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Obama: "We're Going to Defeat ISIS"; Obama: Very Difficult to Detect Lone Wolf Plots; Interview with Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Obama: To Achieve Peace in Syria, Assad Must Go; Sanders Campaign Threatening to Sue DNC. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 21, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:15] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now:

Breaking news, defeating ISIS. President Obama insists the terror group is being hit harder than ever and is losing ground in Iraq and Syria and will be beaten. But he admits the threat of ISIS infiltrating the United States won't disappear any time soon.

Difficult to detect. With the country still reeling from the San Bernardino attacks, the president says it's very tough to spot lone wolf plots or plots involving a husband and wife as we learn new information about a friend of one of the killers who now faces charges himself.

And dirty tricks? The Democratic Party blocks Bernie Sanders campaign from a crucial voter database saying it improperly accessed confidential information collected by Hillary Clinton's team. Now, the Sanders campaign is threatening to sue.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get right to breaking news: President Obama vows to defeat ISIS, saying U.S.-led air strikes are hitting the terror group harder than ever and that it's losing ground in both Iraq and Syria. But he warns ISIS will retain its capacity to infiltrate western countries for some time to come.

And with America on edge over the massacre in San Bernardino by a radicalized Muslim couple, the president admits that the government can't stop all potential strikes. He says it's very difficult to detect lone wolf plots or plots involving a husband and wife. That comes as we learn new details about a friend of one of the California killers now facing multiple counts himself including a terrorism charge.

And while Republican candidates are at war with one another, Democrats are now in disarray amid charges of dirty tricks. Bernie Sanders campaign is threatening to take the Democratic National Committee to court, if the party doesn't restore its access to a crucial voter database. The DNC cut off sanders from a database saying his campaign exploited a software glitch to improperly view confidential voter information collected by Hillary Clinton's team.

I'll speak with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, she's an Iraq war veteran.

And our analysts, correspondents and guests will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's begin with the president's end of the year news conference. Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta was there. Jim, we heard some tough talk on ISIS.


Just before leaving the White House for the holidays in Hawaii, and the president is due to do that any moment now, he tried to deliver a reassuring message on the war on ISIS. The president offered no reworking of his strategy for destroying the terror army.

But on the diplomatic front for defeating ISIS there was some news. While the president said he will still insist on the departure of Syria's embattled leader Bashar al Assad, he hinted that allies of Assad could remain. That's a shift from his earlier demands that Assad must go. And it's one that could pave the way to U.S.-Russian partnership to go after ISIS.

The president again said earlier today emphatically that ISIS will be eliminated.

Here's more of what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to defeat ISIS. And we're going to do so by systemically squeezing them, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing, taking out their leadership, taking out their forces, taking out their infrastructure. We're going to do so in partnership with forces on the ground that sometimes are spotty, sometimes need capacity building, need our assistance, need our training, but we're seeing steadily progress.


ACOSTA: Now, the war on ISIS in efforts to keep the homeland safe could overshadow much of what the president wants to do before he leaves office, from executive orders on gun control to a plan for Congress to help him shut down the terror detention facility at Guantanamo, Wolf, that is something he called an uphill battle.

BLITZER: What did the president, Jim, say about the San Bernardino terror attack?

ACOSTA: Well, he again insisted that the nation's law enforcement community is doing all it can to prevent so-called lone wolf terror attacks in the U.S., like the one in San Bernardino and he talked about the monitoring of messages on social media, public posts on apps are something he says law enforcement can detect, but he said that private messaging can be a tough challenge for law enforcement.

Here's more of what he had to say about that.


OBAMA: It is very difficult for us to detect lone wolf plots or plots involving a husband and wife in this case because despite the incredible vigilance and professionalism of all our law enforcement, homeland security, et cetera, it's not that different from us trying to detect the next mass shooter.

[17:05:02] You don't always see it.


ACOSTA: Now, the president could conceivably make one more public statement before the end of the day on his way to his family vacation in Hawaii. He is scheduled to stop in San Bernardino to meet with the families of the victims of the terror attack there. The White House has told us, Wolf, not to expect any remarks from him during that visit, but he is defied that expect and his staff before. Wolf, typically in the last year of a president's time in office they're in cruise control, but he's very much in the hot seat until he defeats ISIS, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is.

All right, Jim. Thanks very much.

While President Obama says it's very difficult to detect lone wolf plots or plots involving a husband and wife, there are stunning new details about the friend of one of the San Bernardino killers who now faces several counts including a terrorism charge and allegedly supplied the rifles used in that massacre.

Let's go live to our CNN national correspondent Kyung Lah. She's joining us now from out west.

What are you learning, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning that Marquez has been moved here to Los Angeles. He's being held at the federal prison in downtown Los Angeles tonight.

He does face those federal charges that you were talking about, Wolf. Those gun charges. But also, we're learning revealing new details and a complaint about prior attacks he and Farook planned here in southern California.


LAH (voice-over): Enrique Marquez seen here in the backseat of a federal vehicle in custody facing multiple charges including conspiring to support terrorism.

The police would first learn who he was just hours after the San Bernardino attack. Marquez himself calling 911 telling, the operator, "The expletive used my gun in the shooting." He was talking about Syed Rizwan Farook, the gunman and his wife used the AR-15 rifles as a complaint purchased by Marquez.

Marquez first told 911 he'd given the gun to Farook only for safe storage, but in subsequent interviews with the FBI, a darker picture emerges of two men with seemingly little in common, they were childhood neighbors, Farook first introducing Marquez to Islam. Marquez began attending a corona, California mosque, telling people at the mosque he converted to Islam.

According to the criminal complaint, in 2010, Farook introduced Marquez to radical Islamic ideas like the lectures of American al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al Awlaki and the jihadi magazine "Inspire", published by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Investigators say the men soon began discussing carrying out their own terror attacks.

Marquez telling investigators, he purchased the AR-15 rifles instead of Farook because his appearance was Caucasian while Farook looked Middle Eastern.

The men aimed to use their new guns in a rush hour attack. The 91 Freeway, one of the most congested highways in southern California, Marquez telling the FBI they discussed this hill, the lack of exits to detonate pipe bombs, Farook would then move along stopped vehicles killing trapped drivers.

According to court documents, they also plotted to bomb the community college they both attended, targeting the library or cafeteria to kill as many as possible. But the arrest of Ralph De Leon and three others in 2012 alone on terror charges spooked Marquez and he stopped plotting with Farook.

But the men remained connected, by marriage. Marquez married this woman. She is the sister of the woman married to the gunman's brother. The FBI says Marquez was paid $200 a month to marry the Russian woman for legal residency.

A sham visible to neighbor Britney Adams (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could tell that they were close, but I would never assume that the sister and him were married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never seen him with a woman in three years. He had on a white shirt and pair of pants and looked like the Pillsbury dough boy.

LAH: Marquez was living a lie, say co-workers at the bar where he worked for three years, goofy and lighthearted on the outside, but as he wrote on his Facebook page last month, he was leading multiple lives. Marquez wrote, "Involved in terrorist plots, drugs, antisocial behavior, marriage, might go to prison for fraud."


LAH: And among those fraud charges are also those much more serious charges. We are hearing from investigators that at the room where the massacre occurred, the killers they left behind undetonated pipe bombs, the gun power, the smokeless powder that was found inside those pipe bombs trace back to a purchase made by Marquez -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah out in Los Angeles for us -- thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, also an Iraq war veteran.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: I want to talk to you specifically about something the president told this private meeting with columnists but it's now out there.

[17:10:01] That if the U.S. were to deploy troops to Iraq -- not only to Iraq but to Syria -- to fight ISIS, it could result in about in his words 100 U.S. troops coming home in body bags, being killed, a month, 500 troops being seriously injured a month, and at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of about $10 billion a month or $120 billion over a year.

Is the American public ready for those kinds of -- that kind of cost and blood and treasure?

GABBARD: I think we can look back to the recent past with the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan to the very human cost of war and what it costs the American treasury, what it costs the American taxpayer. One of my jobs when I was deployed to Iraq during that first deployment was in a medical unit, and was to go over every single day the list of casualties and folks who got injured all across the country of Iraq from every branch of service by name. And that sticks with me in everything that we do here to make sure that the decisions that we make do not end up putting us back into a place where we embark -- where, you know, we go out on these unnecessary wars of choice, putting our nation's sons and daughters' lives on the line.

BLITZER: Because the president seemed to suggest in a private meeting with columnists that at least at the current level, it's not worth that kind of cost to the American people. Yes, there's a threat from ISIS, but it's not worth those kinds of casualties and the financial costs.

GABBARD: Well, I think the question we've got to ask ourselves is what's in our best interests. What's in the United States' best interests?

And when you look at this war against ISIS, it makes no strategic sense to deploy massive amounts of U.S. ground troops to fight against ISIS. Because it plays directly into the hands of ISIS and their rhetoric, their propaganda that they're using to recruit all of these foreign fighters from the west saying, hey, look, this is a war between the West and Islam. They are hoping and praying that the west, that the United States sends these large amounts of ground troops to go and fight them because in their view it will only strengthen them. So we should not be doing that.

BLITZER: We should not be sending U.S. combat ground troops into Syria, right.

GABBARD: We shouldn't be sending these large amounts of U.S. ground troops.

There's something that Secretary Carter said recently, which I agree with, and that is setting up this network of hubs where our special forces, our special operators can operate from to conduct these quick strike missions, get in quickly, get out quickly in small numbers to really take out these Islamic extremist groups, ISIS, al Qaeda and so on and so forth in different parts of the world where they are.

BLITZER: But as you know, the public opinion polls show this is the number one fear, the number one concern of the American public right now, a terror attack on the U.S. homeland. In this meeting with columnists, the president seemed to say, you know, he acknowledged that he's been out of touch a little bit. He didn't really appreciate this deep concern. And he said, maybe because he doesn't watch enough cable news shows or whatever.

You think he is out of touch?

GABBARD: Well, I think the fear that the American people feel is understandable. When you see the kinds of attacks that we just saw in California, the kinds of attacks that occurred in Paris, it brings up all of these memories of 9/11 and what's possible as far as the threat here to the homeland. And this is what we have to focus on as we look at the action we need to take as the United States.

Yes, it's going and taking out ISIS where they are. But it's also recognizing the ideology that's driving these attacks.

If you look at San Bernardino, for example, you look at the friend, you look at the couple that perpetrated the attack, these are not people who were oppressed. They are not people who were living in poverty. One of the shooters worked for the government, had a good paying job.

These are people who bought into this radical, political Islamist ideology, which is different than the spiritual religious path of Islam. This is an ideology that says that some form of Islam should be the governing force. It should be a totalitarian theocracy that should rule over society. And that's really what we've got to focus on as we're vetting people for our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to use as they're looking at their investigations to make sure that we root out this ideology.

BLITZER: Standby, Congresswoman. We have a lot more to talk about including U.S. officials now in Libya. What are they doing there now? We'll also talk about a no-fly zone over Syria right now. Some want it, including Hillary Clinton.

Much more with Tulsi Gabbard when we come back.


BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, as well as an Iraq War veteran.

[17:18:38] Congresswoman, you're opposed to a no-fly zone that the U.S. would impose over Syria, even though many of the Republican presidential candidates you heard at the debate this week, they think it's a good idea. Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, the Democratic presidential candidate, she thinks it's a good idea. Doesn't include ground troops. Why do you think it's a bad idea?

GABBARD: Well, first of all, this is one of the reasons why I feel so strong that we need to end this war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad now. If this war is allowed to continue on until the next -- after the presidential election when we have a new president here, as you said, whether it's Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie or some of the other candidates who are running for president, they're all advocating for a no-fly zone, which would directly start a Russia- U.S. war, which could then easily escalate into a World War 3 or nuclear type situation.

BLITZER: Chris Christie, you heard him at the debate say, "You know what? If I say there's a no-fly zone, Putin is going to back down. He's not going to fool around."

GABBARD: There's two issues here. For those who are advocating for a no-fly zone, are you going to be ready to enforce it? When that Russian plane or planes come and violates your no-fly zone, as you asked the other night in the debate, will you shoot that plane down? Chris Christie has said he would. Marco Rubio has said he would.

I'm interested to hear Hillary Clinton's answer to that question, hopefully, in the debate tomorrow night.

But the second issue with the no-fly zone, if you are not ready to enforce that no-fly zone, then yet again that creates a red line that you're not willing to enforce and makes it so that other players in the global stage may miscalculate and think that we're not serious about what we say we're going to do.

[17:20:18] BLITZER: On Libya, which is now becoming a hotbed of ISIS activity after the removal of Gadhafi a few years ago, the U.S. military has now confirmed that there are these pictures out there of U.S. commandos in Libya. You're a member of the Armed Services Committee, what are they doing there?

GABBARD: Well, we've heard very strongly, especially recently, how ISIS has completely taken over the town of Sirte, which was kind of Gadhafi's last stand. They have established this stronghold there. We're hearing that many leaders of ISIS. including possibly Baghdadi, are already there. And we're seeing them looking at opportunities to expand further into Libya.

So we should be taking action to take out ISIS there in Libya, to not allow them to create a situation where they are dominating over most of that territory and using it to their advantage.

So as I mentioned earlier, I think that we should be doing what Secretary Carter has called for: having this network, having this network of hubs where our Special Forces can deploy quickly into these different hot spots and different areas and take action against ISIS.

BLITZER: You've heard that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, may actually be in Libya right now?


BLITZER: You have? Is that reliable?

GABBARD: We've heard different sources about the -- Baghdadi traveling into -- whether he's there right now, you know, I can't say. But the fact that we have leaders of ISIS who are reported to be there in Libya or in Sirte is something that should be concerning to us and, if we know these things, we should be taking action.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right on that, if he's there. Because he's obviously very much wanted by the U.S. They'd love to target that guy.

Very quickly on a totally unrelated matter. You're a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. You've heard this huge explosion -- we're going to have a full report coming up on it, an explosion between the Bernie Sanders campaign and the DNC and the chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, over access to some databases, the accusation the Bernie Sanders campaign improperly interfered, took a look at some of Hillary Clinton's database. You've been briefed on this. How big of a deal is this?

GABBARD: We had -- we had a preliminary call earlier today, the officers of the DNC, where we got kind of the information that we know so far. I know that there's still a lot of questions that have gone unanswered. There's still a lot of information that's still being gathered.

And a reason why I think this independent audit, which I know the Sanders camp has agreed to, is important to find out exactly what happened there. And I think that, once that occurs, then we can figure out a path forward.

But I think that there has to be a way for the Sanders campaign to be able to access their own information, the data for the folks who they've been reaching out to and their supporters.

BLITZER: And so who's to blame for this data breach?

GABBARD: Well, I think that the data breach, the opening of the firewall was caused by the vendor, the contractor, NGP Van, that has this database management system. So I think that's a big problem. The Sanders campaign said that they raised this a couple of months ago. There were previous issues, and I think that's something that absolutely has to be addressed. BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this part of the story

coming up. Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us. Good luck back in Hawaii. Merry Christmas.

GABBARD: Merry Christmas. Aloha.

BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more on Bernie Sanders' campaign versus the Democratic Party right now, where this nasty showdown -- where is it headed?


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

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CHAIR, DNC: The Sanders campaign unfortunately doesn't have anything other than bluster at the moment that they can -- that they can put out there.



[17:27:34] BLITZER: We're following breaking political news. A sudden and furious war of words between Bernie Sanders' campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The Sanders campaign is threatening to sue the DNC for cutting off access to a voter database that was improperly accessed by a campaign employee who's been fired.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is working this story for us. Very sharp words exchanged earlier today. And I take it you now have the official document.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right. Sharp words indeed. And this lawsuit was just filed a few moments ago, so we're going to be looking through this now. But they did go through with what Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said he would do. It's an extraordinary allegation.

He said the Democratic National Committee is trying to undermine the Sanders campaign. He called it sabotage and said their voter information was being held hostage. Now, in a news conference this afternoon, he did not mince words. Let's take a listen.


WEAVER: We are running a clean campaign. We're going to beat Secretary Clinton and everybody else in this campaign on the issues. We don't need dirty tricks. That's not how we run it here.


ZELENY: Now, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the DNC, said the Sanders campaign needs to be blocked, at least temporarily, until an independent audit was completed. She did not back down either, but as pressure grows from liberal groups here, she'll have to, you know, withstand that. But she denied the DNC was playing any favorites with the Clinton campaign.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I can be quite certain that, if the shoe were on the other foot and the Clinton campaign had inappropriately accessed Sanders' campaign proprietary information, I'm confident that this is the -- the decision that they would expect from us. And it is the same decision that we would make if the shoe were on the other foot.


ZELENY: And we'll see about this feud could spill onto the debate stage when Clinton, Sanders and Martin O'Malley are set to meet tomorrow night in New Hampshire for that final Democratic debate of the year.

One Sanders aide we talked to earlier said the campaign is paralyzed without having access to this voter file. The DNC says it's temporary, but that clock is kicking down. Iowa caucuses 45 days away, Wolf.

BLITZER: A bitter, bitter dispute erupting between the Sanders campaign and DNC. Stand by for a moment, Jeff.

I also want to bring in our national political reporter for Real Clear Politics, Rebecca Berg; our CNN political commentator, Kevin Madden; and our CNN political commentator, Donna Brazile. She happens to also be a vice chair of the DNC.

So the DNC, the lawsuit has now been filed. Donna, I assume the DNC is going to fight this.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Based on what we were told this morning -- I'm an officer of the Democratic Party -- we were informed this morning of the suspension based on what happened with the breach.

[17:30:05] The offices were told the steps that the party is trying to take right now to ensure that not just the data is secure but also an investigation in terms of how this breach happened. So I think, you know, as you know Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has been very clear that they took this action to -- in my judgment, to make sure that there's a fairness. That both sides or all sides have access to this information without one campaign taking advantage of the other.

BLITZER: It's pretty extraordinary, Donna, for a Democratic presidential campaign to go to federal court and sue the Democratic National Committee. It's an extraordinary moment. And let me repeat the question.

Do you believe the DNC will fight this lawsuit? BRAZILE: I'm sure the DNC will. I don't speak on behalf of the

Democratic Party, I'm not the chair of the party. But look, this was a -- this was a breach. There was a bug that the software company found the bug in the system, they tried to fix it. In the time that it was being fixed someone breached it. And they found out that the official was from the Sanders campaign. The Sanders campaign has fired that official or fired that staff person, and now I think the parties have to come together. And I think there will be some work done to fix the problem.

BLITZER: But does the Sanders campaign have a case?

ZELENY: Well, the Sanders campaign believes that, you know, this information in the voter file is rightfully theirs. What they're saying here specifically is all of the supporter information, all of the people who are with him and the people who are not with him, they spent all summer gathering data in this database. So they believe the DNC is holding its information hostage.

But they also having acknowledged wrongdoing here by firing one staffer and saying three more staffers were involved in this here. So I think it's very complicated. When you sign this agreement for this voter file, it's kind of like a big electronic phone book that all the campaigns have access to. You make the agreement that you will only look through your portion of it. And it's clear that the Sanders campaign violated that, otherwise they wouldn't have fired their individual. So I think it's a complicated case that the Sanders campaign is making.

BLITZER: As you know, the Bernie Sanders campaign already even before this was working under the assumption that the DNC is quietly, maybe not so quietly, in effect supporting the Hillary Clinton campaign. That's why they were doing these presidential debates on a Saturday night when most people aren't at home watching television. You've heard those complaints earlier from the Sanders campaign.

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Exactly. And so I would imagine that now those -- this is going to fuel an even greater, larger case for them to make on that theme. And it's fitting that we have a debate -- this weekend among Democrats. The last one of this calendar year. And Bernie Sanders will be able to make the point that there have been very few debates on nights that people are not inclined to watch.

And now that the DNC is potentially blocking him from this valuable information for indefinitely really, and so it really does strengthen his case and could add a lot of fuel to the grassroots fire that we have already seen.

BLITZER: You're looking at this, Kevin, as a Republican. You see an extraordinary fight between a Democratic presidential campaign and the DNC. I don't remember that maybe there have been occasions like this in the past. Nothing comes off the top of my mind. I do remember 1972 during Watergate when there were Republican operatives who tried to steal information from the DNC headquarters at Watergate. We know what happened as a result of that. But give us some context from your perspective.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I'm happy to see this kind of chaos being applied to the Democratic primary instead of the Republican one. I think one of the big long-term negative impacts of this is that other candidates, not just the presidential candidates that use this file, but also members of the party that are working in conjunction with the DNC to build turnout models, to get out the vote across the country.

They'll have an increased lack of confidence, I think, in the DNC. The DNC now has said that they had a vendor problem. I think that will raise more questions by so many within the Democratic Party infrastructure on whether or not they can trust the DNC to hold this information and to make sure that that information is secure and that candidates across the country are then in a better place to build those turnout models that they need at the polls.

BLITZER: It's clear -- it's clear, Donna. It's clear, Donna, that the Bernie Sanders campaign doesn't see the chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. as some fair neutral party in all of this.

BRAZILE: You know, Debbie is the chair, but I can tell you as an officer, Wolf, we go out of our way to be fair to all of the campaigns. All of the candidates running. And we try to provide them with all of the information, all of the access.

Look, people have pre-existing relationships. That's true. That's true with every campaign. But at the same time you try to provide access to all this information.

And, look, let me just say something. This vendor is -- has been a very good vendor for the party. We've had a voter file that the Republicans are envious of, that's why they have their super PACs and others now trying to build the same type of voter file.

[17:35:02] The fact that the engineers went in and found the bug, fixed the bug but in the interim someone entered the system and tried to have access to the files of another campaign, that was a breach. They signed an MOU, I'm not a lawyer, I don't want to get technical. I'm not a technical person, but they breached their agreement. And now we have a lawsuit that says that the DNC has breached it.

Look, I do believe that we're going to find a compromise. And I think that's what the chairwoman has been working with. She's spoken with Senator Sanders and I do believe that we will figure out how to handle it.

BLITZER: Jeff, the Hillary Clinton campaign, Brian Fallon from the Hillary Clinton campaign, just issued a statement. Let me put it up on the screen and I'll read it to our viewers.

"If you are so proud of your grassroots organization, you should not need to resort to stealing campaign data." That's a pretty tough Hillary Clinton response to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

ZELENY: It is. BLITZER: Stealing campaign data.

ZELENY: No doubt. And the Clinton campaign has escalated their response to this from very quiet earlier to now about a mock 5 or so. This is -- they believe that some of these liberal groups are getting some misinformation here that the DNC is treating them unfairly. So the Clinton campaign is actually going to be holding a conference call at 6:00 with the campaign manager, Robby Mook, at 6:00 on a Friday. That doesn't happen very often here, so they're taking this very seriously.

The bigger point in all this is, are all the liberal supporters of Bernie Sanders going to be there for Hillary Clinton in the end should she win the nomination and vice versa? And that is I think the overall problem with this for this Democratic Party. It's been pretty civil until right now. Now we have a civil war going.

BLITZER: Let's not forget there's going to be a Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire tomorrow night. So maybe they were playing nice earlier, but Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders may not be so nice going into tomorrow night's debate.

BRAZILE: But imagine, Wolf -- imagine if the Clinton campaign was at fault for stealing information or sneaking into the Sanders information? I mean, all hell would have been broken loose. So this is an issue, a serious issue. And I think the party has to handle it so that all sides know that we're playing fair.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We want to make sure we're on top of all the breaking news. The political breaking news we're following. We'll speak with officials from both the Bernie Sanders campaign and the Hillary Clinton campaign. That's coming up.


[17:41:25] BLITZER: We're following a disturbing series of terror arrests here in the United States. Almost all of them connected to ISIS.

CNN's Brian Todd is here, he's got new information.

Brian, we're talking about multiple people in multiple states.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are, Wolf. And it's been a very frightening week in America. In the wake of San Bernardino and Paris we have learned that just this week several people have been arrested or pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism. These are three of them. Just this year law enforcement has made an average of more than one arrest per week of someone in the U.S. just trying to support ISIS.


TODD (voice-over): He's only 19 and lives with his parents in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but the FBI says Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz tried to help others travel to Syria to join ISIS, that he used 57 Twitter accounts to encourage violence against the U.S. including one message threatening to behead President Obama. And when authorities searched Aziz's home, they found what they call a tactical backpack with a knife and assault rifle magazines.

MARCUS BROWN, PENNSYLVANIA DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY: High capacity magazines loaded. Obviously the weapon wasn't found at this point. But it's those type of things and the rhetoric that he's using that draws concern.

TODD: Aziz's lawyer has no comment.

In upstate New York, 31-year-old food store owner Mufid Elfgeeh pleaded guilty to providing material support to ISIS. Officials say he was a recruiter.

In Maryland prosecutors say 30-year-old Mohamed El Shennawy planned a terrorist attack from only about 60 miles away from the nation's capital. They're charging El Shennawy with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Federal authorities say he received almost $9,000 through wire transfers and remittance services like PayPal from an operative overseas.

ROD ROSENTEIN, U.S. ATTORNEY: He received money from an ISIL terrorist for one to carry out terrorist acts in the United States.

TODD (on camera): He had $8700, what could he have done with that?

JONATHAN SCHANZER, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Look, you can probably carry out a shooting spree not unlike what we saw in San Bernardino or perhaps in Paris.

TODD (voice-over): In another case one man was arrested and charged at the San Francisco airport just as he was about to board a plane for Turkey.

In one week a total of four cases in the U.S. of people charged or who pleaded guilty to supporting terrorists. Most of the cases are connected to ISIS, which, according to a new report, has unprecedented levels of support inside America.

LORENZO VIDINO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY PROGRAM ON EXTREMISM: The connectivity that social media provides is something completely new and that accelerates the radicalization process because the intensity of being able to speak with somebody who's fighting and that person is talking to you, it's something that has a lot of power.

TODD: According to court documents, Mohamed El Shennawy's ISIS handler didn't specify what weapons to buy or how to conduct an attack but did provide an example. The failed attempt to shoot up a Prophet Mohamed cartoon drawing contest in Garland, Texas, last May.


TODD: Prosecutors say Mohamed El Shennawy claimed that he never intended to carry out a terrorist attack and that he was actually trying to con ISIS out of money. They say El Shennawy said that he should be rewarded for that, even offered a job by the FBI. El Shennawy's attorneys told us this case is in its earliest stages, that they hope the public will reserve judgment on him. And he is expected, Wolf, to plead not guilty.

BLITZER: Brian, you also have some disturbing numbers. How many people have been arrested in total this year inside the United States for supporting ISIS? And how many were actually plotting attacks inside the country?

TODD: Disturbing numbers indeed, Wolf. The number of arrests this year about five dozen. That's according to a new report from George Washington University. More than a quarter of those people were allegedly plotting attacks according to that report. More than half of those arrested according to the report were apprehended for traveling or attempting to travel to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS.

[17:45:09] The number of arrests in the United States tripled this year, Wolf, from last year of people supporting ISIS.

BLITZER: Very disturbing indeed. All right. Brian, thank you.

Let's dig deeper. Joining us our national security analyst Peter Bergen, the former FBI assistant director our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes and the former CIA official or counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.

Actually, guys, I want all of you to stand by. There's a lot to assess right after a quick break.


BLITZER: Law enforcement now averaging more than one arrest each week of suspected ISIS supporters here in the United States. Four people arrested just this week alone in separate cases.

Let's get some more, Peter Bergen, Tom Fuentes, Phil Mudd.

Phil, how do we combat the spread of ISIS ideologically online?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You've got to go to the source in Syria and you've got to go to the recipients here in the United States.

Wolf, there's way too much focus in the national debate in America about bombing our way out of this problem. As long as everybody's got a dog in this fight, that is the Russians, the Americans, the Turks, the Jordanians, ISIS will benefit from that chaos in Syria. And they'll be propagating propaganda. There's got to be more of a focus from Secretary Kerry. And he's been accelerating the focus on a ceasefire in Syria, so everybody focuses on the common target.

[17:50:07] Here in the United States let me give you a simple message. For too long the Americans, the American government in particular, has been trying to have an effort inside government to fight ISIS propaganda. You cannot have U.S. government officials competing against 22-year-old ISIS individuals. I'd say farm it out. Pay college students 15 bucks an hour. You get online. You fight them. You're the tech savvy group. The government has to be more agile and faster against the ideology, Wolf.

BLITZER: Pretty good idea.

Tom, does the FBI have the tools to monitor all of these ISIS recruiters and sympathizers here in the United States?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, there's a couple of parts to that question, Wolf. One is the tools including the manpower, the number of agents, analysts --

BLITZER: Start with manpower.

FUENTES: Well, manpower, when they know of a case, they have 900 investigations that they're saying in all 50 states right now. When you hear a case with one person arrested or one group of persons a week being arrested, I've run cases like that, I know the manpower that takes. The analytical support. The clerical, technical. Everything that goes into that. So there's a tremendous amount of manpower already being devoted. But then when you add encryption to it, that's the one tool they don't have to be able to penetrate the encryption.

And some of these politicians stating that the FBI should have just asked Silicon Valley after 9/11, that's ridiculous. They have been trying to recruit the best mathematicians, cryptologist, software engineers since before 9/11. And it's just a nearly impossible task to defeat really well done encryption.

BLITZER: Peter, does the ISIS recruit these young Americans or do these young Americans just go off to ISIS, they want to support, sympathize, join ISIS?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Almost invariably self- recruitment, Wolf. But, you know, ISIS has a kind of two-step process, which is if you look at their English propaganda online, they will give Twitter accounts for people to direct message them privately once people have -- kind of interested in the general message. So there's some kind of public kind of back and forth but then there's like encrypted back and forth as Tom mentioned.

BLITZER: Phil, we know that the model of ISIS is if you can come to Syria and fight with us, that's great. But if you can't come to Syria and fight with us, the ISIS model go ahead, carry out attacks at home. How much harder that does make it to stop these kinds of attacks here in the United States?

MUDD: It's not just harder, Wolf. It's a totally different game. Think of speed, simplicity, isolation. Back 10, 15 years ago, when al Qaeda was developing a plot, it was slow. It might take years. It was complicated which increased the likelihood that they'd either be detected or the plot would fail. And it was network. That is al Qaeda central is communicating which offers an opportunity for intelligence and law enforcement.

Look at the California attack. Speed and simplicity. They didn't need a lot of time or a lot of complexity to pick up the target at the county building. And think about isolation. They didn't have to communicate with the network that allowed the government to find the vulnerability to intercept communications.

The world has changed so fundamentally it's almost like we're in a different terror game. It's not just an evolution of the game. It's a changed game.

BLITZER: Tom, we heard President Obama at his news conference today making comparison between the terror attacks in San Bernardino, the killing by terrorists, and mass shootings that have been going on in the United States. He didn't mention specifics but assuming Sandy Hook or Charleston, making that comparison. There's been some criticism of that.

I guess, the criticism is these are very, very different kinds of killings that are going on in the United States. Your analysis.

FUENTES: Well, I think the effect of the killing is the same if you kill a large group of people with automatic weapons, but, you know, getting to the ideology we have our garden variety psychopaths in this country that go into elementary schools and slaughter two dozen 4- year-olds. Then we have white racists that are inspired by the KKK or other neo-Nazi groups go into a church in Charleston and kill black people. And then we have these, the jihadis, that are in sympathy with ISIS or al Qaeda or al-Shabaab, or any one of the many variations of extreme Islam that are doing this.

So yes, there is a point that we have a lot of people being slaughtered in this country for a lot of different reasons by a lot of different people.

BLITZER: Could these ISIS terrorists be sort of inspired by mass shooters that have -- mass shootings that have been taking place?

BERGEN: Well, we know from school shootings that people who engage in school shootings study previous school shootings, sort of inspiration, Columbine being the kind of classic. I think it goes without saying that somebody conducting a terrorist attack looks carefully at other attacks that had preceded it.

BLITZER: Phil, there was a Kurdish official who saw a drone flying over. Didn't think it was a Kurdish drone. It wasn't a U.S. drone. He suspected it might be an ISIS drone. Do you believe ISIS now has drones?

MUDD: Absolutely. If you look at the availability of drones on the retail market in the United States, where you can give one to your kid for Christmas, that drone has a visual capability.

[17:55:05] In other words, it's got cameras on it that can surveil a target as easily as it can surveil a location, a house in suburban America. So if I were an ISIS, you just look on Amazon, you can find what you want. I would be using that every day. It's simple. It's cheap.

BLITZER: You agree? BERGEN: Totally. In fact, we know that ISIS is -- they're more

sophisticated than the things they're finding on Amazon. They are -- they've been using sophisticated surveillance drones.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have a lot more coming up.

Also President Obama admits it's very tough to detect lone wolf or husband and wife terrorists. We're learning new details about an alleged plot involving a friend of the San Bernardino killers.

And Bernie Sanders versus the Democratic National Committee. Why his campaign is now suing the Democratic Party leadership.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. President Obama's terror vow. He's promising to hit ISIS harder than ever as Americans end the year with serious concerns about his strategy. 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're learning more about the friend of the San Bernardino gunman. The charges he's now facing and the secrets he told investigators about an earlier terror plot.

Democrats at war.