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THE SITUATION ROOM

Secret Service Gets Female Boss; Interview With Bill Richardson; Senator Rand Paul Plans to Filibuster Gun Control Bill; Interview with Senator Chris Murphy

Aired March 26, 2013 - 17:00   ET

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


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Jake. Happening now, after scandals involving male agents behaving badly abroad, President Obama makes history by naming the first female director of the secret service.

And North Korea raises the stakes, alerting strategic rocket forces which it says can strike as far as the U.S. mainland.

And emotions run high as the Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage. We'll talk to two people who were inside for that very dramatic and historic hearing.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Kate Bolduan. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

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BOLDUAN: We begin this evening, though, with a historic moment here in Washington. President Obama has just named the first woman to head the U.S. secret service. This pick follows last year's scandal, which I'm sure you remember, which saw male agents forced out after a prostitution scandal abroad.

Our Tom Foreman is here in the SITUATION ROOM with more details on this really historic move and historic appointment by the president.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's a huge, huge event and the White House is making it clear with this appointment that this first female secret service director is going to shape things up, change the overwhelmingly male-dominated culture there which some believe has led to these troubles lately.

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FOREMAN (voice-over): Julia Pearson is 53 years old and she has been with the secret service for 30 years working her way steadily up the ladder to become chief of staff building what many describe as an exemplary record along the way. What helped open the door for her appointment, however, was a scandal.

One year ago, the secret service came under fire amid allegations of agents on assignment in Colombia hiring prostitutes. A half dozen were forced out, others law security clearance, and the whole affair tarnished the record of outgoing director, Mark Sullivan, who left the secret service last month.

So, where did Pierson come from? According to an interview she gave to Smithsonian.com six years ago, Pierson's childhood interest in police work gained traction during a high school job at Disneyworld where she says, quote, "I wore one of those character outfits. To this day, I think the experience of dealing with large crowds at the park had a good influence on my ability to do that sort of thing with the secret service."

During college, she worked for the Orlando Police Department, and she joined the secret service in 1983, beginning with investigations into credit card fraud. Since then, she's been on security details for several presidents, and she's experienced virtually every aspect of secret service operations including fraud and counterfeiting investigations.

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FOREMAN (on-camera): Now, it is important to know that there are plenty connected to the secret service who don't think there is a problem with the culture of the secret service, and yet, even they almost to a soul say this is a very qualified person to take this job. And it really is a huge change. The secret service has been around since 1865, first woman in charge.

BOLDUAN: Cultural problems are not. It's still a huge, huge job. Julie Pierson, good luck to you. Great news, I think, as a woman. Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

And now, to an extraordinarily brazen new threat from North Korea. This is quite a story. Alerting its strategic rocket forces which it says are assigned to strike American bases in Guam, Hawaii, and even the U.S. mainland. Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, for more on this.

Chris, just yesterday, you and I were talking about this new defense pact between the U.S. and South Korea in order to defer further provocation and provocative threats from North Korea. What are you learning today?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And Kate, here comes this latest escalation and it's one that Pentagon officials are telling us they are taking very seriously. Their worry that this could lead to the kind of provocations that could, quote, "take us to a place that neither side wants to go."

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LAWRENCE (voice-over): North Korea declared itself combat ready. Pyongyang went beyond threats Tuesday and put its rocket and long- range artillery forces at their highest combat alert.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The DPRK will achieve nothing by these threats of provocations.

LAWRENCE: North Korea's military alert comes at a sensitive time, the three-year anniversary of the Cheonan sinking. South Korea says the North torpedoed its ship and killed 46 sailors. North Korea directly threatened U.S. military bases in Hawaii, the mainland, and Guam. It doesn't have the capability to hit the U.S., but tens of thousands of American troops are in range deployed to bases in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Guam.

PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPT. ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: The U.S. is fully capable of defending itself and our allies against the DPRK attack.

LAWRENCE: But those artillery units do pose a direct threat to South Korea's capital.

SCOTT SNYDER, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It would be enormous (ph) damage through its long-range artillery on Seoul, itself, that would result in early and immediate loss of, you know, tens of thousands of lives if not war.

LAWRENCE: Analyst, Scott Snyder, is just back from South Korea. He says officials are trying to determine if these threats are indications of real insecurity in the regime or Kim Jong-Un's way of asserting his authority.

SNYDER: We don't really know the internal situation in terms of what he might have to do or who he might have to owe in terms of the ability to sustain power.

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LAWRENCE: In fact, U.S. officials tell us that it is extremely difficult to get human intelligence on the inner workings of the regime. They're not as worried about the big grand scale attack, but they are worried about smaller provocations like shelling some of those islands there near South Korea that could lead to a tit for tat response and really see things escalate on the peninsula -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: This is just the latest in a string of threats as you well know and you've talked about. Chris Lawrence, thanks so much at the Pentagon for us this evening.

Let's dig deeper on this now with the veteran diplomatic troubleshooter, former New Mexico governor and U.N. ambassador, Bill Richardson. I don't need to remind our viewers, governor, but you have been to North Korea a number of times and most recently just in January. Thanks so much for coming in.

I mean, this is a very big deal to say the least. I mean, the Pentagon says that they are taking this very seriously. How seriously do you take this latest threat from North Korea?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Well, I take it very seriously mainly, Kate, because of the uncertainty and the leadership in North Korea. Nobody knows who's calling the shots. Nobody knows whether the hard liners have won over, I think, the mind of Kim Jong- Un. I think that is the case. Those that want further provacations, one escalation. The danger, though, is not an attack on the United States, although, I think it makes sense for the Pentagon and the defense secretary ordering the interceptors for missiles away from Russia and for North Korea. I think that makes sense. But mainly here, what we don't want to see is another shelling, another attack, another attack, another tit for tat between North and South Korea.

We have close to 30,000 troops there. The place is a tinderbox. But what we're really most uncertain about is who's calling these shots. They've always blustered a lot, the North Koreans. They always talk about the intensity of the ferocity of their forces and anti-U.S., but I think our main enemy here is the uncertainty of what's happening there.

BOLDUAN: I mean, it's impossible as Chris Lawrence was pointing out, the human intelligence factor is so lacking when it comes to North Korea, that it's impossible to get into the mind of North Korean leaders, but when you tried to -- you've been there. You've seen how North Korea works. You've been there more than most. Talk to me about what you think could be the motivation here.

How much do you think domestic politics is at play to try to prop up this new leader, Kim Jong-un, or does it have more to do with new leadership in South Korea?

RICHARDSON: I think it's a combination. The new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, does want to buttress his base. I think he's sensitive to the fact that he's so young. He hasn't been in the military. He wants to get the support of the military, of the domestic communist cadre. Apparently, his family, he's got a very powerful uncle that is antagonistic to the United States to South Korea.

I don't think the motivation of South Korea, in fact, the new South Korean president she sent mixed signals, but I think she would be ready for a dialogue. So, what is happening, I think, the military leadership, the hard-liners have overtaken the more moderates in the North Korean foreign ministry, people that I deal with, and then, it could be that the new young leader is not playing. He's absent.

He's trying to buttress his domestic base. You know, a lot of observers that speculate don't really know the reality. I've been there a lot of times and things change, but one thing you want to be sure about North Korea, it's unpredictable. You don't know for certainty what's happening. But I think the best thing to do is be prepared.

But I think, eventually, Kate, we're going to have to have a dialogue and a discussion with the North Koreans either the United States or the South Koreans or the six party countries because you don't want a country with nuclear weapons with all of these missiles with this uncertain leadership with American troops there, and we have so many interests in Asia. You know, China should step up and help us a little bit.

BOLDUAN: With all of this in mind -- RICHARDSON: It seems they're only willing --

BOLDUAN: With all of this in mind, governor, I mean, when you take how many interests are in that region, how many U.S. interests are in that region, how little we know about this country, what more can the U.S. do? We talk about this every time another threat pops up. We already have sanctions upon sanctions against this country. What more can the U.S. do?

RICHARDSON: Well, one big dimension here is China. Now, the good news is that China did help us draft some very new, tough sanctions at the U.N., which I think made sense. But then, China has now stepped back a little bit and said, well, these military maneuvers between the U.S. and South Korea are not good. So, they're sending mixed messages. I think what also needs to happen is I've always known the North Koreans.

They want to deal with the U.S. They think they're a similar, huge power. And while I think our policy makes sense, the sanctions, the response to their underground testing and their missiles, I think, eventually, there's going to have to be some diplomacy, some creative way in which the six-party countries, China, South Korea, Japan, the U.S., Russia, engage this new regime. I don't see any other way.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Well, Governor Richardson, it seems in the absence of that, you are at least trying. Let's put it that way. Governor, it's great to see you. Thanks so much. It's always great to have your thoughts. Talk to you soon.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So, what do North Koreans do when they're not marching or aiming missiles or threatening to aim missiles? Here are some surprising images of daily life captured rare images captured by a German photographer by the name Olak skulka (ph). He was tightly guarded and wasn't allowed to approach his subjects but just take a look.

First here is an image inside Pyongyang's grand people study hall where some North Koreans have access to computer terminals and, also, carefully chosen recordings. Here, a soldier listens to an opera performance. And there are a few western style restaurants there in North Korea, but the pizza seems to be too pricey for most locals.

Customers tend to be tourists, business people or embassy staff, and a few North Koreans can afford vacations. Here, you're seeing people sunbathe, swim and sail. You can see the rest of all these images, very rare images to get a glimpse inside North Korea at CNN.com.

Still ahead, same-sex marriage. We'll take you inside the Supreme Court for these historic hearings to hear from two people what it was like during today's proceedings.

Also, John McCain is politely asked to stop using the term, quote, "illegal immigrants." His response was, anything but agreeable. You'll hear coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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(CHANTING) People united will never be divided.

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BOLDUAN: Outside the Supreme Court today, passions as you see at a fever pitch and demonstrators argue for and against same-sex marriage inside the courtroom drama as the justices today heard the first of two landmark cases which could fundamentally change how American law views marriage. Today, they took up California's Proposition 8 known as Prop 8 which says marriage in that state is between a man and a woman.

Joining me now to talk more about this, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, as well as CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. You were both inside the courtroom. I was very jealous. This is the day you want to be inside the courtroom. There's so much to talk about in this hour plus argument, but we had the rare opportunity for them to release some of the audio clips same day, and we want to run through some of the best moments.

And one of the most colorful exchanges which will surprise no one who watches the court came from Justice Antonin Scalia as well as talking to Ted Olson, the former Bush solicitor general, though, arguing against Proposition 8, arguing in favor of same-sex marriage. Take listen to this, and then, we'll talk about it.

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VOICE OF ANTONIN SCALIA, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: When did the law become this?

VOICE OF THEODORE OLSON, ATTORNEY FOR PROP 8 OPPONENTS: If I may answer this in the form of a rhetorical question? When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages? When did it become unconstitutional to assign children to --

SCALIA: Easy question, I think, for that one. At the time that the equal protection clause was adopted. That's absolutely true. But don't give me a question to my question. When do you think it became unconstitutional? Has it always been unconstitutional?

OLSON: When the California Supreme Court faced the decision, which it had never faced before, is that excluding gay and lesbian citizens who are a class based upon their status as homosexuals. Is it --

SCALIA: That's not when it became unconstitutional, that's when they acted in an unconstitutional manner.

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BOLDUAN: Unlike that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Wow. Yes.

BOLDUAN: A little bit, for lack of a better term, a bit of a smackdown. First, Gloria, to you. You know Ted Olson's mind better than most. You spent a lot of time speaking with him. I mean, there was --

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BORGER: Brilliant legal minds.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And old friends.

BORGER: And old friends --

BOLDUAN: They know each other well.

BORGER: -- who in many cases --

BOLDUAN: -- Olson's response to Scalia --

BORGER: So, in many cases, they're on the same side of the argument. In this particular case, they're not. I think Olson's response was to try, as good lawyers do, bring it back to his case which is that ruling against same-sex marriage in the state of California was unconstitutional. So, what he tried to do was answer his question with a question and then bring it back to his main point.

TOOBIN: He was trying to make a very clear point, which his view as an originalist, meaning, the constitution's meaning does not change. It didn't change from 1791, and the meaning of the 14th Amendment which was passed in 1868 hasn't changed since then. And he knew, as Olson knew, that neither of those times were they -- the authors of those parts of the constitution, thinking about same-sex marriage at all.

So, he was saying, well, when did it become unconstitutional in your view? And Olson wasn't going to give him a day. Olson was simply going to say what matters is that it's unconstitutional now.

BORGER: And I can tell you in his preparation, Olson knew that he was going to get this kind of question from Scalia because it's no secret how Scalia views the constitution.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about one more sound bite, and then, obviously, I want to get your broader take on what you thought of today. On the side arguing for Proposition 8, basically, the ban on same-sex marriage, the issue of procreation and children really came up a lot. That surprised me.

Listen here. This is justices questioning Charles Cooper, the attorney on the other side of the issue. Listen.

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VOICE OF ELENA KAGAN, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: The post state (ph) said because we think that the focus of marriage really should be on procreation, we're not going to give marriage licenses any more to any couple who are both people are over the age of 55, would that be constitutional?

VOICE OF CHARLES COOPER, ATTORNEY FOR PROP 8 SUPPORTERS: No, your honor, it would not be constitutional.

SCALIA: I suppose we could have a questionnaire at the marriage desk when people come in to get their marriage, you know, are you fertile or are you not fertile?

KAGAN: I can just assure you if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.

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BOLDUAN: I mean, we heard a lot of laughter in the courtroom.

TOOBIN: But a very important point.

BOLDUAN: And what is the important point that they're getting at?

TOOBIN: The defenders of Proposition 8 say the reason we have to keep same-sex marriage out of California is because marriage is about procreation. And Kagan was saying, well, if marriage is only about procreation, then people who are not going to have children shouldn't be allowed to get married, right? Now, obviously, that's not the case. She was trying to make that position look ridiculous.

BORGER: And they make the case that what Olson is trying to do and the defenders of same-sex marriage are trying to do is redefine marriage in the way we have not known marriage over these many years, right? So, they're saying, don't redefine marriage. We know what marriage is, and marriage is between a man and a woman.

TOOBIN: Well, and Kagan was saying, is marriage is more than just about procreation. We allow people to get married who are not procreating.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, what was your final take on what -- how do you think are going to go on this?

TOOBIN: Totally baffled. I tell you, I usually have a pretty good idea that this -- there are so many -- there are procedural issues, there are substantive issues, all of which --

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TOOBIN: Very unsettled.

BORGER: I heard justices that seemed a little conflicted and you're much more --

(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: And Justice Kennedy raised the possibility of the bill, just dismiss the case. They shouldn't take it in the first place. Frankly, it all raises the stakes for tomorrow when they are going to hear the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, which I think we'll know a lot more after that argument and see how all the pieces fit together.

BOLDUAN: Let's reconvene tomorrow.

BORGER: OK.

BOLDUAN: Jeff, Gloria, thanks so much. And I do want to remind you, it could be, if you need to know, the biggest case of their lives. Two former rivals teaming up. We're talking about two of these men to take the same-sex marriage fight to the Supreme Court.

Our very own Gloria Borger gets exclusive access in "The Marriage Warriors -- Showdown At The Supreme Court." That will a special documentary Saturday at 7:30 eastern right here on CNN. Don't want to miss that. She's been working very hard on that. I know that.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: When we come back, Amanda Knox set to be tried again in the killing of her former roommate. What she's now saying about an Italian court's stunning decision?

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BOLDUAN: American, Amanda Knox, vows to fight on after an Italian Supreme Court judge rules she should stand trial again in the 2000 death of her former roommate. Our Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and many of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. This is a huge story, Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. I think a lot of people thought this was all settled, but Knox, who returned to the United States in 2011 and has been living in Seattle, was not in court for today's ruling. She spent four years in an Italian prison before her murder conviction was overturned due to a lack of evidence.

The judge says he'll publish the reasoning behind his decision for a retrial within 90 days. A retrial isn't expected until next year, and it's not even clear yet if Knox will be extradited back to Italy.

And it was another big day on Wall Street. The S&P closing less than two points away from its all-time high and the Dow ending with a record closing high of more than 14,550 points. Meantime, a new report is revealing the biggest year over year jump in home prices since the housing bubble burst in June of 2006. A separate government report did show new home sales down in the month of February, but one economist says weather could be a factor for that.

And soccer's global governing body is upholding the United States 1-0 win in this snowy game against Costa Rica. Costa Rica complained about storm conditions during Friday's competition in Colorado, but it's uphill (ph) -- dismissed. The critical win for the U.S. was its first of the 2014 World Cup qualifying competition.

And just those pictures alone were interesting watching. Yes. Poor Costa Rica not used to those snowy conditions.

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BOLDUAN: Maybe they should try training in another climate next time. I don't know.

SYLVESTER: Yes. Look at that. It's hard to believe that is a soccer game, folks.

BOLDUAN: Brr, brr, brr.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Lisa, thanks so much.

Still ahead, they are just freshmen, but three Republican senators are ready to test their strength in a move to head off gun control legislation.

Also, Newt Gingrich says Republicans are in denial warning that beating up on Hillary Clinton will get them nowhere. Our "Strategy Session" coming up.

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BOLDUAN: You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, three freshmen Republican senators threaten to stand in the way of a fierce push for tougher gun control measures.

And a majority of those in New Jersey may love Chris Christie as governor but do they think he'd make a good president? We have the surprising results of a new poll coming up.

And John McCain is politely asked to stop using the "I" word at a town hall meeting. With more on that, Wolf Blitzer is off today, I'm Kate Bolduan. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

It is the latest chapter in what is a growing fight over gun control on Capitol Hill. Three leading freshmen Republican senators now are vowing to stand in the way of any legislation they consider to be a threat to second amendment rights.

CNN's White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is at the White House, of course, with details on this.

What are you learning, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, This is a bit of a ranch in the works, but it's not an unexpected one. Republican aides to the senators involved tell me they are betting the Democrats can't muster the votes of the 55 senators who normally vote the Democratic Party line let alone another handful of Republican senators to push them to that all-important 60-vote threshold.

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KEILAR (voice-over): Republican senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are putting the brakes on new gun laws, alerting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a letter that they will filibuster Democratic bills that aim to curb gun violence. It's not actually this kind of filibuster --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not yield.

KEILAR: When Senator Paul recently protested the Obama administration drone program for 13 hours. It's simply a requirement that 60 senators must vote to begin debating gun legislation. It's standard practice on controversial bills, but it makes them the faces of GOP opposition to Democratic efforts to curb gun violence even as some Democrats have rejected gun control measures.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think you have to tell the families of those who have lost their children to gun violence that bills like this might be filibustered. I don't think that would be welcome news.

KEILAR: The bill likely to be considered by the Senate in April would include less partisan measures like tougher laws on gun trafficking and school safety provisions. Universal background checks is a stickier issue but Americans overwhelmingly back it no matter their political affiliation.

Senate Democrats are banking on that public support as they try to work out a compromise with Republicans. Any deal will not include more controversial measures like an assault weapons ban and the limit on the size of magazines. Those are expected to be voted on separately endangering their passage but still allowing President Obama to make good on his state of the union promise.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

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KEILAR: They may very well get a vote, but they won't likely be happy with the result. Hope is all but lost for the measure that gun control advocates consider most bold, the assault weapons ban, and the limit on the size of magazines, on the number of bullets that can be in them is also in jeopardy -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Brianna Keilar at the White House. Thanks, Brianna.

And joining me now from Connecticut is the senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy.

Senator, thanks so much for taking the time.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me. BOLDUAN: So Newtown was in your district, and you've been very passionate about gun control, stricter gun control measures. How do you respond to your three Senate colleagues who are threatening to hold up consideration of this bill?

MURPHY: Well, listen, I don't think it's much of a news flash that Republicans are going to filibuster gun reform. We knew all along that Republicans were going to stand in the way. We knew we were going to have to get 60 votes, but that doesn't stop the fact that these three senators as well as their colleagues who are going to vote with the gun lobby are just out of step with the American public. I mean, everything changed after Newtown.

The fact is that 90 percent of Americans in poll after poll say they want a universal background check law. Huge majorities of Americans want a ban on assault weapons and these high-capacity magazine clips that murdered 20 kids in Newtown.

I just think ultimately the Republicans don't want to be and shouldn't be the party of the gun lobby, the party of assault weapons and we will have to get 60 votes. I think they will be there for some of the most essential components, and I think we knew that all along. This isn't much news to those of us who were pushing hard for these laws.

BOLDUAN: What would you say to any of those three senators if you could talk to them today?

MURPHY: Well, listen, I would tell them they are on the wrong side of history. That ultimately if we don't do something now about these mass killings and about the everyday violence that happens in our cities, it's just going to continue.

And I would say they are wrong on the constitutional question. A lot of these senators believe that the second amendment is absolute. It's not. I support the second amendment. I just support the real second amendment. And the real second amendment allows Congress and allows our community to put reasonable restrictions on the kind of guns that are available to people.

So, I think that the senators who think that you can never, ever infringe upon the private right of gun ownership just have the constitutional history and interpretation wrong.

BOLDUAN: Now, real quick on the issue of public support. You said there is public support for expanded background checks. But on the issue of more stricter gun control measures, we have seen a drop in some public support. In a recent poll that we have it shows there was a nine-point drop in support of major restrictions on gun control from December of 2012 until now. And as we're looking at the gun control proposals considered in Congress since Newtown, they seem to be getting more and more watered down as a political reality has set in. Have you lost momentum? Have you lost public support?

MURPHY: No, absolutely not. I mean, you can show one poll that shows a slight drop in support, but then there are other polls that show the support has been steady all along. The fact is the majorities of Americans support getting rid of these assault weapons, getting rid of these high-capacity clips.

Now, I won't deny this is a tough slog in Washington. The NRA is very powerful. I've been making the case for weeks and months that nobody should be afraid of the NRA that, frankly, they lose a lot more elections than they win but for two decades they have effectively locked down any common sense gun reforms. So, I don't think anybody should be surprised that it's hard to get majorities in the United States Senate or the House of Representatives. This place has gotten pretty used to doing what the gun lobby says and it's going to take a lot of elbow grease and hard work and those of us who care about gun reform to try to change that reality.

BOLDUAN: Well, let me ask about the issue of gun reform more broadly. "New York Times" columnist David Brooks wrote a very interesting editorial today saying that essentially the gun debate has been missing the mark. And he says that past efforts to control gun violence, to control guns -- to control guns has not reduced gun violence.

He also says this, and I thought it was interesting. He said we have a successful history of reducing violence by spreading efforts across the killing chain. We have a disappointing history of trying to reduce violence with a gun-obsessed approach.

I mean, he makes the point that any attempt to stop gun violence needs to be more than just focusing on the gun. And we're not only talking about really the possibility of expanded background checks. Does he have a point?

MURPHY: Well, he does have a point. And the fact is that the effort is much more comprehensive than just restricting guns. We are just trying to get to a common sense position on gun reform. We are not talking about moving to extremes. We are just trying to make sure that everybody that buys a gun goes through a background check. That's not an obsession over guns. That's just trying to reflect where 90 percent of Americans are. But he's right in the sense this is much deeper than just the laws about guns.

The fact is that in many of our inner cities there's a sense of hopelessness and kids feel that their only way out often is to express power through violence. We have to give a sense of hopefulness that they can have a life outside that unfortunate reality that is married together with violence far too often. That's a much bigger conversation about guns. But let's just get to where the majority of the country is on guns and then we can have a bigger conversation about how we try to reduce some of the endemic causes of violence in our cities.

BOLDUAN: Passions remain high on both sides of this issue as they always do.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, great to see you, senator. Thanks for your time.

MURPHY: Thanks, Kate. BOLDUAN: And just ahead, Chris Christie says he welcomes Prince Harry to New Jersey, but also says don't worry. He will make sure prince Harry won't be getting naked like he did in Las Vegas.

And, Republicans gain any ground by roughing up Hillary Clinton? Newt Gingrich had some blunt advice for his party on that.

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BOLDUAN: A brand-new poll is out showing what people in New Jersey think about their governor, Chris Christie.

Joining me now for our strategies, our CNN contributors democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Bush speechwriter, David Frum.

This was a really interesting poll, you guys. Let's throw it up so our viewers can see what I'm talking about. New Jerseyans (ph), if that's the correct way of saying it, they like him as governor. They don't seem to like him as president. Look at his approval rating, 70 percent according to this Quinnipiac poll, approval rating of Chris Christie as governor. But then when you look at if they believed the governor Chris Christie would make a good president, boom, huge difference. Why? Why do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is just speculation but I think New Jerseyans understand it's a different -- it's a different vibe, shall we speak. I've done campaigns in New Jersey. I was born in New Jersey. There are a lot of family. There are a lot of campaign experience in that state. And there's a sense that you have to be like Chris Christie. That's why he's so wildly popular. Blunt, tough, hard edged, and maybe, maybe, they're a little worried that if you, say, transferred that to, you know, the global scene, the Middle East peace talks, that maybe that'd be a little too much.

I'm just speculating. He's clearly got stratospheric poll numbers as a governor.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BEGALA: Any politician in American would love to have those numbers. He ought to be congratulated for being where he is. If I were advising him, I'd say don't worry about the presidential stuff, Governor. Just get re-elected, do a good job, and that will come.

BOLDUAN: But isn't this exactly what people want in the -- in the White House? They want -- someone to speak the truth, give it to them straight.

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I can't enter into the minds of New Jersey voters obviously. There are millions of them. But here is something we ought to take from this that is worrying. That the Republican field for 2016 is beginning to take form and the entire field is competing to be -- to find who can occupy the right most spot. And you had an image up before, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. And not only is the -- is the field crowded with people who want to play to the hardest right edge but it's crowded with people who are federal officers, senators and a member of the House of Representatives.

The Republican Party's strength is at the -- from the center right and at the states, where are the center right governors who are going to be interested in running in 2016? And if Chris Christie is not that person, the -- the fields then becomes very lopsided and very federal.

BOLDUAN: You said that Chris Christie should just focus on being governor, worry about that stuff later. But should Chris Christie, if he ever wants to run for president, should he be looking at this?

BEGALA: No.

BOLDUAN: Should he take any notes from this?

BEGALA: No. No. Honestly, no. I mean, back in the day when Bill Clinton was running in 1990 to be re-elected as governor of Arkansas, the people of Arkansas loved him and they re-elected him, but he had to promise that he wouldn't run for president in two years.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BEGALA: OK? After two years they let him out of that promise. But they like their governor and they want to keep him. I think that's kind of the best way to read this poll.

FRUM: And to get -- I mean, put it this way, if those did translate into votes.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

FRUM: Forty-four percent for Republican in what has become blue state New Jersey is actually not such a bad number. And it is a reminder that -- you asked, OK, maybe New Jersey doesn't want Chris Christie to be president. Do they want Ted Cruz to be president?

BOLDUAN: I want to have a little bit of fun now. Chris Christie did an interview with -- did a radio interview today talking about Prince Harry's upcoming visit to the U.S., going to stop by New Jersey, of all places. Take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I'm thrilled that he's going to come, he wants to come and see the destruction himself firsthand, and he wants to be helpful. And I'm going to be spending the entire day with Prince Harry and so believe me, nobody is going to get naked if I'm spending the entire day with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I mean, I don't know, do you really want the governor talking about somebody getting naked with Prince Harry?

(LAUGHTER)

FRUM: Well, we've had -- we've had eight years -- or we will have had eight years of perhaps the most circumspect and self-editing president in American history. By 2016 Americans may be ready for a little bit more open talk than they've had over the past eight years. What will have been --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You've got to love the humor.

FRUM: The past eight years of President Obama.

BEGALA: It's charming, it's also self-deprecating. The most important thing in political humor is to be able to mock yourself. And here's this powerful, popular governor making fun of himself, that's an A-plus. That's terrific.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's self-deprecating humor in politics I think is always a winner.

All right. We've got much more to talk about.

Coming up, John McCain gets a gentle request to stop using the term illegal immigrants. His response? Not so gentle. You'll hear.

Also coming up, we know basketball is President Obama's main sport. But take a look at what he does. How he can handle a soccer ball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope you guys caught that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We're back now to our "Strategy Session" once again with our CNN contributors, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Bush speechwriter David Frum.

So let's talk about Newt Gingrich now. He gave an interview to the "Daily Beast" telling Howard -- Howie Kurtz who we love that beating up on Hillary Clinton is not a winning strategy for Republicans coming up in 2016. He says this in part. He says, "You have a combination of large donors and very clever consultants. Neither of whom have any interest in building a healthy party. So they look for nasty ways to have more impact, if it becomes how clever we can be in vilifying Hillary Clinton, that's a party that will not win in 2016."

But isn't that always how it goes? How you can cleverly vilify the opponent?

FRUM: Look, partly he's re-litigating what happened to him in the last cycle.

BOLDUAN: True.

FRUM: He thinks the reason he got in trouble was the consultants and donors were against him.

BOLDUAN: And he fired him all.

FRUM: Right. And he doesn't think about why the consultants and donors were against him. But this is not strategic advice. This is tactical advice. The Republican Party's strategic problems doesn't have yet a message from middle class America. That's what it -- that's what was missing in 2012. That was sadly what was missing in 2008. That has to be developed over the next four years.

And then the question of what your ads say and what are your talking points in the debates. All of that is the very last thing. The first question is, what is your big offer to the people of the United States, which shows you can deliver a better life for them than the Democrats will.

BEGALA: Well, I think that's what Newt meant. It's very rare. Maybe never in my life have I said this, but Newt Gingrich is right. You see, attacking Hillary, it is fun, and I've spent most of the last two years attacking Mitt Romney, and they allowed me to do it, I was happy to do it. Consultants like me love that stuff.

But David is making a more important point. The party has got to have a set of ideas that they stand for. And if they're distracted, which I think they will be by right now it says fever with "I hate the president," everything he touches turns to Marxism. Soon it will be Hillary again. You know, their once and future hate.

That's all a distraction. The central mission should be, what do we stand for and what we say to those middle class families who are stuck and who's not gotten a pay raise in 15 years.

BOLDUAN: We've got to real quickly jump to John McCain. I want to talk about. This is one of the issues that the Republicans are moving to talk about and for -- you know, because they knew what happened to them in 2012, immigration. He was in a town hall in his home state in Arizona, and he gave some -- if you want to call it, straight talk on immigration. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think there's a big difference between someone who does something that's illegal and someone who is undocumented. I'll continue to call it illegal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: This came in response to someone asking him kindly can you stop calling us the I word, stop calling us illegal, we're undocumented immigrants. I mean, is this -- I mean, when you see how's he's giving some straight talk to these people at this town hall. Is this a difference in how conversations about immigration reform play in Washington versus how you have to sell it in your home state?

FRUM: Look, an organization that deals with transparency is charted since 2007. There's been an enormous tidal wave of money into Washington -- on the immigration debate, almost all of it on the liberalization side. Business interest want a bigger flow of less expensive labor. And even though we continue to have huge unemployment in the United States they want more and more because as low as wages are, if you're a buyer of wages, it would be better if they were lower still.

And that's the debate that is not happening. And if John McCain is speaking up for American wages, then I'm not going to finesse his exact words, although things that break the law, I remember enough law from law school to remember they're illegal.

BEGALA: First off, it's a civil violation. So it's not illegal. It's a civil violation. It's not criminal violation actually to come into the country without proper papers. And -- so should we call somebody who 25 years ago had a drunk driving conviction forever an illegal driver? Well, no, I mean, they -- they made a mistake, it was a long time ago, let's elect him president anyway, which is what happened a few years ago.

So I think Senator McCain, his typical straight talk and we all love and admire that. I think he's making a mistake for his party when he puts this really pejorative adjective on people.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Well, and the messaging is important especially on a sensitive issue like immigration reform.

Gentlemen, great to see you. David Frum and Paul Begala, as always.

Coming up at top of the hour, a CNN exclusive, a new dispute among Navy SEALs out in the open as they argue over who fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden.

But first Secretary of State Kerry tries some soccer diplomacy himself. And he's not the only U.S. leader losing his lead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Soccer on the world stage today. President Obama's -- President Obama welcomed soccer's L.A. Galaxy -- and Galaxy and hockey's Los Angeles Kings to the White House. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: So -- what have we got here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a ball for you and then we've got a --

(LAUGHTER)

You're pretty good on that. We've got a jersey for you.

OBAMA: I hope you guys caught that. That doesn't happen very often.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a jersey --

OBAMA: That is a nice looking jersey. All right? Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Not to be outdone, Secretary of State John Kerry tried a header of his own in Afghanistan today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you still juggle, sir?

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, you might see this. A header?

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: How's that for some soccer diplomacy?