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OSU Attack Investigation; Interview With Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark; Trump Makes More Cabinet Picks. Trump Takes on Flag-Burning; Sources: Campus Attacker Likely Inspired By ISIS; Black Boxes Found in Deadly Crash of Soccer Team's Flight; War in Space: The Next Battlefield. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 29, 2016 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're learning more about his Cabinet choices right now.

Burning issue. Trump ignites new controversy by suggesting that anyone who torches the American flag should lose their citizenship or go to jail, the tweeter in chief unleashed again and raising constitutional questions.

ISIS soldier? Authorities now believe the Ohio State University attacker was inspired by terrorist propaganda, as ISIS goes a step further and claims he was one of its own. Stand by for breaking news on the investigation.

And crashed dreams. Three soccer players are among the survivors of a plane disaster that killed the rest of the team on its way to a historic game. Tonight, new clues about what went wrong and only a handful of people came out alive.

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: Breaking news tonight, new evidence that terrorism was likely a motive in the car and knife attack at Ohio State University. Sources tell CNN that investigators believe he Abdul Razak Ali Artan was inspired by ISIS propaganda, as well as the writings of the al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

We're told there's no indication the attacker actually communicated with any terrorist group, even ISIS is now claiming he was one of its soldiers.

In the Trump transition tonight, the president-elect is making more choices about his Cabinet, including two veterans of what he called the Washington, D.C., swamp. Trump tapping Georgia Congressman and Obamacare critic Tom Price as health and human services secretary. Just moments ago, the Trump team officially announced that Bush era labor secretary Elaine Chao is being nominated to head the Transportation Department. We're standing by for Trump's seconds meeting with Mitt Romney about

his possible nomination as secretary of state. We're also told the men's wives will be joining them for dinner tonight as some Trump allies cringe at the thought that Romney might be hired by the man he condemned during the campaign.

We're also looking at the fallout to the president-elect's response to a flag burning controversy at a small New England college. Trump tweeting that flag burners should be punished possibly with jail time or by having their citizenship revoked.

I will talk about the transition and chaired with retired General and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark. He is standing by along with our correspondents and analysts as we cover all the news that's breaking right now.

Up first, a transition power alert. CNN has learned that Donald Trump has selected financier Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary.

Let's to go our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's in New York with the latest on the Trump transition.

What are you hearing, Jim?


Steve Mnuchin is now expected to be tapped by Donald Trump as his new treasury secretary. He is a former partner of at Goldman Sachs and was the finance chair for the Trump campaign. Wolf, all along throughout this process Steve Mnuchin's name has been at the very top of the list of candidates for treasury secretary, so this comes as no surprise.

He is considered to be very close to Donald Trump and has had several meetings with the president-elect since the election on November 8. You can see him right there on the screen. He is not a very familiar face to the American public, but he will be as the man over at the Treasury Department.

Donald Trump has an unlikely dinner date tonight in other news, and that is Mitt Romney. As you said, we have learned that future first lady, Melania Trump, and Mrs. Romney will join their husbands for dinner as well.

Despite the complaints from his own team, the president-elect is still actively considering Romney, one of his harshest critics, for secretary of state. But some other contenders have moved into the picture as Trump fills out his Cabinet the only way he knows how, with lots of drama and distractions.




ACOSTA (voice-over): After campaigning as the ultimate outsider, Donald Trump reached inside the Beltway to fill his Cabinet today.


ACOSTA: Tapping Elaine Chao, the former labor secretary under President George W. Bush and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to lead the Transportation Department, and GOP Congressman Tom Price as secretary of health and human services.

A doctor from Georgia, Price has led the Republican charge on health care in the House with proposals to transform Medicare into a voucher program for seniors and dozens of attempts to repeal Obamacare.

REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: This law is not only harming the health of so many Americans in many, many ways across this country, but the health of our economy.

ACOSTA: Democrats vow they're ready for that battle.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's clear that Washington Republicans are plotting a war on seniors next year. Every senior, every American should hear this loudly and clearly. Democrats will not let them win that fight.


ACOSTA: Inside the transition, the real fight is over secretary of state, as the president-elect met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a top candidate for the post, pushed by advisers who are aghast at the prospect of that job going to Mitt Romney, who dines with Trump tonight.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I know he has a number of outstanding individuals that he is talking with, but I was glad to be here.

ACOSTA: In addition to staffing his new administration, Trump is igniting new constitutional controversies on Twitter, insisting that nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag. "If they do, there must be consequences. Perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail."

While his vice president passed on that question...

QUESTION: Should flag burning be outlawed?

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President-Elect, what's on the agenda today?

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: It is going to be a busy day. Stay tuned.

ACOSTA: Trump's one-time model for a Supreme Court justice, the late Antonin Scalia, once told CNN flag burning is protected free speech.

ANTONIN SCALIA, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: If I were king, I wouldn't allow people to go out burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment which says that the right of free speech shall not abridged, and it is addressed in particular to speech critical of the government.

ACOSTA: Trump's spokesman disagrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think most Americans would agree with me that flag burning should be illegal. It's completely despicable.

ACOSTA: Trump is still lashing out at the news media over stories he doesn't like, tweeting: "I thought that CNN would get better after they failed so badly in their support of Hillary Clinton. However, since election, they are worse."

The incoming president also retweeted complaints about fact-checking from CNN and others poking holes in Trump's baseless claim that millions of fraudulent votes went to Clinton, which simply did not happen.

TRUMP: They're starting to get very nervous, the press. The dishonest media, world's most dishonest people.

ACOSTA: A sign that Trump's media bashing days from the campaign are far from over.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: President-elect Trump is going to keep doing everything he can to distract people. It's called watch the birdie. And then over here do something else that is very dangerous.


ACOSTA: And we're told both Trump and Pence sat down for the presidential daily briefing today.

A source says this was just the third time the president-elect has received the PDB, as it's called, since becoming president-elect. And later this week, Wolf, Trump will embark on a thank you tour, as they're calling it inside the transition, to show voters his appreciation for being elected president.

Mike Pence will also be there. That will start with a rally style event on Thursday in Cincinnati. Wolf, obviously, rallies were a big part of his campaign. It appears they will be part of his transition as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he carried Ohio, as we all know, an important battleground state. And Cincinnati was very important in that battle. He's going to say thank you to the folks over there.

Jim Acosta, thank you to you as well.

Also tonight, some key Republicans are unsettled by Trump's threat of extreme punishment for flag burners.

Our senior politics reporter, Manu Raju, is joining us from Capitol Hill right now.

Manu, you had a chance to speak, for example, with Senator John McCain about Trump's tweets. What did he say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Remember, John McCain 10 years ago voted for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

But Republicans like him don't really want to engage on that issue now. They would rather focus on the transition and what they will do in the new Congress. When I had a chance to talk to McCain earlier today he made clear there should be some form of punishment for flag burning, but did not say he wanted to talk much about what Donald Trump had to say earlier today. Take a listen.


RAJU: He said that the people who burn the flag should be prosecuted. What do you think about that?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That was a very close decision by the United States Supreme Court. I do not approve of burning the flag. I think there should be some punishment.

But right now the Supreme Court decision is that people are free to express themselves that way.

But I do not approve of it and I think there's other ways for people to express views rather than burn a flag that so many Americans fought and died for.

RAJU: He even said lose citizenship on it. He even said that people should lose citizenship.

MCCAIN: I will not comment on Mr. Trump's comments. I have not and will not.

RAJU: Why not? He's the president-elect and you're a very senior member up here.

MCCAIN: Because that is my choice. Because it's my choice. And I am just reelected by the people of Arizona and during that campaign I did not comment on Mr. Trump. I will continue to not, because I have to defend this nation.

I'm the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. We have all kinds of challenges. My time is devoted to trying to make sure this nation is secured, not to comment on every comment of Mr. Trump's.

That may be your priority and yours and yours. That may be your priority to comment every day on any comment Mr. Trump has. My priority is to try to defend the nation and the men and women who are serving it. I cannot carry out that mission by responding to every comment of president-elect Trump's.



RAJU: Wolf, it just shows that Trump's tweets can often be a distraction to his colleagues here on Capitol Hill.

I also had a chance to question Ted Cruz about Donald Trump's criticism and call for some severe punishment for flag burners. Cruz said he criticized flag burning. But when I ask him should be punishment like what Trump is calling for, he didn't say. He walked into an elevator -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting.

The Senate majority leader, as you know, Manu, Mitch McConnell, he also spoke today. What is he saying about his wife, Elaine Chao, as Trump's pick for transportation secretary?

RAJU: He calls her an outstanding choice. He said with it a laugh. He said he actually would not recuse himself from voting on her nomination as well.

When asked if he urged Donald Trump to choose her as the labor secretary -- transportation secretary, excuse me -- he would not say. He did not want to comment on that.

But what will be interesting, Wolf, is the relationship between Elaine Chao and the Senate as they try to move forward a very significant infrastructure package early next year. We will see how these two work together as a power -- a political unit, if you will, to try to push together a major policy item on the Trump agenda.

We will see how Mitch McConnell responds to it as well, because some conservatives are nervous about spending a lot of money on infrastructure projects.


BLITZER: Yes, as you know, in almost every rally he did during the campaign, he spoke about the crumbling infrastructure, the roads, the bridges, the airports. He said the United States has to build up all those areas. Elaine Chao as transportation secretary, assuming she is confirmed, and we assume she will be confirmed, that will be a huge, huge job.

A lot of Democrats, you're absolutely right, they want to work on an infrastructure program like that. They see it as the job stimulus package at the same time.

Manu, thank you very much for that report.

Let's talk about all of this and more with retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark. He's the former NATO supreme allied commander, also a former Democratic presidential candidate.

General thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: I know you personally don't support burning the flag. It is repulsive. We all hate it. But it is freedom of speech. The First Amendment, how important do you believe it is to uphold that right?

CLARK: Well, I think we have got to uphold the Constitution. And that has been judged as a right.

I think it is terrible. I finds it personally offensive, but it is within the law.

BLITZER: When you see someone tweet something like this, something like Donald Trump tweeted today involving the basic First Amendment, freedom of speech, if you will, as repulsive as burning the flag might be, what do you think?

CLARK: I think he is just picking up on people's feelings and trying to reflect the feelings of people he thinks helped him get elected.

And in that, he's right. I think most Americans do find it repulsive.

BLITZER: But he suggested people should perhaps lose their citizenship or go to jail for a year if they burn the flag. Your reaction to that?

CLARK: I don't thinks that is going to happen, at least not unless there's a change in the law in the United States.

BLITZER: Do you support the former CIA Director retired General David Petraeus to become the next secretary of state?

CLARK: Well, Dave Petraeus is an extremely smart, very experienced, very capable man.

I have known Dave Petraeus since he worked in my office when I was a colonel and he was a captain. I have always been impressed with his performance. And he certainly brings a lot of knowledge and experience.

There's an ethical issue or a legal issue in his background. And president-elect Trump is going to have to decide how he plays that off. But one thing I think you can be sure of is if Dave Petraeus becomes the secretary of state, he will bring an awful lot of knowledge and capability and energy to that job.

BLITZER: But you know he pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information, lying to the FBI. It was a misdemeanor. Got a couple years probation. Is that a problem? Should he be eligible to receive classified information, the top-secret security clearances?

CLARK: This becomes ultimately the decision of the president of the United States, as the security the clearance.

And it's up to the Congress of the United States to determine whether or not he is confirmed if he is selected as secretary of state. And I think you have to respect president's choices. I think people have to look at this. And the people who have been elected by at this people of the United States, our senators, are going to have to make those decisions. BLITZER: Another retired general, General Mattis, is being considered

as secretary of defense. I assume you know him as well, a retired four-star general, former head of the U.S. military's Central Command.

You think he would be a good secretary of defense?

CLARK: I think Jim Mattis is -- he was a terrific combat leader. He's a very smart guy.


He has got a great capacity for work. I have spoken with him. Jim never worked for me. John Kelly did. But I think these are honorable men who have sacrificed for their countries. They have got a lot of character. They have got a lot of experience. They are smart. They work hard.

Ultimately, whoever goes in those positions is going to work as part of the president's team. So if president-elect Trump picks them like this in retired military, he's going to have to expect them to be able to not just say yes. They are going to say no sometimes. And they are going to disagree strongly on some issues and they will put their feet down and fight for it.

So when he picks retired military, that's what he can expect to get, because that's the way officers in the United States armed forces are trained.

BLITZER: You understand the Department of Defense. You're a retired four-star general, former NATO supreme allied commander.

There is a law, there is a rule out there that a retired general has to spend seven years outside of the military as retired before eligible to take charge over at the Department of Defense. There can be a waiver. Congress can pass it. General Mattis has been outside -- he retired, what, about three years ago or so.

Do you fear that that would be a problem if he were to get that waiver, since he's only been retired for three years as opposed to the required seven?

CLARK: Well, again, this is something that the Congress is going to have to decide on.


BLITZER: What do you think?

CLARK: My personal view is, I think it is better for people to have a longer time outside the service. I know, in my own case, I ran for president three years after getting out. I thought I had a lot of experience on the outside.

I had done some work in investment banking and I had written a couple of books and I had made a lot of speeches and done some consulting. But now I have been out 16 years. I have learned so much more. And I think that you get a lot more experience the longer you stay out.

The longer you have been out, I think the better in terms of going back in, because I think when you're in a position like secretary of defense, you have to have a broader vision than simply being an advocate for the armed forces. You're really the number two person in the chain of command. So you really are looking at national decisions and national priorities and supporting the president of the United States in the national command authority.

It is not just about what is good for the Department of Defense or good for the services. So I think experience in the outer world is important. That's the reason the law was put in place like that.

BLITZER: As you know, he has got a retired general. He's only been out for about a year, a little bit more than a year, Mike Flynn, as his national security adviser. He does not require congressional confirmation of his appointment.

But there are several other generals who are now, as we have been talking about, being considered. Does the president-elect he run the risk of having too many generals, too many military personnel in effect running key operations for him?

CLARK: You might think that. But actually I'm proud of all these men who have served their country, who have sacrificed, who have gone to war, whose families have suffered in some cases.

General Kelly lost his son in conflict in Southeast Asia -- sorry -- Southwest Asia. And so these are very serious men who will do their best. They're not politicians. They're going to stand up and be counted and they are going to do their part.

I think it is a good thing to have a sprinkling of men of this caliber at high levels in government. And, honestly, I wish the Democrats had done a little bit more of that. It is very challenging. And some of them will go in and discover that where you have to blend politics with policy, it is a very, very difficult mix.

But we want the president of the United States, whoever he is she is, to succeed. And we want the very best people this there providing advice and helping to execute the policies. And then it is up to the loyal opposition to help shape those policies and do the best we can collectively for the United States and the people of the United States.

BLITZER: Earlier this year, retired three-star general, Lieutenant General Flynn, who is going to be the national security adviser to the president at the White House, he tweeted this about Muslims.

He tweeted this. He said: "Fear of Muslims is rational. Please forward this to others. The truth fears no questions."

I don't know if you ever worked with General Flynn. He wound up as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Do you think he will steer the president-elect as national security adviser in the right direction when he thinks this about Muslims? CLARK: I think if you ask Mike Flynn today, would he like to have

that tweet back, he would probably say, yes, I would like that tweet back, because it was political shorthand. And he got caught up in something. At least, that's my interpretation of it.


So I think there is a lot of responsibility on Mike Flynn. And I think he has got to reach out and put together the smart policies for the United States.

And one of the things Mike Flynn said earlier, when he was in Afghanistan, is, he was very sensitive to public opinion among the Afghan population. He was sensitive to Muslim sentiment. And he knew you couldn't win if you alienated the Islamic population there.

He is going to have to reconcile things he's said with what he knows to be right. It is going to be a challenge. That national security adviser position is a big, tough position. It has got a lot of legal issues associated with it, a lot of issues way beyond dealing with ISIS and terrorism.

And so whoever holds those positions and Mike and his deputy are going to really have to step up to the line in terms of seeing the big picture and helping the president get the right national security strategy and integrate foreign strategy with economic strategy.

What America needs is a strong economy to be able to do the things it wants to do. And this is what president-elect Trump said in his campaign. So somehow that national security post has to blend economics and foreign policy.

BLITZER: We have got to take a quick break. But you have confidence in General Flynn?

CLARK: I have not worked Mike Flynn directly. But he is an Army officer. He has come up through the ranks. A lot of people I respect had a lot of strong feelings and very strong positive feelings for Mike Flynn.

So, I hope he will do the best he can and I hope it will be good enough to really help the country move in the right direction.

BLITZER: All right, General, we are going to take a quick break. We have more to discuss, including word now from ISIS. The Islamic State says the man who wound up with a car trying to kill people, he injured 11 at Ohio State University, was actually a soldier of ISIS. There's new information coming in.

We will update our viewers right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with NATO retired Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark.

And the breaking news we're following, investigators now believe the Ohio State attacker was inspired by propaganda from ISIS and the al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike. There's no evidence that he had any actual direct contact with any terrorist group, at least not yet. But ISIS is claiming he was one of its soldiers.

So here's the question, General. How do you combat this kind of phenomenon, this kind of development, if at all possible?

CLARK: I think you do it by, first of all, having jobs and good opportunities for people of every ethnic group and faith in America.

I think you do it by reaching out specifically to the Muslim American community in various locations and making sure that they feel welcomed and accepted in the United States.

BLITZER: But, General, this 18-year-old was a student at Ohio State University. He had enormous potential, came here as a 16-year-old, originally from Somalia, went to Pakistan with his family. Then the United States gave the family asylum here in the United States.

CLARK: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: Graduated from a community college, Columbus State Community College, apparently with honors.

He had every opportunity. And all of a sudden, he is inspired by ISIS or al Qaeda to go ahead to try to kill people on a sidewalk and then take out a butcher's knife and try to slash people. He had every potential.

CLARK: Wolf, it is a terrible thing.

And I know that the authorities will be talking to his parents and people who knew him there at the school and trying to sort through this. But, in many of these cases, these are people who are personally disturbed. They have other emotional issues.

In some cases, the parents are unaware. In some cases, the parents should have been aware and done something to stop it. But I think, if you put this in context, and you look at the number of incidents and what has happened here, the United States has done an extremely good job.

And we should be very proud of our people and our institutions for the way we have integrated various groups in the United States, and we certainly don't want to lose that.

BLITZER: Because a lot of these people who are inspired, they have all had jobs. They have all had good opportunities, but something happens and they go out and try to commit these acts, these terror acts.

All right, General, as usual, thanks so much for joining us. CLARK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on the Trump transition drama, as an ally of the president-elect warns that his tweets are getting him into trouble.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. CNN has learned that Donald Trump has selected former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin for treasury secretary. Our political team is here to talk about that and much more. The Trump transition going on.

[18:33:40] We're also talking about his controversial tweets.

Gloria Borger, let's begin with one of those controversial tweets, suggesting if you burn the American flag, maybe you should go to jail for a year or have your U.S. citizenship revoked. That's causing a lot -- a lot of buzz.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is, and I think maybe Donald Trump wanted to cause a lot of buzz with it. He wrote the tweet after FOX News aired a segment about dissent at a New England university. And protesters were protesting the election of Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Hampshire College, yes.

BORGER: Hampshire College, and the flag was removed. And I think that that struck a chord with Donald Trump.

No, look, let me first say nobody likes flag burning. It's an unpopular thing in this country, but there are Supreme Court precedents regarding your First Amendment rights to burn a flag. And you don't punish people in this country by revoking their citizenship for dissent. That is a right of citizenship.

And so I think what you see with Donald Trump is he will tweet and then perhaps realize that what he tweeted has ramifications and, also, legal problems. And right now, it would be unconstitutional.

BLITZER: The critics of him, and there are plenty of them, say what he's doing, in effect, is showing -- he really likes to punish people who disagree with him.

[18:35:03] DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it shows that he has that side of him, that he likes to lash out at folks who are suggesting disagreement or not falling in line with his -- his protocol.

The idea that Hampshire College students were out forcefully protesting I don't think sits well with him. But Wolf, I think this was a dangerous tweet. I've been one trying to hang back on this idea of, you know, hanging on every words of President-elect Trump's tweets. But when you're talking about the First Amendment, not only has the Supreme Court upheld that right to burn flags, they should uphold that right. I don't like flag burning either. But the fact that we have the right to do it sets us apart from other countries.

BLITZER: Why is he stirring up, Rebecca Berg, all of this right now?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I would be careful to assign too much strategic significance to this or any one tweet of Donald Trump's. I think he just was watching FOX News, had this thought and decided to tweet it out. Which some of his allies have been trying to tell him is not necessarily a good idea, especially if you're the president-elect.

Today, actually, Newt Gingrich sat down with "USA Today" in a video they published today and said, "If you're the president, you can't just be tweeting whatever you want." And so some people are now starting to try to urge him to at least hold back, have some sort of filter when it comes to his Twitter.

BORGER: I happen to have that exact quote here.

BERG: Great.

BORGER: And Newt said, "The president of the United States can't randomly tweet without having somebody check it out."

BERG: Exactly.

BLITZER: A lot of his -- a lot of his allies are suggesting the same thing.

BERG: Yes.

BLITZER: But is there, Ron Brownstein, some coherent strategy that is unfolding? Because the tweets, not only these current tweets, the tweets during the Republican primaries, the tweets of the general election, certainly helped him win. He got elected president of the United States.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think kind of the operational day to day, tweet to tweet may be impulsive. But there does seem to be an overall arc and a strategy.

The timing of these individual tweets may be driven largely by what he is responding to, what he is watching in the media or reading. But yes, there does seem to be an overall strategy. Kind of a multilayered strategy.

One -- and it's kind of interestingly contradictory. On the one hand, it is to force the media to pay attention to what he wants us to pay attention to. To kind of, you know, shift the gaze of the media away from stories he doesn't focused on to those that he does want focused on.

And it's also a way for him to reach around the media and talk directly to his constituency in a way that often is used to delegitimize kind of conventional sources of information.

And there's one other thing: that most of these tweets often go toward cultural hot-button issues. And I think one of the big questions going forward will be, if Donald Trump can't deliver the economic turnaround that voters in places like Scranton and Gary and Youngstown were promised, which is a heavy lift after decades of de- industrialization in communities like that all across the country, how much does he turn toward polarizing cultural issues as a way of maintaining the affinity and the connection with his base, if he can't deliver the economic change they were promised?

BLITZER: Gloria, the breaking news, Steven Mnuchin, former Goldman Sachs partner, a finance chairman of Donald Trump's campaign, certainly one of his closest economic advisers, has now been slated to become the next treasury secretary of the United States. A critically important job.

BORGER: It is. And you know, Donald Trump has promised to drain the swamp in Washington and to make sure that Wall Street pays its fair share of taxes and everything else. I mean, he has -- he has said, "I'm for you guys here." And he's a populist.

And so it's interesting that he's appointed somebody from Wall Street, from Goldman Sachs. And you know, he's going to face some tough questioning on Capitol Hill. You've got people like Bernie Sanders up there. I'm assuming he's going to end up getting confirmed, because they don't have the majority.

But I do think that this is somebody, talk about loyalty with Donald Trump. This is somebody who came on as a fund-raiser for him, did the work that he needed to do, and I think Donald Trump considers him one of his -- one of his team.

BLITZER: David Swerdlick, as you know, Steve Bannon, his chief strategist in the White House, he's a former Goldman Sachs banker, as well.

SWERDLICK: Yes, I mean, as Gloria is saying, look, one way or another, a lot of these picks -- you have Mnuchin. You have someone like Elaine Chao being nominated for transportation secretary, are establishment picks. They may not be the same establishment picks that would have been in a Jeb Bush administration, but they are establishment picks, I think -- I think we can...

BLITZER: Very quickly, Ron Brownstein, your reaction?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, look, I think on the domestic side, Donald Trump is closer on most issues to where the Republican consensus has been. So as David said, you're more likely to see figures that have kind of come out of kind of the Republican name stream.

I think it's on the foreign policy side, where as we have seen, it is very complicated, as secretary of state. Not only because of the personalities involved. But because finding someone who is both credible as a potential secretary of state and shares the iconoclastic views of Donald Trump on foreign policy, relative to where Republicans have been for the past 60 years, that is a narrow needle to thread.

[18:40:07] BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stay with us. There's much more coming up.

We're also right now getting new information. We're digging deeper into the investigation of the Ohio State University attack as authorities point to evidence it was inspired by ISIS and terrorist propaganda.

Also breaking news on the plane crash that nearly killed every member of a winning soccer team except for a few who amazingly survived.


[18:45:12] BLITZER: Right now, we have more on the breaking news on the Ohio State University car and knife attack. Investigators now more convinced that it was inspired by ISIS and other terrorist propaganda.

Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's on the scene for us in Columbus, Ohio.

Pamela, what are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned from officials that the suspect Abdul Artan bought the knives he used in the attack here on campus in Columbus just before he launched that attack. So, the morning of. And we've also learned from official that he was consuming terrorist propaganda from both ISIS and al Qaeda and investigators believe that is what motivated him to launch the attack here.


BROWN (voice-over): Today, ISIS is claiming responsibility for inspiring the attack on the campus of the Ohio State University's campus, releasing a statement on its propaganda news website. There is no evidence the claim is true.

Investigators will only say they're looking at terrorism as a possible motive.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is plenty of available evidence to indicate that this individual may have been motivated by extremism and may have been motivated by a desire to carry out an act of terrorism.

BROWN: A post on Abdul Artan's Facebook page just before the rampage pays tribute to al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki and admonishes the United States, saying, "By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday."

Investigators are scrutinizing his cellphone and laptop and interviewing those who knew him to learn more about his motivations.

LOUANN CAMAHAN, NEIGHBOR: They asked me the same questions everybody else is requesting, you know, about his character. And, you know, his character was presentable. I mean, he didn't seem or appear to pose a threat to anybody.

BROWN: The owner of a convenience store near Artan's home says he came in regularly, including on the day before the attack.

HICHAM OUHAMMOU, STORE OWNER: He came in. He grabbed whatever he wanted and we talked for a little bit, like hi, how you doing, da, da, da. How was your day? I mean, that's pretty much it. He just left, smiling, like usual. That's it.

BROWN: CNN has learned Artan was born in Somalia and moved to Pakistan as a refugee in 2007. He came to the United States with his mother and siblings in 2014 on a green card. A U.S. official says his family went through more than two years of intense vetting before being allowed into the United States.


BROWN: Once he arrived, he attended a community college, and then transferred to Ohio state, where he told the student newspaper he was self-conscious about showing his Muslim faith.

Artan and his family also apparently spent 23 days in Dallas in 2014, according to a faith-based group who worked with them, but they left for unknown reasons.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This was an 18-year-old. He had just transferred schools. We don't understand his background with the family. He is an immigrant. We don't understand the issues he had integrating. One of the difficulties in these is looking at what he's claiming and comparing it to the rest of his life.


BROWN: And tonight, investigators are scrutinizing his activity on his phone and his laptop that was seized. And so far, there is no indication that he was in contact with terrorists overseas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chilling story, indeed. Pamela Brown, thanks very, very much.

There's more breaking news happening tonight. Aviation officials say both black boxes have now been recovered from a deadly plane crash in Colombia. Seventy-one people were killed including nearly every member of a soccer team flying to an historic game.

There are questions tonight about why the plane went down and how six people managed to survive?

Let's bring in our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh.

Rene, what are you learning?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that the pilot reported some problems with the airplane before it went down. But tonight, it is still unknown what exactly caused the crash with its beloved soccer team onboard. Investigators will look at a wide range of possibilities, from pilot error, to the safety record of the charter company, to mechanics, and even weather conditions.


MARSH (voice-over): This is what's left of the plane carrying Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense and more than 20 you journalists after it crashed into a mountain side in Colombia. At least 71 of the 77 people on board are dead.

Miraculously, among the rubble, there are survivors and their account of the final seconds on board could help investigators.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: They wanted to know whether there was any indication in the cabin from the flight crew to prepare for a crash landing. Did they hear the engines functioning normally right up until the end? Were there any diversions during the flight? Did they have to fly around a storm?

MARSH: The charter flight left Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Monday night, bound for Medellin, Colombia. It declared an emergency just minutes before the crash.

[18:50:03] The pilot reported electoral problems.

Investigators found both of the plane's black boxes in perfect condition. It will tell them if the plane had any mechanical problems.

PRES. MICHEL TEMER, BRAZIL (through translator): Sadly, all we can do beyond crying for those who have left us was to arrange federal government support for the families who are in mourning.

MARSH: Satellite images showed thunderstorms had moved across the region and meteorologists say there was likely turbulence.

Just days ago, the team celebrated a semifinal win in the South American Cup. They were on their way to Colombia to compete in the finals. Here they were at the airport, one of the players taking this video and snapping these photos while on board.

Fans mourned outside the soccer stadium where the team was scheduled to play.

Brazilian football great Pele tweeted, "Brazilian football is in mourning."

A team that experienced a meteoric rise, making it to the elite level of the Brazilian soccer championship. Investigators are now trying to figure out what brought this Cinderella story to such a deadly end.


MARSH: The aircraft that the team was on was manufactured in 1999. It's used mainly for short flights. Investigators are now going to look at the operation of the charter company and, of course, the crew. Did they make the right decisions? Was something going on in the cockpit? And, of course, Wolf, those black boxes, as you know, critical to this investigation. They're in good shape at this point.

BLITZER: Yes, the investigation only just beginning, but they have both of those black boxes.

MARSH: And they're in good shape.

BLITZER: Which is critically important. Rene, thank you very much.

We'll have more breaking news right after this.


[18:56:08] BLITZER: Tonight, CNN takes you inside secret U.S. operation centers where the U.S. military is targeting a new battlefield, space.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has put together a fascinating special report.

Take a look at this.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three stories underground, past multiple security check points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each room we can set up at a different classification level.

SCIUTTO: And through a series of blast doors designed to resist the electromagnetic waves of a nuclear attack, it is one of the most secret military headquarters in the world. U.S. Strategic Command, located at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha.

So secure, so remote that this is where Air Force One took President George W. Bush, the morning of 9/11.

We received rare access.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the U.S. StratCom Global Operation Center.

SCIUTTO: Today's strategic command handles a total of nine crucial missions, ranging from preventing cyber warfare to commanding nuclear war -- and since the early 2000s, defending space.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are associated with the responsibility of missile warning.

SCIUTTO: Admiral Cecil Haney was in charge here when he spoke with us just before retiring.

(on camera): In that range of responsibilities, can you do any of those jobs today without space?

ADM. CECIL HANEY (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND: Absolutely not. We are really dependent on our unique space capabilities to provide the president options if required.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Controlling and protecting space is essential for maintaining American military superiority.

PETER SINGER, AUTHOR, "GHOST FLEET": We're more dependent on space than anyone else. That's why we're more powerful. But it also means if you pull it away from us, we're really bad off.

SCIUTTO (on camera): More vulnerable.

SINGER: Exactly.


BLITZER: And Jim Sciutto is joining us right now.

Jim, who is trying to exploit America's dependence on space right now?

SCIUTTO: There are a lot of adversaries who would like to do it, but the two most capable are Russia and China. And we talk about all the time in a number of spheres where there's competition. But they're both very advanced space nations and they're ones that are behind the U.S. in a number of ways so they look to space to right that balance, asymmetric warfare in effect, take away America's advantage in space and therefore you take away a big advantage down here on earth, not just for the U.S. military. But it would be a very easy way to exact the cost from you and me, from civilian populations.

BLITZER: Have Russia and China actually deployed weapons in space?

SCIUTTO: Well, that's what the U.S. is watching right now. We know they have tested laser weapon, directed energy weapons that can be fired even from here on earth, all the way up into space and dazzle or damage satellites. But they've also begun to deploy maneuverable satellites that have the capability either to disrupt U.S. space assets, maybe fire a laser at them, even as simple as just ramming into them like a bullet and destroying them forever.

And the Chinese have one that even has an arm on it. The concern among the U.S. military is that's what they call a kidnapper satellite. That it could flock one out of space and therefore out of its function there.

U.S. is watching this very closely. The debate underway for the U.S. is whether it takes the step of deploying weapons in space.

BLITZER: And what surprised you most in doing all this research?

SCIUTTO: That these weapons are not theoretical sometime down the line, but that they're up there, above our heads, tens of hundreds of miles above our heads today, right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, you did an amazing job. Thanks so much for their special report.

And to our viewers, you can see Jim's special report, "War in Space: The Next Battlefield" tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only, only here on CNN.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.