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Interview With Nevada Congressman Ruben Kihuen; Trump to Decertify Iran Nuclear Deal; New Details Emerge in Mass Shooting Investigation; New Forecast: Hurricane to Hit U.S. Gulf Coast Sunday. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 5, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Casing other contacts. Records reveal the killer booked a condo overlooking the site of another Las Vegas music festival and may have done the same in Chicago. Was he considering other potential targets?

The spy speaks. CNN has learned that the special counsel investigating Russian involvement in the presidential election has interviewed the former British spy who wrote that controversial dossier alleging contacts between Moscow and the Trump campaign. Could he play a major role in the ongoing probe?

No deal. CNN learned that President Trump plans to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, but stop short of completely scrapping it. Instead, he will punt to Congress. What action will lawmakers take?

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 breaking news, including new revelations about the Las Vegas shooting massacre. Police now say the gunman, Stephen Paddock, was planning to escape the scene and they're expressing skepticism that he acted alone, saying he likely had help preparing for the attack at some point.

Tonight, there are also indications he may have looked at other potential targets, including another concert in Las Vegas and one in Chicago. Also, two sources familiar with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe say investigators met this past summer with the former British spy who wrote that dossier on alleged efforts to help the Trump campaign.

And CNN has learned that the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community took that dossier more seriously than they acknowledged.

And two senior officials are telling CNN that President Trump plans to decertify the Iran nuclear deal next week. The move stops short of completely scrapping the agreement, and instead punts the decision to Congress, which will have two months to figure out the next steps. We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests,

including Congressman Ruben Kihuen of Nevada. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

But, first, let's go straight to Las Vegas.

Our senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is there for us tonight.

Alex, police are revealing some very disturbing new details.


They're saying that given the amount of weapons, ammunition, explosions and of preparation, it's unlikely that the shooter acted alone. The sheriff of Las Vegas you have got to make the assumption he had to have had some help.

Police also saying he may not have been planning to kill himself up in that hotel suite, but to escape.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): Las Vegas police now believe that as Stephen Paddock was firing into the crowd below, he had already begun planning how he was going to try to get out alive.

For the thousands in his sights, the shooting felt like an eternity. But even with an arsenal of 23 guns and piles of ammunition in his room, we now know that the hail of bullets lasted 10 minutes, starting at 10:05 p.m., ending at 10:15. That's when Mandalay Bay security guard Jesus Campos approached suite 135 on the hotel's 32nd floor, alone and unarmed.

JOSEPH LOMBARDO, CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA, SHERIFF: He was conducting an investigation based on customers calling in and he was personally attempting to locate what was occurring. He happened upon that doorway because it was ajar, which keyed his interest.

MARQUARDT: Paddock immediately opened fire, unloading more than 200 rounds into the hallway, some through the door, hitting Campos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a security officer also shot in the leg on the 32nd floor.

MARQUARDT: Sheriff Joe Lombardo says that even though Paddock stopped firing on the crowd, he's convinced Paddock didn't immediately kill himself. Instead, he focused on escaping.

LOMBARDO: He was doing everything possible to figure out how to escape at that point. His concern was personal concern vs. what was occurring down below him.

MARQUARDT: Paddock had an even more sophisticated system than first thought to alert him to anyone approaching. Two surveillance cameras on this room service cart, along with another rigged in the main door's peephole, as well as a baby monitor inside the room.

Police say he had barricaded the door to an emergency stairwell located next to his room, so that no one could enter the hallway. Then, in Paddock's car at the hotel, investigators found 50 pounds of Tannerite, an explosive that can be ignited with a single bullet.

QUESTION: Does that lead you to believe he might have been planning a bigger attack?

LOMBARDO: You know, it remained in the car for some reason.

MARQUARDT: These leaked photos obtained by "The Daily Mail" show the extent of Paddock's sniper's nest, two armchairs pushed together holding multiple rifles, behind this curtain, one of the two windows that Paddock shattered for two different firing positions.

In addition to the concert, Paddock may have had a second target. "The Las Vegas Review-Journal" reporting that he fired at two jet fuel tanks roughly 1,000 feet past the concert-goers, hitting one tank, but not causing a potentially massive explosion.


As investigators tried to nail down Paddock's motive, they are learning more about what he did before the attack. They say he rented a condo in this building the weekend of September 22 with views of the Life Is Beautiful music festival, featuring charts like Lorde and Chance The Rapper.

And according to representatives for a hotel in Chicago, a person using the name Stephen Paddock also reserved a room there during the Lollapalooza festival.

ARNETTE HEINTZE, LOLLAPALOOZA SECURITY CONSULTANT: It's concerning that an individual like this was thinking about potentially carrying out an attack like this in Chicago.


MARQUARDT: Now, that hotel overlooks Grant Park in Chicago, which is where the Lollapalooza music festival is held every year.

Now, again, there's no confirmation this is the same Stephen Paddock. We don't know whether -- we know that he never checked in, but at the same time, it's chilling, Wolf, to think that he was going around scoping out, scouting out these different music venues -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very chilling, indeed.

Alex Marquardt in Las Vegas, thank you.

We're now going to take you inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where the gunman turned his 32nd-floor suite into a fortress with nearly two dozen weapons and his own surveillance systems.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Las Vegas for us. Tell us, Brian, what you have been seeing, what are you learning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have got some incredible new perspectives on the shooter's vantage point tonight, Wolf.

Also jarring new information from Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who says they have evidence that the gunman, Stephen Paddock, may not have intended to die in that hotel room.

As Wolf mentioned, we got access to a room inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel not far from the gunman's and got insight into his planning from a former SWAT team member.


TODD (voice-over): The one thing Las Vegas police say they are convinced of in this investigation is that Stephen Paddock's horrific attack on the Route 91 Country Music Festival was a very meticulously planned assault.

LOMBARDO: Stephen Paddock is a man who spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and living a secret life.

TODD: That planning, experts say, began with a sniper's nest he selected at the Mandalay Bay and the targets he chose below.

CNN got access to a room at the Mandalay Bay two floors up from the shooter's with a similar view. From the room, you can see Paddock's broken hotel window, his line of sight to the concert venue.

JOHN SHEAHAN, FORMER LAS VEGAS SWAT TEAM MEMBER: This is my first time being up here and looking at this, and to me, it's very eerie.

TODD: John Sheahan is a retired Las Vegas police sergeant, spent 13 years on the SWAT team.

From this vantage point, he says he has a clearer picture of the shooter's tactics and his planning, including choosing a high room at the end of the hallway.

SHEAHAN: He requested an east-facing room. He requested an east- facing room because if we panned over and we looked to the east of where his room is, let's look. Just the tower is over there, there's the room that he shot from, and now we pan east and we look and there's no way to get a countersniper, a SWAT sniper up at a level position to be able to effectively take this man out.

TODD (on camera): And firing from a room like the one we're in, if you knock out this window and fire towards him, that doesn't work?

SHEAHAN: We still wouldn't be able to see him more than likely, because we're not seeing deep enough into the room, and only when he fires will we be able to see him.

TODD (voice-over): Sheahan insists the choice of room put the SWAT team at a disadvantage, one multiplied by the fact that he blocked the stairway door and wired the hallway with cameras so he could see a security guard and later police approaching.

LOMBARDO: Because of his countermeasures in the peephole and the hallway, he observed the security guard, and he was in fear that he was about to be breached. So he was doing everything possible to figure out how he could escape at that point.

TODD: Sheahan believes, if Paddock escaped, it wouldn't have been for very long.

SHEAHAN: There's one of three ways it's going to end for an active shooter. And they pretty much all know this. You are either going to commit suicide, you're going to die in a hail of gunfire with the police, you're going to shoot it out with them and you're going to be killed, or you're going to continue on a preplanned rampage at locations B, C, D and E until the police finally stop you.

TODD (on camera): So you don't believe escape meant escape for good?


SHEAHAN: How could it? How could it? Because he rented the room in his own name. He's already on video coming in and out. We know who he is. He's going to be the most wanted man in the world if he does try to leave here.


TODD: John Sheahan believes it's the material found in Stephen Paddock's car that indicates that he may have intended to continue his rampage elsewhere.

Police say they found 50 pounds of explosives and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in the shooter's vehicle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very disturbing information. Brian Todd reporting from Las Vegas.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Democratic Congressman Ruben Kihuen of Nevada is joining us. His district includes North Las Vegas, as well as Mesquite, where the gunman had a home.


Congressman, do you believe Stephen Paddock, this mass murderer, had help?

REP. RUBEN KIHUEN (D), NEVADA: You know, Wolf, first and foremost, let me say thank you to all of America, to all of Nevada, who has been generous in their outpour of love and support for our community here.

It's very unfortunate what happened here a few days ago, the worst incident that could ever happen here in the city of Las Vegas. And it's unfortunate that one bad actor who could have gotten help, who we understand had some sort of mental disability, caused this harm to our city and to our country.

And so we're healing now, we're moving forward and I know that our city is going to be stronger than ever after this event.

BLITZER: Do you think he had any help?

KIHUEN: You know, I believe that we're going to let the FBI do their job.

I have been at central command at the fusion center with the FBI, with the DEA, with local law enforcement, and I know that they're working tirelessly to get answers. As of right now, we don't have a motive.

I know that they are interviewing the girlfriend. They're interviewing the brother. They have gone into their home. They have gone into their car. So we're still waiting to get answers for a lot of these questions that Americans have.

BLITZER: You suggested just a moment ago, Congressman, that he had mental disabilities, mental problems. But there's some law enforcement officials who say he wasn't mentally ill, he was just very evil. Do you know for a fact he had mental problems?

KIHUEN: Well, what we do know, according to again some of the reports that we have been seeing, is that he was on some sort of medication. His girlfriend also said that he had been facing some sort of mental breakdown.

Again, these are all questions that we have, all of America. And we're looking forward to getting answers as the FBI and local law enforcement does their job.

BLITZER: We haven't confirmed that the girlfriend, Marilou Danley, did say that he had a mental breakdown. Where did you hear that?

KIHUEN: In local reports here in Las Vegas.

Again, right now there's still a lot of questions up in the air. And right now, you know, we're focused here on the ground in making sure that the victims have all of the help that they can get. I think more importantly than focusing on the shooter, we should be focusing on the victims and their families.

I have been spending a lot of time at the hospitals. I know, at one of the hospitals, there were still several people who are in critical condition. And we want to let those folks know that we are here to support them. We're also here to support the law enforcement and all of the families who have been significantly impacted by this event.

BLITZER: Can you give us any more information, Congressman, on the reports that this killer actually cased other music venues while planning this massacre?

KIHUEN: You know, I know as much as the rest of America as far as other locations. I know that there's been reports that he has -- he had looked into

other venues. And I will tell you this. This is also personal to me. My brother works here at the Mandalay Bay, and I also know for a fact that my other brother was at the Life Is Beautiful festival the weekend before, which, again, if reports are true, he was also planning on doing some sort of attack there.

Again, we just have to work together here as a community to make sure that these types of events are prevented in the future, that we set in place, you know, laws in Congress that will prevent these types of issues. Why aren't we talking about how did this gentleman, how did this criminal manage to buy so much ammunition?

There should be a limit to the amount of ammunition he can buy. How did he manage to buy the bump stock without having any issues whatsoever? Why aren't we talking about banning weapons -- assault weapons? Why aren't we talking about universal background checks? This is what I'm asking my colleagues to do in Congress. We need to work together to make sure that this type of event is prevented in the future.

BLITZER: He apparently got all the ammunition, all those rifles, all the guns, the bump stocks, and he had plenty of them, all of that apparently legally, didn't have any problems accumulating in the past year and even in years earlier all of that kind of arsenal that he clearly had in his various homes and his vehicle as well as in the hotel suite.

As you know, Congressman, it's been four days now since the massacre. We still don't know what drove this killer to do this. Do you believe authorities are making good progress in determining motivation?

KIHUEN: What I will tell you, Wolf, is that local law enforcement, from the moment they got the first call until just this morning in the latest briefing, they are working tirelessly, diligently to find answers to all of these questions that not only they have, but the rest of America and the victims particularly.

Again, I spent a couple hours yesterday at the hospital visiting with the victims. There's a lot of confusion. They want answers. And I know that they're going to be working diligently to get those answers.


But, again, I want to make a call to all my colleagues in Congress, it's time to take action. I'm tired of seeing statements. It's time to take action. The American people deserve better, because you know what? How many more mass shootings is it going to take for us to take action in Congress?

It is time for Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to take action, to set in place commonsense gun legislation that will prevent gun violence in the future.

BLITZER: You think that Congress will ban these so-called bump stocks? KIHUEN: I believe that Congress needs to listen to the American


I know that the Republican Party and Republican colleagues of mine listen more to the NRA than they do to the American people. The majority of the American people want commonsense gun legislation.

And I believe that now is the time. If now is not the time, then when? This is a call that I'm making to all of my colleagues. We need your help. If you want to prevent this from happening in your backyard, we need your help to pass commonsense gun legislation to prevent gun violence in the future here in Las Vegas and all across America.

BLITZER: Congressman Ruben Kihuen of Nevada, Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

And please pass along all of our best wishes to all the folks in Nevada right now. I know what a difficult time this certainly is. Thank you so much for joining us.

KIHUEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we will have much more on the investigation into the Las Vegas shooting massacre. So what was the killer's motive?

Plus, there's breaking news, new revelations about the special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, including a meeting with the former British spy. What did he tell the investigators about allegations of collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign?



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, we're learning the special counsel in the Russia probe, Robert Mueller, met with the former British spy who put together that controversial dossier about Russian collusion.

Our justice correspondent Evan Perez is working the story for us.

Evan, tell us what you and your team are learning.


Investigators working with special counsel Robert Mueller met this past summer with Christopher Steele. Now, Steele, as you will remember, is the former MI6 officer who put together that what people call the dossier, really a series of memos detailing alleged Russian efforts to aid Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Now, Steele was hired by a Washington firm paid first by an anti-Trump Republican and then by Democrats. The special counsel is now working to determine whether any of the series of contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives broke U.S. law.

Now, we don't know what information Steele may have provided to Mueller's team, but we know that Steele has previously provided the FBI some information to try to verify some sources that he used to put together the memos in the dossier.

While most of the salacious allegations in the dossier haven't been verified, its broad assertion that Russia waged a campaign to interfere in the election is now accepted by the U.S. intelligence community, Wolf.

BLITZER: Accepted as a matter of fact.

Evan, there's been a lot of questions about how legitimate the information in the dossier actually was. What are you hearing right now about how it was viewed by the U.S. intelligence community?

PEREZ: Right. That's right, Wolf.

The president has called it a hoax and we've heard other names for it. But late last year, top officials at the FBI and the CIA and the director of national intelligence actually discussed, including parts of the Steele dossier, in the official intelligence document on Russia meddling.

And sources tell us that the intelligence community didn't want to include it, because they didn't want to explain what parts of the dossier they had been able to corroborate. They also were concerned about revealing sources and methods that they had used to do that.

The then FBI Director James Comey was worried that the FBI alone presented the dossier allegations, then that the president-elect would view the information as an attempt for the FBI to hold leverage over him.

As we now know, when Comey briefed Trump in January, that's exactly what ended up happening. President Trump later told "The New York Times" in July that he thought Comey was trying to hold the dossier as leverage over him, Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan Perez doing some excellent reporting with your entire team. Good work first reported right here on CNN. Thanks very much for that.

Let's get some more from our correspondents and our analysts.

Jim Sciutto, how significant is this latest piece of information that we're just learning now?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's significant, because it shows yet again that the dossier is not being dismissed.

You have the special counsel taking the time to meet with the author of the dossier. We reported a number of weeks ago that the intelligence community had in fact confirmed some of the elements in the dossier, including that particular meetings and conversations detailed in the dossier took place in the places and at the times as described there.

It directly contradicts the president, who has repeated from the beginning that the dossier, like many parts of the Russian investigation, was a hoax, that it is false, when in fact you have the special counsel who has been appointed by Trump's own Department of Justice to investigate this taking the time to meet him with the knowledge that the intelligence community was taking this dossier seriously and able to corroborate parts of it.

That contradicts, frankly, the president's story.

BLITZER: John Kirby, Steele is a former British spy. Does that give credibility to this entire dossier or at least parts of it?



He isn't just a former MI6 officer. He was well known to agents at the FBI and CIA. In fact, had worked with them in a previous investigation on FIFA soccer.

This is a known quantity. He has got preexisting and established relationships. He's got instant credibility with them.

BLITZER: Gloria, how important would Steele's testimony be if he were to come forward and testify before the various House and Senate, the congressional investigations that are ongoing right now?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, his testimony is very important, but what we heard yesterday from Chairman Burr and Mark Warner was that they are not going to be able to talk to Steele. They hit a wall with him and they appear quite frustrated by it, because they are saying, we need to know. If we want to decide the credibility of the dossier, we need to know who his sources were and who his sources' sources were.

And it seems pretty clear to me that Steele may have some preexisting relationships with people in the FBI, as John Kirby is just saying, and felt more comfortable talking to law enforcement than talking to members of Congress and could have been very much worried about things leaking out, whereas he knows how the FBI operates.

BLITZER: Dana, how do you think congressional members will react to this latest, the news we're reporting?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, probably even more frustrated than they clearly were.

As Gloria said, they expressed themselves pretty obviously yesterday when they had this rare press conference to give an update on the state of their investigation, because not only did they say they tried to reach him through the staff, they made pretty clear that they actually tried personally, the senators, to call and even made an appeal via the press conference for Christopher Steele to please talk to them.

And they clearly want to know what the special counsel's office wants to know, how he got this information, alleged information, the sources, the methods, the back story. But at the end of the day, there's not a lot that they can do. They can compel American citizens to come before their committee. They can't compel them to talk, but they can compel them to come. Not somebody who is not a citizen of this country.

BLITZER: Yes. And he's in Britain, presumably.

As you know, Mark Preston, the president used the publication of the dossier by some news outlets to attack the credibility of the entire Russia probe. How's he doing with that line of attack?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, I think we have moved beyond that line of attack, in the sense that there's been so much more evidence that has since comes out that proves that the Russians had in fact tried to meddle with the elections.

At the time, we were looking at this dossier or there was talk about it, and it was really one of the first real building blocks of whether there was any Russian interference in the election. I should step back and say collusion because we don't know that yet.

The problem with the dossier was is that there are some very salacious details in that which we will not discuss here because this is a family-friendly show, that in many ways it was easy pickings for President Trump to try to go after and to try to delegitimatize it.

The fact is, though, we do know Russia has tried to interfere with our elections. The underlying thought of that dossier is in fact that that is true and let's see if everything else is true as well.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, it looks like Mueller, the special counsel, he probably has a ton of information already and we're only getting little bits of it.

SCIUTTO: That's exactly right.

His investigation is a pretty tight black box. That's by design. It only helps his investigation, right, to not have the details, the extent of what he's finding leak out, and he's going down paths here. Each of these small revelations that we see, who he is talking to and so on shows that he's investigating these lines of inquiry, whether it be the dossier and what's contained in there about money and other influence inside of the Trump campaign with Trump himself, but also lines of questioning on, for instance, obstruction of justice.

In other words, these things that the president is dismissing out of hand and others around the president are things that apparently the special counsel, who is empowered to investigate them, is taking very seriously. BLITZER: As you heard yesterday, Gloria, Senator Burr, North

Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he wanted to know who actually paid for the dossier originally.

Some Republicans, we're told, opposition research, and then some Democrats. How significant is that who actually came up with the cash?

BORGER: Look, I think it's all part of their investigation.

If you want to know whether the dossier is politically motivated on behalf of any one group, you ought to find out who is paying Christopher Steele and why and when.

And then you have to look at Christopher Steele's information, and you have to try and, you know, look at his sourcing and analyze that, and say, well, you know, this is who we spoke to, this is why it's legitimate, this is why it's not legitimate."

[17:30:14] So this is why Burr is frustrated, but in the end Mueller is going to be the one making the legal decisions here. And I understand why it frustrates the congressional investigation. But sometimes Congress is not going to be able to get what the special counsel is going to be able to get, and they're just going to have to understand that.

You know, the question is, at some point would -- would Mueller and the committee share any information? And we don't -- you know, we don't know the answer to that.

BLITZER: And if you take a look at the team that Mueller has assembled of prosecutors, a wealth of experience, people leaving very, very lucrative positions, lawyers, to come in and work on this team. I assume they're coming up with some significant information.

There's more breaking news we're following. We're going to have a lot more on the signs that the Las Vegas killer may have considered attacking other outdoor concerts.

Plus, we have details about what President Trump has decided to do about the Iran nuclear deal. We're learning new information. Stay with us.


[18:35:57] BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: two senior U.S. officials tell CNN that President Trump plans to take action next week on the Iran nuclear deal, which he's blasted from the start of his presidential campaign.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now with details. Jim, we're told the president will, though, stop short of, what, completely scrapping the agreement?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. CNN has confirmed that President Trump has decided to stop short of scrapping the agreement, but he is going to decertify the deal. What does that mean? It basically means he's going to kick the issue to Congress to deal with, which puts the entire agreement in jeopardy.

Now, just a few moments ago, he was speaking with reporters, and he essentially accused Iran of not living up to the spirit of that agreement.

And all this comes as the president is still hammering reports that his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, called him a moron. The president is so outraged over these reports on his administration he is suggesting that Congress investigate journalists to get the kind of coverage he wants.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House isn't looking for more clarification from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson one day after he stopped short of denying reports that he had called the president the moron.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Frankly, I think it's beneath the secretary of state to weigh in on every rumor out there. His spokesperson, however, did come out and clarified that the secretary of state has never used those words.

ACOSTA: Despite Tillerson's attempt to turn down the temperature...

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that.

ACOSTA: ... President Trump is still venting his frustrations, tweeting, "Rex Tillerson never threatened to resign. This is fake news. No verification from me."

Then the president went a step further, essentially calling on Congress to launch investigations into the news media, a move that could threaten the First Amendment rights of journalists.

Mr. Trump tweeted, "Why isn't the Senate Intel Committee looking into the fake news networks in our country to see why so much of our news is just made up, fake?"

ACOSTA (on camera): Does he value the First Amendment as much as he values the Second Amendment?

SANDERS: Absolutely. The president is an incredible advocate of the First Amendment, but with the First Amendment you have -- hold on. I allowed you to finish. With the First Amendment, with those freedoms also come responsibilities, and you have a responsibility to tell the truth, to be accurate.

ACOSTA (voice-over): When pressed whether Congress should investigate news outlets, Sanders responded...

SANDERS: I don't know that that's the case.

ACOSTA: The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee does not sound interested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not investigating news organizations.

ACOSTA: Still, the state of Secretary Tillerson has top lawmakers worried.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and chief of staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos; and I support them very much.

ACOSTA: While the president was in Las Vegas, he seemed to be putting this latest cabinet controversy behind him.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I'm very honored by his comments. It was fake news. It was a totally phony story. Thank you very much. It was made up.

ACOSTA: But the White House is still answering questions about perceptions Mr. Trump has repeatedly undermined Tillerson on the world stage.

SANDERS: I think it's -- the premise of that question is absolutely ridiculous. The president can't undercut his own cabinet. The president is the leader of the cabinet. He sets the tone. He sets the agenda, and I think that question makes no sense because of that.


ACOSTA: Now, as for Tillerson's future, a senior administration official says that Tillerson is expected to remain on the job. Asked how long, this official quipped, "Until the year 2024." That's assuming, of course, the president wins a second term and Tillerson and the president start getting along a lot better than they are right now, Wolf. A lot of "ifs" in there.

BLITZER: Certainly. All right. Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get back to our specialists and our analysts. What are the immediate consequences, John Kirby, of the president's decision next week to go ahead and decertify the Iran deal?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: He's decertifying Iran's compliance of the deal and then kicking it over to Congress, as the law is written. They have 60 days now to decide whether they agree with the president and then maybe perhaps snap back some of these nuclear-related sanctions.

So technically, from -- from the day he does it, nothing really changes, practically speaking, from the Iran deal. It's still in place.

[18:40:08] If Congress decides to put those sanctions back and -- well, then the deal starts to unravel, because you can expect Tehran to say, "Well, look, if you're going to, you know, sanction us again for nuclear-related activities, we're going to go ahead and pull out of the deal." So it could become serious.

BLITZER: Pull out of the deal and then begin producing nuclear grade weapons.

KIRBY: Begin -- begin -- begin spinning those centrifuges again. They could absolutely do that if they decide to pull out, because we have decided to negate our obligations under this international convention.

BLITZER: As you know, Jim Sciutto, the U.S. put this deal together, together with the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany, the European Union, the International Atomic Energy Agency. How are they going to react to this decision by the president next week?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you how they're reacting now. I spoke to a European diplomat from one of those countries party to this deal and this diplomat told me the following, contradicting the president on this, saying that this agreement is vital to our security interests and that of our allies. Contradicting the president who says that it's not in the U.S. national security interests.

It's interesting. I spoke to a member of the George W. Bush administration who negotiated with North Korea. I asked him what would happen if the U.S. were to pull out of this deal? And he said it would make the U.S. seem fickle on the international stage.

So remember, it has consequences, not just for this deal potentially. And, again, if it goes down the path that Admiral Kirby just described there, it has consequences not just for this deal but if the U.S., for instance, is offering the possibility of negotiations with a country like North Korea, they and other countries, even our partners, can reasonably ask the question, "What does a deal or potential deal mean if the U.S. is pulling out of a deal that it made here?" It raises real questions, and you hear that from our allies right now very pointedly.

BLITZER: So when the president, Gloria, sends this to Congress, how's Congress going to react?

BORGER: Well, they're not happy. I think -- I can't imagine that especially the Democrats are happy about having this land in their laps. They didn't want it. They believe, as Jim was saying about some diplomats, that this undermines American credibility in the world.

And now they have a 60-day clock ticking, as John Kirby was talking about. So they have to decide whether they rewrite this, whether they try and change the reporting requirements, whether they try and change the inspections, strengthen inspections and, you know, it's very dicey to have Congress, as a whole, negotiate this kind of a detailed plan. And, you know, I think it's very, very tricky here.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me just say, Wolf, to answer that question, I was doing some reporting on this today, and a Democratic senator has made this analogy, saying it's like the president pulling a pin out of a grenade and giving it to Congress as a hot potato to go back and forth. Congress which, you know, doesn't exactly have the greatest track record of doing things even when they have to do them, even when there is bipartisan agreement that things need to get done.

BLITZER: And you've been doing some reporting. Some of the president's own national security advisers aren't very thrilled with this decision.

BASH: Well, I was told by sources who were in a -- familiar with a meeting that H.R. McMaster had with a group of Democratic senators yesterday that the impression that McMaster left was that he was not entirely thrilled, you're right, with the idea of decertifying because of the arguments that he was hearing from not just Democrats but from Republicans that there's a way to do this in a bipartisan way and all of the unknowns about what it could mean for the allies.

I should tell you that I just heard from an administration source who said that that is not true, that the impression that these sources got were wrong, that H.R. McMaster is not only behind the president but he helped to craft this deal.

BLITZER: All right.

BASH: But, you know, we do know from public testimony that the national security team, James Mattis in particular, has been very clear that he thinks staying in the deal is the right way to go.

BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's more news. And this coming in as well. There's a tropical storm. It's called Nate. Expected to threaten the U.S. Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane. Another hurricane. And New Orleans now scrambling to get ready. We'll have the new forecast.


[18:49:06] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news tonight, preparations are under way for a hurricane forecast to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast this Sunday.

Our meteorologist Tom Sater is tracking Tropical Storm Nate for us.

Tom, the storm is picking up speed and gaining strength?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It most likely will. It's over land right now, Wolf. That's not the best of news.

Hard to detect the center of the storm but in eastern Honduras now, just over the border from Nicaragua. But already, Nate is a deadly storm. It's blamed for six precious lives in Costa Rica. We had mudflow debris in the back end in El Salvador. So, the landslide threat is great for Honduras and Nicaragua, and then it's going to make its way over land or over tonight, off land I should say, late this evening. Warnings in effect already for the Yucatan. If you know anyone

visiting in Cozumel, in Cancun, rest assured that hotels are going to make sure everyone is sheltered in place and get the word out, most likely still as a tropical storm.

[18:50:04] Nate, sustained winds are at 40 miles per hour. It only takes 39 to get to a tropical storm status. So, I don't think there's enough time to get to hurricane strength, but still, this is a deadly storm already at tropical storm status.

And then overnight tomorrow night, it moves into the Gulf of Mexico and right now, if you notice the track, the cone of uncertainty we call it is not very wide. It's always easier to sometimes forecast the track than it is the intensity. This would be Sunday morning between maybe 4:00 or 6:00 in the morning, landfall parishes in Louisiana possible, anyone from Lafayette over really Pensacola should keep an eye on this, and maybe sit down with the family to start to discuss, will we have to leave?

We are thinking a category one, a strong category one, but most likely, it could be a two as well. I wouldn't even knock out the possibility that this could rapidly intensify. That's what we have seen with all of these storms.

One thing in common, it's just been a hyperactive year. The water is warmer in the western Caribbean than it is in the southern gulf. But let me remind you, Hurricane Harvey just 12 hours went from a category one to a category three and then made landfall as a category four. So, it's very possible that we could see intensification, not so much for the Yucatan.

But notice the spaghetti plot. We have come to know these so well. Here they are from around Lafayette, over toward it looks like Mobile, Gulfport, you're involved in this area as well. As it picks up, it could still, if it makes landfall as a strong category one or two, have enough strength to knock out powers and get toward Birmingham and central areas of Tennessee.

Could we see the winds hold together up in New York? Here are the two models as we have been looking at. Of course, the blue is European model and red is the U.S. and they're pretty good agreement here, Wolf. So, again, Sunday morning, we are going to be watching this. Already, authorities are starting to do their work and get gear in place for coastal erosion, for the storm surge and the damaging winds.

Stronger storms with their movement, usually produce damaging winds, not the slow one like we have with Harvey producing the flooding rains.

BLITZER: So, we don't need another hurricane.

All right. Tom Sater, thanks very much for the forecast.

Much more ahead, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:56:44] BLITZER: Coming up this Saturday, a new season of the "WONDER LIST" with Bill Weir. We are going to meet the people who changed South America forever by giving away millions of acres in Patagonia.


BILL WEIR, HOST, "WONDER LIST": This amazing place is home to the smallest deer on the planet, the little Pudu. The most agile and intelligent big cat, puma. Over 1,000 different kinds of moss, countless ferns, big trees that were alive a thousand years before Christ walked the earth.

All of which appealed to a certain tree-hugger from back east, an adventure lover, adrenaline junky, big river rafter, big mountain skier and big moneymaker by the name of Douglas Tompkins.

Dropped out of high school and went west to climb Yosemite's rocks and fell in with a group called the Fun Hogs. Summer '68, they climbed into a van in San Francisco, surfed, climbed, skied, kayaked their way all the way to Patagonia.


BLITZER: Interesting. Bill Weir is joining us now live.

Tell us a little bit, Bill, about the work you saw in Patagonia, why it was actually so controversial.

WEIR: Well, Wolf, imagine if a Chinese national or Saudi prince said, I want to buy South Dakota and take out all the farmers and let it go wild for your own benefit. People would be suspicious, right?

Well, this powerful fashion couple, Doug and Kris Tompkins, they fell in love late in life, they had a vast fortune from their corporate days, a huge art collection. But they decided it didn't mean anything. What they really wanted to do was save wild places.

And so, they started buying up gigantic chunks of land in Chile and Argentina, the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, with the intent of giving away to the people of Chile. But the resistance was fierce, the conspiracy theories flew. There are fighter jets that flew over their house.

And after 20 years of this effort, Doug sadly died what he loved doing best, in a kayak accident, on a lake in Chile, a glacial Lake.

And so, now, Kris Tompkins, his widow is trying to carry forward this work on her own. So, it's really an amazing love story between two people, their love of the planet and whether their ideas can save chunks of the planet as the human race just explodes in these modern days.

BLITZER: And what else can we look forward to in the new season?

WEIR: We are going diving -- scuba diving down to a lost city in the Nile Delta, that sank after an earthquake 1,600 years ago. We are going up on a salmon run in Alaska where they discovered maybe the biggest gold and copper mine in the world which set up some big fight between Republicans over fishing and mining.

We are going to New Zealand, where a lot of Americans moved since the election, where they are trying to eradicate the entire country from every mouse, rat and weasel in order to save their native bird species.

So, season three is a good one. I hope people find us.

BLITZER: Yes, on behalf of all of our viewers, I want to thank Bill Weir for his excellent reporting, amazing reporting he's done over these past several weeks. I know you worked really, really hard.

And an important note to all of our viewers, join Bill Weir for the new season of "THE WONDER LIST", Saturday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

That's it for me.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.