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Paris Ringleader Arrived Through Greek Island; Farook Friend Marquez Expected to be Charged; Rumor Bush, Bush Camp Won't Support Nominee; Cruz, Rubio Dig in Heels after Debate; Russia's Putin Gives Glowing Review of Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 17, 2015 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:00] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, the fact that he told me that this was a leftover fish from a bear, I don't know if that was necessary. He could have just left that out.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, yeah. At one point President Obama's food inspector tried to exchange some raw salmon with something precooked. But Obama braved it. He went with the raw fish.

Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.


We begin with breaking news surrounding the ringleader of the French terrorist attacks. French authorities believe this man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was able to travel to Paris through Syria by going through the Greek island of Leros. They believe he escaped authorities, went back to Syria earlier this year after a thwarted terror plot in Belgium.

BOLDUAN: We already know two of the stadium attackers had also traveled through Greece posing as refugees and using fake passports. Abaaoud, who led the operation, was killed in that police raid in a Paris suburb.

Let's get over to CNN's terror analyst, Paul Cruickshank. He's been piecing this together.

Paul, give us more detail of what you're picking up here. Your sources aren't going as far yet to say that Abaaoud also came through posing as a refugee. PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST (voice-over): That's right.

This comes from a source close to the investigation that they believe the Paris attack ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud was in Leros at some point before the Paris attacks.

The idea is he would have traveled from Syria where he was believed to be in the months leading up to the attack to Europe via the Greek island of Leros. What they're still investigating is whether he exploited the refugee processing system in order to gain entrance back into Europe. Remember, at this time, he was one of the most wanted men already in Europe because he was the ringleader of another ISIS plot against Belgium back in January. So it would have been difficult for him to come in on his own passport. They're trying to piece all of that together. Whether he perhaps came in with these two stadium attackers or whether maybe he was in Leros to welcome, to greet them when they arrived in Europe, the other two attackers. Still piecing that together, the investigators.

BERMAN: Paul, at a minimum, it seems the refugee trail, you know, this road, this path to get from Greece to Western Europe is something that was part of this plot to Paris.

CRUICKSHANK: Absolutely. You know, the idea these, two possibly three of the ten-man attack team exploited the refugee shows there's a vulnerability from the European perspective. It was wildly reported last week that the Finnish authorities arrested two Iraqi twins who were asylum seekers who were allegedly involved in a big massacre on behalf of ISIS in Iraq in June of 2014. So, there have been some other cases. I can think of a handful of cases where there's been this exploitation of the refugee system by is. We have to be careful because there have not been a huge amount of cases so far where there has been a connection between refugees coming in and terrorism. The vast majority of those refugees are fleeing, fleeing the kind of violence that played out in Paris. Certainly concern in Europe that amongst some of these refugees there may be some ISIS operatives trying to exploit the system to get back into Europe, given the fact that ISIS is increasingly pivoting towards international terrorism, increasingly wants to launch terror attacks against Europe, and is actively plotting that right now.

BOLDUAN: There's already a concern in Europe what was happening, that folks were exploiting this refugee path -- this pathway, especially only add to it if it turns out that the ringleader of this attack came through that path as well.

Paul, thank you very, very much.

[11:05:18] Let's turn our focus, still speaking of terrorism, but we have more breaking news on another terror investigation. Federal Prosecutors are expected to file charges against this man, the former neighbor of the San Bernardino attacker, Syed Rezwan Farook. Enrique Marquez -- you'll remember that -- he's admitted to investigators that he bought the two rifles used by Farook and his wife in the mass shooting that killed 14 people.

BERMAN: But he told investigators he did not know about their plans for the attack.

Want to bring in CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez.

Evan, what do we know about these charges?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We expect them to be filed later today. We'll expect an announcement to be made by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles. Really, they will center on the fact that these -- that Marquez has admitted to federal investigators, to the FBI interviewers, that he bought these two guns, these two A.R.-15- style rifles in 2011 and 2012. He bought them for Farook because Farook was trying to avoid additional scrutinies. He had already passed the background check of buy three firearms. He also didn't want these three attached to him. According to Marquez, that's why he bought them. Marquez has been basically in custody of the FBI. He's been talking to them for over a week. He's waived his Miranda rights. He does have a lawyer who's been helping him in the last week or so.

But he's been a cooperative witness, providing all kinds of information, including a couple of things. Back in 2012 he told the FBI that he and Farook came up with this plot. They wanted to carry out a terrorist attack. Marquez says he also converted to Islam and he wanted to help carry out this terrorist attack, which the two of them ended up scrapping because they got spooked by some other unrelated arrests. In addition, he also told the FBI that he and Farook built pipe bombs as sort of a hobby. That's important.

BOLDUAN: Quite a hobby.

PEREZ: That's important because in the San Bernardino attacks they found 19d of these types of devices in the home of Farook and his wife. In addition, there were three IEDs made with these same types of pipe bombs that failed to go off. They were rigged to go off by remote control at the scene of the first shooting, the inland regional center. They failed to go off. One of the things Marquez told investigators, the FBI, he says, if he had -- if these are devices he had built, they would have definitely gone off.

BOLDUAN: That obviously begs the question, he is now facing -- he will now be facing charges related to the gun purchase. I mean, there has -- are there other charges coming?

PEREZ: Well, we expect there are other charges, but again, that's going to be the centerpiece. We don't know they're going to show all their charges right now. They're still doing an investigation. There's a lot he has said that the FBI wants to, frankly, check out. You know, he checked into a mental health facility right after the attacks.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

PEREZ: So, that's also going to add some complications to this case for federal prosecutors.

BERMAN: Seems like he's the best asset they have in this investigation. PEREZ: He really is.

BERMAN: Evan Perez, thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: What puzzling information around this guy.

Evan, thanks so much.

Let's discuss more with CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA operative, Bob Baer, joining me now.

Bob, Evan lays out this complicated involvement or noninvolvement of this guy, Enrique Marquez. He still maintains he has nothing to do -- he knew nothing about the attack in San Bernardino. Though, as Evan points out, he also said he planned a previous attack with Farook, but didn't follow through on it. Does that add up to you?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: No, it doesn't add up. Making the pipe bombs as a hobby doesn't add up. His statement that he could have made these things go off with remote control, that's not a hobby I know. The fact he was in on the first attack, he had to have suspected they were going to use these assault weapons for something other than target practice. You just look at the totality of his statements in the context of this attack, and I don't think he's telling the full truth. I just don't believe it at all.

BERMAN: I want to bring in our CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, with us, former prosecutor.

Paul, took a while to charge Enrique Marquez, only we think, as of now, on the weapons charges, the purchase of this gun, which could be a lesser charge than some other he might face. What's going on here? This does smell funny.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It smells very funny. These are exceptionally minor charges. Anything related to the transfer of the gun from one person to another is going to be a very, very minor charge in the greater scheme of things. So I'm betting his lawyer has cut a deal with the feds to supply a lot of information and this is a start. They're going to lodge minor charges to keep a hold on him but they're going to hold over his head major charges. As he cooperates, if his information checks out, he'll wind up getting some kind of a sweet deal and avoiding --


[11:10:09] BERMAN: He admitted to a terror plot. He's admitted to being involved in a terror plot.

BOLDUAN: I guess some in the investigation are questioning the validity of that acknowledgment of having a previously planned terror plot.

CALLAN: That jumped out at me. But he says the two of them were planning and then they gave up the idea. So, that's not a completed plan, so it may not, in fact, be criminal. We would have to see what the details are. On the other hand, when you're talking about pipe bombs he's familiar with the construction of and when you're talking about the transfer of weapons to terrorists who did attack and kill, I mean, this guy has some serious involvement so he probably has some really good information the FBI is trading for.

BERMAN: Bob, what do you do with him now? What else do you to want find out from him? I imagine one of the keys will be if he's the only connection to these two. If he knows anyone else who might be involved?

BAER: Exactly. I think the FBI right now is still considering the possibility there's a wider network. The FBI director said there isn't. No evidence so far. But you have to suspect there are other cells. They may have had some communication. This is why they want to recover the information from those two cell phones, find the hard drive and the rest of it. They simply cannot exclude there are more networks out there and somehow they were communicating. I agree with the FBI. Right now, with the evidence we've seen, this is -- this is a lone-wolf attack inspired by the wars in the Middle East, by the Islamic State, if you like. But they have to consider that possibility.

CALLAN: One other thing I wanted to add, I hope the FBI is doing a better job than they did on the scene at San Bernardino because, remember, the people from the neighborhood --


CALLAN: -- walking through like it was a garage sale shortly after. Obviously, they didn't even do a forensic examination of a lot of the items in the apartment. So, I hope they're doing a better job with this guy.

BOLDUAN: Still now they've got charges they're going to announce today. We'll see exactly where that leads.

Paul, great to see you. Thanks so much.

Bob, thank you as always.

Coming up for us, though, Jeb Bush pledged to support whichever candidate wins the Republican nomination, but it appears he's thinking, or at least those around him, are thinking about going back on that pledge. The behind-the-scenes move against Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Plus, the bad blood between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz spilling over from the debate stage to the campaign trail, newspapers across America, the new war of words. Who does this help most? Could it be Donald Trump?

And the Magic Kingdom becoming a fortress. Disney World installing metal detectors. You'll hear about the incident that sparked this change.


[11:16:14] BERMAN: In some ways, it was inevitable. Putin was a black belt. Trump has experience in the ring.



BERMAN: Now, it's official. New this morning, President Vladimir Putin of Russia gives a glowing review of the Republican front runner.

BOLDUAN: Following his annual media marathon Q&A session, Putin called Trump the following, "a very flamboyant man, a very talented man, no doubt about that." And Putin also said, "Trump is the absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today."

Let's get over to CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, we can leave Putin in Russia, for a second, unless you would like to take on Vladimir Putin yourself.

The other big news today out on the campaign trail is the following -- the whispers that are out there that Jeb Bush or those around Jeb Bush are talking about going back on the pledge, the pledge of loyalty to support whomever becomes the nominee.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There was a report that Jeb Bush prepared to actually do that, go back on his pledge.

I just spoke before coming on with you guys with a senior Bush source who told me the following. That in their prep for our debate, as they were watching every candidate asked over and over again about whether or not they still support their pledge. John Kasich, for example, was on our air just a couple days before getting peppered with that question. They were getting calls from reporters inside the Bush headquarters about that. So, I'm told that they did their due diligence to find out what exactly the rules are on some key state ballots because if you go back in time, remember one of the reasons the issue was out there before Trump signed his pledge was because some states, South Carolina is a perfect example, they require a loyalty pledge. So, they were looking into it to sort of see, as they go about answering the question, whether or not Jeb Bush would get penalized by states like South Carolina. I am told at no time did he consider saying anything other than what he has said time and time again, which is, when the question comes to him, "are you going to support Donald Trump as the nominee," his answer is, I'm not going to talk about fantasy land because he would say, I, Jeb Bush, will be the nominee," and that that would be how he would answer the question on the debate stage. And they insist he would still answer that question that way if asked right now.

BERMAN: Of course, they get everything they want by suggesting they're doing due diligence because they have doubts that Jeb Bush might have --


BASH: Bingo. This isn't your first rodeo -- John Berman. BERMAN: Dana Bash, not yours either. You are the reporter that

launched 1,000 campaign slashes right now. You asked the question two nights ago about immigration between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. This has set off really a heat discussion within the Republican Party ranks. Every blogger, every radio host right now seems to be lining up and taking sides between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on immigration. A lot going on here.

BASH: A lot going on. I have to say the discussion has taken a different turn from what I anticipated. My initial question to Marco Rubio was, what he had not been asked in the first four Republican presidential debates which is, do you still support your own legislation, bipartisan legislation, that ultimately would allow undocumented immigrants to get citizenship in this country? And he kind of eventually said yes. Then in typical kind of Marco Rubio style, he was obviously ready for that question, turned it around on Ted Cruz, and brought up this kind of obscure amendment from back in 2013 during this debate where Ted Cruz appeared to support legalization. And so, now, you know, he has kind of brilliantly shifted the debate a bit away from his own stance, which differs vastly from many primary voters, to whether Ted Cruz is hypocritical here. It's kind of amazing.

[11:20:22] BOLDUAN: Do you see it -- our inboxes have been flooded by Marco Rubio campaign wanting to capitalize on this moment. Is this because they want to make sure, maybe they want to keep that discussion shifted to Ted Cruz --

BERMAN: Totally.

BOLDUAN: -- so we don't focus on Marco Rubio's stance?

BASH: Of course. It's 100 percent deflection. It was something he was prepared to do. Kate, you guys know the ins and outs of the legislative process, but this amendment that Ted Cruz did propose, which would have given legal status to undocumented immigrants, was meant at the time as a poison pill. It was meant to try to kill the entire bipartisan legislation that would have allowed citizenship. That was kind of the issue. But Cruz is having some trouble kind of squaring what h said at the time with what he is saying now. Again, we're talking about this. That's what the Rubio campaign wants. Not so much about what many in his party call amnesty, which he supported.

BOLDUAN: Because no one on Capitol Hill, even though there are poison pills thrown into legislation every once in a while, no one wants to admit, oh, that was me. I'm the one trying to muck it up.

BASH: Exactly. Exactly. The problem for Ted Cruz is that if you go back to the statements he made at the time, because he was trying to get that passed, he argued for it. Even though the dirty little secret is what he was arguing for what have mucked up the entire piece of legislation.

BERMAN: So interesting.

Ah, Washington. Dana Bash --


BOLDUAN: This is why people love Washington.

BERMAN: -- thanks so much

We'll talk about this more. Joining us now, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Bob Beckel; Josh Holmes, Republican strategist and former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell; and Pax Hart is here, a Donald Trump supporter.

Josh, I want to start with you because you were in the Senate when Rubio was there.


What's fascinating to me, once this debate started two nights ago between Rubio and Cruz, you have a lot of people around the Senate Bending over backwards, champing at the bit to say bad things about Ted Cruz. Doesn't have a lot of friends, it seems, within the Senate.

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That's right. He doesn't have a lot of friends in the Senate. I think it's a point of prize for Ted Cruz to go around the country talking about that. The reality is he really didn't make any effort to have any allies in the United States Senate, which made it difficult for him to accomplish anything he stated he wanted to accomplish. This is an interesting discuss, I think. One where you got Senator Rubio on one side where he's basically got an authenticity to his answer to say, yeah, look, that's where I was. That's where I still am. I have concerns about border security and other things that need to be addressed. Ted Cruz on the other hand saying, I didn't mean what I meant. That amendment I proposed and talked about and tried to pass wasn't what I wanted to happen. So, I think it's an authenticity issue and one that sticks around for a little bit.

BOLDUAN: A little bit and some folks hope for a lot of bit. We'll see.

Paz, let me bring you in on the other thing we were talking about with Dana Bash, this kind of momentary consideration, or due diligence as the Jeb Bush campaign is saying, they were considering him going back on the pledge, the loyalty pledge. Donald Trump has responded saying, you know what, I don't even want -- I don't even care for the Jeb Bush endorsement.

PAX HART, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: You know, it's fantastic, what we're seeing right now. We have this wild card in the GOP. The establishment is -- has no idea what to do with him. As Donald Trump's numbers keep ticking up, you know, every time that happens, that's one grandmother, one blue-color worker who is saying, OK, this guy, you know, we put stock in the establishment for so long. We've been betrayed over and over and over again. This guy has stuck around. He's willing to take on this -- you know, these fights from the media. He's willing to take on these fights from the establishment. He's here to stay. Donald Trump is having the time of his life. You know, he's -- he's doing fantastic things.

You know, for me personally, this goes back to, you know, what Vladimir Putin was saying about him. Donald Trump is saying things, he's starting conversations, which we are being told from the White House, which we're being told all the way down the line. We cannot talk about illegal immigration.


BOLDUAN: But, do you want the endorsement of Vladimir Putin?

BERMAN: He's a good judge of character, as far as you're concerned?

CARTER: Vladimir Putin said that this is among the American voters. If Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, he has to have a relationship with Vladimir Putin and every other world leader. I would rather have somebody in there that has the respect of these people because he's showing -- he's showing strength.

[11:25:09] BERMAN: You know, Bob, I want to bring you in here. You've seen a lot of campaigns over the years, though you are a young man. I want to add that as well.


BOLDUAN: Good cover there.

BERMAN: I know.


I think we've seen a different Donald Trump over the last 48 hours than we saw before. He came out in that debate with a prepared statement to open it out with. He had some crisp lines. Then he showed humility toward the end of the debate when he pledged his loyalty to the Republican Party.

And we saw more of it last night when he was with Jimmy Kimmel. I want to play a short sound bite here.


TRUMP: I would like to see the Republican Party come together. And I've been a little divisive in the sense that I've been hitting people pretty hard.



TRUMP: And ultimately, you know, we have to come together and get this thing done. And I'm having a great time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: So, Bob, is this deliberate, do you think? What's going on here?

BECKEL: Oh, sure. I mean, it's -- look, you're coming into January and now voters are beginning to pay attention. And Trump realizes that his divisiveness has been a bit of a problem. Now he's doing what I think he woke up and realized, he said, you know, I could be the nominee. I mean, it's possible. And so now I think he's trying to broaden out his appeal to people. I was out in Iowa for three days and I just -- I've been out there for six presidential races. I found Cruz's support out there was rock solid and a lot of volunteers. Trump's support is basically people who have been hurt by the recession, by immigrants coming in, undocumented, that they think are taking away their jobs. And so that's driving the force. The problem for Trump is I didn't see a lot of Trump organizers. Those people don't tend to go to caucuses. If he gets those people out, there will be three people who will survive Iowa, only three, and I think that's what Rubio is doing, by the way. It will be Trump, Cruz and Rubio to go into New Hampshire. Because they're going to try up, their money dries up. It always happens. I've been in campaigns with ten people against us and the treasurer says, you're burning $1 million a day. You want to stay in on this race? Fine, you can't afford it.

BOLDUAN: But, Josh, weigh in on this. Donald Trump being humble, having humility? This is so different than what Donald Trump even likes to see from this guy. Is this going to work? It seems everything Donald Trump seems to work for him. But is this going to work?

HOLMES: Kate, I wouldn't get too used to it. I don't think it will stick around very long. But it was kind of interesting to hear. I think bob raises a couple of really good points about the Trump campaign as it pertains to Iowa. Almost all of his campaigns, if you talk to them, have data that suggests the base of Trump's support in Iowa is from voters who are either unaffiliated with the Republican Party or they don't vote very often. It's an awful lot to ask for a voter who doesn't vote very often, if at all, to come out to a caucus, which as we know is very different from a primary and takes a lot more effort and a lot more time. I think what you're seeing here is a guy whose campaign is entirely based around the notion of winning. Win so much, we get tired of winning. What happens if he loses? I think that takes an awful lot of sheen off his penny.

BERMAN: Bob, Pax, can Donald Trump survive losing in Iowa? Bob, you first.

BECKEL: Yeah. Because New Hampshire, that's not an evangelical state, New Hampshire, and it always throws a curveball after Iowa. There will be three or four people coming out of New Hampshire, then down to South Carolina and then down to two.

BERMAN: Pax, is he going to win Iowa?

HART: He's going to win Iowa.

BERMAN: All right -- (CROSSTALK)


BOLDUAN: There you have it.

BERMAN: We leave you with the last word, definitively.

Bob --


BOLDUAN: We rarely have someone with such brevity. That's shocking.

Thank you, Pax.

BERMAN: The producers are going to love you.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

Thanks for coming on. Great to see you, guys.

BERMAN: Some of America's biggest theme parks stepping up security after attacks on soft targets around the world. What Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, what they are now banning and what they are now checking before you walk in.

[11:29:12] BOLDUAN: Plus, as President Obama gets ready to speak about terror just minutes from now. We're also now learning which apps the Paris attackers used to keep their plot secret. Details on that ahead.