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Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; No Charges in Wisconsin Police Shooting; Nepal Earthquake. Aired 18- 19:00p ET
Aired May 12, 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: More misery. A second massive earthquake strikes Nepal, collapsing buildings that survived the first disaster, and killing dozens more people. Will rescuers reach trapped survivors in time?
No charges. Officials decide not to prosecute a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed biracial teenager. How will the community react to this latest racially charged case?
Candid on race. President Obama talks about race in America in some of his most personal remarks yet, speaking frankly about the challenges he faced growing up. Is the president trying to shape his legacy?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news.
An American military helicopter missing in Nepal, along with six U.S. Marines and two others, the chopper part of the massive earthquake recovery effort that shattered the country, and now another powerful quake has rocked the region, a magnitude-7.3 that left at least 68 people dead in Nepal, India, and Tibet. We're covering those stories, much more this hour with our correspondents and our guests.
Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what are you picking up about the missing Marine helicopter?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a UH-1 Huey, eight people on board. The search is expected to resume about one hour from now at first light in Nepal.
This helicopter went missing several hours ago, was declared missing when the U.S. military in Nepal did not hear from it. It had been on an earthquake relief mission. It was delivering supplies in two villages when they lost contact with it. Now, an Indian helicopter flying in the area reports hearing
radio chatter from the Americans that they were having some sort of fuel problem. At that point, three other U.S. aircraft were sent up to try and look for the missing U.S. helicopter before nightfall. They did not find it. They had to suspend the air search during the night, but Nepalese military forces on the ground hiked in to the area in hopes of finding something.
So far, no word. There are two options here, Wolf, that are very difficult in these hours for the U.S. military families and the Nepalese involved. Either the pilot had a problem and he was able to put the helicopter down and they simply cannot communicate their location, they can't get a signal out over those steep mountains -- that is the hope of the Pentagon, because right now, they have no sign of a crash -- or the helicopter crashed.
But, again, the search will resume at first light. They hope very quickly to resolve this, to find the missing helicopter and to find the people on board -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.
The relief effort that helicopter was part of has suffered a huge setback, another deadly quake rocking the region, killing dozens of people in Nepal and India.
CNN's Will Ripley is now on the ground for us in Nepal's capital of Kathmandu.
What are you seeing there? What are you feeling? I just understand you went through another major aftershock.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, there have been some 140 aftershocks since that big quake on April 25, including the aftershock today, the 7.3 that turned the five-story building behind me into this pile of rubble.
But just a few hours after we arrived on the ground, we felt a 4.2-magnitude aftershock. And it gave us a real idea of the terror that people here are experiencing right now.
RIPLEY (voice-over): The earth shakes and a mountain crumbles, sending rocks and rubble towards this village about 30 miles north of Kathmandu. A Red Cross team from Canada captured the scene, the 7.3- magnitude earthquake the second catastrophic tremor to hit this mountainous nation in just over two weeks.
This quake struck in the middle of the day, sending frightened residents rushing into the streets. In parliament, lawmakers rushed to flee the assembly chamber.
PAUL DILLON, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: All of the building just emptied, as literally hundreds of peoples, moms with their kids close to their breasts, men, young kids pouring out of these buildings, a lot of confusion, a lot of real anxiety. A couple of gentlemen, I watched running back into buildings to try and rescue people.
RIPLEY: Some weakened buildings crumbled like toy blocks. The epicenter was just east of Kathmandu, about the same distance from the capital as the April 25 quake, which was west of the city. The latest one occurred about 9.3 miles deep, which dampened the power of it, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The previous quake was more than five times stronger. It killed more than 8,000 people and left thousands more homeless.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt really scared this time. This time, it was very big. And I was afraid that what happened to my house, or something like hope nothing was -- happened in my home. So I just ran here. I was very scared.
RIPLEY: The Nepalese government expects the death toll in this new strong aftershock to sharply rise, Wolf. And they say that's because they haven't yet been able to reach some of the more remote areas, where they know there have been a number of building collapse, home collapses, just like the one behind me on a Saturday when many families were at home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Just tell us a little bit more about what it felt like to experience that aftershock.
RIPLEY: Well, the buildings around us started shaking. And you could hear all of the dogs in the neighborhood howling. That was something that really struck me. And that howling continued for several minutes. We could also hear people shouting. They were coming out into the streets. They were scared.
Some of them are actually still in their cars. They're choosing to sit in their cars, others just sleeping out in the open without tents or sleeping in sheds because they can't go back inside their homes, Wolf.
BLITZER: They're afraid those homes will collapse.
All right, thanks very much. Be careful over there, Will Ripley, on the scene for us in Nepal.
Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He is talking to earthquake experts at the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters. That's right outside of Washington, D.C.
Brian, what are they telling you about this latest massive earthquake?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're telling us it's a pretty freakish occurrence after an earthquake of 7.8-magnitude that we saw two weeks ago.
Yes, they said that aftershocks, smaller aftershocks are to be expected. Many have occurred, as Will just reported. More than 100 have occurred since April 25. They're all mostly in the 4- to 5- magnitude range. But we're told that a 7.3 is a very -- there is a very low probability of that, maybe 1 percent or lower.
Now the question from there is, what are the chances of an aftershock this big or bigger in the weeks ahead? I posed that question to Mike Blanpied. He's the earthquakes hazard coordinator here at the U.S. Geological Survey. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE BLANPIED, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Chances that there will be something this big or even bigger are quite low, chances of one in several hundred, perhaps, much less than 1 percent, not zero. We can never rule out the chance of an earthquake. This area is prone to large earthquakes. It has large earthquakes over the decades and centuries. It has in the past. It always will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And we now have this just in from officials here at the U.S. Geological Survey, confirmation that there was just a 6.8- magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan. It struck less than an hour ago at 5:12 p.m. Eastern time in the ocean about 33 kilometers south of the city of Ofunato, Japan.
Now, according to USGS, their pager alert system here, which estimates fatalities and economic losses, their pager alert level for this earthquake off Japan, Wolf, is at green, meaning there is a low likelihood of casualties, damage, or economic losses. According to NOAA, the weather monitoring agency in the United States, there is no current warning of a tsunami from this 6.8-magnitude earthquake that again just hit off the coast of Japan.
I do have to say on a personal note that Ofunato was one of the towns that my team and I went to in Japan after that 2011 earthquake and tsunami, that devastating event in March of 2011. That city had been leveled by that tsunami. So the residents there had to have been at least a little nervous when they heard of word of this earthquake this evening, but, again, no tsunami warning issued for this one, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. That's good news, at least on that front. Thanks very much, Brian Todd, reporting.
We're also following another major story, the high-stakes talks between the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the secretary of state, John Kerry. Their first meeting in two years comes amid deep tension over Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is here working the story for us. How significant was it that he was invited, Kerry, to go to
Sochi, Russia, and actually receive some quality time with the president, Putin?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's very significant, as you said, first time really since the crisis in Ukraine began two years ago, Wolf. And they had very substantive talks, eight hours of talks the secretary held with the Russian leadership, three hours with President Putin alone.
And the tone was much more positive. People, I think, on both sides realize that these countries need to work together after boycotting a parade that the Russians had this weekend to mark the victory of Russians over the Nazis in World War II. Secretary Kerry boycotted that. But today, he, laid a wreath on the memorial of -- to mark the victory of World War II.
And let's take a listen to how he said that experience moved him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Sergei and I both came away from this ceremony with a very powerful reminder of the sacrifices that we shared to bring about a safer world and of what our nations can accomplish when our peoples are working together towards the same goal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: Well, there were no breakthroughs, but the secretary was pushing the Russians for help on Syria after working together for that agreement on chemical weapons. The U.S. wants Russia to help get President Assad to stop using chlorine gas against his people and end his support for President Assad altogether now that Syrian forces are having some losses on the battlefield.
They also need, Wolf, Russia's help on Iran for that nuclear deal. They want Russia to stop the sale of that very sophisticated air defense system. The Russians said that they're going to move ahead with that system. There was a bit of progress on Ukraine. Both sides agree that they would work together to help implement that fragile peace plan that was agreed to in February.
And Secretary Kerry did hint that if some cooperation was seen on the Russian side, that some of those sanctions could be lifted.
BLITZER: All right, Elise, thanks very much, Elise Labott reporting for us.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Joining us, the Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
Do you believe this visit by John Kerry to Russia -- he met with Putin, met with Lavrov, the foreign minister -- was productive?
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Oh, absolutely. You have to be talking. If you're not talking, you're likely to get into much, much more deep trouble, and we have had plenty of trouble.
The Russians need to know very, very clearly in direct communication, as Kerry provided, about what our position, also about what their options are to deal with sanctions. And we have got work to do. We're still working very closely on the Iran situation, which is extremely important to both Russia and us and the entire Middle East area.
And, of course, Syria remains out there. The world is rapidly changing and we need to be working, at least communicating, and hopefully find those areas where we can work together. Obviously, there are very difficult conflicts ahead of us, and we have got to talk about it, at least, and find the path to resolving those problems.
BLITZER: You heard Elise report that Kerry asked the Russians to kill that sale of an air defense missile system to Iran.
The Russians say they're going forward with it. We heard Senator James Risch of Idaho the last hour say that's a game-changer as far as the U.S. is concerned. What is your analysis?
GARAMENDI: Well, it is a major issue for us.
If the Iran program fails, and we do not get a nuclear deal, then the next thing on the table is an airstrike. An airstrike against the present defenses that exist is possible and certainly will have some downside. But you bring that new air defense system in, and it becomes even more problematic.
And so we do not want that air defense system in there. What we really want is a successful negotiation with Iran. Get them away from the nuclear weapons. Move back to a different situation where they're not moving forward on a nuclear weapon. And then we don't have to worry about that S-300 air defense system. But it is a game-changer. It is extremely important. And we do not want it there as these negotiations move towards their conclusion over the next couple of months.
BLITZER: Are the Russians going to cooperate with the U.S. in this war against ISIS?
GARAMENDI: They certainly should. They're at much as risk as any place in the world. They have a very large Muslim population. They have plenty of issues, a long history, Chechnya, other places where the Muslim population is located.
They have had very serious terrorism attacks, hundreds, if not thousands of people killed over the last decade by terrorists, Muslim terrorists mostly. So, yes, they should be very, very concerned. And, in fact, the leader, Baghdadi, actually spent a lot of time in Chechnya. So, yes, they better be concerned and they ought to be working with us on that particular issue, because they are at risk.
BLITZER: We're getting new information, Congressman, about ISIS threats specifically against a couple or three U.S. military installations, bases in the United States, maybe one of the reasons why the U.S. military went on a higher state of alert.
Stand by. We're going get to that right after a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: There is new concern tonight about terror attacks on U.S. military bases. Republican Senator James Risch, he is a member of the Intelligence Committee. He just told me a little while ago that ISIS has specifically named some U.S. bases as targets.
We're back with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee.
I know, what, you have a couple of Air Force bases in your district, Congressman. Senator Risch says he knows that at least two or three specific bases were targeted, were mentioned by ISIS as targets. May have been one of the reasons why all the bases in the United States went on a higher state of alert in recent days. What can you tell us about this? What information can you share?
GARAMENDI: Well, we do know that all of the military bases in the United States are on a much higher alert, the Bravo alert. And that will continue for some time and maybe continue on into the next year and beyond.
We need to make sure our bases are secure. And it's not just those who might enter the base with some nefarious activity in mind. But it could also be employees from the military to civilian that are on the base that we need to be aware of.
We certainly saw the situation in Texas, the tragic shooting that occurred there. So, yes, we have to be on the alert. We do know that ISIS is using the social media, particularly Twitter. And that's a problem for us.
But we're also seeing Twitter beginning to shut down some of these really radical Twitter accounts. That's good. And they're doing it without the government telling them to do it. So we avoid the free speech issue. But Twitter really has a responsibility here. And I want to see them continue to monitor and to shut down those sites that are preaching this radical jihadism. Also, we need to understand that the use of Twitter also gives
our FBI and police agencies an opportunity to know where the problem is coming from. We're able to trace back where that account is and identify at least the location, if not the individuals. And we know who they in the United States may be responding to those Twitter invitations.
And so we're watching this very closely. The local police, the FBI, other agencies need to be very much aware. And later, to this week, we're going to be voting on the USA Freedom Act, which actually rolls back some of the more onerous stuff that was in the national security act, the Patriot Act, and provides some additional powers that are appropriate to deal with this kind of social media activity that is going on.
BLITZER: You were referring, that massacre in Texas a few years ago at Fort Hood, Texas, where that soldier, that Major Nidal Hasan, went out and started just killing fellow soldiers.
And what you're suggesting is, your fear is that could happen again? Is that what you're saying, somebody being inspired by these ISIS or al Qaeda terror organizations?
GARAMENDI: Well, it happened once. And it was tragic. And there were a lot of lives lost.
So we should be aware. You should never forget the past. You got to remember history, recent history here, and be aware. We need -- we know that there's enormous pressure on military personnel, and some of them will break under that pressure. So the military is watchful. It was a wakeup call for them. They're watchful. They're looking and observing and dealing with the mental health issues that do occur.
We know that we have these men and women that are returning that have issues. Whether they're going to attack their brethren or not, we hope not. But we need to be aware and we need to be providing the services to deal with the combat traumas that have occurred to more than almost two million Americans that have been deployed for a decade or more overseas.
So it's all part of what we need to do as Americans to protect ourselves. The bases themselves, they need to be aware. They obviously have increased their security and their observation. But the same thing applies in our communities. All of our communities need to be aware that this is going on, this invitation for radical jihadism, particularly among the Muslim community, that have heretofore been very, very helpful in alerting the police agencies when they are aware or perceive that there may be one amongst them that is going on to the dark side.
BLITZER: Congressman Garamendi, thanks very much for joining us.
GARAMENDI: Always. Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we're watching a protest in Madison, Wisconsin, right now sparked by a controversial decision in another racially charged police shooting case. We have details. Stand by for that.
And President Obama making some of his most personal and candid remarks on race. Is the president casting an eye towards his legacy?
BLITZER: The breaking news: a protest under way right now in Madison, Wisconsin, only hours after a controversial decision in yet another racially charged police killing.
The district attorney there has decided not to prosecute a white Madison, Wisconsin, police officer who shot an unarmed biracial teenager, Tony Robinson, to death.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is joining us from Madison right now.
So, what has been the reaction to the decision, Stephanie?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have definitely seen protests immediately after.
I was in the room with the district attorney as he made his announcement about what would happen. And it was a very emotional press conference in some ways. He was sweating profusely, and he spoke about the fact that he also comes from biracial -- that he is biracial, that his mother is a black woman from Alabama, and that she still worries about his own safety, even though he is the first black DA in the state of Wisconsin.
He said that, because of that, he can relate to the situation that so many people are angry about, which is right here in this gray and white building behind me, where he talked about the fact that people feeling like police do not understand what it's like for a young black man on the streets.
That said, he did decide that there should be no charges filed. Take a listen to exactly how he put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISMAEL OZANNE, DANE COUNTY, WISCONSIN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful use of deadly police force and that no charges should be brought against Officer Kenny in the death of Tony Robinson Jr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:30:20] ELAM: And what we also have heard throughout the day, the uncle of Tony Robinson, saying that earlier today, he did not expect an indictment, saying that earlier today. And many people saying they did not expect to see that there would be any charges filed against this police officer. Nevertheless, there have been plenty of people who have been out
here on the streets protesting, holding up signs, and marching. And they are expecting more protests tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: It was really an emotional experience for this Dane County district attorney. You couldn't help but notice every few minutes he would take out his handkerchief and wipe the sweat off his brow. It was obviously a very, very difficult decision for him.
ELAM: You could feel the tension that he brought. You could see him taking deep sighs before he started. The sweating was profuse.
But I will say this. I did note that, once he stopped talking about how he could relate to this personally as a biracial man himself, and he started talking about the law and the reason why he was making this decision that he was making, he seemed more comfortable, still sweating, but not sweating as much.
But you could hear a pin drop in the room while he was speaking, because there was so much emotion behind it. You could tell that, for him, this decision was far more nuanced than it may be for somebody else in his same shoes.
BLITZER: Yes, it was a very, very dramatic moment. We were watching it live here on CNN when he made the announcement. Stephanie, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, the criminal defense attorney and HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson; the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the CNN law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander; our CNN anchor Don Lemon; and our CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Let me quickly go around and get all of your reaction. Don, first to you. What did you think?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I think right now I -- my heart goes out to the family, because I know they're grieving and, you know, and one can only imagine that you have -- that you're going to get something from this event to try to make it better, some salve, some something. And then nothing comes of it. So first of all, I just want to say that my heart goes out to the family.
And I think anyone, any human being, regardless of what you think about what happened to Tony Robinson, you can't help but deal with that.
But I would not want to be Ismael Ozanne right now. It's tough. And the reason I wouldn't want to be is because of those protests that you see out here.
And I know you said quickly, but I want to say this is why I wouldn't want to be him. He said that -- he said that right now, he said I would not -- basically said, "I -- it's not going to change anything when it comes to racial disparities or to the justice system." He said that it was based on facts and not based on emotion. And so he's walking a thin line. And he's in a tough position
here, because he's trying to appease a lot of sides. But he had to go with the facts of the investigation.
BLITZER: What did you think, Jeffrey Toobin? Because he disclosed a lot of information in making this announcement.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is really the legacy of what we've seen over the past year since Michael Brown died, is that prosecutors recognize that it is not simply enough to say, "Trust me, I know whether a case should be brought here or not."
And I thought he laid out a -- a very compelling case that this was a tragic situation, but it was not a crime. And I think, by explaining the facts, by laying out in some detail his view of what happened, he gives his office and his decision a lot more credibility. So I hope this becomes a model for prosecutors for how they explain when they make these tough decisions.
BLITZER: Joey Jackson, what did you think?
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure, well, speaking of models, on the Wisconsin law, apparently, the investigation itself is not conducted by the police department wherein the person who was a police officer of that department actually committed or didn't commit a crime.
So the investigation is independent, pursuant to a law that just went into effect there last year. And so that certainly should give the community some confidence.
More importantly, though, we will get to know, really, what this decision was predicated upon, not just from what the district attorney said, Wolf, but because the law requires that that investigation be released. And so therefore, we will all have an opportunity to see it, to evaluate it, to digest it. And then we will know whether or not it was really a sound judgment and decision. But certainly, on the face of what he said, it appears to be.
BLITZER: What did you think, Cedric Alexander? Did he make the right decision, the D.A. there in Wisconsin?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, the right decision is based on the facts that were presented during an investigation, Wolf. And if those are the facts and he believes in them, and the investigative trail led to where it led to.
And in this particular case, there's not going to be an indictment of this officer, and as this community moves forward, I think it's important to understand this.
[18:35:03] Regardless of whether he was indicted or not, and tonight he gets -- that officer gets to go home, he gets to relieve himself, I'm quite sure, of what he's been dealing with for a number of months. And my heart goes out to the family of the young man who lost his life, as well, too. That community has to heal together. But here is the most important thing in all of this, Wolf, is
that that community still has issues around police and community relationships. And they're going to have to build those bridges, build that trust; and it has to start now, if it has not already started, because going forward, that community still is going to need its police, and that police is still going to need its community. And that is going to be paramount going forward in that community.
LEMON: Well said. Well said.
BLITZER: All right, guys, don't go away. We have more to discuss, including President Obama. He's really opening up about poverty, race, crime in America. We're going to assess what the president said today when we come back.
[18:40:48] BLITZER: Some candid remarks about race by President Obama and the first lady. The president getting very personal as the clock ticks on his time in office.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. So what happened? What's the latest over there, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House insists the president isn't spending too much time thinking about his legacy, but he seems to be talking about it a lot lately, and he isn't holding back. Add to that his selection today of Chicago for his presidential library, which speaks volumes about how he wants Americans to remember him.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The closer he gets to the end of his time in office, the more candid President Obama is becoming on the issues that will define his legacy, starting with the one topic he's been accused of avoiding, race.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am a black man who grew up without a father. And I know the costs that I paid for that. And I also know that I had the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence, I think my daughters are better off.
ACOSTA: After overcoming those struggles, the president made it clear at a poverty forum in Washington he now plans to pay those lessons forward, with some straight talk aimed at African American audiences.
B. OBAMA: It's true that if in -- if I'm giving a commencement at Morehouse, that I will have a conversation with young black men about taking responsibility as fathers that I probably will not have with the women of Barnham. And I make no apologies for that.
ACOSTA: That frank conversation began only recently with My Brother's Keeper, the group the president founded to steer young men of color to better lives. A mission Mr. Obama says deserves as much coverage as the recent unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson.
B. OBAMA: And this will remain a mission for me and for Michelle, not just for the rest of my presidency, but for the rest of my life.
ACOSTA: Also more outspoken, Michelle Obama, who revealed at a commencement address last weekend her anxieties about becoming the first black first lady.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Was I too loud or too angry or too emasculating?
ACOSTA: the president will complete his return to his roots by building his presidential library on the South Side of Chicago, where he started as a community organizer, a message he shared in this video.
B. OBAMA: All the strands of my life came together. And I really became a man when I moved to Chicago.
ACOSTA: Democratic strategist Donna Brazile says the library will be a fitting reflection of the Obama legacy.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Can you imagine a little poor boy or girl that will one day be able to walk past that library and say, "He was our first black president, Barack Obama"?
ACOSTA: Not only is the president showing less caution in his language; he's picking some risky fights on issues like the Iran nuclear deal and trade. Those topics, plus a war on terrorism the president had hoped to end, will all find spots in his legacy and perhaps his library, good or bad, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. A good report, Jim Acosta. Thank you.
Let's bring back our analysts. Don Lemon, what did you think about what the president had to say today?
LEMON: I really enjoyed what he had to say today. And I urge anyone, if you can't see it, you should go and read the transcript.
You know, I know exactly where he's coming from. I'm not president of the United States, but having a public platform where you can talk about these issues. When he talked about, you know, being raised by a single mother and that him having -- being in a two-parent household, that that would make his daughters better.
It's a tough -- it's really a tough rope for him to walk, because many people don't want to be -- feel like they're being lectured by the president, many African-Americans. And then -- but others want to hear that, because they think it will improve the future for African- Americans and especially young black men, and of course women, as well. I also think it's -- which wasn't mentioned there. He talked
about the role of the media, as well, which I found very interesting, when he talked about conservative media versus liberal media, and how we often get -- get it wrong on many occasions. And he would like to see -- see the conversation handled in a different way.
I would prefer that he not criticize the media publicly, but I think he -- there is some credence to what he's saying. And we can all take stock in what the president said.
Listen, the president is a black man, as he said. He is the first black president of the United States. If anybody is going to talk about race and deal with this issue, it is the black president of the United States, and he realizes now, as he is going out, that he -- this is where -- this is his sweet spot. This is his bailiwick, and this is where he needs to make a difference when it comes to his legacy.
And I say, you know what? More power to him.
BLITZER: Is he, Jeffrey, trying to shape his legacy with these very personal comments?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He is. But gosh, you know, I'm much less interested in the future of Barack Obama than I am in the present of the United States. I mean, this guy is going to be president for more than a year and a half. I don't -- I'd rather see him do something about these problems than talk about them in these abstract ways.
You know, here is a guy who has a lot of power. You know, he could be -- you think body cameras are a good idea? You think mandatory minimums could be a good idea to get rid of in prison?
This president has used the power of pardon and commutation of people in federal prison less than almost any president in history. I just think more energy devoted to the present and the use of the powers of the presidency is a more important thing than reflecting what he may do over the next 30 years.
BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, Don Lemon, guys, thanks very much.
On important note: Don, of course, will be back later tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern for his program, "CNN TONIGHT." He'll have a lot more on this coming up.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Chris Christie, some harsh words for Hillary Clinton. His exclusive interview with our own Jake Tapper. That's coming up.
[18:51:02] BLITZER: He's not an official presidential candidate, at least not yet. But the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie certainly acting like one. He's visiting the key primary state of New Hampshire again and talking about potential rivals Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
Christie spoke exclusively to our chief Washington correspondent, the host of "THE LEAD", Jake Tapper, is joining us now live from New Hampshire.
Jake, what did he tell you?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Greetings from Pembroke, New Hampshire.
Governor Christie has done more than 30 town hall meetings in New Jersey. He's probably not going to reach that number here in New Hampshire. He's doing his fourth at the American Legion Hall here in Pembroke. But he's hoping that he will do well here in New Hampshire should he throw his hat into the ring, which it sounds like he will. We talk about immigration, the state of the economy, the state of New Jersey's economy.
But perhaps the most interesting answer from the interview I have with Governor Christie earlier today when I asked him about a question put to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush, as you know, was asked knowing then what we know now, was the decision to go to war in Iraq, the decision made by his older brother, George W. Bush, a mistake. Governor Bush didn't really answer the question. Governor Christie did.
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TAPPER: I want to ask you about another one of your possible competitors, Jeb Bush. He was asked the question about knowing then what we know now about the war in Iraq, would he have made the same decision, Jeb Bush, that his brother made. He answered a different question, basically, knowing then what he knew then.
But let me ask you the question. Knowing then what we know now, no WMD in Iraq, et cetera, was that the right decision to go to war?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: No, it wasn't. Now, I think President Bush made the best decision he could at the time given that his intelligence community was telling them that there was WMD, and there were other threats right there in Iraq. But I don't think you can honestly say that if we knew then that there was no WMD, that the country should have gone to war. So, my answer would be no.
But I think, you know, what we got have avoid is continuing to go backwards in this country. We need a forward looking foreign policy that talks about how to reassert American authority and influence around the world. But I want to directly answer your question, because that's what I do. If we knew then what we know now, and I were the president of the United States, I wouldn't have gone to war. But you know, we don't get to replay history.
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TAPPER: Interesting moment there where he said I want to directly answer your question because that's what I do -- perhaps a slight dig at Jeb Bush. Although certainly, Governor Christie did not mince words at all when I asked him about immigration reform, and he took aim squarely at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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TAPPER: I know that when you went to Mexico, you didn't want to talk about immigration reform. But now you are entertaining the notion of running for president. And there are significant questions about whether or not, for instance, there should be a path to citizenship.
In a general view, I know you're not laying out your immigration proposal now, but in a general view, the 12 million or so undocumented immigrants in this country, should they have an ability to become citizens or would you think it's OK to have a second-tier status, what Hillary Clinton called second class status?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, let's talk about Secretary Clinton for a second. You know, the pandering that's going on by Secretary Clinton is really the thing that disgusts people about American politics. The fact is that, all of a sudden, she's had this epiphany that she wants to go to the left of President Obama. I didn't know there was room to the left of President Obama on an issue like this, but that's apparently where she's headed.
And I'll give a thoughtful, complete answer on immigration if I'm a candidate for president of the United States.
But let me say this: what she's doing right now is typical of the type of pandering that people do when all they're trying to do is tell people what they want to hear to get their vote.
[18:55:03] And then, you know, if they get power, they'll do differently.
That's the same thing President Obama said, he was for this when he ran for president in 2008. He had complete control of Congress in 2009 and 2010 and did nothing, absolutely nothing, to fix the immigration problem in this country.
We need people to start telling the truth about this issue. Let's have an adult conversation about it, Jake, and let's let our politicians like Hillary Clinton run around the country pandering.
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TAPPER: He is trying to cast himself as the nonpolitician, the anti-politician. He calls this the "Tell It Like It Is" tour up in New Hampshire. He was just asked at the American Legion about Benghazi and Secretary Clinton's role. He said he thinks she has a lot of questions she needs to answer and when asked if he would bring them up if it was him versus Clinton, he said if it's us two against each other, pop the popcorn and get ready -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jake. Thanks very much. Jake Tapper reporting live from New Hampshire. Let's get some analysis. Joining us, our chief political analyst
Gloria Borger, our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, and our CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, who's the editorial director of "The National Journal".
So, as far as Jeb Bush is concerned, certainly sounds like a little dig at him.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: A little dig? Whack. It was sort of like, OK, he's obtuse, didn't answer the question directly. I'm direct, and by the way, I live in the present. I'm not a part of the past, and then Hillary Clinton, whack. Pandering. You know, I'm the truth teller here.
And by the way, John McCain had some success in New Hampshire. He calls it the tell it like it is. Remember, the straight talk express with John McCain? That kind of works in New Hampshire.
BLITZER: You know, Jake also mentioned to him that, what, 50 percent of the new poll of Republicans said they didn't want to vote for him. He sort of pooh-poohed that.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And I don't blame him. I mean, I would, too. I think that one thing Christie said that is absolutely true is what all the candidates are saying, even those who are high in the polls right now, which is the polls aren't necessarily indicative of where the polls are going to be. We learned that certainly in 2012. Everything was kind of up and down.
And, you know, the truth is that Chris Christy, if he does follow the strategy that his advisers say he will, keep going to New Hampshire, a place that is probably the most accepting of a Chris Christie type of Republican and a type of candidate, he could slowly move back up.
When John McCain did it back in 2007-2008, he practically lived in New Hampshire. He had a day job, but it's not the same kind of day job as being governor. It's hard to see Christie spending that much time in New Hampshire to do what he needs to do.
BLITZER: Let's talk about President Obama. He suffered a serious setback today. He has gone out the past several weeks trying to make a major trade deal in the Pacific, but he was assaulted by fellow Democrats in the U.S. Senate today.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, this is one of the longest standing fissures in the Democratic Party. In Bill Clinton second term, he sought the trade promotion authority, the fast track authority, and it was rejected by the House, with virtually all of the Democrats voting against it. Today, President Obama had virtually all the Democrats again on the other side.
I think the key issue here is going to be the question of currency manipulation, which Democrats like Chuck Schumer want to be in the agreement, trying to pressure countries like China on that. The Obama administration argues that adding this to the agreement would make it impossible to negotiate the deal. Then, maybe a through this, I mean, I think a lot of Democrats feel pressured to support a trade from coastal states in particular, but it is not -- it's a mess and it's long-standing mess in the Democratic Party.
BORGER: You know, what's interesting, of course, here is that President Obama took on Elizabeth Warren personally on this. She's leading the fight against it. He said, you know, she's just another politician -- clearly trying to open a lane, maybe, for Hillary Clinton to perhaps try and navigate it, and oh, my gosh.
BORGER: Not close, anyway.
BASH: Right, right.
BORGER: But I don't think Hillary Clinton is going to wander into the lane that the president wants.
BORGER: It isn't the last of that, though. I think you would agree, a lot of Democratic senators in states that find it very difficult --
BLITZER: Dana, walk us through what's going to happen.
BASH: Yes, I mean, you're exactly right. I was on Capitol Hill today. I was standing outside the room where about 14 pro-trade Democrats, these are the people who wanted to carry the president's water today, deciding, no, we're going to vote no. They did it just to kind of have a unified force on the Democratic side. It's going to be hard for them to get it back up, but it is possible.
But remember, kind of take a step back. We're talking about the last two years of President Obama's term. This is a major legacy issue. He was relying on Republicans who he actually was working very closely with, to the point where Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, called it an out of body experience, and it was the Democrats in his own party who said, no, no, we're not going to let you do that.
BROWNSTEIN: -- Bill Clinton.
BLITZER: Highly unusual.
All right, guys, we'll leave it on that note. We'll see what happens.
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