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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Divers Hunting For Evidence in San Bernardino Lake; San Bernardino Shooter Tied to Jihadist Recruiter; Poll: 42 Percent of Republicans Back Trump on Muslim Ban; Trump Talking About San Bernardino Massacre; Bergdahl Breaks Silence About Time in Taliban Captivity. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired December 10, 2015 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:09] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Next, breaking news. And FBI dive team searching San Bernardino in a lake right now looking for a crucial piece of evidence. We are live on the scene.

Plus, Donald Trump live in this hour as a new poll reveals surprising support for his ban on Muslims. And Ted Cruz, a major endorsement tonight.

Plus, new signs he's on the rise. A closer look this hour on who is Ted Cruz. Could he beat Donald Trump? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, divers hunting for evidence. Evidence that the San Bernardino terrorists may have thrown in the lake before they massacred 14 people. The FBI now hunting along the lake bottom just a few miles north of the site of the shooting. Moments ago, the FBI holding a press conference at the lake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BOWDICH, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN CHARGE: So the reason we're here searching this lake today is because we did have a lead that indicated that the subjects came in to this area. We have now put a dive team in to the lake as a logical part of covering that lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Also today, the FBI linking the terrorist Syed Farook to a group of Jihadist in nearby Riverside, California. This all comes as a new CBS/New York Times poll shows Americans are more afraid of a terrorist attack now than at any time since the week after 9/11.

Kyung Lah begins our coverage OUTFRONT tonight in San Bernardino. And Kyung, what are they searching for in that lake?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a law enforcement official tells CNN that what they are looking for are items that were missing in the couple's home. The couple who did this entire rampage. And one of those missing items that they're very interested in is a hard drive. Now, they would not confirm that at that news conference that was held just a short time ago. But divers are still in the water right now. A painstaking search. The latest development in an ever expanding investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (voice-over): The San Bernardino terror web is now expanding. Beyond Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, according to two U.S. law enforcement officials, Farook is now being linked to one of four men arrested in a terror ring in 2012.

Three years ago, the FBI descended on this house located just miles away from San Bernardino. Among the four men arrested and eventually convicted, Sahil Kabir, a naturalized citizen born in Afghanistan. The FBI called Kabir the recruiter. Court documents putting one defendant referring to Kabir as a Mujahideen walking around the streets of LA. The FBI complaints says the four men shared extremists' postings, including violent video messages from Anwar al Awlaki, the now dead leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Agents arrested three of the suspects just days before they were set to fly to Afghanistan and target U.S. military bases. Investigators tells CNN Kabir who is now serving 35 years in prison and Farook were in the same social circle. But authorities did not know of Farook until the San Bernardino shooting last week. 2012 is also the year Enrique Marquez told investigators he and Farook were planning a terror plot. They called it off, Marquez told investigators spooked by the arrests but was this a terror network or just a group of men connected by friendship and a twisted desire for violence?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: We are working very hard to understand exactly their association and the source of their inspiration. We're also working very hard to understand whether there was anybody else involved with assisting them, with supporting them, with equipping them.

LAH: As far as these married killers, the FBI says, Farook and Malik chatted of Jihad online before meeting in person, radicalized before their marriage and before she would enter the United States last year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Now back here live at the lake where the FBI has divers still in the water. You can see that the top half of him, they are still in the process of going through this lake. The FBI telling us that they're probably going to be here until they lose light. The sun is probably going to be up for the next hour or so. And when they lose light, Erin, they say they will be back at daybreak tomorrow -- Erin.

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

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington. And Evan, we know Malik and Farook were radicalized before they even knew each other. And Malik was still allowed into this country on a fiancee visa, she was interviewed by a U.S. consulate official in Pakistan. She was asked questions but there didn't seem to be any red flags? EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There were no red flags,

Erin. She was interviewed on May 22nd, 2014 in Islamabad and a day later she was able to get this K-1 visa and really these questions are aimed at ensuring someone isn't committing marriage fraud or trying to immigrate here under false pretenses. But really the questions entail whether you know the person you've say you're going to marry. So, their questions are personal questions about how long have you known him, things that would probably give the counselor officer, some kind of a reason to believe that perhaps you're not who you say you are.

[19:05:30] BURNETT: It's pretty shocking that they wouldn't have looked at any of the background.

PEREZ: Right.

BURNETT: Obviously the religious radicalization. I mean, let's just be blunt here. Was she asked the same questions she would have been asked if she was from, you know, let's just say, a country like Canada or was she given different questions or different questions about religion because she was from a place like Pakistan?

PEREZ: No religious questions whatsoever and pretty much that's the way it is. The questions do vary a little bit based on region. And we do know that because Pakistan is one of the countries where the U.S. is worried about the presence of Islamic extremists, that there is additional screening done in the background. But again, that has not shown up in this personal interview, this face-to-face interview that occurred in Islamabad.

BURNETT: And the bottom-line is there would have been no questions on religion?

PEREZ: There would have been no questions about religion. And, you know, that's one of the things that they are reviewing now is whether or not there's some way to try to figure out whether someone has Jihadi leanings. Whether there's something that needs to be worried about. We know that now they are checking people's Facebook and social media postings to make sure that they capture anything like that.

BURNETT: Evan Perez, thank you.

PEREZ: Thanks.

BURNETT: And the chairman of the House Foreign, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Republican Congressman Ed Royce joins me now. Chairman, good to have you with me. You just heard Evan report, right? She went in for an interview, she got approved within a day. She wasn't asked a single question about religion. In fact, he's saying that people entering the United States are not asked religious questions even though if it's a country like Pakistan, it maybe home, a known home, as he just, you know, was saying to many religious extremists. Why is this?

REP. ED ROYCE (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, this is an interesting question because we know right off the bad air and that there are 600 separate schools. They're called Deobandi (ph) schools in Pakistan. Where radical extremist ideology is taught. We have tried for many years to get these particular institutions closed. I brought it up on three separate trips in Pakistan in order to try to close down those schools that teach this kind of extremism because it lays the foundation among these young students, to make it is so easy to recruit them into Jihad. So, we should be -- I've raised this issue with the FBI. We should be considering that background and looking into the schooling because if someone has got that kind of foundation and it wouldn't just be in Pakistan. It's wherever these particular Deobandi schools exist, whether it's in Nigeria, North Africa, Central Asia or Saudi Arabia.

BURNETT: All right. So, what would be the reason that they don't ask about religion? I mean, should they have in this case?

ROYCE: Well, remember, we're talking about a specific type of school that is teaching an ideology that is very confrontational, that is very exclusive that doesn't make room for other -- for tolerance for other religions.

BURNETT: Now, with this school, we know she went to an Al Huda, very conservative school. Would it have been on that list that you're talking about?

ROYCE: That is what I've also asked the FBI to check on. Because if we can set a certain standard here where we're beginning to look at the educational foundation for people, graduating out of schools in the Middle East or elsewhere where they are teaching these kinds of confrontational viewpoint. Then I think we're in a much better place than ignoring that on the interviews. Now, remember, we've done two other things that have really I think helped. One is pass legislation through the house to stop those who automatically might come in to the country with the Syrian problem that we don't have ready access to records. We set a high bar now and, second, to stop the visa waiver program with respect to those that have visited Syria. So, those are actions we've taken. I'm the co-author of one of those bills.

BURNETT: Right. And I know you are. And I guess the bottom- line is, it doesn't sound like you have a problem with the fact that they didn't -- unless she went to one of those schools, you don't have a problem with the fact that someone coming from Pakistan would not be asked specific questions that might lead to their religious leanings or whether they're an extremists?

ROYCE: Well, the point is, we should ask questions in order to try to identify, are those individuals extremists, which includes a survey of trying to figure out, you know, if they have a radical ideology and trying to access information on the internet that would show their position as well as what -- where they have graduated from. My anger is over the fact that for years I've been trying to get specific schools closed and we have not been able to get the civilian government to stand up to the religious extremists to get those closed.

[19:10:18] BURNETT: So, on this issue there seemed to be a number of missed signs. Right? There was obviously in Pakistan -- there was no check of her background that showed anything. She had posted talking about Jihad and waving attacks against the United States before she ever walk to the consular office. So, that appears to be a myth. The FBI believes that her husband had ties to the Jihadist arrested in 2012 as Kyung Lah just reporter. But still, neither of the shooters were on law enforcement's radar. They weren't looking at them. So, the question to you Chairman is, was this an intelligence failure or is it simply impossible to catch? Because there's too many people posting too many things on social media. So, it's just inevitable people like this are going to get into the country?

ROYCE: It was an intelligence failure. Yes, it was. One of the reasons we'd like to do to make certain that the visa waiver system has changed is, I was in London to talk to their government about some of the problems they've had. They are overwhelmed. Scotland Yard is overwhelmed, just as the French are overwhelmed in trying to keep halves on the sheer numbers, the sheer numbers that they have in society that are being radicalized. And may I say that containment of ISIS is not a winning strategy here. It has to be defeated because they are recruiting from within these societies now. So, the steps we've taken will make it harder for people to get from Europier (ph). But yes, you're right on your point, we've got to reform our process in terms of those going through this visa program.

BURNETT: So, a final question in a new poll of Republican voters, 42 percent support Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Only 36 percent opposed it. Are all those GOP supporters wrong?

ROYCE: Well, it's unconstitutional. The steps we are taking now in terms of the two bills that we've passed through the house, that will be affected. The reforms that we make in terms of beginning to check on people that have been radicalized that will be helpful. Those are the constitutional steps that we can and will take in order to help get a handle here on the radicalization that's been going on.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Chairman. I appreciate your time, as always. Thanks.

ROYCE: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Donald Trump live taking questions. Obviously everyone wants to know what he's going to be asked and what he will answer on this Muslim ban.

Plus, Ted Cruz, who is he? An inside look at the man nipping at Trump's heels in the polls. And Trump is running with a bald eagle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:00] BURNETT: You're looking at live pictures out of New Hampshire at this moment. Donald Trump is going to be holding a campaign rally in the room you see in Portsmouth in the nation's first primary state. The GOP frontrunner today cancelling plans to visit Israel amid criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other world leaders about his plan to ban Muslims from the United States. But a new poll shows that more Republicans agree with Donald Trump than don't.

Sara Murray is live at that rally in Portsmouth tonight. And Sara, as we get ready for Donald Trump to take the stand but I know he may take questions. So, this could be a very, very interesting evening. Is the campaign pushing this poll?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think it's certainly the reason that Donald Trump was saying this stuff in the first place. The campaign felt like they were really speaking to core conservative Republicans who were concerned about Muslims coming into the U.S. and concerned that the U.S. doesn't have the ability to weed out radical Islamic terrorists. But the other interesting thing is that, in that poll is when you look at the broader public, the general public, only 25 percent think that Donald Trump's plan is a good idea and we're sort of seeing this play out at this event. Outside of this event on either side of the street, there are groups of people who support Trump, who were completely on board with this and there's a pretty large group of protesters you say that they are scared to hear a Republican frontrunner coming up with things like this. And I think it runs counter to everything that the country is founded on.

BURNETT: Some Trump's supporters after the rally. How are they reacting? I mean, are they angry? Are they turning away from him? Or are they standing by him on this news?

MURRAY: You know, it's amazing. Even the Trump supporters I talked to who didn't agree with him on every point still said that they understood where he was coming from and they appreciated him bringing up this issue. Take a listen to what one of them had to say to me earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED FORISTALL, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Statue of Liberty said, bring us your huddle masses and your poor yearning to be free. It didn't say bring in radical terrorists trying to kill us. So, until we can sort that out, I believe we should close our borders. We were here first. We need to do some internal repairs and then we can have our country back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: And this is the amazing thing, Erin. When you talk to his supporters, there are yes, a number of people who agree with him who think that this is a great proposal and the U.S. should do it. And even the ones who don't really think that he's on to something and he is at least proposing something to try to deal with this issue and sort of projecting an aura of strength that they say is missing from President Barack Obama.

BURNETT: All right. Sara Murray, thank you very much. And Sara, as I said is in that room where Donald Trump is going to be speaking and then taking questions. So, we're going to be going there live as that starts. But OUTFRONT now, political commentator and the former political

director for the Reagan White House Jeffrey Lord. And Republican strategist Rick Wilson. Okay. So, let me start with you, Jeff. Forty two percent of Republicans agree with Trump's plan to block Muslims from entering the United States temporarily. That is more than those who do not. All right? There's the good news --

JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.

BURNETT: If that's the right word for Donald Trump. Fifty seven percent though of all Americans say, the ban is the wrong idea. So, the question from this is very simple. Will this hurt him in the general election if he's the nominee?

LORD: I don't think so. And I'll tell you what, this is relatively new and in the terms of the length of time that he's had this out there. This is not about religion. This is about national security. And to be perfectly candid -- and I'm not speaking here for Donald Trump, but in seeing what has gone on here lately in San Bernardino, I'm beginning to think that we should do -- shut the entire legal immigration system down. I mean, people say, will these discriminates against Muslims? OK. Fine.

Then let's do it with everybody. Halt the whole system and find out what is wrong. I mean, you just had a story on here telling us about this woman who came in here and none of this was detected and we're being told it's an intelligence failure. I also would say it's an immigration failure. We cannot have people coming into this country who are going to do what was just done in San Bernardino. Fourteen people are dead. This is unacceptable and we need to, I'm beginning to think, stop the whole process, figure out what is wrong and then start it up again.

[19:21:06] BURNETT: So Rick, let's look at the numbers then slightly differently in this poll. In the poll, 40 percent of Republican say Donald Trump is just telling it like it is. Thirty seven percent say his language is a problem but he's still raising important issues. OK? So, if you add those numbers together, you get 77 percent versus 16 who say what he said was insulting. Seventy seven percent is a very big number. Can you really ignore that?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Listen, my problem with the Trump immigration ban is that it would do nothing -- it would have done nothing to stop the San Bernardino attack. This guy was radicalized before his wife arrived and he was an American citizen. I think this distracts us from doing the things we need to do to actually address Islamic terrorism, Islamic radicalism. I think it distracts us from the things we need to do in law enforcement, in intelligence, both foreign and domestic and in actually pursing and targeting these people that are an imminent danger.

No one disagrees with the fact that we have a global threat from Islamic terrorism but I think the Muslim band issue is decorative rather than substantive in this case and it doesn't address -- it doesn't address the more pressing threat of a guy like Syed Farook who was born in Illinois. Nothing in this would stop that. This is a great Trumpism. It's a large, splashy idea but it's not a policy, and it's not a serious program of counterterrorism.

BURNETT: And Jeff, he has an interesting point, right? The FBI director recently said, he's worried that the numbers of Americans going to fight ISIS aren't higher because he thinks that that may mean more people are becoming radicalized in choosing to stay in the United States to carry out an attack rather than never even trying to go to Syria. And to Rick's point, Donald Trump's proposal would not address any of those individuals.

LORD: Right. I mean, I do think we've got, you know, two halves of the larger problem. I mean, Rick is right in the sense that it doesn't address that. I mean, what he's trying to do is move the issue forward here on the issue of who is coming in to the country. But it is quite right to say that we do have a problem here in this country of native-born Americans who are signing up for ISIS. This is a problem and we are going to have to have a whole separate conversation about how to deal with that.

BURNETT: So, Rick Wilson, I guess the question is, would you, as someone who has not been supporting Donald Trump, support him if he ends up getting a nod for the nomination? Lindsey Graham has come out aggressively and said, he would not support Donald Trump in any way, shape or form. Let me just play how he put it and get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Quit threatening us. I'd rather lose without him than try to win with him if he keeps doing what he's doing. There's no shame in losing an election. The shame comes when you lose your honor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, Rick, the key line there he says, I would rather lose without him than try to win with him. Donald Trump by the way now is speaking live everyone, we are listening as he addresses this issue. We will listen in. But Rick, the bottom-line, I would rather lose with him than try to win with him. What do you say?

WILSON: Look, unlike Donald Trump, I never voted for a democrat. He voted for Hillary and Bill Clinton. He voted for Hillary Clinton for U.S. Senate, he voted or Barack Obama. So, you know, my vote on this is not really a relevant factor at this point. The fact of the matter is though that Donald Trump will still hand this nomination to Hillary Clinton. You see in this broader poll numbers that alienation and division he's causing across the country, and he's going to have a fervent part of the Republican base, he's going to lose the general election both by a landslide if we're not very careful.

BURNETT: But how far -- how far are you willing to go? S.E. Cupp last night said, you know, she'd rather lose. She'd rather have Hillary Clinton in the White House than Donald Trump. Would you go that far? WILSON: I think we're reaching a point where it is very

difficult to see a worse possible presidential option than Hillary Clinton. However, Donald Trump's language affect and the increasing tenor of what he's proposing is a separate kind of horror. I mean, Hillary Clinton, it presents a nightmare scenario that I think a lot of folks that look at Donald Trump is the amusing let's burn it all down candidate have it really processed yet. I think she would be a devastating choice but I think that Trump right now, I don't see a scenario where Trump wins the general election because of the degree to which he's going to cause a fundamental reshaping of the entire electorate and you're going to end up with a fraction of the Republican Party being fervent Trump supporters and you're going to lose the fact that, you know, that 70 percent of Republicans who are with Donald Trump right now, those are the folks who had to look at and worry about as his language, affect and policies become more and more extreme and more and more mark by unconstitutional, non-limited government conservative values and principles. I mean, the fact of the matter is, he's willing to shred the First Amendment of that religious liberty --

BURNETT: OK.

WILSON: By imposing a religious test on people. It's a remarkable scenario.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate both of you taking the time. Donald Trump is speaking live as you can see. We are monitoring this to see when he addresses this issue. And as I said, he may also or is also be taking questions, which could be a crucial moment.

Also ahead, a major endorsement for Ted Cruz tonight. Is he an even bigger headache for the Republican Party than Donald Trump? We'll see here what one person has to say.

And the CEO of a major Middle East company just announcing tonight. Trump may no longer be welcome in Muslim countries.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:29:20] BURNETT: Donald Trump is speaking live in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, talking about this country says is too politically correct. That woman from San Bernardino is a terrorist getting in on a visa. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People say, wait a minute. He wrote about Osama. What happened is, I would see this guy on television. He was very threatening. And I said, you better watch that guy. That guy is a bad guy. And I wrote about it in my book and some of the commentators actually said, Trump wrote about Osama bin Laden before the World Trade Center came down. I got a lot of credit for it. Big deal. I don't want credit. I want to have this safe, great country.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) So -- so, normally I wouldn't make this trip but I had to make it

because of my love and respect for police and law enforcement. And I'll come back here in a couple of minutes because, I don't know -- it's going to be. Can you imagine if they don't vote positively again? Well, look at all of the press.

(LAUGHTER)

That will be headlines, Trump rejected. Can you believe -- but I felt confident. I don't know. I feel confident.

But -- thank you, John. We're going to be back in a couple of minutes. I guess your board is voting and put a lot of pressure on your board, please? OK?

So, we'll be back in a few minutes.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank you all. We love you. We'll be back in a couple of minutes. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BURNETT: Donald Trump is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Former Reagan political director and Trump supporter, Jeff Lord, is with me, along with Rick Wilson, Republican strategist.

OK. Let me put the question to you, Jeff. He's coming out and saying that we can't be so politically correct. We can't afford to be so politically correct, in his words, that the terrorist -- the woman in the San Bernardino shooting got in on a visa and should have gone through more questions.

I think it's fair to say. I mean, you just heard chairman of the House Intelligence Committee saying it was an intelligence failure. There was a serious error that happened here. The question is, was it because they were too politically correct, that they did not ask her about her religion? Is that an issue of political correctness?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sure it is. I have a book on Donald Trump coming out in January and I've gone back and taken a look on this very issue.

And there were people in the United States Army who said that the U.S. Army were so politically correct that they refused to identify Major Nidal Hasan as, you know, what he was, a potential terrorist, because of political correctness, that he went on to kill 13 people at Ft. Hood. So, clearly this is a problem.

Erin, if I could say one other thing here that Rick was talking about, whether Donald Trump should be voted for, you know, if he's the nominee. Rush Limbaugh was having a great conversation today about this, suggesting that the divide -- and I agree with this -- the divide is so wide here between the base of the party and elites of the party that the elites just have no idea how to handle this. They are just totally out of touch with the base of the party, and I think the kind of audience you're seeing there tonight gets it.

Donald Trump is part of the sort of same phenomenon that in way Rush Limbaugh -- Rush Limbaugh hasn't endorsed it but it's part of the same phenomenon here. And I think we really need to be paying attention to it and not scoffing at it.

BURNETT: So, let me just play something else that Donald Trump just said about the San Bernardino shooters just moments ago, speaking in New Hampshire. Rick, here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So many people knew that those two in California were up to no good. They saw bombs sitting on the floor. They had one guy who bought the guns. They had another person that said, oh, I didn't want to report them because I didn't want to go racial profiling. Oh, OK. Sees pipe bombs sitting all over the place and didn't want to racially profile. I mean, how stupid do they think we are?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Rick, what do you say to that? That's obviously resonating with a lot of people.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, there is no excuse for the atrophy of our law enforcement and intelligent forces under Barack Obama on how we treat the imminent threat of Muslim terrorism.

However, just saying "I'm not PC" is not a solution for fixing it. Just saying "I'm not PC" doesn't prescribe a pathway that's going to give us a revitalized sense of urgency in the intelligent services and in the FBI and state and local law enforcement. Those things are going to have to come from someone with a serious program that is thought out, it's granular, it's got resolution to it.

And the fact of the matter is, the thing we know about the Donald Trump show is that in a day or two from now, there will be a new, outrageous crazy comment he'll make to keep you guys interested for another three or four days, and this will be in a rearview mirror. This is a guy who has a very quick -- it's like wasabi mustard. It's hot for a second and it's gone.

And I think what you're going to see is he'll move on to the next crazy Donald Trump statement and there won't be a lot of backing up and filling in. There won't be a policy behind it. And the fact of the matter is, once again, the centerpiece of the policy is we're not politically correct. Well, that's not a substitute for having an actual set of prescription and policy ideas that are granular and smart and that actually address the threat.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you. I appreciate it.

LORD: OK.

BURNETT: Tonight, Donald Trump may still be the Republican front-runner, but Ted Cruz is riding a wave of momentum in the race for 2016. A new poll out today, the latest in a series to show the senator surging to second place with Republicans nationwide.

[19:35:02] And the president of a major conservative organization in Iowa now throwing his weight behind Cruz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB VANDER PLAATS, FAMILY LEADER PRESIDENT AND CEO: We will be going all in for Senator Ted Cruz. We have found him as a man of deep character, a man that we can fully trust. Who has a consistency of convictions, who loves his God, who loves his spouse and who loves his family. We believe he can be the nominee to take on and to defeat Hillary Clinton and the leftist agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.

And, Sunlen, less than two months away from Iowa. That's a pretty, you know, strong endorsement. But how significant is it?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no doubt, Erin, it will be a boost for Ted Cruz but the question will be, how big of a boost and jump will he get from this?

I think the biggest significance of this is what it has the potential to do for his campaign, especially in the short term in Iowa. Vander Plaats is very influential among Christian evangelicals and so his endorsement will certainly go a long way with this key voting booth. They make up 60 percent of the voters in Iowa. So, that will certainly go a long way.

But in the long term, it has a potential to really give him a burst of momentum. We saw Ted Cruz today in responding to this endorsement, him make specific mention of that. Also, really notably calling on conservatives, saying it's time to coalesce around him at this moment.

BURNETT: Sunlen, thank you very much.

And Cruz's ride to the top has been a long time in the making. Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT with that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I cannot wait to stand on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A confident Ted Cruz finds himself in second place in the two latest national polls for the Republican presidential nomination. The Texas senator is now running second to front-runner Donald Trump. It's a long way from Cruz's controversial days on the Senate floor.

CRUZ: I do not like them Sam I am. I do not like green eggs and ham.

LAVANDERA: In a 2013 filibuster, Cruz read Dr. Seuss as the federal government barreled towards a shutdown.

CRUZ: I would not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I am.

LAVANDERA: Some see Cruz as a gallant fighter of conservative values, while others see him as a disruptive political scoundrel. Even Senator John McCain once called him a "wacko bird".

CRUZ: If standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution makes you a wacko bird, then count me a proud wacko bird.

(APPLAUSE)

LAVANDERA: Cruz grew up in Houston, Texas. His father, a conservative pastor, is one of his biggest supporters. But the 76- year-old has been criticized for his controversial comments about President Obama's citizenship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Ted Cruz!

LAVANDERA: Ted Cruz is the son of a Cuban exile. After law school, he worked as a lawyer here in Texas and then became solicitor general of the state, where he argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. And in 2012, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he rode a Tea Party tidal wave all the way to Washington.

MICHAEL LUBETSKY, COLLEGE FRIEND OF TED CRUZ: Ted Cruz is certainly be very intense and very serious, even on the debate team.

LAVANDERA: Michael Lubetsky was friends with Cruz at Princeton University, where he says Cruz used his fiery speaking skills to become one of the top debaters in the country.

LUBETSKY: When Ted took a stand and wanted to advocate for it, he could advocate for it very, very strongly and that rubbed people sometimes the wrong way even then.

LAVANDERA: Cruz went on to Harvard Law School where Professor Alan Dershowitz says Cruz stood out as one of his brightest students during his 50 years of teaching.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, CRUZ HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: He came into the class literally the first day with his right hand raised and kept it up all semester. He was a terrific student to have in class because he had somewhat contrarian views.

LAVANDERA: Dershowitz admits that he was not the most popular student in the class. DERSHOWITZ: Ted is a feather wrestler. I mean, he wrestles

feathers. He did that as a student. He's confrontational because he's very principled and very ambitious at the same time.

LAVANDERA: That ambition landed him a job on George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign where he met his wife Heidi. Together, they are raising their two daughters in Houston with hopes of moving to Washington.

Surging in polls as the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary inch closer, the United States will soon find out if this is Cruz's moment to shine.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. We're going to take a brief break. Donald Trump has returned to the stage talking about the ban on Muslims. We're going to go there live.

Also, ahead, Bowe Bergdahl in his own words about the day he walked off that base and to the Taliban.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:43:40] BURNETT: Tonight, the CEO of a major Middle East airline, Qatar Airways, telling CNN that Donald Trump will no longer be welcome in Muslim countries. This comes on the heels of his controversial plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States temporarily.

The CEO Akbar Al Baker told our Richard Quest that as a Muslim, he was offended by Trump who he counts as a friend. The Republican frontrunner has billions at stake in Muslim countries, including a huge luxury development in Dubai. His name reportedly pulled off a sign, this sign, outside that $6 billion project.

Jon Jensen is OUTFRONT tonight from Dubai.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JON JENSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump should feel right at home in Dubai. Both have built successful brands around being the biggest, the best and not shying away from bold statements.

TRUMP: The job that Dubai has done is amazing.

JENSEN: But Donald Trump's latest statement this week --

TRUMP: A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

JENSEN: -- has left many in this country outraged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a crazy man. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's racist, yes.

JENSEN: In September, when asked if he thought Muslims posed a threat to the U.S., he said --

TRUMP: I love the Muslims. I think they are great.

JENSEN: And Trump has made millions through his holdings where Islam is the main religion. But his latest comments may be a hit to his bottom line.

[19:45:00] At least two major Dubai-based retailers pulled Trump branded items from their shelves. Dubai property mogul, Khalaf Al Habtoor, once a fan of the Republican presidential candidate, says no longer.

KHALAF AL HABTOOR, CHAIRMAN, AL HABTOOR GROUP: I think he damaged all of his brand in all the Muslim countries.

JENSEN: Not everyone, though, is ready to dump Trump.

(on camera): Just behind me is one of Donald Trump's biggest partnerships in Dubai. It's a 42 million square foot luxury development that once complete will feature villas, a spa, and a golf course branded with the Trump name.

(voice-over): For now, at least, Trump's ultra rich friends are standing by him as construction goes on. And as long as the Trump has a brand here, the Republican front-runner seems to be unfazed by how his anti-Muslims ban will impact his financial empire.

TRUMP: What I'm doing now is far more important and I'm talking about for the Muslims. I'm doing good for the Muslims. What I'm doing now is far more important than any particular business I have in the Middle East.

JENSEN: Jon Jensen, CNN, Dubai.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl speaking out and comparing himself to an action hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOWE BERGDAHL: Like doing what I did was me saying I am like Jason Bourne.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Jason Bourne.

And Jeanne Moos with the bald eagle that did what most of Donald Trump's rivals are reluctant to do, attack the frontrunner.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:50:38] BURNETT: Tonight for the first time, millions of

people are listening, hearing Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl talk for the first time, describing in his own words what led him to walk off his army base and into the hands of the Taliban where he spent five years.

Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL, U.S. ARMY: I am scared.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): He was a prisoner of the Taliban for five years.

BERGDAHL: I'm scared I won't be able to go home.

SCIUTTO: And today, in an interview aired on the "Serial" podcast, we heard Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's account of his brutal captivity for the first time.

BERGDAHL: It's like, how do I explain to a person that's just standing in an empty, dark room hurts.

SCIUTTO: He says he was held in a room so dark he couldn't even see his hands.

BERGDAHL: It's like you're standing there screaming in your mind, you're standing like in this blackened dark room that's tiny and just on the other side of that flimsy little wooden door that you could probably rip off the hinges is the entire world out there.

SCIUTTO: Bergdahl was captured after he walked off his small mountain outpost in western Afghanistan, he says, to draw attention to what he called leadership failure within his unit.

BERGDAHL: All I was seeing was basically leadership failure, to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me were literally, from what I could see, in danger of something that was seriously going wrong and somebody being killed.

SCIUTTO: His idea was that his disappearance, which he planned to only be temporary, would draw the attention of the entire armed forces to the problems.

BERGDAHL: Everybody is alerted. The CIA is alerted. The Navy is alerted. The Marines are alerted. Air Force is alerted. Not just army.

SCIUTTO: But a mere 20 minutes after he left, he knew he made a mistake.

BERGDAHL: Twenty minutes out, I'm going, "Good grief, I'm in over my head." Suddenly, it really starts to sink in.

SCIUTTO: His fears were quickly realized.

BERGDAHL: The next morning is where I got myself screwed.

SCIUTTO: Within hours, Bergdahl was surrounded by Taliban fighters. His last moment of freedom for five years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: This interview was arranged, of course, with the OK of Bergdahl's defense attorney. Now we've been seeing his prosecution playing out in the public sphere. Donald Trump talking about how he should be shot as a deserter, House Republicans accusing the White House of breaking the law by trading him for five Taliban detainees. Now, with this interview, we're in effect seeing his defense playing out in the public's fear, as well -- Erin.

BURNETT: That's going to be fascinating. It's a fascinating podcast. Thank you very much. They say the most watched podcast of all time.

OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on one of the few times Donald Trump got his feathers ruffled.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:54] BURNETT: Tonight, we're learning you don't dare mess with Donald Trump's hair without an invitation unless you're a bald eagle.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump is great at winging it but now, he's become pray for comedians, thanks to an eagle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The eagle is agitated because his dead brother is on Donald's head. But --

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: The video is from a "TIME Magazine" photo shoot with an eagle named Uncle Sam, as his owner Jonathan Wood helped set up the shots --

TRUMP: How's may hair look?

MOOS: -- more than feathers got ruffled.

You were there to handle the bird, you ended up handling Trump's hair.

JONATHAN WOOD, MASTER FALCONER: Yes, and it's real.

MOOS: But the bird really became a headache when the Donald inadvertently invaded his territory by reaching.

TRUMP: You don't show the aspirin over there, do you? WOOD: It takes a little courage to work with a bird like that.

He's the most difficult bird that I have to work with.

MOOS: Uncle Sam, the eagle, was hit by a car more than 20 years ago and Wood helped rehabilitate him. Now, 27 years old, he's blind in one eye and off balance.

But you can't call the bird a left-winger. He actually had part of his left wing amputated after the car accident.

Turns out Uncle Sam has also snapped at Stephen Colbert and Bill Clinton.

WOOD: Yes, he's an equal opportunity fighter.

MOOS: The Trump Eagle photos were part of a cover story back in August.

So, "TIM Magazine" releases the outtakes about four months after they were taken.

Around the time Trump was criticizing the magazine for picking German leader Angela Merkel as person of the year. Trump tweeted, "I told you 'TIME Magazine' would never pick me despite being the big favorite. They picked the person who is ruining Germany."

Instead of being picked, Trump is being pecked.

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: After that, Trump was like now I'm now banning all bald eagles from America.

MOOS: And guess whose time has come for bird of the year?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT so you can watch us anytime.

"AC360" starts right now.