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Press Conference on San Bernardon Shooting; FBI Searching Lake Near Scene of Terror Attack; Poll: Republicans Split Over Trump's Muslim Ban. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 10, 2015 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, "THE SITUATION ROOM" HOST: ... to see of the San Bernardino terror attack with evidence or what evidence are divers hoping to find below the surface? Could it provide a link to ISIS?

Bag of bombs, we're also learning the gunman left explosives in the room before leaving to get his wife to help him slaughter coworkers. As we get a new look inside the event where the shooting happened, were the killers aiming for a much bigger massacre?

Breaking his silence, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is sharing his first public account of the horrors he endured as a prisoner of the Taliban. He's also explaining his dangerous decision to slip away from his base in Afghanistan all alone.

And getting a reaction, we have a new poll of American's views on Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Is the firestorm helping or hurting his campaign?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in "The Situation Room."

Breaking news tonight, the FBI on the hunt for potentially critical clues in a lake not far from the San Bernardino shooting massacre. We expect an FBI briefing at that lake any moment now. We'll have live coverage.

One official tells CNN divers are likely searching for missing evidence such as the hard drive that vanished from the computer in the home of the two killers.

And tonight, we're also getting a look inside the training session gunman Syed Rizwan Farook attended with coworkers, and learning a chilly new detail about the moments before the shooting. Investigators say Farook left a bag of homemade bombs on or near a table inside that room before leaving the building and returning with his wife to open fire.

Also breaking, U.S. officials are revealing a link between Farook and a convicted terrorist who's doing time here in the United States right now. Sources tell CNN he was in the same social circle as the terror recruiter involved in the 2012 attack plot.

I'll ask Representative Martha McSally what she is learning. She is a member of the House Homeland Security and Armed Services Committees and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and fighter pilot. And our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by to cover all the breaking news.

But first, let's go live to that lake in San Bernardino where we're awaiting an FBI news conference. CNN National Correspondent Kyung Lah is on the scene for us.

Kyung, this is highly unusual. The FBI said they wouldn't be briefing us unless they had something important to share. We'll be getting word from them shortly. What are you hearing out there, Kyung?

LAURA EIMILLER, FBI SPOKESPERSON: If I could just let everyone know we are here to address, obviously ...


EIMILLER: ... safety standpoint what's going on here at the lake today with the dive team. I know you've a lot of questions. They're not going to be able to take a whole lot of questions, so if you could just bare that in mind.

LAH: And what you're -- and that was Laura Eimiller, she's spokesperson for the FBI in the L.A. office.

What you're seeing, Wolf, and I'm going to step out of the way here, you can see that we have the special agent in charge, San Bernardino police chief, as well as the sheriff locking him to the mic to brief reporters.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not yet, one second.

BOWDICH: One more.


BOWDICH: No problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what happens when you have to be at two places at once.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're performing well under pressure though, I would say. Yeah.

BLITZER: This is the FBI Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich.

BOWDICH: All right, good afternoon. Thanks for joining us today.

As I told you from day one, we will leave no stone unturned. So the reason we're here searching this late today is because we did have a lead that indicated that the subjects came into this area.

We have now put a dive team into the lake as a logical part of covering that lead. So they're seeking evidence. The specific evidence we're looking for, we're not going to discuss but we're just simply saying we're seeking evidence of anything that had to do with this particular crime.

So the San Bernardino area has been, as you can all tell, it's been invaded by many, many federal agents, primarily FBI, some ATF as well, and that is because this is a multi-agency investigation and we're working and we'll continue to work hand-in-hand with our partners from San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department as well as the San Bernardino P.D. and the ATF.

[18:05:06] This investigation, as I've mentioned many, many times, is massive. And that's going to take time. So I know it's a little bit of a disruption to the area. It would not be uncommon for us to do neighborhood canvases at a later date. It's very possible we will. So if you see FBI agents out on the street don't worry about it, it's part of the investigation and that will continue.

Yesterday, the sheriff, the chief, myself, the county district attorney, and the U.S. attorney met with all the family members that agreed to meet with us, which was most of them. The family members were met with, first, the family members of the decedents, and secondly, it was the family members of the injured.

Speaking of the injured, we now have a 22nd injured who checked herself into a hospital and realized that she had been injured in the initial attack last Thursday.

As part of those meetings with their family, which by the way, none of us ever want to have to have another meeting like that. Those four people have been through a lot, and I would ask for your respect of their privacy. They have been through a tremendous amount over this past week and they continue to go through it tremendous.

The emotional and physical scars that were suffered by them will take years to get over, and many of them will never get over some of the emotional scars. So ask you to please respect them. Please be patient with us. We're trying not to -- my number one concern here is the protection of the integrity of this investigation. Because remember, if there is a prosecution it could be two years from now in a courtroom and everybody's gone, but those federal prosecutors and the agents and the task force officers will be there to help present the decisions that we make in these initial days. So it is incredibly important that we're methodical and we think things through in what we say to the press.

I recognize there's a lot of information that's out there in the media. Some of it may be factual, other of it is not. One of the things I want to clear up there has been reporting of a 2012 terror plot in the Riverside area. We did arrest four individuals back in 2012. They have since been convicted of material support to terrorism.

Those individuals were not planning to conduct a terrorist attack in the U.S., they were planning to go overseas and fight, go through a Taliban training camp and ultimately enter an al-Qaeda training camp and fight against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. But there was never, to my recollection, there was never, in fact, I'm certain of it, a credible threat to the U.S.

We watch them for months and months and months. We had human and signals intelligence into them and there was never a danger to this community. The day we took them down, the case obviously made big news, and I just want to make sure we clear that up because I've already heard on many media channels that there was -- they were taken down as part of their plan to attack -- to conduct a terrorist attack in the U.S.

At this point, I'd like to turn it over for any questions you have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there any connection between Marquez, Farook and these four terrorist?

BOWDICH: I've heard the same reports. It would be irresponsible of us to not look into any potential connections. We don't know all those connections yet, if there were any, there may be connections that are multiple degrees of separation. We got to find that out. I'm not prepared to discuss that at this point because I just don't have all the answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is something that's being investigated.

BOWDICH: Of course, it would be irresponsible not to investigate it. When we had a case, it was taken down three years ago in -- I believe it was November of 2012, right in the same general area.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How important is today's search to your investigation?

BOWDICH: Well, first of all, we think this search will last for days. It's very possible. We would be remiss not to go into this lake and do, conduct a thorough search for any evidentiary items that may come back. At the end of the day we came up -- we may come up with nothing, we just don't know yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why this particular area?


BOWDICH: Yesterday was an assessment, I believe. Today is the first day of searching.

Yes ma'am.


BOWDICH: I'm not going to get into what lead us here. There were a couple leads that lead us to this park. And because this park has a large body of water, the FBI has four dive teams, the Sheriff's Department also has a dive team, that's exactly what these people do. They're specialist in underwater evidence retrieval.

(CROSSTALK) ... something into the lake, is that the idea?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That they discarded something in the lake?

[18:09:58] BOWDICH: We don't know that. We just -- would be remiss not to at least explore that option.

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could they -- could there be something not in the lake? I mean, is your focus the lake itself or have you already searched the whole park.

BOWDICH: We've already searched the area pretty extensively. The lake is a much more tedious task and that takes specialists.

Sir, you raised your hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you told that they received your ...


BOWDICH: I believe it was on that day.

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I ask you, just going back a few years, do you still believe or do you not know if Mr. Farook's family had any knowledge, I mean, they hide bombs in the place, they have guns that's no one had any knowledge of anything?

BOWDICH: That's speculation for me to go there at this point. We don't know everything. Again, methodical, factual investigation as we go through this. We're trying to be extremely cautious to ensure that we build a solid case, if there is a case to be presented in federal court later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this still clearly a terrorist investigation?

BOWDICH: At this point, we continue to investigate this case as a terrorist act.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... Marquez in FBI custody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and Farook in here after the attack at the RRC?

BOWDICH: I'm not going to get into when or how we receive those leads, but we have leads that indicates that they were here or in the area at some point.

I'm going to take one more question. I haven't taken anyone -- yes. (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... after the attack and the time that they were shot dead on San Bernardino Avenue?

BOWDICH: We're still walking through that, that is -- we are building a timeline of everything we know to ensure that we can retrace every step they took. Potentially, if there were other contact mates and that -- contact mates and that's potential, we don't know. We're just trying to ensure we account for every minute of the time that day prior to the time that the rogue law enforcement officers took care of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Marquez in FBI custody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it possible they were here?

BOWDICH: It's possible they were at this park, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Marquez in FBI custody?

BOWDICH: I'm not going to address anything to do with Mr. Marquez at this point.


BOWDICH: Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you confirm that you're searching for a ...


BOWDICH: I can confirm that we're searching for any evidence that has to do with this crime. That's all I'm going to address today. It's -- all right, I'm sorry, you've been waiting, you get the final question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I was just -- my question was the same as his. Do we know if they can -- this direction following the shooting, we know they were seen queuing in an SUV, is this the way they came?

BOWDICH: We have indications through leads, again, we're covering many, many lead and conducting hundreds and hundreds of interviews, but we have indications that at some point they came to this park. Now, I do want to reassure the public, there is no belief that there is anything dangerous as a result of this case in this place.

OK, thank you for your time. Thank you for your time.



BLITZER: There we have the latest information from David Bowdich, he's the Los Angeles assistant director in charge of this investigation from the FBI saying they're looking for evidence. He's not going to discuss the specific evidence, but there were some leads suggesting it would be wise to go to this park not far away from the massacre occurred, search the park area but now have these FBI divers in the water searching for some evidence.

We have been told that maybe they're looking for a hard drive that they have been discarded as well. Kyung Lah's on the scene for us.

Kyung, they're being very, very cautious in releasing details, I don't know if you can hear me, Kyung, but go ahead and tell us what else is going on over there.

LAH: What we're seeing is an -- and this is Laura Eimiller over my shoulder who's just telling reports that we're not expecting -- they are not expecting to do any further briefings today. But what we are seeing here, Wolf, is that the divers are still in the water.

The reason why the FBI says that they are here is that there are reports, there were reports that the couple was seen here on the day of the massacre. He would not clarify whether it was prior to or after the massacre. He says that they're still in the process of putting together this massacre, that this is going to be a slow, methodical process. He would also not confirm the reports that we have that it was a hard drive, it is a hard drive that they are looking for, a hard drive that was missing from the computer at the Farook residence.

So, these are some of the details that they were briefing reporters on. The reason they are here is because there were a number of cameras who did see the dive teams here. There were some residents who started showing up and were concerned because they did not know what was happening, but the FBI special agent in charge saying that this is one of those briefings that when there is something to say that they will come out before the news cameras and update the public and the press about what's happening, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung, thanks very much.

I also want to go to our Justice Correspondent Pamela Brown, she has more on the -- you have breaking developments of the overall terror investigation. Pamela, what are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning, Wolf, that one of the key pieces of evidence that investigators are looking for is that hard drive that's been missing. And investigators believe the couple removed from their computer and dispose of it. So, the hope is that they'll be able to find it in that lake.

In addition, we're getting some new information that Syed Farook may be tied to a convicted terrorist in the U.S.


[18:15:18] BROWN: Tonight, an FBI dive team is searching a lake in San Bernardino for any evidence connected to last week's killings. A law enforcement official tells CNN the divers are possibly looking for item, such as the missing hard drive from the suspect's computer. This, as investigators are now learning Syed Farook had direct ties with radicalize group arrested in Riverside, California three years ago.

The FBI charged four men in 2012 with planning to blowup a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. But the FBI is only now learning Farook was in the same social circle as the group's recruiter, Sohiel Kabir, who was sentence earlier this year to 25 years in prison.

AKI PERTIZ, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It shows that there is a beginning, a network that is emerging very slowly for law enforcement intelligence community folks.

BROWN: FBI interviews with Syed Farook's former neighbor and friend, Enrique Marquez, revealed the pair plotted a terrorist attack in California in 2012. The arrest of the Riverside group that same year may explain why Farook and Marquez decided to abandon their plan. Three years later, Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, did carry out an attack.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: The director has emphasized that we're not aware of any other components to this particular plot, in other words, co-conspirators that may still be out there that pose a risk to the public. That's obviously the first and foremost the priority for the bureau.

BROWN: This picture shows the training event Farook attended with coworkers before launching the massacre.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The subject's last of "Farook," first of "Syed."

BROWN: In a meeting with survivors, investigator said for Farook left behind a bag of explosives before returning to the event with his wife.

PERTIZ: The fact the bomb didn't go off meant that maybe he came back to finish the job.


BROWN: And Enrique Marquez's mother spoke to reporters today off camera. And speaking in Spanish, she told reporters that her son is a good person and that she didn't know anything about the recent attack, saying, "How would I know? I didn't know." And she also went on to say, "Whatever I asked my son to do, he would do it. He watched over his brothers. He helped me a lot. He was my right hand around the house. He was a good young man." And, Wolf, we know that FBI investigators continue to talk to Marquez, trying to get information from him. He has not been charged in this case.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front but they're not ruling out the possibility. He could be charged. We'll see what happens.

Thanks very much, Pamela.

Joining us now is Representative Martha McSally, she's a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and fighter pilot. She serves on the House Homeland Security and Armed Services Committees.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. We have a lot to discuss. I want to get quick break, reassess what's going on. Much more, right after this big break.


[18:22:47] BLITZER: We're following a breaking news. You saw it live right here in "The Situation Room," the FBI not telling reporters they're searching a lake in a park near the site of the San Bernardino terror attack.

They're following up on leads that indicated two killers were in the area on the day of the attacks. We have been reporting, among other things, they were looking, perhaps, for a hard drive from that computer they found in the couple's townhouse in near San Bernardino.

We're back with Congresswoman Martha McSally, the House Homeland Security and Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, the scary thing about this, what happened in San Bernardino, potentially the fear out there, you've been fully briefed, the FBI is brief, the Department of Homeland Security, they're worried this could go -- this could happen at any place and there are investigations right now into this kinds of potential criminal acts.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY, (R) HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Right, Wolf, they are -- I served on a bipartisan task force from March to September. We took a real deep dive looking at the ISIS threat, the flow of foreign fighters. They've got 900 investigations in all 50 states.

We -- the ones that they know about were not concerned about, it's the ones that they don't know about it, it's those that are being self radicalized, being directed or inspired on the internet, ISIS has been very sophisticated in their social media campaign, over 200,000 positive tweets a day. And that's where seeing individuals in each of our communities being radicalized under the radar like we've seen in this case.

BLITZER: Well the tweets, you could monitor the tweets, but it's the encrypted ...


BLITZER: ... communications. And now, apparently, ISIS development an app for their own encrypted ...


BLITZER: ... communications which the FBI director says it's his worst nightmare right now.

MCSALLY: Absolutely, so it's -- and encryption, we call it dark space. And when they find someone that they thinks is very serious, they're bringing him into that dark space and they start directing them on specific ways to do attacks. But they're also OK with somebody self radicalizing, just being inspired reading some of their material, their training on how to put together pipe bomb and then take action into their own hands, or just private communications that are not encrypted that because they're not in anybody's radar, there's no law enforcement more than or anything. We actually can't identify those communications until a crime has been committed. These are some of the challenges that we have.

BLITZER: You're looking now in this lake and we're told that among other things they're looking, maybe ...


BLITZER: ... for this hard drive that they have been thrown in there by this couple as they sought to escape or whatever they were doing during those four hours ...

[18:25:00] MCSALLY: Right.

BLITZER: ... between the time of the massacre, the time they themselves were killed in the shootout with the FBI and local police.

If they find that hard drive, let's say, or other evidence that could be really significant.

MCSALLY: Absolutely. The electronic signature, everybody has an electronic signature and especially when somebody has shown to be radicalized for many years, clearly planning and plotting attacks together, their electronic signature is very important. So they've appeared to try and do everything they can to get rid of their electronic signature, and it's been seven days so we've got to let the FBI do investigation to try and chase every single thing they can because that could give us a lot of information.

BLITZER: There's a very worrisome information, apparently neighbors did suspect something was going on there. They were -- they noticed there were some activities that probably should have been going on, but some of them now say they didn't want to go to the FBI or local police because they thought that would be profiling or prejudicial or that's a problem isn't it?

MCSALLY: I think it is a problem but it's still -- if you see something, say something, that old adage still applies. FBI Director called me, again, in our classified briefing today said often times good people impose their, sort of, good intentions on, even if they see something is not right. The best thing that they could do is let the FBI know. If they investigate it and it's nothing that person's not, you know, their reputation isn't challenged.

Again, we shouldn't be turning on each other and acting paranoid, but if something doesn't seem right, you do need to report it to law enforcement. We've got, obviously, federal investigators, but is often the neighbors, family members, Facebook friends, coaches, religious leaders, teachers, they're going to be the ones who, after the fact, after tragedy, we identify, we maybe saw them getting radicalized. So we really need to prevent that up front. BLITZER: You served in the U.S. Air Force. You're a combat fighter pilot. You served in Iraq and Afghanistan. You know something about improvised explosive devices.


BLITZER: They had what? A potential for 19 IEDs or pipe bombs in the garage, thousands of rounds ...


BLITZER: ... of ammunition and no one noticed anything, that's pretty startling.

MCSALLY: It is startling, again, but these are ways that ISIS and other al-Qaeda elements have put out magazines and online videos on how to make these types of things. And again, some of them are doing it on their own and others are being directed how to do it.

So it certainly a wake-up call for us as we have been in our briefings, we are wanting to identify what else can we do right now to make sure we're preventing the next attack. We're also looking at the K-1 visa process and see if there's any things we need to do there to tighten that up. So, all the way around, this is exactly the worst case scenario that we've been concerned about in Homeland Security and we all need to not be living in fear but remain vigilant and definitely identify and report things if it doesn't look right.

BLITZER: Yeah, the K-1 visa, the fiancee visa, the question is, how did she get that visa. And, you got to go back and look at what happened, mistakes that may have been made to make sure they're not made down the road.

MCSALLY: And those are the types of questions we ask today and we're looking forward to very quickly moving any changes forward in a thoughtful and deliberate way in order to keep America safe.

BLITZER: Keep us informed as well.

MCSALLY: Thanks, Wolf, we will.

BLITZER: Thanks very much ...


BLITZER: ... for joining us. Martha McSally of Arizona.

We're following the breaking news. The FBI, as you can see, these are live pictures searching a part in a lake, near the site of the San Bernardino terror attack. Our terrorism experts, they're standing by for live coverage.


BLITZER: The breaking news: the FBI just now telling reporters they're searching a lake and a park near the site of the San Bernardino terror attack. You saw that conference live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. They're following up on leads that indicate the shooters were in the area on the day of the attacks.

[18:33:25] We're also keeping an eye on developments in Switzerland right now. Geneva is on high alert, a source telling CNN police there're searching for suspects related to the Paris terror attacks.

Let's bring in our terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank. He's joining us, as well as our intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer; our CNN contributor Michael Weiss -- he's a senior editor with the "Daily Beast"; and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.

Tom, they're searching this lake in San Bernardino. They may be searching for this hard drive from the computer that was discovered in the killers', in the couple's townhouse there. If they find that hard drive, assuming it's been under water all these days, will they still be able to find useful information there?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think they're pretty optimistic that the technicians at Quantico will -- can reestablish the information that was on there, the search history of the computer and other things. It will have to, obviously, be dried out, and they'll have to take care to enable it to recover, but usually, they can get it.

BLITZER: So that's why they're spending all this time looking and looking for that hard drive, other evidence that may be in the water.

We also know, Bob Baer, that the two made concerted efforts to destroy other evidence. We learned today, for example, that Farook, the husband, left a bag full of bombs inside the room, before the -- he came out shooting. Does this feel like they acted without outside help or had outside help?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Wolf, you know, looking at the search in the lake right now, they're clearly looking for a wider network, whether it was whiting of the attack was or wasn't whiting.

I don't think these people acted alone. They were talking to people. They were recruited a long time ago, possibly in Riverside, based on the communications. And now the FBI is desperate to get into this hard drive.

[18:35:14] And Tom is absolutely right: if it's just water soaked, it's fine. The only way to destroy a hard drive is smash it with a sledgehammer. I've done it enough, and it's the only way. So we may get lucky, and it may turn out this is a wider network.

BLITZER: Paul, you've been reporting on this new threat in Geneva Switzerland right now, the extremists discussed the idea of launching attacks in Chicago, Toronto. What are you learning about what's going on over there in Geneva?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, this comes from a European security source briefed on the intelligence. They say there are several factors which has led to this terrorism alert in Geneva.

One of them intercepted communications from U.S. intelligence of ISIS extremists who have come back from Syria, suspected to come back from Syria to Europe, talking about the idea of attacking various cities. Amongst them, Geneva. Hence the warning provided to the Swiss.

But also, the U.S. saying Toronto and Chicago viewed more as sort of aspirational ideas of launching attacks.

But also, several other strands coming in to the Swiss, one of them a van with Belgian number plates recently crossed into Switzerland. They traced the number plates that they picked up on CCTV and found out that the vehicle, the van was linked to an associate of Saleh Abdeslam, the so-called eighth attacker, on the run after the Paris attacks.

And a third factor, which was the identification of the third Bataclan attacker in Paris, his identification coming just yesterday. There has been concern about an individual who recruited him and sent him to Syria, and that individual, in turn, related to a Swiss national who's suspected of being in Syria and to have come back to Europe. They're very concerned about him right now, as well.

So all these different strands coming into the Swiss, and they had little choice but to raise the alert level today, Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Weiss, would ISIS try to strike again so close after Paris?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, if they could absolutely. And you know, the francophone contingent of ISIS is a very large and dangerous one. The ISIS spy who defected, Abu Khaled, who I interviewed in "the Daily Beast," told me he was actually building a katiba (ph), or a battalion of exclusively francophone fighters and ISIS pulled the plug on it at the last minute. But he had said that he sent two French nationals who spoke fluent, beautiful French, and they had gone back to France.

So you know, the fact that these countries -- Belgium, France, Switzerland, all of the francophone countries -- it's beginning to look like a much wider network in Europe.

And indeed, if the CIA intercepted communications saying, you know, still more operative who have gone to Syria have now come back in there now in Switzerland, it shows that Europe still has this problem with not being able to vigilate (ph) its borders and keep these guys from returning.

Also, Wolf, I point out that Geneva is home to the second largest U.N. instillation outside of New York. And one of the first targets of ISIS's predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, let's not forget, was the U.N. embassy in Baghdad in 2003, so that is a very, very hot target for a group like ISIS.

BLITZER: Certainly. All right, guys. Stand by, because we're continuing to follow what's

going on. Just ahead, we'll have more on this link between the San Bernardino gunmen -- gunman and a convicted terrorist. Shouldn't that have put Syed Rizwan Farook on the radar of federal authorities?


[18:43:28] BLITZER: Tonight new evidence that Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States is playing well with many Republican voters, despite blistering criticism from the party's leaders. We're standing by for live remarks from Donald Trump. He's campaigning tonight in New Hampshire.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, is out there, as well.

Sara, Trump says the public agrees with him. What is it like over there?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We're starting to get data that shows the broader electorate, all Americans are not in favor of Trump's plan, but it's a different story when you look at Republican primary voters.


MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump still looming large over the GOP field.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm 20 points up. I'm way up on everybody.

MURRAY: Leading nationwide even as Republicans remain divided over Trump's controversial plan to ban Muslims from coming to the U.S. A new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll shows 38 percent of Republican primary voters approve the proposal, while 39 percent oppose it.

Among all Americans, nearly 6 in 10 oppose the plan.

The frontrunner showing staying power as he faces a bipartisan backlash.

TRUMP: The group that is not criticizing me is the public. The public agrees with what I said.

MURRAY: His supporters, some of whom took part in a conversation with CNN, remain steadfast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I could care less about a few Muslims or a few people that are upset. I could care less about people saying they don't like Donald Trump's tone. OK? We need a true leader in this country, and Donald Trump is that leader.

MURRAY: But Trump's rivals continue to line up in opposition. Some subtle.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to support the Republican nominee. And I believe the Republican nominee is going to be someone that can win the general election, and I don't believe Donald can.

MURRAY: Others more direct.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama's strategy is a miserable failure. The only thing worse than Obama's policies is Donald Trump's policies.

MURRAY: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham unleashing a stinging critique today in New Hampshire.

GRAHAM: I'd rather lose without him then try to win with him if he keeps doing what he's doing. There's no shame in losing an election. The shame comes when you lose your honor.

MURRAY: And in the face of backlash from world leaders, Trump is canceling a trip to Israel, tweeting, "I have decided to postpone my trip to Israel and to schedule my meeting with Netanyahu at a later date, after I become president of the U.S."

That's after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement rejecting Trump's comments on Muslims. And as a petition to block Trump from the United Kingdom swells to nearly half a million signatures, Trump tweeted, "The United Kingdom is trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem."

There are signs his brash rhetoric is costing him in other ways. One of Trump's Middle East business partners is now pulling Trump branded products from its shelves.


MURRAY: Now, Wolf, this is a little bit of different event we'll see Donald Trump at tonight. He's meeting with the Police Benevolent Association, looking to secure their endorsement in New Hampshire, but I talk to a number of his supporters outside beforehand and they said, even though they might not fully agree with Donald Trump's proposal, they still think he's at least sparked a conversation about how to handle Muslims and how to sort of weed out radical Islamic terrorists and they're sill supporting him.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They certainly are. Sara, thanks very much. Sara Murray in New Hampshire, standing by to hear Donald Trump.

Let's bring in CNN's Don Lemon, he interviewed Trump just yesterday, also joining us, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and our CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker".

Ryan, you look at these new poll numbers, 57 percent of adults in the United States all parties oppose Donald Trump's proposal but among Republican voters out there, there's an even split 38 percent in favor, 39 percent opposed. So, if you're another Republican candidate, how do you move forward? RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the first thing is the

poll shows that this just politically, forget the moral content of what he's proposing, it's a political loser in the general election, and Lindsey Graham is right that the Republican Party will lose if Donald Trump is their nominee.

I think I'm somewhat surprised that the number for support in among Republicans is so low, it seems that that number would suggest that Donald Trump over estimated how much of an anti-Muslim sentiment is actually in the Republican electorate.

BLITZER: It's sort of consistent with his number 38 percent, about 1/3 support that he's proposing, and about a third of its national polls support him among Republicans.

LIZZA: That's right. It suggests that this guy has a very low ceiling and is going to be hard for name to break out of the 20 to 30 percent box he's in.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, is it worth it for Republicans to write off Trump, risk alienating for the sake of a general election?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, one of the lessons, I think of the Trump candidacy is the weakness of the Republican Party as an institution. Like who is going to tell Donald Trump what to do? Reince Priebus? He treats Reince Priebus like dandruff. Like he has no worry about the Republican Party.

There is no one in the Republican Party to tell Donald Trump to go away, and there is no mechanism in place for him to lose his support, except losing in the primaries and leading in the polls and we'll see how it goes. But he's not going anywhere unless he or the voters decide that he's a loser but no politician is going to tell him to leave.

BLITZER: Don, you did a great interview with Donald Trump yesterday. I watch the whole thing on your program last night. Do you think he's going to be surprised by these new poll numbers?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I think he -- no, I don't think he'll be surprised by the new poll numbers. The only numbers he's looking at are the ones that are in Iowa, and New Hampshire and the national polls. I don't think he's paying attention to this particular poll and I think, you know, I think he views it just as Jeffrey Toobin says.

People would say that Barack Obama is a de facto leader of the Democratic Party even though Debbie Wasserman Schultz may be the president or what-have-you, and Reince Priebus is the president of the Republican Party, but Donald Trump is essentially the leader of the Republican Party right now. He's doing what he wants to do and he is leading the party in the way he wants to lead, whether they like it or not. He's the leader of that party.

BLITZER: Take us a little behind the scenes, Don. You interviewed him at Trump Tower in New York. What was he like off camera? LEMON: He's very affable. I mean, I have to be honest, before we

started the interview and he had never done this before.

[18:50:03] He said, you know, he sent someone down and said, Don, I want you to come up, went up to the office, gave us a little tour, gave us some background on the office, how he got there. His kids were there. Donald Jr. was there. His daughter Ivanka was there, doing work in their offices and just took us around a little bit, and then talked to us about polls that were coming out, polling, new polling data that he had.

And the only thing he said to me, he said, "Listen, I just want you to be fair." I said, "Yes, I'm going to be fair." And I said, "And if by fair, if you think I'm going to favor you, I'm not going to do that, I'm going to ask you the tough questions, I want you to answer them." What I don't want you to do is either of us to antagonize each other because what good does that serve? The American public doesn't get anything out of that.

And we had a great interview. He was very candid. And, you know, so, there you go.

BLITZER: Yes, there he goes. A really good interview, as I said, I think our viewers enjoyed it as well.

Don Lemon, thanks very much. Jeffrey Toobin, Ryan Lizza, appreciate it.

And to our viewers, remember this, we're only a few days away from the final Republican presidential debate of the year. I'll be the moderator, where the GOP candidates face off in Las Vegas next Tuesday, December 15th.

By the way, if you have a question for the candidates, here's what you can do, submit your questions by going to and commenting on that top post. Anxious to get your questions.

Just ahead, captured by the Taliban and held for five years, now, U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, he's speaking out publicly for the first time about his ordeal, and why he left his army post in Afghanistan in the first place.

We'll be right back.


[18:56:16] BLITZER: He's been portrayed as a hero and a deserter. Now, the U.S. army soldier was held captive by the Taliban for five years. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is telling his story for the first time.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is with us. He's got details. He explains why he left that base in Afghanistan back in 2009.

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is a truly remarkable firsthand account of Bowe Bergdahl's five years in Taliban captivity. Sometimes it's alarming. Sometimes, it's incredible, particularly as he tries to explain what can only be described as the outlandish plan he had when he walked off his base in 2009 into dangerous territory, a decision he now says he regretted within minutes.



SCIUTTO (voice-over): He was a prisoner of the Taliban for five years.

BERGDAHL: I'm scared I won't be able to go home.

SCIUTTO: And today, in an interview aired on the "Serial" podcast, we heard Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's account of his captivity for the first time.

BERGDAHL: It's like, how do I explain to a person that's just standing in an empty, dark room hurts.

SCIUTTO: He says he was held in a room so dark he couldn't even see his hands.

BERGDAHL: It's like you're standing there screaming in your mind, you're standing like in this blackened dark room that's tiny and just on the other side of that flimsy little wooden door that you could probably rip off the hinges is the entire world out there.

SCIUTTO: Bergdahl was captured after he walked off his small mountain outpost in western Afghanistan, he says, to draw attention to what he called leadership failure within his unit.

BERGDAHL: All I was seeing was basically leadership failure, to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me were literally, from what I could see, in danger of something that was seriously going wrong and somebody being killed.

SCIUTTO: His idea was that his disappearance, which he planned to only be temporary would draw the attention of the entire armed forces to the problems.

BERGDAHL: Everybody is alerted. The CIA is alerted. The Navy is alerted. The Marines are alerted. Air Force is alerted. Not just army.

SCIUTTO: But a mere 20 minutes after he left, he knew he made a mistake.

BERGDAHL: Twenty minutes out, I'm going, good grief, I'm in over my head. Suddenly it really starts to sink in.

SCIUTTO: His fears were quickly realized.

BERGDAHL: The next morning is where I got myself screwed. SCIUTTO: Within hours, Bergdahl was surrounded by Taliban fighters.

His last moment of freedom for five years.


SCIUTTO: This was arranged with the okay of his lawyer. We've seen the prosecution fear out. Donald Trump talked about how he should be shot as a deserter. House Republicans now accusing the White House of breaking the law by trading him for five Taliban detainees.

Now, I think, Wolf, we could say that with this interview, you're seeing, in effect, his defense play out in the public sphere as well.

BLITZER: What's next, Jim, in this trial?

SCIUTTO: So, right now, an army general is considering -- he's expected to make a decision on charges. Initially, prosecutors -- army prosecutors were going to charge him with desertion, that could take five years in prison, even endangering the lives of other soldiers. That could have meant life in prison.

But at a preliminary hearing, the army investigator recommended much less. He said, he believes that Bergdahl is being truthful, he's being sincere if a little delusional, and he actually recommended no jail time but we'll see what the general decides.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Jim Sciutto, thanks very, very much.

That's it for me. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Tweet me @WolfBlitzer, tweet me the show @CNNSitroom.

Please be sure to join us right here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.