We gave them in fact more of their rights that had been taken away over time.
And we have more Democrats, liberal Democrats who would never support any type of gun support or gun reform supporting this. Would it ever happen again? I don't know if we'll have this opportunity. But as far as that, I went back and went into the bowels, if you will, explaining the bill, showing the bill, they did it, and they finally gave me the reasoning. I'm just opposed to government intervention.
BLITZER: All right, Senator, we have much more to discuss if you can stick around.
We're going to continue our conversation with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Much more right after this.
[17:18:46] BLITZER: We expect police in Lafayette, Louisiana, to brief reporters soon about their investigation into the country's latest mass shooting.
We're also following important developments in the war on ISIS. For the first time today Turkish warplanes bombed ISIS positions in Syria. Turkey also now for the first time allowing the U.S. and other coalition partners to start using Turkish air bases for the fight against ISIS.
We're back with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
This is a pretty big deal, isn't it?
BLITZER: Turkey, a NATO ally finally, from your perspective, the perspective of the U.S. doing what the U.S. has long wanted.
MANCHIN: It's the only way we're going to defeat terrorism. We can't do it by just putting our boots on the ground and fighting their fight for them. I've said that from day one. If that would have happened, if military might or money would change that part of the world, we would have done it after 12, 13 years. Not until they decide they want to defend themselves, defend their homeland and their families, and now we see Turkey engaging, thank goodness, Jordanians want to engage, the Saudis have to engage. The Kurds we know will fight. If we can get the Sunnis fighting, then maybe we have a chance. We can support, but we can't take the lead.
BLITZER: The Iraqi military, I should say, are they doing a better job right now? Because when there was -- a year ago when Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, a few ISIS guys come in, the Iraqis run away, leave a lot of U.S. military equipment, Humvees, other stuff, behind. Same thing happens in Fallujah, Ramadi, places like that. [17:20:13] Are the Iraqi military now getting ready to do the right
MANCHIN: Well, I've asked the question, and I continue to ask this question, is basically, are we able to put one Iraq back together for one united Iraq with the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shiites living together under one government? Or is it time that we rethink that position? To rethink the position, you're going to have three different, separate, you know, with a common cause, but basically the Sunnis is having a willing to fight, a reason to fight.
The Shiites we know will fight and defend themselves. And we know the Kurds will. So until we can work that out, the Sunnis, I don't think are going to raise up and fight the way we want them to fight, or the way they should be fighting because they're thinking, well, if I'm going to fight and turn it back over to a Shiite-controlled Baghdad, then I'm just in bad a shape as I was. So that's the real --
BLITZER: What else should the U.S. be doing?
MANCHIN: Well, the bottom line is they know that we can and we will support. We can't lead this fight for them, they can't wait for us to take the fight, you know, on for them. Now with the whole thing on Syria, I've always had concerns about Syria, trying to find the people that we could train up, spending $500 million. I think we found a total of 54. They were looking for thousands. So I don't believe that's going to work.
I've talked to the different people from those regions, from the different countries, and they've all said that when American troops come and American troops on the ground, they use that as recruiting tools against us, the al Qaeda and ISIS and all them.
BLITZER: And the FBI Director James Comey told me this week that from his perspective, the FBI director, the greatest terror threat to the U.S. homeland right now is ISIS and no longer al Qaeda. You agree with him on that?
MANCHIN: I would agree that ISIS has more threat to us at this point in time because of their determination to bring their type of warfare to America through these lone wolves, the different people they radicalize, as we're seeing it happening. We've got to be on guard about that. We've got to make sure our borders are tight. I trust the work that were being done right now and I trust basically the people that we can shut this down and keep them from coming in, but we've got to be very careful and ISIS is a threat.
BLITZER: What are you doing to make sure that U.S. military recruiting offices in West Virginia are safe? And I ask the question because of what happened in Chattanooga, as you well know, five military personnel, four Marines, one sailor, where brutally killed.
MANCHIN: I'm concerned about that. Just to give you an example. Just our Senate offices, our congressional offices, we have certain protocol that we have to go by. We have to have shatterproof windows in, and a hold area when a person comes in. They can't just walk directly into the office area. We have to do things that we can -- I've asked should we not at least be arming the people that are working there and recruiting? They're looking into that. And they want to make sure they do the proper procedure, but I don't want copycats to continue to do what's been done now. And then we said, oh we should have done this a long time ago.
And different branches of the military have different protocol to go by. To me it's a no-brainer. These are military people that should be trained to be able to use the arms. They should have the arms there for their protection, and we know there were threats.
BLITZER: Senator Manchin, thanks very much for coming in.
MANCHIN: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: We'll look forward to the hearings. I know you're going to have hearings on this.
MANCHIN: Yes, we will.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.
Coming up, a bombshell announcement on the fight against terrorism. International investigation of al Qaeda recruiting, just turned up a pair of ex-inmates who have been released from the U.S. naval detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
And later, explosive new allegations about Hillary Clinton's e-mails. What will they mean for her 2016 presidential campaign?
[17:28:08] BLITZER: Here's some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now involving the convicted Israeli spy, Jonathan J. Pollard. He's been in prison since the 1980s, convicted of spying on behalf of Israel.
I want to go to CNN's Evan Perez, our justice reporter, he's joining us now. What are you learning, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Jonathan Pollard could be out of prison in the next few weeks, perhaps, and certainly -- almost certainly in November when he is up for parole.
This is a decision obviously that's up to the United States Parole Commission, but we talked to admission officials in the last hour, and they say that the expectation is that he is going to be released. He was probably going to be released in November. He's been -- according to them, he's been a model prisoner, and in their view, the secret information, the classified information that he allegedly or that he was convicted of passing to the state of Israel, is no longer of any harm to the United States. It doesn't matter if he goes back to Israel where he has U.S. -- where he has Israeli citizenship.
We should also note, Wolf, that the White House and the Justice Department are pushing back again this idea that there is any quid pro quo here, that the U.S. is trying to curry favor with Israel as a result of the disagreements over the Iran talks.
We have a statement from the National Security Council that says, quote, "Mr. Pollard's status will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures. There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard's status and foreign policy considerations."
Again, this is something -- this is a case that, as you know, Wolf, having spent so much time researching this issue, you know that there's a lot of controversy over Jonathan Pollard. His supporters say that yes, he did pass secrets, but they weren't secrets about the United States, but about the Israeli-Arab enemies in the region and against Russia.
[17:30:10] PEREZ: On the flipside, a lot of people in the intelligence community and the FBI are quite angry at the idea that he is not going to spend the rest of his life in prison simply because they view that the damage done was very severe.
BLITZER: Evan Perez, joining us. Thanks very much, Evan, for that report.
We're going to get some analysis on what's going on. Joining us through the phone right now the former CIA director James Woolsey.
Director Woolsey, thanks very much for joining us. You've been among those former CIA officials who say -- saying that 30 years in prison for Pollard for what he did is enough, he should be released. Right?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Yes, I have for several years. Back when he'd only been in prison about five or six years when we came into office with the Clinton administration. I was asked whether he should be released and I've said no because almost all the spies serve sentences longer than that, but if you look at spies who have spied for friendly countries, such as -- let's say Taiwanese Americans, Greek Americans, Filipino Americans, and so forth, who spied for those countries, they stay in prison usually about seven or eight years.
And the only people who stay as long as 30 years or so, the way Pollard has, is Soviet spies who have gotten people killed, people like Ames and Hansen. So I don't know why Pollard was kept so long by comparison to other spies of his general category, but I thought it was unfair beginning about 25 years ago.
BLITZER: What's the argument that you heard when you suggested publicly that he should be released from your former colleagues?
WOOLSEY: Well, they just said what he did was serious and you can't release him, but what a number of these other Filipino American and Greek American spies stole was important. And what Pollard stole was something that as long as it stayed in Israeli hands was not particularly a problem for the United States. What I think they were worried about at the time back in the '80s was Israel's intelligence service might be penetrated, and the Soviets or somebody like that might have been able to get hold of this material. But why they kept him 30 years instead of 10, let's say, I've never
had anybody give me a reasonable argument on that.
BLITZER: All right. James Woolsey -- Jim Woolsey, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's get some more on what's going on, the breaking news we're following involving the former spy -- Israeli spy Jonathan J. Pollard. Our terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank is joining us, the former CIA officials, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd is joining us, and the CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer is joining us. He's a former CIA operative as well.
Phil Mudd, what do you think about this? He served 30 years in November. He'll be up for parole. It's time -- I guess if the Parole Board says 30 years is enough, what do you say?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Now look, if the Parole Board says he'd served his time, I understand as American citizen you do your time. That said, in my universe of people and my generation of the CIA, this guy is pond scum. I don't care who he stole for, the courts convicted him, they convicted him for decades of time. I did the oath in the CIA auditorium that said you don't spy for anybody.
So I'm not interested, I respect the former director, I'm not interested in arguments about who he spied for. He violated the oath that we were told not to violate. He ought to rot. If he's done, that's fine.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, what do you think?
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think 30 years is a long time, as Director Woolsey said. He didn't get anybody killed, not like Hansen or Ames. You know, and those secrets didn't get out to the Russians or anybody else. He did limited damage to the Israelis. I think 30 years is enough. If the parole board said he can go, let him go.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on. Let's talk about some other stuff.
Paul Cruickshank, I want to talk about two former detainees at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the detention center there. They were released to Belgium. And now they've just been arrested. Tell us about what's going on.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that's right. They were arrested in Belgium in a counterterrorism operation near Antwerp early Thursday morning. The Belgian officials telling me that they were part of a network recruiting for al Qaeda in Syria. They actually moved in when these men were about to conduct an armed burglary of a residence near Antwerp in order to raise funds for these efforts.
They were released from Guantanamo around 2005, obviously during the Bush administration years. One of them spent time in Afghanistan, was part of the broader al Qaeda setup over there before being detained in Pakistan and sent to Guantanamo.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, what do you think about this? Because this level of recidivism, as has been called, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay released, and they go back and commit terror acts.
[17:35:06] MUDD: I would say the level of recidivism is high. It's not higher than what we see in violent crime here in the United States.
The significance here is pretty straightforward. You have two guys who would be considered in mob terms made men. That is, they're trusted not only by the al Qaeda guys in Syria, they're going to be trusted by communities in Europe, given the flow of foreign fighters from Europe into places like Syria and Iraq. The damage over time could have been significant because you're talking about thousands of people going from Europe into Syria. And these guys are going to have contacts that have been going out back for years.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, what do you think about -- because as you know the president of the United States, he'd like to shut down Gitmo once and for all. He'd like to see -- I assume he'd like to see those prisoners sent back to other countries, whether their own countries or other countries ready to take them. What do you think about all of this?
BAER: Well, Wolf, I mean, they guys don't surprise me, as Phil said, that they're going back to the ranks. When you put these fish back in the pond, they usually do. And if they're going to Syria and Iraq and dying there, I don't particularly care. It's the ones that are let out of Guantanamo that are organizing attacks against Americans or against his country that concern me. And that probably will happen.
But right now I think we've got to close Guantanamo. Either try these people or let them go, and there's going to be a certain amount of losses in the middle of this, but there's nothing we can do.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Paul Cruickshank, one of these -- one of these prisoners, former prisoners, detainees, whatever you want to call them, Algerian, the other Moroccan. What were they actually plotting to do?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, Wolf, the Belgian officials are telling me is they were part of a recruitment network in Belgium. That they were persuading youngsters to go off and fight in Syria, but to actually join the al Qaeda setup in Syria, rather than the ISIS setup there, they've been monitoring these two men for a number of years. Very concerned about their radical activities. And they had a lot of sway over these young radicals because of the fact that they spent all that time in Guantanamo Bay.
BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, thanks very much. Bob Baer and Phil Mudd, thanks to you as well.
Coming up, new revelations that Hillary Clinton e-mailed classified information using her private server. Will the investigation hurt her presidential campaign? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[17:41:58] BLITZER: We're following some explosive new allegations that Hillary Clinton e-mailed classified material using her personal server while she was serving as the secretary of state.
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. She's working the story for us.
Elise, what are you learning?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, you know, Secretary Clinton has said that she never e-mailed classified information, but now that the intelligence community has had a chance to review some of her e-mails, they're saying some of that material should have been considered classified, and it's sparking a tug of war with the State Department.
LABOTT (voice-over): New disclosures from the intelligence community. The inspector general saying e-mails on Hillary Clinton's private server contained classified information. Their review of just 40 of 30,000 e-mails Secretary Clinton turned over found four of them had classified information. At least one inadvertently released to the public.
The Inspector General's Office telling CNN they were, quote, "classified when they were sent and are classified now."
The problem, the information was never classified by the State Department, and Clinton may have not known she was handling information that should have remained on a secure system. Now the inspector general for the intelligence community has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether classified material has been compromised.
(On camera): It seems like they're making a larger criticism of the way the State Department handles classified material.
MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: Yes. And I refer you to the Department of Justice.
LABOTT: They're saying that you compromised classified material.
TONER: But we have had a very rigorous process internally and frankly sharing with other agencies when their equities are involved in clearing these e-mails.
LABOTT (voice-over): Clinton has long said she handled all information properly while using her private account.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did not e-mail any classified material to anyone on my e-mail. There's no classified material. LABOTT: And while she may not be the target of the latest probe about
her e-mail server, the controversy has dogged her presidential campaign, and been a distraction on the trail. Including today --
CLINTON: There have been a lot of inaccuracies, maybe the heat is getting to everybody.
LABOTT: Where she renewed an offer to testify better Congress.
CLINTON: We are all accountable to the American people to get the facts right. And I will do my part.
LABOTT: The inspector general says there are potentially hundreds of other e-mails that could have classified information. Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill, emphasizing once again today Clinton, quote, "followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elise, thanks very, very much.
I want to get some more on what's going on, the political, the legal implications of this latest development in the Clinton e-mail probe. We'll speak with our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, he's standing by in New York. Our CNN political director David Chalian, he's here with me in Washington, and our CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, he's the editorial director of the "National Journal" joining us from L.A.
[17:45:01] Guys, stand by for a moment. I want to take a quick break. There's lots to discuss. The political, the legal fallout of what we learned today, much more on this coming up.
BLITZER: We're following the new allegations that Hillary Clinton e- mailed classified material using her private server while she was serving as the secretary of State.
We're back with our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, our political director David Chalian and our senior political activist -- analyst, I should say, Ron Brownstein. He's also an activist of sorts. The editorial director of "The National Journal."
[17:50:10] All right, guys, let's talk about the legal part first.
Jeffrey, sources telling CNN that these inspectors general, their report referred to the Justice Department, presumably they're going to open up an investigation. They will have to decide whether it should be a criminal investigation, right?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. And there are really two big issues that could be a problem here for Hillary Clinton. One is that classified information sounds like a clearly defined category. But it's not. What is and is not classified is often very much a judgment call. And she could be at the mercy of people who are after the fact determining what's classified.
The other issue is that once a criminal investigation is open, if one does open, you never know where it's going to lead. She could just ask her husband who learned that an investigation of an Arkansas land deal turned into the Monica Lewinski investigation. So if there's a criminal investigation, that would be a very bad thing. Not one yet.
BLITZER: Because if there's a criminal investigation, as we all remember during the '90s when Bill Clinton was president of the United States. I remember when Hillary Clinton had to show up and testify before a grand jury. Are we going to potentially see her forced to testify before a grand jury if there's a criminal investigation of the classified information on those e-mails?
TOOBIN: Well, if there is such an investigation, that's entirely possible. But you know, I think it's important not to jump the gun yet. There is no criminal investigation as far as we know. There may never be one. But just the issues swirling about and a Justice Department that might want to bend over backwards to say, we're not protecting Hillary Clinton, it's a situation ripe with political peril, probably not legal peril, but for someone running for president political peril's a big deal.
BLITZER: Let talk about political peril.
David Chalian, how could this impact her race to become president of the United States?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, let's look at how it is already impacting her race for president. Two ways. One, Hillary Clinton is just being swamped on a day like this that she wanted to have her economic agenda out there, her reforms for corporate America, and all the news coverage about the e-mail controversy. So that will happen every time another shoe drops in the e-mail story.
Let's also look at her poll numbers, Wolf. We've seen her take a hit when it comes to looking at her favorables versus unfavorables. She's seen more unfavorably than favorably in some key battleground states. We saw those polls this week. And if you look at honest and trustworthiness she's even seen as not trustworthy by larger majorities than have an unfavorable opinion in the primary states.
This is the problem that this kind of story feeds that narrative, that there's something that she's hiding, and now looking forward you have to know State Department is going to release batches of these e-mails every few weeks now and every time a new batch comes out she has to answer questions about the email.
BLITZER: If there is something here, Ron Brownstein, and, you know, you've covered politics for a long time. I've covered politics for a long time. If they sense that she's vulnerable -- I'm not talking about Republicans, I'm talking about Democrats -- could there be other Democrats who might decide to challenge her for the Democratic presidential nomination, specifically the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, or maybe Senator Elizabeth Warren for that matter if they sense she could be in trouble? RON BROWNSTEIN, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, the
problem with hanging your hat on this, Wolf, is that we're not going to have a definitive answer in all likelihood for quite some time on whether there is, in fact, any legal vulnerability for her.
You know, like you, I have covered Clinton controversies and scandal and scandalettes for two decades. And, you know, this may or may not follow that pattern but the historic pattern really has been two central outcomes. One is that when you get to the end of the line, the picture is murky. You know, when George Bundy a long time ago said the color of truth is gray, he probably had the Clintons in anticipation because many, many of these stories end with a set of facts that leave those who are skeptical to begin with convinced that they are unethical, that leaves their supporters convinced they've been, you know, the victim of trumped-up charges, and leaves many people in the middle confused.
The other thing I think that is true is that ethics and honesty is going to be a headwind but probably not an insurmountable one for Hillary Clinton. It is better for a politician to be trusted than not but the fact is that when Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996, as I said before, on that day in the exit poll a majority of people said he was not honest and trustworthy, and yet he was convincingly re- elected.
I think the bigger question for Hillary Clinton in the long run is can she establish empathy and connection with voters? But there's no question this is the kind of cloud as David said is not going to go away quickly and is an uneasy thing to be carrying in a presidential race.
BLITZER: He w was convincingly re-elected in '96 as all of us remember because the economy was in pretty good shape at that time as well. That was a major, major factor.
[17:55:03] All right, guys. We'll continue to watch this story. We'll have more coming up.
Also coming up, we have new details about the drifter, that's what the law enforcement is calling him. The drifter who killed two people and wounded nine others at a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater. We're standing by for a police update on the investigation.
BLITZER: Happening now. Movie gunman's motive. We're standing by for a police update on the Louisiana shooting rampage. We have new details there emerging about his troubled past and his plans to escape the scene.
New air power against ISIS. A critical U.S. ally now taking on the terrorists and helping American war planes get closer to the targets. Is it a game changer? I'll ask the British Defense secretary.