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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With New York Congressman Peter King; Interview With U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes; Snowstorm Batters Northeast; Obama Rejects 'War on Radical Islam'; Record Snowfall in Midwest, Northeast; Huckabee: Being Gay Like Drinking, Swearing; Rand Paul: Vaccines Should be Voluntary
Aired February 2, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: revenge against ISIS. Will a critical U.S. ally retaliate against the terrorists? The lives of more hostages are on the line right now, including an American woman.
The Jihadi John mystery. Why is he still alive and beheading hostages for ISIS on video? We will talk about the hunt for the terrorist and whether it should be more of a priority.
Fighting off Russia. The Obama administration considers ratcheting up its involvement in the war in Ukraine. Could it be a blow to Vladimir Putin's aggression?
And deadly double whammy. Another brutal snowstorm hammering a third of the United States right now. The Northeast is in the crosshairs and temperatures are sinking fast.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Breaking now in the war against ISIS, President Obama says the United States is using all its assets to try to rescue an American woman held hostage by the terrorists. There are urgent fears for her life right now, as ISIS has beheaded a Japanese hostage, while keeping the world guessing about the fate of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot.
Also tonight, a new move by the Obama administration to respond to escalating Russian aggression. The United States is now considering whether to send weapons to Ukrainian forces fighting pro-Russian rebels. That could risk igniting a proxy war between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. A top presidential adviser, Ben Rhodes, is standing by at the White House. We will speak live with Ben, along with our correspondents and analysts and they're covering all the news that is breaking right now.
But first let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has the very latest on this war against ISIS -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, Japan is a country in mourning. Jordan is holding its breath while the world waits and watches to see what ISIS does next.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice-over): Outside the Japanese Embassy in Amman, Jordan, a vigil in the memory of journalist Kenji Goto, another hostage killed by ISIS, a rally against terror. The Jordanian government still pressing to get its pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, freed from ISIS.
MOHAMMED AL-MOMANI, JORDANIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: The proof of life that we have asked for did not come yet.
STARR: Ominous silence from ISIS, which never publicly offered to release the pilot in return for Sajida al-Rishawi, a would-be suicide bomber held in Jordan since being convicted of a series of hotel bombings in 2005.
After the horrific ISIS video of the beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, U.S. intelligence agencies scouring every frame for clues and wondering if ISIS still might respond to Jordan.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: ISIS seems to be in touch with somebody in the Jordanian government. And we haven't really had that line of communication before.
STARR: The U.S. following all of this closely as an American aid worker remains an ISIS hostage. It's been something the White House has been reluctant to talk about, but President Obama telling NBC News:
OBAMA: Our obligation is to make sure that we can do anything we can to try to make sure that any American citizen is rescued from this situation.
STARR: But ISIS apparently undeterred, though it may only have a few hostages left. It is sustaining some other losses.
BERGEN: They are losing ground in Iraq. They are maintaining ground in Syria. They are getting recruits coming in from overseas at quite a clip.
STARR: Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel telling CNN ISIS still expert at exploiting social media.
CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is as sophisticated a terrorist group as we have ever seen, the sophistication of their social media. We have never seen anybody, a terrorist group like ISIL just from that dimension.
STARR: The latest ISIS photos near their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa claiming to show life is normal. But for the family of the Jordanian pilot, it's anything but.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't sleep. We can't eat. We can't do anything. Our work has stopped. Our life has stopped.
STARR: Now, U.S. official say the strategy remains unchanged, the priority not Syria, but Iraq. The priority is to see what those airstrikes can do in Iraq to push ISIS back, so Iraqi forces can step in and try and achieve some success in taking back territory.
But, Wolf, there's a lot of skepticism that Iraqi forces on the ground will be able to do that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Understandably so. Barbara Starr, thanks very much.
We're going to have much more on this war against ISIS, the fate of the American woman being held by ISIS. That's coming up.
But I want to turn right now to another breaking story, the war in Ukraine and the possibility of new intervention by the United States. Would it help defuse Russian aggression or would it escalate the crisis?
Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What exactly is the Obama administration, Jim, considering right now?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They're considering the possibility of sending defensive weapons, in addition to the military supplies they have been sending already, things like night-vision goggles, body armor, et cetera, but a step further, anti- tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons.
This would be a significant step further because they could conceivably change the calculus on the ground, which is something to this point the administration has been reluctant to do because their concern has been, you inject weapons in this conflict, particularly from the U.S., that that would further spur Vladimir Putin into action. This is something they had difficulty doing, right, is reading what he is going to next and what's going to make him escalate further.
The trouble is Ukraine has been losing on the ground. They are losing ground. Putin to this point has proved to be Putin the undeterrable. Right? Economic sanctions are punishing his economy. But that has not kept him from taking more aggressive moves on the ground.
BLITZER: His popularity in Russia seems to still be very high despite the pain of those economic sanctions. I take it because the Russian aggression is intensifying, all of a sudden, the U.S., the Obama administration is now perhaps willing to do what so many have been begging them to do, provide arms to the Ukrainian military?
SCIUTTO: The administration, the president hasn't made that decision. The national security adviser hasn't made that decision. But there are those in the State Department, the Defense Department and also Democrats on the Hill.
Senator Chris Murphy, he is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he told us in fact on CNN for the first time, he said he believes the Russians have made clear that they have no interest in bargaining and are intent on continuing their invasion of Ukraine. Keep in mind there used that word invasion, which the administration had been reluctant to do. Now is the time for the U.S. to provide more significant defensive weapons to the Ukrainian military.
You also have voices not just from inside the administration, but also inside the Democratic Party on the Hill.
BLITZER: We just heard from Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He was just here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He says he has been asking the administration to provide weapons to Ukraine for a long time. They have been reluctant obviously to do so.
SCIUTTO: They have. This is the difficulty and the calculation.
The administration has said for some time they want to raise the costs on Russia. That has worked. It has raised the costs. But it hasn't changed the calculus on the ground. The administration is greatly concerned that injecting arms from the West in the conflict will only spur further Russian action.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Sciutto reporting for us. Jim, thanks very much.
Joining us now from the White House is Ben Rhodes. He's the deputy national security adviser to the president of the United States.
Ben, thanks very much for joining us.
BEN RHODES, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Has the president decided to provide weapons to the Ukrainian military?
RHODES: No, Wolf. This is an issue that we are constantly looking at.
We do provide military equipment to the Ukrainians. We do have a training relationship with the Ukrainian military. But we look across the range of tools we have available. And we still think that the best way to influence Russia's calculus is through those economic sanctions that are biting deep into the Russian economy.
We are not going to bring the Ukrainian military into parity with Russia's military, certainly not in the near future. So, we will look at these options. But, again, we have to keep the perspective that the best tool that we have to apply pressure on Russia is that economic pressure through the sanctions.
BLITZER: But what would be so bad about doing what the president of Ukraine, President Poroshenko, and so many others have been appealing for, helping the Ukrainian military deal with the invading tanks, deal with aircraft? Why not provide weapons? RHODES: Well, Wolf, again, we are helping the Ukrainian military. We
have provided important equipment that they rely on.
And we again have had a conversation with President Poroshenko looking forward about how we can strengthen and professionalize their security forces. But at the same time, we don't think the answer to the crisis in Ukraine is simply to inject more weapons and get into that type of tit for tat with Russia. We think that the answer is to squeeze Russia, apply pressure on Russia, try to get them to the table with those separatists so that we can see a peaceful de-escalation here.
And again we are always going to apply more pressure on Russia through that economic pressure than through just the infusion of more weapons into Ukraine.
BLITZER: Well, can you at least confirm all these reports out there that the president is at least considering a change in policy, beginning to think about providing weapons, more aggressive weapons, shall we say, anti-tank missiles or surface-to-air missiles, to the Ukrainian military?
RHODES: Well, yes, Wolf, the president's direction to his team is constantly to look at all these options.
What can we be doing in this defense space in our relationship with the Ukrainian military? What can we be doing in the sanctions space with our European partners? And in that vein, there will be a very important meeting here at the White House on Monday, when Angela Merkel, who has been our most important international partner on Ukraine, will be here.
He will want to talk to her as well about these issues. He is again always looking across these range of options about what can we do to pressure Russia to move in the direction of peaceful de-escalation. We have seen an enormous impact from the sanctions already. But, again, what we're going to need to see over time is those biting into the Russian economy and affecting the Russian calculus going forward.
BLITZER: I think it's fair, Ben, that there has been an enormous impact on the Russian economy by these U.S.-led sanctions and the European allies are on board.
But it doesn't seem to have any impact at all on what's going on, on the ground in Ukraine. What, 5,000 people have been killed. You saw what's -- the video coming out of Donetsk, that airport that had recently been rebuilt, the devastation, the destruction. It doesn't seem like the Russians have been deterred from going forward at all with their military aggression.
RHODES: Wolf, again, absolutely what we have seen is President Putin continuing to back these separatists, continuing to arm them, continuing to see Russian personnel across the border.
So, absolutely, we remain concerned about that. We have seen the Russians try to keep this facade of a peace process that they have been in with the Ukrainians, with the Europeans. And what we want to see is again not just a facade of a peace process, but Russia feeling the pressure that again incentivizes them to move down that pathway to de-escalation that is there for them.
But, rather, what we have seen again is them continuing to push the envelope. As long as they do that, they are going to feel increased pressure from the United States and from Europe. And we're going to look at whatever we can do to support the Ukrainian government as they deal with a very difficult situation.
BLITZER: Let me just be precise. And I don't want to put words in your mouth. You are considering a change in policy as far as weapons to the Ukrainian military is concerned. No final decision has been made on that. You want to speak with Angela Merkel when she's here in Washington next week. And you are also considering strengthening, tightening, adding more sanctions against Russia. Is that right?
RHODES: That's right, Wolf, on both of those things.
Again, we're always looking at again what is the type of defense equipment we're providing to the Ukrainians, and, importantly, on the sanctions, what can we do to tighten the pressure? Are there areas where we can amp up the pressure? Are there areas where we see work- arounds where we want to take action? Again, we believe that's the best way to tighten the squeeze on Russia going forward.
BLITZER: It certainly looks like we're back in the bad old days of the Cold War. Are we?
RHODES: No, I don't think so. Wolf, again, what we see here is a very specific situation in Ukraine, where Russia is flagrantly violating their territorial integrity.
But the world is aligned with the United States here. We have Europe solidly with us in imposing these sanctions. We don't see the model that Russia is putting forward in Eastern Ukraine as something that is attractive beyond the borders of Russia. We see again a world that recognizes that the values of the United States stands up for, democracy, the right for peoples and countries to determine their own destiny, people are rallying to our cause on that.
Russia is isolated. This is not like the Cold War, in which you had a big bloc of countries aligned with the Soviet Union. You have Russia pretty much standing in an isolated position supporting these separatists. And that's a losing bet for them, frankly, because all it's bringing them is significant international isolation and economic pain.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the war against ISIS. First of all, do you know for sure that that Jordanian F-16 fighter pilot whose plane went down over Syria is in fact alive?
RHODES: Wolf, I don't think we can say with certainty what his condition is.
We have been very concerned about the Jordanian pilot. We have been in close consultation with our Jordanian partners on this. But, again, the tragic case here is that people who are in ISIS custody are in grave danger every day. And so we will continue to work with them to do whatever we can to find and bring to security that pilot and anybody who is held hostage by ISIL.
But at the same time, it's a very difficult circumstance there inside of Syria.
BLITZER: I just want to also confirm that those two Japanese hostages, including the journalist who died over the weekend, was killed over the weekend, murdered, I should say, Jihadi John, is he the guy who actually not only talks, but does the beheading?
RHODES: Well, Wolf, again, I can't say with absolute certainty there.
What we do know is there seems to be again a small group of people inside of ISIL who have been conducting these abductions, holding these prisoners, carrying out these executions. It's obviously abhorrent. It has drown the condemnation of the world.
But, again, it is only redoubling our commitment to take action against ISIL, including inside of Syria. And, again, we have seen even in recent days a significant blow to ISIL, as they have been pushed completely out of the city of Kobani, which they had made a strategic priority for so many weeks and months.
I think that shows that when we are working with partners on the ground with our air campaign, we can achieve results.
BLITZER: How important would it be for the U.S. to either capture or kill that guy called Jihadi John?
RHODES: Well, I think it would be important.
Wolf, what we have seen about these organizations like ISIL is that they do have a command-and-control structure. And they do have individuals who play roles within the organization that are difficult to replace. So in our targeting, as we have looked across both Iraq and Syria, we have looked at who are those leadership targets, what is that command-and-control that we need to take out?
And we have had success in both Iraq and Syria in taking people off the battlefield who have again unique roles in the organization. Just the other day, CENTCOM confirmed that they were able to take out who we believe to be the chemical weapons expert inside of ISIL.
So we're constantly looking at again how can we dismantle this organization, including by getting at their leadership.
BLITZER: One final question, Ben, before I let you go.
We understand the British government knows the identity of Jihadi John. The U.S. government, presumably, as a result, given the close connection, relationship with Britain, knows the identity of this guy who conceals his face. Why not release his name, release his picture, let the entire world see him? RHODES: Well, again, we obviously coordinate more closely with the
United Kingdom than any of our partners in the world. We share intelligence on a regular basis.
And we make these determinations about when to put information out based on the assessment of our counterterrorism professionals about what is going to have the best impact and what is going to allow us to best identify, target, bring to justice an individual? That's what's going to guide us going forward. And, again, given it's a U.K. national, we want to make sure we are closely aligned with our partner in that effort.
But, again, this is something that we are working very closely, particularly given the fact that we have seen both Americans and British citizens killed in the most barbaric and inhumane ways possible by ISIL. We are going to stay after this. I think President Obama has made clear as president that he does not relent until we bring individuals like this who are responsible for American deaths to justice.
BLITZER: And what can you tell us about the American woman who is being held by ISIS?
RHODES: Well, again, we have been very concerned for some time about all of the hostages, including the individual that you are referencing, Wolf.
And this is something that we work every day in the national security team, what are the intelligence leads that we're pulling on? How are we able to try to find and bring to safety any American who is held by ISIL? It's something that the president I think follows very closely every single day. He gets updates on this.
And we're going to do whatever we can to deal with what is again a very tragic circumstance, but one I think that has made clear to the world why we need to act together to oppose this threat and to ultimately push ISIL out of these territories that they have claimed in Iraq and Syria.
BLITZER: Ben Rhodes is the deputy national security adviser.
Ben, thanks very much for joining us.
RHODES: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead: a top Republican's response to the White House on ISIS and a whole lot more. Congressman Peter King, he is standing by live.
And terrorists are gaining land and power across the Middle East. We are going to show you the vast territory in their grip, the grip of ISIS right now.
BLITZER: We are tracking new threats from ISIS and the response around the world. Right now, the group is believed to have control over roughly eight million people in Iraq and Syria. That's about the size of the population of Switzerland.
And the terrorists are gaining ground in other territories as well, despite some recent setbacks.
Let's bring in our counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd, to break down what is going on right now.
And, Philip, we have got a map. I want you to show our viewers what is happening with ISIS and its movement.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, look at where we started 15 years ago, Wolf.
We go into a map of South Asia, the group that posed a strategic threat, 3,000 people dead, but relatively small geographic space after 9/11. They move out from Afghanistan into the tribal areas of Pakistan, threat that could damage a lot of American cities, kill a lot of people, but geographically focused, so you can get your intelligence resources, diplomacy, military.
Let's contrast that to where we are today. Look at the depth of that threat vs. the threat of what we focus on today, Boko Haram abducting girls in Northern Nigeria, the decay in Libya after Moammar Gadhafi, ISIS, al-Nusra Front here, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, what we saw "Charlie Hebdo."
We get Somalia recruiting people a few years ago, back in about 2006- 2007 in Minneapolis. And then where we started, we have seen in the past couple weeks reports of the folks from Iraq, ISIS, recruiting in Afghanistan. You see the breadth of the problem we face, not as strategic as the original al Qaeda, but trying to put your finger in 1,000 dikes when everyone has unique political environments, unique security environments, unique intelligence requirements, you get a sense of how we transition over the past 15 years.
BLITZER: ISIS is a huge threat. But al Qaeda and all of its splinter groups, whether Boko Haram or al Qaeda in the Maghreb, or Al-Shabab, any of these, they are all loosely aligned as well?
MUDD: It's not just the alignment of people who might once have talked to each other or trained with each other.
What we are seeing is al Qaeda transition from a small group that trained 19 hijackers -- they whole owned the 9/11 operation -- to a loosely affiliated group of people who share an ideology, but the power of these groups that they don't have to meet. What they have said is al Qaeda gave us a vision. Get the foreigners out, get the Americans out, get the Brits out, get the Israelis out, and then take over local space when local governments are vulnerable because of the departure of the Americans.
BLITZER: And you heard the outgoing defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, tell our Barbara Starr they have unbelievable capability in social media, if you will. Their ability to go out there and project their propaganda is really uncalled for, unheard of as far as a terrorist organization is concerned.
MUDD: That's right.
BLITZER: Philip, don't go too far away.
I want to bring in Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He's a key member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, here's the question. Is the U.S. position to deal with this expanding terror network?
KING: Wolf, I done believe we're doing enough.
And I think that the president really sent a false signal over the last several years by constantly saying how core al Qaeda had been decimated. I think even two years ago, he said we're back to a pre- 9/11 stage.
The fact is, al Qaeda has metastasized. We have all of these groups that you mentioned and that Philip Mudd mentioned. And specifically regarding ISIS, as far as stopping their offensive, it's I think impossible to be able to stop them without some use of American ground troops.
The president always talks about tens of thousands are getting involved in the ground war. No, I don't believe we have do that. But I do think that we have to have ground troops as far as providing intelligence, as far as spotters, as far as coordinating training, maybe being embedded with the Iraqis, with the Kurds.
There has to be some American presence on the ground. Also, without an American presence on the ground, it's virtually impossible to get any real intelligence from that part of the world.
I think the president has gone -- it's hard to rally the American people and it's hard to send a signal of confidence to the rest of the world when the president is always talking about how we're going to be withdrawing, we're going to be pulling back and about these victories that he sees as attaining over al Qaeda.
That's really a totally false topic. It's not core al Qaeda, per se. It's the entire movement, some closely affiliated, others loosely affiliated, others sharing a common ideology. This is going to be a long, hard war on many fronts in the Middle East.
BLITZER: I will ask you what I asked Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security adviser.
We know the U.S. and British intelligence, they know the identity of this guy so-called Jihadi John, there he is right now -- he's the guy who threatens the beheadings and probably goes ahead and does the actual beheadings.
I'm still confused. Why hasn't his name and picture been released? What's the downside of letting the world know who this guy is?
KING: Wolf, again, I have no inside information.
So, I would just say that my instinct is to agree with you. I would think the more people who would know of this, the better it would be. And also, if we are going to have any hope of using bounties in that part of the world, that the more people who would recognize him or see him, the better it would be.
How really significant it would be, I don't know. But I don't think there's any real downside to it, unless there's something out there that we're not aware of. But on the face of it, I would say that it makes more sense to release the photo, the identification and the name, all of that, rather than withholding it.
BLITZER: I'm told if the Jordanian F-16 fighter pilot whose plane went down over Syria, was captured by ISIS, assuming he is still alive, if he is beheaded or if he's killed, Jordan will respond very, very harshly against ISIS.
I'm not exactly sure, I have no idea what they would do. But this would be unique, because Jordan is basically a pretty peaceful country.
KING: But they are a very, very strong ally. Going back to Jordan I guess in 2005, 2006, when the brutal attack was carried out, the bombings were carried out in Jordan, in Amman, actually, the hotels, and it was soon after that, that they killed the leader then what was ISIS.
They went all out to do it. When they want to do something, they really can. Again, I have a great regard for King Abdullah. He is, I would say, clearly our closest Arab ally. And he has a very effective fighting force.
And they are assisting us against ISIS. They have been of great help to us ever since 9/11. They have been there as much or more than any other Arab country. I would say to have them fully mobilized against ISIS, it certainly could only help us, put it that way.
BLITZER: We have to leave it there. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
KING: Wolf, thank you very much.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on the mystery of Jihadi John, as he is called. Should the U.S. and its allies make his capture or his targeted killing a top priority? Our terror experts are standing by.
And CNN takes you on a very dangerous road, a lot of roads, in fact, as a second brutal winter storm hits the Northeast. So, why isn't there a travel ban in some really hard-hit areas this time? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Is the war on terror actually a war against radical Islam? Some people say yes. Republican critics and some Democratic critics want to hear President Obama call it that. But the president and the White House refuse to use that term. The president explained why to CNN's Fareed Zakaria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN: Lindsey Graham said that he's bothered by the fact that you won't admit that we're in a religious war. There are others who say that the White House takes pains to avoid using the term "Islamic terrorist." So my question to you is, are we in -- are we in a war with radical Islam?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that the way to understand this is there is an element growing out of Muslim communities in certain parts of the world that have perverted the religion, have embraced a nihilistic, violent, almost medieval interpretation of Islam. And they're doing damage in a lot of countries around the world.
But it is absolutely true that I reject a notion that somehow that creates a religious war, because the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject that interpretation of Islam. They don't even recognize it as being Islam.
And I think that, for us to be successful in fighting this scourge, it's very important for us to align ourselves with the 99.9 percent of Muslims who are looking for the same thing we're looking for: order, peace, prosperity.
And so I don't quibble with labels. I think we all recognize that this is a particular problem that that has roots in Muslim communities. And that the Middle East and South Asia are sort of ground zero for us needing to win back hearts and minds, particularly when it comes to young people. But I think we do ourselves a disservice in this fight if we are not taking into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject this ideology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's dig deeper. Joining us now, our global affairs analyst, retired Lieutenant General James Reese. Also our CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling; our CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank; and our counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd, he's with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Do you agree with the president's position, refusing to brand it radical Islam?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think we've got to look at this through the eyes of the adversary. What I did for decades at the agency. The adversary wants...
BLITZER: The CIA. MUDD: The CIA, that's right. The adversary wants good versus evil.
They want to portray themselves not as murderers who behead people but as people who are responsible for defensing the faith. And we want to walk into this environment and give them exactly what they want. They are going to, if we make this into radical Islam, say that we are the crusaders coming to fight Islam. I don't do politics. I don't do the president versus the Republicans. I do the adversary. And the adversary wants us to paint this as a war against Islam.
BLITZER: So you're saying the president is right?
MUDD: I am.
BLITZER: All right. What about that, General Hertling?
GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I absolutely agree with Phil, Wolf. That is the perfect way to say it. And I'll take it even one step further, having had chai and sat around with a lot of the Muslims in Iraq and other places of the world, these people do not agree with most of the things that Sharia law goes toward. And they certainly don't agree with al Qaeda or ISIS. It would be as if we were calling a war against the Ku Klux Klan, a war against Christian extremists. These are just evil people and they don't belong -- it doesn't belong as a religious fight.
BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, let's me turn now to that attack last month in Paris on that kosher supermarket. You're getting new reporting now about the gunman, this guy Amedy Coulibaly, and the reports that he filmed video of himself. He had a GoPro on his body. As he was carrying out the murders there, the attack. What are you hearing?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That's right, Wolf. I've been briefed by a source who has been briefed by investigators who've actually watched this GoPro video. And it's seven minutes long. And it shows Coulibaly storming into that supermarket and killing three of the shoppers there.
But I'm told today it also shows that he had trouble reloading his machine gun. He was not able to reload his machine gun after that initial attack. Also, that he had poor weapons handling skills. And the take away from investigators is he is unlikely to have received any terror training in a camp overseas.
BLITZER: Colonel Reese, what do you make of that, that Coulibaly apparently was unable to reload his weapon?
COL. JAMES REESE (RET.), CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Wolf, we've seen it. I mean, a weapon like that, the AK-47, especially when you're under stress, could very easily cause someone not to be able to reload and recharge it and get it ready to go. But I also believe that once we see this video -- and I'm not sure the French are ever going to release this video. We're going to see some other things on the other side that's not going to make things look too well from the French side as they assaulted that piece. I think there's a lot of ugly scenes going on there. BLITZER: Colonel Reese, over the weekend there was that new video
released purporting to show the beheading of the Japanese journalist who was being held hostage by ISIS, despite reports that Japan and Jordan had been negotiating with ISIS for his release. Do you think ISIS was ever really serious about these negotiations?
REESE: I do, Wolf. Initially, I think they looked at it. But as things drew on, as the Jordans brought the pilot in, something started to happen here. And I think this is just a way for ISIS to try to show, you know, their power, their side of the negotiation, that they'll do this.
I'm hoping -- and I do think that the Jordanian pilot is still alive and there's still a chance the Jordanians will be able to negotiate him out.
BLITZER: Realistically, General Hertling, we hope it doesn't happen, obviously. Let's say ISIS beheads this Jordanian pilot. So what's Jordan going to do? What can Jordan militarily do about that?
HERTLING: It would be catastrophic for ISIS if --if they executed Lieutenant Mu'ath Kaseasbeh, Wolf. You've got to recall, too, you know, I heard Representative King's comments to you earlier. Jordan also is a country where a lot of recruits to jihad are brought from.
So I think you're seeing in the newspaper reports they're showing the Jordanian tribes and the government are both opposed. All they wanted was proof of life. If they don't get that, it's going to cause a huge backlash, not necessarily military but certainly from the people of Jordan against ISIS. A lot of people agree with what ISIS is doing who live in Jordan right now. This could be catastrophic and would be a huge strategic error for ISIS.
BLITZER: This Jihadi John, Philip Mudd, the guy who, you know, has this mask on, makes the threats, got the knife, presumably he's the one who beheads all these hostages, how important is it to get this guy?
MUDD: Not as much as you might think. If you're going to eliminate a terror group, my experience is you've got to find, fix and finish the leadership. That is the ideologues, the leaders, the people who gather money, the people who train. This is a lower level guy. You cannot divert attention going after every low-level guy, unless -- unless he gives you a vulnerability, an avenue to get to leadership. So he's a media focus. But I'm not sure he's a leader of the group, and I'd be focused on the...
BLITZER: Would it be demoralizing, though, to ISIS and its supporters if he were killed?
MUDD: Actually, I don't think so. They've got enough of these guys. We heard reports of 1,000-plus people going from western Europe. I think that they've got enough people coming in behind them, it's sort of like sharks' teeth, where they could replace him pretty easily.
BLITZER: Philip Mudd, thanks very much. General Hertling, Colonel Reese, Paul Cruickshank, guys, thanks to all of you.
Breaking news coming up next. New details of that deadly winter storm sweeping across almost a third of the United States. We'll go live to one of the areas being hit hardest right now.
BLITZER: Record snowfall, dangerously cold temperatures, treacherous driving conditions, all part of another winter wallop being felt by more than 100 million Americans. Massachusetts is bearing the brunt of the storm right now. Boston has set a seven-day record of more than 34 inches of snow. And tonight, the city is postponing the Patriots Super Bowl victory parade.
Let's go to Brian Todd. He's joining us from nearby Andover, Massachusetts, with more.
Brian, that snow is really coming down.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's coming down, Wolf. It has not stopped all day, since after midnight Eastern Time last night.
You know, technically, the volume here is less than it was last week, maybe between 10 and 14 inches total in this storm compared to more than 2 1/2 feet last week. But I can tell you that the conditions are worse. And they seem to be worse for different reasons. You've got freezing temperatures now. And this is a particularly dangerous time of the evening, because the roads are starting to freeze, as we switch from the outside camera, I'm going to switch over to the dash camera as you've got some emergency vehicles coming in here.
These emergency vehicles, the plows, the snow crews, are having a more difficult time seemingly in this one because there's just no place to put the snow after last week. When we switch from the dash cam, we're going to go to the inside camera and start to hit the road here. Another reason why this snow seems to be a little bit more treacherous than last week, at least from our perspective in moving around here, is the question of visibility.
And as my photo journalist Khalil Abdullah (ph) and I pull out, we will switch you back again to the dash camera so you can get a sense of this is -- Lowell Street in Andover, Massachusetts. You can get a sense of the visibility here of some of these snowplow cruise start to pull out and try to keep these roads at least a little bit clear.
But they are really up against it tonight, Wolf. This snow has fallen at a rate faster than they can work, even though they have been working all day to try to clear these roads, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Brian. We'll stay in close touch with you.
I want to check in with our meteorologist Tom Sater. He's at the CNN severe weather center monitoring the storm. What are you seeing, Tom?
TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, Wolf, what's amazing and what we're seeing that, weather records across many of the states go back 140 years. That's 140 winters and we're breaking, shattering records in some cases. Like this street in Chicago, more than the thousands of schools that are closed, it's the tens of thousands of city workers and many locations that are working 24/7. And this is not going to melt soon.
Last week's snowfall in Boston, the greatest January snowfall on record. Chicago, greatest February snowfall. They only needed 14 inches to crack the top ten. This is number five, the fifth greatest snowfall, 19.3.
How about Detroit? The third greatest snowfall on record at 16.7. Now, this is an old total from Boston at 9. They have haven't updated it. We believe it's a foot. And now, the heaviest snow is coming down. They could end up with easily 15.
The back edge, the last gasp of the storm is leaving areas of Massachusetts. Now, it has left Long Island. Good news there. You had your sleet. Your mix of rain at times, a little backlash for snow. Look for re-icing tonight.
But just an hour ago, we talked about the heaviest band to move through. And that is moving through now. It's a quick mover but it's easily going to possibly add up to about 15 as a total. Then, it slides to the north. We make it up from Portland, up to Banger and to the Canadian Maritimes.
But the temperatures are dropping and it's going to drop even more. It's 23 in New York City. It's 10 in Boston. Wind chill advisories are in effect.
The bad news, Wolf, forecast for a much colder air mass to slide in the same reason -- region by the end of the week.
BLITZER: Yes, that is bad news, Tom. Thanks very much, Tom Sater.
By the way, the picture on the bottom right hand corner, that's Logan Airport in Boston. We're expecting the New England Patriots and their charter flight to be arriving soon. Hopefully, they'll land smoothly and won't have to depart to another airport.
We do know that the mayor of Boston has postponed the celebratory parade for the Super Bowl winners. It's supposed to be tomorrow, now scheduled for Wednesday.
Coming up, much more on this winter storm affecting 100 million Americans.
There's more of this breaking news coming up. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: There are some brand new comments stirring controversy for two potential Republican presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee and Senator Rand Paul.
First, listen to what Governor Huckabee told CNN's Dana Bash on "STATE OF THE UNION".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: This is not just a political issue. It is a biblical issue. And it's a biblical issue. Unless, you know, I get a new version of the Scriptures, it's really not my place to say, OK, I'm just going to evolve. It's like asking somebody who's Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.
People can be my friends who have lifestyles that are not necessarily my lifestyle. I don't shut people out of my circle or out of my life because they have a different point of view. I don't drink alcohol, but gosh, a lot of my friends, maybe most of them, do. You know, I don't use profanity, but believe me, I got a lot of friends who do.
I'd like to think that there's room in America for people who have different points of view without screaming and shouting and wanting to shut their business down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Dana is here to talk about her interview, along with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
Dana, let's talk about the politics of this. How are those kinds of comments going to play in a Republican primary?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a Republican primary in a place like Iowa probably well. But let me just sort of give you the context of this.
And that is in this new book that he's out promoting, he talks about the fact that people might be surprised that despite the fact that he is opposed to not just gay marriage, but he believes his religious belief is that people should not be homosexual. He still has gay friends. He has them over for dinner. He socializes with them.
So, what I was trying to get him to square was he's -- the fact that he's morally opposed to with, with the fact that his friends and doesn't that show that he is, you know, potentially open to it, and that's why he said that it was like try to compare to other choices, because, clearly, he believes it's a choice not that a you're born with it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And I think that's the problem for him if he were to go into beyond Iowa, beyond South Carolina, because if you look at polls, Wolf, in the country now, there's been a major shift on gay marriage. You see right here, Democrats, 74 percent, for Republicans, only 30 percent for it.
But look at number with independents, 58 percent support gay marriage. We have Jeb Bush coming out and saying that the party cannot be perceived as antigay. He believes it's an issue up to the states.
So, fine for the Iowa caucuses, but beyond, not so much.
BLITZER: Let me turn to another controversial comment today. Senator Rand Paul was on CNBC and he suggested vaccines should be voluntary. I want to play this little clip. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: But I think vaccines are one of the greatest medical breakthroughs we have. I'm a big fan and a great fan of history of development of smallpox vaccine, for example. But, you know, for most of our history, they have been voluntary. So, I don't think I'm arguing anything out of the ordinary. We're arguing for what most the history has had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So, Dana, obviously, we're talking about measles vaccines, for example. But most doctors -- almost all doctors say you know what, you've got to do this for your kids. There's no question about how important it is. And he's a doctor, by the way.
BASH: He's a doctor and he has vaccinated his own kids, and as a doctor thinks that it's important. But it's a fine line that not just he and other Republicans are trying to walk with making it a personal choice versus something that the government wants you to do, because that is a no-no, particularly if you're someone like Rand Paul that came from the Tea Party movement. But what he's basically trying to do is say he personally believes it is the right thing to do as a doctor and as a father, but not telling other people.
BLITZER: What do you think?
BORGER: Well, I think this is an interview that got pretty contentious for a lot of reasons. And, Dana and I, talked to people who work for Senator Paul. And he felt -- the interviewer was condescending and then he got condescending back. And I think one thing led to another. His position on vaccines I think he's basically saying it's a matter of personal choice and freedom. I think if you have a kid that might be infected by another child in Disneyland, that's -- you know, you have a right to ask that question.
BLITZER: Or an adult for that matter, too. That's why it's so critically important the use of vaccines --
BASH: Or a newborn.
BLITZER: All these children with measles, whatever, they've got to do it. Guys, thanks very, very much. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in
THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.