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Trump Dials Down North Korea Rhetoric While in South Korea; Documents: Gunman Escaped Mental Health Facility, Had History of Violence; Trump Nominee: 'Insane' That Civilians Can Buy Assault Rifles. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Breaking news. Troubled past. Police records show the Texas church gunman once escaped a mental health facility. He was caught sneaking firearms onto his Air Force Base and threatened military commanders. How was he able to purchase guns?

[17:00:33] Open to negotiation. Ahead of a major primetime speech from Seoul, South Korea, President Trump is toning down his rhetoric on North Korea, saying he hopes Kim Jong-un's regime will come to the table. Is the president willing to make a deal on nuclear weapons?

Embracing a conspiracy? At President Trump's urging, the CIA director meets with a conspiracy theorist who argues that the cyberattack on the Democratic Party was an inside job. Does the president still reject the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election?

And bellwethers. A year after voters sent Donald Trump to the White House, Americans are back at the polls. And with the president's popularity at an all-time low, key races will reveal a lot tonight about how voters are feeling right now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. Stunning developments tonight on the Texas church gunman. Police documents show Devin Kelley escaped a mental health center back in 2012, months after he was accused of assaulting his then wife and stepson. The records say he was caught sneaking weapons onto his Air Force base and had made threats to U.S. military commanders. Kelley was later convicted, imprisoned for the assaults and received a bad conduct discharge.

In the massacre investigation, officials say the FBI has the gunman's phone but has been unable to access its contents. And the ATF says it appears his rifle was not fully automatic, but President Trump's nominee for a key Pentagon post, a combat veteran, sitting in his confirmation hearing, calls it insane that a civilian could buy a semiautomatic weapon like that used in the shooting.

The president is half a world away in South Korea right now, but has been weighing in on the massacre, claiming hundreds more would have been killed had a bystander not used his gun to confront and wound the shooter. The president says it would have made no difference if tougher vetting had been in place when the gunman sought to acquire his weapons.

And just hours ahead of a major speech in Seoul, the president is dialing back his harsh rhetoric against Kim Jong-un's nuclear-armed regime, declaring that efforts to pressure North Korea are starting to work and that he hopes the North will come to the table and make a deal.

I'll speak with Senator Chris Murphy. And our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're all standing by with full coverage. We're following all the angles tonight. We'll get to the new details of the Texas massacre in a moment.

Let's begin with our White House correspondent, Sara Murray. She's with the president in Seoul. Sara, update our viewers on the very latest.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump aiming to send a muscular signal to North Korea.

TRUMP: The United States stands prepared to defend itself and its allies using the full range of our unmatched military capabilities, if need be.

MURRAY: Even as the commander in chief, known for his fiery rhetoric, dialed it back in a visit to the nation with the most at stake.

TRUMP: That being said, I really believe that it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and to make a deal that's good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world.

MURRAY: Appearing alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in after the two men shared tea with their wives and took part in a ceremonial friendship walk. Trump offered a rosier take on diplomatic efforts.

TRUMP: We sent three of the largest aircraft carriers in the world, and they're right now positioned. We have a nuclear submarine also positioned. We have many things happening that we hope, we hope -- in fact, I'll go a step further -- we hope to God we never have to use.

MURRAY: For a president who once took to Twitter to suggest his secretary of state was wasting his time trying to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man," it was a sharp change in tone. There was no taunting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with disparaging nicknames. No threats of fire and fury. Though the president did leap at the opportunity to blame his predecessors for the diplomatic conundrum he now faces.

[17:05:07] TRUMP: This is a problem, by the way, that should have been done over the last 25 years, not now. This is not the right time to be doing it, but that's what I got. That's what I got.

MURRAY: But even with his attention trained on international threats, Trump wasn't able to avoid questions about the latest horror at home.

TRUMP: Well, you know, you're bringing up a situation is that probably shouldn't be discussed too much right now. We could let a little time go by. But it's OK if you feel that that's an appropriate question.

MURRAY: Trump didn't acknowledge the Air Force's admission that it failed to inform the FBI about the killer's domestic violence conviction, and he insisted additional gun control measures wouldn't have prevented the mass shooting at a Texas church.

TRUMP: There would have been no difference three days ago. And you might not have had that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck go out and shoot him and hit him and neutralize him. And I can only say this: if he didn't have a gun, instead of having 26 dead you would have had hundreds more dead.


MURRAY: Now, this is not a president who has shied away from a policy debate in the wake of other tragedies, but he was clearly reluctant to weigh in on the issue of gun control.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Sara, thanks very much.

We're getting stunning new details about the Texas church gunman's troubled past and run-ins with authorities, as investigators try to learn more about his catastrophic final act of violence.

Let's go live to CNN's Brian Todd. He's in Sutherland Springs, Texas, for us. Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the more investigators learn about this gunman, the more obvious it is becoming that signals were missed that he was a menace to the community with a history of violence.


TODD (voice-over): Prior to pleading guilty to assaulting his wife and child in 2012, CNN has learned Devin Kelley, the gunman who opened fire on this Texas church, briefly escaped from a mental health facility in New Mexico where he was being held.

This 2012 police report shows that while Kelley was still in the Air Force, he was institutionalized after threatening his commanding officers and trying to sneak guns onto Holloman Air Force Base where he was stationed. Police later found the then-21-year-old at a bus station nearby. He was later convicted on the assault charges.

Tonight, investigators want to know if a history of mental illness, a seething anger towards his in-laws, or both led to his rampage.

SHERIFF JOE TACKITT, WILSON COUNTY, TEXAS: He was thinking that his mother-in-law was in the church probably and, you know, that's who he was targeting. But, I mean, as you know, all the other lives that he took and all the people that he injured, I mean, it's senseless.

TODD: Officials say Kelley's mother-in-law was not at church on Sunday, although his wife's grandmother was. She was killed. Investigators say Kelley was familiar with the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and had attended activities there. His behavior had raised red flags for the church's pastor.

TACKITT: He did know him. He did not want him at his church.

TODD (on camera): Why not?

TACKITT: He said because he just thought that he was not a good person to be around.

TODD: Is there anything specific you can say about what he said regarding that?

TACKITT: No, he just said he didn't -- didn't think he was a good person, and he just didn't want him around his church, but he said, "How do I run him away from my church?"

TODD: Records obtained by CNN show even more reasons to be concerned. Court documents show Kelley was the subject of a sexual assault investigation in 2013, although charges were never filed.

And in a separate 2014 incident, Kelley was accused of abusing his then-girlfriend, who later became his wife. Records say Kelley's girlfriend texted one of her friends, saying her arms were red and that Kelley told her to pack a bag.

SHERIFF MARK REYNOLDS, COMAL COUNTY, TEXAS: Apparently, they talked to the female who was supposed to be, you know, the subject of the abuse, and, you know, she's saying, no, she's not a victim.

TODD: Friends say Kelley also began going after them online in recent months.

CHRISTOPHER LEO LONGORIA, CLASSMATE OF SHOOTER: Picking on a lot of other students. Picked on me for losing weight. Also just, you know, anti-God, you know, preaching his beliefs of atheism. Lots of gun violence videos.

TODD: A source telling CNN that Kelley had also become fixated on mass shootings, judges by indications in his social media accounts.

All of this raising sharp concerns tonight about how a 26-year-old with a history of violence and threats was able to buy multiple guns and why the Air Force did not notify the federal criminal database used for background purchases of his criminal history.

CHRISTOPHER COMBS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Unfortunately, this has happened in the past for a number of agencies. Nothing is perfect.


TODD: Another point of frustration here tonight: an FBI special agent here says they have the shooter's cell phone, but they can't crack it. They can't yet access the content because of encryption and other technology, but one official here emphatically said, quote, "We will get into that phone" -- Wolf.

[17:10:13] BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's an outspoken critic of the gun lobby.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me.

I want you to listen to a warning from the FBI special agent in charge who's handled this Sutherland Springs shooting. Listen to this.


COMBS: I've done a lot on active shooters through the years. You look at the numbers, the numbers are on the rise. I think everybody, no matter where you are needs, to think about this. If you're in a school, if you're in a college, if you go to the movies, we should all be thinking about what are we going to do if a crisis breaks out right here?

There are a lot of programs out there. The FBI supports programs. We teach law enforcement. There's private community programs out there, but I think we all have to think very hard about this and make sure that we're prepared. Just like schools do fire drills, because we used to kill a lot of children in fires back in the early 1900s. I think we all have to take active shooters very seriously and do everything we can to prepare and prevent for that.


BLITZER: So Senator, what should Americans think of their leaders, if the best advice that they're getting is to prepare for a mass shooting at any time, any place?

MURPHY: Well, let's be honest, there is no way to prepare for somebody walking into a church with tactical gear, with a weapon that was designed for the military, to kill as many people as quickly as possible.

Truly, the only way to prepare for that that inevitability is to stay home and never go out.

And so instead we have to be on the offense. Instead, we have to make sure that people like this do not get guns. Instead, we have to make sure that guns like that, that can do that much damage in that short of a period of time, stay in the hands of the military.

So I understand what the agent is saying, and I'm certain that there are things you can do to prepare yourself, but in the end, you have to stop these people from getting these kinds of weapons. That's your best prophylactic against this kind of epic mass slaughter that we continue to see all across the country. We are not powerless to stop this, and people here in Congress need to wake up and realize that.

BLITZER: Senator, you say that even the staunch gun rights advocates should agree that no American needs automatic weapons. Today a Trump nominee for an important Defense Department position said it's insane that Americans can get semiautomatic guns. What prevents you and your congressional colleagues from passing legislation that would ban automatic or semiautomatic guns?

MURPHY: Well, of course we already ban automatic weapons. It's just that the gun industry has found this clever end-around. They can sell these after-market modifications called bump stocks which turn a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic weapon. We should pass legislation tomorrow simply reaffirming the ban on these automatic weapons.

But you are right: law enforcement and military leaders are amongst the biggest champions of banning assault weapons, because they've seen what they do in war and they know that you don't need them to hunt. You don't need them to shoot for sport. You frankly don't need them to protect yourself in your house.

And so if we can build a political movement in this country that is as strong as the gun lobby -- that won't happen overnight, but that will happen over time -- we will get these changes. Because the majority of Americans want these dangerous weapons off the street and want dangerous people to cease their ability to buy these weapons.

BLITZER: Do you think a ban on semiautomatic weapons or automatic weapons with these bump stocks is something the constituents of your Republican colleagues would support?

MURPHY: I think this is a closer call than the issue of universal background checks, but polling consistently shows that more Americans support banning these weapons than support them continuing to be traded in commercial markets.

Listen, these are copycat killings. The shooters are not continuing to use AR-15s or AR-15 variants by accident or by coincidence. They see the damage that is done in the previous mass shooting. They see the lethal efficiency of these weapons, and they choose the same gun. We need to wake up to that reality, take these guns off the market to try to protect people from this kind of just epic carnage.

BLITZER: How much do donations -- political contributions from the National Rifle Association affect this entire debate?

MURPHY: Well, the NRA is very powerful. I don't know that it's about their donations. They contribute millions of dollars. But not hundreds of millions of dollars to candidates. It really is about the NRA's ability to make their endorsements a

stamp of approval for a broader set of conservative values. We've got to find a way for Republicans to be able to communicate to their constituents that they're really conservative without having to pledge fealty to the gun lobby.

[17:15:05] Right now, their endorsement is a proxy for a broader set of conservative ideals. We've got to help Republicans break themselves from the gun lobby so that they can align themselves with the 90 percent of Americans that want common-sense reforms like universal background checks.

BLITZER: When you look at all the mass shootings we've seen in recent years, why is it no matter -- no matter how gruesome these attacks are that, whether it's first graders who are killed, concertgoers, churchgoers, why is it, Senator, that you and your colleagues can't get legislation passed?

MURPHY: Well, it's a good question. But I do think that there is a sense of powerlessness that is washing over this country, and it's mythology. It's a fiction that is really perpetuated by the gun lobby, that has spread this lie that the only way that you can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. There are plenty of good guys with guns in Texas, but none of them could stop this shooter from killing 26 people inside that church.

Ultimately, as I said, it probably is just a matter of building up the political power behind the anti-gun violence movement so that it equals the political power of the gun lobby. It probably won't be until that moment that we're able to end up defeating the legislators that are standing in the way of common-sense gun reforms and passing the measures that the broad majority of Americans want.

BLITZER: I'm going to have you stand by, Senator. There's new information we're getting right now. We have more to discuss. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:21:08] BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, we've learned from Carter Page's testimony -- he was a national security adviser to the Trump campaign. We learned from his testimony today that he met with lots of Russian officials during the campaign, including top Russian government officials, and that top Trump campaign staffers knew all about those contacts. Do you believe that is evidence of collusion?

MURPHY: I think we need to learn more about the details of that communication, but it fits a pattern. There is clearly a series of high-level contacts throughout the campaign between the Trump campaign and the Russian government or agents of the Russian government.

I can't imagine that was simply a matter of exchanging pleasantries. There must have been business that was conducted right there.

I think right now, the most important thing we can do is support Robert Mueller's investigation and make sure it's free from political interference. I have a feeling that if there's evidence of collusion, that he will find it and present it to the Congress.

BLITZER: Do you believe the president himself knew all about these contacts when he was the candidate?

MURPHY: I think it's very possible that the president knew about it. What we know in at least one instance, his son-in-law and his son were in a meeting with an agent of the Russian government. There may have been more meetings with close family members. I think it's possible that the president knew about these meetings, and I look forward to the story that Robert Mueller eventually tells.

BLITZER: The former CIA director, John Brennan, said back in May that, in his words, "People who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late," closed quote. In your view, does that statement apply to anyone on the Trump campaign?

MURPHY: I don't think we know yet. I mean, it certainly seems as if these contacts were leading to something. Maybe it was a deal between the Trump campaign, making promises to the Russian government about how they would be treated in a future Trump administration. It is an exchange for the efforts of the Russian government with respect to the 2016 election.

But treason is a very serious charge and, again, I think we need to let the Mueller investigation move before we start lodging those kind of allegations at folks in the Trump orbit.

BLITZER: Yes, I raised the question only because he's a former CIA director. And for him to use that word, "treasonous," that's a significant word, as you obviously know. All of our viewers know, as well. And it came from him, and as a result I just wanted to see if there's any evidence to back up that suspicion.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

MURPHY: All right. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, the first exit poll results from two key races on this election day as voters pick new governors in both New Jersey and Virginia.

And at President Trump's urging, the CIA director meets with a conspiracy theorist who argues that the cyberattack on the Democratic Party during the campaign was an inside job. Does the president still reject the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:29:01] BLITZER: There is breaking news. We're getting our first exit polling results from Virginia and New Jersey, the two states where voters are choosing new governors today.

Let's go right to our political director, David Chalian.

David, what are you seeing?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, as you know, we're one year away since that upset victory that Donald Trump had to the presidency. So a year into the Trump presidency, one of the things we wanted to ask voters in these two big states is how do you feel about how Donald Trump is doing?

So look in Virginia here. Donald Trump, according to voters today, is getting a 43 percent approval rate in Virginia. He's upside down there by about 12 points; 55 percent disapprove. That is not necessarily -- those are not necessarily the numbers that Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate, would want to see on election day.

We also asked people, what about your reason for voting today? And we tried to assess if the president is a factor in that. Look at that. About half the voters say he is a factor, and 49 percent, another half, say not a factor at all. But of that 48 percent that say he's a factor, by two to one, he's a factor in the negative direction, that folks came out, 32 percent of them, to express opposition to Donald Trump. Sixteen percent of voters today came out to support Donald Trump.

We see a similar story in New Jersey, a bluer state than Virginia, of course. So President Trump's approval rating is lower there. It's at 32 percent of them, to express opposition to Donald Trump. Sixteen percent of voters today came out to support Donald Trump.

We see a similar story in New Jersey, a bluer state than Virginia, of course. So President Trump's approval rating is lower there. It's at 32 percent; 66 percent disapprove. That's tough numbers for the Republican candidate to see there.

And then, of course, the Trump factor. Fifty-seven percent of New Jersey voters today, Wolf, say that the president wasn't a factor at all. Of those that thought it was a factor, 29 percent, again, more -- nearly 3 to 1 there, say in opposition to the president. Eleven percent say they came out to support Trump.

Now, one of the reasons why Donald Trump may not be as big a factor in New Jersey is because the incumbent governor, Chris Christie, is even more unpopular than President Trump. He may be having a bigger factor on New Jersians' minds today.

BLITZER: Yes. Very interesting. David, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in some of our other political specialists.

Dana, let me start with you. What do you make of this attitude of these voters toward President Trump? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you focus on

Virginia, which is where the race is really going to be, he's certainly underwater, he, the president, with regard to his approval rating, but he's doing much better than he is in our nationwide polls, which shows that only a little bit more than a third of respondents said that they support Donald Trump.

So it says to me that it is a big question mark whether or not the Republican candidate for governor, Ed Gillespie, and his strategy, late strategy he's been doing for the past several weeks now, to wrap himself in the cultural sort of policy and messaging that Donald Trump was so successful at in a lot of the Midwestern states, talking about sanctuary cities, immigration in general, whether that is going to work for Ed Gillespie in trying to bring over some of the working- class Democrats that Donald Trump did nationwide. We'll see if there's a correlation between his success, his -- Ed Gillespie's success with the Trump message and how Donald Trump personally is doing in the commonwealth of Virginia.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Mark Preston, will Ed Gillespie's showing tonight in Virginia give us a hint of just how appealing this notion of Trumpism without Trump is to voters?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so. Because as Dana said, what we've seen from Ed Gillespie is that he has wrapped himself within the policies of Donald Trump, even if he kind of pushes Donald Trump away personally. You know, there's an interesting stat in one of our stories on today, Wolf, that says that Donald Trump had been to his Virginia-based golf course 15 times but had yet to campaign on behalf of Ed Gillespie.

Ed Gillespie hasn't asked him to campaign. We've seen Donald Trump tweet in support, as has his children in support of Ed Gillespie, but, again, we haven't seen that picture of them standing next to each other.

And one more thing: I would agree with Dana on this, as well. The fact that 43 percent is a number, an approval number you do not want to align yourself with in any normal election year. He is still doing -- when I say he, Trump is still doing better in Virginia than what we have seen him nationally. And if I was Northam, I'd be a little bit concerned about that number.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, David, what do you expect from the Democratic turnout today in Virginia, let's say, and New Jersey, for that matter? What does that tell us about enthusiasm or lack thereof leading towards the midterm election in 2018?

CHALIAN: I don't -- I'm not sure, Wolf, that we know about enthusiasm just yet. I think we've got to look at various areas as the votes are coming in to see if those Democratic strongholds, if we see numbers where he is, Northam overperforming what Hillary Clinton did just last year in 2016 when she won the state by five-plus points. That will be an indication about Democratic enthusiasm.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, CNN's new polling shows that, what, 44 percent are very concerned about the Trump campaign's Russia connections. How might that influence voting today?

BASH: You know, I'm not really sure if it will have a real influence on these two races, because they seem to be obviously connected to Donald Trump with regard to the economy, with regard to these cultural issues that the candidates are bringing up.

But with regard to Russia, I'm not so sure it's going to be sort of -- it's going to show up in the exit polls or show up in the voter issues and the way the voters feel in these two places. We might have to wait until the 2018 midterm elections to see how that plays out.

But I think, inasmuch as the the Russia issue plays into the overall notion of kind of fatigue about Donald Trump, if it does at all, I think that might be the biggest factor.

BLITZER: Do you think, Mark, what happens tonight, the results we'll get, let's say, in Virginia and New Jersey, will be a bellwether looking ahead to the midterm elections next year?

[17:35:05] PRESTON: Well, we're certainly going to overanalyze every bit of data that we can pull out of these elections, specifically in Virginia where I live, Wolf.

I think New Jersey in itself is a different race. It's going to be a Democratic win. It's a Democratic state, even though Chris Christie had won there twice.

But really, let's look at what's happening in Virginia. Let's look at where Ed Gillespie does well as well as Ralph Northam, specifically here in Northern Virginia in the exurbs, counties that are about 15 to 20, 25 miles outside of Washington, D.C. Let's see how both candidates perform there. As well as let's see how Ed [SIC] Northam does in driving out the African-American vote. We saw Barack Obama campaign on his behalf a couple of weeks ago in Richmond.

So I do think there is some data that we can walk away and use that as an indicator of what's going to happen next year.

BLITZER: Yes. The polls close in Virginia at 7 p.m. Eastern. They close in New Jersey 8 p.m. Eastern.

Everyone stand by. There's more news developing right now. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:40:38] BLITZER: We're back with our political specialists.

Mark Preston, how incredible was that testimony -- we all went through the testimony, the transcript of Carter Page, the former national security adviser to the Trump campaign. Testifying that, yes, he went to Russia, met with a high-level Russian official and notified other Trump campaign officials, high-level officials, of what happened.

PRESTON: Well, a couple of things. One, it was six hours of closed- door testimony. That is amazing, in many ways, to have somebody have to sit there and answer as many questions.

But by doing so, Wolf, what we have learned is what Carter Page was saying publicly did not necessarily square with what he said privately. Now not everything necessarily matches up that what Carter Page was saying was lies. Some of it was, but some of it helped to corroborate some of the information we already knew.

Now, what I should note about Carter Page is, if I was a betting man, I don't think he's necessarily the connective tissue, if there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian authorities, but what it does show is that if he did, in fact, tell these Trump officials that he was doing those meetings, and these Trump officials either lied about being told or did not know about it, the big question is, what else did they lie about or did not know about? That is very important.

BLITZER: A key question. Yes, it certainly is. David Chalian, the testimony -- and we've all read the transcript now -- helps us better understand that high-level Trump campaign officials were aware of these various Russia connections, but what did the then-candidate, now president Donald Trump himself know?

CHALIAN: It's like the $1 million question there, Wolf. What we do know, though, is that the officials that were aware were people that were speaking to Donald Trump -- when I say regularly, I don't mean every couple of days. I mean side by side next to candidate Trump at every hour of the day, basically. These were people that were aware of the Carter Page trip. So what President Trump knew or then candidate Trump knew is something that we will continue to have to find out, but it is not clear exactly from the conversations of Corey Lewandowski or Hope Hicks exactly what they may or may not have shared with Donald Trump.

BLITZER: How do you see all this unfolding, Dana? You've been watching it very, very closely.

BASH: Well, you know, I think at the end of the day, we don't really know the impact or the import of Carter Page and the testimony he gave because of what Mark said at the get-go. What he said even to Jake Tapper last week in public was quite different from what he said to Congress that we saw in these transcripts.

One thing that I think is worth noting is something that happened on Capitol Hill today, Wolf, and that is Keith Schiller, not necessarily a Household name, but a critical, critical figure in Trump world. He was private citizen Donald Trump's sort of top security guy for years and years and years. Went with him through the campaign, even when the Secret Service was involved, into the White House with him.

David talked about people being by Donald Trump's side, you know, every hour of the day. Keith Schiller is kind of the -- the perfect example of probably somebody who met -- spent more time with Donald Trump over the years than anybody.

And the fact that he was asked to go to Capitol Hill today, asked questions, no doubt about things like the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had back in 2016 with the Russian lawyer and, much more recently, the firing of James Comey. And what the president and what the -- even the people around him gave for the reasons of doing that.

So he's a really important figure. The question is, because he is a very loyal guy, whether or not he gave up anything to these investigators.

BLITZER: Yes, it's interesting, you know, Mark Preston, because Schiller, he appeared today before the House Intelligence Committee. They're reviewing all sorts of things. He may have good information on that dossier that was created during the campaign. He may have information -- he's the one who delivered the letter to the Justice Department that the president was firing the FBI director James Comey.

So, you know, he was at the -- at Donald Trump's side for years, as Dana points out, but recently, he left.

PRESTON: Yes, he did leave. And he left because of -- because literally because of monetary reasons. When you work in the government, you know, Wolf, you can pull down a pretty decent salary. Somewhere, you know, at $100,000, $150,000 range. But Keith Schiller clearly wanted to make more money, and that is certainly understandable.

But as Dana and David have noted, Keith Schiller was at Donald Trump's elbow.

Donald Trump entrusted Keith Schiller to deliver the letter that fired James Comey. That is unheard of, that Keith Schiller would do that. It wasn't delivered by the Attorney General, Acting Attorney General. It was delivered by the personal aide to Donald Trump. So that, in itself, should say something about what secrets Keith Schiller actually knows.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: On another matter, David Chalian, what did you think about what the President had to say about guns in America today, and extreme vetting isn't necessarily a good idea before people can go ahead and purchase weapons?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He also was questioning the question, whether now was the time for it or not, Wolf. And when I heard that, what dawned on me is that I -- we are now in this remarkably regrettable pattern when these events happen, where it seems that there is absolutely no motivation to try and change the way guns get into the hands of people that shouldn't have them.

And I think that -- when I heard President Trump today, when I heard other members of Congress today, talk about this, it just seemed that we are, once again, in a pattern of stasis up on the Hill, legislatively, about how to make sure guns that don't belong in certain people's hands stay out of them.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There's a lot more going on. We have more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, a powerful new indication President Trump still doesn't believe the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia was behind the cyber attacks on the Democratic Party. Stand by. We have surprising details.


[17:51:32] BLITZER: We have more breaking news. And, tonight, we have some eye-opening new details about a very unorthodox request President Trump made of his CIA Director.

The President apparently asked Mike Pompeo to look into a theory that the leak of the Democratic Party e-mail last year during the campaign was the result of an inside job rather than a cyber attack by Russian hackers.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, what are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, frankly, this was a highly unusual meeting for the Director of the CIA to take. And I'm told that many inside the agency were not comfortable with it.

William Binney is a former NSA employee who has propagated what the intel community views as a conspiracy theory that the hack of the DNC was an inside job. And it was President Trump himself who had been pushing Director Pompeo to take this meeting over the course of several weeks.


SCIUTTO: Tonight, multiple sources tell CNN that CIA Director Mike Pompeo met, at the President's urging, with one of the principle deniers of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

As first reported by "The Intercept," Pompeo met October 24th with William Binney, a former National Security Agency employee, who has theorized that the theft and release of thousands of Democratic National Committee e-mails was actually an inside job, carried out not by Russia but a DNC employee.

Binney tells CNN that Pompeo began the meeting, which lasted an hour, by saying, quote, the President told me I should talk to you.

Regarding the meeting, the CIA refused to comment, but it said that Director Pompeo, quote, stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 intelligence community assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

The President himself has repeatedly questioned Russia's involvement, both during the campaign --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia.

SCIUTTO: -- and since his election, as well.

TRUMP: If you don't catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it's very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I'll go along with Russia. It could have been China. It could have been a lot of different groups.

SCIUTTO: In October, Director Pompeo prompted a clarification from the CIA when he said in a speech -- the U.S. intelligence community determined that Russian meddling in the 2016 election did not affect its outcome.

MIKE POMPEO, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: The intelligence community's assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.

SCIUTTO: Soon after the speech, the CIA issued a statement saying, quote, the intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the Director did not intend to suggest that it had.


SCIUTTO: Now, it is possible that Pompeo's meeting with Binney may not be the last. At the end of the meeting, Binney told me a short time ago that Pompeo asked him if he'd be willing to meet with the NSA and the FBI, as well.

I should note that we did reach out to the White House. It has not yet responded to CNN's request for comment, Wolf, but I will tell you this.

Unusual meeting, for sure, with someone who denies what is the confident assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that it is Russia that hacked the election, including hacking those DNC e-mails. And yet the Director of the CIA sat down with him for an hour. Unusual.

BLITZER: And even following that meeting, the Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said that he is fully onboard with the intelligence community assessment in January that it was, in fact, the Russians that hacked into the Democratic National Committee's e-mails.

[17:55:05] SCIUTTO: That's right, and that is worth repeating. It was repeated to me by the spokesman of the CIA today. And it's in our piece there on the record that he has not changed his own assessment -- that is Director Pompeo's assessment -- that it was Russia.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that report. Jim Sciutto, working the story.

Coming up, a year after voters sent Donald Trump to the White House, Americans are casting ballots once again. And with the President's popularity now at an all-time low, key races will reveal a lot tonight, potentially, at least, about how voters are feeling.

We're getting new exit poll numbers. Stand by. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)