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North Korea Claims It Tested Hydrogen Bomb; Interview with Representative Adam Schiff; Trump Raises Birther Questions About Cruz; Trump: Let China Solve Problem of North Korea; One-on-One with Donald Trump. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 6, 2016 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The nuclear weapons it's exploded so far. Experts are skeptical but the world is outraged and Kim Jong-Un's regime may face harsh new punishment.

One-on-one with Trump. I asked the GOP frontrunner what he would do about the North Korean nuclear threat, how he would handle America's plague of gun violence and the details of his plan to build a wall along America's southern border.

And citizen Cruz. Donald Trump is dusting off the so-called birther argument against his leading rival. Ted Cruz says the fact that he was born in Canada to an American mother does not disqualify him from the presidency. Are they headed for a showdown.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: The breaking news in this earth-shaking announcement from North Korea that it's tested a hydrogen bomb potentially hundreds of times more powerful than the nuclear weapons it's tested before. The earth did shake. Seismic monitors picked up clear indications of a massive underground explosion but the White House calls the date inconsistent with the H-bomb claim. Still, there's a chorus of condemnation from the around the world and urgent meeting at the United Nations and a push for tough new sanctions on Kim Jong-Un's regime.

And my interview with Donald Trump. I asked if he'd launch a preemptive strike against the North or remove American troops from the Korean Peninsula. We also talked about immigration and gun control. And you'll hear what the GOP frontrunner has to say about his rivals including his hints that Ted Cruz may not be qualified to even run for president that he may not necessarily be a natural-born citizen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope that doesn't happen, and he's got this cloud over his head, I don't think it's going to be possible for him to do very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: I'll speak with the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the days' top stories. But let's begin with North Korea's stunning claim that it has tested a hydrogen bomb that's bringing world-wide condemnation and a threat of punishment.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, there's a lot of skepticism about this claim.


BLITZER: But even if it's a normal nuclear test, why would Kim Jong- Un takes such a dangerous step right now?

TODD: Wolf, that is what intelligence agencies from Washington to Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing are all scrambling to find out tonight. Analysts are telling us the North Koreans likely did this now because they probably just cleared some technical hurdles. But Kim Jong-Un is also trying to fend off some very powerful external and potentially internal rivals. And experts believe that's why this violent unpredictable young leader took this very dangerous step.


TODD (voice-over): With an explosion the size of a moderate earthquake and the uncontainable glee of a state news anchor, Kim Jong-Un makes his rivals shutter and sends intelligence agencies scrambling. A senior U.S. official tells CNN North Korea's nuclear test, whether it's a hydrogen bomb or not, is very concerning. Analysts give a stark assessment of the danger.

MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: North Korea is moving ever closer to a deliverable nuclear warhead that is miniaturized that can hit Japan, Guam, American territory, perhaps Hawaii or the West Coast. That's where they're moving and they're doing it with impunity.

TODD: From Seoul to Washington, officials tonight are assessing Kim's motives. One possibility, he's signaling his enemies who he sees everywhere.

BALBINA HWANG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Kim Jong-Un is facing threats from all fronts, domestically, internally, from his elites and so he has to be able to manage and control all of that internally. But, of course, there's always the threat that North Korea believes comes from its external environment.

TODD: External rivals like South Korea and the U.S., Kim can't compete with them with his conventional military and needs nuclear weapons to balance the field, but he's got another possible motive with his outside rivals.

GREEN: With nuclear weapons, they can blackmail, intimidate and threaten the United States, Japan, South Korea, and China, to get economic aid, sanctions relief, and other things to preserve their regime.

TODD: A U.S. official says this test could be an important ramp-up to the highly anticipated Congress of the Korean Workers Party in May. North Korea hasn't held such an event for 36 years and at that gathering of the elites, Kim is expected to consolidate his rule, shift more power from the military to himself. Experts believe Kim is flexing his nuclear muscles now because the internal threats he faces are constant.

PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: He has to be more fearful every morning he wakes up that he won't get a bullet in his head. There are general officers inside North Korea who can't mobilize against him, but if they have an opportunity to take him out in the future, I think he can't rest peacefully about that.


[17:05:06] TODD: Now a key question tonight, if Kim finally develops are deliverable nuclear weapon, is he dangerous enough, unstable enough to actually use it? Most analysts believe he would not launch a nuclear weapon just to provoke, but could do it if he's desperate or if there's another standoff like the one he had with South Korea last summer -- he could miscalculate in an instance like that, Wolf, and that's what makes the situation so very dangerous tonight.

BLITZER: Brian, what would make a hydrogen bomb in the hands of the North Koreans, a lot more dangerous than an atomic bomb?

TODD: Well, hydrogen bombs, Wolf, are much more powerful. Now for some perspective here the bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killing more than 200,000 people. Each of those bombs produced the equivalent of 13,000 tons of TNT. The first hydrogen bomb test in the 1950s was 700 times more powerful than that. Atomic bombs use fissure, splitting up plutonium into smaller atoms. Hydrogen bombs use fusion, combining atom, creating essentially two bombs in one. Most experts believe North Korea is likely going to take probably more than five years to produce a hydrogen bomb.

But the key thing is, Wolf, they have the desire, they have the technology, they are working on it. They can get there.

BLITZER: They have the capability. All right, Brian, thank you.

CNN's Will Ripley has been inside North Korea now a number of times. He's joining us now live from Beijing.

Will, will China, obviously a clear neighbor, something of a friend to North Korea with a lot of influence over there, what's been the reaction so far in China?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, China certainly strongly condemning this action, Wolf, just like so many other countries around the world. But unlike their previous nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, China was really blindsided here. They were not given a head's up as they were the past three nuclear tests. And they're very concerned. Obviously they're going to get a lot of pressure now from the international community to penalize the North Korean regime.

You know that China provides a significant amount of economic aid. They trade with North Korea and in many ways they keep the North Korean economy limping along. And they do that strategically because on the Korean Peninsula, they need an alliance with North Korea to counteract the United States' close relationship with South Korea.

So from the Chinese perspective, keeping the Korean Peninsula stable is of the utmost importance and that's why leaders here in Beijing are calling for a high level meeting but stopping short, Wolf, of saying they're actually going to penalize the regime led by Kim Jong-Un.

BLITZER: Will, you've made several trips to Pyongyang and North Korea, why would the regime there claim a hydrogen bomb test?

RIPLEY: Well, because the previous two nuclear tests during the Obama administration didn't get a reaction from the United States. This policy of strategic patience is infuriating to the North Koreans who want nothing more than to sit down with the United States and talk about lifting sanctions and normalizing relations. And so by claiming that they have an H-bomb at a time when Kim Jong-Un just gave a New Year address, talking about wanting to grow the economy, clearly they're hoping that this will give them some leverage to force the world, led by the U.S., to sit down with the North Koreans and talk to them as they would with other countries. That's something that the North Koreans desperately want.

It's also noteworthy that it's two days before Kim Jong-Un's 33rd birthday. Thirty-three years old and really with his finger at the bottom of a growing nuclear arsenal in a country with a lot of raw uranium. A very troubling developing for the world that this nuclear program continues to develop in spite of all the sanctions unchecked -- Wolf.

BLITZER: To put it mildly. All right, Will, thank you very much. Will Ripley in Beijing.

While North Korea's claim of an H-bomb test sent shockwaves around the world, the United States and other nations are making it clear that any kind of North Korean nuclear test is simply unacceptable.

Let's go to our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.

Elise, has Kim Jong-Un this time gone too far?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, even it poured water on North Korea's claims it tested a hydrogen bomb, the U.S. asked the U.N. Security Council to consider new sanctions. It's all part of the Obama administration's policy towards North Korea dubbed strategic patience. But after four nuclear tests, there are questions tonight about whether that policy has helped the North Korean nuclear program grow.


LABOTT (voice-over): North Korea's claim it tested a hydrogen bomb brought swift condemnation from around the world.

BAN KI-MOON, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: This act is a profoundly destabilizing for regional security.

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (Through Translator): North Korea's nuclear test is a serious threat to our nation's security and absolutely cannot be tolerated.

LABOTT: Even China, North Korea's neighbor and closest ally, quickly denounced the test. After downplaying the nuclear threat for years, growing concern in Beijing over the program under North Korea's erratic and unpredictable leader.

U.S. officials hope North Korea's largest benefactor will finally put the squeeze on Kim Jong-Un and wants the U.N. Security Council to impose tough new sanctions.

JOHN KIRBY, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: What we do want to see is a strong international response to this latest provocation and unanimity in the international community about raising the stakes further on the regime.

[17:10:11] LABOTT: But decades of sanctions have failed to curb the nuclear ambitions of three generations of North Korean leaders. President Clinton's 1994 agreed framework backfired and gave the North diplomatic cover to build a nuclear weapon. President Bush came close to a deal where Pyongyang would trade its nukes for aid and a peace treaty, but it didn't happen. President Obama came to office promising not to overreact to North Korea's nuclear antics, continuing sanctions until Pyongyang agreed to negotiate an end to its program.

Instead, the U.S. focused on a nuclear deal with Iran, a more willing partner. In April, Iran agreed to robust curves on its program. Meanwhile, three of North Korea's four nuclear tests have been launched since Obama took office. Critics label Obama's so-called strategic patience a recipe for diplomatic failure.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Some known diplomatic policy options need to be put on the table. In my view is that a deal like Iran's, similar like we had before in the Bush administration in exchange for food, fuel, lifting of some sanctions, they curb their nuclear weapons.


LABOTT: But U.S. officials say the North Korean regime has shown no sign it is ready to talk. And that's why, Wolf, it's unclear what it would take to bring them to the table. For the starters, the North has demanded to be officially recognized as a nuclear state. Today the White House and State Department reaffirmed they will not and do accept North Korea as a nuclear power -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elise Labott, reporting. Thank you.

I sat down with the GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump just a little while ago and asked him about the shocking claim by North Korea to how he'd handle a nuclear crisis with the communist regime.


BLITZER: Would you consider a preemptive strike to destroy North Korea's nuclear capability.

TRUMP: No, because China has total control of them and we have total control over China if we have people that knew what they're doing, which we don't. We have no leadership in this country. We have China because of trade. They're sucking our money out of us. They're taking our money like candy from a baby.

And China can come out and frankly, they will -- you know, they say they don't have that much control over North Korea. They have total control because without China, they wouldn't be able to eat. So China has to get involved. And China should solve that problem. And we should put pressure on China to solve the problem.

BLITZER: Because as you know there are, what, almost a million North Korean troops north of the Demilitarized Zone, almost a million South Korean troops, south of the Demilitarized Zone, Seoul, the capital.

TRUMP: And we have 28,000 soldiers right in the middle.

BLITZER: Right in the middle.

TRUMP: And by the way, we get paid nothing. We get paid peanuts.

BLITZER: Would you pull them out?

TRUMP: Well, I would want South Korea to pass a lot of money. We're doing a lot of -- what are we doing? I just ordered 4,000 television sets. 4,000, they come from South Korea. South Korea is a money machine. They pay us peanuts. We're defending them. And I have many friends from South Korea. They buy my apartments. I do business with them. But South Korea should pay us and pay us very substantially for protecting them.

BLITZER: So you want China basically to handle the North Korean problem?

TRUMP: They can handle it so easily. Now they don't say that. You know, they say, well, they're not that easy, they're not that easy. They're taunting us, OK. They're playing games with us. I do it all the time. I mean, that's the way I deal in business. It's like they're playing games with us.

China should solve that problem. And if they don't solve that problem, we should be very tough on them with trade. Meaning, start charging them tax or start cutting them off. You have China collapsed in about two minutes.

BLITZER: So I've heard --

TRUMP: We have great power over China. We just don't know how to use it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. The full interview with Donald Trump coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. But right now I want to bring in the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. I know you've been well briefed on what's going on. Are North Korea's claims to be believed?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Well, I share the skepticism that was expressed today by the administration given the public data about the size of that seismic movement following the explosion. We don't know for sure, though, but I think we'll know fairly soon. And that will give us good insight into just what kind of a bomb this was. Did they use tritium to try to enhance the power of a fission bomb? Or was this a hydrogen bomb as they claimed? But I would take North Korean claims with a very big grain of salt.

BLITZER: Did the U.S. have any advanced intelligence warning of the timing of this nuclear test?

SCHIFF: Wolf, I can't go into the specifics of that or what, you know, we observed or what we may have seen. I can tell you this is something obviously that we have a lot of our intelligence assets directed to determine that is what's happening in North Korea's missile program. What's happening in their nuclear program. When are they likely to launch missiles? When are they likely to initiate nuclear tests. So this is something we keep a very close eye on.

[17:15:02] BLITZER: You say there should be more economic sanctions on North Korea. There already are a ton of sanctions. And so far they've been pretty much ineffective. What will it take to get the job done to stop North Korea from being a nuclear power.

SCHIFF: Well, I think the country that really has the leverage here is China. And right now China hasn't been willing to use that leverage to maximum extent, as your commentators were pointing out earlier. China is very unhappy with these North Korean tests, but at the same time doesn't want the regime to collapse, doesn't want to unify Korean Peninsula ally to the west right on its border.

I think the way to change the calculus for China is to make it very clear that we're going to have to increase our military presence in the region. We're going to have to be talking to our allies in the region about what additional military assets to bring to bear to defend ourselves and our allies from this growing threat; that our strategic patience is wearing out.

China doesn't want to see us do that. And that may be the kind of motivation China needs to really crack down on sanctions that have a bite.

BLITZER: Congressman Schiff, stand by for a moment. We're going to have much more on what's going on in North Korea, also the war against ISIS.

And also coming up, my one-on-one interview today with Donald Trump. You're going to hear what he has to say about his rivals on the hot- button issue of immigration.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ted was in favor of amnesty. Him and Marco Rubio have been fighting about who's weaker.



BLITZER: Breaking news, North Korea claiming it's tested a hydrogen bomb.

We're back with a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.

Congressman, North Korea certainly hasn't been shy about his intentions. This is the fourth time they've exploded at least some sort of nuclear device.

I want to play for you something that the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, had to say about the deal he struck with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program back in 1994. Listen to this.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Before I take your questions, I'd like to say just a word about the framework with North Korea that Ambassador DeLucci (ph) signed this morning. This is a good deal for the United States.

[17:20:11] North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program.

South Korea and our other allies will be better protected. The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons.

South Korea, with support from Japan and other nations, will bear most of the cost of providing North Korea with fuel to make up for the nuclear energy it is losing. And they will pay for an alternative power system for North Korea that will allow them to produce electricity while making it much harder for them to produce nuclear weapons.

The United States and international inspectors will carefully monitor North Korea to make sure it keeps its commitments. Only as it does so will North Korea fully join the community of nations.


BLITZER: Clearly that has not worked out, Congressman. President Clinton's agreed-upon framework essentially wound up giving Pyongyang diplomatic cover to build a nuclear weapon, and a lot of people say the same thing potentially could happen with Iran right now. You voted in favor of that Iran nuclear deal. Was that a mistake?

SCHIFF: No, it wasn't a mistake. And we have a very different kind of verification regime with Iran -- I think one of the most severe in history -- to make sure that Iran doesn't cheat the way North Korea did by pursuing a different pathway to the bomb.

So I think we have a very different situation in Iran than in North Korea. And I'm not sure that you can really compare the two very well.

BLITZER: Did the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, the Obama administration drop the ball in -- as far as North Korea and its nuclear program is concerned?

SCHIFF: I don't think they dropped the ball, but I think it's a recognition of a limited range of options. Obviously, because of the heavy military presence along that demilitarized zone as you point out, military action is a very fraught kind of an option.

So where you're really left is with economic pressure or some kind of a negotiated outcome. Negotiations did not work. North Korea violated the spirit, if not the letter, of that agreement.

And here I think we're going to have to try to once again gin up the sanctions on North Korea, put pressure on China to do its part, be a stronger actor in the world stage in dealing with this growing menace. And one other tool I would encourage us to use much more extensively, and that is we have seen the sensitivity of the North Korean regime to information disseminated to its own people about the horrors of its own regime.

And I would use this as an opportunity to fight back in the information wars by bombarding the North Koreans with information about how their own ruler is feeding their nuclear program rather than feeding the starving people of North Korea. So I think we ought to be aggressive in hitting North Korea with what hurts them.

BLITZER: North Korea did provide nuclear technology to Syria. They built a nuclear reactor. The Israelis destroyed that back in 2007. They provided nuclear technology to Pakistan, which now has a nuclear arsenal. Is there evidence right now North Korea, which is hard pressed for cash, is about to sell nuclear-related technology to others?

SCHIFF: I don't know that there's evidence that they're on the cusp of doing so, but I certainly wouldn't put it past them. And that's something that we watch vigilantly.

You know, the only linkage I would say, Wolf, between North Korea and Iran is the agreement with Iran, I think, because of the vigorous inspection regime pretty well cuts off Iran's pathway to the bomb through the clandestine enrichment capability. If I were Iran and wanted to cheat and develop a bomb, I would look to

buy it elsewhere. And here we're going to have to really watch North Korea and make sure that Iran doesn't seek to cheat by going to a country like North Korea to get the finished product.

BLITZER: Congressman Schiff, thanks very much for joining us.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Today's breaking political news, I asked the Republican presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, about the criticism he's getting from Senator Ted Cruz who has -- says he has the best plans to stop illegal immigration.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I was watching Ted the other day, and it was very interesting. He said, "And we must build a wall." OK.

And my wife said, "Darling, he just said build a wall." That's the first person that said build a wall. I've been saying it for five years. But he said, "And we will build a wall." So now he's taking my idea for the wall.



[17:27:58] BLITZER: Now to this evening's breaking political news. Donald Trump explaining how he'd get Mexico to pay for a wall along the U.S. border and defending his latest questions about whether his opponent, Senator Ted Cruz, is a natural-born U.S. citizen.

I sat down with the Republican presidential frontrunner in his office at Trump Tower in New York.


BLITZER: Let's talk about another issue in the news right now. Senator Ted Cruz, he's your main rival in Iowa, according to all the polls right now. All of a sudden, this whole issue, the fact that he was born in Canada has come up, whether or not he's a natural-born citizen. You know the Constitution says, "No person except a natural- born citizen shall be eligible to the office of president." Do you believe Senator Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen?

TRUMP: I don't know, to be honest. And I like him a lot. And I don't like the issue. I don't like even bringing it up. And, you know, it wasn't me that brought it up. It was "The Washington Post" doing an interview.

BLITZER: They asked you a question.

TRUMP: One of the questions they asked me was this question, and you know, they went with it. And I wasn't very aggressive with the answer except one thing. You can't have somebody running if the Democrats are going to at some point, and one of them threatened to bring a suit a long time ago.

But how can you have a nominee running, you know, against a Democrat, whoever it may be, probably Hillary Clinton, because she'll probably escape the e-mail problem, which is disgusting that she's able to. Because other people have -- from doing far less have had very, very major consequences. It's been terrible. But it's probably going to be Hillary.

So how do you run against the Democrat, whoever it may be, and you have this hanging over your head if they bring a lawsuit? A lawsuit would take two, three years...

BLITZER: He says he's a natural-born citizen, because his mother was U.S. born, a U.S. citizen. And as a result, he's a natural-born citizen.

TRUMP: Well, I hope he's right. I don't -- you know, I want to win this thing fair and square. I don't want to win on this point. What the Democrats are saying, though, is he had a passport.

BLITZER: He says he didn't have a passport.

TRUMP: He had a Canadian passport.

BLITZER: He said -- his aides say he didn't have a passport.

TRUMP: Well, I've heard that...

BLITZER: He may have been eligible.

TRUMP: I think that would be wonderful if he didn't. And I never understood how he did. But everybody tells me he had a joint passport.

BLITZER: He had a Canadian birth certificate, because he was born in Canada.

[17:30:05] TRUMP: Well, here's what I think, what I'd do. I'd go and seek a declaratory judgment if I was Ted.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

TRUMP: It means you go to court.

BLITZER: Which court?

TRUMP: You go to federal court to ask for what's called a declaratory judgment. You go in seeking the decision of the court without a court case. You go right in. You go before a judge; you do it quickly. It can go quickly. Declaratory judgment. It's very good. I've used it on numerous occasions. I've been pretty good with it, actually. So when there's a doubt -- because there's a doubt.

What Ted doesn't want to happen is he doesn't want to be in there -- I mean, I think I'm going to win. I'm leading in every poll by a lot. But I have a lot of friends in the Republican party -- I have a lot of friends all over the place, all right.

If Ted should eke it out -- and I hope that doesn't happen -- and he's got this cloud over his head, I don't think it's going to be possible for him to do very well. I don't think it's actually possible for the Republicans to let it happen, because he'll have this.

So what you do is go in immediately like tomorrow, this afternoon. You go into federal court, you ask for a declaratory judgment. That's -- you want the court to rule. And once the court rules, you have your decision.

BLITZER: But that could take a long time for the court to...

TRUMP: No, I don't think...

BLITZER: I don't think the -- the Supreme Court has never really ruled on what is a natural-born citizen.

TRUMP: That's the problem. There's this doubt. People have doubt.

Again, this was not my suggestion. I didn't bring this up. A reporter asked me the question. But the Democrats have brought it up. And you had somebody, a congressman, say no matter what happens, we're going to be suing on this matter. That's a tough matter for Ted.

Again, I didn't bring it up, Wolf. This is brought up, and this was asked to me as a question. It's not the first time it's been asked, but it's being asked by -- by a lot of different people to a lot of different people that are running.

BLITZER: Because you know your critics are saying you're doing to Ted Cruz what you tried to do to President Obama, where he was born, his birth certificate...

TRUMP: Who knows about Obama?

BLITZER: His mother was a U.S. citizen-born in Kansas. Was he a natural-born citizen?

TRUMP: Who knows? Who knows? Who cares right now? We're talking about something else, OK. I mean, I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I'll write a book. I'll do another book, and it will do very successfully.

But look, Ted, he should ask for a declaratory judgment, because that would clear it all up. And I'm doing this for the good of Ted. I'm not doing it for bad. Because I like him, and he likes me. We have a good relationship.

This would clear it up. You go into court, you ask for a declaratory judgment. The judge will rule. And once the judge rules that he's OK, then the Democrats can't bring a lawsuit later on.

BLITZER: He also says he's tougher on illegal immigration in the United States than you are. You say you will deport all the undocumented immigrants in the United States, 11 million or 12 million, as many as there are, but the good ones, you say, can come back to the United States. He says he's not letting any of the immigrants come back to the United States.

TRUMP: Ted was in favor of amnesty. Him and Marco Rubio have been fighting about who's weaker. Now all of a sudden -- and I was watching Ted the other day. And it was very interesting.

He said, "And we must build a wall." OK?

And my wife said, "Darling, he just said build a wall." That's the first person that said build a wall. I've been saying it for five years.

But he said, "And we will build a wall." So now he's taking my idea for the wall.

I'm glad he's taking it. I think it's the right thing to do. The problem is I'll build the wall. It will be the right wall. These people, politicians don't know how to build a walls. They don't know how to build anything, but I'll build a wall and have Mexico pay for it.

But all of a sudden they're trying to come into my territory. No, we will get people out. And the people that come back will come back legally. They will come back legally. We'll have a country again. We're going to have strong borders. Border patrol people are fantastic. I got to know them very well, but we're going to have a wall. Now, I heard just the other day Ted said -- he never said about a wall before. All of a sudden he's talking about a wall. And I don't blame him.

BLITZER: He says he's not going to let any of those illegal immigrants come back to the United States.

TRUMP: I think you should let them come back if they're very good people. You let them come back legally. I want people to come back. I'm building a wall, but I want people to come in. I want -- I want immigrants to come in, but they have to come in legally.

And I want a lot of people to come in. I want to have really smart people, really good people, really hard workers come back in. But they have to come in legally. So I want people to come back into the country.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the wall you want to build. How long would it take to build that wall?

TRUMP: It would go very quickly.

BLITZER: How long?

TRUMP: I would get the environmental impacts. You know, part of the reason the wall wasn't built they couldn't get an environmental impact statement approved. Can you believe it? The environmental impact statement for a wall where we're looking for -- you could almost say military purposes. And that way you avoid it.

As an example, in the South China Sea, China is building islands. Massive islands that are being, you know, military bases. They're taking out and they're dredging the sea. They're dredging the ocean. They don't go...

BLITZER: Are you saying Mexico's going to pay for the wall?

TRUMP: Mexico's going to pay.

BLITZER: Are they going to put the money up front or eventually -- how do you do that?

[17:35:03] TRUMP: They'll pay in one of three or four different ways, including I'll charge them a tariff.

Look, Mexico, I'm very friendly with Mexico. I employ thousands of people that -- you know, Mexicans are great people. They like me. I'm doing very well, by the way, with the Hispanics. You saw in Nevada I'm leading in the polls with Hispanics, because I create jobs. I'm going to take jobs back from China. I'll create jobs.

But here's the thing: Mexico's making a fortune. You look at the trade deficit that we have with Mexico, they're making a fortune. Ford's going to build a $2.5 billion plant in new Mexico. Nabisco is moving their big plant, their big plant from...

BLITZER: How do you get Mexico to pay for a wall?

TRUMP: Very simple.

BLITZER: They say they're not going to pay for it.

TRUMP: That's good. Then we'll start taxing their goods coming into this country, and they'll pay. Then they can't pay a fortune.

Now, the wall is peanuts compared to the kind of money they're making. That's why they're going to pay.

Now, when I say that to politicians, they don't even know what I'm talking about. I'm a business guy. I'm a really good business guy. When I say to politicians that Mexico is going to pay for the wall, they all smile. They think I'm kidding. I'm not kidding. Mexico's going to pay.

The reason they're going to pay is they're making a fortune off of the United States far more than the cost of the wall. They'll pay.


BLITZER: We're only getting started with Donald Trump. We have much more coming up from my extensive one-on-one interview with the Republican presidential frontrunner.

And our political experts. they are also standing by to assess what's changed, what's new and what Donald Trump has to say. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking political news. In my one-on-one interview with Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner went in depth on how, if he were president, he'd handle the dangerous problem of North Korea's nuclear weapons. Much more on the interview with Trump coming up, but let's get some insight right now, what we've just heard.

Joining us, our CNN political reporter Sara Murray, who's covered Donald Trump when he's on the road; our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny; and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, I asked Trump whether he believes Senator Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen. He told me he doesn't know. What's going on over here? Why is he doing this?

[17:40:07] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, have you ever heard of the technical term called "pot stirring"? Because that's exactly what Donald Trump is doing.

Obviously, Ted Cruz is now ahead of him in Iowa. He keeps protesting, you know, "I like Ted a lot. I'd like to see him get this issue settled." But in continuing to talk about this issue and say that it is not settled law, which by the way, many people believe that it is. If you'll recall John McCain was born in Panama, and that didn't seem to be much of an issue then. By saying that he's got to settle this issue, he is implying, of course, that it is not a settled issue.

And we've heard Ted Cruz say today to Dana Bash that it is a settled issue. So he's just clearly trying to raise questions about Cruz.

BLITZER: What he and his supporters point out, Jeff Zeleny, is that John McCain was born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal zone, which is different than simply being born in Panama, if you will. But why do you think, Jeff, Donald Trump is doing this now?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's because those Iowa caucuses, Wolf, are 26 days away. And Ted Cruz is coming on strong there.

I am struck by all our trips to Iowa. I just got back from there just a couple hours ago talking to Republican voters. There are so many who are deciding Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. You know, they've liked Donald Trump sort of, you know, a strong anti-establishment views, but now they are sort of becoming more serious about their specific issues that each of these candidates hold.

So I think Donald Trump realizes that Ted Cruz is taking some of his supporters away. I think Donald Trump is, as Gloria said, trying to stir the pot here. I'm not sure if it works, though, because it just doesn't sound credible. He's a sitting United States senator. His mother was a United States citizen here. I don't think -- on the margins, perhaps, if someone is not sure about Ted Cruz, but I think what it does more than anything, it gets Donald Trump some more attention and gives some more attention to his immigration policy perhaps, as well.

More interestingly to me is where Donald Trump takes this from here. Is he going to keep escalating this against Ted Cruz? And that will become very, very interesting.

BLITZER: I'm sort of surprised, Sara -- and you've been on the road covering him for months and months now -- why it's only been coming up now. I would have thought it would have been raised a while ago, given the fact that Ted Cruz was, in fact, born in Canada. Is it only because Ted Cruz potentially represents a serious threat to Trump in Iowa right now?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that's exactly why. I think early on Donald Trump was happy to play nice with Ted Cruz, you know. There was a while where a spat was emerging after Ted Cruz talked about him at a closed-door fundraiser, but they quickly made up.

And the reality of that is, because they're competing for a lot of these same voters in Iowa. And so both of them want to be very careful not to alienate anyone.

I think Trump is now making the calculation that the time for that is over, that he needs to be harsher with Ted Cruz when it comes to this issue. And even when it comes to immigration, you saw him going after Ted Cruz saying he wants to build a wall. You heard him say that Ted Cruz is pro-amnesty. So I think we are starting to see an escalation of these attacks from Donald Trump.

BORGER: And, Wolf, let me just say that what's interesting about Cruz is that he's not really taking THE bait here. Cruz is reacting to this with sort of humor. He's reacting to it kind of in sorrow, not in anger. Because he doesn't want to get into a fight with Donald Trump to give Donald Trump an excuse to attack him even more. Because he knows that's not going to really benefit him in any way, shape or form.

So he's kind of -- he's kind of backing off on this. And letting Donald Trump punch at him without really punching back, because there would be no benefit in it for him. So I kind of applaud him for the way he's reacted.

BLITZER: Jeff, what's your reaction to what Trump had to say about the very dangerous situation in North Korea right now? That he's not in favor of any preemptive strike but he really wants China to get the job done? What did you think of that?

ZELENY: Wolf, he clearly is not an interventionist here, but I think he -- on this he may be voicing the view of, potentially, a lot of Americans, saying why is this our problem again? Can you tell me exactly why we should be sort of taking the lead on this here?

But I'm still not sure as a -- as a job interview as someone running for president here, it's all that realistic. Of course, this is our problem. Of course, this is the world's problem. So I think that he's a little bit naive on some respect, but that's not to say that some of his language is not going to work.

But he was actually incorrect in one thing he said. He said the U.S. is paying for all this. Actually, South Korea pays the U.S. government some $700 million to sort of help protect them here. So he was wrong on that front.

There is an agreement that is signed every few years or so between both governments. So the U.S. is not footing this bill alone in its entirety.

[17:45:02] South Korea is paying for a lot of that, Wolf.

BLITZER: It seems though, Sara, and you've covered him as I say now for months, that there's almost a Trump doctrine, let China take care of North Korea. Let Russia take care of Syria. Let Germany take care of Ukraine. You see that kind of standoff foreign policy strategy emerging?

MURRAY: Yes, I think this is really interesting because Trump has rallied so many supporters by projecting this image of strength, by saying that America is going to be the strongest country. But when you dig into his views on these specific issues, dealing with these specific world leaders and he's written about this many times before in his books, he actually is not very interventionist in his views.

He has written before that it needs to be -- if we're going to get involved in a conflict somewhere else, there needs to be a very clear threat to the U.S., a clear threat that the American people understand. And I think we're seeing that reflected now when you see him talk about the situation in North Korea.

And when you see him talk about Russian President Vladimir Putin while other candidates were on the stump this week bashing him, comparing him to a KGB member, Donald Trump was essentially thanking Putin for complementing him.

BORGER: But he also says -- on the other hand he says, you know, let's bomb the hell out of the oil fields, right, in Iraq? So which is it? Is he non-interventionist and sort of outsourcing a little bit of this foreign policy, saying let the Chinese handle North Korea or is he going to be interventionist and bomb the hell out of the oil fields?


ZELENY: (INAUDIBLE) on the countries.

MURRAY: Right, tries to play both ways a little.

ZELENY: More to be coming from this.

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody stand by because we have much more of my one-on-one interview with Donald Trump coming up. Among other things he also talks about his wife's role in the campaign and her possible role as first lady.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She made a tremendous amount of money. She was a very, very successful person as a model. And I think she's going to be a fantastic first lady.



[17:50:19] BLITZER: Let's get some more now on our breaking political news. Donald Trump telling me he doesn't know if Senator Ted Cruz is a natural born U.S. citizen eligible to serve as president of the United States and he's urging the senator to ask a federal judge right away to try to settle the matter legally.

Let's get some more insight on what we just heard from Donald Trump. Joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM, our CNN political commentators, S.E. Cupp, Kevin Madden and Ana Navarro.

Ana, you heard Trump refused to say whether he believes Cruz is a natural born citizen. So far they've avoided directly attacking each other. But I assume Trump think this potentially could be a winning strategy for him. What do you think?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Obviously, the bromance is now over. We saw that four months ago. Donald Trump said this was not an issue. Of course that was before Ted Cruz started surging in Iowa and he felt a threat from Ted Cruz. But I think, you know, a few weeks ago we saw Donald Trump go after Ted Cruz and said he was a little bit of a maniac and he got a lot of backlash from Republican media. He got a lot of backlash from right-wing media, and from the base.

And so I think he's got to tread carefully when it comes to Ted Cruz. But we've seen him in the last couple of weeks try to poke holes into Ted Cruz on whether a Cuban can be an evangelical, which is ridiculous. Yes, they can. And now on this issue as to his Canadian citizenship having been born in Canada, which is also ridiculous.

BLITZER: Kevin, your take?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, here is what Trump is doing as a sort of a classic Trump move is he's trying to create a distraction that gets -- that gets Ted Cruz off message and puts him on the defensive. Ted Cruz just put out an ad, a very strong ad, a very effective ad for a lot of those folks out in Iowa who care about the issue of immigration and what we've spent the last 48 hours not talking about immigration or Ted Cruz's message on it, but instead whether or not he was born in Canada or whether or not he's even eligible for the presidency.

That has taken Ted Cruz off message. So that I think is where it's been effective. The other thing that it's done is it's got the media chasing the rabbit. If you've ever been to a dog race, you see they got the mechanical rabbit and all the dogs go round and round chasing after it but it's a rabbit that they never catch. That's exactly what's happening here, is the media is covering this in a way that is creating -- is putting where Ted Cruz has to answer a lot of questions that are not focused on some of the issues that Ted Cruz wants to be talking about. So in that way again, this is advantage Trump.

BLITZER: S.E., what kind of options does Senator Cruz have in battling Trump on this issue?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I disagree slightly with Kevin, I think -- I think this could be advantage Trump but if Cruz stays on message and doesn't chase the rabbit with the media, I think he wins. This is a losing strategy both historically and currently as Ana mentioned, Trump tried to question Ted Cruz's evangelical bonafides coming from Cuba. Iowa voters did not take kindly to that.

And in the past the folks -- remember in 2008 when Donald Trump and other Republicans tried to challenge Obama's citizenship. When they tried to challenge a Democrat's citizenship, that didn't mobilize enough Republicans to come out and vote Obama out. I don't think a Republican challenging another Republican citizenship is going to mobilize somehow even more Republicans to come out. I just don't think it's a winning strategy. Cruz just needs to sit tight and let this pass.

BLITZER: Let's talk about North Korea, and Ana, I'll start with you. You heard what Donald Trump had to say, basically it's an awful situation but China has enormous influence over North Korea. Let them get the job done.

Your reaction to that?

NAVARRO: You know, I think he's now being actually very consistent. This is now the Trump doctrine when, you know, we have foreign policy turmoil, foreign policy issues, he is striking at a nerve I think with the American people. He's very good at that, being able to tell the pulse of the American people of the base of the Republican Party and say, why do we have to be the policemen of the world? And so he's threading around and putting the burden on China.

When it comes to Syria, he puts the burden on Russia. But I think, you know, he's short on details as to what the United States and what he as commander-in-chief would do and that's something where he's going to have to fill in the blanks.

BLITZER: Kevin, what do you think of this so-called Trump doctrine?

MADDEN: Well, I don't make -- I think doctrines are much more substantive. I think that doctrines have much more details. I think Donald Trump was short on both.

Look, he offers conflicting messages on so many issues and particularly on foreign policy. He keeps saying that we need to be tougher on China at the same time where he's saying America needs to receive from the world and allow China to be much more stronger in a region of the world that's very important strategically for the United States.

So the question for Donald Trump is, well, which is it? You can't be both. The big frustration here for so many of Donald Trump's opponents is that he never seems to pay a price for the lack of substance, a lack of details and hypocrisy. And that I think is really something that we're going to have to see if the campaigns believe that if they go at it more, if they offer more volume, if they offer more of a stronger -- a little bit more of a stronger critique, that it will eventually start to persuade voters to look at Donald Trump and recognize that he really has no substance or understanding of policy in even a slight way.

BLITZER: Kevin Madden, Ana Navarro, S.E. Cupp, guys, thanks very much.

Much more coming up on all of this. Also coming up, North Korea sends out shockwaves with a claim that it tested a hydrogen bomb. Experts are skeptic but the world is outraged, and Kim Jong-Un's regime may face harsh new punishments.

And we'll also have much more of my one-on-one interview with Donald Trump as the Republican presidential frontrunner weighs in on the very, very sensitive issue of guns in America.


TRUMP: So many people that believe in the gun control when we have these debates, they always lose the debate to me and then I call them up the next day. So how do you feel about it? Well, I still haven't changed my mind. I don't know what it is.



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, North Korea bombshell. Kim Jong-Un boasting of a successful test of a hydrogen bomb raising new concerns about the nuclear capabilities of his rouge regime. Is North Korea one step closer to being able to launch an atomic attack on the U.S.?

Trump talks. The Republican presidential frontrunner reveals how he would handle North Korea in a one-on-one interview with me. We discuss that, guns, immigration, his rivals, his wife and a wide ranging in-depth conversation.

Cruz controversy. Trump puts his closest rival Ted Cruz on the defensive forcing him to defend his American citizenship as Trump questions whether Cruz's birth in Canada .