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As Trump Points Finger at Media, White House Rejects Any Responsibility For Recent Attacks; Another Suspicious Package Sent to CNN; Interview With Florida Congressman Ted Deutch; Interview With Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 29, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, new details of his social media postings that read like a road map to murder.

Target list. An accused serial bomber also in court, as CNN receives another potentially deadly device. And tonight we are learning he had a list of more than 100 people he planned to target with package bombs.

Toning it up? President Trump and the White House defiant at the suggestion that the president's inflammatory rhetoric is fueling hatred and division and once again accusing the news media of setting the stage for violence.

And trips to the border. President Trump orders more than 5,000 U.S. forces to the southern border as a migrant caravan that he calls an invasion heads north, but, tonight, key questions about the controversial mission remain unanswered.

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

Two men accused of historic crimes making their first court appearances. One is accused of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack ever in the United States, the other of sending more than a dozen pipe bombs in a mass assassination attempt targeting Democratic critics of President Trump, who rejects any tie between his divisive rhetoric and the violence of recent days.

I will talk about that and more with Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Ted Deutch. And our correspondents, analysts and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to our national correspondent, Miguel Marquez. He's in Pittsburgh, a city reeling right now from the synagogue massacre.

Miguel, we are learning more about the shooter.


We have spoken to several people who know Robert Bowers and know him well. What is most terrifying about this situation, Wolf, is that this is a man who barely cast a shadow in this life and now he is charged with the biggest attack and murder of Jews in U.S. history.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): Robert Bowers in court, cuffed and in a wheelchair, officially charged, 29 counts in all, from murder to obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs, a hate crime. The government may seek the death penalty.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It was an attack on all people of faith. It cannot and will not be tolerated. He will be subjected to the death penalty perhaps.

MARQUEZ: Investigators now digging deeply, searching Bowers' home, sending in a bomb robot first to ensure there were no explosive traps. They have also searched his vehicle and are looking for closed-circuit video that might have captured Bowers prior to the massacre, and doing a painstaking investigation of the crime scene itself.

ROBERT JONES, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: This is a large, complex crime scene, and much work remains to be seen.

MARQUEZ: Bowers had 21 guns registered to him. He took four into the synagogue, three Glock handguns and an AR-15 assault-style semiautomatic rifle. The Glocks, he purchased legally. It is not clear how he obtained the AR-15.

Investigators also recovered a shotgun from Bowers' car.

JONES: We continue to conduct interviews, scrub social media, review possible surveillance camera video and exploit digital media to determine how and why Bowers committed this terrible act.

MARQUEZ: Bowers' social media reads like a road map of hate and murder. He was particularly concerned about the caravan of Central American migrants and appeared to key on reporting from FOX News, right-wing social media, and highlighted by President Trump's own tweets that Middle Easterners may be mixed in with the migrants, all claims without evidence.

Bowers reposted this anti-Semitic view on immigration on his account on October 4: "Open your eyes. It's the filthy, evil Jews bringing the filthy evil Muslims into the country."

Like the president, he referred to the Muslims as invaders. He had particular hatred HIAS, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which helps resettle immigrants of all backgrounds. In his final post: "HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I'm going in."

RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: At that time, I could hear the gunfire getting louder. It was no longer safe for me to be there and I had to leave them. There was nothing I could do.

I was not in the space at the time. I had run to safety as I called 911. From what I have been told, I was the first caller and I stayed on the phone for about 20 minutes. It seemed like an eternity.

MARQUEZ: The dead were the bedrock of the congressional, among them, 97-year-old Rose Malinger, brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal, and a couple married 60 years, Bernice and Sylvan Simon.


Their deaths and the grotesque massacre has shaken this city of steel to its foundation.


MARQUEZ: Now, so many people we spoke to who knew Robert Bowers for years, decades, say that this was a person who never spoke an unkind word, never said anything anti-Semitic, didn't even speak up, wasn't a boisterous person, wasn't an arguer or anything.

One woman we spoke to said he could never hold down a job, just moved from place to place. She referred to him as a lost soul -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez reporting from Pittsburgh, thank you.

The man suspected of sending more than a dozen pipe bombs to Democratic critics of President Trump was also in court, even as his alleged terror campaign continues to unfold.

Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is working the story for us.

Shimon, another bomb was found today, this one addressed directly to CNN.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it was found this morning directly addressed to CNN.

The other ones we have seen, you will see on your screen, usually you will have a name there of some person that he is targeting, but in this case it was clear this was intended for us, you know, and for our colleagues in Atlanta.

So police discovered that this morning at the post office. They dealt with it. It is exactly the same thing as we saw in the other situation, so perhaps this will be an additional charge that he will now have to face, and certainly, you know, this is not really -- no one can say for sure, Wolf, I think it is important, that this is over.

I think people still need to be vigilant. If they see anything like this in their mailboxes or somehow this makes its way through the postal services into someone's office, they need to be really careful.

BLITZER: So there could be more bombs out there?

PROKUPECZ: There could be more. That is certainly a concern for authorities, because no one is expecting -- was expecting this one. They didn't expect additional ones that we saw last week. It could be that this is just moving its way through the postal

services and it is just turning up now.

BLITZER: What did we hear in court which he appeared in federal court today?

PROKUPECZ: Right. So, he didn't say anything. He said his name. He appeared with his attorney, obviously, you know, and he was emotional. He was described as being emotional.

And that's really it, Wolf. I mean, we're not really expecting to hear from him. In fact, his attorney told us after court that Sayoc had pleaded the Fifth. Essentially, once he hired the lawyer, he stopped cooperating with investigators. There was a short period of time when he was talking to them, and then once he hired the lawyer he had stopped cooperating.

BLITZER: Shimon, I want you to stand by for a moment.

Our law enforcement analyst, former FBI Supervisory Special Agent Josh Campbell, is joining us right now.

What are we learning about how the Pittsburgh suspect was radicalized? Was there a trigger that spurred him to October out?


As we continue to learn about the troubling social media postings, we are getting an insight into the mind of the killer. And one new clue that surfaced has really pertained around the migrant caravan that is working its way up toward the United States border.

Obviously, this is something that's been the subject of a lot of wrath by the president and him really whipping up a lot of public outrage. I think it is important to note at the outset so far they have not any broken U.S. laws.

But, nevertheless, what this killer indicated in some of his postings is that there were Jews helping this migrant caravan along the way, again, despite any evidence to the contrary, again, buying into some of the -- I think the current tension in the United States and then adding his own narrative to it.

There's also an indication, Wolf, he was troubled by what he describes as who the president surrounded himself with, indicating that he was surrounded by too many Jews, again, an insight into just the disgusting mind-set of this person, a lot of anti-Semitic remarks. But, again, that will be the subject of the investigation. Investigators will try to determine what that motive was.

So far, a lot of clues coming to light, Wolf.

BLITZER: Josh, can vitriol in public debate have an influence on radicalizing someone?

CAMPBELL: Absolutely, Wolf. And whether you are talking about international terrorism, where we

see actors that are influence to act and inspired to violence, the same thing could happen right here in the United States. And that has been the major issue now when we talk about our leadership, a lot of this toxic tone we see coming from the top.

Again, you know, people that are in power are not 100 percent responsible for the actions of others, but they have to remember that as leaders they do set the tone in the country, and there are people out there who are predisposed to violence, to act on whatever hatred they have in their heart.

As we saw here, this is someone who seems to be saying a lot of the negative things we have seen and taking it to another level. Again, it goes back to that tone that is being set from the top as far as how we want to live our lives in the country, what tone our leader should be setting.

BLITZER: What about, Shimon, the people this suspect was in touch with? Are authorities getting in touch with them? What are they hearing?

PROKUPECZ: Wolf, given the motive -- and it is clear what the motive is, right? It is hate. He's an anti-Semite. And that's what authorities are working off of.

Yes, certainly they're out there. They're out there looking, going through his social media, going through his phones, his computers, trying to find out who else he was in touch with, because there's also -- keep in mind, Wolf, there's a concern that someone else may do something like this, too.


So, for the FBI, certainly for the police, it is important to find out at would point did this guy go from just thinking about this and having this hatred to actually acting on this hatred and committing such a violent act?

That's always a concern for the FBI as they investigate this. They go back. They go as far back as they possibly could in a person's life to see where did the change start, and then what led to this? What ultimately brought him to the point of where he felt, you know, he had to act on this?

Because that's a concern always for them, and so what they do is they build a timeline of his life. And we're going to see that somewhere down the line, of his contacts, who he was in touch with that morning, the day before, weeks and months, perhaps even years, to see where any of that changed.

Very important is to see who else was reading some of this stuff, who else was he talking with online. And they can do all of that through search warrants and they can do it through subpoenas, and we're going to see that unfold.

BLITZER: So you think the FBI will reach out to those people?

PROKUPECZ: Oh, they -- there's concern in this country for others who want to do this and are reading this stuff, but absolutely they will reach out.

And it is important for them to reach out because they want to tell these people, hey, we know you were talking to him, we know you were in touch with him, and it is sort of in hopes to prevent from any further attacks from occurring.

BLITZER: And there's enormous fear of copycats out there right now.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, always.

BLITZER: That is a huge, huge fear.

All right, Shimon, Josh, guys, thank you very much.

The pipe bombs and the synagogue shooting are shining a spotlight on President Trump's increasingly divisive rhetoric.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president continues to blame at least in part the violence on the news media.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, everybody but himself, Wolf.

The White House says the president and first lady will travel to Pittsburgh tomorrow to remember the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, but the White House is offering no apologies, no regrets for the president's rhetoric after he once again referred to the press in this country as the enemy of the people.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With his own incendiary rhetoric under a microscope, President Trump will visit Pittsburgh Tuesday and come face-to-face with a community that is divided over his mere presence after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The American people reject hatred, bigotry, prejudice and violence.

ACOSTA: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders angrily pushed back on any notion that the president's tendency to rip into his adversaries had anything to do with the carnage in Pittsburgh or the pipe bombs sent to Democratic politicians and CNN over the last week, the latest package to CNN discovered today.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The very first thing that the president did was condemn the attacks, both in Pittsburgh and in the pipe bombs. The very first thing the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts. ACOSTA: That's not true. CNN was covering the details of the

investigation into the pipe bombs when we were forced to evacuate our newsroom after one of the bombs was delivered to our offices.

But the president is hardly toning down his act, once again tearing into the caravan of migrants heading to the border, tweeting: "This is an invasion of our country and our military is waiting for you."

Gunman Robert Bowers had also seized on the caravan before he shot up a synagogue, writing in a social media post saying: "I have noticed a change in people saying illegals that now say invaders. I like this. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society likes to bring in invaders that kill our people."

MARK HETFIELD, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE HEBREW IMMIGRANT AID SOCIETY: There's no question that the toxic environment that we're now in of hate speech has not been helped by the president's words, absolutely not, about the caravan, about refugees, about Muslims. This has to come to an end.

ACOSTA: The president has also gone back to blaming the media, tweeting: "The fake news media, the true enemy of the people, must stop the open and obvious hostility and report the news accurately and fairly. That will do much to put out the flame."

But the White House declined to say which outlets it deems to be the media.

(on camera): Can you state for the record which outlets that you and the president regard as the enemy of the people?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm not going to walk through a list, but I think those individuals probably know who they are.

ACOSTA: Would that include my outlet, which received a bomb last week?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I don't think it is necessary specific to a general -- broad generalization of a full outlet. At times, I think there's individuals that the president would be referencing.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even after Sanders defended the president's use of the terms enemy of the people and fake news, she falsely stated Mr. Trump's margin in the 2016 election.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: And he got elected by an overwhelming majority of 63 million Americans who came out and supported him and wanted to see his policies enacted.


ACOSTA: But here is a reality check. The president lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by three million votes.

And as for the media blaming the president for Pittsburgh and the pipe bombs, the press has reported on the suspects in both cases, but news outlets have also noted the growing concern coming from all sides of the political spectrum, conservatives and liberals alike, that the president's rhetoric has gotten out of hand at times, creating a climate where potentially violence can happen.


Wolf, as we have said, words matter.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly do.

Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida is joining us. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees and also grew up in Western Pennsylvania. He knows this area well.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

And as you know by now, this shooting was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history. What does it say to you that this happened in Pittsburgh in the Squirrel Hill area in 2018?

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Well, it's -- we mourn with the community in Pittsburgh, and all of us in the Jewish community feel this personally.

The country as a whole has to feel this personally. On the one hand, Wolf, report after report talk about how unimaginable this was. At the same time, for so many of us, it was, sadly, only a matter of time. This is something that we worried about. The rhetoric is too hot in this country. There is too much violence in the way that we speak.

We all have to be held accountable for our words. It is true for members of Congress who say things and tweet out conspiracy theories. It is true for the president of the United States.

And, Wolf, we just have to point out that this comes at the end of a week where people were attacked, pipe bombs were sent to people because of their political views. Two people were killed in Kentucky because of the color of their skin. Now 11 were gunned down because they are Jews.

This is pure hatred, but it is something that we have to deal with. We have to respond, and it is one more mass shooting. I tell you, as someone who eight-and-a-half months after Stoneman Douglas, can't believe that we have to have another discussion about our failure to act on gun safety as well.

BLITZER: Yes, your district includes Parkland, where that mass murder, 17 people killed at that school, took place.

Your district is also close, Congressman, to where the serial bomber, this guy Cesar Sayoc, lived, and he targeted lots of people who President Trump has gone after at his rallies and his tweets and elsewhere. Do you think President Trump understands how powerful his words are and how they might inadvertently be taken by people like this man?

DEUTCH: Well, there's no question that the president understands the power of his words. That's why he's constantly speaking and tweeting. He clearly gets it.

It is why he has rallies all the time. What I think we would like to hear is for the president to acknowledge that that power comes with responsibility. The president needs to acknowledge that when people hear him speak, when they listen to what he says, they react. That's what he sees every night at these rallies.

That's what you see when he tells the crowd that the press is the enemy of the people and they react to that. When he tells the crowd -- when he gets the crowd going and they start screaming "Lock her up," he understands how powerful he is.

We would like to think that the president could dial it down, but I don't see it happening, which is why people at this point are so despairing of where we are with the leadership coming out of the White House on this issue and why they're looking ahead to one week from tomorrow to an election, so that people have an opportunity to cast their own votes, to use their own voices, to make clear that the kind of rhetoric that they hear over and over again, these attacks on a regular basis, aren't who they are, they're not who we are.

We have got to come together, Wolf. The way that people will show that hope and move toward change is going to be at the ballot box in a week.

BLITZER: The president said maybe the outcome at the synagogue in Pittsburgh would have been different if they had better protection, and I want to read your reply when you heard what the president said.

Quote: "So it is the synagogue's fault? Seriously? Hey, President Trump, this seems a good time to remind you that you told me and America that you wanted to be the president to pass universal background checks. Remember? You said don't be afraid of the NRA. Stop being a coward."

So, Congressman, do you think President Trump would really be open to any serious gun control measures right now?

DEUTCH: Wolf, listen, I sat with the president at the White House, and we all saw it on TV, when the president made clear that he wanted to be the guy to pass universal background checks, and he wanted to be the guy to take action to ban bump stocks and keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

And then he met with the NRA, he changed tune. We haven't heard a peep about that since. This election season, gun safety is on the ballot, Wolf. The student survivors from Stoneman Douglas, the families from Stoneman Douglas have continued to press candidates around the country to stand with them against the gun lobby. [18:20:15]

And I'm confident that they're going to be successful in so many races. I don't know that the president even remembers that he made that statement, but he ought to go back and take a look at it. He can do it. It is the right thing to do.

And whether he does it or not, the American people understand why it is necessary for us to finally stop talking and show some courage and do something to help make our communities safer.

Whether it is a school, whether it is a synagogue, whether it is a Sikh temple, whether it is a church, people shouldn't be afraid to go to pray. They shouldn't be afraid to go to get an education. The president has to understand that. And that's really what this upcoming week is going to be about in so many ways, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congressman Deutch, thanks so much for joining us.

DEUTCH: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we're going to more on President Trump's response to the synagogue massacre. Will he be welcomed when he visit Pittsburgh tomorrow?

Plus, angry pushback from the White House as it faces serious questions about the president's rhetoric fueling violence.



BLITZER: The man accused of shooting and killing 11 worshipers inside a Pittsburgh synagogue is now charged with 29 counts, including hate crimes, and could face the death penalty.

Joining us, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

And I remember you and I spoke in the immediate aftermath of that neo- Nazi rally in Charlottesville last year, and you told us, you told me about your father coming to America in 1935 to escape anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.

How are you feeling now, seeing this horrific attack on innocent worshipers, elderly worshipers in a synagogue?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Wolf, I thought of my dad when I first heard about this horrific, unspeakable massacre in a place that should be among the most safe and secure of any place in our great country.

He came to this country in 1935 at the age of 17, came alone to escape Nazi persecution. And he had not much more than the shirt on his back. He spoke no English. He knew virtually no one. And there was nobody prouder to be an American than my dad.

I think about how sad and ashamed he would be these days. And I once talked to my dad about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. I said, it can never happen here in America. And my dad said to me, it can happen anywhere if people fail to take a stand.

And what we have seen in the last couple of years is a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents, some 60 percent in 2017 alone, according to the Anti-Defamation League. It has been a rise in hate crimes generally, and it has to be the result to some extent of the hate speech that we have seen.

Vitriol breeds violence. Hate speech breeds hate crimes. As the rabbi in Pittsburgh Jeff Myers said, it starts with speech. Stop the hate speech.

BLITZER: The White House says it is outrageous that anyone else be held responsible for what this shooter did in Pittsburgh. What is your reaction to that?

BLUMENTHAL: The blame for this shooting belongs to the killer. He should be held culpable and he should have the full weight of the law thrown at him.

But the Internet and social media has been turned into a virtual cesspool of hatred, because of the vitriol that we have seen from top leaders in our country. The president's words have encouraged dehumanizing people who are different in race or religion or appearance, and some of the blame has to be laid at the door of the White House.

BLITZER: The gunman was agitated, according to his posts on social media, about the migrant caravan in Mexico right now. It's still 1,000 miles or so from the United States. And he noted that people who used to call undocumented immigrants -- quote -- "illegals" were now calling them invaders. And he was happy about that.

Just today, President Trump tweeted, calling this caravan -- and I'm quoting the president once again -- "an invasion."

Does the president have a responsibility to acknowledge how his words are being interpreted by these fringe elements?

BLUMENTHAL: Not only his words, but his actions and some of the speech at his rallies, for example, praising a congressman who body- slams a reporter, encouraging and delighting in chants of "Lock her up" when referencing his enemies, and, of course, referring to the so- called Middle Easterners among the caravan.

There's no evidence, none whatsoever, that there are any people from the Middle East in that caravan.

[18:30:10] And so the demonizing and dehumanizing of people who are different in race and religion has to have an impact on not only the public discourse, which has to be more civil and decent, but also people delighting and rejoicing in their enemies. We need to delight and rejoice in our friends.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president is blaming the news media for the current climate here in the United States. He continues to say -- and I'm quoting the president -- that "the true enemy" -- his words, true enemy of the people, the news media. So what impact does that have on our democracy?

BLUMENTHAL: It has a really insidious effect on our democracy. In fact, I'll say it again. The heroes of this dangerous era in our country's history will be our independent judiciary and our free press.

One of the reasons why I fear President Trump regards the news organizations as his enemies is they've been reporting the facts. They've been telling people what the evidence is of his administration careening off the tracks and, unfortunately, failing to serve the public interest.

So there's a corrosive impact on our democracy of undermining the free press, which is a pillar, and it could lead to additional violence because vitriol does breed violence. And again, to quote the rabbi in Pittsburgh who spoke so eloquently, it starts with speech. The words of hatred must stop.

BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, why some Pittsburgh residents say they don't want President Trump to visit in the wake of the synagogue killings.

Plus, the chilling revelation of the serial bomb suspect's hit list, a hit list of more than 100 people. Who else was on it?


BLITZER: The White House angrily denies any link between President Trump's increasingly inflammatory language ahead of next week's midterm election and the shocking violence of recent days, including attempted assassinations using pipe bombs and the massacre of 11 people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Let's get some more from our correspondents and our analysts. And David Chalian, the White House rejecting basically any responsibility of this based on the president's rhetoric, but he's not operating in a vacuum, is he?


Wolf, what I don't understand, I try to approach it logically, which sometimes you run into trouble with, but why I think what Sarah Sanders was presenting from the podium today was not on the level is because you can't dismiss entirely and not engage whatsoever on the president's rhetoric but totally support the president's blame on the media for creating an environment where there's -- you can't. Those two things don't go together.

So when Sarah Sanders as the spokesperson for the president of the United States of America goes out there and tries to do that, it's not on the level, and that creates a big problem. Because then we don't -- we can't actually talk about the context of these events, because the White House closes off one avenue of that context, which is the president's words himself.

BLITZER: It's very interesting. You know, Susan Hennessey, the shooter was clearly agitated, if you read all of his posts about the caravan and Mexico -- still 1,000 miles away -- of the undocumented immigrants. He liked the fact that they were now being called "invaders."

But listen to how FOX News, at least a lot of the elements there, have been talking about this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a caravan. It's an invasion.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Overwrought coverage of this invading horde.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Literally marching to the U.S. in what would be a mass invasion.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE/FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR: It looks like an invasion. It doesn't look like a family reunion.

JEANNE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: And on your way out, you can tell the Democrats, George Soros, and the angry mob that's coming here, you either come the right way like everyone else, or be ready to face the military and a one-way ticket back to where you came from.


BLITZER: Let me put up on the screen how the shooter himself posted a comment about this only just before he went into that synagogue: "I have noticed a change in people saying 'illegals' that now say 'invaders.' I like this."

And the president tweeted today himself, calling it an invasion. So how do you see this?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. So he's not just calling it an invasion; it's not just words. He's actually doing things to mount the political theater: by deploying, for example, troops to the border in a situation in which there's absolutely no security rationale to do so, troop levels that are higher than the number of individuals we have deployed to Syria fighting ISIS right now.

You know, this is exactly the kind of conditions of heightened political rhetoric that lead to the types of political violence that we've seen over the past week. And it's also based on a lie. It is lawful for individuals to present

themselves at a port of entry in order to claim asylum. These are groups of individuals who are not invaders. They are children. They are elderly people. They are people who are fleeing political violence in order to assert their rights under international law. They're not violating U.S. law or any other law.

[18:40:06] And so I really think the only way to understand using this kind of rhetoric really is to say that it's racist, that it is fearmongering and it is designed to scare people in order to gain a political advantage.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, this caravan is a big part of the president's campaign message right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is. And he was frustrated last week when it wasn't a really big story in the news, because the pipe bombs were something that really dominated coverage for several days.

The president made that frustration pretty public at that event at the White House, talking about how it overshadowed other things. He didn't like that, especially ahead of the midterms when he's said that they were taking away from Republican momentum ahead of the midterms.

But it's not just messaging that this White House thinks is going to work well for the midterm elections. The president actually does genuinely care about this. He's being updated on the caravan by John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, the DHS secretary, regularly. He's watching the coverage of it on television, reading about it.

He actually wanted to make immigration a pretty big focus this week. They were planning some kind of speech. He wanted to propose new changes to immigration laws.

But the White House also thinks this is a really effective messaging tool ahead of the midterm elections and that President Trump was pretty worried about. They thought that, if they did focus on this and this caravan that they say is coming to the border within days, that's what they make it seem like, even though in reality it would actually take them much longer before they made it to the border, they think that can help them in the midterms, because they think it can sway these suburban women who are going to be crucial votes for whoever they do turn out for next Tuesday. They thought it could help sway them toward Republican candidates and away from potentially voting for a Democratic candidate, maybe for the first time.

BLITZER: Shawn Turner, Susan made a very important point. There are more troops now heading to the border with Mexico than there are individuals -- men, women and children -- in that caravan.

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, and the real important point is that, as Susan pointed out, what the president has done here is he's kind of capitalizing on the fact that, as Americans, we always rally around the president whenever there is a legitimate threat to our national security in this country. Now, we understand that these individuals are not a legitimate threat

to our national security. But what the administration has done -- and it's unfortunate -- is they have coopted the language of national security threats and applied it to these individuals.

And what that's allowed them to do is to tap into that kind of inherent desire to rally around the president, at least with the president's base. And so they're adopting this language of this invasion and suggesting that, if we don't stop these individuals, that we're all going to deal with, you know, a threat to our national security, which just is not true.

BLITZER: And what is so worrisome and potentially so reckless and dangerous, is the president continues to go after the news media, tweeting today, "the true enemy of the people." He's going after the news media, even though he's been warned so often over the past year behind closed doors, "This is a very potentially dangerous statement you're making."

CHALIAN: It is a dangerous statement he makes. There's no doubt about that. And it's one he relishes. He loves this fight with the press. He has talked about it. His campaign manager sat down with Dana Bash and today was saying quite plainly, "A fight with the Democrats and a fight with the media is one we want to prosecute every single day. So we don't condone any violence, of course," he adds that caveat.

But we have seen what the result is here. We have seen the result of having the person with the largest megaphone in America call the press the enemy of the people, cheer on his supporters, screaming "CNN sucks," and we've seen a correlation of what has occurred in the last week with these pipe bombs. To suggest they're disconnected is to miss this entirely.

What I think -- that is what is so frustrating to me about Sarah Sanders coming to the podium today to once again back him up on that, instead of acknowledging that perhaps some of the rhetoric everywhere in politics, including the president's, needs to be addressed.

BLITZER: Does he do it because he thinks it will rile up the base?

COLLINS: He does, and it does seem to. If you go to his rallies, which we do and we have been doing a lot lately, because he's doing so many a week, and you talk to supporters there, they really do think that the media is responsible for a lot of the division in the country, which is that message that President Trump has been pushing in light of the scrutiny on his comments.

And sometimes when the president tweets something that he knows is going to be controversial, he'll ask aides about it: what do you think? And he's asked aides about this, and he hasn't gotten a lot of pushback.

Typically, in the past, there's this theory that there's no one in the White House who says no to the president. And that's not true. There's a lot of people who say no to the president or try to discourage him from doing certain things. He's not getting a lot of pushback on this messaging, that it's the media responsible for the negative coverage. And that helps encourage him to continue to do so, because he has no one telling him no.

And Sarah Sanders made that pretty clear at the briefing today, that she backs the president up fully on that.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of presidents, they've often been critical of the news media, understandably so, but none has ever said that we are the enemy of the American people.

All right, guys. Stand by. There's more news just ahead, including a CNN exclusive. A potential challenger to President Trump calls him out on his rhetoric.


[18:49:39] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Now, a CNN exclusive, while the White House is rejecting a notion that the president's rhetoric may be tied to political and racial violence, one potential challenger to Mr. Trump is taking the president to task, saying there are consequences to his words.

The former New York City mayor and possible 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg just spoke exclusively to CNN business and politics correspondent Cristina Alesci.

[18:50:05] Cristina, so what did he tell you?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he didn't hold back, Wolf. In fact, I've heard Bloomberg criticize Trump in the past, but I heard a much sharper tone today. In fact, Bloomberg went as far as to partially hold the president responsible for the violence and the hatred we've seen in the last week.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: A lot of people think it's just rhetoric, but you don't use the bully pulpit as the president of the United States to rile up people and say things as a joke or as a campaign promise. That's not what the president should be doing, the president's words matter.

He's not an average person. He's the president, and with the presidency comes an obligation to set a moral standard for this country and to unite people, and to explain to people why we are going to live together in the United States of America. Why what this country was founded on is a place for people, no matter their religious beliefs were, to come and to live together and prosper together. And he's not doing that.


ALESCI: Wolf, I even asked him to respond to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's tweet that called out George Soros, Tom Steyer and Bloomberg for being three Jewish billionaires that are trying to influence the outcome of the election. And Bloomberg's response was, good news no one knows who McCarthy is -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, McCarthy deleted that tweet after he was really criticized for those assertions.

Cristina Alesci, thank you very much.

And stay with us. There's more news just ahead.


[18:56:35] BLITZER: Family and friends are sharing memories of the victims massacred in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack ever in the United States. Eleven people gunned down as they worshipped at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Eighty-eight-year-old Melvin Wax is described by her sister as always in a good mood and full of jokes. She says the synagogue was so important to him that his family would kid him, saying he should have been a rabbi.

Sixty-nine-year-old Irving Younger was a greeter at the synagogue, known for his big smile and big handshake, according to a friend. Another friend says the former real estate agent took his role seriously and felt it was his duty to help serve.

Jerry Rabinowitz was a 66-year-old primary care physician who always wore bow ties and was beloved by his patients. A nephew says Dr. Rabinowitz could light up a room and would want the message of this story to be one of love, unity, strength and resilience of the Jewish people.

David and Cecil Rosenthal were brothers, remembered as extraordinary men and well respected members of their community who always sat in the back of the synagogue and greeted people. Both had developmental disabilities. A friend says they were kind with a strong faith and respect for everyone, inseparable and always looking out for each other.

Rose Mallinger was a spry and vibrant 97-year-old, a matriarch for her family with a lot of years left, according to her friend. Mallinger regularly attended the synagogue with her daughter who was injured in the attack. Her friend says Mallinger was always offering a friendly greeting, a hug and a smile.

Sylvan and Bernice Simon died together in the same synagogue where they married more than 60 years ago. A neighbor calls 84-year-old Bernice and 86-year-old Sylvan kind, generous and good hearted people who always tried to help out in their neighborhood and in the Jewish community, because they wanted to give back.

Daniel Stein's son says the 71-year-old retiree was a simple man who didn't require much. A nephew calls him a great guy with a dry sense of humor and who everybody loved.

Seventy-five-year-old Joyce Feinberg was a former research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, who along with her husband welcomed students into their lives. One former student says she was an enormously caring person, a petite woman who lit up the room with her personality.

And Richard Gottfried was a 65-year-old dentist who passed out toothbrushes on Halloween instead of candy. A neighbor calls him a great friendly guy, always willing to help out. Dr. Gottfried is active in his synagogue, but he also worked with his Catholic wife at her church as a marriage mentor, helping to prepare engaged couples.

To all of these wonderful, wonderful, amazing and loving people, may they rest in piece and may their memory be a blessing.