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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Florida Governor Rick Scott; Putin's Preference; Five Killed in Florida Airport Shooting; Sources: Shooter Once Said He Heard Voices Telling Him to Join ISIS; Intel Report: Putin Ordered Campaign to Influence Election. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 6, 2017 - 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: Tonight, the gunman is in custody and we're learning new details about him. What was his motive?
Running for cover. The gunfire sends people fleeing for their lives, passengers streaming out to the tarmac, and the chaos multiplying with reports of additional shooters. How did the evacuations spiral out of control?
Putin's preference. Also breaking, the declassified intelligence report on election-related cyber-attacks is released stating Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election with a clearance preference for Donald Trump. What tactics did Russia use besides hacking?
And witch-hunt. Trump blasts the focus on Russia's election hacking as political persecution, blaming adversaries he says are embarrassed by their election loss. Later, Trump calls his intelligence briefing on the subject constructive. Will he accept the findings?
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: We're following two major breaking stories this hour, including a deadly shooting rampage in Florida.
A gunman opened fire in a baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport, killing five people, injuring eight more, triggering a chaotic evacuation that saw hundreds of people fleeing on to the airport tarmac. The suspected shooter is in custody tonight. Sources identify him as Esteban Santiago, a former soldier in the Alaska National Guard.
We're also told he was on an arriving flight and retrieved the gun from his checked luggage.
Also breaking right now, the release of the intelligence report on Russian cyber-meddling in the U.S. presidential race. It concludes that President Vladimir Putin order an influence campaign aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton, helping Donald Trump and undermining public faith in the U.S. democratic process.
Trump was briefed on the report today hours after he called the focus on Russian hacking, and I'm quoting him now, "a witch-hunt."
We're covering that, much more this hour with our guests. Our correspondents are also standing by and expert analysts as well.
Let's begin with the deadly shooting rampage at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport.
CNN Sara Ganim is working the story for us.
Sara, we're learning more tonight. Update our viewers.
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Police identifying the shooter as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, saying he opened fire moments after landing at the airport, the rampage killing five people, injuring eight more and sending hundreds running for cover.
GANIM (voice-over): The bloody scene unfolded shortly before 1:00 this afternoon as passengers were collecting their luggage at Fort Lauderdale Airport's terminal two.
Sources tell CNN the shooter, Esteban Santiago, coldly moved through the crowd, opening fire. Panicked passengers were seen running on to the tarmac, escaping the chaos inside. Planes landing at the airport were held on the runway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Building evacuation at terminal two.
GANIM: As ambulances raced to the scene evacuating victims. Sources say Esteban had landed in Fort Lauderdale moments earlier on a flight from Alaska. CNN has learned he had legally checked at least one gun into his luggage. When his bag arrived, sources say he went into the bathroom, pulled out the gun and came out shooting.
When police arrived, they say he was arrested without incident.
SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, SHERIFF: We have the shooter in custody. He's unharmed. No law enforcement fired any shots. The subject is being interviewed by a team of FBI agents and Broward Sheriff's Office homicide detectives.
GANIM: Then, as police worked to clear the scene and let passengers back into the airport, more chaos, as reports spread of possible shooters in two other terminals, leading to more confusion and fear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone is kind of panicked right now. Everyone ran in different directions.
GANIM: Tonight, police say Santiago was the only shooter and that police never opened fire. (END VIDEOTAPE)
GANIM: Wolf, I spoke briefly to one victim who had been on a different flight coming from Atlanta, was there in the baggage claim area when the shooting happened. He said some of the victims were on his flight. He said a laptop in his backpack -- and we can show that to you, that laptop -- had taken a bullet.
He and others are being interviewed as we speak by the FBI about what they saw, Wolf.
BLITZER: Santiago arrived on a Delta flight himself. We earlier mistakenly reported it was Air Canada. It was not Air Canada. It was a Delta flight from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale. Thanks very much, Sara Ganim, for that.
We're learning new information about the suspected gunman.
Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, has that for us.
Evan, what are you hearing from your sources?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of the big questions we have right now is the motivation of this suspect. And we're getting a little bit of a picture of what he -- what the last couple of months was like for him.
We know from talking to law enforcement officials that he went to the FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska, a couple of months ago. He was saying -- apparently, he said that he was hearing voices, including hearing voices telling him to join ISIS. There was some concern about his mental health at that point, Wolf.
And apparently local authorities were called and they took him to a hospital for a mental evaluation. He voluntarily checked himself in to that hospital. We don't know much more about the kind of treatment he may have gotten during the time he was being checked out there at that hospital.
We did talk to a security company in Anchorage where he was employed. We talked to the owners there. Both owners have told us now that they have been talking to law enforcement and they didn't want to comment any further. We're told, Wolf, that his employers were among the people who heard him talking about hearing these voices.
It's important to note that at this point, despite this report about him hearing voices and about him saying that he was hearing voices telling him to join ISIS, that there's no indication of terrorism, we're told by law enforcement officials. At this point, they're not treating it as a terrorism case. Right now, they're still trying to figure out all the possible different motivations that could come into play here, including, Wolf, the reports from several witnesses on this aircraft that he came in on earlier today that said that there might have been some kind of altercation. Now, we don't know on which leg of the flight. We're told that this
is a flight from Alaska that may have stopped, I believe, in Minneapolis before landing in Fort Lauderdale earlier today. That is something that we're checking into as well. But according to witnesses who have now been interviewed by law enforcement, they describe some kind of altercation that may have happened.
Now, it appears whatever altercation happened, it wasn't major enough for security to meet the aircraft when it landed in Fort Lauderdale. There was no incident at all when he landed. When he -- once he arrived, he went down to the luggage area in the lower level at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, he retrieved his bags, went to the bathroom, retrieved the gun, and then he opened fire, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're getting more information, Evan, on this suspect, Esteban Santiago, from the Alaska National Guard.
Let me update our viewers, what they're telling us right now, that he joined the Puerto Rico National Guard back on December 14, 2007. He was then deployed for almost a year to Iraq with the Puerto Rico National Guard from April 2010 to February 2011. He was in the U.S. Army Reserves prior to joining the Alaska Army National Guard.
He received a general discharge. That's not an honorable discharge. A general discharge from the Alaska Army National Guard on August 16, 2016. The explanation was unsatisfactory performance. He was a combat engineer during his service in the military. When he was discharged, his military rank was E-3, private 1st class.
So, it does give us a little bit more information on this individual, Esteban Santiago, Evan.
That's right, Wolf. We're told he has been interviewed by the FBI, by the Broward Sheriff's Office down there in Fort Lauderdale. And some of what he is saying doesn't check out. For example, he initially told the investigators that he came from Canada, which may have led to some assumptions there by the local officials that he came in on this Air Canada flight. Air Canada flies into that very same terminal.
We now know that he did not come in on Air Canada. But we also know that he indicated that he was part of -- was a member of the National Guard and then just simply stopped showing up. That's again something that he has told investigators. And that may explain why he had this discharge from the Alaskan National Guard that is not honorable. It's simply just a general discharge, because he may have stopped showing up.
And that's the reason why they decided to separate from him.
BLITZER: Unsatisfactory performance. As a result, he got a general discharge...
BLITZER: ... from the Alaska Army National Guard in August of last year.
Evan, thanks very much, Evan Perez reporting for us.
Let's get some more on all of this.
The Florida governor, Rick Scott, is joining us on the phone right now.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Hi, Wolf.
This is just a despicable, evil act. Think about these innocent people coming in on a flight. According to law enforcement, we have lost five lives here. We have people in our hospitals fighting for their life.
This is something that nobody in Florida is going to tolerate. And we will do everything we can to hold whoever is responsible for this to the full extent of the law. This is just a disgusting act by whoever did this, whoever was involved.
BLITZER: Well, we know the suspect who was arrested, apprehended, Esteban Santiago.
Based on what you know, Governor, and you obviously know a lot more than we do, is it one individual who did this or were others potentially involved?
SCOTT: According to the sheriff's department of Broward County, there was one shooter, but there is still a lot of unanswered questions. I'm still at the airport, being briefed by law enforcement.
They are -- you know, there's a crime scene here. They have shut down the airport. They're going through every piece of the airport to find out exactly what happened. They're talking to everybody. But this is just a despicable act on innocent people.
I have reached out all day. I came over here. Gosh, I landed about, I guess, about 2:20. I heard from president-elect Trump right away and vice president-elect Pence right away. I have kept them informed. I have talked to the sheriff's departments around the state where we have major airports, our major airports, our National Guard to make sure they're ready.
My focus, hold people accountable and keep people safe.
BLITZER: What else can you tell us about this suspect, Esteban Santiago, Governor?
SCOTT: It still -- it will come out. We're in the middle of an investigation. And it will come out as they -- and they have -- as they confirm the information. Right now, it's in the middle of an investigation. Everybody is
working well together. The sheriff's department, the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement., everybody is working together to make sure exactly what happened, who was accountable and then we will hold them accountable.
BLITZER: Make sure it doesn't happen again. Do you know anything about a potential motive?
SCOTT: Right now, I don't know. There's an ongoing investigation. Wolf, today, I announced I'm going to put more money in our budget for counterterrorism and intelligence efforts.
And so it's very important that all of understand what happened. And we're doing everything we can to take care of the displaced passengers. We've got resources available for them. They can go to Floridadisaster.org/info. But we're going to do everything we can to take care of them. I'm going to continue to pray for the individuals in the hospital that we don't lose another life here.
BLITZER: Would you characterize, Governor, this as a terrorist attack? Five people were killed. Eight people injured and, as you point out, some of them now fighting for their lives in Fort Lauderdale hospitals?
SCOTT: Well, I think what we know so far, Wolf, is this was clearly an evil act. I mean, this is despicable, people just flying in and being murdered by this shooter. It's despicable, the stuff that's going on.
I am going to do everything I can to keep everybody safe that comes to our state. And I'm not going to tolerate any of this. And I'm going to do everything I can to hold whoever was responsible, Wolf. There's an investigation going on. But whoever was, we're going to hold them accountable.
BLITZER: Do you believe, Governor, that airports in Florida -- and, as we know, those airports are huge. A lot of tourists coming in, a lot of Floridians using those airports. But actually airports around the country as well need to rethink how they approach security, specifically at baggage claim?
SCOTT: Wolf, I reached out to all the major airports in the state today and the sheriff's departments in each of those counties just to make sure they have all the resources they needed.
Look, what you do the way, you do this is, we're going to find out what happened here. We will figure this out. And then if something else needs to be done, we will do it. Florida is at a 45-year low in our crime rate. We look at what's happened and we figure out how to improve constantly.
BLITZER: Governor, where does the investigation go from here? SCOTT: Well, right now, I'm still -- I'm sitting right outside the
terminal where the shooting was. They are doing -- they are interviewing people.
I remember the Pulse attack. They went through. They will understand. They will talk to everybody they can. They will know where every bullet went. They will know everything about this. FBI, sheriff's department -- the FBI does a very thorough job of trying to figure out what happened here.
So, right now, we're going to find out what happened. I know law enforcement will -- you know, is committed to provide information as they're able to. But they don't want to do anything that would impact their investigation.
BLITZER: I know you have got to run, Governor.
The airport, I take it, is still shut down?
SCOTT: Yes. Wolf, right now, Wolf, the airport is shut down. They're sweeping the entire airport.
So the terminal where the shooting was is going to take a while. It's a crime scene. Right? It is going to take a while before it reopens.
BLITZER: Governor Rick Scott of Florida, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck.
SCOTT: All right, thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Fort Lauderdale Airport is, as we said, shut down right now.
Want to bring in Tom Fuentes, our CNN senior law enforcement analyst, former assistant director of the FBI.
Is there more that needs to be done? Should this individual, Santiago, should he have been on a no-fly list, for example, if the FBI -- he went to the FBI in Alaska a few months ago and said he was hearing voices in his head. They were obviously worried about him. They took some steps. But he got on a plane with a gun and ammunition in his checked bag.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If someone goes into a law enforcement office, whether it's the FBI or state and local police, this happens almost on a daily basis even when I was a cop. Every day, somebody comes in, makes wild statements and the authorities think they have mental problems.
They can try to refer him to a mental institution, but they can't track him the rest of his life to see that he gets treatment or that he gets cured or that he is continuously monitored. And so then the next step is they're not in a position to deny somebody, unless they're judged mentally ill in a formal process. If that doesn't happen, they will not be able to keep them from obtaining a weapon. And in this case, it sounds like, because he was in the National Guard, he may have already had it all along before anybody had any idea that he was mentally ill.
There's only so much that any law enforcement agency is going to do if someone expresses some degree of mental illness. They just can't lock them up based on that and keep them locked up forever.
BLITZER: But at what point does the FBI say, you know what, there are serious concerns about an individual, he should be on the no-fly list?
FUENTES: As far as the no-fly list, he has to express some type of terrorist rhetoric or something that he's going to join.
But many people will come in and say things like that, that they want to be a member of a terrorist group or that they are. If they're more convinced that he's mentally ill as opposed to serious about it, this is probably what's going to happen. Even now, we don't know that he's a terrorist yet.
BLITZER: No, we were just learning more about it, including the general discharge from the Alaska National Guard back in August of this past year.
The Fort Lauderdale Airport, once again, it is shut down as this investigation unfolds.
I want to go there.
CNN's Boris Sanchez is on the scene for us, a very chaotic scene over the past few hours, even though they said it was one individual shooter. There was a lot of panic going on in the hours that followed.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there were a few moments where we had no idea what was going and on even I got behind a column, because I wasn't sure what people were running from.
There were hundreds of people seemingly running in all directions. I will get to that in a second, but first I just want to update you on the situation here at Fort Lauderdale International Airport.
There's a Broward County Sheriff's Office helicopter that has been circling us for several hours. We are still on lockdown here. There are several hundred travelers have been stranded here. They have nowhere to go because there's no way in or out of this airport.
We have spoken to several people who were out on the tarmac and were terrified in the melee that we saw this afternoon. Several people also evacuated from this parking structure next to me in that panic, the fear of that second shooter. It all started just down from where we're starting right now at terminal two.
There were several dozen people huddled around law enforcement. And at one point several law enforcement officers that were heavily, heavily armed started running across the street into one of those parking garages. At that point, we heard screaming. We heard people running. They moved into this parking garage, they started to go floor by floor, and scanning it.
That was all happening behind us. On the other side, in terminal one, then we started hearing screams and seeing people running from there. And at one point on the lower level, there's actually a ledge here where we watched folks on the lower level being evacuated out by law enforcement. They were yelling at us to even get out of the way, because we were seemingly way too close to what was going on.
At one point this afternoon, there were hundreds of people were standing on the runway, many of them screaming and crying. At one point, they were moved to some -- to an area essentially on the other side of the airport. Eventually, they were able to move on. But as I said before, we are in lockdown here. There are still several hundred people that are not able to leave as this investigation unfolds.
It will be some time, Wolf, before they're able to go home and we get a clearer picture of what unfolded here.
BLITZER: Yes, very worrisome development indeed. Boris Sanchez, thank you very much.
Joining us on the phone right now is the mayor of Broward County, Barbara Sharief.
Mayor, thanks very much for joining us.
I wonder if you could update us with any more information you might have about the suspect or his motivations.
BARBARA SHARIEF, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, MAYOR: OK.
At this time, Wolf, there has not been any updates in terms of what the motivation of the suspect is.
What I can tell you is that there has been quite a bit of information that has been given out, and law enforcement right now is really concerned about misinformation, particularly with the identification of the suspect. They are reverifying that, because, at this point in time, there are some things about that that are not checking out.
BLITZER: Like what, for example? We want to be as accurate as possible, Mayor. Tell us what the problems are.
SHARIEF: In terms of the name itself, that may not be the appropriate or accurate information.
So what they're trying to do is identify and confirm that, yes, that is in fact the person that they do have in custody. I can tell you that he was taken alive. He is not injured. He did surrender to the personnel that was on scene during the shooting.
BLITZER: So, in other words, he may have had identification, some sort of I.D. identifying him as Esteban Santiago, formerly a member of the Alaskan National Guard, but it may be false I.D., he may actually be someone else? Is that what I'm hearing from you, Mayor?
SHARIEF: Correct. Correct.
SHARIEF: We don't want to continue to give that information out, and so we would like to just clarify that point.
BLITZER: So, in other words, what I hear you saying is we no longer should refer to Esteban Santiago, is that what you're saying?
SHARIEF: What I'm saying right now is we can't confirm that for sure. And so I'm not going to confirm that at this time.
BLITZER: All right. We will obviously be precise, as precise as possible right now.
Can you update us on any information, Mayor, you have on the status of the eight individuals who were injured? Because the governor said some of them are fighting for their lives.
So we have -- at this point in time, there was a total of 13 people injured during the attack, and (AUDIO GAP) of those people were transferred to area hospitals. Out of those eight people, their injuries are varying in severity. And so I can't give out any information at this time about those individuals specifically because some of the families have not been notified as of yet and some cannot be contacted as of yet.
BLITZER: How long will the airport, do you believe, Mayor, be shut down?
SHARIEF: This airport may be shut down into the night. Right now, they have swept the airport. They have moved all the passengers that were in the different terminals to the safety areas, as protocol dictates.
And what we're trying to do at this point in time is empty the airport, get the passengers off the tarmac as quickly as possible that need to be exited off the airplane, and then do a final sweep of the airport, make sure that everything is safe, and then the airport will be reopened. As you know, that's going to take some time.
And so we're not looking at opening the airport up at any time in the next couple of hours. It will be a while.
BLITZER: All right, Mayor, thanks. Good luck over there. Barbara Sharief is the mayor of Broward County, where that Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport is located.
Much more on the breaking news right after a quick break.
BLITZER: We're following two major breaking stories right now.
In a little bit, we will have more on the release of the U.S. intelligence agencies' declassified version of their report on Russia's election cyber-attacks.
Also breaking, the mass shooting at Florida's Fort Lauderdale Airport leaves five people dead, eight people injured. It happened in the baggage claim area of one of the airport's terminals.
Sources tell CNN the attacker was on an arriving flight. The gun was actually checked in his bag, his checked bag, the ammunition as well. The sheriff says the attacker is unharmed and was arrested without incident. The suspect does have a military background.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, update our viewers on what we're learning about this guy.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a short time ago, the Pentagon released a service record, military service record for a man with the name Esteban Santiago Ruiz. This matches the name of the person that, by all accounts, civilian law enforcement in Florida has in custody now.
And this service record has some very interesting details in it. This man was a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard and the Alaska National Guard and he did have a combat deployment to Iraq. He went to Iraq, deployed from April 2010 to February 2011.
Now, you will recall this was eventually -- there was the wind-down in Iraq, but this was still during some of the very heavy periods of combat. And during that time, he engaged in military activities that resulted in him getting a couple of very significant medals. He got the Iraq Campaign Medal with a star. That means he was in a combat environment.
He was also awarded a Service Combat Action Badge as a driver and mechanic. So here is the obvious question that we don't know the answer to. He was in a position to be driving a wheeled vehicle during combat activity in Iraq. Could he have been blown up? Could he have been in an IED explosion? Could he have suffered traumatic brain injury? Could he have suffered post-traumatic stress?
These are some of the obvious questions of any service member that might have been in that kind of combat environment in Iraq back during those years. We do not know the answer. That information, that medical information not likely to be publicly released. But it certainly is an interesting question about this man. He doesn't show that he got a Purple Heart. So, it doesn't show that he was ever wounded. But during those years, those who were in some of these explosive events, IED explosions, didn't always get Purple Hearts. So it doesn't show that he was ever wounded.
But during those years, those who were in some of these explosive events, IED explosions, didn't always get Purple Hearts. People standing nearby might not have gotten a Purple Heart for a traditional activity in which they would have been wounded. So -- so it's just something to consider.
[18:30:20] He served during these years of a great deal of military activity in Iraq. He is a combat veteran.
Still, all the pieces being put together. The Pentagon releasing the bare bones of his military record. But right now, we're being told the FBI really, of course, has taken this over, and the Pentagon does not expect a lot more to say about any of this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: By the way, Barbara, these are live pictures, the left part of the screen. Armored police. You see them walking outside, just outside the airport there. This is still a very tense situation.
Barbara, we've also been told he received what's called a general discharge last August from the Alaska Army National Guard for unsatisfactory performance. Not an honorable discharge. Tell us about that.
STARR: Well, a general discharge, for many military people, is considered quite serious. It would have indicated that, during whatever final period of time he was serving in the Guard, he was not performing to standard.
Sometimes this is done because people may briefly go AWOL. They may not report for duty as expected. They may not meet disciplinary or performance standards. There's any number of reasons for it. It can actually have quite an impact on your ability to find employment down the road; on your ability to really, shall we say, integrate back into civilian life.
To be clear, we don't know about this man. We don't know what he was facing. We don't really know, confirmed, what his issues were and why he got a general discharge.
But make no mistake, it's a very serious matter. Most people get honorable discharges. It doesn't indicate that he ever faced criminal activity. He did not get a dishonorable discharge by any information that we have here tonight. But a general discharge, let's be clear: it's -- it's not a great situation for any soldier to be facing.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Barbara, thank you very much. And I know we're going to be learning a lot more about Esteban Santiago in the hours ahead.
I want to bring in our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, who's also working the story for us. What are you finding out, Rene, specifically, whether or not this could happen at baggage claim at other airports around the country. What, it's outside the security perimeter?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We talk about this all the time when we see these sort of incidents happen not just happen here but overseas. This is the so-called soft target area of the airport. And if you talk to any law enforcement official, they will tell you it's almost impossible to eliminate vulnerabilities or a threat and get that down to zero.
So he took advantage of that vulnerability within the airport, the baggage claim.
As we've been reporting, he did legally, as it appears now, based on the information that we have, have that weapon inside his checked luggage. He also had the ammunition. That is perfectly fine if you follow very specific procedures. And it this point it appears as if he did.
You have to have it in a special case, a hard-side case. You cannot have the ammunition actually in the firearm. That needs to be separated. And you also need to check in with the ticket counter. So it seems like he followed all of those steps until, Wolf, as we know, how this all unfolded when he arrived in Ft. Lauderdale.
BLITZER: Evan Perez, you've been reporting he did show up sometime last year at an FBI office in Alaska, saying he was hearing voices in his head.
PEREZ: Right. And I think that does raise some very important questions that I think law enforcement is going to have to answer over the next few weeks as they try to do this investigation, which is he shows up at the FBI Anchorage office, and he says that he's hearing voices. He exhibits signs of having some kind of mental illness situation.
They call the local authorities, and they take him to the local hospital. And he admits himself. He essentially checks himself in for a mental health evaluation.
The question is, why does that allow him to still have a firearm, a weapons permit, you know, that allows him to take this firearm on this -- on this aircraft? I mean, is there -- is there something that should have been done there that would have made him prohibited from being able to carry a firearm, again, inside his checked -- checked bags? Perhaps it's his military background -- I'm not sure -- that might have allowed him to do that. I think that's going to have to be something that they'll have to check out.
BLITZER: Do we know what he was telling the FBI in Alaska about the voices, what those voices were saying?
[18:35:03] PEREZ: Right, we do know. We -- according to officials we've been talking to, Wolf, they say that he was hearing voices, including voices telling him to join ISIS. Now, the FBI is also checking this out, to see whether or not there
was something more that could have been done. They're going to go back to check to see what kind of interaction there was with the Anchorage office there and the FBI, to see whether or not something more that could have been done.
Again, when you're facing someone with a mental health situation, you know, it's really unclear what the FBI should do in that case. It's not clear that, necessarily, he's done anything beyond just saying these words.
Let me say one other thing. With regard to the discharge, we're told the authorities, the initial investigation has shown that at some point he stopped showing up with the National Guard, at the Alaska National Guard. And so that perhaps might explain why he got this general discharge, why they finally separated from him in August of 2016.
Again, there's still a lot more investigation to be done, but I think some very important questions are beginning to emerge, including about the mental health issue, about the ability to carry this gun after having reported, after checking himself in for this mental health evaluation.
Is that something that should have been -- should have been forwarded to some kind of national screening center so that, perhaps, he couldn't board this aircraft with this gun?
BLITZER: You know, Michael Weiss is with us, as well. Michael, an individual with an Army record, generally discharged, a general discharge from the Alaska Army National Guard, shows up at the FBI offices in Alaska. And he says he's hearing voices in his head from ISIS, if you will.
And then, obviously, we know what happened. Today, a mass shooting, mass killing at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. This is extremely worrisome.
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is. But look, if he's an ISIS terrorist, why is he going to the FBI and saying, "I'm hearing voices in my head telling me to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi"? I mean, if this guy heard voices in his head telling him he was Jesus Christ, we'd be sitting here saying he's a crazy person.
I've argued before to you, Wolf, and elsewhere that it's not mutually exclusive. You can be an Islamic terrorist and a bit off or mentally ill. In fact, al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS's predecessor organization, used to lure mentally disabled, handicapped people into becoming suicide bombers. There's something in the air now when it comes to ISIS and, frankly, everything else to do with international politics, that people are driven to these ultra-violent, extremist and totalist (ph) ideologies, even if they don't know the first thing about them.
And you know, you want to commit an act of mass murder, you need a banner. You need a cause to make yourself greater than the act itself. So it could very well be that this guy just said this. But look, it's early in the investigation. Let's see what the FBI and
others find on his laptop, if there's any kind of recruitment material, radicalization, videos of Anwar al-Awlaki and so on and so forth. But nothing that I'm hearing makes me think this is a dispositive ISIS attack.
BLITZER: He was taken alive, Tom Fuentes. Clearly wasn't, quote, "a martyr," ready to commit suicide on behalf of ISIS. He's still alive right now. He wasn't even harmed in the course of this, after he shot and killed all those people and injured so many others. He was arrested by local law enforcement.
I assume the FBI offices, the FBI in Alaska right now, they're going to do a major post mortem. What did they miss? What should they have done when this guy shows up in their offices in Alaska and says, "I'm hearing from ISIS, to be recruited. I want to join ISIS."
And then, all of a sudden, what, six months later, he shows up at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport with loaded weapons and kills all these people.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, if the bureau, as reporting says, if they referred him to state or local police, that's the procedure. The FBI doesn't get involved in individual citizens who might have mental problems.
BLITZER: The FBI doesn't put people on watch lists, no-fly lists? Or don't allow people...
FUENTES: Can you imagine the civil rights groups in this country if the FBI locked people up because they said they're mentally ill?
BLITZER: You could put them on a list.
FUENTES: Well, OK. That doesn't -- doesn't necessarily stop it. And the thing about the list still comes back to what was he adjudged? He's turned over to local police. They get him to commit himself and go in an institution, but he could check himself out any time. And that's the rule of the law, you know, in the United States.
PEREZ: In most states.
FUENTES: Mentally-ill people can go in, but they can check themselves out as soon as they want to. And there's no way to force it.
Then, he's been a member of two National Guards. He served in Iraq. So we don't know when he obtained the weapon. It could be years ago. And unless -- and we don't know what happened when he went in the mental health facility. You have to be adjudged mentally ill, again, by a judge.
BLITZER: By a judge?
FUENTES: Before they can institute the next act, whether it's no-fly list or no purchasing of weapons.
We saw this in the Virginia Tech shooting, where the shooter there had actually been adjudged mentally ill, and nobody notified law enforcement. Nobody notified anybody, and he was able to buy two guns in a Roanoke gun shop.
[18:40:00] So this whole issue of mental health in this country has been disgraceful for years, and it still is. We have people amongst us...
PEREZ: And we've seen -- we've seen this repeatedly in these type of situations.
FUENTES: We have a combination of a large number of mentally ill people who are free and over 300 million guns in this country, which many times they can get access to. It's a lethal combination when the two come together.
PEREZ: I think it's important -- it's important to add, also, that from what we're learning from talking to law enforcement officials, there is no any other indication that he had any kind of radicalization, any kind of extremism. He was not on any radar for the FBI.
So even though he shows up, and he says these things, the judgment of the agents who are talking to him and even the people around him who had brought him there, apparently, was that he was having mental health issues. And so that might have influenced the way how this was handled at the time.
Again, they're going to go back and take a look at it. But I think Tom raises a great point about the fact that mental health keeps coming up in these types of situations. We don't know exactly how to deal with it, and we certainly don't know when these records need to become other than private records, whether they need to be reported to something else, so that they can be put on some kind of national database, so that people maybe can't fly with weapons and so on. Again, that's something that's going to have to...
MARSH: And to your point, I mean, if he didn't have a background, if he did -- he was not on the FBI's radar, you really cannot just add his name to the no-fly list, because then you have civil liberty issues and things of that sort. So there is...
PEREZ: Privacy rights. And they certainly have their Second Amendment right. They have the right to own firearms unless they've been adjudicated, as Tom points out, by a judge that they've been mentally defective. That's the way the law reads.
BLITZER: All excellent points. But I assume there're going to be a major postmortem...
BLITZER: ... right now, to look back, see what might have been missed, what might have to be changed. I'm sure they're going to do a full review, the FBI and everyone else, for that matter.
Five people are dead. Eight people in hospitals right now. Some of them, according to the Florida governor, Rick Scott, fighting for their lives. More on the breaking news right after this.
[18:46:47] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport that left five people dead and eight people wounded.
Just now, in a taping with ABC News, President Obama spoke about the attack and whether there may be any connection to terrorism. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: That shooting down in Ft. Lauderdale this afternoon, do we know enough now to know whether it was an act of terror?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a general rule until I've got all the information, George, I don't want to comment on it other than just to say how heartbroken we are for the families who have been affected. These kinds of tragedies have happened too often during the eight years I've been president. The pain, the grief, the shock that they must be going through is enormous.
I have asked my staff to reach out to the mayor down there and make sure that the coordination between state and local officials is what it should be. But I think we'll find out over the next 24 hours exactly how this happened and what motivated this individual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president also reacting to the attack at the Ft. Lauderdale airport.
But we're also following another breaking story, release of the intelligence report on Russian cyber meddling in the U.S. presidential election. U.S. intelligence has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign, that's what they call it, aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump.
Let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, the report says this was all part of President Putin's ongoing effort in part to undermine U.S. democracy.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. The real headline here is not that Russia was behind this attack. That's something that they determined with confidence months ago, but to deliver in detail their assessment that the intention of Russia was to weaken Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump win the presidential election, a message that the nation's top spies had to sit across from Donald Trump today in his classified briefing and deliver to him directly.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, a declassified version of the intelligence community's report on Russian hacking concluded that, quote, "Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency."
The Russian's assault on the U.S. election used several different techniques, blending, quote, "covert intelligence operations such as cyber activity -- with overt efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media users or trolls."
It also says, quote, "When it appeared that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency."
Following the briefing, the president-elect said in a statement, quote, "I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the community this afternoon. I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation."
[18:50:04] However, Trump made clear he believes the hacks do not tint his election victory. "There was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines."
The intelligence assessment confirmed that hacking was, quote, "not involved in vote tallying." However, in a statement, Trump never specifically acknowledged that Russia was behind the hack, despite the clear intelligence assessment and overwhelming bipartisan agreement on Russia's involvement.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think that's the one thing in a statement that he should have acknowledged, that whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, we are not going to tolerate a country like Russia trying to interfere in our election process.
SCIUTTO: Another key finding in this report is that these Russian cyber ops targeted not just the Democratic Party but also the Republican Party. It made that clear, and yet, the releases largely targeted just one candidate, the Democrat Hillary Clinton. And, Wolf, that is one principle reason why the intelligence community has assessed that the intention here was to help Donald Trump. In effect, they targeted both parties, might have stolen material from both parties but only released it on one, and that's what's led them to the conclusion as to what the intention of this attack was.
BLITZER: Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Trump was personally briefed on the report before it was released.
Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is working that part of the story for us.
Jim, you're getting new information about that briefing with the highest ranking U.S. intelligence officials.
What are you learning?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
I just got off the phone with a senior transition official who was familiar with what went on in that meeting between Donald Trump and those intelligence community officials who are here at Trump earlier today. I was told by this official that this meeting was not contentious, there was no yelling going on, it was cordial as it was described to me.
But there are a couple of key highlights that I think we want to point out to our viewers, Wolf, according to this senior transition official. They did talk about this issue of the FBI going to the DNC and saying to the Democratic National Committee that your computer servers have been hacked. And there was a conversation that went on during this meeting, Wolf, where it was asked, why didn't the DNC act soon enough and had they acted sooner might that have made a difference? And according to the senior transition official, the acknowledgment was from the intelligence community officials that yes, perhaps, it might have made a difference.
A couple other things that came up during the meeting, Wolf, according to this senior transition official -- the intelligence leaders that the meeting told Donald Trump the cyber hacking activity began in late 2015, early 2016. And so, the question that they had inside the transition is, well, if it began in late 2015, early 2016, how is there this motive to help Donald Trump get elected president?
Now, there is an acknowledgment, Wolf, inside the transition now after this meeting because they say they did receive new information at this meeting that they did not have before that there was an intent through this hacking activity to harm and damage Hillary Clinton's candidacy. They are not disputing that according to the senior transition official, but they still dispute this notion that Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin, and the Russians were involved in hacking to get Donald Trump elected.
They say, if you look at the evidence there was no hacking of election tallies and so forth, but there is an acknowledgment inside this transition team that there was an intent to harm Hillary Clinton's candidacy, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, outside Trump Tower in New York City, thank you very much.
Let's get more on all of this. Former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston, senior adviser to the Trump campaign, is joining us.
Congressman, thanks very much.
JACK KINGSTON (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, I assume you've gone through this declassified report. Your bottom line, do you assess what the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Russians were trying to help, to bolster Donald Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton?
KINGSTON: Well, I think the FBI and the CIA are on the same page, that there was Russian interference, and Russia was coordinating it from the top levels. But I also say the NSA, as you know, and you pointed out earlier today, only had a moderate level of confidence on that.
But what was clear, that there was no effect of the results because of this. No tampering of machines, and no motive that was found and so forth.
So, I think the good part about this report and today's action and the hearings this week is that maybe we can get beyond the politics and say, OK, what do we do about this? Because we know Russia isn't alone. There's lone actors. There's China, other nations always trying to hack into our computer systems. What can we do about that?
And then, you know, one other question, if we're going to continue, we as a community of maybe critics in Washington, D.C., where was the president?
[18:55:03] If this was going on in 2015, 2016, why did the president wait until this fall to talk to Putin about it? And even when he did talk to Putin about it, he said, you guys need to cut that out. Those were his words.
It seems to me like it would have been a much bigger deal for the president of the United States and would have merited him sitting down with Putin saying, what the heck are you guys doing and if you're continuing this, we're going to get very, very involved? And it seems like that would have been happening as well.
BLITZER: That is a fair criticism that even some Democrats like Adam Schiff, Dianne Feinstein have leveled against the president, that he waited too long to go ahead and launch these sanctions and to punish Russia for these cyberattacks.
I just want your personal understanding. Do you agree with this line from this report -- we further assess that Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump? We have high confidence in these judgments. Do you agree with that?
KINGSTON: Well, I would accept that. But, you know, again, now that we have this report, can we get beyond the political side of it and say, you know, what are we going to do about it from this point forward?
And in that respect, Donald Trump called for a 90-day action plan. He's going to put Dan Coats. He's going to put Mike Pompeo, General Flynn, everybody to task immediately to come back with what are we going to do about this, how do we prevent it in the future from other nations and again sole actors who are out there.
I think that the president has acted in a very responsible -- the president-elect has acted in a very responsible manner. And he also by the way, as you note, complimented the intelligence community. So, I think he wants to get kind of the public debate over with and let's move to a constructive solution, how do you learn from this and what can we do going forward?
BLITZER: There's reaction from President Obama in his new interview with George Stephanopoulos with ABC News.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Vladimir Putin got what he wanted.
OBAMA: Well, look, I think that what is true is that the Russians intended to meddle and they meddled. I'll be honest with you, George, one of the things that I am concerned about is the degree to which we've seen a lot of commentary lately where there were Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seem to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans are Democrats. That cannot be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that include the president-elect?
OBAMA: Well, what I will say is that -- and I said this right after the election -- we have to remind ourselves we're on the same team. Vladimir Putin is not on our team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Go ahead and react to that congressman.
KINGSTON: I would agree with him. We are all on the same team and Vladimir Putin and people who would hack into an American elections are not on our team. And I think that, again, moving forward and looking at the president's 90-day deadline for coming up with solutions, I think that's a positive thing.
And it might be something also where it will White House, the current president's team could sit down with the president-elect's team and say, OK, let's get out off of the public debate, let's, you know, go off to Camp David or wherever we need to be sequestered and come up with some solutions, because as you know, Peter King is very, very respect -- well respected intelligence leader in Congress.
He's very, very concerned that the leaks to the press came from the CIA director. We don't want that either. And so, to me, you know, that's a question that caused some wound as well.
BLITZER: Jack Kingston, thanks very much for joining us.
KINGSTON: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, button this up for us because I've gone through this report a couple times. You have as well.
And there's a ton of information here including cutouts or third party individuals used by the Russians to provide this information to WikiLeaks.
SCIUTTO: That's right. Two big headlines here. Russia wanted to help Trump win the election and weaken Hillary Clinton, one. Two, they hacked both parties, Democrats and Republicans. Released information targeting just one party.
Finally, they showed some of the goods to why they believe that including the middlemen that Russia used after stealing the material to get it out in the public eye.
BLITZER: It was also very interesting the fake news, the propaganda that they got out there very successfully.
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. They made it clear this is a comprehensive campaign, not just hack documents but also in effect hack America news media to some degree, hack in quotes, but get out fake information as well.
BLITZER: It would be on the internet getting a lot of exposure, all these false stories.
All right. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.