Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; Preaching to Trump; Alleged Planned Parenthood Gunman in Court; Trail of Terror; Clinic Shooting Suspect Likely to Face First-Degree Murder. Aired 18- 19:00p ET
Aired November 30, 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: We're standing by for new information from a top U.S. lawmaker who is inside a closed-door intelligence briefing right now.
Trail of terror. Is a fugitive from the Paris terror attacks now safely back with ISIS inside Syria and planning to strike again? We have chilling new details about so-called ready-to-go plots against additional targets.
Ready to reload? The alleged gunman in a women's health clinic appears in court amid new evidence that the rampage could have been even more deadly. We're learning new details about his background and his possible motive.
And preaching to Trump. The Republican front-runner meets with African-American religious leaders. Are they endorsing him or not? Fresh questions tonight about Trump's claims and his refusal to back down.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news tonight.
Americans warned that terrorists may strike in less than 48 hours. The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan says there are credible reports of an imminent attack on the capital city, Kabul.
Also breaking right now, a source close to the Paris terror investigation says the attackers had more plots ready to go targeting transportation networks, schools and Jewish areas, this with one of the alleged attackers still at large.
Sources tell CNN that French intelligence services now believe that Salah Abdeslam likely has escaped to Syria, putting him right back in the stronghold of ISIS.
I will ask the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee what he's learning. Congressman Adam Schiff just wrapping up a closed-door briefing on terror threats. Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by as we cover all the news that's breaking right now.
Up first, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
What are you learning, Barbara, about this threat of an imminent terror attack?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
This threat warning from the U.S. Embassy will remain in effect at least until early Wednesday morning, 48-hour window now open. The big concern is that the Haqqani Network, this is a group of al Qaeda- affiliated terrorists, may be behind this threat.
They have engaged in terrible violence against the people of Kabul in the past, staging a number of major violent attacks. They have a good deal of expertise with roadside bombs and suicide car bombs and suicide vests. And their expertise lies in simultaneous targeting, multiple targeting potentially across Kabul.
Now, the U.S. Embassy warning does not suggest that Americans are particularly targeted, but Americans across Kabul are being warned to be very careful, to try and stay home, to keep a very low profile during this time, because the U.S. is not certain at this point what will happen.
There have been additional security measures, we're told, taken for the U.S. Embassy and the NATO headquarters in Kabul, the military, the diplomats not revealing what those security measures are, but it goes to the level of concern through at least early Wednesday morning, Wolf.
BLITZER: From Afghanistan, Barbara, let's go to Syria right now, because I know you're learning more about Russia's major escalation, military escalation inside Syria right now. Tell our viewers what you're learning.
STARR: The mayor escalation, Wolf, that Russian S-400 that is a pretty nasty looking piece of business, it is now activated inside Syria. It is at an air base in Western Syria.
This is an anti-air missile system that has the capability, the range to reach out and target airplanes, taking off from Incirlik, Turkey. The message the U.S. believes is that the Russians are telling the Turks back off after that shoot-down of a Russian airplane by the Turks, but a great deal of concern by the U.S. military because they don't want any accidental disaster, of course, especially with U.S. aircraft, which are continuing their bombing missions.
One U.S. official saying this is a big escalation. They have now got to sit down, figure out how to deal with all of this. Tomorrow should be very interesting. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill, obviously going to face a lot of questions about all of this, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, they will be testifying before the House Armed
Services Committee. Barbara, thanks very much.
Let's get to the terrorist -- terror investigation that's under way right now. More reason to fear that ISIS is preparing to launch fresh attacks.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Jim, there is word this fugitive eighth suspect in these terror attacks, he's on the loose right now and may be plotting yet more strikes.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's the attackers they know about, but they can't find, as well as other attackers they're concerned they may not know about and we have ISIS today calling the Paris attacks "the beginning of a storm," this in the latest issue of its French-language magazine "Dar al Islam."
But that claim is also supported by what French investigators have been finding. They say the Paris attackers had other plots "ready to go," including those targeting transport and Jewish targets.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): The street behind the Bataclan concert hall, site of some of the worst bloodshed and most desperate escapes of the Paris attacks, is now open again with bullet holes marking the walls. Still, one of the chief architects of the carnage, alleged eighth attacker Salah Abdeslam, remains on the loose. French investigators now looking into the possibility he escaped to Syria, sources tell CNN.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: If he made it over land from France to Turkey, it would have been very easy for him to get into Syria. Same -- he could have also done that via Greece going by boat from a Greek island to Syria. All of that is possible. And there's very little control over those borders.
SCIUTTO: Still, it would be an alarming escape by Europe's most wanted man. His last known whereabouts were in Belgium, where security officials have carried out dozens of raids in search of him and other suspected plotters. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says authorities are getting closer.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: I do think they're closing in on him, and that's the good news. There are many involved in this plot. It was a very sophisticated plot, an external operation that we have seen from ISIS.
SCIUTTO: Investigators are now piecing together the terrorist's movements before the November 13th attacks. French police say Abdeslam bought 10 detonators and batteries from a fireworks shop on Paris' northern outskirts, the store manager alerting authorities after police publicized his arrest warrant.
LEIGHTON: Basically, what we're dealing with is a trail that's gone cold. And they're looking for any kind of clue of, people that he met, anybody who has possibly seen the suspect. That is going to be the key to finding him.
SCIUTTO: Now new information that the terrorists were planning even more bloodshed. The Paris attackers, sources tell CNN, had other targets -- quote -- "ready to go," including transportation networks, schools and Jewish targets, an echo of the January attack on a kosher market following the deadly shooting at the offices of "Charlie Hebdo."
SCIUTTO: We learned today that the U.S. military has now lifted its ban on travel to Paris and Brussels by U.S. military personnel. European Command had introduced that ban just following the Paris attacks.
Not unprecedented, Wolf. They did it, for instance, after the attacks in London in 2005, but then, of course, we heard today the Department of Homeland Security secretary say on CNN that he is concerned about copycat attacks here in the U.S.
Certainly no lessening or disappearance of their concern of other groups like this who want to attack similar targets
BLITZER: Yes. And I know there is deep concern, understandably so. Jewish communities in France and Belgium right now obviously, they're very worried. They have been the targets before and presumably could be the targets down the road.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for that.
Tonight, President Obama is in Paris. He's been holding urgent talks on the terror attacks and the ISIS threat, including a one-on- one meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, this as Putin is launching a major escalation of Russia's air war inside Syria.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now live from Paris.
Jim, there were some clear signs of tension between the two president, Obama and Putin, when they met on the sidelines, as it's called, of this global summit.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
Still plenty of tension in this relationship, Wolf. President Obama came to Paris to honor the victims of the terror attacks here and rally the world to confront the threat posed by climate change. But he once again appeared to butt heads with his longtime global nemesis, Vladimir Putin.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As Moscow continues its airstrikes inside Syria, complicating the U.S. fight against ISIS, today, President Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin appear to be looking right past each other in this Kremlin photo snapped at this week's global climate summit in Paris.
The two leaders at still odds over any kind of alliance to defeat ISIS. Mr. Obama expressed his regret to Putin after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane last week, but Putin is still furious, refusing to meet with Turkey's president at the climate talks.
BEN RHODES, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: And the president again reiterated his strong belief that we need to work together.
ACOSTA: The war on ISIS is looming large over this climate summit. As soon as he landed in France, the president laid a single white rose outside the Bataclan theater to remember the victims of the Paris attacks.
And police clashed with protesters, angry over a new ban on large demonstrations, part of the intense security measures in the French capital.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have come to Paris to show our resolve.
ACOSTA: But, in Paris, the president made the case that bringing the world together to battle climate change is yet another way to take the fight to ISIS.
OBAMA: What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshaling our best efforts to save it?
ACOSTA: Republicans pounced on the president's focus on global warming, insisting he should be busy destroying ISIS.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's insulting to the position that he holds. It's insulting even more to the responsibilities that are his for him to be talking about this stuff right now.
ACOSTA: After the president's initial response to the Paris attacks were slammed by critics, the White House is trying to get back on offense, announcing it's tightening the visa waiver program that eases travel into the U.S., appointing a new senior to the president on the counter-ISIS campaign and planning more talks with U.S. governors about incoming Syrian refugees.
And the White House contends it's Republicans who are wrong about the climate summit. RHODES: If the entire world planed to come to Paris, and you had
leaders from over 190 countries who would plan to come here to Paris, and we had called that off, that would be demonstrating that ISIL can disrupt the activities of the entire world.
ACOSTA: In the hopes of de-escalating tensions with Russia, President Obama will meet with Turkey's President Erdogan tomorrow. Just as the president is urging nearly every country in the world to sign an agreement limiting carbon emission emissions, the climate around the war on ISIS is getting tougher.
But White House officials maintain Mr. Obama is more than capable of tackling more than one challenge at a time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta is in Paris with the president. Jim, thanks very much.
Joining us now, Congressman Adam Schiff, who has just wrapped up a secret briefing in his role as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
You have just come from this intelligence briefing and other restrictions on what you can say. But let's get through some of the sensitive issues right now.
First, French authorities, they are saying it's likely that this eighth Paris terrorists, Abdeslam, may have actually fled Europe and is in Syria right now. What are you hearing?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Wolf, I'm not sure that we know his whereabouts, whether he's still in France or Belgium or whether he's returned to Syria.
If I did know particulars, it's not something I would be able to share. But I don't think we have a definitive conclusion at this point about his location. Obviously, we're doing everything we can to assist our French and Belgian colleagues, providing whatever intelligence we can, running down any leads that we can, and using any selectors that we obtained to help them identify where he might be.
He's certainly at the very top of our list in terms of this investigation.
BLITZER: Here is what worries me, is that we're getting two different accounts of what is going on with this terrorist Abdeslam, one from France, from French intelligence, one from Belgium, Belgian intelligence. You would think these two countries would be working together, sharing intelligence. But I take it there have been some strains in that relationship.
SCHIFF: Well, I'm sure, in the wake of an attack like this, there was both cooperation and a lot of difficulty, because they are reacting to new information, but also there are gaps in what they are sharing with each other.
This is a broader problem, Wolf, than just France and Belgium. This is a problem all across Europe. And, ultimately, I think Europe is going to have to make a decision. They're either going to have to share information, create a unified list in real time, so that they can identify who is moving where, people who have returned from Syria in Iraq, for example.
Or they are going to have to end that unrestricted travel within Europe. But it can't have it both ways and maintain security, or they can expect, I think, unfortunately, more attacks like Paris.
BLITZER: You heard Jim Sciutto's report that there were other so-called ready-to-go terror plots in the works against various transport locations inside France, schools, Jewish neighborhoods.
What are you hearing about these other so-called plans?
SCHIFF: I think that's exactly right.
And that's why they can't let down their guard at all in Europe right now. It's not just an issue of this one cell, this one attack that may yet be in the works from Abaaoud and that group of plotters, but there may be additional ISIL operatives in Europe that have their own plans or may be given and delegated a certain amount of authority by ISIL in Syria to act on their own, to use the resources they have.
And as we have seen in January and now in November, access to weapons and firearms in Europe is quite easy. And that's making it possible to have these kind of Paris-Mumbai-style attacks.
BLITZER: Yes, French officials say it's a disaster in Belgium. You can just go to the train station in Brussels, they say, and you can buy an AK-47 or some other assault weapon for not too much money. So they are really critical of what is going on there.
All right, stand by, Congressman. We have much more to discuss.
We're getting more information right now on the so-called imminent threat to Americans inside Kabul, Afghanistan. We will have more on that and all the breaking news when we come back.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on global terror, the attacks on Paris.
Congressman Adam Schiff just wrapped up a secret briefing in his role as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He's standing by on Capitol Hill.
Congressman, this eighth terrorist, Salah Abdeslam, his whereabouts right now unknown. We're hearing the Paris attackers had other attacks ready to go, including schools, transport locations, Jewish neighborhoods.
Here is the question, though. Is it safe for the president of the United States and about 150 other world leaders to be in Paris right now?
SCHIFF: I think it's safe for the president. The president will have every precaution taken on his behalf.
But it is a risk having that large a body at a time like this. It's a very tempting target for any of the European plotters that are still in France or Belgium that have that freedom of mobility in Europe.
So, it is a risk. But I think it's a risk the president felt important to take, that we wouldn't be cowed by these threats, that we would go about our business, that we would address other paramount priorities, like climate change. And I think it's the right decision.
BLITZER: This -- have you been briefed on any specific threats, not necessarily to the president, but threats here in the United States right now?
SCHIFF: Still no threats that emanate from the Paris plot.
But, again, the paramount concern is that people are inspired by what they saw in Paris. Some of these people that are at the fringes of our society that have been radicalized, they may choose now to act out. That's probably the near-term threat.
Over the longer term, though, it's a real concern. And it's part of the reason why you saw Jeh Johnson take the steps to tighten up this visa waiver program while we're looking into additional legislative action that may be necessary, and why ultimately we need to end that sanctuary that ISIS has in Iraq and Syria that it can derive resources, that it can take the time and have the luxury to plot against us.
BLITZER: So, when you say there are no specific threats related to the Paris terror attacks, are there other specific terror attacks against targets here in the United States?
SCHIFF: Well, we know that ISIL would like to attack us here, and they certainly are looking for ways that they can infiltrate into the country or they can inspire people online.
We know this is very much of goal of theirs. I think, in the near term, they realize we're a hard target to reach. They are going after the more proximate targets in Europe. It also has the advantage, in going after these European targets, of dividing Europe against itself.
And in this way, both the refugee crisis as well as the panic of these attacks and any internecine argument between European partners, as well as what we have seen between Russia and Turkey, this all inures to ISIS' benefit, unfortunately.
BLITZER: The White House announced a new senior adviser to the president today will focus solely on this war against ISIS. Is this a sign the White House is restructuring the overall approach?
SCHIFF: I don't think it's a sign that they are restructuring the overall approach, but they certainly want to have people whose only job when they get up in the morning and go to bed at night is try to determine what's the most effective way to attack this problem of ISIS.
It is a global threat. And, you know, I know you have been talking about this, too, Wolf, but there is increasing alarm at ISIS' growing presence and strength in places like Libya. And if we're not careful and we don't end this conflict between these would-be two governments in Libya that is allowing this vacuum, we could have ISIS holding major ground in yet another country. That would be a disaster of mammoth proportion.
BLITZER: Yes. They are taking over increasingly much more of Libya right now. We had a report from Brian Todd in the last hour on this worrisome development in North Africa.
Let's talk about Kabul, Afghanistan, right now. The U.S. Embassy there issued a specific warning, saying within the next 48 hours, there could be a terror strike, warning Americans in Afghanistan -- there are still 10,000 U.S. troops there, thousands of civilians at the embassy, contractors -- they're warning of a specific, credible threat.
What can you tell us about this?
SCHIFF: Well, I think that warning is well due.
I think there is information leading to the conclusion that there could very well be a significant attack, that it could be very imminent. Now, we have seen the Taliban, like other adversaries, are adaptive. And they may adapt to the fact that we have put this information out there and decide to wait, wait until we once again let down our defenses somewhat or people use the opportunity to travel more broadly or can't maintain that constant state of readiness to then unleash an attack.
But you have to give that kind of warning when you get specific, credible intelligence that a threat is in the works, an attack may be in the works. So it was very wise to issue the alert that they did.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, other breaking news we're following. The alleged gunman at that Colorado women's clinic appears in court just a little while ago, as evidence suggests he was planning a deadlier attack. [18:25:05]
And Donald Trump meets with African-American pastors, religious leaders amid new controversies about his views on race and religion. What emerged from this meeting at Trump's building in New York?
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: There is breaking news coming out of Chicago right now.
The former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke just walked out of jail after posting bond of a million and a half dollars. Van Dyke faces first-degree murder charges in the 2014 shooting of a teenager, Laquan McDonald. But he is out now. He posted bail. We're going to have more on this breaking news coming up in a moment.
There's other breaking news we're following in Colorado, though, right now, as well. The accused gunman at a woman's health clinic appeared in court just a little while ago and is likely to be slapped with first-degree murder charges very soon.
CNN's Dan Simon is in Colorado Springs for us. You have new details on the investigation, Dan. What are you learning?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Wolf.
First of all, this was a relatively routine court appearance, routine except for the fact that you have a very high-profile suspect accused of committing a very high-profile crime.
He was appointed a public defender, the suspect in this case, Robert Dear, 57 years old. He looked like he was struggling to stay awake in that courtroom, almost sedated, in a way, and he was also wearing a bulletproof vest, but this was a video feed. So he was here at the detention center, so it's not entirely clear why he was wearing that bulletproof vest.
Dear, of course, as we know, is accused of killing three people and wounding nine others.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any questions about any of these rights, sir?
ROBERT DEAR, SUSPECT IN CLINIC SHOOTINGS: No questions.
SIMON (voice-over): Suspected gunman, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, will remain in jail on suspicion of first-degree murder after the attack at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic that left three people dead and nine wounded.
While a motive remains unclear, a law enforcement official told CNN that, after surrendering to police, Dear made remarks about, quote, "baby parts" and spoke of his anti-abortion and anti-government views with investigators.
Propane tanks found near Dear's car in the clinic's parking lot led authorities to believe he intended to cause even more harm by shooting them to trigger an explosion.
What is known about Dear's life indicates he lived a hermit's existence for many years on the East Coast, eventually living in a cabin with no electricity or running water in the North Carolina mountains.
Although he lived in solitude, Dear was no stranger to police, having had several run-ins with the law. In 1997, his then-wife accused him of domestic assault, though records show charges were never filed.
In 2002, Dear was charged with being a peeping Tom. Those counts were dismissed.
In 2003, he was arrested and charged with two counts of animal cruelty but was found not guilty.
Within the past year, Dear purchased property in Hartsel, Colorado, a small community 65 miles west of the Planned Parenthood facility, for $6,000. Neighbors say what interaction they had with Dear was friendly but limited.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really nice guy. Gave us some anti-Obama flyers. I didn't even really read them. I just -- I think I used them to start the fire in our campfire that night. That's about all I've run into him.
SIMON: Well, the next court date is next Wednesday. And not surprisingly, Wolf, the judge said that, if convicted, the suspect would either get life in prison or the death penalty -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Dan Simon in Colorado Springs, thanks very much.
We're learning more about the alleged gunman's weapons and the possibility he was planning a much more deadly attack. Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. What are you learning, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning that some of the items that the gunman brought in with him, Wolf, was some handguns, as well as some long guns, some rifles that were in the duffel bag that he brought there to the crime scene.
And in addition to all of those guns, Wolf, we're learning, as Dan pointed out, that there were some propane tanks around his car that officials believe he may have been trying to shoot at to cause some sort of an explosion.
Investigators are also talking to those who knew Robert Dear, both where he lived in North Carolina and up until a year ago when he moved to Colorado, but so far, the -- all indications point to the fact that Robert Dear acted alone.
Also, Wolf, it is still very early in the investigation. What we're learning here, though, is that a security guard is supposed to be posted at these Planned Parenthood facilities. We're being told by an official at Planned Parenthood that there was a security guard there, but he had left once his shift had ended before the attack; and there was a gap of time between when he left and when another security guard was supposed to take over. And in between that time, that's when we know Robert Dear walked in and opened fire -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes; our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; and our CNN legal analyst, Sunny Hostin.
Sunny, Dear was charged with murder in the first degree, as you know, that carries with it either life in prison or the death sentence. Could this alleged shooter, Robert Louis Dear, face the death penalty, though? You understand the law in the state of Colorado. They haven't executed a convicted prisoner since 1997.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, and I think that he certainly could face the death penalty. We know that James Holmes, the Colorado theater shooter, faced the death penalty. But we know that he wasn't given the death penalty.
So I think in Colorado we're dealing with a state that may charge him with death penalty. He may not be convicted of the death penalty or get the death penalty, rather.
But I think what's also interesting is that the public defender that we're looking at now, Daniel King, was also representing James Holmes. So he at least has one that's representing him that's very familiar with the death penalty, very familiar with the process.
And I think it's too soon, still, to determine whether or not the prosecution will seek the death penalty. I'm sure that's a decision that hasn't been made yet, because they don't know enough about his motive. They don't know enough about this case to make that determination.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, three people were murdered: a police officer, two civilians, a man and a woman. What do you think?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly a candidate for the death penalty, if you're going to have one.
And the question of intent here is very important, because it's possible, if this is determined to be a terrorist act, that the federal government could step in, just as they did in the Tsarnaev case in Boston, and say that this was a federal crime, a terrorist crime, which could also result in the death penalty. All of this defends on the issue of motive and intent, and that's
going to take a while to investigate. We do have this one stray comment, apparently, about body parts, which does suggest a political motive.
But investigators are going to have to do a lot more thorough job before they decide what crime to charge him with and whether to seek the death penalty.
BLITZER: And presumably, Tom -- and you've been involved in investigating a lot of these cases -- they could claim, you know, that this individual was mentally unfit, was unstable; he was crazy, and as a result, he didn't know what he was doing.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that's one thing, Wolf. But you know, he did take the guns there and he did plan this out to be able to make that attack.
But the other issue of getting back to motive is that, you know, you want to look at people's e-mails accounts and their interaction with their neighbors, friends, families, co-workers. Well, look at the cabin. He's like the Unabomber in the shack. How much interaction would he have with other people, other than handing the one neighbor pamphlets about Obama? You know, what he -- does he even have Internet? He's in a cabin or a trailer with no electricity, maybe, no water, no amenities. So there may be a limited ability to actually prove what he was thinking.
BLITZER: Sunny, the other breaking news we're following is Jason Van Dyke, that white police officer charged with first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago. The police officer managed to post bond today, $1.5 million. He's out of jail right now.
Are you surprised that someone who is charged with first-degree murder walks on bail, at least for the time being?
HOSTIN: Well, I'm not surprised. I think a lot of people will be surprised, and I think a lot of people will be upset by it. But bail is not supposed to be punitive. In other words, you're not supposed to, you know, make bail so out of reach for someone that you're punishing them. The goal of bail is to make sure that someone returns to court for trial and also determines whether or not this person is sort of a threat to himself or others.
I think, in arriving at the bail amount, the $1.5 million, the judge made it very clear that this is a serious crime that he is charged with, but I'm not surprised that he was able to make bond or that he was given bond.
BLITZER: So I assume, Jeffrey, a lot of people in Chicago are going to be pretty upset that this guy is out of jail after he was charged with first-degree murder. But as Sunny says, you're not supposed to take that into consideration. Is that what happened here?
TOOBIN: Yes. There are two questions that always come up with bail: Is the person at risk of flight and, second, are they a danger to the community? Now his lawyers undoubtedly made the case that he, I believe, is going to have an ankle bracelet, so he's not going to go anywhere. And his guns are going to be taken away from him. So he's not a threat to the community.
That's an understandable ruling. It is also true that first- degree murder defendants almost never get out on bail. So yes, this is rational, and yes, people are going to be upset. But that's just the nature of law enforcement sometimes unfolds.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, pretty extraordinary, isn't it, that he's out on bail?
FUENTES: I think, to Jeff's point, the reason they don't normally bail out is they don't have a million and a half dollars or the percentage necessary to bail out. In this case, somebody's come up with the money on his behalf, or he did, and he's able to do it. So I think that, as Sunny mentioned, and I agree with her, it's not supposed to be punitive.
FUENTES: It's a high amount because of the severity of the crime, but if he's able to come up with it and if they're reasonably certain he'll be back in court, and he's not going to do anything bad in the meantime, then...
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. All right, guys. Thanks very much.
Just ahead more news we're following, including Donald Trump. He meets today with black pastors, religious leaders, saying he saw love in the room. But did he see the endorsements his campaign was looking for?
[18:40:16] Also, more on the breaking news: an American embassy warning of an imminent terror attack after receiving a threat deemed significant, active and credible.
[18:45:02] BLITZER: We're standing by for remarks by Donald Trump, he's campaigning in Georgia tonight after a meeting with African American pastors and other religious leaders stirred up some more controversy earlier in the day.
Our political reporter Sara Murray is joining us from Macon, Georgia, right now.
Sara, the claims Trump makes on the campaign trail continue to raise lots of questions.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's absolutely right, Wolf, and today, the attention was on the Trump campaign's outreach to black pastors like you said. It did cause a little bit of controversy, but ultimately, Trump was able to walk away with at least a couple endorsements.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I saw love in the room. I see love everywhere I go.
MURRAY (voice-over): Despite walking past what his campaign had originally promoted as an endorsement event with 100 black pastors, Donald Trump emerged calling today's closed door meeting a success.
TRUMP: We actually didn't think we're going to be having a press conference, but we all thought it was such a good meeting we would do that and we have many, many endorsements that came out of the meeting.
MURRAY: In a lead up to today's get together, several of the pastors invited said they had no intention of backing the GOP front runner or even attending the meet and greet.
BISHOP PAUL MORTON, CHANGING A GENERATION: If you talk down to women, if you talk down to documented immigrants calling them rapists and then black lives get them out of here -- no, you can't represent me. So I don't even need to hear your platform.
MURRAY: Victor Couzens said he came to talk with Trump, nothing more.
VICTOR COUZENS, VSC MINISTRIES: It's really incumbent upon me to take advantage of the opportunity to query him about exactly the types of things we should expect from a potential Trump administration. I'm not here to endorse Mr. Trump. I'm here to have a dialogue.
MURRAY: The pastors cautioned an outright criticism comes as Trump faces scrutiny for retweeting a racially charged message --
TRUMP: I'm going to protect them.
MURRAY: -- and suggesting a Black Lives Matter protester deserved to be roughed up at a Trump campaign rally. Others attending today's meeting said they would attempt to convince their colleagues to support Trump.
PASTOR STEPHEN PARSON, RICHMOND CHRISTIAN CENTER: Anybody that knows Donald Trump personally knows he's not a racist and provided more jobs for minorities, for Mexicans, for African Americans, he's exactly what not only the African-American community needs but what America needs.
MURRAY: Today, Trump seemed undeterred by the change in plans.
TRUMP: The beautiful thing about the meeting is they didn't really ask me to change it down. I think they want to see victory because, ultimately, it is about, we want to win and we want to win together.
MURRAY: Meanwhile, Trump continues to face scrutiny for repeatedly insisting he saw large crowds of Muslim Americans celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11.
TRUMP: I had hundreds and hundreds of calls and tweets of people that saw it and plenty of people saw it.
MURRAY: Now, Trump has continued to repeat those claims even though they have been rated false by fact checkers and even though no videos of people cheering on 9/11 has been uncovered in New Jersey.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right. Sara, thanks very much.
Let's talk about what is going on in this race for the White House. Joining us, our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Guys, I want you to stand by for a moment. We have a lot to discuss about Donald Trump, this race for the Whiter House. We're getting some more information coming in.
Much more right after a quick break.
[18:52:50] BLITZER: We're back with our political team. We'll get back to them in a moment.
A top adviser to Donald Trump meanwhile insists he's never come across a situation where the current GOP front-runner said something inaccurate. Michael Cohen made that surprising remark to CNN's Jake Tapper on "THE LEAD." Jake pressed Cohen about several of Trump's recent comments, including his denial that he mocked "The New York Times'" reporter's disability. Listen to a bit of that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Trump cited this report from 2001 in "The Washington Post" from Serge Kovalevsky. Kovalevsky is a reporter. He suffers from a condition that limits movement in his arms. Now, this is Trump at a rally talking about this reporter.
TRUMP: The thing about northern New Jersey draws the prober's eye, written by a nice reporter. Now, the poor guy, you got to see this guy. Ah, I don't remember what I said. Ah, I don't remember! He's going, like, I don't remember! Maybe that's what I said.
TAPPER: All right. Let's put up a still photo of Donald Trump from that event, the picture of Mr. Kovalevsky. Now, Mr. Trump insists he was not making fun of Kovalevsky's disability and he doesn't remember even meeting Kovalevsky who covered him in the past. But at that event --
MICHAEL COHEN, SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: You know, Jake, how many people do you think have covered Donald Trump in the past? Thousands upon thousands.
TAPPER: How many with that disability? I would guess one.
COHEN: Do you think Mr. Trump remembers this specific reporter?
TAPPER: He said --
COHEN: Mr. Trump himself said he does not remember.
TAPPER: You said he has a fantastic memory and --
COHEN: He most certainly does. He sees thousands and thousands of reporters a year.
TAPPER: But he said --
COHEN: He does not remember this guy. Now, let me say one more thing here --
TAPPER: Michael, he said, this was written by a nice reporter. He said it was written by a nice reporter, you got to see this guy.
COHEN: He was talking about the article until he ended up pulling it back for which he did for whatever reason that he did. But let me say --
TAPPER: He said, you got to see this guy, and then he mimics his injury.
COHEN: Mr. Trump donates millions and millions of dollars each and every year in order to combat disabilities, in order to combat cancer, whether it's children, where he donates millions of dollar as year. Mr. Trump is not the type of individual that's going to make fun of somebody's disability. He wouldn't know this guy prior to this entire nonsense.
[18:55:01] TAPPER: But we just saw him do it. We just saw him made fun of his disability.
COHEN: He was not making fun. He was being gesticulate, which Donald Trump is. And he was basically showing the exasperation of a reporter that's pulling back on a story, exasperation and basically saying something like -- oh, now, I don't remember, now, I don't remember. It had nothing to do with his disability.
TAPPER: And it just so happen -- first of all, he said he was a nice guy and then he said, you've got to see this guy, and then he twists his arms to mimic his disability.
COHEN: He wasn't twisting his arms to mimic anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss what we just heard. Gloria, it's a controversy that doesn't seem to want to go away,
this whole controversy, this latest controversy involving Donald Trump.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and I think -- you know, one of the reasons is that Trump really doesn't acknowledge it at all.
And if you look at the pictures, you saw Jake's questioning, you saw the answers in this interview and part of the issue, I think, with Donald Trump is that he may never get anything wrong, as Mr. Cohen says, but he doesn't acknowledge that he might actually have potentially gotten something wrong or made a mistake. We saw that with John McCain when he said John McCain wasn't a war hero. We saw it with Carly Fiorina when he made comments about her physical appearance.
And then you have this new thing with this "New York Times" reporter and there's no sort of acknowledging that maybe I was misinterpreted. I know Serge. I would never do that about him -- nothing. I think that makes it worse, although, as you all know, nothing seems to stick.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think that's right. But, look, I mean, the presidential race is entering -- about to enter a new phase, a serious phase. And voters could care less about any of this. I don't think they'll hold Mr. Trump accountable for it. I think his supporters will be his supporters.
But this is largely background noise. So, how the other presidential candidates are reacting to that I find more interesting. But no, he's not going to suddenly say, "Oh, I was lying about this. I made a mistake." He's doubling down on this, tripling down, quadrupling down, whatever. You know, but I think voters are probably like, move on.
BLITZER: You knew him when you worked at "The New York Times."
BLITZER: Nia, you knew him when he worked at "The Washington Post," Serge Kovaleski. And he's someone that says, yes, I met with Donald Trump on numerous occasions, going back to when he was a reporter for "The New York Daily News".
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and it's hard to look at the Trump video, which he prefaces by saying, you've got to see this guy. It's hard not to look at the video and the actions that he's making out there with his wrists and his arms, and not think of Serge.
But as -- you meet Serge, he's memorable partly because he's a fantastic reporter, a fantastic guy. But he obviously does have this very visible disability as well.
BORGER: You know, one thing I think the voters will pay attention to is -- and I could be wrong here -- is the kind of personalization of politics right now, where it sounds like school yard. This one disagrees with me, he's a dummy. This one, I don't like the way she looks, you know, who would vote for someone with that face. This one I disagree with his politics, and he wasn't a war hero.
You know, I think after a while, people understand we have huge problems that we need to deal with in this country, and this kind of petty school yard stuff on --
ZELENY: Those voters make up the 65 percent of the Republican base that's not already supporting him. I'm talking about the core support of --
BORGER: Yes, that's right. And those 25 percent, or whatever it is are going to --
BLITZER: As you point out, Gloria, not the first controversial comment he's made that hasn't hurt him --
BLITZER: -- with that Republican base.
He did emerge from that meeting at Trump Tower today with these African-American pastors, religious leaders, and they're a whole bunch of them walked out with him and effectively endorsed him.
HENDERSON: Yes, they did. There was a lot of sort of miscommunication going into this meeting, whether it was an official endorsement or whether it was not an official endorsement, but he came out and said it was a success. And in many ways it was.
BLITZER: He said there was a lot of love.
HENDERSON: A lot of love in that room. And you have folks there like Omarosa who is not only a reality TV star but also a minister. So, I thought it sort of work as a television moment for the message she's trying to convey, which is in spite of some of the things I said may have been construed as racist by some people, look at these African-American pastors who (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: It certainly looked good when they walked out, Gloria.
BORGER: It did. I was watching the entire thing. It sent the message that Donald Trump wanted to send, even though there had been a problem about whether they were going to endorse him. They all came out and seemed pretty positive about the meeting. It was a 2 1/2 hour meeting. So, it went on for quite a while.
ZELENY: Still important to keep in perspective, it's a pretty difficult to say that Donald Trump is going to win a majority of the black votes or even black pastors --
BORGER: Right. But he doesn't want to be labeled a racist.
BORGER: We'll see what he says later tonight.
All right. Guys, thanks very much.
Stay with CNN, by the way, for the next Republican presidential debate. I'll be the moderator. The final GOP face-off this year, it all happens on December 15th, live from Las Vegas, only here on CNN.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Remember, you can always tweet me @WolfBlitzer.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.