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Trmup and Pope Exchange Words; Poll: Clinton, Sanders Neck and Neck in Nevada; FBI Searches Home of San Bernardino Gunman's Brother; Black Lives Matter Activist Boycotts Obama Meeting; South Korean Intel Says North Planning Attack. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 18, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. The Donald versus the Pope, a sudden and surreal war of words between Donald Trump and Pope Francis after the pontiff suggests Trump at his plan for a border walls are not Christian. Trump firing back calling the Pope's remark disgraceful.

What will the GOP frontrunners say about it in tonight's CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall?

FBI raid, there's new video of agents executing a search warrant at the home of the brother of one of the San Bernardino terrorists. The feds also battling Apple demanding the company help investigators unlock a phone that belonged to one of the killers. Does it contain clues about more terror plots?

High stakes, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders running neck and neck in Nevada, each counting on voter turnout to put them over the top. With just two days before the state's critical caucuses, whose get out the vote operation will win?

Un-derhanded: New intelligence warming that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has ordered the security services to prepare a terror attack on South Korea. Residents of Seoul on edge tonight, why is Kim threatening an attack now?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "The Situation Room."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, an unprecedented twist in a presidential campaign that's already in unchartered waters. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump calling remarks by Pope Francis disgraceful after the pontiff waded into American politics and suggested Trump is not Christian because of his plan to build a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

The shocking exchange almost certain to come up tonight when Trump takes questions from South Carolina voters along with Jeb Bush and John Kasich in the CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall.

And there's breaking news in the San Bernardino terror attack investigation, FBI agents searching the home of the brother of one of the killers. It comes as the feds are trying to force Apple to help investigators unlock an iPhone that belong to Sayeed Farook. It could contain important clues.

We're covering all of that, much more with our correspondents and guests, our expert analysts. They are all standing by.

Let's begin with the remarkable comments by Pope Francis and Donald Trump. Our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash is in Columbia, South Carolina for us, that's where Trump soon will be taking part in tonight's CNN Republican Town Hall.

Dana, I can honestly tell, does anyone saw this coming?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There are a lot of firsts for Donald Trump since he's never run for office before. But there is absolutely no political playbook for a presidential candidate getting into a war of words with the Pope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Just when you thought 2016 couldn't get weirder, tonight Donald Trump is in a war of words with the Pope, and Pope Francis started it, pontificating about Trump.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be located, and not building bridges, is not a Christian. This man is not a Christian if he has said things like that.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He actually said that maybe I'm not a good Christian or something. It's unbelievable, which is really not a nice thing to say. For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. I'm proud to be a Christian.

BASH: As unusual as it is for the Pope to question a presidential candidate's Christianity, almost as unusual that candidate's response.

TRUMP: If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS' ultimate trophy. I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.

BASH: As for the Pope's core criticism about Trump's call to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico ...

TRUMP: The Mexican government in its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me. See, the Pope was in Mexico. He doesn't see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting our president and Obama and our leadership has no clue as to the negotiation or anything else.

BASH: In an instant, this mano-e-mano between Trump and the Pope overshadowed everything on the campaign trail. Jeb Bush, a devout Catholic and the candidate most critical of Trump in this case came to the billionaire's defense.

JEB BUSH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think his Christianity is between him and his creator.

BASH: Do you think the Pope was wrong to question his Christianity?

BUSH: I don't question anybody's Christianity because I honestly believe that's a relationship that's you have with your creator. And it only enables bad behavior when you -- when someone from outside of our country talks about Donald Trump.

[18:05:04] BASH: This is not the first time Catholic Republicans have distanced themselves from the outspoken Pope Francis on political issues.

MARCO RUBIO, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be a president for all Americans.

BASH: Marco Rubio, also a Catholic, was cautious about commenting on the Pope's statement about Trump but two days before South Carolina Republicans vote was eager to defend America on immigration.

RUBIO: We're a sovereign country and we have a right to control who comes in, when they come and how they come in. Vatican City controls who comes in, when they come in and how they come in as a nation state -- or as a city state. And as a result, the United States has a right to do that as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Ted Cruz was also asked about this, Wolf. He said he's going to leave it to the two of them, meaning the Pope and Donald Trump, to work out. And we expect that that's probably going to be the way we're going to hear from a lot of the Republican candidates, especially tonight in the town hall.

We know how Jeb Bush is going to react. John Kasich likes to stay out of anything, especially we would imagine, when it comes to the pope. And just briefly, our understanding in talking to a lot of Republicans here in South Carolina and beyond is that, this is probably not going to hurt Donald Trump, may even help him for a lot of reasons.

But one of them politically is that, we are talking not just about the Pope but about immigration, which is as one strategist said to me, his sweet spot with Republican voters.

BLITZER: Dana Bash, thanks very much.

I want to bring in our CNN Political Reporter Sara Murray. She's also in South Carolina for us tonight.

Sara, Trump has been speaking ahead of tonight's CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall. Has he, again, addressed the specific issue of what the Pope had to say?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT. Well, Wolf, he has not been talking about the Pope here at his event tonight, but he'll undoubtedly be asked about it in our town hall. And I have to tell you, the tone that he is striking here is one of defiance. He has said repeatedly, we are going to build a wall, that wall along the Southern Border. And as Dana was just saying, he gets a good reaction when he says that. The crowd was cheering very responsive to that.

And Trump was talking about undocumented immigrants again saying, "What's going on is a crime wave". So if you think a scolding from the Pope as all of a sudden, going to convince Donald Trump to tone down his rhetoric, you better think again. Maybe we'll hear more on that tonight at CNN'S town hall. Wolf?

BLITZER: And I'm sure we will, all right. Sara, thank you. I want to get more on this very surprising twist in the presidential campaign. Joining us is Father James Martin. He's Editor at Large of America Magazine.

Father Martin, thanks very much for joining us. Put this into some sort of context for us. First of all, how rare is it for a Pope to wade into American presidential politics?

REV. JAMES MARTIN, EDITOR AT LARGE, AMERICA MAGAZINE: Well, the first thing to understand is that he wasn't doing it on his own. I do disagree where it said the Pope started the fight.

He was asked a question by a reporter and tried to answer it in the most nuanced way possible. I give the person the benefit of the doubt. I'm not sure if he said these things but he's also asking -- he's answering the simple question, what's does it mean to be a Christian?

And he's saying, "If you're not taking care of the poor and if you're thinking about building walls and creating more disunity. That's not something that's Christian."

So I didn't see it as an attack on Donald Trump, he's just basically kind of laying out what is Christian and what is not. And I think as Pope, he has a pretty good idea of that.

BLITZER: But he said that, if, in fact, Donald Trump has said these things about the wall and about immigration, then that's not Christian. That's what he said in response. You're absolutely right. He was responding to a question from a reporter aboard the flight from Mexico back to Rome.

MARTIN: Right. He wasn't going out of his way to attack Donald Trump or saying you need to vote a certain way. And, in fact, he said explicitly. I'm not saying how people should vote but there are certain things that are part of Christian belief.

One of them is care for the poor, care for the stranger. In the Christian world view, there's no other. There's not in us and them, there's now walls between us. There's just a we. And that's what he tried to show in his visit to Mexico and that's what he was saying in this response, which I thought was very nuanced and very gentle in contrast to Donald Trump's response later on. BLITZER: But he is very, very savvy, very intelligent. He is experienced. You know, he was very impressive when he was here in the United States last year. He must have known that by saying these things this would explode the way it has.

MARTIN: Well, I think he must have but he's also answering a question. The alternative is to say I'm not going to answer that question or evade the question. I think without mentioning Donald Trump, he also reminded people that this is part of Christian belief.

And, you know, he is nobody's pawn as Donald Trump accused them of being. The church has dealt with diplomats and governments since the time of Charlemagne. This is a person who lived under the Argentine junta. He knows what it means to be sort of under the thumb of a government.

So he's a free person and he's a free Christian and he is expressing his beliefs.

BLITZER: I know the trip to Mexico by the Pope was long planned but the visit to the Mexican border, and we had live coverage of it in "The Situation Room" yesterday, 24 hours ago, that's was apparently added later on.

[18:10:00] Here's the question, father. Did the visit to the Mexico, border between Mexico and the United States, did that arise because of what Donald Trump has been saying?

MARTIN: No, I don't think so. You know, the U.S. bishops have been interested in migration and migratory policies for years. Remember, you know, this has been an issue in the Catholic Church which is, you know, becoming more and more Hispanic recently.

But more to the point, he always goes out to people as he says on the peripheries on the margins. Whether or not, they are in slums or they are in old age homes or they are in orphanages, or if they are migrants on the borders.

So this is in keeping with his idea of going to people on the margins, in this case, literally.

BLITZER: You tweeted today, father, you tweeted this. You said, "The Pope is correct. You cannot show hatred for others and contempt for the poor and still consider yourself Christian. Love is essential".

So what are you saying in that tweet about Donald Trump?

MARTIN: I'm trying not to say anything about the person in general, but anyone who spews hatred and anyone who foments division and turns people against one another and portrays other people as evil or the enemy or the demon, you know, is not really being Christian.

There are certain things we believe. Jesus Christ is risen, and also what Jesus Christ taught about the poor is important. There are none negotiable I think when it comes to being a Christian.

BLITZER: Does the Catholic Church believe there should be no wall separating the United States and Mexico?

MARTIN: Well, I don't know. I'm not an expert on migration policy, can ask some of the bishop conference. But I think they are certainly needs to be more of a tolerant welcome of people who are basically striving to better their lives. And I think it goes to the idea of trying to help the poor.

You can't say to somebody, while we think you should be warm and well fed. You know, I think the letter of James says. And then close off access to these people.

So it has to be a much more tolerant and respectful and open policy. And also we have to stop demonizing migrants. I myself work with refugees in East Africa for a while. These are people are struggling hard. And so it's trying to be a compassionate viewpoint which is in contrast to some of the things I hear from some of our politicians.

BLITZER: What's your response, father, to the Trump campaign's suggestion that the Pope's criticism of Donald Trump is hypocritical because the Vatican itself is surrounded by huge walls?

MARTIN: It's insane, actually. I would say that the comment is insane. I was in the Vatican recently. You can walk into St. Peter's Square. There were lots of people there. I think most people would tell you there are sometimes too many tourists there.

The Vatican is open. St. Peter's is open. There are medieval walls that were up, you know, since I think like the 15th century. The point is the pope is not building walls. The pope is trying to take down walls, literally and figuratively, and he's trying to remind us there should not be walls between us. There is no us and them. There's just a we in the Catholic mind view.

BLITZER: Father Martin, thanks so much for joining us.

MARTIN: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Father James Martin, Editor in Large at America Magazine.

Coming up, we're following other breaking political developments, including what's going on the Democratic side as well, new development in this very, very fierce battle in Nevada between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

We'll be right back

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:34] BLITZER: We're counting down to tonight's CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall featuring Jeb Bush, John Kasich and the frontrunner, Donald Trump, who is now in a war of words with Pope Francis. The pontiff suggesting Trump and his plan for a wall along the border with Mexico, they are not Christian. Trump calls that remark disgraceful.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now. Joining us, our CNN Politics Executive Editor Mark Preston, we're also joined by CNN Political Commentator Kevin Madden, a Republican Strategist and Washington Post Assistant Editor David Swerdlik.

Mark, Trump now feuding with the Pope. You and I have covered politics for a long time, have you ever seen anything like this before?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: No. I've never seen a pope weigh in on the U.S. presidential race as we are seeing right now. Nor have I seen a presidential candidate such as Donald Trump go after the leader of the Catholic Church.

What's makes this really interesting is that, Donald Trump seems to say inflammatory things time and time again but continues to get stronger when he does so. It's almost that this battle right now with the Pope is going to embolden him even more.

Perhaps even a state like we are right now in South Carolina where evangelicals are really important, you know, Catholics and evangelicals don't necessarily meld together there, Wolf.

BLITZER: So you don't think it's necessarily going to hurt him in the Republican primary in South Carolina this Saturday?

PRESTON: No, I don't think so at all. I mean, look, I mean, time and time again, we have thought that Trump's candidacy would have been hurt and guess what happened? He seems to get stronger and his 30 percent to 35 percent seems to coalesce around him even more. I don't think this is going to hurt him.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Kevin, the other Republican rivals to Donald Trump, don't seem to be piling up on this issue going after Trump.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It doesn't seem to be clear what the up side of doing what would be. Most of these campaigns are going to take the position that if they get asked about it, answer it. But to, you know, quickly move on and try and get the conversation back to where they can reinforce some of their most important messages.

If you are Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, right now, you don't want to be refereeing a fight between Donald Trump and the pope when you have, you know, 48, 72 hours here, we have a closing message to voters about where you stand on immigration, where you stand on conservative values, what your -- position is on national security.

So I suspect they're going to stay out of this. Get out of the way and try and send that reinforcement message to voters.

[18:20:02] BLITZER: It probably won't hurt them, let's say, in South Carolina or some of the other early states. But if you want to get, David, the Republican presidential nomination, could it hurt him if he still in little feud going on with the Pope in a general election? DAVID SWERDLIK, WASHINGTON POST ASSISTANT EDITOR: I don't think this is going to hurt Donald Trump. I don't think it's going to help him either, Wold. I think there's a little admonition here for everybody.

With Trump, right, he's been going for the jugular across the board in this campaign. The Pope went kind of went for the jugular on him. It's, you know, it's good for the goose, good for the gander.

On the other hand, the Pope, you know, he could have found a way right to criticize Donald Trump strongly, criticize his policies without actually saying that he will earn (inaudible) and he wasn't ...

MADDEN: What's been fascinating and Mark alluded to this is, how many Trump supporters right now find a way to compartmentalize things even things they don't like about Donald Trump.

You saw this during the South Carolina debate where Trump went full, you know, truther on, you know, about the 9/11 stuff. And when you were talking to voters the next day, "They said, I didn't like that he says that about George W. Bush but I'm still supporting him because of his stance on immigration or stand on other issues.

BLITZER: Mark, you were there in South Carolina, what's been the reaction these last several hours since this whole little feud developed?

PRESTON: Well, you know, listen, in South Carolina, they are used to this nasty political brawling, this bare knuckle fighting. You know, it's interesting is that, in previous campaigns, in which South Carolina is so well-known for, is this dirty tactics that are behind the scene that you don't necessarily know who is behind it.

But guess what. It's all out in the open right now. You see Donald Trump fighting with the Pope. We see Ted Cruz's campaign superimposing pictures on Marco Rubio on a website that's paid by Ted Cruz. Right now, these battles are happening out in the open and we don't have to go looking to find out who is paying for it, or who's behind it. It's all right here in front of us.

BLITZER: Well, Kevin, you are a veteran. You worked on the Romney campaign four years ago. This photoshopping by the Cruz campaign of an image supposedly showing a very happy President Obama, there it is. You can see it over there with Marco Rubio.

They are shaking hands with their left hand. The original photo was seen over there, basically photoshopped. That's just a stock photo they just used. Why would they do this knowing in this day and age that within a minute or two it's going to be spotted as being phony?

MADDEN: Look, this happens all the time. I mean, you remember with mailers or ads. These aren't white papers. That they are putting together. There is a great deal of creative license that campaigns always take when trying to send, reinforce a message through advertising or direct mail. So that's the reason they do it.

I think the question, they have to ask ... BLITZER: It feels dirty, though.

MADDEN: That's what happen, is the question you have to ask yourself when you make that decision inside the campaign is, is it worth the fight or we're going to end up getting into? Are all of the controversies brought up, with the attacks by other campaigns, the media scrutiny, is it going to be something we can hold water against? And I think that's ...

BLITZER: So you think they knew this was going to be exposed as phony, as photoshopping all along but decided to do it anyway?

MADDEN: I think they thought this was a message they wanting to send and they were willing to fight on it.

BLITZER: What do you think, Mark?

PRESTON: You know, listen. I think, you know, Kevin is absolutely right. There's no way they thought that they could put this out there and get away with it. I mean their names on it.

You know, the thing about Ted Cruz though is that he's fighting this narrative that his campaign is playing in the gutter right now. In fact, he put an e-mail out today to conservatives saying that, look, that he is the true conservative fighter. He is running an honorable campaign and will fight for them.

So at the same time, this campaign is playing hard ball. He's also trying to have it the other way as well. And saying that he's running a very clean campaign and those two don't necessarily fit together.

BLITZER: Do you think this is, David, going to hurt the Cruz campaign?

SWERDLIK: I don't think this instance will hurt him, Wold, but I do think eventually like Mark said, there's a narrative building and it's going to eventually backfire. If Trump weren't in this race, this could be a short, small story. Rubio would complain about it, we move on.

But Trump has such a loud megaphone and he will bring this up over and over again. Well, probably bring it up tonight.

BLITZER: Would it make any sense, Kevin, for someone to be fired who put this photo together?

MADDEN: I don't think they think this is something that is controversial enough where somebody should lose their job in the campaign. I think in this timeframe, right now, where we're having a closing message in South Carolina, the Cruz campaign is perfectly willing to have this fight.

BLITZER: You don't think the candidate himself who may not have even known anything about this that he would say, "You know, I'm not going to tolerate these shenanigans. We have a very hones campaign. We're going to do it in the right way. We're not going to photoshop pictures showing Marco Rubio shaking hands with President Obama. And I firing, Mr. X or Ms. Y."

MADDEN: If anything what we've seen is Ted Cruz try to use this to then send a message about where he disagrees with Marco Rubio on the issues that matter to South Carolina voters. I don't think that would change particularly right now.

BLITZER: Because it does reinforce, Mark, this notion that politics, especially, I guess, in these days leading up to South Carolina, politics can be pretty dirty.

[18:24:59] PRESTON: They are pretty dirty. And look, up to this point they haven't been that bad. We've seen some sniping, you know, some arguing on the debate stage. But we only have to go back, you know, what is it, three or four weeks ago where Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were talking about how they liked each other and were friends, and how everything was kosher between them.

And now, look, where we are now. It goes to show you what is at stake right now. They are running to be the commander in chief, the leader of the free world right now. And when you get down in the thick of the battle, anything to do but win.

I mean, that's basically what Kevin is saying, that you have to pull out all stops to win. And Ted Cruz is clearly walking up to the line.

I don't know if he's goes to the cluster line (ph), but is whacked up to the line.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. A lot more to dissect including what's going on in Nevada right now, getting ready for the Democratic caucuses.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Nevada caucus is now just two days away. A critical contest for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders after her narrow win in Iowa and his commanding victory in New Hampshire. But right now the Democratic race in Nevada is a virtual tie, according to all the polls.

[18:30:40] Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us from Las Vegas right now. Jeff, Clinton and Sanders, they're pulling out all the stops. They're trying their best.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Wolf. I mean, this is only the third stop in this long Democratic primary. But it's the first time a western state is having a chance to weigh in here.

And you can see the difference in campaigning. Hillary Clinton, for example, is not going door to door. She's going casino to casino. She started when she arrived this morning about 1 a.m. and continued it all day long.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): It's a high-stakes showdown on the Las Vegas Strip. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders locked in a tight race heading into Saturday's Democratic caucuses, both betting on their get-out-the-vote operations to push them over the edge.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, everybody.

ZELENY: Riding overnight, Clinton wasted no time hitting an essential stop here on the campaign trail, behind the scenes of a casino in search of hotel workers who vote.

CLINTON: I hope you'll come out and caucus 11 a.m. Saturday morning. I'll work hard for you as your president.

ZELENY: The outcome here could hinge on the state's pivotal Hispanic vote, which is why the Clinton campaign released this minute-long ad featuring a 10-year-old daughter of undocumented immigrants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My parents, they have a letter of deportation. I'm scared they are going to be deported.

CLINTON: I'm going to do everything I can so you don't have to be scared. I'll do all the worrying. Is that a deal?

ZELENY: The Clinton campaign trying to show she's empathetic to families facing deportation, while highlighting her own immigration reform plan.

Before flying to Las Vegas today, Sanders met in Washington with African-American leaders. He's hoping his economic message expands his appeal to black and Latino voters, key to his success in the primary fight with Clinton.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand that the African-American community has been harder hit than any other community in America. I understand that it is unacceptable that 35 percent of black children in America are living in poverty.

ZELENY: Tonight what the Clinton campaign once viewed as an easy win in the Silver State is now an even money bet. Instead of cashing in their chips, both candidates are now all in, in Nevada.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So, of course, Nevada is now considered a tie breaker. After Clinton narrowly won in Iowa, Bernie Sanders had his commanding victory in New Hampshire, it comes down to Nevada, which will set this contest going forward.

But it's all centered on Latino voters, who make up nearly 20 percent of the electorate. Bernie Sanders is trying to reach out to Latino voters, as well. He has a radio ad on air, Wolf. It's highlighting his own immigrant roots, saying how his father came to the U.S. He was penniless and could not speak English -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jeff, the Clinton campaign, as we all know, they had a big

lead in Nevada polling over these past few months. But all of a sudden, it's neck and neck. Why did that change?

ZELENY: Wolf, it certainly has changed over the last several months or so. There's not been a lot of polling here. But late last year she was up some 30 percent.

The reality is this race has just changed. He has expanded his appeal, because people suddenly are looking for an alternative, and they're seeing that there is a potential, a viable alternative to her. So quite simply, people sort of discovered who he was here, and they're just now finding out more about Bernie Sanders.

BLITZER: We saw record-setting turnouts in Iowa. Very close to what it was back in 2008 in New Hampshire. Will this continue in Nevada at the caucuses this Saturday, Saturday afternoon?

ZELENY: Wolf, that is the key question here. Nevada has been not as focused as Iowa and New Hampshire. And this is only the second election cycle where the presidential contest has happened here. So they're not expecting turnout nearly as big as New Hampshire or even Iowa.

Eight years ago it was only just slightly over 100,000 on the Democratic side here. That's why it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack for these campaigns, trying to find people who know and are able to come out at 11 in the morning on Saturday to register their vote.

BLITZER: All right. We'll have, of course, extensive live coverage all day on Saturday of both of the contests in Nevada and South Carolina. Jeff, thank you very much.

Our analysts are still with us. David, you think Bernie Sanders could actually pull this off in Nevada?

SWERDLICK: Yes, I'm not going to make a prediction, Wolf, but he absolutely can. The polls are very close. And what I'm looking for coming out of Nevada is how he does among Latino voters and among organized labor. If he makes big gains on Clinton among those two big chunks of the Democratic base, then that spells trouble for Clinton down the road.

[18:35:12] BLITZER: Mark, this was supposed to be a firewall, as you know, for Hillary Clinton, Nevada, South Carolina. If he were to win, Bernie Sanders in Nevada, what's would that mean for the Clinton campaign heading into the South Carolina contest?

PRESTON: Well, they're pretty well positioned here in South Carolina to win. They're up by a lot right now in the polls. And that's due to Hillary Clinton's advantage with African-American voters, much like Bernie Sanders was with white voters up in New Hampshire.

But you know, to the point of Nevada, if Bernie Sanders is able to win Nevada and he's able to, you know, win by more than one, two, three points, that's going to be more fuel for his -- for his campaign to say that he has, you know, enough oxygen or enough gasoline to continue moving forward.

What Clinton would need, then, is to stop him cold here in South Carolina very hard heading into March 1. Now, there's a lot of talk about Super Tuesday and the SEC Primary and how Clinton is going to do in those states. And we expect that to happen.

But there's several other states that are going to hold contests that day, too. And that's what Bernie Sanders is focusing all of his attention on. So Bernie Sanders right now, Wolf, as we stand here in South Carolina, is not necessarily playing to South Carolina voters over the next week or so. He's trying to play the long game into March 1 and beyond.

BLITZER: Kevin, as you know, for all these months, the Republicans, basically, they've been under the assumption that Hillary Clinton is going to get the Democratic nomination when all is said and done. They've been going after her. They really haven't been going after Bernie Sanders that much until recently. All of a sudden, there's talking about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. You've noticed that little shift.

MADDEN: Look, Hillary Clinton is a very good foil for the Republican candidates. The fact that she's associated with the last eight years of this administration.

But in many ways, Bernie Sanders is the perfect foil. You have small- government conservatives trying to run against a big-government socialist who's a career politician for the last 40 years and has, you know, policies or policy prescriptions that are so far outside the mainstream. That's the perfect contrast for so many of these Republicans. So they're going to engage and use it to their advantage whenever they can.

BLITZER: That new ad that we showed our viewers before, David, of Hillary Clinton being very empathetic to this young little girl whose parents are undocumented immigrants. She's afraid they're going to be deported. Clearly, the effort to win 20 percent of the vote in the Democratic caucuses in Nevada could be Hispanic. A clear effort to go after that community.

SWERDLICK: Right. They are -- both candidates are going after the Latino vote, and both candidates -- Latino voters understand are with them on the immigration issue.

But Latino voters, African-American voters are like every other voter. They care about these other economic issues that go across the board, and on that sense, Sanders is gaining ground on Secretary Clinton.

BLITZER: Certainly. Mark, interestingly, those of us who have covered politics for a long time, we look at these endorsements. The AFL-CIO holding off on its endorsement of a Democratic candidate. What does that tell us about the race right now?

PRESTON: Well, a couple things. You're absolutely right. You know, endorsements are symbolic in many ways, especially if they come from a politician. But when you're talking about a very large organized labor union with a lot of money that can get behind you, that says something. If the AFL-CIO has decided, as we know, to back off and not to get into the primary right now, it just goes shows you that Bernie Sanders' message to working men and women is starting to resonate with the rank and file enough that the leadership of the AFL- CIO has decided that they can't try to force through a backing or supporting, endorsing of Hillary Clinton now.

They have said that they eventually could do so, but it's not going to happen right away. And if you are running Bernie Sanders' campaign or you are Bernie Sanders or you support Bernie Sanders, this is good news for you.

BLITZER: Kevin, in terms of endorsements on the Democratic and Republican side right now, how important are they, really?

MADDEN: In this cycle, I think that they're less important. I think there are very few candidate -- few figures out there who have these massive political machines that they can put on the street that make a huge difference in the last two weeks of a -- before a contest is decided.

We just haven't seen those in many of these. I think it will help with the margins. It gives you a great earned media play for the -- for 48 hours where you can basically crowd out the sun from some of your opponents. But that's about as much as it's going to matter. I think these candidates still have to rely on their own message to the -- to the candidates.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We have a lot more coming up.

Important note to our viewers. A unique two-night event continues on CNN, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern tonight. All six Republican presidential candidates for the very first time in this entire campaign, they will have answered questions from the voters in South Carolina. Three last night. Three tonight. A live televised town hall moderated by our Anderson Cooper. See it only here on CNN.

Tonight, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. They will field voters' questions. Starts just a little more than an hour from now right here on CNN. Last night we heard from Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Again, starting 8 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Still ahead, South Korea on edge tonight, fearing a terror attack by North Korea. Why do officials believe Kim Jong-un has ordered it?

Plus, a horrifying sight at Pearl Harbor. A helicopter crash caught on camera.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:11] BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the San Bernardino terror attack investigation, including an FBI search of the home of the gunman's brother.

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is working this story for us.

Pamela, what are you hearing, first of all, about this raid?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in a sign of just how active the San Bernardino investigation continues to be, the FBI searched a home believed to be associated with Raheel Farook, that's the brother of gunman Syed Farook. The agents were there for several hours. They were seen coming in and out of the house, carrying out several items.

As you see in this video right here, they were also searching through a couple of vehicles that were parked in the driveway of the home. We know Raheel Farook is married to a Russian woman whose sister was part of a fake marriage with Enrique Marquez. That was the man charged with allegedly plotting terrorist attacks with Syed Farook years ago, you may recall.

And it's unknown why Raheel's home was searched today but investigators are trying to learn as much as they can about the attackers. Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik including their family and friends.

An FBI spokesman said, "Federal agents executed a search warrant at a residence in Corona this morning to seek evidence in an ongoing investigation. No arrests were made."

And, of course, the search today comes on the heels of California magistrate demanding Apple help the FBI unlock Syed Farook's home. Apple's CEO Tim Cook issued a scathing statement to really against the FBI to its customers after the judge's order saying, "Doing that would have implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

So, right now, Apple is mounting its defense and vowed to appeal the judge's order. And, you know, basically this is a fight that's going to be going on for a long time, Wolf. Both sides are digging in their heels and this very well can make it up to the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: Yes. We heard several Republican presidential candidates weighing in, suggesting Apple should cooperate and do this back door entry into that terrorist iPhone.

All right. Thanks very much for that, Pamela.

President Obama, meanwhile, marking Black History Month, meeting at the White House today with civil rights activists. But a leader from the Black Lives Matter movement was a no-show.

Our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is joining us.

Michelle, what are you finding out about this meeting?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.

Well, the White House was just snubbed in a very public way by Black Lives Matter. And this meeting today was billed as a first of its kind, intergenerational with the president, the attorney general. Among those attending were representatives of the NCAA and National Urban League.

Black Lives Matter was also supposed to be there, a co-founder of the group in Chicago. But in the end, she decided not to go and instead wrote this scathing op-ed on the web site, Truthout, saying, "What was arranged was basically a photo opportunity and a 90-second sound bite for the president. I could not, with any integrity, participate in such a sham that would only serve to legitimize the false narrative that the government is working to end police brutality and institutional racism that fuels it."

Now, after the meeting, Al Sharpton came out and he said it was productive, it was wide-ranging, covering criminal justice reform, and law enforcement. But, you know, he also wanted to add something about Republicans potentially blocking President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. He said that that would be seen as a civil rights violation, that civil rights leaders would resist it and that if that happens, ultimately, it would be the public that's disrespected, Wolf.

BLITZER: Strong words indeed.

What about, Michelle, the president's decision for this historic visit next month to Cuba. What are you finding out about the trip?

KOSINSKI: Right. Well, this will be the first time a sitting president visits the island since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. It will be next month, the 21st and 22nd. It will be the president, first lady, some members of Congress.

And the president will meet with dissidents. Cuba, of course, has a long history of jailing dissidents. In fact, that continues today.

President Obama will also meet with Cuban President Raul Castro. He's not expected, though, to sit down with Fidel, although the White House says they are still working out his schedule.

The White House has taken plenty of heat, especially from Republicans, on their policy towards Cuba, on making this trip. But the White House's take on this is not going on a trip like this wouldn't advance those issues of human rights. That Cuba's record on that has been dismal, but they feel going there would give the White House another opportunity to bring up those issues directly.

They say Cuba has made some progress. Still has a way to go, obviously. But the White House feels that making this trip and continuing to open up the relationship is going to be the best way forward to actually improving the lives of people on the island -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly will be an historic visit, the president of the United States heading to Cuba next month.

All right. Michelle, thanks very much.

Just ahead, why South Korea now believing North Korea may be planning an attack ordered by Kim Jong-un himself.

Plus, tourists horrified to see a helicopter crash into the waters of Pearl Harbor.

[18:50:03] Tonight, we have the dramatic new video.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As he rocks on to his favorite all-girl pop band, is North Korea's dictator getting ready to unleash a terror assault on the South?

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, there have been some ominous hints that something may be in the works. What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You couldn't have said it any better. He rocks out to an all-girl band while planning a terrorist attack Hollywood could not script this any more bizarrely. We are getting new intelligence tonight from South Korean officials. They say Kim's security services could be planning to target South Korean official, defectors. They could hit subways, shopping malls.

[18:55:00] Kim's family has done this before, including at least three attempts to assassinate South Korean presidents. This has South Korean officials on edge tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A direct and sinister order tonight from Kim Jong- un. He instructs his security services to prepare to carry out a terrorist attack on South Korea. That's according to a South Korean lawmaker briefed by his country's intelligence agency. The intelligence warning says defectors, activists could be targeted.

Other possibilities?

DEAN CHENG, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: You've got everyone from the president of South Korea being on the target list through the military leadership of the South Korean and American military leadership to infrastructure.

TODD: That includes subways, power plants, shopping malls, and according to South Korean intelligence, possible cyberattacks like the one the U.S. says North Korea successfully launched against Sony Pictures Entertainment in the United States in late 2014.

The Kim family has a long history of bizarre brazen attacks on South Korea. They blew a South Korean passenger jet out of the sky in 1987. North Korea's inserted frog men into South Korea, launched commandos from submarines. They have tried at least three times and failed to assassinate South Korean presidents.

CHENG: Including the one you see here, and in that particular case, unfortunately his wife, the mother of the current president, got in the way and was killed.

TODD: Why is Kim threatening another attack now? Tonight, tensions along the border are elevated. North Korea's recent

long range missile test in a guise of a satellite launch and its nuclear test in January prompted South Korea to shut down the lucrative Kaesong industrial complex the two nations share.

And the American military has just flexed its muscles at the Kim regime, sending Stealth fighter jets to fly low over South Korea.

And there are indications Kim is signaling those who are threatening him from within.

VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: You continue to see high level purges inside the North Korean system most recently with the army chief of staff and then prior to that the defense minister, which gives one a sense that there is internal churn inside the system.

TODD: And still, Kim and his cronies are strutting, celebrating their recent provocations with a performance from Moranbong, Kim's handpicked band of young women in tight dresses who sing pop songs and tributes to their boss.

CHA: What it reflects is this almost warped sense of celebration of the nuclear tests as something as being part of a new horizon for the North Korean state and associating that with elements of modernity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: U.S. officials not commenting tonight on the apparent threat from North Korea or on how the U.S. might respond to it. Many are also watching how China might respond to another North Korean provocation. The Chinese said to be furious with Kim Jong-un over the nuclear test and the missile launch -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kim is also gearing up, we're told, Brian, for a huge event this spring. Could this show of force, as it is now being described, be related to that?

TODD: absolutely, it could be, Wolf. He's got a Congress of the ruling Workers Party coming up in May. They haven't had one of those in 35 years. This event is supposed to solidify Kim's rule. He also may reshuffle his inner circle.

So, a lot of these menacing moves could be designed to show his strength to the North Korean people ahead of that gathering and maybe send some signals to some others in his inner circle, many of whom have been purged recently.

BLITZER: But there's no doubt you're hearing from all your sources, there is a heightened degree of tension on the Korean peninsula right now.

TODD: Absolutely, Wolf. Everything that's happened in the last month with the nuclear test and the missile launch, everything even going back to last summer with that land mine attack that the North launched across the border. It has been ratcheted it up for months now. Tension has rarely been higher. If you're a security official in South Korea, you're not sleeping much right now.

BLITZER: Yes, let's not forget, there are nearly 30,000 U.S. troops along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, separating North and South Korea.

Brian, thank you very much.

We also have some dramatic new video we want to share with you tonight. This is a private helicopter with five people on board crashing into Hawaii's Pearl Harbor as horrified visitors and military personnel watch. Navy and fire boats responded. They were on the scene within minutes rescuing everyone on board.

Local media reporting a 16-year-old passenger is now in critical condition. The crash temporarily shut down operations at the Pearl Harbor visitors' center and the USS Arizona Memorial. A very, very dramatic video indeed.

Remember, we have a unique two-night event kind of continuing on CNN starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. All six Republican presidential candidates for the first time in this entire campaign answering questions from the voters of South Carolina. A live televised town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, they will field voters' questions tonight. It all starts just a little bit more than an hour from now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.