Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Maine Senator Angus King; President Obama Attacks Trump; Orlando Mass Shooting Investigation; Source: Killer Told Wife about Interest in Terror Attack; Obama Blasts Critics Demanding He Say "Radical Islam". Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 14, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Did she know? Investigators are focusing in on the killer's wife and whether she had provided any help for the attack or had knowledge that could have prevented it. We're getting new information right now.
Living through hell. Survivors share new details about the slaughter in a gay nightclub, including the gunman's crazed laugh and how he calmly stepped over bodies.
And radical response. President Obama unleashes a blistering comeback to Donald Trump, accusing him of dangerous yapping and dismissing his emphasis on a term to describe the terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no magic to the phrase radical Islam. It's a political talking point. It's not a strategy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, we have new information about what the Orlando attacker's wife knew about the murderous plans before the slaughter at that gay nightclub.
A law enforcement official now telling CNN she noted violent changes in his behavior and he talked with her about interest in carrying out a jihadist attack. Authorities have seized evidence from inside the couple's home and they're learning more about the killer's preparations, including surveillance visits to the Pulse nightclub and to another potential target, a Disney entertainment complex.
Survivors now sharing horror stories about the killer's actions during the massacre, including how he continued to shoot victims even after they were dead. Others revealing that Mateen was a regular customer of the club long before the attack. His ex-wife now acknowledging the possibility that he may have been gay and hiding it.
All this as President Obama takes reaction to the shooting to a new level. He offered his angriest, more forceful reaction yet to Donald Trump and other critics of his handling of the war on terror.
A top member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Angus King, he's standing by live. I will ask him what he is learning about the investigation.
And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the breaking story.
First, let's go to CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez.
Evan, you're learning more about the killer's wife and what she apparently knew about the attack. Tell our viewers what you know.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Sources tell me tonight that the wife of the Orlando gunman knew more than they initially thought. We have learned that she has told investigators that she noticed violent changes in his behavior and that she says that he talked to her about his interest in possibly carrying out a jihadist attack.
Law enforcement sources tell me that they do not believe the wife, Noor Salman, who you here on screen, was a co-conspirator. In other words, they don't believe that she was involved in plotting this attack. But, tonight, we have learned that she has told the FBI that she tried to convince him not to do anything violent.
And, Wolf, she has told apparently the police she did not know anything about his plans to carry out this attack on the Pulse nightclub. Now, the wife -- the shooter's wife, Salman, also told investigators that when he left their home on Saturday, which was hours before this attack, he lied about where he was going.
But there's a twist here. She did travel with him when he visited the Pulse nightclub and the Disney Springs complex in early June. Our sources think that that trip was to case those locations for possible attacks. Wolf, they're now looking at everything she has told them and comparing it to evidence and trying to figure out whether she should be charged with everything, specifically a charge called misprision of a felony for failing to report what he wanted to carry out, some kind of a report -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume she has legal representation. She has a lawyer. Is she cooperating with the FBI, fully cooperating?
PEREZ: She is. She is cooperating with the FBI. She's provided these interviews.
It's just a matter now of trying to check what she's telling the FBI against all the other evidence that they have gathered, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure this investigation is only just beginning. We're getting more information. All right, this is a big, big development. Stand by, Evan.
I want to go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's in Orlando. She's getting more information on the terror investigation.
What are you learning, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we just spoke to the sheriff of Orange County. And he said it is clear through the course of the investigation that this gunman was looking at several possible targets here in the Orlando area in the days leading up to the attack. But why he settled on Pulse nightclub is still unclear to investigators.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, authorities now believe the gunman's wife, Noor Salman, visited the potential target with her husband in advance of the attack at Pulse nightclub. They're trying to determine if she knew he was planning an attack.
QUESTION: Did you know your husband of going to do this?
BROWN: Sources tell CNN she's been providing helpful insight to investigators.
For the first time, we're seeing inside the couple's apartment. Clothes and children's toys can be seen shattered on the ground. Investigators have seized items and searches of this home, and those of the shooter's relatives, including a Dell computer, smartphone, digital camera and related media.
Sources tell CNN Omar Mateen was consuming large quantities of jihadi propaganda online, including ISIS beheading videos.
OBAMA: The killer took in extremist information and propaganda over the Internet. He appears to have been an angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized.
BROWN: One of the survivors today revealing what she heard the gunman tell 911 dispatchers.
PATIENCE CARTER, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: The reason he's doing this is because he wants America to stop bombing his country. And from that conversation from 911, he pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
JERRY DEMINGS, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF: He was simply making statements about who he pledged allegiance to and other statements that was in a language believed to have been Arabic.
BROWN: As authorities piece together clues painting a picture of the shooter's life, CNN is learning more about his movements in the hours leading up to the attack.
Investigators say they used cell phone tower data to determine that he spent several hours the day before the shooting at Disney Springs, a shopping and entertainment center in the Orlando area, before the attack at the Pulse nightclub Sunday morning. Law enforcement sources tell CNN he also visited Disney Springs and the Pulse nightclub at the beginning of June. Investigators believe the visits were intended to conduct surveillance of the location.
DEMINGS: He came with plan of action. He had multiple rounds of ammunition. He moved through the facility fairly fluidly. So everything that he did indicates that he had given forethought to what he was doing.
BROWN: A performer at Pulse nightclub tell CNN Mateen visited the club dozens of times, averaging a couple visits a month over three years. CNN has learned that the FBI is now looking into claim Mateen was on gay dating apps such as Grindr. But it's unclear what his intentions were on those apps.
BROWN: So, this investigation still very active. But at this point, investigators believe that the gunman acted alone. However, if his family and friends such as his wife knew about his plans in advance and didn't come to authorities, that is a different story.
Of course, Wolf, that would be a crime -- back to you.
BLITZER: Certainly would be, Pamela Brown in Orlando for us.
We're getting this new information, and we're going to have a lot more on the role of the wife.
But there's other important news that is breaking as well. President Obama's fiery defense of his record in this war against terror, he took on his critics, most notably Donald Trump, with a mix of cold hard facts and raw emotion. It was part of a one-two punch aimed at Trump, with Hillary Clinton delivering the second, somewhat less powerful blow.
Let's go our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, this was a pretty remarkable moment for President Obama.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure was, Wolf.
Today will go down as one of the most memorable events in a very eventful 2016 campaign season, the day President Obama dove head first into the fray.
A senior administration official told me that it was yesterday afternoon that the president was absorbing all that Donald Trump was saying about Muslims. He told his aides he wanted to say something and the results today was actually months, maybe in his case years of pent-up frustration.
OBAMA: We are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind-set and this kind of thinking can be.
BASH (voice-over): A rhetorical explosion, rare for any president, especially one who prides himself on keeping calm.
OBAMA: We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence.
Where does this stop?
BASH: Tearing into Donald Trump with visible anger and disgust.
OBAMA: That's not the America we want. It does not reflect our democratic ideals. It won't make us more safe. It will make us less safe.
BASH: The power of his words amplified by the stagecraft, a commander in chief coming out of a counterterrorism briefing standing with his top military officer, a four-star general.
OBAMA: We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We don't have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights are clear about that.
And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.
BASH: And what really got him going, the GOP refrain that he's weak on terrorism because he refuses to use the term radical Islam.
OBAMA: There has not been a moment in my 7.5 years as president where we have not able to pursue a strategy because we didn't use the label radical Islam.
Not once has an adviser of mine said, man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around, not once.
So someone seriously thinks that we don't know who we are fighting?
BASH: All that as the candidate Obama endorsed delivered a more measured version of the same message.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is fixated on the words radical Islam. Now, I must say, I find this strange. Is Donald Trump suggesting that there are magic words that, once uttered, will stop terrorists from coming after us?
BASH: Hillary Clinton continues to use Trump's response to the Orlando massacre to define him as too volatile for the White House.
CLINTON: Yesterday morning, just one day after the massacre, he went on TV and suggested that President Obama is on the side of the terrorists.
CLINTON: Now, just think about that for a second. Even in a time of divided politics, this is way beyond anything that should be said by someone running for president of the United States.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: Now, both Hillary Clinton and President Obama were quite deliberate in not just going after Trump, but putting the onus on Republican rank and file and leadership to decide whether they support Trump's rhetoric and prescriptions, knowing full well that most don't.
Now, as for Trump himself, so far, he has been uncharacteristically limited in his response, staying off Twitter so far.
Here's what he said -- quote -- "President Obama claims to know our enemy and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies and for that matter the American people. When I am president, I will always -- it will always be America first," rather.
And I should say, Wolf, that we do expect Donald Trump to be live at an event at the top of the hour. We suspect he will elaborate on that just a bit.
BLITZER: I'm sure he will.
All right, Dana, thanks very much.
Joining us now, Senator Angus King, independent of Maine. He's a top member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in. We will get to all of that, but, first, the new developments that this wife, the second wife of this terrorist may have had knowledge of his plot, his plans to slaughter all these people at that gay nightclub. I know you have been well-briefed. Tell us what you can.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, we just had a briefing this afternoon with the Intelligence Committee. And essentially it's what you have been reporting.
Number one, there is a second wife. Number two, she's cooperating, being interviewed. Number three, it appears she had some knowledge of what was going on, visiting some of the other sites. We don't know whether she was involved and knew about the purchase of the guns, which took place, by the way, only about a week before the attack.
But she definitely is, I guess you would say, a person of interest right now and appears to be cooperating and can provide us with some important information on who this guy is, what his motivations were and what his plans were. BLITZER: So, basically, what I hear you saying that she may have
known about his desire to kill people, but not necessarily at that gay nightclub at that specific operation? Is that what I'm hearing?
KING: Well, we don't have any confirmation of that. We do know that she was apparently with him at that club at one point, but apparently was also with him at the Disney facility.
So whether she knew that they were casing the place when they were doing that, I think that's what is being discussed right now. I think the important thing is that she is talking to the investigators and hopefully will share some information that will help us get to the bottom of this.
BLITZER: Is it your information she is fully cooperating?
KING: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: But she has legal reputation, I assume?
KING: Yes, I assume that.
BLITZER: And was is unusual though that he would take that woman, his wife, his second wife, to a gay nightclub?
KING: Well, I would think that would be unusual, but maybe he was saying, look, let's just see what's going on here, what this is like or something like that.
Or he may have shared with her an idea that this is a place that I think is -- needs to be wiped out. We don't know yet. We don't know to what extent she had knowledge of what he had in mind.
BLITZER: Because, to me, she was supposedly a religious Muslim, he was a devout Muslim. To go to a gay nightclub in Orlando, that seems to be against everything they would believe, as observant or devout Muslims.
And that would lend credence to the idea that they knew -- she knew that they were casing the place. But that's what hopefully we will find out in the next day or so.
BLITZER: Is there any information that others, anyone else may have had wind of what he was perhaps thinking of doing?
KING: Not that I have heard thus far, Wolf. And of course that's one of the things the FBI is really focusing on, is, are there other people, was it a plot? So far, that does not appear to be the case.
BLITZER: When he went to buy that AR-15 and a pistol, do you know if she went with him to purchase those weapons?
KING: We don't know that.
BLITZER: And was that OK with you that he could buy these kinds of weapons, an AR-15, even though he had been investigated, under surveillance by the FBI, he was on an FBI watch list? There's a problem there potentially.
KING: There is. And I think that's a place that -- it's a problem we need to fix. It's ridiculous to me that you can be prevented from getting on an airplane, but you can't be prevented from buying an AR- 15.
So, that's something we're going to be looking at in the Congress over the next few days is trying to craft a no fly-no no-buy policy, if you will. I think it's important that such a policy have a constitutional escape hatch for people who may be wrongfully on the list.
But in this case, this guy was on the list for a while. Then he was off. Then they investigated him again. And I think we really need to clarify what puts you on the list, what it entails. But clearly if you're on one of those lists and can't fly, to me, it's just common sense. You shouldn't be able to buy.
BLITZER: But the argument has been that some people are inadvertently put on the list because their names sound like someone else's name.
KING: And that's why there should be a process whereby they can get themselves off the list, if it's proven to be a mistake or without sufficient basis.
There are people that are very dangerous out there. And if they're on that list, they're there for a reason. And as long as they have a process by which they can in a sense prove they're not -- shouldn't be on the watch list, I think it makes sense to limit their ability to buy a gun.
BLITZER: And this terrorist clearly was one of those people.
All right, stand by, Senator. We have more to discuss, more on the breaking news we're following, the role of this second wife in this plot, if you will. What was her role, if any? We will stand by for more information.
BLITZER: We're back with Senator Angus King. He's leading member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We're going to talk with him in a moment.
But there's breaking news. A law enforcement officer now tells CNN that the killer at an Orlando nightclub had talked to his wife about his interest in carrying out an attack. Right now, we're also learning more about what might have driven his desire to commit a massacre.
A critical question tonight, was the man who said he hated gays secretly gay himself?
CNN's Brian Todd is in Orlando. He's been investigating.
Brian, you have been looking into new accounts about the killer's private life. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have, Wolf.
Putting together a mosaic of intelligence here about the killer's private life along with the new information the fact that his wife may have had some knowledge about his broader intent in this plot, we have got new information on the killer's activity in the gay community, but there are also new questions about his possible motive for engaging with the community.
TODD (voice-over): The picture that's emerging appears to show a conflicted killer. Several gay men, including clubgoers, say Omar Mateen was a frequent visitor of gay nightclubs and used gay dating apps.
Kevin West knew him from the gay dating app Jack'd.
KEVIN WEST, INTERACTED WITH MATEEN: When he was first contacting me, he was saying, like, what clubs are popping? The last contact was like three months ago.
TODD: West recognized Mateen when he saw him on Saturday night.
WEST: I was right in front of Pulse. And I was standing outside of the car. I said hey. He turned, looked at me, said, hey. And he was just walking like a regular person. But he had on one of those droopy-type hats that hang off the back of your head in a way.
And I always remembered him, because the picture that he showed me online before was of him wearing one of those hat things.
TODD: Chris Callen, who worked at Pulse as a performer, told Anderson Cooper he had seen Mateen dozens of times at that club over a three- year period.
CHRIS CALLEN, WORKED AT PULSE: Like I said, I had introduced myself once before. When we first saw him there, me and a security guard that used to work at Pulse, we said hello and everything, and he was very friendly and all that.
But, yes, he had frequently been to that bar. And it's been going on three years.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think he was there to meet people? And was he there to meet guys? Was he there to -- do you know why he was there?
CALLEN: Yes. When I -- when we met him -- and, I mean, we introduced ourselves and said hello, and that was really all I got to do with him, because I was performing.
But he seemed like -- and even my partner said that he seemed like a very nice, comfortable -- he loved where he was at. He was drinking with another guy.
TODD: It's a stark contrast to the angry, homophobic young man described by former co-workers and family members. Mateen's ex-wife told CNN she acknowledges he may have been gay, but may have hidden it out of shame.
SITORA YUSUFIY, EX-WIFE OF OMAR MATEEN: It surely might be, because now everything that's coming out, and I feel like the tragedy that happened, you know, particularly in that nightclub, you know, targeting that group of people, there has to be some sort of a reason psychologically.
TODD: In the immediate hours after the attack, Mateen's father said he believed his son's motivation for the killing was seeing two men kiss recently in Miami. It's not clear whether he was interested in men or whether he was pretending to be in order to surveil possible targets.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: We are going through the killer's life, as I said, especially his electronics.
TODD: Tonight, investigators are piecing together all the evidence, as they work to understand a killer's motives, whether he was driven by loyalty to a terror group or his own inner demonstrations.
TODD: Now, as far as the apps that Omar Mateen used, although Kevin West said that he knew Mateen through the app called Jack'd, the people who run that app say that they cannot substantiate that and they haven't been contacted by law enforcement.
There are indications that Omar Mateen may have used an app by Grindr. The people who run that app say they are cooperating with law enforcement -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much, Brian Todd in Orlando.
Senator King is still with us.
What do you think motivated him?
KING: I think it's impossible to say. It's clearly -- I think there are indications he was conflicted, confused, angry.
Back along, he had fights at work and those kind of things. But I'm not going to psychoanalyze the guy from 3,000 miles away. Clearly, his articulated motive was terrorism, as he made the 911 call that night. And apparently the things he said in the nightclub talked about stop bombing my countrymen and those kinds of things. But then, on the other hand, you have the evidence we just heard about him frequenting this club. It's very hard to separate and pull out. This may be a case of a mentally unstable guy doing something horrible and then using terrorism as a kind of excuse. But I think we will learn more in the days to come.
BLITZER: I'm sure we will learn a lot more.
Senator King, thanks very much for coming in.
KING: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on the breaking news about what the Orlando killer told his wife about his desire to carry out a terror attack.
Plus, how will President Obama's blistering new condemnation of Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric play with voters? And did he coordinate his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks with Hillary Clinton?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don't have religious tests here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Breaking news. CNN has learned that the gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando night club told his wife about his interest in carrying out a jihadist attack.
[18:31:53] Let's turn to our experts for analysis. We're joined by Dr. Lisa Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist; our senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes; our justice correspondent, Evan Perez; and our terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.
Evan, what are investigators learning about this terrorist, what he did in the days, in fact, the months leading up to this attack?
PEREZ: The picture that's emerging, Wolf, is one of preparation for carrying out this attack. He may not, according to his wife, at least, not have told them -- told her exactly what she was planning to -- what he was planning to do. But it's clear that he was making preparations to carry out something.
He did some surveillance of possible venues, including the Disney property, Disney Springs, which is an entertainment property there in Disney World, as well as visiting the Pulse nightclub, possibly more than once. So he was preparing. He was looking to see where he could carry out this attack.
Disney, it should be noted, has increased security in the past year. So perhaps he was spooked by that and decided that it was best to try someplace, a softer target.
BLITZER: His wife, we're told, has legal representation. This is his second wife, Tom; is cooperating with the FBI. But take us inside the FBI investigation. What are they asking her? What are they trying to figure out?
TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Trying to figure out if she knew whether he intended to carry out this attack, how much about that did she know, how much preparation he may have done that she would have been aware of to indicate whether he was going to do it.
And then, of course, the question has come up about his sexual orientation. Did he go to that club because he was gay and trying to pick up men, or did he go there because he was surveilling the location for the attack or other locations, as well?
BLITZER: What if she -- what if she knew about his jihadi intent, he wanted to commit jihad, but he didn't necessarily -- she didn't necessarily know about this specific attack?
FUENTES: Well, if she didn't know that, it's going to be a difficult issue, and it will be up to the Department of Justice to determine if that's enough to bring charges against her for supporting him -- providing material support to him for this terrorist act. But that will be very difficult.
And right now, she's talking to them. She actually doesn't have to talk to the FBI. If she does talk to them, it has to be the truth. And then they have to corroborate what they're hearing from her and then go to all the other people that knew her, other acquaintances in her social contacts and other people in her social contacts, now that she's potentially a suspect in this case, and find out what they can say about it. Did she tell -- did she confide in someone else that he intended to commit this act?
BLITZER: And look at her social media history, as well.
BLITZER: Paul, you're learning more about how this gunman was inspired, what would have motivated him to commit this attack. Tell our viewers what you've learned.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, in the years leading up to the attack, he was an avid consumer of jihadi propaganda, notably the videos of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American al Qaeda cleric in Yemen whose central message was the United States was at war with Islam, and it was people's religious duty to fight back to launch attacks.
So that played a significant role, it seemed, in his radicalization.
[18:35:00] We are also learning that he appears to have had a deep conflict about his own sexuality, Wolf, and it is quite possible that he would have felt that that was the result of the infidel west corrupting him. And in launching this martyrdom attack, would feel that he would be achieving redemption, that he would be atoning for, quote unquote, "sins" and would have a chance -- and would end up in the afterlife. That is a very conceivable trajectory here.
BLITZER: Yes. He knew he was going to die. He was going to become a so-called martyr by going out and killing all these people at that gay nightclub.
Lisa, he went to the club, apparently, several times, based on all these reports we're getting. He sent messages on this gay dating app, as you know.
He clearly must have been tormented inside. When you look at -- when you look at him, what goes through your mind as a trained psychologist?
LISA VAN SUSTEREN, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: He's a deeply unstable person with a depraved mindset, murderous rage in his head. And he is working out those emotions over, unfortunately, the bodies of the people that he -- the people that he murdered on Sunday.
So I look at this as something which started a long time ago. It's been wrapped as a political ideology. It's been analyzed as relationships between this one and that one, and his wife did this and all the rest.
The reality is that, as long as people like this can get hold of a gun, we're going to have incidents like this; and we'll cast it in all sorts of different ways.
BLITZER: The FBI did investigate him extensively over a two-year period in 2013 and 2014, and their investigation was, quote, "inconclusive."
FUENTES: Right. And what I've heard about the 2013 investigation was it was extensive. The fact that they had a ten-month investigation, introducing informants to him, trying to use other surveillance techniques with him. That would have tied up at least one whole squad of agents for ten months, maybe longer. And that's an extensive use of resources for a bureau that has more than a thousand actual ISIS cases right now.
Now, in 2013, ISIS didn't exist yet until 2014, but he was, you know, espousing other groups as who he was following, al Qaeda based or al Nusra and others.
So the fact that they looked at it, all of it was just talk. And, you know, he's able to hide behind the First Amendment, which allows you to say all kind of things. And until you take action or start the process of going toward action, there's not much they can do with that.
PEREZ: I do think, though -- I do think that, if that case were opened today, after Garland and after the way that the bureau has changed how it does these cases, I think the result might be different, simply because, in the past year, we've seen a bunch of these guys get locked up, necessarily -- not necessarily for terrorism charges, but just get them off the street.
FUENTES: The FBI's been locking people up since 9/11 on even less than this. Having run these kind of cases myself, they're very diligent.
PEREZ: I'll tell you -- I'll tell you, from talking to officials, they tell me that that would be different.
BLITZER: All right. Hold your thoughts, guys, because there's more information coming in, as well. I want to take a quick break. We're going to have more on the breaking news. The wife of the Orlando attacker telling investigators her husband expressed interest in carrying out jihadist attacks.
[18:43:15] BLITZER: We're following breaking news that the wife of gunman at an Orlando nightclub says he had previously expressed interest in launching a terror attack. We're going to have details on these stunning new developments in just a moment.
But first, President Obama launched into a powerful critique of Donald Trump today, defending his own record on the fight against terrorism and slamming the presumptive Republican nominee for his response to the massacre in Orlando.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We're starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we're fighting, where this can lead us.
We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence.
Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer, they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?
We've heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign.
[18:45:00] Do Republican officials actually agree with this?
Because that's not the America we want. It doesn't reflect our Democratic ideals. It won't make us more safe.
It will make us less safe, fueling ISIL's notion that the West hates Muslims, making young Muslims in this country and around the world feel like no matter what they do, they're going to be under suspicion and under attack. It makes Muslim Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I haven't seen the president get that angry in a long time.
We're joined by our chief political correspondent Dana Bash, our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny and our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Your take, Dana, first, on what we heard from the president.
BASH: Well, as I said to you at the top of the hour, this was a moment. It's one we'll look back on, I think, as not only a pivot for President Obama but as kind of a demarcation in -- one of many actually, in how the 2016 campaign is going, in that, you know, he used the bully pulpit in a way that no one else can because he's the only president.
But the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, I'm told that he was kind of looking at the coverage yesterday afternoon of Donald Trump's big speech, getting angrier and angrier, it was pent-up for a very long time, he went and told his aides let's do this, this briefing before he came out and spoke was already scheduled. It was actually scheduled before the Orlando attacks and he decided he was going to tack on.
Now, some may question whether or not it was appropriate to give that kind of highly political speech in the East Room with the chairman of Joint Chiefs next to him, but I can tell you just in talking to Democrats, this is the kind of robust, aggressive messaging that they've been wanting the president to do for a very long time, especially on an issue like national security, which Democrats are hoping and they think they can take back as an issue.
BLITZER: And Hillary Clinton, she also delivered a blistering attack, mentioning Trump by name so many times today, really going after him.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: She did. Her tone was a little more measured, I think, than the president's there. But she is -- it's personal for her because she is running of course, but for President Obama, this is so personal. Donald Trump is the man who questioned his citizenship.
To me, the look in the president's eye there was similar to when he walked into that briefing room more than four years ago and really confronted Donald Trump for the first time and finally turned over his birth certificate. But President Obama, he's not on the ballot again but he essentially is, his legacy is.
BASH: You covered him since he was a state senator. Have you ever seen him like that?
ZELENY: I have not seen him like that. He's usually so cool, reserved and measured because he thinks this is so serious. Talk about getting people's attention here. Of course, it was a coordinated mileage. The White House and Clinton campaign have multiple people who used to work in other places and the Democrats are on the same page like this.
And Republicans interestingly are running away from this. They are not answering our questions about what they think of Donald Trump here. They can do that for the next five months.
BLITZER: And I want to get to that in a moment.
But, Jeffrey, after the president spoke, Donald Trump released a statement among other things, saying, "President Obama claims to know our enemy and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies and for that matter, the American people. When I am president it, will always be America first."
So, how does the president most effectively do you believe deal with Donald Trump as he goes out there and actively campaigns for Hillary Clinton?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think today was a pretty good start. I think what he has to talk about, what the president has to talk about is what specifically the government is doing to protect the American people from terrorism at home and abroad. Donald Trump's position is quite clear, is that we're failing everywhere, we're under attack everywhere, the attacks are going to get worse. And the president and certainly Hillary Clinton have to make the case that, no, things are not getting worse and we are -- we do have an effective strategy in ace.
That's what this -- one of the major fights is going to be about today and this very clear departure from no drama Obama, this very dramatic Barack Obama today was, I think, the beginning of his defense of his own policy.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Dana, we talked about this, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, he didn't want to talk about Donald Trump today when reporters questioned him. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, asked about Donald Trump's reiteration of a ban on Muslims coming to the United States. This is a war with radical Islam, Ryan said it's not a war with Islam, Muslims are partners.
Will this gap between the Republican leaders and Trump be narrowed?
BASH: Not when issues like this are out there and not when Donald Trump continues to double down on the very policies and rhetoric that made these leaders run from him during the primary season when he was one of several candidates. This is their worst nightmare. This is exactly what Republican leaders and many in the rank and file who we want to distance themselves.
What they really didn't want because this is the kind of thing where instead of talking about the issues they want to talk about, Hillary Clinton, why they think she would be a bad president, they are running away from reporters or, you know, sort of metaphorically running away from reporters, saying that they don't want to even B.S. about.
I just was pulling up on my phone something that I think is even more telling than the leaders. Senator Bob Corker, who's the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who has been quite supportive of Donald Trump today in the hallway, he said in an effort to be constructive, I offered public encouragement at important times but I must admit I'm personally discouraged by the results. That's a fancy way of saying, a fancy way of throwing up his hands basically.
BLITZER: I'm getting similar reaction, I'm sure you have to, from a lot of Republicans up there who are very upset.
ZELENY: I was on Capitol Hill this afternoon and hearing the same thing. They thought that Donald Trump would change by now. They really think that he's squandering an opportunity here.
TOOBIN: Wolf --
BLITZER: Jeffrey, hold on, because we're getting more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We now know that the gunman in Orlando told his wife about his interest in carrying out a terror attack. Could he have been stopped? Stay with us.
[18:56:21] BLITZER: Breaking news, law enforcement officials tell CNN a gunman at an Orlando nightclub told his wife about his interest in carrying out a jihadist attack. We're going to bring new details as they emerge. Also tonight, we're hearing firsthand accounts from survivors of the Orlando nightclub massacre, and the medical professionals that worked tirelessly to save their lives.
Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta shares their stories.
ANGEL COLON, ORLANDO ATTACK SURVIVOR: We just grabbed each other and started running.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're listening to 26-year-old Angel Colon described the horrifying seconds before he is shot by the gunman Sunday morning inside Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
COLON: I was shot about three times in my leg, so I had fallen down. I tried to get back up, but everyone started running everywhere. I got trampled over and I -- shattered and broke my bones on my left leg.
GUPTA: Unable to move, Angel just lays there waiting.
COLON: All I could hear is the shotgun, one after another and people screaming, people yelling for help.
GUPTA: In a cold calculating move, the gunman seemed to zero back in on the victims.
COLON: I hear him come back and he's shooting everyone that's already dead on the floor making sure they are dead. GUPTA: He closes in on angel.
COLON: I can hear the shotgun is closer and I look over and he shoots the girl next to me and I'm thinking I'm next, I'm dead. So, I don't know how but by the glory of God, he shoots towards my head but it hits my hand, and then he shoots me again and it hits the side of my hip. I had no reaction. I was just prepared to just stay there laying down so he won't know that I'm alive.
GUPTA: Angel is finally rescued by a police officer who drags him to safety and becomes just one of 22 survivors who are recovering at Orlando's Regional Medical Center.
Today, the doctors tending to the patients described how they were overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.
DR. CHADWICK SMITH, ORLANDO REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: This is not a drill. This is not a joke. We have 20 plus gunshot wounds coming in.
GUPTA: Forty-four victims, all needing different levels of care. Doctors had to make quick decisions on who is to be seen first.
Tonight, as the hospital tries to return to normal, doctors and staff are trying to come to grips with what happened.
SMITH: I was walking out of the hospital, and walking out I saw team members walking into work crying and I just -- I just couldn't express how -- it's hard to describe how you feel, but I know how they feel.
GUPTA: And, Wolf, I can also tell you that they do a lot of drills to try and practice for this sort of thing. Scenarios. But after hearing those stories you just heard, you can understand why those real life scenarios are going to be so different than anything you might practice.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much for that report. Hearts go out to all of those families. We wish them only, only the best.
And finally tonight, we want to say farewell to a key member of our SITUATION ROOM family. Our producer Marlena Baldacci (ph) is heading to Chicago. She is getting married.
Marlena, we're going to miss you. We wish you only, only the best. We're so happy for you. Good luck in Chicago.
And to our viewers, that's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
CNN's breaking news coverage of the Orlando terror attack continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."