Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

FBI Searching Lake for Shooters' Hard Drive; Did Shooters Use Encrypted Communications?; New Poll Shows 57 Percent Disagree with Donald Trump on Muslims; Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 10, 2015 - 17:00   ET

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


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: -- tell CNN that General Joe Votel, currently the head of Special Operations command, is the leading contender to be nominated by President Obama, possibly to take over heading all U.S. military operations in the Middle East -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks so much.

That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:25] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Underwater search, FBI divers combing a lake in San Bernardino near the scene of that terror attack as investigators now reveal ties between Syed Rizwan Farook and a convicted terrorist who is from the area, an al Qaeda recruiter. Did his arrest lead Farook to abandon an earlier plot?

Time bombs? A bag of explosive devices left behind by Farook before he returned with his wife to massacre 14 people. And tonight a first look inside the room and new questions about whether the bombs were meant to kill first responders.

Secret apps. Terror groups perfecting the use of encrypted communications that help them plot, recruit and send orders to cells around the world all undetected. Can ISIS now launch attacks in the United States by smartphone?

Hydrogen bomb. North Korea's Kim Jong-un intentionally let slip his alleged development of a thermonuclear weapon, hundreds of times more powerful than an atomic bomb. Has North Korea dramatically increased its capabilities, or is Kim trying to reclaim the world's spotlight?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The FBI now searching a lake right in San Bernardino near the site of that terror attack that killed 14 people. A law enforcement official tells CNN the search is connected to the shootings.

Investigators are still looking for that hard drive that was missing from a computer in the home of the killers. And we're also now learning details of Syed Rizwan Farook's ties to a

convicted terrorist recruiter. Officials tell CNN Farook was in the same social circle as the California man who helped radicalize others. That man was arrested for trying to travel to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda in 2012, around the same time investigators believe Farook abandoned another terror plot.

We're covering that, much more this hour with our guests, including Senator Mark Warner. He's just back from a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing. And our correspondents and our expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin in San Bernardino. CNN's Kyung Lah is working the breaking news for us.

Kyung, you're at that lake that's now being searched by the FBI. What's the latest?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a lake that's just a short drive away from that scene. Seen a couple of divers, two divers going into this manmade lake over the last couple of hours, looking for that evidence, crucial evidence. You can see they're just set up here at the edge. There's a tent. There are a number of people who look like they are getting ready to go into the water.

This just one of the latest developments in an ever-expanding investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (voice-over): Tonight, the FBI is looking into a connection between Syed Rizwan Farook and a convicted terrorist behind a 2012 terror plot. Authorities are looking at Farook's friendship with Sohiel Kabir, who recruited three other men in Riverside, California, to travel to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda. Kabir was sentenced earlier this year to 25 years in prison for his role in the plot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have several down in the conference room. Several down. Send medics quickly.

LAH: Federal authorities have not brought any charges against Farook's friend and former neighbor, Enrique Marquez, who bought two of the AR-15s used in the attack. Marquez told investigators he plotted with Farook back in 2012 but got spooked and abandoned their plans.

Investigators are also looking at whether Marquez's marriage to a woman who came from Russia in 2009 was a marriage only for immigration purposes.

Meanwhile, the FBI says Farook's wife, Tashfeen Malik, was radicalized years before coming to the U.S.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: As early as the end of 2013, they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged. LAH: And tonight as survivors share images from the Inland Regional

Center on the day of the attack, CNN has learned Farook left behind a bag of explosives before he left the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we have two suspects both inside the business.

LAH: Reuters also reporting Tashfeen Malik reached out to multiple Islamic militant groups in the months before the attack. The attempts were all ignored.

A law enforcement official tells CNN Syed Farook had at one point explored reaching out to al-Nusra and al-Shabaab. Members of Congress briefed by the FBI director say neighbors who live near the couple never reported any suspicious behavior, even though they saw things that raised red flags.

[17:05:11] REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: There were people who were aware of things, thought they were suspicious, but they did not want to be accused of being discriminatory and so on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: And back here live in San Bernardino, you can see one of the divers. He's making a very slow painstaking search, trying to see if there is any evidence here in this manmade lake. It is quite deep. One of the residents here says this is about 25 to 30 feet deep. It was emptied about three years ago. If they are going to try to go through this entire lake, Wolf, they are going to be here for some time.

BLITZER: Certainly are. Let's see what they find, if anything. Kyung Lah, thank you.

Let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez. Evan, you have new information about the search that's now going on as we speak. What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one of the things that they very much want to find is this hard drive that's missing from a computer at the home. It's one of the things that, if you recall, we've reported previously that FBI -- that the FBI has been trying to figure out where they -- where they went, whether they destroyed it or whether or not they just threw it away.

And so what we believe is the search here in this lake is about is other items perhaps, but certainly, one of the things on the top of the list is this hard drive for a computer that was found inside the home that might provide some more information about what these two were up to before the shooting.

BLITZER: What was the evidence leading up to the decision to go search the lake?

PEREZ: One of the things that they did find at the house, Wolf, was a tablet computer and a couple other cell phones. But there's still much of the electronic footprints, or fingerprints that they'd left behind that the FBI is still trying to put together. And so that is part of the search right now is to figure out whether or not there's a hard drive there or where it might be.

BLITZER: What about the other details you're now learning about what's described as these improvised explosive devices left inside that meeting room where the massacre occurred?

PEREZ: Well, you know, I can tell you, Wolf, the -- that day there were some of the first responders, some of the investigators actually walked into that room and did not notice the bag because, you know, they -- when you walk into the room, you saw obviously, there were bodies. There was blood. A lot of people ran out, left their belongings.

And so people did not initially know that this bag had been left by Farook. And now what we're told, the investigators have told family members of the victims and people who survived in a briefing, is that Farook left the bag before he left the room and then came back to carry out the shooting.

We know that the bag contained three pipe bombs that were tied together and were connected to a remote-control car. And the remote for that car was found inside the vehicle of the two suspects, of the two shooters. The belief by investigators is that they were trying to remote-control detonate that bag with the improvised explosives to try to kill those people in the room, Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on what's going on. Joining us, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's just back from a briefing.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: What can you tell us about the motivation or the inspiration for this mass murder?

WARNER: I think we're still trying to discover that. I can tell you this much coming from an all-senator briefing by Director Comey. And we're really lucky...

BLITZER: He's the FBI director.

WARNER: Really lucky to have him as the FBI director. He's a straight shooter. They're on this, combined with Homeland Security, other agencies. There are a lot of questions that still remain to be answered. Why do they have so many of the explosives? What did they do for those four hours in between the shooting and when they were -- when they were taken out? Were there other communications with other individuals? Questions that need to be answered, but I know the FBI's on it.

BLITZER: So do they suspect there's others at large? WARNER: I think they are...

BLITZER: Other cohorts?

WARNER: There is no indication at this point. But they will go through this in a methodical process, and we will get the answer.

BLITZER: What about those three pipe bombs that were left in that room where the massacre occurred? Did they brief you about that?

WARNER: Well, classified briefing. I think at an appropriate time the FBI will reveal what happened there. Thank goodness, though, those bombs were not exploded.

BLITZER: But is the indication now these guys, these two killers were inspired by ISIS or some other terror group? Or actually driven, instructed, coordinated by some group?

WARNER: Well, it's been reported there was some evidence of radicalization as much as four or five years ago. So I think this was inspired. I think it is why we need a more comprehensive approach on how we take care of what is becoming, unfortunately, this new normal.

BLITZER: Yesterday I spoke to Representative Adam Schiff of the house Intelligence Committee. He said the shooters had, in his words, certain operational security measures to avoid detection and impede any investigation. What can you share with us about that?

WARNER: One of the things we know is that ISIL is very good at propaganda. Anyone that has ever taken a look at the ISIL-inspired magazine called "Inspire," which lays out both tradecraft, ability to make bombs. This is a very sophisticated organization.

[17:10:15] And part of the way we have to counter this threat is by making sure that folks in the community are willing to step forward if they see something that is inappropriate. That oftentimes may mean community leaders. Folks are much more willing to respond to community leaders than necessarily government proclamations.

Why we need a concerted effort around countering propaganda,; one of the reasons why Mr. Trump's comments play so much against our national interests, in terms of adding fodder to the fire in terms of radicalization; why we need an approach in terms of reviewing the visa waiver program; why we need a better approach in terms of intel sharing. And we're going to have to take a serious look at this encryption issue. And then, obviously, the military issue in terms of...

BLITZER: But we know the husband and wife, they were brutal killers. But did they have some professional techniques, as far as evading detection that you know of?

WARNER: I'm not aware of that. I do know, again, the amount of information that you can find if you're a bad actor, find over the web and some of the propaganda and techniques that are put out through this "Inspire" magazine, pretty dangerous. BLITZER: Senator, we have more to discuss, including what's going on

right now. You saw the diver looking for that hard drive in that lake in San Bernardino. We're going to -- there's some live pictures coming in right now. We're going to see if they find that hard drive. They suspect maybe these killers threw that hard drive in that lake. They're looking. We'll have much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The breaking news this hour: new developments in the San Bernardino terror attack investigations. Take a look at these live pictures. FBI divers, they are searching a lake near the massacre site out in San Bernardino right now, possibly looking for what's being described as a hard drive that belonged to the killers. The suspicion is that hard drive may have been thrown into that lake. They're looking right now for that hard drive. We'll see what they find. Stay with us for that.

In the meantime we're back with Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. He's a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, you're part of this bipartisan group that wants to rethink that whole visa waiver program that allows people from friendly countries to come into the United States without a visa right now. Was this used -- or has it been used or do you believe it will be used as some sort of back door for terrorists, ISIS terrorists, among others, to sneak into the United States?

WARNER: Well, if we look at the terrorists in Europe, the folks who did the Paris attack, they all carried French or Belgium passports. We have a good relationship with European countries. We have open travel arrangements.

But as we've seen, and we don't know -- we know that 10 million Europeans traveled to Turkey last year, most for vacation, but we don't know how many actually went into the war zone. We're saying going forward, if you've been in the war zone, that ought to be a red flag and say you've got to go through a stricter level of scrutiny.

We've got to make sure that somebody doesn't use that European passport and come here too easily.

So the visa waiver program, one area that needs to be reviewed. We're going to -- House has already passed legislation. We're working on bipartisan legislation. We need to take a look, as well, at the so- called fiance visa. So how people come into the country, No. 1.

No. 2, we need to take a broader look at the whole propaganda efforts. ISIL, as we talked earlier before the break, very sophisticated. We've got to reach out into the community to make sure that people relay if they see bad things happening. That means we need the trust within the community.

Third thing is, we've got to also look at our intel. You know, one of the -- I was in technology before I was in politics. We've got to have better intel sharing between countries. But we really have to have a serious conversation about this end-to-end encryption challenge. That can't be just legislated alone in America. We have to take an approach that, frankly, is more global.

You know, look at -- Wolf, there's 1,500 new mobile apps a day put on the iTunes store. Most of those are encrypted. We have to have a full engaged conversation with the technology community on how we sort this through.

And then finally, we need a comprehensive military strategy. And ultimately, that is going to require the moderate rebels that we back in the region, forming some level of alliance, post-Assad with the regime forces to take out Assad -- take out ISIL from a military standpoint.

BLITZER: Based on everything you've heard -- and you're obviously well-briefed -- this marriage between Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, was this a terror-related marriage? That she was what some are calling an ISIS bride, deliberately sneaking into the United States, pretending to be married to this guy in order to go ahead and kill people?

WARNER: I have no indication of that.

BLITZER: What do you -- what is your suspicion? Why did she...

WARNER: I don't have a suspicion on that.

BLITZER: Because she apparently was radicalized back in Pakistan long before she came to the United States.

WARNER: I think one of the questions that need to be found out is, was that radicalization taking place in Pakistan? She grew up part of her life in Saudi Arabia. Where did that take place?

We also have to find out the male, when was he radicalized. So we need to get to the bottom of this particular event and tragedy.

But we also need to step back and say not, with some of the kind of demagogic language that some folks have been using, but let's have an approach in terms of how folks come to this country, in terms of the visa waiver program. How do we make sure we reach out into the community and have people report back if they see suspicious activities. And that's going to require trust. How we do a better job of intel sharing and really get these knotty questions around encryption.

And then we really do need this military strategy to take out ISIL on the ground in Syria and Iraq.

BLITZER: When you say on the ground, you want to send U.S. troops there?

WARNER: What I -- what I believe is the only way, with the stalemate we have between the Assad forces, the moderate rebels that we back and ISIL, the only way that I see us taking out ISIL would be some level of collaboration between the moderate forces and, post-Assad, some of the regime-backed forces.

Otherwise I see, unfortunately, a stalemate. We did see some good news today, Saudi Arabia got some of those moderate forces together and were trying to move them more against ISIL, as opposed to simply taking on the regime.

BLITZER: Senator Warner, thanks as usual for coming in.

WARNER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Warner of Virginia.

Coming up, the high-tech place where terrorists are making plans to kill. Stand by for an eye opening inside look into the world of secret encrypted communications.

Plus, an alarming new claim from North Korea's dangerous leader. Have Kim Jong-un's scientists developed a hydrogen bomb?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:49] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Take a look at these live pictures. FBI divers now searching a lake in a San Bernardino park that's near the site of last week's mass shooting. We're going to watch to see if they find that hard drive that they suspect may have been thrown into the water by those murderers.

Also today lawmakers coming out of a secret FBI briefing on the terror attacks. They're sounding alarms about the likelihood the husband and wife killers used encrypted communications to avoid detection. It wouldn't be the first time.

CNN's Brian Todd has new information on the use of encryption in an attack earlier this year right here in the United States. Brian, what have you learned?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the attack was an ISIS-inspired plot possibly even directed by ISIS. It was the attempt to shoot up a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, in May.

Tonight the FBI is expressing frustration that they still can't break the encrypted communications that were flying back and forth just before that attack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In the hours leading up to this nearly catastrophic terror attack, the targeting of a Prophet Mohammed cartoon drawing contest in Garland, Texas, one of the gunman, the FBI says, believed to be an ISIS sympathizer, was communicating frantically with someone overseas.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: He exchanged 109 messages with an overseas terrorist. We have no idea what he said, because those messages were encrypted. And to this day I can't tell you what he said with that terrorist 109 times the morning of that attack. That is a big problem.

TODD: The gunman could have been communicating with Junaid Hussain, the notorious head of ISIS's hacking division, killed recently in a U.S. drone strike.

Hussain's believed to have inspired the Garland attack and may have directed it. This kind of terror chatter in the dark is one of the greatest challenges in stopping the next major terror attack. U.S. officials say terror groups are perfecting the use of encrypted communications, conversations chopped up into a jumble by mathematical algorithms.

PROF. MATTHEW GREEN, APPLIED CRYPTOGRAPHY, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: They do a very good job of hiding whatever you're saying from being intercepted from somebody like a government.

TODD: Islamic extremists even have their own brand of encryption technology, called Mujahedeen Secrets 2 developed or at least modified by supporters of al Qaeda. Experts say it helps terrorists communicate in secret. And there's a mobile version of it.

ISIS has developed a mobile app, according to site intelligence, that provides updates on news and propaganda, with videos. And jihadi websites publish tutorials with instructions, telling militants how to hide their tracks online and which apps to use for the most secrecy.

LORENZO VIDINO, DIRECTOR, GWU PROGRAM ON EXTREMISM: They provide pretty sophisticated guidelines on what kind of technology to use, what to talk about, how not to get their communications intercepted.

TODD: Text encryption techniques are right out of the show "Homeland." Matthew Green, who teaches applied cryptography at Johns Hopkins, showed us one way terrorists can make their texts disappear on the Telegram app. You can program them to self-destruct in a few seconds.

I send Green a text to meet me somewhere. He reads it, then...

GREEN: And just like that you've got no record of the communication.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, what about encrypted plotting in San Bernardino or Paris? So far there's no evidence that the San Bernardino attackers used encryption, but intelligence officials still looking at that.

Now, regarding Paris, officials say there's no hard evidence the attackers used encryption to plot those attacks. But they suspect they may have, because they left such a small electronic trail, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, but even with encrypted communications there's still capability that U.S. law enforcement intelligence agencies have to find out who's talking to whom. Isn't that right?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. Even with encrypted communications, they can't hide what they call meta data. That's the information on who is talking to who and on when they're talking.

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement, they can always tap into that. And that can be very valuable. But they still cannot read the content of those messages. That part is encrypted. And that is what the FBI director is so frustrated with tonight.

BLITZER: He certainly is. You can see that frustration during his testimony.

Thanks very much, Brian Todd.

Let's bring in our experts: the former FBI assistant director, our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes; the former CIA official, our CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd; the former homeland security and Pentagon official, Brent Colburn.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

[17:30:00] Phil, why is ISIS so good at promoting itself in social media and the U.S. apparently not so good at stopping that?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: If you look at how much we've moved in the past decade or so from al Qaeda, you look at who's transmitting the message, al Qaeda's Zawahiri who looks like he's got one foot in the grave, ISIS has got young folks who speak native British English, native American English. You look at how they communicate. Back in the day al Qaeda had to go on Al Jazeera. ISIS does it by Twitter, by Facebook.

Look at what the FBI director was saying. When ISIS finds somebody of interest, they have an advantage al Qaeda did not have -- go encrypted. And finally I think the most important piece of this, the message from ISIS is not join a terror group. That was an al Qaeda message. It's join a state where you can have a life to live a pure Islamist. Not just join the organization that conducted the 9/11 attacks. So they have a lot of advantages over what we witnessed 10 years ago.

BLITZER: They're recruiting a lot of people all the time. Even if they lose a lot on the battlefield, they're getting a lot more on a nearly daily basis. Tom --

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: And there's no censorship. They can put out whatever they please 40,000 times a day, which they do. The government if they create apps or Web sites, they've got to get people to look at them. And if there's nasty stuff on there, they're not going to put it out there.

BLITZER: Tom, we're showing our viewers live pictures from this lake in San Bernardino. You see these FBI divers. They're going in, they're looking for this hard drive that may have been thrown into the lake by these two killers as they were trying to make some sort of escape or whatever. You've worked with these FBI divers.

FUENTES: Right.

BLITZER: Explain what's going on.

FUENTES: Well, just what you see. You know, and the theory behind that is that after the Boston marathon when one of the roommates threw little brother's computer in the trash, later the FBI had dozens of people going through the landfill where that dumpster was put in to look for that hard drive. And I think the logic here is that if they saw that they probably didn't throw it in the trash can where it would be found. They probably threw it in the nearest body of water. And that's a good one there that's 20, 25 feet deep according to the neighbors.

BLITZER: So they're looking in. We'll see if they find anything.

Brent, what options do U.S. officials have in dealing with this new so-called ISIS encrypted app?

BRENT COLBURN, FORMER DHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY: Well, look, Wolf, this has been an evolving threat and I think that the White House and the security officials have been clear about that. And we have to keep evolving with the threat, right? So I'd like to see more of a discussion about the resources that we're putting against, some of these technology problems, bringing in more experts.

Senator Warner was on a little while ago, made a very good point about making sure we're getting the tech community in the game here. But I think it's also important to remember that as our enemy gets more sophisticated, that means we also have to be strengthening our traditional tools of intelligence gathering. That means building relationships in the Muslim community here at home. It means building assets overseas. And, look, every time we're out there demonizing Islam, that process gets harder.

BLITZER: As far as these ISIS social media propaganda, beheading videos, whatever they are, they're trying to show life inside the caliphate as they try to show it. Why are they so successful, Brent?

COLBURN: Well, you know, look, I think that the point was made a few minutes ago that they have no rules in what they have to put out, right? They are really just trying to push peoples' buttons. So it's kind of an all of the above strategy. You see the very gruesome imagery that may appeal to some disaffected individuals. You see promises of a better life that may appeal to other individuals. Unfortunately we need to find ways to combat that. And that means building stronger relationships in those communities here at home and abroad.

BLITZER: We're standing by, by the way, Tom, I want you to know this, and Phil, Brent, everyone, stand by. We're expecting a briefing by the FBI at the scene of the search that's going on at this lake in San Bernardino. We'll have coverage of that once the FBI shows up and briefs us on the latest developments. The FBI now being the lead agency in this investigation.

I think it's fair to say, Phil, that this investigation really is still at a very early stage. MUDD: Well, if you look at the characteristics, you have to

understand the investigation. Who did they contact, which is the most significant characteristic? Are there conspirators? We're just learning the past day or two how significant the person who provided the weapons was. We're learning in the past day that there's another individual who might have been involved in the radicalization process.

If they find this hard drive in the lake, there's another big question. Does that hold information from their computers that indicates communication with an ISIS core member in Syria or with other co-conspirators. By this time an investigation typically if they hadn't destroyed this media, we would know. But right now because they are good operationally we're still learning a lot.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everyone, stand by. Once again we're standing by to hear from the FBI out in San Bernardino. They're going to update us on the search. The search that's going on right there. You see an FBI diver. He's looking for a hard drive that these killers may have thrown into that lake. We'll see if that hard drive is found. We'll get the briefing. Much more coming up.

There's also breaking political news we're following. We're now getting our first look at how Donald Trump's comments about Muslims are affecting his standing in the national polls.

And we're also following disturbing new claim from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Has his country developed a hydrogen bomb?

[17:35:06]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by for an FBI news conference at the lake where FBI divers are now searching for evidence in the San Bernardino terror attack possibly looking for a hard drive that belonged to the two killers.

We'll update you on that. We'll stand by for that FBI news conference once it starts.

Also, there's breaking news in the 2016 presidential race. We're just now getting our first look at what voters think of Donald Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

[17:40:09] A newly released "Wall Street Journal"-NBC News poll shows only 25 percent of U.S. voters agree with Trump, while 57 percent disagree. But the numbers are much different among Republican voters.

Let's go to our political reporter Sara Murray. She's in New Hampshire for us waiting for a Trump rally to start.

How are Republicans responding, Sara, to Trump's comments?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. When you look at Republican primary voters in this poll, it's a much more closely divided group. 38 percent of Republican primary voters said they were in favor of Donald Trump's proposal. And 39 percent said they were opposed. So it's pretty tight there. But as you can tell by the protesters behind me, as you can tell by the signs out of this event saying being Muslim isn't a crime. Support our immigrants. This is obviously the kind of thing that is very controversial and very divisive when you look at a broader electorate.

BLITZER: There's also been a development in Donald Trump's overseas trip scheduled, Sara, for later this month. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out a statement yesterday, and I'll read it to our viewers. Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump's recent remarks about Muslims. The state of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens.

Today, Trump responded. Tell us what he did.

MURRAY: That's right, Wolf. Trump tweeted that he was going to be postponing his trip to Israel. He said he would meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he becomes president. He would make the trip then. And as you pointed out Netanyahu was one of a number of world leaders who came out and rejected Donald Trump's proposal. So even though he still is willing to meet with Trump, it would have made for some pretty awkward optics.

BLITZER: Certainly would have. There would have been a lot of demonstrations presumably in Jerusalem outside the prime minister's office by Israelis, by Jews and Israeli Muslims as well. I think that's one of the concerns that the Israeli government had. That's certainly one of the concerns the Trump campaign presumably had as well. The optics could have been not so nice.

All right, Sara, thanks very much. Stand by to hear from Donald Trump.

Let's bring in three members of CNN's political team, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, our chief political correspondent Dana Bash and our political commentator, Republican strategist, Kevin Madden.

Dana, 57 percent of adults, all Americans, oppose this proposal according to this new poll. But among Republican primary voters, and we just heard Sara report there's an even split, 38 percent favor, 39 percent oppose.

They sort of highlight the tight rope the rest of the Republican presidential candidates are walking right now.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It does. But -- and I think it's noteworthy that that 38 percent almost mirrors where Trump is standing in Iowa, in New Hampshire, nationally among Republicans. It's no accident that these are the Republican voters, or those who say they're going to vote in Republican primary caucuses, who like to hear this kind of thing.

Now, as we've discussed, if it were a two-person race for the Republican nomination, Trump would lose. But the reason Trump is doing so well is because 38 percent or 32 percent or 33 percent depending on what poll you're looking at, is so much more support than anybody else is getting. And in fact, you know, if you just look back at our poll a couple of days ago from New Hampshire, the three people behind him combined didn't even have as much support as Donald Trump did.

BLITZER: Yes. He's doing well in all these national polls and in the state polls as well.

Gloria, this new poll also reveals voters' general actions to Trump's statements, campaign statements, 41 percent. You can see 41 percent of the respondents say they think Trump's comments insulting, they think he's got the wrong approach. But you know what? Others not so sure about that. He's sort of playing off people's fears, right?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think he is. If you look at our polling at CNN recently on ISIS and terrorism, 81 percent of the people in this country think that there are terrorists currently living in this country ready to strike. 68 percent believe that President Obama has not been strong enough. So what you see in those numbers is anxiety and fear and reaction to a president that people don't believe has taken strong enough action.

It's almost not about Trump per se. It's about how they feel on national security generally. They feel this president hasn't done a good job.

BLITZER: You were an adviser to Mitt Romney four years ago. You're not an adviser to any of the campaigns right now, Kevin. But if you were, what would you be telling some of these Republicans?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I think Gloria is right. I think the first thing I would tell everybody is that we have to acknowledge that there is a certain level of anxiety out there. The first -- one of the main things is that the candidates -- these other candidates, Donald Trump's opponents, they have to take control of the conversation. Donald Trump is driving, shaping the entire conversation right now. So all of these other campaigns are forced to react.

[17:45:02] The second thing is, provide an alternative. You don't necessarily have to agree with Donald Trump, but you have to offer some -- you have to counter Donald Trump and offer people your own ideas, your own clear vision for what you would do to address some of those anxieties that they have. And to his point right now, they've had a very tough time breaking through. And that's why Donald Trump -- we talk about Donald Trump nonstop instead of some of the other candidates.

BORGER: Well, you know, it's hard to counter Donald Trump, though.

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: I keep saying it's like punching Jell-O because what are the ideas that you would counter to Donald Trump's ideas when he hasn't put any plan on the table say -- MADDEN: Well, I think that's the thing. What he offers is a very

unserious plan with no details. So offer a very serious plan with more details. And the other thing is --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But Jeb has been doing that. You can argue Jeb Bush is doing that.

MADDEN: He's not doing it in a way that offers a very strong contrast.

BASH: There is somebody who has and even did more so today, Ted Cruz.

MADDEN: Right.

BASH: He put a very -- you know, he's a senator so he can propose legislation, a very detailed piece of legislation out there on this issue which allows him to constantly, when asked about Donald Trump sidestep, say, well, I don't agree with him. But I have my own plan and here's what it is.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. An important note to our viewers, the final Republican presidential debate of the year only a few days away. I'll be the moderator when the GOP candidates face off in Las Vegas next Tuesday, December 15th.

Do you have any questions for the candidates? Submit your questions by going to facebook.com/CNN, and commenting on the top post.

We're standing by for a live news conference. The FBI getting ready to brief us. There you see the microphones out in San Bernardino. FBI divers have been in that lake behind the microphone. They're searching apparently for a hard drive they suspect the killers may have thrown into that lake.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:19] BLITZER: We've got breaking news we're following. We're standing by for an FBI news conference at the lake. There you see the live pictures where FBI divers are now searching for evidence in the San Bernardino terror attack, possibly including a hard drive that belonged to the two killers.

Let's -- as we await the start of this briefing, Tom Fuentes is with us, Phil Mudd is still with us.

Tom, when they sent the divers into a lake, looking for a hard drive, maybe other evidence that these killers may have thrown into that lake, that's not an easy assignment, is it? Especially if the depth of that water is 20 or 25 feet.

FUENTES: Right. But they go down for equipment to help them look for metal objects under the water and do an underwater search, and they practice this. They train for it and they're very experienced at it. When I was an assistant in charge of San Francisco, they did a dive

when someone that had just killed a cop was chased. A police saw them throw the gun in San Francisco Bay and they dove into the bay with Navy ships keeping them from drifting out to sea and found that gun. So the diving teams that the FBI has are very good and have a good shot at finding something if in fact it's there.

BLITZER: I know stories where they've actually small lakes.

FUENTES: Well, they've done --

BLITZER: Searching for evidence, right?

FUENTES: Absolutely.

BLITZER: You've heard of that.

FUENTES: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: That's not -- this lake presumably, if they wanted to, it doesn't seem like a huge lake, they could drain that, too.

FUENTES: Right. That's a manmade lake so they can un-make it if they need to.

BLITZER: But if they were to find that hard drive, Phil, that would -- and it's not damaged, that could be very key.

MUDD: It could be. I mean, the Quantico guys, the guys who look at this kind of material are great at recovering information from even damaged equipment. The kind of thing I'd be looking at, for example, is search history. There is a long gap that we don't understand between the time he began radicalization and today, what kind of search entry I'd be interested in. Was he looking at targets that we're not aware of, that he might have been thinking of hitting in 2013 or 2014, for example? There is a wide range of information. Not only targets but also people that we can learn from this.

BLITZER: Near the townhouse where the two killers lived, Tom, they did find, what, a tablet that was damaged, as well as a cell phone that was damaged, that was sent to FBI Quantico investigators to try to determine if they could retrieve anything and we're told they actually are successful. They are retrieving information.

FUENTES: Right. That's what we understand. That they are getting material off the bat, able to reconstruct some of the data, SIM cards and the phones and the search history as Phil mentioned. Same thing with the computers and many times the devices are linked with some of the companies like Apple, have a system where if you make an entry on your phone, it's going to be on your iPad, it's going to be on your iPhones, it's going to be on your computer. So that's also the possibility that they're looking for a computer that also is linked which may also have independent communications to other Web sites.

BLITZER: Our correspondent Kyung Lah is there at the lake.

Kyung, set the scene for us as we await the start of this FBI news conference.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can see that elevated from the last time I spoke with you, Wolf. We were actually at the edge of the lake and saw the head of the FBI. The FBI special agent who has been running a lot of these news conferences, we saw him walking this way along with the San Bernardino County sheriff and very surprisingly, they said that they were going to be holding a news briefing. They were checking to see who was here, if the networks were all here, if some of the local affiliates were here as well.

We don't know exactly what prompted this. It is a very spur of the moment impromptu news conference. There wasn't anything scheduled for today and if I look over my shoulder I can see some of the officials starting to gather. I can see the sheriff, the FBI as well as the police chief. All of this happening just right at the edge of the lake. Meanwhile, there are still two divers in this water, in this manmade lake that's about 25 to 30 feet deep. They've been painstakingly for the last few hours going through this lake.

[17:55:07] We don't know if they found anything but they are having this news conference. You can see that there are people setting up here, there are local reporters who are gathering, a lot of teams rushing here because this simply wasn't scheduled. We don't know if they are going to reveal anything new but certainly there must be something they said that they would not be holding a news conference, Wolf, unless there was a development, so we are expecting some sort of development very soon.

BLITZER: Yes. Early on right after that massacre, they were holding almost hourly news conferences, briefings in San Bernardino. The police chief, the sheriff, the FBI, the ATF but now that has gone away. So they must have something they want to share with the public right now, otherwise the FBI agent in charge, the assistant director, David Bowdich, would not be coming to the microphone as we expect he will be together with the San Bernardino sheriff, the San Bernardino police chief, as well.

So this is pretty unusual, right?

LAH: This is because they made very explicit directions in a lot of the news -- in a lot of the e-mail correspondence, with reporters there, that they wouldn't be having these regular news conferences unless there was some sort of development to share.

And, you know, again, as I'm looking here, they look like they are being briefed from the very agents who are in the water from -- again, we haven't seen them pull anything, especially large or anything out of this lake but they are being briefed by the teams who have been searching at this lake for the last few hours and you are right, Wolf, they said that they would not be briefing the press unless there was a development. So we are expecting some sort of development from the authorities and will be shared with us today.

BLITZER: Yes. And we will, of course, have live coverage of this briefing by the FBI assistant director in charge of this investigation. As I said, the FBI now the lead investigation. Everyone, stand by for a moment. We'll take a quick break and we'll

get ready for the news conference right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)