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Sources: Gunman's Writings Show Anti-U.S. Feelings; Family Reveals Gunman's Depression, Drug Abuse: FBI Interested in Gunman's Trip to Jordan; ISIS Blamed for Terror Attack on Key U.S. Ally. Aired 5-6:00p ET
Aired July 20, 2015 - 17:00 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, disturbing writing. CNN learns investigators are now poring over the Chattanooga gunman's writings, and they're finding anti-American sentiments, even though one of his friends says he called ISIS a stupid group.
Tonight, the U.S. is trying to learn more about a trip he made to the Middle East and his fascination with high-powered semiautomatic weapons.
Terror attacks. ISIS claims responsibility for two horrific attacks, one of them striking a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. Is the terror group expanding its reach? I'll ask a chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Hurling insults. Donald Trump has Republicans cringing right now over his refusal to back away from remarks almost everyone sees as disparaging to Senator John McCain. Trump blames the media for distorting what he said. You're going to hear him in his own words.
And un-contested. I should say uncontested. Ninety-nine percent of North Korea's voters turn out for what observers describe as a sham election. Will it make their undisputed leader even more dangerous?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: we're learning more details about the gunman who killed five people at a Chattanooga Naval Reserve facility. Writings uncovered by investigators show Mohammad Abdulazeez was d displeased with the U.S. government's war on terror, but one of his friends tells CNN Abdulazeez also was critical of ISIS, calling it a stupid group that was doing wrong.
This comes as ISIS says it's responsible for a terror bombing in Iraq that killed over 100 people, as well as a suicide attack in Turkey, an important U.S. ally. Dozens of people are dead there.
Meantime, here at home, a political firestorm started by Donald Trump. Is it backing away from comments most Republicans think were an insult to Senator John McCain and all the former prisoners of war. The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, he's standing by live. He'll join us to answer questions about ISIS and efforts to start terror attacks inside the United States. And our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by
with the latest information on all the stories developing right now.
Let's begin with our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, who's following the Chattanooga shootings investigation. What's the latest, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, perhaps one of the most important clues in the investigation so far are the writings left behind by the gunman. Apparently written over a year ago, they give a window into the thinking of troubled young man who was unhappy with U.S. policy in the war on terror, but what turned Mohammad Abdulazeez into a killer is still unclear.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, in what may be the first hint at a motive, CNN has learned investigators are combing through notes apparently written by 24-year-old Mohammad Abdulazeez. In documents which were found in his home, he expresses anti-American sentiment and says he opposes U.S. war on terror. One official briefed on the writings tells CNN they are consistent with someone having suicidal thoughts.
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI PROFILER AND SPECIAL AGENT: If the suicidal ideation is there, if the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol are there, and if the access to weapons are there, now you have an individual that is at much greater risk for acting out violently.
BROWN: Sources say the writings match an emerging portrait of a troubled young man suffering from depression and bipolar disorder, while allegedly abusing painkillers and marijuana.
This mug shot was taken three months ago after Abdulazeez was charged with a DUI. Police say at the time he had a white powder under his nose.
Abdulazeez was dismissed from his job as an engineer at this nuclear power plant in 2013 and was apparently having trouble keeping a steady job.
JAMES PETTY, FRIEND OF MOHAMMAD ABDULAZEEZ: I knew of his drug usage with marijuana and that he was kind of a big advocate, but he did want to stop eventually.
BROWN: James Petty tells CNN's Drew Griffin Abdulazeez helped him convert to Islam, but that he never heard him express radical thoughts, saying at one point Abdulazeez called ISIS, quote, "stupid."
PETTY: It was a stupid group, and it was completely against Islam. Not to even think about going towards them.
BROWN: Tonight investigators are also focusing on Abdulazeez's trip to Jordan last year. His parents told police they sent him there to get away from friends they say were bad influences, but investigators want to know if he was exposed to radical thought abroad.
BROWN: And this is still being treated by the FBI as a terrorist investigation, but sources tell me they still have a lot of work to do until they figure out a motive and whether he was inspired or directed by a terrorist group. At this point in the investigation, Wolf, it appears far from clear-cut.
[17:05:13] BLITZER: They're making progress, but it's still relatively early in the investigation. Pamela, thanks very much.
The gunman's family now also speaking out. Our national correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is on the scene for us in Chattanooga. Sunlen, what are they saying?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the family of Abdulazeez, they're really giving the investigators during their interview a fuller picture of the personal battle that he was really struggling with. They say that he had been using drugs for some time, including smoking marijuana, taking some sleeping pills, and using other so-called party drugs. That's in addition to having -- taking some painkillers for the last year, they say, for a back injury.
They also saying, revealing to the investigators that he suffered from the manic-depressive bipolar disorder. They say because of that condition, and also because of his drug abuse, he was seeking treatment from a psychologist.
And we are hearing from the family. They issued a statement over the weekend saying, quote, "The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved. For many years our son suffered from depression. It grieves us beyond belief to know that his pain found its expression in this heinous act of violence. We have cooperated with law enforcement, and we will continue to do so."
And in that statement, the family, Wolf, also expressed some sorrow, of course, for the acts of their son, saying there are no words to describe it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sunlen, we know the bodies of the four Marines as well as the sailor -- as well as the shooter, the killer himself -- all of those bodies are now at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. I can understand why the bodies of the U.S. military personnel are there. Why did they take Abdulazeez's body there, as well?
SERFATY: That's a great question, Wolf. First, we know that the bodies were transported separately, so the body of Abdulazeez, the shooter, was transported in a different plane than the bodies of the victims from here in Chattanooga.
We do know that the body is in custody of federal officials. And that's likely why the investigators wanted to receive his body as this investigation goes forward. But it was certainly a poignant moment here in Chattanooga
yesterday as there was an informal procession as the hearse of one of the last victims, Petty Officer Randall Smith, as he was transported to the airport, his mother coming here to the memorial afterwards, putting a baseball mitt, a baseball out. So certainly, a very sad moment for the mother and all the family, and really the community here, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thanks very much.
Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, has been working his sources, as well. Evan, how are the investigators viewing this case right now?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they classify it as a terrorist case, simply because of, you know, what they've seen so far. And until they see otherwise, that's the way they're going to see it.
However, this is -- this suspect in particular, this shooter, is a mess of contradictions. He -- you know, he's drinking alcohol. He's abusing drugs while at the same time professing some kind of religious zeal. And you can see in some of the writings, including the blog posts that are believed to have been his, that he seems to be following some very conservative views, some Talafist views of Islam.
It's definitely confusing to investigators, because they don't know what to make of this guy. He doesn't fit into the box of some of the people we've seen who want to carry out attacks inspired by ISIS. For instance, you know, the fact that he could have killed as many civilians as he wanted to that day but only was aiming to kill military members. ISIS guys tend to be -- they don't care who they kill. So he is posing some -- some strange things to investigators.
BLITZER: Because we know that ISIS has its own problems with other terrorist groups like al Qaeda, for example. So if he says ISIS is stupid, maybe he believes another terrorist group, whether al Qaeda or some other terrorist group, isn't stupid. I suspect that's what investigators are trying to fidget out.
PEREZ: That's right. Right. One of the things they're trying to figure out if perhaps he fits into another box. But, you know, the issue here is that he doesn't seem to have had any kind of direct inspiration. He seems to be cobbling together his own views along with the fact that, apparently, he was suffering from mental issues. So he's definitely not like a lot of the other ones we've seen before.
BLITZER: All right. I'm sure there's a lot to investigate. Evan, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now. Joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican congressman Ed Royce of California.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us. So what do you think about this Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, his writings were critical of the United States, didn't like the U.S. war on terror, but we hear from a close friend of his who says that he told him only in recent days that ISIS was doing wrong. It was completely against Islam. It was stupid. What do you make of this?
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that, besides the messaging coming from ISIS, there are other terrorist organization that are, as the FBI would put it, making that tap-tap-tap on the shoulder of angry and disturbed young men around the world. And there are a lot of them, telling them kill, kill, kill.
And this young man in particular, having spent over six months in Jordan, the FBI is very interested in that aspect of that last trip. He's made a number of trips over to the Middle East, but he came back a changed man from this last trip.
And in speaking to the FBI about it, from the initial briefing I had, I think they're most interested in that. And the other aspect is trying to go through his phone, and of course, it would be much easier if these terrorist organizations didn't have encryption capabilities today.
We don't know yet, but we may find that, rather than speaking openly on the Internet, he had gone dark. And that's one of the things they want to know: Was one of these terrorist organization communicating to him specifically, or was this just the lone wolf who answers the call and decides to take this into his own hands to carry out an attack?
BLITZER: We know he had visited Jordan for several months last year. We also know he was earlier -- he was actually born in Kuwait. But he visited Kuwait, I believe, back in 2010. Do we know if he visited any other Middle Eastern countries? As you know, there's some rumors out there that he may have visited Yemen.
ROYCE: Those two are the two that I know of. Out of a half dozen trips, I only know of those two, but of course, they border other countries, and I think they'll find out after the investigation the full level of his visits.
And now, of course, what the FBI is asking of the provider networks and the telephone networks, is some level of cooperation, now that they'll be able to get a court order in order to try to find what other information they can obtain about his trips overseas and who all he had contacted, because they would like, then, to be able to fan out on the investigation and learn more as a consequence.
BLITZER: I assumed, Mr. Chairman, the governments of Jordan and Kuwait, two close U.S. friends are providing full cooperation. Right?
ROYCE: Absolutely. Because Jordan, as you know, is one of the countries threatened by ISIS. And ISIS's mandate is to put the caliphate in place, and that caliphate would encompass Kuwait; and it would encompass Jordan. So those two governments are going to have a high degree of focus on learning everything they can because of the amount of time he spent there.
And because on an ongoing basis, they're trying to knock down the recruitment of their own citizens into this vanguard of ISIS, as well as other terrorist organizations that seek to replace the monarchy or the government in Kuwait with a caliphate.
BLITZER: As you know, some military recruiting facilities here in the United States have increased security in the wake of this terror attack last week. Do you believe all U.S. military recruiting centers throughout the United States right now, including Orange County, which you represent, need to have better security?
ROYCE: Well, remember we have Marines stationed, you know. We have professionals who have been trained, and knowing that ISIS has made the request to carry out attacks against naval and Army personnel, as well as their requests to carry out attacks against unarmed police officers, this is one of the -- one of the requests that they made worldwide in Europe and the United States.
I just think as a consequence that it would be a good deterrent to allow our Marines on those premises and other military personnel to have that capability. It would have a huge deterrent effect.
BLITZER: In other words, for them to be armed?
ROYCE: Yes, and will -- there will be legislation that will be brought up here probably next week on the House floor to do that. And remember many governors have already done that in their states with respect to the -- the National Guard.
BLITZER: We have a lot more to discuss, Mr. Chairman. I want you to stand by for a moment, but just to wrap this part of the discussion up, you aren't -- you don't have enough evidence yet to be convinced he was either inspired or directed by a specific terror group, whether it was ISIS, AQAP, or any other terror group?
[17:15:02] ROYCE: No. And I talked to the FBI about this case today. We are -- we do recognize that the FBI prevented ten separate incidents during this -- the past two-week period, but this is one individual who got through, and the way he was able to carry out the attack is because there was no advanced warning in this case, so now they have to dig in and find out the specifics of what motivated him to do it.
BLITZER: All right. Mr. Chairman, stand by. We have a lot more to discuss, including these latest terror explosions rocking Turkey and Iraq. Much more with the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, when we come back.
[17:20:15] BLITZER: ISIS is now suspected in a terror -- deadly terror attack. The death toll continues to rise after a suicide bombing today in Turkey. The explosion killed at least 31 people. A Turkish official tells CNN it's ISIS revenge for Turkey helping the U.S. in the war on terror.
And it comes only a day or so after a suicide bomber with an ice truck lured about 120 people to their deaths in Iraq. The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Ed Royce, is still
with us. We'll discuss this and more. Stand by, Mr. Chairman.
But I want to bring in our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon. She's on the scene for us outside that terror explosion in Turkey.
Arwa, tell our viewers what you saw and what happened.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are still forensic investigative teams on the ground at the site of the explosion. We do have to warn our viewers that the video we're about to show is incredibly graphic. CNN is showing it to demonstrate the sheer inhumanity and horror of the attack.
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DAMON: The video is incredibly difficult to watch. Just the panic and chaos that ensues. This was a gathering of mostly Kurdish activists who had come together to discuss and try to promote, bring more attention to the rebuilding effort for the town of Kobani that is in Syria just across the border here that was the scene of fierce clashes and fighting that took place last fall between ISIS and the Kurdish fighting force, the YPG, backed by those coalition airstrikes.
The Turkish government at this stage saying they are going to be beefing up security along the border, pointing the finger of blame to a certain degree at ISIS. So they have not yet claimed responsibility.
This is shocking everybody, yes, but not necessarily surprising, Wolf, as this nation has been bracing itself for the violence in Syria to spill across the border here, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Arwa, the other terror explosion in the past couple days in Iraq, and now we're getting word maybe 120 people were killed. Hundreds more injured after some guy at the end of Ramadan lures people with an ice truck to come there. Tell our viewers what happened.
DAMON: Well, that attack took place in Diallo province in a predominantly Shia town. The vast majority of the victims were Shia. This individual was in the marketplace, calling people to come over and get ice. It is incredibly hot this time of year. And among those 120, there were also at least 13 children.
Both of these targets, Wolf, it would seem, a deliberate attack to try to target society where it is most vulnerable. In Iraq, the attack claimed by ISIS targeting the Shia population, tried to increase tensions between that country's Shia and Sunni populations. Whoever was responsible for the attack here possibly also choosing a mostly Kurdish target to try to deepen the fissure that has historically existed between this country's Kurdish and Turkish populations.
But most certainly, this is going to demonstrate just how many areas can be exploited when it comes to this kind of violence and the potential ripple-on effect they can have in a region that is already fraught with so many various different kinds of attacks and multiple front lines, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Arwa, thanks very much. Be careful over there, as I always tell you. Arwa Damon on the scene for us outside the terror attack in Turkey.
Let's go back to the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Ed Royce.
Mr. Chairman, you just heard Arwa's report. What's happening in Turkey, a NATO ally, what's happening in Iraq right now. I guess the question is how vulnerable are these areas, these people there, including a lot of children, civilians, to ISIS?
ROYCE: Well, you'll notice that the focus there were on Kurdish youth. And in this case secular youth. That particular political party is a secular political movement. Which I think for ISIS, that's a special target. He's going after any secular institutions, and of course, in Iraq, the attack were on young people coming to get ice, families and again, in that case, it was Shia.
[17:25:07] So their intolerance for any other viewpoint other than their own has led them to develop a new type of lethal weaponry. You've seen some reporting over the week about the way in which ISIS is now trying to use gas, and that fireball that you saw in that attack that wounded over 100 Kurds and killed 31, is an example of the kind of lethal weapons they're trying to get their hands on right now.
BLITZER: As you know, Turkey is a NATO ally. There's been a lot of criticism of the Turkey government. Privately, and from officials here, elsewhere, that they haven't done enough to fight ISIS. They won't, for example, allow U.S. warplanes to use Turkish air bases to launch airstrikes against ISIS.
I guess the question is, is this a game changer right now as far as getting more cooperation from Turkey in the war against ISIS?
ROYCE: I think some things are changing. Approximately a week ago, I had a meeting with the Turkish ambassador to discuss the possibility of a safe zone, a safe zone around Aleppo and along the border, where Turkish and U.S. authorities might be able to work in tandem in order to prevent ISIS from operating in these areas and also, by the way, in order to prevent the barrel bombs from being dropped by Assad's Air Force there.
I just think that Turkey is at a point now where they have several million refugees as a consequence partially of what ISIS has done and partially because of the brutality of Assad. And so I think that they are beginning to go through a mental
calculation that maybe they should cooperate with the United States in creating a safe zone there for refugees and in helping push back ISIS.
BLITZER: A final question on the Iran nuclear deal. As you know the United Nations Security Council today unanimously approved the Iran nuclear deal. Even though the U.S. Congress is only now beginning the process of considering it over the next 60 days.
Do you believe you -- and I think you're pretty critical of the deal. Will you have enough of a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives -- in other words, 290 members -- to override a presidential veto that President Obama promises will occur?
ROYCE: Well, Wolf, I think we still have to go through the details of the arrangement.
But I did make the same request that Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee made to the White House, and that I and Eliot Engel have raised as an issue.
You know, Democrats and Republicans have suggested don't go first to the United Nations to raise -- to lift the sanctions that pertain to the ballistic missile systems. First, let us go through our process here, because I think in signing the bill, the administration basically committed itself to a process in which members of the House would be briefed by the secretary of state.
Instead, the day before the briefing, this approach was made to the United Nations to lift the sanctions there. It was our request that that be stayed until this 60-day time frame. And I think you'll find everyone from Democratic majority leader -- Minority Leader Steny Hoyer speaking out to Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat in the Senate on this. So I think there are some concerns about the way this is being handled.
BLITZER: Well, do you have enough votes to override it, if necessary?
ROYCE: I don't think anyone knows, Wolf, at this point the answer to that question. I think a lot will depend as the details come out. We've got 160 pages at this point, which members of the House and members of the Senate received on Friday. And I think we'll start that process this week of going through the details of the agreement, and I think we'll reach a conclusion after those hearings and after we've heard from our secretary of state and others involved in the negotiation.
BLITZER: Ed Royce is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much.
ROYCE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, Donald Trump still doesn't feel like apologizing for what he said about Senator John McCain. Will his remarks hurt him with Republican voters? And later, an election where nearly everyone votes, and the
winner is guaranteed. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're following a number of new leads in the Chattanooga shooting investigations, investigators now telling CNN Mohammad Abdulazeez left behind writings containing anti-U.S. sentiments. But one of the gunman's friends says he was also critical of ISIS, calling it a stupid group.
With us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes. He's our CNN law enforcement analyst. The forensic psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Van Susteren; and our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank. Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
Lisa, his family, Abdulazeez's family, says he was having problems. He was using drugs. He had mental issues; he was bipolar, they say.
But his friends say, including one that we interviewed, he was unbelievable nice guy. He said ISIS was doing stupid things. What are you seeing here?
LISA VAN SUSTEREN, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: A lot of embedded questions there, but first of all, for his parents simply to blame it on some kind of psychiatric illness...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... is really not realistic. The fact is, and we know this from court documents, that there were years of physical abuse, violence, beatings to him and to his siblings. Sexual assault to his mother, on and on and on.
BLITZER: By his father?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. And this is the substrate, this is the foundation upon which so much other things can happen. So to say it's just a mental illness is not realistic.
[17:35:10] The second thing is when people say that he was a nice guy, you know, there is countless times when we have people acting out and violence who seem nice to other people. The reality is that he's a murderer and he had murderer's rage. And the fact that he was saying that ISIS is a stupid group is really meaningless.
BLITZER: The allegations against his father will continue to force...
VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, they are. Absolutely. Years.
BLITZER: The mother -- the father, he supposedly was abusing the mother sexually, physically and abusing the kids, as well. The couple stayed together, though.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's correct.
BLITZER: So there's not necessarily a healthy environment there.
His close friends, though, Tom, say that he was quoted as saying ISIS was doing wrong. It was completely against Islam. What do you make of that?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, when the investigators talk to friends of his, and they're talking to the same people that reporters are talking, and they say things like that, it makes it hard to say he was ISIS-inspired if he's telling the people around him that ISIS was doing stupid things.
So that just adds to the complexity of what he believed or who he backed up or what. And in a ways, it's irrelevant who inspired him, because just being inspired isn't enough to be able to prevent a future similar occurrence.
BLITZER: Paul, there are other terror groups who also think that ISIS is doing stupid things. They're anti-ISIS, even though they themselves are terror groups. There's a split, for example, between AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and ISIS.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that's absolutely right, Wolf, but in the interview that close friends with Drew Griffin, he was signaling that he was also opposed to all the other kind of Islamist terror groups, as well. So there's a lot of head scratching going on at the moment.
It seems there's some kind of mix there between radicalization, but also mental health issues. And we've seen that in a string of recent plots and attacks in the west, notably in that hostage siege in Sydney, Australia, in December. It turned out the gunman in that siege was seeing two psychiatrists; was paranoid, was delusional.
We also saw mental health as a factor in that shooting in Ottawa. That shooter was also taking a lot of drugs. And also in the hatchet attack in New York in October, again a mental health component.
So there seems to be some kind of mix between radicalization and mental health issues. And with people with mental health issues, that can make it easier, perhaps, to go from thought, radical thought to radical action.
BLITZER: Let me let Lisa weigh in on that, because you've studied this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. And the reality is that, when people have murderous rage like this, they will seek to justify it. So if he wants to wrap it into some ideology, political, or religious or otherwise, that will be his justification for murderous rage.
And the other thing is when people say something is stupid, they don't embrace it, you can't take that entirely seriously. That might be their own sense of denial, repudiating what they know is a growing force that is gripping them, that is obviously a violent -- that they are predisposed to, that they don't want to act upon, but they eventually do.
BLITZER: He was a smart kid. Graduated the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, with a degree in electrical engineering. He had all sorts of potential. They said he was a very good student.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, that's not inconsistent with having murderous rage. And this is the foundation upon which so many other things have been built. And it was -- he lost jobs. He couldn't -- it didn't sound like he had a lot of friends. It sounded like he was living at home. This is the classic case of a guy who feels like a loser, and he's full of rage; and he blames other people for that.
BLITZER: We know he got that job at one of those nuclear power plants in Ohio, but after ten days they got rid of them, because of alleged drug abuse.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. And let's add one more thing to loser and murderous rage: the ability to get his hands on an assault rifle, and not prevent him from getting the weaponry and the firepower he needed to carry out the attack.
BLITZER: Because as you know, he was apparently using guns a lot. The -- he was training ever since he was a young man, Paul. So that's a serious problem. You get somebody who may be having serious mental issues -- depression, bipolar, whatever, but has access to high-powered weapons.
CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's absolutely right, Wolf, and al Qaeda in particular having encouraged their followers in the United States to take advantage of what by international standards are lax gun laws to go out and buy a weapon and to shoot up soft targets in the United States. And so this is going to be a very big problem moving forward. It's easier for lone wolves in the United States to launch these kind of attacks than in the rest of the western world.
BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, Lisa Van Susteren, Tom Fuentes. Guys, thanks very, very much.
Coming up, more demands for an apology from Donald Trump. You're going to hear what he's now saying about the firestorm he started by talking about Senator John McCain.
And later, an election where the people wear their finest clothes, the results are preordained, and the dissent is seen as treason.
[17:44:44] BLITZER: A new national polls show -- new national poll, I should say, shows Donald Trump leading among registered Republican voters, but it was taken before -- at least most of it was taken before Trump set off a political firestorm this weekend by questioning whether Senator John McCain is, in fact, a war hero. One thing we aren't seeing is any hint of an apology from Donald
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, who's watching this. These new poll numbers pretty significant.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So this is a new "Washington Post"-ABC News poll that is just out. It shows that Trump is in the lead for Republicans. Keep in mind, though, this is a poll that was conducted before and after Trump made these comments, and there was actually a sharp dip on that one night that voters were questioned following these comments about former GOP nominee John McCain.
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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I supported him, he lost. But, you know, he lost. So I never liked him as much after that because I don't like losers. But frankly --
TRUMP: He hit me --
FRANK LUNTZ, MODERATOR: He's a war hero.
TRUMP: He's not a war hero.
LUNTZ: He's a war hero.
TRUMP: He is a war hero --
LUNTZ: Five and a half years as a POW.
TRUMP: He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK. I hate to tell you. He's a war hero because he was captured. OK. You could have -- and I believe perhaps he's a war hero, but right now he said some very bad things about a lot of people.
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KEILAR: So almost immediately Donald Trump's remarks drew scrutiny, but he would not and has not backed down. Most of his Republican candidates now pounced on his remarks. Here's what they're saying.
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JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a legitimate hero that has served this country in lots of way, and Mr. Trump knows that. He should just apologize. I think that would probably move it on to the next thing. Next week there will be another one of these.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And to anybody who suggests that John and his fellow POWs are somehow lacking in the title of being called American hero, you shouldn't be our commander- in-chief because you don't know our military.
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KEILAR: Establishment Republicans are no fans of Donald Trump and they're really hoping, Wolf, that this is the beginning of the end for him. And we should also mention that our Jake Tapper just talked to Sarah Palin, McCain's former running mate. And she told him that both men are heroes. She said that Trump is the candidate giving voice to untold millions, but she also seemed to take some issue with some of the language that McCain has used to describe those who are attending Trump rallies. And she said that she encourages both leaders to resolve what she called the media-driven wedge between them and keep the debate focused on issues.
BLITZER: This "Washington Post"-ABC News polls, as I said, most of it taken before the most controversial remarks, Trump 24 percent, Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, 13 percent, Jeb Bush 12 percent, everybody else in single digits. That's pretty impressive if you're Donald Trump and his supporters.
KEILAR: Having twice -- almost twice as much support as anyone else. Of course the question now will be, what do other polls show? Do they show what they say in the final day of that "Post" poll, a dip perhaps?
BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much. We'll have a lot more coming up on Donald Trump and what's going on, his battle with John McCain. That's coming up in our next hour.
But coming up next, an election where the turnout as well the results are nearly unanimous.
[17:22:18] BLITZER: North Koreans flocked to the polls over the weekend to vote in an election that gave them no way of stopping Kim Jong-Un's ongoing consolidation of power.
Brian Todd, he's got the latest information. What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, a U.S. official tells us Kim Jong-Un is really leaving no doubt as to who's in charge in North Korea. A top human rights monitor says these elections are a sham and we're told even the balloting is used as a lever for Kim to solidify his grip on power.
TODD (voice-over): It's a big event in North Korea. Women dress in long gowns. Men in suits. It's voting day, where people cast their ballots for provincial city and county people's assemblies, but here voters are simply handed ballots to place in a box. The candidates, the winners, pre-decided by Kim Jong-Un's government. For each election there's just one candidate on the ballot. A
vote against the selected candidate goes into a separate box, but a no vote is considered an act of treason as is the failure to show up to vote.
BRUCE KLINGER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: People will be questioned and they may be go to political prison and knowing how North Korea works they could even have several generations of a family go to a gulag for the crimes of one person which may simply be voting against a candidate that has been pre-approved or not showing up to vote.
TODD: North Korea's government-controlled news agency says for this election over the weekend voter turnout was 99.97 percent. Analysts say for Kim's regime, there's an unsettling strategy behind the balloting.
KLINGER: It is a way of checking up on people. Are they where they're supposed to be? If someone doesn't show up that may indicate they tried to defect or they're moving elsewhere in the country. That it's something that the central government does not want.
TODD: This comes as Kim continues a bloody campaign of purges, keeping senior members of his regime on edge.
South Korean intelligence says he's executed at least 70 top officials including his own uncle since taking power in late 2011. Far more than his father did in his first years. Analysts say with the reported execution of Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol with an anti-aircraft gun this spring, he's gone through at least four Defense ministers.
GORDON CHANG, CONTRIBUTOR, FORBES.COM: This is a fight between generals and admirals and Kim Jong-Un, and it's not over yet.
TODD: Does this mean Kim's threatened from within? A U.S. official tells CNN Kim has so far carried out these purges without repercussions, but some believe he's constantly looking over his shoulder.
CHANG: Every time you kill somebody you create an enemy and that enemy then needs to be eliminated so Kim Jong-Un right now is on a downward slope, and I don't know if he can bring this situation under control.
TODD: So is anyone around Kim Jong-Un really safe? Analysts say the execute of his uncle sent a signal that maybe no one is.
[17:55:02] The one person least likely to be purged, Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong. She's a rising star in this regime, 27 years old, said to be Kim's closest adviser. Kim Yo Jong is believed to be taking on key roles in Kim's security agencies and having a huge influence on who gets appointed to top posts, Wolf. She's a rising star. Everyone else is basically fearing death who's near him.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.
Coming up, surprising new information about the Chattanooga gunman including the latest from his family and government investigators.
Also the grisly killings inside a Washington, D.C. mansion. The main suspect goes to court today and prosecutors revealing new evidence.