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Poll: Hillary Clinton Pulls Ahead of Bernie Sanders; Interview with Rand Paul; New Concerns over TSA Effectiveness; Yazidis Face Brutal Winter on Mt. Sinjar. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 3, 2015 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And she is now in front of Bernie Sanders and back in September she was behind but now she is ahead within the margin of error, and she is doing better. And looking at women, in September, 42 percent to Bernie Sanders at 48 percent over Sanders at 45 percent and now she's at 56 among women in New Hampshire to 37 percent. And among older voters vote better than younger people -- and older people vote more than younger people -- she was behind 42-47 in September and now she is ahead of Bernie Sanders, 56-38. So she has come through as a result of the presidential debate, her Benghazi testimony, and Biden not running, and she's doing well in neighboring Vermont, New Hampshire.

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: And also picked up on one of the weakest points with the Democrats, and that is the gun control issue. She is also playing that as a wedge issue, and worked it up very, very welsh and in fact, yesterday, she was meeting with the families who lost their kids a African-American families who lost their kids.

BLITZER: You assume she will be the nominee?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that she is strongly positioned to be the nominee. When you looked at the field, everybody was weak compared to Hillary Clinton. She gave a very good performance.

BLITZER: And Donald Trump said he is going to be the nominee and looks forward to beating her. And we will watch it obviously very close.

Guys, thank you for coming in.

SCHLAPP: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll have more on the Reupblican debate controversy coming up. My next guest says that debates should be discussions, serious discussions, and he does not want moderators, and he is Rand Paul up there on Capitol Hill. We will talk about, that and talk about what is going on in Syria, and other issues. My interview with Rand Paul when we come back.


[13:35:58] BLITZER: President Obama trying to clarify the decision to deploy Special Forces to fight opposition forces fighting ISIS. In the first comments, the president said that the deployment decision is not a violation of the 2013 promise not the put boots on the ground.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, keep in mind that we have run Special Ops already. Really, this is an extension of what we are continuing to do. We are not putting U.S. troops on the front lines fighting firefights with ISIL.


BLITZER: Let's discuss this other -- other topics with the Republican presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: The U.S. and its allies, they're continuing airstrikes against the Islamic State, ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. If you were elected president, would you continue to participate in those kinds of airstrikes?

PAUL: The first thing I would do is obey the Constitution. I think what President Obama is doing is unconstitutional. Our Founding Fathers were very clear that the initiation of war, the beginning of war, the declaration of war should be from the people's House, from Congress. And so even President Obama agreed with this when he ran for office in 2007 when he said no president should unilaterally go to war without the approval of Congress. He doesn't agree with that so much anymore. But that's a real problem for me. I think Congress should debate and vote on whether we go back to war in the Middle East.

BLITZER: If you were president, would you seek such authorization?

PAUL: I wouldn't send boots on the ground. I am against sending American - the sons and daughters of America back over there. I think the last war in Iraq actually made it more chaotic and made us less safe. So I think if we want to be safer as a country and safer as a people, I don't think sending 500,000 troops back into there is a good idea nor do I think sending 50 is, in fact. I think if you are going to war, sending 50 people to war at a time is sort of a recipe for being surrounded and somehow having a disaster on your hands. So I would never put underwhelming force. If we went to war and there was a declaration of war, I would put overwhelming force. I wouldn't mess around.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some other issues. President Obama says he will order federal employers to "Ban the Boxes," it's called. That's the box which asks job applicants if they have a criminal felony record on job applications. He says it makes it way too difficult for prisoners who have served their time and want to the start all over to get a job with the federal government. Are you with him on that?

PAUL: I'm with him on a lot of the criminal justice reform, and on individual companies advising them to do it voluntarily, yes, I'm for that. For the federal government doing it, you know, mostly yes. I think there can always be exceptions to every rule. Obviously, you know, federal child care and things like that, there have to be more stringent rules on who can be hired, but I think a guy who smoked pot or sold marijuana when they were 20 years old deserves a second chance and so I'm a big believer in second chances, and I think that if we want people to be employed and not back in the drug trade, we should allow their records to be expunged and go away, give them a second chance, particularly if we're talking about non-violent crime.

BLITZER: Did the president do the right thing releasing several thousand prisoners who had non-violent records serving long-terms largely for drug sales or drug use, drug abuse or whatever, or do you agree with Bill Bratton, the New York City police commissioner, that releasing all these prisoners poses a danger to the public?

PAUL: No, I generally favorite it. I don't want to say I know every instance of everyone who got released, because I don't want to be responsible for that because I haven't looked at their records. But in general, yes, I think they should be. Many of these people are minorities, African-Americans who got sentenced, sometimes two, three, four, five times longer than their white counterparts because there is a disparity in sentencing in between crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

There are some people in our prisons who are black, primarily, who were given sentences of 10 and 15 years where as a white kid that was going to college and using powder cocaine got six months or probation. That's still not fair, and the fact that the president is correcting some of that, I commend him and would support that. I do not want to support every individual instance because I haven't have time to look at every file to make sure it was the correct decision.

[13:40:24] BLITZER: Your friend, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, he posted a viral video of you doing that filibuster the other night, trying to stop the budget deal from going through. You failed because the final vote was 64-35, you need 60 to break that filibuster. But just explain, what would you have done with the all those debts that the U.S. has accumulated? Would the U.S. have defaulted on those debts potentially undermining America's credit rating, which would have cost the American public a lot?

PAUL: One of the things that is extraordinary that I still don't completely understand about the internet is that, you know, I filibustered raising the debt ceiling. My friend Senator Lee put up a snippet of that and 21 million people saw this snippet. This is more people than watched the last Republican debate. So it is fascinating to me that you can stand up, make your stand at 2:00 in the morning when no regular news coverage covered me at all, and yet 21 million people saw this.

If I were in charge, I wouldn't raise the debt ceiling. That means we'd balance our budget. We would have to spend what comes in. We have about $250 billion that comes in every month. Our interest payment ranges between 30 and about 60 billion a month. We always have plenty of money for interest. There's no reason to default. In fact, I have a bill that specifically says we should pay the interest, we should pay Medicare, Social Security, soldiers' salaries and Veterans Affairs all as a priority and then we should debate, we should have a long drawn-out debate on whether or not we should reform our government.

But I think it's irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling and also raise the spending caps. We went exactly the wrong direction and I have been traveling the country and I have not met a Republican yet who supports raising the debt ceiling and raising spending at the same time.

BLITZER: 24 million people saw the last Republican debate. That was on CNN. 25 million saw the first Republican debate. So your 21 million that saw your viral video is close, but it is not more than saw the Republican debates. Just want to point that out.

PAUL: We are still working on it. Maybe we'll get there. We'll see.

BLITZER: Maybe you'll get there if you keep people - keep going, take a look at that video. I'm sure after this interview more people will take a closer look at that as well.

Ben Carson is now ahead, at least in the second national poll, of Donald Trump. This new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows Trump now trailing Carson by six points. Marco Rubio is in third, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, all in single digits. You are down there, but you're struggling right now. Why are you still struggling?

PAUL: You know, I think it is still early, believe it or not. We've been talking about this for a year or more, but it is still pretty early in the decision-making process. Every one of the polls that you have cited, 2/3 of the people are undecided and the pollster says, well, no, who are you leaning towards? So it is still a poll of leaners among undecided voters. It will crystallize in January. If I'm here in the third week in January, we'll be worried. But we still think there is a great deal of movement to have. I think many Republicans don't believe that Ben Carson or Donald Trump will ultimately be the nominee. So we still think there will be a reshuffling of the deck.

We have a lot of support among students and a lot of support among independents. We don't think they show up or we think they're underrepresented in these polls because I have yet to meet a college kid that ever answered a presidential poll. So we think we still have a chance. We are working very hard with students. Also, I think I represent a position that is not represented by anyone else in the field in that I am not going to send us back to war in Iraq, and I'm the only Republican saying we won't go back to war in Iraq. I'm the only Republican saying, you know what, if you are really a fiscal conservative, you have to save money on the military side and on the domestic welfare side.

BLITZER: Very quickly. We are out of time. But is it true, you don't want a moderator or moderators at these Republican presidential debates?

PAUL: Not exactly true. I just suggested it as an alternative. I think it might be an interesting debate to put five candidates around the table, and then put another five candidates around the table, let them have an hour long discussion, but let each of them speak their mind. For example, we all have tax plans and I had to really bully my way in to get 30 seconds to present my tax plan and I was the first one out there with a flat tax that gets rid of the entire tax code and gets rid of the IRS and I want to be a part of that discussion, and because we do too many gotcha questions, we don't get a chance for a full discussion, I think, of the issues.

BLITZER: Rand Paul, thanks very much for joining us.

PAUL: Thanks, Wolf.

[13:49:50]BLITZER: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

By the way, Jeb Bush is going to sit down with our Jamie Gangell in "The Situation Room." And we will air that at 5:00 p.m. eastern, and also at 9:00 p.m. eastern with "Anderson Cooper 360." Be sure to watch.

We'll take a quick break. More news right after this.


BLITZER: New concerns are being raised by a government watchdog agency here in Washington over the effectiveness of screening methods at American airports. The new report says the NTSB and TSA hasn't properly assessed if their airport security and technology methods are actually effective. That includes the agency's terror watch list and technology used at the check points.

In a hearing on Capitol Hill, Congressman John Mica said the TSA has become bloated and has lost its focus.


[13:50:] REP. JOHN MICA, (R), FLORIDA: You need to get out of the personnel business and back into the security business, turning TSA back into doing the things that will save us, the intelligence gathering, setting the parameters for someone else. You're not a very good personnel agency, nor will you be. The recruitment is horrible, the retention is horrible. It just goes on and on.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh.

What's the TSA saying?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: They are pushing back, but they say they will increase training and improve training. The government watchdog group that we're talking about is the government accountability office. They testified this morning on Capitol Hill and they have been highlighting some shortcomings that they found with the agency. They say TSA has not evaluated effectiveness of new screening technologies. They also say that the TSA has no consistent performance measures for their flight programs that matches passenger's needs against the terror watch list.

And it also says that TSA has failed to use data to identify opportunities for improvement. As you know, since September 11th, billions of dollars have been spent on aviation security, but the GAP is saying bottom line that many of TSA's screening methods are being propped up as effective, but they don't have a measure of effectiveness so how do you know that it works if you haven't truly tested or analyzed it. The TSA is pushing back. We want to be fair to them 37 the head of the TSA saying they have retrained their whole front line work office and they are continuing to increase and enhance training for new hires.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens.

Rene, thank you very much.

As local Iraqi fighters prepare to launch an offensive to retake their homes from ISIS, their families brace for another type of threat as they hide out on a mountain overlooking their town. We have the incredible story when we come back.


[13:56:32] BLITZER: They have been stranded near Mt. Sinjar for over a year, but now Yazidi fighters are preparing for an offensive against ISIS.

Our Nima Elbagir has the story.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These slopes claimed the lives of dozens of children last winter. This year, the Yazidis are bracing themselves for the worst.

BUHA SABRI, YAZIDI WOMAN (through translation): The mountain is so cold. You can see there is nothing up there.

ELBAGIR: Buha is 30. She and her nine daughters escaped the ISIS onslaught last year. This year, she says she worries it will be the mountain winter that kills them.

(on camera): Buha was telling me that 17 of them live in this tiny, tarp-lined tent. Everything that you see here, the clothing they're wearing, the pots, pans, this is it. This is all that they have in the world. And they are facing another incredibly brutal winter up here on the mountain.

Smoke plumes rise over Sinjar. Coalition air strikes intensifying as preparations begin for the push to retake the town.

(voice-over): Sinjar and the mountain that looms over it are the heart of the homeland of the Yazidi minority. In the mountain's foothills, the Yazidi men are training for the fight ahead.

The mountain shelters their holiest shrine, the shrine of the founder. It also falls along a crucial ISIS supply route, linking ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Last year, the world watched as thousands of Yazidis were massacred during the ISIS push for Sinjar. Hundreds of Yazidi girls are still held by ISIS fighters as slaves.

Buha believes her sister and two teenage nieces are among the captives. Every moment in her day, no matter the task, she told us, it is spent thinking about them.

As the offensive draws nearer, she worries they're still in the town below her.

SABRI (through translation): Where are they? Will they take them further away? Will they be caught in the fighting?

ELBAGIR: Below, the Yazidi soldiers are standing guard. Many of the fighters here have families up on the mountain slopes above.


ELBAGIR: Today, a local folk singer has come to rally them. But they know too well what they're fighting for, their very existence. Ill- equipped and poorly supplied, the force commander tells us they need all the help they can get.

KHEIROU KHALAF, FORCE COMMANDER (through translation): We need international support, especially now. We stood against ISIS with nothing but machine guns. We were against a huge enemy. We stood strong. We need your help.

ELBAGIR: For now, the Yazidis are clinging on, desperate to stay within sight of their abandoned homes. Zero hour is approaching. They are getting ready. Everyone hopes this will be over soon, even as they prepare themselves for what awaits them in the town below.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Mt. Sinjar.


[13:59:57] BLITZER: Nima, thanks very much.

That's it for me. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. in "The Situation Room."

For our international viewers, "Amanpour" is next.

For our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.