Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Source: Authorities Believe Gunman Rigged Car to Explode; Alleged ISIS Plot Targeted Times Square, New York Subway; White House On Trump's "Storm" Comment: "Wait And See"; Tillerson's Future Seen As Uncertain After 'Moron' Remark; Trump Demands Military Options At "Much Faster Pace"; Police: Unclear What Gunman's Plan Was For Explosives In Car; Hurricane Warning Issued For New Orleans. Aired 5- 6p ET
Aired October 6, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Rigged to explode. CNN has learned that investigators now believe the Las Vegas gunman rigged his car to explode. The vehicle contained 90 pounds of explosives, almost twice the amount earlier revealed, along with suitcases packed with ammunition.
[17:00:24] Decision killing plan. A source says the killer tried to buy tracer bullets weeks before the massacre but failed to obtain those rounds that would have helped him zero in on his targets. And what's behind the numbers scribbled on a note pad in his hotel sniper's nest?
"Wait and see." President Trump won't say what he meant when he warned of a calm before the storm during a meeting with top military leaders. Asked if the president was referring to military action, the White House says only, quote, "Wait and see."
And bracing in the Big Easy. Tropical Storm Nate now expected to hit near New Orleans this weekend as a hurricane. From Louisiana to Florida, Gulf Coast residents are trying to get ready.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, we have new information about the Las Vegas gunman who slaughtered 58 people and wounded hundreds more. A law enforcement source says authorities now believe the killer rigged his car to explode if fired upon. The car contained 90 pounds of an explosive and suitcases filled with bullets. But police said moments ago they don't know what the gunman planned to do with all those explosives.
CNN has also learned that the gunman tried and failed to buy tracer rounds at a Phoenix gun show in recent weeks. And a source says investigators are trying to decipher a note with numbers on it left by the gunman. Police say they're confident there was no other shooter, but they can't say for sure that no one else was involved in the plot. They concede they still have no clear motive for the massacre. Here in Washington, there's still no explanation for President Trump's
latest very, very cryptic comment. At a gathering of top military commanders last night, he warned of a calm before the storm. Asked today what he meant, the president winked and then said, quote, "You'll find out." And asked if the president was referring to military action, given recent tough talk on North Korea and Iran, his spokeswoman over at the White House today said wait and see.
And a real storm on the way. States from Louisiana to Florida, they are bracing right now for Tropical Storm Nate to hit the Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane. The eye is expected to pass close to New Orleans. We're about to get the latest forecast. Stand by for that.
I'll speak with Congresswoman Jacky Rosen of Nevada, and our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're all standing by with full coverage.
First let's go straight to the breaking news. Let's begin with Brian Todd. He's in Las Vegas for us.
Brian, what's the very latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just moments ago the undersheriff of Clark County, Kevin McMahill, came out and said with some real frustration that they still have not established a clear motive for this mass shooting. This comes as we're getting new information tonight on ammunition that the shooter attempted to buy and on the explosives found in his car.
TODD (voice-over): As Stephen Paddock was raining gunfire down on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, his 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring, like this one, was parked nearby, filled with explosives.
Tonight, a law enforcement tells CNN's Kyung Lah and Scott Glover that the 64-year-old had filled his car with 90 pounds of the explosive tannerite and then rigged it to explode if shot, an explosion that could have been deadly, as these tests of exploding target compounds show.
SHERIFF JOSEPH LOMBARDO, CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA: It's composed of two substances. We had the two chemicals of ammonia nitrate and aluminum powder that, when combined, make the finished product of tannerite. Sorry to tell you, I don't know what he was going to do with all of that tannerite.
TODD: While it's not clear if Paddock rigged the car as diversion or as a final trap for police, there is new information about the precision with which he planned to kill.
CNN has learned from a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation that Paddock tried to buy tracer ammunition at a Phoenix gun show in recent weeks. But the official says, for some reason, Paddock could not obtain those bullets, which light up in the dark.
(on camera): If he could have gotten tracer ammunition, what would have been different with this attack?
LT. CHRIS PETKO (RET.), FORMER LAS VEGAS SWAT TEAM MEMBERS: The first thing tracer ammunition does for a shooter is it allows them to get onto target in low-light conditions much more quickly than they might otherwise. So in his particular case, he would have been able to see pretty much where the strike of his bullets were landing within the crowd.
TODD (voice-over): Former Las Vegas SWAT team member Chris Petko, who was also a Marine machine gunner, says tracer bullets could have made the casualty count worse.
[17:05:08] A law enforcement official says, with the ammunition he did use while shooting in darkness, Paddock probably was just spraying bullets and couldn't see the people he was hitting.
Tonight, experts say investigators may be focusing on Paddocks chilling detail leading up to the massacre, planning which seems to have gone beyond what police call meticulous. He brought 23 guns to his room in suitcases, undetected, carefully assembled them, and stacked his clips of ammo neatly against a column.
PETKO: He had many layers of redundancy built up, and you can view simply the number of weapons available to him really to underscore the intent that he had to deflect the maximum amount of damages.
TODD: Paddock took the time to barricade the stairwell door next to his room, painstakingly rigged cameras to a service cart near the entrance to his suite and to a peephole in the door.
JOHN SHEAHAN, FORMER LAS VEGAS SWAT TEAM MEMBER: It was planning and preparation, because at some point, he had to know that they were going to come for him. And that way he'd be able to address that threat.
TODD: Officials tell CNN there was a note in his hotel suite, seen here in this photograph leaked to "The Daily Mail," not a suicide mail, but a sheet which contained numbers now being analyzed. Authorities are looking into what might have changed last October when he began buying many weapons, but his motive remains unclear, as does his mental state.
I think the girlfriend is the key part here to provide information on what his mental state was, hopefully through the electronics and through the girlfriend, they're going to be -- they're going to find out exactly what that is or what his motive was.
TODD: And we have one quick clarification to some information in our piece. Police now say there were about 50 pounds of explosives in the shooter's vehicle, not 90 pounds.
Now, a key question: were there any accomplices in Las Vegas with the shooter? The undersheriff of Clark County just said they continue to try to find out whether anyone with Stephen Paddock might have known about this attack before it was carried out. He said they've examined voluminous amounts of videotape, including from the Mandalay Bay Hotel, and they have not yet located anyone who they think might be a suspect. But Wolf, they are furiously trying to find that out.
BLITZER: They certainly are. You can see and feel the frustration that is there.
Brian Todd in Las Vegas for us. Thank you very much.
Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen of Nevada.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. I want to get your quick reaction right now to the breaking news that the Las Vegas gunman, this killer, this mass murderer, actually rigged his car, potentially, to explode 50 -- 50 pounds of explosives found in the car. How significant is that development?
REP. JACKY ROSEN (D), NEVADA: Well, thank you for having me on, Wolf. I'll tell you, as we progress in this investigation and we find out more and more how meticulously, how methodically he planned this. We've really seen the insight into a madman and into someone who's clearly very evil.
And I'm looking forward -- well, not looking forward, is the wrong word, but I know that our police chief, Sheriff Lombardo, and the entire team he's assembled is going to do every single thing they can do to be sure that they gather all the appropriate information in the right way to give us a clear picture as to what happened. And if there were any accomplices or any help, we're going to be able to find that, as well.
BLITZER: Do you know why he had 50 pounds of tannerite in that vehicle, those explosives?
ROSEN: You know, I think that's the question on everybody's mind. And I hope that we can either find through the electronic devices or what they searched in his home. Perhaps there were note books or even books he was reading, anything. Anything anywhere, a Post-It note that can give us some insight into why somebody would plan to methodically massacre people just out at a lovely concert on a beautiful fall night here in Las Vegas.
BLITZER: The gunman also tried to buy what are called the tracer ammunition -- tracer bullets which would have allowed him to fire more accurately into the crowd in the dark. It happened on a Sunday night.
Do you believe the massacre would have been even worse if he had been able to obtain that kind of ammunition, those tracer rounds?
ROSEN: Well, I try not to think about that. And what I really try to focus on now is the heart of our community. I've been with first responders all day today, how our ambulance drivers, how they called people in from Arizona, surrounding counties, all hands on deck, to go pick up people who were injured, take them to all the hospitals and move them around to the proper emergency rooms or trauma centers. So I'm trying to look at the good in my community and the heart of
everyone that pulled together in this moment and rose to the occasion to save lives and help people. It's still going on today. It's going to continue to go on in the weeks and months to come as we begin to heal. And thank God he didn't get the tracer bullets.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Rosen, I want you to stand by. I've got more questions to you.
[17:10:03] But joining us right now is the undersheriff, Kevin McMahill, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Undersheriff, thanks very much for joining us. And I'm hoping you can clarify some of these questions. Lots of questions. And we certainly understand the frustration in this investigation.
But you said today that the tannerite found in the car, the explosives, it comes as two compounds. But most of the material found in the gunman's car was already mixed. Do you believe that was done to make it more likely that the car potentially would explode? Could have been an improvised explosive device?
KEVIN MCMAHILL, UNDERSHERIFF, LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE: No, I don't. I believe that he purchased legally that tannerite. I believe he also had those two precursor chemicals, as we discussed earlier, the ammonia nitrate and the aluminum chloride. And it's just a simple -- it's a binary explosive You take the two different chemicals, you mix them together, and you have tannerite.
BLITZER: What was he doing with that tannerite?
MCMAHILL: Wolf, I guess -- I guess I'm going to be clear. I don't know what he was doing with it. But to be clear, we found no evidence that his vehicle was -- or that material in his vehicle had intended to be used as an IED within that vehicle.
The answer to your question, as well, is I don't know what he was going to do with it. It's one of the mysteries of this actual attack. It's one thing that my investigators, as well as the FBI continue to try to figure out. And that's one of the main focuses of our investigation today.
BLITZER: But if it was already mixed, it had to be used for some sort of explosive device. If you're not going to use it, tannerite, as an explosive, you don't mix it, right?
MCMAHILL: Well, a lot of people use it for -- for target shooting. They use it in a variety of different ways. But it's really just -- part of conjecture. Obviously, he had it there for a reason.
BLITZER: If you're going to use it for target practice, you wouldn't mix it with anything, right?
MCMAHILL: No, you've to understand that it's -- the end result, the tannerite is a -- is a -- the end result of the mixture of both of those components. You can buy tannerite legally on the market today. So he had a bunch of already finished product as well as the individual precursor chemicals for mixing together, which ultimately ends up in tannerite.
BLITZER: So what you're suggesting is there could have been a simple innocent explanation, although this guy, this mass murderer, I find it hard to believe he had these explosives in the vehicle simply as target practice or something along those lines?
MCMAHILL: Wolf, that's not -- I'm not suggesting that in any way, shape or form. I'm just giving you the facts as to what it is. I believe he certainly had nefarious intent with that material. I just -- what I'm trying to tell you is I didn't know what the intent was.
BLITZER: Yes, because if he's driving around with all those explosives, it's not for some positive healthy, normal reason. There's something bad in the works.
Let's get to some other key issues while I have you, Undersheriff. Can you confirm that there was no other shooter in the room?
MCMAHILL: Yes, I'm very confident, I'm very certain that there was not another shooter in the room as he conducted this mass murder rampage.
BLITZER: What about the possibility that he had help planning or preparing for this -- this attack?
MCMAHILL: That's another great question that I believe that our investigators are keenly interested in. You know, that's one of the reasons why I said that we are combing over this man's entire life from birth to death to try to find out.
It's hard to believe one individual planned this attack and executed it without anybody else knowing anything about it. And so that's why those interactions that he had over the course of his life are really important to investigators to learn about, to try to understand, to evaluate whether he had any political, any economic, any social, any radical ideologies that may have led him down a particular path.
What I can confirm to you today, however, is we have found no evidence of any of that as I'm standing before you today.
BLITZER: What, if anything, can you tell us about what his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, has been telling the FBI in the interviews that she's granted?
MCMAHILL: Really, all I can release to you about that information is that she continues to cooperate with the FBI. I can't really provide any further clarification on that.
BLITZER: But without giving us specifics, can you us whether or not the information she's providing has been helpful?
MCMAHILL: No, I really can't. The FBI is in charge of that aspects of this investigation, as you well know. We're both working it jointly. And they and their folks are continuing to have that relationship and developing that rapport to try to provide -- have her provide us information to point us in the right directions.
[17:15:03] BLITZER: But has the FBI briefed you yet?
MCMAHILL: I'm aware of the interactions the FBI has had, but I'm not prepared to discuss with you any of the information that we've obtained.
BLITZER: Yes, obviously very sensitive information.
You mentioned, Undersheriff, that the security guard came on -- of the hotel came on the 32nd floor because an alarm on a door was ringing. What door was ringing?
MCMAHILL: It was one of the -- I don't have the specific door number. It was a room that was a number of doors down from where the suspect was at. There's an alarm that goes off that the security office is notified of when any door is left ajar. So when a door is left ajar, the officers dispatched up to check on that door itself.
BLITZER: Was that a coincidence, you believe, that all of a sudden, that door was ajar and the alarm went off?
MCMAHILL: Well, if it was a coincidence, it was certainly a lucky coincidence for us, because it set in motion our ability to stop him from actively killing any more of our great visitors and citizens alike.
BLITZER: That security guard from the hotel turned out to be a real hero. He really operated even after he was shot in the leg.
MCMAHILL: Yes, sir, and that's why I wanted to take a moment today in the press conference to make sure that I recognized Jesus Campos appropriately, because his actions led the police to that location and allowed us to neutralize the suspect much more rapidly -- rapidly than we probably would have had the opportunity to do.
BLITZER: It was -- it was Jesus Campos who alerted you to the specific room where this killer was holed up, right?
MCMAHILL: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: He deserves a lot of praise, indeed a real hero.
Obviously, Undersheriff, this killer chose this music concert, 22,000 concertgoers there right below his window of the hotel. Is there any evidence that he searched for this concert, based on the electronics taken from his home?
MCMAHILL: Well, as you've all been reporting, we're aware that he had searched for a number of music venues across the country. Certainly, here in Las Vegas, two of our music festivals he had -- he had searched for. And so we continue to go back to try to determine how long in all of his electronics that that may have occurred and try to establish a pattern there.
BLITZER: Based on all the information... MCMAHILL: And importantly, what I might add...
BLITZER: Go ahead.
MCMAHILL: ... we'd like -- we'd like to find out -- I'd just like to add we'd like to find out, really, why he chose this particular venue to actually execute his plan.
BLITZER: Have you confirmed that he was also casing out other venues, whether in Las Vegas or Chicago, Boston, other cities that we've heard about?
MCMAHILL: I can tell you that we do know that he looked at the other music venue downtown here in Las Vegas. I can tell you that we do know from electronic media that he had searched others, but I'm not aware that he can confirm to you at this point that he actually, as you describe, cased any of those other festivals in any of the other cities.
BLITZER: He clearly had a game plan in mind. Very sophisticated. And brought all those weapons in ten suitcases up to that hotel suite. Very disturbing.
Let me get back to that door for a moment. If the killer opened that door intentionally, the one that buzzed on the 32nd floor, the beeper -- the alarm went off, what does that tell you?
MCMAHILL: Well, I don't have any indication today that he did it. The door was not forced open. It appears to have been left open. Or not -- it didn't shut completely. He didn't have keys to that particular room. So I don't believe that the killer actually left that door open. I just happen to believe that it was a lucky coincidence that that door was left ajar.
BLITZER: So it was just a coincidence? Is that what I'm hearing?
MCMAHILL: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: Did he bring all of his guns up to that room at once? Or over the course of several days?
MCMAHILL: We know that he made multiple trips to and from that room over course of the several days with the weapons and the ammunition.
BLITZER: I assume you've seen or you've had access to all the hotel, the Mandalay Bay Hotel closed-circuit cameras that were rolling when he checked in, when he walked through the lobby, when he went on the elevator, when he went through the hall up to that room. There are cameras, as we all know, in these hotels all over the place. Have you personally seen all that video, and have you had access to that surveillance video?
MCMAHILL: I can -- I have not personally seen the video myself. My investigators continue to comb through all of that. The casino has been very cooperative with us, as well as you have to remember there are a number of other places that we continue to look for that information as it comes in.
And it's a very painstaking, difficult process to go through all of that video. As you well know, a number of people have reported there are other people with him. I can tell you this, is our review of the video to this point, we have not located any other persons of interest through that video review.
[17:20:11] BLITZER: So all the video that you've gone through at the Mandalay Bay hotel in those four or five days he was there, you didn't see him talking to anyone else? You didn't see him walking around having a cup of coffee or anything else along those lines with another individual? Is that right?
MCMAHILL: Right. We didn't see anything that caused us to have concern that another individual would have been with him during that particular time.
BLITZER: As you acknowledge, and your colleagues acknowledge, Undersheriff, the investigators, they're working extremely hard, but so far they have been unable to determine a motive. Do you sense you will someday be able to get to that result? Do you worry that we may never know what his -- what his goal was?
MCMAHILL: You know, that thought has crossed my mind. I will tell you that we have not stopped, nor will we stop. We have a long way to go in this investigation to put all that to rest.
I believe we're going to find the answer to that. We just haven't gotten there yet.
But you know, ultimately, at the end of the day, not knowing is also an answer. And if we arrive at that point, we will have exhausted every investigative lead and opportunity to the very end before we are willing to provide that. We owe it literally to the victims, the victims' families and to the Las Vegas community and to all of the American citizens across this great country to do it right, and that's what we're going to do.
BLITZER: Yes. And to learn lessons, of course, to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Undersheriff, you said this was a meticulous plan by this killer, bringing all those guns, those weapons, all the electronics equipment, all the ammunition, thousands of rounds of ammunition up to that room. He must have been working on this for a long time. How long do you believe it would have taken him to set up all that equipment in that -- in that hotel suite?
MCMAHILL: You know, I really don't know. Obviously, listen, he obviously had a plan. And he was committed to a plan. He had a significant number of firearms, as you well know, that we have already talked about, over 23 firearms in that room, of all various manufacture. He knew what he was going to do. He was committed to carry out that plan.
How long it took him to set up I don't know. But God -- I really thank God that he only had the opportunity to fire into that crowd for the time that he had and that we were able to stop him from doing it.
BLITZER: One final question, Undersheriff, before I let you go. I know you've got to -- you've got to run. You've got a lot of work to do. And let me just thank you you, thank all of your colleagues, all of the men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police force, all of -- everyone involved in what you're doing. The whole country, indeed so much of the world, is watching right now, and they're so anxious to get answers right now.
How are you guys holding up personally, including yourself?
MCMAHILL: So listen, I will tell you that the men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, that security officer, police, fire, EMS, doctors, everybody just really followed through on a plan that we'd practiced many, many times here in Las Vegas.
The aftermath that you're asking about, however, I will tell you that it is a -- it is a big part of the follow-on after a very traumatic event. Not only do you look at it from how it impacted all of our officers who were shot, who had family members that were shot, firefighters, EMS, people know -- in Vegas, you know, we're only 2 million, but it seems like everybody knows somebody that was impacted by this tragedy.
We lost Charleston Hartfield, who was a personal friend of ours. And I've got to tell you, it's -- it's a struggle.
But one of the things that I think is really particularly unique to law enforcement is we're going to do everything within our power to make sure that we find the answers to why it is that this individual did what he did. And so, we'll worry a little bit more later on about our own personal well-being. Because it is traumatic for all of our folks, and we'll pay attention to that as we continue to move forward.
BLITZER: It's a heartbreaking...
MCMAHILL: Thank you for having me on.
BLITZER: Heartbreaking development indeed. Undersheriff Kevin McMahill of the Las Vegas metropolitan police force, thank you so much for what you're doing. Thanks very much for joining us. And we'll look forward to getting more information and welcoming you back here on CNN. Thank you.
MCMAHILL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We turn back now to Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen of Nevada. And from what you just heard, Congresswoman, from the undersheriff, are you satisfied with how this investigation is going?
ROSEN: Well, I'm satisfied that they're going to continue to meticulously comb through each and every lead. I've heard there's thousands of leads.
I believe the FBI is going to be putting out a number for people who may have been here, 22,000 people were here. They may, when they get home, realize that they've seen or heard something when they were at the concert, before or after, maybe in the hotel when they were there, and so that might lead us on to something else.
[17:25:15] But more than anything else, our character was tested. Nevada is the Battle Born State. And I'm telling you, we were tested, and we came out strong. And the character of our community is amazing. And today we're mourning, but I'm very prideful and hopeful that we're going to get through this even stronger.
BLITZER: As you just heard, there's no motive that's known yet by the police, by the investigators. But the more we learn, Congresswoman, about this attack, the more it looks like this was very extensively and meticulously planned. He began stockpiling many of his weapons late last year. What does that tell you about this killer's state of mind?
ROSEN: It tells me that he was an evil person. And for some reason, perhaps he had a trigger. They think maybe he started buying a multitude of these kinds of ammunitions and weapons and planning this about a year ago. We don't know. Hopefully, we'll find out the trigger so we can try to understand it.
But we're just going to have to go forward. Because, can you ever really be in the mind of a person who is insane? And clearly, he had issues. An evil person. No one in their right mind would plan something like this. No one.
BLITZER: Yes. I'll just point out he may not have been insane, but he certainly was very, very evil, as we all know right now.
ROSEN: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: All right. Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, thanks for your time. Thanks for your patience. Good luck to you. Good luck to all your constituents...
ROSEN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... everyone in the Las Vegas area.
ROSEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: I know how heartbreaking this is for all of you. Thanks very much for joining us.
ROSEN: Appreciate it. Thank you.
BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now from New York City. Three people now under arrest, charged with allegedly taking part in an ISIS-inspired plot to attack the New York City landmarks, including the New York City subway system.
Let's bring in our justice reporter Laura Jarrett, who's got the information for it. Laura, what are you learning? LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this could have been
a potentially devastating attack here. Prosecutors have released three men, names they say were planning to carry out bombs in New York City, including Times Square, the New York City train station, and unleashing a shooting attack in populated areas including outdoor concert venues.
Obviously, on the minds of us all, considering the attack in Vegas just earlier this week with Stephen Paddock and the outdoor musical festival there in Vegas.
Now, the three men, one American, one Canadian, one from the Philippines, they're all in custody. This was actually an attack last year that the FBI uncovered.
But the details here are chilling. They have communications with these men saying, "We just walk in with our guns in our hands. That's how the guys in Paris did it. I want to kill them in the thousands." Another one is quoted as saying to an undercover FBI agent.
They've been charged with a litany of serious offenses here, including conspiracy, material support for terrorism, using weapons of mass destruction. And one has already pled guilty, Wolf. So obviously, a good result here. The FBI was able to get to it in time.
BLITZER: And you say that among the targets were concerts, outdoor concertgoers? Is that right?
JARRETT: That is what prosecutors are revealing here. That was one of the targets. Apparently, they also had maps of the New York City subway station, so they did take some steps, but obviously, again authorities were able to get to them in time.
BLITZER: Was this ISIS-inspired, ISIS-directed? What do they say, the U.S. attorney?
JARRETT: They're describing it as ISIS-inspired at this time. It sounds like the men were mostly communicating through email messages with each other, and so that's how they're, at least, describing it in these court documents.
BLITZER: U.S. citizens?
JARRETT: One U.S. citizen, one Canadian and one from Philippines.
BLITZER: The Philippines, and they were clearly inspired by ISIS. I know you're working your sources. You're getting more information. Laura Jarrett, thank you very much. We'll have much more on this very disturbing development, as well.
Up next, President Trump won't say what he meant when he warned of a calm before the storm while meeting with top U.S. military commanders. The White House says only, quote, "Wait and see."
And from Louisiana to Florida, Gulf Coast residents, they are now bracing for what's expected to become a hurricane. Hurricane Nate. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[17:33:53] BLITZER: Our breaking news, police now say they're confident no other shooter took part in the Las Vegas massacre but they can't rule out a possible accomplice at an earlier stage of the plot. And they say they are still at a loss when it comes to the killer's motive.
We're following another breaking story right now, President Trump's latest very, very cryptic remark, first at a gathering of top military officers and spouses, he warned of a coming storm. But asked today what he was talking about, the President simply winked and then said, quote, you'll find out.
Let's turn to our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, any explanations coming from the White House?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House did not offer much in the way of an explanation today for the President's bizarre warning that the U.S. is in the middle of what he called, the calm before the storm, only that the remarks are extremely serious. The comments are baffling much of Washington where bets are being placed on the future of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
TRUMP: We've reached the calm before the storm.
ACOSTA: President Trump warns there's a storm brewing but the White House won't say what the storm is or when it will hit.
[17:35:00] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know the President has as I have from this podium on quite a few occasions, we're never going to say in advance what the President is going to do. And as he said last night, in addition to those comments, you'll have to wait and see.
ACOSTA: The White House refused to explain comments the President made next to military commanders and their family members Thursday night, a photo op that was hastily scheduled after reporters were told there would be no public events for the day.
TRUMP: It could be the calm -- the calm before the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From Iran, ISIS, or what? What storm is it, Mr. President?
TRUMP: We have the world's great military people in this room. I will tell you that. And we're going to have a great evening. Thank you all for coming. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What storm, Mr. President?
TRUMP: You'll find out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you mean by calm before the storm?
ACOSTA: Asked again today what he meant, the President winked.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: You'll find out.
ACOSTA: But Press Secretary Sarah Sanders hinted it, Mr. Trump may be adopting what's known in foreign policy circles as the Madman Theory, the strategy aimed at throwing off adversaries with cryptic language.
What is your sense of (INAUDIBLE) is there anything to that? Is there --
SANDERS: I think the President addresses himself. He certainly doesn't want to layout his gameplan for our enemies. So, if you're asking is the President trying to, you know, do that? Absolutely.
ACOSTA: This is hardly the first time the President's theatrics have unsettled Washington like a super-heated rhetoric aimed at North Korea.
TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
ACOSTA: But even members of the President's own party argue the White House needs less chaos, not more.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.
ACOSTA: The White House response to that.
SANDERS: The President is the one that's keeping the world from chaos.
ACOSTA: For now, the White House appears to be seeking stability at the State Department where Secretary Rex Tillerson seems to have the confidence of the President, at least for now, that's despite the fact that administration officials see Tillerson as on his way out after sources say he called the President a moron.
SANDERS: Nothing has changed despite what you may read in the media or watch on T.V., I would certainly trust the President and my comments far above those of other reporters.
ACOSTA: But with President Trump, a good rule is expect the unexpected?
Whether he's throwing paper towels to people in Puerto Rico or how he pronounces Puerto Rico. TRUMP: We are also praying for the people of Puerto Rico. We love
Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico.
ACOSTA: Now, the White House was asked whether we should expect any cabinet departures as today as Friday, the response from the Press Secretary today, I don't think so. Wolf, that's as clear as they're going to make it at this point. At this point, Friday is not fire day just yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting for us from the White House. Jim, thank you very much. Let's bring in our specialists and get some reaction. John Kirby, you've spent 30 years in the U.S. Military, retired admiral, how do you interpret these cryptic comments from the President of The United States?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: This calm before the storm thing? Look, it can either mean something, or most likely in my view, this was just a photo op and he took advantage of it by throwing that out there. I really don't believe there's anything more to it than that.
Now, he is the President of the United States and no president of the United States should ever issue a vague or idle threat like that. So, I find it deeply disturbing and irresponsible. But in my own view, I think this was just playing for the cameras.
BLITZER: But how are U.S. allies, key allies and adversaries, whether the Iranians or the North Koreans going to respond to a comment like that?
KIRBY: Well, I think they're sadly becoming a little bit immune to his off-the-cuff remarks in his tweets. At least, I hope that's the case. Clearly, this isn't going to make him feel any bit better about where we are in the foreign and defense policy perspective. But I think in general, I think sadly, they're getting a little too used to this kind of flippant statements.
BLITZER: What's your analysis why he's refusing to clarify what he meant?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's -- Wolf, it's hard to know. Honestly, very hard to know. This is a President who does do these things off the cuff. It's not very reassuring however to the American public. President is supposed to be calm and when the public is upset, as they are about an awful lot of things that have gone on, we've had hurricanes, we've had a mass murder in this country, we have -- we have North Korea, we have the question about what's going to happen with the Iran deal, the President is supposed to calm everybody down, not get people riled up. And this statement riles people up because we're all asking the question you're asking, which is what does he mean by that?
[17:39:59] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I agree. And definitely agree with you. I mean, if you think about the way it unfolded last night, the President was having a social event with military leaders and their spouses. And they were clearly taking a photo. And you can kind of imagine him saying, where are the T.V. cameras? This is a great shot. This is -- I'm the Commander-in-Chief and look at all these people around me, which the White House pool, they were told no more for the knife, they were given what's called a lid in our lingo. And then the lid was opened, and they were suddenly ushered in for this -- for this moment.
And so, you can see him kind of, you know, getting caught up in the moment and having a reality T.V. situation where he's like, you know, you never know what's going to happen, which he followed up on today with a wink. I'm not saying that's the right thing to do when you are Commander-in-Chief and not a reality T.V. show -- star but that certainly seems to be what happened.
BLITZER: Yes. Some have criticized the President for tweeting the military leadership almost like a prop. He gathers them for another photo. Take a look at this photo, we'll put it up on the screen. And you can see that he likes having them around even though, and we'll have this in a moment, he criticizes them.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he does. You know, I'll take a little bit of a different tact in the sense that every President gets criticized for giving speeches with military behind him. Usually, it's soldiers, right, when he goes to a base or what have you. When it becomes a big problem, though, is when President Trump did earlier this year when he was with soldiers, when he came out and he looked at them and he said I saw those numbers, meaning the percentage of voters from the military who supported him. I saw those numbers and you like me, and I like you. He then politicized that event. That's when it becomes a problem.
BLITZER: Listen to this because he's getting a lot of criticism for openly publicly saying the military is not doing the right thing. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Moving forward, I also expect you to provide me with a broad range of military options when needed at a much faster pace. I know that government bureaucracy is slow, but I'm depending on you to overcome the obstacles of bureaucracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's meeting with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military brass in the United States, and publicly openly saying, you need to provide me this information at a much faster pace. Now, he wasn't winking, wasn't smiling, he was serious when he said that.
KIRBY: Look, three thoughts here, one, every President wants more options and they ought to recognize that sometimes the military needs to take some due caution here and preparing these options. And sometimes that takes a little time. And you want it to be well- thought out. Number two, it's fine if he wants to, you know, say that he wants them faster, but to make the case that they're not getting to him fast enough, I think also isn't necessarily wholly accurate. I know many of the men around that table and I can tell you they take planning and military operations very seriously. And they're not ever at once to stand on bureaucracy.
And the third thing which you highlighted right at the outset is it's just entirely inappropriate for the Commander-in-Chief to publicly rebuke his military commanders in front of cameras like that. If you are really upset about something, close the door and say it in private. Believe me, they'll -- they can take orders and they'll -- and they'll set a new direction but don't do it in front of the cameras.
BLITZER: It was pretty extraordinary. Gloria, it is pretty extraordinary, public rebuke like that.
BORGER: Yes, it's -- he's telling the world that he thinks he's not getting answers fast enough. And that's not a -- that's not a good thing either. I think one thing we've learned about this President as we've covered him is that what he says inside a room behind a closed- door is very often the same thing that he says outside that room in front of the cameras. And there are sometimes you ought to keep it inside a closed room, particularly when you're talking to your generals whom, by the way, he says he respects, right, and is this the way he treats them?
BLITZER: And he said later that the greatest military in the world.
PRESTON: Right, he describes them as my generals. Well, guess what, they're not his generals, they're the generals of the United States. And to that Admiral's point, by going out there and doing that and undercutting them, it also undercuts them to everybody who they are overseeing, all the soldiers, the airman, the marines, everyone that is now serving on behalf of the United States. They've got to be looking up and being like, wait a second, if the President doesn't have confidence, should we?
BLITZER: They had a speaking of undercutting. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in China, he's trying to establish a backchannel, diplomatic channel with the North Koreans to avert a nuclear disaster. The President publicly tweets to the Secretary of State, you're wasting your time. Don't even try. I mean, that's pretty extraordinary, too.
BASH: Oh, no question, which would have gotten a whole lot more play had this horrible tragedy not happened in Las Vegas. It kind of got, you know, understandably overshadowed by what happened there. But that is just an example, Wolf, of beyond kind of the, you know, the is he out, is he not out real world. And when I -- I really mean world consequences of these tension with your Secretary of State.
[17:45:02] Because never mind publicly, you know, seeming to undermine him in a tweet. These would be North Korea, the leaders around the world who Rex Tillerson is going to meet with and trying to represent the United States represent the Trump administration, are looking at him, saying, what am I talking to this guy for, the President -- he might fire him tomorrow. And so, that really undercuts not just the administration but United States foreign policy. And it's a big problem. And that's something that I've heard more and more of from senior Republicans around town.
BLITZER: Does Tillerson last through the end of this year, Gloria?
BORGER: Well, you know, I think Tillerson's time, let's just put it this way, as one source said to me is measured in months and not years. And I think that's probably an accurate -- an accurate description. I think you have a situation where the President is probably fed up with Tillerson, and I think Tillerson is probably fed up with the President. And I think no matter how much they try to paper that over this week, I think it was obvious to anybody -- to anybody watching that this is a relationship that's really fraught with problems.
BLITZER: When you add up all the departures so far the first nine months of this administration, Mark, there are a lot of senior people who are, you know, bye-bye.
PRESTON: Which in many ways I still don't understand why he still enjoys a high-approval rating amongst Republicans and supporters when they see the chaos that he has sewn within his own White House and has really nothing to show for it.
BLITZER: Have you seen anything like this?
KIRBY: No, never. No. And look, to be -- to be fair, I mean, Secretary Tillerson has brought a little bit on himself and his leadership at Foggy Bottom hasn't been exemplary, hasn't been very assertive there. But I think, you know, based on what he's been through, just in trying to manage this Commander-in-Chief, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't blame him a bit if he put in his resignation right now.
BLITZER: And we all know what he reportedly called the President of the United States earlier in the summer that's caused a lot of controversy out there, a lot of deep anguish on the part of, I'm sure, him, the President himself used the word moron that came up. All right, guys, stand by. There's more, coming up.
We're following breaking news, Las Vegas Police say they're confident there was no other shooter, but they can't say for sure if anyone else knew of the gunman's plot. What did he plan to do with 50 pounds of explosives in his car?
And hurricane warnings, they're up now for New Orleans, as tropical storm Nate is expected to hit the Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane. We have a brand new forecast. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:52:12] BLITZER: Breaking news right now, a hurricane warning has been issued for the New Orleans Metropolitan area. Tropical Storm Nate is moving quickly and will be a hurricane by time it hits the U.S. Gulf Coast. Let's go to our meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Allison, give us the latest forecast, when will this hurricane hit?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. So, it's likely to hit within the next 24 hours, sometime tomorrow evening local time. We've had a lot of changes at the top of the hour with the latest advisories, so let's get to them. For starters, the sustained winds have increased up to 60 miles per hour. Gusts are now sitting at 70 miles per hour. We're also starting to notice the storm take shape, this means it's starting to get better organized and could potentially start to intensify a little bit sooner than originally anticipated.
We talked about the breaking news in terms of New Orleans now being under a hurricane warning that was also changed at the top of the 5:00 hour. But also, again, storm surge, we started to see these numbers increase and in some areas by quite a bit. This red area right here from about New Orleans over towards Pensacola, now up to five to eight feet. West of that region, about four to six feet and directly east of that including Panama City now looking at four to six feet.
But also extending further out to the east, over towards Crystal River, Florida, we could be looking at storm surge, say, one to three feet. So a lot of these areas have started to see those numbers go up. The ultimate question in the short-term is how much can this storm intensify in the short time span from where it is now until it makes landfall? It may seem like a big area to you but it's not a very long time for the storm to be able to intensify.
We do expect it to intensify in at least up to say, a Category 1 strength by the time it makes landfall. There are some models indicating that it could be stronger than that at landfall, but we really have to wait and see what it does over the Open Gulf. That will be the ultimate determining factor as what it will likely end up being when it makes landfall.
From there, the storm continues to the north and east, impacting at least about a dozen other states including cities like Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York, and Boston. Yes, the impacts there will be different than it will be at landfall but many of those cities, Wolf, are still likely to have very strong gusty winds as well as heavy rainfall.
BLITZER: The Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana told me earlier in the day that some parts in the area around New Orleans are already being evacuated just in case. Allison, thank you very, very much. We'll have much more on Hurricane Nate. That's coming up.
There's more breaking news we're following, police now say they're sure no other shooters took part in the Las Vegas slaughter but they're not sure if anyone else knew of the killer's plot. And did the plot go beyond the mass shooting? What did the gunman plan to do with 50 pounds of explosives in his car?
[17:54:36] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, ready to blow, the CNN has learned that the Las Vegas gunman's car was loaded with explosives and might have been rigged to kill. Tonight, investigators say while there's no link to terror, there's still no motive for the deadly shooting in modern-American history.
Russian intrusion, disturbing reports that Kremlin hackers used antivirus software to steal classified information from a national security agency employee. We'll discuss it in a rare interview with a former Presidential National Security Advisor.