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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; Fight Against ISIS; Putin Opponent Killed; Growing Fear ISIS Will Behead Captured Christians; Temporary Homeland Security Funding Bill Fails
Aired February 27, 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 ANCHOR: Happening now, cash crisis. Homeland Security funding is about to run out. Congress is definitely, Congress' deadlock, Republicans are divided. I'll ask Senator Lindsey Graham about the desperate wrangling going on right now.
Intelligence blunders. How was Jihadi John able to join up with ISIS when he was on Britain's. radar for year SNZ new questions are being asked right now that the terrorist's identify has been revealed.
Putin's opponent assassinated. Who was behind the death of Russia's opposition leader? Blood and political intrigue in Moscow, right now,.
Unprepared. There's more buzz inside the Pentagon that a major offensive against ISIS may now be delayed. Why is the U.S. military sending mixed signals?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking this hour, cash crisis for Homeland Security here in the United States. The department's money runs out in just a matter of a few hours.
On Capitol Hill right now, there's a desperate scramble to try to find a way out of this mess. An 11th hour attempt to extend funding for three weeks failed just a little while ago, this as the terror threat from ISIS is front and center. U.S. and British officials are vowing today to bring Jihadi John, as he's called, to justice only hours after the ISIS killer's real name was revealed to the world.
I will talk about that with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He is a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a leading voice within his party. He is standing by live. Our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. They are covering all the news that is breaking right now.
First, let's go to our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's up on Capitol Hill. The breaking news, Dana, now less than six hours, the Department of
Homeland Security won't have enough money to keep all of America safe. What's going on?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's going on is that if you look down the hall behind me, that is where the House speaker's office is. He and his fellow House Republican leaders are trying to figure out what plan B is, is there a plan B that they can put together in order to avoid the Department of Homeland Security shutting down at midnight?
What happened just about an hour ago is the vote that they thought was going to pass to do a short-term three-week bill keeping the department running failed, failed in part because they had 50 Republicans who rebelled and said they didn't want to vote for anything that funded the department without also stopping the president's immigration plan.
But also, more importantly, you had all the Democrats, practically all the Democrats, I should say, vote in protest, saying they are not going to vote on anything short-term because they are trying to force the Republicans' hand, force them to bring up what the Senate passed earlier today, which is a full-funded bill from now all the way the end of the fiscal year. So now we're basically in a waiting game.
I was told by a Republican source that they are talking about maybe just doing a one-week spending bill, a one-week bill just to keep the department running so that they don't get in the situation where the department completely shuts down. Unclear if they can have the votes for that either. So, again, they are huddling back there. We don't know exactly how this is going to end.
BLITZER: All right, there's no official word from either the speaker of the House, John Boehner, or the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy? They are still in closed-door meetings, they're trying to come up with a strategy, is that right?
BASH: That's right. You saw it live on air, frankly, the chaos on the House floor and the scramble of the leaders and other members to come off the floor to go behind closed doors to try to figure out what their next move is. That's still going on.
BLITZER: They have five hours 57 minutes to go. Lots at stake. Dana, stand by.
What will it mean for the United States of America when Homeland Security funding runs out at midnight, less than six hours from now?
Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She has got this part of the story -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, DHS says that this will have a significant impact. Although vital functions will still be performed, a DHS official I just spoke with said that 30,000 employees would be furloughed, including 5,500 TSA agents, though essential employees will continue to work, we're told. Also, the more immediate impact from this, Wolf, according to this
official, the DHS-run Federal Law Enforcement Academy, which trains would ICE, CBP, and ATF, would have to send home trainees beginning this weekend. DHS says that this would prevent new hires from becoming operational. Also, many of the agencies, including TSA and the U.S. Coast Guard, will not get biweekly paychecks.
DHS saying that many of these employees rely on those biweekly paychecks. This will impact them as well, but again important to note, essential employees for the time being, Wolf, will continue to work.
BLITZER: Pamela, stand by.
I want to go to the White House. Our correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is standing by over there.
What are you learning, Michelle?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House has been absolutely mum on this latest development. It looks like they will wait and see.
The night is not over yet. We don't know where this is going to end or exactly how, so not even a statement yet from the White House. The president just spoke at an event at the Department of Justice. But he didn't mention this subject at all. It was a separate thing for him. We did hear from him this week though talking about Republicans holding the Department of Homeland Security hostage and, as a result, our national security.
He surprised everybody on Monday when he came right out and said, that this will have a direct impact on national security. The White House has been hesitating to go that far up until the president said it. So since then, they have been outlining the ways that this is harming our country and harming Congress as well.
They have taken no -- they have taken every opportunity throughout this to slam House Republicans especially, really putting the responsibility fully on the shoulders of House Speaker John Boehner. The White House over the past couple of days has called this an abject failure of Republican leadership, saying that they were falling down on the job and that this is not even a partisan dispute anymore. They say it's now a party dispute, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we will see if there's a statement from the president or the press secretary or someone at the White House. Michelle, you will let us know right away. The clock clearly is ticking.
There's other breaking news we're following right now, very disturbing news coming in from Russia. A prominent opponent of Russian President Putin has been shot and killed on the streets of Moscow. Boris Nemtsov was Russia's deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin back in the late 1990s.
Let's bring in our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, this is shocking, shocking information. Boris Nemtsov was outspoken about the corruption in Russia, very critical of Putin. He was always afraid, including in recent weeks, for his own security.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. The more the details come out, the more shocking it becomes.
Shot seven to eight times from a car. It looks like a gangland assassination. Keep in mind, in Russia, not many people have guns. It's certainly very different from the situation here. So, if you have a gun, it's either government security services or gangs. The impression among many in the opposition there or among critics is that if something like this happens, that someone must have given the order.
Of course, there's no evidence of that. But there is real reason to have fear if you are a member of the opposition or a critic of the government because in the past many of these people have lost their lives. I covered the case Andre -- Litvinenko, who was living in London at the time, but he was poisoned with radioactive materials on the streets of London.
One of the people who was implicated in that murder ended up a member of the Russian Duma. You have this kind of past which creates the fear for members of the opposition. As you note, Wolf, just a couple of weeks before this killing, Nemtsov himself said he feared for his life from Putin.
We don't have evidence that anybody from the regime is behind this. But he had that fear. He expressed that fear publicly. He was a very prominent voice, a very outspoken voice against the government. In fact, he was one of the authors of a report on corruption in the Sochi Olympics just last year, which of course was a great controversy leading up to that.
This is a powerful moment. It's a very worrisome moment in the country, not the first time we have seen this happen. But it's a sign of how far civil society has fallen in that country, and as you mentioned just a short time ago, Wolf, during a time when Russia and the West are very much in a dangerous period over the situation in the Ukraine.
BLITZER: An incredibly tense situation in Ukraine with the U.S., with the Europeans accusing Russia of actually invading and taking over huge chunks of Ukraine.
Nemtsov spoke with our own Anthony Bourdain last year. I want to play a little clip. Listen to the man who was assassinated tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, "PARTS UNKNOWN": Critics of the government, critics of Putin, bad things seem to happen to them.
BORIS NEMTSOV, FMR. DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA: Yes. Unfortunately, existing power represent what I say Russia of 19th century, not of 21st.
BOURDAIN: Critics of Putin, beware. Oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky accused Putin of corruption and wound up spending ten years in prison and labor camps. Alexander Litvinenko accused state security services of organizing a coup to put Putin in power. He was poisoned by a lethal dose of radioactive polonium. And Viktor Yushchenko, the former Ukrainian president, poisoned, disfigured and nearly killed by a toxic dose of dioxin.
I'm not saying official Russian bodies had anything to do with it, but it's mighty suspicious.
I don't think you need to be a conspiracy theorist to say whoever did this very much wanted everyone to know who done it. Everybody understands.
NEMTSOV: Yes, of course.
BOURDAIN: And everybody is meant to understand.
NEMTSOV: Yes, everybody understands. Everybody understands everything in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very chilling. He clearly was outspoken, very courageous, a patriotic Russian. He wanted to see a better Russia. He worried about list own safety. You saw that clearly come through in that interview with Anthony Bourdain and other interviews as well. And now he is dead.
SCIUTTO: He worried about his own safety, for good reason. And yet he kept his voice up. This is a dangerous thing to do in Russia. Many other critics of the regime feel forced to leave the country.
And they leave for their own safety. He did not. He kept speaking out, for instance, most recently, with the Sochi Olympics, but, again, in two days, he was going to lead a mass protest march in the country. That timing very suspect. Keep in mind, just in terms of the imagery here, he was shot and killed just 200 yards or so from the Kremlin. Again, no connection there. But just the idea that he was so close to that body, to the organization, to the government he criticized when he was shot and killed seven or eight times from a car, really just a remarkable and sad moment in that country's history.
BLITZER: We have no idea who the assailant was. But we do know that Boris Nemtsov is dead. Stand by. We're going to get more on this breaking news.
But there's other breaking news we're following, including the growing terror threat in the United States and indeed around the world. The United States and Britain are now vowing to hunt down the cold-blooded ISIS killer known as Jihadi John, the Londoner who has brutally murdered Western hostages.
But while the world now knows his true identity, Mohammed Emwazi was known to British security for many, many years.
CNN's Brian Todd is digging into this.
What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this man is ISIS' best known killer, a cold blooded Brit who waves his knife. He taunts Western leaders.
Tonight, we have new details about Jihadi John, who we now believe is a man named Mohammed Emwazi, new information tonight on his alleged efforts to support the vicious al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab and how he went from being a privileged schoolboy in London to a murderer in the name of jihad.
TODD (voice-over): He may have beheaded hostages on camera himself. But Jihadi John, the man we now believe is 26-year-old Mohammed Emwazi, was once a preppie British school boy from a middle-class family. He graduated from a large well-regarded university in London with a computer programming degree.
How and why did a young man with his prospects join ISIS? CAGE, an advocacy group for suspected radicals, says it started when Emwazi went to Tanzania in 2009 to take a safari. Instead, CAGE says, he was detained, sent back to Britain.
The group says Emwazi was subject to hostile questioning at least five times, mostly by British security services, was once worked over by interrogators when he returned from Kuwait.
ASIM QURESHI, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, CAGE: On one occasion, when he was at the airport, he was roughed by the police a little bit. He was strangled. He was strangled by an officer.
TODD: British officials have no comment. Analysts who know ISIS recruiting say this about the claim that harassment from authorities turned Mohammed Emwazi into Jihadi John.
PETER NEUMANN, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF RADICALIZATION, KING'S COLLEGE: I think it's an absurd claim. It was not the cause of his radicalization. The reason the intelligence services harassed him was because they suspected him of wanting to join Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
TODD: Court papers reported by British media say Emwazi was part of a group of extremists sometimes called the North London Boys, who allegedly funneled money and recruits to Al-Shabaab.
RAFFAELLO PANTUCCI, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: Some of them rose up to quite senior positions within Al-Shabaab. Mohammed Emwazi seems to have known some of these people.
TODD: CAGE says Emwazi went to Syria in 2012. Analysts say it's likely he joined another group jihadist group first, then ISIS, and that he had at least one skill attractive to ISIS.
NEUMANN: To make your mark and to become important within the organization, it's important to speak Arabic. And that would have made him stand out, because he was a Brit, a Westerner, but he was also an Arab.
TODD: One analyst says another characteristic Jihadi John has that would have moved him up the ISIS ranks, a thirst for violence. Every expect we spoke to said the idea that harassment from British authorities turned this man into a killer is absurd.
As one points out, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were also harassed by authorities and they never beheaded anyone -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
Let's get some analysis now.
Joining us, Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He's a leading member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and may be a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.
BLITZER: A lot of Americans are confused right now. We have got a lot of terror threats facing this country. And within less than six hours, money for the Department of Homeland Security is going to run out? Is this possible in the United States of America?
GRAHAM: I hope not, because the concerns being expressed by the president, who I don't agree with much at all, he is right.
To shut down the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security for one minute in this environment would be incredibly irresponsible and puts our nation more at risk. So, that's a nonstarter for me.
BLITZER: You passed legislation in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, you supported it, to go ahead and fund the department fully until the end of the current fiscal year, the end of September.
But the speaker of the House doesn't want to bring that language up on the floor of the House of Representatives, because he knows a lot of the members don't like it. It has nothing to do with immigration, stuff like that. What would you say to the speaker right now? They failed to get a three-week extension.
GRAHAM: Eighty percent of the Republican Party in the House would vote for a three-week extension.
BLITZER: A three-week extension?
GRAHAM: Three-week extension; 99 percent of the Democratic Party voted against a three-week extension.
My advice would be for the Democrats, help Speaker Boehner with a three-week extension. Then I will put the blame on us. To my colleagues in House who are frustrated with President Obama's executive amnesty -- and that's a good term to call it.
BLITZER: On immigration.
GRAHAM: I understand your frustration, but shutting down the Department of Homeland Security is not the right way to vent that frustration. The case is in court. Let the court deal with it.
BLITZER: So, you are appealing now to the Democrats, change your mind. Give the speaker a three-week extension. Let the department be funded for three weeks and then what? Over the next three weeks, what's going to happen then?
GRAHAM: And I'm appealing to my Republican colleagues, abandon this idea that we're going to defund the Department of Homeland Security unless the executive order is repealed legislatively.
We don't have the votes in the Senate. To me, the best thing to do for the Republican and Democratic Party is let the courts work its will. One judge has already ruled the executive order is unconstitutional. There's a stay on the president's action. To me, that's the right path to take. Do not shut down DHS today or in the future.
BLITZER: But the Republicans in the House, they could do that tonight. They have almost six hours left. That's enough time to do what you want them to do over the next three weeks.
GRAHAM: Well, it's pretty hard for me to blame the Republican Party, when 80 percent of my colleagues are ready to fund the department for three weeks and 99 percent of the Democrats are refusing.
But, eventually, this desire by Republicans in the House to use DHS funding as a way to repeal the executive order is not the right path to take, in my view, for the country or the party.
BLITZER: So, you basically, whether it's tonight or within the next three weeks, you want your Republican friends in the House of Representatives to do what you have done in the Senate and pass a clean bill?
GRAHAM: Yes. And I want the Democrats tonight to help Speaker Boehner not to shut down DHS in about five hours.
Then I hope my colleagues in the House will abandon this desire to shut down DHS as a way to repeal the executive order. I don't think it's going to work. We don't have the votes in the Senate. Let the court act.
BLITZER: We have got a lot more to talk about, including the enormous terror threats that are out there right now, plus an assassination on the streets of Moscow, a leading opposition leader. It's all shocking news.
Senator Graham, stand by.
Much more with the Republican senator right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, following all the breaking news. And there's lots of it, Homeland Security funding here in the United States about to run out.
And there's no solution in sight after the House of Representatives rejected a three-week extension bill just a little while ago.
Stand by, Senator. We have a lot more to discuss on that.
We're also learning more about now, right now, about a likely delay in the start date for a major coalition ground offensive against ISIS in Iraq.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is getting new information.
Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, there is a dramatic shift in the U.S. military assessment about perhaps the most significant linchpin in the success for the U.S. in Iraq.
STARR (voice-over): Iraqi forces liberated two villages north of Baghdad searching out ISIS militants, but now a turnaround in U.S. military thinking about when these Iraqi troops will be ready to begin their largest combat operation, trying to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, from is control.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We haven't laid a date certain down here at the Pentagon.
STARR: Just days ago, however, a U.S. military official ordered to brief journalists said the battle could begin in April, insistence there's no change in the U.S. position from Ash Carter, the newly installed defense secretary.
KIRBY: There have been assessments literally all over the calendar. I get that. So, I'm not blaming the media on this.
STARR: Before any fight for Mosul could begin, the U.S. military needs to step up efforts, a military official tells CNN; 5,000 Iraqi troops will be fully trained by the U.S. in the next two weeks. The battle for Mosul needs more than 20,000.
More overhead surveillance is essential to find precise locations of ISIS' growing defenses around the city and the location of civilians. The defense secretary may have to recommend a small number of U.S. ground forces to help target those ISIS positions, but the top U.S. intelligence officer expressing deep doubt about the Iraqi military's abilities even after months of U.S. help.
JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: They have challenges clearly with command-and-control, with leadership, with logistics. So they have got a whole range of issues there that need to be attended to.
STARR: In fact, they are now estimating that the Iraqi military might need six to eight to nine months before that entire force would be ready for combat operations across the country. It makes one realize now while there -- why there's a good deal of doubt that they can even move against Mosul in the coming weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that's interesting. I wonder how ISIS is going to react to all of this. They clearly monitor what's going on here in the United States.
Barbara, thank you very much.
Let's get back to Senator Lindsey Graham, a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
What's going on over here? They brief reporters, the U.S. military Central Command, last week, get ready for a spring offensive to liberate Mosul starting in April or May. The Iraqi is going to be ready, 25,000 troops. Not so fast. What happens here?
GRAHAM: Well, I welcome the reconsideration because I had doubts it would work.
The Iraqi government and people are demanding that Mosul be liberated. Put yourself in the shoes of the defense minister in Iraq, who is a Sunni from Mosul. He wants his town liberated from ISIL. That's a need and a desire. But the capacity doesn't exist.
This Iraqi security force is basically a Shia army. The army has been basically fractured. And if you go into Mosul ill-prepared, you could have a war between the Iraqi security forces and Sunni tribes in Mosul, not just ISIL, unless we're in the mix.
The way to fix this is to have a larger American ground component to make sure the Iraqi security forces have the capacity to win. The worst outcome is to take on ISIL in Mosul and lose.
BLITZER: Because I have limited confidence in the Iraqi military, given their abhorrent behavior last year, when they simply laid down their U.S. weapons and ran away from Mosul.
GRAHAM: Because the Iraqi security forces became a Shia army, and the Shia Iraqi security forces were not going to die in Sunni land, Mosul.
So the army became sectarian. Not only is it numbers you have to generate. You have to get a functioning army that would be welcome by people in Mosul. It has to be a more Iraqi army, less of a Shia army. And we're a ways away from there. But there's no substitute for a significant American support element to be successful. And that's where I blame President Obama. He is trying to do this on the cheap.
BLITZER: This guy Mohammed Emwazi, Jihadi John, as he's known, he was watched by British surveillance for several years. He eventually wound up working with ISIS, presumably in Syria, and beheading all these people on videotape.
Was there a major intelligence or national security blunder some place in the U.K. that allowed this guy to slip out?
GRAHAM: I don't know if it's a blunder. But all the people who did the Paris attack were on watch lists. We have had a lot of people resort to terrorism that we had on watch lists. This was just one guy.
Here is what I worry about the most. The number of foreign fighters going to Iraq and Syria with Western passports are overwhelming our ability to track them. We're losing control of this problem. The longer it takes to degrade and destroy ISIL, the larger chance of getting hit here.
BLITZER: One quick question on Russia, the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, the leading opposition figure in Moscow, tonight, the breaking news, shot and killed on the streets of Moscow. He was worried about his own safety in recent interviews, and in the big scheme of things, Russia's relations with the U.S., the Europeans right now awful because of Ukraine.
GRAHAM: This is Putin's Russia.
Every institution of democracy, from the judiciary to the Duma, has been destroyed. Opposition voices are silenced and in this case murdered. He is an autocratic dictator. And he is getting literally away with dismembering his neighboring -- neighbor the Ukraine.
And our response to Putin has not created enough cost because he is not changing his behavior. This is a symptom of what happens in a police state. And we have got to understand who we're dealing with. And he will continue to do these things until the cost gets too high.
BLITZER: We don't know who killed Boris Nemtsov, but you are blaming Putin.
GRAHAM: We know that a police state exists in Russia. And when you oppose the government, bad things happen to you. So we know the environment for this to happen exists. And it's not much of a stretch to understand that more of this is coming, as long as Putin runs his country this way.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks very much for coming in.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
BLITZER: Very disturbing information all across the board.
Just ahead: the search for teenagers who fled Canada to join ISIS. Were they radicalized at their community college? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Breaking now, urgent concern for Christians captured by ISIS. Growing fears they may face the same gruesome fate as other Christians taken by the terrorists, namely, beheading.
Let's get more with CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes; CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer; our national security analyst Peter Bergen.
Peter, these Christians that are being rounded up, not just men, women, children, the elderly, what is going on right now? Are they trying to send a message to all Christians in Syria and Iraq and throughout the Middle East, get out? Because we're coming after you.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Indeed, they are. And of course, we've seen a great number of Christians leaving Iraq as a result of the civil war. We've seen an awful lot of Christians leaving Syria. And what's interesting from a sort of Islamic perspective is that Christians are people of the book. They're not like the Yezidis who Muslims regard as sort of a controversial cult.
And so ISIS is embarking on something that it would be enormously controversial in the Islamic world, if they did murder these Christians.
BLITZER: It's a terrible situation. My heart goes out to these Christians. And it's not isolated. It's happening in bigger numbers than any of us anticipated and hundreds of thousands of Christians have already fled these areas. They're refugees in various countries in the neighborhood and elsewhere, as well.
There's another very disturbing story, Tom, you've been following in Bangladesh. An American of Bengali ancestry was there, a blogger promoting human rights, if you will. He was living in Atlanta -- outside of Atlanta, Georgia, went back to Bangladesh and now was walking around outside a bookstore. Some guy came over and simply hacked him with a machete to death and deeply injured his wife, as well. What's going on here?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good question, Wolf. I think that we don't know if that's an extension of this worldwide effort to kill anybody that's not on the side of ISIS or if it's a different group that's directly behind this.
But you know, we've often used the phrase in this country, if you're not with us, you're against us. These guys actually mean that. They say it and mean it. And if you're not with us, we'll kill you. And they do.
BLITZER: And there's the other very disturbing story, Bob Baer, that we're following out of Canada. Authorities there are looking for at least four teenagers who actually may have flown out of Canada to Turkey to try to cross into Syria to join up with ISIS.
And there are now very disturbing reports some of those kids may have been radicalized by classes being taught at their local community college. Obviously, that's a very disturbing development. But give us your analysis. Because when I heard that, I said to myself, could that be happening here in the United States, as well?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, you have to look at it this way. These people are not actually -- the teachers and the mosques aren't necessarily recruiting to go to Syria. But what they're doing is they're posing the problem that Islam is under attack and that all true Muslims will defend it. And interpret it as you will. For teenagers who don't understand the Koran and Haditha, the rest of it, for them it means getting on an airplane, sneaking away and go fight for ISIS or attacks in the United States.
So it makes it very difficult for law enforcement to pinpoint these recruiters, because they're simply saying, all good Muslims will defend Islam at this point. And it's time for jihad. And that in itself is not a criminal message of any sort. And, you know, trying to police this up is really, really hard.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, I want you to stand by. Because it's awful, awful news across the board.
By the way, to find out more about the escalating battle against ISIS, specifically what you can do to help protect Iraqi children affected by the violence, visit CNN.com/impact.
More breaking news ahead, including new details of the British man identified as Jihadi John. How did he manage to join ISIS, despite being watched by British authorities for more than five years?
BLITZER: Let's get right to breaking news. The House of Representatives failed to pass a spending bill to keep money for the Department of Homeland Security. Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has the very latest.
Dana, the clock is ticking. Five hours, 18 minutes left to go.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The clock is ticking, and there is no resolution from the hall back there, where the speaker is meeting with his Republican aides and colleagues. Possibly they're talking about doing a seven-day bill to keep that department running. But we just don't know yet.
We still haven't gotten any word yet, but they've got only a little bit more than five hours to go before money for the Department of Homeland Security runs out. We'll stay in close touch with you, Dana. Don't go away.
Meanwhile, there's other news we're following, including the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. He had some explaining to do today to Republican conservatives, who don't believe this Republican presidential prospect leans far enough to the right.
Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us with more on this part of the story. Brianna, what's going on?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, maybe surprisingly, Jeb Bush did pretty well here at CPAC, considering that this isn't really his crowd. The right wing of the Republican Party not so much a fan of Jeb Bush's other contenders. And the distinction that a lot of political observers will make that's important is that, while you have Scott Walker, who is really surging in the polls lately, has been side-stepping some questions, Jeb Bush really seemed confident answering questions, and he seemed to project a strength in that, even though this was at times a tough crowd.
KEILAR (voice-over): Jeb Bush's appearance at CPAC began with a small group of people walking out as he took the stage, frustrated by the idea of a Bush dynasty. But Bush faced down one of his biggest vulnerabilities in a race for the Republican nomination: defending his stance on immigration.
JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: There is no plan to deport 11 million people. We should give them a path to legal status where they work, where they don't receive government benefits, where they don't break the law, where they learn English, and where they make a contribution to our society.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Applause followed, though some no doubt was from supporters bussed in by Bush's PAC, according to a spokesperson, who added they purchased their own tickets to the conference. At CPAC, you won't find many moderates on the issue of immigration.
JACOB PRITCHETT, CPAC ATTENDEE: This is objectively speaking, this is a tough crowd for Jeb Bush because this tends to be the more conservative part of the Republican Party.
KEILAR: But Bush rejected being labeled a centrist emphasizing his views on a number of issues key to conservatives, like same-sex marriage.
BUSH: I believe in traditional marriage.
BUSH: I'm pro-life.
BUSH: I thought it was a bad idea, but states ought to have that right to do it.
KEILAR: And he distanced himself from his family.
BUSH: If I get beyond that and I run for president, I have to show what's in my heart. I have to show that I care about people, about their future. It can't be about the past. It can't be about my mom and dad or my brother. KEILAR: But many here are at CPAC are looking for a new name.
SEBASTIAN TORRES, CPAC ATTENDEE: I think he's just another Republican, honestly, and part of the royal family. Two royal families, the Clintons and Bushes.
KEILAR: Earlier in the day, an audience waiting for libertarian CPAC favorite Rand Paul showed their disdain for the establishment pick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the way, has Jeb Bush any supporters?
KEILAR: But Bush urged skeptics not to write him off.
BUSH: For those that made an ooo sound -- is that what it was? I'm marking them down as neutral and I want to be your second choice if I decide to go beyond this.
KEILAR: Ooh or boo, I think it was boo. But that was his interpretation, Wolf. And when Jeb Bush was asked what kind of conservative he is, he said he is a practicing reform-minded conservative. And that was an answer that really stood in contrast to what Mitt Romney said back in 2012 when he said he was severely conservative.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I remember that vividly. All right, Brianna. Stay with us. I want to bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. He's up on Capitol Hill. So, which Jeb Bush, Gloria, did we see today?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we saw both. I think we saw a man who was a member of a dynasty and was speaking before a crowd of people who were rabble rousers and more into rebellion than royalty. And what he had to say to them was, look, I'm not my family. But I believe what I believe.
I think he stood by his immigration stance. He didn't back off his stance on dreamers. He didn't back off his stance on a pathway to legal status as he was very, very careful to say. Nor did he back off on his support for common core educational standards.
So, they packed the room with a lot of their supporters, so he wasn't booed off the stage as some of the folks there might have done otherwise, which was pretty clever on their part. And I think he came across as saying, take me or leave me. But saying, make me your second choice was an indication he knows they love Rand Paul but maybe they could look at him.
BLITZER: He's certainly the favorite of a lot of the Republican establishment, big money Republicans. How did he do, Dana, as far as winning over some of the hard liners? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think that
he came across as palatable to the hard liners with the way that he talked about the kind of conservative that he is, as Brianna put in her story. He talked about the fact that he was a practicing reformer, a conservative, and rejected the idea of being a moderate. He is not a moderate. I mean, in no way is he a moderate. The question is whether or not he can convince enough of those hard liners or whether he has to.
I mean, he is playing the long game. He is definitely said it himself in no uncertain terms, he is trying to win the primary by winning -- win the general by winning the primary. And it's not an easy thing to do. He certainly, I think, took a big positive first step in doing that here today.
BLITZER: Almost all of those Republican perspective candidates, Brianna, they are taking really strong swipes at Hillary Clinton. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I believe Hillary Clinton's abdication of responsible, her refusal to provide an adequate defense for Benghazi, her dereliction of duty should forever preclude from higher office.
SEAN HANNITY: I'm going to throw out a couple of names to you, Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday.
HANNITY: I will mention a few names. We have gotten interesting answers. Hillary Clinton.
BUSH: Foreign fund-raising.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: All right. Brianna, that's the issue of the Clinton Foundation getting money from foreign governments. Is that becoming a major -- that certainly is becoming a major talking point for Republicans. But how is the Clinton camp reacting?
KEILAR: It's not the Clinton camp that's reacting to this, Wolf. It's not Hillary Clinton herself. There hasn't been a chance to ask her these questions and it's not her spokesman.
But we're hearing from the Clinton Foundation. There have been stories, one most recently about a $500,000 donation from Algeria following the Haiti earthquake. That came while she was secretary of state and actually violated the agreement that she had brokered with the Obama administration for the foundation.
And then, really, the larger issue of since she left government, the foundation has been taking millions and millions of dollars from these countries, some of which have bad records when it comes to women's rights and human rights.
So, you're hearing the foundation respond by saying this is a charity. This is doing good work. I think talking to people who support Hillary Clinton, some people who are close to Hillary Clinton, Wolf, do they think it's ideal that this is out, does it look great for her? No. They'll say it doesn't look great but at the same time, they think she'll be able to make the case and those around her will be able to make the case this is a charity that does good work and people will look past it.
But you've got Republicans here really trying to prove their mettle. They're dinging her, not President Obama trying to show that they can take these shot against the Clinton machine.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by. We have much more that we're watching, including more on the breaking news.
This important programming note to our viewers. Please be sure to join Dana, Sunday, when she hosts CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION". Among her guests, the former Texas governor, potential Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry. "STATE OF THE UNION" airs Sunday morning, 9:00 a.m. Eastern.
Much more on the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: Here's some good news. Sunday night, CNN's newest serious premieres, "THE WONDER LIST" with Bill Weir. His first journey, the South Pacific Vanuatu. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL WEIR, THE WONDER LIST: Instead of packing food for this camping trip they brought bows and arrows for the shallows. And spears made of bicycle spokes for the reefs.
But the most stunning example of bounty of this waters comes when they grab a net.
Once it's in place, the catch is over in about 90 seconds.
That's not fishing. That's not fair. When I fish I have to drink beer for eight hours before I get one bite. Look at this. I guess we have dinner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow. What great pictures. Bill is with us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What great photography, should I say. What was your favorite part of this shoot? WEIR: Well, there were so many, Wolf, I've got to say. That place as
I said to these people, do you guys know you live inside a screen saver, that on a cold stressful days in America, we fantasize about your life.
But I went there because there is an amazing little corner of the brink of change. They are deciding whether tourism is their ticket to a better life, to better roads and hospitals and schools and flat screen TVs.
The cell phone signal out there in the middle of the South Pacific is stronger than Manhattan. They have Wi-Fi. They know how we live. They want a taste of that.
So, I wanted to go to this place and study change around the world. Our planet is changing at such a dizzying rate. This is a great example of people right in the brink of choosing which way they want to go.
BLITZER: It's called "THE WONDER LIST." Tell us how you came up with that name. What is your mission here? What is this all about?
WEIR: Well, wonder is both a noun and a verb. I have a little girl, she's going to turn my age in the year 2050. So, I wonder what will become of the natural wonders, the manmade wonders around the world in that generation. Will there still be tigers in the wild? Will there still be a Dead Sea in the Jordan River which are disappearing at an alarming rate? Will there still be little paradise islands like this without hotels and strip malls?
And so, it was s an amazing way to frame the age in which we live and celebrate these fantastic places as they are while we can.
BLITZER: I know when you were there on that beautiful island, Vanuatu, they made their own cocktail of choice.
BLITZER: Seems like a unique experience. Explain.
WEIR: Yes. So, it's cava. It comes from this tough jungle root that is in this particular island made by the young men all gather around and chew it into a pulp. They spit it on the a banana leaf and take this goop and put it an old flour sack, use rain water, filter it and create a cocktail that's like a full body Novocain.
I had to take it. You'll see my reaction Sunday night. You got to see it.
BLITZER: All right. We're all looking forward to it. Bill Weir, congratulations on this excellent new show. We're all looking forward it, our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
"THE WONDER LIST" with Bill Weir premiers Sunday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me
@wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom. Please be sure to join us again Monday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always watch us live or you can DVR the show so you won't miss a moment. Thanks very much for watching. Have a great weekend.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.