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Will a Bush, Clinton Dominate Presidential Election; Alleged Purdue University Shooter in Custody; President Obama Talks National Security to "New Yorker"; Dead Man Makes Terror Threats for Sochi Olympics; Texas's Wendy Davis Faces Life Story Scandal

Aired January 21, 2014 - 13:30   ET

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


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But the previous segment, talking about Chris Christie's problems, that I think is going to increase pressure on Jeb Bush to consider this, because for that upscale managerial part of the party and donor class, Christie and Jeb Bush are the most logical candidates. If Christie seems diminished or weakened, more people looking at Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton is as front rubber as you can get. Not entirely out of the realm of possibility, although Jeb Bush does not seem to be moving in that direction so far.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll see what he decides to do, whether he pay attention to his mother's advice. We tried to clarify, not necessarily saying she doesn't want him to run. But would certainly be described as the Republican establishment candidate. The former governor of Florida very popular down in Florida. The Republican establishment, not necessarily the Tea Party movement out there, but establishment with all the money and organizational skills. They would certainly flock towards him.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, no, he is potentially a very strong general election candidate, if he can get through the primary. He speaks Spanish. He drew Hispanic voters in Florida. That is clearly one of the biggest challenges they face in 2016 in the Republican Party. He's also shown strength with the white collar suburban voters and moved away from them over the last 20 years. If his last name was not Bush with that pedigree, there would be no question he would be at the top. And that issue of kind of is there Bush fatigue in the party, does he want to do it. And then as you allude to, you know, you have this whole other half of the party, roughly 50/50 now, that is much more populous in nature that would probably view him suspiciously. He has been critical since leaving office of some of the right polls on immigration and others. So he would face that challenge. But if Christie is weakened, there would be a lot of support for him in the upscale and more establishment parts of the party.

BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, good analysis as usual. Thank you very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news story we're watching in Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. You see that there's been a shooting incident. We're getting some new information. We're about to speak with a Purdue University spokeswoman. We'll get that right after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news out of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Liz Evans joining us on the phone right now from Purdue's Public Information Office.

What can you tell us, Liz? What's the latest?

LIZ EVANS, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, PURDUE UNIVERSITY (voice-over): Well, Wolf, here's what I know. Approximately noon eastern time, we had a report of shots fired on campus from our electrical engineering building. That building is located on the northeast side of campus. Shortly after we issued an emergency text alert via -- again, via text message to the campus community, letting everybody know to shelter in place. Now, that has been lifted. The electrical engineering building is still locked down as we continue to investigate. But the rest of the campus is open, and classes actually are ongoing. What we have heard from police, one person is in custody.

BLITZER: And do we know if anybody has been injured in this incident?

EVANS: You know, I do not have that information in front of me right now.

BLITZER: Do we know if this is just one person involved, or are they looking for other suspects?

EVANS: You know, I don't have that information either. As you can imagine, it's a developing situation. But the latest is that the shelter in place has been lifted. Unless you're in the electrical engineering building, which is locked oh down.

BLITZER: So out of an abundance of precaution, presumably, they're going through that electrical engineering building, even though they have one person in custody to make sure it's safe. But for the rest of the campus, the students, the faculty, they can begin to go about their class wore work and all of the other stuff they do on the campus, is that right?

EVANS: Yes. Absolutely. And student safety is our number-one priority, very thorough and we want to make sure that everyone can stay as safe as possible.

BLITZER: Liz Evans, Purdue public information director, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone on the campus. Thanks very much for that update.

EVANS: Thanks very much.

BLITZER: Once we get more information, we'll, of course, update all of our viewers.

Let's get back to some other news right now. We're talking -- we have been talking about that interview that the president gave to the "New Yorker" magazine to mark the fifth anniversary of his taking office. One of the things that hasn't necessarily been picked up enough has been his extraordinarily candid comments on major national security and foreign policy issues.

Let's bring in Jane Harman now to discuss this, head of the Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, former Congresswoman from California.

If you read the whole article, as I did, and you did, some of the stuff on national security was pretty amazing. Let me read a couple of the quotes from the president in this interview with David Remnick in the "New Yorker". "If a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant. I think there is a discontinuing between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian."

So here the president seems to be belittling the current al Qaeda threat to the United States, which may be a challenge to some of these jihadists out there. When you read that, what did you think?

JANE HARMAN, DIRECTOR, WILSON CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: Well, I thought yes and no. Coral died, as he points out, happen basically eviscerated. When Osama bin Laden was taken out, that was the end of their --

BLITZER: Ayman al Zawahiri.

HARMAN: He has it, but much less potent. However, Hezbollah, which interesting is a Shia group. Al Qaeda is a Sunni group and everybody understands the tensions between those two streams of the Muslim religion, does have international reach. And it is still being armed by Iran, hopefully those circumstances will change. But they have staged attacks in South America and Buenos Aries and I know I was worried they could stage attacks in the U.S. So they're out there. And then there are some other very potent groups, like the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, which is a really ugly mutant form of al Qaeda. And they are destabilizing both Iraq and Syria at the moment, and maybe could metastasize to other places. It's a very complicated landscape. He had it partly right that coral died is gone, but these other groups --

BLITZER: These other al-Qaeda affiliated groups, whether in Iraq or Syria or elsewhere, still a huge problem.

On Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, he says this: "The benefit of the debate he generated was not worth the damage done, because there was another way of doing it. I do not have a yes/no answer on clemency for Edward Snowden. This is an active case where charges have been brought."

You read that quote from the president.

HARMAN: Yeah. BLITZER: He's now got some of his own reforms. I think it's clear he wouldn't have delivered that speech the other day if Edward Snowden had not leaked some of that information.

HARMAN: Well, this debate on what we should do has been going on, simmering, for years. It is true that after the Snowden leaks, a lot more people are clued in. But there was a better way for Snowden to do this.

BLITZER: What was that better way?

HARMAN: He could have complained. He claims he once brought this up in the CIA. But in the intelligence community where he worked, there were lots of opportunities for true whistle blowers. He also could have gone to visit with members of Congress. That's been tried in the past too. And several members of Congress, who had a lot of trouble with what's going on, Ron Snowden and Mark Udall, did complain within channels and they're now central to this debate. So I believe the president -- what's interesting, Wolf, he doesn't rule out clemency. It's a presidential decision. I would hope that Snowden would come back and face trial in the U.S. There could be plea bargaining in connection with that. I would think clemency, if it ever comes, and I would doubt it, comes later.

But one other interesting facts, Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was on the Sunday shows, saying there is some evidence of Snowden's complicity with the government of Russia.

BLITZER: He basically suspected, Mike Rogers and tie Dianne Feinstein, "Meet the Press" program, basically suggested, pretty bluntly, that maybe Snowden was a Russian agent from the beginning.

HARMAN: Well, I don't know that. But I don't not know that. And it seems to me that's another thing we need to understand. I mean, if this guy was a double agent, or if he became complicit with the Russian government once he got to China -- let's understand. He didn't go to Norway. He went from Hawaii to China to Russian. Those are states that are very interested in exploiting the information that he had. We don't know if they did. Or I don't know if they did.

BLITZER: Very quickly. On Syria, the president told David Remnick in the "New Yorker," "I am not haunted by my decision not to engage in another Middle Eastern war. It is very difficult to imagine the scenario in which our involvement in Syria would have led to a better outcome. Short of us being willing to undertake an effort in size and scope similar to what we did in Iraq. And when I hear people suggesting that somehow if we had just financed and armed the opposition earlier, that somehow Assad would be gone by now, and we would have a peaceful transition, it's magical thinking."

Do you agree with him on that?

HARMAN: Well, some very senior members of his administration, including Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates and also some outside like John McCain, were pushing forearming the rebels. At the time, they were not as infiltrated as they are now by bad guys, by al Nussra, a very potent group, and certainly not by this, which I mentioned earlier. If we had armed them then, maybe they could have kept the country safe, protected civilians, and had enough clout over time to somehow achieve a transition in the government. I don't know that. The past is the past. Going forward, however, it's important that the conference in Geneva tomorrow consider urgently humanitarian aid to those on the ground and safe corridors to provide the aid. This is a global catastrophe, what's going on there. And those of us who have relatives who lived through the holocaust have said never again. And this may rise -- it hasn't yet, but to a scale that we can't even contemplate yet. And the whole world has a moral obligation to help those innocent people.

BLITZER: If you saw those pictures that we have now posted on CNN.com, the torture victims in Syria, it's really shocking.

And if you're viewers want to see those pictures, Christiane Amanpour reported that yesterday, so --

HARMAN: 11,000 detainees killed.

BLITZER: Yeah -- go to CNN.com.

Jane Harman, thanks very much, from the Wilson Center, for joining us.

HARMAN: Sure.

BLITZER: Terror threats in Russia getting special attention now, with the Olympic Games fast approaching. Up next, we're taking a close look at one of those rebel leaders who may be leading the rebellion from the grave.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Russian government has just put out a statement saying that President Obama initiated a phone call with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. "The Russian Statesman" saying they discussed the Geneva 2 peace talks scheduled to begin tomorrow and also the nuclear deal for six months. You're looking at video of the two leaders. "The Statesman" did not mention anything about the Olympic Games or terror concerns. No official statement yet from the White House on what President Obama discussed with Vladimir Putin. But we presumably will be getting a White House readout on this conversation between these two leaders shortly. Once again, a telephone conversation today between President Obama and President Putin of Russia.

With the Sochi Olympic Games only -- just over two weeks away, Russia is scrambling to head off possible terror attacks. The source of the threats is a man who may or may not be dead.

Brian Todd is looking into this story for us.

What are we talking about here in the threat, specific threats? A lot of folks are concerned about the safety of the athletes and spectators. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a man who issued a very specific threat last summer in July. His name is Doku Umarov. He's also called Russia's bin Laden. He's the leader of the Caucasus Emirate. This is a loose knit group of Islamist militants who have been battling Russian security forces for years. There is some video of Doku Umarov.

Now, Chechnya's leader claims that Umarov was killed recently during a counter terror operation. But I just spoke with a U.S. intelligence official and here's a quote from that intelligence official. Quote, "We have not been able to independently confirm his demise." Why? Because the Russians and others have claimed at least six times, Wolf, that Umarov is dead, and that hasn't been the case. So this latest claim you have to take with a grain of salt and we have to get confirmation. We don't have that yet. He may well still be alive.

The threat in July of 2013, issued a direct threat to the Sochi games saying, quote, "They were the satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors." This guy has enough inspirational and overall leadership control of the group to set attacks in motion. Experts have told us he's not such a great leader on the tactical level, but he's got other people to do that for him. He's like bin Laden in that way. He inspires people. He unites people. He gives the orders to go, and then others do it.

Now, if he's dead, Wolf, we're hearing from experts there is no real leader to take up his immediate kind of title and leadership role, but there doesn't need to be, because they have set a lot of these plots in motion already. We have heard Phil Black talk about the Black Widows' plot. We have heard others talk about how this one Black Widow may be inside the perimeter in Sochi. So a lot of these plots in Volgograd and others were already set in motion. If Umarov is dead, doesn't mean there can't be attacks. The threat is still very much there.

BLITZER: Why is there so much confusion over whether or not this guy is alive or dead?

TODD: Well, again, the reports of his demise previously have been greatly exaggerated. He has been through the Chechen wars a couple different times. He has been reported dead. He has been badly wounded several times. And -- they say he's got nine lives. He has managed to escape, sometimes change his appearance with plastic surgery and other things like that. So this is a very resourceful militant leader, $5 million bounty on his head from U.S. officials.

BLITZER: Yesterday at this time, Tom Fuentes, law enforcement analyst, former assistant FBI director, saying it's not safe to be in Sochi in these upcoming games for either the athletes or the spectators.

All right, Brian, thanks very much.

The sister of an American Christian missionary, Kenneth Bae, is reacting to a statement made by her brother. He says he committed a, quote, "serious crime against North Korea." She is pleading for her brother to be pardoned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRI CHUNG, SISTER OF KENNETH BAE: We are very scared for him, and I think we feel an urgency more than ever, which is why we're imploring our leaders. Now is the time to bring this man home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I've invited the sister, Terri Chung, to join me later in "The Situation Room" to continue this situation about her brother, Kenneth Bae, in North Korea.

Wendy Davis has become something of a political star for state Democrats in the state of Texas. Now she's facing somewhat of a little scandal over there over her version of her life story. We're going to update you on what's going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They've just given the all-clear on the campus of Purdue University. No ongoing threat, according to university officials. They've now told students and faculty and everyone else they can resume their normal operations. Good news on that front. One person, though, an alleged shooter is in custody.

Other news. The Texas State Senator Wendy Davis has skyrocketed to political fame, not only in Texas but around the country. She received national attention with a long filibuster against Texas's abortion laws and her personal story of triumphing over personal considerable odds. But being in the national spotlight has shed new light on her background as she seeks the Democratic nomination to become the governor of Texas.

CNN's John Berman explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CHANTING)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She pitched her story as an American dream come true.

STATE SENATOR WENDY DAVIS, (R), TEXAS: I was barely making ends meet, and sometimes they didn't.

BERMAN: Texas State Senator Wendy Davis propelled into the national spotlight last summer with her physical stamina after this now famous 13-hour marathon filibuster against a restrictive abortion measure. Davis's meteoric rise shot her to the front of the pack amongst Democrats in her gubernatorial bid. But now her inspirational biography of a single mother is sparking some debate.

DAVIS: By the time I was 19, I was a single parent and I was living in a mobile home. BERMAN: Over the weekend, "The Dallas Morning News" revealed some inconsistencies in her statements and began raising questions about her boot-strapping life story. The newspaper reports she divorced at 21, not 19. Davis admitted that her language should be tighter, and clarified a few points. For example, that her divorce only became final when she was 21. Writing in a statement, "The truth is, at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce."

DAVIS: They say everything's bigger in Texas. Well, that certainly wasn't the case for the trailer we lived in.

BERMAN: A mobile home, the newspaper says, she lived in for a few months. Conservatives seized on the discrepancies, creating a hash tag on Twitter, "more fake than Wendy Davis."

Before these reports, her campaign pulled in a sizable $12 million, but she is trailing her likely opponent, the state's Republican attorney general.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: John Berman reporting.

By the way, the Texas gubernatorial primary is set for March 4th. Not very far away.

She showed off her AARP card when she turned 50 last week. Now the first lady, Michelle Obama, is showing off her basketball skills. A slam dunk on some NBA stars. We're going to show that to you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The first lady, Michelle Obama, just turned 50, as all of us know. She's certainly not slowing down. The first lady showing off her basketball moves in a skit featuring some NBA stars from the Miami Heat. It was part of a White House event promoting the first lady's "Let's Move" campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIK SPOELSTRA, MIAMI HEAT BASKETBALL PLAYER: Hi, everyone. I'm Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat and a member of the NBA fit team. I'm here at the White House to find out why eating healthy can help you perform like a champion.

DWYANE WADE, MIAMI HEAT BASKETBALL PLAYER: I eat fruits and vegetables every day because it gives me the energy I need to perform at the top of my game.

SPOELSTRA: Thanks, Dwyane.

What about you, Ray?

RAY ALLEN, MIAMI HEAT BASKETBALL PLAYER: Drinking water is an important part of my pregame routine so I can stay focused and refreshed.

WADE: Take it from me, eating the right foods can help make you a better athlete.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh!

Oh!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Slam dunk from the first lady. Very nice.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. See you at 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."

NEWSROOM continues right now with Brooke Baldwin.