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THE SITUATION ROOM
Three Americans Killed in Jerusalem Terror Attack; Fifth Victim Dies in Terror Attack; Interview with Mickey Rosenfeld; Airbags Recalled for Safety; Senate About to Vote on Controversial Pipeline
Aired November 18, 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: Happening now, terror in Jerusalem -- four rabbis, three of them Americans, are murdered while praying, as Palestinian attackers turn a synagogue into a slaughterhouse. And we're just learning that an Israeli police officer has now died of his wounds.
The U.S. has plenty of firepower when it comes to pounding ISIS, but when it comes to intelligence, surveillance and targeting, does the U.S. have enough drones?
We're taking a closer look at the growing shortage in the sky.
North Korea's charm offensive -- it's not working at the United Nations, where the communist regime suffers a humiliating defeat over human rights abuses.
And the big chill -- with winter a month away, all 50 states see subfreezing temperatures -- yes, even in Hawaii. And there's now six feet of snow near my hometown of Buffalo.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news. Horrible images from a Jerusalem synagogue, where two Palestinians armed with butcher knives and a gun attacked a group of worshippers, killing four rabbis, three of them U.S. citizens. And hospital officials say a fifth victim, an Israeli police officer, has now died of his wounds.
All funerals were quickly held for the rabbis. Israel's prime minister ordered the demolition of the attackers' homes. And because of the American connection, the FBI is now on the scene investigating the attack.
Our correspondents, our analysts, our newsmakers, they're standing by with full coverage. And I'll speak with the Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld.
But let's begin with our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman. He's joining us live from Jerusalem.
We want to caution all of our viewers, his report will contain some very graphic images -- tell our viewers, Ben, what has occurred.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What occurred is just before 7:00 in the morning, Wolf, as these worshippers were in the synagogue in Har Nof neighborhood in West Jerusalem, when two Palestinians from East Jerusalem, the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, burst into the room where they were praying. These men were armed with butcher's knives and a pistol. And we understand they started to -- they shot and they started to stab the worshippers in there, killing four of them, all rabbis. Three of them were dual U.S.-Israeli nationals, one a British-Israeli national.
Now, just moments after the first shots were fired, the Israeli police were alerted. They were on the scene within seven minutes.
Now the pictures that are coming out of that slaughter really are disturbing -- blood all over the place, all over prayer books, prayer shawls. It's really the worst attack in Jerusalem in six years.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): In Jerusalem, mourners watched in grief as the rabbis' bodies were carried outside and a massive crowd gathered for their funerals. This in the wake of terror, in the house of prayer, as two Palestinian cousins wielding butcher's knives and a gun attacked worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers. Four rabbis were killed, three of whom were dual U.S.-Israeli citizens, the fourth a British-Israeli. Six others were wounded before police shot and killed the attackers inside the synagogue. It was the worst attack in the city since 2008.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to, quote, "Respond with a heavy hand."
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Those human animals that committed this massacre came with great hatred and incitement -- with deep hatred and incitement against the Jewish people and its state.
WEDEMAN: Netanyahu ordered that the attackers' houses be demolished. Inside the synagogue, signs of the grisly chaos -- a holy book, prayer shawls, the floor and the walls splattered red, a blood- stained cleaver, toppled chairs, a shattered pair of glasses.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bloodshed.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): We strongly condemn this incident and do not accept, under any circumstances, attacks on civilians.
WEDEMAN: And President Obama urged calm. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And at this
difficult time, I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and to reject violence.
WEDEMAN: But in Gaza, celebrations, as revelers brandished axes, threw candy and displayed posters showing pictures of the two Palestinian assailants.
Israeli police currently believe the attackers, from East Jerusalem, were not part of a larger organization.
SUPT. MICKEY ROSENFELD, ISRAELI POLICE: Part of the ongoing investigation is leading us to believe that the two suspects, the two terrorists, worked on their own, that they planned the attack ahead of time.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WEDEMAN: And, of course, now regarding this now, the fifth victim in this attack, he was a police officer who apparently showed up on the scene. And while he was trying to pull one of his female colleagues to safety, he was shot in the head and succumbed to those wounds this evening -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ben Wedeman with the very latest from Jerusalem.
A series of violent attacks against a background of incitement and rising tensions over Jerusalem.
Are we seeing the start of a third Palestinian intifada or uprising or a wider religious war in the Middle East?
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott -- Elise, first of all, how is the U.S. responding to all of this?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you heard President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry condemning the attacks. They've both been concerned about the rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians for months, Wolf.
And today, while also condemning today's terrorist attack, Secretary of State Kerry, who just met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan, called on both leaders to redouble their efforts at calming the situation.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our hearts go out to all Israelis for the atrocity of this event and for all the reminders of history that come with it. This is -- it simply has no place in human behavior. And we need to hear from leaders who are going to lead -- lead their people to a different place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: Now, Secretary Kerry suggested he's in agreement with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the attack was the direct result of incitement by the Palestinian leadership.
Secretary Kerry, in addition to warning the Palestinians, also called for a halt to Israeli intrusions on the holy site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which the Israelis call the Temple Mount. The U.S. is also urging Israel to use restraint in its response, not to demolish any Palestinian homes as retribution, because they believe that will only continue this cycle of violence. The U.S. is very worried Jerusalem is a power keg right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Does the Obama administration believe all of this, as you describe it, a powder keg right now, is the result of the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?
Secretary Kerry worked intensively for a year to get it going. It went nowhere.
LABOTT: That's right. Well, obviously, the U.S. is not justifying any type of violence, especially of this horrific nature. But certainly, the U.S. sees a much bigger picture here. Let's not forget, we're coming off this summer, with the war with Hamas. You also have the Israeli settlement activity in the Palestinian Territories, too. You see settlers taking actions against Palestinians.
Now, Wolf, for all the criticism against Secretary Kerry for his failed peace efforts, there was very little violence during that nine month period of negotiations,
Secretary Kerry has warned that a breakdown of the peace process would lead to another intifada and the Jordan foreign minister, meeting with Secretary Kerry this weekend, warned the same.
BLITZER: Elise Labott with the very latest.
Thanks very much.
Let's go back to the Jerusalem right now for the latest on this bloody terror attack and what Israel is promising will be a very, very tough response.
Joining us from Jerusalem is that Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld.
Micky, thanks very much for joining us.
Sorry for the circumstances.
Based on what you know right now -- and I know you're involved in the investigation -- were these lone wolf attackers or was it a coordinated plot by a terror organization? SUPT. MICKY ROSENFELD, ISRAELI POLICE: What we've confirmed
until now -- and that's been confirmed throughout the day -- is the two terrorists from Jabel Mukaber worked on their own. We know they were cousins and they carried out the terrorist attack on their own.
We're also looking, at the same time, exactly how they arrived in the area and if they were familiar with the neighborhood, why exactly they targeted the synagogue where so many people were praying at the early hours of the morning, just after 7:00, when they entered, and unfortunately killed those four respectable rabbis who were there praying in peace and quiet.
Things have been developing here on the ground level since the attack this morning. There have been six people in the hospital, four of them in serious condition. And unfortunately, just over 20 minutes ago, the police officer who was shot in the head during the gun battle that took place was pronounced dead. And therefore, until now, five Israelis were killed in this terrorist attack here in Jerusalem.
BLITZER: So the question is, was the police officer -- I assume the police officer was shot in the head, you're saying, by one of these two Palestinian terrorists, is that right?
ROSENFELD: That's correct. He was shot at close range when there was a shootout, as soon as the Israeli police arrived at the scene. They were on the scene within eight minutes. And already, eight minutes after the initial dispatch call, the terrorist was shot and killed. But unfortunately, a police officer was shot at close range, until the second officer intervened and then killed the terrorists.
BLITZER: We know the pictures are gruesome. And I want to warn our viewers once again, the pictures are very graphic from inside that synagogue in Jerusalem. And you can see the blood all over the place.
You know, were these people -- these rabbis, were they killed with these butcher knives?
Were they killed with guns?
How were they killed?
ROSENFELD: Well, the pictures that you are seeing and you've seen and the viewers are watching is almost nothing in comparison to what was really going on inside. It was much worse, much more brutal.
The attackers entered inside using both the hatchets, as well as axes. And they were armed with a pistol, as well, and opened fire in every direction, trying to kill as many people as possible when people -- those rabbis were praying peaceably in a respectable manner.
And obviously, those terrorists had worked together, coordinated arriving at the early hours of the morning, taking advantage of having blue identity cards so they can come inside Jerusalem and had clearly targeted the synagogue for the early hours of the morning attack. Let's not forget what's been going over the last 24 to 48 hours,
the incitement both by the Palestinian Authority and by the Palestinian media, calling upon terrorists to take advantage of the situation and carry out lone attacks. And unfortunately, this morning, we saw the deadly results with five Israelis sadly killed today.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Micky Rosenfeld, the Israeli police national spokesman.
We have more questions, including this specific question.
A lot of people are wondering, were those rabbis, one a dual British-Israeli, three American-Israelis, were they deliberately targeted or was it just happenstance that they were the ones who were killed?
We'll have much more with Micky Rosenfeld right after this.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Israel vowing a very tough response after the brutal murder of four rabbis, three of them Americans in a terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue. Two Palestinian attackers were shot dead at the scene.
We're back with the Israeli police spokesperson, Micky Rosenfeld.
You know, it's very worrisome to see these ax attacks, hatchet attacks. In the past month alone, we know there was a hatchet attack in New York. There was an ax attack here in D.C. A Canadian soldier, as you know, was killed in a hit-and-run incident. There have been all of these incidents.
Do you believe what's going on in Jerusalem right now are part of this bigger problem that we're seeing? In other words, copycats and terrorists inspired by others?
ROSENFELD: Yes. What we can see at the moment is definitely a sort of a trend or a phase which we're going through here over the last two weeks, where lone terrorists have been carrying out the attacks, specifically inside Jerusalem. Apart from there was an attack where a soldier was killed in Tel Aviv last week.
We can see that the terrorists, those lone terrorists are trying to implement attacks inside specifically Jerusalem.
Our main emphasis at the moment is to get to the potential terrorists before they reach the streets and, therefore, police operations have been increased in the different areas both in and around Jerusalem both by undercover units, special patrol units and border police.
And on the ground level in all of the public areas across Jerusalem after this morning's terrorist attack, the more police officers not just around the Israeli Arab neighborhoods but in all central bus stations and public areas, train stations, as well as the light rail, which runs through Jerusalem, more police officers on the ground.
BLITZER: How concerned are you, Micky, that extreme Israelis, and there's an element out there, might seek revenge now against Palestinians? We've seen this before.
Well, the level of the terrorist attack that took place first of all -- and I want to emphasize that was carried out this morning by two Israeli Arabs -- to carry out that type of an attack, someone has to be focused and certainly fundamentalist in order to kill so many people in the way and in the sick way that it was carried out.
In terms of revenge attacks and what we know until now, at least in Jerusalem this evening, is there was only a number of disturbances and protests that took place at the entrance of Jerusalem. Police units were on the scene and dealt with that. That was a low-profile, low-level incident.
In terms of real threats of a revenge attack as of now, we haven't reached that stage, and we hope that we're not going to reach that stage, as well. But obviously the Israeli police are still concerned and are keeping their eyes open for that type of incident if it would possibly occur.
BLITZER: Was it just chance that, of the four rabbis, three of them had dual U.S./Israeli citizenship, one was British/Israeli citizenship? Was that just coincidental or were they targeted?
ROSENFELD: What we know in terms of the investigation itself, the synagogue was targeted, but specifically knowing that the people that were inside the synagogue, that they were foreign nationals, they had joint passports, had recently (ph) been in America. One of them was still being a British national, we don't think that the terrorists knew that.
But on the other hand, the terrorists knew exactly at 7 p.m. in the morning that the synagogue would be packed with respectable people, praying in peace and quiet where it was peace and quiet, doing what they do every morning three times a day, and unfortunately, we saw the tragic results by those fanatical terrorists from Jabhah Mokabbah (ph) this morning.
BLITZER: We saw some very, very gruesome, I should call it awful video in the West Bank -- not the West Bank. This is in Gaza. I should point out Hamas supporters celebrating these two Palestinians who went into that synagogue, killed those four rabbis, killed an Israeli police officer at the same time.
Last time, back in the summer when something like this occurred, those three Israelis, those teenage boys were kidnapped and killed and eventually resulted in that 50-day war in Gaza and a lot of people -- more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. About 60 or 70 Israelis were killed. A lot of us remember that. How concerned are you, Micky Rosenfeld, that this incident could
spark that kind of -- that kind of event?
ROSENFELD: In terms of the police perspective, at this moment in time, we see it as a phase and more of a wave that is taking place, and we're at the peak of that wave at the moment here in Jerusalem.
Increased police operations and increased intelligence is our main emphasis in order to prevent any further attacks from taking place. You cannot get to every terrorist, especially when these individuals, these fanatics are taking advantage that they have full access to every area inside Jerusalem and then, instead of going to work and coming home, back to their families.
Let's not forget, a lot of these terrorists have families -- had families with three children, with five children. So we can see that the profile of these terrorists are individuals, fanatics that are out there working on their own in order to cause as many Israeli casualties as possible.
Heightened security will no doubt continue. We're hoping that the peak of this period that we're in at the moment will gradually calm down and the tensions will calm down. We're doing everything possible, both in terms of the ground level as well as the different security organizations working together, coordinating, making decisions. And we'll see those decisions implemented on a ground level over the next 24 and 48 hours.
BLITZER: Micky Rosenfeld, the spokesman for the Israeli police. Micky Rosenfeld, thanks very much for joining us.
ROSENFELD: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll have more on this story coming up.
Other news we're following as well, Democrats, at least some of them, crossing the aisle as the Senate getting ready to push ahead with a vote on the controversial Keystone Pipeline.
An early winter. All 50 states are seeing subfreezing temperatures, and there's six feet -- yes, six feet -- of snow near my hometown of Buffalo.
Plus, North Korea's charm offensive turns out to be a flop at the United Nations where the communist regime suffers a humiliating defeat over its human rights abuse. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The United States now facing an historic blast of cold weather. All 50 states reporting freezing weather and a record snowfall with snow on the ground -- get this -- in over half of the country. We have team coverage on the unusually early winter weather. Let's begin with our severe weather expert, Chad Myers. Chad, give us the latest. CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the blast is really
blasting western New York right now. I know you're at my old hometown, but 51 inches of snow in Cheektowaga in one day. Now you go just north of there to the airport where you lived, up toward the Buffalo airport, only 3 inches of snow. That's a matter of about five miles.
So right here between three miles, from Lancaster right through Depew and up to the airport, from 42 inches to 3 1/2. Normally, all this snow goes south of Buffalo, but this is right in the south, right in the gut of it, right in Depew and West Seneca and Cheektowaga and Lackawanna, all of those towns to the south of Buffalo that we're going to cut off. You're not going to get any circulation between Buffalo and about Pittsburgh or Cleveland for the next two days. The throughway is completely shut down because of all of this lake-effect snow.
What it is, it's the cold air moving over unfrozen lakes. Now, it's not that warm. It's 40, but the air is 10. Great Lakes. So when that air comes up and, remember, if you look at kind of a lake, you'll see that steam come up in the morning. Well, the steam is coming off the lake. It's getting into the clouds, and those clouds are just pouring all of that snow right into Buffalo right now. It hasn't stopped for 24 hours, and I don't see an end to it for another eight hours.
It does end tomorrow but then, Wolf, if you will believe it or not, another lake-effect snow event is about to set up for Thursday. There could be some spots in western New York with 80 inches of snow before it finally stops. At that point, there's no place to put it. You just can't even throw the snow high enough to get rid of it. You have to wait for it to melt.
BLITZER: Eighty inches in just a few days.
BLITZER: It reminds me of the blizzard back in the '70s, right?
MYERS: That's right. You can walk -- from my house you could walk up the snowbank and get on the roof. I was in -- I think I lived about six miles from where you lived. But I was down at Friendship Bordon (ph), West Cheektowaga and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) kind of together right there and we had such a blast in all of that snow as a kid. As an adult, you don't enjoy it quite as much.
BLITZER: I remember at my parents' house in Williamsville right outside from Buffalo. The snow was up to the windows on the second floor. And I guess that's what people in Western New York are bracing for right now.
All right, Chad, thanks very much.
The snowfall piles up in western New York, one county is declaring a state of emergency and issuing a travel ban while the governor is sending in the National Guard. Let's go to Buffalo. Martin Savidge is on the scene for us.
Martin, tell us what you're seeing.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, this is just, as Chad pointed out, this is the storm that literally is dividing the city in half. We're talking about the northern part of the town that you know well. A couple inches. And you come here south of Buffalo, and they are just getting pummeled. And it's not letting up.
Four to five inches an hour of snow. It's been doing that for at least the last 12 hours now. And we've got maybe about three to four feet here. This is a fire station, by the way. And just to show you, the fire trucks really can't get around it anymore. They have to use snowmobiles. These are EMS staff. They're inside a vehicle. They wait for a call. They come out. A snowmobile volunteer drives them, and they go to where they have to go.
But this is that lake-effect snow, and it's maybe a swath about ten miles wide, but rare in this city, it's dumping this snow. Travel bans in many areas around this town. We've already talked about the National Guard coming out. In Buffalo they're used to heavy snow. But even by Buffalo's standards, this has people shaking their heads in disbelief, and they wonder when it's going to end. And the answer right now is not for a number of days. Seventy-plus inches in some areas predicted. Tomorrow, maybe 30 more inches on top of that over the coming days.
It's November. Not January. This is Buffalo, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Even by Buffalo standards, this is awful, as you're pointing out correctly. Thanks very much, Martin Savidge, for that report.
We're getting some other breaking news into THE SITUATION ROOM. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now calling for a national recall of defective airbags in millions of vehicles.
Rene Marsh is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's got the information for us. What's going on?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a major development. We're talking about millions of drivers here impacted by this news. Just a few minutes ago, NHTSA, which is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they just announced that they are expanding this recall.
This all centers around those vehicles with the Takata airbags. As we've been reporting, these airbags in some cases have exploded. The metal component has exploded and separated into pieces, injuring in some cases some drivers; and it's been reported other drivers have been killed by the shrapnel that shoots out from the airbag.
Originally, or up until now, 8 million vehicles, 10 automakers were involved in this recall, but it was very specific. Regional. Only hot and humid states. But just a matter of minutes ago, Wolf, that changed. They're calling for a nationwide recall. So if you have one of those vehicles, you now can get your airbag fixed.
BLITZER: It's a mandatory recall, right?
MARSH: Right. Well, what they're saying is that they're urging Takata and the automakers to do this. Obviously, they can't make them, but they say that if they do not cooperate, they will use all of the powers that they have to force them to do this nationwide recall. Of course, the question is parts. Will they have parts for all of these vehicles?
BLITZER: Why are they doing this now?
MARSH: Well, this all stems from one incident in North Carolina. There was a driver of a 2007 Ford Mustang. That airbag exploded. They had metal pieces that injured the driver, but North Carolina, not one of those hot and humid states. So now NHTSA, hearing that, said, "Wait a minute, we have to focus beyond the hot and humid states, because we have an incident here that happened someplace else." So now they've broadened it, based on that evidence.
BLITZER: Good to know. Thanks very much. Rene Marsh reporting.
Just ahead, the Senate is about to vote on the controversial Keystone Pipeline. President Obama opposes it, but a number of Democrats are getting ready to cross the aisle.
And could Kim Jong-un now face an international court? The United Nations just took an historic step against North Korea over its human rights record.
BLITZER: We're watching two major political stories. Right now, President Obama has vowed to go it alone on immigration reform and may issue an executive order as early as this week.
Plus, on the Senate floor, a vote on the controversial Keystone Pipeline. President Obama opposes it, but a number of Democrats are crossing the aisle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress has the authority...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And joining us now is Cecilia Munoz. She's the director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House.
Cecilia, thanks very much for joining us. Assuming the Senate passes this Keystone Pipeline legislation, will the president sign it into law or veto it?
CECILIA MUNOZ, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE DOMESTIC POLICY COUNCIL: Well, the president believes that the process should play its course. We have a process that is undertaken in the courts. The purpose of that is to sort of suss out what the best interests of the American people are. We believe the process should take its course, and we're going to be watching to see how that turns out.
BLITZER: So, in other words, he'll veto it.
MUNOZ: He's a believer in the process, and we'll see what the courts have to say.
BLITZER: Because it's not going to take within the next 15, 16 days. The courts aren't going to make all the decisions, the State Department is not going to make all the -- all those decisions, so I assume what you're saying is the president will go ahead and veto the legislation, assuming it passes in the Senate as it passed in the House.
MUNOZ: What we're saying is that those decisions are really important. They essentially outline what the impacts are going to be for the American people. It's pretty important for those -- that information to be part of the process and before a decision gets made, that's very much informing the president's perspective on this issue.
BLITZER: I'll take that as a veto. Which raises the other question: Why did Harry Reid, the majority leader at least for another month, allow this to come up for a vote and potentially so embarrass the president of the United States by forcing him to veto this kind of legislation?
MUNOZ: That sounds like a question that's much better aimed directly at the Senate than at us here at the White House.
BLITZER: Was it coordinated? Did Harry Reid get approval, a greenlight from the White House, to allow this legislation to come up? Because all of this speculation, as you know, Cecilia, is he's doing it to try to help Mary Landrieu, the Democratic senator from Louisiana, get re-elected in that run-off on December 6.
MUNOZ: I think Senator Reid is in a better position to describe what his motives are than I am. And I think you should probably ask him.
BLITZER: We will do that indeed. No comment from you on that. I know you guys probably aren't very happy that the president is going to be forced into this veto.
Let's move onto something else. The other big battle that's emerging is immigration reform, and the president has said unless Congress acts with comprehensive, at least some sort of immigration reform before -- between now and the end of the year, he's going to go ahead and use his executive authority unilaterally and change the regulations right now of how the immigration laws are being implemented.
But a year or so ago he said he wouldn't do that. Listen to what he said a year ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is something
that I've struggled with throughout my presidency. The problem is, is that I am the president of the United States. I'm not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed. And Congress right now has not changed what I consider to be a broken immigration system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So he didn't want to do it then, but now he's ready to do it. Why is he going to do what he said he couldn't do then?
MUNOZ: So he was in the process of giving the House of Representatives an opportunity to act. He gave them 16 months, in fact, since the Senate passed a strong bipartisan bill with all kinds of support around the country.
The president firmly believes that if we're really going to fix this problem, we need congressional action. They are the only ones that have in their hands the ability for permanent solutions here.
But at the same time, he's made it very, very clear. He's going to do what he can to fix something that's broken. He's going to do it within the constraints as it allows. But he gave the Congress and the House of Representatives, in particular, 16 months after a strong bipartisan bill passed the Senate; and it's time for him to get on with doing what's right for the American people here.
BLITZER: He himself repeatedly said over the past several years that he didn't have the authority to do it. He's not the emperor of the United States. He's the president of the United States. But now he believes he does have the authority?
MUNOZ: So he's asked his team, the secretary of DHS and the Department of Justice, to outline specifically what he has the legal authority to do. And what he was responding to, Wolf, was questions from folks in the community who wanted him to stop enforcing the law altogether. That is beyond what he has the ability to do.
But he does have the authority to act and he's going to use that authority before the end of the year.
BLITZER: All right. Cecilia Munoz, the director of Domestic Policy Council at the White House. Cecilia, thanks very much for joining us.
MUNOZ: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Now let's get some analysis. Let's bring in our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, along with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, the implications of the Keystone vote today and any minute now they're going to start the roll call. It passed overwhelmingly in the House and there's a good chance it's going to pass in the Senate, forcing the president to go ahead, as we just heard, and veto it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. As you pointed out in your interview, this is all because of the Democrats. The Democrats are trying to save Mary Landrieu's seat in Louisiana. The Keystone Pipeline is very important in that part of the world to the economy in her state. So it's the Democrats who are forcing this vote.
But take a look at it this way. They could force the vote. President vetoes it. Fine. He says the State Department hasn't decided yet on how it comes out on this, that there's legal proceedings under way in Nebraska, and he doesn't want to act ahead of that.
But then, if the Congress comes back, as I believe they will, when Republicans control both houses, and say they pass it again and put it on the president's desk, he wouldn't necessarily veto it. Maybe he could use it as a way to sort of cut deals with them on other issues. It becomes kind of a bargaining chip for him, a chip he can use with the Republicans.
So in a way, yes, they're forcing this on him, and he will veto it. But on the other hand, he can use it to his advantage at some point down the road.
BLITZER: You know, Dana, we're waiting any minute now for that roll call to begin. What's the expectation? Do they -- the supporters of the Keystone Pipeline have the 60 votes they need?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does not look like they do. As a Democratic lunch a couple of hours ago I was told that inside the private lunch Mary Landrieu made a very impassioned plea to her Democratic colleagues to support her on this. As Gloria just alluded to, there's a very big divide in the Democratic Party, and you do have a lot of red-state Democrats, a lot of those who gain -- could gain benefits from their energy producers in their states, who support this and who are pushing this.
But it is fascinating, and there's so much drama here. All day long, Wolf, I and others on our team were talking to Democrats, trying to find out if Mary Landrieu has that 60th vote, because the rules of this vote are you need 60 to pass. Fifty-nine senators are publicly saying that they will vote yes. We can't find the 60th. Every potential Democrat has said no.
One Democrat, Dick Durbin, who ironically is in the leadership and is from President Obama's home state, won't say. We're looking at him but it really is high drama, unclear how this is going to go down when the vote happens in a few minutes.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: We're already -- it may not even save her seat, right?
BASH: No. Exactly.
BORGER: I mean, she could lose anyway in her running. BASH: Exactly. She absolutely could lose. And look, just sort
of taking a step back, as you were referring with the secretary, Wolf, the fact that the Democratic leadership allowed Mary Landrieu to have this vote after stopping it and blocking it for so many years is really telling.
And actually could underscore one of the potential lessons from this last election, which is, you know, so many of the Democrats who lost, lost because they were getting battered by the Republican opponents because they voted with the president 99 percent of the time.
Well, part of the problem for those Democrats is they never got a chance to separate themselves from the president. That's now happening with the one Democrat left on the ballot.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Gloria, the president later this week could announce executive action to go ahead and change the immigration laws and we've been pointing out, this is a flip-flop for the president. Here's what he said a year ago on whether he can even legally do this. Let's listen.
I don't know if we have it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that's not an option.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. It wasn't an option a year ago but it's now an option.
BORGER: Right. He was against it before he was for it, right, and now, of course, he's for it. He's got the base of the Democratic Party saying to him, you've got to do this. The White House will argue, as you heard in your previous interview, that they gave the Republicans in the House all of the opportunity to pass the bill. They didn't do it. This is something that needs to be done and the president in his lame duck is going to do it.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see if it happens this week as I suspect it will.
Guys, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of the roll call on the Senate floor as well and the future of the Keystone Pipeline.
Coming up, after a week's long charm offensive, North Korea gets a major slap on the wrist. Will the top officials soon be facing an international court?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on North Korea. Kim
Jong-Un now facing the strongest effort yet to hold his regime accountable for crimes against humanity. The United Nations General Assembly just approved a draft resolution that recommends the regime face the International Criminal Court over its record of alleged human rights abuses.
CNN's Brian Todd is following this story for us.
So, Brian, what happened?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight observers are saying Kim Jong-Un's regime is going to be rattled by this vote. Now he may not wind up in shackles in front of that court but the humiliation, the stigma it gives Kim with his own people is something the young leader has tried very hard to fend off.
TODD (voice-over): He has released three American prisoners in recent weeks. Made a peace overture with South Korea. Shown an openness to talking with the U.S. and Japan.
There's no doubt Kim Jong-Un has been on a charm offensive.
MARCUS NOLAND, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: The problem is they haven't used their charm muscles in 65 years and so the charm offensive has not been particularly effective.
TODD: Especially since the goal was to head off a humiliating vote at the U.N. A vote that didn't go North Korea's way. Today the U.N. General Assembly voted to hold North Korean leaders accountable for human rights violations. It stems from this. A devastating U.N. report in which hundreds of former prisoners detailed abuses at North Korean prison camps.
They presented drawings of skeletal, starving people eating snakes and rats. Emaciated human remains left for rats to eat. One survivor told of a starving woman who gave birth in a camp. A prison official heard the baby's cries, beat the woman, and forced her to drown the child.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): With her shaking hands, she picked up the baby and she put the baby faced down in the water.
TODD: The North Koreans denied all of it.
CHOE MYONG NAM, NORTH KOREAN OFFICIAL AT U.N.: We made it very clear that there is no prison camps in our country. Nothing.
TODD: But the vote at the U.N. recommends a referral to the International Criminal Court for the possible prosecution of North Korean leaders for crimes against humanity. It's unlikely to get that far because North Korea's closest ally, China, will likely veto it but analysts say Kim and his inner circle will be rattled. ROBERTA COHEN, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: I
think they are afraid first of all, of the legitimacy of this government.
NOLAND: In the North Korean system the leader is absolutely deified. And the idea there could even the tiniest possibility of him ending up in shackles in front of some international criminal tribunal is something that is an absolute anathema to North Koreans.
TODD: Now responding to today's vote, Kim's representative at the U.N. talked of payback saying they'll likely resume nuclear tests. Now that the charm offensive is likely over, we might see a repeat of some well-known invectives the North Korean have used on their critics. They've recently called South Korean President Park Geun-hye a whore, President Obama, her pimp.
They have called Obama a monkey and they have referred to Michael Kirby, the U.N. judge who issued that human rights report, as quote, "a disgusting old lecher with a 40-odd year long career of homosexuality" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Strong words from North Korea.
Thanks very much, Brian.
Coming up, our breaking news. A fifth person dies in a terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue. Three of the victims are Americans. Israel's ambassador to the United States is standing by.
BLITZER: Happening now, a gruesome terrorist attack in Jerusalem just got even more deadly. Israel is vowing to respond with a heavy hand. The Israeli ambassador to the United States is standing by to join us live.