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FBI Dive Team Looks for Evidence Related to Last Week's Deadly Shooting; Swiss Authorities Raise Terror Alert Level; Chicago Protests; Donald Trump's Proposal to Ban Muslims from Entering the United States has 25 Percent of Voter Support. Aired 8-9:00p ET

Aired December 10, 2015 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

There is breaking news tonight on several fronts of the San Bernardino terror investigation. An FBI dive team spent hours today searching a lake not far from the site of last week's deadly shooting.

And tonight, we are learning some new details about why that lake is a focus.

There are also new details about who may have led the male shooter down the path of radicalization, his ties to convicted terrorist.

Our Kyung Lah joins us now with the latest.

So, I'm hearing the search at the lake is wrapping up for tonight. Do we know exactly what they were looking for?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the search here at the lake wrapped up just a short time ago. We don't know exactly what they found but we know that they are not done yet. We are told by the FBI that the dive teams will be back out here in the morning at daybreak. And what we saw here for the last few hour was a pain staking search. Divers slowly and methodically going step by step, swimming very slowly looking for something.

We are told by law enforcement source that what the FBI is specifically looking for is anything that was missing from the apartment. They are specifically looking for a hard drive. They are very interested in trying to find a hard drive that was missing from the apartment where this married couple, the would-be terrorist did live in. So that is something they are looking for.

And, Anderson, the reason they came here in the first place, there was a tip according to the FBI that the suspects were here on the day of the shooting - Anderson.

COOPER: There is also new details emerging about the husband and his possible ties to a larger terror network. What do you know?

LAH: And this really goes to the timeline, which is something that the FBI is trying very hard to build. We are told that the FBI is looking at a relationship, friendship between Farook, the male gunman and a man who was arrested and convicted in a 2012 terror plot. We need to be very clear this 2012 terror plot which arrest four people originally from this area, that it was an attack planned in Afghanistan on U.S. bases. The FBI asking that people understand that this was not an attack here in the United States.

But there was some sort of relationship between these two according to a law enforcement official. They are looking into that. They are very curious because, Anderson, that really helps them build a timeline, how long this suspect may have been planning something like San Bernardino.

COOPER: And it was believed that they visited that lake and that is why was the area of the search. I mean, do they know for a fact something was thrown in that lake or placed in the lake or is it just, do we know if they are trying to cover their, all their tracks?

LAH: It's a little bit of both. What we're told, Anderson, by the FBI is that there is an eyewitness report, some sort of report, a lead that they were here on the day of the attack. The FBI being very meticulous saying that they are not sure if it is not revealing whether it was before or after the massacre, but that there is a report they came here and that's why they are painstakingly going through this lake bit by bit.

COOPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thank you very much.

Joining me now is law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director, also CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, former CIA officer.

Tom, given that the husband here was hanging out with four men who were convicted of providing material support to terrorism who were planning on fighting against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, do you think law enforcement should have had him on their radar?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: We don't know, Anderson. And I think that, you know, when you say hanging out or they are links to or somebody's connected with that that is, you know, that makes it very difficult to say was there a real relationship? Was there a couple contacts? And again, that group was planning to go to Afghanistan as Kyung mentioned and commit an attack overseas. They were all arrested.

So, you know, apparently Farook did not get into that group enough where he would have been seen as someone also intending to go and commit a terrorist act against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

COOPER: Bob, and again, there is a lot we don't know as Tom points out. I mean, was this an intelligence failure or do we not know enough at this point?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I think so far it wasn't. The FBI can only move if there is an overt act, if Farook bought a ticket, he had anyway material support to terrorism. Any number of actions. The most the FBI can do is constraint by law is simply go knock on his door and say are you a radical? But what do you get from that. He will say no. So I don't think so far. What we've heard. But what the FBI is concerned about right now, and I know this from law enforcement services, there is wider network and they are afraid that they are going out launch another attack. They cannot be sure that. And that's why they are out there diving. And that's why they are trying to get the material from the cell phone and they are looking for encrypted communications. I mean, this is very much an open case, still.

[20:05:07] COOPER: You know, Tom, in our coverage of the attacks in Paris and elsewhere, we focused a lot on how difficult it is for, in France's case, French intelligence or French law enforcement to track all the number of potential jihadists that they have. It takes a lot of people to track even one person. What about the U.S. capabilities? The FBI, do they have enough manpower?

FUENTES: No, it is the same thing. Look. If you are going to try, and I ran surveillance operations in the squad in Chicago which did just that, most of the time gangsters, but also some terrorists. It takes about 30 agents to follow one person around the clock. And so -- I'm sorry, Anderson.

COOPER: That's OK.

FUENTES: So, you know, the idea there is enough resources to follow everybody all the time and then who would be the people you follow? You know, we have 1.1 million people on the general watch list and these guys, Farook wasn't even on it. So I think that, you know, it is difficult to do that kind of surveillance until you really have absolute reason to do it, which was the case back in the spring in Boston where they were following the individual that was going to go out and behead police officers, you know, they did have a full surveillance around the clock, wiretap around the clock and they were able to save lives by eliminating that person before he could conduct the attack.

COOPER: Bob, in terms of the investigation, I mean, as you said it's still very much open. What are the big questions for you that are still open?

BAER: For me, predictably it is whether she was recruited in Pakistan, whether she was sent here, whether she was trolling for someone to get her a K visa, you know, I keep on hearing the suspicion among law enforcement that somehow she was prepared to come to the United States and you would need the Pakistanis to help. And I would like to see some help from the Saudis, you know, who radicalized her, if indeed she was radicalized in Saudi Arabia, because that's very important. Because once you connect the dots with that, you can look for other networks. And it is for the FBI it's completely frustrating, the league at Islamabad to get the Pakistanis to level with us and same way with the Saudis. So it is just always been that way since 9/11.

COOPER: It's been that way the entire time?

BAER: Yes, absolutely. They still have not come to terms with the fact that 15 of those hijackers on 9/11 were recruited in Saudi Arabia, were prepared and sent to the United States. There hasn't been one indictment. And you know, the Saudis are reluctant to admit that they have a problem. They have radicalization problem inside their country and they don't like to admit it to us. I mean, they are not supporting these attacks. But it's just the whole educational system there is geared toward violent jihad.

FUENTES: No. And as Bob knows, if I could add, the Saudis are funding (INAUDIBLE) all over the world that are preaching this fate and recruiting people to do these attacks. That funding is coming out of Saudi Arabia.

COOPER: Yes. And promoting Habism (ph), I mean, they are very stick form of Islam which frankly is not all that different and some of its tenants as what we see from some of these groups.


COOPER: Bob, thanks very much. Tom, thanks very much.

Now to Switzerland and more breaking news. Swiss authorities have raised the terror alert level in Geneva and surrounding areas as police search for four people with ties to ISIS who are allegedly plotting attacks in Switzerland and the U.S. One official saying quote "we have gone from a vague threat to a precise threat. The U.S. embassy in Baron (ph) has issued a security message, that's what they call it, for U.S. citizens in Switzerland telling them and I quote "review personal security plans, remain aware of surroundings at all times and monitor local news stations for updates."

Security has been ramped with the U.N. complex in Geneva, the second largest U.N. facility in the world.

Joining me is CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. He is the co- author of "Agent Storm, my life inside Al-Qaeda and the CIA."

Paul, the attacks were being planned. What have you learned?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: What we learned from a European security source that has been briefed on the intelligence is that there are three factors which led to the alert in Geneva. The first is an intercepted stream of communications by the United States of suspected ISIS returnees to Europe discussing the idea of launching a plan of attacks in various cities including Geneva but also including Toronto and Chicago. The belief or aspirational plans to attack these cities.

The second factor is the recently the vehicle, a van crossed the Swiss border and they ran the number plates and they found that that van had a link back to an associate of Salah Abdeslam, the so-called eighth attacker still at large linked to the Paris attack. CCTV footage have picked up the vehicle coming through. And when they ran the plates, they are obviously concerned given that an associate of Salah Abdeslam could have come in to Switzerland. They found the van but they did not find the driver of the van.

And there was a third factor and that's in just the last day, the French authorities have identified the third attacker at the Bataclan Theater and he was recruited by a French extremist from the Geneva area to travel to Syria. And one of the associates of that French extremist in the Geneva area, wanted a man who is believed to travel as well as Syria and maybe back in Europe and Swiss national. They are also very concerned about him. So there are three different factors, all of which contributed to this intelligence alert.

[20:10:50] COOPER: And all troubling. And do Swiss authorities have any idea where the guys who were planning these attacks on the U.S. are right now?

CRUICKSHANK: They do not have a handle on that at the moment. There were four individuals who were picked up in these communication streams discussing these aspirational plots to hit various cities including Chicago in the United States. Swiss authorities, European intelligence services don't have a good handle where they are and they don't have a good handle where that van driver was, either, all where Swiss national is. And so, there are six individuals suspected to be connected back to ISIS in Syria, perhaps back on European soil. They don't know their current whereabouts. All of that obviously feeding into concerns in the wake of the Paris attacks, Anderson.

COOPER: And part of the intelligence behind this came from the U.S.?

CRUICKSHANK: Yes, it was a U.S. intelligence tip about these aspirational plans, which was one of the key things which led to this security alert in Geneva led to them, granting at the security there at the airport, a warning to Jewish communities living in the area, as well. And also according to local media, they moved a key meeting that was going to take place tomorrow between the Americans and the Russians on the top pick of Syria from the U.N. site where it would take place to another site. They are not saying where that is going to be now.

COOPER: Paul Cruickshank, fascinating reporting. Paul, thank you very much.


COOPER: Just ahead, there is more breaking news tonight. Protesters back on the streets of Chicago. We will take you there live.

And later, Donald Trump speaking tonight. Hear what he said what his staunchest supporters say about him and why that's causing such a panic inside the GOP.


[20:16:03] COOPER: Breaking news tonight in Chicago. These are live picture, protesters on the streets again some lying down in the streets. We are told this march started the federal building is heading to city hall. As you may know over the past few days, calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign have been growing. We have been seeing protest like this for the past two weeks following the release of the video, the police shooting of Laquan McDonald. It took more than a year for the video to be released. Martin Savidge joins me now.

So, we said the protest heading to city hall. I understand there are several stops along the way.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There have. And in fact, we are in the middle of one now. City hall is actually just about, well, it's within sight, about a block down the street behind us here. And what happens just like they have on other nights, the crowd and it's roughly maybe 150, sometimes as many as 200. It drifts. They move, they stop, they move again. And what they take advantage of is we are downtown Chicago, the streets, the side streets here and all the shops are open and packed with people. They are in fact, not only playing to an audience not in city hall now, Rahm Emanuel. They are playing to the citizens of this city.

So it may not seem like there's a lot of people participating. But there are a lot of people that are listed. And one thing that's been shown is that support for Rahm Emanuel has been taking a drastic turn and not in his favor and that despite that very emotional and heart felt speech that he delivered at city council -- Anderson.

COOPER: And what's the tenner of the protest? I mean, peaceful so far? There have been arrest?

SAVIDGE: No. It is peaceful. It has been peaceful. I mean, vocally it's very, very loud but it has been peaceful. It's organized. The police are here on the sidelines as they have been throughout all of this. So there is this kind of (INAUDIBLE) communication that goes on between the demonstrators and authorities, rather ironic since most of these people are very much against the Chicago police and actions they say that have been taken. So peaceful, no arrests that we know of so far. But it's still moving and we are going with it.

COOPER: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you.

Ryan Young is also on the scene for us. He joins us now.

What struck you about what you have seen so far today, Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what I think the big thing, Anderson, throughout is the crowds are smaller than what we've seen before. We have seen large crowds, especially on black Friday that were in the hundreds, maybe even close to 700, 800 people. Now this crowd is about down to 75 to 100 people at this point after it go up to the city hall. So you see a change.

There is also a much different mood around here. A lot more multi- cultural if you look at the people who are here. You can see some of them are from the community. We heard some people traveled actually to come here for this.

But we have heard different things here. Most of the people are kind of talking about getting Anita Alvarez out of office. You heard Rahm Emanuel, they want him out of office. But we heard people talk about changing in terms of wanting community members to be part of the process, to make sure they help find the next superintendent in the city.

There are have been a couple people who decides to challenge officers, get in their faces a bit. They stay on the perimeters. In fact, that's something they have been doing throughout all these protest. They stay on the sides. They don't engage with the public. But tonight, there have been a few people who have been in this crowd and decided they want to go in the faces of the officers. They have maintained their cool so far. So we have seen this remain peaceful as they march in the street. And then you see them sitting in this kind of area right here and sometimes they just sit down in the middle of the street and occupy it. So that's what we have watched throughout the evening.

COOPER: And Ryan, is the plan for these protests to continue nightly?

YOUNG: That's -- you know what? We heard this yesterday that someone wanted to take this through the New Year. But every night seems like a different group is doing the protest so not sure what to expect (INAUDIBLE). We thought this crowd was going to be larger. We saw a lot more people when this started. When they got to city hall, it seems like maybe 25 to 50 people just left the protest at this point. Some people have been calling for more from the mayor, some people want him to resign, so it depends which person you talk to because there are several different groups that are combining for this protest.

[20:20:05] COOPER: All right, Ryan Young, reporting. Ryan, thank you. We are going to check back on the situation later this hour.

Just ahead tonight, though, Donald Trump's first big appearance since unveiling his plan to keep Muslims out of the country. New poll numbers on how strong support it is among Republican voters and why it worries party insiders so much.


[20:24:20] COOPER: Donald Trump is in Fort Smith, New Hampshire tonight, his first big campaign event since advocating a ban on Muslims entering the United States. He just finished speaking to members of regional New England police union who just endorsed him saying the San Bernardino killings validate the need to keep Muslims out.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I talked about what I said the other day, all of a sudden I'm watching the shows this morning and I'm watching the shows tonight, well, you know, Trump has a point. The visa system is not working. This woman came in on a marriage visa and she was totally radicalized. And she came in and all of a sudden they are saying it's not working. The visa system.

We have got to get down to the problems. We can't worry about being politically correct. We just can't afford any more to be so politically correct.


[20:25:11] COOPER: Donald Trump tonight in New Hampshire.

The larger backdrop, new polling that shows strong support for Trump and ideas within the Republican party whether the party leadership likes it or not.

Our chief national correspondent John King looks at that and more tonight by the numbers.

John, these new numbers, what do they show?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First numbers, Anderson, asking Americans what they think of Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering to the United States. CNBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll out tonight, 25 percent of voters support that. But look, nearly six in ten Americans say they oppose Mr. Trump's proposal that Muslim should be ban from entering the United States. However, 57 percent is among all voters.

In the Republican primary, Anderson, look at this. A 38, 39 percent divide. So in a crowded field among Republicans in the short term, Mr. Trump's proposal may not hurt them all that much.

And CNBC/"Wall Street Journal" also ask this. They said did Donald Trump's comments frequently insulting and he has the wrong approach on many issues? Forty-one percent agreed with that. But 24 percent agreed with this statement. Trump's manner and language bother me but he is raising important issues. And Anderson, another 22 percent said Trump tells it like it is and has the right approach on many issues. So they may oppose six in ten American may oppose the plan, but you can see from those other numbers, Trump still has considerable support.

COOPER: Yes. Also some new changes in the Republican race.

KING: Some dramatic changes. And again, Trump is on top. This is from a CBS/"New York Times" poll out today. Trump stays on top with 35 percent. But Cruz and Carson, especially if I bring in October numbers, you see the difference. Donald Trump up from October. Ted Cruz quadrupled up from 16 percent now from October. You see Ben Carson support is cut in half and Marco Rubio and Rand Paul finishing the top five here in the Republican race. But that's a pretty big shift there. But again in the national poll, yet another one, Anderson, showing Donald Trump remains with a commanding lead.

COOPER: And I know one of the polls asked potential voters to describe their feelings of if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton were elected president. What did they say?

KING: This one is interesting. Take a look at these numbers. Essentially, they were asked if there is a president Trump, if Donald Trump wins, would you be excited, optimistic, concerned or scared. Four in ten Americans they would be scared, 24 percent say they would be concerned and only 11 percent say they would be excited, 24 percent say optimistic. Let's have a little bit of comparison here to a president Clinton.

Only nine percent say they would be excited. A smaller percentage say they would be scared, 34 to 40 percent, about the same were concerned, a little more people would be optimistic. But Anderson, when you dig deeper into these numbers, very much along partisan lines.

Look at Republican voters. Would you want Donald Trump as president? Twenty-five percent of Republicans would be excited, 41 percent would be optimistic, only 10 percent of Democrats combined would be excited or optimistic.

Republicans are less concerned and obviously Democrats are much more scared of Donald Trump, 63 percent of Democrat said they would be scared by Trump presidency. And here is the flipside, 65 percent of Republicans say they would be scared for the Clinton presidency and only six percent of Democrats.

So, you look at those numbers, would you be scared and concerned? And guess what? Democrats don't like Donald Trump. Republicans don't like Hillary Clinton. Shocking.

COOPER: Shocking. John King, thanks.

KING: Thank you.

COOPER: More now on the problem that some of those numbers speak to the GOP may nominate someone that resonates with the current Republican base but who is out of the general election main stream. We just learned that the possibility of a contested convention was on the agenda at a party strategy meeting in Washington earlier this week.

Let's get some perspective now from three conservative voices all whom could be called main stream. Former U.S. congressman Rick Lazio, who named his campaign bus the main stream express during his New York senate run in 2000, CNN political commentator and "New York Times" columnist Ross Douthat and "Washington Post" syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker.

Good to have all of you here.

Congressman, you see Donald Trump, you see those latest poll numbers. Is the Republican establishment out of touch with the Republican base?

RICK LAZIO, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: There is a lot of fear out there, Anderson. There is a new poll also that came out today that says that the fear of domestic terrorism is an all-time high since 9/11.

COOPER: Right. Number one issue more than (INAUDIBLE).

LAZIO: Yes. Number one issue. So his strength right now is his strength. It is the fact that tough talk equates for many voters to strength. And they are looking for somebody to help make them safe.

The real story in my mind, though, and I think this will play out over the course of what maybe a relatively long nomination season is that his tag line is I'll make America great again. But what makes America great is, really, our values, our traditions, the things that we believe in. The greatest and most iconic to me as landmark in America is not Sing Sing (ph), it is the Statute of Liberty. It is what inspires people to think that this country is great, not just here in the U.S., but overseas.

So when he talks about using religious tests to block people from coming in, you can't imagine people like Abraham Lincoln, for example, or Ronald Reagan who apologized to the Japanese Americans.

COOPER: Paid reparations.

LAZIO: Paid reparations. Interesting since Trump himself cites the FDR internment as sort of the benchmark or the baseline to justify using a religious (INAUDIBLE). And in fact, Ronald Reagan who most Republicans I think would look to and say one of the most inspirational figures of the last 50 or 100 years, was the guy who repudiated that and basically apologized.

COOPER: But Kathleen, I mean -- *

[20:30:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: But, Kathleen, I mean, 35 percent of Republicans support Donald Trump. I mean, far ahead of anybody else.

KATHLEEN PARKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, they do. And I think that, you know, the party leaders are pretty worried about it. There are a lot of meetings going on and lots of high-ranking, not only the party members but the funders of various campaigns are looking to see what are we going to do? Are we going to let this play out and let him -- just see where he goes or are we going to take some more strategic action?

COOPER: What more can they -- what would they do?

PARKER: Well, they can just condemn him generally and they will lose that percentage of voters who actually like him. I don't know that the 35 percent is representative of those who are actually going to vote for him. But they do support him at this point. I think there is a difference there. Still have a year to go.

But if they did that, you know, there are some people making the argument that let's just go ahead and lose them. You know, if we lose the election, let's at least keep the -- let's keep the Senate, let's keep the House and let's focus on 2020. That's already on the table.

COOPER: Ross, can the G.O.P. afford to do that?

ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, the secret here is that Trump isn't actually winning what people usually think of as the Republican base. I mean, he's winning some ideological conservatives, but a big chunk of the vote is self-described moderate and liberal Republicans, which doesn't mean that they are liberal necessarily in the way that, you know, maybe people who read "The New York Times" understand the term, but they are often working class and disaffected white men in the Midwest and the northeast, voters some of whom who stayed home in 2012 rather than voting for Mitt Romney.

And they are not a constituency that the Republican Party has always done a good job dealing with and catering to and so it's not surprising that the party leadership is struggling to figure what they want. They didn't really know what these voters wanted in 2012 or 2008, either.

But the one thing to your question about what they could actually do -- I mean, the one thing that hasn't really happened is there aren't major Republican organizations, forget the other candidates going after Trump on the air waves, running ads against him.

I mean, there were some, you know, John Kasich ran this sort of over the top ad comparing Trump to Hitler in New Hampshire, but you know, the Koch brothers aren't funding massive ad by attacking Donald Trump in Iowa. You have some groups started to do that. But there hasn't been a full spectrum press against Trump because the assumption is that either he'll fade or it's not worth attacking him because you don't want to alienate his supporters.

RICK LAZIO (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I would say another thing here is that Donald Trump is really an attitude more than a plan. And, at some point, the party leaders need to press him for an actual credible plan, which I think he's largely lacking.

COOPER: But, I mean, he's been pressed, you know, in countless interviews and his supporters don't seem to care so much about that a lot of the lines that, you know, aren't filled in exactly --

LAZIO: Yes. But he needs to get -- he needs to grow his numbers and he's going to have a real challenge it seems to me if he does not have a credible plan and he hasn't come across as somebody who you can trust.

And, by the way, the last cycle in 2012, Romney didn't take the lead permanently until February 28th. So we're a long way from that. I mean, we saw Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. I mean, everybody had their time in the sun and so that --


DOUTHAT: But in the last campaign at this point, we knew that Romney was going to be the establishment's guy, even though, he was only polling at 20 percent or so. And I think the challenge this time and I think what's panicking people is that it's not clear -- I mean, people assume now that it's going to be Rubio, but there isn't a candidate who has Romney's kind of position, and a lot of people in the establishment are saying well, you know, Trump is at 35 percent but Ted Cruz is behind him and Cruz is, you know, Cruz is an unacceptable alternative.


PARKER: You know, he can easily -- you know, we could see him moving into the number one position pretty easily because he does have --


COOPER: Numbers have gone up a lot last month.

PARKER: Absolutely and he's got the infrastructure in place. And he is well-organized and he's been building this sort of on the sidelines for a long time and suddenly moving up so, you know --

COOPER: I actually want to talk more about this. We're going to take a quick break and we're going to talk more about him and the others. Hold that thought.

What Ted Cruz really thinks about Donald Trump? Some new remarks he made. We'll show you that.

Also, our Randi Kaye is in New Hampshire. She spent the day talking to Trump supporters there asking them what they think of this so- called G.O.P. panic. "The Washington Post" wrote about and Mr. Trump's remarks about banning Muslims. We'll be right back.


[20:38:44] COOPER: Donald Trump arrived in New Hampshire tonight at the center of a storm over something he said that in itself of course not unusual. What stands out about this latest episode, though, is what it reveals about the strength of his support among primary voters.

And as we've been talking about with the panel, how frustrated Republican Party leaders have become in dealing with that.

We'll talk more in a moment with the panel. But, first, Randi Kaye on the people who for now are trumping the party.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Members of the New England Police Benevolent Association showing support for Donald Trump in New Hampshire, despite the growing list of his inflammatory remarks.

Does any of that concern you?

JERRY FLYNN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEPBA: I think what concerns me is for my members. We have a president of the United States who has no respect for law enforcement officers. That's the problem right now.

KAYE (voice-over): Retired police officer Jerry Flynn once met with Trump in his office in New York City.

FLYNN: I found him to be very charming, to be honest with you, and --

KAYE (on-camera): Charming is not a word that you hear a lot when you're talking about Donald Trump. What do you make of his style? FLYNN: I think that he is what he is. He's a very successful businessman. He's somebody who obviously can poke the bear and he's done that pretty well.

KAYE (voice-over): So well, in fact, that there is a growing panic among some in his party he could win the nomination, but because of his inflammatory remarks about Latinos, women and now Muslims, many say he wouldn't stand a chance in a general election.

[20:40:10] (on-camera): You're not at all concerned about him being the nominee?

JOHNNY ARNOLD, SON OF A POLICE OFFICER: No, I want him to be the nominee. I want him to be president of the United States.

KAYE (voice-over): Johnny Arnold also thinks Trump could take Democrat Hillary Clinton in a match-up.

ARNOLD: When it comes to immigration, when it comes to the debt, when it comes to defending our country, I feel like he has the -- he's stronger than she is.

KAYE: Despite what some Republicans are saying, no one here told us tonight they thought Trump was hurting his party.

TOM DALY, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NEPBA: He's trying to make America great again. And I think he's doing it his way, on his own the way he would work in business.

KAYE (on-camera): And you think that's playing well in the party, not driving people away from the party.

DALY: I think it's playing well with the public. And the party will, I guess, that will be determined at the convention.

KAYE: And about that "New York Times/CBS" poll showing that among all registered voters, 40 percent say a Trump presidency scares them. Does a Donald Trump presidency scare you?

ARNOLD: Not at all. And I'll tell you why. It's because I've notice that when it comes to a lot of presidents, they don't know how to say no. And it might just be a real basic answer to tell you, but I feel like he has so much fire in him, like if we were to be attacked, for example, he knows how to say no.

KAYE (voice-over): Meanwhile with so many critics inside the G.O.P., Trump is floating the idea of running as a third party candidate, an independent and according to a "U.S.A. Today" poll, 68 percent of his supporters say they would go with him.

(on-camera): Would you consider crossing party lines to vote for Donald Trump?

FLYNN: I'll leave you with this, Ronald Reagan said it best. I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.

KAYE: All right.

FLYNN: Thank you.

KAYE: I'll take that as a yes.


COOPER: And Randi Kaye joins us now from Portsmouth.

What was the general impression you think this group has of Donald Trump? It seems like strength. It seems like personality.

KAYE: And trust, Anderson, for sure. That is the word that I heard a lot here. They really believe, most of them who I spoke with, that Donald Trump has their back.

I mean, he's told this group tonight that he loves the police. He also promised if he were elected president, if anyone were to shoot and kill a police officer that that person would get the death penalty. So they believe that he would look out for them. They believe he's a businessman and he understands labor unions, which is also very important to the. They think he's misunderstood. That he really does love America and care about making America great again, which is probably, Anderson, why they did endorse him tonight.

But not everyone here was thrilled about seeing Donald Trump. There was a large group of protestors outside the hotel where he was speaking, also inside the hotel. One man came into the lobby of the hotel, Anderson, yelling, "Be brave, dump Trump." But still a very big night for Donald Trump with that endorsement.

COOPER: And, again, poll numbers, leading all the polls.

Randi Kaye, thanks, in New Hampshire.

Back with Rick Lazio, Ross Douthat and Kathleen Parker.

We talked a little bit right before the break about Ted Cruz that if it's not Trump, Trump supporters might go to Ted Cruz. Cruz spoke today and, I think, on "The New York Times." We have this video from them. They recorded it at a fundraiser yesterday. He was asked about -- he was referring to voters perceptions of Donald Trump and also Ben Carson.

Let's listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who am I comfortable having their finger on the button? Now that's a question of strength, but it's also a question of judgment. And I think that is a question that is a challenging question for both of them.

So my approach, much to the frustration of the media, has been to bear hug both of them and smother them with love, because I think, look, people run as who they are. I believe that gravity will bring both of those campaigns down and I think the lion share of their supporters come to us.


COOPER: For Republicans, though, who don't like Donald Trump, I mean, it's not as if Ted Cruz is exactly an establishment Republican candidate. I mean, he's not like by a lot of the establishment.

PARKER: Well, no, he's not liked by the establishment, but he is kind of an establishment candidate. I mean, he's got all the -- his resume reads very much like any other who has been in the Senate and these other things, although he has played as an out liar and, you know, stirred up all the trouble with the House and shutting down the government. But he also makes a lot -- he is a contrast, actually, to Trump when he starts talking about what to do about ISIS. He actually sounds a little bit more like Rand Paul or even President Obama in the sense that he's -- he is critical of our sort of adventurous --


COOPER: More boots on the ground.

PARKER: Yes, exactly. He's more restrained on that and I think that's probably very helpful to him in contrast to, you know, I'm going to bomb them until -- I'm sorry. He did say I'm going to bomb them until --


DOUTHAT: He did promise some carpet bomber.

PARKER: I'd take that back. I'd take that back.

DOUTHAT: That's the point of over lap between Trump and Cruz.

PARKER: What point, though?


LAZIO: Who's against intervention in Syria, right?

PARKER: Exactly.

DOUTHAT: Well, he's trying to set up -- I mean, Cruz like a lot of people thinks it's actually going to come down to him and Rubio.

PARKER: Right.

DOUTHAT: So he's trying right now to set up contrast with Rubio who is more interventionist.

COOPER: You said this during the break. You don't believe Donald Trump can get the nomination in the G.O.P.


COOPER: Why? [20:45:03] DOUTHAT: I think that he has -- still has pretty high unfavorable numbers. He has -- I think, he has a ceiling. And I think the ceiling is probably around where he is right now. And I think -- I mean, I agree with Cruz in the sense that I think that gravity will have an effect on him. And I think even in a scenario where he keeps getting -- I mean, first of all, if you look at --


COOPER: You are saying that from before he even entered the race?

DOUTHAT: But if you actually look like the latest poll, the poll that actually prompted probably Trump to announce his plan to keep all Muslims out of the United States was a poll showing Cruz pulling ahead of him in Iowa. And there's been a fair number of good polls on the ground in Iowa that have shown Trump slipping a little bit.

I think it's very likely that Cruz ends up winning Iowa. And when Cruz wins Iowa, Trump is no longer the guy boasting about how he's killing it in all the polls. Then he goes into New Hampshire and there was a poll -- you know, a lot of the polls -- I mean, look, the big unknown here is Trump is a candidate kind of like Jessie "The Body" Ventura was in Minnesota. Kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger was in California, where there are a lot of people who don't usually vote who right now are telling pollsters they're going to vote for Trump and that's pushing up his poll numbers.

Now with Schwarzenegger and Ventura, a lot of those people did vote and that's why they won, but they were also running in a --


COOPER: There seem to be an enthusiasm for Trump among those who say they're going to vote for Trump, which very well may make them come out.

DOUTHAT: There's, look, I'm not denying there's a real Trump constituency and he is going to be a factor. And, yes, he could kick it all the way to June in the convention. I just don't see how the math works, the organization works or anything to get him to 45 percent.

COOPER: You see this going, I mean, to June. You see this going --

LAZIO: Potentially, because this year for the first time in election cycles, Republican Party rules have changed where there is much more proportional allocation of delegates during the primary season. All of the primaries with the exception of South Carolina which was grandfathered in between New Hampshire and March 15th will be proportional.

COOPER: Right.

LAZIO: So you don't have to win out right. You can stay in the game and you can have a number of candidates accumulate delegates and have some momentum. And it's only until later -- I mean, about 60 percent of the overall delegates will be proportional.

So, you know, big issue there -- the other big issue, by the way, is that will Republicans want to govern? It's great to be a tough talker. It's great to have an altitude, but can you be elected. If you can't bring minorities along, if you can't get the Hispanic vote up, we know there is a demographic shift going on. It's going to continue indefinitely into the future. Republicans have to be more of a minority party.

COOPER: We're going to leave there.

Rick Lazio, thank you so much congressman. Ross Douthat, Kathleen Parker, as well, thank you very much.

Fascinating stuff.

Up next, Bowe Bergdahl in his own words for the first time. We're hearing his reasons for leaving his army post in Afghanistan, in his own words, in the middle of the night.


[20:51:38] COOPER: Well, the second season of the Podcast "Serial" debuted this morning. And people rush to download it crashed the server. The subject Bowe Bergdahl. The U.S. army sergeant who spent five years in Taliban captivity. He was brought home in a controversial prisoner swap, of course, with the Taliban, charged with desertion.

For the first time, you'll hear about the entire ordeal from Bergdahl himself. Many of his comrades, his fellow soldiers, though, who were sent into enemy territory looking for him say they have heard and seen enough.

CNN's Jake Tapper reports.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shortly after Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan in 2009, he says the gravity of what he had done shocked him.

SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL, DESERTER: 20 minutes out, I'm going, good grief. I'm in over my head. Suddenly, you know, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Well, not bad, but I really did something serious.

TAPPER: For the first time since the Obama administration controversially and possibly illegally traded the Taliban, five of their prisoners, in exchange for Bergdahl, a dramatic release captured on tape by Taliban forces, the controversial figure explained why he left with film maker Mark Bol in the Podcast "Serial."

Bergdahl admits he left on his own volition with a plan to return. It would created a crisis, he says, to draw attention to problems with his leadership. BERGDAHL: I was fully confident that when somebody actually took a look at the situation and when people started investigating the situation that people would understand that I was right. You know, what was going on, what a danger to the lives of the men in that company.

TAPPER: Bergdahl also says he wanted to show he was a super soldier like Jason Bourne.

BERGDAHL: All those guys out there who go to the movies and watch these movies, they all want to be that, but I wanted to prove that I was that.

TAPPER: It was a decision he would relive during his next five years in Taliban captivity. Bergdahl, a 23-year-old private first class at the time, wrapped his head in a scarf and walked away.

Bergdahl's former platoon mates scoff at his story, pointing out that the platoon was supposed to return to a larger base later that day, where Bergdahl could have voiced any concerns. Bergdahl says as a private first class he would not have been taken seriously. But his platoon mates believe he put his fellow troops in danger with six of them killed in various missions afterward.

EVAN BUETOW, BERGDAHL'S TEAM LEADER, FORMER ARMY SGT: I don't really know if there is anyone who can prove that soldiers died on a directed mission to find Bergdahl. However, every mission especially in the following two or more months, those were directed missions. Everything after that, they were still missions that were in search of Bergdahl.

TAPPER: Bergdahl tells "Serial" after he left his post, he looked for someone planting IEDs whom he could track, but instead he got lost and in the morning he was spotted by a group of insurgents.

BERGDAHL: They pulled up and that was it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they said you fought like crazy.


BERGDAHL: No, I didn't. I'm not stupid enough to try and fight off -- all I had was a knife. I'm not stupid enough to try to knife off a bunch of guys with AK-47s.

TAPPER: And then for five years, the horror of a tiny, blackened dirt room.

BERGDAHL: Just on the other side of that flimsy little wooden door that you could probably easily rip off the hinges is the entire world out there. Everything is beyond that door. I hate doors now.

TAPPER: Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: It's fascinating to actually hear his voice. There is a lot more happening tonight.

Amara Walker has the "360 News and Business Bulletin."

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the president of the Citadel in South Carolina says they have began suspension hearings for the cadets in this photo wearing white pillowcases over their heads making them like clue Ku Klux Klan members.

In Boston, a big scare and a modern twist on the folk song about Charlie. The guy who did not have the nickel he needed to get off the subway. The operator of a local Red Line train this morning stepped off to check a signal problem and cannot get back on. The train ended up rolling five miles before it stopped. No one was hurt but somewhere Charlie is smiling.

And In Paris, Madonna gave a free after show performance at the memorial site for the victims of the November 13th attacks. One song, "Like a Prayer."

COOPER: Amara, thanks very much.

We'll be right back.