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Mueller Team Interviews Bannon About Stone; Plane Inspections Ordered Amid Search for Crashed 737; Hate Crime and Domestic Terrorism Increasing in U.S.; Interview With Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro; Trump Visits Pittsburgh Amid Controversy. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 30, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is he taking the focus off the victims?

Protesting the president. Thousands of people marched near the synagogue in opposition to the president's presence, while Jewish activists accused him of emboldening a growing white nationalist movement.

Constitutional stunt. Another attempt by President Trump to rally his base around immigration, this time threatening to single-handedly defy the U.S. Constitution and deny citizenship to children born in the United States to non-citizens.

And Stone on the phone. Special counsel Robert Mueller reportedly focused on longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone and conference calls in which he talked about WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. What did Stone know about hacked Democratic e-mails?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news.

A controversial visit by President Trump to Pittsburgh as the first funerals are held for victims of the synagogue massacre. The president is there despite pleas from local officials to postpone the trip as the city reels from the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

Tonight, Mr. Trump's presence has sparked a large protest, with the president accused of incitement through his heated and divisive rhetoric.

I will talk about the breaking news with the Pennsylvania attorney general, Josh Shapiro. And our correspondents, analysts and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to Pittsburgh. Our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is there at the Tree of

Life Synagogue, where the president visited just a little while ago.

So, Kaitlan, update our viewers right now. Where is the president, where is the first lady right now?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, right now, they're at UPMC Presbyterian. That's a hospital just a 10-minute drive from the synagogue that I'm standing outside of right now, and that is where several of the victims from Saturday who were shot were treated originally.

Now, President Trump is there. He is visiting with the medical staff that treated those patients and also some of the police officers who were shot on Saturday here as well, including one who, according to the White House, is still in the intensive care unit.

That is something that President Trump told us he wanted to do right from the beginning. He wanted to be able to meet with the first- responders and those who had treated those and those who had gone into this shooting, despite knowing there was an active shooter inside of there.

Now, before that, the president made an unannounced trip to the Tree of Life Synagogue, and we weren't sure he was going to come here whenever the White House first announced that he was going to be visiting Pittsburgh to pay his respects.

But he, the first lady, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner all arrived here earlier. They were greeted by the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer. Then they went inside with the rabbi, Jeffrey Myers.

While they were in there, just inside the entrance, Wolf, not inside the actual synagogue because, of course, it is still an active crime scene -- and we saw FBI agents going in and out all day long. While they were in there, Wolf, they lit a candle for each of the 11 victims from Saturday's shooting. Then they came outside.

We saw them walk out here. There is a Star of David for each of the 11 killed with their named on it. This is where people have been coming to pay their respects all day, Wolf, laying flowers, bringing balloons, signs saying they do not want any hate in this community.

Now, when the president and the first lady came out here, he came and walked along the stars. He paused at some of them. They placed a stone on each one and really took a moment to reflect, Wolf, while the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other White House staffers remained outside watching this all happen, while, of course, all the reporters were right here watching as well.

Then he went on to the hospital where he is now. But, Wolf, I do want to note one thing we have seen here, and that is an obvious backdrop to all of this and something we talked about before the president arrived. There are several people in this community who think this is an ill-timed visit from President Trump. We heard it the loudest from this mayor of Pittsburgh, who said he

didn't think it was an appropriate time for the president to visit and they wanted him to wait until they had buried the dead. They said it wasn't the appropriate time to come, all this conversation about the president's rhetoric, and we have seen protesters in the area protesting peacefully the president's visit here today.

Now, Wolf, while the president was inside the entrance lighting those candles for the victims of Saturday's shooting, we could actually hear the victims from right outside. Now, it wasn't just us out here. The chief of staff, John Kelly, several other senior White House officials were also standing out here as well.

So, you can only assume that when President Trump came out here to visit those stars to pay his respects, he could likely hear those protesters protesting his visit here to Pittsburgh as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure the president wasn't very happy about that.

All right, Kaitlan, we're going to back to you. Thank you very much.

CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez is also in Pittsburgh. He's only about a block or so away from the Tree of Life Synagogue.

And, Miguel, we have seen the protesters marching as the president visited the synagogue. What is going on now?

[18:05:07]

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I want to show you exactly where we are.

We are at Murray and Forbes avenues, and there are thousands of people who have marched today. They started much earlier today. They have gathered at the Sixth Presbyterian Church here. Now they're going to have a series of speakers.

It has been for the most part peaceful. There were some concerns when the president left and you could hear the sirens. When the march started earlier today, it wasn't quite clear what was going to happen. There were a couple of different groups that ended upcoming together and then marching as one.

There was a really amazing moment as marchers went by the fire station and police station nearest the synagogue. They just started applauding the firefighters and the police officers who stood outside, some of them running up to them and hugging them. Some of those police officers starting to tear up. This is such a close neighborhood.

Walking around here today, there was not a person who had a dry eye. People walking their dogs, people in the park, people just walking down the street, everyone keyed on this, everyone talking about it and everybody very emotional about it.

When they knew the president was coming, he was clearly not welcome in this neighborhood. They felt that he just added an element to their grief that was just not welcome -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they were clearly fired up earlier in the day. Before the singing, they were pretty angry that the president was there.

MARQUEZ: They were incredibly angry.

Now it has been a lot of prayers all day. It has been a lot of Jewish traditions and customs. There was one point where they tore small black pieces of paper and then held them up for several minutes to signify that they are not whole, that they have lost so many in their neighborhood.

This -- you talk about Squirrel Hill, you talk about, you know, this being literally Mr. Rogers' neighborhood, where Fred Rogers was from and where he lived and where he died. It is that neighborhood. People are that close. Everybody knows everybody.

And what happened a flew blocks from here on Saturday has just shot through every single person in this area and through this town and across Allegheny County. I have been all over this place, and people who are so tough -- and these are blue-collar, tough, steel-working people -- the tears flow everywhere I go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, totally understandable, totally.

All right, Miguel, thank you very much.

All of this is unfolding just one week before the midterm election, which has the president making an all-out push for Republicans.

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

Jim, the president has been ramping up his rhetoric as Election Day nears.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly has, Wolf.

And the White House says President Trump is not on a political trip to Pittsburgh, he is simply there to offer condolences to a grieving community. But the president appears to be on a political mission nearly everywhere else he goes, with the strategy of divide and conquer to come out on top in next week's midterm elections.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: Mr. President, any message for the people of Pittsburgh?

ACOSTA (voice-over): With the first lady at his side, President Trump traveled to Pittsburgh, a city in mourning after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. The city of Pittsburgh is split over Mr. Trump's presence, with some community leaders wishing he would stay home.

RICH FITZGERALD, ALLEGHENY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: We are trying to heal right now, and, yes, I think a later time would be better. ACOSTA: While the synagogue's rabbi left his door open.

RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: This is not about any one person. This is about hate and that good must win.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump is igniting passionate reactions with nearly every move he makes, in part because he is inflaming an already bitterly divided country. Just one week before the midterms, the president is resurrecting a controversial proposal he has made before, to end birthright citizenship in the U.S., something he claims he can do with an executive order.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't.

ACOSTA: But he's wrong. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizenship to people born in the U.S. Presidential scholars and members of Congress from both parties agree Mr. Trump would have to amend the Constitution.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, you obviously cannot do that. You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order.

ACOSTA: The citizenship issue is straight out of the president's midterm playbook, to energize his base with racially loaded rhetoric, like his claim that the convoy of migrants, many of them women and children, heading for the border is an invasion, requiring a military response, when it doesn't.

REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I don't know how much political calculus he has put into this. I think maybe he thinks there is, but my point is, I don't like it. I don't think it is effective. It is not good for our country.

ACOSTA: The president is also using questionable language in describing Florida's Democratic candidate for governor, Andrew Gillum.

TRUMP: Look, here is a guy that, in my opinion, is a stone-cold thief. He's a disaster.

ACOSTA: That followed a tweet from Mr. Trump that described Gillum's opponent as a Harvard/Yale-educated man.

Gillum fired back in a tweet of his own, saying: "I heard Trump ran home to FOX News to lie about me, but as my grandmother told me, never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it."

[18:10:05]

The White House is scrambling to clean up after the president's remarks. Even Vice President Mike Pence tried to maintain that Mr. Trump respects the American press, despite dubbing some news outlets the enemy of the people. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a president

who believes in freedom oft press. And the president's complaint -- and it's often mischaracterized, not by you, either one -- but the president says fake news is the problem, not news.

ACOSTA: The question is whether any of this will have an impact on the midterms, as Democrats are hopefully voters have grown weary of the president's rhetoric.

JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am sick and tired of this administration. I am sick and tired of what is going on.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I hope you are, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And the president's attacks on the press are also right out of the president's midterm playbook. A source close to the White House says inside and outside advisers are urging the president to keep on slamming the media, despite those pipe bombs that have been mailed to CNN just last week.

And, Wolf, perhaps the president is having trouble coming across as a uniter in Pittsburgh tonight because so many Americans across the country see him as an inciter -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much.

I want to get some more on all of this.

The Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro, is joining us right now.

Attorney General, thanks so much for joining us, a sad day for clearly everybody in Pittsburgh, throughout Pennsylvania, indeed throughout the nation.

Let me get your thoughts on the president of the United States right now. You said yesterday that the president hasn't risen to the level that Americans need him to, at least not yet.

Do you think the visit today will make things better?

JOSH SHAPIRO, PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, we will see, Wolf. We will see what comes after this visit, whether he offers words of healing, words of unity, or whether he continues to divide us with his speech and with his tweets.

I think the ball is really in the president's court. As I have said before, I think we need a healer in chief. We need someone to help tone down the political rhetoric, turn the temperature down on that, and bring people together. Words matter, Wolf, and the president so far has failed to find the

words to bring the American people together.

BLITZER: What do you make of the protesters in Pittsburgh who came out only a block or two away from the Tree of Life Synagogue to protest against the president's visit?

SHAPIRO: Well, Wolf, I was on those streets just a day or two ago, and I was visiting with a lot of the people in the Squirrel Hill community, just an incredibly wonderful and diverse place.

They're sad. They are angry, and they're trying to channel that sad and, you know, angry feelings into something that is constructive. And so they come out on to the streets peacefully and they stand arm in arm, and they speak up and they lift their voices. And that's the American way. That's what they should be doing at this time of grief.

Sadly, I think the president's presence there today and those protesters who came out in the street to follow the president's visit distract from the real issue, and that is the 11 Pittsburghers, the 11 Pennsylvanians, the 11 Americans who have to be buried today and in the days ahead.

The focus should be on them and the lives they lived and the indelible marks that they left in our community. And that is the story that I hope people would focus on.

BLITZER: As you know, there are some white nationalists out there who believe that the president actually sympathizes with their views.

Some of the protesters were complaining about that in Pittsburgh today. Do you believe the president has gone far enough in denouncing those people?

SHAPIRO: Not even close.

And the president continually allows his words to be misappropriated by white nationalists like those who you are describing and other hate organizations. He allows his words to fuel some of their activities.

And understand this very clearly, Wolf. Hate speech begets hate crimes. We need to understand that words matter in this country, and perhaps no one's words matter more than the president of the United States.

And so when he tweets and when he speaks in these divisive ways, it tears us apart and it gives these other individuals, it gives these groups sort of a permission slip to go forward.

I think there's another group here that also have to be condemned, and that is people who remain silent in the face of this type of hateful rhetoric coming from the president, whether they're people in his own party or others.

We all have a responsibility to stand up and speak up and speak out loudly against this type of divisive rhetoric. Whether it is on the left or the right, we all have a responsibility to do that hard work.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Attorney General, that the shooter in this particular case who went into that synagogue Saturday morning, as these 11, mostly elderly individuals, one 97 years old, were simply praying -- they had their prayer books out with them, and he came in with an AR-15, three Glock pistols, and simply started shooting and killing these individuals.

[18:15:18]

Do you think this individual, if convicted, should get the death penalty?

SHAPIRO: I do, Wolf.

Let me be very clear, though. This is a case being handled by our very able federal partners. I have worked closely with the U.S. attorney in the Western District, as well as with folks at the Department of Justice. It is my understanding they will be seeking the death penalty.

So, while it is not our case in the state, it is a decision that I support to seek the death penalty for Mr. Bowers.

BLITZER: Could he also face state charges?

SHAPIRO: Yes.

My understanding is the Allegheny County district attorney is pursuing charges as well.

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, because I know you have been investigating this media platform Gab, where this individual was posting all sorts of anti-Semitic, hateful comments.

Where does that stand, your investigation of that right now?

SHAPIRO: Well, Wolf, I'm a strong supporter of people's First Amendment rights to speak, whether it is speech I agree with or disagree with.

What is not tolerable in this country and what is not constitutional in this country is when -- to allow speech that incites violence. And what we are examining from both a criminal and civil perspective here in Pennsylvania is whether these platforms are enabling language that is inciting violence.

I think it is too soon to tell where our investigation will lead, but I can tell you it is an issue that we are focusing very closely on.

BLITZER: Josh Shapiro is the Pennsylvania attorney general.

Thanks so much for joining us.

SHAPIRO: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to clearly stay in very close touch with you.

We have got a lot more on the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:28]

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, a very large protest greeting President Trump as he visits Pittsburgh and the synagogue where 11 people were killed in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

The president making the trip despite calls from local officials to postpone it, at a minimum.

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

Jeffrey Toobin, the rabbi there in Pittsburgh in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, he greeted the president, the first lady, the president's daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner, the secretary of the treasury.

other officials declined to meet with the president. Protesters, as you saw, a block or two away, they were protesting out on the streets that the president had even come to Pittsburgh on this day.

First of all, what do you make of this decision by the president to go there?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is certainly a bizarre situation, because of course it is customary and appropriate for the president to visit the scenes of national tragedies like this, and certainly the president, you know, should go there at some point.

But it is also customary for the president to coordinate with the people who are actually there and not just show up essentially uninvited. And, you know, that was just such a weird scene at the airport, where the president arrives and basically the only person there is the local general in the National Guard.

I mean, it is just indicative of how just clumsy and awkward any attempt by this president to show sympathy turns out to be.

BLITZER: Gloria, how did this visit come about? You have been doing some reporting on it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, this just worked for the president. This worked for his schedule. He has got 11 campaign rallies coming up, and this was the day he -- you know, he didn't want to have a rally in the afternoon and go to the synagogue to pay his respects on the same day.

So they decided that today would be the day. Unfortunately, this was the day that people were being buried. As you know, in the Jewish faith, you bury very quickly, and the mayor said -- you know, the Pittsburgh mayor said, look, there might be a better time. We want to focus on burying our dead and our friends and our family members today.

And I gather there wasn't an awful lot of communication about that, so you had this kind of -- as Jeffrey was saying, you had this kind of strange picture of a president walking off the plane alone with his wife, not being greeted, traveling alone, getting there, putting the rocks on the memorials.

But it was -- you know, it was just striking, because he wasn't speaking and there weren't a lot of people around him to offer even support for a president, because in a time of crisis like this, even presidents need support.

But aside from the rabbi of the temple, there really wasn't -- and his family -- there really wasn't anyone there to give it to him.

BLITZER: What did you think, Ryan?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think your reporting about the timing makes it all the more worse, right, the fact that his political rallies were the reason he had to do it now.

And it is also notable, of course, that the White House wanted the congressional leadership there today, and every member of the congressional leadership came up with an excuse for why they didn't want to be there.

I think Nancy Pelosi said she was doing it out of respect for the mayor, who said, you know, stay away, it is not the right time. And the other three leaders basically made up excuses about scheduling conflicts. Now, of course, something this important, you don't have a scheduling conflict if you think you need to be there.

[18:25:02]

But it just brings home the fact that Trump, he's really governing only his coalition, and the country is -- his presence at anything like this just further inflames and divides. He doesn't have the capacity, even when he tries, to bring people together.

BLITZER: We are told, David, that the president's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, both of whom are Jewish, they encouraged the president.

You know, they said, dad, this is the right thing to do.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right.

And you can imagine that the president's daughter and son-in-law, who are observant Jews, feel very strongly about this and did encourage the president.

On the other hand, it is remarkable, one, that the president would need encouragement to try and say the right things at this moment, after the Tree of Life massacre.

And it is also remarkable that the president is in this position, as Ryan was just describing, where there's not a sense of coming together around this tragedy, but rather those people that have to be there out of respect and welcome the president have done so, and I think appropriately, and those people that sort of have a reason why they wouldn't be there have found a reason not to be there.

The president just has run out of sort of the benefit of the doubt when it comes to these issues.

LIZZA: Can anyone remember people protesting the president coming in the wake of a massacre?

SWERDLICK: No.

BORGER: No.

LIZZA: I can't remember...

TOOBIN: How bizarre. Wow.

BLITZER: Yes.

LIZZA: I can't remember another time in American history where people were murdered, the president tries to -- shows up, and he's heckled and protested.

BLITZER: Yes.

LIZZA: It's...

BLITZER: After 9/11, George W. Bush goes to New York, and it is a traumatic moment.

I was the White House correspondent for CNN in 1995 in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, when Bill Clinton was president. He went to Oklahoma City. And he delivered a beautiful speech. And he was very, very warmly received. There were no protesters going on.

Jeffrey, you remember those days.

TOOBIN: Well, and how about, you know, President Obama, who unfortunately had all these mass shootings on his watch, in South Carolina, and in Connecticut, and, you know, he led the grieving in all of those places. You know, we can argue about, you know, whether -- you know, how

effective it was, but certainly there was no protests. I mean, no one -- I mean, frankly, it wouldn't even occur to me that there would have been protests. It was just not considered a political act.

But, you know, the nation now is so polarized and Trump himself is such a polarizing figure that everywhere he goes this goes, this goes to follow. It also shows that when he goes away from these highly protected rallies, where, you know, it is only his supporters, he sees that it is not -- the whole nation isn't for making America great again.

BORGER: Well, you know, and we didn't hear Donald Trump today, and I think that's not a coincidence. I think they wanted him to go pay his respects quietly, because they knew what was going on outside, and they know what is going on in the country.

And he did that with his wife and he went inside, and then he came back out, and he met with the police officers who were the survivors, which was a very good thing to do, obviously, and then he left. So it was very quiet, unlike Bill Clinton, who gave a speech, and Barack Obama, who was welcome to give, you know, a speech, to be pastoral.

That was not the case today, and I don't think anybody there wanted it, probably including the people at the White House.

BLITZER: Yes, the president, he could have gone within the next few days and not interrupt the funerals if he wanted to. But that would have meant, David, he would have had to postpone or cancel one of his political rallies. And we're a week away from the election.

SWERDLICK: Right.

You know, and I don't want to second-guess what the thinking is inside the White House, except that they know that they have this problem, to Gloria's point.

It is appropriate -- maybe the timing is wrong -- it is appropriate for the president of the United States to pay his respects to the dead in a massacre like this, but he also does not have that ability to bring the nation together, like in a situation when Congresswoman Giffords was shot or like Newtown.

And so him being quiet today is sort of like the last resort and the only option for them, because he...

BORGER: A good option.

SWERDLICK: Because the president just doesn't have that facility.

LIZZA: And I have been thinking about this a lot too.

I think you -- and I have said this many, many times. He doesn't have the ability to bring people together. The more I think about it, it is not that he doesn't have the ability. It is a conscious political strategy not to do it, right?

SWERDLICK: Right.

LIZZA: His political strategy is to divide. That's how he thinks he is successful politically.

And it is like we -- we are constantly saying, you should bring the country together, you should bring the country together.

That's not what he wants to do.

SWERDLICK: Yes, I agree with you, Ryan.

I would say, he doesn't have the rhetorical ability, but what he doesn't have is the credibility. People will not take him as sincere, because of what he says the rest of the week.

LIZZA: It's not in his political interests, is what he learned, I think.

BLITZER: All right, everybody, stand by.

We have a lot more to discuss, including a very disturbing trend, hate crimes and domestic terrorism on the rise right here in the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:34:45] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Protesters taking to the streets moments ago as President Trump visits the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the site of last weekend's massacre that left 11 wonderful people dead.

That attack, as well as last week's series of package bombs are just part of the spike in hate crimes and domestic terrorism right here in the United States.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us. Tell us more, Brian, about this deeply disturbing trend.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. We're getting new information tonight on a very alarming rise in extremist attacks in the U.S. that are getting more deadly. We're learning violence from right-wing extremists have been outpacing Islamic-inspired attacks in the U.S. for several years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Carnage in Pittsburgh, thought to be the deadliest attack ever on Jews in the U.S., multiple assassination attempts with mail bombs. A white man in Kentucky tries to enter a predominantly black church. Officials say when that failed, he shot up a Kroger supermarket, killing two African-Americans.

All those attacks, just in the past week, part of what experts say is a jarring trend in America.

PROF. BRIAN LEVIN, SAN BERNARDINO UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMIST: The terrorist is here. The terrorist is in Pittsburgh, Kentucky and elsewhere.

PROF. CAROLYN GALLAHER, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: There's a definite spike. It's been rising since 2012. We're seeing a lot of hate group activity.

TODD: A U.S. government report last year said there had been almost three times as many attacks by far-right extremists than by Islamist- inspired extremists in the U.S. since 9/11. What's caused the spike in attacks by right-wing extremists and others like them?

LEVIN: They saw political changes, the election of President Obama, demographic changes and fear of outsiders, as well as a decline in employment during the first part of this decade.

TODD: Those who track hate crimes say that, while President Trump may not intend to incite racist violence, extremists tend to use his words as an excuse.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

GALLAHER: In white supremacist circles they took this to mean, "This person supports us, and we have a champion in the White House; and we can now fight for a white America."

TODD: The president and his press secretary have vehemently denied inciting extremist violence.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has denounced racism, hatred and bigotry in all forms on a number of occasions.

TODD: August 2012, a white gunman kills six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

June 2015, Charleston, South Carolina, white supremacist Dylann Roof sprays the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church with gunfire, killing nine people.

Lone-wolf attacks like those from those are what many security officials have been most worried about in recent years.

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: There's this new phenomenon now of the terrorist-inspired attack, the lone wolf, and it's, frankly, the thing that keeps me up at night.

TODD: Analysts say since the Charlottesville violence last year, when counter-protester Heather Heyer was struck by a car and killed by a white supremacist, the lone-wolf threat has increased.

LEVIN: After Charlottesville the leadership structure of the white nationalist movement imploded, leaving an opportunity for the more violent lone wolves, who aren't just content to go to demonstrations, rising to the surface. And that's the risk we face now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Experts say that, while most of the recent attacks have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, that this kind of terrorism sometimes tends to be retaliatory in nature. So we do have to watch out for attacks from left-wing extremists, from anarchists and others like them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, what are you hearing about how these attacks can be stopped?

TODD: It's not easy, Wolf. The people who track these crimes say law enforcement has to keep a close eye on so-called trigger events like elections, immigrant caravans. They have to ramp up their monitoring of extremist chat rooms and web sites.

But they also say politicians like the president, well, they absolutely have to tone down the incendiary rhetoric. That's got to happen right now, pretty much.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

Let's get back to our analysts and our correspondents. Jeffrey Toobin, what do you think about the president's words? Do they -- do you really think that they inspire, they encourage these white supremacists?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the guy who shot up the synagogue, you know, he was talking about the caravan, which is something that's been of obsessive interest on FOX News and with the president. You know, manufacturing a crisis where no existed -- none existed.

And then the guy who was trying to bomb CNN and everyone else, I mean he was very explicitly trying to do President Trump's bidding. So, I mean, you know, let's just look at what happened. It doesn't appear all that complicated.

BLITZER: What do you think, David, is fueling this increase in these white supremacist attacks, this domestic terrorist?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, I think it has to be said when someone commits one of these acts of violence, the onus is on that individual.

And of course, President Trump -- or I should say, it seems implausible that President Trump wants these acts of violence to happen. But it also defies common sense to think that his constant resort to his overheated rhetoric, making people fear each other, dividing people, one group against another, as if our society is this sort of zero sum competition of different groups, gives permission to people who are weaving these threads of illogical hatred together that, OK, they're not alone. This has to be toned down.

BLITZER: Gloria.

[18:40:07] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, just look at what happened today. I mean, the president proposed something that's not going to happen, that's unconstitutional, an executive order to override the 14th Amendment on birthright citizenship.

Why do you do that when you know it is not going to happen a week before election? You do it because you want your base all riled up.

So you send 5,200 troops to the border. You also talk about new tax cuts for the middle class, but that's a separate -- you know, that's a separate story. You warn of voter fraud.

You know, this is a president who thrives by punching enemies. That's what he does. That's why he likes campaigns. That's what this campaign has been about. That's why he is so involved in it. When you do this kind of thing during a campaign -- and people are

already riled up -- and you talk about the caravans and the migrants and the Middle Easterners who might be in it, you -- you have an environment here where there's a sense of us and them. And almost anything -- anything goes, because at a certain point you wonder when the country says 00 they're almost numb to this, which of course you cannot be as a human being.

And they see the president, you know, after the pipe bombs are sent, talk about the media as the enemy of the people after people at CNN and then CNN itself got pipe bombs. Well, what message does that send?

BLITZER: What do you think, Ryan?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I remember in the 2016 election Trump's closing message was about globalists, an international cabal that was in league with Hillary Clinton. And at the time a lot of people pointed out that that was echoes of really historically anti-Semitic language. And, you know, we all know we've seen an up surge in anti-Semitism the last couple of years.

This election, his closing message seems to be, not to put too fine a point on it, but racism. When he's talking about a threat to the country from, you know, the refugees coming through Central America who are just this, you know, rather down-and-out group of people, as if -- you know, hundreds of miles from the border, as if they're going to somehow harm us in any way and making this big theatrical show of sending troops to the Mexican border.

I think he's discovered, or he's rediscovered that that kind of racial demagoguery works in American politics. And for a good long time, it didn't work, right? I mean, no one would say that race -- that racism didn't work work, I mean. Up until at least the '60s, racism was a central part of national politics, right?

But there was a period -- '80s, '90s, into the 2000s -- where candidates were penalized for the kind of even coded racial language that they used. And Trump rediscovered in 2016 that he can activate voters with race on immigration, and he doesn't pay a price. And until he pays a price, he'll keep doing it.

BLITZER: I'm anxious, Jeffrey. You're a constitutional scholar. You've written books about the Supreme Court. The president says now that with a pen, an executive order, he can change the interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and deny what's called birthright citizenship to kids born in the United States whose parents are here illegally.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, Wolf, it's very nice of you to give me all those credentials, but all you have to know about the absurdity of this proposal is how to read. Because if you read the 14th Amendment, it says people who are born here are citizens here. That's it. There's no interpretation needed. There has never been a controversy about that until this was invented by certain fringe elements on the right wing. But, I mean, it really is not complicated. The amendment says what it

means. And if they want to amend the Constitution, they're perfectly capable of trying.

But the idea that the president of the United States can overturn the plain words of the Constitution, not even with an act of Congress, just on his own signature, is really absurd.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There's more news we're following including the former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, reportedly questioned by the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, team.

Plus, more on the breaking news. A large, very large protest greeting President Trump as he pays a controversial visit to the scene of the synagogue massacre.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:49:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tonight, CNN has learned that the former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has been interviewed again by the special counsel, Robert Mueller's team, this time about the long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone.

Our political correspondent Sara Murray is working this story for us.

Sara, why is the special counsel focusing in on associates of Roger Stone?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you pointed out, CNN has confirmed that Steve Bannon went in. This is his third day of interviews with the special counsel team, but this time, "The Washington Post" reported that the questions the special counsel's team were regarding Roger Stone, of course, the long-time political adviser to President Donald Trump.

And what this tells you is there's still an active investigation going on within Mueller's team into Roger Stone, into whether he may have communicated with WikiLeaks. And Steve Bannon isn't the only person who has been contacted recently. We also know that there's another Roger Stone associate, this guy's name is Jason Sullivan.

[18:50:03] He was Roger Stone's social media adviser for at least part of the 2016 campaign.

Now, he told "The Wall Street" that even though we know he's previously talked to the special counsel, he's previously gone before the grand jury, he told "The Wall Street Journal" that they're circling back again and has even more questions.

Again, this all gets back to roger stone's claims he was in touch with WikiLeaks. Part of the stuff that Jason Sullivan has been asked about are these conference calls that Roger Stone did for his paid subscribers in 2016. I want to read one thing he said in one of these calls that Mueller now has. We know there are going to be many, many turns in the road, including

the material that I assume Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, his organization, drops on the American people. And, remember, Roger kind of seemed during the 2016 campaign when you look back at it like he knew this stuff was coming from WikiLeaks before he dropped it. Of course, now he vehemently denies that he knew anything ahead of time and here he is just last week saying that at a political event in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGERS STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: Let me say yet again: I had no advance notice of the source or the content or the actual release date of the devastating material that WikiLeaks published.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, as of today, Wolf, Roger Stone still has not been contacted directly by special counsel Robert Mueller's team, but it's very clear they're still trying to nail down what Roger Stone received from WikiLeaks, if anything, either directly or through a back channel and what, if anything, he shared with members of the Trump campaign team.

BLITZER: Lots of developments unfolding behind the scenes right now, even as we get ready for the midterm elections. We'll see what Mueller does after the midterm elections. Sara, thank you very much, with that report.

MURRAY: Thanks.

BLITZER: Just ahead, what caused the new passenger jet to plunge into the sea? We have details of a deadly new aviation mystery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:34] BLITZER: Search crews are combing hundreds of square miles of the Java Sea right now. They're looking for wreckage from Lion Air flight 610. The brand-new Boeing 737 crashed minutes after taking off from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta with 189 people onboard.

CNN's Will Ripley is working the story for us.

So, Will, some bodies and wreckage have been recovered but so far not the critical voice and data recorders. What's the latest?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even in shallow waters, Wolf, investigators are having a hard time getting to the fuselage and those all important black boxes that are going to provide vital clues. This is an investigation that every air traveler should be following closely because it really does affect pretty much anyone who flies.

The plane that was involved in this crash, a version of the one of the most popular jetliners in the world and the urgent question facing investigators right now: how could a brand-new plane that passed all preflight safety checks suddenly fall out of the sky? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY (voice-over): As Indonesian crews recover more pieces of a mangled plane and more remains of 189 people on board, new questions emerge about the cutting edge airliner that tumbled out of the sky just 13 minutes after takeoff.

The Boeing 737 Max is one of the newest, most advanced planes in the world. A version of the best selling commercial jetliner ever, flown by some of the largest U.S. airlines, including Southwest and American. Indonesia will now inspect all of the aircraft in the country.

Lion Air is one of the biggest customers for 737s, spending nearly $22 billion in 2011. At the time, Boeing's largest single order for commercial jets ever.

The plane that crashed was delivered just three months ago with only 800 flight hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of the top of the line. It's one of the best you can buy.

RIPLEY: But the rollout has not been trouble-free. Boeing temporarily grounded the entire 737 Max fleet last year, citing concerns about a manufacturing quality issue inside its new engines. Boeing says it resolved the issue and quickly resumed production.

Now, the worst commercial airline crash in three years is triggering an urgent investigation.

Boeing issued a statement saying, they're providing technical assistance at the request and under the direction of government authorities investigating the accident. The key questions, why did the pilot ask to turn back just minutes into the flight without declaring an emergency? Did a technical issue the night before the crash play a role? Even the Lion Air says it fixed the problem.

And with no severe weather and no evidence of an explosion or fire, how could a brand-new plane plunge so suddenly from 5,200 feet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something happened to lose control of that aircraft or something that lost power or something that made that aircraft go down.

RIPLEY: The clues to solving this aviation mystery may lie in the plane's fuselage and the so-called black boxes lying somewhere at the bottom of the java sea and for the millions of people who fly in these planes, answers can't come soon enough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY: Before Lion Air flight 610 vanished, radar indicated dramatic changes in altitude, speed and direction which aviation experts tell CNN likely indicates equipment failure but they won't know for sure, Wolf, until they find those black boxes. BLITZER: I hope they find them.

All right. Will, thank you. Will Ripley reporting for us.

Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.