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Obama to Congress Tonight: Authorize Use of Force Against ISIS; U.S. Embassy Vehicle Comes Under Fire in Yemen

Aired January 20, 2015 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And OUTFRONT next, we are live from Capitol Hill for a special edition, we begin with breaking news. The President calling on Congress to authorize the use of force against ISIS. Is the United States going to war? This is new ISIS video surfaces. Terrorists threatening to kill two hostages if they don't get $200 million in ransom. And CNN has obtained exclusive video of the Paris supermarket shooter and his wife scoping out possible Jewish targets for attacks. We have a live report from Paris coming up. And we have a lot to get to on our special edition of OUTFRONT live from Capitol Hill tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening to all of you. I'm Erin Burnett reporting live from Capitol Hill tonight. We have a special edition of our program here from Capitol Hill. The President is going to be giving his State of the Union Address this evening where we are. We begin with the breaking news. We have just learned that in this address the President is going to call on Congress to authorize the use of force against ISIS. An unexpected and significant move. We also have chilling new video from the terror group tonight. ISIS threatening to behead the two men that you see there unless they get $200 million. They have given a deadline of 72 hours from a clock that began ticking at some point today. We have much more on all this breaking news ahead during the hour.

I want to begin though with Jim Acosta, our White House reporter. And Jim, some of what the President is going to say, we knew, a little bit of it leaking out.


BURNETT: But this call to authorize the use of force against ISIS was a significant and unexpected thing.

ACOSTA: Fairly significant and somewhat unexpected. We did not know that he was going to do this in the speech tonight. But this is sort of a State of the Union experiment over here at the White House. The White House is doing something different this year, Erin. They rolled out most of the news ahead of the speech as you mentioned. They did that because they believe we're in a new media world and people just don't absorb a laundry list of ideas all on one tonight. So, tonight the President will be going to be touching on broad themes of where the country has been, where it's going and according to the sources familiar with the speech the President will offer a full throw of defense. This counterterrorism doctrines. That means going after terrorism without embroiling the nation and cost a new worse. President will reiterate the U.S. will degrade and destroy ISIS.

And yes, even with these events unfolding in Yemen, the White House believes the approach is working. Now, Mr. Obama will ask Congress to back him up on the war on ISIS as you mentioned, Erin. He'll ask for a new vote to authorize force against the terrorist group. And here is a portion of that speech. We'll put it up on screen here. Talks about his call for an authorization for the use of force. He says tonight I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIS or ISIL as they say over here at the White House. Erin, we also know he'll be making a case during the speech tonight for ending the embargo on Cuba. And they'll again, threaten to veto, any Iran sanctions bill. That is passed by the Congress while negotiations are underway with Iran to contain its nuclear program. Now, as for domestic policy, he's going to call for raising taxes on the rich, to give tax breaks and free community college to the middle class. And you'll hear more of that in the President speech later on tonight -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to you, Jim Acosta. And with this breaking news on the authorization of force against ISIS, I want to share with you some video that we have just obtained here exclusively at CNN. Reportedly this shows the kosher supermarket shooter Amedy Coulibaly and his girlfriend, his wife, outside a Jewish institution in Paris last summer. We understand that what they were doing was actually scoping potential Jewish targets for a terrorists attacks. Meanwhile, local Media in France tonight are reporting that the French police have arrested five Chechen men that they said had a cache of explosives in more in the advance stages of planning an attack in France. This as the manhunt goes on for the alleged ring leader of the entire Paris attack continues. They still do not know exactly where that may be. Abdelhamid Abboud, the Belgian Moroccan descent that they have been looking for since those Belgium raid. They're still desperately hunting for him. Last time they saw him or thought they saw him was in Greece.

Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT tonight in Paris. Pamela, you've seen this exclusive new video that you were able to obtain. It's extremely important. It's extremely disturbing that they were actually out targeting potential Jewish sights as early as last summer.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Erin. It does provide important new clues for investigators. It helps them praise -- Coulibaly and a months before the Paris attacks and helps them understand perhaps just how premeditated that attack on that kosher market here in Paris really was.


BROWN (voice-over): This exclusive surveillance video obtained by CNN apparently shows Amedy Coulibaly and his partner Hayat Boumeddiene outside a Jewish institution in Paris last summer. Sources tells CNN the couple was scoping out potential Jewish targets months before Coulibaly stormed a kosher grocery store and took hostages eventually killing four people. The Paris attack set-off a -- of terror related arrests across Europe amid fears of other plots. Today in France, authorities charged four men with allegedly helping Coulibaly carry out the attack.

JEAN-CHARLES BRISARD, TERRORISM EXPERT: One of them, his fingerprints were recovered in a car used by Coulibaly and the other one is (INAUDIBLE) used also Coulibaly.

BROWN: Overnight in Germany, 200 police officers raided 13 property offense of a group tied to Islamic extremists.

BRISARD: To be more aggressive and to take them and to arrest them very soon. To avoid any terrorist attack, any further terrorist attack.

BROWN: In Belgium a manhunt is under way for Abdelhamid Abboud, one of the suspected ring leaders of an ISIS directed plot that may have included attempts to murder police officers. Authorities believe he may have been in touch with ISIS leadership from Greece. And in Holland, police confiscated laptops and cellphones from the home of a suspect whose passport found during last week's raid of a Belgium terror cell that left two death.


BROWN: And back here in France, the Paris prosecutors expected to hold a press conference tomorrow. We expect the prosecutor to release new details about the investigation and those four suspects now being formally charge here in France. Also, we expect the French government to release new anti-terrorism measures that it will be taking as it continues to try to combat this problem of highly franchise terrorism across Europe -- Erin.

BURNETT: Pamela, thank you so much. Reporting live for us from Paris tonight. And also, two American warships are now going to be prepared in Yemen to try to rescue Americans out of that country as dissents further and further into chaos. The American embassy has been at risk. Unknown assailants fired shots at the embassy last night. The Yemeni government such as it is, as a general term to use is losing control. Yemen of course is a crucial country. It is the home base of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which is taken to credit for the attack in Paris in responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo slaughter.

Nick Paton Walsh is the only western reporter inside of Yemen which is of course the capital today where the U.S. Embassy is. Nick, this is the country that President Obama at one point sighted it as model in his fight against terror. He was working with the government. A government that has gotten weaker and weaker, a government that may now, perhaps not even exist, maybe in chaos. What are you seeing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're seeing a day in which many frankly don't quite know who they need to bring and sent out to Capitol Hill in the White House that needed to reach out to Yemen. We know that the presidential administration has now been stormed by this rebel Houthi militia. They've been very successful in moving across the country into the capital months ago putting check points up around the base. Fighting has really ended with that Houthi leader coming on television listing a number of demands. Change in the constitution really wanting more political power. But oddly still referring to the President as the President even though the President is in his resident and couldn't get out for a while because there was gunfire on the streets outside. It's very odd to talk to various cabinet administration have been say things like this, being a coup. And they're not quite sure whether the President should hang on to this job or to simply recognize that the Houthis are trying to effectively new to his ability to run the country. Many government official must surely wondering. Did they tend not to work tomorrow? It's a huge vacuum here. But it's one that the Houthi don't entirely want to feel. So, there's a big question as to who does run the country right now. A quiet city behind me but certainly tomorrow that's a question that has to be answered -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nick Paton Walsh reporting live for us from Yemen. And joining me now, the republican Senator Lindsey Graham on the Armed Services Committee just returned from Middle East. I know you were in the gulf as well as in Saudi Arabia. You just heard the reporting.


BURNETT: The President is going to ask for an authorization of force against ISIS. Something, you know, it indicated he might do, people didn't expected to happen tonight? He goes on to say, tonight I call on this Congress to show the world we are united in our mission by passing a resolution to authorize this force against ISIL? Will you vote for that?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. And I just got back today at 8:00 in the morning. I meet with the free Syrian commander in Saudi Arabia, representatives of the free Syrian government. And our strategy when it comes to Syria is not working. ISIL, ISIS is stronger than Syria than they've ever been. So, I'll vote for an authorization he exports but please understand, until you neutralize Assad's air power, there's an unholy alliance between Assad regime and ISIL, the Syrians told us that ISIL sells oil and wheat to Assad financing the war.

BURNETT: They're telling you that's the way he's actually getting what the rest of the world is trying to cut him off from.

GRAHAM: So, he's getting oil and wheat from ISIS and they're getting money and weapons in their pre-Syrian armies in the middle of this. And if you trained up their pre-Syrian army and you send them back to fight ISIS, Assad will kill them after they're successful. This strategy is going to fail. It's a moral and militarily sound.

BURNETT: Now, the President wants authorization. You're saying you've give that to him. You just heard our Nick Paton Walsh, he's in Yemen.

GRAHAM: Yes. Right.

BURNETT: The American Embassy is under threat. This is the home of al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula which is at this moment seems to be the most powerful, active group part of al Qaeda, U.S. Embassy is a target. Should the U.S. get militarily involved?

GRAHAM: Well, I think we're going to have to confront ISIS with a strategy that will stop them and deal with radical Islam which is on march. Let's go back to Syria for a moment. There's no mythical Arab army available to root ISIL out of Syria without some American help. Saudi, Qatar, all of them are ready to go in on the ground if America will support the operation. Not be 100,000 but support it. Turkey is ready to go on the ground. Without a no fly zone everybody you train to go in Syria is eventually going to get killed by Assad. So, when the president wrote a letter to the Ayatollah in Iran saying our air strikes in Syria are not directing against Assad, that's a fatal flaw in the strategy as to Yemen. The Iranians are back in the hoodies. Four Arab capital are substantially controlled by Iran, you got Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen under the influence of Iranian agents. There's going to be a bloodletting between Sunnis and Shiites in the Mideast.

BURNETT: So, do you think -- okay, when you're giving this, are you saying you think this could be done with a no fly zone enforced by the United States alone --

GRAHAM: In Syria.

BURNETT: Okay, in Syria. Or are you also saying that U.S. troops will be required.


BURNETT: Because the President again tonight is going to champion that he has not for more troops.

GRAHAM: This is important. You cannot win against ISIL in Iraq and Syria without a ground component. There is no Iraqi army in Syria. So, when we trained this free Syrian army who is willing to fight, if you don't deal with the threat they have from Assad they're just not just going to fight ISIS. They're exposed to air attacks from Assad. The go in on the ground and win in Syria, you're going to need a regional coalition of armies because it will take years to train up the Syrians. We'll have to be part of that. Special Forces, if we don't, they'll lose. The worst possible outcome Erin is to take ISIL on and lose.

BURNETT: Now, you have said, you've said, look, you're going to vote for the President's resolution and you were adamant that you're going to vote for that.


BURNETT: So, he has your vote tonight. You recently though said, the President's policies are, quote, "getting people killed."


BURNETT: Obviously, that's a very big statement to say. Who has he gotten killed? GRAHAM: His decision to withdraw from Iraq after the military

said you need at least 10,000 to hold the country together allowed Iraq and al Qaeda in Iraq to come back. His decision not to follow advice of his entire national security team to create a no-fly zone four years ago and trained their pre-Syrian army has allowed ISIL to become a power in Iraq and Syria. Two hundred thousand people have been killed in Syria because the place collapsed.

BURNETT: So, you're talking about -- those are the lives, you're talking about but you're not talking about American lives?

GRAHAM: No. Here's what I'm saying to America that the platform in Syria and Iraq provide the greatest opportunity, terrorist safe haven, a monumental proportions to hit us. To suggest that we can ignore Syria, Iraq and Yemen and be safe is ridiculous. Half of the people still at Guantanamo Bay come from Yemen. To let them out is crazy.

BURNETT: That is true. And they say, well, part of that is because Yemen of course can't provide sanctuary to them and doesn't have a government at this point. You though of course will be watching the State of the Union more closely than many. You're a possible presidential candidate for 2016, you're considering a bid. When are you going to make that choice?

GRAHAM: I'm going to look and see if there's a pathway for it for a guy like Lindsey Graham. I'm a conservative but I believe in immigration reform. I want to clean up the environment doing the sound wise, so I'm a conservative but I'll buck Orthodox. On National Security, I think I've been more right or wrong. I wish I could tell the American people we don't have to go back into Iraq or Syria. That we could just come home and these problems will go away. But I can't stress enough that the strategy that the President is employing to defeat ISIL is failing. And the more people get killed in the Mideast, and the larger the terrorist get and the more capability they have over there, the more likely we are to get here. The only way I know to make America safe is to confront the enemy over there and build up people in the region who will fight. The good for us, what the terrorists are selling, most people don't want to buy. But we have to help them. Give them capacity to fight back. And right now our strategy is failing. People are getting slaughtered in the Mideast and to suggest they won't come here is very naive.

BURNETT: All right. Senator, thank you very much. Senator Lindsey Graham as we said possible candidate for 2016 says he's going to support the President in that vote, authorize force against ISIS.

Next, we have much more on the chilling new video. ISIS with two new hostages. They say that the clock is ticking down on 72 hours or they will kill them if they don't get $200 million. And we're counting down to the President's State of the Union Address right here where we are in Washington, DC. He's proposing a tax hike on the rich. Dead on arrival or will it happen?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Breaking news as we countdown to the President's State

of the Union Address. CNN has learned President Obama tonight will call on Congress to pass a resolution, to authorize the use of force against ISIS. This as ISIS today releases a disturbing new video demanding $200 million. They say they have to get it in 72 hours or they will kill the two hostages on your screen. This is the first time the terror group has publicly called for a cash ransom.

Alina Machado is OUTFRONT.


ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The video just as chilling as previous ones shows two hostages similarly dressed in orange jump suits kneeling next to an ISIS militant who makes his demand and threaten their lives with a knife speaking with his now familiar British accent.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: To the prime minister of Japan, although you are more than 8,500 km away from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade.

MACHADO: This time though the militant believed to be a British national dubbed by the media as Jihadi John wants a ransom.

(on camera): Two hundred million dollars within 72 hour time frame.

BUCK SEXTON, FORMER CIA ANALYST: They're very specific. And they actually correspond in a sense to the two hostages. The $200 million number lines up exactly with what the prime minister has promised to fight against the Islamic State so that's why this has such propaganda by the Islamic State.

MACHADO: And to boost the propaganda still further. It's not just about the message but also the messenger.

VERYAN KHAN, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, TRAC: He is their hero, their Batman. People aspire to be like him. He has to be in new releases in order to keep inspiring western recruits.

MACHADO: ISIS has now made at least six videos threaten to behead western hostages.

KHAN: They had to release a video that showed somebody that they were going to behead. And they had to have some sort of demand.

MACHADO: But speaking today, Japan's Prime Minister is not giving in.

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH A TRANSLATOR): It's an unacceptable act to threaten us in exchange for human lives. And I feel angry about it. I strongly urge them to immediately release the hostages without harming them.

Alina Machado, CNN New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, CNN national security commentator and the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers and our terrorism analyst Paul Cruikshank. Paul, I know you've been talking to your sources about this video. Obviously, they're coming out now with a deadline, right? With this 72-hour deadline. That's something new. They say obviously if that money isn't paid the hostages will die. Prime minister of Japan is not ruled out paying ransom. We know that many European countries have paid ransoms to free hostages. Will Japan end up paying, do you think?

PAUL CRUIKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, there's going to be a huge international spotlight on Japan and if they do end up paying some money, where is that money going to go? It's going the go towards ISIS brutalizing the population of Syria and Iraq and also potentially go towards terrorist plots against the west. We just saw last week in Belgium a major imminent terrorist plot which was linked back to the ISIS leadership in Syria thwarted by the Belgium. So, there's going to be a lot of spotlight on Japan here. Unfortunately these ransoms only incentivize groups like ISIS to pay out more money.

BURNETT: And Mike, to the point that Paul is making, yes, it incentivizes, it gives them money but we all know, I mean, there were some people who were held hostage with James Foley, one of the Americans who is beheaded and French citizens, they say that their government paid money. I mean, we all know that a lot of governments pay money. Will Japan actually hold back because the spotlight is on them?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, unfortunately, I hope so. But think about the Foley case by the way. There was no real context. There wasn't real negotiation going on when Foley was a hostage. And so, even though they made the ransom amount, I don't believe that they were very interested in actually getting the money. They wanted propaganda value of it. And I think what you see here, by a short deadline, the money is clearly tied to the amount of money that Japan has offered for humanitarian assistance by the way. I think clearly they're looking for a propaganda tool here. Remember, they've got plenty of money. Some estimates over a billion dollars in precious metal cash reserves. They're selling oil at about a million dollars a day. Money isn't their problem right now but this pr value of this is a huge boon to them.

BURNETT: It's a fair point. As you reference obviously, Japan has given $200 million in humanitarian aid to fight ISIS which is perhaps, most likely right where they got that number. And Paul, what I'm curious about is the speaker. When people now hear him. The voice is recognizable. The British papers have judge him Jihadi John. British born militant. It seems to appear in every one of these videos that we have seen with the beheadings of the Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff. It's kind of amazing that he's still out there making these videos doing this when the west says they know who he is and are onto him.

CRUIKSHANK: Well, that's right. And that's the propaganda message in itself from ISIS that this operative Jihadi John who may be the most wanted man in world for these brutal beheadings that he's being involved. They're still able to put out these threats in broad daylight in Syria probably believed to be someone there in Iraq. Despite the fact that overhead, there are U.S. and other war planes launching air strikes that shows that ISIS still has a quite lot of self-confidence and can operate with some impunity in southern parts of Syrian and Iraq -- Erin.

BURNETT: Mike, the U.S. says they're reviewing how the United States handles hostage situations. It's unclear what that might mean. ISIS currently has an American, a 26-year-old woman in Syria. Should the U.S. consider paying ransom because, you know, I mean, I was in Qatar this summer when the U.S. traded five senior Taliban from Guantanamo in exchange for one American prisoner of war. So, the U.S. may say it doesn't pay ransom, but it certainly does do trades and do all kinds of deals to get hostages back.

ROGERS: Yes. I would be very cautious against providing any ransom payment here. One of the things that we know is al Qaeda in the Maghreb AQIM, the Northern Africa affiliate of al Qaeda. It was the single largest contributor for almost a decade to al Qaeda affiliates and they made all of their money from ransoms, kidnappings and countries paying ransom. And of course that got more ransom. We know that about a third of all the hostages now are French and French has been known in the past to pay ransoms. I think it's a terrible idea. Even the Taliban five trade, we saw clearly afterward that there were conversations between Taliban and al Qaeda and others in the tribal areas of Pakistan saying, hey, maybe now is the time to get more western hostages. We know they'll negotiate. I think you put a price on people's head when you do this. It's awful and as hard as this is, the best way to do this is to have a plan of attack to actually disrupt their ability to finance, to recruit, to show videos of hostages with what I think is clearly an attempt to do them harm.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you for joining us. And we are learning new details tonight about the final moments of AirAsia Flight 8501. At a hearing today, the transportation minister of Indonesia said, radar data shows the plane climbed at a rate of 6,000 feet per minute before it stalled and crashed. Commercial air craft are only designed to climb one or 2,000 feet per minute. You may remember that the pilot had actually requested permission to climb above a storm in one of his last transmission. So far 53 bodies of the 162 on board have been recovered.

Well, OUTFRONT tonight, we're counting down to the State of the Union Address. We are covering from it from every angle from here in Washington. Republicans are waiting to hear. Plus, the President's State of the Union promises. Those kept and broken.

And your taxes. A major focus in tonight's speech. Will they be going up a lot or going down?


BURNETT: Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT live from the nation's capital tonight. We're looking at live pictures of the White House where President Obama is preparing to make his way to Capitol Hill to deliver his sixth State of the Union Address. In just about 90 minutes, the President will present his agenda before a Republican controlled Congress.

I want to bring in our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash who joins me live from inside the Statuary Hall inside the Capitol. Members of Congress obviously are going to be going there after the president's address to speak with reporters.

And now, Dana, we've gotten some news here, that the president with a significant announcement that he's going to call on Congress to vote for a resolution authorizing the use of force against ISIS. What's the reaction so far?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is actually one of the least controversial things that the president will talk about tonight. Maybe it sounds ironic, but at a bipartisan basis, we have heard members of Congress in both chambers saying that they believe that it's necessary for the president to come to Congress and ask for this use of force authorization.

This has been in the works. The drums have been beating for months and months and months. Even before the election from again Democrats and Republicans. So, I think it's going to be maybe a bipartisan sense of relief that the president is coming and asking for this, because if he didn't, Republicans who now are in control of Congress would do it for him.

BURNETT: Right. Of course, Lindsey Graham just told me, without question, absolutely, he's got his vote for it.

Given the Republican control of Congress, though, Dana, does the president have any chance of passing some of the other things he's going to announce tonight, right? He wants an increase in capital gains tax in some of the wealthiest Americans, but he says it will pay for tax cuts for some in the middle class. Does that have a chance?

BASH: No, in a word no. But, you know, the White House knows full well that the way he's proposing to pay for some of these new benefits that he calls them for the middle class is no chance of passing. But, you know, it's sort of the way things work here is that he lays out his -- he puts the stake in the ground of where his philosophical, you know, position is on dealing with these economic policies and that's from a Democratic perspective is to raise taxes on the wealthier Americans. And he's going to propose to do that in a series of ways.

And on the Republican side, even though you've seen many supporters of things like expanding the earned income tax credit and other issues that the president is going to call for, they definitely are not going to support doing so, and paying for it by raising taxes.

So, you're definitely going to see a lot of Republicans sitting on their hands when he talks about these proposals. The big question, though, is after the big speech, after he's done whether or not they can roll up their sleeves and get to work on what the president and Republicans say that they really want to do, need to do which is overhaul the tax code. That's the big question.

BURNETT: It would be nice if they could. Of course, obviously, not going to happen. I don't want being pessimist here, but -- all right, thanks very much to Dana.

OUTFRONT now, Florida Democratic congressman and DNC chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Good to have you with us, Chairman.


BURNETT: OK. I want to get your reaction to the president calling for this resolution to authorize force against ISIS on the night when the French are arresting more people. Lindsey graham says he's got his vote.

Does that mean this is something that will sail through?

SCHULTZ: I think it will be embraced across both parties in Congress. It is a recognition that we're in a wartime situation against this terror threat, this well-organized group that, you know, I think the president has been well within his authority that he's used up to now. But it's a signal bringing Congress in is making sure that the full weight of the United States of America's power will be brought to bear against them.

BURNETT: And maybe to your point, just because of the focus on the terror threats, the attacks we have seen in Europe, things have changed, because obviously, last September, the House voted on the president's plan to train moderate Syrian rebels, 40 percent of Democrats opposed that at the time.

But that tide, you're saying, has changed?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think this is a more broad-based threat. And we have -- you know, this is the next generation of threat that we have to deal with. And the president has to have the full authority and the full compliment and all the tools available to him and authorization for Congress will provide that.

BURNETT: Tonight, he's also going to talk about some domestic things. State of the Union obviously is a night of dreams, in a sense. The president wants to talk big, he wants to lay out his promises. And, obviously, the point is they're promises, a lot of them can't be kept. But some of them can.

Our Tom Foreman looked back at some of the ones kept and broken. One of the ones he looked at is guns. And he said that this was one that was so far not been kept.

Congress obviously hadn't been able to pass legislation. The president said he will go it alone if needs to. He's done that on immigration with an executive order. He hasn't yet on this issue, on guns.

Why not?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think the president is continuing to do as much as he can within the boundaries of his authority. In the last State of the Union, he talked about the phone and the pen. And he's I think pushed the envelope. We have an ATF director that's been confirmed. We have made progress.

But, you know, the really big stuff to try to make progress on gun safety and keeping people safe and guns out of people's hands that shouldn't have them really has to be done by the United States Congress. And we had no cooperation from the Republicans. More people are being killed and just an unacceptable stiff arm from the Republicans who simply don't understand that this is something we need to do.

BURNETT: To your point, obviously, they haven't pushed for it. I know this is an issue that's personal for you, right? You're obviously close friends with Gabby Giffords. That is a person who now stands with this issue more than anyone else in this country. There's been 34 major school shootings since Sandy Hook.


BURNETT: Which is a stunning number, 26 people obviously were killed in that horrific attack. But when people hear that, they say can't he do anything by executive order. Can he just say, you know what -- and that lays down the gauntlet. That forces Congress to talk about it. Because right now, they're not going to talk about it.

SCHULTZ: No, they're not. That's why Gabby's organization is working from the grassroots and really pushing for victories in the states which they have been achieving. And, you know, I think the president had really more authority and boundaries that he can use the bully pulpit. But in this area, being able to actually keep guns without Congress going along out of hands of people who shouldn't have them is tougher.

But I want to change the characterization of what you said of promises made and broken. Look, the Republicans have had every opportunity through President Obama's willingness and Democrats in Congress to sit down and work together. I'm a glass is half full person, like you said, let's be optimistic.

But what tonight will be about is whether we're going to take the prosperity that we've achieved after coming out of this great recession to the next level and ensure -- it's not just the wealthiest that we focus on, which the Republicans have done. But that we help the middle class and create more opportunities, make higher education universal and free, make sure that people don't have to choose between taking care of sick family member or going to work, making sure that we have tax code that protects the middle class and working families and not just benefiting the wealthy.

Those are the choices that the Republicans will have to make. It doesn't have to be all our way, but we should sit down and work together. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

SCHULTZ: Thank you so much.

BURNETT: We appreciate it, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, we're counting down to tonight's address, the State of the Union Address from President Obama, his sixth. We'll talk about his so-called Robin Hood tax plan that he's going to unveil tonight and what that could mean for you.

And the stock market has been up, unemployment down. The president's approval rating is on the rise. So, is America on the right path or not?


BURNETT: Breaking news: the president is getting ready to address Congress and the nation shortly as we're learning a little more about what he'll say tonight, specifically on tax breaks for the middle class and a big tax hike for wealthy Americans.

I want to welcome back our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He's live from the North Lawn with more about what the president is expected to say tonight.

Now, Jim --


BURNETT: -- there have been reporting that he's been calling on Congress to back him up on the war on ISIS. It sounds like from what we're hearing from Congress and what we just heard form Lindsey Graham and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, that that's a no brainer. He's going to get that.

What he has to say about the economy, not so much.

ACOSTA: Right.

BURNETT: But this is an aggressive, big call that he's going to make.

ACOSTA: That's right. This will not be a bipartisan kumbaya moment, Erin, when the president lays out these specifics. This is all a part of his theme of middle class economics. He's going to be talking tonight about how he feels that the nation's tax structure is weighted too heavily in favor of the rich. And so, he wants to balance that out.

Of course, Republicans have been tearing into this and saying, this is a nonstarter and dead on arrival. But the president wants to do, and you know this, Erin, the president wants to provide tax breaks to middle class Americans and pay for that by raising taxes on the wealthy, raising the capital gains tax, the White House says, to where it was under Ronald Reagan. They want to get rid of the trust fund loophole that they feel benefits wealthier Americans.

And we do know that House Republicans and their spokesman are starting to tear into some of the economic proposals for the president that he's going to be laying out tonight when it comes to education taxes and education tax credits. People, you know, declaring deductions on their 529 plan. The president might be rolling back some of that. He'll be calling on rolling back some of that, to pay for other education tax breaks.

But this all goes to the president's theme tonight, and that is to try to bring about an economy that works for the middle class. Wages are not going up. And so, that is job one this White House says for the president in terms of dealing with this economy.

We have an excerpt from the president's speech that he'll be giving in just a little while from now, and we'll put that up on screen. The president is e expected to say, "The verdict is clear, middle class economics works, expanding opportunity works and these policies will continue to work as long as politics don't get in the way."

And it's interesting, Erin, I was talking to a senior White House spokesman about this, and they know that this fight is coming. While they say Republicans have supported some of these items in the past, they say if they want to have a debate, if Republicans want to have a debate, what they're supporting, giving tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of middle class Americans, the White House says they're willing to have that fight.

So, it's certainly not all kumbaya no matter what folks are saying tonight. They know that there's a fight coming.

BURNETT: There certainly is a fight coming on that front.

All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BURNETT: Now, as Jim just shared with you -- one thing the president is going to say on this issue, he's also going to say this. This is the president. He'll say, "It's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years and for decades to come. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well, or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?"

It's those that are doing well that are the target of one of his new tax proposals. An increase in the capital gains tax. Capital gains, that's just the profit you make if you sell something like a stock, right? If you sell something, or a home, real estate.

Under the current plan, the wealthiest Americans pay a capital gains tax rate of 23.8 percent. Under the president's proposal, that will go up to 28 percent. That's an increase, by the way, of about 18 percent in your tax rate. So, it's pretty big.

And to be clear -- this is targeting wealthier Americans. Couples with incomes above half a million dollars a year.

Joining me, our political commentators Ana Navarro and Paul Begala.

OK, obviously, I know you both disagree on this.

Paul, here's -- give me the logic, though, of why he would do this now, right? He has a big tax increase on the wealthiest Americans back in 2012.


BURNETT: That was significant. Why come back again when he knows he can't win it?

BEGALA: That's -- well, I don't know that he knows he can't win it. But it's a good point. A lot of Democrats are telling me, we should have done this right after he was reelected. That's a fair point. Why he's doing it? What did Willie Sutton say? The bank robbers, why do you rob banks? That's where the money is, right?

And he -- first off, he's got politics on his side. He's got the American people on his side. This is a popular proposal.

If the Republicans were smart, they get in the weeds with them, cut a deal, compromise, water it done and negate that issue.

They won't do that. They'll blow it up. And that will give the Democrats and I hope my friend, Hillary Clinton, something to run on 2016. The Republicans want to protect the wealthiest 1 percent. The Democrats want to help 100 percent.

BURNETT: OK. So, I got something to ask each of you. Let me start --

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It means Hillary Clinton will be paying a lot more taxes.



BURNETT: She will.

NAVARRO: She's not as flat broke as she pretends to be.

BEGALA: She'd be happy to pay it.

BURNETT: But, Ana, here's my question. A lot of people do not understand -- and this is a fair question -- why the capital gains tax, which obviously disproportionately affects the wealthiest Americans, is not already at the ordinary income rate? Right? They say, well, why that just doesn't seem fair. That seems to give the president some ground with the public.

NAVARRO: You know, it's just -- this is all about class warfare, rich versus poor. Is that what America is about?

I think that what the Republicans are saying we want equal opportunity for all. We want equal opportunity for all. We want the water to rise and for all the boats the float up higher.

But it's just -- you know, this just feels like it's target on the backs of the rich. It takes a lot of work for a lot of people to make that money. And, you know, there is trickle down economics when it comes to the rich and what it means for other people.

So, I don't think it is unfair the way that you've posed it. I think this is the same rhetoric from Obama of being about class warfare. I think it is a non-starter. You know, I'm glad he's choosing issues like ISIS, like trade, where he is going to have some bipartisan support.

But I think he's choosing some of these issues because he's giving red meat to his base. The base -- the Democrat base that was so disillusioned with him before the election, is coming back home and I think that makes it (INAUDIBLE).

BURNETT: So, Paul, here's the question I have, though. All right. He got the tax increase in 2012. It was on the wealthy. The whole argument then was give it back to the middle class. That's going to create prosperity. So, now, he's basically coming back and saying, OK, that didn't work that time, but I promise it will this time.

BEGALA: No, that sound bite that Jim Acosta said it's working but we need to do more. I think that's a reasonable position to take, is that, look, we tried something. I worked for President Clinton. We raised taxes on the rich. We cut taxes on the middle class. All the Republicans said, this is a direct quote, Phil Gramm, one of the leading Republicans at the time. This is a one-way ticket to recession.

Well, it wasn't. We created 23 million jobs. Slightly higher taxes, that's what we're talking about. Slightly higher taxes on the wealthy.

BURNETT: But these add up, right? I mean, 2012 --

BEGALA: Yes, we need the money. We've got a big country to run. Look at that Capitol Dome getting fixed up. We need the money.


NAVARRO: Do we need more money in Washington?

BEGALA: No. That's why he wants to cut it for the middle class. No, he wants to give the tax cuts for the middle class. Democrats can run on this. By the way, they can govern on this. This is actually good economics. BURNETT: Is it the way to run an economy to say --


BURNETT: -- all right, we're going to take money from the wealthy and then we're going to give $500 back to everyone on the middle class?


BURNETT: That isn't generally the way you necessarily get to prosperity. You want to get through prosperity through wages going up, not just through a one time tax credit.

BEGALA: Here is what happened in the '90s that's happening.


BEGALA: If you target people in the middle class, what happens? They have more money to spend. It's a consumer driven economy.

If we help those consumers, here's the dirty little secret, it's even better for the rich. The greatest wealthiest family in America is the Walton family. They got rich off of Walmart, which is middle class and poor people when they have money to spend, they get richer still. It made it worse (ph). I'm telling you, it's a good thing to run.

NAVARRO: This is what's wrong with this debate. We're talking about rich versus poor. And I'm telling you, that is not why I left communist Nicaragua in 1980. I left it because this is a place where there is free enterprise, where you make it on your own, and where everybody has the opportunity to rise. And this kind of rhetoric is so bothersome to me.

BEGALA: I'm sorry it's bothersome to you.

NAVARRO: Divisive, bothersome.

BEGALA: It's not divisive. I'm saying, more millionaires and billionaires were created in the Clinton economy than a Reagan economy. It's good for the rich. Warren Buffett is the second richest man in America and he supports these ideas.

BURNETT: But that was partially because of this one time incredible thing that happened under Bill Clinton. I'm not saying you don't give him credit for it. We're calling it the Internet.

BEGALA: We had the Internet under Bush and we only created 1 million in eight years.

NAVARRO: But, Paul, you worked for Bill Clinton, and you worked very closely with Congress.

BEGALA: Yes, we did. NAVARRO: OK. You know that President Obama is not known for

working with the Republicans in Congress, not even the Democrats in Congress. You know they're not going to get in the weeds and this has no chance. This is frankly red meat for the base. This is rhetoric that makes the progressive base of the Democrat Party happy.

BEGALA: What would be better for the Republicans then to do -- if you say President Obama doesn't like to work with the Republicans, maybe it's true.


BEGALA: Why don't they challenge him? You know what they did. Robert Draper wrote a book about this. The night the president was inaugurated in 2009, the Republicans went to a restaurant not far from here and said, we're going to oppose everything he proposes before he even proposed anything. This has been massive resistance against him. So, I -- the Republicans --

NAVARRO: That I agree with you. I think Republicans should challenge him and focus on issues where they can work together and challenge him to come to the party.


BURNETT: OK. We will be both going to be back in just a moment. By the way, I just want to leave everyone with a stat, not to support or not support, simply make sure you know, recent tax data.

Top 1 percent of Americans pay 38 percent of the taxes. The top 5 percent pay 59 percent of the taxes in this country.

OK. OUTFRONT next, the president's a approval rating, it is now at its highest in almost two years. So, why do the majority say the country is on the wrong track? That does not seem to add up.

Well, John King is in the magic wall. He'll break it down. And, of course, Paul and Ana will be back.


BURNETT: In one hour, President Obama will deliver his 2015 State of the Union Address. His vision, his wish list as he finishes his presidency.

The president will talk about raising tax on the wealthy and cutting them for others. He will also address the terror attacks in Europe. The Republican majority in Congress tonight says the president's ideas, at least on taxes, will go nowhere but the president's popularity with the American public is on the rise in a big way.

And John King is OUTFRONT tonight with these new numbers.

And, John, there is some good news for the president in that. JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is good

political news, Erin, especially if you think where the president was in last year campaign.

Let's look at the new numbers: 50 percent approval rating in the ABC/"Washington Post" poll. That's higher than the others, but 50 percent there, 44 percent disapprove.

This is the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll taken a few days after ABC, 46 percent, 48 percent, not quite as good for the president.

But remember, last year's campaign when he was a drag on the Democratic Party, he was at 42 percent, 44 percent. So, the president is moving up, as he prepares to give this big speech.

Let's look at the president over time. Remember, this is year seven State of the Union address in 2009. Back in 2009, he started, of course, up in the 60s. We've seen the steady drop, a few peaks and valleys.

Last year, this is why he was a drag in the party. If you look throughout '14, he was down here in the low to mid 40s.

But look at since the election, these are Pew numbers. The president moving up to 47. Again, ABC showing him right around 50.

So, where's that fit in the context of history? Seventh year State of the Union Address, Ronald Reagan was at 49. Bill Clinton, a whopping 63 percent. Iraq and Katrina taking a toll, George W. Bush down at 33 percent.

Again, President Obama flirting with 50 percent in these Pew numbers here, pretty close to where Ronald Reagan was. Why does that matter? Well, Republicans will say, we just won the election, Mr. President. No to your tax increase on the rich, no to your proposals for the middle class.

If these numbers, if the president can sustain them or build them could help him down the road when he enters into negotiations with the Republicans. That is the big question, Erin. Better numbers for the president tonight. Will this help sustain him or will he slip back? Trust me, everybody in Washington will keep an eye on those numbers.

BURNETT: Oh, I am sure they will. All right. Thanks to John King. And now, I'm back with Republican Ana Navarro and Democrat Paul Begala.

Paul, I mean, you've got to be celebrating here. Numbers like Mr. Morning in America?

BEGALA: It's been a while. The president, when you saw, John -- he's been in a narrow van hovering around 40 percent for over a year and a half. Now, he seems to have broken through after he got shellacked or whipped, whatever we're supposed to call that, the landslide that Republicans had, it's amazing.

BURNETT: That's Americans love an underdog. They beat him down and bring him back up.

BEGALA: But they also -- I think it's two things. In the polling data we say, strong leader, cares about me. Those two dynamics really help define a presidency. A lot of Democrats thought Obama had gone soft. They thought he'd gotten weak. They thought he'd given up. Now, he's fighting and he's fighting for the middle class. He moves both of those dynamics up.

You know, when you're at 50 and you're in your sixth or seventh year entering, it's not bad.

NAVARRO: Look, I feel like I'm watching that movie when Stella got her groove back. This really feels like Barack Obama got his groove back. His pep is back in the step.

I think a lot of it is because he's fighting. Timing is everything in politics and in life, and so fortunately for Republicans, it happened post-election. That's very unfortunate for Democrats. They would have liked for it to happen before the election. I think in a way, he's almost been liberated by losing those elections. He had a very close Senate, for example, he'd have to worry about protecting Democrats.

At this point, you know, he's lost. He lost everything he had to lose in Congress. What he's got to defend at this point is his legacy. He's going to do it not by compromising with Congress. He's going to do it by embracing the confrontation with Congress and doing what he's going to do through executive orders.

BURNETT: And, you know, to that point, executive borders, immigration, right? After the election, he gave the giant bird to Republicans. I'm sorry that's what it was, Paul, something like you'd say. All right?


BURNETT: But that's what he did. He went out to executive orders and the American public is embracing that and liking that he's doing that.

I guess the question is, though, can it actually work for him? When you still, according to these polls, people thinking the country is going in the wrong direction. You think if they're liking their president, they wouldn't be saying the country is going in the wrong direction.

BEGALA: Those two numbers don't stay out of sync for very long. And if the economy keeps improving, the right direction will improve. The president fundamentally is going to be boosted by the economy as well, but there are these others. People like that he took action. He waited for years to Congress to act and then took action on immigration.

They like him opening up to Cuba, which was really bold. I didn't see that coming.


BURNETT: Someone who does not agree with you on that.

BEGALA: But the American people do. They want to see the action. They'd rather he'd work in concert with Congress. But when Congress doesn't work --

NAVARRO: Look, I think what you're seeing is Obama's base coming back home. They were very disillusioned with him before the election, vetoing the Keystone, immigration, opening relations with Cuba, that is straight to the base.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much to both of you as we get ready for the president. What happens when you take a part a speech made by 12 presidents over 67 years and put it back together in 67 guys? I'm going to show you.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON: Mr. Speaker. Mr. Vice President.

RONALD REAGAN: Distinguished members.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Of the United States Congress.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Members of the Supreme Court.

GERALD FORD: Distinguished guests.

RICHARD NIXON: My fellow Americans.

JOHN F. KENNEDY: I can report of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The state of the union.

CLINTON: Is strong.

FORD: And think for a minute how far.


FORD: In 200 years.

NIXON: We find ourselves challenged by new problems.

FORD: In this country.

REAGAN: At home.

BARACK OBAMA: And abroad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They demanded of us.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Vigilance.

JIMMY CARTER: Determination. KENNEDY: And dedication.

CLINTON: We must rise.

FORD: To make a nation.


CLINTON: Than even we have.

OBAMA: Ever known.

KENNEDY: For the role.

OBAMA: Has been.



GEORGE H.W. BUSH: This is not.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Going to be.


FORD: We have.

KENNEDY: Only began.

GEORGE W. BUSH: The will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And enough patience.

FORD: This job.

OBAMA: Together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need many different kinds of strength.

OBAMA: Military.

REAGAN: Economic.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Political.


REAGAN: Nothing is impossible.


REAGAN: Nothing is beyond our reach.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: No glory.

REAGAN: Will ever be too great.


FORD: Americans.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Part of.

OBAMA: Something.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Than ourselves.

OBAMA: God bless you.

REAGAN: And God bless.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: The United States.

FORD: Of America.

FORD: Thank you very much.



BURNETT: And as Paul Begala just said next to me, pretty remarkable thing and it is. Just a moment when you think about it, whatever your politics are, whether you're cheering or wanting to throw eggs at the screen tonight, the truth of the matter it's an amazing moment and the amazing moment about the State of this Union, with Democrats and Republicans together listening to the commander-in- chief.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Our special coverage of the tonight's State of the Union Address continues right now.