Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With New York Congressman Peter King; French Terror Investigation; North Korean Tensions; Dow Drops; Bush Visits Border Amid Immigration War with Trump; Source: Obama Gave Biden "Blessing" to Run. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 24, 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: Terrorist ties? Investigators are zeroing in on a recent trip taken by the suspect in the attack on a high-speed train. Will his travel reveal connections to ISIS? We're going to tell you what we're learning.
War plan. There's new evidence now that the United States takes North Korea's newest military threats very seriously, reviewing its strategy to respond to hostile action against the South. Are tensions any lower night?
And border attack. Jeb Bush takes his immigration fight with Donald Trump within miles of Mexico, speaking the language of the locals to blast the GOP front-runner's proposals. Did Bush help his campaign or Trump's?
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: And the breaking news -- a new and stunning blow to the U.S. stock market and millions of Americans' retirement accounts.
Tonight, the Dow Jones industrial average has plunged another 588 points. It's been a roller-coaster day that began a 1,000-point sell- off. The market bounced back some, but not enough to calm growing fears about the future. The Dow has now lost more than 1, 600 points over the past four trading sessions alone. Behind the smiles of the closing bell many investors are worried about China's economic slowdown and it's fueling the markets' losses.
And now Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is saying, I told you so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been telling everybody for a long time China is taking our jobs, they're taking our money. Be careful. They will bring us down. You have to know what you're doing. We have nobody that has a clue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We have our correspondents, analysts and newsmakers standing by to cover all the news that's breaking right now.
First, let's go to our business correspondent, Richard Quest.
Richard, help us appreciate what's going on, on Wall Street.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What you're seeing is when fear, confusion, and worry all come together and investors -- somebody basically shouts fire and people head to the door.
The core concern is China and whether we can believe the economic numbers coming from that country and, crucially, Wolf, how slow the slowdown is going to be. Chinese government says it will grow 7 percent. Nobody believes that. Some people now think it could be as low as 5 percent, 4 percent, or even 3 percent.
In that scenario, Wolf, the selling started in Shanghai. It went through Europe, through Frankfurt, Paris, and London, and it finally ended up on the shores of the United States, for a good reason. Up to 40 percent of profits made by many major corporations in America, top global multinationals, comes from China. And that's the reason.
Now, I can throw into that pot of misery other factors, like the fall in oil price under $40 a barrel, emerging markets, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, India, all worried about growth. But the net-net of all of this is that the concern has finally led to a market crack.
BLITZER: And as I pointed out, 1,600 in the last few days alone, that's almost 10 percent of the Dow Jones industrials average, if you will.
QUEST: Yes, and that 10 percent, it become a technical correction, i.e., from the May high that we have.
Is it bear territory yet? Not until it gets 20 percent. But even then, Wolf, even if we hit the technical bear at 20 percent, you're really asking, is the market -- is the global economy fundamentally sound? At the moment, the conclusion seems to be there are strong headwinds that the U.S., which is doing really well -- it's doing extremely well by comparison -- the U.S. is having to go into those headwinds and to bash against them.
It's not going to be easy. And that's why the consensus at the moment is that the Fed probably will not raise rates in September. Some are suggesting it's now put off well into next year.
BLITZER: Richard Quest, thanks very, very much.
Tonight, there's other news we're following, including what law enforcement sources are telling CNN, that the attackers on board that high-speed train in France was not on any U.S. watch list, even though he was on the radar of European authorities. We're learning more about the suspect and his alleged ties to terrorists as the three Americans who subdued him received today new honors. Let's go to CNN's Martin Savidge. He's joining us live from Paris
with the latest.
Martin, tell our viewers what happened.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
It was a remarkable day here in Paris. And for three Americans, it was a day that three days ago they couldn't possibly have even imagined.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this -- this and the handgun.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Dramatic cell phone video captures the heavily armed gunman bloodied and restrained on the floor of the train.
ALEK SKARLATOS, STOPPED TRAIN ATTACK: The guy had a lot of ammo. His intentions were pretty clear.
SAVIDGE: The three Americans, U.S. National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, Air Force Airman Spencer Stone, and student Anthony Sadler, are credited with thwarting a deadly attack, along with British passenger Chris Norman.
The group tackled and hog-tied the gunman with neckties while other passengers took cover nearby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was able to grab him again and choke him unconscious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ducked under and had the tray table over my head as well. And I thought, am I next?
SAVIDGE: Stone almost lost his thumb in the attack. But his brother told affiliate KOVR it could have been much worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, I tried to shoot him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He should not be alive at all. And he saved every single person's life on that train, including the man who was shot in the neck.
SAVIDGE: According to French radio station Europe 1, that man is French-American Mark Moogalian, an author and musician, seen here on social media, who was teaching English in Paris. In an interview, his wife told the station Moogalian helped wrestle the weapon from the attacker before collapsing, telling her, "I'm hit, I'm hit."
Today, the three Americans and the Brit were awarded France's highest honor by President Francois Hollande for their actions.
FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRENCH PRESIDENT (voice-over): You risked your lives to defend an idea, an idea of liberty, of freedom.
SAVIDGE: Moogalian will also receive a Legion of Honor. The alleged attacker is 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani.
European counterterrorism authorities say he is well-known to hard- line European Islamist groups. French investigators say he was heavily armed with an assault rifle, nine magazines, a pistol, and a box cutter, all which of his attorney says he found in a park.
His attorney also told France's "Le Parisien" newspaper El-Khazzani only wanted to extort money from the passengers, and nothing else, saying the suggestion of terrorism -- quote -- "makes him almost laugh."
But for the passengers on board that train Friday, the risk was all too real.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At that time, it was either do something or die.
SAVIDGE: For two of those Americans who serve in the U.S. military, they're next going to Germany, the reason being that Stone, the one who was injured by the box cutter, needs further medical attention. He will get it at a U.S. medical base there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Three real American heroes preventing what could have been a massacre aboard that train. Thanks very much, Martin, for that report.
Let's bring in our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, who's also been doing some reporting on what's going on.
What are you learning about this attack suspect, Paul?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, authorities are probing his ties to radical extremists in Europe, but also extremist groups overseas.
They believe that he traveled in May of this year from Berlin to Istanbul in order to try and join the terrorist group ISIS in Syria. It's not clear whether he actually reached Syria. But one of the main lines of inquiry is whether he met with a French ISIS cell inside Turkey that has previously directed operatives to come back to Europe to launch attacks, for example, against Paris churches in April of this year.
Now, the plotter in that case was communicating back with that French ISIS cell and discussing attacking passenger trains -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's been a crazy situation, because there are a lot of individuals roaming around Europe right now that are suspect, that are under some sort of surveillance, right?
CRUICKSHANK: The numbers are just huge. Thousands and thousands are needed to be under observation, according to the security agencies. They only have the resources to monitor just a few 24/7, because just to monitor one or two or three suspects, you need hundreds of police officers, huge expense.
So, they're very, very worried about the numbers, more than 6,000 believed to have traveled from Europe to Syria and Iraq, and hundreds and hundreds have come back. Officials are saying that the threat is unprecedented and they're stretched increasingly thin. Very worrying times, Wolf.
BLITZER: And how much cooperation between European intelligence services, law enforcement agencies, are there? In other words, are the French telling the British telling the Dutch telling the Turks what's going on, who these individuals are?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, there is cooperation at the European level. They do share intelligence. But what they don't tend to share is raw intelligence, where the intelligence is coming from, sources and methods. Obviously, that can be absolutely vital. So they obviously need to improve their record in that regard.
When it comes to sharing intelligence with the Turks and getting information from the Turks, it's not a very encouraging situation at the moment, I'm told.
BLITZER: Unfortunately. All right, thanks very much, Paul Cruickshank doing some good reporting for us. Thank you.
Joining us, a leading member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
Do you have any indication, any information you're getting whether others were actually involved with this suspect on this high-speed train?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Wolf, all I can say is that is certainly being tracked down.
The important thing is, can they get his cell phone, can they get his computer, can they find out where he lived? But right now, I'm not aware of any particular findings they made. But I know that's what they are looking for, because the concern could be that this is part of a larger network, that more attacks are planned.
I'm not aware of any. I'm not trying to get that out there. What I'm saying is that's what the authorities are very concerned about, to see whether or not this was part of a larger effort, if there's any co- conspirators that are out there and poised to attack.
BLITZER: Can you confirm that this suspect, Ayoub El-Khazzani, who was well-armed, a lot of ammunition, had this box cutter, if you will, as well, traveled to Turkey in an effort to fight with is? KING: Oh, certainly, I have been told that. I have not been told
that in a classified briefing, but sources I have in the intelligence community, law enforcement community, have told me that.
And that certainly seems to be the case, that he did go through Turkey to Syria. And, Wolf, the danger here is that thousands, at least 5,000, or 6,000, 7,000 Europeans have gone to Syria. They're the ones we know about. There's others we don't know about. And they come back to Europe.
Europeans may not be able to track them, and also then, since they are visa-waiver countries, which means that those European citizens that come to the U.S. without having to get a visa, then that's the threat to us. I think in the last hour, Pamela Brown reported the threat that we could face here in the U.S., that he could have easily come to the U.S. as he can go to Paris.
BLITZER: Because we're getting some conflicting information whether or not -- we know he went to Turkey this year. Did he actually make it across the border into Syria? Do you know?
KING: I can't confirm that definitely. That -- certainly were reports that he had. And, again, whether or not he did -- it's still a while before we're going to get the final report on all this, Wolf.
The fact is he definitely was someone who was a suspicious character. He's certainly someone who should have been a person of interest, and he's the type of person that we really have to fear, both in Europe and here in the United States.
BLITZER: Are you satisfied with the cooperation that the U.S. and the other European countries, for that matter, are getting from the government of Turkey?
KING: No, I'm not, Wolf.
I don't believe that Turkey has cooperated enough at all. There is an Islamist element in their government. They are more cooperative now than they have been. But, certainly, I wouldn't put it anywhere near at the level of cooperation that we get from the British, or the French, the Dutch, the Australians. I can go through any number of other countries that are far more cooperative than the Turks are.
BLITZER: What about soft targets, especially trains here in the United States? You take a train from Washington to New York, you don't have to go through metal detectors, anything along those lines.
BLITZER: Should security be strengthened, given what's going on in Europe?
KING: Well, these are definitely soft targets. And no matter -- and there's no doubt that they are very vulnerable to attack.
How much more we can do as far as actually -- for instance, take New York City. We have three million, four million people every day on the subway system. There's over 1,000 entrances and exits on the subway system. Then you have the commuter lines, as you mentioned, Amtrak going from Washington, D.C., to New York. You go to Union Station, you go to Penn Station, there's no way you can have the level of security there that you have at an airport, where you have the choke points that people have to go through.
So it's always going to be difficult. And that's why I think we should at least institute random bag checks. We should have more bomb dogs on the trains themselves. And also, Wolf, it shows to me, though, to stop this type of attack, you almost have to stop it at its source, either overseas, which would require more military action, or here at home, where you have increased surveillance in the Muslim community, because that's where it's going to come from, to find out about it, get the intelligence beforehand, so that the police and law enforcement, the FBI can be in a position to stop these attacks.
If somebody makes it to a train station with a bomb or with a weapon which he's concealing, odds are he's going to make it. It's going to be -- the odds of stopping him are only one out of 10,000, probably, unless you have prior intel to be on the lookout for him or her.
BLITZER: Congressman, our Barbara Starr at the Pentagon is getting new information on the U.S. war contingency planning as far as the Korean Peninsula is concerned. I want you to stand by.
We have much more coming up. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with Congressman Peter King of New York. He's a leading member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.
Congressman, stand by.
North Korea and South Korea, they have struck a new deal as tensions threaten to explode at the most heavily armed border in the world. And we're learning just how worried the United States is about the danger of a full-scale war.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She broke this story for us.
What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for the last several days, the Pentagon secretly watched as the North Korean military went on the move and the U.S. scrambled to figure out what to do about it.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice-over): CNN has learned just how worried top U.S. commanders were that North Korean threats of military action were dangerously escalating.
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: It was a very tense several days. And we were mindful of that.
STARR: When the U.S. saw the North Koreans mobilize key military units, U.S. commanders took the rare step over the weekend of ordering an immediate review of the war plan to defend the South.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Any time the North Koreans start playing games like this, you have got to take it seriously, because you don't know what their next step will be.
STARR: Beginning late Thursday, U.S. intelligence satellite imagery and electronic signals monitoring showed disturbing North Korean military movements, including activation of some air defense radars that might be able to detect incoming aircraft, deployment of additional artillery pieces near the DMZ.
The concern, North Korean artillery could hit population centers such as Seoul in the South, signs of a potential preparation for a Scud missile launch and dozens of warships and submarines headed out to sea.
KIRBY: Now it's up to the North to act and not simply just make assurances with respect to their own military activities there along the border.
STARR: U.S. officials tell CNN they had two major worries. First, the North Koreans took the unusual step of giving a specific deadline for threatening to attack the South if it did not stop loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts, and, second, that the South Korean government was considering military retaliation in addition to artillery shells it lobbed at an empty field near the DMZ after its soldiers were hurt in a mine attack from the North.
STARR: Now, U.S. officials tell me they took a couple of additional steps, reviewing the war plan in part to reassure the South Koreans, and they did show them the latest intelligence about the North Koreans on the move, all of this in effort to get the situation de-escalated. The hope, of course, now is that peace agreement holds -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope. Let's hope it does, in fact. Barbara, good reporting. Thank you.
Let's bring back Congressman Peter King.
Congressman, Kim Jong-un apparently showed some diplomacy in reaching this tentative deal. What do you think? Is this a promising step?
KING: I think it's hard to say anything is promising when it comes to Kim Jong-un. Again, war was averted and a crisis has been toned down. Why he did
it, I think we have got to have a psychiatrist try to figure that out. Let's just be hopeful and say maybe he's doing the right thing.
My own belief on this, Wolf, was I don't know if he ever intended to really go to war or fire any shots. I think often he does these things to justify the existence of a wartime regime to his people. The danger is, though, once these things start, once these -- even if it's a phony crisis, once they start, they can get out of control. That's why the U.S. military was 1000 percent right in doing what they did.
One, it reassures the South Koreans. Secondly, it lets the North Koreans know that we're very serious about defending South Korea. And also it basically is a strong show of strength to all our allies in Asia that the U.S. is very serious about this.
BLITZER: I know you're privy to the best analysis that the U.S. intelligence community have. Is it the sense that Kim Jong-un, this young leader of North Korea, is a lot more unpredictable than his father was?
KING: Yes, well, there's a consensus, I believe, that he's immature, to an extent, that he still does not have the same sense of confidence that his father had. And that's why you see some of the real -- really internal brutal measures that he's taken against people in his own family, people in his own government, and also some of this needless provocation.
Now, I say needless because, in the larger picture, it serves no purpose. I think he's very concerned about his own position, letting people in the regime know how powerful he is, and that's why -- and also he's concerned that more and more people in North Korea are going to realize that society is better outside their borders.
And that's why he has to justify using the oppressive measures he does, though would say he's holding off a South Korean attack or he's resisting South Korean aggression. But, again, I'm giving you my views. And there's nothing official in what I'm telling you. This is what I have picked up from people.
But, still, it's very hard to figure him out. I don't think anyone in the government claims, really anyone in the Western world, fully understands him.
BLITZER: As you know, there are nearly 30,000 U.S. troops stationed along the DMZ in South Korea. They're in between almost one million South Korean troops, one million North Korean troops, with enormous amounts of artillery, missiles, rockets. Forget about the North Korean nuclear capabilities. Would you agree that this is the most dangerous spot on earth right now?
KING: You know, it certainly can be, because you're talking about a madman in the North. And, again, while, like I just said, I don't believe he intended this crisis to lead to war, the fact is it could have. And things can spiral out of control.
So, yes, for U.S. troops, it's a very dangerous, precarious position to be in. I think it's important for us to have those troops there. And I think the best way to protect them is for North Korea to be convinced that there will be massive, massive retaliation against them if they launch any kind of attack against the South and put American troops at risk.
BLITZER: Let me shift gears quickly, a quick political question for you.
The Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, says that having Donald Trump in this GOP presidential contest has been, in his words, a net positive for the Republican Party. Do you agree with him on that?
KING: Actually, I do.
Listen, I don't agree with everything Donald Trump says, but he's making other Republicans go off their talking points. He's appealing to real people. And I'm saying this as a New Yorker. He may be a billionaire from the East Side of Manhattan, but he talks like the guys that I grew up with in Queens and Brooklyn. He talks like a real person.
And that's resonating. Now, how this is going to play out between now and the primaries, I don't know. But I think he's forcing the other candidates to be more real and to get off their talking points and address issues that the American people are concerned about.
BLITZER: You haven't endorsed any of these Republicans yet, have you?
KING: No, I haven't. No.
BLITZER: But it sounds like you like Donald Trump.
KING: Well, listen, I like him. I will be honest with you. He's contributed to my campaigns.
When I was having the Islamist radicalization hearings a few years ago, he was one of the only people in public life who strongly defended me. But, again, I think Governor Bush is a good candidate. I think Marco Rubio is a good candidate, and John Kasich, Carly Fiorina.
BLITZER: Not necessarily Rand Paul or Ted Cruz, right?
KING: Absolutely not, no, never for Rand Paul, never for Ted Cruz.
BLITZER: All right, Peter King, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.
KING: OK, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, is Joe Biden sending hints that he's ready to run for president of the United States? We're going to tell you what we're hearing from our sources and from the top spokesman at the White House.
And Jeb Bush visits the U.S.-Mexican border, doesn't waste any time going after Donald Trump and his immigration stance. Is Jeb Bush's message getting through, though, to Republican voters?
BLITZER: Vice President Joe Biden is sending some new signals tonight that he might actually take the plunge and run for president of the United States. Momentum appears to be building for him to challenge Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. And that's testing loyalties within the White House, where both Biden and the president met for lunch today.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is joining us now from the lawn of the White House. How did it go, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is testing loyalties at the White House because on the one hand, Joe Biden is a beloved figure at the White House. On the other hand, there are a lot of questions about whether he could pull it off if he decides to get into the race.
Officially, Joe Biden's office is saying no decision has been made as of yet. And any speculation to the contrary is false. Biden did get a lot of praise in the White House briefing room today, but no endorsement.
JOHNS (voice-over): Joe Biden arrived at the White House today with a lot on his mind. His weekly lunch with the president in the Oval Office taking on new meaning, with speculation swirling about whether he will run.
EARNEST: Everybody is pretty interested to find out, is what decision the vice president is going to make. The president has indicated his view that the decision to add Joe Biden to the ticket as his running mate was the smartest decision that he'd ever made in politics.
JOHNS: A Democratic source in touch with Biden's associates tells CNN the vice president is now leaning more toward running for president than against it. The buzz about a possible Biden candidacy has intensified after his secret meeting with influential liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren this weekend.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She's a leading voice in our party for progressive values and progressive issues; and I'm not surprised that Joe Biden and others will seek her counsel.
JOHNS: So far the Massachusetts senator has refused to endorse frontrunner Hillary Clinton, saying this last week.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don't think anybody's been anointed, you know? What I want to see is I want to see all of the presidential candidates lay out where they stand on key issues. JOHNS: Biden associates see a possible opening because Clinton has
been battling trust issues with voters over her e-mail controversy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you wipe the server?
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What, like with a cloth or something?
JOHNS: The latest CNN/ORC poll shows 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton, while 43 percent view Biden that way. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders sees Clinton's numbers as helping him.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the evidence is pretty clear, we are gaining. What the polls seem to indicate is that Hillary Clinton's support seems to be receding.
JOHNS: Biden still would face major hurdles if he got into the race this late, raising enough money and quickly starting up an organization. In the last few weeks, he's been talking to advisers and supporters about whether a run is realistic.
Biden has been told he needs to make a discussion by October 1. One plan would have him announce his intentions the first week of October.
JOHNS: Fundraising is one of the big Biden obstacles. It was once a challenge for him. CNN's John King confirming a "Washington Post" report this evening that after Labor Day, Biden does plan to sit down with some top Democratic fundraisers to talk about things -- Wolf.
[17:35:07] BLITZER: Yes, if he's serious he's got to start raising some money, and the clock is clearly ticking. Joe Johns at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our national political reporter, Maeve Reston. Also joining us, our political reporter Sara Murray; our politics executive editor Mark Preston; and Jamelle Bouie is the chief political correspondent for "Slate" magazine. Guys, thanks very much.
Is there a path for Biden that you see, Maeve, if he decides, even at this late date, to jump into this contest?
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, certainly, it will be a challenge jumping in this late. But obviously, Biden has a lot of advantages that other candidates don't.
Yes, it's true that he had trouble raising money some time ago. But he's now been sitting in office. He's got that entire Obama network, potentially, to tap.
And what I'm hearing from a lot of donors out here on the West Coast is that there is a certain degree of nervousness about Hillary Clinton, about her e-mails, and the fact that -- the feeling that her organization should have gotten more in front of that than they did. And so I think a lot of people would like to see Joe Biden enter the
race and see how he fares. You know, particularly going up against someone like Donald Trump. And if he gets to that point, then there's a scenario where he could wait a little longer, and the money will follow, if he makes arguments that are compelling enough to top Democrats.
BLITZER: And that first Democratic presidential debate is in mid- October. So he's got to make a decision, presumably, before that.
Jamelle, you've suggested that he's unlikely in the end to beat Hillary Clinton, but he would make her, if he jumped into the race, a better candidate? Explain.
JAMELLE BOUIE, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "SLATE": I think it's true. Joe Biden is a sitting vice president. He's a very formidable campaigner. He's great on the stomp; he's great on the trail. Hillary Clinton would really have to compete now. She'd really have to -- she doesn't -- Bernie Sanders or Martin O'Malley. This is someone has the same kind of national political experience that she does. And that, you know, that is harder to beat. And I think she'd probably win in the end, but it would really sharpen her skills for a general election.
BLITZER: How surprising, how important was that Saturday lunch, that meeting that the vice president had with Senator Elizabeth Warren? He came back from Delaware for that meeting. It was supposed to be secret. But Jeff Zeleny, our political reporter, he broke that news. How significant was that?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Let's look at it two ways. One, let's not overplay what the meeting was. I'm sure Elizabeth Warren has met, will meet with all the candidates.
But what is significant is that a week ago we were sitting here, and we were talking about Joe Biden; and most of us saying we didn't think that Joe Biden was serious about getting in. I've got did tell you, you know, go seven days later, and it really does appear that Joe Biden is serious about getting in. I mean, there's a lot that he has to think about. And really, I think that the driving force is going to be whatever one of those final conversations he had, you know, with his son before his son passed away.
BLITZER: Yes, that -- he's got to go through that period, as well.
If Elizabeth Warren, Sara, were to endorse him or even privately say to him, "If you jump into this race I'm with you," that would be a significant development for him.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that would certainly be helpful, and it would be sort of another thing he needs to be able to say, "Look, I can wage a viable campaign. I have people that are already signing onto my team who could make a difference."
But I think, like Mark said, this is a personal decision. You have to decide to put your family through this, to put yourself through this, and feel like, if you're Joe Biden, you actually have a shot. It's not worth it for someone like him to go through it if you just think you have no chance. And so I think that that is really what we're seeing him weigh at this point as he talks to people like Elizabeth Warren, as he gets ready to meet with donors.
BOUIE: Add to that his big problem in his past is his stance on the drug war, his stance on mass incarceration, his role in really pushing these prison reforms in the '90s and the '80s that right now the Democratic Party is turning against. And so I think that's something he really should consider seriously before he decides to jump in.
BLITZER: How did you read, Maeve, the very strong words coming from the White House press secretary today. Josh Earnest, when he was asked about this luncheon meeting that was going on between the president and the vice president, the Elizabeth Warren development, all this speculation now mounting that Joe Biden might actually run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And all of a sudden, we heard the White House press secretary say, the best political decision the president made was asking Joe Biden to be his vice-presidential running mate.
RESTON: Which of course has been said before many times. But it's a totally different context now.
I think that what that told us and what a lot of these signals have told us is that this is not a done deal for Hillary Clinton. And that there's enough people out there that want to see her sharpen up her skills and would maybe like to see Biden jump into the race.
I mean, the meeting with Warren, for example. They could have just had a phone call that nobody knew about. But obviously, people are sending out trial balloons here and trying to see whether there really is a path for Joe Biden to the nomination and whether Democrats should feel more comfortable with him than they do with Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: And as you know, Sara, there are some Democrats out there who are worried, if this e-mail controversy gets out of control, that she could be vulnerable.
MURRAY: Yes, I think that's absolutely right. And it's not just Democrats. I mean, it's Democrats leading -- leading into independents. When you go to events and you're at a Donald Trump rally, like I was last week, and someone's there saying, "I'm trying to decide between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but I'm worried about Hillary and the e-mails," that's a problem for the Democratic Party, to be bleeding that support over to a Republican in the race.
[18:40:22] BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We have more to discuss. There's other developments happening. What, if anything, for example, can Jeb Bush say to drown out Donald Trump's fiery talk about immigration? We're going to discuss Jeb Bush's new message at the U.S.-Mexican border today and whether it will actually translate into votes.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:45:18] BLITZER: New tonight, Jeb Bush takes his immigration war with Donald Trump to the U.S./Mexican border. Bush is using the visit to drive home his differences with Trump on the defining issue in the Republican presidential race, at least right now.
CNN's Polo Sandoval is joining us live from the border of McAllen, in Texas.
So, how did it go, Polo?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I tell you what, Wolf. Jeb Bush wasting no time immediately out of the gate here. He went straight for his strongest opponent. He quickly criticized Donald Trump's immigration policy, saying it is not the answer to solving some problems in some of the border communities like the one we're in tonight.
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have to have a much deeper strategy than just building a fence.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): It didn't take long for Jeb Bush to go on the offense during his day stop at the South Texas border city of McAllen. The former Florida governor went straight for his fellow candidate Donald Trump's immigration policy.
BUSH: Mr. Trump's plans are not grounded in conservative principles. It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It's not realistic. I welcome Mr. Trump into the debate. I think that's great. He's a serious candidate. He ought to be held to what serious candidates need to be held to. He needs to be held to account for his views.
SANDOVAL: From immigration to border security, Bush sought to show his deep fluency with the issue dominating the Republican race, frequently using Spanish to answer reporters' questions.
(JEB BUSH SPEAKING SPANISH)
SANDOVAL: Bush again defended his controversial use of the term "anchor baby" to describe children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents, comments that have been under fire from Democrats.
BUSH: This is ludicrous for the Clinton campaign and others to suggest that somehow I'm using a derogatory term. What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there's organized efforts, and frankly it's more related to Asian people, coming into our country, having children, in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, birthright citizenship. I support the 14th Amendment.
SANDOVAL: Bush's visit comes after Trump flew his signature plane down to Laredo, Texas, that's another border city. He toured the dividing line between the U.S. and Mexico in the midst of a media frenzy.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a tremendous danger on the border with the illegals coming in.
SANDOVAL: Trump today needling his fellow GOP candidate.
TRUMP: I was down on the border. It's rough, tough stuff. This is not love. This is other things going on. And I think he'll probably be able to figure that out, maybe.
SANDOVAL: And another significant difference here between the Trump and Bush visits to the border, Jeb did not actually visit the border itself, even though the restaurant that he spoke in behind me is really only about six miles from here. His campaign staff saying, Wolf, that he's already toured the border, he knows about the dynamics and the problems there in America's front lines of this battle for the border and really today, it was not necessary to travel to it.
But he does continue on the campaign trail, he's now heading to Colorado for yet another campaign stuff -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Polo, thanks very much. Polo Sandoval near the border, the U.S./Mexico border.
We'll take a quick break, full analysis, much more news coming up right after this.
[18:53:12] BLITZER: We're back with our national political reporter Maeve Reston, our political reporter Sara Murray, and our politics executive editor, Mark Preston, Jamelle Bouie of "Slate Magazine".
Mark, Jeb Bush had some nice words to say about Donald Trump. He's a serious candidate. But he also said he needs to be held accountable for his views.
Is this a new strategy that Jeb Bush has in dealing with Trump?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Right, the back-handed compliment. You know, I spoke to one of Jeb Bush's advisors a short time ago. He said, expect more of this now in the coming weeks, in the coming months. What they think or at least what they say is that Trump has been able to really tap into the anger and frustration of the summer doldrums.
But when people start focusing on the real issues of the campaign, that they're going to turn to Jeb Bush. But I do think it's worth saying that Donald Trump is correct in saying this, that Jeb Bush doesn't really seem to have the energy when he delivers the message.
So, when you have Donald Trump out there, he's a better performer than Jeb Bush is. I do think there's something to be set for that.
BLITZER: Donald Trump keeps making fun of Jeb Bush, that he's so weak and doesn't have much energy and he's sort of passive, if you will.
But we are seeing a little bit more of maybe a sharper demeanor on the part of the Jeb Bush. SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, he is definitely being more
aggressive. And it's clear that his campaign has sort of decided, we're just going to take Trump on, head on, and we're going to be the anti-Trump.
But it was interesting, I was talking to a fundraiser for Jeb Bush earlier today who was saying, I'm not sure that this is really the right strategy. It sort of makes Jeb looked a little bit a like he's back into a corner, make him look a little angrier, a little more defensive. And while you do want a candidate that's passionate, that's energetic about making their argument, this person doesn't feel like Jeb really performs at his best when he is defensive.
And I think we have seen the flashes of angry Jeb Bush at town halls and things like that, and that's why he wants to be the happy warrior, and not angry and defensive Jeb Bush.
[18:55:00] BLITZER: And you saw, Maeve, once again whenever reporters ask him about his use of the phrase "baby anchor", it deeply irritates him. Anchor baby, I should say.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It does, and you do see flashes of irritation. But at the same time, the big problem that we were hearing from Jeb's perspective from voters was that they weren't seeing enough energy, they weren't seeing enough fire from him. Today, he did show more of that energy and also the fluency going back and forth in English and Spanish.
I mean, we have to think about the fact that Jeb, yes, he is competing with Donald Trump and he wants to be in the ring with Donald Trump right now. But in the long run, the group of Republican voters that he's going to pull from is probably going to be a different segment of that population. And that's who he is really performing for today.
He is saying, look at me, I'm the contrast. I can bring it on this issue. And I'm going to be the stronger candidate in the long run in the general election.
Whether or not Republican voters buy that argument remains to be seen. But we're not really talking about any of the other Republican candidates right now other than Trump and Jeb. So, that's something.
BLITZER: Well, the national polls, those are the two frontrunners, I should point out.
Jamelle, Donald Trump also released a new Instagram video today targeting Jeb Bush. Let me play a clip from there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to see him run?
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: No. I really don't. I think it's a great country. There are a lot of great families. There are just -- there are other people out there that are very qualified. We've had enough Bushes. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
JAMELLE BOUIE, SLATE MAGAZINE: I mean, first, I'm impressed that the Trump campaign such that it is can deftly use social media that well. I can't imagine any other Republicans doing an Instagram hit like that.
I will say that it's not a bad point. But at this point, it's sort irrelevant, right? Jeb Bush is in the race. Trump is running against him.
And based on where he is in every single national poll, this is second place, I think to me that's a sign that a sizable number of Republican voters see him as basically electable. And that when it comes down to making that final choice later this year, early next year about who they really think is going to be able to beat Hillary Clinton, Jeb is well positioned to do that. And his last name doesn't matter that much to all those voters.
BLITZER: We're getting word from our Jeff Zeleny, Maeve, but let me get your reaction to this, that he is quoting a senior Democratic source as saying that the president, when he had lunch today with the vice president, gave the vice president the green light to go ahead and consider running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
What do you make of that?
RESTON: That it's again not a done deal at all. And remember, think about how much Joe Biden did for Barack Obama, right? I mean, it's going to be really tough for President Obama to navigate this fight. But he kind of owes it to Biden, to let him throw his hat in the ring, if that's what Biden wants to do. I think it would make it a much more interesting race and potentially sharpen up Hillary Clinton in a way that some of her people think would be good thing for her.
BLITZER: Mark, what do you think? The specific words of Jeff Zeleny's reporting is that the president gave his blessings to Joe Biden to go ahead and think about running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
PRESTON: In some ways, it's ridiculous, right? Because Joe Biden was elected to the U.S. Senate and Joe Biden is mulling a bid. What is important, though, I think is that Obama is not stopping it. That would have been the news for him to go in the story that leaked that Barack Obama said for the good of the party, for the good of the nation, Joe, please step back.
But the idea that he is giving the green light to Joe Biden, which we all know -- Joe Biden is going to do what Joe Biden wants.
BLITZER: What do you think, Jamelle? BOUIE: I think it's basically right. I mean, the idea that Joe Biden needs the green light to think about it, it seems like Joe Biden is constantly thinking about something like this. So --
BLITZER: I think Joe Biden has been thinking about it for decades.
MURRAY: I thought he was already mulling this. So, you know --
BLITZER: If you are vice president of the United States for 6 1/2 years, going into seven years --
MURRAY: It may cross your mind.
BLITZER: You would think that -- everybody should be automatically thinking you might want to be president of the United States.
MURRAY: I think that's where we saw so many trial balloons so early is because Joe Biden's name wasn't out there in the ring and now it is.
BLITZER: I'm sure he was not necessarily -- what were you saying, Maeve?
RESTON: I mean, I think that's exactly right. All of these signs that we're seeing, that's exactly what they are. They are trial balloons. And we should pay attention to them. Obviously, Hillary Clinton's campaign needs to be paying attention as well.
BLITZER: Signs increasingly growing that this race for the Democratic presidential nomination could add the vice president of the United States. We will know sooner rather than later.
All right. Guys, thanks very much.
An important note to our viewers, the Republican presidential candidates now only a few weeks away from their second debate. It will air here on CNN September 16th live from the Reagan Library in California.
Also, CNN will host the first Democratic presidential debate on October 13th in Nevada. Stick around.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitroom.
Please be sure to join us tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.