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THE SITUATION ROOM
Terror Plot; ISIS Tactic Backfires?; Interview With Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; Officials: China Likely Behind Huge Cyberattack. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired June 5, 2015 - 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: Tracking terror. We have new information about the dead suspect in Boston, his past contacts with the FBI, and a third man allegedly linked to a beheading plot.
ISIS moron, that's what a U.S. commander is calling terrorists who are giving away their location on social media. Is the ISIS P.R. strategy backfiring?
Ex-speaker accused -- stunning new details of sexual abuse allegations against Dennis Hastert from a woman who claims her brother was a victim of the man who became a powerful leader in Congress.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Breaking now, China's powerful military may be in possession of the stolen personal information of millions of Americans that could be used to blackmail U.S. officials or expose secret agents. Sources tell CNN investigators believe they can trace a massive cyber-attack on the federal government to Chinese hackers. This could be the biggest breach ever of the U.S. government's computer networks.
Tonight, we're getting new information about this huge and dangerous cyber-security failure. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, she is here with us. She's a member of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees. Also, our correspondents are analysts, they are standing by as we cover all the news breaking now.
First, let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, for the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and just briefed on the attack, tells me it's an order of magnitude bigger than any cyber-attack the U.S. has seen of its kind, and the belief is, it was intended to facilitate more attacks in the future by identifying vulnerabilities and also using personal information against federal employees to manipulate them.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It only took one government agency that had not taken the simple step of updating its server software to open the door to an unprecedented and alarming cyber-attack by China, U.S. officials say. believed to be by the government of China.
Though the White House still is not publicly naming the culprit, it's acknowledging the growing threat.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have seen our adversaries using innovative techniques and to learn from their previous efforts to try to find vulnerabilities in our system and to exploit them.
SCIUTTO: This attack appears designed to lay the groundwork for future attacks, using the stolen personal information to fool government employees in so-called spear-fishing attacks and to impersonate them to carry out insider attacks. And, crucially, by revealing who has security clearances and at what level, they may now be able to identify, expose and even blackmail U.S. officials around the world.
Targeting the personal information of federal employees is new. Chinese hackers had previously focused on stealing military and government secrets to enhance national security and corporate data for financial gain.
BEN BEESON, LOCKTON COMPANIES: I don't think that has stopped. But this is just a new attack vector, which has typically been used by organized crime for monetizing that data, and now nation states are clearly seeing that it has some use for them as well.
SCIUTTO: Security analysts say some federal agencies are not following the government's own guidelines to update operating systems with the latest protections. The Office of Personnel Management discovered the breach by using new software, but the detection came after the system had already been compromised.
After years of alleged cyber-attacks by China, the Obama administration has tried raising the issue president to president. It even issued criminal charges against an elite group of Chinese hackers believed housed at this Shanghai building and known as Unit 61398. But China's attacks have only continued and grown.
JON HUNTSMAN JR. (R), FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR: Let's face it. Cyber, as we're all waking up to again this morning, is the newest domain of warfare.
SCIUTTO: Now, once this breach was discovered, the U.S. created a fake system within the system, which was designed to absorb Chinese cyber-attacks without the Chinese hackers knowing, something of a cyber-honey pot. That continued for some weeks, but it came after Chinese hackers were inside the system, capturing data for months -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
The Obama White House says the scope of the cyber-attack and the source are now under investigation.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.
Michelle, how is the administration responding to the cyber- attack?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this is looking like an act of cyber-warfare at this point. But the White House made it clear today that this kind of hack is a threat to America's national security, its people and its economy.
But it didn't want to give any detail about how this could have happened and won't acknowledge that U.S. officials do think China's government is behind it. They did say that whoever did this is a dedicated adversary.
So, what does this mean for the relationship between China and the U.S.? Because it seems, whenever President Obama meets with the Chinese president, they are always talking about forging this new cooperative way forward, and then a hack happens. Well, the White House today said that this is constantly brought up whenever the U.S. is meeting with Chinese officials, that they have asked China to take certain steps to stop this, and they're going to keep bringing it up.
Also, the question comes up again and again, how best to get ahead of these attacks? Because it does seem like, whenever something is done lately, it's reactive. Well, the White House believes that one way to do this is a lot more information-sharing early on in a hack between the private sector and the government, because they believe that these hackers often use the same techniques.
And for this sharing to happen more efficiently, they say Congress needs to act and the White House took the opportunity today to slam Congress for not doing more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EARNEST: That effort to coordinate requires congressional action. And the fact is, we need the United States Congress to come out of the dark ages and actually join us here in the 21st century to make sure that we have the kinds of defenses that are necessary to protect a modern computer system. And we have not seen that kind of action in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: The White House staunchly defended its own record on trying to stop these things, saying they have taken executive action, proposed legislation, that they have rolled out fixes in the systems two years ahead of time.
But, still, we hear the criticism. In fact, just today, we heard from a former deputy secretary of homeland security, who said there is more the U.S. can do to try to stop these hacks, but it's not doing it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Michelle, thank you.
Let's go to the terror plots in Boston right now. We expect authorities will soon release surveillance video showing the suspect Usaama Rahim being shot and killed by authorities. They promise to make it public after his burial today.
And tonight we're learning more about Rahim, his associates and their links to ISIS.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is in Boston working her sources.
What are you learning, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning more about the third individual who is believed to be part of this terrorist conspiracy.
He apparently was a friend of Usaama Rahim and David Wright. We learned that he had been in touch with an ISIS fighter online, apparently. He told this to a CNN producer, Paul Murphy. We have learned from law enforcement officials that the investigation into what role he may have played with the terror plot is still very active.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, indications Usaama Rahim became suspicious the FBI was on to him in 2012 and had bugged his phone. On Facebook under the alias Abdur-Rahim Al-Amreeki, he wrote: "I heard some clicking noises on my phone." He said an FBI agent called and told him: "Sir, we have some allegations regarding for you. I came by your house a few times, but kept missing you."
Law enforcement officials confirm Rahim, who police shot and killed in Boston on Tuesday, had been on the FBI's radar for the past couple of years. They say he met on a Rhode Island beach Sunday with his nephew, David Wright, and an unnamed 24-year-old man. that man lives here in Rhode Island with his parents. Police searched the home Wednesday and a law enforcement source tells CNN agents have spoken with him, but he hasn't been arrested.
The three allegedly plotted to behead an activist Pamela Geller in New York, before Rahim changed his plan and decided to attack police officers in Massachusetts on Tuesday, according to the FBI.
RON HOSKO, LAW ENFORCEMENT LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: The trick of this is, frankly, let the person get close enough, so that they're taking a substantial step forward, that their efforts, their actions are prosecutable.
BROWN: CNN communicated with the third individual through Twitter back in March as part of reporting on Americans who follow jihadists. He indicated he was in touch with terrorists online, including with ISIS. He claimed an alleged ISIS fighter was telling him to come to Syria to fight with the terrorist group, this as CNN is learning known ISIS members overseas were communicating through peer- to-peer communication with at least one of the three men, encouraging a terrorist attack in the U.S.
Court records show Rahim bought three military knives on Amazon that were delivered to him in the last week.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans believes he intended to behead officers.
WILLIAM EVANS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: When they have the knives and what's happened across the country and across the world, the beheading of military and police officers, we can insinuate that that's why they have the knives. And based on that comment, that's what we believe they were up to.
BROWN: Now, as for that third individual, we're told by law enforcement officials he has not been arrested and he has not been charged with a crime. As one official I spoke to said, if we could have arrested him by now, we would have -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown in Boston, thanks very much.
Let's talk more about the ISIS threat, as well as the massive cyber-attack on the United States.
Joining us now, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She's an Iraq War veteran, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is joining us from Hawaii.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us.
I want to talk about what's going on in Iraq, the war against ISIS in a moment.
But let me ask first you about that massive cyber-attack on the federal government. Four million current and former employees may have had some of the most sensitive personal information stolen by these hackers. Do you suspect anyone on your staff who may have previously served in the executive branch may have had his or her information stolen?
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Yes, aloha, Wolf. Thanks for having me on to talk about this very important issue.
I have been in touch with my staff. And at this point, we have not gotten word that any of them have been a part of the millions whose private information was hacked. But I think we really need to look here at the larger issue of the serious vulnerabilities that we have within our cyber-security systems here in the United States. And we also need to recognize where else these threats are coming
from. We have seen recent attacks coming from Russia, from North Korea from Iran, and even reports recently that ISIS themselves are creating their own team of hacking jihadists.
So it's important that the leaders in our country make the necessary investments and really understanding the serious threat we're facing in this relatively newish form of warfare that we have got to deal with now, and going into the future.
BLITZER: How should the U.S. respond to these cyber-attacks?
GABBARD: Well, again, I think this goes into the necessity of, first of all, strengthening our systems.
This has pointed out in the last few times that the United States government as well as those in the private sector have been hacked, and on the government side, it's shown that the resources have not been dedicated towards strengthening our systems to make it so that we are protected, so that the American people are protected from these kinds of attacks.
Secondly, the issue here really that could be devastating to our country is if our core infrastructure was hacked, if you look at our energy grids, if you look at our nuclear energy facilities, you look at some of these core infrastructure elements within our communities all across the country, making sure that those are protected again against these very talented hackers that are being employed by or working for different entities all across the country.
BLITZER: Hold on for one second, Congresswoman. We have got some breaking news.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: These are live pictures we're getting from Illinois right now. This looks like an Amtrak train headed from San Antonio to Chicago collided with a truck near Wilmington, Illinois, just a little while ago, this according to officials.
Amtrak train number 22 stopped -- is stopped, obviously, waiting for police to investigate, this according to Amtrak officials. We're told, at least so far, no injuries have been reported, but another disturbing development there, a train colliding with a truck near Wilmington, Illinois. That's just south and west of Chicago. These are live pictures coming in from our affiliates. We will see what's going on.
See passengers obviously getting off right there.
Let's take a quick break. We will get back to Tulsi Gabbard, much more on the war against ISIS in Iraq and elsewhere, when we come back.
BLITZER: Following the breaking news, not far from Chicago, an Amtrak train from San Antonio to Chicago, Amtrak train number 22, smashed, collided with a truck near Wilmington, Illinois. That's just to the south and west of Chicago.
You can see the part of the truck in front of the train right there, the rest of the truck behind the train. It's -- no injuries have been reported, at least not yet. Passengers, though, were taken off the train. That train is stopped. These are live pictures coming in. We will update you as soon as we get some more information, another Amtrak train colliding with a truck near Wilmington, Illinois.
In the meantime, let's back to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's an Iraq War veteran, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee.
We're following all the breaking developments, Congresswoman, in the war against ISIS. We learned this week that the U.S. Air Force actually used some ISIS social media posts to identify bombing targets. What do you make of this? Is this the best the U.S. can do, to actually go to some ISIS social media posts, find out where some ISIS terrorists are, and launch an airstrike and try to kill them?
GABBARD: Well, first of all, you know, great job to the airmen who are doing this.
But there's something that really bothers me about this. Just as we saw this ISIS guy bragging by taking a selfie, we're seeing now on our side the U.S. is bragging about our own capability, therefore opening up a vulnerability and a weakness.
We have seen this with the situation that just occurred in Boston over the last few days, where, really, frankly, across the board, we're revealing far more information than is necessary, first of all, and revealing far more information that will ultimately point out what our, in the military, we call tactics, techniques and procedures are, therefore causing them to say, OK, look, this is how we have to change our own tactics, so that the United States is no longer able to exploit what they have -- what we have done.
So, this is a problem that needs to be fixed as we look at things that we need to continue to do going forward to defeat ISIS.
BLITZER: Earlier this week, the deputy secretary of state, Tony Blinken, said at a coalition conference against ISIS in Paris that 10,000 ISIS fighters have been killed by U.S. -- largely U.S. and coalition airstrikes.
Other officials say only two civilians, collateral damage, as it's called in the military, have been killed. How can they be so precise with those kinds of numbers?
GABBARD: Well, I don't know exactly what numbers or the sources of those numbers that they're referring to.
Of course, to minimize absolutely collateral damage to civilians is the best possible outcome when you're dealing with a war situation. I would like to point to that conference, though, that Tony was speaking at, and point to Syria's absence. There were no representatives from the Kurdish government or the Kurdish military present there.
This is the second conference that they have had where, frankly, they have completely omitted the people who are on the ground in Iraq, as well as in Syria, who have been most effective in fighting ISIS on the ground. They essentially have been our ground troops, and the fact that they were not invited the first time and now the second time just goes to show how flawed this policy is that continues here with the Obama administration, started with the Bush administration, of dumping all of the support into the central Iraqi Baghdad government, influenced by Iran and, frankly, leading what is essentially a failed state.
BLITZER: On that note, the last time we spoke, you suggested maybe it's time to start thinking about partitioning Iraq into what's often called a three-state solution, a Sunni state, a Shia state and a Kurdish state.
I have spoken with several members of the Obama administration since our conversation. They think that's not a good idea. They say they strongly oppose it. Why do you believe they're wrong?
GABBARD: Well, I think it's important, first of all, to operate in the world that actually exists, not the world that we wished existed. Again, if we look at the policies that have been continued from the Bush administration through the Obama administration, the reality is, Wolf, that they're just not working.
And this is why we have to look at what I believe is our only hope toward getting rid of ISIS' stronghold in Iraq, and that is some sort of a three-state solution. Exactly how it's configured would have to be determined. But empowering each of the three ethnic and sectarian groups in Iraq, so that they're responsible for their own governance and their own security will create a situation that will expel ISIS from Iraq and defeat them.
BLITZER: There was a very disturbing report in "The Wall Street Journal" today -- I don't know if you saw it, but I will paraphrase it -- basically suggesting that Iraqi government forces are not allowing young men trying to cross a bridge to flee Ramadi, which is now under ISIS control. They're letting elderly people, women, some children cross.
The refugees, they're trying to get away from ISIS, but young men, the Iraqi army not allowing to leave. They're saying, you have to go back there. You have go back to Ramadi and fight ISIS.
When you hear that kind of report, what's your reaction to that? And you're -- you served in Iraq. You're an Iraq War veteran. GABBARD: You know, Wolf, it's really disturbing and it points
again to a perfect example of how this Shia militia is oppressing the Sunni, the non-ISIS Sunni tribes, and why this continued idea that a so-called unified Iraq is possible really is not.
When you look at the Sunni, the non-ISIS-supporting Sunni tribes, many of them are not motivated to fight against ISIS, not motivated to fight against ISIS because of this oppression from -- coming from this central Shia government in Baghdad.
Just imagine how many of those Sunni families are turned away from escaping ISIS, driven back into the arms of ISIS, understanding that they have nowhere else to go, essentially. And, again, this is why it's critical, it's important for the United States government to relate to, to directly support and to empower these non-ISIS Sunni tribes to fight for their own territory, fight for their families, fight against ISIS, knowing that, if they do that, then they will have the ability to secure their own territory and to govern over this place that has been their home for so long.
BLITZER: Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Representative, thanks very much for coming in.
GABBARD: Thanks, Wolf. Aloha.
BLITZER: Aloha to you too.
For more on what you can do, by the way, to help those attempting to escape the violence brought on by ISIS in Iraq, and Syria, for that matter, visit CNN.com/Impact.
Just ahead: How can the United States stop China or its military from amassing secret information on Americans through cyber-attacks? Our experts are standing by.
And, for the first time, we're learning the name of an alleged victim of sexual abuse by Dennis Hastert decades before he was speaker of the House.
Stand by for the stunning accusations. How did they stay secret for so long?
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[18:30:32] BLITZER: We're following two stories breaking right now.
Take a look at this. This is near Chicago, about an hour or so outside Chicago. An Amtrak passenger train collided with a truck. The train was headed to Chicago from San Antonio, in Texas. So far, we don't know of any injuries, but you can see the truck, basically sliced in half by that Amtrak, Amtrak train No. 22. There's also some breaking news coming in from California.
Nearly 200 firefighters there fighting a wildfire near Lancaster. That's about an hour north of Los Angeles. The fire has burned about 150 acres so far. The cause of the wildfire under investigation. We'll watch both of these stories, update you when we get more.
But there's another story we're watching right now, involving U.S. investigators who are pointing their fingers directly at China, saying the Beijing government is likely behind a massive cyberattack on the United States.
Four million current and former federal employees from nearly every government agency may have had their personal information stolen, some of the most sensitive information out there.
Let's bring in Christian Whiton. He's a former State Department senior adviser. He's an expert on China. Also with us, our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes; and our CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez.
Evan, put this into context, because you're doing some reporting on this. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this was what's called a zero day attack. This is a vulnerability that's particularly difficult for the government to stop or for any -- frankly, any organization, private or public, to stop.
And we're told by that the investigators looked at this as something that, frankly, the Homeland Security Department should have found a way to find earlier than it did.
These hackers were in the system for months. And it wasn't until April before the Office of Personnel Management finally noticed this, and then that's when they decided to try to fix this. The Homeland Security Department is supposed to be using software to monitor these systems to see if there's any anomalies, and they just did not catch this.
BLITZER: Tom, U.S. officials tell me they don't know why the Chinese did this, what they want to use. They can guess. They have some assumptions. Here's the question: How does the U.S. government find out why the Chinese wanted the information, the most sensitive information about four million Americans, current and former employees?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, hopefully, Wolf, when people report that they've been approached, suspiciously, to maybe help, you know, with the Chinese government or with other espionage personnel, in whatever they're trying to do. And oftentimes, if they're contacted mysteriously, if they're traveling overseas and report that to either the State Department or the FBI that they've been approached, then they get an idea that that might be.
And something else that -- to include in this. This is not just the employees. OPM has everybody's financial...
BLITZER: Office of Personnel Management.
FUENTES: Yes, OPM, Office of Personnel Management, has all the data concerning spouses and ex-spouses. Their business records, their financial disclosures, their stock holdings and other financial information. So this is sensitive information. Not just on the government employee, but on everybody in that employee's family, and spouses and ex-spouses.
BLITZER: Yes, it's really widespread. All right. Stand by.
Christian, you said you were surprised at how quickly the U.S. was able to finger China in this attack. Why?
CHRISTIAN WHITON, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR OFFICIAL: All right. Well, it is -- it's -- you know, there's not a desire at the high levels of the Obama administration to antagonize China. The president badly wants a climate deal to be finalized at a meeting with President Xi in Washington, a summit later this year in September.
Late this month there's the strategic and economic dialogue where our secretaries of state and treasury meet with their counterparts from China. So we want smooth relations.
Coming out and saying it's China so quickly means there's overwhelming evidence. But unfortunately, it's part of a trend. China is the biggest cyber offender against us, and it's something they're going to continue to do unless there is some push-back.
BLITZER: If the U.S., Christian, knows how the Chinese operate and knows enough about identifying the Chinese in this specific case, and that's what these investigators are saying, why can't the U.S. prevent these kinds of cyberattacks?
WHITON: Well that's a very interesting question. And with all the money all the taxpayer money that is expended on cyber defense, you wonder why it isn't working.
You know, if you look back over the past couple of years, there have been huge lapses in our security, including WikiLeaks. And it seems that we do an OK job at protecting our most sensitive information, the names and identities of human intelligence sources, but we're pretty lousy with the rest of our information.
[18:35:12] And it calls for more compartmentalization, but there's only so much you can do defensively. We have to make countries like China and, North Korea, which also attacked us last year, they've paid very little consequence. Either in the electronic realm or diplomatically. We may raise this at a low level, but frankly, we ought to look at canceling that summit between Obama and President Xi, until they apologize or until something else is done it make them pay for this.
BLITZER: Yes. The Chinese president is supposed to be here in Washington in September around the time of the U.N. General Assembly. Evan, do you have any indication from your reporting on how the
U.S. will respond to this cyberattack?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The investigation they're doing is still beginning. But what happened as Christian was pointing out, you know, sometimes these things happen in inconvenient times.
The Obama administration knew that the People's Liberation Army was behind attacks against some very large corporations. And they sat on that information for a couple of years until they felt it was finally time to confront China.
They indicted members of the People's Liberation Army of China in bringing charges in that case. They're going to wait until they figure out when is the right time to be able to announce this.
And just quickly, to Tom's point, what I think -- what I'm told investigators think is happening is that the Chinese are trying to perfect the right kind of spear-phishing attack. These are basically sending you emails to make you believe that it's coming from someone you know.
And so this information will be used perfectly to show, you know, something only a friend or your family member would know. And so that's what the use of this information is to Chinese intelligence.
BLITZER: And that's especially worrisome. People are going to be afraid to open any attachments they get over email in the not too distant future, Tom.
FUENTES: I don't think for long. I think people just can't help it. You know, this is how we communicate now. This is what's going on. And I think that everybody may be a little sensitive for a while, but it won't last long.
One of the other points, though, with these countries like China, like Russia, is the more sophisticated they become, the more reliant they are on sophisticated computer networks, then the more vulnerable they are to our going after them. And so I don't think in the long run, I don't think they really want to get into a cyberwar, because they're not in a position to win that, either.
BLITZER: Let me ask Christian, is the U.S. limited in its response options?
WHITON: I think we're politically limited. I think our capabilities are considerable. If you look at our cyber-command, our abilities to retaliate, if that were desired, would be very considerable.
But again, look back and you reported extensively on North Korea's cyberattack against Sony Pictures. North Korea paid very little price for that. Some people were put on sanctions lists. Those people and companies had very little exposure to the international system, international travel, international finance. So basically, North Korea got away with that. And so we really
shouldn't be surprised that China, which has much more economic and diplomatic clout than North Korea, is going to keep doing this. Because they feel that they can keep pushing on an open door and that we aren't going to use our full muscle to push back.
BLITZER: Christian Whiton, Tom Fuentes, Evan Perez. Guys, thanks very much.
Just ahead, a woman comes forward to say Dennis Hastert abused her late brother back when Hastert was a high school wrestling coach. But has someone else been blackmailing the former House speaker?
And Jeb Bush has clearly been running for president for a while now. So why hasn't he made his official announcement, at least not yet?
[18:43:14] BLITZER: Update you on those two breaking stories we're following right now. Take a look at this. This is near Chicago. An Amtrak passenger train collided with a truck. The train was headed to Chicago from San Antonio, Texas. So far, we don't know of any injuries, but that truck simply cut in half.
Our in California, a wildfire near Lancaster has burned at least 150 acres. About 200 firefighters, they are on the scene. Three helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft have been sent to help. There's no prediction about when this fire will be contained. We'll stay on top of both of these stories.
Other news we're following, new allegations and decades-old secrets involving a former speaker of the House of Representatives. A woman is now publicly accusing Dennis Hastert of sexually abusing her now-dead brother long before Hastert was one of the most powerful people in the United States. She's speaking out as Hastert faces federal charges of lying about a multimillion-dollar cover-up of past misconduct.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, has more on this widening scandal.
Jeff, what are you learning?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's a story that's more than four decades old, but it's only coming to light now.
Here in Washington, we knew of Dennis Hastert as the longest serving Republican speaker of the house, but these allegations are from a far earlier chapter in his life, as a high school teacher in the 1960s and '70s.
DENNIS HASTERT, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Thank you.
ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, a new accusation against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
HASTERT: Members of Congress...
ZELENY: Alleged sexual abuse four decades ago.
JOLENE BURDGE, SISTER OF FORMER HASTERT TEAM MEMBER: He damaged Steve, I think more than any of us will ever know.
ZELENY: This is Jolene Burdge, who is now accusing Hastert of sexually abusing her brother at Yorkville High School in Illinois. Hastert was a wrestling coach. Her brother, a student equipment manager.
She told SBC News, her brother, Steven Reinboldt, confided in her about the abuse years later when he told her he was gay. He died in 1995 at 42 years old.
BURDGE: I asked him, "Steven, when was your first same-sex experience?"
And he just looked at me and said that it was with Dennis Hastert. And I just -- I know I was stunned. I said, "Why didn't you ever tell anybody, Stevie?" He just looked at me and said who is ever going to believe me.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: She was approached by the FBI in recent weeks, about Hastert before his indictment became public. He faces charges of bank fraud and lying to the FBI about hush money paid to another former student, who was also allegedly abused.
The Justice Department says he agreed to pay $3.5 million to cover up past misconduct. And CNN has learned the FBI has also spoken to at least one more person in addition to Burdge, who may have been a victim.
Hastert was a coach and Boy Scout leader before coming to Washington in 1987. He became the longest-serving Republican speaker, leaving Congress in 2007.
He's been in hiding since the charges were announced last week. His attorney has not responded to requests for comment. But Hastert did deny the abuse allegations to ABC when they first arose in 2006.
Jolene Burdge said she confronted Hastert when he tried to attend her brother's funeral.
BURDGE: I just looked at him and I said, "I want to know why did you what you did to my brother. I want you to know that your secret didn't die in there with my brother."
ZELENY: She did not respond to messages today from CNN. On her Facebook page, she posted a story about Hastert and wrote, "I can say with absolute certainty there is so much more to this story. Finally, the truth."
His former colleagues say they're stunned at the charges against Hastert.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I was shocked and dismayed by the reports that I read, as anyone else around here.
ZELENY: Now, several friends of Hastert in Illinois and here in Washington told me they are stunned by these allegations. Authorities in Illinois say there was no record of any complaints against Hastert all these years. Now, he has not responded to any of these charges. But he's scheduled to appear in federal court in Chicago on Tuesday -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jeff, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar, and our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, who's also the editorial editor of the "National Journal."
Gloria, is there any indication that any of his colleagues while he was speaker of the House, had any indication at all about the allegations?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, you know, in my reporting on finding what Jeff was reporting, I talked to former staffers who were in the leadership at the time, former House Republicans, current House Republicans. And to a person, they say they are completely stunned and shocked by this.
I think the question of course that everybody is asking was, did this behavior continue when he was in office? Nobody knows the answer to that.
BLITZER: You covered Congress for a long time. Any indications at all that anyone was suspicious about this?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, and I think at first people were feeling shock. Now you talk to former aides and they think there's something to this.
KEILAR: They -- they believe that. And so I think they have this very human reaction of just being Speaker Boehner said dismayed. They're disgusted when you talk to former aides. But, not, they didn't expect -- they didn't have any idea.
BLITZER: No indication.
KEILAR: No idea.
BLITZER: I've covered Washington for a long time. No indication.
Let's talk about the latest job numbers that came in today. Unemployment went up a tiny little bit, 5.5 percent, but 280,000 new jobs were created in the month of May. But you know, all of these positive indicators, whether it's the Dow Jones, six, seven years ago, it was at 7,000, now 18,000, or the unemployment rate going from 10 percent down to 5 percent, if you will.
Has it translated into job approval numbers for the president of the United States?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Only to some extent. He has gotten some credit. If you look at his approval ratings on the economy, they are definitely stronger now than they were a year ago. And they are somewhat depressed now because the news in the past few months over the winter wasn't as good, there's a secular trend where that's improving.
But that's not the only thing on the ledger, right? People are looking at the Mideast. They are frustrated and frightened by what they're seeing as kind of a descent into chaos. His numbers on foreign policy have been declining and that kind of pulls the overall number down.
Look, this matters in 2008, two-thirds of the people who disapproved of Bush on his way out the door voted for Obama. In 2000, 88 percent of the people who disapproved of Clinton voted for George W. Bush. In 1988, 88 percent of the people who disapproved voted for the Democrat.
So, in all of these cases his approval is a big factor in 2016, and every point will matter in that ultimate resolution.
BLITZER: Gloria, do you agree?
BORGER: I do agree, and it's going to be interesting to watch Hillary Clinton and you cover Hillary Clinton, how she distances herself from the president, whether it's on foreign policy, which she's already done on Syria. Whether it's on economic decisions, whether it's on trade for example, it's another issue that we'll be looking at her closely.
But, obviously, the question is Hillary Clinton going to be seen if she's the nominee as a third term of the president.
[18:50:04] And if his disapproval rating high and people don't think he's handled the economy well, that's a problem.
BLITZER: You've heard the same thing from her team how they will play off the Obama factor going into another campaign season.
KEILAR: They are, but the tricky thing for Hillary Clinton is that you look at where she has pus herself on certain positions so far -- criminal justice reform, immigration, saying that she wants to go further than the Obama administration, but in the same direction that President Obama has gone. So, we're going to see her try to find subtle ways to distance herself but when she's done that before like on Syria, she gets into a position where she's almost apologizing because she does not want to upset that Obama coalition that helped him win in the last --
BROWNSTEIN: It's very clear that she's looking to mobilize the same coalition. You can see that in their video, in their announcement video. It was really that vision of the changing America, Democrats are now relying on.
KEILAR: And she's going for his coalition much more than she's going for the one that she tried to --
BLITZER: There are now ten Republicans officially in the race.
BORGER: Is that all?
BLITZER: Jeb Bush will announce a week from Monday, on January 15. Why has he waited this long? Remind our viewers why he's waited this long. Why didn't he do it a few months ago?
BORGER: Can you spell ka-ching? OK?
This way, when you're not a declared presidential candidate, and honestly, the rules are ridiculous at this point, because everybody knows Jeb Bush is running. The rules are outdated. They're ridiculous, OK?
But without officially declaring that he's running for president, he can raise an awful lot of money for his political action committees. He can coordinate with his political action committees.
If he were to declare, and say I am a candidate, that coordination would have to stop. He would have more limits on his fundraising. So, they all play this game and it's a ridiculous game.
BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll continue to watch it. Thanks very much.
I want to show our viewers this live picture coming in. This is of the train collision outside of Chicago about an hour or so outside of Chicago. This is in Wilmington, Illinois. You see half of the truck on one side, the other half on the other side.
This Amtrak train, Amtrak 22, it's now stopped obviously en route from San Antonio to Chicago, crashed into this truck. You see both sides there. No serious injuries we're told. But we don't know the condition of the truck driver.
We'll check that. We know there are more than 200 passengers on board, all of them are no longer on board. We'll see what happens.
We'll take a quick break. Much more news right after this.
[18:57:26] BLITZER: Right now, more gut-wrenching goodbyes to Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau after his death from brain cancer at age 46. The former Delaware attorney general will be laid to rest tomorrow. President Obama will deliver the eulogy. He will also try to offer some comfort to a family that has endured unspeakable heartbreak.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining us now live from Wilmington, Delaware, where a public viewing is under way.
Sunlen, tell our viewer what's happening right now, what's going on.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, thousands of people have come out today. Some telling me that they waited in line up to five hours just to get inside this church, to see the casket of Beau Biden that was delivered here earlier this morning. We're told by those inside that the vice president, he's been standing right at the front of the church, greeting each person as they come by his son's casket, shaking their hand, thanking them for coming. One woman telling me that the vice president even apologized to her for how long she had to wait to see the casket.
Now, the country, of course, hasn't gone through something like this in quite some time. Seeing an active vice president grieving so publicly, visibly shaken at times. The vice president has been. And the mourning will continue tomorrow, first family, former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they will all be out here to see the eulogy by President Obama.
And, Wolf, I'm told by a White House official that the president has been taking a very personal role in the writing of those remarks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure he has, because Beau Biden was simply a great guy, Iraq war veteran, attorney general. He was well on his way where you are in Delaware to becoming potentially the governor of Delaware, a huge future, a great guy.
People on the streets, and I know you've been speaking to a lot of them, Sunlen, they're obviously very upset because a lot of them knew him.
SERFATY: That's right. You know, I was surprised by how many in the community did know him and really felt a personal connection to the family. Many people we spoke to were waiting in line for all those hours today, spoke about personal memories they have had, conversations they have had with the Bidens over the years.
They have been such a part of this community, a part of the fabric of this community. And that's why I think we've seen so many people and thousands of numbers not only come out today, but yesterday, as he laid in state in the Delaware state house in Dover -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Our deepest, deepest condolences to the vice president, Dr. Jill Biden, and the entire family. Beau Biden only 46 years old.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.