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Sources: Malik Believed Radicalized at Least 2 Years Ago; CNN Poll: Trump Leading by 18 Points in Key State; Officials: Both Killers Pledged Allegiance to ISIS; Trump Leads New Poll Taken Before Muslim Comments. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 8, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Outrage. Donald Trump drawing sharp condemnation at home and around the world for proposing a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Tonight, a new CNN poll shows him with a commanding lead in a key primary state. Can he maintain it amid the biggest controversy of his campaign?

Final posts. CNN is learning new details about the online message posted by the San Bernardino terrorist, unable to spell the name of the ISIS leader and leaving investigators baffled by what they omitted. Tonight sources tell CNN they want to know why the killers did not leave a manifesto or a video message, even as investigators found camera packaging equipment in their apartment.

Tracing her story. New revelations about Tashfeen Malik, including her family and schooling in Pakistan. Tonight, former classmates are painting a more detailed picture of the world's most notorious female terrorist. Was she radicalized long before ISIS even was formed?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news in the San Bernardino terror attacks. Sources now telling CNN that investigators believe the female terrorist, Tashfeen Malik, was radicalized at least two years ago. That's well before she came to the United States and before ISIS proclaimed its caliphate.

And we're also learning new details of the final Facebook post she made. A U.S. official telling CNN it started off with the word "we," indicating she was posting on behalf of her husband, as well, as herself when she pledged allegiance to the ISIS leader, whose name was misspelled, along with many other words.

But investigators are also said to be puzzled by the lack of a manifesto or a video.

We're also following the breaking political news. A brand new CNN/WMUR poll just released right now shows Donald Trump 18 points ahead of his closest rival in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. But tonight Trump is facing the biggest controversy of his campaign

over his call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

We're covering that and much more this hour with our guests, including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. And our correspondents and our expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with CNN's Ana Cabrera. She's in San Bernardino for us. Ana, there are significant new developments tonight in the terror investigation. What are you learning?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We are now learning that investigators, as they are still trying to determine a time line as to when the couple became radicalized, they do believe that this may have happened even before ISIS declared itself a caliphate in June of 2014.

And tonight, more evidence the couple had been planning, even practicing for their attack for weeks.


CABRERA (voice-over): Just days before the attack, Syed Rizwan Farook took an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle for target practice at this gun range in Riverside, California.

JOHN GALLETTA, RIVERSIDE MAGNUM RANGE: He presented a valid, or what appeared to be a valid I.D., came in and acted the way he normally does. The way normal people act, just come in and use the range.

CABRERA: Officials say both Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, went to local gun ranges for target practice in the days leading up to the attack. Tonight the FBI is now reviewing surveillance video from the gun range in Riverside.

At the same time, the FBI's questioning Enrique Marquez, a friend and one-time neighbor of Farook's, who legally purchased two of the weapons used by the couple in the attack.

JOHN D'ANGELO, ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, ATF: Right now, our major concern, the FBI, the ATF, and the JTTF, is determining how those firearms, the rifles in particular, got from Marquez to Farook and Malik.

CABRERA: Marquez has checked into a mental health facility just after the attack. Investigators are also questioning Farook's mother, Rafia, who lived in the same townhouse with the killers. The family's lawyer insists no one in the family knew about how Farook and Malik became radicalized.

DAVID CHESLEY, ATTORNEY FOR THE FAROOK FAMILY: Syed and Tashfeen, they were very isolated, and -- and, honestly, the family was completely surprised and devastated.

CABRERA: Though the couple took steps to erase their electronic footprint, investigators are trying to retrieve data to piece together any helpful clues they can glean.

They're also trying to track down whether the couple had financial help to carry out the attack. Reuters reporting that online lender Prosper recently issued a $28,500 loan to Farook, citing a source familiar with the matter. Law enforcement could not confirm to CNN, saying work regarding the bank accounts is ongoing, and no conclusions have been made.


[17:05:21] CABRERA: Now officials do tell CNN that at this point there's no indication that any money the couple may have received came from an outside financer that backed the plot, but at this point, Wolf, they're not ready to rule it out either.

BLITZER: They certainly are not. Ana Cabrera for us. Thank you.

Other breaking news. Donald Trump is the undisputed Republican presidential frontrunner in a brand-new CNN/WMUR poll released just moments ago, showing him with a commander lead in New Hampshire, home of the nation's first primary two months from today.

But Trump is being blasted from inside and outside the GOP for his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is here with the latest numbers and the controversy. Dana, Donald Trump is certainly not backing down.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He certainly isn't. And it's really hard to quantify how many people have come out, Republicans especially, condemning Trump's plan in the harshest of terms. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, for example, just this afternoon called it an embarrassment and un-American.

But Trump sources I talked to think those statements are only going to help him solidify his frontrunner status.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much, everybody. This is great.

BASH (voice-over): Donald Trump is not only on top in a new CNN/WMUR New Hampshire poll, his 32 percent support in the first primary state is more than Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush combined, with 6 in 10 New Hampshire Republicans predicting Trump is the most likely to win their crucial primary.

TRUMP: The total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

BASH: A new show of strength as that new Trump plan ignites unprecedented bipartisan fury from the Republican house speaker...

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Normally, I do not comment on what's going on in the presidential election. I will take an exception today. This is not conservatism.

BASH: ... to former Vice President Dick Cheney, revered by conservatives for pushing tough tactics to keep Americans safe after 9/11.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims and just ban all religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in.

BASH: Voters in today's New Hampshire poll say Trump is the best candidate to take on ISIS. Just like Monday's CNN/ORC poll in Iowa. On CNN's NEW DAY, he was eager to defend his new plan.

TRUMP: We have a problem in this country, and we should solve it, because you're going to have many more World Trade Centers if you don't solve it. Many, many more, and probably beyond. I'm talking about a temporary situation until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

BASH: Even Republican Party chair Reince Priebus, who tries to stay out of the GOP presidential fight, weighed in, saying, "I don't agree. We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism, but not at the expense of our American values."

That months after convincing all of Trump's competitors to pledge to support him if he's the nominee, making it awkward as they slam him now.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not about the blowhards out there just saying stuff. That's not a program. That's not a plan. This is serious business.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump always plays on everyone's worst instincts and fears.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.

BASH: And the president's spokesman piled on.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Trump campaign for months now has had a dustbin-of-history-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lies, even the fake hair.

What Donald Trump said yesterday disqualifies him from serving as president. And for Republican candidates for president to stand by their pledge to support Mr. Trump, that in and of itself is disqualifying.


BASH: The president's spokesman there may have been making a policy statement, but let's be clear: he was stirring the pot politically for Republicans, many of whom are worried about damage Trump may do to the party. And as for Trump, he's making noises once again about a GOP nightmare

scenario, an independent Trump candidacy. He tweeted this afternoon that, if he did launch a third-party bid, the vast majority of his supporters would back him and not the GOP nominee, Wolf.

BLITZER: All the Republican candidates signed a pledge that they would, in fact, support, Dana, anyone who got the Republican nomination. That means they potentially would have to support Donald Trump if he gets the nomination.

And in this brand-new CNN/WMUR poll, I want to show everyone once again, you see Trump there, Dana, with 32 percent. But look at, as you point out, Rubio only 14 percent. Chris Christie, 9 percent. Jeb Bush, 8 percent. John Kasich, 7 percent. He's clearly, clearly, by far, not only the frontrunner in New Hampshire, but in Iowa, our poll there yesterday and nationally, as well.

[17:10:12] BASH: That's right. Across the board, since Friday, we have done several polls, as you said, nationally. In Iowa yesterday, New Hampshire today shows that it's really not even close. Donald Trump is by far the leader.

And, you know, that says a lot when you're talking about such a big field, that he is in the 30s when you're looking at the percentages with, what, 14 candidates, 13, 14 candidates. It really is telling as to where his support is now, just two months away from these contests.

BLITZER: All these polls, of course, taken before the latest comments on no Muslims coming into the United States. Dana, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. She's also an Iraq War veteran.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. I want to talk to you about the latest terror investigations involving what happened in San Bernardino, what's going on in the war against ISIS.

But first of all, Donald Trump, do his comments, as the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said today from your perspective, disqualify him as serving as president?

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: You know, Donald Trump is clearly trying to, unfortunately, capitalize on people's fears for his own political gain. And I think it's important for all of us, for leaders in our country, for people in the media, to make a clear distinction from two things.

One is the spiritual practice of Islam, the spiritual and religious path that most Muslims follow; and the other is the political Islam or Islamism that's really a totalitarian Islamic supremacy ideology that is fueling these attacks. That's fueled the San Bernardino shooters, that's fueling ISIS, fueling al Qaeda and these Islamic extremist terror groups that are creating such a threat.

And that's why it's so important for us to create this distinction to make sure that we know who our enemy is. The ideology that is our enemy, the radical Islamist ideology and not continue to play on fears of people, as Donald Trump is doing.

BLITZER: So do you think it should disqualify him as president?

GABBARD: I'm not going to comment on that. I think we've got to focus more constructively on exactly what the problem is that we're facing as a country today. And that is the threat of this radical totalitarian Islamist ideology that's fueling these terrorist groups.

BLITZER: Yesterday, Senator Angus King, the independent from Maine, a member of the Intelligence Committee, he said to me that Trump's comments, in his word, was a gift to ISIS. You understand the region over there. You served in Iraq. Do you agree with him?

GABBARD: I think, again. This is about us here in the United States, looking at what is in our best interests? How do we effectively execute a strategy to defeat this enemy?

And the first thing that has to be done that's critical is to understand exactly who they are and the ideology that's fueling them. Until that's done, we're not going to be able to see an effective strategy put in place.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, stand by. We have much more to discuss, including the latest developments in this war against ISIS. Much more with Tulsi Gabbard when we come back.


[17:17:53] BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, sources telling CNN that investigators are probing the San Bernardino massacre. They now believe that terrorist Tashfeen Malik was, in fact, radicalized at least two years ago. That's long before she came to the United States and before the rise of ISIS.

We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees and an Iraq War veteran.

Congresswoman, you say radical Islamist ideology fuels ISIS and fueled the San Bernardino killers. Do you think the president would be more effective if he called this, in your words, radical Islamist terror?

GABBARD: I think the president and leaders in our country need to recognize this ideology and the ideology that is our enemy, that is this radical Islamic ideology. It's a totalitarian Islamist political ideology that really says that some form of Islam should be the governing doctrine over society or government.

And that is important to make that distinction between that ideology that's fueling our enemy and the spiritual path of Islam that the vast majority of Muslims around the world are practicing. I think it's important for us to know the difference, to make that distinction and to name our enemy and the ideology that's driving them. BLITZER: In attempting to form a coalition of countries against ISIS,

specifically Arab countries, how bad does it make the look -- make the U.S. look right now that there are, for all practical purposes, no Sunni Arab countries, allies included, with any boots on the ground inside Syria fighting ISIS.

GABBARD: I think this is exactly one of the challenges that needs to be overcome here that we've got to have leaders within the region, both coming out and battling this ideology, defeating this radical Islamist ideology, as well as providing that military support focused solely on defeating ISIS.

This is one of the problems that we're seeing right now, for example, with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and some of these other Arab gulf countries who are more focused, or completely focused, rather, on overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad, an objective that's as diametrically opposed to our objective and what our objective and focus should be, which is defeating is, al Qaeda and these other Islamic extremist groups.

[17:20:22] The two objectives are counter-production, but if we and these countries are successful in overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad, it will help ISIS. It will open the door for them to walk in, take over control for all of Syria, presenting an even greater threat to the region, a humanitarian crisis like we've never seen before and an even greater threat to the world.

BLITZER: We learned today that Tashfeen Malik, the female terrorist out in California, had been radicalized, possibly long before she even came to the United States. You just voted to change legislation, change the law that would overall the federal visa waiver program. It just passed in the House of Representatives. How will that change affect this effort to prevent terrorists from coming to the United States?

BLITZER: Well, the visa waiver program legislation that we just passed makes it more difficult for those who our holders of passports or citizens of our visa waiver countries to get on a plane and come here. Maybe they're a foreign fighter. They've gone to Syria and fought alongside ISIS, and they want to come here to the United States. This bill seeks to make it more difficult for that scenario to play out.

There's one big problem, though, that wasn't addressed in this legislation and why, frankly, I've been calling for over a year for a temporary suspension of this program for specific countries that have high numbers of foreign fighters, is we still have an open border between Syria and Turkey. So someone who's a European passport holder can go and travel through this open, porous border between Turkey into Syria, come back without anyone ever knowing about it, without there even being any trace of that. And this is a concern that still needs to be resolved.

BLITZER: Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, thanks very much, Congresswoman, for joining us.

GABBARD: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're getting new details about the mysterious woman at the center of the San Bernardino terror attack.

Plus, will Donald Trump's call to ban Muslim immigration undermine his growing lead in the race for the Republican presidential nominee?


[17:27:00] BLITZER: Breaking news. Officials now say both of the San Bernardino killers pledged allegiance to ISIS in an online post the day of the killings. Disturbing new details are also coming to light about Tashfeen Malik, the woman who changed from what friends describe as a typical college student into a cold-blooded killer.

CNN's Brian Todd has new information about her past in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight investigators are putting together some key information about Tashfeen Malik's life.

Now part of that means learning more about Malik's experience at a school that many Americans had never heard of before the San Bernardino attack, but which is now under intense scrutiny.


TODD (voice-over): To hear her classmate tell it, Tashfeen Malik was a normal college-aged woman. She tells CNN Malik was funny, jolly, with a loud, shrill laugh. Malik wasn't very religious at the university in Pakistan, where she studied pharmacy, says her classmate, who didn't want to go on camera. And she liked gossip, liked to point out the boys she thought were cute.

One expert says that doesn't mean she wouldn't have been radical or angry toward the west. He points to one example of a well-known terrorist who lived a double life.

HUSAIN HAQQANI, FORMER PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: We had the case of Mohamed Atta, the 9/11 hijacker, who had a girlfriend, liked his work, not really religious, accent (ph) of Islam. But he, at the same time, thought, "I will do this great act of violence. I will go into heaven as a result."

TODD: Pakistani intelligence sources tell CNN Tashfeen Malik's extended family has wealthy landowners, but her immediate family is middle class. Analysts say that's the kind of woman who often enrolls in al-Huda, a chain of religious institutes in Pakistan.

Teachers at al-Huda tell CNN Malik was enrolled at their branch in Multan, Pakistan, in 2013 and 2014 but didn't get a diploma. Could she have been radicalized there? Analysts say al-Huda promotes the cloaking of women and a narrow conservative following of Islam.

HAQQANI: The kind of conservatism that it teaches involves anti- Westernism, anti-Semitism, as well. But they do not necessarily radicalize every person who comes through them.

TODD: Al-Huda tells CNN it has no links to extremists, that it promotes a peaceful message and that Tashfeen Malik likely didn't understand its message.

But one woman who attended another al-Huda branch told us the school is a, quote, "gateway drug for violent radicalization." It says one thing but teaches another.

ASRA NOMANI, ATTENDED AN AL-HUDA SCHOOL IN PAKISTAN: They know that killing and saying that you're going to kill somebody will land you in a lot of trouble. So they are very careful.

What I heard all the time was to curse those that are other faiths, to never be friends with those of other faiths.

TODD: But one Islamic scholar warns not to pin this woman's radicalization on one place.

We have to be very careful and put all the pieces together of her life, because we're looking at it with such close scrutiny. She comes out of Huda, migrates to Saudi Arabia. Now, we don't know what influences worked on her there.


[17:30:04] TODD: Akbar Ahmed says that Malik's radicalization could have occurred in Multan or anywhere else in Pakistan.

Now, as for the possibility that it might have happened in Saudi Arabia, it's not clear at the moment. But a source close to the Saudi government has told CNN she was not on any Saudi watch list or under any suspicion of extremist activity by Saudi authorities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's not just classroom instruction, though, at the school al-Huda provides. There's other stuff going on over there, as well.

TODD: That's right, Wolf. Analysts say it provides charitable services but that it also has what's called a marriage bureau to help religious parents find suitable spouses for their children.

But the place is also known, according to analysts, to divide some families. They say some people who go there and become more religious, we're told, they often tend to alienate other members of their families. So it is a divisive place within families, as well.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thanks very much.

Let's get some insight from our experts. Our national security analyst, Peter Bergen; our counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd, former CIA official; and CNN law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes.

So this Tashfeen Malik, Phil, she may have been radicalized long before she came to the United States. That must send some alarm bells to U.S. officials. PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It does, but it sends more

questions than answers. You'd think, as the investigation would go along, that the questions start to diminish, but there are at least two come to me as a result of this elongated radicalization process.

The first is, in a lot of these cases, radicalization can be weeks or months. She went through a year, two years. It took that long to select a target? What happened in the interim?

The second and the most interesting question or problem I have in the whole case is the target selection. If you have somebody that's this radicalized, if you look at the past 14 years of history, they're going to pick a target that involves a lot of consideration. Twin Towers, subway. In this case, she picks a county facility.

I don't understand the questions that are rising. And I think the story is getting more confusing as we go along.

BLITZER: Maybe this was just the first target. They had more.

MUDD: That's right.

BLITZER: They thought they could get away with this one and then go on to do more dastardly things later.

MUDD: I think you're right. I think we're just missing a lot of the pieces of the puzzle here that you could expect to be resolved at this point.


TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: But why jeopardize the big target to go after the little target? Four weeks after this attack...

BLITZER: Maybe they were stupid.

FUENTES: Well, probably. But four weeks after this attack, you have the Rose Bowl Parade, a tremendous soft target miles long with worldwide media coverage. You have the Rose Bowl game with 100,000 people in Pasadena. That's right down the street, practically, from where they were at. So you have all these big media events, athletic contests, et cetera, bowl games that they could have attacked, and they go after 90 people at a luncheon? I agree with Phil on that one.

BLITZER: The -- you saw this new report saying there's been an explosion in the number of foreign fighters joining ISIS right now. "The New York Times" reporting ISIS is recruiting as far away as China right now. So how is this different from other terrorist organizations?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we've seen foreign fighters being recruited from around 90 countries, Wolf. Unprecedented volume, more than 30,000. And, you know, CentCom has said in the past that they're killing about 1,000 a month, but about a thousand foreign fighters are coming in every month. So right now it's sort of a wash. And as long as ISIS can continue getting people in, many of them

through Turkey, they continue to replenish their ranks. And of course, many of these foreign fighters are the most ideologically, you know, tough. Think of Jihadi John, the British executioner, and others.

BLITZER: And they're coming in through these nearly 100-kilometers of the open Turkish-Syrian border that President Obama keeps talking about.

BERGEN: Yes. But that border has -- the Turks have got a handle on it. It's...

BLITZER: It was a hundred kilometers, 60 miles, that are not controlled.

BERGEN: But it was 1,000. I mean, they are trying to get a handle on it. ISIS, the reason I say this is that ISIS itself is saying to its recruits, you know, the Turks are actually no longer your friends, to be very careful. And they're -- they're advising people to be very careful about Turkish intelligence.

So something is actually working on that front.

BLITZER: What is the FBI doing, Tom, to trace the money, follow the money, if you will, where this couple received money to buy these guns, these improvised explosive devices, these pipe bombs? There was cash in their bank accounts.

FUENTES: Well, to the extent that they can figure out all of their bank accounts, and subpoena those records, they're trying to trace that. And that could be a long process.

The other problem is that anybody that's bought a smart phone in the last two years from the major providers comes with encryption that even the company can't break. Even if the FBI has a court order for them to do so, they can't.

So after 9/11, the message was, well, because of lack of intelligence sharing, we couldn't connect the dots. Well, now we have the intelligence sharing, but the dots are invisible in many cases.

BLITZER: So we don't know yet if they were engaged in encryption, communicating with others that way yet. Right?

MUDD: We don't know, but the fact they destroyed these devices tells us something. From looking at hundreds of investigations, the lack of information we have on communications here, it's not unique, but this is where we should be knowing more about connections. But part of it they tried to destroy the hard drive and the phones.

BLITZER: The hard drives and the phones. They're destroyed.

But the FBI at Quantico is trying to at least get some information in there. Let's see if they can do it. Guys, don't go too far away. [17:35:10] Much more on the breaking political news, as well. Our

brand-new CNN poll shows Donald Trump with a commanding lead in New Hampshire. Will it hold up amid the new controversy over Trump's call to block Muslims from entering the U.S.

We also have new information coming in from sources close to the investigation in the San Bernardino terror attacks. Stay with us.


[16:40:00] BLITZER: This hour's breaking political news, a brand-new CNN/WMUR poll released just this hour shows Donald Trump with a commanding leads in New Hampshire. He's 18 points ahead of his closest rival, Senator Marco Rubio.

The poll was taken before Trump called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslim immigration into the United States. Listen to what he told a crowd in another early primary state, South Carolina.


TRUMP: They didn't want to report them, because they thought it was profiling. OK, they saw bombs; they saw, you know, the pipe bombs. This wasn't to build a bathroom. Right?

What's happened is we're out of control. We have no idea who's coming into our country. We have no idea if they love us or if they hate us. I have friends that are Muslims. They are great people.

But they know we have a problem. They know we have a real problem. Something is going on. We can't put up with it, folks. Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

Where the hatred comes from and why we'll have to determine, we're going to have to figure it out. We have to figure it out. We can't live like this. It's going to get worse and worse. You're going to have more World Trade Centers. It's going to get worse and worse, folks.

We can be politically correct and we can be stupid, but it's going to get worse and worse. We have to talk to them. Maybe in certain areas closing that Internet up in some way. Somebody will say freedom of speech, freedom of speech. These are foolish people.

We have a lot of foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people. We've got to maybe do something with the Internet, because they are recruiting by the thousands. They're leaving our country. And then when they come back, we take them back.

"Oh, come on back. Where were you?"

"I was fighting for ISIS."

TRUMP: Oh, come on back, go home, enjoy yourself. We have to be tough. We have to be smart. We have to be vigilant.

Yes, we have to look at mosques, and we have to respect mosques. But yes, we have to look at mosques. We have no choice. We have to see what's happening. Because something is happening in there. Man, there's anger. There's anger. And we have to know about it.


BLITZER: With us in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, our CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp; our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; and our senior political reporter: Nia-Malika Henderson.

Nia, you've been talking to a lot of Republicans today. What are they saying about these latest Trump comments?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've heard some of the broad condemnation from everyone from governors to party chairs in the first three states. And now Republicans are saying sort of now what? What's next? Not only for Donald Trump in terms of whether or not he survives this, but also what does the party do in terms of perhaps trying to, you know, coalesce around an establishment candidate to blunt some of his appeal and force and dominance in this race.

But again, I think they are torn between on the one hand condemning them, but knowing he has an audience that's part of the Republican Party that likes to hear what he has to say and at some point, they will try to appeal to those people.

BLITZER: He's a frontrunner not only in our new poll in New Hampshire, our poll yesterday in Iowa and nationally by far. He's the front runner.

The -- it's interesting the Republican Party chairman, S.E., Reince Priebus, he came out with a statement today, saying he doesn't agree with Donald Trump, like a lot of other Republicans.

CUPP: Right.

BLITZER: Trump later sent out this tweet, saying, "A new poll indicates that 68 percent of my supporters would vote for me if I departed the GOP and ran as an independent." The timing of that was a little intriguing. Wasn't it?

S.E. CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this is process stuff, but people should understand -- people at home should understand that the RNC does not often comment on what candidates say. Reince Priebus and the RNC have come out a number of times to comment on things that Donald Trump has said. That's a big deal.

So I think they've been pretty aggressive in trying to, you know, separate Donald Trump from the rest of the herd.

What's interesting is a lot of the reason that Trump is doing so well is because of some very well-intentioned changes that were made in 2012. So that we didn't have another 2012. Moving the primaries, moving the convention up, making it a shorter primary season, he's been able to exploit that. So he's able to possibly win the nomination with just 25 percent, 30 percent of the vote.

So what the Republicans are now talking about is whether a couple people should drop out. I mean, there's too many people in this field, and it's almost impossible to compete with him if he just needs a plurality.

BLITZER: He's also sort of implicitly threatening the Republican leadership. "You know what? I can always run as a third-party candidate." That's a nightmare for the Republicans, because potentially, that could guarantee the Democratic candidates, if it's Hillary Clinton.

CUPP: That's the existential crisis within the party. He is going to damage our brand if he has -- if he gets the nomination, for years and years and years. Do we want that fallout? Or do we want a definite loss, because he runs as a third party?

[17:45:04] That's our crisis right now.

BLITZER: You've been looking, Jeffrey, into the law as far as Trump's latest comments about, if he were president, could he legally keep Muslims out of the United States on a temporary basis even -- what have you learned?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, we're doing all this analysis of what he -- what it means what he says. How about just looking at what he says? And what he says is that he wants to keep Muslims out of the country.

No public figure in American history, at least to my knowledge, has proposed anything that is so obviously unconstitutional. It is unconstitutional under several different parts of the Constitution. Freedom of religion, equal protections of the law, no religious test.

CUPP: You got that right.

TOOBIN: So in the extremely unlikely event he could get such a law passed by Congress, any federal judge in the country and all nine Supreme Court justices would certainly vote to declare it unconstitutional to say nothing of his apparent new interest in shutting down parts of the Internet.

BLITZER: We have more to discuss. Guys, don't go too far away.

Donald Trump may be saying more controversial things, but his numbers keep going up and up and up. We'll assess why, when we come back.


[17:50:45] BLITZER: Let's get back to our breaking political news. A new CNN-WMUR poll just released this hour shows Donald Trump crushing the competition in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. However, the poll was taken before Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration into the United States. We're back with our political team.

SE, let's take a closer look at this -- WMUR-CNN poll or as we call it the CNN-WMUR poll. Trump has gained six points since September. But look at this. Nearly six in 10 believe Trump will be the GOP nominee in the state. This is among Republicans in New Hampshire. Six in 10 believe he will be the nominee.

Do you believe he'll be the nominee?

CUPP: I don't. Look, I rule nothing out when it comes to Trump, but I don't. I think this is -- you know, when you look at the group of people within the Republican Party who are registered voters who answer a call from a pollster, it's actually a very small group of people within the party. And even pollsters are now saying that these national polls are really ineffective way of gauging a candidate's success.

So I don't think he'll be the nominee. But it's -- again, I'll say it again, if we keep continue to have 15 candidates, he doesn't need that many votes to be the nominee, and then we've got a real problem. So I would, you know, encourage some of our colleagues, my colleagues on the right to really consider whether these are, like, vanity projects or --

BLITZER: You want some of the Republican candidates to drop out?

CUPP: I do. Everything is so truncated now. Every day counts. So every day that, I won't name names, you know who you are. I will not. Every day longer that there -- you know, people who have no chance of winning are in this race is a day Donald Trump is winning.

BLITZER: In the same poll, New Hampshire Republicans, Nia, we asked who is best, the best Republican candidate to handle ISIS. Among Republicans, 33 percent said Trump. Bush was 11 percent, Christie, 9 percent, everybody else single digits. They really think Trump knows best how to handle ISIS.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In almost every sort of issue, he leads the other Republicans. The economy, it sort of makes sense because he's a businessman. On ISIS, on national security, on immigration, he's just ahead of the pack by double digits easily beating the competition.

I think, you know, there's a saying in politics that you govern in pros and you campaign in poetry. And he is very good at campaigning sort of in bumper sticker poetry in very sort of bold pronouncements, all based on his gut feeling about what he could do. And it's very convincing to a large swath of the party.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, the words the White House used today addressing Trump's latest comments among other words, incendiary, morally reprehensible, disqualifying, but as support continues to grow, does Trump speak to the base?

TOOBIN: He speaks to a lot of people in the Republican Party. I mean, I think -- people in the Republican Party support Donald Trump because they support Donald Trump. There's no sort of mystery secret sauce going on here. If you listen to what he says, it is very -- very similar to what highly rated talk shows say. You know, it's very similar to what Rush Limbaugh says.

You know, he is getting a very substantial portion, not a majority, but a very substantial portion of the Republican Party electorate in the various states that are coming up in primaries, as well as nationally because they support him. And I don't see anything that is going to happen that is going to change that. You know, we have spent our time talking about, he said a mean thing about John McCain, he said a mean thing about Megyn Kelly, his support is going to go away. It never goes away because people like him.

BLITZER: And he does speak to a very influential part of that Republican base. There's no doubt about that.

Guys, stand by. This important note to our viewers. Just one week from tonight, the final Republican presidential debate of the year. I'll be the moderator when the GOP candidates face-off in Las Vegas next Tuesday, December 15th.

By the way, do you have any questions for the candidates? You can submit your questions by going to and commenting on the top post there.

The breaking news continues. Up next, new information on the San Bernardino terror attack. Did the gunmen visit a nearby shooting range twice in the days before the massacre?

[17:55:07] Plus, ISIS losing ground as U.S. Special Operations Forces getting ready to move in. Is the ground war against the terrorist forces entering a new phase?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Global outrage, Donald Trump is refusing to back down from his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Critics from both parties and from around the world are accusing Trump of defying American values and being unqualified to be president.

Radical road. We have new information about when the San Bernardino attackers embraced the ideology of terrorist and surprising new details about their Facebook post pledging allegiance to ISIS.