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Interview With Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus; New Storm Targets Louisiana; Trump's Stormy Language; Mandatory Evacuations as Gulf Coast Braces for Hurricane; Police: No Motive for Las Vegas Massacre Despite 1,000+ Leads; : Reports: Russians Used Antivirus Program to Steal NSA Secrets; Trump Refuses to Clarify 'Calm Before the Storm' Comment. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 6, 2017 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We will discuss it with a rare interview with a former presidential national security adviser.

Cryptic warning. The White House further muddies the waters stirred by President Trump's mysterious remark about a coming storm. The president himself is stoking confusion, telling reporters to wait and see.

And heading for New Orleans. Another powerful storm closing in on the United States tonight. Mandatory evacuation orders have just been issued, as millions of people along the Gulf Coast brace for what's expected to be Hurricane Nate. We have a brand-new forecast just out.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, chilling new information about the Las Vegas shooting massacre and the gunman's effort to take even more lives.

CNN has learned that Stephen Paddock's car contained 50 pounds of explosives and may have been rigged to detonate. Another source telling us he tried, but fail to buy special bullets that light up when fired. That would have made it easier to him to see where he was shooting.

Also breaking, fresh confusion over cryptic comments by President Trump, who spoke of a "calm before the storm" while meeting with military officials. Tonight, the White House and the president are rebuffing questions about what the president meant, telling reporters they will have to "wait and see."

We're also following reports that Kremlin hackers used popular Russian computer antivirus software to steal classified National Security Agency information. The hackers reportedly access details of the agency's cyber-capabilities on a worker's computer when he ran the software from Kaspersky Labs, which the United States believes is linked to Russian spying.

And the U.S. is bracing for another hurricane right now, expected to strike this weekend. A new forecast just released shows Tropical Storm Nate becoming a Category 1 before making landfall along the Gulf Coast where watches and warnings are posted tonight. Mandatory evacuation orders have been just issued for parts of New Orleans.

We're covering all of that, much more this hour, with our guests, including Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada, and former national security adviser under President Obama, Tom Donilon. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

Let's begin with the breaking news in the Las Vegas massacre.

Our senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is working this story for us.

Alex, there have been several new developments today, although still no motive.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

A clearly exasperated undersheriff of Las Vegas has been saying they're no closer to discovering motive of the shooter. He say they've looking into his personal life, political affiliation, social behaviors, economic background, and potential radicalization, still coming up with nothing.

Another major question tonight, why did he have 50 pounds of the explosive Tannerite in the trunk of his car?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Tonight, CNN has learned that Stephen Paddock's plans on Sunday may have gone beyond the carnage that he rained down on that crowd of 22,000 concert-goers.

A law enforcement source tells CNN's Kyung Lah and Scott Glover, that 32 floors below, Paddock had filled his 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring 50 pounds of the explosive Tannerite, alongside 1,600 rounds of ammo that could have caused the car to blow up if it was fired on.

KEVIN MCMAHILL, LAS VEGAS UNDERSHERIFF: I believe he certainly had nefarious intent with that material. Just what I'm trying to tell you is, I don't know what that intent was.

MARQUARDT: A source also telling CNN that in recent weeks, the 64- year-old tried to buy tracer ammunition, special bullets similar to these would illuminate when fired. The tracer rounds would made it easier for Paddock to see where he was firing into the darkness, making targeting more accurate and deadly.

ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: The tracer round would tell you where those bullets are going, but it also gives away your position. MARQUARDT: Paddock trying to buy the tracer rounds at a gun show in

Phoenix just a few weeks ago. A source says wasn't able to and instead bought other ammunition.

As investigators question Paddock's girlfriend and pore over the evidence, including weapons, phones, and laptops, they're now focused on recreating the days and weeks that led up to the shooting. Experts say Paddock's massacre would have required careful thought and weeks of planning.

He scouted out at least one other major concert venue in Las Vegas shortly before the shooting. When settling on the Route 91 Harvest Festival, he requested a suite at the end of the hallway for the view of the concert grounds.

He packed not only his 23 guns and ammunition, but surveillance cameras to alert him to anyone approaching, and then meticulously set up his sniper's nest, all without raising red flags.

[18:05:06]

RODERICK: He's in a large hotel. People are dragging suitcases in and out of that hotel on a regular basis. Room service never -- or maid service never actually came to that room. He had the do not disturb sign on the door for the whole three or four days that he was there. So he had three or four days to move equipment in and out of there that would have gone unnoticed.

MARQUARDT: All of it ready for when the headlining act, Jason Aldean, took the stage on Sunday, a moment when the crowd would have been at its biggest and Paddock could do the most damage.

RODERICK: When the first rounds went off, we had a lot of injuries not only from the bullets and ricochets, but you also had quite a few injuries from the panic that spread of people trying to get away. And if he that into consideration of his planning, then that's pretty insidious and devious, in and of itself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Now, we have also learned that Paddock took some 20 cruises, many of them overseas, mainly to Europe and the Middle East. His girlfriend joined him on nine of them.

It may simply have been that cruise ships have casinos and he was an avid gambler. But this is one more element in trying to figure out who this guy is -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Alex Marquardt in Las Vegas.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's also in Las Vegas for us tonight.

Brian, you're getting new information. What else are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. A source close to the investigation just telling us tonight that

investigators believe that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, fired on those aviation fuel tanks before he fired onto the crowd.

At least one of those aviation fuel tanks was struck by bullets. And now we're being told by a source that they believe he fired onto those fuel tanks before he fired into that crowd of people in that small arena there.

Those fuel tanks are about 1,100, maybe 1,000 feet away from the area where those people had gathered to the concert. They're adjacent McCarran International Airport. You can clearly see them from the shooter's vantage point at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. We could see them from our vantage point in a room not far away, but now told they believe he fired on those full tanks before striking the crowd.

Now, the fuel tanks were not punctured, according to officials. They're trying to now ascertain whether he might have tried to cause a large explosion by firing on those fuel tanks. But they were not punctured.

And they that whatever -- the striking of those fuel tanks didn't pose a danger to the public. But it's not to say he certainly didn't attempt to maybe do something with those fuel tanks and cause an explosion.

Also some clarification, Wolf, tonight on the note from this source, telling me that the note that was found in the room contained only numbers, no words or letters. They're not sure what those numbers mean. They're analyzing that to see what relevance they have to this attack, Wolf, but only numbers on that note, no letters or words.

BLITZER: Brian, I just interviewed to Las Vegas undersheriff, Kevin McMahill, and I asked him about the security guard that came to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where that suite was, because an alarm door on that floor was ringing.

And I asked him which door that was. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCMAHILL: 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 the door is left ajar, the officer is dispatched to check up to check on that, so...

BLITZER: Was that a coincidence, do you believe, that, all of a sudden, that door was left 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 the stop him from actively killing any more of our great visitors and citizens alike. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Brian, that security guard who went up there on the 32nd floor, he was eventually shot through the door by the killer, shot in the leg, but he's OK, he was a real hero, wasn't he?

TODD: He certainly was, Wolf.

You think of the sequence of events there that the undersheriff just clarified, with that door being ajar being just a coincidence. Incredible. If that door hadn't been ajar, would there have been many more casualties?

Quite possibly, because that triggers the security guard to go up to the room. Then possibly he notices something, advances toward Stephen Paddock's room. He gets fired on, with what we're now told might have been 200 rounds of ammunition, gets struck in the leg, stays there, notifies the other police officers to get to the 32nd floor, tells them of his position, tells them where the shooter is, gets them a card key, all while being wounded.

An incredible sequence of events, Wolf. Another thing we're learning tonight from the undersheriff was that they believe the shooter, Paddock, made several trips, multiple trips to and from the room with weapons and ammunition over several days leading up to the attack, again, speaking to the meticulous nature of the planning, gradual transportation of those weapons and ammunition up to the room, multiple trips, he said tonight.

[18:10:05]

BLITZER: Yes, indeed.

Thanks very much, Brian Todd, on the scene for us in Las Vegas.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congresswoman Dina Titus of Las Vegas is joining us. Her district includes the Las Vegas Strip.

Congresswoman, thanks as usual for joining us.

Let's get right to the questions.

REP. DINA TITUS (D), NEVADA: Thank you.

BLITZER: In your view, how significant are these latest developments about the gunman's car, which contained 50 pounds of explosives and could have detonated if shot?

TITUS: It's just horrifying to hear that.

But we are getting pieces of information every day. More is coming forward, and I think our law enforcement, even though it's frustrating for us not to have it all together in one place, is being very transparent in putting that out there. They're being cautious, though. They want to be sure that what they

give you are the facts and that they have everything in place before they turn it over to the public. But we have the what, the where, the when. Now we just want to know the why.

BLITZER: What about the news that we just reported that the gunman, this mass murderer, actually fired first at those large fuel tanks at McCarran Airport, the Las Vegas airport, before he started firing what turned out to be an automatic weapon into the crowd of 22,000 concert- goers below him? He was on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

What do you make of that?

TITUS: I have spoken to the head of the airport, and they have done an amazing job, even though nobody has mentioned them much, helping people get through TSA, and get home without identification, rerouting flights.

They told me that they were not pierced, but that they have drained that tank. And then they will try to recertify it, just to be sure.

BLITZER: Do you think he was trying to explode those tanks by firing into them from that room?

TITUS: It would just be speculation, but given all the other things that he had planned with the explosives in his car, the amount of ammunition, it would not surprise me.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction, also, Congresswoman, to the news that the gunman actually tried to buy what are called the tracer ammunition, but he couldn't obtain it for whatever reason.

These tracer ammunition, they light up in the dark, which would have allowed him to carry out this attack with much more precision. Do you believe this massacre could have been even worse?

TITUS: There's no question about it.

We know that more people would have died if it hadn't been for our first-responders on the ground and people helping folks find shelter and get out. He tried to buy those at a gun show. And I understand the only reason he wasn't able to is that the dealer had run out of them. So that tells you something.

BLITZER: Should Congress regulate tracer ammunition?

TITUS: I'm looking at all the things that we should regulate. As you know, I have a bill to outlaw the bump stocks.

I'm working with Mr. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who is a former FBI agent, to see about regulating them. Something I have just recently learned about is there is a glove you can wear, called an automatic glove, that allows you to shoot like a machine gun.

We don't want to be sure that we don't leave any loopholes for things like that. Tracer bullets should be part of that discussion, silencers as well. All of that needs to be on the table right now.

BLITZER: Officials are now saying, as you know, there wasn't a second shooter in that hotel suite, but they are not ruling out the possibility that the gunman had help planning, preparing for this attack. Do you believe he acted alone?

TITUS: Well, there was awful lot of detail that went into it. He scoped out different locations. He had that amount of ammunition.

Again, nothing would surprise me, but I don't want to speculate. And law enforcement is not saying that there was a second person. In the beginning, they thought maybe there were two shooters because of the two windows, but I think that was one shooter and two windows just to get two different angles on the fairground.

BLITZER: Yes, those two windows were part of the same suite and he had access to that entire suite on the 32nd floor.

TITUS: Right.

BLITZER: Do you worry, Congresswoman, that authorities -- and I hope this isn't the case -- will never find the real motive, what this guy was up to?

TITUS: I don't know if we will or not, and that's unsettling, because we'd like to have an explanation so there's some closure. Why would anybody do this?

BLITZER: Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada, thanks very much for joining us.

TITUS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, there's more breaking news we're following. 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. Is it reckless of the White House to let those remarks stand?

I will ask a former presidential national security adviser.

And Tropical Storm Nate expected to hit near New Orleans this weekend as a hurricane. From Louisiana to Florida, Gulf Coast residents right now, they are starting to get ready.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:19:45]

BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, the White House refusing to clarify a cryptic comment by President Trump about a coming storm.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us from the White House.

Jim, the president is stoking the mystery.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

It's still mostly cloudy over here at the White House, Wolf, where officials 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 the calm before the storm, as he called it, only that the remarks are extremely serious.

[18:20:12]

The comments are baffling much of Washington, where bets are being placed on the future of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump warns there's a storm brewing, but the White House won't say what the storm is or when it will hit.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know the president, 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 will have to wait and see.

ACOSTA: The White House refused to explain comments the president made next to military commanders and their family Thursday night, a photo-op that was hastily scheduled after reporters were told there would be no more public events for the day.

TRUMP: It could be the calm before the storm.

QUESTION: What storm, Mr. President?

TRUMP: We have the world's great military people. I will tell you that. And we're going to have a great evening. Thank you all for coming. Thank you.

QUESTION: What storm, Mr. President?

TRUMP: You will find out.

ACOSTA: Asked again today what he meant, the president winked.

TRUMP: You will find out.

ACOSTA: But Press Secretary Sarah Sanders hinted Mr. Trump may be adopting what is known is foreign policy circles as the madman theory, the strategy aimed at throwing off adversaries with cryptic language.

(on camera): What is your sense of that? Is there anything to that?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think the president has addressed this himself. He certainly doesn't want to lay out his game plan for our enemies. So if you're asking, is the president trying to, you know, do that? Absolutely.

ACOSTA (voice-over): This is hardly the first time the president's theoretics have unsettled Washington, like his superheated 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), TENNESSEE: 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?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president is the one that is keeping the world from chaos.

ACOSTA: For now, the White House seems 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 sources see Tillerson as on his way out, after sources say he called the president a moron.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Nothing has changed, despite what you may read in the media or watch on TV. 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 it'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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, the White House was asked whether we should expect any Cabinet departures, as today is Friday. The response from the press secretary, "I don't think so."

It does not appear at this point that the storm clouds have passed for Rex Tillerson just yet, Wolf.

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

Let's get some more on all of this.

The former national security adviser under President Obama, Tom Donilon, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me right now.

Tom, thanks very much for coming in.

TOM DONILON, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thank you.

BLITZER: What's your reaction to the president refusing to clarify what he meant when he said in front of the military brass at this meeting yesterday at the White House that there may be right now the calm before the storm? What was he trying to do?

DONILON: I don't know what he was trying to do.

But the world looks to the United States for steady, principled, reliable leadership, right? And those kind of comments, I think, really foment mistake and raise the risk of mistake and miscalculation.

BLITZER: Why do you say that?

DONILON: These are deadly serious situations.

And the whole world looks to the words oft president of the United States with respect to the intention of the United States. It's deadly serious stuff. It should be done very carefully, and intentionally, and part of an overall plan for achieving your goals.

BLITZER: He also was critical of the military leadership at a meeting at the White House last night, when he suggested they're not giving him military options quickly, fast enough. And he said that publicly. And he wasn't joking. He wasn't laughing. He was very serious.

DONILON: Yes.

I think that's really not -- that's neither effective, nor appropriate, frankly. The president of the United States doesn't need to speak publicly, right, or cryptically with respect to instructions that he's giving his military. He's the commander in chief.

[18:25:00]

And I can tell you, Wolf, from 40 years of experience in this business, that the military commanders in this government respect civil control of the military.

And the right way to do this is to call the military into the Situation Room or the Oval Office and talk to them directly about this. There's no need to jab publicly with respect to military planning.

BLITZER: You were the national security adviser, President Obama's first national security adviser. But, earlier, you were also at the State Department, a chief of staff over at the State Department.

Can Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, survive what's going on right now?

DONILON: It makes it very difficult.

As you said, I was national security adviser for President Obama. I was chief of staff for the State Department during the Clinton years. And it just makes it exceedingly difficult for the secretary of state do his or her job if they're being undercut by the president. The coin of the realm for a secretary of state, the reason that people

will deal with him or her around the world, is the confidence that the president has in him, that he needs to seen as speaking for the president. And if he's not, it really makes his job really, really difficult, bordering on impossible.

BLITZER: So, when he says on a visit to China, I'm working through diplomatic back channels to try to ease the nuclear crisis with North Korea, and then the president tweets, Rex, don't waste your time, Rex Tillerson, don't waste your time, what does that say to you?

DONILON: I think a couple of things.

Number one, that was after Secretary Tillerson had spent most of the day with the Chinese leadership, preparing for one of the president's most upcoming trips, right? He is going for 10 days to Asia beginning the evening of November 3, working with the Chinese, who are critical players in the North Korea situation, trying to work through a strategy with them.

He comes out and then is undercut by the president. It's really I think damaging to -- it's damaging to the United States. It's damaging to the secretary of state.

The other thing, Wolf, as a matter of statecraft, is, that I can understand -- now, I have been involved in politics in a prior life, as you know. I can understand why the president wants to use social media to communicate with the country. I understand that. He probably wouldn't have gotten elected without that.

But foreign policy and national security is a different area. I can understand communicating through Twitter and other social media on political messages or keeping in touch with Americans or staying in closer touch with Americans, as the president wants to do.

But it is not the place for national security and foreign policy. And they need to carve out an exception for that, because, the world looks to the United States for clear, reliable and principled leadership.

BLITZER: In the 40 years you have been involved in national security and politics, have you ever seen anything like this before?

DONILON: No. Traditionally, up to this -- this is a different kind of presidency.

Up to this point, every word that a president says with respect to national policy and foreign policy is carefully considered by the president and his team, because of the impact that it can have.

We have several very serious situations around the world. And so I think clarity, calm, and having every step you take be part of a conscious plan is really critical at point. And I would wager a lot that that's the advice he's getting from his national security team, who are some of the most experienced people we have in this country.

BLITZER: Because you like the national security team, at least most of the people that he has surrounded himself with.

But you don't like what he is doing.

DONILON: I have worked with most of the national security team at the most senior levels here, particularly the uniformed and former uniformed officers who are working for the president.

And they are experienced, tough and quite skilled practitioners of national security and foreign policy. And it's not conceivable to me that they would be making recommendations along these lines.

Frankly, I think this really needs some discipline, much more discipline around it, because, again, it's deadly serious. And what happens is, as I said before, you really materially and significantly raise the risk of miscalculation, mistake, misunderstanding, reacting to something that might not be true.

BLITZER: A lot of his national security team don't want him to decertify the North Korea nuclear deal. He's apparently going to be doing that next week, throwing the whole issue -- the Iran -- excuse me -- the Iran nuclear clear.

He apparently is going to be doing that next week and let Congress figure out over the course of 60 days or whatever what to do. What's your reaction to that?

DONILON: My view is it would be a mistake.

The Iran deal is actually achieving the goals that were set for it. That is to roll back and freeze the Iranian nuclear problem. The IAEA, the U.N. body that oversees compliance, has said it complies, it's been compliant.

On September 20, Rex Tillerson said that they have been complying, Iran had been complying with the deal. And just a few days ago, both General Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and General Mattis, Secretary Mattis now of the Defense Department said that they would recommend staying with this deal.

Why? Because it does constrain the nuclear program. If there is conduct outside the nuclear program that needs to be addressed, we should address it, but working with allies and friends around the world. That's the most effective way.

BLITZER: I don't know if you saw the "Wall Street Journal" report, a very disturbing report.

I know you're deeply involved in the issue of cybersecurity. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that the Russian government actually stole classified information from an NSA, a National Security Agency, contractor by exploiting the Kaspersky antivirus software, which was on the NSA contractor's home computer.

How vulnerable is the federal government right now to this kind of cyber-attack?

DONILON: Well, I chaired the president's commission on cybersecurity.

And we delivered a report to President Obama and briefed President Trump's transition team on these issues.

Of course, they're vulnerable, right? And we have work to do with respect to cyber security.

[18:30:10] It's interesting, though. I don't think the government has confirmed that story yet, but if that story is true, it goes to a couple of fundamentals here. Which is that it's really the basics. You find, in many of these cases, it's either an insider or it's someone who makes a mistake. And that really means that we've got to up our game in terms of protecting the federal networks in terms of the core cyber hygiene efforts we make.

The other thing I'd say about this, of course, is that we are in an actively hostile posture with the Russians right now. Since Putin's return in the spring of 2012, we are in a very different posture. And they are going to try and take advantage of everything that they can. We are hostile in Europe, in Syria, actively hostile against the Russians, right, in North Africa, in Afghanistan, and across the border. And of course, most directly, the Russians obviously undertook an effort to affect the U.S. election.

So this is the posture that we're in, and it really means we have to be -- really, to up our game, I think, on cyber security. No doubt about it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Donilon, thanks very much for coming in. Tom Donilon was President Obama's national security advisor.

Just ahead, there's more breaking news. Las Vegas police, they say they're now confident there was no other shooter, but they can't say if anyone else knew of the gunman's plot. What did he plan to do with the 50 pounds of explosives in his car?

And we're also tracking Tropical Storm Nate, expected to become a hurricane when it hits the Gulf Coast this weekend. Evacuations have already been ordered for parts of New Orleans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More now on the breaking news. The White House is stoking the mystery around President Trump's remark about a coming storm. The press secretary, Sarah Sanders, echoed the president's so-called winking remark today, telling reporters they'd have to wait and see what he means.

Let's dig deeper with our reporters, our commentators and analysts. David Axelrod, some of his critics are saying his remarks were reckless. What do you think?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, look, Wolf, you know, Teddy Roosevelt said speak softly and carry a big stick. And this president obviously has taken a different tack. And that's very dangerous in a nuclear age where, if people misinterpret your words, you can create enormous catastrophe in a very short time.

You know, Tom Donilon talked about the fact that, in the White House I worked in, and I think in most White Houses, the words the president speaks are weighed very carefully for that reason.

But I don't think this president sees himself in that role. I think he sees this whole thing as a television program, and this bombast plays well. The suspense builds. It's great. Let's wait for the next episode and so on. That's a very dangerous tack to take, given the threats we face in the world.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, how are American adversaries supposed to interpret these comments from the president?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, if you look at what the president has said over time, for example, talking about North Korea in aggressive terms, and the secretary of state talks about about diplomacy. Talking about other issues like the U.N. in dismissive terms until he goes to the U.N. and says, "Actually, we need you very much."

I think what adversaries are doing -- and we've seen this in reports about the North Koreans reaching out to former American officials, are saying, "We don't know what this guy means. We don't know when he's serious." And the pressure then goes on to places like the State Department, the Department of Defense, to interpret the the world to people overseas, because they can't interpret the president. They don't know what he means, and he contradicts himself.

BLITZER: You saw that photo last night, David Swerdlick, of the president surrounded by the top military brass of the United States.

But at one point he was sort of critical of them, saying they're not providing military options to him quickly, fast enough. He needs those -- that information. And he was saying it very seriously. He wasn't joking about that. But if you take a look at the pictures, it was -- some are suggesting a photo op, that he was using the military for his -- for his own purposes.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think it's clear that President Trump likes the pageantry and optics of the military. He was happy to be invited to that military parade in France with President Macron. He talks constantly about all the generals that are in his cabinet.

But when you see events like today's comments that we've been talking about, it suggests that he's not looking at the other side, which is the great weight of responsibility of both getting advice from these generals and these military folks, and also the fact that he may be ordering people into harm's way at some point. And there's a mismatch there.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins, you're our White House reporter. What are you hearing from your sources? Why don't they at least clarify what the president meant when he said this is perhaps the calm or the quiet before the storm? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're not

responding to any request for comment about this, and the vice president is visiting Puerto Rico and all those areas today. And he was actually just asked about this comment to provide a little bit of clarity of what he thought the president meant, because he's someone who spends a lot of time with the president. And the vice president referred reporters to the White House for further comment on that. Which is something you don't see very often, because the vice president is a representative of the White House.

And I'm not on the national security team. I'm not privy to the essential military options that the White House is considering, but it's absolutely possible that the was just saying this statement off the cuff. He said it at this event where reporters were not supposed to attend, and then the White House called them in at the last minute. He made these comments unprompted, gave no context about this. And then seemed to enjoy it when he repeated it again today in the Oval Office and winked. This is a president who, his favorite phrase is "We'll see." He says that very often when he's asked to respond to things.

[18:40:11] So it's highly possible that he was just speaking off the cuff again, and it's really anyone's guess as to what he truly meant.

MUDD: Just this one second on this, Wolf, two words: James Comey. He goes into a meeting and to I think a press engagement, I think off the cuff says, "Maybe we've got tapes." And for weeks people are going to the White House, saying what about the tapes? What about the -- he's the drama queen in chief who enjoys being the center of attention, enjoying being -- people attracted to him.

I don't think he sees this as a problem. I think he sees the attention as a good thing. And the Comey example is just another one, almost identical, where he says, "Watch this space. I don't have a responsibility to tell you what I say."

SWERDLICK: To him it's a feature, not a bug.

COLLINS: That's a great point. And then the White House later came out and said there were no known recordings of his conversations with James Comey, but he definitely enjoyed that drama that created.

BLITZER: Yes. It's not the first time, you know, he's said something. Usually, it's a tweet. This time he said it publicly, causing a lot of confusion there.

David Axelrod, can the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who over the summer, according to all these reports, called the president of the United States a moron behind his back, can he survive?

AXELROD: Hard to see him surviving in the long term and hard to see why he would want to, Wolf, after what happened this past weekend. He's there. He's in Asia. He's with the Chinese. He's trying to work this North Korea issue. He's trying to work a diplomatic lane on this issue to bring this to a peaceful conclusion. And the president on Twitter cuts him off at the knees. So why he would want to stay is a question.

You know, I did an "Axe Files" TV show with Jim Baker last weekend, and I asked him about his friend, Secretary Tillerson, and he said, "I don't think he's ever been fully empowered. And it's very hard to be the secretary of state when you're not seen as speaking for the president and for the United States of America."

And so -- and I suspect that Tillerson confides in Secretary Baker. I just don't see how he can survive much longer.

BLITZER: How do you see it?

MUDD: I'm not much of a diplomat. Put a fork in that dude. He is done. I'd give him an over-under maximum six months. Six months takes him into the first year. I think he could be done much shorter.

There's a rule of thumb in this town that you learn as an entry-level government official. You never embarrass the president of the United States, even when he makes a mistake. And in this case, he's got his press secretary talking about North Korea, talking about the Iran nuclear deal, talking about Puerto Rico, talking about Las Vegas. And by the way, let me reaffirm to you that the president is not a blithering idiot. And that was because of what Rex Tillerson did. With a president this sensitive, I think that's one of the kisses of death for Rex Tillerson.

BLITZER: David.

SWERDLICK: Yes. I mean, it's a mismatch of expectations, right? I was critical of the Tillerson pick in the first place. But whatever else you say about him, he is a serious guy. Forty years at Exxon, an engineer, a CEO. And President Trump wants someone who's essentially a flunky, and that's not going to work in the long term.

BLITZER: There are names already surfacing, Kaitlan, as a possible successor.

COLLINS: Yes. That's right. So it seems like the White House is already looking at, if they do move forward with getting rid of Tillerson at this position, who would they replace him with?

But like all these -- all of these people have said, it seems like this departure is just imminent. These are two men who have not gotten along for some time now. It's been very public. And you don't typically see these public disagreements between the president and the secretary of state.

But we've seen it with the Charlottesville remarks. We saw Rex Tillerson distance himself from the president on that. And then even as recently as this last weekend on North Korea after Tillerson suggested there could be dialogue, the president got on Twitter and told him to stop wasting his time.

But like we said, this is not a president who forgets any kind of slight, and he's certainly not going to forget the secretary of state referring to him as a moron. BLITZER: There's been a significant turnover among the senior staff

of the White House, in the cabinet, as we all know. David Axelrod, I'll ask you what I asked Tom Donilon. In all the years you've been watching Washington, have you ever seen anything like this before?

AXELROD: No, but we've never had a president who lacked experience in the way that Donald Trump did and his initial staff also lacking Washington experience.

But, you know, the problem has always been you bring in a General Kelly. He seems to be doing a fine job in getting ahold of the White House, but the question on the day he was appointed is still the question today. How do you get ahold of the president? How do you control what the president says and does? And if you can't do that, all the best laid plans are disrupted.

So it's a very difficult situation for the national security team and the senior administrators in this -- in this government.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll wait and see what happens next. Everybody stick around.

There's more breaking news we're following. Evacuations have just been ordered in parts of New Orleans, and warnings are up from Louisiana to Florida as Tropical Storm Nate is expected to hit the Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane. We have the brand-new forecast. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:49:38] BLITZER: Let's get the latest on the hurricane forecast to strike the United States this weekend. Watches and warnings are now up along the gulf -- the Gulf of Mexico. Mandatory evacuations have just been ordered for parts of New Orleans.

Our meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking Tropical Storm Nate for us.

Allison, there's a new forecast just out from the National Hurricane Center.

[18:50:02] ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. And we have a lot of big changes with the most recent advisory that came out.

Take for example the winds have actually increased, now up to 60 miles per hour, gusting up to 70 miles per hour. We're also starting to notice the storm itself take much better form. This is a good indicator that the storm is starting the intensification process.

We do also see, or we have also seen an extension of the hurricane warnings to now include the city of New Orleans. It also includes the city of Biloxi as well as Mobile, Alabama.

Now, in terms of storm surge, this is what we expect to be one of the biggest threats with Nate. Here's a look: areas of New Orleans, Biloxi and Mobile, looking at five to eight feet of storm surge. The two surrounding areas looking at four to six feet of storm surge, and then in area just east of Panama City, down towards Crystal River, Florida, looking at one to three feet. Because of these numbers, we have storm surge warnings out for that affected area along the Gulf Coast.

Now, Nate is expected to go back out over open water in the Gulf of Mexico. This, that warm water that's there, will be fuel for the intensification process. But it doesn't have a ton of time to re- intensify. So, here's the question: how high can it get in that short period of time?

As of now, the National Hurricane Center expects it to get up to a category one strength before it makes landfall late tomorrow night. Sometime after dinner time or after that, local time. So, again, you're talking central time for these regions.

After that, the storm continues to the north and east, impacting at least a dozen more states. Now, the impacts won't necessarily be the same in those states. Storm surge obviously not going to be a threat, but for cities like Atlanta, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston, you're still going to have to contend with very strong, gusty winds, as well as the threat for very heavy rainfall.

Along the gulf, however, we already have flood watches in effect for regions of Florida, Alabama, as well as Mississippi. Widespread amounts likely to be between two to five inches of rain, but there will be some spots, especially in those outer bands, where you can get downpours. You could be looking at eight to 10 inches.

Wolf, I think the thing that people need to understand -- no, in terms of comparisons, we're not going to see the amount of rain that we saw with Harvey. We're not talking 40 to 60 inches, but for these low- lying areas, four to six inches is enough to cause significant flooding damage.

BLITZER: Very worrisome development, indeed. Just what we don't need, another hurricane hitting the United States.

Allison Chinchar, thanks for that forecast.

The breaking news continues just ahead. We're going to have much more on the new information emerging tonight about the Las Vegas shooting massacre.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:20] BLITZER: Officials in Las Vegas say more than 80 people injured in the shooting massacre are still hospitalized tonight, some of them in very grave condition.

CNN's Scott McLean talked to the mother of one of the victims.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY MORELAND, TINA FROST'S MOM: She has her whole life in front of her and with one incident, we have a nightmare. SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Mary

Moreland, the Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas has been a dark place. Sunday night, her 27-year-old daughter Tina Frost was at Route 91 Harvest Festival with friends and her boyfriend Austin when bullets started flying.

Tina was shot near her eye. She's been in coma since that night.

M. MORELAND: It's very hard when I first saw her. It was all I could do to keep composed. But she's a fighter. And it doesn't matter what she looks like. It matters in here. So, we're coping.

MCLEAN: In the chaotic aftermath, an unidentified concertgoer Moreland knows only as Shane helped Austin carried her into the back of a pick-up truck that took her to the hospital.

(on camera): What do you want to say to him?

M. MORELAND: Thank you for saving my daughter's life.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Frost lost her eye, Moreland says, and there are still bullet fragments in her head.

DOCTOR KEITH BLUM, NEUROSURGEON, SUNRISE HOSPITAL: Unfortunately, some people may not ever recover. But -- and some of the people, you know, I would say that, you know, give it a year.

MCLEAN: Originally from Maryland, Frost now works as accountant in San Diego. Her sister says she had it all.

RACHEL MORELAND, STEPSISTER: Even growing up, I mean, I kind of use the phrase, she's a little bit of an all-American girl. You know, she just always -- has a ton of friends, did well on soccer field, played college soccer, you know, moved to California as an accountant. I mean, she -- she has a very good life.

MCLEAN: As Frost's family prays for good news, they're not alone. A GoFundMe page has already raised more than $390,000, more than seven times the original goal.

M. MORELAND: I would throw it away now for my daughter -- it's overwhelming.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: CNN's Scott McLean reporting. You can find fundraising page for Tina Frost at gofundme.com/mary-watson-moreland. Do it.

And stay with CNN later tonight for an Anderson Cooper special honoring all the victims of the shooting massacre, "LAS VEGAS LOST" airs commercial free later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Hearts go out to all, all those families.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.