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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Texas Congressman Michael McCaul; Chicago Protests; Mass Shooting Investigation. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired December 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: Allies in terror? Officials tell CNN that a friend who bought guns used by the San Bernardino killers was involved in an earlier attack plot with the gunman, Syed Farook. Did Enrique Marquez play a role in the holiday party massacre?
Radical romance. The FBI chief says the husband and wife killers were committed to jihad even before they started dating. Was their marriage arranged by ISIS?
Chicago fire. Protesters are pouring into the streets demanding the mayor's resignation after stunning shootings by police. An emotional Rahm Emanuel isn't stepping down. As night falls, will tensions rise?
And Trump's threat. In a brand-new CNN interview, he's once again raising the possibility that he would run for president as an independent. Will the firestorm over Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States lead him to bolt from the Republican Party?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If they don't treat me as the front-runner, by far the front-runner, if the playing field is not level, then certainly all options are open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: 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.
BLITZER: We're following several breaking stories right now.
In Chicago, we have been seeing large crowds of protesters in the streets calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign, this despite Emanuel's emotional public apology for the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager.
Also breaking now, officials say the gunman in the San Bernardino attack was involved in an earlier terror plot along with a friend. CNN has learned Syed Farook's former neighbor Enrique Marquez told investigators about a 2012 plot that the two men allegedly hatched, but never carried out. Marquez bought two rifles that were used in the shooting massacre a week ago.
And in the presidential race, Donald Trump is renewing his threat to run as an independent candidate, as top Republicans blast his new proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Trump sat down with CNN's Don Lemon just a little while ago to defend his controversial plan.
A leading Republican, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, he is here with us this hour. And our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by to cover all the breaking news.
Up first, let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, what are your sources telling you about this earlier attack plot?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, officials we have been speaking with say Farook's friend Enrique Marquez told investigators he and Farook planned to launch an attack inside California three years ago. They never carried it out, but it shows just how far back Farook was radicalized.
BROWN (voice-over): Investigators now believe long before the attack in San Bernardino, Syed Farook may have plotted with his friend and former neighbor Enrique Marquez to carry out an attack in California in 2012.
They apparently picked a specific target, but got spooked by a round of terror-related arrests in the area and abandoned their plans. Marquez told investigators he purchased two AR-15 assault weapons in 2011 and 2012 that were later used by Farook in the San Bernardino attacks. Marquez has not been charged with any crime and maintains he knew nothing of the plan to launch last week's attack.
He checked himself into a mental health facility soon after. Sources says Marquez also told investigators he and Farook were on the path to radicalization as early as 2011. Today, FBI James Comey said Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, became radicalized before they started dating online several years ago.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: As early as the end of 2013, they were talking to each about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged.
BROWN: Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2013 when he met his Pakistan-born bride and eventually bringing her into the U.S. in 2014 on what is called a fiancee visa.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is there any evidence this marriage was arranged by a terrorist organization or terrorist operative?
COMEY: I don't know the answer to that yet.
GRAHAM: Do you agree with me that if it was arranged by a terrorist operative organization, that is a game changer?
COMEY: It would be a very, very important thing to know.
BROWN: And we have learned that Farook's parents have been placed on a terror watch list following this attack, standard operating procedure in an investigation like this.
Authorities have questioned why they didn't speak up if they suspected their son was radicalized, especially the mother who lived with the couple, but neither of them have been charged with any crimes, Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela, thank you.
With terror fears front and center right now, furious lawmakers hammered the defense secretary, Ash Carter, about questions involving failures in the war against ISIS.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is with us now.
It was a pretty combative hearing, I understand, Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Combative and contentious, indeed, Wolf.
Ash Carter tried to talk about what is happening and he talked about asking the European and the Arab partners for more help, but what the senators wanted to know is, how is the military strategy going to keep America safe?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This morning, our hearts are with the loved ones of the 224 people killed aboard a Russian airliner over Egypt, of the 43 people killed in bombings in Beirut, of the 130 people killed in Paris and of the 14 people killed in San Bernardino.
BROWN (voice-over): A role call of ISIS attacks. Defense Secretary Ash Carter admitting, in contrast to the president's words just weeks ago, that ISIS is not contained.
MCCAIN: How are we to know, believe that we are succeeding against ISIL?
ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that we are building momentum against ISIL.
BROWN: Senators say that's just not good enough.
SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R), ALASKA: Assume there is a Paris-like attack. Would you go back to the president saying keep the same strategy? CARTER: Well, look, Senator, if I had more to recommend to him
to accelerate the defeat of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, I would be doing it now.
BROWN: Carter did say the U.S. would provide Apache helicopters and on-the-ground advisers to help the Iraqis retake the city of Ramadi. But senators directly making the point homeland security depends on liberating Raqqa, Syria, ISIS' self-declared capital, a symbol of its power to attract followers around the world.
MCCAIN: There is no plan, no strategy to retake Raqqa. And I think it's pretty obvious to all that as long as they have a caliphate base, then they are able to orchestrate attacks such as they have successfully achieved in the last several weeks.
BROWN: Raqqa now under heavy assault from Russian missile strikes and bombings. Russian President Vladimir Putin saying he hopes he won't have to ever use nuclear-tipped weapons. Moscow is already increasing the number of anti-air weapon systems in Western Syria, making it a no-fly zone for U.S. aircraft.
GEN. PAUL SELVA, VICE CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: They installed sure vase to air missiles around Aleppo and worked with Syrian partners and the Syrian partners now have their radars active, which they didn't have just a few weeks ago.
BROWN: An administration official tonight tells CNN that a small number of U.S. special operations forces now are out of Northern Syria. They went in several days ago and they came out. They were there scouting locations for future operations -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr with the latest from the Pentagon, thank you.
Let's talk about the breaking news on terror with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: The FBI director, James Comey, you heard him say at least in part they now believe this terror attack in California was inspired by ISIS, but is it more than just inspired? Is there any evidence to suggest it was actually organized or directed by ISIS?
MCCAUL: Well, I think that's the ultimate question.
Malik, the black widow, if you will, what was she doing in Pakistan before she went to Saudi Arabia to apply for this fiancee visa? We do know after exploitation of the computer devices, that both of them had radicalized before they met on the Internet. And once they talked on the Internet, they talked about jihad.
They met in Saudi Arabia, went to the pilgrimage around the hajj, and then Mr. Farook decided to bring her back as his fiancee.
BLITZER: You're talking about the computers, the tablets that were found in the home partially destroyed that have now been reviewed by the FBI at Quantico and they have discovered important information on those tablets, those computers, right?
And I think the good news is they attempted to destroy all this unsuccessfully. And so now we're exploiting that forensically to find out what the plot was, both prior to San Bernardino, and what was happening prior to them meeting.
And I think that's the unanswered question, as you saw the Senate ask the questions about, was she a planned operative by al Qaeda or ISIS to come over on a fiancee visa into the United States to carry out a terrorist event?
BLITZER: Was she?
MCCAUL: That's the unanswered question. Tomorrow, the House will have a classified briefing by the FBI director, secretary of homeland security.
BLITZER: And at that point, maybe they will know more about whether or not she was, what some are calling an ISIS bride, if you will.
She was jihad, just whether in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. He was radicalized out in California. And they met online, or somebody told them to meet online. And she came here with the intention of killing, is that...
MCCAUL: Correct. And we want to know if this is more than just online dating. Is there something more of a conspiracy behind this with respect to this being ISIS-directed?
We do know that she went to a school in Pakistan that has been reported to be a -- for -- somewhat radicalized madrasas, if you will, and that's something we're very interested in. And, tomorrow, we look forward to hearing about -- more about the computer forensics.
BLITZER: Tashfeen Malik, that's the woman, the wife, she actually got this fiancee visa to come to the United States because her husband, a U.S. citizen born in Chicago, Syed Farook. She was interviewed, I understand, by U.S. consular officials in Pakistan before she got that visa. What can you tell us about that?
MCCAUL: It's another security question. She was interviewed by ICE officials, by State Department. They
do a national security background check. And my question in an oversight capacity is, how thorough was that oversight or that national security investigation?
I think there are many things in her background that will come up as flags and warning signs that should have prevented her from getting this type of visa.
BLITZER: Because the person-to-person, the actual interview that she had in Pakistan to get that visa, that fiancee visa, you're suggesting was, what, inadequate?
MCCAUL: I think that's the big question is what took place during this interview? What information came out of that? What questions were asked?
BLITZER: Have you received the documentation from the State Department?
MCCAUL: No, we have not. And we will receive that in the briefing tomorrow, but those are questions I'm going to have, is, what information came out?
And how thorough, Wolf, was this -- the questioning? And it raises the issue with visas in general. National security background checks, should we expand the authorities in terms of how thorough these checks are?
BLITZER: If she got this fiancee visa to come to the United States with the direct intention to work with what turned out to be her husband to go ahead and plot some attacks against Americans, and it was all organized or arranged by ISIS or some other terrorist group, Lindsey Graham asked the FBI director, James Comey, that potentially could be a game changer.
MCCAUL: Well, because then that means that ISIS is directing operatives to get visas through a fiancee visa in this case to come into the United States to conduct terrorist operations.
Right now, the director is saying it's inspired. But we really don't know all the answers until we have gone through all the computers and all the forensics.
BLITZER: Chairman McCaul, I want you to stand by. I want to get into the whole issue of encrypted communications, other new developments that are emerging right now.
Much more with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee when we come back.
BLITZER: We're back with the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Mike McCaul.
We're following the breaking news, official now telling CNN that the San Bernardino gunman, Syed Farook, and his friend, Enrique Marquez, plot an attack back in 2012, but they never actually carried it out. Marquez is the guy who bought two rifles used in last week's shooting rampage in California.
He's not been charged with any crime.
What can you tell us about this plot in 2012 that was never carried out for some reason?
MCCAUL: Well, my understanding is another plot was thwarted by the FBI that were associated with Mr. Farook and his associate that is now under investigation as part of the conspiracy as well.
And I think what happened was, once that takedown occurred...
BLITZER: It had nothing to do with these two guys?
MCCAUL: Well, we don't know that quite yet. And we will get more at the briefing tomorrow.
MCCAUL: But Mr. Farook and his associate who sold him the two AR-15s, I think, were spooked and backed down from that 2012 plot.
BLITZER: Were they engaged, the killers, in encrypted communications?
MCCAUL: At this point in time, we don't know.
But I would not be surprised, Wolf. As you reported early, the Garland, Texas, case involved over 100 encrypted messages to Junaid Hussain out of Raqqa, Syria, and just last week, this last week, ISIS now has developed their own encrypted app.
This is a serious issue for the FBI, for Homeland Security, for law enforcement. If you can't see what the terrorists are communicating, you can't stop that threat.
BLITZER: So this is a major development. If ISIS has its own encrypted app right now that allows its supporters, sympathizers to communicate, that's certainly something that would be hard to penetrate by the FBI or the NSA or U.S. law enforcement.
MCCAUL: Well, and, in fact, if we have a court order, a Title 3 wiretap, FISA, we still can't see the communications.
So, if someone in Raqqa is talking to someone in New York or Washington or Paris or Belgium, if you can't see what they are saying, you can't stop that act of terrorism. So, when they say there is no specific and credible information of a plot in the United States, it's hard to know that if you can't see what they are saying. BLITZER: So, if ISIS has its own app for encrypted
communications, then these sympathizers or terrorists, they don't have to go to Google or Facebook or some other U.S. Internet company to get online, if you will, and use this encrypted communication technique.
MCCAUL: Correct. And we have no legal jurisdiction over this.
And this is actually a very frightening development, because it allows them to freely communicate without our ability to intercept.
BLITZER: That's a huge new development, because James Comey, the FBI director, has told me personally his biggest fear now, ISIS represents the major threat to the U.S. homeland, but the encrypted communications is a nightmare for the FBI.
MCCAUL: I agree with the director.
BLITZER: Completely. So you're satisfied with the way he's conducting the FBI's operations right now?
MCCAUL: Yes, I think Comey is doing a phenomenal job stopping over 70 followers, arresting them, 1,000 investigations in 50 states.
And he's onto this encryption issue. I think what we're trying to find is a technology solution to this very grave threat to the United States.
BLITZER: What's the theory now, why these two killers, husband and wife, actually went a week ago to that Christmas party and started killing people? They wound up killing 14 people, wounding 21 others.
MCCAUL: There are a lot of theories.
They basically had a pipe bomb factory in their garage. They had AR-15s, a lot of weapons, you know, thousands of rounds of ammunition. There are some theories that they got into an altercation at this party, came back with the weapons, decided to target the party.
There is speculation there may have been other targets that they were focused on prior to that holiday party.
BLITZER: But they are looking for other people who may have been part of this alleged plot? Is that what you're -- what I'm hearing?
MCCAUL: I think the main individuals you point out in your reporting is this individual Enrique, who was his associate back in 2012.
BLITZER: Are there others they're looking at right now too?
MCCAUL: I can't get into the net of the conspiracy at this point in time.
BLITZER: I raise the question because family members, the mother, for example, of the guy Syed Farook, she was actually living with them, so there is some suspicion maybe the parents, brothers or sisters, others may have known what was going on. Is that being investigated?
MCCAUL: They are obviously being investigated. They're looked at. They're being questioned as I speak.
It goes to a greater issue, Wolf, of identifying radicalization signs and then reporting it to authorities. In every one of these cases, whether it be San Bernardino, whether it be Chattanooga, Garland, all these cases have early warning signs.
The Boston bomber, early warning signs, got kicked out of the mosque for being so radical, and yet those were never reported to authorities. And that's why, I think, you know, seeing the early warning signs so is important to stopping it.
BLITZER: And very quickly, you believe that ISIS today represents a bigger threat to the U.S. homeland than al Qaeda did under bin Laden; is that right?
MCCAUL: I do, because they have a governing territory. They have exploited social media well beyond what bin Laden could do with caves and couriers.
And with 200 ISIS tweets per day, they have basically permeated society in a global way over the Internet, which is caused -- from 100 different countries, 30,000 foreign fighters going to Iraq and Syria, 5,000 of them with Western passports to get into the United States without a visa, which is why we passed the visa waiver bill that we passed in Congress yesterday.
BLITZER: You didn't even mention the vast amount of land, the size of the state of Indiana, and the more than $1 billion that they have collected. They are the richest terror group in history as well.
MCCAUL: And we have to stop the energy, these oil tankers driving into Turkey. We have got to stop giving leaflets in advance to warn them in advance.
BLITZER: Do you think Turkey is complicit?
MCCAUL: I can't say that for sure, but there are certainly -- there are issues regarding Turkey and whether or not they're profiting off this.
BLITZER: It's a serious problem. The president of the United States has mentioned that as well.
Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, thanks for coming in.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more on the possibility that the San Bernardino killers had their marriage arranged by terrorists. Our terror experts are digging for new information right now.
Plus, Donald Trump, he's talking today to CNN as he sends shockwaves through the Republican Party once again. We will take a look at the potential damage to the GOP.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, new evidence that the San Bernardino attackers had terrorist ambitions for years.
Officials tell CNN that the husband, Syed Farook, plotted another attack in California back in 2012 allegedly with the help of his friend Enrique Marquez. Marquez is the same man who bought two used that two rifles that were used in last week's shooting massacre.
Also breaking, FBI Director James Comey says Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were radicalized on their own as early as 2013 before they even starting dating online. He says they bonded over talk involving jihad and martyrdom.
Let's bring in our justice reporter Evan Perez, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, our national security analyst Peter Bergen, and our CNN contributor Michael Weiss. He's a senior editor at The Daily Beast.
Evan, you're getting new information. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning that the FBI has been able to glean a lot more information from the communications of Farook and his wife.
As you remember, they tried their best to try to hide tracks, their electronic tracks. They smashed two cell phones that were found in a garbage can outside their home when the FBI searched it. The FBI has not been able to break into that device, nor have they been able to recover a hard drive from a computer found inside the home. However, they have been able to retrieve data from a computer tablet and from a couple of other cell phones that were found inside the home.
The FBI also has access to data that's been collected by intelligence agencies. As you know, the U.S. intelligence is able to collect a lot of information of communications overseas. And they've also been able to get some from providers from accounts that these people were able to use.
That's one reason why the FBI director at this hearing today in the Senate talked about these specific communications that date back to the late 2013, in which Farook and his future bride were discussing jihad and martyrdom, and that's one of the reasons why they believe the radicalization began as far back as then.
BLITZER: Which raises, Tom, a lot of questions about how she could get this fiance visa. She got this K-1 fiance visa to come to the United States and marry him. Even though she was radicalized before and he was radicalized before. She was interviewed by U.S. consular officials in Pakistan. Apparently, no red flags emerged. It looks like a major failure there.
FUENTES: I think, first of all, Wolf, it's hard to know what she's thinking. But you know, that whole process for years has been geared against arranged marriages, predominantly by organized crime bringing people in to get married and then they get divorced and now they're on the both to citizenship.
So there's a strong element to prove the relationship. And you furnish copies of your e-mails, copies of your photographs together, showing that you are dating, showing that you do have a relationship, other people's affidavits that they know you have to have that relationship.
So if they're send e-mails to each other about jihad, I don't think that's what they furnished to the USCIS as part of the relationship, but then you go through that process, then it goes to state to the counselor office. Then when you go through passport control at Chicago O'Hare in this case, there's another interview with the passport officer, where you have the package, your package that you hand carry and your K-1 visa and they don't have to let you in. If that passport control officer in Chicago would have said, "You know what? I still don't think this is good enough," he could reject...
PEREZ: There was two layers of DHS checks on this woman, including a check against FBI databases. Obviously, she was not in those databases, and that's one reason why it wasn't flagged.
BLITZER: You know, Michael, given what we know about ISIS and how closely they watch you as policy and behavior, is what we saw in San Bernardino the way ISIS would try to attack again?
WEISS: Sure. I mean, I think in this case, Wolf, they got lucky. Right? I mean, this couple, they were self-radicalized going way before the establishment of the so-called caliphate, they had trafficked in the milieu of other jihadist ideologies, not just the one put out by ISIS or its predecessor al Qaeda in Iraq.
But yes, the geopolitical situation is a gift to ISIS, as I've been saying for months. The fact that they have a state in advertikamas (ph) in the Middle East is a form of their declaration of victory against the west.
So in a sense, when the guys in Raqqah and Mosul go to sleep at night, they have that kind -- have a lupine smile on their faces, because they know that there are going to be people who are inspired to carry out these attacks without any kind of command and control coming from ISIS H.Q. And, you know, this is this sort of a saturation effect. I called it an invisible army of jihadis. And then they'll simply just take credit for it, and it redowns to the international brand of ISIS.
BLITZER: Peter, was this a terror marriage, as some are now calling it, organized by ISIS or some other terror group? BERGEN: Well, you know, when they first encountered each other,
ISIS didn't exist, right? So it wasn't organized by ISIS. And in fact, there's no evidence so far of any terrorist organization that got these people together. They seem, from what we know, to have sort of online romance that was talking about jihad and general sense but not organized by some group.
BLITZER: All right. I want everybody to stand by, because we're getting more information, as well. Stand by for that.
Also, stand by for Donald Trump. He's just spoken to CNN about the firestorm over his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Is he really open to running as an independent third- party candidate or is he making threats to scare the Republican establishment?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Are you going to break this pledge?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's highly unlikely unless they break the pledge to me.
BLITZER: Breaking tonight, Donald Trump is firing back at top Republicans condemning his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. His weapon: he's renewing his threat to bolt the party and run for president as an independent candidate.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, has more on the controversy and Trump's new interview with CNN. What's the latest, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump stood his ground today. Now, he's still using that potential independent bid as leverage, but for now it's premature, because he's the solid Republican frontrunner. But this Republican Party is at a crossroads, many leaders fear heading toward a crisis if Trump's rhetoric divides the party and turns off voters.
ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump is on a roll, so far an unstoppable one.
TRUMP I'm leading every single poll and nationwide, I'm leading in every one of them. So obviously, I'm very happy where I am.
ZELENY: And that's precisely what worries many Republicans. The GOP ranks are rattled over Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, afraid it could cost Republicans the White House and threaten their congressional majority.
Republican Nikki Haley, the first Indian-American governor of South Carolina, said Trump's comments were damaging to the GOP. GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's just an embarrassment
to the Republican Party. I mean, it's absolutely un-American. It's unconstitutional and defies everything this country was based on and is just wrong.
ZELENY: Trump pushed back, saying some of his fellow Republicans were grandstanding.
TRUMP: I'm leading by a lot. They get it. They're trying to get publicity for themselves. You know, when I came out against illegal immigration, everybody thought the same thing. Two weeks later, everybody was on my side, including the members of my own party.
ZELENY: The international outcry also intensified. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today he rejects Trump's plan to block Muslims. Trump is set to meet with Netanyahu later this month in Jerusalem. This prime minister is now facing pressure to cancel the meeting.
On the campaign trail today, rival Republicans hope the fallout will loosen Trump's grip on the race.
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Trump is not a serious person. He's not a serious candidate. He's inflammatory, and he makes the task of the next president a lot harder.
ZELENY: Republican leaders across the country fear Trump at the top of the ticket could doom their party.
MATT BORGES, OHIO GOP CHAIRMAN: We're going to have to distance ourselves from this kind of messaging. It's not going to help us win the general election in November. We wouldn't win Ohio with that kind of message.
ZELENY: Yet some Republicans are also unwilling to agitate Trump, fearful of him running as a third-party candidate, a possibility he raised again today with CNN's Don Lemon.
LEMON: Are you going to break this pledge?
TRUMP: I think it's highly unlikely unless they break the pledge to me, because it's a two-way street.
ZELENY: Trump also can be a sore loser. He lost a different kind of contest today as "TIME" magazine's Person of the Year, awarded to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It prompted Trump to tweet this: "I told you 'TIME' magazine would never pick me as Person of the Year despite being the big favorite. They picked the person who is ruining Germany."
ZELENY: Now that was classic Trump, hardly a gracious moment.
Now when you talk to Republican leaders, like the Ohio state chairman, they worry Trump could damage the party's chances of holding onto the Senate and, of course, winning the White House. But Trump supporters have been nothing but loyal. They're far more likely to follow him than party leaders, and that loyalty could help him win a Republican Party -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff. Stand by. I also want to bring in, by the way, you can see Don Lemon's full interview with Donald Trump later tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Let's bring in our CNN senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson; and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, as well.
Gloria, this threat that Trump has now made once again to potentially run as a third-party candidate, how serious is that?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think everyone has to take it seriously if you're in the Republican Party. There's not anything they can do about it, however.
He keeps quoting polls that show that 68 percent of his supporters support him, would vote for him as an independent candidate. But I was talking to a Republican who's not aligned with any campaign today, Wolf, and he said to me, "Look, the estimates are that to get on the ballot as an independent, it would cost you somewhere between 50 and 100 million dollars."
Now, there's no doubt Trump has that money. The question is whether Trump would want to spend that money on what would essentially be a vanity campaign, because all he would do was to hand the election to the Democratic nominee.
BLITZER: The one Republican presidential candidate, Nia, really hasn't denounced Trump's plan in very strong, forceful words is Ted Cruz. Why is that?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think Ted Cruz has seen this campaign so far and seen what happens when people attack Trump. The people that have done that have either dropped out at this point or they've plummeted in the polls.
He also knows that there's an overlapping constituency between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. He needs those voters if he's to win Iowa. He needs evangelicals. He needs people who want to hardline on immigration, as well. So it doesn't do him again any good to attack Trump. I think at some point he'll have to get tougher on Trump if he wants to steal those voters away.
BLITZER: He is tapping into something as far as a lot of the Republican base is concerned. There was a poll that came out in the aftermath of the San Bernardino attacks, an AP survey that showed 54 percent of Americans say the U.S. takes in too many people from the Middle East. So he's tapping into that.
ZELENY: He's definitely tapping into that. That's why he's doing it. Everything Donald Trump has done, he knows that there is a market for this here and, of course, there is. This is not new at this moment of history.
There has always been an element of fear of the unknown, fear of the outsiders. We've seen this repeat itself through history. But I do not believe that it is the majority view inside this Republican Party or across the board here.
So I think when I talked to Donald Trump supporters as I did most recently at the rally in South Carolina when he first announced this. Some of them are absolutely strongly behind him. Others think the rhetoric is a bit too strong but they're totally fine with, he's just saying these things now, we still see him as a strong leader here. So, that's what they really like. They see him as a strong leader who's not tied to Washington.
BLITZER: If the polling in the coming days shows that he's got a significant support as a result of this plan to ban Muslims from coming into the United States at least temporary, will other Republicans follow his lead as they have on other sensitive issues earlier?
BORGER: Well, look, they've already just recently, most of them, aside from Cruz, come out on the record saying, I disagree. I mean, Jeb Bush called them unhinged. It's kind of hard to then turn around and take that back.
I mean, at this point, they are kind of on the ledge and there is no way to come back from it.
I think, look, they all understand the appeal of Donald Trump that he's a political opportunist. He understands the Republican electorate and the base, and I fully expect that his poll numbers will go up. There seems to be nothing they can do about it other than to differentiate themselves.
And I think one of the things they haven't really honed in on yet, with some Republicans are talking about is the attack on Donald Trump as not a real Republican. It hasn't worked so far, but I think you're going to start hearing it again. Maybe at your debate, Wolf, that's coming up, because this is one area they think is really legitimate to mind, that he was a Democrat --
ZELENY: And he's tied to the Clintons like that is already starting, is he a plant for the Clintons.
BLITZER: The conspiracy theory.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right, that he's not a real conservative.
BORGER: You're going to hear more of it.
BLITZER: You got to give the guy credit, he's doing amazingly well despite all of the controversial things he said.
HENDERSON: That's right, and I do think as much as there is a search for critique of him that will win, there is also, I think, among some people a competition for what does Trump light look like. In some ways, it's Ted Cruz but even Rand Paul just recently came out and said maybe it makes sense to have a moratorium on people come into the country that are from, you know, countries where terrorism exists. And those, of course, are mostly Muslim majority country. So, I think there is sort of a battle going on there between the total anti-Trump and then Trump light.
BLITZER: Lest we forget, there is a Democratic presidential contest going on.
BORGER: There is?
BLITZER: We have a brand new poll just released today, it shows Hillary Clinton still ten points behind Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire right now, but doing a little bit better than back in September. September she was a 30 percent Bernie Sanders at 46 percent. Now, Sanders is 50 percent. She's at 40 percent.
Her supporters say, remember New Hampshire is next door to Vermont.
ZELENY: It is next door to Vermont and also, the New Hampshire voter is like Bernie Sanders not just proximity but state of mind. They really like the fact he's not tied to Wall Street. They like the fact that he has a populist agenda here.
So, the Clinton campaign is not all that competent in New Hampshire at all. Of course, you want it in 2008, but I think that it's much more difficult this time. Now, the question is, what does that mean? If they would lose New Hampshire, it might actually rally supporters behind her and shows she actually has a competition here. But, of course, they would like to win.
But in Iowa, even though she's ahead by some 18 percentage point, her supporters believe that this is a much, much tighter contest here, and sometimes voters like to give front runners a little bit of, you know, humility. So, we'll see what happens here.
BLITZER: A little heart burn.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much.
This important note, we're only six days away from 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.
Do you have questions for the candidates? Submit your questions by going to facebook.com/CNN and commenting on the top post.
Breaking news next, protesters shutting down parts of downtown Chicago tonight, demanding the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel over excessive police force. We're going there live.
[18:53:47] BLITZER: We are following breaking news today, a day of angry protests on the streets of downtown Chicago. The demonstrators are demanding that the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, resign because of recently disclosed incidents of excessive force by the Chicago police.
Today, the mayor told the city council that since the problem came to light during his administration, I'm quoting him now, "I own it." He says it is his responsibility to fix it, but the demonstrators say they will be back on the streets until the mayor quits.
Joining us now the president and the CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks. Also joining us, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin and former federal prosecutor, our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin.
He says it is a defining moment, Cornell, on the issues of crime and policing, even larger issues of truth, justice and race. He says he is sorry, the mayor. Is that enough?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, NAACP PRESIDENT & CEO: It is not enough. Here is the reality: his apology may well be heartfelt, but the issue here is it community felt in terms of deeds, in terms of action, in terms of reform.
The fact of the matter is we have a police department which is a leader, if you will, in the Black Lives Matter less movement. We have a police department, 10,000 complaints filed, 19 of which responded to with disciplinary action.
[18:55:02] Eighty-five percent of those complaints were addressed without the victim or the complainant being spoken to.
BLITZER: So, are you calling on him to resign?
BROOKS: What we are calling for is reform, because the fact of the matter is, if we focus on a change in personalities only, it can obscure the depth and the breadth of the problem.
BLITZER: What do you want him to do?
BROOKS: We want him -- for example, he doesn't have to wait for the resolution of the Department of Justice's pattern and practice investigation to do something about the fact that you don't have a true civilian review board, when you have a police -- independent police authority that does not investigate complaints. He could bring about reform tomorrow.
He has already gotten rid of the person in charge, the superintendent, but he needs to actually address the process to investigation.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Cornell.
Sunny, as you know, have been calls for the Department of Justice to extend its investigation into the police department to Rahm Emanuel's office, the Cook County state's attorney office. Should that be done?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I'm not sure. I think generally when you see those kind of pattern and practice investigations, Wolf, you see them in the realm of police departments across the country as opposed to, let's say prosecutor's offices and city hall. But we did see a full-scale investigation into the practices in Ferguson and I think that that report was really -- effected incredible change when it came to Ferguson.
So, I think it's possible that an additional probe may be had with the Justice Department, but I'm just not certain that that is the route that the Justice Department will go.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's controversial comments, Jeffrey, today. A case involving affirmative action at the University of Texas. And he said there, the transcript has been released, suggesting maybe African-American students should not go to a school like the University of Texas but to a letters school, if you will, where they might do better in those -- in those classrooms.
What's the reaction to these comments?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANLAYST: Well, he is actually referring to something very specific. He is referring to a theory that has been put forward to the court. It's actually in a brief that was put forward to the court that basically says if you look at say the scientists who are African-American, a disproportionate number come from the so-called lesser schools.
So, what he is saying, and what the authors of this brief are saying, it's better if they go to the lesser school than to the top school in the system, the University of Texas in autopsies.
Needless to say, it is a very controversial theory. A lot of people disagree with it. A lot of people are offended by it, but it is not something he simply made up on the spot that was -- that he just wanted to disparage African-Americans.
BLITZER: Cornell, what is your reaction?
BROOKS: He may well be citing a theory, but it is, in fact, a theory. There are other studies which suggest otherwise in terms of African-Americans doing well at elite universities. And so, the point being here is a member of the Supreme Court patronizing and being condescending with respect to the well being of African-Americans in elite institutions is really quite sad.
The fact of the matter is affirmative action in this country has made a tremendous difference.
Now, here's what I note. The justice did not talk about the affirmative action extended to elite athletes or to musicians or to the sons and daughters of alumni -- of alums. He didn't speak to that, whether or not they would, in fact, do better at lesser schools, or as he put it, slower schools. I'm not sure what the reasoning --
BLITZER: Generating lot -- get to you weigh in, Sunny, as well. What do you think?
HOSTIN: I'm just horrified by it. I'm offended by it personally, because the bottom line is that argument is beneath, I think, the court. We are talking about the Supreme Court here that will sort at the forefront of changing education in our country. Brown versus Board of Education, when you have a Supreme Court justice in a sense almost espousing this theory that even if it was in a brief, I just think is shameful. I was really shocked by it. I didn't believe that those were his words until I found otherwise. And I think many people should be offended by that position.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, very quickly, there's a lot of people who suspect this Supreme Court will effectively do away with affirmative action in higher education. What do you think?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, as so often the case, it really does seem to come down to Anthony Kennedy. Four justices are clearly supportive. Four justices are clearly opposed to affirmative action. And Anthony Kennedy, on this more than any other issue, has really sort of controlled the outcome of the court. He has said some is permissible, some is not. We will all be looking for what he does in this case.
BLTIZER: We certainly will.
All right. Jeffrey, Sunny, Cornell William Brooks, thanks to all of you for joining us.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.