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THE SITUATION ROOM

ISIS Threat; Interview With Congressman Peter King of New York; Republican Debate; President Obama Speaks Out; Attack on Military Base in Afghanistan; Conflicting Claims about New Debris in MH-370 Search; Conflicting Claims About New Debris in MH370 Search; Obama Defends Comparison Between GOP & Iran Hardliners. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 7, 2015 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:05]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST HOST: Trump's new target. He's blasting the moderators at the first Republican presidential debate, saying he was treated unfairly, even as he stole the show. Now he's going live on CNN to talk about his performance and the accusation that he's engaged in a war on women.

Massacre feared. Is ISIS plotting a bloodbath like the Paris terror attacks? We will tell you what we're hearing from U.S. intelligence officials tonight.

The Russia connection. Does the U.S. have any hard evidence that Moscow was behind an attack on Pentagon computers? I will ask a homeland security insider, Congressman Peter King.

And Obama's hard line. The president is refusing to back down from a comparison between Republicans and Iranians who chant death to America. Stand by for his exclusive interview with CNN.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, U.S. intelligence officials are sounding the alarm that ISIS may be stealing a page from al Qaeda's playbook and strengthening its ability to carry out spectacular massacres like the Paris terror attacks. Stand by for details on that.

Also developing, Donald Trump is lashing out accusing the moderators of the first Republican presidential debate of being tougher on him than his opponents. He's singling out the only woman on the panel who grilled him about derogatory comments he's made about women. Now trump is taking his post-debate offensive right here to CNN with a live interview tonight.

We have correspondents, analysts and newsmakers standing by as we cover all the news that's breaking now.

First to our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She covered the debate in Cleveland -- Dana. DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, tonight, Jeb Bush is actually telling reporters that he thinks that Donald Trump is -- quote -- "larger than life," but the debate showed that Trump doesn't have a lot of specifics. But what he lacked in specifics, he made up for in theater. But he wasn't the only one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Businessman Donald Trump.

BASH voice-over): Everyone expected Donald Trump to get feisty, but with a competitor for the White House, not a debate moderator.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.

(LAUGHTER)

Your Twitter account...

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Only Rosie O'Donnell.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks.

TRUMP: I've been challenged by so many people, and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either. And honestly, Megyn, if you don't like it, I'm sorry. I've been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn't do that.

BASH: That changed the minute Trump left the stage, taking to Twitter to attack Megyn Kelly as overrated and angry saying, she bombed.

Another moment may make tried-and-true Republicans think twice about Trump. He raised eyebrows by raising his hand, refusing to promise to only run as a Republican, not an independent.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You can't say tonight that you can make that pledge?

TRUMP: I cannot say.

BASH: But later, the Republican chairman, who lately has been privately talking with Trump, told me he's not worried.

(on camera): As somebody who is the chairman of the party to not be nervous about somebody standing on your own debate stage not vowing to be a member of your party, that seems a little odd, no?

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No, actually, it proves what I'm saying, which is if I'm not nervous about it, I don't think anyone else should. BASH (voice-over): There were more crackling moments. Chris Christie

and Rand Paul mixed it up over personal liberties vs. security.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you're sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CHRISTIE: When you're responsible for protecting the lives of the American people, then what you need to do is to make sure..

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Go ahead, Governor.

CHRISTIE: And you know -- you know, Senator Paul? Senator Paul, you know, the hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11.

Those are the hugs I remember.

BASH: One of the night's breakout stars was Ohio Governor John Kasich.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're like the little engine that can, and we're getting great, great reaction.

BASH: He took out on his take to same-sex marriage.

KASICH: I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because somebody doesn't think the way I do doesn't mean that I can't care about them or can't love them.

BASH: The only woman in the GOP field, Carly Fiorina, didn't poll well enough to make the main event, but shined at the undercard.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi, she lies being e-mails.

BASH: Telling CNN she took advantage of the moment.

FIORINA: Last night was a big opportunity for me. And so I think it's fair to say that this morning a lot more people know who I am and that I'm running for president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:05:01]

BASH: Now, Fiorina told me this morning she hopes that helps her get onto the main stage at CNN's debate next month. That's limited to the top 10 candidates scoring the highest in national polls, much like the FOX debate.

If her poll numbers, Brianna, follow the spike in the Google searches for her name, which happened after that happy hour debate, she might have a shot.

KEILAR: We will see. Stick with me as I bring in chief political analyst Gloria Borger and CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Gloria, I think you were really surprised in particular that no guys stood up for Megyn Kelly in this back and forth with Donald Trump?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was. I was.

It was a moment where somebody could have exhibited some kind of leadership or, you know, just off the cuff, because they were all prepared for everything else. And I would argue that if Carly Fiorina, for example, had been on that stage, she would have said, Mr. Trump, I think those remarks are offensive and at least tried to defend her.

But Rand Paul was very happy to attack Donald Trump on an assortment of issues. And nobody -- they all held back because they want his supporters if he should not get the nomination, which most of them don't think he will.

BASH: I just want to quickly add that I spoke to Fiorina last night and this morning and she said that's exactly what she would have done.

BORGER: Sure.

BASH: She talked to Brooke Baldwin this morning on CNN and she said that she thought it was inappropriate, and so on and so forth, and she would have made that point had she been on the stage with the big boys.

BORGER: I think women watching the debate are like, who's going to speak up for women?

BASH: What was the calculus here? They're afraid of Donald Trump?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think even men watching the debate were like...

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: Everyone has a sister, a daughter, a wife, someone. It's just -- it's just the humanity of it.

But, look, I think Republicans have learned something. This is a whole new playbook, but look at the people who have attacked Trump the hardest, Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham. Look where it got them.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Losing in a debate to Carly Fiorina. ZELENY: As Donald Trump might say, losers.

But I think they're a bit afraid, but they're going to have to get to less afraid. Now they have been -- so far they have been operating assumption that, gosh, maybe he will go away. Now they know he won't. They're going to have a strategy for how to deal with him. I think they will get sort of less afraid going forward.

But, Dana, great interview with the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Can you imagine another Republican candidate standing up there and not pledging to support the nominee? We have never seen anything like it, it's so bizarre.

KEILAR: It was amazing out of the gate, that moment. OK. Let's talk about some of the others in the GOP field. Jeb Bush, diagnosis?

BASH: The way I have been trying to figure out how to frame it is that he stood his ground, but he didn't stand out. He did what he had to do when it comes to the issues.

For example, his campaign was very proud, rightly so, of the way he explained his position on Common Core, which is something that has a lot of conservatives distancing themselves from him. He explained that he is for states rights when it comes to education and so forth. He also was kind of a different person, got his mojo when he talked about his education, kind of like his brother, covering his brother, who was very similar.

But, again, when it comes to his Iraq, when it comes to his family legacy, you could see the wheels spinning. It's still not something that's comfortable for him.

BORGER: He went out of his way, don't you think, to say, I'm more conservative than the other Bushes because the other Bushes, at least with the Republican base, are not conservative enough.

And what Jeb kept trying to remind people was, I was a really conservative governor of this state.

KEILAR: Fiscal conservative.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And also he wanted to be the grownup in the room. Right? And so -- and I think he tried to have that persona. So he didn't attack Donald Trump, but he was more in sorry than in anger about Donald Trump.

ZELENY: Debates are important, but we all covered his brother, his debates. He never -- George W. Bush never won any of those early primary debates. Barack Obama didn't either.

In 2007, in the early debates, he was terrible. He was a terrible debater. It matters some, but it's only one piece of the campaign.

KEILAR: The long game here is, this is OK because he did no harm? I have heard some Republicans who thought, what a bummer, people who are in his corner and they wanted him to just shine a little more, I thought, have more stature, even, look more like he belonged, like he was comfortable.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: He's got $100 million in the bank.

BASH: Right.

BORGER: People gave him that money. They wanted to watch that debate and they wanted to see him shine because they have an investment in Jeb Bush.

And I'm not sure a lot of those donors walked away saying, OK, great. That's it.

ZELENY: His aides are first to point out he's not had a debate since October of 2002. That's a long time, obviously pre-social media and everything.

So, I'm willing to give him another debate or two before we cast judgments that he's the worst debater in the world.

KEILAR: Sure.

And we see candidates turn their performance around from one debate to the other even a few weeks later.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: And he wasn't bad. He just didn't shine. He wasn't the front- runner guy.

[18:10:01]

KEILAR: Scott Walker, polling in third place right now, he's a very serious candidate. He didn't really seem to break out last night. But he also seemed to do no harm, maybe?

BASH: Do no harm. I would put him in the same camp as Jeb Bush. Do no harm, but wasn't like wow.

Again, that could -- potentially, that is surprising, when you look at the standing that he has in the polls. But it's not easy when you're on that stage. The thing with Chris Christie and Rand Paul, that happened because that was happening from a distance for months, maybe even close to a year, and they were having these volleying -- rhetorical volleys back and forth, up and down the Eastern Seaboard about this issue.

And so they were dying to do this.

ZELENY: It's a real difference too.

(CROSSTALK) ZELENY: It's a genuine policy difference in the Republican Party. I would say one of the most significant differences, an actual debate at this debate that wasn't quite a debate.

KEILAR: I loved how you described how much came out in this basically a one-minute exchange, how much information we learned, right?

ZELENY: Chris Christie, he managed to say that he was there on 9/11 to help families and victims. He managed to trash a sitting senator, saying, you can sit in your committee rooms, I'm here doing the work. He managed to pack a lot in there and remind people that he could keep America safe, never mind those libertarians out there. That was a practiced answer.

But it was good. He was good, I thought.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Honestly, I thought Christie doesn't get enough credit.

BASH: I agree with you.

BORGER: Because he had a substantive debate with Mike Huckabee over entitlement reform. He said, we're going to raise the Social Security age over a long -- retirement age over a long stretch of time.

But -- so we had a substantive debate over surveillance and over entitlements. And I think let's give Chris Christie some credit here because just, what, a month or two a go, we were thinking he was going to be the bully in this race.

BASH: Right, before Donald Trump, the real bully, showed up.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Exactly, exactly.

KEILAR: All right. One final question. Did you guys see where Hillary Clinton was last night? This cracks me up, because she was at a fund-raiser. Check out the picture.

BASH: That's so awesome.

KEILAR: Kim Kardashian, Kanye West were there. Kris Jenner was also there. We're showing you this selfie.

What do you think of this? She said she wasn't watching the debate.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Full reality TV. Full reality TV. Is anything sacred anymore? Full-on.

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: She wasn't watching the debate, but she happened to send out this e-mail, her campaign did, and it said, nope, nope, nope on the subject line. Should one of these guys be president? And it had a picture of all of the people and says, "Nope. Send money to my campaign."

I can tell you, her campaign was watching this debate very, very carefully for any of those moments that are going to come back again and again and again in the general election, whoever she runs against, if, of course, she wins the nomination.

KEILAR: And they seem pretty happy about it.

Jeff, Gloria, Dana, thanks so much to all of you guys.

CNN soon will give voters a second chance to compare the Republican candidates side by side. We're hosting the next GOP presidential debate live from the Ronald Reagan Library. That is on September 16. You can tune in here on CNN.

Just ahead, new intelligence suggesting ISIS may be shifting its focus from encouraging lone wolf attacks to launching large-scale massacres. I will be asking a leading member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees what he knows about that. Congressman Peter King will join us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:17]

KEILAR: Another terror attack killing thousands of people, that was America's greatest fear following al Qaeda's strike on 9/11.

And now there's new concern ISIS is working toward an attack on the same massive scale.

CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has been working the story.

What are you finding out, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the thinking to this point has been that ISIS is focused on small-bore, let's ambitious attacks, AQAP more focused on mass-casualty attacks.

But now there's debate within the intelligence community, some warning ISIS is working to build the capability to carry out mass-casualty attacks, which would greatly expand the threat from the terror group.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): From the bloody rampage in Paris on the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" to attacks on commercial aviation, U.S. intelligence community divided on whether ISIS, to date focused on less ambitious lone wolf attacks, may be working to build the capability to carry out mass-casualty attacks, more complex, more coordinated, more deadly, the motivation, in part to compete with AQAP. That same competition was evident this week when AQAP made its own

pitch to supporters to carry out lone wolf attacks that so far have been largely ISIS' territory.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think they're taking a lot of the new recruits that they don't have time to train who have not been brought up in their systems and they're using them to create the kind of mass casualty which produces the media attention that exactly is what they want that shows they're still powerful.

SCIUTTO: U.S. intelligence assesses that the formidable flow of foreign fighters to ISIS has not abated.

[18:20:00]

Today, the total number of ISIS fighters numbers between 20,000 and 30,000, similar to levels when the U.S.-led air campaign began, despite thousands believed killed in coalition airstrikes. Turkey, the prime transit point into Syria, is still struggling to stem the flow.

However, the U.S. believes its agreement to allow U.S. airstrikes from a Turkish air base and help establish a safe zone along the border indicate that Istanbul is stepping up. The administration is also claiming gains on the ground.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In Iraq, ISIL has lost the freedom to operate in some 30 percent of the territory that they held last summer. Overall, ISIL has lost more than 17,000 square kilometers of territory in Northern Syria.

SCIUTTO: Still, U.S. officials say the process of degrading ISIS will take at least three years, in fact, the president pledging no specific timeline for defeating the group, not disputing he will hand this war to the next president.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think my key goal when I turn over the keys to the president, the next president, is that we are on track to defeat ISIL.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: One group the U.S. having success against, the Khorasan group. This is an offshoot of Al Qaeda present in Syria.

You may remember, Brianna, at the start of the U.S. air campaign, there was talk the Khorasan group had imminent attack plans on the U.S., but the belief now in the intelligence community is that the strikes that they have been able to carry out certainly hasn't eliminated the group, but it has put them under pressure and those threats are no longer considered imminent.

KEILAR: Disrupting their operations. Good to know.

Jim Sciutto, thanks so much. I want to dig deeper on this now with Republican Congressman Peter

King of New York. He's a member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And if you could, share with us any information you have about ISIS planning a mass-casualty terror attack.

KING: First of all, I pretty much agree with Jim Sciutto. I don't think there's any hard intelligence saying that.

But I believe there's more and more a consensus developing in the intelligence community that we have to be ready for this. We have to assume that ISIS does want to compete with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, they do want to compete with al Qaeda, core al Qaeda, as far as having the mass-casualty attack.

And this large number of foreign fighters they have coming into Syria to fight with them or fight alongside them, they can go back to their countries, back to Europe, back to the United States. So, the operating premise is that we do believe that ISIS now is working toward carrying out some sort of large-scale attack.

Again, I'm not aware of any hard-core intelligence saying that. But just the logical progress of what ISIS has been doing, how they try to recruit volunteers, how they want to make sure that AQAP and core Al Qaeda don't reclaim the headlines, and one way to do that is to have a mass-casualty attack.

Now, we know over the Fourth of July that they wanted to carry out some high-profile attacks. Now, whether or not they would have been in the hundreds or the thousands, we don't know. But they did -- they are now talking more about the high-profile attacks, similar to "Charlie Hebdo," but in larger numbers.

KEILAR: You have talked about the dark Web being used for recruitment. A mass-casualty attack would take coordination. What type of coordination would be done here, do you think?

KING: Well, first of all, they count on people here in the United States. They obviously can be working with, again, new technology.

They have people who are willing to carry out their operations. And, again, as far as coordination, I mean, they can go to Europe. They can come here on visas. Actually, they don't require visas. So, no, I would say that we just have to assume that this attack is going to come and the coordination can come from overseas, come from here.

And it's something -- again, it can be carried out in various locations at the same time. That's also something we have to dread, that type of coordination.

KEILAR: Tomorrow, Congressman, is the one-year mark of new U.S. military operations in Iraq. Do you think any ground has been made against ISIS in that year?

KING: I think we have gained some ground and lost some ground.

This has been a good year for ISIS, because with all of the bombing missions we have carried out, the fact is, ISIS is still getting more and more recruits, more and more volunteers. They still have a land mass larger than Great Britain. They are, again, to me, just filling up more and more support.

And they are becoming a larger and larger factor in the Middle East. And the longer the U.S. is engaged and is not able to administer the knockout blow, to me, the better it is for ISIS. We have got to step up. There has to be more coordination on the ground. We have to have forward operators to make better use of these bombing missions. And I believe we have to have American troops embedded with Iraqi troops and so we can coordinate the Iraqis and the Kurds.

[18:25:00]

And, also, we have to do a better job of getting people on the ground in Syria, to get trained anti-ISIS, anti-Syrian regime troops on the ground, because right now ISIS is definitely, I believe, in a dominant position.

KEILAR: Some have said maybe three years until ISIS can really be destroyed or conquered here. Do you think it will take longer than that?

KING: I think at the current rate, it's going to go on longer than that.

I don't see what we're doing now that would eliminate ISIS within the next three years. I just don't see it. I mean, at best, it's a holding action. The And Longer a holding action goes on, to me, the better it is for ISIS. They are on the ground. They are there. They are getting the volunteers. They are getting foreign fighters coming in.

And so I don't see why they'd be talking about three years, unless we change our tactics, unless we change our strategy. And that's going to require a more concerted effort by the U.S., not the president's policy of taking one step forward, one step sidewards.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman, stay with me.

We're actually getting word of an attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan. We are readying that report. We will have it for you.

We will talk more with Congressman King after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We have breaking news: an attack on a military base in Afghanistan. We have Congressman Peter King standing by with us. First, I do want to get details about this attack from CNN Pentagon

correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, tell us what you're picking up from sources.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Details are still coming in, Brianna, but tonight we can tell you that U.S. troops, a base where they are located in Kabul near the airport there, they came under attack this evening from insurgents. It is being described to us in this fashion.

There was an initial large explosion believed to be from a suicide bomber, followed by a small-arms attack.

To get to the point immediately, the Pentagon does not know at this point if any U.S. troops were killed or injured in this attack. Two insurgents killed. They are still gathering information about all of this.

This was the third large-complex attack of the day in Kabul. Two other facilities also coming under attack by insurgents. A lot of concern about what is going on. They know there's a certain level of insurgent activity at all times.

But three attacks, three complex attacks in one day.

Where this camp is near the airport, this is an area that houses U.S. troops that are helping train Afghan forces. They've been there for some time. I don't think it's any big secret that they live and work there. But tonight, no clear word on whether any U.S. troops were impacted by the attack.

Our own CNN producer in Kabul heard all of it. He is reporting to us tonight. Again, a large explosion followed by smaller explosions. And our CNN producer is telling us he heard a gun battle going on for at least half an hour -- Brianna.

KEILAR: At least half an hour. All right, Barbara Starr. We know you will continue to monitor this developing situation.

I do want to get more now with Congressman Peter King on the story. He's a member of the Homeland Security and Intelligence committees. So Congressman, it seems like we're still getting details in here, but hearing this third large attack in Afghanistan, in Kabul, in one day. This coming over a decade after the U.S. took out the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Can you shed any light on the specific attack and also just the threat that we're seeing there still in that country?

KING: As far as the specific attack, we're still waiting for all the details. We certainly hope and pray there are no American casualties. As to what's happening here, the president has announced, President Obama's announced he's ended the war in Afghanistan.

The fact is he's not ending the war. What he is doing is reducing the U.S. military presence. But the Taliban and al Qaeda and even is are making inroads into Afghanistan. And the fact is that this puts the remaining American troops there at risk. So we shouldn't be surprised by these attacks.

To me it demonstrates why this war is not over and why the president should not have been so quick to start talking about a drawdown and a withdrawal. Because as troops withdraw, also intelligence is diminished over there. And it puts us in a weakened position.

So again, it shows a vacillation by the president, which leads to more violence, more attacks. And if we do pull out completely from Afghanistan and that once again becomes a privileged sanctuary for terrorists, we saw what happened on September 11.

KEILAR: I want to move on. I want to ask you about this hack of Pentagon e-mail, the unclassified system used by the joint staff. Have you been briefed on whether Russia was responsible for this?

KING: I have not been specifically briefed. The fact is that it's either going to be Russia, China, or Iran. I know they're talking that it's Russia. That is a very likely suspect.

We get -- there's attempted attacks on our infrastructure, I'd say, several hundred times every day. Specifically by the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians. We know what Russia's been capable of in the past. We know what China has been capable of in the past. This certainly leans toward Russians. I don't want to say anything specifically on it, but the fact is it shows that we are on constant threat of attack.

Fortunately, this was unclassified and from what I understand, it was a pretty unsophisticated type of attack. It could have been a spearphishing type attack, which meant that it could have been some personnel inadvertently in the Pentagon allowed this to happen. So that would require yet more train for the employees.

[18:35:19] But again, the fact is they are capable of very sophisticated attacks, too, and we have to constantly be on defense. We have to also be able to go on offensive, that we can be able to spot an attack, be able to cordon it off, and also retaliate. We can't allow these attacks to go unpunished.

KEILAR: Do you think cutting off diplomatic ties is something that increasingly needs to get a look?

KING: Cutting off diplomatic ties with Russia? I think that's, you know, probably a last resort. I think we need tougher, most of effective diplomacy, more effective retaliation against Russia, whether it's Ukraine, whether it's the Baltic states, whether it's eastern Europe, whether it's these type of cyber-attacks -- Russia has to be told there's a price.

Just now the fact that they're making with basically the war criminal, as far as I'm concerned, that again shows Russia is -- does not have respect for our president, does not have respect for the United States, is constantly making these types of intrusions and incursions, and we're putting ourselves at risk. KEILAR: I want to make the turn and talk to you about politics now.

I know you watched the debate last night. You considered running. You decided not to. Do you regret your decision?

KING: Yes, when I was watching last night, I was looking at it. I said, "God, I could have been a contender." But I didn't have -- I didn't have the funding that was necessary. And so like a washed-up Marlon Brando.

No, listen, I thought it was a very good debate. I thought it was vibrant. I thought except for Rand Paul everyone did a good job.

KEILAR: Oh, so that's who you think lost. Who do you think won?

KING: I would say probably Marco Rubio did the best, and Carly Fiorina did phenomenally well in the first debate. I think that Jeb Bush held his own, and I think Donald Trump did, in effect, what he had to do.

And that's why -- I was listening to the comments before that someone sort of jumped in and defended Megyn Kelly. First of all, Megyn Kelly got in the ring. She took on Donald Trump; Donald Trump fought back. You're talking about a tough reporter. You're talking about a guy who's leading the polls.

So once Megyn got in the ring, and Trump got in the ring, you let them fight it out. To me it would have been sexist for someone to jump in and help Megyn. She can take care of herself. I know here well. She's tough. Trump is tough. Nobody was going to jump in and defend Chris Wallace. I think it was reverse sexism to say that Megyn Kelly needed help. I don't think she needed help at all. I think she loved it. I think Donald Trump loved it. That's what it's all about.

KEILAR: That is a really...

KING: You would get two...

KEILAR: That's a really interesting point. But I definitely want to know what you thought of Jeb Bush in his performance.

KING: I thought he was solid. And I think I do share what you're saying. There was no breakout moment for Jeb Bush. I think he's in this for the long fight. He has the name. He has the organization. He has the long funding which can carry him through a -- well into next year.

I think that's -- right now he's involved in the long struggle, almost like a Chinese version of battle. You have the long-term view. And I think that's what Jeb Bush was doing. But he didn't make any mistakes last night. He held his own, but there was no breakout moment for him.

KEILAR: But still, do you think long-term that that may actually serve him? Do you think long-term he actually has the best chance of becoming the Republican nominee? KING: Right now I would say that. But again, I mean, as the -- as

that number of 16 or 17 starts to dwindle down, that's when Jeb Bush is going to have to make his move. He can't continue to wait.

But I would say right now he probably did what he had to do last night. But I thought Marco Rubio did well. I thought Chris Christie demolished Rand Paul, and John Kasich, who I worked with in the House, John made a very impressive performance last night.

KEILAR: All right. Congressman Peter King, excellent discussion. We covered a lot of areas here. Thanks so much for talking with us today.

KING: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just ahead, new finds of suspected debris from missing Malaysia Flight 370. We're following the intensifying search.

Plus, President Obama comparing some Republicans to Iranian hardliners. He talked exclusively to CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:34] KEILAR: The search for plane debris is intensifying off Reunion Island where a wing part from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was found. French authorities are examining additional items that may include a windowpane and seat cushion. We are getting conflicting reports about those objects tonight.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is following this investigation -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, s the search continues tonight, some of the victims' families say they're trying to get visas to go to Reunion Island, because they don't trust the process. This as conflicting reports from Malaysian and French authorities are adding to confusion about whether other parts of the plane have been found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, French authorities on Reunion Island and nearby Mauritius ramping up the search for more debris from MH-370. Planes and boats scouring the ocean and coastal areas for hours. This captain not downplaying how hard this search will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very difficult to undertake a search for a small object from the air.

BROWN: In Malaysia, the transport minister doubling down, telling CNN his teams have not only confirmed the wing part, known as a flaperon, is from the plane, but that more plane debris is in French custody.

LIOW TIONG LAI, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: We managed to find additional debris. These debris are all aircraft materials. The windowpane materials, the cushion materials. So once we collect it, immediately we hand it over to the military police.

[18:45:03] BROWN: But French authorities on Reunion Island tell CNN objects were collected, but no one has determined if they are relevant.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Breaking down the tug of war, it appears that the additional debris is on Reunion Island. I don't think that Malaysia can say that it's definitely from -- even from an aircraft, much less Flight 370. But I think the flaperon, Malaysians are correct. There's very little doubt that that's from anything else.

BROWN: And frustration is growing in Beijing where Chinese relatives of those onboard are demanding answers, some crawling on hands and knees to the Malaysian embassy. This woman who lost her daughter pleading, "Please, I beg you, bring my child back to me."

And this woman saying nothing makes sense, even pointing out the passengers' cell phones worked and rang through weeks after the plane went down. Adding, she believes the passengers are still alive.

But in the end, no one from the embassy showed up to meet with them. And another day ends with no new answers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And at a news conference today, one official said the debris recovered in recent days is, quote, "not as obvious as the flaperon", and would require much more complex analysis -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Pamela Brown, thanks so much.

I do want to bring in our aviation analysts now. We have Miles O'Brien, and Peter Goelz. Peter is a former NTSB managing director.

And if, Peter, you were operating this search, what level of confidence would you have that you're going to find more debris?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I would have not a lot of confidence.

KEILAR: Really?

GOELZ: To be honest. I mean, I think we were quite lucky and it was extraordinary that we found the flaperon and it appears to be from Flight 370. But, boy, finding another piece is going to be extraordinary.

KEILAR: Finding another piece would be extraordinary. It's kind of unbelievable. I think people might think, Miles, you're going to find something. But you have the Australian deputy prime minister and the transport minister saying that just over half of the water at this point that's been searched on the seafloor has been completed. Are we looking at years before the plane is located? Is it possible it's never located? MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I sure hope it's not years,

Brianna. It doesn't need to be years. When I look at those heartbreaking pictures of those family members, just the idea that this could rock on for a couple more seasons -- now, it's wintertime this now but when it gets better, and the weather is bad there in the winter. When it gets good enough to really search, I sure hope the world community, the Malaysians leading, the Chinese should step up, the Australians, maybe the French too, should double down another effort to search. It shouldn't rock on for a few more seasons.

Let's get more ships on station and start looking. Now that we know, with much greater certainty, this is where it was, let's increase the search.

KEILAR: Because China has a tremendous stake in this with how many victims were on board MH370, right? There would be reason for them to maybe step up?

GOELZ: They have a tremendous stake. They have not been a very aggressive partner in this.

And I think Miles is absolutely right. When we get into the spring and into the summer and a few more months, we ought to double or triple the amount of vessels out there and let's get to the bottom of this. This cannot go on for another year or two. I mean, it's just too heartbreaking.

KEILAR: If this flaperon tells us, tells the scientific community, that yes, you may have been searching in the right area, the search area was correct, then do you really need to find other debris to have that confirmed or is this enough, the flaperon?

GOELZ: You don't have to find it. It would help. Every shred of evidence is good and helps the investigation.

The key, though, to solving this is going to be getting to the wreckage and ultimately the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder.

The real concern I have is that when we get to that point, and that day will come. I believe they will find it. It may not solve the mystery.

KEILAR: And that's what's heartbreaking, Peter, that the black box may not yield anything.

GOELZ: That's right. I mean, and there's a great possibility that there may not be enough data on it or that it may have been shut off. But if we find the wreckage field, we will go a long way towards figuring this out. We will bring up the wreckage. We'll be able to analyze it. We'll eliminate some things.

KEILAR: How much better does communication need to be here? The Malaysian government saying things that aren't necessarily on the same level as what the French are saying. O'BRIEN: Well, it's difficult when these investigations have so many

jurisdictions and so many competing interests if you will. And in some cases, conflicts of interest. And from the get go, I think we all agree the Malaysians have mishandled the communications. This is just part of the pattern that begun more than 500 days ago.

KEILAR: They also need to step it up.

Miles, Peter, thanks so much guys.

[18:50:01] And for more information on how to help those impacted by air disasters everywhere, you can go to CNN.com/Impact.

Just ahead, an exclusive interview with President Obama, talking to CNN's Fareed Zakaria about the Iran nuclear deal. And the uphill battle that it's facing in Congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:55:17] KEILAR: Tonight, President Obama isn't backing down from a remark that's angering Republicans, comparing them to Iranian hardliners. The president sat down with Fareed Zakaria for an exclusive in-depth interview.

Fareed joining us now to talk about this.

And there's really a fascinating part of this interview, Fareed, I want to ask you about. You sat down with him yesterday. You discussed domestic politics behind the Iran deal.

Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: In your speech at American University, you made a comparison. You said that Iran's hard-liners were making common cause with Republicans. It's come under a lot of criticism. Mitch McConnell says even Democrats who opposed the deal should be insulted.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I said is absolutely true factually. The truth of the matter is inside of Iran, the people most opposed to the deal are the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds force, hard-liners who are implacably opposed to any cooperation with the international community.

The reason that Mitch McConnell and the rest of the folks in his caucus who opposed this jumped out and opposed it before they even read it, before it was even posted is reflective of a ideological commitment not to get a deal done.

ZAKARIA: You don't think --

OBAMA: In that sense, they do have a lot in common with hardliners who are much more satisfied with the status quo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: He is not backing down there, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: He is not backing down at all. He is very comfortable with the substance of this, with the substance of his case. If you want to go at it at 30,000 feet at an abstract level, he will do that. If you want to get into the details, into the waiting periods, the mechanisms for verification, he is comfortable doing that.

I think he feels like his -- the best thing he can do is to put forward the strongest substantive case he can and really to lay out what he sees as the implications, whether it's that if we don't do this, there's a greater likelihood of war, if it's that he thinks that people are making common cause with Iranian hardliners, he is not mincing words.

KEILAR: Give us a sense, Fareed, of his demeanor. Did he seem really confident that he not only has a good deal here but also that he has a veto-proof majority that will ensure it's enacted?

ZAKARIA: Well, he certainly said the latter. But part of making sure you get these kind of majorities is you put on the best face and the best show you can. What I can tell you is he seems very confident on the substance. He feels very confident that they did negotiate a good deal, that they got the other countries -- brought them along from in many cases it was a big stretch to get the Russians and Chinese particularly engaged.

And I think he feels that at the end of the day, people will realize that the alternative to this is that the sanctions collapse, that Iran goes back to producing centrifuges and down a nuclear path. And so, I think he does think in the end the policy will work. I asked him, you know, what happens if this deal fails? He said, I'm not planning for failure. I predict success and I'm planning for success.

KEILAR: It's a great interview at such a time for consequence. Fareed, really looking forward to seeing it in its entirety. Thanks.

ZAKARIA: Thanks so much.

KEILAR: And you can see all of Fareed's exclusive interview with President Obama Sunday morning at 10:00 Eastern on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" only here on CNN.

Well, a few presidential contenders past and present are getting a little snarky in honor of a man who's been holding their feet to the fire now for about 16 years, and that would be Jon Stewart. On his final night as host of "The Daily Show", some of his favorite targets turned the tables on him, including a TV news anchor that you might recognize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jon, I just don't know what to say.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, there are a lot of things happening around the world that keep me up at night, which is why I relied on you to put me to sleep.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And just when I'm running for president. What a bummer.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm Jon Stewart, I'm dumb, I'm stupid, nyah, nyah, nyah. So long (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Well, I can't top that. I will let Wolf speak for us, I guess, and say so long, Jon Stewart.

And, remember that you can always follow us on Twitter. You can tweet the show @CNNSitroom. You can tweet me @BriKeilarCNN. Be sure to join us Monday in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks so much for watching. I'm Brianna Keilar.

And "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.