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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bin Laden Son-In-Law Pleads Not Guilty; Interview With Rudy Giuliani

Aired March 8, 2013 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A striking new development in the war against terrorism today. A son-in-law of Osama Bin Laden appearing in a federal court in Manhattan not far from where al Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the spokesman for al Qaeda, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, plotting to kill Americans.

He was captured abroad recently and the decision to take him to New York City instead of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, that's become a hot legal and political issue. Let's bring in our CNN crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, who's been looking at this story. There's a lot of buzz on it, a lot of controversy.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Wolf. He is al Qaeda to the core, but the symbolism of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith's arrest is important for a lot of reasons. It shows the U.S. is not giving up going after terrorists, but it also shows the resolve of the Obama administration to try defendants like this in civilian courts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): Sulaiman Abu Ghaith's lawyer pleaded not guilty on his client's behalf to the federal charge of conspiring to kill Americans. Osama Bin Laden's son-in-law and al Qaeda's official spokesman had just a few short answers to questions from the judge, though, prosecutor said he'd already given a 22-page statement which was not made public.

Talking is what got Abu Ghaith's notice in the first place, including on this video in which he and Osama Bin Laden discussed the success of the 9/11 plot. The indictment said Ghaith warned Americans that a great army is gathering against you. The storm shall not stop, especially the airplane storm.

He went on to advise, Muslims, children, and opponents of the U.S. not board any aircraft and not to live in high rises. His appearance in New York renewed the debate over whether defendants in terrorism cases are better off being tried in military commissions as opposed to civilian courts. The administration says it's case by case but prefers the courts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a previous strong track record of the success of article there courts in handling these kinds of trials.

JOHNS: Critics question whether reading a terror suspect his rights gets in the way of interrogating him.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: We certainly don't want him to come to America before he has been fully interrogated to make sure that we know everything that he knows about al Qaeda and let him hear the words, you have the right to remain silent.

JOHNS: Recent cases suggest there's a way to do it even if the military isn't involved.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Just because you're in an American courtroom doesn't mean that interrogation is off limits. You just have to follow certain rules and prosecutors and agents are know how to do this.

JOHNS: This debate hit its peak when the administration announced and later abandoned plans to bring alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to New York for a trial. But in civilian court since 9/11, guilty pleas or verdicts have been entered against people like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day 2009 and Zacarias Moussaoui who pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill Americans on 9/11 and many more

According to the advocacy group, Human Rights First, civilian courts have convicted 67 terror suspects caught overseas, while military commissions have convicted only seven.

TOOBIN: These cases are not some gift to the defendant. They are actually the best way we have, so far, of keeping them in prison for the rest of their lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (on-camera): The other issue that gets raised when you talk about terror trials in the U.S. is the issue of security. But so far, experts say the facts speak for themselves. Federal courts are accustomed to handling high-profile defendants, including organize crime figures, drug dealers, and alleged terrorists. And, so far, they have a pretty good record of keeping it safe --Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of commotion, lots of discussion about this, as well. Joe Johns, thanks very much.

Rudy Giuliani was, of course, the mayor of New York on 9/11. He became a symbol of America's resolve after the al Qaeda attacks, but he does not necessarily believe New York is the place to try these al Qaeda terror suspects. Mayor Rudy Giuliani is joining us on the phone right now. What's your reaction, mayor, to this decision to bring Abu Ghaith to New York?

RUDY GIULIANI, FMR MAYOR OF NEW YORK (via telephone): I'm very surprised by it after the prior decision and all the controversy within all the issues about how much money it would cost New York to provide the additional security, but I'm mostly concerned because it would seem to me al Qaeda would be the perfect organization where you would treat it as a war crime as opposed to a civilian crime. After all, they declared war on the United States back in 1998, 1999. And we tried the civilian cases with them before, and it didn't work. We tried the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. We just had the 20th anniversary of it. They were tried in civilian court. It didn't stop another attack. The blind sheikh was tried in a civilian court. The African bombers were tried in that same court.

In fact, they were -- some of them were going to be tried there around the time of September 11th attack took place. So, I don't get this. I understand that the complexities of making a distinction between, is it a war crime or is a crime carried out by a militant carrying on a war or is it a, you know, civilian attempted murder or whatever?

And sometimes, it's a close case, but this is -- this is al Qaeda who declared war in the United States. This is like saying, you know, in the middle of the Second World War, we caught a Nazi. And we tried them in civilian court.

BLITZER: I guess the argument is, one of the arguments that they're making is that there's a better track record, you heard Jeffrey Toobin point out -- not only arresting and prosecuting these guys in New York, for example, all of the people you mentioned, I believe they're all serving life sentences right now. So, this guy potentially could face life in prison.

GIULIANI: Yes. He'll face life in a civilian prison, which in and of itself is a major issue of security for that prison.

BLITZER: Even if he goes to a maximum security prison out in the Midwest someplace?

GIULIANI: Yes, but that takes an enormous amount to secure these things. And when this trial is going on, the amount of security New York is going to have inflicted on it will be enormous. When they did the African bombing case, I was the mayor. I had to close off the area all around the courthouse. I had to close off four or five other areas of the city.

I had to supply about another 4, 500 police officers that couldn't be engaged in reducing crime. So -- but it makes no sense to me. And the reality is that the record in military court is also very good. They've just tried very, very few in military court. Also, should they get acquitted, in a civilian court, what the hell you do with them?

BLITZER: You're a lawyer. What would happen?

GIULIANI: They go free.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Given all the evidence that they have, the videotapes of what he was saying on 9/11, the days that followed 9/11, his involvement with his father-in-law, Osama Bin Laden, it's unlikely he would be acquitted, but what would happen if he were acquitted?

GIULIANI: He'd be freed.

BLITZER: He'd freed and what?

GIULIANI: You know, actually, what would happen if he got acquitted? Honestly?

BLITZER: Yes.

GIULIANI: I think they'd arrest him and try him in a military court.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: They probably at a minimum, I'm just guessing right now, they would deport him to a country where he would probably be a lot worse off than in the United States.

GIULIANI: Or they deport him to a country in which he undertakes terrorist activities against the United States and some of the people who have left Guantanamo have undertaken terrorist activities against United States and even killed American soldiers.

BLITZER: Why do you think the current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the current police chief in New York, Ray Kelly, apparently, they were consulted by the administration before this decision was made, and they seem to be OK with it.

GIULIANI: I mean, they have the right to their opinion. My opinion is that there's no need for this. This is a needless situation. And logically, it makes no sense. This is an organization that declared war on the United States. Al Qaeda, specifically, declared war on us, and if they declared war on us, we can take them at their word that they're at war on us.

They've attempted to kill us numerous times. They've succeeded all too often. When we catch one of these people, I think it is far better to send out a signal to them, we're treating this as a war, not just another criminal act. This is not just another murder or set of murders.

BLITZER: Mayor Rudy Giuliani, thanks very much for joining us.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this story coming up in our next hour, including a fierce debate on this issue between two leading attorneys, the Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, the former justice department official, Victoria Toensing. They have very, very strong views, very different views. That debate coming up in our next hour.

The other big news today, jobs. Here in the United States, the latest numbers out today show a recent jump in hiring in the unemployment rate last month fell to 7.7 percent. That, of course, is for the period before the forced spending cuts, but it is the lowest jobless rate since 2008. CNN business correspondent, Christine Romans, puts it all together for us. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let's look inside the numbers. For the 36 months in a row, the private sector adding jobs, 246,000 jobs out of the private sector. When you look at government jobs, you lost 10,000 there. Many of that state and local government job loss because of states cutting their budgets and probably those -- many of those are school-related jobs, so you could feel that.

Take a look at where they're adding jobs, though, in the private sector. We've got construction jobs, 48,000. That is most likely related to the housing market recovery and those tend to be good paying jobs. Wholesale trade employment, 30,000. Look at professional and business services. Some of that is tax preparation time, but a lot of other kinds of office jobs being added.

14,000 manufacturing jobs and health care always a bright spot with 32,000 jobs created. I want to look quickly over here at this number that you're going to hear of people who are critical of the jobs advance. They're going to say, look, I don't feel this. I see record highs in stocks and I see jobless rate falling to 7.7 percent, but I don't feel it.

This is the number that is the I don't feel it number, 14.3 percent. That's the underemployment rate, Wolf. These are people who are unemployed. They're working part-time but would like to be working full time. They're not up to their potential in the labor market. That, wolf, is still -- that's something to continue to work on. Wolf.

BLITZER: Christine Romans, good point. Thank you.

The job news comes as President Obama has been reaching out aggressively to Republicans on these spending and other issues. He dined with Republican lawmakers. More talks up on Capitol Hill are scheduled this coming week.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. The job numbers, obviously, pretty good right now. So, will it necessarily help the president in his upcoming negotiations with the GOP?

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it helps him because, politically, he can say that things are going better, but as you heard today, Republicans are coming out and saying, not so fast, because they believe that the percentage of people participating in the workforce has dropped and that could mean, of course, that people have just given up looking for jobs.

And as these forced budget cuts take effect, there are some estimates that say that it could cost about 700,000 jobs. That could seriously contract the economy. So, as they have these budget talks, as there's talks of some kind of a big deal, grand bargain, there are still really big bumps along the road.

BLITZER: It's going to take a while if they get there. Now, this charm offensive by the president, we're getting new nuggets, new details on almost on a daily basis right now. What's behind this? BORGER: Well, as you know, Wolf, this is a president who seemed perfectly content with living the political equivalent of house arrest. Very happy to have dinner at home with his wife and kids, not out dining with Republicans, socializing with members of Congress, didn't want to do it. And now, suddenly, he's kind of party animal, as you pointed out earlier. In talking to lots of Democrats today, some of whom have spoken directly with the president, Wolf.

I would have to say the overall feeling is that he didn't have a lot of options left, that the sequester, these forced budget cuts didn't go well. They went into effect. He's facing questions about government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, and these people, which include former chiefs of staff, former Democratic members of Congress, have all said to the president, you know what, we know you don't love doing this but try it.

You'll like it more than you think you will and one of them told me that he was told that he had told his staff that he actually -- the president said, I enjoyed the dinner the other night with Republicans. So, you're going to be seeing him doing a lot more of this because in the end, Wolf, he has nothing to lose by doing it because he can say, I tried.

BLITZER: He certainly can. Next week, the president is going to go up to Capitol Hill. They won't come to the White House. He's going up to Capitol Hill --

BORGER: On their turf.

BLITZER: -- which is a nice gesture on his part. He's going to meet separately with the Democrats, then meet with the Republicans. What's his ultimate goal right now?

BORGER: I've been told that the president believes that this is a moment, particularly, this summer, when he believed he can try and get some kind of a larger budget deal, call it the grand bargain, if you will. He's got a lot of other things on his plate, Wolf, that he'd like to do. He doesn't want to poison the well any more than it's already been poisoned with Congress.

What he was staring at was polarization. So, he's going up to the Hill. He's trying to figure out a way to deal with these budget items because in a perfect world, I think he would like to have some kind of a big budget deal over the summer. He believes that's the big moment of opportunity. The question of whether all of this chatting is going to produce anything remains to be seen.

Just a couple of weeks ago, people in the White House were telling me it's a big myth that if you sit around the table and talk, you're going to get something done. But again, at least the president can say, I tried.

BLITZER: Certainly can. And as Senator Bob Corker said here in the SITUATION ROOM yesterday, they do have this little informal goal by the end of July, early August when the debt ceiling has to be raised.

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: That's what they're looking for. Hopefully, they'll get some sort of grand bargain, as they say.

BORGER: Don't plan your summer vacation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, maybe in August -- let's hope they have a deal. Thanks very much.

Up next, those spending cuts could soon force the closing of some air traffic control towers all across the United States, including one near Camp David.

Coming up also, John McCain calling Rand Paul and other tea party republicans wacko birds. Is the GOP coming apart a bit at the scene? What's going on? I'll speak about that and more with Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm really disappointed in John McCain, and I'm very saddened by it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. So, it's been about a week and the forced spending cuts are beginning, beginning to kick in. The impact, though, will soon be felt by many smaller airports and the communities they serve all across the country. CNNs Tory Dunnan has been looking into this part of the story for us. Tory, what are you finding out?

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this week, more than 170 airports across the country are getting letters. They warn the FAA may close their air traffic control towers next month, but the airports actually have until Wednesday to make an argument to keep them open.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DUNNAN (voice-over): At Hagerstown Regional Airport in Maryland, Camp David sits off in the distance. Air Force One has landed here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

DUNNAN: The airport is arguing, in part, that its location near the presidential retreat justifies keeping its control tower open.

PHIL RIDENOUR, HAGERSTOWN REGIONAL AIRPORT: When we have the president or V.I.P. that would happen to come in to the airport, they definitely would use the services of the air traffic control tower.

DUNNAN: The FAA has set the bar high in deciding which towers to keep open. Talking points obtained by CNN saying negative impact on the national interest is the only criterion the FAA will use. The FAA is unable to consider local community impact that does not effect the national interest.

(on-camera) The FAA put control towers at 238 small to medium-sized airports on the potential chopping block. Nearly every state in the country faces control tower shutdowns in one or more airports.

Describe to me what next month will look like.

JOEL BACON, AMERICAN ASSN. OF AIRPORT EXECUTIVES: It's unchartered territory. Over the past couple of decades, the FAA has closed only a handful of towers and literally overnight on April 7th, you're looking at more than 170 facilities closing down. The scope and breadth of that are, obviously, unprecedented.

DUNNAN (voice-over): Most airports say closing towers will hurt local community interests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It punctures the lungs. It knocks the air out of your economic engine.

DUNNAN: In Concorde, North Carolina, officials say closing the tower could hurt NASCAR operations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over 60 percent of our business is NASCAR and they fly all over the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DUNNAN (on-camera): The individual airports can submit their reasons to the FAA by e-mail, fax, or even a phone call. The FAA will announce the finalized list of closures on March 20th but, Wolf, until then, it is really just wait and see.

BLITZER: We will then wait and see. Tori, thank you.

An alarming new study about something that's never happened on Earth before. How it could impact the entire planet? We have details.

Plus, John McCain calls some fellow Republicans on the Hill wacko birds. Now, Newt Gingrich is firing right back. You're going to want to hear what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I don't know what's happened to John McCain, but I find this very sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A powerful storm that slammed the Midwest and the mid- Atlantic just a few days ago now wreaking havoc in parts of Massachusetts. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, the storm was forecast to dump as much as two feet of snow on the region. It's now packing heavy winds and coastal flooding. And one of our affiliates says it may rival last month's infamous blizzard. One home along the eastern coast collapsed into the ocean. Several others in the area are reportedly total losses. No one was living inside those homes at the time.

And cardinals in Rome are one step closer to determining the next pope, voting today to begin the conclave for secret election on Tuesday. The whole process will take place inside the Sistine Chapel which is closed to tourists and the chimney that is used to send smoke signals announcing whether or not a pope has been elected could be raised above the chapel quite soon.

A new study that tightening concerns about global warming concluding that in the span of just one century, the Earth's climate has shifted from one of the coldest in decades to one of the hottest due to a heat spike that has never happened before. The joint study done by Oregon State and Harvard University warn if manmade emissions continue as predicted, the Earth will be warmer than it's ever been by the year 2100.

And leaders from around the world gathered in Caracas today for the funeral of Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Among those attending, powerful U.S. adversaries, including Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who at one point, kissed the coffin. The United States who doesn't have an ambassador in the Venezuela was represented by (INAUDIBLE) affair and a delegation. Chavez's body will be embalmed and laid to rest at a military museum.

OK. And if you are looking for a new way to get your morning caffeine fix, next month, Wrigley will begin selling a new caffeinated gum with the equivalent of about half a cup of coffee. The gum which is sugar- free and comes in fruit or mint flavors will sell for $2.99. Now, that's a little pricier than most gums, but it is cheaper than an energy drink or Starbucks coffee. So, would you try that? What do you think?

BLITZER: I would try it.

SYLVESTER: One stick is equivalent to half a cup of coffee.

BLITZER: I used to like to chew gum. I don't --

(LAUGHTER)

SYLVESTER: Well, I could see people actually, you get one, then the other --

BLITZER: I like the actual coffee.

SYLVESTER: I know. There's something about having a nice --

BLITZER: Nice, hot cup of coffee.

SYLVESTER: -- warm beverage, right? That sounds pretty good, right?

BLITZER: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: John McCain calls a fellow Republican senator a wacko bird. Up next, is this the latest war of words a sign of something more serious going on inside the GOP?

Plus, Newt Gingrich, he'll weigh in on the rift and the heated debate over the possible use of drones here in the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: If our constitution means anything, it means that your government can't capriciously kill you without the rule of law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Rand Paul's dramatic old school filibuster the other day on those drones certainly has sent sparks flying within the Republican Party. Some of the GOP's old guard accusing the tea party favorite of grand standing, but is he setting the stage for a presidential run?

Let's bring in our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash who has been - you have been spending a lot time with Rand Paul. What's the answer?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The answer is yes. I mean, there is no question about it. And I've talked to a source familiar with his plans and political movements. And they told me that he already has plans in the not so distance future to visit the critical presidential primary state of South Carolina and then, likely, New Hampshire and Iowa. They are signs that Rand Paul is already heavily engaged in laying the ground work for the White House run. With aspiration of those close to him say he got a lot of help from this week's surprisingly successful and high-profile filibuster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I will speak until I can no longer speak.

BASH (voice-over): Rand Paul's nearly 13-hour talk fest ignited a war of words with one of his most prominent GOP colleagues.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously; he needs to do something other than stunts that fire up the impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms.

BASH: There, McCain was quoting from the "Wall Street Journal." What he told "the Huffington Post" was all McCain. It's always the wacko birds on the right and left that get the media megaphone.

Paul responded on conservative radio by taking the high road calling McCain a war hero. PAUL: You know, I treat senator McCain with respect. I don't think I always get the same in return.

BASH: The back and forth illustrates several growing schisms inside the GOP. But, it was Paul's push for answers on drones that took off on twitter. More than 580,000 tweets with the hash tag stand with Rand.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I feel quite confidence with the senator from Kentucky is not aware of the twitter verse that has been exploding.

BASH: And anyone watching c-span late into the night saw Republicans with ambitions for higher office raised to help Paul's filibuster.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I'm happy that we're still here working hard on this issue.

CRUZ: Someone finally using the system to aid, not you serve our rights.

BASH: As for Paul, he has never tried to hide his ambition for the White House, even saying this to Hillary Clinton earlier this year.

PAUL: Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post.

BASH: CNN was given details about Paul's plans in the works for a possible 2016 run. A source familiar with Paul's activities tells CNN he is building an informal finance committee, amassing an e-mail list of two million and counting, keeping in touch with grassroots activist that were helped his father, Ron Paul's presidential campaign. Conservative activists call him a formidable force for 2016 presidential race.

KEITH APPELL, CONSERVATIVE STRATEGIST: He is establishing a persona that we haven't seen very much in the Republican Party, a new generation of leaders who is willing to take a principled stand, stand up to the Obama administration and actually prevail and not take any flack for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Rand Paul's father, Ron Paul, ran for president twice. He unmasked an ardent group of followers who gravitated towards his libertarian and anti-intervention's message. A source familiar with Rand Paul's plans tells me that he differs from his father in a key way.

And Wolf, that is that Rand Paul is much more conscious and cares more about his political message and what he's saying and the political structure that he's working in. He says that if he does run for the White House, it will be to win, not just to make a scene.

BLITZER: He has really elevated his statute as a result of the old- school filibuster and he's getting praise from not only fellow tea party activists but from the left as well, some calling him a hero.

BASH: They are. I was talking to a senior Democratic leadership aide who said they were watching in their offices and saying way to go. He's standing up for civil liberties. You don't hear democratic aides saying way to go about Republicans making political moves very often.

BLITZER: He will be our guest here, Monday, in the SITUATION ROOM.

Dana, thanks very much.

And joining us now, the former house speaker, the former Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, welcome back to the SITUATION ROOM.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is always good to be back here.

BLITZER: This is a real battle that is brewing on John McCain and his friend, the other side, Senator Rand Paul and some others, on the other side. One congressman from Michigan, Justin Amash, tweeted Senator McCain called senator Paul, senator Ted Cruz and be wacko birds, bravo, senator. You got us. Did you come up with that at hash tag dinner with Barack.

So who are you with, the McCains or the Rand Pauls?

GINGRICH: Well, I'm really disappointed in John McCain. And I'm very saddened by it. McCain in his younger years was a great maverick. He took on his party all the time. The idea that he is now lecturing the next generation because they have the guts to stand up, which I would have thought John McCain would have applauded the news and say, I may not agree with you in detail, but I'm proud that you're standing up with your beliefs. I don't know what's happening to John McCain, but I find it very sad.

BLITZER: But, on the substance of the issue whether or not the Obama administration need to spell out the use of drones against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, who is right, McCain?

GINGRICH: Rand Paul. I mean, if our constitution means anything, it means that your government can't capriciously kill you without the rule of law. And it was very clear from the attorney generals earlier in letters that they were reserving the right -- remember, we're not talking about combatant engaged in fighting. The minute you do that --

BLITZER: But it's OK to kill American citizens in Yemen --

GINGRICH: Who are combatants.

BLITZER: Like Anwar Al Awlaki? You don't have a problem with that.

GINGRICH: Who has actively advocating the killing of American. Look, if you say, there's an American walking on the street, the nuclear weapon, which he intends to set off or she intends to set off in the next 12 minutes, you don't have to go to court. The president or the chief can say kill them. That is direct act of combat.

But, you say, we have a guy over here who is sort of may be plotting and may sort of think about he could eventually be serious because they have stretched this a long way. And they will be able to kill people who are not directly engaged. I am very -- I'm a real conservative in the sense that I don't want the government to have the ability to take away your life. And frankly senator McCain seems to think it was outrageous to suggest this. Does he know nothing of history?

BLITZER: If Anwar Al Awlaki was spotted in New Mexico, I think that's where he was born, what if you can find, would you -- you heard he was located at a certain location and that's obviously a very hypothetical scenario --

GINGRICH: Right. If he was actively planning the killing of Americans and you knew that. Now, on Al Awlaki's case, he was on the Internet all the time, saying go kill Americans.

BLITZER: From Yemen.

GINGRICH: From Yemen.

But he also set himself up. You know, let me give you a specific example. The major who has killed - allahu akbar (ph) and killed people at Ft. Hood, had he been killed in the act of that exchange of fire, would have been perfectly legitimate self defense for the United States. Had somebody known as he walked in he was going to do it, they could have stopped it even with the use of force because somebody who walks in with an armed weapon who you have reason to believe that he's going to kill someone, you are allowed to intervening him. But, let's say he had gone to meeting and he had a conversation, and you know, some day we should really do something. Well, you arrest him for that and try him. You don't just kill him.

BLITZER: What do you make of the split that appears to be emerging among Republicans on this very sensitive issue?

GINGRICH: I think there's a deeper issue which is a split about tone. There are some Republicans who are so used to go in the nice restaurants in Georgetown and they are so used to hanging out their friend in the establishment that the tone bothers them. I saw nothing that Rand Paul did that was inappropriate. In fact, it was exactly why the U.S. Senate extends two individual senators, the right to talk forever. I'm from the house. We used to get one minute.

BLITZER: Right.

GINGRICH: But the Senate has a very different tradition of individuals standing up. So I thought Rand Paul was behaving in the best tradition of the U.S. Senate. And I thought for a guy like McCain, who had always been a maverick, who had reveled in opposing his party's establishment, to now be the sort of senior lecturer on behalf of how you should behave. I just thought it was a very sad moment. BLITZER: What do you think of the president's new charm offensive, inviting a dozen Republican senators to dinner at the Jefferson Hotel, inviting Paul Ryan the next day for lunch at the White House? He's going to meet with the Republican caucus on the hill next week.

You lived through a presidential charm offensive. And Bill Clinton, as president, you were speaker. He was always trying to charm you and he often succeeded, right?

GINGRICH: Look, I think presidents have enormous assets if they want to use them. I will be more interested if I see Obama actually do something that was rational and moderate. You know, very simple test. Reopen the White House tours for children. The president will use up more secret service time guarding him while he golfs than it would take to keep the White House tours open all year.

This is nonsense. This is punishing the American people. The president I think has to decide he has actually serious on entitlement reform and he is willing to take on the left wing of his party. We have no evidence of that. The charm offensive to me said that their polling showed the same thing that Gallup and others showed, which is he has been hurt by this phony and fundamentally dishonest campaign about what would happen with the sequester.

BLITZER: Is it going to lead to anything over the next few months between now, let's say the end of July when the debt ceiling has to be raised once again?

GINGRICH: It's up to Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Well, he says he wants a balanced approach.

GINGRICH: Not going to get a balanced approach.

BLITZER: -- He is willing to deal with entitlement reforms, Medicare, Social Security. But he also wants to deal with tax reforms. Not necessarily raising tax rates but eliminating loopholes, deductions.

GINGRICH: If you eliminate loopholes without cutting rates, you then in effect have a tax increase.

BLITZER: That's what he wants. He wants the tax revenues.

GINGRICH: What Republicans ought to say, we are for a balanced approach. Part a, was the tax increase you already passed.

BLITZER: In order to avoid the fiscal cliff?

GINGRICH: Yes. So now, let's take that as the first half of the deal. Now, we want the spending half of the deal.

BLITZER: It looks like there's not going to be a deal if those are the two positions.

GINGRICH: I don't know. And look, I think in some way this city is now so mindlessly avoiding creativity that it is sort of mildly astonishing. I think we have no major problem we couldn't solve if we were willing to be flexible and apply commonsense.

BLITZER: One final question because it has come up and it has generated a lot of buzz. You used to be a FOX News analyst. Roger Ailes is the head of FOX News. In this new book that was (INAUDIBLE) has written about him, he quotes some nasty things about you, Roger Ailes talking about you. You've seen those quotes, I'm sure. What do you think about that? You worked for him for a long time.

GINGRICH: I think the way, at the time, and by the way, "Forbes" magazine has come out and said my criticism was right. Because I said at the time that in fact that I thought they were very unfair in how they covered me during the campaign which is great irony to me.

BLITZER: Why do you think that they, from perspective, they were unfair to you? You were part of their team for a while?

GINGRICH: I have no idea. But I seemed to make them unhappy. So, look. Roger is a big boy. He said lots of things to lots of people in his career. I've been around a long time. I've had lots of people say different things about me.

BLITZER: You haven't spoken to him since those quotes came out?

GINGRICH: I'm going to talk to him probably soon. We are fine. It is not - we don't have a personally fight.

BLITZER: That's right. You are a big boy. He is a big boy. We move on.

GINGRICH: That's right.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker. Thanks for coming on.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, it's never too early to start thinking about 2016 if you're a political news junkie like I am. You are going to find out our some of the top possible presidential contenders in a new fantasy matchup poll. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have a lot to digest in our strategy session.

Joining us, two CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, the Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos.

Alex, are you surprised about this rift that seems to be developing within the GOP? You got the young guard, the yellow guard. You got John McCain and Rand Paul really going at it?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not surprised. I'm encouraged. You know, we have been stuck in the past, I think Wolf, and we have lost a lot of elections. We are like that carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean loaded with people and we are not going anywhere. But now, you are seeing a new generation of Republicans emerge leading the party, I think and you know better direction that's healthy for the party. A lot of Republicans are concerned that Barack Obama has expanded the use of drones so much from what President Bush did. And that, in effect, is an excuse for hollowing out or military. And of course a lot of people are happy to see it because they think it shrinks the deficit and reduces the defense department. So, there's a lot of conflict there. But overall, I think it's a sign of vitality in our party.

BLITZER: A sign of health, he says. You know, it's interesting that Rand Paul, who is now, clear, you sat down as report, he's going to run for the Republican nomination in 2016. He is getting praised not only from the tea party, but yesterday Van Jones was here saying that he's a hero. He is a hero to a lot of liberals.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Jimmy Carter, almost a year ago questions were raised about the drone program and whether or not we had the right procedures in place. The ACLU has raised questions, "the Nation" Magazine. So, Rand Paul is not the first American to get out there and speak up. But, he is the first American, perhaps, to talk about it for 13 straight hours.

CASTELLANOS: It's surprising though, that there were so few Democrats who, of course, have been on the front lines with civil rights in so many respects and should be praised for that. They didn't show up on this one and you wonder --.

BLITZER: Ron Wyden. And he was here yesterday.

CASTELLANOS: And very few other though.

BLITZER: The senator from Oregon. He helped Rand Paul in this.

BRAZILE: But, just to be clear, Democrats, Liberals, Progressive, they have also spoken out. Again, they just didn't think it was a 13 straight hours.

BLITZER: They don't like drone strikes on U.S. soils killing American citizens either.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The president and attorney general, now, clarifying that saying that's not going to happen.

Let's talk about these polls because we are political news junkies. We love polls and we like hypothetical races. I don't know if it's too early to talk about this.

Quinnipiac University poll fantasy matched up, Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, look at this. Hillary Clinton, 45 percent. Chris Christie, 37 percent.

Look at the next one. Hillary Clinton against Marco Rubio, she beats him a little bit more, 50 to 34 percent. How does Joe Biden do against Chris Christie? Not so great. Forty three Chris Christie, Joe Biden, 40 percent. Against Marco Rubio, he does better, 45 percent Biden, Marco Rubio, 38 percent.

Now, Donna, these are all very, very early. I don't know if they mean anything going down the road. But, it gives us a flavor of what is going on.

BRAZILE: Look. She is one of the most popular politicians in this country today. And you know, today is international women's day so I have to put in a plug for that. Hillary Clinton by far, I think, the most serious tested, experienced candidate who could toss at a ring. Of course Joe Biden would disagree with me and I believe he's another tested politician. But, I'm not surprised at the numbers right now.

CASTELLANOS: The problem is those numbers for Republicans and Democrats, of course, what it took us so long, I have to start talking about 2016, but for Chris Christie, what is his strength is also his weakness. He is the bulldog on your front lawn. You know, you want him out there guarding your house but you're not sure you want him inside the house and that's the test of a president, to see someone that you can see close to that red button.

For Hillary and for Biden, their numbers should be better than that. We have moved forward a generation. The Democratic Party certainly has, Barack Obama. He's not an industrial-aged president. He is a communications-aged president. Now, you are seeing new Republicans move in that direction. But Hillary and Biden, they are candidates of the past and it's doubtful the Democratic Party or the country will move back to them. I think they are in trouble.

BRAZILE: But, most Americans know Hillary and Joe Biden. They don't know Chris Christie that much.

CASTELLANOS: Hillary's numbers should be better.

BRAZILE: I think her numbers are really strong but if she decides to run, I guarantee you they will go up.

BLITZER: Guys, we've got to go right there on that point.

Thanks so much to both of you for coming in. Have an excellent, excellent weekend.

BRAZILE: We'll be together this weekend, Sunday morning.

BLITZER: Thanks, guys. STATE OF THE UNION with Candy Crowley.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Both of you, right?

BRAZILE: Yes.

BLITZER: We will be watching. Coming up, a bizarre new video coming from inside North Korea. You are going to find out what has these troops seemingly hysterical. And it's not Dennis Rodman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Extraordinary and very strange images coming out of North Korea today. These pictures are also ominous. They show fanaticism for the country's erratic young leader and follow the latest nuclear threats against the United States.

CNN's reporter has a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

RAM RAMGOPAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For North Korean television viewers, there was little doubt of these soldiers' excitement for their mission and enthusiasm for their leader Kim Jong- Un. The news reader says, we admire the great leader who shows so much love to us and the officers and soldiers stationed at our border. It's the sort of propaganda video that North Korean viewers are familiar with, but for the rest of the world, it's a surreal scene.

Here's how it unfolded on North Korean television as monitored in Beijing. The North Korean leader arrives at a yellow sea island garrison within clear site of South Korea.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

RAMGOPAL: The news reader says the great leader is unshaken by the strength of the enemy and is not at all nervous to appear so close to the border. Soldiers and their families, the anchor says, are overjoyed to see Kim. They renew their vows to fight against their sworn enemy, the United States, even if it comes to hand-to-hand combat.

As it shows, Kim Jong-Un inspecting the island's defenses, the report says the timing of this inspection is crucial, suggesting an imminent attack. That's a message North Koreans are frequently bombarded with, yet, however improbable and outside an attack, North Korea is certainly facing a sea change relations with its sponsored state, China after Beijing went along with tough new U.N. sanctions. Kim took him to the yellow sea islands of Jan, Jay and Mu (ph), the islands of close to the South Korean island of Yeonpyong, which North Korea's shelled three years ago killing two civilians and two South Korean marines. No explanation was given for the attack which at the time some feared was the start of an invasion.

Back to Kim Jong-Un's tour, the soldiers, some with their wives clutching babies, wade out in the icy waters to say good-bye. The feelings of admiration are apparently mutual, even though we don't know how much of this was staged.

Ram Ramgopal, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It's a really, really tense situation on the Korean peninsula right now, north and South Korea. And let's not forget, nearly 30,000 American troops along the demilitarized zone separating these two countries.

Coming up, by the way, does North Korea - does the leader have a new way to carry out threats against the United States?

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been reporting on this. She's got a closer look at the new arsenal.

Also ahead in our next hour, unemployment hits its lowest rate since Barack Obama took office. But will it help him in the days and weeks ahead?

And an undercover TSA inspector reportedly hides a fake bomb down his pants at a major United States airport. We are going to tell you what happened next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, 9/11 justice, a fiery debate about the decision to try Osama bin Laden's son-in-law in New York City.