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President Obama Renews Promise to Defeat ISIS; U.S. Officials Worried About Hackers Working for a Foreign Nation; Syed Farook's Friend Enrique Marquez Arrested; Sanders Campaign Files Suit Against DNC. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 18, 2015 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'll ask the chairman of the Senate homeland security committee for his response to the president's news conference and his assessment of the terror threat right now.

Inside the arrest. We are learning more about the friend of the San Bernardino gunman. The charges he is now facing and the secrets he told investigators about an earlier terror plot.

Democrats at war. Bernie Sanders campaign just filed a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee after being cut off from the party's crucial voter database. Was the punishment warranted for a breach of the Clinton campaign's confidential information? I will ask represents of the Sanders and Clinton campaign.

(INAUDIBLE), Donald Trump launches an angry tirade against Jeb Bush responding to his rival's scheming new attack video. Will there escalating insults have any effect on the GOP race?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, the Bernie Sanders campaign just filed a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee in an exploding dispute over a breach of the valuable voter database. This comes just hours before Democratic presidential debate, just weeks before the first presidential contest in Iowa.

Also breaking, President Obama renews his promise to defeat ISIS. He claims progress against the terror group during a year-end news conference. And tonight, the president meets privately with the victims of the San Bernardino terror attacks. Family members amid growing concerns about his strategy against ISIS and its sympathizers in the United States.

Another breaking story. A stunning security breach revealed. U.S. officials say they are worried that hackers working for a foreign nation were able to spy on encrypted information of the U.S. government and private companies for three years. The chairman of the Senate Homeland security committee, Senator Ron Johnson, he is standing by live along with our correspondents and analysts as we cover all the news breaking right now.

Up first, let's go our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta. For the president, Jim, terrorist still very much front and center.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's almost everything right now, Wolf. President Obama tried to take a victory lap today pointing to what his considers his biggest accomplishments of the year. But the president also acknowledged Americans are likely looking past issues like climate change and are just wondering, are we safe?


ACOSTA (voice-over): Just before leaving the White House for the holidays in Hawaii, President Obama had a spring in his step and a record he wanted to tout even as he tried to deliver a reassuring message on the war on ISIS.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our air campaign will continue to hit ISIL harder than ever taking out their leaders, commanders and their forces. We are stepping up our support for our partners on the ground as they push ISIL back.

ACOSTA: President again insisted the nation's law enforcements community is doing all it can to prevent so-called lone wolf terror attacks in the U.S. like the one in San Bernardino including the monitoring of messages on social media.

OBAMA: Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are constantly monitoring public posts. And that is part of the visa review process.

ACOSTA: On ISIS, the president said he will insist on the departure of Syria's embattled leader Bashar al-Assad, but he hinted that allies of Assad could remain. A potential shift from his earlier demands that Assad must go and one that could pave the way for a U.S.-Russian partnership to go after ISIS.

The fallout from the terror attack in San Bernardino has to potential to alter Mr. Obama's final year in office pulling his attention away from big White House priorities. From the new executive action, the president is planning on gun control to his long sought goal of closing the terror detention center at Guantanamo.

OBAMA: It will be upheld battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome these Republican candidates.

ACOSTA: As for the 2016 race for the White House, the president steered clear of his feelings for Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican field sounding confident not one of them will follow him into the office.

OBAMA: I think we will have a strong Democratic nominee. I think that that Democratic nominee will win. I think I will have a Democratic successor.

ACOSTA: But he also took time to praise new House speaker Paul Ryan for sheparding (ph) a massive $1 trillion spending bill through Congress without any major threats of a government shutdown, proof that president said that both parties can work together.

OBAMA: Also want to give speaker Ryan credit. So kudos to him as well as all the leaders and appropriators who were involved in this process.

ACOSTA: On his last scheduled day in Washington of 2015, be president commuted the sentences of nearly 100 mostly non-violent drug offenders, all are part of the president's bipartisan push for criminal justice reform.

[18:05:00] OBAMA: There has been sincere serious negotiations and efforts by Democrats and Republicans to create a criminal justice system that is more fair, more even handed, more proportionate.


ACOSTA: President could conceivably make one more public statement before the end of the day in route to his family vacation in Hawaii. He is scheduled to stop in San Bernardino later tonight to meet with the families of the victims of the terror attack there. The White House has said we should not expect him to deliver any remarks. But he has defied that expectation before. And Wolf, there has some pushed back on that notion today that he is going to be a lame duck in the final year of office. Next year, he said he is going to leave everything out on field. We will have to wait and see.

BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

Let's get to the latest on the San Bernardino terror investigation. We have some new details on the arrest of Syed Farook's friend, Enrique Marquez. Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Marquez, he has been continuing to provide information to authorities, is that right?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. Really, one of the most alarming discovery in this case so far that the San Bernardino shooting was not Farook's first plot, but the second. That Farook and Marquez had another plan three years ago, potentially just as deadly, possibly more so. Major attack on a highway and a college and that attack thwarted not by the authorities having any inkling of their radicalization, of their planning including buying those weapons, but simply because Farook and Marquez got spooked.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): This busy California highway nearly became the sight of a deadly terror attack. Enrique Marquez, long-time friend of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, has told law enforcement the two watched videos of the Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, became radical and plotted in 2012 to throw pipe bombs on to the SR-91 freeway and then gun down motorists in the aftermath. The pair also planned to target Riverside City College by planting pipe bombs in the crowded cafeteria. The deadly plots stop not by law enforcement but by Marquez himself. He backed out in fear after other terror arrest around the same time. As time passed, Marquez the two then grew apart.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Farook and Marquez relationship is FBI agents and historians and counterterrorism officials will be studying for years.

SCIUTTO: Three years later as gunfire rang out in San Bernardino, Marquez would immediately recognize his friend's handy work. Just hours after the shooting, Marquez called 911 telling the operator quote "the expletive used my gun in the shooting and then, my God."

When the 911 operator asked Marquez quote "how do you know it's your gun?" He responded saying they can trace all the guns back to me. He claims he gave Farook the guns for quote "safe storage." But authorities believe he bought them with deadly intentions for the aborted 2012 attempt.

Despite his apparent cooperation with authorities following the attack in San Bernardino, Marquez is charged with providing materials support to terrorism for his role in purchasing weapons used in the shooting.

KAYYEM: It is statement by the FBI and by the administration that if you even come close to these cases or to helping them, we will charge you as if you are a terrorist yourself.


SCIUTTO: This is now a serious line of inquiry in the investigation. How could these three people, the married couple and Marquez, they had family connections, they had day jobs, Farook in the local government. They had international travel, international communication, how could they all evade surveillance by the government but also not arouse any suspicion of their friends and family.

The president today said, Wolf, that lone wolf attacks are very hard to detect and prevent. And we saw that very much in this case in San Bernardino.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto.

Another breaking story tonight. U.S. officials now deeply concern about foreign spying an encrypted communications on U.S. government and private companies.

Our justice reporter Evan Perez broke the story for us. So, what are you learning, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one U.S. government official says it's akin to stealing master key to every government building. Juniper network says someone was able to break in to its systems and alter source code for an important piece of software. Now, this means a sophisticated hackers could use a back door to spy on communications that's supposed to be protected by encryption. Juniper makes routers and computer equipment that is widely used by private companies and by government agencies like the pentagon and the treasury and the FBI. U.S. officials tell me that they believe that this is the work of foreign government hackers. And the bridge occurred three years ago, Wolf. And Juniper only really discovered this vulnerability in the last couple of weeks.

Juniper issued a statement saying that once they identify the vulnerabilities, they work to develop security patches to protect the equipment that was affected. That was done yesterday. Because of the sophistication, officials say that really only a handful of governments have the capability to do this and Russia and China are at the top of that list. And Wolf, the FBI has launched an investigation.

[18:10:14] BLITZER: I'm sure they have. Evan, thank you.

Joining us now is the chairman of the Senate homeland security committee Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He is also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.

First of all, do you have any information of who is responsible for this breach? It sounds pretty serious.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: No. But again, I think, as the reporter noted, there's just a couple governments sophistication to hatch some kind of scheme like this and pull it off, so. We have got adversaries that are, you know, trying to hack into our national security assets, our cyber assets, who are also, you know, just the theft. I think it was a former NSA head, General Keith Ellison who said this is the greatest theft in human history that's going on right now because of cyber-attacks.

BLITZER: The implications on all sorts of activities here in the United States would be enormous. Forget about the government, civilian life as well.

This particular act has been described, as you note, Senator, is akin to stealing master key to the get into any government building. How damaging would this hack be? What kind of encrypted communications, for example, could have been stolen?

JOHNSON: Well, we will hopefully find out so we can mitigate the damage. You know, this is exactly why, you know, finally, the Senate and the House passed a cyber-security provision is part of this (INAUDIBLE). It will start the information sharing. Share those types of threat signatures so that when we have evidence of these types of attacks, we can share that and try to prevent future attacks. But you know, cyber-attacks are enormous threat from a standpoint of national security as well as criminal activity and loss of property, intellectual property and just out right loss of dollars. So, it's enormous problem. It threatens this nation. And we got to be very serious about doing everything we can to protect our nation against it.

BLITZER: We certainly do.

Senator, significant details were released yesterday explaining Syed Rizwan Farook and Enrique Marquez, the plotting going long back long before the San Bernardino terror attack, going back to 2011. Are investigators, as far as you know, looking at the possibility that other individuals may have been involved in this plot. Right now only the husband and wife and Enrique Marquez are known to have been involved.

JOHNSON: Well, that's, of course, what's on everybody's mind is, you know, how extensive of a web might this be, who they might have been in contact with? It is one of the reasons I have been supported of the NSA metadata collection program.

When we had our briefing with the FBI director Comey, I really couldn't answer the questions whether or not we are being hampered right now with the loss of that program. And we have the U.S. freedom act. It could potentially enhance our capabilities. But right now, I can't tell you whether or not we are being hampered in our ability to trace their fast telephone calls to see if the network is larger than what we thought.

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, the president said today the detecting lone wolf terror attacks here in the United States not that different, much different from trying to detect the next mass shooter that may come along. Does this speak to how difficult the task is at hand for U.S. officials and do you have confidence that U.S. officials and the intelligence community are up to the job?

JOHNSON: Well, I know they're working hard. I know they are patriots and they are doing everything they can to keep this nation safe. That I know. But as president said, it is virtually impossible. We are searching for needles in a haystack. And the problem is there are more needles in the haystack is growing which is why, you know, I will keep going back to, you know, what we really do need to do is accomplish President Obama's stated goal of degrading and ultimately in defeating ISIS because right now that is the ultimate, that is the premiere terrorist organizations inspiring these types of activities, but they are not alone. So this can be a generational struggle, but let's first take out ISIS because they are right now the greatest danger.

BLITZER: The president yesterday said there is no specific and credible information about an attack on the U.S. homeland. The last time he said that was right after Paris, the terror attacks in Paris. And we know what happened in San Bernardino. Should the president be saying that right now? Do you agree with him?

JOHNSON: Well, it's probably true. We have note specific credible threat. But we do know that FBI director Comey said there are active investigations in all 50 states. We are following close to a thousand different individuals. You know, we have just arrested a couple more individuals that are charged with giving material support to ISIS. So this is a growing problem. We held our own hearing. And my

committee, we called it jihad 2.0. One of the experts said that there were 46,000 to 90,000 overt ISIS support accounts on twitter alone which it shows the magnitude of this problem. Shows how large the haystack is growing.

BLITZER: In a meeting you had an off the record meeting with columnists earlier this week at the White House. The president explained his refusal to send large numbers of U.S. ground troops into Syria because of the casualties, the costs that would result if the U.S. went to war on the ground in Syria.

You have said you want more direct military action. But are you prepared to explain if you agree or disagree that large numbers of U.S. troops, the president said could cost the U.S. taxpayers $10 billion a month. A hundred U.S. troops could come home, dead a month, 500 troops would come home seriously wounded. That's the estimate that he offered to these columnists.

[18:15:30] JOHNSON: Well, Wolf, the death of one of the finest among us is one too many. But the fact of the matter is ISIS declared war in America. You know, President Obama says he is going to end the war as well. I mean, that is great if you defeat the enemy. But it takes two to tango. So it doesn't sound like Islamist terrorists are ending the war with us which means the only way we can really end it is to defeat them. And that is really what the finest among us has signed up to do is to defend our freedoms. You know, go into harm's way. God bless them for doing it.

But that's what we have to do. The only way we can accomplish President Obama's stated goal. Remember, he stated it 15 months ago is we are going to need ground troops. Now, my own idea now would be to assemble a committed coalition like George H. W. Bush did in the first gulf war where our gulf partners, our coalition partners provided a third of the troop levels, paid for 85 percent of the effort. That's the kind of committed coalition willing we need. But we are not leading to the extent or certainly that kind of coalition, but we have to.

BLITZER: Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the homeland security committee, thanks for joining us.

JOHNSON: Have a merry Christmas.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Merry Christmas to you as well.

Just ahead, breaking news. Bernie Sanders campaign files a lawsuit in federal court against the Democratic National Committee. We are going to talk about this exploding battle. What it means for the Sanders campaign, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party.

Also, against Hillary Clinton. We are going to hear from representatives of both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. They are standing by live. They're here in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:20:53] BLITZER: We are following the breaking news for the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Bernie Sanders campaign suing the Democratic National Committee after being deny access to a key database containing information of potential voters. The embargo was put into effect after a high level Sanders staffer inappropriately accessed information collected the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is joining us. He has got details.

Jeff, what are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you that lawsuit was filed just a short time ago in U.S. district court here in Washington.

The Sanders campaign is asking a judge to step in and order the DNC to allow immediate access to the Democratic voter database saying they did not breach any agreement. Now, the Clinton campaign is firing back tonight with campaign manager Robby Mook on a conference call just moments ago saying anyone who access that assess fundamental keys of our campaign.


ZELENY (voice-over): The Democratic presidential race has been a relatively civil affair. Now it looks more like a civil war.

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign.

ZELENY: Bernie Sanders campaign admits tapping into top secret voter information from Hillary Clinton. They blamed it on a software glitch and now are firing back at the decision to block Sanders from using a critical database of voters.

WEAVER: They are not going to sabotage our campaign. One of the strongest grass roots campaign in modern history.

ZELENY: The Sanders campaign fired one aid for viewing Clinton's proprietary information through a firewall that was apparently wide open. But campaign manager Jeff Weaver says the punishment, even temporary, is out of bounds.

WEAVER: If the DNC continue to hold our data hostage and continue to try to attack the heart and soul of our grassroots campaign, we will be in federal court this afternoon seeking immediate relief.

ZELENY: Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz defended the position. She told Wolf, the Sanders campaign will be block from the party's nationwide voter file until the investigation is complete.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CHAIRWOMAN, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE: The Sanders campaign unfortunately doesn't have anything other than bluster at the moment that they can put out there.

ZELENY: The breach of data inside the Democratic National headquarters brought to mind a modern day Watergate. But the finger prints are all electronic. And in this case, it seems the door was left wide open.

SCHULTZ: That is just like if you walked into someone's home when the door was unlocked and took things that don't belong to you in order to be able to use them for your own benefit.

ZELENY: Josh Uretsky, The national data director for Sanders was fired. He told CNN today, we didn't try to be sneaky at all. They ca argue that we shouldn't have done it, but we did not in any try to deceive them.


ZELENY: This feud could spill onto the debate stage when Clinton, Sanders and Martin O'Malley are said to meet tomorrow night in New Hampshire for that final Democratic debate of the year. One Sanders aide tells me the campaign is paralyzed without having access to that voter file. The DNC says this is only temporary. But Wolf, that clock is ticking. Those Iowa caucuses only 45 days away.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

For reaction to the breaking political news, we are joined now by Jeff Weaver. He is the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders.

Jeff, thanks very much for coming in.

WEAVER: Hey, Wolf.

BLITZER: What do you say to her, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, when she you know what, it's like going into a house, the door was left open and stealing stuff inappropriately? Did your guy steal stuff inappropriately from the Hillary Clinton campaign?

WEAVER: Look. We have been alerting the DNC for months now that their firewalls between the campaign's data was faulty. There was an occasion back in October where we told them that our data was probably compromise by the Clinton campaign. They assured us that the firewalls would be fixed. That was obviously not the case. We clearly, one or more young staffers on our campaign may have accessed something on a Clinton campaign. We fired one of them. We are investigating the other ones. We are going to deal with it.

But what the real issue here is, Wolf, is that an unprecedented move, the DNC has taken way our access to our data. This is data collected by Sanders, volunteers and staffers about voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other places. We cannot run this campaign without this data. So they are attempting to cripple our campaign and we are not going to stand for it.

[18:25:05] BLITZER: Well, she said you broke the rules. That's why the suspension has gone into effect. WEAVER: Yes. But you don't get to give the campaign a death penalty

because some young staffer who has been fired made an act of misjudgment, right. That's not how we deal.

BLITZER: What happened to that Clinton data that may have been downloaded?

WEAVER: We don't have any Clinton data.

BLITZER: Who has it?

WEAVER: I don't know that anybody has this. As far as I know it's not downloaded. I mean, one of the problems with this is that the DNC and NGP, the vendor here who failed, have been leaking out information to the media which they have not been sharing with us in our attempt to try to get to the bottom of this.

BLITZER: Why do you say the Clinton campaign may have stolen information from the Bernie Sanders campaign?

WEAVER: Because in October, the way that the breach occurred when the security wall fell was so egregious. That would be such an open environment. That it is impossible to believe that a campaign could not inadvertently download tremendous amount of other campaign data.

BLITZER: You're just assuming that, but you don't have any evidence.

WEAVER: I don't have any direct evidence.

BLITZER: Did the DNC launch an investigation following that breach?

WEAVER: That's not clear.

BLITZER: Because if they should - they should have launched an investigation at that time.

WEAVER: Certainly. But you know, in the case, we tried to deal with it in mature way by not running to the media about it. We tied to deal with it in-house. Clearly in this case, somebody at the DNC or some other place decided that they wanted to air dirty laundry in public. And you know, this has all blown up as a result.

BLITZER: The fact the campaign has gone to federal court to sue the DNC, that's obviously major, major decision on your part. Was there an effort that was - that failed to try to resolve this in a more amicable way?

WEAVER: Absolutely. I had numerous conversation with them. I submitted to them a document detailing what we had done and what we had found. They said it wasn't good enough. I said please let me know what else you would like to know. No response from them. They shut off our database. They refused to restore it.

We had no choice, Wolf. It was 45 days until the Iowa caucuses. What they are doing is they are essentially shortening the time that we have to campaign between now and Iowa. BLITZER: But you go one step further in this letter that was released

today. And I will put it up on the screen.


BLITZER: The reality is that the huge turn outs that we have had at our meetings, our strong fund raising, our volunteer base and quick rise in the polls have caused the Democratic national Committee to place its thumbs on the scales in support of Hillary Clinton's campaign. You see the fact evidence in their decision to bury the Democratic debates on weekends during nationally televised football games. It's more or less an open secret.

Do you believe Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC are trying to actively promote the Hillary Clinton campaign at your expense?

WEAVER: Well, look. I think the evidence now is mounting. And it is now almost irrefutable that there are people in the DNC who are actively trying to help Secretary Clinton. You don't set up the debate schedule that you setup before the first the four debates before the first four states. Many of them held on Saturdays, if you're not trying to help the front-runner.

They share an attorney in this case. The same law firm represents the DNC that represents Hillary Clinton, right. The vendor that's being used at the DNC, the Principle. That's a former Clinton administration employee. He has given money to ready for Hillary.

So look, the interconnection between people and Democratic establishment who are connected with the Clintons and with the DNC, I mean, the evidence is pretty overwhelming.

BLITZER: The response from the Hillary Clinton campaign, (INAUDIBLE), and we are going to talk to him shortly, issued a statement. If you are so proud, referring to the Bernie Sanders campaign, of your grass roots organization, you should not need to resort to stealing campaign data. Your response.

WEAVER: Well, obviously, we had one person we know misbehaved. That person has been fired, right. Summarily, there are three other people that we are investigating. Unfortunately, the DNC is withholding information from us that will allow us to get to the bottom of it.

You know, this is not about political points. This is about - this is a campaign, Bernie Sanders campaign, is transformative campaign for America. Two million contributions have come in in amounts under $30. Those contributions paid for the data that the DNC has stolen, right. Those voters and volunteers, who have done door to door in Iowa, in New Hampshire and collected that data that we put in that database, that's their data. That's not Debbie Wasserman Schultz data or the DNC's data. That's belong to us, volunteers in this campaign.

BLITZER: The Clinton campaign says that there were 25 separate intrusions into their campaign information by your campaign? Is that right? WEAVER: Well, it's impossible for us to verify because the DNC is

circulating documents to the media and obviously to the Clinton campaign that have been withheld from us. The fact that we can't get into the database means there's no way for us to independently verify any of these claims. It's very convenient to have it set up so you can make claims to the media. And the other side has absolutely no way to make any kind of independent variation.

BLITZER: They say 25 intrusions could have be inadvertent in this plan. I assume you have discussed with your staffers including the individual who was fired what exactly they were trying to do.

WEAVER: Yes, right. And so, they claim that they were trying to document the fact there was this firewall failure on behalf of - on the part of the DNC, right. So that wasn't good enough for us and so we fired the person. I'm trying to investigate other people on the staff. But unfortunately, documents that have been given to CNN and other media people and obviously the Clinton campaign have been deliberately withheld from our campaign by the DNC. And because we don't have access to our database that our people paid for, there's no way for me to do our own test to verify whether these statements are true or not. Very convenient.

[18:30:21] BLITZER: It looks like there's, someone said mock five nuclear war going on right now between your campaign, the Bernie Sanders campaign, and the Democratic National Committee. It's obviously pretty ugly. How do you resolve that?

WEAVER: Well, look, this is the way we resolve it. The DNC turns back on our access to our data. We have always agreed with them that we were going to investigate and make sure that all the details of this were brought out. We're committed to -- obviously, to that still. There's no doubt about it. But they have got to turn off -- turn on our data.

The failings of one or three or four young people who made misjudgments in a campaign is not cause for them to issue a death penalty on the Sanders campaign.

BLITZER: As you know, Senator Bernie Sanders -- and we've known him for a long time -- he's an independent senator from Vermont. Given the feud that's now under way with the Democratic National Committee, would you rule out the possibility he could bolt from the Democrats and run as a third-party independent? He's done that before as a Senate candidate.

WEAVER: Let me tell you what's going to happen here, Wolf. We're going to win this. I mean, this just further exposes the fact that the establishment doesn't want him to win. We're going to win this nomination, and then we're going to replace some of this leadership of the Democratic National Committee. There's some really good people over there, but there's some people who really need to be replaced. We need people there that are going to represent the interests of working-class and middle-class people and not just their establishment interests.

BLITZER: Jeff Weaver, if you could stay with us for a few minutes.


BLITZER: I want to bring in Brian Fallon. He's the national press secretary for the Clinton campaign. He's joining us on the phone right now.

Brian, your reaction? The Sanders campaign has filed this lawsuit in federal court. There seems to be a war within the Democratic Party right now.

BRIAN FALLON, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN (via phone): I wouldn't put it that way, Wolf. I think it's actually much simpler than that. And in fact, I'd be happy to send a copy to Jeff Weaver of the audit reports that show multiple attempts, 24, in fact, by four different employees by the Sanders campaign to steal data from the Clinton campaign on Wednesday of this past week. It was an egregious breach, a violation of the rules; and for someone like Senator Sanders, who said he would run a different type of campaign, this is as below the belt as it goes.

He should come clean. He should discipline the other staffers beyond the one that they fired today and so that we can resolve this and we can move forward and we can have a fairly waged campaign. Until that happens, I don't understand what all these distractions are about, about lawsuits.

Senator Sanders can resolve this matter today by coming clean about what his staffers took from the Clinton campaigns, million dollars' worth of investment in the data that we have gained through sweat equity of our thousands of volunteers in Iowa and New Hampshire by knocking on doors, making calls. And they, on 24 different occasions, they downloaded that data and tried to get on -- an upper hand over the Clinton campaign through nefarious means. It's just unacceptable.

And again, for somebody that said they were going to run a different kind of campaign, I just don't imagine what Senator Sanders is letting his campaign turn into. He said he wasn't going to run negative ads. Now he's running negative ads. And now he's got his field organizers and his data analysts stealing -- in an act of theft, stealing data from the Clinton campaign.

BLITZER: When you say, Brian, 24 separate intrusions over how long of a period of time?

FALLON: They were very productive. They were like kids in a candy store, Wolf. They had about 40 minutes where they ran wild. There was one individual, there was one staffer from the campaign who first realized it and then extended permissions to three other staffers. And they went hog wild downloading as much data as they could get in about 25 minutes.

BLITZER: How -- what happened to the data?

FALLON: They attempted to store it locally on their accounts within the voter file system that they had access to. And then a third party, not the Sanders -- not the Sanders campaign, as they initially attempted to suggest, but a third party became alerted to the breach and notified the vendor that operates the voter file.

At that point the voter file administrator started restricting access by the Sanders campaign to this information and had to delete lists that they created that were relying on Clinton campaign data.

So to the extent that the Bernie Sanders campaign says today that they're not in possession of any data, if that's true at all, which we would like third-party confirmation of, it's only because of actions taken by the administrator to undo what they did on Wednesday.

BLITZER: Are you going to get involved in this legal battle that has now been joined, the Bernie Sanders campaign filing suit in federal court today?

FALLON: Well, Wolf, we're not a party to the lawsuit. This is something that's between the Sanders campaign and the DNC. But quite honestly, if the Sanders campaign wanted to resolve this, all they would have is submit to the very fair request that's been made to have an independent analysis confirm that they're no longer in possession of stolen data from the Clinton campaign.

So I really view this lawsuit as a distraction and, actually, an outright act of chutzpah on the part of the Sanders campaign, when their actions on Wednesday are in clear violation of the agreement that they signed with the DNC to have access to the voter file in the first place.

[18:35:14] BLITZER: Bottom line, from your perspective as the spokesman for the Clinton campaign, Brian, what specifically do you want the Bernie Sanders campaign to do now?

FALLON: Come clean. Admit wrongdoing. Let's move on. We thought this would have been resolved this morning. As soon as we saw these stories this morning, we thought that the Sanders campaign would do the right thing, that they would discipline the staffers involved, that they would disown their actions and that they would take every possible step to remove any uncertainty about whether they were still in possession of stolen data from the Clinton campaign.

Instead, they have wasted a day-long P.R. campaign to distract from this below-the-belt action that they took on Wednesday. I just don't get it.

You know, let's -- Senator Sanders has run a very spirited campaign. It's been great for the party. I don't understand why, in the last two months, he's resorted to running negative ads and resorting to cheap tactics like what happened on Wednesday. It's beneath him.

BLITZER: Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Thanks very much for joining us.

FALLON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jeff Weaver is still with us, the campaign manager for the Bernie Sanders campaign. You heard every word of that. Your reaction?

WEAVER: Well, you know, the truth of the matter is this could have been resolved right away if the DNC had not shut off Senator Sanders' access to his own data. There would be no problem, right? We would have gone through this.

We have submitted to them a detailed list of what we've done in this case. So, you know, what Brian was trying to suggest happened did not happen.

BLITZER: He says you have 24 separate intrusions over 40 minutes. He doesn't know what happened to all the data that he says was stolen.

WEAVER: It's not stolen. It's located in a cloud. Right? And that cloud has been...

BLITZER: Who controls that?

WEAVER: The NGP and the DNC. Right? I have a document that says nothing was printed and nothing was downloaded. So, you know, I don't know what they're saying it's about. What they're trying to do is misrepresent what really went on.

Look, these people did something wrong. If they did, they're going to be gone. You know, he obviously has a document that's been withheld from me, as well. Look, it's pretty clear who's working with whom. I mean, you know...

BLITZER: Did you know about those 24 separate intrusions?

WEAVER: Not until I was alerted by -- about the media today. But there's no way to verify it. There's no way for me to investigate it. Because they won't give me the documents they're giving to Hillary.

BLITZER: Jeff Weaver of the Bernie Sanders campaign, thanks very much.

WEAVER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, more on the Democrats' internal war and the possible impact on the presidential campaign. Our political team is standing by.


[18:41:41] BLITZER: Let's get back to breaking political news in the race for the White House. The Democratic National Committee is refusing to let the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign access to a crucial voter information database. The Sanders campaign is now suing in federal court. The DNC calling it an inappropriate overreaction to a data breach involving a high-level Sanders employee.

Let's turn to our experts: our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny; our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; and our CNN political director, David Chalian. Gloria, you heard that exchange we just had between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Bernie Sanders campaign. This is getting ugly.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's civil war, with the Clinton campaign accusing the Sanders campaign of what amounts to grand larceny. Right? Stealing their data.

They also had a phone call with journalists in which top people on the Clinton campaign said this breach was unacceptable, may have been a violation of the law, amounts to an act of theft.

What you have is these two campaigns who sort of been trying to be civil to each other, suddenly, an eruption in which the Clinton campaign accuses the Sanders campaign of stealing documents that cost them -- names and lists, that cost them millions of dollars to organize, get together and that are the keys to the kingdom, Wolf when you want to win a contest in state like Iowa or New Hampshire. So you can't sort of overestimate how big this is.

BLITZER: And you heard Brian Fallon from the Clinton campaign say it follows two months of negative advertising that the Bernie Sanders campaign has been leveling against the Hillary Clinton campaign. They have a debate tomorrow, as well, the Democratic candidates.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: They do. I think what you saw the Clinton campaign just do on the conference call, Brian Fallon with you, is try to shut down the sort of enthusiasm that was starting to build in the progressive community. Bernie Sanders, as soon as this story was out there, his campaign, you couldjust tell, started getting all the progressive riled up, that Clinton's DNC. Here they go again. And they wanted people to start donating. They wanted progressive e- mail lists to star circulating around.

And what that was there was an attempt to blunt that sort of enthusiasm call to action for the progressive grass roots.

BLITZER: It would have long-term impact on the whole Democratic race.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly could. I mean, that's one thing. We've been watching the -- sort of the disarray on the Republican side.

And the Democratic side has been pretty -- orderly and civil.

Bernie Sanders has his supporters. But he says he's going to run a different campaign. Well, this is the first example where the rules are sort of out the window here.

But just a little bit of an explanation of why this even happened. All Democratic campaigns operate off of the same sort of database. It's like an electronic phone book, so to speak. They put information in. They can take information out here.

But the reason it's so valuable is that all of those door knockers, all of those campaign volunteers have inputted information in. But I'm told that the Bernie Sanders search was -- the campaign search was to go in there and look for, in Iowa, specifically, people who were more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton and less likely to vote for her. And then they were going after that list and the turn-out projections. That's why this is serious. Because it is proprietary information.

BLITZER: Very serious indeed. We're going to have more on this coming up.

An important programming note to our viewers: if you missed the Republican presidential debate that I had moderated earlier in the week, CNN is re-airing it later tonight, starring 10 p.m. Eastern. Please be sure to watch.

Also, on another important note, I'll be back tomorrow night, anchoring CNN's special coverage of the Democratic presidential debate. Our coverage will begin at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

Much more coming up right after this.


BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump is engaged in another Twitter war, taking on a familiar target, Jeb Bush. Trump is refusing to ignore Bush's new attempt to go after Trump's full throttle.

Take a look at a new video posted by the Bush camp using Trump's interview with me seven years ago to attack the front-runner.


BLITZER: How do you think Barack Obama is doing right now not only in terms of some of the strategy, the policies he's outlining, but in terms of the appointments he's made?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he's doing great. I think Hillary is great appointment. I think he's doing a great job.

BLITZER: You're impressed.


BLITZER: Joining us is the national political director for the Trump campaign, Michael Glassner.

Michael, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: What do you think of that?

GLASSNER: I don't think the American voters are concerned about something Mr. Trump said seven years ago. They're concerned about immigration, the economy, policies that are going on right now that have destroyed America's confidence in the government. [18:45:02] BLITZER: What about this battle that's now developed between Trump and Bush, because that's -- there's another battle between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. But this is a very -- I was at the debate, as you just saw. I moderated the debate. It got a little intense. Bush came out swinging.

GLASSNER: He did. I think -- you know, this is a desperate attempt to try to make one last effort to damage the front-runner. The fact is that Mr. Trump has dominated the polls. Mr. Bush is in single digits. I think it's sort of a sad reminder of the place the establishment has in this campaign currently.

BLITZER: Here's the tweet the Donald Trump put out today. He said, "I have an idea for Jeb Bush, @jebbush, whose campaign is a disaster. Try using your last name and don't be ashamed of it."

What did he mean by that?

GLASSNER: You know, I think it's obvious. His logo is Jeb, exclamation point. Mr. Trump uses his last name proudly. It has a fine, great family tradition. I think Jeb Bush is trying to hide from his family's record and he didn't want to be identified with their establishment record.

BLITZER: Here's a new FOX News poll that just came out nationally among Republicans. This is after our debate from earlier in the week. Trump is at 39. Cruz is at 18. Rubio, 11. Carson, 9. Bush is way down at 3 percent and everybody else is at low, low numbers, as you can see, Christie, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul.

Who do you guys consider to be your main threat to winning the Republican nomination?

GLASSNER: You know, I think there's a couple lanes we're concerned with. Mr. Trump has created his own lane in this presidential campaign. He's dominated this race because he's drawn in a broad array of support from Republicans and Democrats and independents, and I think it's going to have a major impact on this race.

BLITZER: What does he think of the battle that's developed, intense war going on between Cruz and Rubio?

GLASSNER: You know, Cruz and Rubio both have challenges, particularly when it comes to immigration. I think Mr. Trump has staked out a very strong position on that. I think it's widely recognized in all of the national polls that he has a very powerful message resonating with the Republican base.

BLITZER: Whose position is he closer to? When it comes to immigration, would it be Cruz or Rubio?

GLASSNER: You know, I really wouldn't compare his position with either of those. He's made it very clear where he stands on this issue. It's been a basis of his campaign since he started it in June and he think it's resonated very greatly with the public. BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break, Michael. We have a lot

more to talk about, including Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Much more right after this.


[18:56:57] BLITZER: We're back with the national political director for the Donald Trump campaign. Michael Glassner is with me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's talk about Cruz and Rubio. They are going at it. They are really hitting each other. That's good news for you because potentially they could both be damaged as a result..

GLASSNER: Oh, I think it is. They both have significant vulnerabilities, particularly on immigration. The more they talk about each other's records, the better it is for us.

BLITZER: Donald Trump has had sort of a bromance with Ted Cruz so far. Is that going to stay in effect or what is going to happen?

GLASSNER: I think Mr. Trump has said repeatedly, as long as he's being treated respectfully by the Republican Party, he'll treat them likewise and I think that's true in his relationship with Senator Cruz.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz more so than Marco Rubio, right?

GLASSNER: I don't think Rubio has been particularly tough. But Cruz, you know, has gone out of his way I think to show respect for Mr. Trump. It's what he deserves.

BLITZER: What about Putin? He basically -- Vladimir Putin, he gave a nice ringing endorsement to Donald Trump yesterday and Donald Trump came back with a nice statement about Vladimir Putin.

What's going on here? Do they actually know each other?

GLASSNER: I think Vladimir Putin respects a strong leader. He can see in Trump somebody who has command of the economy. He'll have a strong military. I think it's somebody he sees that he can deal with, this very powerful leader.

BLITZER: But is that an endorsement that Donald Trump wants right now in a Republican race for the nomination, someone like Vladimir Putin saying that Donald Trump is a great guy?

GLASSNER: I think a world leader like Donald Trump showing respect to Mr. Trump is a very strong and powerful statement about Mr. Trump's leading role in this campaign and the strength on national security matters.

BLITZER: So, Donald Trump responds with a nice statement about Putin. You're a political guy. Does that play well among conservatives, among Republicans? GLASSNER: I think conservatives want somebody who shows strength, and

that's what we don't have at the present White House. I think the Republican voter base is responding to that.

BLITZER: Have you heard about this pro-Trump super PAC that apparently is getting going? Because we know Donald Trump doesn't like super PACs.

GLASSNER: Correct.

BLITZER: He's got his own money. He doesn't need any outside money.

GLASSNER: That's right.

BLITZER: What's going on on that front?

GLASSNER: You know, the campaign sent cease and desist letters. Mr. Trump does not need other people's money. He's funding the campaign himself. He's not a puppet of the donor class like all of the other candidates in this race and, again, it shows his independence and success in business that's powering his campaign.

BLITZER: He hasn't spent much either, has he?

GLASSNER: Well, you know, he's done the most with the least amount of money m contrast with the Bush campaign. I think every million dollar they spent, they go down a point in the polls. We're the opposite of that. We did the best we can with the least amount of money.

BLITZER: Michael Glassner, thanks very much for joining us, the national political director for the Donald Trump campaign. Appreciate it very much.

GLASSNER: Pleasure to be with you.

BLITZER: This programming note. If you missed the Republican presidential debate that I moderated earlier in the week, CNN is re- airing it later tonight starting at 10:30 p.m. Eastern. Please be sure to watch.

Also, another important note, I'll be back tomorrow night anchoring CNN's special coverage of the Democratic presidential debate. Our coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.