Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Texas Congressman Will Hurd; Republican Race Tightens; Mass Shooting Investigation; Security Failure. Aired 18- 19:00p ET

Aired December 22, 2015 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Security failure. As the holiday travel season heats up, police are now investigating a major breach at one of America's busiest airports. How did a man manage to get on the taxiway, warn a worker to keep quiet and then disappear?

Killers' files revealed. We're getting our first look at Tashfeen Malik's visa application and the personal details she and her husband provided nearly two years before the San Bernardino massacre. Were there any tipoffs about their future terror plot?

And degrading language. The Clinton camp is refusing to respond to Donald Trump's newest rant using a vulgarity to portray the Democratic front-runner as a loser. And, tonight, a new national poll is out. Is the tide turning against Donald Trump?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news tonight, new U.S. military moves on the ground right now against ISIS.

CNN has learned a team of U.S. special operations forces is now back in Northern Syria. Stand by for details.

Also this hour, Iraqi forces are on the move against ISIS, fighting to free the strategically important city of Ramadi withheld from the United States. As this major battle intensifies, officials now say the terrorists are using innocent civilians as human shields.

Here in the United States, a new national poll shows Donald Trump's lead in the Republican presidential race has narrowed since last week's debate. He's now only four points ahead of Ted Cruz in the Quinnipiac University poll, this just hours after Trump's newest rant against Hillary Clinton, using vulgar language to describe her loss to Barack Obama back in 2008.

Tonight, Clinton is suggesting Trump is a bully, her word, but she's refusing to respond directly to his new attacks.

We have our correspondent, analysts and newsmakers. They're standing by to cover all the news that's breaking right now, including a leading member of the House Homeland Security Committee, the former CIA officer Congressman Will Hurd.

First, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, with the breaking news.

Barbara, what are you learning about U.S. special operations forces on the ground right now in Syria?


At this hour, we are confirming, we have been told by a U.S. official, a small number of U.S. special operations forces on the ground in Northern Syria. They are there to help anti-ISIS forces get more experience and to advise them on how to battle ISIS in that very fraught area, but all of this happening, Wolf, as there is a very strategic battle under way across the border in Iraq.


STARR (voice-over): Gunfire in battles now raging across the ringed city of Ramadi. Iraqi forces on move to take back the city's center from ISIS seven months after they ran away from the fight.

Back in May, when Iraqi forces fled, top U.S. officials thought it was a bump in the road.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It is possible to have the kind of attack we have seen in Ramadi, but I am absolutely confident in the days ahead that will be reversed.

STARR: But it's taken months of American-backed training and advice and careful choking off of ISIS supply lines to get Iraqi forces to the point where they finally made their move.

The new Iraqi assault began by unfolding a bridge like this one across a branch of the Euphrates River. The U.S. military provided the training for the operation. The Iraqis then pushed into the center of the city, with help from U.S. airstrikes to begin confronting an estimated 350 ISIS fighters.

Optimism from the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

COL. STEVE WARREN, U.S. SPOKESMAN FOR OPERATION AGAINST ISIS: I think the fall of Ramadi is inevitable. The end is coming.

STARR: The fighting is brutal. The U.S. believes ISIS is using civilians as human shields.

The Iraqis tried to get many of them out, dropping these leaflets with instructions on leaving. But ISIS fighters are dug in.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: ISIS has probably laid mines in buildings and laid explosive devices throughout the streets and inside the houses that are going to cause a lot more casualties. STARR: Just getting control of Ramadi back will not be enough.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Taking back and holding territory is a very difficult operation. It's one thing to clear that area initially, but the problem that you have is actually coming back and making sure that nobody else goes into an area when you move to the next building or the next objective.


STARR: So, while getting Ramadi back for the Iraqi forces is a vital military win, of course, there are also politics at play here. It is very important to the White House that Ramadi falls back into Iraqi hands, a big demonstration that the president could make that his ISIS strategy is indeed working -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

Tonight, revealing new personal details about the San Bernardino terrorists. Tashfeen Malik's visa application was just released.

Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, has been going through the files.

What's your analysis, your takeaway, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this really shows you that this process, this K-1 visa process, fiancee visa process, is really geared towards trying to flag people who are trying to commit visa fraud, marriage fraud, essentially trying to set up sham marriages in order to just emigrate here.

The form that these two filled out has a lot of detail about their meeting. They say that they met online. And then finally, in 2013, in October 2013, the families met in Mecca while the Farook family was there performing the hajj. You can see from some of the files, there are pictures of their passports. It shows when they came in and out of Saudi Arabia to show that they actually were in the country at the same time, Wolf.

And really it shows you also that the process that involved a background check by the Homeland Security Department produced no flags, nothing at all that would prove unusual for the FBI or for anyone to take a closer look at these people. We also know from another file that was submitted today there was an application for a green card that was filled out by Farook and Tashfeen Malik.

On that form, he would have filled out -- it says right there whether or not you're planning to engage in terrorism or been part of any organization that commits terrorist activity, and they filled it out to say no. They also noted on this form, Wolf, that she was pregnant and that she was due to give birth in May of 2015, which is when she gave birth to their child.

BLITZER: I looked through the documents, too, that were released today. But who would possibly say, yes, I'm here, I want a green card, I want permanent residence in the United States...

PEREZ: Right. Never happen.

BLITZER: ... and I am planning on committing terror? That was the most stupid thing I have ever seen, to put that out there.

PEREZ: Well, these forms -- you know, that question has been on these forms for decades. Really, it was aimed at prior terrorist groups like the IRA and so on in years past.

More recently, obviously, it's geared towards people who want to try to come to this country to commit terrorist attacks in the name of al Qaeda or ISIS. Really, what this is intended to do is in case later on you're found to be part of some organization that is -- you know, does have terrorist links, they can deport you. But, really, in this situation, it is a useless question, because clearly she was already thinking about committing jihad when she emigrated to this country.

We know now that the two of them were discussing this in private messages and private online communications, as well as her communications with other friends, Wolf. So it is -- makes it really difficult for you to catch these people. And it shows you, right? I mean, the government is trying to reform this process, this K-1 visa process. It's really difficult to see how they're going to restructure it to try to catch someone like this.

BLITZER: Well, they want to make sure they catch people who just want to come here for sham marriages, but they also want to catch people who want to come here to kill Americans.

PEREZ: Right.


BLITZER: Unfortunately, they don't really check -- at least until now, they haven't really gone in depth to check social media, other sources, talk to individuals.

PEREZ: And even if they did, even if they did, they might have -- they probably wouldn't have caught her, because she was doing this in private.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, well, thanks very much for that report, Evan. Appreciate it.

Joining us now is Congressman Will Hurd. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. He's a former CIA clandestine officer, spent nine years in the CIA.

Congressman, this couple met supposedly all the legal requirements, and she got this fiancee visa. Then she got the green card. Looking through all the documents, apparently, they didn't see any red flags in this case. How is that possible?

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Well, as the previous person you were interviewing mentioned, a lot of that information seems to have been in private channels that she was using on social media.

And even if -- you know, we're talking about, how do you include social media checks in a visa interview? You know, what does that actually mean? And some of the information that's public is probably not where they're saying I'm going to go and perform jihad. You know, I want to kill people when I get to America.

It's in some of those private channels. And being able to search that is a very difficult thing. And one piece -- we talk about the visa -- one of the jobs I did during the day when I was overseas was stamp visas. And then I did my real job at night. That was my cover job. And I never had to do a K-1 visa, but there's information that's provided in the interview that would show that they knew each other, they have met, and there was probably pictures and personal things.


And so knowing what they provided in that personal interview or she provided in that personal interview would be interesting to know as well.

BLITZER: Because one of the your colleagues, Jason Chaffetz, the congressman, chairman of the Oversight Committee, he says they looked. There was really no evidence, other than his and her word, that the two of them actually physically met before she got that fiancee visa. That would be a problem, wouldn't it?

HURD: It would be a problem. And, again, you know, part of that application form is to prevent marriage fraud and defrauding the U.S. government and using the visa system to come to America.

But we have got to remember there was an in-person interview of her before she came over here, before she was granted a K-1. And in that interview, the consular officer would have been getting directly to that, how many times did you meet, to make sure that they had indeed met before.

But it gets back to the question of, how do we determine? What questions could we ask? What things can we look at that shows a person's intention to do harm when they get to our shores?

BLITZER: You served, as you have acknowledged, as a clandestine officer in the CIA in the Middle East. You served for about nine years before becoming a United States congressman.

Does the U.S. have the ability right now, based on everything you know, to infiltrate ISIS at a high level in clandestine ways to get intelligence, track individuals who pose a threat?

HURD: They can. They should be. And we need to be doing more.

You know, if I was the president, I would call up the director of the CIA and say you have 45 days to double the amount of human intelligence that's coming out of Syria. Going after the plans and intentions of ISIS and the leadership of ISIS is a key collection gap that we need to be collecting more information on. And this is how we're going to stop people from coming over here,

because we learn about what they're doing there. We learn about how they're trying to radicalize people using the Internet. Finding those folks that are on the other end of those messages that are being exchanged is how we're going to stop these folks over there before they get to our shores.

BLITZER: Congressman, we have more to discuss, including a major breach at one of the busiest airports here in the United States on the eve of a very busy travel season.

Stay with us. We will continue our conversation.



BLITZER: We're back with Congressman Will Hurd.

We're getting new information about a major security breach at New York's JFK Airport.

Congressman, stand by for a moment.

A trespasser managed to get on the taxiway and then get away.

Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is digging on the story for us.

Rene, police are searching for the man. What do we know?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know tonight investigators are going frame by frame through closed-circuit airport footage after a man was caught on surveillance camera hopping a fence at the airport. Investigators still do not know who or where the intruder is, and his motive remains a mystery.


MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, CNN is learning a man made it over airport perimeter fencing and onto the taxiway near the terminal used by American Airlines, bringing operations at John F. Kennedy international To a halt. Police were called in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be advised, we're getting calls on this. The location of 3233 of Terminal 8. All we have is a male.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger that. Gate 32, Terminal 8.

MARSH: CNN obtained the police incident report, which describes how a Lufthansa cargo worker questioned the intruder who didn't have the required I.D. That's when the trespasser warned -- quote -- "You better not say 'expletive.'"

Before police arrived on scene, the men had disappeared, last seen near Terminal 8. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There doesn't appear to be anybody on the taxiway

of Alpha. We will head over toward the building.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: For someone to be on the airport property, jumping a fence or however they got on, without proper credentials, but what's more disconcerting to me is that the person was able to get away.

MARSH: Congressman Gregory Meeks' district includes JFK Airport. He was briefed today. JFK has sensors in some of its fencing, but not all. It has gaps, and that's where this man climbed over.

MEEKS: We don't know whether or not they were there casing the airport, whether they were testing security, what the purpose was. And it would seem to me that that person then had some idea, if they got away, of weak points.

MARSH: Breaches in airport perimeter security happen more often than people may realize. In 2011, TSA told Congress there were about 2,500 security breaches at airports annually. That includes perimeter breaches.

This past August at JFK, a man ran out of fuel for his jet ski in the waters near the airport. He climbed a fence and walked across two intersecting runways before anyone spotted him.


MARSH: Well, because of the December 13 breach, we are told Port Authority is reviewing its perimeter security measures. CNN is also told police were very delayed in getting on scene. That critical delay is also under investigation.

And as for that surveillance video, Wolf, we are told no clear shot of the man's face was captured, just from behind as he scaled that fence -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They haven't released any video, have they?

MARSH: Not at this point.

BLITZER: Maybe they should. Maybe somebody will recognize at least what the individual was wearing, what he looked like and could help law enforcement find this individual.

All right, Rene, thanks very much.

We're back with Congressman Will Hurd.

Do you have any information? Have you been briefed on this? Because it's pretty disturbing.

HURD: I haven't been briefed by TSA yet on this, but we have got to remember that when it comes to perimeter security of airports, that's the responsibility of the port authorities or the airport. And there's different standards across the country. So, this is an

issue that the Port Authority is dealing with. And there's issues about the response time, almost 10 minutes to take to respond to this. You know, I hope that Lufthansa employee is going to get a holiday bonus, because it seems like he was the only one that saw something and said something.


And so these are all important questions. And JFK is one of the most used airports in the country. And this is important to get right.

BLITZER: I know you served in New York, too, when you were working at the CIA.

But don't you think -- it sort of makes sense to me that even if there's not a clear shot of the individual's face, they might want to release some of this video. Maybe someone would recognize what the individual was wearing, the body shape and give police a little tip who this person could be.

HURD: No, I would agree with you, Wolf.

And I'm sure NYPD is involved. NYPD is one of the most professional and efficient of our police agencies in the country. So I'm sure they will be doing that at the right time. And the question is, what was this guy doing? Was it just a crazy person that jumped a fence? Was he casing the place, as Congressman Meeks alluded to?

Was this part of -- is this part of the attack planning process, where they're trying to do surveillance and test people's response? This is very important to get -- to find this individual and try to figure out why he was doing it.

BLITZER: I know you have spent a lot of time on the committee, the Homeland Security Committee, working on the issue. What else should the U.S. be doing to track potential ISIS terrorists who are trying to enter the United States? Are there any immediate steps that can be done?

HURD: Well, I think the first step -- and we took this last week with getting the changes to the visa waiver program approved -- this is a program where 39 European countries can participate. You know, someone can fill out some forms online and come to the United States for up to 90 days.

There were some problems with how our European partners were using the information they were sharing with us. They weren't sharing immediately with suspected terrorists. So we should be going back to all of our European partners and asking them for the widest list possible of folks that they suspect of folks being linked to terrorists and put that in our databases, so we can do a search of folks that have maybe traveled here over the last 90 to 120 days.

BLITZER: Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, thanks, Congressman, very much. Merry Christmas to you and your family. We will see you back here next year. Appreciate it.

HURD: Thanks, Wolf. Merry Christmas to you, too.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead, new reaction to Donald Trump's attacks against Hillary Clinton, from his use of a vulgar term to his stunning take on her brief absence from the Democratic presidential debate stage.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know where she went. It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it. No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it. It's disgusting. Let's not go. We want to be very, very straight up. OK?




BLITZER: Tonight, the presidential race is taking yet another strange turn with Donald Trump's newest attacks on Hillary Clinton, Trump using a vulgar word and a crude reference to go after the Democratic presidential front-runner, this as a new poll suggests Trump might want to focus on a more immediate threat to his campaign, his Republican rival Ted Cruz.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is following all the latest developments for us.

Some of those developments, Dana, not very pretty.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not very pretty. And this kind of insult could actually help Donald Trump more than what we have seen from him in the past, since it's about a Democrat and not fellow Republicans. But even by Trump's standards, this pre- Christmas rally he had was filled with more lumps of coal than usual.


TRUMP: Hillary, that's not a president.

BASH (voice-over): There's down and dirty campaigning, and then there's this, Donald Trump using a Yiddish word for a certain part of the male anatomy to slam Hillary Clinton for losing to Barack Obama in 2008.

TRUMP: She got schlonged. She lost. I mean, she lost. But I watched her the other night. It was hard. It was really hard, because there were a lot of other things on better, including reading books and reading financial papers, which I actually enjoy reading.

BASH: And that's not all. That moment in this weekend's debate when Clinton was late returning from the commercial break. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sorry.

BASH: Apparently because nature was calling, that clearly grossed Trump out.

TRUMP: I know where she went. It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it.


TRUMP: No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it. It's disgusting. Let's not go. We want to be very, very straight up. OK?

But I thought was -- wasn't that a weird deal? We're ready to start. They were looking. They gave her every benefit of the doubt, because it's ABC and she practically owns ABC. She really does.

BASH: To add to the bizarre nature of all that, Hillary Clinton's campaign responded with a response prefaced by insisting they would not respond, a spokeswoman saying, "We are not responding to Trump, but everyone who understand the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should #Imwithher."

And Hillary Clinton herself took this not-so-subtle dig at Trump when a little girl asked about being bullied.

CLINTON: You are looking at somebody who has had a lot of terrible things said about me, and I'm well aware of the fact that it's really easy to do that, and, you know, just you say it, and you send it around the world. And, luckily, I'm old enough that it doesn't particularly bother me.

BASH: Team Clinton also continues to say hell no Trump's call for an apology for making a claim about Trump and ISIS that independent fact- checkers call false.

CLINTON: They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.

TRUMP: She's terrible. Donald Trump is on video and ISIS is using him on the video to recruit. And it turned out to be a lie. She's a liar. No, it turned out to be a lie. Turned out to be a lie. And the last person that she wants to run against is me, believe me.

BASH: Never mind backing down. Clinton doubled down today on her claim.

CLINTON: And if you go on Arabic television, as we have, and you look at what is being blasted out with video of Mr. Trump being translated into Arabic, no Muslims coming to the United States, other kinds of derogatory, defamatory statements, it is playing into the hands of the violent jihadists.

[18:30:25] BASH: Sparring with Hillary Clinton, a common GOP enemy, is a way for Trump to try to solidify his frontrunner status among Republican primary voters, even as one of his rivals is now nipping at his heels.

A new national poll from Quinnipiac has Ted Cruz now just four points behind Trump, a big jump for Cruz to 24 percent. He was at just 16 percent in the same poll earlier this month.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump said a couple of days ago that he thinks this race will come down to him and me. I think Donald may well be right.


BASH: Now, he said that he thinks that the GOP contest could end up a two-man race, as you just heard. He says he believes that it could be a good choice for the country.

Wolf, perhaps he's just feeling mojo from the new poll numbers, or maybe it's just because today is Senator Cruz's 45th birthday.

BLITZER: Happy birthday, Senator Cruz.

All right, Dana. Dana, thanks very much.

I want to bring in Donald Trump supporter, Tea Party leader, Scottie Hughes, is also a chief political correspondent for USA Radio Networks.

Scottie, thanks very much for joining us. Do Donald Trump's words, some of those vulgar words used against Hillary Clinton, offend you?

SCOTTIE HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA RADIO NETWORKS: Well, listen, it wouldn't be my choice of words, but this is how the Donald is. It's not like he's changing his personality on the campaign trail, as most politicians do. I think we see a track record. This is just how he speaks.

But what I find interesting is that Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are now sharing talking points, which I think speaks large about what exactly these campaigns are trying to do.

And when you look at Hillary Clinton, whenever she gets backed into a corner, once again, she plays the sexist card. That's what offends me, Wolf, I'll be honest with you, is when she sits there, instead of sitting there going after specific policies and saying, "I don't like this, this, this and this." She immediately cries foul and cries sexism. That's not fair to our gender either.

BLITZER: Well, you're a woman, obviously. As a woman, did it offend you when Donald Trump referred to Hillary Clinton coming a few seconds late during that commercial break, because she went to the ladies room as something being disgusting? Did that offend you?

HUGHES: Yes, I'm one of those, you know, that does not offend me. I'm not so -- so easily ticked off in that area. What does offend me, though, is that she's taking this to actually try to cover for the real controversy that came out of that debate. The fact that she did say a blatant lie. And unless she can produce

videos of ISIS members on their phones showing videos of Donald Trump, no one -- she's not yet to be held accountable, to sit there and just generalize and say that's what's on Arabic TV, that right there is wrong. That is a lie, and she's trying to use the sexism to cover for her own mistake and for her own blatant applause lines that she used during the debate Saturday night.

BLITZER: Well, what's disgusting about a woman going to the ladies room?

HUGHES: Well, you know, that's just how Mr. Trump is. You know, what happens in the men's room is disgusting, as well. It's just what -- it's just a natural thing. Those are just the verbiage that Mr. Trump uses. And let's talk about why he uses them.

You know, he graduated from one of the best business schools, so therefore, I know he could hold his own in a very intellectual conversation.

But the people that are following him, the 40 percent, these are the blood of America. These are the blue-collar workers. These are folks that use conversations like this. And I think it speaks to a testament that a billionaire like Trump can relate to those people that are working every day on Main Street that are hurting because of the policies of this administration over the last eight years.

BLITZER: Scottie, Hillary Clinton spoke about the need for what she described as respect as a campaign rally in Iowa today. Listen to this.


CLINTON: We need more love and kindness in our country. I think we are not treating each other with the respect and the -- and the care that we should show toward each other. And that's why it's important to stand up to bullies wherever they are and why we shouldn't let anybody bully his way into the presidency.


BLITZER: Is Donald Trump a bully, Scottie?

HUGHES: Absolutely. And let me tell you why it's a good thing he's a bully. Because the people he's representing are folks that are disenfranchised with the Republican Party right now. They feel like they've been bullied. They feel like they've been called whacko birds by the same people that they worked hard to elect.

And when you look at Hillary Clinton, I think it's very weird that she's the one calling Trump a bully when you go and ask the Bernie Sanders campaign right now, they have been bullied by Hillary Clinton for being challenged since day one.

This whole e-mail scandal they went through last week, and now they're sitting there saying that the DNC is in the Hillary camp. She's one of the biggest bullies out there right now.

And to sit there on the reverse and say that someone else is bullying, that means that she's accepting the victim card. And I don't know about you, Wolf, but right now, when I've got people that want to come over here and want to hurt us and want to hurt the United States of America, the last thing I want representing us is someone who feels like they're a victim.

[18:35:16] BLITZER: As you know, Donald Trump is a very successful businessman. He's obviously well known to Americans because of his appearances on television over the years. He knows, certainly, how to play to crowds in these rallies that he addresses.

How much of what he actually says does he really believe? Because some people are saying he's simply playing occasionally to the crowds, as opposed to telling the crowds what he really believes.

HUGHES: Isn't that what every politician does, though, Wolf, on the campaign trail? I mean, isn't that what they all do? And the key with Mr. Trump is, though, we're finding that he puts action behind his words. He actually backs it up and shows points that he's done in his past and his business career.

Granted, he doesn't have a voting record. That's probably a good thing. But go and read "The Art of the Deal." He has always said when it comes to negotiations, you ask for the extreme and then work your way back in. That is what compromise is. I think that is exactly what Mr. Trump will bring to the White House.

And after that last eight years, we're going to need, from the conservative standpoint, someone who's willing to go in there and just wreck up everything and start a new -- and rebuild this country into the wonderful country that we know it can be. We've got a great foundation.

BLITZER: Scottie Hughes is a Donald Trump supporter.

Scottie, thanks very much for joining us. If I don't see you, have a merry Christmas.

HUGHES: Merry Christmas, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. Let's bring back our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; along with our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny; and our CNN politics senior digital reporter, Chris Moody.

Well, Jeff, let me get your reaction to what we just heard.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think she's pretty blunt spoken, and I think she's right. I mean, voters do like to hear this type of brash language from Donald Trump. He knows exactly what he's doing. Everything he says, he doesn't poll test it, but he can feel it. He's a good enough sort of marketer. He sort of -- he feels the audience. And she said it's a good thing he's a bully. And I think that that --

I'll tell you, when you talk to voters, as I've been doing at every Trump rally I've been to, you know, for weeks and months, what do you like about him? He's strong. He stands up for things. He's not politically correct. That's what they love.

And of course, as Dana said in her piece, she's a prime opportunity here for his audiences. The question, of course, is if we would win the nomination, is he able to expand his appeal to maybe some of those, I don't know, independent women in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, who are key to winning elections. That's an open question.

BLITZER: This is part of the strategy when he goes after Hillary Clinton and what some would describe, obviously, as a vulgar way.

BASH: Oh, absolutely, because it all comes down to the idea that he's not going to be politically correct. He's a different kind of guy. He's not going to speak Washington gobbledygook like a lot of people who are running for office, who are not just senators but even, you know, governors. They're politicians that they sound like. So absolutely it is.

And you know, we've heard him say things like this, again, about fellow Republicans. You know, that does make some Republican voters a bit squeamish. But when he's talking about Hillary Clinton for the Republican or conservative base, the people who he needs to get out and get excited about getting out in the primaries, it's a no-brainer for him.

BLITZER: And it's a no-brainer for her when she's attacked by Donald Trump and she goes after Donald Trump. That -- it plays to his political base, but it also, from her perspective, plays to her political base.

CHRIS MOODY, CNN POLITICS SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump's entire career has been based on using arguments with other people in public and through the media to his great success.

I think one thing I noticed from her comments in the interview there was that Donald -- excuse me, one thing I noticed with her is that we've always wondered what will Donald Trump say that will get his most ardent supporters to back away from him and say that that's too much? And we've been doing this several months now, and it's never happened. And certainly, even in this flare-up, it hasn't happened.

BLITZER: And you don't think this is necessarily going to hurt him with that Republican base.

MOODY: No. If saying what he said about John McCain and POWs and saying I like people who weren't captured didn't hurt him and all of the other things he said, I see this as just a little bit of a blip, especially because it's geared toward Hillary Clinton, no matter how offensive it is. Now, this is speaking just to his supporters, not in the general election when he's going to need to appeal to far more voters. ZELENY: It's clear the only thing that will hurt him, I think, is

something that he would say against a fellow Republican, a conservative, as we get closer here. If he really takes on Ted Cruz and starts saying something that could hurt him in the long term, that's when Donald Trump is going to get blowback, but not from Hillary Clinton. That's, like, it's -- as you said, a no-brainer.

BLITZER: When he suggested the other day that Cruz may be a bit of a maniac, he did get some blowback from Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.

BASH: And then he backed down.

BLITZER: Trump itself acknowledged that that was one of the reasons he was backing down. In the new Quinnipiac University poll, Dana, this is among all Americans, not just Republicans. We took a close look there. We see right there 50 percent say they would be embarrassed if Donald Trump were president of the United States. Are you surprised by that number?

[18:40:00] BASH: I am a little bit. I'm not, frankly, sure what to make of that. You know, I think it's the other side of the coin of what we've just been talking about. That they like -- many people in the Republican Party like the fact that he's blunt, like the fact that he doesn't talk like another politician.

But then the people who don't want to have anything to do with him say, "Well, wait a minute. It's one thing to be on the campaign trail doing politics. It's another thing to be a statesman, a president, in the White House, representative of this country on the world stage. But I'm a bit skeptical of that."

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, guys. We have much more to assess. We'll take a quick break. More on the race for the White House when we come back.


BLITZER: We're back with our political team in a new poll showing Ted Cruz closing in on Donald Trump in the Republican presidential race.

Let's take a look at this new poll, Dana. You see Donald Trump in the Quinnipiac University poll, 28 percent; Cruz, 24; Rubio, 12; Dr. Ben Carson, 10; Chris Christie, 6; Jeb Bush, 4. It looks like, at least right now, nationally among Republicans, a two-man race.

BASH: It certainly does, which I think is why Ted Cruz has an extra spring in his step today. And it might test the question of whether or not Donald Trump is going to be a little bit more aggressive towards Cruz, whether it will go back to the -- kind of the maniac days to, I don't know how long ago, a week ago.

[18:45:10] BLITZER: Criticism from conservative radio talk show hosts.

BASH: Maybe. But I think it just kind of depends how it goes. You know, national polls are a good snapshot, but we also have to remind people that especially as we're so close to the first actual voting, you know, a little bit more than a month away from Iowa, for example, it's those that are going to kind of really set the rhythm of what happens.

BLITZER: Jeff, listen to Jeb Bush speaking about Trump's latest controversial comments.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's great at being the victim. You know, this will enhance her victimology status. This is what she loves doing.

Trump is not going to be president because he says these things. It turns people off. I mean, for crying out loud, we're two days before Christmas. Lighten up, man.


BLITZER: Jeb Bush is constantly being described by Donald Trump as low energy. And that has hurt Jeb Bush.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It has. And him sitting there in his sweater saying the word "victimology" I think kind of encapsulates that.

But, look, I think he is -- any Republican would agree with that as well, that, you know, they don't want to see Hillary Clinton play the victim card here, but I'm not so sure that she is playing the victim card here. This is going to rally Democrats around her as much as anything. That's one of her biggest challenges.

They just have not been as enthused because they don't feel she has an urgent race right now. And she actually sort of does against Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. He can't side with Hillary Clinton necessarily, because that's the business, but he has to keep up his line of saying that Donald Trump is an unacceptable nominee.

BLITZER: Chris, listen to Hillary Clinton today because she sort of touched on the Donald Trump controversial comments.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, people around the world pay very close attention to our elections. And if you go on Arabic television as we have and you look at what is being blasted out with video of Mr. Trump being translated into Arabic, no Muslims come into the United States, other kinds of derogatory, defamatory statements, it is playing into the hands of the violent jihadists. There is nothing they want more than to be able to claim that the United States is against Islam and against Muslims. And that, then, lights an even bigger fire for them to make their propaganda claims through social media in other ways.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Remember, this sort of started off the whole exchange with Donald Trump, the video, ISIS using his words, which we haven't found any such video. She's reframing her comments right now much more accurately.

CHRIS MOODY, CNN POLITICS SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she's doing two things. One is she's explaining -- articulating what she pent by that comment. Sometimes when you're on the debate stage, you're a little more glib. Now she has a little more room to breathe and explain the point of why she said something like that.

BLITZER: She's not apologizing.

MOODY: She's not apologizing, and she won't as we saw from her spokesman, hell, no, she's not going to apologize.

But -- I mean, she's right. There certainly has been a lot of evidence showing that when you show anti-Islamic comments on the campaign trail, then that feeds into the rhetoric over with ISIS and all of that.

So, this is something that is not going to go away, but it's also something that Donald Trump will continue to not apologize for either. So, this is going to continue back and forth.

ZELENY: A war of no apologies here. I mean, you know, I think at some point, we have to change the subject on this point. But she did -- I mean, she made a mistake in the debate by saying there were videos out there. This is a whole different saying by saying the newscasts are translated. Of course they are here.

You know, again, it's still good for both of them. But, I mean, move on at some point.

BASH: It makes you wonder if that's what she was supposed to say and she messed up.

ZELENY: A nuance but an important nuance.

All right. Speaking of nuance, watch this, the president of the United States, he's on vacation in Hawaii. Today doing what he loves doing, playing golf. And he has an unbelievable shot. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go, go, go! Oh!



BLITZER: Very nice 40-foot little shot on the green over there. Very impressive.

BASH: Look, I mean, he dropped the mike. He had a club, not a mike, you know. He was very proud of himself. Did you see him looking over to make sure that the cameras all got it? Not bad. That's what vacation's for, even if you're president. Maybe especially if you're president.

ZELENY: Especially somebody that's not known to be that good of a golfer. John Boehner and the vice president much better golfers than he is. That's a very good shot by anyone's --

[18:50:01] BLITZER: He happens to be a good athlete, though.

ZELENY: No doubt about it.

BLITZER: He plays basketball, does a good job and obviously getting better at golf.

MOODY: Even Donald Trump would say that's a pretty good shot.

BLITZER: All right. Very good shot.

All right. Much more news coming up right after this.


BLITZER: Just weeks before New Hampshire holds the presidential primary of 2016, the state is putting the spotlight on an exploding crisis, heroin addiction.

Here is CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


CASEY CURRIVAN, RECOVERING HEROIN USER: My name is Casey Currivan. I'm a volunteer Hope for New Hampshire. I'm also a person in recovery now.



GUPTA: How was that?

CURRIVAN: They're all looking at me. There is Jeb Bush sitting in the middle.

The thoughts that went through my head immediately was, I'm not worthy of this. Immediately I thought of the director of Hope for New Hampshire saying, why not you? I thought, why not me? What don't I have to offer?

GUPTA (voice-over): What Casey Currivan is offering is a desperate story, tough to hear, about an epidemic of drug abuse claiming too many lives in New England.

[18:55:09] CURRIVAN: It's the number one thing somebody under the age of 35 is going to die from in my state, beats out car accidents. If you're not paying attention to that, you have no right to represent anybody.

GUPTA: Fourteen months ago, drug abuse barely registered here in the Granite State. Now, it's at the top. More important to voters than jobs, the economy, taxes, you name it.

CURRIVAN: OxyContin went off like a bomb in New England.

GUPTA: It started with Oxy, OxyContin. What many don't realize is that pills like these and heroin have a lot in common. In fact, they are so chemically similar that for an addict or an abuser, they are interchangeable. No surprise then, 80 percent of heroin addicts started off using pills.

(on camera): How did that happen for you?

CURRIVAN: Somebody in the hotel offered us heroin. I almost looked at it like a science experiment. That was how my brain justified going through the whole process of using heroin. I sniffed it. And it had an effect but wasn't the effect I was looking for. An hour later, I shot heroin.

GUPTA: What were you trying to discover here?

CURRIVAN: I just wanted relief.

GUPTA: Relief from?

CURRIVAN: Relief from my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions. If I had the power to choose, I wouldn't choose to use every day.

GUPTA (voice-over): What Casey is describing is a substance use disorder. That's a new name for an age-old disorder, addiction. It's a brain disease. It causes you to seek out drugs no matter how horrible the consequences.

In fact, Casey almost died of a heroin overdose. He now wants Narcan, a sort of an antidote in the hands of anyone who needs it. Why? Because it saved him like it did for this woman. She has overdosed and is no longer breathing.

Now, watch closely what happens when she gets Narcan.

Casey's message with many others is starting to be heard.


GUPTA: In October, President Obama announced efforts to double the number of providers that can prescribe Narcan. It was welcome news here in New Hampshire where the cries for help, any sort of help are the loudest.

And we kept asking ourselves, why here in New England? Well, the answer in part is because heroin is particularly easy to get and very cheap.

(on camera): How easy is it to find if you wanted to find it? CURRIVAN: That's a good question. I guarantee you there's nobody in

New England with money in their pocket that is saying, "God, I wish I could find heroin" if they really needed it.

GUPTA: You've got money, you can find it.


GUPTA (voice-over): Casey hopes the days when he was out buying heroin stay behind him. He spends his free time now with his 3-year- old son, and staying true to his recovery. Still, this wasn't the life he ever imagined, slowly becoming the new face of a former heroin addict.

CURRIVAN: People think that a person suffering from alcoholism or addiction, they have this image that comes up in their mind. I like to break that image. If I met you on the street, you wouldn't think that two years ago I was an IV heroin user.

GUPTA: Yes, Casey Currivan is a new face, now tasked with taking the message of 23 million Americans currently in recovery straight to the candidates, Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders, Chris Christie -- anyone who could possibly stop this epidemic.

CURRIVAN: I'd appreciate it if they use the same language, not those addicts, those people, because those people are your moms, your dads, sons, daughters, they're your neighbor, they're the chief of your police. They're everybody. They're your doctor, your nurse.

We're not unique people, just we have a chronic neurological condition. Treatment is available and recovery is 100 percent possible.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.


BLITZER: This important note, you can see much more of Sanjay's special series, "Primary Concern Heroin", tonight on "AC360", 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.