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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Ed Royce; Chris Christie in New Hampshire; Capitol Landing. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired April 15, 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: Tonight: troubling new questions about security in the U.S. Capitol. The pilot survives. He gave advanced warning on video about his flight and his motive, acknowledging the possibility he would be shot down. Stand by to hear him in his own words.
ISIS advances. The terrorists are very close to seizing a strategic city that is stained with the blood of American troops. I will ask the House Foreign Affairs chairman what he is learning.
And dogged by scandal, Governor Chris Christie tests the presidential waters in New Hampshire, but he can't escape the Bridgegate controversy back home.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not good, people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Visitors at the U.S. Capitol today knew something was dangerously wrong when they saw a small aircraft buzz by them flying right through restricted airspace in what is supposed to be one of the most protected places in the world.
The aircraft known as a gyrocopter eventually landed on the Capitol lawn, forcing lawmakers into lockdown and the bomb squads into action. Tonight, new information about the stunning security breach, and the pilot behind it. He revealed his plans and motive on video before taking off.
Our correspondents and analysts, they are all standing by with all the breaking news.
First, let's go to CNN's Tom Foreman. He has the latest -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. You talk about this area, this is indeed some of the most
protected airspace in the world and he made no real secret about what he was doing. He had been questioned by the Secret Service previously. He had a Web site where he laid out what he was doing and why. He had done extensive interviews with "The Tampa Bay Times." He even helped that paper come up with a very extensive video explaining his plan.
DOUG HUGHES, PILOT: I'm not suicidal. And I'm not going to commit suicide. And I'm not going to fly into any monuments. Terrorists don't announce their flights before they take off. OK? Terrorists don't broadcast their flight path. Terrorists don't invite an escort to go along with them.
FOREMAN (voice-over): That video and his Web site show in great detail what Hughes was planning, how he was preparing to be both the pilot and protester in those final moments.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not good, people.
FOREMAN: As captured in this exclusive video obtained by the Associated Press.
HUGHES: I'm going to violate the no-fly zone, nonviolently. I intend for nobody to get hurt. And I'm going to land on the Capitol Mall in front of the Capitol Building. I'm going to have 535 letters strapped to the landing gear in boxes. And those letters are going to be addressed to every member of Congress.
FOREMAN: Hughes, who is over 60, even speaks in the video about his fear of being intercepted by security forces long before reaching the Capitol.
HUGHES: I don't believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 60-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle. I'm going to give them plenty of warning, well over an advance of me getting to the no- fly zone, so that they know who I am and what I'm doing and that it is intended to be nonviolent.
FOREMAN: And in the end, even as the video shows his loading up his aircraft to bring it to Washington, he speaks with passion about what he sees as the need for this dramatic step, arguing that, in his eyes, no less than the fate of the nation rests in campaign finance reform.
HUGHES: I would rather die in the flight than live to be 80 years old and see this country fall.
FOREMAN: You look at this video and you see all the different ways he apparently let people know what he was doing. It's astonishing to think, if this is true. Seems he came from the north now, maybe up around Gettysburg, that he would have been outside the area where you have to tell the FAA you are coming in.
Outside the no-fly zone. This would have taken at that speed about two hours or more. Yet, through all of that, he would have made it all to way into not only, but in what's called the P-56 zone, which is the very highly guarded zones here and here. Wolf, he never seemed to have met any real resistance as he right came into the front of the Capitol and managed to put down right there.
Wolf, there are extraordinary questions being asked right now in all sorts of law enforcement agencies here saying, how is that possible, that basically a flying lawn mower was able to came in at 25 miles an hour and land here unchallenged, unchecked?
BLITZER: Shocking, shocking development. There's going to be extensive investigations. They have to learn the lessons of this. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
The shocking incident here in Washington at the Capitol comes three months after an unmanned drone crashed on the White House lawn. There are very serious questions tonight about security here in the nation's capital where airspace is supposed to be highly restricted, among the most restricted in the world.
Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is joining us. She's near the scene where this all went down.
Rene, what is the latest from your perspective over there?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Wolf, all the action was happening right over my left shoulder here. We know that the bomb squad was able to come in. They cleared it. They did not find anything hazardous. They have since taken away this gyrocopter.
But we do have some new information about the flight path of this gyrocopter, according to a law enforcement source. The pilot flew out of Gettysburg Airport in Pennsylvania before it landed here at the Capitol. We are told by our Evan Perez that an investigative team from the Secret Service is headed to the area where this flight originally took off from.
Wolf, so that is the latest. That's very alarming because before we didn't know how long this gyrocopter was in the air. But now we know, according to law enforcement source, that it traveled all the way from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I spoke with NORAD and asked the very question, why weren't jets scrambled?
I was told by the time they were notified, it already had landed. That means, Wolf, it made the flight all the way from Pennsylvania to the Capitol and NORAD didn't get a phone call until it made its landing.
BLITZER: There were no jets, no aircraft, no helicopters, no scrambling of any aircraft, is that right? MARSH: Right. They did not, because by the time they knew what
the situation was, or at least by the time NORAD got the information, again, it had already landed.
As we know, there's a chain of command of how this process works when there is this unidentified aircraft in what is very hypersensitive airspace here around the Capitol as well as around the White House.
You have agencies like the FAA, which controlled the airspace. They are always monitoring. However, Secret Service is always monitoring as well as Capitol Police. DHS also has their eyes. They are all looking on radar to essentially monitor who is flying in and out of this area.
And when they see something suspicious, they get on a conference call and they start speaking to each other. They determine the threat, they assess the threat and then a determination is made. Do we scramble jets or how do we handle this? NORAD telling me today that because of the type of aircraft this was, if they were going to scramble anything, it would have been the Coast Guard chopper as opposed to the military jet, because the jet just couldn't slow down enough to intercept this gyrocopter -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Rene, thanks very much, Rene Marsh reporting.
There was certainly chaos here in the Capitol when the gyrocopter landed. Lawmakers with leading roles in homeland security were among those who were forced into lockdown.
Let's go to CNN's Athena Jones. She's up on Capitol Hill.
You were up there in the Capitol when all this happened. Athena, tell us what it was like.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
It was quite a scene for several moments. It wasn't at all clear what was going on and how big of a threat there was. I was standing outside the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room. That's on the first floor of the Capitol. That's where the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, was meeting with members of that committee.
Of course, a leader like al-Abadi is going to travel around with a lot of security. There were several security officers, police officers outside of that room. That's when we began to hear that familiar distinctive crackling on the police radio. You could tell us there was action going on, on the radio.
We were asking what's going on. Suddenly, we saw at least a half a dozen uniformed officers running past us in a couple directions, heading outside, we then figured out. We asked what's happening. And we were told at the time, a helicopter had landed on the west front of the Capitol and police didn't know why and didn't know who it was. There was certainly a lot of confusion. As you know, of course, it ended up being this smaller aircraft,
this gyrocopter. But at the time, people didn't know. I should mention that even though the Capitol itself was not evacuated and there was a brief lockdown, we did hear police discussing the need to potentially evacuate the Iraqi prime minister.
They talked about taking him through the opposite side of the Capitol, the east front, the side that faces the Supreme Court. They were preparing to do that if they were going to need to do so. Of course, in the end, they didn't. Within a few minutes, this man, Douglas Hughes, was brought into custody, detained for questioning and the situation was brought under control.
But folks around here have a lot of questions. The top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson, told my colleague Deirdre Walsh that he had deep concerns. Obviously, law enforcement should have kept closer tabs on this person, especially since the Secret Service knew about him. And, of course, if he had been aimed at doing harm, he could have done significant harm, so a lot of questions around here, Wolf.
BLITZER: As there should be right now. All right, Athena, thanks very much.
Before the security scare, many of you probably didn't know much about this thing called a gyrocopter.
We actually sent our CNN correspondent Sunlen Serfaty out to learn more about this type of aircraft. He's joining us now from an airfield in Maryland, Stevensville, Maryland.
Tell us about a gyrocopter, Sunlen.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it certainly sounds like a futuristic name, the gyrocopter. But it is used by a lot of hobbyists because it's much cheaper than helicopters and it only -- and it burns four to five gallons of gas an hour and it runs on the same fuel that you could fill up your car with.
I want to show you this version of a gyrocopter here. This one is different than what we saw the pilot fly on Capitol grounds today. This is manufactured gyrocopter. Look at how small though this is in the cockpit. This has two seats. This has a lot of the cockpit regulations here that the FAA requires. But these pilots here tell me this likely in comparison seems a lot more high-tech than what the pilot was flying today if that's any indication of his potentially unregulated plane would be.
One of the main differences between this gyrocopter and a helicopter, for instance, is the amount of time it takes to take off. This needs a little bit of runway, it doesn't just automatically fly up like a helicopter, and also the way in which it is able to go hover. It's not able to hover like a helicopter. Now, earlier today, I spoke with a pilot and he talked about how
these gyrocopters are largely unregulated. He calls this side of these pilots that are taking to the airways, he calls them rebels of aviation because he says their security is in question and that is a concern to all pilots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM ADELMAN, AVIATION ATTORNEY: This type of aviation where someone is able to fly into the Capitol into restricted airspace is a big concern for all pilots.
We face a time now after 9/11 where there's a lot of restricts on how we fly and what we do. We are trying to be better citizens. And so having someone do this does jeopardize the way we are able to access the airspace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: He says these are large gaps in how the FAA regulates the gyrocopters. And certainly today's incident draws that into question. He says the FAA requires a gyrocopter to be regulated and manufactured. If it weighs less than 254, it does not have to be regulated.
It cannot go faster than 63 miles an hour and has to be single- passenger. That might be, Wolf, one reason why we are seeing that plane be able to get up in the air without being regulated by the FAA -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much.
Let's talk about more, a little bit more now about the security risk exposed by this breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Joining us, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI, and our justice reporter Evan Perez.
You have been talking to a lot of your sources. Evan, what are they saying? Were they totally taken by surprise? They didn't know this guy was flying for tow hours from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, right here to the nation's Capitol until he actually landed on the U.S. Capitol grounds?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They just didn't. He gave plenty of notice. He apparently tried to give people some notice, because he was concerned he was going to be shot down. He just didn't count on the fact the government doesn't have a plan to deal with this kind of technology.
In recent months on this program, we have talked about the government coming up with jamming technology so they can bring down drones that might be trying to fly into the White House or into the Capitol. We now know they have nothing to really counter technology that is more closer to Kitty Hawk than 21st century drone technology. They really don't know what they are going to do about this. They are looking at bringing charges against this man simply
because they don't believe that they can let this go without some kind of response.
BLITZER: They have to learn some lessons from this, Tom. This is a pretty awkward, but it's humiliating what happened.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is, Wolf.
They need to come up with a strategy of how they would deal with this kind of aircraft. I don't think they have one. I think part of the problem is you have so many agencies pointing fingers at each other between FAA, Secret Service, the Capitol Police if it goes near the Capitol Building, Park Service Police while it flies over the Mall.
So you have got many different agencies with overlapping or not overlapping security responsibilities. And it just -- there's a lot of cracks to slip through and this guy went right through them.
BLITZER: And he was carrying a box of letters to all 535 members of the House and Senate. A two-page letter calling for campaign finance reform, too much money in American politics.
But, and this is the concern that law enforcement has, national security has, he could have been carrying a bomb or he could have had missile or he could have had explosives in there and he could have just flown right into the Capitol.
PEREZ: Right. He could have done that.
It's probably not enough to bring down the building, but it is enough to kill some people and to do some damage. In this case, you know, the Secret Service says they actually went down and interviewed this guy about a year ago after they got the tip, Wolf. At the time, he said he didn't have any kind of -- any device like this, any kind of aircraft like this, any gyrocopter. It looks like nothing really came of it after that.
BLITZER: I have heard people say in law enforcement and elsewhere, you know what? The terrorists are watching. They could learn from this.
FUENTES: Absolutely. Absolutely.
What they have seen is a complete debacle where there's no security whatsoever. There's no evidence that anybody was ever going to scramble that. He probably could have got back in and taken off after he delivered the letters and we would be commending him for great postal service.
BLITZER: Shocking. Shocking development. All right, guys, thanks very much.
We are going to have more coming up on the breaking news and what it tells us about homeland security.
I will speak with a U.S. lawmaker who was inside the Capitol complex when the gyrocopter landed, Congressman Ed Royce. He is walking into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. We have lots to discuss.
BLITZER: Breaking now, ISIS terrorists may, repeat, may be on the brink of a dangerous victory in a region American troops once fought and died to defend.
Officials in Iraq fear the strategically important city of Ramadi, only an hour-and-a-half or so from Baghdad, could fall at any moment.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us. He has the latest on the fierce battles under way right now.
What is the latest, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we are hearing vastly different views of the situation on the ground in Ramadi.
An Iraqi officials tells CNN the city is under siege from all sides and is in danger of falling to ISIS. The U.S. military says a fall is not imminent, that the city remains contested. What is clear is that a major offensive is under way for the largest city in Anbar, Western Iraq.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Ramadi under fire, scene of the latest fierce clashes between ISIS and Iraqi government forces. Tonight, an Iraqi official warns CNN the city may fall to the terror group. Local residents are already fleeing, fearing for their lives.
The ISIS gains come as the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, is on Capitol Hill asking U.S. lawmakers and the president for more military help.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a long process and in our discussions, Prime Minister Abadi made clear that success will not occur overnight.
SCIUTTO: U.S. warplanes are carrying out airstrikes in support of Iraqi forces in Ramadi. And as CNN's Arwa Damon saw this week, U.S. military advisers are training Iraqi troops in the area.
Still, former commanders say the ISIS gains have implications for the whole of Western Iraq, blocking off the area from crucial reinforcements from Baghdad. The city has a long, bloody history. During the U.S.-led war, brutal combat here claimed 75 American lives in two brutal months in 2006.
Now ISIS is also advancing on the Baiji oil refinery, a key piece of infrastructure and, if successful, an opportunity to claim victory after the terror group's recent loss in nearby Tikrit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is ISIS trying to change the headline from we lost Tikrit to we are attacking Baiji. I don't anyone thinks they have a serious chance of broaching those defenses.
SCIUTTO: As you look at Ramadi, it is the U.S. military view that as the war on ISIS continues, especially the air campaign, the group is coming to be seen more as a gorilla force, rather than a regular army able to mobilize large forces.
The fact is, however, this is a group that is holding off a well- trained, well-funded Iraqi military and is still holding vast areas of military, including the largest city in all of Iraq, that is, Mosul. Wolf, and as we know, the major operation by Iraqi forces to retake Mosul keeps getting pushed off and off months and months. The earliest now seen as in the fall, but some say it might not be until next year until Iraqi forces are ready.
BLITZER: Yes. It's the second largest city in Iraq, a city of nearly two million people controlled by ISIS, not by the Iraqi military, who simply abandoned that city and it was an awful, awful situation.
All right, let's get some more now.
Joining us is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.
I know you and some of your colleagues met today with the visiting Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, here in Washington. He was up on Capitol Hill. Did he tell you why the Iraqi military, trained by the U.S., armed by the U.S., financed by the U.S., after more than a decade, is now effectively missing in action, once again, in Ramadi?
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: He gave his arguments, Wolf, but we gave ours.
And specifically what I talked to him about was the fact that it becomes exceedingly difficult to have the Kurdish forces and the Sunni forces participate and push back ISIS as long as the government in Baghdad shows itself so under the influence of Iran. And in particular to have Iranian officers on the ground with Shia militia, this is something that makes it hard for the reconciliation to occur.
BLITZER: That was major a reason they took back Tikrit, not so much because the Iraqi military, because Shia militia backed by Iran, Revolutionary Guard forces, came in and did most of the work, with some U.S. airpower.
ROYCE: With our airpower.
And what we are communicating to the government is, do not be like the prior head of state. Don't be like Maliki. Reach out, include the Kurds and allow us to directly transfer weapons to the Kurds, directly transfer weapons for the defense to the Sunnis that are trying to hold off these attacks.
You and I know that if the Kurdish forces had had the weaponry they needed, ISIS wouldn't have made these gains. But it's not just Baghdad that influences this. It's Iran that has influenced this.
BLITZER: As you know, yesterday, President Obama said the U.S. should give another $200 million in, what do he call it, humanitarian aid to Iraq, $200 million. That's obviously a lot of money. And he also wants more -- presumably, the Iraqis are asking for more U.S. weapons, Apache helicopters, armored personnel carriers. Is this a good idea?
ROYCE: Well, here's the point that Kurdish forces would make to you.
They can make enormous gains. All they need is to be able to counter some of the weaponry. They need anti-tank weapons. They need artillery. They need long-range mortars. And as long as they can't get that, then the most effective force in the field is not going to be operational.
As long as the men and women in the Kurdish units strung out over that 600-mile front can't get access to those weapons, which, frankly, Baghdad won't transfer to them, what we are suggesting in Congress in a bipartisan support for this position is let's transfer it directly to them, so that they can defend their position and push back.
BLITZER: You want the weapons to go directly to the Kurds, not to the military, which can't be trusted anymore? Is that what you're saying?
ROYCE: Well, the weapons that were transferred in the past to the Iraqi military, they have got to show that they are going to heal and have national reconciliation, so that the Sunnis, the Kurdish, and the Shia can together be a nation in order to fight.
BLITZER: A lot of those American weapons that the U.S. left behind in Iraq, given to the Iraqi, the Iraqi military abandoned, now in the hands of ISIS fighters, ISIS terrorists. It's a pretty awful situation.
BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, stay with us. We have much more to discuss.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is with us.
We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
[18:32:21] BLITZER: We're back with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce. We're following the breaking news. The pilot of a small aircraft is in custody tonight here in Washington after flying his gyrocopter through restricted air space and landing on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.
Congressman Royce was in the Capitol. He was in the visitor's center when all this happened. What was it like when you heard that some guy with a small little aircraft, a gyrocopter, as it's called, lands just outside the Capitol building?
ROYCE: Well, I was in a classified briefing at the time. And when I came back out of that briefing, I saw the Capitol police scurrying. And after a few conversations to discern what was -- what was going on here, what's amazing, of course, to us in the Capitol is how far he got through restricted air space.
BLITZER: How could that happen? Because this is arguably the most restricted air space, not only in the United States, but maybe in the world, especially after what happened on 9/11.
ROYCE: On 9/11 and also with all we know about ISIS and all we know about the ways in which terrorists are trying to carry out attacks. And so I am certain there will be major investigations now in order to set up a new leadership and a new way, you know, with the Capitol police and with other organizations to defend the Capitol, should anybody ever try to come over with this device that actually carries some kind of weaponry.
BLITZER: You know what? This guy was advertising for a year, apparently, that he wanted to do this. He told the "Tampa Bay Times," the newspaper there. They helped produce a slick video. We showed it to our viewers. wanted to do this. He was advertising that he wanted to do it.
In fact, the Secret Service interviewed him a year ago. He took off from Gettysburg, flew for two hours and eventually got to the Capitol, and we saw what happened. Fortunately, he's OK.
ROYCE: That is right. He could have carried any of that. That is why this is a disaster in terms of the ability to apprehend him or turn him back in terms of the air space.
BLITZER: You wrote an important article in "The Wall Street Journal," countering Putin's information, weapons of war. I want to briefly get to that in a moment. What do you think of Russia now going ahead and selling missiles to Iran even before the sanctions are supposed to be lifted, even before there's a final agreement?
ROYCE: And of course, these S-400s will make it very, very hard, should they violate the agreement in the future. If there's an attempt at enforcing the agreement, these S-300s are surface-to-air missiles. What they can be used, as they've been used in the past, for attacks on Israel. We have caught in the past and the IDF has apprehended Iran trying to send these to Hamas, and they've also tried to send them to Hezbollah.
BLITZER: So in other words, if the Russians send them to Iran, they could end up in Lebanon with Hezbollah or in Gaza with Hamas? Is that what you're saying?
ROYCE: That is precisely what we've found in the past. And so now, with Russia rushing in with a huge delivery of these, you know, there is more here than just arming the air defense systems around the military bases in Iran.
BLITZER: And you argue the U.S. needs a new counter offensive against Russian propaganda in this article.
ROYCE: That is correct. Because Russia is now expanding conspiracy theories with a very slick new method based partly on western media, partly on use of the Internet. And they're doing this in a way to reach Russian-speaking populations and foment problems in Ukraine and the Baltic states, but also other populations around the world, in order to undercut the west, undercut democracy as a system, and sell the idea of a strong man type government like the one led by Russia.
BLITZER: People want more they should read the article in "The Wall Street Journal." Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
ROYCE: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Royce is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Up next, we'll have more on that battle for a key Iraqi city. How close is it to falling under complete control of ISIS? We'll also have more on the breaking news. The serious security scare here in Washington at the U.S. Capitol as an aircraft lands on Congress's doorstep.
[18:41:26] BLITZER: Get some more now on the critical Iraqi city of Ramadi. It's under siege right now by ISIS terrorists, and they already control at least large portions of the town.
Now there's growing fear the terrorist forces could take complete control, literally, at any moment. A hundred and fifty thousand people have been forced out of their homes only in the last few days. That's what Arwa Damon just reported that for us. She's on the scene there.
Let's dig deeper with our CNN counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd. He's the author of the brand-new book entitled "THE HEAD GAME." There's the cover. Our national security analyst Peter Bergen is with us. Our intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer. And CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel -- Lieutenant General, excuse me -- Mark Hertling, excuse me, Mark Hertling put this into context right now, what's going on. The battle for Ramadi. A lot of American troops lost their lives when the U.S. was heavily involved fighting for Ramadi. And now, it looks, potentially, that ISIS could take charge.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. MILITARY ANALYST: There have been significant fighting in Anbar Province by the Iraqi security force, Wolf. That has gone unreported over the last several weeks. And I've been watching it and watching the tactical engagement.
There's going to be a heck of a fight for both Ramadi and Fallujah. Once the Iraqi army shifts from having an economy of force mission, which means they've just been holding on out there while the operations in Tikrit have been ongoing until it becomes the main effort. And it's got to become the main effort, because Mr. Al-Abadi has to get support of the Sunni tribal sheiks in that region before he consolidate his gains and then heads toward Mosul, as Jim Sciutto reported earlier. It's going to be a tough fight, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Bob Baer, the Iraqi military has been severely criticized because of its performance or lack of performance in Mosul, shall we say. Where is the Iraqi military right now? Why can't they protect their own people?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, they're holding onto a couple buildings in Ramadi, Wolf. The fact is that over the last couple weeks, the Shia have been pushing militias into Ramadi and hoping to take it back, just as they did in Tikrit.
And the locals, all Sunni Muslims, Arabs, have been pushing back, and they've actually been supporting ISIS, in effect trying to defend Ramadi and Fallujah.
So this is not going well. The United States just warned the Iraqis, al-Abadi, that you can't use the militias in Sunni areas, but they're not -- they're not listening at this point. And so it's quite a dilemma for the United States to get Baghdad to understand this.
BLITZER: I remember, Phil, when I went to Fallujah, back in 2005, with the then-commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, General Abizaid, and I walked through Fallujah at the time. And a lot of American Marines and other troops died in that battle, as you well remember.
To now think that Ramadi, Fallujah, these places where so many American men were at least severely injured, if not killed, and women, are going -- that they're going to go into the hands of ISIS, it's just heart breaking. PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Not yet. Let's take
a time-out here. Remember, when we talked about this months ago, we saw ISIS had the element of surprise. And they had the Iraqi military on its heels.
Other the past months, the Iraqi military has made territorial gains. You could look at this, if you wanted to, as an intelligence or military failure. I'd flip the coin and tell you it's a sign of success.
As ISIS has lost territory, it's looking opportunistically at places to redeem itself. Its places to say to its followers, maybe there's another area we can have some success. This is not necessarily a sign that ISIS is on a role. It's a sign that they're looking for geographic areas where the military is weak, because ISIS has lost a lot.
BLITZER: You buy that, Peter?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I think it's a good analysis. Why they are focusing on Ramadi is an interesting question. I mean, it's of enormous significance of al Qaeda in Iraq, which is the parent organization of ISIS.
This is where the Sunni Awakening began, the tribal movement against al Qaeda in Iraq. This is where Colonel Sean McFarlane (ph) in 2007, started reaching out to the local Sunni tribes to fight al Qaeda in Iraq. So, it's of great significance to both al Qaeda and ISIS, and also significant to the United States because this is really where al Qaeda began to face its first big defeat.
BLITZER: You know, it's an awful situation.
One final question to you, Phil, about this gyrocopter incident here. What kind of damage, potentially -- God forbid, we don't want to it happen. But let's say this was a bad guy, not a mailman seeking to change campaign fundraising laws in the United States, but it was a terrorist coming in on a little gyrocopter like this, up to the U.S. Capitol with explosives or missiles or some sort of bomb. Potentially, what kind of damage could have been done to the U.S. capitol and people inside?
MUDD: Look, this could have happened years ago with (INAUDIBLE) happened today with a gyrocopter. You could put an explosive device on that if you knew where the target was. In my world, it's a big site for a gyrocopter that small.
What I worry about, Wolf, is not a manned device. What I worry about in the 21st century is increasingly unmanned drones that have the capability for example to follow a presidential motorcade without somebody on a gyrocopter and with an explosive device that can take out something like a vehicle. I think we're getting into a new age of unmanned capability against a target like the president of the United States.
We didn't see that today. We could see it in the future. BLITZER: That's a very worrisome development. All right. Guys,
thanks very, very much.
We have more breaking news coming up. Air space invaded at the U.S. Capitol. The details of the man that defied the so-called no fly zone landed his aircraft at Congress' front door.
But first, CNN is set to debut a new series that looks at a couple's quest to become marijuana moguls. "HIGH PROFITS" premiers this Sunday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Here is an exclusive look at the new trailer.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "HIGH PROFITS," series premieres Sunday night at 10:00.
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[18:52:34] BLITZER: A shadow of scandal over the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he tests the waters of a possible presidential campaign. The so-called bridgegate controversy in which top Christie aides are suspected of deliberately creating massive traffic jams by ordering lanes closed on a busy bridge as an act of political retaliation.
Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is joining us live from New Hampshire.
Joe, so what's the latest with Chris Christie and his potential presidential ambition?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he's trying to get a restart here in New Hampshire. Talking tough about Hillary Clinton and trying to establish himself as a truth-teller on some of the toughest issues, including Social Security and Medicare.
JOHNS (voice-over): New Jersey Governor Chris Christie meeting voters in New Hampshire today, but still struggling to avoid the bridgegate controversy that may hurt his political ambitions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he told me you were coming here, I went down and made sure -- I personally made sure that the bridges were still open.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Oh, see?
CHRISTIE: You know, I heard a lot of wise guys at the start of the morning, so that was good. Which direction is the bridge --
JOHNS: Christie continues to say the bridge scandal occurred because, quote, "At my core I'm a trusting person. I believe in the honesty of other people and I think for me, I'm also someone who likes to delegate responsibility to people and let them perform."
The case is wrapping up. CNN has learned that no charges will be brought against Governor Christie. He's in the clear. The fate of his aides who are also part of the investigation remains unclear. Christie is trying to sell voters on his brand of politics, his
plan to cut $1 trillion from entitlement programs over the next decade, including means-testing for Social Security.
CHRISTIE: Politicians don't want to talk about it because, like you said, it creates heartburn in some people. Well, you know what? These problems create heartburn with people.
JOHNS: Christie is also making the bold prediction that should he run, he could beat Hillary Clinton.
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: Let me ask you about Mrs. Clinton's campaign. Can you beat her, Chris Christie?
CHRISTIE: If I run, I will beat her.
JOHNS: At a town hall meeting in Londonderry today, he also dinged Mrs. Clinton for her campaign fund-raising goals.
CHRISTIE: I saw -- read somewhere today that Secretary Clinton said she wants to -- she intends to raise $2.5 billion for her campaign, but she wants to then get the corrupting money out of politics.
[18:55:01] You know, that's classic, right? It's classic politician speak.
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JOHNS: So how long is it going to take Hillary Clinton to get into this -- I'm sorry, how long is it going to take this man, governor of New Jersey to get into this race? Pretty much anybody's guess.
But he did tell a crowd here at a town hall that it might be the end of the spring or early June -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Oh, the end of the spring, early June, not that far away. We'll see what happens. Thanks very much, Joe Johns, for that.
Let's bring our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, and our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson.
Guys, thanks very much.
How big of a problem potentially is bridgegate as it's called to Christie?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we've seen it. Yes, I think we've seen it already.
He's not in the top tier of candidates. He tries to establish himself as a truth-teller and a great manager, as governor. Bridgegate, of course, plays against both of those narratives. I do think, however, it might have had a positive effect in one
sense and that is, I see a little bit less bluster in him. You know, he was asked about bridgegate, he was kind of chuckling about it.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He smiled.
BORGER: He smiled.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.
BORGER: So, smiled. I think he's kind of watching himself a little bit, because that bully thing doesn't really work with women voters in particular.
BLITZER: If he's facing a little bit of a tough crowd in New Hampshire among some Republicans, imagine what he might be facing in Iowa, or South Carolina, though.
ZELENY: It's a really good point. I mean, New Hampshire has to be a place he makes his stand. He's a Northeast governor, a Republican. You know, New Hampshire, he sort of fits that spirit.
But everything, his whole candidacy, is sort of on hold until those indictments come down. I mean, from fund-raising to making political plans, to the fact that people don't necessarily want to work for him because they're not sure what his future is.
So, I think once he gets out to Iowa, I've been out to Iowa with him when he was campaigning for candidates last fall. He's actually popular enough there. And he does OK there. But again, you said if he can hold that humility and not shout at people --
ZELENY: -- that's the big question here.
BLITZER: He is a blunt guy. He's taking a firm position on vaccines.
There was a little bit of controversy when he was asked about it today in New Hampshire.
HENDERSON: He was. And he said that you -- he didn't agree with voluntary vaccinations and the crowd cheered. This is where I think you would expect him to end up is where most Republicans are, is where most Americans are, it's where conservative states like Mississippi are.
I think at some point Republicans, if they not there could be political edge to be gained by this, they quickly realized there wasn't much, that this was more of a fringe issue. And I think it's better for him to be more the law and order kind of governor type. So, that's where he has come down.
BLITZER: Do you think, Gloria, in the end, he may decide not to run?
BORGER: Well, it depends on what happens with these indictments, to get back to Jeff's point. But I think he will run. I don't think people are expecting him to get indicted. So I think he's going to have to answer a lot of questions. He's going to have to get through that.
But I'd be very surprised at this point if Chris Christie did not run. I will say that his part of the field is getting kind of crowded, you know. With Jeb Bush, you didn't expect Jeb Bush to run. You have Jeb Bush, and you have Chris Christie, and I think that's going to be a challenge for him.
BLITZER: A challenge indeed.
You know, Hillary Clinton, she's out there campaigning now in Iowa. She took a very firm position today on same-sex marriage, going beyond some of her earlier statements.
ZELENY: She did, through a written statement though. She didn't talk about this out loud. Her campaign released a statement saying she supports the legalization of same-sex marriage, which she has not said as recently as some interviews last fall. She said it should be up to states to make this decision.
So, she is coming out with this at the beginning of her campaign. I mean, it's just one more example of how this issue has changed so much. The last time she ran in '08, both she and Senator Barack Obama did not support the legalization of gay marriage. Now, of course, you have to as a Democrat.
But Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland, he took a bit of a ding at her today and said that "history celebrates profiles in courage, not profiles in convenience."
ZELENY: And he didn't mention her specifically. But that was the point. But, of course, he signed this into law in 2013, in his state in Maryland.
BLITZER: This whole issue of marriage equality, is it going to be a bigger issue this time around?
HENDERSON: Probably not a bigger issue, but it will still be a big issue, even though it's moved quite a bit since 2008, since 2012, there's still 40 percent of Americans who don't agree with same sex marriage, 60 percent of Republicans. I think we'll hear it in terms of religious liberty. That's how it will be framed.
But as long as you have folks like maybe Bobby Jindal, or Mike Huckabee in this race, possibly then I think it will be an issue.
BORGER: But, you know, it's the Supreme Court that's going to do the heavy lift in the end. The Supreme Court's going to decide. For some Republicans, that will be welcome news for them. Maybe they won't have to talk about it as much.
BLITZER: They'll decide before the end of June, so we'll see where they come down on this.
All righty, guys, thanks very much.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Don't forget to tweet me @wolfblitzer.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.