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Netanyahu: Deal Will Lead to Iranian Nuclear Bomb; Reaction from Netanyahu's Press Secretary Mark Regev; Reaction from Democratic Representative Steve Cohen; Hillary Clinton Only Used Private E-Mail at State Department; White House Weighs in With Some Severe Criticism of Netanyahu

Aired March 3, 2015 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So, let's check the facts. Tom Foreman is joining us, together with David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a former U.N. nuclear weapons inspector.

Tom, break it all down for us.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of the chief complaints from the prime minister is just that, that this proposal really does not dismantle the nuclear capability for Iran. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected but not destroyed. Because Iran's nuclear program would be left largely intact, Iran's breakout time would be very short, about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel's.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: So there you have the basic claim that they're making Iran's nuclear program remains largely intact.

Let's bring in the map.

David, if you'll come in as well, we'll talk about this.

The sites scattered across Iran right now, about 19,000 different centrifuges at work out there. You can see in places like Natanz, they've had tours in past years with President Ahmadinejad when he was there. Centrifuges behind them. Here's an aerial view of the same thing.

What about this claim, David, this idea that basically this will not be dismantled under this deal? What happens at Natanz?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, THE INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY & FORMER U.N. NUCLEAR WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, the centrifuges may not be destroyed. They're going to -- the excess centrifuges will be made inoperative and very hard to restart. FOREMAN: What does that mean?

ALBRIGHT: It means it will take them months to get going again. The pipes would be disconnected, certainly turned off. In the negotiations, you could also push to have some of the vital equipment actually destroyed. That could still be at issue. But the bottom line is it's going to take Iran a long time to restart those centrifuges.

FOREMAN: So there's still negotiations going on on that. Some facilities would be destroyed effectively?

ALBRIGHT: Well, the U.S. position is that the deeply buried site that's been at issue because it's hard to destroy militarily, that would be shut down and not involved in uranium enrichment anymore.

FOREMAN: If you look at these centrifuges and you think about how they produce material, when we talk about breakout time, how long does it take to get enough to make a bomb? The prime minister said in afterthought they were right on the edge of it. The U.S. said as recently as yesterday, two to three months before they could make a bomb from this material. And Iran says more like a year, year and a half. Who's right?

ALBRIGHT: I think the U.S. estimates are the better of those three. I think --

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: At this moment?

ALBRIGHT: At this moment. I think they've certainly invested a lot of resources to understand this process better. They're using a great deal of intelligence. I think their estimates are the better one.

FOREMAN: Right now, if nothing changes, two to three months, Iran could say we have the material for a bomb.

ALBRIGHT: That's right.

FOREMAN: If they went headlong in that direction. And under this deal, they're trying to push it back to more like a year.

ALBRIGHT: Yeah.

FOREMAN: How do you deal with the question of secrecy? That's one of the big questions for everyone.

ALBRIGHT: The goal is to get a year breakout time or at least a year at the declared sites, like Natanz, but then you have to worry about the covert sites. There, you need much better inspections. Part of the deal that the U.S. wants is that the inspectors would have many more rights to inspect, to drastically reduce the chance that Iran is building secret sites to enrich uranium, and to create mechanisms for enforcement that if they're caught --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: David, thank you very much.

David Albright, some good insights there, Wolf. And a reality check on where they stand in these good negotiations.

BLITZER: All right, good, indeed.

Guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, more on Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech. The White House weighing in with some severe criticism of the Israeli leader.

I'll also get reaction from the prime minister's press secretary. There's Mark Regev, up on Capitol Hill. We'll check in with him when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Israel's prime minister makes his case against a proposed nuclear deal with Iran. This was Benjamin Netanyahu's much- anticipated, controversial speech before the United States Congress. He called the current proposal on the table a very bad deal. He said it won't stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. And you don't need to see classified details, he said, to realize that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NETANYAHU: That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them. Let me explain why. While the final deal has not yet been signed, certain elements of any potential deal are now a matter of public record. You don't need intelligence agencies and secret information to know this. You can Google it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The prime minister spoke plenty this morning about what was wrong with the nuclear deal. But what about alternatives to the current negotiations under way in Switzerland?

Let's bring in Mark Regev, the spokesperson for the prime minister, traveling with the prime minister, joining us from Capitol Hill.

There was a lot of angry reaction, Mark. You're hearing it from the White House. You're hearing it from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, the minority leader. Let me put up on the screen what she wrote. She said, "That is why, as one who values the U.S./Israel relationship, and loves Israel, I was near tears throughout the prime minister's speech, saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States and part of the P5-Plus-1 nations and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation."

Wow, what stunning, strong words coming from the Democratic portion of the House of Representatives. Your reaction, Mark Regev?

MARK REGEV, BENJAMIN NETANYAHU'S PRESS SECRETARY: We don't think we should be a partisan issue at all. We think this is an issue people should be able to unite around. A nuclear-armed Iran is not just a threat to Israel, not just a threat to the region, it's a threat to the world. The Iranians today are building intercontinental ballistic missiles, Wolf. They've not building them to hit Israel. They're already got missiles that can hit my country, can hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They're building those long-range missiles to hit targets in North America. And as you know, no one's ever built an ICBM to carry a conventional payload. This is a threat against us all. And it shouldn't be partisan politics.

BLITZER: She says the prime minister is basically insulting the intelligence of the president of the United States and his top leadership and that this is an active condescension by the prime minister. You don't often hear those kinds of words from a strong supporter of Israel in Washington.

REGEV: True. I would urge you, you would urge everybody, read the transcript of what the prime minister said because I think what you heard was a very measured and a very well thought-out presentation of what's the problem with the parameters of the deal that is currently on the table and why it does not offer a real solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. And I think if people look at the prime minister's remarks and review those remarks and weigh those remarks on their merits, I think our case is compelling.

BLITZER: What's the alternative, though? Let's say the negotiations collapse. Iran's going to go ahead and develop -- and enrich its uranium and go ahead and develop a bomb.

REGEV: We think there's a lot of Iranian bravado and that if the international community stands firm and demands real concessions from Iran instead of sort of cosmetic changes, but demand from the Iranians that they take concrete steps to dismantle their nuclear program, we believe such a deal is possible. And we would support a good deal that actually peacefully solves the Iranian nuclear program. The trouble is what's currently on the table just kicks the can down the table. And 10 years from now, like with North Korea, you'll have nuclear proliferation in Iran. That will cause many of Iran's other neighbors to go for their own nuclear programs. That's a threat to us all. You'll have multilateral nuclear proliferation in the most unstable part of the world. It would be catastrophic.

BLITZER: Mark Regev, joining us from Capitol Hill, the spokesman for the prime minister of Israel.

Thanks very much, Mark Regev, for joining us.

REGEV: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, much more on the Netanyahu address. The reaction is intense. We'll speak with one of the members of the United States Congress who boycotted the address. Is all this going to really hurt the U.S./Israeli relationship? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We've now just heard from the president of the United States. He's in a meeting with the new secretary of defense, Ash Carter. And reporters were inside at the start of that meeting. The president said he did not have a chance to watch the Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech before a joint meeting of the United States Congress but he did say he read the transcript, and then added pointedly there was, in his words, "nothing new." We'll get that videotape, play it for the viewers as soon as that pool comes out of the Oval Office in the White House.

Let's get more reaction, a different perspective. Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen is joining us from Tennessee.

Congressman, you didn't want to attend the meeting. You didn't attend the meeting. I assume you watched it, though, on television, right?

REP. STEVE COHEN, (D), TENNESSEE: I watched it with a group of AIPAC's representatives from Memphis, about 15, in my office.

BLITZER: What's your reaction? Did the prime minister convince you?

COHEN: It was a -- no, he didn't convince me. It was political theater and that's why I didn't attend. It used the chamber to put him in a position that the president is often in, address the Congress at the State of the Union. This puts him on equal footing with the president of the United States. I thought that was wrong. I wasn't going to be part of it. I didn't attend.

I think the political theater was worthy of an Oscar. It was a great speech for Prime Minister Netanyahu's reelection in Israel, a good speech for Speaker Boehner connecting to the AIPAC and the Jewish republican force that was here, but it was not a good speech for the future of having a denuclearized Iran. That conversation should be taking place in Geneva, not here in Washington before the cameras. I'm afraid it created a greater schism between the president and the prime minister. And that's not good for Israel and not good for world peace.

BLITZER: I'm sure that the relationship, which was bad to begin with, is a whole lot worse right now, that personal relationship between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel.

But on the substance, when he said, this current deal is really bad, will undermine potentially Israel's very existence, what do you say?

COHEN: Well, he doesn't know what the deal is. And he wouldn't be in favor of any deal. He talked about a Persian bazaar and you walk away and they go back, and, oh, mister, mister, I'll take this price. It's not the same thing. If the Iranians have shown they don't necessary make a deal. If they don't make a deal, they're not going to be down on their knees. They're going to bend their back, straighten up their back and they may be tougher. I think it will hurt. 200 Israeli generals and security officials said this drives us further away from a good deal with Iran and I think it drove us away. BLITZER: Steve Cohen, the Democratic congressman from Tennessee,

thank you very much for joining us.

COHEN: You're welcome, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get more reaction, more analysis on what's going on. Gloria Borger is with us, our chief political analyst. John King is with us, our chief national correspondent.

Gloria, the reaction has been intense. Bitter words from Nancy Pelosi, speaking about insulting comments from the prime minister of Israel towards the United States. Condescension. You don't often hear that from the Democratic leader in the House.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You don't. And according to the reporting from the White House, senior administration official while not using that language also made it very clear that -- and this is a quote, the prime minister offered no concrete plan and the president basically said the same, that he didn't hear anything new there. So I think what comes out of this is that the prime minister delivered, I thought, a very effective speech, making his case very well, both to the American public and to the audience back home. But in terms of the Iran nuclear negotiations, nothing has changed.

BLITZER: We're getting more details now from that pool spray from that photo opportunity in the White House. The president and the new secretary of defense ash Carter, we'll get that videotape. But from reporters inside, the president also said, in addition to there was nothing new in this speech, he said, the prime minister didn't offer any viable alternatives to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The administration, he said, put in place extensive sanctions regime after a framework deal rolled back some of its nuclear program. When he announced that framework deal, the president says, Netanyahu, quote, "made the exact same speech as he made today." None of those warnings came true. They're going back and forth, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're going back and forth. This is not two staff members or two press secretaries. This is the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israeli, two counterpoints, essentially, debating this, one of the globe's biggest security challenges of the moment. That's what's so remarkable. This relationship, it's not icy. It's broken. It's broken. And the question is when the president says there's nothing new in the speech, in the back of his mind, he's hoping there's something new in two weeks. He'd like a new prime minister to deal with. If he does not get that, it's hard to see, Wolf, any significant progress or agreement in this relationship through the end of the Obama administration. That gives you pause on a number of global issues. They've always said, despite their personal dysfunction, they can get business done. I do think if you're the president of the United States, and whether you're watching at home and disagree or agree with the president, imagine being him and seeing the prime minister of Israel standing in the spot where you give your State of the Union address -- this is to Nancy Pelosi's point -- and saying the president of the United States is betting the security of the world on a hope that Iran will change its behavior, saying the president says this is going to block Iran's path. No, it doesn't. It paves Iran's path. From the president's perspective -- again, whether you agree of disagree with him -- he's a proud man and a competitive man, and he just saw the prime minister of an ally stand up in a very sacred spot in American politics and say, "You're dead wrong."

BORGER: And accused him of a certain amount of naivety and accusing all the people who are trying to negotiate this deal with Iran. These are very complicated matters. There are clearly people inside the White House, although everyone says you can't take this personally and Netanyahu did pay homage to Obama on a lot of fronts before he went after the Iranian deal, they're really upset about this. This is a serious breach.

KING: And the question is, did Netanyahu move the ball? The administration wants -- this is nothing new. The question is, when Nancy Pelosi not only vents her outrage, when she counts the votes, and on the Senate side, when they count the votes, did the prime minister make a tough sell for the administration even harder? If that's the case, the president is going to have to respond --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're going to get that videotape from the Oval Office, the president meeting with the defense secretary. We're going to play it for our viewers.

Stand by. Much more of our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton's political enemies may have one more arrow in their quiver if she decides to run for president in 2016. We're now learning that Secretary Clinton only used her own private e-mail account when she was the active secretary of state. That would be a violation of federal rules because it makes them less available as official records. And private e-mail accounts are more susceptible to hacking as well.

The former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, a top contender for the GOP nomination, pounced on the controversy with this tweet, quote: "Transparency matters, unclassified Hillary Clinton e-mails should be released. You can see mine here, jebbushemails.com."

Let's bring our CNN national political reporter, Peter Hamby; and our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, I guess rules were broken, but how serious is this? This potentially could be pretty damaging.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're trying to figure out which rules, if rules, were broken. Honestly, the fact that she had a personal account makes it difficult to tell that. I don't know if this is something that is going to be terribly, terribly damaging to her, but it really hurts when it comes to trying to package her as some sort of different Clinton, as a more transparent Clinton.

But what I think is interesting, and that I take issue with, coming from her spokesperson, is they say she was really operating under the spirit and the letter of the rules here. Well, no, she wasn't. The spirit of this rule, whether or not it's even changed in the last few years, is towards security and towards transparency. And if you talk to any expert, they will tell you that having a personal e-mail address instead of a government account and using it solely is less secure than using a government e-mail address. And that when it comes to this issue of transparency, you've got Hillary Clinton and maybe those aides around her who have discretion.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on for one moment. We now have the videotape coming in to CNN. This is the videotape of the president of the United States meeting with the defense secretary, Ash Carter, in the White House. This is going to be the first public reaction from the president to the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial speech before a joint meeting of Congress. The prime minister of Israel basically accusing the president of undermining Israel's not only security and actual very existence by going along potentially with what the prime minister calls a bad nuclear deal with Iran.

We're about to hear from the president to get his reaction. This is the first time we have had an opportunity to hear from Mr. Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tell me when everybody's in.

Everybody's all set? All right.