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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Idaho Senator James Risch; Government E-Mail Hack; Trump vs. Bush; Donald Trump Campaigns in South Carolina; Trump, Bush Trade Insults Over 9/11; Larry David Nails It As Bernie Sanders in SNL Kit; Man Mistaken for Terrorist Shot, Beaten to Death. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired October 19, 2015 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He claims the homeland security chief's account also has been breached. And, tonight, we're learning about the motive behind the attack and the threat to go public with stolen secrets.

Iran connection -- some of America's most dangerous adversaries are now teaming up for a major military offensive. Now a ruthless Iranian commander appears to be on the ground near the battlefield with American blood on his hands.

And 9/11 war of words. Donald Trump is adding new fuel to his feud with Jeb Bush over the attacks on America and whether George W. Bush could have done more to keep the nation safe. We're standing by to hear from Donald Trump live this hour.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

Breaking news tonight, an alleged hacker tells CNN he's preparing to leak information stolen from some of America's top national security officials. The U.S. is investigating his claim that he broke into the private e-mail accounts used by the CIA director and the homeland security secretary. We're also told high-level Cabinet members could be next.

Also this hour, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump asking for Secret Service protection and guess what? He's likely to be getting it soon. His top rival, Dr. Ben Carson, also has asked for federal security as well. We're waiting to hear from Donald Trump. He's on the campaign trail in South Carolina this hour. Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by, along with Senate Intelligence Committee member James Risch. I will ask him what he knows about any e-mail security breaches.

First, let's go to our justice reporter, Evan Perez.

Evan, what are you learning about these alleged breaches and the motive? Do they have classified information? EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told this alleged hacker claims to CNN he's part of a group that broke into private accounts of CIA director John Brennan and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to protest U.S. foreign policy on Israel and the Palestinians.

And on recent days, he's posted taunts on Twitter at the CIA and DHS officials and he's published information he says he stole from Brennan's AOL account. One document is a list reported to be members of the Senate intelligence community with security clearances and another document he claims he stole is the government form Brennan would have filled out in order to get his top security clearance.

Brennan would have provided this while he was still a private citizen and before he took a job with the Obama administration. We have a statement from the CIA that says: "We're aware of the reports that surfaced on social media and have referred the matter to the appropriate authorities."

Wolf, as you said, the FBI and the Secret Service are both investigating this because they consider this to be a serious case.

BLITZER: How are the CIA and Department of Homeland Security reacting?

PEREZ: They are not confirming yet that this has actually happened, but just from talking to officials, it's clear they are taking this very, very seriously. We're talking about -- like you said, the instances of some of the documents that they have posted that may include people who were members of the intelligence community and this hacker claims that he has data on other Cabinet officials.

BLITZER: How sophisticated was this operation?

PEREZ: We're told not very sophisticated. Even the hacker himself says he frankly just tricked someone into changing and resetting passwords. This is a very common tactic people use to break into accounts and to take over people's Twitter or Apple iCloud accounts, Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, very disturbing information. Thanks very much.

There's more breaking news tonight. CNN has learned that U.S. pilots have been told not to engage Russian jets making aggressive moves in the skies over Syria. Syrian government forces are waging a new offensive against rebel fighters around the city of Aleppo with air support from Russia and ground support from Iran.

Tonight, another dangerous complication, a shadow Iranian commander appears to be on the ground right now in Syria.

Brian Todd is looking into this for us.

Brian, what is happening on the battlefield?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, a U.S. intelligence official tells us Iran's military support to the Assad regime on the ground in Syria continues to grow.

There are strong indications Iran's partnership with Vladimir Putin is getting stronger tonight. Sources say these recent images of a powerful and notorious Iranian general apparently near the battlefield in Western Syria reinforce our recent reporting that Iran is doubling down in Syria and putting its top commanders at risk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): His reputation for ruthlessness is legendary, his military skill unquestioned and he's now regularly being spotted on key battlegrounds in Syria, this picture from Iran's semi-official news agency showing Iranian General Qassem Suleimani seemingly posing with troops in Syria the latest evidence of Iran's growing involvement with Russia there.

Other photos posted on social media have captions which claim Suleimani was in Western Syria in recent days speaking not only to Syrian troops, but to fighters from Hezbollah, considered a terror group by the U.S. CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of these photos or when they were taken. But if Suleimani is in Western Syria, experts say it foreshadows danger.

[18:05:20]

PATRICK CLAWSON, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: It would be another piece of evidence that the Iranians are planning to be heavily involved in what appears to be a planned major offensive in the area.

TODD: U.S. officials tell CNN there could be more than 2,000 Iranian troops, up to 6,000 Syrians and more than 2,000 Hezbollah fighters on the ground near Aleppo in an offensive aimed at recapturing that city from anti-Assad forces. It's a dangerous alliance that has Washington worried.

FAYSAL ITANI, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: It's quite significant. This has been an escalating trend we have seen over the past year in particular. As the regime's performance militarily has faltered, the Iranians have stepped in to fill that role and actually have established a strong political and military presence in the country. We have gotten to a stage where essentially these battles are being planned and led on the battlefield by Iranians.

TODD: Suleimani leads the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. He's a shadowy commander with a lot of American blood on his hands from the Iraq War.

CLAWSON: He spearheaded the effort to build bombs that were very effective killing American forces and used advance explosive devices.

TODD: U.S. officials say Suleimani was also involved in a notorious plot on American soil overseeing Quds Force operatives who in 2011 tried and failed to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States at Washington's upscale Cafe Milano. Iran denies involvement. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Despite his reputation for commanding operations from afar, there are strong indications that Iranian commanders right under General Suleimani are vulnerable in Syria. The Iranian government recently confirmed that this man, General Hossein Hamadani, a top commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, was killed by ISIS near Aleppo.

A U.S. intelligence official called that a psychological blow to forces fighting for Bashar al-Assad, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, the Iranians have also lost some other key military leaders there as well and not that long ago.

TODD: That's right. Wolf, right around the time that Hamadani was reported killed, there have been reports that Iran lost at least four other commanders in recent days.

That's a sign that Syria could be turning into a real quagmire for the Iranians.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you.

Joining us now, a top member of both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee, James Risch of Idaho.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

Can you confirm for us that Suleimani is now in Syria, this top Quds commander?

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Well, I would only confirm it from the open sources that you have. I really can't go there as far as the intelligence information we have, but this should come as a surprise really to no one.

He has been heavily engaged. As you know, one of the first red flags that went off was when he made the trip to Moscow. And it was shortly after that things really started to happen. I know the report that you said -- your reporter said that this has been a troubling trend for the last year-and-a-half.

That's true, but it is really, really ratcheted up over the last couple of months. We're seeing what is happening here. And this alliance between Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad's forces in Syria, first of all, it is a powerful coalition that's coming together here. No one is opposing them. No one is doing anything about it.

They are obviously preparing the attack on Aleppo, as you reported, and that's going to be a tough situation for the people trying to defend Aleppo.

BLITZER: General Suleimani, who was directly involved, you heard Brian's report, in going after U.S. military personnel in Iraq working with Shia militia, creating improvised explosive devices, and apparently he's got a lot of American blood on his hands. As far as you know, is he on the U.S. target list right now? Is the U.S. trying to either capture him or kill him?

RISCH: To my knowledge, I would say no to both of those.

Right now, the current administration has been doing the things they have been doing with Iran, negotiating with them, entered into this agreement that just happened. And just from watching administration, I believe that they just put Iran on the shelf and are going to let things go from here, which is -- to a lot of us who were against the whole thing from the beginning, it's very troubling.

BLITZER: Are there 2,000 Iranian military personnel in Syria right now?

RISCH: Wolf, I can't give you the exact number for obvious reasons. That's classified.

I would say this. Open sources have reported that there are at least that many in Syria right now. That shouldn't surprise anyone. The more troubling thing for us is, as we all know, there are billions of dollars that are about to change hands and go to Iran.

[18:10:03]

What troubles me is that that money, not all of it, of course, but a very substantial amount of those billions that they are going to get, are going to be used to put more people on the ground in Syria, put more weapons on the ground in Syria. And it is simply not a good situation.

As you know, Syria -- as you know, Iran is in control of Hezbollah and the same thing is going to happen there.

BLITZER: And there are about 2,000 Hezbollah troops inside Syria as well? That's what we just reported.

RISCH: Right. There are at least 1,500, maybe more than that, maybe even more than what you reported on. And with this growing threat on Aleppo, one wouldn't be surprised to see that number grow more.

BLITZER: You're talking about those billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets that are about to be unfrozen because of the Iran nuclear deal and you're saying they could do with that money whatever they want to do.

RISCH: Exactly.

Those of us that were critical were pressing the negotiators to say, look, get some sideboards on this money. And they said, oh, don't worry about it, things are so bad in Iran that they are going to use it for social purposes.

Look, when they were broke, they were funding these operations in Syria and putting substantial amount of money in there. That is obviously a high priority for the Iranian nation. What are they going to do when they got real money in hand?

BLITZER: Senator, stand by. We have more to talk about, including the very disturbing reports that the director of the CIA, the secretary of homeland security may have had their private e-mail accounts hacked.

Much more with Jim Risch when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:16:25]

BLITZER: We're back with Senator James Risch and the breaking news we're following.

The U.S. government now investigating an alleged hacker's claim that he broke into the private e-mail accounts of both the CIA director and the secretary of homeland security.

Senator, you're on the Intelligence Committee. Obviously, this is very disturbing. What do you know? What can you share with us about this?

RISCH: Well, what I know and what I can share are two different things.

But we do know this for a fact. Every day, all day long, there are thousands and thousands of attempts to hack e-mails of the kind of people that you're talking about here, high level.

BLITZER: Brennan, the CIA director, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security.

RISCH: High-level government officials.

BLITZER: It doesn't get a lot higher than...

RISCH: Doesn't get a lot higher than that.

And there are these all day long all the time. There are attempts to do this. What we also know is, we have an individual who claims he's been successful. Now, why he would do that is absolutely beyond me, particularly because where he's right here in the United States where people can get ahold of them.

He's made claims. Right now, there is no public proof that, in fact, his claims are true. The reports that it is being investigated are accurate. Your reports that we take this very, very seriously are accurate. It's fluid right now. I'm sure it will -- I'm sure it will crystallize over the next day or two.

But the takeaway from this is, don't use your private e-mails. Don't use things that a hacker can get at like that. You need to be behind the government firewall.

BLITZER: Do you have a private e-mail account that you use? RISCH: I have one, but not for anything government things at all.

If you got there, what you would find is some interesting information about my granddaughter's birthday and when it is and what time it is. You would not find anything with classified information at all.

We all know what's going on in the United States right now, in fact, going to take place this week regarding someone who allegedly used a private e-mail account and got herself in deep trouble.

BLITZER: Because this hacker says he managed to get through the private e-mail account of the CIA director, John Brennan, his names -- the names and contact list. That's obviously pretty sensitive stuff.

RISCH: Sensitive. Plus, he also claimed to have gotten the application, the 27-page application that John Brennan used for security clearance purposes.

There would obviously be a lot of information in there. Again, you want to be a little careful right now because a lot of these guys are boasters. A lot of them do it for that reason. Let's let this play out for a little bit and then we will talk about it again.

This is serious, serious business. You have got to keep classified information behind firewalls.

BLITZER: Because if a young person can do this, can go in and get the personal e-mail accounts of the CIA director and the secretary of homeland security, ostensibly, because the U.S. is too supportive of Israel and not supportive enough of the Palestinians, that's the claim this individual was making, you can only imagine what more sophisticated hackers could really do.

RISCH: Like the Chinese.

BLITZER: Or the North Koreans.

RISCH: Or the North Koreans.

BLITZER: Or others, or other governments.

RISCH: That's correct.

BLITZER: But the Chinese are biggest threat; is that what you're saying?

RISCH: Chinese are a massive threat, because of the number of people and because of their expertise in using the Internet and those kinds of things.

So when we see -- when we see attacks, of course, China, North Korea, those are the people that come to mind. Here, you have a homegrown situation, but we all know that that's not unusual in the kinds of things we're seeing. We see things from overseas and all of a sudden it pops up right here at home.

[18:20:05]

BLITZER: Senator Jim Risch, thanks very much for joining us.

RISCH: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Disturbing...

(CROSSTALK)

RISCH: Glad to be with you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, Donald Trump accuses Jeb Bush of being too soft as they do battle over the 9/11 attacks and whether George W. Bush could have done more to keep America safe.

And Bernie Sanders' fame reaching a new level after a "Saturday Night Live" skit cracked up Democrats and Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY DAVID, ACTOR: What's the deal with e-mails anyway? I forgot the password the other day, so they say we will e-mail you a new one. But I can't get into my e-mail to get the password.

I mean, talk about a ball-buster.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:24]

BLITZER: Take a look at this.

These are live pictures, Donald Trump. He's campaigning in South Carolina right now. We will hear what he has to say shortly.

There's been a war of words, as you know, with his rival, Jeb Bush. Trump has been blasting Bush's brother former President George W. Bush. The former president, he's saying, failed to keep America safe, since 9/11 happened on his watch. That's the charge that Donald Trump has made.

In fact, let's listen in briefly to hear what he's saying.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot of Democrats -- and they're liberal Democrats. The gang of eight said, oh, let him come in, let him come in.

Well, his poll numbers tanked and he immediately all of a sudden got away from the gang of eight. That's what -- you don't want that, because that's false. That's a false messenger. It's really a false messenger. Gang of eight. What? Oh, medic. Oh, go ahead, take that. That's more important than all of this. Go ahead, a medic.

Hopefully, they are OK. Are they OK? They are OK? Oh, she just fainted. She's -- you know what? That means she was excited.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: That's OK. Make sure she's good. Those are my best fans. The ones that faint, I love the most. That's fine. OK? Everything good over there? OK. Take your time. Take your time.

Make sure she's perfect. I noticed there have a couple ambulances right outside just in case, but that's great. I love you, too. I love you, too. I love you, too. But I love her and I want to make sure she's OK. Is she OK?

All right. Good. I think they are going to be fine. Everything good? Let's get going then.

So, in the poll, they have first choice is Trump by a lot. They have -- on the economy, the economy, pretty important, right? Trump, 67. Well, how do you do that, 67? Don't forget, that's with 16 people. We had 17, but, as you know, Governor Perry dropped out and a couple of others dropped out, too, so we're actually down to 15, 16.

I don't even count. So many people. You go on stage, you got all these people, you don't even know who they are. But on the economy, on the economy -- and you have Governor Walker dropped out, a very nice guy, too, both nice people, although they tried to kill me, they tried to get me.

On the economy, Trump 67, second place, like nothing. Illegal immigration, we got to stop, we got to build that wall. Got to build that wall. Got to build a wall.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Illegal immigration, Trump is 55. Second place is 13, second place. Remember Bush with the act of love, right? They come for love. He's talking about a different kind of love. Look at this guy. He knows.

On foreign policy, Trump 34, second place 12 and 13. On ISIS, I mean, can you believe? We used to have General Patton. We used to have -- think of it. And these were unpredictable people. I need unpredictability. We're so predictable as a country, on trade, on military. Remember when President Obama said, yes, we will be leaving Iraq on this date, all right?

So the enemy sat back and said, oh, why should we be fighting? Let's wait a year. So, they go hide. We leave and they knock the hell out of everything. Many of those enemy turn out to be ISIS. We need unpredictability. Can you imagine General George Patton? Think of it. You know what I

mean, right? Right. No, no, I'm watching television and I'm hearing all of these dates. Yes, we're going to attack in two weeks. We're going to go from the front. We're then going to go here. We're going.

Then they attack and it's brutal because they are so prepared. The whole thing is crazy. But when Obama said we're leaving Iraq -- now, I said we shouldn't have been in there because it's going to destabilize the Middle East. In all fairness, I was right. I told you we're going to build the greatest military, we're going to build the greatest military.

But we got to know when to use it. We got to know when. We got to know when to use it, because, right now, we spend $2 trillion. Think of it, $2 trillion, lost thousands of incredible people, thousands.

We have wounded warriors, who I love more than anyone. We have wounded warriors all over the place.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Yes. Yes. And you know what we have because of our incompetent leaders? Nothing.

[18:30:16] Remember I said look, you're in. Take the oil. They said that's a sovereign nation. That's a sovereign nation. That's not a sovereign nation. These are people that are not very honest people. Believe me, you've seen it. You've seen it. They have taken advantage of us to a fare thee well. I heard...

BLITZER: All right. So Donald Trump now getting into his stump speech, making his points. We're going to continue to monitor what he said.

You also saw one person fainted there. He called for medics. The medics came. Before that he was going after Jeb Bush. He's been going after Jeb Bush pretty seriously over these past several days, reviving this feud, he said, with the former Florida governor.

Dana Bash is with us, looking into this part of the story. It's getting more intense and a lot more personal right now, as well.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is. You know, when it comes to Jeb Bush's brother's legacy and the impact it has on his White House run now, aides see the former president's actions around 9/11 as more of a badge of honor than an albatross. And Bush aides I talked to believe, and actually really hope, that the conservative voters he needs to win the GOP presidential primary, who have been more excited about Donald Trump, won't be on the billionaire's side on this one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A political dual about America's catastrophe on 9/11, 2001, playing out in a very 2016 way, on Twitter. Donald Trump tweeting today at Jeb Bush, "I'm fighting to make sure it doesn't happen again. Jeb is too soft."

That after Bush had tweeted, "Donald Trump talks about foreign policy as though he's still on 'The Apprentice'."

At issue, Trump suggestions that Jeb's brother, George W. Bush, could have done more as president to prevent the September 11 terror attacks.

TRUMP: Don't blame him or don't blame him but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.

BASH: It's a delayed Trump response to one of Jeb Bush's most passionate moments at CNN's debate.

TRUMP: It was such a disaster those last three months that Abraham Lincoln couldn't have been elected.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what? As it relates to my brother, there's one thing I know for sure: he kept us safe. I don't know if you remember.

BASH: Trump is now even suggesting he could have stopped the 9/11 hijackers from getting into the U.S. in the first place.

TRUMP: I'm extremely tough on people coming into this country. I doubt that those people would have been in the country.

BASH: For the record, the 9/11 Commission said only two of the 19 hijackers overstayed their visas, but others gamed the immigration system. The commission also said the attack was a shock but should not have come as a surprise.

Still, Jeb Bush's campaign thinks Trump's latest rant handed them a winning issue.

J. BUSH: Next week Mr. Trump is probably going to say that FDR was around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. It's what you do after that matters, and that's the sign of leadership.

BASH: Jeb Bush's aides knew his brother's legacy would be a challenge, especially Jeb Bush's position on the Iraq war, which he bungled early on, but 9/11?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can hear you.

BASH: This was not something team Bush ever dreamed would be re- litigated. But they're happy to do so, using it to broaden criticism of Trump as commander in chief.

J. BUSH: It looks as though he's not taking the possibility of being president of the United States very seriously.

BASH: The Bush campaign is even asking for donations with this e- mail, saying, "Donate $5 and fight back against Donald Trump."

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact of the matter is...

BASH: Meanwhile, another Bush presidential rival, Ben Carson, also insists he would have handled 9/11 more effectively by cutting oil purchases from Arab states, forcing them to turn over the al Qaeda leader.

CARSON: It would have had a major impact on their finances; and I think that probably would have trumped any loyalty that they had to people like Osama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they didn't...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: But the back and forth really has been mostly mano-a-mano on this, Trump versus Bush. This afternoon, Trump tweeted a link to a three-year-old "New York Times" story about the infamous classified presidential daily brief that George W. Bush got about a month before 9/11. It had the headline, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S."

So Wolf, Bush -- Trump, rather, is not letting up. The Bush campaign aides I talked to say they're happy to play ball on this.

BLITZER: Let's discuss what's going on. I want to bring in our panel. Joining us, Dana Bash, she's still with us; our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson is with us; our political commentator, Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine; and our national security analyst, Peter Bergen.

And Dana, I just want to make it clear: Trump is not backing down. Remember, he scored points by saying Jeb Bush was low energy. Is this new attack on him and his brother, for that matter, going to work?

BASH: You know, we'll see. This is the first time -- the answer is it seems different than the others, because this is the first time that we have seen some conservatives, who generally are more likely to support Trump, go to Bush's side.

[18:35:10] Because there is a lot of support for his brother, still, and maybe even more so now. If you look at the latest poll, even, that we did over the summer, 88 percent of Republicans -- and that's all that matters right now, Republicans because it's primary season -- they think that -- they think that George W. Bush should be viewed favorably.

So it's a different kind of thing, particularly when you're talking about post-9/11 and keep this country safe. They feel like they're on solid ground. But also, that's why you're seeing Jeb Bush go beyond that and try to twist this and turn this into a broader commentary on what he believes is Donald Trump's inability to be commander in chief on foreign policy.

BLITZER: Right. You had a chance to speak with Jeb Bush about his foreign policy. Here's the bottom-line question. Does it help his -- does it help Jeb Bush to bring up his brother's legacy in a Republican contest?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's complicated. The point that Dana makes is a good one. Right? Almost 90 percent of Republicans still view George W. Bush favorably.

On the other hand, if you're Jeb Bush, the thing that you have been trying to do this entire primary campaign is what you stated at the beginning: you want to be your own man, right? And I feel like Trump is sort of pushing Bush into this -- Jeb Bush into this corner to defend and almost hug his brother's legacy on some policies that, frankly, in a general election might not prove to be that popular.

He's pushing them now, not just on 9/11, but on the Iraq war. And he's sort of -- he's pointing out one of the weaknesses of Jeb's campaign, which is he wants to distance himself from his father and his brother in some ways. He wants to defend other aspects of their legacy. And I think the more he has to talk about why his brother did the right thing, the less he's talking about how he's his own man.

BLITZER: Peter, you spent a lot of time studying 9/11 and the events leading up to 9/11. Since 9/11, does Donald Trump have a good point that President Bush, in the nine or ten months he was president before 9/11, could he have done more, potentially, to prevent that terrorist attack from occurring?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's often that you find yourself in agreement with Donald Trump, but I think he's correct on this point.

BLITZER: Donald Trump is correct?

BERGEN: Donald Trump is correct. President Bush and his advisers, if you go look and look at the public record, didn't talk about al Qaeda or bin Laden at all before 9/11. President Bush took the longest presidential vacation in history -- in three decades in the summer of 2001, despite the briefing he received about bin Laden being determined to strike the United States. They had 33 cabinet meetings before 9/11. Only one was about al Qaeda, and that was only a week before 9/11. The CIA was doing its job, which is warning repeatedly of a potential attack; and it was basically tuned out.

BLITZER: So Donald Trump, you think, has a good point when he says that Bush could have done more?

BERGEN: Yes. I think he does.

BLITZER: And the 9/11 commission basically said there were some advisers who were working with the president, a relatively new president at that time, much more worried about Saddam Hussein in Iraq than bin Laden. They were basically saying, "We don't have to worry that much about bin Laden." They obviously were wrong.

So how is this going to play out, Nia, right now? Donald Trump makes a very strong accusation against Jeb Bush and his brother for not doing enough to prevent 9/11 from occurring. How's it going to play out politically? NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I

think it's a smart strategy from Donald Trump. I think he, more than anybody else in this GOP race, really knows his audience. He's been able to capture a steady 30 percent of the GOP block. Jeb Bush is still looking for a bump in the polls, still trying to figure out who his voters are.

I think he is able to put Jeb Bush in a box, not only in terms of talking about his brother's legacy, but also in terms of just going on the counterattack against Donald Trump; and that's not a great place for Jeb Bush to be.

LIZZA: Yes.

HENDERSON: He's not very comfortable there, if you look over these last many weeks when he's tried to get at Donald Trump. It hasn't really worked.

It's also interesting he sort of kind of pulls out the rule book on Donald Trump and says, "You're not a serious candidate. You look like you're somebody from 'The Apprentice'." But guess what? That's what voters actually like from Donald Trump.

BASH: You know, it's funny. I'm listening to you talk about strategy, and I'm sitting here wondering whether or not this was a calculated strategy or this is more kind of go from the gut, like you see from Donald Trump.

LIZZA: You can never tell with him.

BASH: Right. But in that, he never got -- during that debate, which you never saw in my piece, it was kind of a moment for Jeb Bush. And he -- and he, Trump, never got a chance to kind of respond and retaliate.

And it seems as though, just watching his initial interview on this over the weekend, that he kind of wanted a chance to do that.

But on the flip side -- and that's maybe where this is coming from. He couldn't let it go. But on the flip side, the other thing I will say is that, if you talk to Jeb Bush's, I think, if you put truth serum in Jeb Bush's campaign, in his water, they would say that they wish -- that Bush, when he said my brother kept him safe -- safe would have said the last...

HENDERSON: Post-9/11.

BASH: Exactly. After 9/11 and not pre-9/11.

HENDERSON: Which might be what he has to do now.

BASH: And probably what he meant.

LIZZA: Trump -- Trump's at the head of the polls -- top of the polls now for three or four months. And, you know, so I think it's time to ascribe some strategic smarts to most of these moves. Whenever he attacks someone, it does seem like there's a little bit of strategy behind it. He hones in on something.

[18:40:08] And the Bush campaign, their response here depends on not allowing the debate that Peter just talked about.

Their response was, "Oh" -- Ari Fleischer, former President George W. Bush's press secretary, said Bush, excuse me, Trump sounds like a truther. They're trying to make the argument that hat Trump is saying is George W. Bush is personally responsible for the attacks, and of course, that's not what Trump is saying. Trump is saying, from inauguration day to 9/11, there was a period of time to make al Qaeda a bigger priority, and the Bush administration didn't. And that's the debate that is the respectable debate, and that's the one I think Trump is trying to have.

HENDERSON: The one that they'll be having on that next debate stage when they're next to each other.

BASH: That's debatable.

LIZZA: The primary, I think, you know, very unclear how Republican voters view that. I'm not so sure that Republican voters are on Trump's side on this one.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen makes an excellent point, and a lot of people who have studied the events leading up to 9/11 totally agree with you and, in effect, agree with Donald Trump. More could have been done in those months leading up to 9/11 to have prevented that attack from occurring.

We're going to pick up that, a whole lot more. By the way, you can watch Donald Trump tomorrow morning on CNN's "NEW DAY." That begins at 6 a.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. He'll be a live guest.

Just ahead, wait until you hear Bernie Sanders' response to a very hilarious "SNL" spoof of his performance in that CNN presidential debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY DAVID, COMEDIAN: I own one pair of underwear, that's it. Some of these billionaires have got three, four pairs. And I don't have a drier. I have to put my clothes on the radiator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:22] BLITZER: We're back with our political analysts. We're going to get to them in a moment.

You don't usually see Bernie Sanders crack jokes but he's been having fun with the "Saturday Night Live" spoof of his performance in the CNN presidential debate. In case you missed it, take a look at comic, "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David as Senator Bernie Sanders, a role he may have been born to play.

(BEGIN VIDEOI CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This first question is for everyone.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Sanders, some of your opponents believe regulating Wall Street is enough. What is your position on the big banks?

LARRY DAVID AS SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Eh, not a fan of the banks. They trample on the middle class, they control Washington, and why do they chain all their pens to the desk? Who is trying to steal a pen from a bank? It makes no sense.

That's why you got to break up the banks into little pieces and then flush the pieces down the toilet so you can never put the banks back together. Then you just make the bankers pay for college for everyone and America is fixed. Hey.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America, allow me to pop an ice cube in that scolding hot soup he just served you.

We do need to fix things, Bernie, but you're promising everyone a golden goose, and there is no golden goose. So, America, follow me because I've got some chicken that will do.

DAVID: I can find the goose. I found geese before, and I can find them again. They congregate near ponds. It's not rocket science.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait a minute, do you all like this? I'm not losing, am I? I mean, in 2008, of course, I lost. I was running against a cool black guy, but this year, I thought I got to be the cool black guy.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID: You know what? Can I just jump in here? This may not be great politics, but I think the American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damn e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, thank you, Bernie.

God, it must be fun to scream and cuss in public. I have to do mine in tiny little jars.

DAVID: Hey, what's the deal with e-mails anyway? I forgot my password the other day so they say we'll e-mail you a new one, but I can't get into my e-mail to get the password. I mean, talk about a ball buster.

(LAUGHTER) I'm the only candidate up here whose not a billionaire. I don't have

a super PAC. I don't even have a backpack. I carry my stuff around loose in my arms like a professor between classes. I own one pair of underwear, that's it.

Some of these billionaires, they got three, four pairs. And I don't have a dryer. I have to put my clothes on the radiator.

So, who do you want as president? One of these Washington insiders or a guy that has one pair of clean underwear that he dries on a radiator?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BernieSanders.com, check it out. It's a mess.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very, very hysterical stuff. And he did a great job.

But, politically, the fallout has got to be good for Senator Sanders.

[18:50:01] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, like he was saying earlier today, he never in a million years thought he would be a culture phenomenon, pop culture phenomenon, particularly someone on "SNL".

But you know what? It actually speaks to the kind of buzz he's already been getting, online and in social media and among the younger sect. They like him.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's funny with this. Listen to how he responded to this "SNL" skit. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, last week, I bought my second pair of underwear. That's a joke. Please don't write it down. It was a joke. I have an ample supply of underwear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: TMI.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Exactly.

BLITZER: But people see a different side of him, and maybe that will help.

HENDERSON: That's right. And he needs that to kind of lighten up. You saw him on "Ellen" dancing, I guess if you could call it dancing what he was doing. So, this is really good for him. He's already had that buzz among young people.

And they see him as the sort of rebel who has this righteous message, and so, I think all of this helps him. Ultimately, he's the ultimate anti-establishment candidate. Even the fact that he's 74 I think burnishes his outsider cred in many ways.

BLITZER: I give him credit to walking on "Ellen DeGeneres" and dancing. I didn't think he was that bad, would you?

(LAUGHTER)

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, not too bad, but not as good.

Yes, I think it takes a lot for Sanders to actually embrace some of this stuff. If you've ever interviewed him or spent time with him -- what's the nice word to put this? -- he's not one of the senators who has the best senses of humor. In a sense, very serious.

And he talks a lot about the trivialization of politics and all the silliness that has to go on in campaigns. I don't know, maybe his advisers talk to him to sort of leaning into this and leaning with it. So, it's interesting watching him develop as a candidate and sort of, you know?

BASH: I agree with you.

LIZZA: And being OK with this stuff.

BASH: I agree with you. I've covered him on Capitol Hill for a while. You can tell, it's hard to fake this. He's having a good time. It's genuine.

But the other thing is, if you really look at -- I'm a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" fan. I'm sure you guys are as well. It didn't take a lot for Larry David to get -- for Larry David --

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

BASH: -- to get into Bernie Sanders. It was kind of uncanny.

HENDERSON: The waving his arms.

BASH: He played Larry David.

LIZZA: They could have been neighbors there in Brooklyn back in the day.

HENDERSON: And at some point, maybe Bernie Sanders will show up on "SNL" himself in a way that we've seen other candidates do like Hillary Clinton and, of course, Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Here's what's impressive, Ryan, you take a look at the audience, a lot of young people -- he may be 74 years old, but he's attracting a lot of young support.

LIZZA: He's a message candidate. He's got a very -- and most of these message candidates, it's tough for them, they become factional candidates. Their appeal is limited to young people. And, you know, frankly, on the left -- and that's what he's got to break out of right now. He's got to expand that message, move beyond his base. And these kind of clips, "The Ellen Show", the "SNL" thing, they can help do that. Get his message beyond that sort of left base.

BLITZER: But, remember, Ron Paul, not Rand Paul, Ron Paul, the former congressman, Rand Paul's father, when he was running as a Republican, libertarian, a lot of young people showed up. He was an older guy as well.

BASH: That's because he was a libertarian. It was, you know, have the government get out of my business. He also was for legalizing marijuana and drugs. And that didn't --

LIZZA: That sometimes in popular in college.

But that didn't hurt him with the young people, particularly college students. But it was the same -- as I watch Bernie Sanders, it's the same kind of phenomenon as I witnessed with Ron Paul.

HENDERSON: And we know what happened to Ron Paul. A lot of those voters who showed up didn't actually vote for him.

BLITZER: No.

LIZZA: Small, intense group of fans. It's sometimes hard to expand out of that.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we're going to continue to watch what's going on. It's dramatic, exciting. We love the political news.

BASH: Good to have fun, everyone.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:58:23] BLITZER: Another horrible terror attack in Israel today. And it's got some very, very serious ramifications. The violence clearly continuing.

Phil Black has a very, very disturbing story. I want to warn our viewers that this report contains images some of our viewers may consider very disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the floor of the bus station, the man under the white sheet is the dead Arab Bedouin shooter. He had attacked an Israeli soldier with a knife and a gun, then took that soldier's gun to fire into the crowd, wounding ten others. In the terror that followed, bringing about yet another death.

This security video shows the panic, the people running from the shooting. In the upper right of your screen, you can also see a man crawling away. Moments later, he's shot by a security guard who mistakes him for a second attacker.

Gripped by fear and rage, the crowd turns on the wounded man. This video shows people kicking him as he lays injured and bleeding. "Break his head," a man is heard screaming repeatedly. He later died in hospital.

Turns out he was not a terrorist. Not involved in the attack at all. Police identified him as a 29-year-old Eritrean migrant. Police say they are now trying to find those who beat him. The spokesman adding, the police see this in a very severe light and will not allow the people to take the law into their own hands.

But terror attacks designed to instill extreme fear and rage, and in the death of this Eritrean migrant, this terror attack achieved its goal, another innocent victim.

Phil Black, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.