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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson; President Trump All In on Accused Child Molester Roy Moore for Alabama Senate; Terror Suspect Arrested in New York; Bannon Joining Moore at Election Eve Rally Tonight; Almost 100,000 Flee Fire Burning Out of Control. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 11, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Times Square terror. A would-be suicide attacker detonates a bomb in one of New York City's busiest commuter hubs. Tonight, we have new information on the suspect, his motive, and the influence of ISIS.
Demanding action. Some of President Trump's accusers join forces, asking Congress to investigate their sexual misconduct allegations. The White House wrapping up Mr. Trump's defense as a fourth senator calls for him to resign.
And state of denial. As Roy Moore stands defiant against his accusers, he's getting an 11th-hour assist from President Trump, with just hours to go before the Senate election in Alabama. Tonight, a proxy battle of sorts is unfolding, pitting Mr. Trump against former President Obama.
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: We're following breaking news on the attempted terrorist attack in New York near Times Square.
A law enforcement official says the man accused of detonating a pipe bomb pledged his allegiance to ISIS. Three people were injured when the homemade device exploded at the busy Port Authority bus terminal this morning. The suspect also was hurt. He's now in custody.
Authorities say he's of Bangladeshi descent and a legal permanent resident of the United States.
Also tonight, allegations of sexual misconduct by President Trump before he took office are front and center, as some of his accusers join forces to urge Congress to launch an investigation of their claims. This as Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand is joining with at least three other U.S. senators in calling for the president to resign.
And in a heated White House briefing, the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, claimed the president has witnesses to back up his repeated denials of the allegations. Mr. Trump's conduct under renewed scrutiny, as he helps Republican Roy Moore in the closing hours of the Senate race in Alabama, recording phone calls to get out the vote tomorrow.
Like the president, Moore adamantly denies the multiple accusations he faces, including a claim that he molested a 14-year-old girl when he was in his 30s. Moore's campaign tonight with former -- he campaigns tonight with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
And former President Obama's getting involved in the race as well, recording get-out-the-vote calls for Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.
This hour, I will talk with the top Democrat in the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's go to our national correspondent, Jason Carroll. He's in New York.
Jason, what are you learning tonight about this attempted terror attack?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, Wolf, an update on the number of those who were injured, the number of those injured now up to five. None of those injuries are said to be life- threatening.
This as investigators continue to learn more information about the suspect and the device that he used, which was apparently packed with screws for maximum impact, a device that he apparently made just last week.
CARROLL (voice-over): Tonight, a man is in custody after an explosive device detonated in the busy Port Authority bus terminal near Times Square. This cell phone video captures the moment.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio calling it an attempted act of terror.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: And let's be also clear. This was an attempted terrorist attack.
CARROLL: Police have identified the suspect as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a Brooklyn resident of Bangladeshi descent.
Authorities say he was wearing a homemade device that either malfunctioned or did not go off as planned.
JAMES O'NEILL, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: Preliminary investigation at the scene indicates this man was wearing an improvised low-tech explosive device attached to his body. He intentionally detonated that device. CARROLL: With more than 200,000 commuters passing through the
terminal daily, authorities say the situation could have been much worse.
The suspect is under a close watch at Bellevue Hospital, where he is being treated for burns and lacerations. A law enforcement source telling CNN the suspect has pledged allegiance to ISIS and that he was motivated by recent actions in Gaza. Most recently, investigators say Ullah had worked at the Port Authority doing electrical work along with his brother.
He had been licensed to drive a taxi in New York, but it's unclear if he ever did. His license expired in 2015. Ullah is a permanent legal resident who came to the United States in 2011 to join family members already living in New York.
This attack comes just over a month after an ISIS sympathizer killed eight people by driving a truck down a busy New York bike path. And, tonight, new questions about security levels in New York's transportation hubs.
O'NEILL: Listen, we have almost 3,000 transit cops that work in the subway system every day. We have the strategic response group. We have the critical response command. All parts of this system are controlled.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: This is New York. The reality is that we are a target by many who would like to make a statement against democracy, against freedom. We have the Statue of Liberty in our harbor. And that makes us an international target. We understand that.
CARROLL: Well, the Port Authority is open, as you can see behind me, Wolf, 42nd Street wide open as well. Investigators still want to talk to the suspect's brother, his family, see if they can learn anything more about his motive.
At this point, they believe this was an isolated attack -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jason Carroll in New York for us, thank you.
Let's bring in our CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd. He's a former CIA counterterrorism official.
So, Phil, walk us through the interrogation. The suspect is alive. He was badly injured in his own crude suicide device. But walk us through the interrogation, what they expect to be getting.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, you heard Jason say many people believe this was an isolated attack. A belief is not a fact, Wolf. There's a couple of things you have to do here. First, you have to
figure out the credibility of the guy you're talking to. And before you talk about motivation about ISIS, question number one, imminent threat. Are you aware of any other attacks? Did you plant any other bombs? Did you make any other bombs?
As soon as you work through imminent threat, you got to work through other people who might have been involved. My guess is they weren't involved. Again, a guess is not a fact. Did anybody know about this? Did anybody help you prepare this operation? Did anybody help you research a device?
So proving that negative, that is, proving that nobody else is involved and that no other event is imminent, takes a while, Wolf. That's what they're doing now.
BLITZER: Because he's apparently already pledged allegiance to ISIS. The question is, is he just pledging allegiance or does he have an actual physical connection to other ISIS terrorists?
MUDD: I think the more we move on from the height of ISIS going back, say, to mid-2014, now into 2017, 2018, ISIS is becoming an umbrella.
I'm angry about Iraq, I'm angry about Syria, I'm angry about Iraq in the past or Yemen or Somalia or Northern Nigeria. Now it's I'm angry about what's happening in Palestine.
I think the significance of ISIS used to be that they could recruit people to train in Syria. Now it's just this idea about whatever motivates me to be angry, ISIS gives me validation to go out and kill people. I think that's the power of ISIS in the years to come, especially when people can get access to is information on the Internet.
BLITZER: The suicide bomb was apparently pretty crude. What does that say to you?
MUDD: Well, it tells me initially that he didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. Sounds like he was an electrician. He ought to be able to wire a device that he probably didn't have individuals who were involved with him.
But on the other side, Wolf, this is concerning, because if you have a central organization that makes more sophisticated devices, an organization that trains people like this, you can at least target those people with intelligence, communications intelligence, for example.
If you have young people in basements who decide they want to research a device on the Web, you tell me, as a former intel guy, how you're going to find people like this. Very difficult, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Phil Mudd helping us better understand what's going on, thank you very much.
Also tonight, the White House is pushing back at the president's accusers and their new demand for a congressional investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct before taking office.
We're joined by our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, some of the president's accusers, they're speaking out once again.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And the White House is once again denying allegations from roughly a dozen women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct. They want a congressional investigation into all of this.
The timing is not ideal for the president, whose accusers have come forward just as Mr. Trump is throwing his support behind an accused child molester, Roy Moore, in the Alabama Senate race.
ACOSTA (voice-over): For the White House, the questions aren't going away, even if the answers remain the same.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations.
ACOSTA: Women who accuse President Trump of harassment and even assault are telling their stories once again to join the MeToo movement that is shining a bright light on the issue of sexual abuse in the U.S.
RACHEL CROOKS, PRESIDENT TRUMP ACCUSER: This was serial misconduct and perversion on the part of Mr. Trump. Unfortunately, this behavior isn't rare in our society, and people of all backgrounds can be victims. The only reason I'm here today is because this offender is now the president of our country.
ACOSTA: The women are also speaking out as the president is endorsing Republican Senate candidate, Roy Moore, who's denying accusations of sexual assault or abuse by four women, including one woman who alleges he molested her when she was 14.
JESSICA LEEDS, PRESIDENT TRUMP ACCUSER: In some areas of our society, people are being held accountable for unwanted behavior, but we are not holding our president accountable for what he is and who he is.
ACOSTA: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders claimed there are eyewitness who is will back up the president's denials.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the president's claim in this process. And, again, the American people knew this and voted for the president, and we feel like we're ready to move forward in that process.
ACOSTA: Sanders made that claim despite Mr. Trump being caught on tape with "Access Hollywood," bragging about forcing himself on to women.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it.
ACOSTA: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley appeared to differ somewhat with the White House view that the issue of the president's past behavior was settled in the last election.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard, and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.
ACOSTA: Before the election, the Trump campaign tried to argue past behavior does matter, pointing to women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of misconduct.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bill Clinton raped me.
ACOSTA: In an exclusive CNN interview, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined a growing number of Democratic senators who says there's enough evidence to call on the president to resign from office.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: President Trump should resign. These allegations are credible. They are numerous. I have heard these women's testimony. And many of them are heartbreaking.
ACOSTA: As the president's accusers were sharing their stories, Mr. Trump was lashing out once again at the news media on Twitter, a line of attack on the American press picked up in the White House Briefing Room.
(on camera): Journalists make honest mistakes, and that doesn't make them fake news. But the question that I have...
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Well, when journalists make honest mistakes, they should own up to them.
QUESTION: We do.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Sometimes. And a lot of times, you don't.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm sorry. I'm not finished.
There is a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people.
ACOSTA: Now, as for the press secretary's claim that there are eyewitnesses who will back up the president's denials that he ever engaged in sexual misconduct, the White House has passed along a few news reports that came out during the 2016 campaign.
But, Wolf, aides to the president have hardly produced enough evidence, eyewitnesses, news accounts to refute all of these claims of abuse directed at the president -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you, Jim Acosta over at the White House.
Let's turn back to the breaking news on that attempted terror attack in New York City.
We're joined by Congressman Bennie Thompson. He's the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume you have been briefed on this attempted terror attack. What can you tell our viewers?
THOMPSON: Well, I can tell you that, from all indications, this was a lone wolf, someone that we think was probably radicalized over the Internet.
But, as you know, soft targets are very hard to protect. And the subway station is an ideal soft target. We have looked at this from time to time on our committee. And, you know, it's very, very difficult. The only thing we can work on is making sure we put training together, make sure we get federal, state, and locals working together, making sure everyone is on the same page.
But from all indications, this was someone who came to this country legally, who's been here for about seven years, and, as far as we know, is not affiliated with any group, other than who he claims to say he identifies with ISIS.
BLITZER: Yes, his name is Akayed Ullah. He's 27. He came in 2011 to the United States from Bangladesh.
This failed suicide bomber pledged allegiance, as you're pointing out, to ISIS. Do you believe, Congressman, this represents a new phase of the threat to the American homemade?
THOMPSON: Well, there's no question about it.
We have looked at this as a vulnerability. As I said, soft targets, they're very hard to protect. Those individuals who act as lone wolves, don't have any organization, it's very difficult to identify them. And until they step forward, it's very difficult and almost impossible from a law enforcement standpoint to know who they are.
So we were fortunate in New York today. It didn't work. He failed. But it could -- to be honest with you, he could succeed. Someone could. So what we have to do is work on intelligence, Wolf, and making sure that the public, if you see something, say something. [18:15:02]
Apart from that, we will just continue to do the best job we can. I say that New York, by far, has the best system of protecting its citizens that we have. We have invested a lot there.
The NYPD does a wonderful job. They coordinate with state and locals, like they should. So, even under the best of times, when you have a lone wolf who decides that this is his or her day to do something bad, it's very, very difficult from a public policy standpoint to protect it.
BLITZER: Yes, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York is one of the best in the country, if not, as you correctly point out, the best, working with the FBI and local and state police.
The White House says this attack today would have been prevented if Democrats, Democrats, including you, you're a Democrat, had enacted the president's immigration policies. What's your response to that?
THOMPSON: Well, you know, we have a robust immigration system, Wolf.
We do the vetting that best you can. The president talks about extreme vetting. To be honest with you, they can't define it. I want anyone who comes to this country, that, between the State Department, FBI, and other officials, to know who they are, and they do a good job.
Just to throw a dog whistle at an issue is not what we should do. Now, this whole notion of chain migration, you know, part of that, as you know, is family unification. So many individuals who have used that procedure come to this country because mother or father is already here.
And we are trying to keep families together, not separate it. And just to say that this is another issue, I think it's a problem. So the courts ultimately will settle this. And I'm convinced that the courts will fall down on the side that the law of the land is exactly intact and what the president is trying to do is unconstitutional.
BLITZER: Yes, he came to the United States legally, Akayed Ullah, this Bangladeshi man, at 27 years old, once again, right now, because he did have relatives already living in the United States.
In a statement the president put out, let me read one sentence. He said: "Today's terror suspect entered our country through extended family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security."
Do you agree with the president on that?
THOMPSON: No, I don't.
We're a nation of values, Wolf. The same kind of scrutiny that any other individual who wants to come to this country, they would have to go through this program. So there's no exceptions for anyone who comes to this country. The vetting is absolutely the best that we can do. And if the president wants to improve it, put it out, let us have hearings on it, and talk about it.
But you can't run the immigration system by executive order. The legislative branch has to participate in the process. And most of the time, when we participate, we make things better.
BLITZER: Congressman, there's more we need to discuss, but I have got to take a quick break. We will resume the interview right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson.
We're following the breaking news on the attempted terror attack in New York City.
Congressman, I want you to stand by, because right now, we're getting the latest on the Senate race in Alabama as well. This on the eve of the election that could be a defining moment for the Republican Party. The embattled GOP candidate, Roy Moore, campaigning tonight with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Let's go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's in Alabama for us.
Kaitlan, it's a fight to the finish in a race dominated by sexual abuse and assault allegations.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Wolf.
And this is a race that has been rife with drama, in just the 11th hour before voters go to the polls tomorrow morning. And although the White House has said for weeks that President Trump would not campaign on behalf of Roy Moore, he's done the next best thing by going 20 miles from the state line and telling an arena filled with Alabama residents to vote for Roy Moore.
And now he's also recorded a robo-call for Roy Moore in the last few days before the election that's being blasted into voters' homes.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: Roy Moore is the guy we need to pass our make America great again agenda. Roy is a conservative who will help me steer this country back on track after eight years of the Obama disaster.
Get out and vote for Roy Moore. His vote is our Republican Senate, and it's needed. We need Roy to help us with the Republican Senate. We will win and we will make America great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: But, Wolf, that isn't the only presidential call that's being made in Alabama this week. Tonight, we have learned that President Barack Obama has also recorded
a call on behalf of Doug Jones, urging voters to reject Roy Moore and playing into the concerns that voter turnout will be low tomorrow by telling them that this is serious and they can't sit it out, arguing that: "Doug Jones is a fighter for equality, for progress. Doug will be our champion for justice, so get out and vote, Alabama."
Now, Wolf, we have seen this outpouring of Democratic support in this state in an effort to counter President Trump's endorsement of Roy Moore. But on the other side of the aisle, we're also seeing striking comments from top Republicans, including the senior senator from Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby, who made this comment about Roy Moore just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I understand we would like to retain that seat in the U.S. Senate.
But I tell you what. I -- there -- there's a time. There's -- we call it a tipping point. And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old story -- story, that was enough for me. I said, I can't vote for Roy Moore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now, we also have former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice putting out a statement about the race today. And though she did not mention Doug Jones or Roy Moore by name, many believe she was talking about Roy Moore when she implored Alabama voters to reject bigotry and vote for someone dignified when they go to the polls tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Condi Rice speaking out. All right, thanks very much, Kaitlan Collins in Alabama.
Let's get back to Congressman Bennie Thompson from Mississippi.
Congressman, back in 2011, Roy Moore said that it would eliminate -- his words, eliminate many problems to get rid of all of the constitutional amendments after the 10th Amendment. And we know what many of those amendments were all about. What's your reaction to that?
THOMPSON: Well, I think he's saying and doing who he is. Someone who tries to legitimatize family values from the term of slavery is not someone who should be in the United States Senate.
Senator Shelby's point was well made. I think here's someone who's a seasoned politician, but, at the end of the day, he wants what's best for Alabama and he wants what's best for the United States of America. And someone who has a history of messing with young girls, being banned from malls, all those kind of things, creates enough doubt and suspicion in the minds of a lot of us to say that, all things being equal, he should not be here. So, tomorrow is a day, Wolf. A lot of work going on. Our president
has changed his mind and decided to weigh in. Other Democrats on the other side are doing the same thing. But, at the end of the day, it's who can go in that ballot box on tomorrow with a clear conscience, and vote for the best person.
BLITZER: Alabama has a voter I.D. law, as you know. No early voting. How do you think those voters could measure turnout tomorrow?
THOMPSON: Well, it could very well.
A lot of us have historically said voter I.D. is a method of dumbing down turnout. We think it is still there. But, clearly, I see enough interest among people who have been historically disenfranchised that they need to go and send a message to the Moore effort that your kind is not wanted here in this state.
And I'm convinced that Republicans in Alabama, some might stay home. Some will go to the ballot box, and at the moment of casting their ballot, they will say, I can't do that.
And so I'm optimistic. I think the case has been made. The facts have been put there. But when I saw a lot of the interviews of local individuals justifying an assistant district attorney courting a 14- year-old as something that we used to do, that's not who we are. That's not the values of this country.
So I'm convinced when people look at those type programs and those type commercials and those type interviews, they will say, that's not who we are. And we will do better.
BLITZER: Congressman, you boycotted President Trump's appearance at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum over the weekend in Jackson, Mississippi.
I wonder if you listened to the president's remarks and do you feel like you did the right thing with hindsight?
THOMPSON: Well, there's no question about it.
From all indications, he came to do a cameo. I didn't want to be a prop, nor did John Lewis want to be a potted plant for President Trump. He has no civil rights record. There's nothing in terms of redeeming value that he gives to a civil rights museum.
So -- but all we could do was to say those of us who have worked and labored in the vineyard all our life trying to empower people, the last thing we want to do is stand shoulder to shoulder with an administration that's doing all it can to undergird [SIC] civil rights efforts here in this country, to take down the civil rights enforcement with respect to education. And so an administration that's not civil, an administration that's not doing right by its people does not deserve to be on the same podium with those civil rights heroes and sheroes of the state of Mississippi.
[18:30:37] BLITZER: Congressman Bennie Thompson, thanks so much for joining us.
THOMPSON: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll talk more about the possible fallout for President Trump from allegations of sexual misconduct, as his accusers band together and some senators are already urging him to resign.
And we'll go live to California, as some of the biggest fire disasters in the state's history causes more devastation.
[18:35:39] BLITZER: Tonight, at least four U.S. senators are calling for President Trump to resign after a group of women who publicly accused him of sexual harassment and assault gave details of their accounts at a news conference. One of them is demanding a congressional investigation of what she calls Mr. Trump's, quote, "history of sexual misconduct."
Let's bring in our analysts and let me start with you, Gloria. The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, once again she repeated the defense that everyone knew about these allegations before the election. He won the election. So basically, she's suggesting, get over it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Case closed. Don't worry about it. Well, clearly those women today haven't gotten over it.
The president has denied the accusations, of course. They haven't been fully vetted and investigated, some of them. And I think that, you know, now the conversation has changed a little bit, from where we were before the election.
Sarah Sanders makes a point. She said, look, the president's been elected, we need to move on. But, in the case of Kirsten Gillibrand, for example, she came out the other week and said that Bill Clinton should have resigned or been impeached. Now you have her saying what's good for Clinton is good for Trump.
So it's a different kind of conversation we're having right now. And the more this gets in the ether, after Harvey Weinstein. I think the more questions are going to be raised about Donald Trump's past history here.
BLITZER: You know, David Chalian, listen to what Senator Kristen Gillibrand, the Democrat from New York, told our Christiane Amanpour earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KRISTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: President Trump should resign. These allegations are credible. They are numerous. I've heard these women's testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking. And President Trump should resign his position.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Pretty strong words. Others calling, similar calls: Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley. Is this political posturing, or is there a serious congressional investigation, is that at all possible?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: Well, not while the Republicans are in control of the Congress, I don't think. And there's a little political posturing here. That shouldn't dampen the severity of a United States senator calling for the president of the United States to resign. That's not something you hear every day. That's not something Republicans did in the Obama era or Democrats did in the Bush era. So it is a bit more extreme, if you will. Of course, we're in an age of extreme political rhetoric.
I do think it's interesting that all four of those senators you're showing are thinking about running for president in 2020. And so I do think that it has a bit more to do with internal Democratic Party politics, Wolf, that this is the new litmus test inside the Democratic Party, calling for his resignation, calling for his impeachment.
I don't think there's going to be a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who can survive the nomination process, who isn't calling for his resignation or impeachment.
BLITZER: Interesting. I want you to listen, Rebecca. This is part of the president -- President Trump's robocall to voters down in Alabama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): Roy Moore is the guy we need to pass our "Make America Great Again" agenda. Roy is a conservative who will help me steer this country back on track after eight years of the Obama disaster. Get out and vote for Roy Moore! His vote is our Republican Senate and it's needed. We need Roy to help us with the Republican Senate. We will win and we will Make America Great Again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In contrast, the senior senator in Alabama, Richard Shelby, he said he did a write-in candidate, he couldn't vote for Roy Moore. So what kind of problems, potentially, could a Moore victory result in for Republicans?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, clearly, Wolf, you're still going to have this split among the Republican Party. And in particular between Republican leadership in the Senate and Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner, the NRSC chair and the president of the United States. And that's not going to change when Roy Moore gets to Washington.
But one question that a lot of people are going to be asking is do these Republicans like Mitch McConnell, who called for Moore to drop out of the race, called for him to be expelled from the Senate if he won the race and were seated, are they going to stick by what they said previously? Or are they going to say, "Well, voters voted, we respect the voters in Alabama and the choice that they made and we need his vote on important policy issues"? That's an open question. We'll have to see how Republicans react, if he actually wins.
BLITZER: And David Swerdlick, the former president, Barack Obama, he did a robocall for the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones. How much of an impact could that have? That Obama robocall?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And just real quick, Wolf, on that Trump robocall, right, he talked about eight years of the Obama disaster. He talked about a five-point drop in unemployment, 150 percent increase in the stock market. And yet, they're framing it as the Obama disaster.
In terms of Obama's call, you have three polls out today. One has Jones and Moore in a dead heat. One has Moore up by nine. One has Jones up by ten. So it's a turnout election. And in that case, every little bit would help Doug Jones, including having the fairly popular President Obama do the robocall for him.
BLITZER: Those polls -- you know, as much as we love polls, I'm very wary of polls right now.
CHALIAN: I don't know how any pollster can guess what the electorate is going to look like on a random Tuesday in December in an off year in a special election.
BLITZER: Yes, Gloria, you agree, right?
BORGER: I totally agree. It depends which side is more motivated at this point. And you really -- you really have no idea. And when you're polling on the telephone, you know, people might lie. And so there's all kinds of things we've learned from the last election.
And as -- you know, as David points out, given the fact that this is, you know, a special election on this Tuesday, who knows -- what the weather will be, who knows who will turn out? I think it really a nail biter here, because we honestly have no idea who's going to go to the polls.
BLITZER: Yes. That's a fair point, indeed. Everybody, stand by. Much more coming up right after a quick break.
[18:46:34] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's election eve in Alabama and the embattled Republican candidate, Roy Moore, is campaigning tonight with former Trump adviser, Steve Bannon, while voters get competing robocalls from President Trump and former President Obama.
You know, Gloria, it's not just the sexual assault allegations which are raising lots of questions about Roy Moore, but he's had a whole series of controversial positions. Let me put them up on the screen.
He suggested 9/11 may have happened because the U.S. turned away from God. Muslim Americans shouldn't serve in the U.S. Congress. Obama wasn't born in the United States. Homosexual conduct should be illegal. He compared homosexuality to bestiality, and getting rid of amendments -- get this -- after the 10th Amendment would, in his words, eliminate many problems.
And there's a lot of amendments after the 10th Amendment. Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. Fifteenth Amendment which prohibited the federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote based on that person's race, color, previous condition of servitude. The 19th Amendment extended the rate to vote to women.
So, there's a whole history of very, very controversial things he has said.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think that these things have gotten a little bit of short shrift nationally because of the charges against Judge Moore. I think in the state of Alabama, people who support Judge Moore may agree with some of this and that people in Alabama understand where Judge Moore has been.
But if you're an African-American voter and you look at what he said after the 10th Amendment, and you look at the fact that slavery was abolished after that, that the 14th Amendment contains the Equal Protection Clause, I think you have to ask yourself, is this a person who's going to stand up for my rights, which is why you have African- Americans like Cory Booker, former President Obama on a robocall, John Lewis campaigning against him, because what they're trying to do is bring out African-American voters, because that's one of the only ways that they know that they can potentially defeat judge Moore.
BLITZER: Yes, and about a third of the population, a third of the potential voters are African-American.
BLITZER: If he does win, David Chalian, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, he faces already a very slim margin. But what -- would Roy Moore be a loyal Republican for Mitch McConnell?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think he would be a reliable Republican vote more often than not, but think about it as he would be a reliable Republican in the way that Ted Cruz or Rand Paul are. He's still going to be problematic for Mitch McConnell. He's going to have to wrangle him on certain issues where he's not completely in line with the establishment.
But the real problem is what you just read. I mean, the real problem is not Roy Moore's votes on the Senate floor for Mitch McConnell, it's what he's going to say in the Senate hallways to reporters. It's what --
BORGER: Or on the floor.
CHALIAN: -- bills he's going to introduce while on the Senate floor. It's, I think, less about the votes that he's going to cast on other bills and more about what Roy Moore is seeking to pursue as a senator that is going to be sort of labeled on every single Republican, Every Democrat is going to make sure that every Republican in 2018 runs as a Roy Moore Republican.
BLITZER: You know --
BORGER: He's going to be the Republican hood ornament on every car.
[18:50:02] And the lawn sign and every car. And, you know, in a way, there are some Democrats who are saying, privately, just let him be in the Senate because he can help us differentiate from the Republicans, because they're going to own him.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers a live picture in Alabama, where Roy Moore is going to be speaking shortly, together with Steve Bannon, Rebecca. Congresswoman Gwen Moore has written a letter to the Senate's sergeant of arms concerning the safety of what she says, the Senate pages in light of a possible victory by Roy Moore. And, of course, as you know, he's accused in his 30s of attacking 14-year-old girls, 16-year-old girls.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it sounds like a little bit of a political stunt, especially because we're talking about not only a Democrat, but also a Democrat who doesn't serve in the Senate as a member of the House.
So, I would take that with a little grain of salt, but I -- this goes back to what we were saying. This is the conversation politically that Republicans have to look forward to when Roy Moore -- if Roy Moore wins, when he is seated in the United States Senate, and you will have, as Gloria was saying, candidates being asked about this on the campaign trail.
You're already having perspective candidates who have to go through a primary process still, being asked about their thoughts on Roy Moore as a potential United States senator. So, this is going to be a topic of conversations that Democrats try to raise, in the hopes that Republicans will be forced to respond.
BLITZER: If he wins, Roy Moore, what's going to be the impact in the 2018 midterm elections?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Also, look, Wolf, on the one hand, Democrat -- this is a fire engine red state. So, a Republican started with an advantage. It will mean Democrats didn't overcome that, even when you have someone who's alleged to have molested a 14-year-old girl. That being said, Democrats will probably have to look and say, we need better candidates selection, someone that appeals and can bring out voters on election day in a Democratic coalition, which is as David just said and as Gloria said, African- American voters, women, younger voters. If Democratic candidate selection can't do that, then they have to rethink what they're doing in 2018.
BLITZER: The last time the Democrat was elected to the Senate from Alabama, what, 19 --
BLITZER: It's been a while.
CHALIAN: Richard Shelby, who then became a Republican.
BLITZER: Who became a Republican.
BORGER: That's right.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. There's more breaking news we're following. We're going to go live to the fire lines in California, where a blaze the size of New York City is spreading tonight.
[18:57:11] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The largest wildfire burning in California tonight is now bigger than all of New York City and the fifth largest ever to ravage the state.
Let's go to our senior national correspondent Kyung Lah. She's near Santa Barbara for us.
Kyung, what, more than 230,000 acres charred in the Thomas Fires. It's only, what, 15 percent contained.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And still continuing to churn further into these hills, a reason why we are here. This is the southwest flank of the fire, Wolf, is that this is where the front line of the fire is being fought.
Right below this burn line, there are some power lines, homes below it, below that, the cities of Santa Barbara, Carpentaria. But you see how the smoke is going up, that is a different tale than what we saw yesterday. We were completely buried in smoke yesterday. You can see the sun. Evacuations were rapidly expanding.
Today, it's now much more of a slow burn, the winds have changed. And what we are seeing today say firefighters, this is a transitional day. They believe tomorrow, they will begin to make much more progress on this fire because the weather is beginning to change, Wolf.
So, things are starting to improve on the ground. But this remains a dangerous fire, more than 6,000 firefighters are still here fighting this fire?
BLITZER: And what are you hearing, Kyung, for some of those firefighters. When do you believe this fire could actually be out?
LAH: It could be weeks. They underscore that weeks, because they have to draw a full containment line completely around this fire. They anticipate they're going to be here for many, many days.
What would be a significant help, Wolf, is rain. There's nothing forecast as far as rain, for the next few weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Do they have enough resources right now? Are they're getting enough federal support state and local firefighters?
LAH: From what we're hearing from firefighters, they believe that the plan they have in place right now is working. They have firefighters from other states coming in. The ring of support is starting to expand and so, they're trying to get firefighters rest as they need it.
But we need to underscore, this is very dangerous work. A lot of these firefighters are working 24, 36 hour shifts.
BLITZER: We wish them only the best, and we know they're doing their best to save not only the land but save people's lives as well.
Kyung Lah, thank you very much fore that report.
Special note: be sure to join us tomorrow for our special coverage of the election everyone is talking about right now. Will embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore defeat Doug Jones? You're going to find out how the people of Alabama vote.
CNN special coverage of election night in Alabama starts tomorrow right here, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.