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Cruz Takes the Lead in New Poll; NYT: Shooter's Online Support of Jihad; Arrest in California Mosque Attack. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 13, 2015 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:02] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Henry is the only the second Alabama player to win the prestigious award.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We are so grateful that you're always starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: Always good to have you. Much more of the next hour of your NEW DAY, it starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The one guy that is doing pretty good with me in Iowa is Ted Cruz. He's a nice guy. I mean, everything I say, he agrees with me.


BLACKWELL: Oh, yes. He is doing really well. So well he is now ten points ahead in the latest poll. Will Trump have to change his strategy even after taking some jabs at his rival?

Ted Cruz, now, this is a trend the second poll showing him ahead of Trump, two days ahead of the last Republican debate of the year. Will it be Trump/Cruz showdown? We will have to see. Looking ahead to Tuesday.

PAUL: Also, we have some new developments in San Bernardino to share with you. A "New York Times" report saying Tashfeen Malik passed not one, but three background checks when applying for her visa to move to the United States, and none of them looked into her online activity, even though she openly talked about supporting and wanting to be a part of a violent jihad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is we can worship anywhere. We can worship in the parking lot if we so desire. You know, the building is just offering us protection from the elements.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: And a 23-year-old man arrested in connection with the fire at a Coachella mosque in California. Police investigating the incident said the fire was an intentional act.

PAUL: I want to wish you a good Sunday morning. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

PAUL: Yes. Let's start with these development that Victor was talking about a GOP race for the White House. The new Iowa poll showing Ted Cruz double digits now ahead of Donald Trump, opening up a ten-point lead in the pivotal first in the nation voting state.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, this comes just two days before Cruz and Trump face off in Las Vegas at the next presidential debate hosted by CNN, and that is also where we find CNN's Athena Jones.

Athena, so what have we heard from the campaigns about these new numbers?


Well, of course, you can imagine one campaign is very happy about these numbers. The other, not so much. The Cruz campaign believes this big jump is 10-point lead is a result of months of hard work there in the state of Iowa.

Here is a statement from the campaign, "We have more work to do. We can definitively saying the message is working." That is from Cruz's Iowa state director Bryan English.

The Cruz campaign has worked hard to establish relationships with the evangelical community in Iowa. He is also appealing to Tea Party folks, very conservative folks there in Iowa and this has led to his 21-point jump since their last poll, that is the biggest jump any candidate has made in the past several cycles, the past five cycles, I should say, to be exact.

Now, Trump -- this is putting Trump in a position he is not used to being in. Here is what he tweeted, "New CNN Iowa poll, Trump 33, Cruz 20. Everyone else way down. Don't trust Des Moines Register poll biased towards Trump." Now, he must have meant to say bias against Trump but there you see him doubting those poll numbers.

But I got to mention to you this poll was considered the gold standard of polling in the state conducted by a well-known, well-respected pollster. And this poll was also conducted after those controversial remarks Trump made earlier this week proposing a ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S.

So it's possible that could have something to do with these numbers but there you can see Trump not too happy. We will have to see if it changes the dynamic in the debate on Tuesday night -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, you know, I wonder what we are expecting to hear, what can people at home expect from this debate on Tuesday? We know it's focused on keeping America safe, but there are a lot of subplots here we are watching.

JONES: Well, certainly. I think that a lot of these candidates realize that we are going into the holiday season. This is the last chance to make a big impression on voters when people might tune out for a while over Christmas and New Year's.

And so, this is a big opportunity for them. These debates get a lot of viewers, but the question is how much are you going to see some of these candidates begin to try to go after one another, draw contrast with one another over issues of national security? Whether it's support for the USA Freedom Act, which ended bulk collection of surveillance. That's something that we have heard Marco Rubio hit Senator Cruz on.

Or are we going to hear Trump slam Cruz? We heard him Friday night in Iowa talking about the ethanol subsidies there in the state of Iowa. So, while the focus may be on things like national security, it's possible that you're going to hear the candidates try to focus -- try to do whatever they can to draw contrast with some of these other candidates.

BLACKWELL: All right. Athena Jones in Las Vegas there on the stage set for Tuesday -- thank you very much, Athena.

Let's talk more now with CNN political commentator Errol Louis.

[07:05:00] We got CNN politics senior reporter Stephen Collinson.

And, Stephen, I want to start with you.

We heard the message from someone there in the Cruz campaign that their message is working. But what primarily is working? What is resonating most with the voters there in Iowa?


Yes, I don't think this poll is actually that surprising. I think it confirms what we have seen happening on the ground in Iowa in recent weeks. Ted Cruz connects very well with evangelical and Tea Party voters what make up a big part of that caucus in Iowa. He's been running a very good campaign. He rarely makes a mistake. He is very disciplined. He works hard.

And I think another aspect of Ted Cruz's appeal that is working for him is that since he came to Washington as a senator from Texas, he's been a real thorn in the leadership with Congress and party elites. That's made him very unpopular in Washington, but that has given him some access into this the vehement anti-establishment outsider that's really animating this election. So, I think his whole persona is somebody that's taking on Washington and it has a history of doing that is really helping him in these polls.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, Errol, we have a Monmouth poll out earlier just a few days ago. We now have this new "Des Moines Register" poll showing Ted Cruz ahead. But when you look inside the numbers, Donald Trump is remarkably strong when you look at issues the GOP expects him to handle best.

Does he try to spread that lead and grow that advantage in those topic or does he did go after the evangelical vote? What works best for him?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what you just described, Victor, is what a traditional politician would do, where Donald Trump, according to the polls, seems to have the confidence of voters when it comes to national security questions and turning around the economy. Most politicians would just sort of play to their strength and leave everything else alone.

Donald Trump, of course, is not a politician. So I would expect to see him make what could be some outlandish claims or attacks or insults, that's been a staple of his campaign style up until now. It's almost like sort of trying to inject a bit of reality show entertainment values into the conversation because that's also part of his strength.

You know, he is comfortable in that space. He doesn't mind kind of mixing it up and using Twitter and really sort of personally insulting people, sometimes outlandish attacks. He gets the attention back on him. His supporters seem to like it. It's an unorthodox organizing principle, but that's what Donald Trump has done up until now.

BLACKWELL: Stephen, you know, there's some comparisons people are making here fewer than two months out from the beginning of the caucuses there, to the 2004 race when John Kerry was deep in the numbers. I mean, he was in single digits at this point. And he, of course, ascended pretty quickly.

Is there anyone else other than Trump and Cruz who is climbing in these numbers or as Donald Trump said, essentially a two-man race now?

COLLINSON: I would take a look at Marco Rubio who is in fourth place in this Iowa poll. He's rising in other areas of the country. I think what this Iowa poll does suggest is support for Dr. Ben Carson is definitely slipping since this campaign took on more national security edge, and a lot of people you talk to in the Republican Party think we could eventually see a race with three candidates -- Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio. That's one of the reasons people are saying, you know, if you have three strong candidates, it might be very difficult for one candidate to get the 1,400 or so delegates they need to get to convention to claim the nomination.

So, that's where you're talking about a contested convention next year in Cleveland, Ohio. So, if you had three strong candidates like that, I think this race would be very, very interesting, indeed.

BLACKWELL: All right. Stephen Collinson and Errol Louis, thank you both.

LOUIS: Thank you.

COLLINSON: Thanks. BLACKWELL: And coming up on NEW DAY, we will talk about how the candidates are handling the security topic, of course, and now that the fear of an attack in the U.S. is at an all-time high, higher than it was in the days after 9/11. Stay with us for that conversation.

Also, stay with us as we count down to the last Republican debate of 2015 right here on CNN. Wolf Blitzer moderates the debate Tuesday night 6:00 and 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

And CNN is partnering with Salem Radio Network. So, if you want to find it on the radio, go to, and they'll have a rundown of where you can find it in your area.

PAUL: Also in politics, sort of, Will Ferrell returning to "Saturday Night Live," playing former President George W. Bush, taking shots at every GOP presidential candidate. Look at this.


WILL FERRELL AS "PRESIDENT BUSH": The field of Republicans out there is so messed up, I figured it makes you miss me, doesn't it?

Dr. Ben Carson, I can barely hear him when he talks. I tell you something. That's not going to work when you have to go to China or Azerbaijan where you have to talk loudly so they will understand!

[07:10:05] Not to mention he is some kind of brain surgeon. And I got news for him. Running the country is not brain surgery.

Cruz and Rubio, Rubio and Cruz. Sounds like a Miami law firm. If you've been injured on the job, call Rubio and Cruz!

These two guys, the sons of immigrants, hate immigrants. I, for one, like the Mexican people. They are my amigos.

The way I see it, unless your name is Running Bear or Chief Two Rivers, we are all anchor babies. That's something to think about, yes.

Then you got this knucklehead.


With the hair!


And the hundred foot wall. When I get in a bad mood, I picture his big fat orange oofa face and I just piss my pants.

And now, he says he wants to keep the Muslims out. Yeah. Great idea. That is impossible to implement and not what this country is about. Heck, that is like saying let's keep all of the leprechauns out!

Jeb! Oh, boy. Poor Jeb. You got to admit, it's a pretty good plot twist that I turned out to be the smart one! Of course, I wish you would have asked me about the exclamation point

on the end of his name -- look, I don't like the taste of broccoli, but it doesn't get any tastier if you call it broccoli!



PAUL: Oh! He is good.

BLACKWELL: Yes, he is good.

PAUL: He is so good.

All right. When we come back, we do have some new developments we need to tell you about in the San Bernardino case. There are reports that one of the killers passed three background checks by immigration officials. They missed signs allegedly on social media of her support for jihad.

BLACKWELL: Also, an arrest in the case of the mosques set ablaze in California. The incident is being investigated now as a hate crime.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Riverside County Sheriff's Department believe that this is an intentional act and we are using all available resources to follow up on any leads that are brought to our attention. Cal Fire and the Bureau of Alcohol --



[07:15:35] PAUL: Welcome back.

There is a stunning new report this morning about how one of the San Bernardino killers slipped into the U.S., despite talking about violent jihad online. Now, "The New York Times" reporting, before Tashfeen Malik moved to the U.S. from Pakistan, she posted about her support and desire to be part of violent jihad. She did this on social media. "The Times" doesn't mention what was said in those posts but they were missed during three different background checks. Had they been found, the authorities might have left her out of country.

Malik and her husband committed the deadliest terror attack in the U.S. since September 11 and shooting and killing 14 people in San Bernardino, wounding 21 others.

Well, this morning, investigators are wrapped up their search for evidence at a lake near the site of the massacre.

CNN's Ana Cabrera has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, divers have now spent days combing this lake, searching for any evidence that may be connected to the killers, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook. We understand divers have found a number of items in the lake, although FBI officials aren't confirming to us exactly what those items are, nor whether they can confirm if they have to do with this case.

One FBI official telling me, you know, they find a lot of stuff because this is a public lake and they had to do further investigation to determine whether it is part of this investigation. But we have learned a little bit more about how they are conducting this search. It is slow. It is methodical. They are using metal detectors. They have specialized equipment that protect them and also helps see under the water because it's extremely dark and murky. It's also deep, up to ten feet deep in places, we have learned.

And so, these divers are trained professionals and they are doing a grid search so that they leave no stone unturned to make sure they get anything that could possibly be evidence in this case.

We do know that Tashfeen Malik and Farook were in this area on the day of the shooting according to what authorities have said on the record. They say they got a tip that led them here. They have scoured the park area but, really, the lake is what is left.

Did the shooters ditch anything? One thing that has been missing since the beginning is the hard drive from the couple's computer. That is something that they are really hoping to find, perhaps it's in this lake.

The other thing I want to remind us of is the victims in this tragedy. We know many of the victims are being laid to rest, including Shannon Johnson whose funeral was on Saturday. He is the 45-year-old man who many called a hero, saying he died trying to protect one of his coworkers -- Victor, Christi.


BLACKWELL: All right. Ana, thank you so much.

Also in California, a man is in custody this morning in connection with that fire at a mosque in Palm Springs. Twenty-three-year-old James Dial Jr. was booked on Saturday. He has not formally been charged but was arrested on suspicion of arson and hate crime and felony burglary. Police are calling this an intentional act.

Now, several people were praying inside when that fire broke out on Friday. The good news, no one was hurt but this adds to the growing numbering of anti-Muslim incidents this year.

CNN's Pablo Sandoval is following that disturbing trend for us -- Polo, and this, I'm told, is a record year.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Victor, and it clearly has left many Muslims on edge who've had a difficult time this year because of this wave of Islamophobia. We have seen so many people struggle with this, especially since 2015 has been book-ended by murderous attacks carried out in the name of Islam.

But then you hear from Muslim leaders who are quick to condemn those attacks and that they have absolutely nothing to do with what is their religion. But you look at the numbers you just mentioned, Victor, and they clearly speak for themselves.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): 2015 will likely see the most anti-Muslim incidents in the U.S. since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to some experts. The cases are tracked by the Council on American Islamic Relations or CAIR. The group status shows mosques and Islamic centers have been targeted by vandals at least 63 times this year. That number doesn't compare to what some Muslims truly face according to CAIR's New York chapter president.

AFAF NASHER, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK CHAPTER OF COUNCIL ON ISLAMIC- AMERICAN RELATIONS: Not even close. I'd probably say maybe less than 10 percent. Not even close to what's actually happening in the streets.

SANDOVAL: Arson investigators believe a fire at a mosque in Coachella, California, was intentionally set on Friday. Worshipers clung to their faith left to pray on the sidewalk.

[07:20:03] ABDULLA SALAAM, MUSLIM: You see the brothers over there praying on the outside? That's one of the obligations that we do, we pray. We do have prayers, do over here on the dirt, not on the road, but that's what we do.

SANDOVAL: Twenty-three-year-old Carl James Dial was arrested and charged with committing that hate crime.

A separate incident investigated by the FBI was caught on camera in Philadelphia. That is a severed pig's head being thrown out of a truck at a mosque. This, too, being investigated as a hate crime, practicing Muslims are prohibited from eating pork or pork byproducts.

In Florida, a gun shop owner is using words to fuel controversy, about $25 will get you this sign to establish Muslim free zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know who their ties are. We don't know who these people are coming overseas.

SANDOVAL: Andrew Hallahan (ph) calls his signs a "novelty", end quote, something humorous.

This lady is not laughing. She says fear mongering was resulted in people getting hurt.

Afaf Nasher isn't laughing, though. She says fear-mongering has resulted in people getting hurt.

NASHER: A Muslim store owner was attacked and violently he got to the hospital and we were talking about coming together as a nation. What stops that attack was actually customer coming in and acted as a Good Samaritan, so not with that Samaritan, perhaps, things would be much different.

SANDOVAL: Nasher, a Muslim, a mother, and an American citizen can only hope that kind of compassion and unity spreads across the country.


SANDOVAL: We have seen cases of harassment and vandalism happening almost every region of the country, including in the nation's capital. In fact, CAIR's headquarters had to be evacuated Thursday, Victor, after a suspicious package was sent in, really part of a hate mail package. That substance later determined to not be harmful but still, it leaves so many people on edge, Muslims there trying to fight back against this Islamophobia.

BLACKWELL: All right. Polo Sandoval for us this morning, thank you very much.

SANDOVAL: You bet.

BLACKWELL: Flames rip through a psychiatric hospital in Russia and leaving dozens dead. That report is coming up.

PAUL: Also, jury deliberations tomorrow in the trial of the first officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray. That city, too, bracing for what could be a day of some pretty heated emotions in Baltimore.


[07:25:38] BLACKWELL: Search and rescue teams are looking for survivors after a fire killed 23 people at a psychiatric hospital in Russia.

PAUL: Officials believe they were 140 people in the building, including 50 who were bedridden when the deadly blaze broke out. Most of those folks escaped, but the cause of the fire is unknown now.

BLACKWELL: Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. It was December 14th, 2012 when 20 first graders and six adults were gunned down in their quiet Connecticut town at school. Vigils and commemorations are scheduled throughout the coming week.

PAUL: After years of buildup and weeks of negotiations, the final draft of an ambitious global climate change agreement has been accepted. And you see the applause there. President Obama celebrated the deal, calling it the best deal we have to save the planet. Other supporters consider it a milestone to keep earth hospitable. Critics however say it falls short on specifics, such as how the plan will be enforced, or improvements will be measured.

Well, just ahead, Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Rome to talk about ISIS and his concerns that the group is gaining strength now in Libya.