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THE SITUATION ROOM
Terror Concerns Bring New Airport Scrutiny; Explosion of Violence in Middle East; California Town a Flash Point in Border Battle
Aired July 7, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, new terror fears bring tighter airport security. Why you'll have to turn on your laptops, your cell phones, if you want to board your flight to the United States.
The Middle East exploding -- Israel responding to barrages of rocket fire with air strikes in Gaza, while Jerusalem is on edge over the murders of teenagers and the beating of a young Palestinian American.
And close call -- dramatic video shows one airliner aborting a landing when another plane crosses its runway.
Were air traffic controllers really in control?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The next time you fly into the United States, get ready to turn on your phone, your laptop, if you want to board the plane. Tighter security goes into effect in overseas airports amid growing concern that al Qaeda terrorists are designing undetectable bombs that could foil existing security measures.
Our analysts are standing by.
But let's turn first to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
She has the very latest -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, according to a source, the big concern is that these electronic devices could be bombs in disguise. We're talking cell phones, laptops, gaming devices, tablets. So passengers overseas heading to the U.S. are going to want to make sure their electronic devices are turned on, are powered up, so that they can prove that their devices aren't bombs.
And if they're not able to do that, Wolf, they may be forced to leave them behind.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BROWN (voice-over): International passengers flying direct to the U.S. need to be ready to power up your cell phone and other electronic devices before boarding and prove it's a working device, not hiding explosives. The ramped up security measures come as new intelligence warns terrorist groups, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, are intent on developing new bombs capable of fooling airport security measures.
The TSA is now asking airports in the Middle East, Europe and Africa to watch passengers turn their devices on before boarding U.S. direct flights. And if those devices don't power up, they won't be permitted on board the aircraft.
CHAD WOLF, FORMER TSA OFFICIAL: If you're coming into the U.S., they oftentimes segregate you to a different part of the airport. And at that point, you'll get additional, what we -- what TSA calls gate screening done again by security personnel, this time contracted by the air carrier themselves.
BROWN: One of the biggest worries, AQAP master bomb maker Ibrahim al- Asiri. U.S. officials say Asiri designed the underwear bomb that got through security and threatened to almost bring down a plane headed from Amsterdam for Detroit. They say he also built explosive devices hidden in printer cartridges and got them on several planes in plots that nearly worked in 2010.
WOLF: The issue here would be if you have multiple accomplices trying to board the same -- the same flight into the US. And the idea here would be to, you know, disassemble that electronics and sort of pool those explosives together so you get sort of a little bit of a bigger bang for the buck, which would cause -- now you're looking at catastrophic damage to the aircraft.
BROWN: A U.S. Homeland Security official tells CNN some foreign airports are already enforcing the new measures.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BROWN: And, Wolf, the DHS says that it doesn't dictate to individual countries what to do with electronic devices that do not power up, other than to say those devices cannot go on the plane coming to the US. So it's really up to these individual countries on what to do if a passenger has a cell phone, for example, and it won't turn on -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the -- you might lose the cell phone or you won't get on the plane.
Thanks very much, Pamela Brown, for that report.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now.
Joining us, our CNN national security analyst, Bob Baer. He's a former CIA officer.
Also joining us, our CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director -- what do you make, Tom, of this public rollout?
Why do this, make all these announcements right now? Why not just do it?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that's true, you could just do it.
My concern with turning on the laptop like that is if it's an explosive device, what if it explodes right in the line and kills all the people around you?
So, true, it didn't get on an aircraft, but if it's a bomb designed to go off that way, it's not a good thing, either.
BLITZER: So how do you deal with any of that?
BLITZER: Somebody could just bring a bomb to go through TSA or whatever, to go through security?
FUENTES: Right. They can do that, too. And, also, if you have a design that al-Asiri has used in the past, like the printer cartridges, where you just secrete the explosive in the laptop and then have a different way to detonate it, you know, that's a possibility, too. I think powering it up or powering it on or off, I don't think is going to be the end all, be all to preventing this. And secondly, you could have have a detonator disguised as a thumb drive to later insert into a working computer and have that be.
The key to these explosives isn't just the explosive material being able to secrete that onto the aircraft. That's pretty easy, in a way. It's getting a way to light it off or detonate it, make it go off. And that's, I think, one of the concerns that they're looking at.
BLITZER: Historically, Bob, al Qaeda has made no secret that it wants to damage the U.S. economy.
Blowing up a U.S. airliner with a lot of passengers on board presumably could do that, right?
People would be afraid to fly.
BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Wolf, absolutely, that would do it. One -- one airplane over the Atlantic and, you know, I know what TSA is trying to do. But the fact is, in 1996, the Israelis assassinated a Palestinian with a cell phone. And that one powered up because they signaled it remotely while the phone was on and it killed a man.
So turning the power on and off makes no difference at all. The question is, as Tom pointed out, getting enough explosives on, and a detonator. And it takes about a pound. So if you had people pooling explosives from laptops on an airplane and setting up a bomb, that would probably work.
BLITZER: So how do you deal with this?
What do you do about it?
BAER: You know, we're to the point now you can't carry anything on an airplane. It's very difficult. It's not that TSA doesn't know what it's doing, it's just there is such a risk to the aviation that it's almost impossible to preclude.
FUENTES: I agree.
BLITZER: -- you've studied this a long time. People are flying, you know, obviously, all over the world. A lot of folks are coming to the United States.
Are they going to have to go, instead of two hours earlier, or three hours earlier, four hours earlier, to check in?
FUENTES: They may have to if they use all these measures. It's going to take a lot longer to go through. And you're talking about airports that are going to have a lot more people in the airport, which may have fire laws being violated. They might not have the room physically to have that many passengers arrive that much earlier than a flight. So, you know, I think that's a huge issue, as well.
Secondly, I think for these foreign governments -- you know, we're asking these foreign governments to do these measures for inbound flights to the United States. You know, I'm sure they're going to be telling the TSA rep overseas in their country, wait a minute, you're not doing it in your own country and all four of the 9/11 airplanes originated in the US. All 19 hijackers boarded in the United States, in the U.S., for the 9/11 attack. And yet you want us to do all these exotic measures overseas, when we have the shoe bomber and we have Abdumutallab, the underwear bomber. That's two occasions where we've had an overseas hijacker, or a potential bomber, come in.
But, really, we've had more of a threat internally in the United States than from overseas.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Bob.
This sophisticated bomb maker, this Ibrahim al-Asiri, how good is this guy?
BAER: He's very good. You know, he picked up the technology that was developed by the Palestinians in the early '80s. He's improved it. He understands the explosives. His main problem has been detonators, as Tom pointed out. And I think what they're afraid of is that he's developed a technique of getting these detonators on so they're undetectable. And this is why we're hearing about all these precautions. He's closer to perfecting an airplane bomb.
BLITZER: Bob, while I have you, iwtttnto another subject.
There's a breaking story out there right now. Reuters reporting that the CIA had a role in the espionage inside Germany, that the German Foreign Office called in the U.S. ambassador on July 4th to discuss this allegation.
Take us behind-the-scenes.
Does the U.S. run spies, friendly espionage, in a NATO ally like Germany?
BAER: Absolutely. There is -- it's not precluded from doing it. It's supposed to be judicious, going after European targets. We are precluded from going after Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. But the rest of the world is -- it's a free fire zone, as far as we're concerned.
The CIA has traditionally been very cautious when it comes to Germany. And, Wolf, right now, we don't have all the details. This could have been a case of a German official simply walking up to an American and saying, hey, you've got to look at this, I can't believe they did this. He may have been friendly. He may not, in fact, have been a spy. So there may be mitigating circumstances. We're just going to have to wait to see.
BLITZER: Because the Germans, Tom, as you know, they're already outraged that the NSA apparently was eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone when she was here in Washington not that long ago and met with the president. She was pretty outraged by that.
I didn't hear the president make a firm commitment, though, to the Chancellor that the U.S. would stop spying on Germany.
FUENTES: Yes. And I think that one, they may not have been as outraged as they said they were, although this time, they might be.
But don't forget, just a few months ago, when the Ukraine crisis was so huge, one of the biggest issues was, what will Germany do?
What will Angela Merkel do if Putin makes this move or that move or the next one?
Will NATO, will the European allies cooperate with the United States?
That was a huge concern.
That's what espionage is about. You want to find out what the other country is thinking and what they'll do about -- you know, not just what they're saying publicly. That really doesn't matter.
But what will they really do...
FUENTES: -- if a certain action happens?
That's why we wanted to know what Germany was doing.
BLITZER: Well, Bob, can we assume that the Germans are also spying on the United States? BAER: I've never seen any incident of it. You know, it's possible. But they don't usually target the United States. It's pretty much a one way deal. And that's what makes it politically sensitive. And we do want to know what they're doing, and especially on the Ukraine, where we differ on policy. We want to know what Merkel is doing, because if she changes course, we want to advise the president.
So if you're sitting out at Langley, I can see how this is helpful, yes.
BLITZER: There's the...
BAER: I can see how this happened.
BLITZER: -- this story is just developing. We'll obviously follow it throughout the week.
Bob Baer, Tom Fuentes, guys, thanks very much.
Up next, the brutal beating of a Palestinian-American teen by Israeli police and the gristly murders of teenagers now on both sides are fueling an explosion of rage.
And passions run high in a California town on the front lines of the border battle, as the president takes heat for his immigration policies.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And important breaking news emerging right now out of the Middle East. Air raid sirens have been sounding in Israel, as dozens of rockets rained down fire by Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has been retaliating with major air strikes into Gaza.
And the cross border attacks are being fueled by brutal violence on the ground -- the beating of a bound Palestinian-American teenager by Israeli police and the murders of teenagers on both sides now.
Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman.
He's been watching all of this unfold from Jerusalem -- Ben, you've been out and about. Give us the very latest.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the very latest is there was a barrage from Gaza of rockets into Israel at about 8 p.m. local time. That was about four hours ago.
According to Israeli Channel 10, as many as 60 rockets were fired. The IDF is putting it closer to 40. What was interesting is that Hamas itself claimed responsibility for those rockets.
Now, despite the number, apparently only one minor injury, Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system worked fairly well at preventing those rockets from hitting any civilian areas. Now, what's interesting is we have yet to see any Israeli counter air
strike as of yet, but tensions are very high.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Funerals, clashes, air strikes and rocket attacks. Tensions thick and black and growing ever more intense, beginning to be reminiscent of the dark, bloody days of the last Intifada more than ten years ago.
All this set in motion with the kidnapping last month of three Israeli teenagers and, weeks later, the discovery of their bodies. The Israeli government says Hamas is responsible for the murders and named two suspects.
As Israelis mourned, some lashed out in cold-blooded revenge, kidnapping and then burning to death 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Sunday police arrested several Israeli Jews, some of whom have confessed to the murder, according to Israeli media reports.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and expressed his condolences to his father in a phone call.
Abu Khdeir's murder sparked intense clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli police in Jerusalem, during which a 15-year-old Tampa, Florida, boy, Tariq Abu Khdeir, was brutally assaulted by Israeli police, an assault caught on cell-phone cameras.
A bruised and battered Tariq was released on bail Sunday.
(on camera): How do you feel now that you're out?
TARIQ ABU KHDEIR, ASSAULTED BY POLICE: Way better.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): His release isn't the end of Tariq's story, warns his Baltimore-born mother.
(on camera): You'll pursue charges against the police who beat him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, we will. Definitely.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Israeli justice ministry has launched a probe into the beating.
As Israeli smolders, dark clouds gather over Gaza. For weeks now, militants have fired rockets into Israel, which in turn has launched dozens of air strikes on Gaza. Escalation is in the air.
A Hamas leader warning that Israel has crossed a red line after killing eight Gaza militants overnight Sunday. A newly-posted video on the website of Hamas' military wing, complete with ominous music, shows off their latest long-range rocket.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WEDEMAN: And of course, those attacks by Hamas was their answer to overnight Israeli air strikes that left eight militants dead, including six from Hamas. So this tit-for-tat exchange, which has been intensifying since early in June, seems to be about reached a pinnacle.
BLITZER: Yes. Looks like a boiling point. There are now reports, Ben, that the Israeli army is mobilizing reserve units. What's going on on that front? Because that's usually a sign that this powder keg really could explode.
WEDEMAN: Yes. We spoke to a senior spokesman for the Israeli military today, who told us that so far several hundred reservists have been called up, but they're looking to bring in as many as 1,500, which may seem like a big number, but you have to keep in mind that in November 2012, when we had the last major blow-up between Hamas and Israel, Israel called up 30,000 troops. This may be a sign that Israel is not quite ready to escalate dramatically as we've seen in the past.
BLITZER: All right. Ben Wedeman, be careful over there. Ben Wedeman reporting from Jerusalem.
Let's dig a little bit deeper. Our guest, Maen Areikat, he's the chief PLO representative here in Washington.
Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in. How do you quiet this tension down, because it looks like it's about to explode? I don't know if you agree.
MAEN AREIKAT, CHIEF PLO REPRESENTATIVE IN WASHINGTON: It's -- I don't think it's of interest of anybody in that region to escalate. And we -- the Palestinian leadership, the PLO, President Abbas have been calling for de-escalation. He has been talking to different parties, including the United States, about deescalating the situation.
I think we should not forget, in the midst of all this unfortunate tension and the murders of the teenagers and the Israeli teenager -- the Palestinian teenager, the way he was killed and burned to death, that the root cause of this conflict is the occupation. I think what we need to do is to provide Palestinians with dignified life, freedom in return...
BLITZER: Secretary Kerry, the Obama administration have been trying for ten months. There were major talks: the Israelis, the Palestinians, with the U.S. involved. Is that over with? Is there any chance the U.S. can revive those peace process negotiations?
AREIKAT: I think the recent events of the last two weeks prove beyond any doubt that this political vacuum cannot continue.
The parameters for a political solution are obvious to everybody. Two-set solution in 1967, two capitals in Jerusalem, just a solution to the Palestinian problem of security, prosperity, peace for all. I don't believe that the United States and the international community can afford to keep this political violence. BLITZER: What do you want the Obama administration to do?
AREIKAT: Right now what we want them to do is to rein in Israeli violence. The Israelis have been using disproportionate force since those three were kidnapped.
BLITZER: What about the Hamas rockets coming into Israel from Gaza?
AREIKAT: Well, Israel embarked on a major campaign following the disappearance of the three (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in which they had...
BLITZER: You mean since the three teenage boys?
AREIKAT: Yes. They were living in a settlement in the West Bank. And Israel embarked on a campaign to arrest the Hamas leaders, attack their institutions. In the process, ten Palestinians were killed, ever since those three were kidnapped. Until today Israel doesn't even have a proof who is behind them, although they pointed fingers to Hamas.
BLITZER: Is the Palestinian Authority, and you represent the PLO, which of course, is a major part of President Mahmoud Abbas's authority, his government, in Ramallah. Is it going to continue this coalition with Hamas, which as you know, the U.S. regards as a terrorist organization?
AREIKAT: When what we have is not a coalition with Hamas. We have a government of national consensus. We are preparing for elections, which hopefully will be held within the six to nine months from now. And the Palestinian people were given the choice to elect their representatives.
I don't understand why anybody would be against the Palestinians exercising their Democratic right of electing their representatives. This government is the government of President Mahmoud Abbas. It follows his political agenda. There are no members of Hamas or any other political organization present in this existing government.
BLITZER: But there is this alliance, if you will, that has emerged that's causing a lot of anguish.
AREIKAT: There is an effort to reconcile. Nobody wants the Palestinian people...
BLITZER: Is Hamas ready to accept the conditions that you, the Palestinian Authority, have accepted: a two-state solution living in peace, ending terrorism, stuff like that?
AREIKAT: This is the political agenda of President Abbas and the PLO.
BLITZER: Can Hamas do that?
BLITZER: Do you think they will? AREIKAT: They will have to answer to the Palestinian people. It's
the Palestinian people who will select their representatives, and I sincerely believe that the majority of the Palestinian people want to see an end to this conflict based on a two-state solution, Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security.
BLITZER: It would be good if they could get to that solution. We've been hoping for it for so many years. Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.
AREIKAT: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Maen Areikat is the Palestinian representative here in Washington.
Coming up, the immigration drama playing out along the border and here in Washington. How badly is it hurting President Obama?
Plus, two jumbo jets possibly only seconds from disaster. A chilling scene all caught on tape.
BLITZER: As thousands of immigrant children cross into the United States alone and illegally, the surge at the border is bringing out lots of angry protesters and bringing a lot of heat on President Obama right now. He's getting lots of blame, of course, from Republicans, but even from some within his own party.
CNN's Michelle Kosinski is standing by over at the White House. But first let's go to our national correspondent, Kyung Lah. She's in the flashpoint town of Murrieta, California.
What is the latest over there, Kyung?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today was a relatively abbreviated protest day, compared to the other days that we've seen here in this town, because the anticipated busloads of undocumented immigrants, well, today they just didn't show up.
The plane that they landed here in southern California did land. There was a plane full of them. They did exit out of that plane. They are undocumented immigrants. Many women and children who landed in San Diego. And they are here originating from Texas.
The influx of child immigrants, primarily from Central America, has led to a crisis at the border. And so the federal government, to mitigate that, because the facilities in Texas are full, are sending them to places like Murrieta. But when they get to a town like this, the reception has been relatively cold. Last week the bus loads were turned around on Tuesday. The buses did not show up, Wolf, but the protesters were here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDYAN CARROLL, PRO-IMMIGRANT PROTESTOR: They're children, what is wrong with you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA!
CARROLL: I just don't understand how people can be so full of hate for anybody else and especially these are kids who are going through terrible traumas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not in Murrieta. Not in Murrieta.
LAH: Do you essentially feel that you won since the buses aren't coming?
MARTIN DORAN, MURRIETA RESIDENT: Well, we've won, because we made a nationwide and even worldwide stand against this immoral act of bringing all these and letting all these -- foreigners into this country without going through the immigration process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: Now, the protesters say that, even though the buses did not show up, they will continue to show up. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that the immigrants will continue to arrive here in Southern California. They won't say where they are going or how they are handling them because of the security concerns -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kyung Lah on the scene for us there in Murrieta, California.
Thanks very much, Kyung. The crisis fanning partisan flames right here in Washington where Democrats and Republicans, they're locked in an immigration blame game.
Our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, has this part of the story. So what is it -- what are they saying? What are you hearing at the White House, Michelle?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Right.
Well, immigration reform has been a firestorm for a long time, but now that this situation has parked itself on the border for months, the political back and forth between the White House and Congress is that much more intense.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): As tens of thousands of unaccompanied kids have streamed across the border, surging to nearly 60,000 just this year, Republicans are blaming the president, saying his policies, deferring removal action for kids who were brought to the U.S. years ago, have only encouraged this flood from Central America.
And now even a House Democrat accusing President Obama of responding too slowly.
REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS: I think he is still one step behind. They knew this was happening a year ago.
KOSINSKI: From Texas Governor Rick Perry.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: About five years too late would be my response to that.
KOSINSKI: But the White House today defended its actions in beefing up resources at the border and hit back today.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact of the matter is, comprehensive immigration reform that passed through the Senate and is being blocked by Republicans in the House includes an historic investment in border security.
KOSINSKI: And virtually every day now, the White House is asked by reporters, if the president is going to Texas this week for Democratic fund-raisers, why not go to the border himself, see the problem? Since the White House has been calling this an urgent humanitarian crisis, doesn't that kind of not look good? They say they are not worried how it looks.
EARNEST: The president is very aware of the situation that exists on the Southwest border. Senior administration officials from the secretary of homeland security to secretary of HHS, top CBP officials, even some senior White House officials have traveled in the last several weeks to the Southwest border.
KOSINSKI: The goal now is to ask Congress for at least $2 billion to be able to adhere to the law that requires these kids from countries besides Mexico to have a hearing, a process so backed up now, some wait years to be processed, even though most will end up being sent home. The president wants to take action to give Homeland Security more leeway to process the children more quickly, though could face backlash again from Republicans who have been slamming him for exercising executive authority.
House Speaker Boehner writing in an CNN op-ed why he plans to sue the president over it.
KOSINSKI: So, we have heard this a lot lately, that this is costing America a lot of money. Where is it going to come from?
We know that the Department of Homeland Security will ask Congress for $2 billion. Tomorrow, we will see the White House spell out exactly what that money will be for. But we know it won't include border security. It's going to pay for things like lawyers and judges to help take these children through that lengthy legal process, required by law that by the way was passed before President Obama took office -- Wolf.
BLITZER: During the Bush administration. You're right on that front. Thanks very much. Good report, Michelle Kosinski at the White House.
Let's dig deeper. Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here along with our CNN political commentator, "The New Yorker" Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza, and our CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's the editorial director for "The National Journal."
How much of a political nightmare, problem, shall we say, does the president have right now?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is an enormous complication for him. It is an enormously complicated issue to begin with.
It's hard to keep track of with so much going on. What are the minor chords in the story? What are the major chords?
The bigger major chord, I believe, is still that House Republicans have chosen not to advance comprehensive immigration reform, even though virtually all serious strategists in the GOP believe they have to improve their vote among Hispanics and Asian Americans if they have a chance to win in 2016.
But with that as the big overriding story, there is no doubt this situation on the border has made the politics much more complex for the president, particularly since he seems now inclined to move forward through executive action to deal with immigration reform. It's harder I think -- not that he won't do it, but it's harder if it doesn't seem like you have a handle on the border situation to go forward.
BLITZER: Jeff Sessions, the senator, he was on the Senate floor, what, for a half-hour railing largely against the president, his policies, in effect encouraging these folks, these young kids, parents to send these children because they will be dreamers, if you will, down the road. They will get status here in the United States. How is this playing out on the Hill?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right.
It's hard to imagine this getting even more partisan, but it is. You do have Republicans basically saying, I told you so to the president. When you do unilaterally have a policy where you send a signal that kids who are here illegally can in some cases stay, then what do you expect to happen?
That's why you heard Michelle report the White House is going to ask for $2 billion. Don't hold your breath that Congress is actually going to pass that, particularly the Republican-led House of Representatives, unless and until there are some serious policy changes, maybe a reversal of executive order or other more specifics.
BLITZER: Congress does have to appropriate the money.
(CROSSTALK) RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But anyone who is complaining that we have a major immigration problem, it's kind of laughable, right? We all know for a decade that there is a massive problem, that the system needs to be changed, that it needs to be reformed.
Any politician in Washington who is out there railing that there is some problem at the border is just not credible on this issue right now. There was a deal in the Senate. It was a Democratic proposal to get a pathway to citizenship in return for very, very serious security measures.
BLITZER: It passed the Senate, but it died in the House.
BROWNSTEIN: And died in the House.
LIZZA: The problem right now is that the Republican Party is divided on this issue. They sort of -- they have this intoxication of the midterm elections where they can get out a base that doesn't like this deal on the one hand, and a lot of strategists, as Ron was saying, who think in the 2016 election, that is going to be bad policy. And they're sort of caught in a jam between those two electorates.
BASH: The problem is, this isn't about immigration reform. This is a refugee crisis. It's about kids now. It's taken on a whole new level, as you said at the beginning. That's why the politics...
BLITZER: But does it look right that the Texas goes to Texas on Wednesday, does a fund-raiser in Houston or Dallas, wherever he's going to be, but he's not that far away, he doesn't go down and sort of do an eyewitness account?
BLITZER: How does that?
BROWNSTEIN: I think he should be doing something. Whether you go to the border, itself, with all that comes with the president, maybe that is too much, but whether you should be talking to first-responders, people on the border, there is a case for that.
A lot of this maneuvering, it seems to me, are shots across the bow against the possibility that he will move through executive order and executive action to try to achieve at least part of what they would have gotten in comprehensive immigration reform. I look at the Boehner lawsuit on executive action and a lot of this maneuvering as trying to warn Obama away from that.
BLITZER: Well, let me pick up on that, because John Boehner, the speaker, wrote an article, an op-ed article for CNN.com, basically, the headline, why we must now sue the president.
Among other things, he writes: "What's disappointing is the president's flippant dismissal of the Constitution we are both sworn to defend. It is utterly beneath the dignity of the office."
This lawsuit, is it a serious lawsuit, or is it a political stunt to generate the base, excitement on the base looking forward to the midterm elections?
LIZZA: I think it's both of those. If you look at the number of executive orders that recent presidents have signed, Obama is actually -- he is on the low side.
I think the idea that all of a sudden on the right using executive power and signing executive orders has been something that's out of bounds is something new in our politics. Right? And it shows that there is this sort of anti-Obama sentiment that is kind of off the charts.
Even the Democrats, as much as they hated Bush, they never actually would sue him because they thought he was using executive powers too much.
BLITZER: Some Republicans want to go further. They don't want to sue him. They want to impeach him.
BROWNSTEIN: But this is an institutional shift. Republicans have had the White House -- had the House 16 of the last 20 years.
Democrats have won the popular vote in five out of the last six presidency. Republicans, as Ryan said, were the party of the unitary executive. That was the theory under George W. Bush, virtually unfettered executive power. And now you're seeing kind of an institutional shift based on the strength of the parties.
BLITZER: Dana, let me switch gears.
Chris McDaniel, he lost the race in Mississippi. Thad Cochran, the incumbent senator, won. Chris McDaniel, they are going to make an official announcement fairly soon, right, 6:00 Eastern, on the outcome. Chris McDaniel, he wants to go ahead and challenge this.
BASH: That's right.
They haven't formally decided they will take legal action. But what they are announcing is they have gathered thousands of what they call irregularities in the votes and what they insist are invalid crossover votes, meaning people who voted in the Democratic primary on June 3 and then in the Republican runoff, which is illegal and that they should not be counted.
They have to go through some more steps to formally legally challenge, but they are certainly building the case. On the Thad Cochran side, I have talked to a couple of people, senior people from his campaign just before coming on, and insist they are fine, that they monitored -- what happened today was the votes were formally all taken in and certified today in Mississippi.
They had monitors at all 82 points.
BLITZER: The absentee ballots, they have counted all those?
BASH: They have counted all those, but the McDaniel campaign said that their irregularities had nothing to do even with absentee.
Bottom line is that McDaniel is saying this is not something he is going to give up. And the big issue is -- I talked to a lot of -- when I was there, remember, I reported on your show -- African- American voters who went out and said that they voted for the very first time for a Republican because they felt that Thad Cochran had done good things for them in Mississippi.
And those are the kinds of voters that McDaniel's people say stole the election, not just because of race or the minorities...
BLITZER: We will get the official results at the top of the hour. Is that what you're saying, 6:00 Eastern?
BASH: We will get something from the state to certify the elections. But what is going to happen in the future with a lawsuit, that will probably be days or weeks.
BLITZER: We will see what happens.
BLITZER: You will stay on stop of it. You did good reporting when you were down in Mississippi.
BASH: Thank you.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.
Up next, it's the most powerful typhoon in years, and it's bearing down right now on an island that is home to thousands of Americans. We're tracking the monster storm.
Plus, two jumbo jets on a collision course, all of it caught on videotape.
BLITZER: It's the most powerful typhoon in 15 years, capable of wind gusts -- get this -- over 150 miles per hour. And right now it's bearing down on the Japanese island of Okinawa, home to thousands of U.S. military personnel.
CNN's Will Ripley is working the story. He's joining us from Tokyo right now.
What is the latest? What are you hearing, Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that Kadena Air Base there in Okinawa, Wolf, is really much bunkering down, hunkering down right now. The streets are empty, the airport empty. All the flights are grounded, public transportation canceled, schools are closed and most businesses are closed today as well.
If you are walking around Okinawa, what you're seeing at this moment are seeing empty streets. You're feeling the winds picking up. And you are seeing waves starting to crash in from the shore. And the weather conditions are only expected to deteriorate in the coming hours because of this massive storm, even photographed by astronaut Reid Wiseman from outer space.
It took up their entire view. He tweeted wow when he saw this storm, Wolf. This is a large system. It's affecting not only Okinawa, but many of the surrounding islands in that area, and it's on a path straight towards Japan in the coming days.
BLITZER: So, of course, as we know, and a huge military base there in Okinawa.
So, this storm, I'm told, Will, could then deliver, what, a second blow after the initial blow? What is the latest on that?
RIPLEY: Yes. This is only round one.
And the big problems for Japan could actually come Wednesday evening into Thursday local time. That's because Kyushu, where this typhoon is expected to make landfall, has been inundated with heavy rain since last week.
84,000 people already are evacuated because of flooding in the area, 13 million people live in Kiushu. It's Japan's mainland southern-most island.
And if this storm moves as predicted to this area, which is already drenched with rain, we could see potentially devastating flooding, landslides and a lot of problems for a lot of people -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's awful situation over there.
Will Ripley on the scene for us in Tokyo.
Will, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our severe weather expert, our meteorologist Chad Myers. He's tracking the typhoon for us.
Give us some perspective, Chad. How big of a storm is this? CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is going to appear to the people
of Japan a lot like Sandy appeared to us. This earlier today was a super typhoon, over 150 miles per hour. It was equal to a category 5 hurricane. It's lost a little bit of its punch right now. Not as impressive on the satellite as it was. Not that big red ball. We're talking a storm bigger than many states put together. Something bigger than Texas and almost as big as Alaska from one side to the other.
And here is the island he was talking about. The big surge here, this has that bubble of water underneath it just like Sandy did. And even though Sandy came onshore as an extra tropical 70 mile per hour storm, this is going to be a surge, wind and as Will was talking about a major flooding issue.
There has been a cold front sitting over Japan for almost a week now. Rain day after day after day. And this entire yellow area here, this is one to two inches. Here's three to four, five to six. And the white in the middle, over 10 inches of rain, Okinawa right under that 10 inches. And you have to think, this storm is still going to move up toward the northeast. Nagasaki toward Osaka. Those are the areas that are going to see the surge because this eyewall is going to push this water right into this, Wolf.
It looks like a catcher's mitt just like North Carolina did, doesn't it? That's where most of the damage will be done on the southern islands. By the time it gets to Tokyo, I'm honestly thinking it's going to be a 40 to 50 mile per hour storm. Not a wind event but a flooding event everywhere. One more thing going on in America right now. There are some very big thunderstorms in Massachusetts just on the northern suburbs of Boston. There is even a tornado warning for a while on this storm. Right now, it's just a severe thunderstorm warning. But the storm is still slowly rotating.
If you are in the northern Boston suburbs, you just stay away from that storm. There still could be wind and hail with the storm heading almost to downtown Boston in the next hour or so. And more storms behind it. There will be some severe weather in America tonight. We'll keep watching it for you.
BLITZER: We will stay on top of that, but getting back to that typhoon in Japan right now, how well prepared are they, the buildings, the structure, the preparations for what could be a huge, huge disaster?
MYERS: There is no question Okinawa is ready. Okinawa will get more than one typhoon a year. I mean, they make landfall all the time. Those buildings are structurally sound. Almost every building in that area is ready for a typhoon.
Now typhoon, cyclone and hurricane, I know it all sounds different, but they're exactly the same thing. They just are in different oceans. And so because they're in different oceans, that's why we're talking about the different first name, typhoon not the hurricane. This is still a very large and intense water-maker. A rain-maker and a surge-maker. The winds dying off now. Okinawa is still going to get probably get
70 miles per hour. But when we talk about Nagasaki and Osaka, we're still going to -- that storm is going to be dying off by the time it gets there. The water is getting colder, some dry air getting pulled off from a Shanghai, wrapping in the storm right now, killing it, at least a little bit. But still, major impacts to the people there.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's hope for the best. All right, Chad, thanks very much.
Still ahead, remarkable video believed to be the first public appearance of a terror leader. Is this the man whose radical forces are now sweeping across major parts of Iraq?
BLITZER: And caught on tape, that close call that nearly ended in disaster.
BLITZER: A chilling scene on an airport runway where a taxiing jumbo jet pulled directly in front of another plane that was about to land. All of it caught on videotape.
Our aviation correspondent Richard Quest is joining us with details.
Richard, what happened?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: This was the most extraordinary situation where you had one plane coming in to land. At the last moment, perhaps far too close, another plane chooses to cross the runway and as the story unfolds, you see one plane had to take evasive action quickly.
QUEST (voice-over): Coming in for landing a Russian Boeing 767 on late final approach at Barcelona's El Prat Airport. Suddenly an Airbus A-340 from Argentina crosses the runway right in front of it.
The Russian plane realizes the gap is narrowing and decides to go around. It averts what apparently could have been a very close call.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: A go-round is not a lot of fun. I had a -- I was on an airliner, at one's landing at LaGuardia. It was a similar situation. And it happened just before we touched down and people were screaming on that airplane.
QUEST: An airport spokeswoman said there was no danger of a collision and the YouTube video's perspective doesn't show that there was ample space between the planes. The authorities are investigating the incident nonetheless.
DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: The last person who could have avoided this from happening was the flight crew on the ground aircraft who is responsible to look up in the air, to look to see if there's any aircraft approaching before they try to cross the runway. And secondly the air traffic controller should have made a warning and said look, you need to stop and hold.
QUEST: This incident comes days after two planes near Houston came closer than permitted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to deviate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do what you need to do, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're descending, Delta 2344.
QUEST: And in April, two aircrafts at JFK also came too close, likely within a half mile. Those are more serious near collision at the Newark Airport, one plane taking off, another landing and the two passing just 50 yards apart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he was real close, sir.
QUEST: The FAA's latest figures show planes getting too close to each other happens more than 4,000 times over the course of a year, 41 of them are described as high risk events.
So how serious could these dangers be?
In 1991, this collision at Los Angeles between a plane landing and a plane on the runway caused 34 deaths. One possible factor, in all these recent incidents, the growing number of flights.
O'BRIEN: If we don't build more runways we're just going to see more and more of this.
QUEST: Now what we have here is a situation where the system is working every time the collisions aren't taking place. But you do keep wondering how much further you want to push the envelope before you have to start working out is there something systematically wrong that's creating these incidents, one after the other -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So in addition to building more runways, as Miles O'Brien suggested, what else can be done to avoid these close calls?
QUEST: I think what there has to be is an examination as to why there have been -- I mean, are air traffic controllers under too much pressure? Are we stretching the system too far?
Let's just take the Barcelona incident you've just seen. Yes, of course there was probably very little likelihood of a collision here. The perspective doesn't show there was actually more distance but also it was a clear day. The landing plane could see the crossing aircraft and was able to take evasive action. But either, either air traffic capitol made a mistake or simply one pilot just didn't get their instructions right.
BLITZER: Richard Quest with the latest. Thanks very, very much.
Coming up, the video that caught almost everyone off guard. Is this the elusive leader of the militants terrorizing Iraq right now.
Plus, a holiday killing spree as a series of deadly shootings rock a major American city.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, a tornado warning for a major American city. Stand by. We have details.