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Trump's Lead Grows as CNN Debate Nears; Clinton: GOP Field is Trump Without the Pizzazz & Hair; Despite Differences, Sanders Courts Evangelicals; Hundreds of Homes Destroyed by Wildfire. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 14, 2015 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: And a reminder: the Republican presidential debate is Wednesday night. Coverage starts at 6 p.m. Eastern. The winner gets all the jelly beans. Jake Tapper will be moderating. That is all for "THE LEAD" today. I now turn you over to Brianna Keilar, in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:13] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, thumping Trump. As the Republican presidential candidates head into a make-or-break debate on CNN, new polls show Donald Trump soaring over all of his rivals. We're getting details about who is planning these strategies to take him down. And will it be enough? Or is Trump about to send more of his rivals to the sidelines?

Fast-moving flames. California fire crews struggle to cope as wildfires force thousands to flee and reduces hundreds of homes to ashes. As states of emergency are declared in county after county, does California have the resources to cope with what may turn into one of the worst fire seasons on record?

New terror tactic. The reclusive leader of al Qaeda takes a page from the ISIS playbook. He's calling for lone-wolf attacks just as huge crowds are about to greet the pope in three of America's biggest cities. Can U.S. intelligence, the FBI and police head off trouble?

And feds pulling back. Sources tell CNN federal agencies are pulling out of the search for the person behind the shooting death of an Illinois policeman. Tonight, a retired officer's bizarre claim about the entire investigation.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are only two days away from the CNN Republican debate. And for Donald Trump and his rivals, the stakes could not be higher. New polls show that Trump's lead is growing, despite all of his controversies and name calling. And tonight, even though Trump is bragging that it's unlucky to attack him, some of his opponents are considering a more in-your-face strategy during this upcoming debate.

We're also looking closely at a new call from the head of al Qaeda for lone-wolf attacks inside of America. This coming just as law- enforcement sources tell CNN the FBI is monitoring suspected jihadist chatter about attacks against the pope, who arrives in the U.S. next week. Our reporters are working their sources on all of the day's developing

stories. They are standing by, along with our political analysts and our experts.

I want to begin with CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who is at the debate site in California -- Jeff.


I mean, Donald Trump continues to defy all convention. He's leading all the polls, as you said, and he's frustrating party leaders. Well, just in two days on this very stage behind me you can see being set up, all of his rivals are trying to line up to try and take him down again. It hasn't worked so far. The question is will it now?



ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump not only on top but on fire.

TRUMP: I'm surging more than anybody.

ZELENY: As he rallies thousands of supporters tonight in Dallas, new polls show him still driving the Republican race. Trump and Ben Carson towering over the GOP field seizing more than half of the Republican vote in a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, Trump winning four times as much support as Jeb Bush. It means Trump is wearing the biggest bullseye at Wednesday's CNN debate.

TRUMP: I'll be intact. I guess I'm going into the Lion's Den.

ZELENY: But warning signs for the frontrunner. Overall, six in ten voters say Trump is not qualified.

Among Hispanic voters, 70 percent hold negative views of him, 60 percent very negative. Still, Trump is head and shoulders above his rivals in the first primary state of New Hampshire.

A new Monmouth University poll today showed Trump at 28 percent, followed by Ben Carson and John Kasich in third. Everyone is trying to bring Trump down to size.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not about how big your office is, or how big your plane or your helicopter or your ego, leadership is about service.

ZELENY: Carly Fiorina's super PAC is out with a new web ad, trying to use Trump's own words against him after he made a derisive comment about her face.

FIORINA: This is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle.

ZELENY: Trump's campaign manager firing back against super PACs, not the substance of the original attack from his boss.

COREY LAWANDOWSKI, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: This is the problem with the dark money that's involved in politics right now. We know Jeb Bush has $100 million sitting in a super PAC. I'm sure the vast majority of that is going to go and come after Mr. Trump because Jeb is now, you know, at 8 percent or less in the last poll.

ZELENY: Not just Jeb Bush. He and much of the Republican field crowded at the bottom of the polls in single digits, hoping to break out on Wednesday night.


[17:05:03] ZELENY: Now, all of these Republican candidates are hoping to break out right here on this stage on Wednesday night, Brianna. But Donald Trump, I'm told, is preparing for this debate much more seriously.

One other bit of news here in California today, where all politics and celebrity mixes. We're told that Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, is going to replace Donald Trump on "Celebrity Apprentice." That is going to start in 2016 -- Brianna.

KEILAR: The lines of entertainment and politics blurring. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much in Simi Valley for us.

For today, at least, Hillary Clinton is not apologizing. Instead, she's trying to move past the controversy about her e-mails and focus on what she calls issues that keep you up at night.

But she also can't resist taking her own shots at Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican field.

Senior CNN Washington correspondent Joe Johns has been following the Clinton campaign in Iowa.

Tell us about this, Joe.


A couple of events for Hillary Rodham Clinton here in Iowa today, both focusing on increasing her support with women. One going on right now in Decorah, Iowa, the other earlier today here on the campus of University of Northern Iowa.

Now, it's very interesting. Donald Trump has been taking grief from both of the female candidates in the race, both the Democrat as well as the Republican. But his support among Republican women remain strong.

Let's listen now to what Hillary Rodham Clinton said earlier today here on the campus about the Donald.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's somewhat entertaining. Their flamboyant frontrunner has grabbed a lot of the attention lately, but if you look at the policies of all of them running, they're pretty much the same. They're Trump, just without the pizzazz and the hair.

He loves women. In fact, he says he cherishes women. Well, that's nice. But if it's all the same to you, Mr. Trump, I'd rather you stop cherishing us and respecting us instead.


JOHNS: Now, the latest "The Washington Post" poll shows that Hillary Rodham Clinton's numbers continue to decline. For the first time she's now under 50 percent. Shows 42 percent for Clinton, 24 percent for Bernie Sanders and 21 percent for Joe Biden, who is not even in the race.

The big question, of course, is what the Clinton campaign is going to do about the problem and the decline in numbers with women, particularly white women. She was asked about that at a media availability here today on the campus, and she sidestepped the question -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Joe Johns. Thank you so much for us in Iowa.

With us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, we have Republican strategist Kevin Madden, and we have Ana Navarro. They're both CNN political commentators, along with CNN political commentator Dan Pfeiffer, who's a former senior advisor to President Obama.

So, Dan, you have Donald Trump making an appearance on "The Tonight Show" this weekend. Jimmy Fallon asked the presidential candidate about his plans. I think we're actually having perhaps some -- can you hear me, Dan?

All right. I think we're having some technical difficulties. But let me ask Dan this question. I want to watch this Jimmy Fallon segment, and then we'll get our panel's take on the other side.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": Next question. You said that you get Mexico to build a wall at the border. How do you plan to do that?

TRUMP: Well, since I'm you, why don't you tell me?

FALLON: How am I going to get Mexico to build a wall? Easy. I'll challenge them to the biggest game of Jenga ever. I'll make them set up the board. And then when they finish I'll say I don't want to play anymore.

TRUMP: You want to know something? That's genius.

FALLON: I knew it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: OK, Dan Pfeiffer, so you see that segment with Jimmy Fallon. It's kind of funny, but you know, it really also speaks to the truth here that Donald Trump is not playing by the rules. Why would, you know, we think -- why would people think that he is going to play by the rules on Wednesday night?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think they should. I think he -- Donald Trump plays by his own rules, he writes his own rules. And this is what makes it so hard for all the Republican candidates to prepare for him because you have literally no idea what he could say at any given moment. And I can only imagine just what the debate prep sessions are like for Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio because there's no playbook -- there's no Donald Trump playbook to follow.

KEILAR: Well, yes, and, Ana, if you had a candidate who is prepping, let's say your friend Jeb Bush, how do you prep for this debate compared to the last debate?

[17:10:02] ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, I think every other candidate except Donald Trump is prepping today, and while they should, it's a long debate. I think there's going to be substantive policy questions.

In the case of Jeb Bush and, frankly, of every other candidate, they need to get the policy right. Because unlike Donald Trump, they can't flub on it. They will not get a pass if they don't know the policy. And it takes a lot of work to be able to be succinct in 60 seconds about policy.

Now, they also need to figure out how to stand out. How you stand out in an 11-field debate is not as easy as when you are only debating one or two other people.

So I think that's the challenge. What are the lines of attack? How do you project intensity, knowledge, humor, personality and relatability?

KEILAR: Kevin, when you look at what Donald Trump really needs to do here as the frontrunner, I wonder, harkening back to his promise on Hugh Hewitt's show where he really stumbled on foreign policy, I certainly would expect as Hugh Hewitt is going to be asking some of these questions that that may be a preview of some of the things that Donald Trump has to answer. How should he be preparing for those kinds of questions?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think that's right. I think he wants to take away the talking point that all the other candidates have, which is first that he's not the best to represent the party. I think he's going to speak to a lot of the grassroots frustrations or concerns that they may have about what the party hasn't done right in order to actually win a presidential election. And then I think he's also going to try and show some command on the issues.

I also wouldn't count out the fact that the one enemy that he made that's going to unite a lot of grassroots conservatives is the media. We've seen this happen time and time again in many of these debates, where a candidate will take on the questioner in a way that really rallies some support from base -- some base grassroots conservatives.

So those are going to be some of the dynamics I watch for Donald Trump to try and seize during this -- during this debate.

KEILAR: Dan, I want to ask you about Hillary Clinton, because she is in Iowa today, really trying to shore up some of her support that's been slipping there.

The e-mail issue was brought up again by reporters. And she had sort of the same answer, where she was saying basically that, you know, she wishes that people would find her honest and trustworthy and that she's going to continue to answer questions. Is this going to continue to dog her? Or do you think that she is sort of moving away from this?

PFEIFFER: I think it's going to dog her for the next few, you know, few weeks here, where she's going to have to deal with three events that will affect her campaign, and I think in a serious way. The first Democratic debate, the -- Joe Biden's decision, whatever that's going to be, and then her eventual testimony on the House.

If she can get through all of those things and handle them well, she has a chance to put this behind her. And I think, ultimately, what she has to do is take this question of trust and turn it into a comparative. It's not just do you trust Hillary Clinton more than anyone else? It's do you trust Hillary Clinton more than Jeb Bush on the economy or Donald Trump on women's issues or whatever it is. If she can do that, she's got a chance, but there's a lot of work to do to get there.

KEILAR: Ana, looking at some of these poll numbers, certainly, Hillary Clinton's team is alarmed. But she said today she's not worried about Bernie Sanders and his surge. Do you believe that? And should she be worried?

PFEIFFER: Well, you know, Brianna, when you're running for president it's kind of like that deodorant commercial. Never let them see you sweat. So, you know, she should not be admitting to being worried about what Joe Biden's going to decide or what Bernie Sanders is doing or what his, you know, soaring numbers.

But obviously, if your numbers are dropping like a rock and your opponent's are rising, yes, you are worried about it, particularly, if you are Hillary Clinton, who has seen this movie, starred in this movie, produced this movie, directed this movie before.

KEILAR: You never cease to crack me up, Ana Navarro. OK. So stick around, because we want some more of that.

Dan, Kevin, stay with us, as well. We will talk more about Bernie Sanders going to a university founded by the late Jerry Falwell. What's that about? We'll talk about it.


KEILAR: We are counting down to the CNN Republican debate, but we're also watching important developments on the Democratic presidential campaign side.

Senator Bernie Sanders tried reaching out to evangelicals today. He told students at Liberty University that, despite their very different views on abortion, he and they can find at least some common ground on other issues.

I want to bring in CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju.

This is perhaps not the campaign stop that you would expect someone like Bernie Sanders to make, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly not, Brianna. It was interesting. Bernie Sanders tried to showcase his message of economic issues, income inequality, raising minimum wage to $15 an hour. Those are issues that he believes cut across party lines. But he could not -- he could not avoid the elephant in the room. Take a listen.


BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe that it is improper for the United States government or a state government to tell every woman in this country the very painful and difficult choice that she has to make on that issue.

And I honestly, I don't want to be too provocative here, but very often conservatives say, you know, "Get the government out of my life. I don't want the government telling me what to do."


RAJU: Yes, that was not the only controversial thing that Bernie Sanders discussed. He was also talking about the issue of racism. Of course, Bernie Sanders has been moving very aggressively to court the black vote, particularly in South Carolina, and try to make inroads in a constituency that is moving very strongly towards Hillary Clinton. He was asked about how he would address racism. And he made some pretty provocative comments.


SANDERS: The truth is that a nation which in many ways was created -- and I'm sorry to have to say this -- from way back on racist principles. That's a fact. We have come a long way as a nation.


RAJU: We talked to a number of students after his speech. The message was received rather skeptically, actually. Even though the students were pretty polite about it, they were pretty skeptical. And we even spoke to Jerry Falwell Jr., who's the son of the late reverend who founded this university. And Mr. Falwell was very complimentary of Bernie Sanders for

addressing his student body in a very respectful manner. He even said that he reached out to Hillary Clinton, who he said was showing some signs that she may soon address this convocation, as well. So we'll keep an eye on that possibility too, Brianna.

KEILAR: That would be a fascinating appearance. Thanks for that report. Manu Raju for us in Lynchburg, Virginia.

And I want to bring back our political expert now. We have Republican strategist Kevin Madden and Ana Navarro and President Obama's former senior advisor, Dan Pfeiffer.

OK, Dan. That was -- that was pretty interesting, right, to see Bernie Sanders go to Liberty University. And he was talking there about racist principles being the founding principles of the country. He struggled, obviously, more than Clinton has to connect with black voters.

Do you see him making sort of an appeal here in trying to kind of right some of -- some of that?

PFEIFFER: Well, I think first, going to Liberty University was a very smart thing for him to do. Democrats should not leave any vote on the table. Court. We should go to places like Liberty, go all across the country and look for every audience.

I thought, as someone who was around in Barack's 08 campaign, that was something that Barack Obama in 2008 most certainly would have done.

I think for Bernie Sanders to have any chance to win the nomination, he's not going to have to do not just a little bit better with African-American voters but a lot better. So he has a ton of work to do if he wants to build the coalition that Barack Obama used to beat Hillary Clinton in 2008.

KEILAR: This is interesting, Kevin, in part because Liberty University is where Ted Cruz chose to launch his campaign. This is a bastion of, certainly, conservative thought. Did you sort of say this is really unusual when you found out he was going there?

MADDEN: Look, I agree with Dan. I don't think that you're going to all of a sudden see a surge in evangelical support for Bernie Sanders.

But what's important is the message this sends about Bernie Sanders' candidacy. It shows a level of confidence that he has in his message, a confidence that he has an agenda, that he goes out and even engages a skeptical audience.

I think that also draws a really strong contrast with Hillary Clinton. Here Hillary Clinton is doing these very small events where they're hand picking people and pretending they're having these authentic town halls when it's really a bunch of stagecraft.

And then you have Bernie Sanders engaging a big audience of evangelicals and not shying away from his message that, you know, may not be received entirely very warmly, but at least he has the courage there to go and do it. I think that contrast is really important. And it's a smart strategy on his part.

KEILAR: Ana, take a look at something that we're seeing. It's a rare appearance by Jeb Bush's wife, Columba, and she's speaking in English in a campaign video that celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. And then you hear Jeb Bush talking in Spanish. Let's listen.


COLUMBA BUSH, WIFE OF JEB BUSH: I have lived more than half my life here, so, you know, I agree that we all have the same interests, the same feelings.



KEILAR: A lot of voters, I think Ana, don't necessarily realize that Jeb Bush's wife is Mexican, or that he speaks fluent Spanish. And he's obviously trying to make an appeal to Hispanic voters. Should he have done this sooner?

NAVARRO: Well, Brianna, Columba is American. She was born in Mexico, but...

KEILAR: Mexican-American, yes.

NAVARRO: ... and is fully American.

I think Jeb has been doing Hispanic -- ads in Spanish and speaking in Spanish on the trail, much to Donald Trump's chagrin. I guess that he sees this YouTube video may implode yet again.

And let me explain before we go on. He's talking Spanish, not Mexican, because I know Mr. Trump has retweeted that. At times. The language is called Spanish.

He does it all the time. He's done it in all his campaigns. He does it in his daily life. It's a bicultural family living in Miami. And this is a very normal thing for them to do. I am not surprised to see Columba be out there. She's all in on this, and she's going to do everything she can to help her husband and be supportive to him.

KEILAR: Kevin, she's been seen, certainly, as someone who could be an asset to her husband. I think she's seen as someone who may have been a little reticent to really get out there in perhaps the most proactive way that she can. How much of an asset can she be to Jeb Bush?

MADDEN: She's a huge asset.

Look, Jeb Bush it would be awkward if Jeb Bush went out and said, Hey, guess what? I'm a great husband. I'm a great father. I'm a great all-around guy." That doesn't work as well as when you have those who know you the best tell that story for you. So for Columba to go out there and say -- and talk about what the

values that drive Jeb Bush, his vision for the country and all those other people who know Jeb Bush so well, that's a really powerful story that voters really do take into account, because voting for president is a much more personal decision than it is for voting in any other office.

KEILAR: All right, Kevin Madden, Dan Pfeiffer, Ana Navarro joining us from Simi Valley, already there ahead of the debate on Wednesday. Thanks, guys.

And a quick reminder: we are just two days away from the second Republican presidential candidates' debate. This is going to air right here on CNN Wednesday. We'll have it live for you from the Reagan Library in California.

And coming up, a deadly wildfire destroys hundreds of homes in California's wine country. We'll get a live update on the Valley Fire. Right now it's burning out of control.

Plus, a new twist in the mysterious death of a veteran policeman. Why federal law enforcement is scaling back its investigation.


[17:30:33] KEILAR: We are following a huge wildfire that is burning just out of control right now in northern California's wine country. This is the Valley Fire. And it has destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings. It's about 90 miles north of San Francisco. And we are now just getting word that this fire has turned deadly.

CNN's Dan Simon is in Middletown. This has seen some of the worst of the devastation. It looks -- I mean, it looks almost apocalyptic behind you there, Dan. Give us an update.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, Brianna. I'm sure there are a lot of adjectives you could use to describe this place, but I guess to me it looks like a bomb went off. Look at this car. You can see that it is just a shell. There are windows here. And the heat was just so intense that they just melted right off the frame.

And when you go through this area known as Middletown, you'll see neighborhoods that look just like this. You got 400 homes in the general vicinity that have burned to the ground.

What firefighters do next is not entirely clear. They've called this a fuel-driven fire. We're talking about a historic four-year drought. This has been the worst wildfire here in California this summer. In fact, it's been the worst wildfire for the entire West Coast. So at this point authorities try to do what they can. Obviously, they're trying to find the blaze from the sky and on the ground. The governor, he's declared an emergency in four counties. And this is what he said earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, when you hear the firefighters themselves, you can imagine yourself being in that position. It's very, I mean, obviously, it's scary stuff. Takes a lot of courage. And these fires will take lives. And they will cause injuries. And we have to do the best we can, because we are really in a battle with nature that nature is more powerful than we are.


SIMON: Sixty-three thousand acres have burned in this Valley Fire. At this point we're talking about only 5 percent containment. They still have a long way to go.

And I have to tell you we've been standing out here all day and things have steadily gotten worse. The winds have begun to pick up. It is a bit cooler, so that's good. But the winds are picking up. And you can see the fire still smoldering in certain areas. You can see the wind whipping that smoke. So that gives you an idea of the conditions out here -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Dan Simon for us in Middletown, California.

I want to get more now with Congressman John Garamendi of California. This disaster unfolding in his district.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. Specifically, we're talking about the Valley Fire, which is in your district. You just heard Dan's report there, only 5 percent contained. What is the expectation? I know you're talking to officials there. What are you expecting ahead?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI, CALIFORNIA: Well, I was there yesterday with the Cal Fire chief, the fellow responsible for all of Cal Fire, as well as the Office of Emergency Service director. We met with the supervisors, met with the fire folks there. This is bad. This is going to be a very, very bad fire.

[17:35:10] Already 435 homes known to have burned. There's a community called Cobb about 10 miles away from Middletown. It is probably just not there anymore. It's just gone.

And this is just one of several fires that we have. So we're going to have to get on top of it. We know that this is a very -- the human dimension here is just very disastrous.

I was talking to one fellow yesterday who had lost his home, lost everything: papers, his dogs, cats and a horse together. So it's the emotion of this. And then the rebuilding will occur. So it's going to be very difficult. It's going to be a long time. And praise to the firemen and those that are out there risking their lives to try to protect others.

KEILAR: I do want to show some video of the Butte Wildfire now. This is not in your district, but I know it's an area you're familiar with that you used to call home as you grew up. Some very scary images that we're seeing here. You have 11,000 firefighters that are battling 12 large fires across

California. Do you feel like people are heeding warnings about these fires?

GARAMENDI: Well, they do. But these two fires, the Butte Fire which I suspect you have pictures. I can't see them now.

KEILAR: We do.

GARAMENDI: Also the Valley Fire, those are explosive fires, heavy wind at the outset of the fire blew both fires dozens of miles, probably ten miles within just a couple of hours. And whatever warnings there were -- and there were warnings. You're looking -- particularly at the Butte Fire, you're looking at deep canyons, heavy brush, narrow roads.

And I am sadly anticipating that there are people that could not get out. Hopefully, they were able to survive in what is nothing short of a firestorm. Just devastation.

I do know that there's also enormous courage and determination. The town I grew up, McAllen Hill (ph), which was threatened on the first night and then again as the fire came back from another direction the second day, the people stood their ground. And they had support from all over the state, the big DC-10 water bomber came in with a low pass, thankfully, put the fire down in an area and gave the town a chance to get with it.

But just five miles up the road in another small subdivision in a rural area, about half the homes were wiped out. We think everybody got out of that, but then you go a little further east down into one of the deep canyons which we call Jesus Marie Canyon. I don't know, it's very, very bad.

KEILAR: It's horrible. And it's so remote there. I do want to ask you really quickly before we let you go: do you feel like you have all the resources you need there in order to fight these devastating fires?

GARAMENDI: Well, it's stretched. I got to tell you the Office of Emergency Service and Cal Fire is pulling resources from as far away as San Diego to fight these northern California fires. Help is coming in from the federal forest service, from other states. Those aerial tankers are coming from other states. It is like a major war maneuver, moving men, material, equipment, women, all of these things hundreds of miles to get to the fire.

And also we need to be aware that we have a problem with the federal budget. We have blown through the federal forest service fire- fighting budget and now consuming the fire prevention budget. We have to deal with this in Congress. We've got to set aside the money, make it secure that we can get ahead of these fires with the appropriate prevention, forest thinning, forest health issues.

We haven't done that in the last decade. The time has come for those of us in Congress to realize if we don't maintain the forest health, if we don't provide the thinning, the forest management, these fires will rage out of control. And, yes, it is climate change. It is drought, but it also is that we, particularly Congress, has not provided the money to properly manage our national forest and the bureau of land management land.

KEILAR: Congressman Garamendi, thank you so much for updating us. We're certainly keeping your community and those surrounding communities in our thoughts.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

KEILAR: And we'll continue to monitor the story. Thank you.

Coming up, there is a major change in the investigation into a police officer's mysterious death. We're learning new details. We'll share them with you.

Plus, a chilling message from al Qaeda's leader. Is he unveiling a new terror strategy?


[18:44:29] KEILAR: We are following what appears to be a disturbing new terror strategy by al Qaeda. The group's leader now calling on any and all Muslims to launch individual attacks inside of the U.S.

CNN's Brian Todd has been working this story for us. What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this is considered a very dangerous message from Ayman al-Zawahiri, one that has caught the attention of U.S. officials tonight. He is doubling down on al Qaeda's call for lone-wolf attacks on the U.S. And coming just ahead of the pope's trip to America, it's got law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies paying close attention.


TODD (voice-over): Al Qaeda's elusive leader making a dramatic new threat. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, encourages young jihadists to carry out lone-wolf attacks inside America. It comes in the second part of an audio message.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL QAEDA LEADER (Through Translator): I call on each Muslim who can harm the countries of the crusader coalition not to hesitate. I see we must now focus on moving the war to the heart of the homes and cities of the crusader west, and namely America.

TODD: Despite al Qaeda's history of well-planned spectacular attacks like 9/11, Zawahiri now says aspiring terrorists should emulate the actions of Boston marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and the Koachi brothers who attacked "Charlie Ebdo." He calls them, quote, "the brave knights of the Paris invasion." Analysts say this is part of al Qaeda's strategy in recent years. Isolated attacks that are harder to stop. THOMAS JOSCELYN, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: And the fact

that he's throwing his weight behind this now at this time suggests that he basically sees this as something more important to al Qaeda than has been in the past.

TODD: A U.S. official tells CNN the message indicates a somewhat removed leader trying to stay relevant. In the new message Zawarhi even extends an olive branch to ISIS despite calling its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's caliphate illegitimate. Zawahiri now calls on all jihadists in Iraq and Syria to fight together in the face of a common enemy.

All this has to be understood in terms of the competition that's happening globally now between al Qaeda and ISIS for recruits. Ayman al-Zawahiri is trying to restore al Qaeda to relevance, trying to restore himself to relevance. He hasn't been heard from for many months.

Zawahiri's call comes at a time of high tension, law enforcement sources tell CNN the FBI has been monitoring widespread calls on social media and chatter by suspected jihadist supporters for attacks against Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. next week. These are similar to threats seen before the July 4th holiday. While there's significant concern, sources say there's no specific threat against the papal visit. Still, Zawahiri's call, analysts say, should make Americans more concerned.

JAMES JEFFREY, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: We have no way of stopping individuals who have access here in America to powerful military level firearms of simply hearing a message from Zawahiri or somebody else and they may be deranged or unbalanced, otherwise, going out and suddenly killing people. It is very, very difficult to stop that.


TODD: Where is Ayman al-Zawahiri? Analysts say he's likely hiding in the frontier areas of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. Why hasn't he been successfully targeted by U.S. or allied forces? Well, Zawahiri is said to be supported by local residents in those areas who help him move around and elude capture.

And he's got a very secure communications network, Brianna. They may get a break here with these audio messages, maybe they can track those messages. But maybe not. He's very elusive.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Brian Todd, we know that you will follow it. Thanks for your report.

Coming up, some surprising and bizarre twist in the mystery of who shot and killed an Illinois policeman. And then later, one of the world's biggest airlines makes a huge mistake. Find out why hundreds of passengers could have been at risk and whether this might happen again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:52:35] KEILAR: We have some breaking news to bring you in the mysterious death of Illinois -- of an Illinois policeman. We are just learning that federal law enforcement agencies are scaling back their part in the investigation. This is Lieutenant Joseph Gliniewicz. He was shot to death shortly after he radioed that he was chasing three suspects. That was nearly two weeks ago. So far there have been no arrests.

Let's get the latest now from CNN's Rosa Flores -- Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this information obtained by my colleague, Pamela Brown, her source is telling her that the U.S. Marshals actually left the Fox Lake area more than a week ago on September 4th. They were actually, according to her sources, deployed to other assignments because of the lack of information here. There were no persons of interest for them to chase down.

And then you've got the ATF who started with 48 agents on the ground. Now down to 10. Now the investigators in Fox Lake, the detectives leading this investigation saying, no, that's not the case. They're not confirming this. They are actually saying that they still have the full support of the feds -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And no suspects at this point, Rosa. No witnesses. There are few viable clues here. How do the local police think that three men who were participants in killing a police officer would have just vanished?

FLORES: You know, that's one of the strange things and I've got to tell you, 14 days in to this investigation and the scene where Lieutenant Gliniewicz was actually killed is still an active scene, Brianna. We've seen sunshine, we've seen rain, and those investigators are still there, definitely stands out.

Now there was an interesting twist, a bizarre twist this weekend, Brianna, the arrest of a former Chicago police officer who according to authorities picked up the phone, cleared the caller I.D. and started making threats against all of the investigators in this task force including the coroner, including Chief Filenko who's in charge of this investigation, saying that if they did not deem this killing a suicide, that he would harm people.

This retired police officer now behind bars, he's behind bars at this hour on $100,000 bond charged with two counts of disorderly conduct.

Brianna, just a bizarre twist in this case where we have very little information from authorities. They're still very tight-lipped. You probably remember the vague description of the suspects that they are looking for, two white males and a black male -- Brianna.

[17:55:11] KEILAR: Yes. And really, that's all they have at this point it seems like.

Rosa Flores for us in Chicago, thank you for the update on that story.

Coming up, the clock is ticking down now to the CNN Republican debate and Donald Trump is getting ready for a rally in Texas. Will he take some new shots at his opponents?

We're also watching those deadly wildfires that are forcing thousands from their homes.


[18:00:02] KEILAR: Happening now, Trump fights back. The Republican presidential frontrunner under fire from his rivals ahead of the CNN GOP debate, but giving as good as he gets.