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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus; Las Vegas Shooting Investigation; President Trump in Las Vegas; Senate Intel Leaders Can't Rule Out Trump Team-Russia Collusion; Sources: Russia Facebook Ads Targeted at Swing States; Tillerson Doesn't Deny Report He Called Trump a "Moron"; U.S. Forces Come Under Hostile Fire in African Nation Niger. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 4, 2017 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Calculated plan. New details emerging of Stephen Paddock's months of meticulous preparation for his horrific crime, including the deadly arsenal he stockpiled.

Tonight, dramatic new video of the attack and how one hotel security guard may have saved countless lives.

Presidential visit. President Trump travels to grief-stricken Las Vegas, meeting with survivors, victims' families, and first- responders. He calls America a nation in mourning and calls the gunman sick and demented.

And Russia's election focus. Exclusive new information about how Russia targeted swing states with Facebook ads designed to interfere with the presidential election. Tonight, Senate investigators say they still can't rule out possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, key new developments in the investigation of the Las Vegas shooting massacre.

The FBI has now questioned the girlfriend of the gunman, Stephen Paddock. Marilou Danley returned to the United States last night from her native Philippines and has hired a lawyer.

The president has just wrapped up a visit to Las Vegas, where he and the first lady met with shooting survivors and first-responders, all of whom he praised. He called the gunman sick and demented, and he declined to talk about renewed calls for gun control in the wake of this, the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

We're also getting new information about the gunman's arsenal. The ATF says Paddock bought 33 guns over the course of a year, most of them rifles. Almost two dozen weapons were found inside the hotel suite he used to carry out his attack and more were found at his two homes, along with large, large amounts of ammunition.

And CNN now has exclusive reporting tonight on the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. Sources are telling us that Russian-linked Facebook ads were targeted at swing states, including Wisconsin and Michigan, both of which President Trump narrowly won.

Also tonight, Senate Intelligence Committee leaders say they still can't rule out possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

We're covering all of that, much more this hour, with our guests, including Congresswoman Dina Titus, who represents Las Vegas, in Washington. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

But, first, let's go straight to Las Vegas and CNN's Dan Simon.

Dan, tonight, there are dramatic new details emerging, also dramatic new video of the attack.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The shooter's 62-year-old girlfriend is now back on U.S. soil. She's in Los Angeles. She's speaking to FBI investigators. Obviously, what she says could be of critical importance to the investigation and meantime we're getting some incredible new information about how some quick-thinking action may have saved hundreds of lives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON (voice-over): Tonight, the terror of the Las Vegas massacre shown from a police officer's perspective. Newly released police body cam video captures the mayhem and confusion as officers race in to help and try to determine where the shots are coming from.

As the chaos begins, a common attending the concert points her phone towards the open field as people begin running for their lives, then toward the shooter's window at the Mandalay Bay.

Meanwhile, in hotel, guests in nearby rooms hear the hundreds of rounds from Stephen Paddock's suite and alert the hotel staff. Hotel security quickly narrow in on Paddock's floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're coming out on the 32nd floor.

SIMON: Minutes later, one of the Mandalay Bay security guards approaches Paddock's door as he's firing down on the crowd from inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That security guard went up to the room. He was advancing toward the room when the suspect through the door at the security guard and struck him.

SIMON: Police now believe Paddock is watching on a screen connected to a camera hidden on this room service cart. A cable appears to run from the cart in the hallway and under the door of one of the rooms of the suite.

Police say another camera is attached to this door's peephole pointing toward the hallway. You can see what appears to be another cable running along the floor below.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the hallway contained where the shots were fired.

SIMON: Paddock opens fire on the guard from inside the suite. You can see one door riddled with bullet holes.

Even though the guard never saw Paddock, his actions may have saved hundreds of lives, because after he is first approached, Paddock stops firing on the crowd. Police say he had been firing for nine minutes from the two windows he had broken on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are on 31. We are holding at the stairs that dump into 32.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And 592, we are right outside the door in the stairwell, just FYI.

[18:05:03]

SIMON: Meantime, as first-responders move to help save those injured below, a Las Vegas police SWAT team is moving methodically through the Mandalay Bay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the stairwell on the 300 side. Are you with the SWAT guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by right there. That's a SWAT officer on his way down to the stairwell. Wait for him.

SIMON: Seconds later, the SWAT team blows open the hotel suite door to find Paddock dead on the floor.

Inside the room, police find 23 weapons. Police say 12 of the rifles in the suite were modified with a bump-stock, a device that enables a gun to fire hundreds of rounds a minute. These leaked photo shows how calculating Paddock's plan was.

High-capacity magazines of ammunition are neatly stacked up against the column. A hammer apparently used to break the room's window lays on the floor. An open suitcase lays nearby.

Hotel tell "The New York Times" Paddock had refused housekeeping and had kept this do not disturb sign on his door for days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: Once again, the shooter's girlfriend is back in the United States. She is talking to FBI investigators. Her attorney just talked to the media a short time and he said basically she is asking for her privacy and that she is fully cooperating -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Simon in Las Vegas for us, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on President Trump's visit to Las Vegas.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the scene for us with the very latest.

Jim, quite a contrast between the president's visit there today and his trip to Puerto Rico yesterday.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The president and the first lady, they're on their way back to Washington after meeting with some of the survivors of the Las Vegas massacre. The White House took great pains to keep this visit here more subdued and unlike that trip to Puerto Rico, the president stayed on script here and mourned with the community in pain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): In a city in desperate need of comfort, the president and first lady toured the hospital where survivors of the mass shooting in Las Vegas are clinging to life and searching for answers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we ask God to ease their suffering and to speed their healing. We pray for the recovery of the injured and those injured officers who so bravely threw themselves into danger when duty called.

ACOSTA: The president praised the medical staff that treated the wounded.

TRUMP: The doctors, the injures, all of the people of the hospital have done a job that is indescribable.

ACOSTA: And offered his own diagnosis of the killer.

TRUMP: I can tell you it's a very sick man. He was a very demented person.

ACOSTA: One topic the president is not taking on during this visit, gun control.

TRUMP: We're not going talk about that today.

ACOSTA: The White House is steering clear of the issue, sending out these talking points to its surrogates.

"Let's gather the facts before we make sweeping policy arguments for curtailing the Second Amendment," the talking points read. "Let's be clear. New laws won't stop a madman committed to harming innocent people."

And the talking points ask, did he have radical ties, despite the fact that investigators say they believe the gunman acted alone.

The president doesn't always wait for the facts to come in. During the campaign, then candidate Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslims coming into the U.S. after mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando.

Advocates for more gun control say the time to confront the issue is now.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: How many more must die? A hundred, 1,000, 10,000, a million? What is your blood price? How many more must die?

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Now is this time to come together. Be responsible, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight.

ACOSTA: The president's trip to Las Vegas was much more controlled than his visit to Puerto Rico, where Mr. Trump tossed rolls of paper towels to storm victims and joked the hurricane damage there would be costly.

TRUMP: I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you have thrown our budget a little out of whack.

ACOSTA: On this day, the president appeared to strike the right tone meeting with the first-responders who rushed into the line of fire.

TRUMP: But you showed the world, and the world is watching. And you showed what professionalism is all about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, the president and first lady, they didn't take a special trip to the crime scene here in Las Vegas.

But they really didn't have to. Air Force One was parked at the Las Vegas airport just a short distance from the Mandalay Bay casino. Up and down the president's motorcade route, Wolf, were reminders of what took place here, billboards reading pray for Vegas and Vegas strong -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta in Las Vegas for us, he's traveling with the president. Thanks very much.

We're joined now by Democratic Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada, whose district includes the Las Vegas Strip.

Congresswoman, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

[18:10:01]

Based on the briefings you have had -- and I know you're well plugged- in to all these investigations -- do you believe authorities are today any closer to determining a motive?

REP. DINA TITUS (D), NEVADA: Well, they have been going through reels of video, both at security in the hotel and from the body cameras.

You saw some clips of those. They hope that will tell them something. And, of course, we have got Metro in Los Angeles with the FBI to talk to the girlfriend. Even if she weren't directly involved, we think maybe she can give us some clue as to what the motive was or what some of his actions were leading up to this horrific event.

BLITZER: She's been called a person of interest by local police authorities. As far as you know, is she fully cooperating with the FBI during these investigations? Her lawyer says she is.

TITUS: That's what they tell us, too. She has gotten a lawyer, so that's something that she wants to protect, I guess.

And she is supposedly cooperating, from what we hear.

BLITZER: Looking at the crime scene, and you have seen it, it's clear that Stephen Paddock had meticulously planned this massacre. Is there any indication as to how long this had been in the works?

TITUS: Well, we don't know. We know he checked into the hotel for several days in advance. We know he brought all of this ammunition and these weapons.

He had planned to knock out the windows. He chose a room that was selective on the corner, so he had windows from two angles onto the field and he had all these bump-stocks with him. So, it's amazing how meticulous it was and how premeditated.

BLITZER: Bump-stocks are used to make a semiautomatic weapon for practical purposes an automatic weapon.

You want those bump-stocks eliminated, made illegal, is that right?

TITUS: Right. I absolutely do.

I'm co-sponsoring legislation with Mr. Cicilline from Rhode Island to make those illegal, because they will change a regular gun into like an automatic weapon that can fire 400 to 600 times in a minute. We don't need that for recreation.

BLITZER: What do you know about those reports, Congresswoman, that this killer may have actually cased out other venues, other sites in Las Vegas earlier, other musical festivals, as potential sites of horror?

TITUS: We have heard that he was looking at the Life is Beautiful site. That's also in my district. That's a big festival in downtown Las Vegas, but there's not a lot of evidence about that. And the police are reluctant to give out that information.

BLITZER: Where do we all go from here right now? We just wait to get more information from the girlfriend? Is that the key issue?

TITUS: That's right. Our law enforcement is exhausted. They have been working around the

clock. They want to be careful. They want to do it right. They don't know if there's going to be future prosecution, lawsuits, whatever. They want to get the facts right, because the public deserve it, the family deserve it.

And I applaud that, even if we get a little impatient. I can tell you, my constituents, and my personal feeling, the first day, we grieved, the second day, we wanted action, and the third day, we're just getting mad because some people say now is not the time to talk about gun violence. When is the time?

BLITZER: Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us, Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada. Thanks so much.

TITUS: Thank you.

BLITZER: When we come back, we're actually going to hear from the girlfriend's attorney.

He has just spoken out, Matt Lombard. He represents Marilou Danley, the girlfriend of the killer, Stephen Paddock. We are going to hear from him right after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:31]

BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, new information emerging about the Las Vegas shooting massacre that left 58 people dead.

We just heard from an attorney representing Marilou Danley, the girlfriend of the gunman. She just returned overnight from the Philippines and has been questioned today by the FBI in Los Angeles.

Her attorney, Matt Lombard, just speak to the news media. Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LOMBARD, ATTORNEY FOR MARILOU DANLEY: I have a statement to read from my client, Marilou Danley.

"I am devastated by the deaths and injuries that have occurred. And my prayers go out to the victims and their families and all those who have been hurt by these awful events.

"I have faith in God, and I will continue to pray for everyone who has been harmed or hurt. I am a mother and a grandmother, and my heart breaks for all who have lost loved ones.

"I knew Stephen Paddock as a kind, caring, quiet man. I loved him and hoped for a quiet future together with him. He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of, that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen. [18:20:00]

"A little more than two weeks ago, Stephen told me he found a cheap ticket for me to the Philippines and that he wanted me to take a trip home to see my family.

"Like all Filipinos abroad, I was excited to go home and see family and friends. While there, he wired me money, which he said was for me to buy a house for me and my family.

"I was grateful but, honestly, was worried at first the unexpected trip home and then the money was a way of breaking up with me. It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone.

"I have not made a statement until now because I have been cooperating with the authorities, and I voluntarily flew back to America because I know the FBI and Las Vegas Police Department wanted to talk to me, and I wanted to talk to them.

"I will cooperate fully with their investigation. Anything I can do to help ease suffering and help in any way, I will do. Please respect my privacy and my family's privacy."

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, that's the statement we just heard, an important statement from the attorney representing Marilou Danley, the girlfriend of the killer, Marilou Danley just returning overnight from the Philippines. And according to the attorney, she voluntarily flew back to the United States and is fully cooperating with the FBI.

Lots to unpack there.

Let me bring in Phil Mudd first.

What did you make of that statement we just heard from the gunman's girlfriend, the attorney representing her?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I believe nothing, zero.

Let me tell you why. She's been back in the United States for about 24 hours. She's in the midst of explaining a relationship that goes along for years. That's the relationship with the gunman. She saw things, she heard things, she might have seen what was doing in the house in terms of the acquisition of many of dozens of guns.

She clearly had a financial relationship with him. We also have a great deal of data, I presume, on their relationship, things like e- mails and phone messages. You want to tell me after less than 24 hours of being questioned by the FBI we should have any confidence that she had no knowledge in a years-long relationship of what was happening here? What I want to see is what is happening now. The FBI and others are

combing through that volume of information and comparing it to what she says. In the days and weeks that this interrogation will take place, don't tell me after 24 hours you know what she knew over the course of a years-long relationship. I don't buy it, Wolf.

BLITZER: And that attorney now confirming that the $100,000 that the killer wired to the Philippines went in fact to her. And he supposedly, according to this statement, told her to go ahead and buy a home there for her and her family.

Tom Fuentes, what was your reaction?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: My reaction to the whole situation, Wolf, is that there was no possible way in the short run the United States could compel her to return to the United States.

She wasn't in a position to be deported because she's not a citizen here and she didn't fly into the Philippines from the United States directly.

That means the only process would be extradition. She would have to be charged with a serious crime and a request for extradition to go into the Filipino authorities that could take a year or two. The fact the FBI meets with her in the Philippines and basically convinces her to voluntarily return here to meet with the Las Vegas police and FBI in Los Angeles and have this discussion, I don't completely discount everything that she said, because she had no reason to come back here and possibly risk being a caught in a lie, to where they could hold her and she would not be free, would be able to leave the U.S.

So, I'm not saying that everything she said is true or that I believe it. I agree with Phil in that sense. But she did volunteer and she may have been just naive or dumb or something and not realize that he was planning something this violent.

The mere acquisition of those guns is bad, but she may not have known of every weapon that he acquired.

The other thing, I think the main thing that I would like to hear is, does she know some other person or group of persons that we just are not aware of, that she knew somebody else to be close to Paddock that nobody has come across yet and that that could be lead material to go to other people and ask whether Paddock was -- what the relationship was with them, and if they have knowledgeable of any attitude or motivation that he may have had to do this.

[18:25:02]

BLITZER: Mary Ellen O'Toole, you're a former senior FBI profiler, a former FBI agent. You heard that statement from the attorney, Matt Lombard, representing the girlfriend of the killer.

What was your reaction?

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Yes, thank you. It was a very well-written statement. It was well-crafted with assistance I'm sure from legal experts. And it hit the important points.

It hit, I'm a sympathetic victim myself in this. It invoked God, grandchildren, and sympathy and empathy for the victims.

The problem with this statement is, it's too good. It's too well- written. It's self-reported information and it doesn't allow for any cross-examination by any of us who would ask questions over and beyond just the statement.

It's just -- it's too perfect, it's too well-written and it's self- reported. It really does require much more thorough digging down in terms of, that's fine, but now let's start talking about your life with Stephen.

And I have seen statements like this before. They're very self- severing, for a purpose. And under the circumstances, I understand that. But, again, it's self-reported and not subject to any cross- examination.

BLITZER: Good point.

Brian Todd is in Las Vegas for us.

Brian, in that statement, she described the killer as quiet and kind. You have been reporting on the ground in Las Vegas and you're speaking to all sorts of people that knew both him and her. What are you hearing from those folks?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf.

That's one of a couple of potential inconsistencies from that lawyer's statement that we have been able to ascertain here. Yes, she said she knew Stephen Paddock as a kind and quiet man.

According to at least one person who was quoted, the manager of a Starbucks at the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, Texas, this woman named Esperanza Mendoza, told "The Los Angeles Times" when they would come in basically the staff of that Starbucks would cringe when Stephen Paddock and Marilou Danley would come into their Starbucks apparently after having gambled or maybe while they were gambling at that casino.

She said they cringed because he would often berate her in public, in front of everyone in that Starbucks, and that it made everybody very uneasy, that he would demean her. She even quoted him as saying that he was paying for her at one point.

This is again, the words the manager of that Starbucks at the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, Nevada.

Also, the other inconsistency, I think what Phil and some others on the panel and Tom are saying, when she says that he never did anything, said anything, or took any action that would lead me to believe that he would do anything like this, it's the accumulation of weapons, Wolf, that really stands out as a potential inconsistency there.

This man, according to the ATF, purchased 33 firearms just over the past years, most of them rifles. She knew nothing about that? She was his live-in girlfriend. He accumulated weapons over 20-plus years, according to law enforcement officials.

They recovered 47 weapons at three different sites, including a residence that she shared with him. If she didn't know anything about those weapons, didn't see him take any action, in her words, that would lead her to believe that he would do this, I think the FBI is really going to want to know why she wouldn't have known about that, given his accumulation of weapons.

BLITZER: This killer, this murderer, mass murderer, she described him as someone she knew as "kind, caring, a quiet man. I loved him."

Phil Mudd, you see the meticulous nature of the scene, the stacks of weapons, the carefully laid out camera, the huge amount of ammunition. What does that tell you about the level of planning that went into this attack?

MUDD: You hear the descriptions of this individual, that he's some sort of crazed lunatic, that's not what I'm seeing here.

What you see here is clearly he has a mental issue, but he's participating in a society where he's talking to his family, he's having jobs over time. He lives in a relatively wealthy community and he has a relationship with a woman over years.

What I'm looking at is not only the acquisition of weapons. It's the life he's had in the past few years, including the life he's had online and how he texted and phoned people, the life he's had with people who are being interviewed today by the FBI, and the chance, with all that interaction, human interaction and digital interaction, that nobody, including the girlfriend, over years, ever heard anything.

Wolf, I'm going to lay a number on the table -- 95 percent-plus chance that she knows something of value to the investigation. I don't buy what we heard today.

BLITZER: All right, everybody, stand by, because there's more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're now learning the identity of the hotel security guard at the Mandalay Bay Hotel who distracted the gunman, possibly saving countless lives. His name is Jesus Campos.

And we're joined on the phone now by the president of his union, David Hickey.

David, thanks so much for joining us.

First of all, how is Jesus doing? DAVID HICKEY, PRESIDENT OF UNION (via phone): Jesus is home

recovering at this point. He was shot in the right thigh, where a bullet, I am told, still is present. They didn't get all the bullet out, but they're going to go back into surgery and remove the bullet at a later date.

BLITZER: You're the president, David, of the International Union for Security Police and Fire Professionals of America. Describe what you're hearing. How did that whole incident go down, in which he wound up being -- Jesus wound up being shot by the killer?

HICKEY: I'm told that Jesus was patrolling the halls and was sent to the area of the commotion. So he responded.

The stairwells had been blocked by the shooter. So the only access to that position, to the room, was actually the elevators. The shooter had placed a camera outside in the hall and was able to monitor anyone coming from the elevators. So as Jesus approached the door, the shooter turned and fired through the door, striking Mr. Campos in the upper right thigh.

BLITZER: So the -- the killer never opened the door. He just fired through the door? Is that what you're saying?

HICKEY: That's correct.

BLITZER: And he wound up being injured in the thigh. It could have been a whole lot worse. But what happened after that?

HICKEY: Well, the sheriffs were notified. The first responders, the police then approached the area. The doors were opened through explosives, and they found the shooter had committed suicide.

BLITZER: And the shooter shot through the door because he -- he had cameras. There was the peephole in the door, but he also had cameras outside in which he saw Jesus approach that door. Is that right?

HICKEY: That's right. He had a camera on a food cart, sitting outside his door. And he was monitoring the elevators. So he saw all access to the hallway at that point.

BLITZER: But when Jesus was shot, did he have the ability to communicate with his -- with other authorities and let them know what was going on?

HICKEY: He did. I'm told he reported, and that's how the -- that's how the sheriff's department, police knew what location, what floor authorities let to -- to respond to.

BLITZER: So that was perhaps the first indication, the hard confirmation that not only was it the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, but also this specific room where this killer was holed up.

HICKEY: Yes, that's what's been reported to me, yes.

BLITZER: And so he really saved lives. How long did it take, as far as you know, Dave, for the police to arrive, the SWAT team to arrive and actually burst through that door after the -- Jesus called to them that this is what was going on?

HICKEY: Wolf, I don't -- I don't have a time frame on that. I don't -- I don't have an exact time frame. But I can only tell you we represent over 200 officers at Mandalay Bay, and everybody on that shift were responding to this emergency situation. So I don't -- I don't know exactly how long it took before they reached the door.

BLITZER: Was Jesus armed?

HICKEY: I'm not sure whether he holds an armed post or he doesn't. There are a number of armed security officers on each shift at Mandalay Bay, and there are officers who are not armed. So if he was working in the hotel or the casino, he may or may not have been armed.

BLITZER: David, please thank Jesus Campos on behalf of all of us, everyone in Las Vegas, certainly, all of our viewers, for saving lives at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and hope for a speedy recovery. We know he was shot in the thigh. He's going to be OK, we're confident. And let him know that whenever he is ready, at his pleasure, we would love to have him here join me in THE SITUATION ROOM, and we'll discuss his impressions of what happened, and we'll give him a chance to be thanks, not just by me but by all of our viewers.

David Hickey, the president of the International Union for Security Police and Fire Professionals of America. Thanks so much for joining us, and thank Jesus on all of our behalf.

HICKEY: Thank you. We thank all of our officers at Mandalay Bay. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: We thank them, as well.

We're going to take a quick break, but there's more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll resume our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:39:21] BLITZER: We'll have much more on the breaking news coming out of Las Vegas. That's coming up.

But first, a CNN exclusive right now. Sources are telling us that Russian-linked Facebook ads were targeted at swing states as part of Moscow's meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown, is working the story for us. Pamela, key senators in the Russian investigation, they are now speaking out. What are they saying?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, the top Republican and Democrat -- Democratic senators in the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wolf, came out today and said they are still looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in an investigation that continues to widen in scope. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee say possible collusion among Russia and the Trump campaign is still an open question, ten months after their investigation began.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The committee continues to look into all evidence, to see if there was any hint of collusion.

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you have any evidence to suggest or rule out the president knew anything about any of these contacts that occurred between even associates and the Russians?

BURR: I thought I was pretty clear that the issue of collusion is still open; that we continue to investigate both intelligence and witnesses; and that we're not in a position where we will come to any type of temporary finding on that until we've completed the process.

BROWN: One part of their investigation they say hit a snag: verifying the dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent. That agent is refusing to talk to Senate investigators.

BURR: As it relates to the Steele dossier, unfortunately the committee has hit a wall. The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it? Who were your sources and sub-sources?

BROWN: But one area where the investigation has gained traction: Russian subversion of social media to target American voters and sew discord using Russian-linked ads on Facebook and fake Twitter accounts.

BURR: There's no way that you can look at that and say that that was to help the right side of the ideological chart and not the left. Or vice versa. They were indiscriminate.

BROWN: One quarter of the 3,000 Russia-linked Facebook ads were able to target specific geographic areas. According to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation, a number of those ads targeted Wisconsin and Michigan, two states Democrats hadn't lost since the 1980s, part of Democrats' so-called Blue Wall. Donald Trump narrowly won both states.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no way that Donald Trump can break the Blue Wall, right? We didn't break it. We shattered that sucker. We shattered it.

BROWN: CNN has learned the Russians targeted at least 12 states on Facebook with ads ranging from immigration to the Second Amendment to issues of race. In total, just over $100,000 was spent on the ads, which Facebook estimates were seen by roughly 10 million people.

What investigators want to know now: Did anyone in the Trump campaign assist the Russians in determining where these ads should be focused? BURR: If there was any connection, that would be pertinent to our

investigation of Russia's influence in the elections.

BROWN: Senators Burr and Warner warning officials preparing for elections next month to take precautions as the Russians are actively looking for new ways to affect elections.

BURR: The Russian intelligence service is determined, clever, and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously as we move into this November's election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And the senators also announced today that they've invited social media companies to openly testify on November 1, and according to my colleague Devlin Byers, both Facebook and Twitter have accepted those invitations. Of course, we'll be watching that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Pamela Brown, our justice correspondent, thank you.

Let's get some more with our correspondents and our specialists. And Bianna Golodryga, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the chair, the ranking member made a point of saying they're not willing -- not willing -- to close the book on the possibility of collusion between the Kremlin and Trump campaign officials. How did you interpret those comments?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, it's never a good headline to say they can't rule out collusion at this point, Wolf.

You know, it's interesting. Just a few weeks ago, in early September, there was an interview that Richard Burr had conducted and said that he'd hoped that this investigation would be over by the end of the year. December is what he had set his sights on. Clearly now, from what we've heard today, that's not the case.

So it would be interesting to see what has transpired, what information have they been privy over the last three weeks or so that would change his opinion as to the longevity of this investigation.

Don't forget: there's also Mueller investigation. And an interesting thing that came up on Twitter, which of course, you can resurrect old tweets. Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times," also a contributor to CNN, had sent out a tweet just a few days after the election where she said Paul Manafort had been advising the Trump campaign to do more promoting and campaigning in Michigan and in Wisconsin. Remember, he was no longer associated with the Trump campaign at that time, but that is an interesting nugget now, looking back.

But of course, you can't rule out that the Russians, obviously, were following our news very closely and were very aware well -- aware of all the issues that we were focusing on in this country. I've talked about this before on the show, that the Russians obviously were following are news very closely and were very well aware of all of the issues that we were focusing in this country. I've talked about this before on the show, that Russians really do hone in on any sort of disorientation and issues in this country within our political system.

So, you can't rule out the Russians knew what they were doing without the help of the Trump campaign. But the fact that this is continuing doesn't bode well for the administration.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes, as you know and as I know and everybody studied Russia and earlier the Soviet Union know the Kremlin always wants to foment dissent and chaos here in the United States.

Chris Cillizza, what stood out to you from that news conference?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. Well, first of all, Wolf, the collusion as Bianna and you touched on, or the impossibility of ruling out collusion, which important to note doesn't mean there was any. It just doesn't mean they can say there wasn't. So, I think that's your big takeaway.

The second one, Richard Burr, the senator from North Carolina, saying that the investigation had expanded slightly from its original mission. Now, he didn't go into a lot of detail about that expansion, but he said it expanded. I think that's worth noting. Third, that they essentially concluded their piece of the investigation into the memos that James Comey wrote, former FBI director, Fired FBI director.

I think they're essentially saying that they're ceding that piece of the investigation to Bob Mueller's special counsel investigation. Those are my three big takeaways.

BLITZER: David Chalian, some Republicans, as you know, they're growing very impatient with the pace of the congressional investigations in the Senate, and the House. How much pressure is there on Senator Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he's a Republican, to close the book on some of the open questions in this probe?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He's clearly feeling some heat. No Republican is eager to turn the calendar page at the end of December into an election year where, you know, the entire House is up and a third of the Senate for reelection next November and have this still hanging over their heads every time a press conference is held, more witnesses come before Congress, not just the overhang of the Mueller investigation, but that in their own House, in the halls of Congress, this hangs there.

That being said, there are a lots of Republicans who are also eager to see this come to a conclusion if it indeed can clear the air, if there's some definitive conclusion that the folks on the Senate Intel Committee can make that freeze the controversy away from Republicans and the president and what have you. But I would note, Wolf, most of the grumbling, most of the pressure they're maybe feeling is really coming from the administration more than its from their fellow members of Congress.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point.

Kaitlan Collins, you cover the White House for us. The president, as you know, continues to call this whole investigation a hoax but we keep learning new information about Russia's interference, including some new CNN reporting on these targeted Facebook ads in key swing states. So, how is the White House approaching these late-breaking revelations?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think the concern among many people is that they're not taking it seriously enough. As you just said, every time nearly that this gets brought up, the White House and the president often refer to it as a hoax and it seems to be some trouble between distinguishing between saying that they're -- the Russians have attempted to interfere in our election and will likely try again and this fear that the White House has that people are trying to invalidate the president's victory last November. So, it's something that a lot of people don't think the White House is taking seriously enough and not attempting to combat ahead of the next election and other future elections here.

BLITZER: Bianna, between the hurricanes, the massacre in Las Vegas, President Trump has been playing the role that every U.S. president is called up to play comforting the victims of disasters. How do you believe he handled his visit to Las Vegas today?

GOLODRYGA: Well, Wolf, the bar was so low following the visit to Puerto Rico yesterday, one could say today it was a success. I mean, he stuck to script, he was somber, he visited with police department and first responders. We know that he visited with victims in hospitals as well.

The question is, in these types of situations, the president is looked upon to as the consoler in chief. And this had been an issue that we as a nation had been -- have known way too often any time there is a mass shooting in this country that we need a consoler in chief, and this is a crisis that for once was not one of his own making. So, here was really an opportunity for the president to show some empathy, for the nation to put aside whatever quarrels and partisanship that we may face to come together in a moment of grief.

Today, I think we saw the right tone. Yesterday, though, I think stood out so poorly for this president, that it's hard to -- it's indelible, I would say. What we saw yesterday, comparing it to Katrina saying, oh, you're costing us a lot of money, throwing out the paper towels as if they were being thrown to animals.

[18:50:10] Those are images that are hard to just write off as fake news. That's what transpired.

So, yesterday was better. But I don't think that that rules out in that sort of usurps what we saw yesterday.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, I want to quickly turn to another important story. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a brief statement, took some questions from reporters earlier today in light of a report that he called President Trump over the summer a "moron" during a private meeting and threatened to resign. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Address the main headline of the story that you called the president a moron and if not, where do you think these reports are --

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that. I mean, this is -- this is what I don't understand about Washington. Again, you know, I'm not from this place. But the places I come from, we don't deal with that kind of petty nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It's interesting, Kaitlan. He insists he never threatened to resign, but it's notable that he didn't specifically take the opportunity to deny the reports that he called the president of the United States a moron. Although a State Department spokeswoman later in the day made that denial on his behalf.

You're doing a lot of reporting on this very frayed relationship between the president and the secretary of state. Tell us what you're learning.

COLLINS: That's right, Wolf. Things are definitely frayed between the president and his top diplomat. And we've seen this for some time. Tillerson distanced himself from the president after he made those very contentious remarks after the violent clashes in Charlottesville and then we saw the president undercut Tillerson on Twitter as recently as this weekend over their strategy in North Korea.

But we're really seeing it spill into the public view here with these comments. Though the State Department spokesman has denied that Tillerson used that language, as we saw, he did not outright deny it and CNN has independently confirmed that Tillerson was so frustrated apparently with the president over the summer that he did refer to him as moron.

And we've also learned that the president was aware of that remark before NBC News first published that story today, so that's what we're seeing now. But then we heard from the president just a short while ago saying he had confidence in Tillerson. And so, it seems like his job is safe for now in this White House.

The president said he's going to stay on and that Tillerson said that he had no plans to step down. But it's safe to say these tensions between these two men are at a high here.

BLITZER: All right. Important reporting from Kaitlan. Everybody stand by.

There's more breaking news we're following. Reports of U.S. military forces taking on hostile fire right now. We'll update you on that. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:29] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. BLITZER: We have breaking news coming in from the Pentagon. U.S. military forces have now come under hostile fire in the African country of Niger.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.

At this hour, the Pentagon offering few details, but issuing a very terse statement a short time ago. Let me read it to everybody. This is from the United States Africa Command, the part of the military that oversees military operations in Africa.

The statement reads: we can confirm report that a joint U.S. and Nigerian patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger. We are working to confirm details of the incident and will have more information as soon as we can confirm facts on the ground.

This is a serious incident. Very little information being publicly offered by the U.S. military.

U.S. troops are in this part of West Africa and in Niger to assist local forces there in their counterterrorism fight against al-Qaeda elements and other insurgent elements in the area. There is also throughout West Africa, including next door Mali, a not insignificant French military presence.

The U.S. also conducts routine drone operations over parts of Africa, surveillance and reconnaissance that has been acknowledged to ensure that they have the latest intelligence about where forces may be on the ground.

Tonight, we are getting no details beyond this statement that U.S. forces working with Niger forces have come under hostile fire in this area of southwest Niger near the border with Mali. They are not offering any other details.

We will stay on this story, bring details to everyone as soon as the military makes them publicly available -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you know -- do we know how many U.S. troops are in Niger providing security and training to Nigerian forces?

STARR: Well, this number is generally not discussed because it contends to ebb and flow over time. This is like so many operations that the U.S. military does around the world, describe as advise and assist. And that that means is teams, usually Special Forces, but not always, it could be from any part of the U.S. military, go in and work with local forces to try and help them on their counterterrorism missions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara Starr, we'll stay on to top of this very worrisome story as well. That's very much for that.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

Our continuing from Las Vegas continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".