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Deal Signed to End Violence in Ukraine; Obama Calls Putin on Ukraine Peace Deal; Al Qaeda Tries To Recruit Americans In Syria; Ted Nugent's Reluctant Apology To Obama; Millions in Marijuana Revenues

Aired February 21, 2014 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: All right, Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, a stunning new deal to end the horrific violence in Ukraine.

But can it withstand the powerful forces which threaten to tear it apart?

It may not be heartfelt, but the rocker, Ted Nugent, apologizing for the vicious slurs aimed at President Obama.

Is that enough to get him and Republican candidates off the hook?

And decades after discrimination kept their heroism from being recognized, 24 American veterans are now finally to receive the nation's highest military honor.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with an extraordinary turn of events in the Ukraine's capital, which has gone from flames, fury and deadly street fighting to a signed peace deal and nearly instant political changes. Marathon talks brokered by European diplomats ended this morning with an agreement to halt the slaughter and begin a reform process.

But in the blood-stained streets of Kiev, there is still so much anger and plenty of doubt.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fireworks of victory where hours before, they'd have been fired in rage -- a hole where the riot police had been.

(on camera): Well, 24 hours ago, this street was the scene of pitched live gunfire battles between police and protesters. Now, absolutely no police around. They've abandoned this position of theirs two hours ago. Just protesters to be seen, empty streets. You can even catch a taxi.

(voice-over): A remarkable turnaround -- the protesters now the power here. In the morning, a deal emerged between the president and the opposition that would weaken Yanukovych's powers and call early elections.

But the crowd here scattered, angry at the dozens of dead, weren't convinced. It took blunt talk from European diplomats to see it through.

RADOSLAW SIKORSKI, POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): If you don't support this, you will have martial law, the army. You'll all be dead.

PATON WALSH: Then it was signed. Within minutes, parliament, here deserted by police, voted to reduce the president's powers. Then they sacked the interior minister. The MPs, driven around in cars that remind you power means money here, now have 10 days to appoint a new cabinet.

Look, though, at what happened when protesters meet the president's people.

Under the deal, President Yanukovych is less powerful, but still president, until early elections by December.

This old man screams, "We need to kill you!"

"That decision to return to the old constitution," he says, "cost the lives of 100 people. It makes no sense."

And under the deal, the protesters mourning the dead behind their biggest barricades yet, must disarm by Saturday night and begin clearing the area by Sunday. That's not about to happen any time fast.

This isn't over yet.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PATON WALSH: Wolf, the key question is, do the opposition leaders have the ability to send these protesters home now that they've signed that deal?

There's a 48-hour clock ticking for them to clear public spaces since that new law was passed just earlier on today by parliament. We saw Vitali Klitschko, that huge former boxer, address the crowd, saying the government is trying to divide us. The crowd, many of them, jeered him back, not a welcoming reception for people trying to leave the demonstration, and concerns, too, we're not out of the woods at all, because one man took the stage and said unless Yanukovych resigns by 10:00 tomorrow morning, the crowd must act.

So concerns this deal isn't enough. It keeps Yanukovych in post.

And the real fears are where are the security forces? They've been absent from this area. There's no sign of them at all.

Do they have plans perhaps first to retake this if the protesters don't keep their side of the deal -- Wolf?

BLITZER: It's still, very, very iffy, as you point out, a dangerous situation.

Nick Paton Walsh in Kiev for us.

Thank you.

President Obama called Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, just a while ago, to enlist his support for the Ukraine agreement, even though that deal could work against Putin's own long-term strategic interests.

Meantime, the violence in Ukraine has already tarnished Putin's proud Olympic moment.

Brian Todd has been looking into this part of the story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a time when so much of the world's attention was so intensely focused Vladimir Putin. Analysts say the violence in Ukraine and Putin's perceived hand in it really tarnished his image at the very moment he was basking in glory in Sochi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): For a week, it was gold for Vladimir Putin. The Winter Olympics started and proceeded peacefully and successfully. Putin was everywhere in Sochi -- flashing a satisfied smile in the stands, photo-ops with athletes. Then, just when the world's attention on Putin reached a crescendo, a nightmare on the other side of our TV split screens.

Analysts say the violence in Ukraine did to Vladimir Putin what Chechen militants couldn't.

FIONA HILL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: What we had instead of scenes of potential terrorist attacks and mayhem in Sochi itself is the images the Maidan Square and the streets of Kiev, where the brutality of the protest movement and clashes with the government.

TODD: Yes, Ukraine is a different country and Kiev is almost 650 miles from Sochi. But analysts say Vladimir Putin has shown a heavy hand with the recent events in Ukraine.

HILL: Promising a bailout of the Ukraine economy, lower gas prices, phone calls with Victor Yanukovych that have been reported on, Russian envoys and spokespeople going backwards and forwards to Ukraine. TODD: Putin's spokesman denies that he's held sway over Ukraine president, Viktor Yanukovych. But Putin's critics say the face we've seen in Sochi is for public consumption.

When it comes to Ukraine...

PETER BROOKES, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: This is a nonnegotiable issue for Russia and for Putin and I think this is where we're going to see his true colors.

TODD: Experts say Ukraine is the most important former Soviet republic to Russia and Putin has exerted leverage over oil and gas deliveries, cash subsidies, anything to keep Ukraine under his thumb.

(on camera): How frustrated is Vladimir Putin at what is going on right now, when this should be a crowning moment for him?

HILL: Well, I'm sure he's greatly frustrated, because the whole point of the Sochi Olympics was to encapsulate the new Russia that he has resided over since 2000, when he first came into the presidency officially. But it's also become a focal point of, you know, how things have started to go wrong for him.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: And there's now concern that after the closing ceremonies, when the spotlight is away from Sochi, Putin may be angry enough to take a harder line in Ukraine. Analysts say keep an eye on one area, the Crimean Peninsula. That's part of Ukraine, but Russia has large navy bases there at Sebastopol and Odessa. Part of its Black Sea fleet is right there and a lot of Russians live in that area. Experts say that is a place that Vladimir Putin could flex his muscles -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And in the stand-off, there's a lot of financial stakes right now, not only for Putin, but for Russia.

TODD: That's right. Analysts say Putin was counting on a big investment bounce after Sochi. But now, after having been seen as, you know, propping up an unstable Ukrainian government with billions of dollars in this situation, one analyst, David Hauner, of Bank of America Corp,, he told Bloomberg News, quote, "Meddling with Ukraine certainly hurts Russia's image as an investment destination." So this could cost Vladimir Putin and his country a lot of money -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Brian Todd, for that.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now.

Joining us from Kiev is Julia Ioffe.

She's the senior editor of "The New Republic." She's on the scene in Kiev right now, just got there, with some good insight.

Also joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto -- Jim, you've got some new information on this deal?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do. I've just been speaking to a senior State Department official, describing, first of all, the circumstances of the deal. The State Department official saying there were 22 hours of negotiations that led to this, but also still to this moment, as described by this official, a very fragile agreement, and noting that several of the radicals among the opposition say they will not honor this agreement.

Also noting that 75 of those victims that were killed yesterday -- remember we were talking about this in the last 24 hours -- that they were shot by snipers, you know. So a real outburst of violence then.

And, of course, the U.S. government places the blame on the Ukraine government for that.

The other thing the State Department official was describing to me was how, you know, you had this call today from President Obama, of course, to the Ukrainian president.

BLITZER: The Russian president.

SCIUTTO: To the Russian president, rather. That was preceded by nine phone calls from Vice President Biden to the Ukrainian president, just describing that U.S. officials have been deeply involved in this for a number of weeks, going back to December.

BLITZER: Let's bring Julia into this conversation.

Julia, how does all this play out for Putin?

You've been doing a lot of reporting on this.

JULIA IOFFE, SENIOR EDITOR, "NEW REPUBLIC": You know, so far, it's looking a little fragile. You know, the devil is in the details. We don't know -- you know, the elections that Yanukovych has agreed to aren't until December. The changes to the constitution won't be introduced until September.

So we don't know if this is going to hold. And if it doesn't hold, Putin is going to have to, like your report said, is going to have to take a harder line.

BLITZER: What does that mean, taking a harder line, Julia?

What -- how far could he go?

I don't -- it's unlikely he would actually send Russian troops into Ukraine, isn't that true?

IOFFE: I mean, I don't know. Never rule anything out with Vladimir Putin. He's known -- he's been known to surprise pretty much everyone. He's a pretty unpredictable guy.

And they've already, you know, they've frozen the second tranche of the loan. So, you know, we -- they're -- they've accused our -- they've accused the West of trying to blackmail Ukraine by threatening sanctions. But they're doing the same thing, holding up the loan, saying we don't know if this government is going to hold, and if it's not going to hold, how are we going to get our money back?

So they're clearly counting on this to, you know, continue.

BLITZER: You know, Jim, if the president of the United States and the president of Russia speak on the phone for an hour, that's a pretty significant -- even if they're doing it through translators, it's still very significant.

SCIUTTO: No question. And this channel of communication has to stay open. You know, the president and the White House press secretary have been saying this is not a chess board, we're not returning to Soviet/US, you know, battles over territory here.

But the fact is, both these countries are very much involved in this, the U.S. and Russia. You know, there is a pull between East and West playing out on the streets there in the Ukraine. The opposition figures want to be closer to the European Union. The government, the Ukrainian government, wants to be closer to Russia.

So that's a fact. So you need the U.S. and Russia to be talking. And, you know, as we've been hearing, that engagement from the U.S. side has been continuing for some time.

BLITZER: Julia, I don't know if you saw, a very strong article, an op-ed article in "The New York Times" today, by one of the members of the band, the Pussy Riot band, who was beaten and detained the other day in Sochi. She writes this strong -- in the article, among other things, attacking Putin, she says, "Can a pharaoh" -- that refers to Putin -- "Can a pharaoh shut down a city? Can he declare a blockade in time of peace? Yes, if he lives and rules in Russia."

She goes on to say, "The face of these Olympics is deceptive, as is the entire authoritarian regime."

That's pretty bold, given what's going on in Russia right now, for someone to be writing those words against Putin.

IOFFE: Well, first of all, she's writing it in "The New York Times." And, you know, Russian authorities don't care so much about what's being written in the Western press. They only care if it affects foreign investment and that's already been going downhill for a couple of years now.

As for what she's saying, it's -- you know, the formulation is a little strong, but she's not off the mark. A lot of foreigners who have come to Sochi have said hey, look, it's really nice. You know, we're free to move around. It doesn't seem all that bad.

But it's really an island. You know, we saw a few protesters who were found guilty today in Moscow. Some of them had, you know, it was a peaceful protest that turned violent on the eve of Vladimir Putin's third inauguration. One of the protesters is facing a decade in jail for throwing a lemon at a special operations officer.

So I mean the crackdown is real. It's going on. It's been going on through the Olympics. Putin is cracking down on independent media, or what's left of it. He's cracking down on opposition.

But, you know, this is the -- the Sochi Olympics have been, effectively, this kind of like, oh, hey, look over here.

BLITZER: Julia Ioffe, with your analysis, thanks very much.

Julia is in Kiev.

Jim Sciutto is here in Washington.

Up next, Americans recruited and trained by terrorists in Syria to bring their deadly new skills back to U.S. soil. Why officials are very worried right now that could be the next big terror threat.

And the rocker, Ted Nugent, now apologizing, sort of reluctantly, for calling President Obama a quote, "subhuman mongrel."

Does that get Nugent and the GOP candidates off the hook?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED NUGENT: -- community organizer, the gangster, Barack Hussein Obama, to weasel his way into the top office of authority of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting disturbing new details about what could be the next big terror threat. Americans recruited and trained by terrorists abroad to bring their deadly new skills back to U.S. soil. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been digging into the story for us. What are you learning, Barbara?

STARR: Well, you know, Wolf, the threat of bombs in shoes and toothpaste tubes may be just the beginning of the worries about what terrorists are up to next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): U.S. officials are gathering increasing intelligence showing al Qaeda operatives inside Syria are recruiting Americans and other westerners who go there to fight in the civil war to actually train to attack in the west. The U.S. believes when they arrive in Syria, they are encouraged to go to special training camps to get crucial bomb-making skills and ultimately return to their home countries to launch attacks.

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We're seeing now the parents of training complexes in Syria to train people to go back to their countries and, of course, conduct more terror attacks. STARR: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula based in Yemen is deeply involved, U.S. officials say. That group has tried to continue to attack the United States. U.S. officials estimate about 70 Americans, and perhaps, hundreds of westerners who don't need visas to enter the U.S. have gone to Syria. No one is certain what has happened to them next.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The greatest fear of western counterterrorism officials moving forward is that al Qaeda affiliate in Syria will start to prioritize launching attacks against the west.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: U.S. officials tell us these training sites often move locations. It's made more complicated by the fact there is also online cybertraining, if you will, going on in Syria, the middle of a really nasty war zone making it almost impossible for the U.S. to be entirely certain about the level of involvement of Americans at this time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Another major terror headache for the U.S. to worry about. All right. Barbara, thank you.

Coming up, a rock star's shocking remarks about President Obama, now, a reluctant apology, but Ted Nugent doesn't stop there. We'll hear exactly what he had to say today. That's coming up next.

Plus, a tax bonanza any state would welcome, but will Colorado's new marijuana money push other states to legalize pot?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The rocker, Ted Nugent, has apologized, sort of, for a vile rant in which called President Obama, among other things, a subhuman mongrel. Nugent, a conservative activist, seems to have regretted more of the fact that his language has tarnished Republican politicians who welcomed him out there on the campaign trail. The statement came in an interview with conservative radio talk show host, Ben Ferguson, who's also a CNN political commentator. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF TED NUGENT, ROCKER: They want me to apologize for using street fighter terminology like subhuman mongrels, but that leftist, mindless, soulless, unprofessional dishonest media will constantly level allegations of pedophile and draft dodger towards me and no one seems to mind that they lie, while I'm just using metaphorical street language to describe corrupt, power-abusing elected officials who break their vow, violate their vow to the U.S. constitution.

VOICE OF BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Did you cross the line by calling the president of the United States of America that, and, if you saw Barack Obama, would you apologize to him for saying that about him? NUGENT: Yes, I would. I did cross the line. I do apologize, not necessarily to the president, but on behalf of much better men than myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Pressed by Ferguson, Nugent grudgingly apologized a little bit further.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FERGUSON: People are saying it wasn't a real apology. So, again, for the record, are you apologizing to the president of United States of America, Barack Obama, for calling him a subhuman mongrel?

NUGENT: Yes.

FERGUSON: If he hears this, and there's a good chance it's going to be played later today, and he's watching or listening, what would you say to him directly?

NUGENT: Good lord, there's an agenda for you. He's violated so many laws. He's violated his oath to the constitution. He has scammed the people so drastically since his campaign, in fact, back when he was a senator in Illinois. He's done so many terrible, wrong things for America.

He's literally taking us on the fast track from being the greatest quality of life in the world and the most productive nation in the world to being something much less on all those levels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss what we just heard with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and the "Crossfire" co-host, Van Jones. Guys, thanks very much. Van, you accept that apology?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, CROSSFIRE: Well, I accept it in the same spirit in which he was offered.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: One of the most generous and heartfelt apology. I'm glad he finally did it, and for me, I was really surprised that it took him so long. I see some Republicans come out and say that it was wrong. But I think a lot of people don't understand what was wrong with what he said. When he says subhuman mongrel, that's not street fighter talk. I've seen a lot of street fights. I've never heard anybody, you know, say, hello --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Or metaphorical.

JONES: Hello, you subhuman mongrel, let's have a fight. That's racist. And it's racist of a particular kind. You know, my children are mixed race. And where I grew up in the south, I heard many racist call mixed-race people mongrels. What's a mongrel? It's a mixed-race dog. So, he was talking directly about Obama's race and the race of his parents. That is incredibly offensive.

And so, for him to take this long to say that that's wrong and never to admit that it is actually racially offensive, not street fighter. I've never heard a street fighter to say that. It's racially offensive. I am glad, though, he did finally apologize.

BLITZER: He was under a lot of pressure --

BORGER: He didn't say "I'm sorry," by the way.

BLITZER: He was under a lot of pressure, yet, by Republican --

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: -- coming out. I want to play a few clips of what we heard from other Republicans right here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: That kind of language really doesn't have any place in our political dialogue. It harms the Republican Party.

GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) TEXAS: I've got a problem calling the president a mongrel.

BLITZER: A subhuman mongrel.

PERRY: Yes. I do have a problem with that. That is an inappropriate thing to say.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: Those sentiments there, of course, I don't agree with them. You've never heard me say such a thing and nor would I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And then last night, Senator Rand Paul tweeted this. He said "Ted Nugent's derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and has no place in politics. He should apologize." And he sort of did apologize, although, you know, people will say it's a not a real heartfelt apology.

BORGER: Look, I think there is a probably a lot of pressure on him from the political candidates that he wants to affiliate himself with because it's very difficult for a candidate to get on the stage with somebody who said something so offensive to the president of the -- about the president of the United States. So, if you -- I mean, you put Rick Perry in a very tough position yesterday and he had to sort of disclaim it.

And Rand Paul, by the way, I think was very smart in just sort of cutting off Nugent there saying, you know, you've got to apologize and Abbott is now -- Abbott doesn't want to be talking about this. He wants to be talking about his platform and how he's different from Wendy Davis. BLITZER: Greg Abbott, who's running for governor of Texas, the attorney general, he had -- he's had several opportunities in recent days to condemn what Ted Nugent said.

BORGER: And now maybe that these other politicians have done it, maybe Abbott will do it, too.

JONES: I think it shows very, very poor leadership and judgment on Abbott's part. And, the other thing, too, is that people kept saying, well, he used that something that was rude and something as mean. You can say mean things. You shouldn't say demeaning things. When you demean someone, because of their race, they're Jewish or whatever, you're demeaning somebody for something that they were born with, that's a totally different category than just saying somebody that's mean, or rude, or stupid.

BLITZER: All of us have said things that we regret.

JONES: Oh, absolutely.

BLITZER: You've said certain stuff after 9/11. You've apologized for that.

JONES: Sure. Sure. I mean, my name was put on a petition that I didn't have anything to do with it. But I have said plenty of dumb stuff. I've apologized for it. but, I think what you want to do is you apologize. You do it really forthrightly. You try to learn a lesson and you move forward. When you apologize and then you mix it up with whole bunch of other insults, it's harder for people --

BORGER: You know, but also, not only do you discredit the candidates that you want to help, but you discredit yourself because whatever political argument Ted Nugent is making, which he was making in his last comments to Ben Ferguson, whatever political argument he's making, whatever his disagreements are with the president, legitimate, not legitimate, wherever he comes from on the political spectrum, nobody is listening because what they are listening to is this garbage.

And if you want to -- if you want to get involved in the -- in the political arena, then you have to be able to talk about issues. He clearly -- he's all about the Second Amendment. That's why Abbott --

JONES: Stick to that.

BORGER: Had an op-ed. Talk about the Second Amendment.

JONES: Stick to that.

BORGER: Talk about gun rights.

JONES: You can be for -- you can be for guns without insulting people.

BORGER: Right. JONES: Because your parents are different races. Those two things don't have anything to do with each other.

BORGER: Right. They have nothing to do with each other. Absolutely.

BLITZER: Yes. Major Republicans that sort of sided with Ted Nugent was Sarah Palin who issued -- yes.

JONES: Look, I will say.

BORGER: Yes.

JONES: I will say, that's terrible. You know, Sarah Palin is a mom. And I would say to her, look, if my kids were in school with your kids or your grandkids and your kid called my kid a subhuman mongrel, I know Sarah Palin would not accept that from her own children. I know that. She's a mom. She should not accept that from public officials or play around with it, or say -- be cute with this stuff.

We're trying to raise a whole generation of Americans in the most diverse country in the history of the world. Something has got to be out of line.

BLITZER: So the lessons for politicians right now, Gloria, if someone who is popular out there with some element of the base of your party says vile, idiotic things, you've got to run away from that person.

BORGER: Well, look --

BLITZER: I mean, the way --

BORGER: Don't be afraid --

BLITZER: Remember how President Obama, when he was running for office in 2008, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright came out with all sorts of statements and the president quickly ran away from him as quickly as he could.

BORGER: Well, the president did but -- and the president said, look, I don't agree with what he was saying, these are not my words, and then he -- and then he moved on and then, you know, he gave a whole speech on race in this country.

BLITZER: That was his pastor. You do remember that?

BORGER: Right. Sure.

JONES: I do remember that.

BORGER: But I do think that, you know, politicians have to be able to say, this is right and this is wrong.

JONES: And that is the mark of leadership and I'm very concerned about Abbott because he's going to have much tougher decisions than this when he's the governor of Texas. If you can't --

BLITZER: If he beats Wendy Davis.

BORGER: If he beats Wendy, yes.

JONES: If he beats Wendy Davis, if you're the governor of Texas and you are stumped by this question, am I --

BORGER: Well --

JONES: Should Americans in this day and age be calling people racist names, I am very concerned about that leadership.

BORGER: But -- and also if you're running a campaign which said it didn't know about these previous statements, that's another thing.

JONES: Google. I would say Google.

BLITZER: You know who is impressive in this whole thing this week, on this whole Ted Nugent episode? Rand Paul. He did the right thing last night.

BORGER: Absolutely.

JONES: Absolutely.

BLITZER: He came out with a strong statement. He said that Abbott -- that -- he said that Nugent should apologize and Nugent sort of apologized.

JONES: Leadership. I like that.

BLITZER: Rand Paul did the right thing.

JONES: Good.

BORGER: He did.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

Up next, climate change controversies. Senator Ted Cruz talks exclusive to CNN and calls out the Secretary of State John Kerry.

Plus, Venezuela cracking down on CNN as we try to cover the country's growing political unrest. We have details of what one lawmaker is now calling an assault on the news media.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He's never afraid to speak his mind and Ted Cruz certainly has done that sometimes for hours on the Senate floor. But this time the Republican senator and 2016 potential hopeful spoke exclusively with CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash back home in Texas.

Listen to his thoughts on the hot topic of climate change. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We ought to be allowing the private sector to pursue every form of energy because the energy of the future, it's not going to come from the government picking winners and losers. We ought to open up energy innovation across the board and remove the barriers to every form of energy.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe climate change is real?

CRUZ: You know, I'm always troubled by a theory that fits every perfect situation. You know, back in the '70s, I remember the '70s, we were told there was global cooling, and everyone was told global cooling was a really big problem and then that faded. And then we were told by Al Gore and others it was global warming. And that was going to be a big problem. And then it morphed, it wasn't global warming anymore, it became climate change.

And the problem with climate change is there's never been a day in the history of the world on which the climate is not changing.

BASH: So you don't believe that there's any manmade reason for global change?

CRUZ: What I think is the data are not supporting what the advocates are arguing. The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all of the theories that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years, it hasn't happened. They don't have an explanation for that. And I think beyond that --

BASH: So the idea that the arctic is, you know, going down, that it is melting right?

CRUZ: But other parts are going up. It is not -- you know, you always have to be worried about something that is considered a so- called scientific theory that fits every scenario. Climate change, as they've defined it, could never be disapproved. This weather gets hot, the weather gets cold, or whatever happens, they'll say, well, it's changing so it proves our theory.

BASH: Secretary Kerry recently said that climate change -- it's perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction. Sounds like you don't agree with that.

CRUZ: Well, you know, it is ironic that Secretary Kerry would say that, given that he is right now in the process of negotiating with the nation of Iran in what Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called an historically bad deal. It is ironic that he sees a greater threat from your SUV in the driveway than he does from the nation of Iran with their radical Islamic jihad and their stated desire to obliterate, to annihilate Israel, he sees a greater threat from your SUV than he does to Iranian nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: All right. Let's get some reaction to what we just heard from Senator Cruz. Once again Van Jones, the host of "CROSSFIRE," is joining us.

You totally I know disagree with me.

JONES: Yes.

BLITZER: This is a big issue for you, climate change.

JONES: Well, absolutely. I mean, first of all, I applaud John Kerry for trying to get this issue back into the public spotlight. There is no other issue that is worse multiplier, of all those efforts -- we're talking about Syria. When they happen in Syria, nobody talks about a massive drought there that pushed a couple of million people into the city. That set the whole stage for problems. In Libya, 93 percent of Libya had gone arid right before that.

When you have this climate disruption that's going on all around the world, you get more instability which makes all of our other problems that much tougher. His main argument has become very popular, very dangerous. He's saying the past 15 years there's been no recorded warming, therefore this whole thing is not happening.

That's not the right way to look at the data. If you have a ball and you throw it down a hill, it will go down, it will bounce back up a little bit. It'll bounce back up a little bit. But the overall trend is down. The past 100 years, the overall trend is very, very bad for us. The most -- the hottest 10 years on record globally since --

BLITZER: Is it true, though, in the last 15 years there hasn't been any evidence of warming of the earth?

JONES: That is one argument that's being made and I think it's an important argument to be made. Look, carbon is one factor among many but here's one thing we know. It's a factor that we control and we're doing the most to add.

Let's make this very simple. If you have a kid in bed at night and you put a blanket over the kid, the kid gets hotter, you put another blanket, it gets hotter. Greenhouse gases are like that. You know -- this is not some wild theory. You can --

BLITZER: But why hasn't there been a warming over the last 15 years?

JONES: Because these systems do have feedbacks. It's what I'm saying. You can throw a ball over the hill and say, it doesn't exist because the ball is coming back up. No, the ball is bouncing down the hill. The bigger trends are all going down. And so that is part of the -- I think it's very important that John Kerry put this back on the public discussion.

One more thing I want to say. We have a tremendous opportunity to do something about this. 97 percent of the scientists say that this is happening. 97 percent of scientists say that HIV causes AIDS. 3 percent say no, it doesn't. That doesn't mean that you throw out the 97 percent. 97 percent of scientists say that smoking cigarettes causes cancer. 3 percent don't. You don't throw out 97 percent scientists on any other issue, why do we on this thing?

BLITZER: A lot of people expect the president in the next few months to sign the Keystone Excel Pipeline allowing it to be built across the United States from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico to bring oil from Canada through the United States. Do you expect that will happen?

JONES: No, I don't. Because --

BLITZER: What if he says yes?

JONES: He's not going to --

BLITZER: What if he does? What if he says -- because a lot of his advisers are saying do it, it'll create jobs, and there'll be neutral reaction, neutral impact on the environment.

JONES: Three things that once Americans know they run away from this but first they'll laugh at it. First of all, number one, do you know how many jobs is going to be created? They say there's going to be a million jobs, then they said it's going to be 150,000 jobs, there's going to be 3,000 --

BLITZER: Quick answer.

JONES: Yes.

BLITZER: If he says we're building the Keystone Pipeline, how disappointed will you be in this president?

JONES: If --

BLITZER: If he says yes.

JONES: If the president of the United States said that a foreign corporation TransCanada, not even an American corporation, can build a pipeline to bring toxic goo -- it's not even oil.

BLITZER: Do you know how many oil pipelines there are in the United States right now?

JONES: And d you know how many are carrying tar sand? Almost none. You know why? Because when it's still -- this is not oil. Tar sand can't be cleaned up. It's $1 billion per spill. Oil, $100 million. A billion dollar per spill. If a foreign corporation is allowed to steal American --

BLITZER: All right.

JONES: Then I'll probably be a little bit disappointed.

BLITZER: We'll see. Let's see what he does. He's under a lot of pressure to support it.

All right, Van, see you at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

JONES: Enjoy your night.

BLITZER: "CROSSFIRE."

JONES: "CROSSFIRE."

BLITZER: The news we're following -- other news we're following including Colorado's other stash, millions of dollars in tax money from recreational marijuana sales. We're learning how much the state is raking in right now.

Plus, a historical wrong finally righted. Two dozen veterans will soon get the Medals of Honor that they were denied because of discrimination.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: After legalizing the recreational sale of marijuana Colorado has found a new high, at least when it comes to tax revenue.

CNN's Ana Cabrera is joining us now live from Denver.

We're talking about some serious money here for the folks in Colorado -- Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Big time money, Wolf. The new tax revenue projections for marijuana beat expectations by tens of millions of dollars. And now leaders here at the state capital get to decide what to do with that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA (voice-over): High hopes for a Colorado green rush are being realized.

TIM CULLEN, EVERGREEN APOTHECARY: Just exceeded all my expectations.

CABRERA: Business at Evergreen Apothecary, previously just a medical marijuana dispensary, has more than quadruple.

(On camera): More than a month after recreational pot sales became legal, people are still lining up at the door to get their hands on this stuff. This place packed at 10:00 when the doors opened.

(Voice-over): In fact, this pot shop averages about 500 customers a day. And the state of Colorado is reaping the benefits as well. Sales and excise taxes is on recreational cannabis are over 25 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your total is going to be $147.77.

CABRERA: Marijuana dispensaries were required to turn in January tax reports on Thursday.

CULLEN: We paid about $190,000 in sales tax that we collected during the month of January.

CABRERA: While official numbers won't be made public until March the Governor's Budget Office has just released its own tax projections. It estimates the state will collect about $184 million in tax revenues in the first 18 months of recreational pot sales.

Here's Colorado's plan for spending that money. $40 million automatically goes to public school construction. That was mandated by voters. Then the governor wants to spend about $85 million on youth prevention and substance abuse treatment. $12.4 million on public health, about $3 million on law enforcement and public safety and nearly $2 million on industry oversight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the people who are buying marijuana want the tax money to be used to discourage adults from buying marijuana.

CABRERA: While not everyone agrees on how that money should be spent and although still early, there's no denying the apparent economic boost that's come from recreational pot sales.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Of course, right now Colorado and Washington states are the only states that have legalized recreational marijuana. There are about eight other states that we found that are currently looking at legalizing pot. And when they see this story, when they see that Colorado is making this kind of money, you got to think, Wolf, that this is going to have some influence.

BLITZER: I suspect you're absolutely right. Ana Cabrera, joining us from Denver, thank you for that report.

Coming up, Venezuela's government makes a new move to keep CNN journalists from reporting for there.

And decades after discrimination kept their heroism from being recognized, 24 American vets they are finally about to receive the nation's highest military honor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Decades after discrimination kept them from receiving their country's highest military honor, 24 American veterans are being recognized by President Obama.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the story for us.

Barbara, tell us what we now know.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president announced -- the White House announced today there will be this awards ceremony, 24 men courage and valor beyond the call of duty. Now the United States making it right for all of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Sergeant 1st Class Melvin Morris was just 19 when he became a Green Beret. He volunteered to go to Vietnam. In 1969, under heavy fire, hit multiple times, bleeding, he rescued dead and wounded troops. The Army says he showed determination possessed by few men and his ability to lead has rarely been equaled.

Today at 72, with his wife of 51 years, Mary, the pride, the dignity and now a wrong will be made right. Morris is one of 24 veterans who, decades late, will receive the nation's highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor. It is a roll call of bravery and heroism above and beyond the call of duty for men who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Only Morris and two other Vietnam veterans are still living.

In 2002, Congress ordered a review of Jewish and Hispanic veterans' war records to find out who may have suffered discrimination and not been awarded the honors they deserved. Potential African- American discrimination was also found. All are now being recognized.

COL. HARVEY BARNUM (RET.), U.S. MARINE CORPS: I'd heard rumors to the fact that there were certain people who -- people thought should have received the Medal of Honor.

STARR: Retired Marine and Vietnam vet Harvey Barnum received his Medal of Honor in 1967. His unit also under intense fire with complete disregard for his safety, he moved to save others. Now he has just one message for the Vietnam survivors.

BARNUM: I look forward to putting arms around them and calling them brother and saying welcome home.

STARR: Two other living Vietnam veterans will receive the medal. Radio operator Santiago Arivia was under fire all day on May 21st, 1969. In total peril, he assaulted a line of enemy bunkers throwing hand grenades and firing his M-16. He came home to work for the Postal Service for 32 years. His son Roland served three tours in Iraq.

Sergeant 1st Class Jose Redellas' battalion was under such heavy fire September 1st, 1969. It suffered 42 casualties in minutes. Army records say the unit was on the brink of panic when Redellas stepped in, physically pushing men to fight even as the unit was still under fire. Today, he is in frail health.

Of the recipients who have passed away, some died in action in Europe, Korea and Vietnam. But some, like Private 1st Class William Leonard of New York, who fought in France during World War II, came home to live out their lives. Leonard worked in the auto industry and as a butcher.