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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Will Obama's Poll Numbers Sink Clinton?; Stopping Terrorists Before They Strike. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 24, 2015 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:13] SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI:Right now, intelligence is the key piece to help them disrupt that, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST HOST: All right, Paul Cruickshank, I want to turn to the investigation right now. You have been working your sources.

What are they saying right now about the possibility of new threats across Europe?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: They're very worried.

And, in fact, they know these threats are coming, they know there's a network that was behind what we saw play out in Paris on Friday, what we nearly saw play out in Paris on Wednesday, and this threat we're now seeing in Belgium.

That network is a group of francophone ISIS operatives, some of whom have climbed up at the ISIS hierarchy, and they have been tasked by the senior leadership of ISIS to launch a rolling series of attacks in Europe against countries targeting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

And they're organizing the various sort of language groups to target various countries, so they're getting the British ISIS recruits to target the U.K., the Dutch ISIS recruits the Netherlands, the Germans, and so on. And there's a real concern now that Paris really is just the beginning of what will be a very worrying few months, John.

BERMAN: A rolling series of attacks.

Paul, what's the latest theory on what Abdelhamid Abaaoud, why he would go to the scene of these attacks in Paris on the 13th in the hours after they happened?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, one possible explanation is that he was going there to film the carnage, the aftermath for propaganda purposes.

ISIS are really drilling into their operatives and fighters at the need to film their attacks, to film the aftermath of the attacks. They're saying that's almost as important as launching the attacks themselves. We saw with Abdelhamid Abaaoud that cell that he was leading in Belgium in January, they found GoPro cameras in the safe house in Eastern Belgium that they raided, indicating that that group planned to film their attacks.

And back in January, Amedy Coulibaly, an ISIS-inspired terrorist, filmed a seven-minute sequence with a GoPro camera of him actually killing people in that kosher market, tried to download it on the Internet, send it, appears to have failed. It hasn't come out since then.

But one of the explanations, for propaganda purposes. There was a video that came out over the weekend with some video from the aftermath that ISIS put out there. But it's not clear whether that cell phone footage is something that potentially Abdelhamid Abaaoud shot.

BERMAN: It's clear for some of the groups cameras are as much weapons of terror as guns are themselves.

Shawn, one other piece of information that came out is these terrorists appeared to do some scouting of the sites they ultimately attacked. They cased these sites. People say, hey, if they were there, maybe there should have been signs, maybe there should have been ways to catch them beforehand. But it's not that simple, is it, Shawn?

HENRY: It's certainly not. I mean, these people, one of their capabilities is to try and blend in perhaps as a tourist or as a regular citizen on the street, on their way to work. They're discreetly filming, but they're looking for ingress and egress points.

They're looking at security that might be available. They may be looking to see where cameras are placed. So they're doing their reconnaissance in advance so that when they approach to attack, they can be more tactical, much more strategic.

Regardless, John, these are the types of things that we need to be looking for in the United States. Some of the anomalous behavior, if you see somebody asking a lot of questions, if they appear to be very suspicious, perhaps filming for prolonged periods of time, or at different times of the day, somebody comes back to the same spot, these are the types of things that U.S. officials are looking for people to report to law enforcement so we can be disruptive again. That's collecting intelligence, allowing law enforcement to take action, John.

BERMAN: Shawn Henry, Paul Cruickshank, thank you so much.

Our politics lead, Donald Trump not backing down from his latest claims at the latest polls out show he has a brand-new rival neck and neck, a former friend. Can they stay that way? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:32]

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman in for Jake Tapper. Donald Trump is nothing if not an equal opportunity smack talker. In

Trump's terms, Jeb Bush is low-energy, Ben Carson is an incurable pathological -- his pathological temper makes him like a child molester. Those are Trump's words. But thus far, Trump has only had good things to say about one member of the 2016 Republican candidate class, Senator Ted Cruz. Listen to Trump fawn over the Texas senator just a few weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said the finest things about me and consistently, and I will certainly say that about him. I like him a lot.

I agree with much of what he says. And we just have a very good relationship. I don't know that that's going to continue. I assume if we're the only two standing, if we're the last two standing, that probably won't continue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Uh-oh. In just a few hours, we will learn if that friendship will last, because Ted Cruz is now number two, a very close number two to Donald Trump in Iowa.

Joining us now, CNN political reporter Sara Murray, who is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with Donald Trump.

Sara, what's the latest from there?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John.

We will see if Trump takes a tougher tone with Cruz today. The other big question, will he continue his tough on terror message and repeat some of the unsubstantiated claims he's using to make his case to voters?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump, never one to shy away from controversial comments, isn't starting now.

TRUMP: The reporters are call all day, all night. They want to find out, did Trump make a mistake?

[16:40:02]

MURRAY: Now Trump is saying he watched from his Manhattan apartment as people jumped from the Twin Towers on 9/11.

TRUMP: I have a window in my apartment that specifically was aimed at the World Trade Center because of the beauty of the whole downtown Manhattan, and I watched as people jumped, and I watched the second plane come in. MURRAY: While people were seen jumping from the towers that day,

Trump's apartment in Midtown is roughly four miles from where the World Trade Center towers stood.

TRUMP: Many people jumped, and I witnessed it. I watched that.

MURRAY: Trump also stubbornly defending his widely debunked claim that there were large crowds in New Jersey celebrating the day of the 9/11 attacks, pointing to a line in a "The Washington Post" story published a week late that said law enforcement had detained people allegedly seen cheering on rooftops in Jersey City.

TRUMP: Holding tailgate style, tailgate, you know what that means? Tailgate, that means football games, Ohio State, thousands of people, in parking lots, on roofs.

MURRAY: While government officials, and even the reporter who wrote that story, say the investigation uncovered no such celebration, Trump points to his Twitter followers as evidence to the contrary.

TRUMP: So, all of a sudden, I'm getting all of these tweets, I saw it, I was there, I was this -- but I saw it. I saw it.

MURRAY: The GOP front-runner's dubious claims don't appear to be damaging him in the eyes of voters. A new poll Quinnipiac University shows Trump leading the field with 25 percent support in Iowa. But he has a new chief rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz, close behind at 23 percent, doubling his support from a month ago.

Dr. Ben Carson rounds out the top three, at 18 percent, dropping 10 points from October. So far, Trump has offered only kind words towards Cruz. But he's hinted that might change if Cruz started to rise.

TRUMP: And Ted Cruz, Senator Cruz has been so nice to me, I can't hit him. I may have to if he starts getting like really close. I may have to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, John, we have seen Cruz and Trump sort of shadow-boxing around each other. But now that it's the two of them at top of the polls and Iowa is just around the corner, we will see if those gloves finally come off.

BERMAN: Be very interesting. Sara Murray for us in Myrtle Beach, thank you so much.

Going to talk with the founder of Correct the Record, a super PAC backing Hillary Clinton. That's David Brock. Also with us, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, she runs a super PAC supporting Ted Cruz.

So, Kellyanne, I imagine this morning was a very happy morning for you as you woke up, saw the new Iowa poll, Ted Cruz surging there. We saw those pictures of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz like arm in arm, huggy- huggy. That can't be the way it is anymore.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, PRESIDENT & CEO, THE POLLING COMPANY: It could be for Ted Cruz and his supporters.

Donald Trump has made very clear that he will tackle back against anybody who either insults him or catches up with him in the polls. Obviously, Senator Cruz really hasn't insulted anyone. Everybody says he's so nice to Donald Trump. If you look at these debates, he's actually been fairly supportive and polite to all of the others. Senator Rubio's team has started to hit him. So he will hit back.

But we will see what Donald Trump does. In the meantime, I just think the super PAC and Senator Cruz himself will continue to make his case to the voters.

BERMAN: Doesn't he though have to at a certain point differentiate himself from Donald Trump? What will be the issues in which he does that?

CONWAY: Yes. I think you're already seeing that.

For example, people traditionally think Washington experience is the death knell for a presidential candidate. Turns out this year it's been governors who couldn't get much traction. Executive experience, I'm a governor, I make decisions, important decisions for my people, terrific. They're either gone from the race or close to it.

Turns out, with all of the issues, ISIS, foreign policy, national security, certainly illegal immigration, being in the crosshairs of Washington, it's Senator Cruz and a few others who have a day job that puts them in the intersection there. You can be an outsider, John, but you need an outsider with insider experience, somebody who has actually sat in briefings and is one of 100 people in the country who votes on this stuff.

BERMAN: I'm from Washington, so I'm the outsider you want?

CONWAY: But who is Ted Cruz in Washington? Does he have a friend in Washington? I guess he's gotten a dog, the old saying. That's right.

Ted Cruz's stock and trade has been to be the anti-Washington guy in Washington, the anti-establishment guy. It's a syllogism. It's a great one. The country hates Washington. Washington hates Ted Cruz. And so I think that is the difference. You already see with Ben Carson's number, that it's fun to flirt with an outsider, but you better get serious. There's a big difference between sending a message and sending someone to the White House.

BERMAN: David, I want to shift gears now to the Democratic side of the case, because there are some new numbers out from "The Washington Post" and ABC News, some approval ratings on President Obama and his handling of terrorism and his handling of ISIS.

Look at that. Do you approve of the president's handling of terrorism? And 54 percent no. And when asked if you approve of his handling of ISIS, it's even worse; 57 percent say he's not effectively fought ISIS.

So, you support Hillary Clinton.

DAVID BROCK, PRESIDENT, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA: Sure.

BERMAN: She was secretary of state for four years. How much of this is her responsibility? How much of this is disapproval of her? And if it's not related to her, how does she differentiate herself from this president?

BROCK: Well, that's a two-part question.

First of all, there is another poll out today that shows that Hillary Clinton in the eyes of the voters trumps, Trump and everyone else in the Republican field as to who you would trust, who is the most prepared to deal with this terrorism issue?

So, as far as President Obama's ratings are concerned, we're in the immediate aftermath of this tragic attack. People are probably scared, confused, and he and Secretary Kerry are doubling down. And they know they have to do more.

Now Secretary Clinton gave an amazing speech last week in front of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City where she laid out a very detailed plan as to what she thinks should be done, and some of that would go a bit further than President Obama would go now.

And in fact, when she was secretary of state, in the inner counsel, she counseled some more aggressive tactics and strategies. She has her own political identity. She's her own political brand.

Polls are showing voters trust her on this issue, which is an inversion of what people usually think. Immediately the terrorist attack, Republicans have the advantage on this. That's the case with Hillary Clinton. She's got resolve. She's tough.

BERMAN: I want to know what's really going on behind closed doors at Clinton world. Do you think the president is net plus or net minus in for Hillary Clinton right now?

CONWAY: Which president?

BERMAN: President Obama. Do you think he's a net plus or net minus?

BROCK: I think he's overall a net plus absolutely.

BERMAN: So Clinton/Obama 2016 is what you want to run on?

BROCK: Sure, absolutely. Yes, cementing the president's legacy is a very important part of Hillary Clinton's --

BERMAN: You hear that, are you like, yes! Clinton/Obama, 2016, that's good for Republicans.

CONWAY: We take Secretary Clinton very seriously as an opponent. It's the Obama legacy was so great and needed to be solidified why didn't Joe Biden, his vice president run, most foreign policy experienced person in the race by far he would have been at this juncture.

So even Biden didn't want to run for Obama/Clinton -- look, Hillary Clinton was Barack Obama's, President Obama's secretary of state. This is the Obama/Clinton doctrine. You hear people like Senator Cruz talking about the Obama/Clinton doctrine.

BROCK: The Republican side, hold on, Republicans, the reason Trump and Cruz are ahead here, they're not looking for a serious policy on ISIS. They're looking for an attitude and it's an attitude of anger and belligerence, and that's why they're the two frontrunners.

Paris has actually sorted out the Republican race, I believe and what we're seeing is the most extreme, most divisive, and most disagreeable two emerge to the top.

CONWAY: Nobody looks at Hillary Clinton as warm accessible good negotiator genuinely interested in building a consensus across the aisle. She's running a campaign based on sexism, rescue all the women as victims of the patriarchy --

BROCK: Better than alienating, you know, the majority of the country, whether that's Muslim Americans, blacks, gays, Latinos, and women.

BERMAN: David, Kellyanne, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

Tracking terrorists before they strike here in the United States. New steps being taken to find them. We have an exclusive look how the intelligence community is doing this. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:52:37]

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman in for Jake Tapper. Our World lead, the fear of terror attacks has many people wondering if their country, even their city, is next. So what is being done to stop terrorists before they strike?

Tonight, CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has an exclusive look behind the secret frontlines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It all happened within a few minutes -- in the street, the cafes, at the game, and the concert. But could what happened in Paris happen in the U.S.?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: don't know of a time when we've been beset by more threats.

SCIUTTO: Al Qaeda and ISIS lurking beyond America's reach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tracking ISIS movements today in Iraq and Syria. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a tough problem.

SCIUTTO: And the lone wolves, inspired from afar, but acting alone. Can American intelligence stay ahead of the terrorists?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Jim Sciutto joins me now. Jim, you had unprecedented access to these intelligence facilities what have you learned?

SCIUTTO: Well, I'll tell you, first of all, it huge, right? You have 16 intelligence agencies, people know about the CIA, NSA, but you have 14 others, the NRO, it launches the satellite. The NGA looks at the satellite data.

You have all of these divisions in there, 100,000 people working on this day and night. That's one thing and they have capabilities, John, that I certainly wasn't aware of.

I mean, I didn't know, for instance, that satellites today, they're not just taking pictures but in many cases they are taking live video. They can sense, they can feel vibrations, sense radioactive signatures, et cetera.

I mean, imagine what that does from, you know, a few hundred miles up in the sky. So, they have a lot of threats but also have really tremendous kind of 21st Century capabilities.

BERMAN: I had no idea. It's fascinating in and of itself. Jim, what is keeping these people up at night? What's keeping intelligence officials up at night? What's their biggest fear?

SCIUTTO: That's the question I kept asking them. I think, you know, Director Clapper at the end there, it's just the variety of threats because you have such a scale. You have the small players like an ISIS capable of carrying out relatively small attacks, still very deadly.

[16:55:05] But then you have big players, superpower players like China and Russia -- I didn't know this -- already have the ability through cyberattacks to shut down key U.S. infrastructure from afar, aviation, financial, et cetera.

That scope of problems, it's multipolar writ large and that's what truly keeps them up at night, fascinating, worth the watch.

BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, it sounds like you learned a lot, which means we learn a ton. Thank you so much. Do not miss CNN's Special Report, "Targeting Terror Inside The Intelligence War," at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

That is all for THE LEAD today. I'm John Berman. You could follow me on Twitter @johnberman, in for Jake today celebrating Thanksgiving. "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer is next.

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