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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Indiana Congressman Andre Carson; Campaign Comedy; ISIS Threat; U.S. Growing More Confident Bomb Blew Up Plane; Top Officials Resign Amid University Race Uproar. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired November 9, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: larger terror plot? As intelligence officials grow more confident that a Russian jet was brought down by a bomb, there are now rising fears that ISIS may be plotting to strike a U.S. airliner next. Stand by for new information on the investigation.
Airport insecurity. U.S. authorities are scrambling to protect flights heading to the United States from overseas. But, tonight, airports in this country may be vulnerable to a terror attack from the inside.
Racism and resignation. After weeks of protest against bias at a major university, the schools top officials step down. I will ask the head of the NAACP if that's enough to change the culture on campus.
And the "SNL" effect. Donald Trump's hosting gig drew lots of attention, but did Bernie Sanders' look-alike steal the show? We will talk about the power of campaign comedy with a major player in the 2016 race.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, there is growing confidence among the United States and its key allies that a bomb blew up a Russian airliner in a deadly act of terror likely committed by ISIS. Even Russia's prime minister now publicly accepting a terror attack is a possibility. We're getting new details this hour about the global hunt under way to find the ISIS killer or killers who may have planted a bomb killing all 224 people on board.
As investigators try to determine if an airport worker in Egypt was involved, there is also a chilling new warning about possible security lapses in this country, gaps that might make it relatively easy for an airport insider to get a bomb on board a U.S. plane.
I will ask Congressman Andre Carson what he's learning as a leading member of the House Intelligence Committee, and our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by as we cover all the news that is breaking right now.
Up first, let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, for the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the U.S. is looking hard at security at the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, but also at other airports with a particular focus on foreign airports with direct flights here to the U.S.
They have long warned that ISIS may mimic al Qaeda's targeting of aviation and some intelligence officials coming closer to believe that the terror group already has.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, U.S. intelligence is 99.9 percent certain, a U.S. official tells CNN, that a bomb brought down Metrojet 9268 over the Sinai.
PHILIP HAMMOND, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: We formed the view overall that it was more likely than not that this was a bomb on the plane.
SCIUTTO: The increasingly likely conclusion sparking ominous new warnings of the global threat from ISIS.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is a huge worldwide problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this is a bomb by the affiliate of ISIS in the Sinai, ISIS has now fully eclipsed al Qaeda as the gravest terrorist threat in the world.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do need to be very wary of flights coming in from the Middle East.
SCIUTTO: Egypt's lead investigator noted a loud noise on the cockpit voice recorder just before the plane broke up in the air. But he still wouldn't concede a bomb as the likely culprit.
AYMAN AL-MUQADDAM, COMMISSION OF INQUIRY HEAD: The initial observation of the aircraft wreckage does not yet allow for identifying the origin of the in-flight breakup.
SCIUTTO: U.S., British and Israeli officials seem more convinced, some crucial intelligence coming from communications intercepted by Israeli intelligence focused on the Sinai and passed along to the U.S. and U.K.
One focus now, the possibility this was an inside job with ISIS recruiting an airport worker in Sharm el-Sheikh to place a bomb on board the plane.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: If they were able to infiltrate Sharm el-Sheikh Airport, they certainly could have had the opportunity to do that in other airports throughout the Middle East.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO: This intelligence is still raw and to some degree
circumstantial. U.S. officials don't have hard evidence they normally would at this stage of a crash investigation, explosive residue on wreckage, bodies, for instance, with shrapnel wounds possibly indicating an explosion.
Until they do, Wolf, U.S. officials, you are not going to hear from U.S. intelligence a definitive explanation for what brought this plane down.
BLITZER: And from what I'm hearing so far, the Egyptians have not allowed FBI or other U.S. forensic experts to actually go to Sinai and take a look around to see if they could find that kind of forensic evidence.
SCIUTTO: That's right. You would think that that would be an automatic step early on. Look at the wreckage, test it, look at those audio recordings, test it, all things the FBI and others have great experience doing. They haven't had that opportunity yet. And I think frankly there's some frustration.
BLITZER: Well, the Egyptians say they are doing it together with other investigators, but I'm sure the U.S. would like to be directly involved.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
And now to rising concerns that an airport worker in Egypt may have been involved in planting that bomb and a chilling new warning that something like that could actually happen right here in the United States.
Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is looking into all of this for us.
Rene, what are you learning about the screening of airport workers?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight, Wolf, we are breaking down the vetting process for airport workers. What most people may not realize is TSA actually depends on more than 400 airports and carriers to do criminal background checks for worker whose get secure access at airports.
We know that the airports, they collect, they review and they verify the personal information of the applicants and then they send that information to a TSA contractor, who then sends fingerprint records to the FBI for a criminal history check.
And we know that the FBI then runs those fingerprints and provides that criminal history check, but we do know also that TSA can only vet workers based on data that it gets from the airports. And one congressman is sounding the alarm tonight that the current vetting process doesn't do enough to protect domestic flights from an insider threat.
MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, U.S. authorities are honing in on security measures at airports across the Middle East.
JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: ISIL is out there now active in a lot of different areas. And so while this investigation is pending, and because we have this group claiming responsibility, we believe it's significant to do these things on an interim basis.
MARSH: Fewer than 10 airports in the region with direct flights to the U.S. are seeing the increased security, including airports in Cairo, Kuwait and Amman, Jordan. But the list could expand.
JOHNSON: I want people to know that their aviation security officials working on their behalf are continually evaluating threats, potential threats, and that we make adjustments all the time.
MARSH: As the Department of Homeland Security intensifies its focus on overseas airports, Congressman John Katko, chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, says not enough is known about the close to one million airport workers with secure access at airports here in the U.S.
REP. JOHN KATKO (R), NEW YORK: Don't know enough about them. And it's troubling that some, we don't even have the basic biographical data on some of these employees. That needs to change. That needs to get better.
MARSH: In June, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general report revealed TSA's airport worker vetting process had effective methods to match workers to terrorism, but not for some basic criminal history.
One U.S. official with knowledge of U.S. aviation security tells CNN the information that's needed to vet airport workers who have access to the most secure areas of the airport is basically the same level a passenger would have to provide to get security precheck clearance.
KATKO: Once they get hired, especially, I think we lose a little sight of them, because, yes, their name gets screened against a terror watch list, but they don't do any of the current vetting that would be more helpful.
MARSH: Well, Katko authored legislation that would increase random screening of airport workers and increase how many times they are vetted beyond their hire date. It hasn't passed the Senate, though, at this point. Earlier this month, we know that the head of the TSA told
Congress there is work to be done as it relates to the insider threat, but, Wolf, if this is a concern domestically, where TSA is in charge, one U.S. official said imagine the situation overseas, where TSA is not in charge and cannot physically provide oversight.
BLITZER: Pretty chilling when you think about it. All right, Rene, thank you.
Joining us now, Congressman Andre Carson. He's an Indiana Democrat. He's also member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: Thank you.
BLITZER: I know you, like your colleagues, you have been briefed. Can you say conclusively right now, Congressman, that a bomb caused the downing of the plane?
CARSON: Well, I'm not at liberty to confirm these things.
What I can tell you is that there is a huge and growing threat in the Middle East as it relates to ISIL and other terrorist organizations. It's very disappointing that our friends in the Egyptian government have not allowed the FBI and other agencies to help with the kinds of forensics that they are skilled at doing to determine the source of this.
But what it tells me more deeply is that perhaps there was and are terrorist sympathizers in our international airports that we have to address.
BLITZER: When do you believe U.S. officials will be able to confirm the cause of this explosion? We know it was an explosion. They heard an explosion at the end of that cockpit voice recorder recording.
CARSON: It would be gravely irresponsible for me to speculate or even say, quite frankly, but it's clear right now as we speak that we need our international community to come together and share intelligence information and to see to it that, you know, one, we're not hurting other U.S. citizens or even Russians, for that matter, but, even more than that, that we're guaranteeing the safety of those who wish to travel, see their friends, their loved ones, their families and even vacation.
And if we fail to address this threat or even minimize the threat, I hate to see what happens for our future.
BLITZER: I raise the question, Congressman, because there is at least one, but probably several killers, mass murderers at large right now, presumably still in Sinai. Maybe they have gotten out by now. CARSON: Yes, you know, I -- this is why it's ever more critical
for the international law enforcement community and intelligence community to work together.
I think our friends in the Egyptian government must realize that they need the help of the United States to help track down these terrorists and to get to the root causes of it so another incident doesn't happen like this in the next few weeks.
BLITZER: You're in the Subcommittee on Aviation.
And, as you know, an internal investigation of the TSA this summer, this summer, showed that investigators were actually able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints 95 percent of the trial run. So are American airports at risk of an attack right now unless security is dramatically reevaluated?
CARSON: Well, you're absolutely right.
Since -- there was a GAO study that showed that there are numerous vulnerabilities in airport security. Since 9/11, we have worked throughout the years to strengthen security at airports and we have been quite effective for the most part.
However, there has to be more that needs to be done. The TSA head was very direct in his testimony before Congress. I think that Secretary Jeh Johnson is a doing a great job, but we have to look at recalibrating the training that is taking place within TSA.
BLITZER: Because a U.S. official has told CNN that when it comes to aviation security here in the United States -- and I'm quoting him now -- "You can lock the front door all you want. If you have left the back window open, it doesn't really matter."
And it's pretty chilling when you think about the desire of these terrorists to blow up planes with people inside.
CARSON: Sure. Sure.
You know, there are a lot of great men and women who are at TSA who go to work with the intention of making our country safer, but at the same time, there have to be a series of internal controls and reviews regularly to ensure that the outputs are high and that the services are efficient.
BLITZER: Congressman, stand by. We have more to talk about, including another very disturbing development today, the killing of two Americans, trainers in Jordan.
Much more coming up right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Congressman Andre Carson. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, stand by.
We're monitoring right now also that investigation of the Russian airline disaster. We're following other new acts of violence in the Middle East. Israel says, for example, check out this video, a female terrorist attempted stabbing attempt at a west point -- checkpoint today.
She took a knife out of her purse, went after that Israeli security guard. The Palestinian woman reportedly was shot dead after she refused to listen to security guards who demanded that she stopped and at that point she took that knife out of her purse.
And in Jordan, a deadly shooting attack at a U.S.-funded police training facility near the capital of Amman. At least five were killed, including two American security contractors. The shooter seen in this photo on the right also was killed. He was a Jordanian police officer who reportedly had been fired. A senior Jordanian source tells CNN the shooter's motivation was, in the word of this Jordanian source, personal, but the United States is investigating.
All this played out as President Obama met today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time in more than a year.
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.
Elise, the president made a point of bringing up that shooting attack in Jordan even before he spoke about what is going on in U.S.- Israeli relations. He spoke about the killing of these two Americans in Jordan.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, as you said, Wolf, the U.S. still investigating.
This gentleman was fired. But was he radicalized after? They just don't know. But just the very fact that these two Americans were killed in neighboring Jordan shows that President Obama and Netanyahu, despite the bad blood, the drama over the Iran deal, don't really have the luxury of holding a grudge.
The U.S. and Israel have a very important intelligence and security relationship. With Israel, that gave the U.S. some of the intelligence about that downed Russian airliner. They also have -- talking about Syria and trying to prevent the spillover from the civil war and the threat by ISIS.
And then there's the Iran threat. Even though the deal is being done, the nuclear deal, the U.S. and Israel obviously still concerned about Iran's other activity, and so there is still a lot of bad blood. President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu not going to be best friends, but I think they both realize they have a lot of work to do together and I thought the comments today reflected that.
[18:20:13] BLITZER: Yes, I thought it was significant the president said
the U.S.-Israeli military-to-military relationship, intelligence cooperation relationship is better, he said, than it's ever been before.
All right, Elise, thanks very much.
Let's bring back Congressman Andre Carson of the House Intelligence Committee.
Do you know, Congressman, why these two Americans in Jordan were killed?
CARSON: Well, as was stated by the police officer or police captains' relative, that there is -- he was certainly disgruntled, but there's also a history of mental health issues there as well.
But, regardless, we have to know that our U.S. military is on the ground helping to train security forces from across the world, as well as local law enforcement. And these folks are going back with U.S. military training into their countries, not only to keep their citizens safe, but to fight and protect folks against human rights abuses.
So it's deeply unfortunate, and it's tragic, but we have to remain firm in ensuring that our military is doing the right thing in helping to make the world a better place.
BLITZER: Jordan, of course, is a key ally of the United States in that part of the world, one of the best friends the United States has.
Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel, as you know. But there is a lot of concern that the spillover from Syria could undermine what's going on in Jordan. There is a million or two million refugees that have come into the kingdom, to the Jordanian kingdom, over the past few years from Syria. How worried are you about the security of Jordan?
CARSON: Well, Jordan has been an ally for decades. And I commend them for taking in the scores of Syria refugees.
And I think this has caused a bit of a strain on the Jordanian government. That is to say that they remain strong in helping our security forces, in making tremendous contributions to intelligence sharing as it relates to the security issues ongoing in that region.
My hope is that we can continue our support, the kingdom of Jordan and all that they have done and all that they continue to do in being a responsible and helpful partner to the United States and Israel as we move forward.
BLITZER: It's not going to be an easy assignment, but a critically important one.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. CARSON: An honor. Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, airport insecurity, growing concern the crash of that Russian airliner in Egypt may be part of a larger operation. Are terrorists grooming individuals to operate in airports around the world?
Plus, another high-level resignation tonight at a major American university rocked by protests over racial tension.
BLITZER: We're following the huge international investigation into the crash of that Russian airliner in Egypt that killed 224 people.
With U.S. and British officials increasingly convinced a terrorist bomb brought down the plane, there is growing urgency right now to try to find who did it and how before there is another deadly attack. There are killers on the loose right now.
Let's dig deeper with our CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, the former assistant FBI director, our CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, and the former CIA official, our CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
Paul, could this attack have been part of a larger operation? Do you think whoever is behind this attack could be grooming others to operate within airports elsewhere across the globe?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, I think there is significant concern about exactly that scenario, particularly in the Middle East, concern that ISIS has recruited other insiders at other Middle Eastern airports.
I think that partly explains why there's now security enhancement for U.S. flights coming in from several parts of Middle East to the United States, notably Cairo, Amman, and also Kuwait City, concern that it's not just ISIS trying to do this, but al Qaeda as well.
Back in 2010, U.K. intelligence services uncovered evidence that there were al Qaeda sympathizers operating at Heathrow Airport both in baggage services and also at security line at Heathrow Airport. And there was even a British Airways call center employee who was communicating through encrypted apps with Anwar al-Awlaki, that American terrorist in Yemen.
So, both these groups, ISIS and Iraq, looking to do this again.
BLITZER: Phil, do you believe this attack was carried out by just one lone individual, inspired, shall we say, by ISIS, or was this a more sophisticated plot including a whole bunch of folks?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: No, it's got to be more sophisticated than that.
And let me explain why this is a march against time because of that sophistication. You might think this is a couple guys around a campfire. Think of the categories of people who have got to be involved in this operation, though. The spiritual adviser who told the group we have to execute targets against foreigners, in this case Russians.
The operational commander for this, the bomb-maker, the people who supply the transportation, the communications, the money, and then inside crew who actually conducted the operation.
If you go through that hierarchy, you're talking about 10, 15, 20 people. And the last point I would make in terms of a march against time is that they have gone -- they're now on the heels of what they regard as a tremendous success. There is no way they are not sitting around in a camp or in a safe house now, saying, "What's the next step we have to take to capitalize on that success"?
BLITZER: Because Phil, this is a bonanza for recruitment for these ISIS terrorists, right?
MUDD: That's right. Think about the lack of success that al Qaeda and Yemen had in 2009 when they failed to take down that airliner over Detroit. Even with that lack of success, they were sitting around in Yemen saying, "Wow, we got headlines around the world for something that was a failure."
Contrast this to today, six years later. These guys have got to be setting -- sitting back saying, "We got no press for years and all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, we're the focus of attention for the globe." That for them is not just a terror success. It's money, and it's potential recruits, as you said, Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom, what's your take?
FUENTES: Well, I think at this point, Wolf, the fact that everybody is saying it's a bomb, whether if it is or isn't, even it turned out to be mechanical, two years later in the investigation, it's already an ISIS success. They can capitalize on it. They're getting all this publicity.
And all the vulnerabilities of worldwide aviation have been exposed. The fact that employees are not really checked. Maybe in an initial background check when they're hired, but even in this country, they don't go through magnetometers. They can bring contraband, as the case was with the Delta Airlines out of Atlanta, bringing guns to New York City.
So I think that, you know, it just has to tell ISIS leaders that "look how easy this is. We could do this anywhere, any time. Who's going to stop us and how?"
BLITZER: There was a limited number, though, Paul, of ISIS videos and statements gloating, if you will. Are you surprised there's not more of that going on right now? CRUICKSHANK: What I'm surprised by, Wolf, is over the last 72
hours, ISIS has not officially commented at all, again, on offering any more claims for this Metrojet crash.
But last week they put together a number of propaganda videos. There were two propaganda videos put out by the group in Syria and Iraq. There was an audio claim put out by ISIS in Sinai. And also immediately after the crash an eight-line statement put out by the group.
I think perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of specificity may be to protect an insider that they managed to recruit at the airport to try and give them time to manage to get away or even to ride it out, Wolf.
BLITZER: So Phil, how do you get with -- how do you find out if there is an insider, a terrorist working at an airport with access to the cargo hold or the caterers or whatever? How do you find out about these individuals?
MUDD: You've got at least three options here, Wolf. No. 1 is what we've seen already. That is wires: classic intelligence operation. Can you penetrate phone calls, radio communications, e- mail?
The second, working with the Egyptian as human sources. That is do you have particularly Egyptians inside the ISIS organization who can give you a sense of what's going on around the campfire.
The third is what's going on today, and that is interviews with personnel and presumably reviews of the film at the airport to determine whether you can get on-the-ground information.
One big question I have here, though, is we're talking about U.S. participation in this. It's a Russian aircraft on Egyptian soil, and both of those parties are going to be suspicious about U.S. engagement. We're going to want to get into this game to determine who's responsible. And I think the Egyptians and Russians are already indicating that they're not sure they want the Americans in this game.
BLITZER: Well, so far, Tom -- correct me if I'm wrong -- the FBI has not been allowed to go out into Sinai where the wreckage is and do some forensic tests. The FBI said that they have a liaison officer or two in Cairo at the U.S. embassy.
FUENTES: That's a big FBI office at the embassy in Cairo, and it's one of the largest...
BLITZER: But they're in Cairo; they're not in Sinai.
FUENTES: Well, they're not invited to go there to work on this case. And the FBI the day of the crash offered assistance, as they usually do: crime scene investigators, metallurgy experts, bomb technician experts. And the Egyptians said, "No thank you. We've got enough. We've got five countries, including Egypt, already involved. We don't need the FBI. We don't need the NTSB." They've got enough of their own people.
That's how it is. We don't have an American citizen killed. We don't have an American-flagged carrier affected by the bomb. And unless invited, they're not going to come.
BLITZER: The engines of that Airbus were U.S.-made, and the flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder, similar to this one, U.S.-made.
FUENTES: But that doesn't automatically allow the FBI to come in or the NTSB to come in if there is already suitable investigative agents on the ground working there.
So again, this offer was made, you know, right from the beginning and, you know, just we're told they're not going to be. And I don't think they're ever going to be invited to come in and work that case, just like they weren't invited to go to the Ukraine in the MH-17 rocket attack on that airline.
BLITZER: That's a source of concern.
All right, guys. Stand by. We're going to continue to fallow this plane disaster, get some more information.
Also, other news we're following, including university upheaval. Simmering racial tensions lead to a dramatic move at a top university. First the president steps down. Now we're getting word of another high-level resignation.
Plus, Donald Trump face-to-face with some of his impersonators on "Saturday Night Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARAN KILLAM, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Great, great, great, great, great, isn't he doing fantastic?
I've got to say, you're doing great job. In fact, I think this show just got better by about 2 billion percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:40:21] BLITZER: Dramatic upheaval at the University of Missouri tonight where protests by students, faculty and the football team over race relations led the school president to resign today. And tonight there's word that the chancellor has also just announced he's stepping down, as well.
African-American students at one predominantly white campus say school leaders didn't deal with racism, including the open use of racial slurs. The university president, Tim Wolfe, accepted responsibility for the inaction and urged healing and conversation.
Let's get some more on what's going on with the president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.
Cornell, thanks very much for coming in.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT/CEO, NAACP: Thank you.
BLITZER: I want to play for you an exchange. This is the university, the now-outgoing president of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, and some students.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM WOLFE, OUTGOING PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: I will give you an answer, and I'm sure it will be a wrong answer. I'll give you an answer and I'm sure it will be a wrong answer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think systematic depression is.
WOLFE: Systemic oppression is because you don't believe that you have the equal opportunity for success.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you just blame us for systemic depression, Tim Wolfe?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You see the anger at that campus. And now, as a result of all of that bubbling over, he stepped down today. Is this just a problem at the University of Missouri or is there a problem nationwide?
BROOKS: I think it's a problem nationwide. We have a generation of students who believe that the No. 1 issue of concern is race, and what we've seen at the University of Missouri is illustrative of what we see on campuses across the country.
Young people are concerned about the racial climate in our country, as well as on their campus. That exchange was an exchange in which you have a group of students who came to the university to open their hearts and open their minds. They were asking their president to open his heart, open his mind to their concerns.
And the fact that he didn't and did not demonstrate the sensitivity and the care and concern that one would expect from a university president, had a lot to do with him not being university president going forward.
BLITZER: These kinds of incidents, they're not supposed to be taking place in this day in age. I can understand in the bad old days of the '50s and '60s, but I thought we were beyond that right now.
BROOKS: I'll put it to you, Wolf. When a father and a grandmother in my church whose son is at the University of Missouri, when they called me to ask me to talk with their grandson about how he felt being there, the fact of the matter is, the "N" word should not be a course or college requirement or campus requirement at any university. No young person should be subjected to that. The university is the place where you go to expand your horizons, not have your horizons close in on you in a racially insensitive way.
And so the fact of the matter is what we've seen there is a generation of young people saying, "We want an environment in which we can study, in which we can imagine, in which we can explore, not an environment in which we have to be afraid or we have to be concerned or have to second-guess ourselves." And that's, quite simply, what many students are feeling.
BLITZER: What was extremely unusual -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong -- in this particular case, the pressure was building not just students but student activists, including members of the football team at the University of Missouri. They threatened they weren't going to play against Brigham Young University this coming Saturday unless something dramatic like this happened.
The university stood to lose, just in that one game, maybe $1 million if that game didn't go forward. Have you heard of anything like that happening where football players say, "We're not playing if this continues"?
BROOKS: It's happened before, but it's rare. The fact of the matter is we have these athlete scholars leveraging their economic power as well as their athletic prowess, saying to the university, "Don't use our bodies. Don't use our minds unless you're willing to hear our concerns."
And the fact that the university president, that the chancellor, that the university system and the student body and the whole of the country is paying attention to not only them as athletes but as leaders and leaders among leaders. Because we have the students who proceeded them, the young man Jonathan who -- Butler, who engaged in the hunger strike. The fact of the matter is they believe that these aren't tangential issues. These are serious issues, core issues.
You cannot have a university campus, an oasis of intellectual freedom where people are literally being constrained by the animosity and racial animus of others.
BLITZER: So how important was the financial, the money part of this in forcing this president to step down, the fact they were going to lose a lot of money because the football players wouldn't play?
BROOKS: I believe it was pivotal. I believe it was pivotal. But I don't want to under state the importance that preceded it. You know, when we sent down our college division director Steven Green to talk with these students, I should say when he spoke with the students and when our NAACP in Missouri reached out, they were committed. They were dedicated.
And so, the point being here is the athletes we enforce what was already there. But they have to be commended for leadership.
BLITZER: Dramatic moment, indeed. Cornell, thanks very much for coming in.
BROOKS: Thank you. BLITZER: Cornell William Brooks with NAACP.
Just ahead, we'll take a look at American politics, the race for the White House. Bernie Sanders talks to CNN about the race, what's going on, Hillary Clinton, he mentions her and what Larry David did for him on "Saturday Night Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh my God. We have created a t-shirt and underwear revolution in America. The industry is booming. It's unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And it's twice the Trump as Donald Trump pulls in viewers for "Saturday Night Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think you're this terrific person. You think you're this. You think you're there. Ba, ba, ba.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Donald Trump ratings winner for "Saturday Night Live." The Republican presidential candidate's appearance garnered the show's highest number of viewers in three years even though he was only in front of the camera for about 12 minutes of the 90-minute show.
Reviews of his performance were mixed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Part of the reason I'm here is that I know how to take a joke. They've done so much to ridicule me over the years, this show has been a disaster for me.
Look at this guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great, great, great, great, great. Isn't he fantastic?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to say you're doing a great job. In fact, I think the show got better by about 2 billion percent. In fact, they just told me, Donald, the Donald, they just told me this, very interesting, that now that I'm here, this is actually the best monologue in "SNL" history. Can you believe that?
TRUMP: That's pretty good. That's pretty good. Ay, ay, ay. Look at this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think you're this terrific person. You think you're this. You think you're that, ba, ba, ba. You're being very naive and quite frankly, you're fired.
TRUMP: They're great. They don't have my talent, my money or especially my good looks, but you know what, they're not bad and we are going to have a lot of fun tonight.
LARRY DAVID, COMEDIAN: You're a racist.
TRUMP: Who the hell -- I knew this was going to happen. Who is that?
DAVID: Trump's a racist.
TRUMP: It's Larry David. What are you doing?
DAVID: I heard if I yelled that, they'd give me $5,000.
TRUMP: As a businessman, I can fully respect that. That's OK. We have got a great show tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Larry David appeared as himself in the clip, but he also reprised his portrayal of Senator Bernie Sanders on "SNL" on that hugely popular impersonation. It's just one of the topics of the real Bernie Sanders when he talked about with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. She's with us right now.
You've got a wide ranging, very candid interview with this Democratic presidential candidate.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANAYLST: You know, Wolf, I sat down with Bernie and his wife, Jane Sanders, in South Carolina. And we began by talking about how surprised they were this past summer when the senator became a cultural phenom, replete with his own T- shirts and even that "Feel the Bern" underwear inspired by, you guessed it, Saturday Night Live.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh my God. We have created a T-shirt and underwear revolution in America. The industry is booming; it's unbelievable.
But to answer your question, no. It has resonated a heck of a lot faster.
BORGER: So there is a buzzword that we use a lot in campaigns, and that is authenticity. We always talk about authenticity.
JANE SANDERS, BERNIE SANDERS' WIFE: He is very authentic. He has - I mean, what you see is what you get. He has been consistent on the issues. I know one of the things that people in Vermont feel is that -- we get support from Republicans in Vermont. They say I disagree with you on many, many things, but I know you are saying what you believe and you will do what you say.
B. SANDERS: And Gloria, look at this haircut. Is this an authentic hair cut? It cost me $2,000 to go to a hairstylist to create this.
BORGER: Somehow I don't believe that to be the truth. OK.
This is the summer of Bernie. And you had huge crowds, you were beating Hillary Clinton in the polls in New Hampshire and Iowa. So is the magic you had this summer slipping away from you?
B. SANDERS: No. Absolutely not. Let's go back six months, and let's look at Bernie Sanders announcing his candidacy and being three percent, four percent in the polls. No money in his campaign, no volunteers, no political organization.
[18:55:03] Running against a woman who is enormously well known, whose husband was president of the United States.
BORGER: That would be Hillary Clinton.
B. SANDERS: Oh! Well, I don't want to say. But if you say it, I'll agree.
Look, we started off six months ago -- be honest, Gloria. What did the media consider Bernie Sanders? A fringe candidate. Right? Not a serious candidate. Be honest; that was the case. Now you are saying you haven't quite won this thing yet. That tells me we have made real progress in six months.
BORGER: So, Hillary Clinton has 31 endorsements from people in the Senate -
B. SANDERS: Yes.
BORGER: -- and you don't have any.
B. SANDERS: That's correct.
BORGER: What does that show?
B. SANDERS: It tells you that one of us is a candidate of the establishment. One of us is involved in establishment politics and establishment economics. And it says that maybe the other candidate is prepared to take on the establishment.
BORGER: That would be you.
B. SANDERS: That would be me! Yes, I think that's probably right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) B. SANDERS: The American people are sick and tired of hearing
about your damn e-mails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: I want to talk about Hillary Clinton's damn e-mails, to quote you.
B. SANDERS: What I said during the debate is what I say to you now. Same thing - is I think the American people get tired of seeing front-page stories from the media day after day about e-mails. They want to know why their kids can't afford to go to college. They want to know why they can't afford health care. Why we have a (INAUDIBLE) level of income and wealth inequality. That's what they want to know.
BORGER: But they want to know about their presidential candidates.
B. SANDERS: Sure they do! But day after day after day. And that's why I said enough is enough with the e-mails. And I believe that. Now, there is a process on the way. And what I said right after the debate, there is a process. There is an investigation. Let it take its course. I'm not involved in that.
BORGER: You sort gave her a pass during the debate. Do you regret that?
B. SANDERS: No, I do not regret that at all. I mean, I cannot walk down the corridors in Capitol Hill without being really begged by the media to attack Hillary Clinton. They want to make this personal. It's easy to cop out. I choose not to do that.
BORGER: Let me tell you about the issues between you and Hillary Clinton because she has recently come to oppose the Pacific Trade deal, come to oppose Keystone as the president opposes Keystone, has vowed to take on big banks. How should voters view these changes? B. SANDERS: Good! Fair question.
BORGER: You like the question?
B. SANDERS: Good question!
BORGER: Oh, thank you.
BORGER: How should voters view those changes?
B. SANDERS: What you should see is how do you feel about U.S. trade policies? That's the first question. Do you think it is good? So, the question is who was out front on this issue, who has consistently been opposed to trade policy? I think the answer is pretty obvious.
I am glad, by the way - let me be frank -- that Hillary Clinton finally came on board in opposition. BORGER: But does it tell you anything about her?
B. SANDERS: That is what the American people will have to do.
BORGER: What do you think?
B. SANDERS: No. I'll let the American people decide that. I am not voting for Hillary Clinton. Let me be clear. You have a breaking news story here. I'm supporting Bernie Sanders.
BORGER: So "The New York Times" has said that, and I'm sure you read it, that Bernie Sanders has a grumpy demeanor - grumpy. And makes the case that you are not a great schmoozer.
B. SANDERS: Am I grumpy? Yeah, I suppose I -
BORGER: Is he grumpy?
J. SANDERS: He does doom-and-gloom speeches, I tell him all the time. You have to bring it back to the hope at the end. But no. He is not grumpy really, just except when the media doesn't pay attention.
B. SANDERS: I am not much - if the question is am I much into small talk? Am I a good schmoozer, am I good back-slapper with other politicians? No, I'm not so great at that.
Do I enjoy retail politics? The answer is I really do. I love going out.
BORGER: Do you ever get him confused with Larry David?
J. SANDERS: I haven't yet, no.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY DAVID (impersonating Bernie Sanders): The only people I like are my seven adorable grandchildren.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
B. SANDERS: That's absolutely true. They are the joy of my life.
BORGER: Do you do a Larry David imitation?
B. SANDERS: I -- What do you think I've just been doing for the last half hour?
BLITZER: Very funny. He has done amazingly well considering where he came from.
BORGER: He had.
BLITZER: But he's got an enormous challenge ahead of him if he's going to beat Hillary Clinton for that nomination.
BORGER: He had a great summer, Wolf. He was beating Hillary Clinton in Iowa, New Hampshire, drawing thousands of people at rallies. He still draws really great crowds at rallies. But now that Joe Biden said, I'm not running, Hillary Clinton has been a beneficiary of that, polls are tight in New Hampshire, he's behind in Iowa. And nationally, Wolf, he is 31 points behind Hillary Clinton.
So, what he has to do is get these young people who like him to the polls and figure out a way to get African-Americans, as well, in the South to take a look at him and feel that they can vote for him. It's a big challenge, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a huge challenge. We'll see if he is up to it. But it's exciting. We'll continue to follow.
Good work, Gloria.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitroom.
Be sure to join us tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.