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Nuclear Backlash; Interview With Presidential Candidate Donald Trump; Interview With Idaho Senator James Risch; Trump: 'I Hate the Iran Nuclear Deal'; Cruz Defends Citizenship Against Trump Birther Questions. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 6, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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 actually disqualifies him from being president. How will this new birther uproar impact the GOP race?

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 breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, North Korea claiming a new nuclear milestone, announcing what it says a successful test of a hydrogen bomb hundreds of times more powerful than a standard atomic bomb.

The move drawing near global condemnation, but also skepticism from the White House, which is questioning North Korea's claim tonight.

And there is also breaking political news. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz forced to defend his American citizenship, as rival Donald Trump questions whether Cruz is actually eligible to run because he was born in Canada.

Listen to this excerpt from my one-on-one interview with Donald Trump just a little while ago.


BLITZER: Do you believe Senator Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.

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? 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?


BLITZER: We will also hear from Ted Cruz this hour. He talks to CNN about this entire controversy.

We're covering all of that, much more with our guests, including Senator James Risch of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees, and our correspondents and expert analysts, they're also following all angles of the breaking news in the race for the White House tonight.

Let's begin with North Korea and Times Square alleged test of a hydrogen bomb.

Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working the story for us.

Jim, if North Korea's claims actually proves to be true, it would be an extremely dangerous and disturbing development.


The White House says, though, that initial analysis shows this was not a successful hydrogen bomb test. Other nuclear experts we have spoken to agree with that. What is not known at this point, though, is, did they take a step in the direction of hydrogen bomb technology or even more alarmingly a step in the direction of being able to miniaturize a nuclear device to put it on top of missiles that North Korea already has?

Those questions still unanswered.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): North Koreans cheered in the streets following their government's bold announcement of a first for the isolated nation, a successful test of a hydrogen bomb, many times more powerful than the atomic bombs Pyongyang has already developed.

This man telling a reporter his heart is happy and he wants to dance. Pyongyang released photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signing the order for the test, while international monitoring work to determine the exact power of the blast.

W. RANDY BELL, THE COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY: Signals were detected on numerous seismic stations. And these signals were immediately made available to all of our member states.

SCIUTTO: But by this afternoon, the White House was already undermining North Korea's claim.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The initial analysis that's been conducted of the events that were reported overnight is not consistent with North Korean claims of hydrogen bomb test. There's nothing that's occurred in the last 24 hours that's caused the United States government to change our assessment of North Korea's technical and military capabilities. SCIUTTO: Still, the detonation at an underground facility is the

fourth by North Korea since 2006, all in gross violation of international law and prior nuclear agreements with the West.

Most nuclear analysts share the administration's doubt that North Korea has developed an H-bomb. However, some are concerned that Pyongyang appears to be making worrisome progress in its nuclear program, including the possibility of advancements in building a device small enough to deploy on a missile. And North Korea has developed a missile capable of reaching as far as the West Coast of the U.S.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: If you can add a little hydrogen isotope to your basic atomic bomb, you can have less material in it, make it smaller and this would help North Korea fit it on the warhead of a missile. That's what they're going for. It doesn't look like they got there.


SCIUTTO: As always, with North Korean nuclear tests, there are messages to be delivered.

One is for a domestic audience. The North Korea's regime's viability is based in part on its military power, but also certainly external messages for the West led by the United States, a message of defiance, but also crucially a message for North Korea's traditional ally China that China is no longer calling the s there.


And, Wolf, that is truly a worrisome development, because if China doesn't have influence over the North Korean regime, then no one does, and that's something that officials here certainly are very concerned about.

BLITZER: They certainly are. All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you.

China, as we have noted, has the most influence on North Korea and it's strongly condemning its neighbor's nuclear test.

CNN's Will Ripley is joining us live from Beijing right now.

Will, the Chinese government says it was not given any warning of this test in advance. What's the latest you're hearing, the reaction you're getting from the Chinese?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very troubling here in Beijing, because the past three nuclear tests, as you mentioned, they were given advanced warning.

This time, they were surprised, just like everybody else, infuriating, to say the least, considering that President Xi Jinping just hand- delivered or sent a high-level official to hand-deliver a letter to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un back in October for their workers day celebrations, and yet to now have this, it really is sort of a slap in the face for a country that provides a significant amount of economic aid to North Korea, a country that the trade relationship keeps the North Korean economy moving along.

But what it says to the leadership here in China is that this 33 -- he's about to turn 33 on Friday, 33-year-old leader is truly unpredictable and even the leadership here in Beijing doesn't know what his next move will be. And when you have a country that is investing so aggressively in growing its nuclear arsenal, very alarming.

BLITZER: You have made several trips to North Korea in recent years, Will. Why would that in Pyongyang claim a hydrogen bomb as part of its test?

RIPLEY: Well, because they want the international community to sit down and talk. They want a lifting of sanctions and they want a normalization of relations with the United States.

That's one aspect of it. But also for the domestic audience and for the Workers' Party, the high-level leadership, Kim Jong-un wants to project power. And so by claiming to have successfully carried off an H-bomb test, a weapon potentially hundreds of times more powerful than previous tests, just two days before his birthday, it certainly shows that Kim Jong-un is trying to say, look, I'm the boss, I'm in control, and even though our military equipment on one level is more outdated, we're building missiles and we're developing warheads and not afraid to show the world that we have this capability -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Will Ripley in Beijing for us, Will, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on the breaking news.

Joining us now, the Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho. He's a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees.

Senator, what are you learning about North Korea's claim that they have actually tested a hydrogen bomb?

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Wolf, that's highly unlikely. This is their fourth test, as you know, and the yield, from all the seismic materials that have been reviewed, indicate that it's about the same as what the previous tests were.

There is no possible way it could be a hydrogen bomb under those -- under that scenario. It's just highly unlikely at this point that they did do that test.

BLITZER: Did the U.S. have any advanced intelligence warning that this test was about to take place?

RISCH: You know, Wolf, without going into details, I can tell you that this was no surprise to the intelligence community.

In a general sense, we know that every year, two years, three, sometimes four years, the North Koreans do something. They push the envelope and make a statement. They were way overdue. So, this did not come as a surprise, really, to those in the intelligence community or, for that matter, to military people or anyone else who follows these things.

BLITZER: What can the U.S. do about this potential threat, a nuclear North Korea? More economic sanctions clearly on the table. They haven't done much, at least so far.

RISCH: Wolf, you know, they are already so heavily sanctioned, it's really hard to turn the screw much tighter, but there are some things.

I think that what is going to happen is, there are going to be some banking sanctions that they can turn the screw a little tighter on with some of the banks that they are doing business with in Asia. I have no doubt that that's going to be looked at.

You know, the most troubling thing about all this is, is the admission by the Chinese that they didn't have advanced notice of this. I mean, Kim Jong-un's father was much closer with the Chinese than this young man is. And, frankly, nobody knows how his mind works.

But distancing himself from about the only friend they have on the planet -- and it isn't a very warm relationship at that -- is not a very smart move for anybody. And that looks like what's happening. But what that tells you is, the rogue-ness, the disconnect, how they are just apart from the rest of the world.


And as was said in one of the earlier segments, if anybody can control them, it's the Chinese, where they provide as much food and aid as they do. And if this is separating, it's troubling. It really is.

BLITZER: The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted this morning -- and I will read to you, Senator -- "Which country is exacerbating Sunni-Shia divide, bombing Yemen and undermining governments in Iraq and Syria by providing funds and arms to ISIS?"

He's obviously usually accusing Saudi Arabia, his rival, of that, but here's the question. How could what is happening in North Korea now affect the Middle East, specifically that U.S.-brokered international nuclear deal with Iran?

RISCH: Well, I think it may be the reverse of that, actually.

I think the North Koreans are emboldened by how Iran has acted over the last 18 months or so, where they negotiated this agreement. The ink wasn't even dry on the agreement and they were violating the resolutions that the U.N. had put out about testing ICBMs and that sort of thing.

And so they are -- you know, they look and see that Iran, not only is not having any difficulties as a result of it. It's actually having sanctions lifted. So, I think the message they are getting is, is that the world is weak, and the stronger they show themselves, the better they are going to be treated. And, of course, nothing is further from the truth, at least in the minds of most of us.

BLITZER: Senator Risch, stand by. We have more to discuss.

I also want to get to more of my interview with the Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump. We covered a lot of hot- button issues on the race for the White House today, including the issue of gun control.


TRUMP: We have to protect the Second Amendment. We have no choice. We have to do that. It's very important. I believe in it...


BLITZER: The president says he believes in the Second Amendment, too.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think he does, because -- and Hillary's a disaster. Hillary wants to take the guns away from everybody. I mean, Hillary's going to be worse off than Obama.




BLITZER: We're following two breaking stories, including North Korea claiming it has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, and Donald Trump reacting tonight, ruling out a preemptive strike against North Korea, saying that China should handle the nuclear threat from its neighbor. Much

We're talking about all of that, much more in our one-on-one interview with Donald Trump. That's coming up shortly. Stand by for that.

In the meantime, I want to get back to Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho. He's a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees.

Senator, let me get your take on the escalating conflict right now between Saudi Arabia and Iran. How do you think the U.S. needs to be working to try to ease or resolve this situation, which is potentially explosive?

RISCH: Well, Wolf, it is potentially explosive.

And the difficulty is, is, this has been simmering for a long time and it keeps getting worse and worse. And the situation in Yemen, where the two countries are fighting a proxy war in essence, in Yemen, certainly isn't helping.

The action by the Saudis where they executed the 47 people, including, I believe there were three that were Shiite that were in that group, including one very prominent cleric, certainly is going to raise the stakes. We have seen already what has happened. Iran broke diplomatic

relations. And of course then that was followed by a number of the Sunni countries, the UAE and Qatar and others, that then cut ties with Iran.

It is not a good situation. There is no question about it. And Iran can be a very unpredictable country. And it's cause for concern. There's no question about it.

As you know and has been reported, there have been a lot of discussions between the U.S., between the State Department and the Saudis regarding what's going on and everyone attempting to try to get people to ratchet back.

BLITZER: Yes, the Saudis severed diplomatic relations with Iran after Iranians stormed the Saudi Embassy and burnt it, ransacked it in Tehran. And other Sunni Arab states, as you point out, UAE, Sudan, Kuwait, Qatar, they have now followed suit.

And it's a serious problem. How does this affect the larger U.S. war against ISIS?

RISCH: Well, that's always unpredictable, because it's so hard to understand the relationship between the Shia and the Sunnis.

And the Iranians, of course, want to be the leader of the Islamic world, and particularly the Shia world. And in that regard, ISIS is a competitor for them. They don't like that, particularly, that ISIS has gained as quickly as it has and as much as it has.

ISIS, of course, the main -- one of the main claims they have had to be able to rise is the fact that they are trying to establish a caliphate, where it will be Islamic land in the Islamic country. The Iranians, of course, claim they already have that. But, in any event, this rub between the Sunnis and Shia has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years.

And it's difficult to get your head around.

BLITZER: Certainly is.

Senator Risch, thanks very much for joining us.

RISCH: Thank you, Wolf. Glad to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead: Donald Trump stirring up a new so-called birther controversy, this time questioning whether his rival Ted Cruz is really a natural-born citizen.


BLITZER: Your critics are saying you're just doing to Ted Cruz what you tried to do to President Obama...

TRUMP: No, no, no, no, no...

BLITZER: ... because he was born and his birth certificate...

TRUMP: Who knows about Obama?

BLITZER: His mother was a U.S. citizen, born in Kansas...


BLITZER: ... so was he a natural-born citizen?

TRUMP: Who knows?

Who knows?

But who cares right now?

We're talking about something else, OK?

I mean, I have my own theory on Obama. Some day, I'll -- I'll get -- I'll write a book. I'll do another book, and it will be do very successfully.




BLITZER: Now more of my one-on-one interview with Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

We sat down for a wide-ranging interview in his office today at New York's Trump Tower, this just a little while ago.


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 of the fact that he was born in Canada has come up, whether or not he's a natural-born citizen. We 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" during an interview.

BLITZER: They asked you a question.

TRUMP: And 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 for 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 -- for doing far less, have had a 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, a 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 it.

TRUMP: He had a Canadian passport.

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

TRUMP: Well, I have heard that he had a passport...

BLITZER: He may have been eligible for a Canadian...

TRUMP: I think that's 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.

TRUMP: Well, here's what I think -- what I -- what I think 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 a -- 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 you'll have this trial.

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

BLITZER: But that could take a long time...

TRUMP: No, it won't...


TRUMP: Declaratory judgment.

BLITZER: Because I don't think 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 have somebody, a congressman, saying, no matter what happens, we're going to be suing on this matter.

That's a tough matter to Ted.

Again, I didn't bring it up, Wolf. This was brought up, and this was asked to me as a question.

BLITZER: I've heard everything you said on foreign policy over these past several months.

There seems to be -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- an emerging, let's call it a Trump doctrine. You want China to take care of North Korea. You want Russia to take care of Syria. You want Germany to take care of Ukraine. Basically, you're out -- you want to outsource all of these sensitive issues.

TRUMP: Well, I want to help. The United States, we're like the policemen of the world. We're involved with Ukraine, but Germany doesn't care. Now, Germany should care a lot more than us. And why are we always the one that's out there?

And Putin said very nice things about me. I mean, he understands I get it. OK? I get it. And most people don't get it. But you look at what's going on the world, we're the policemen of the world. We owe $19 trillion. We just made a ridiculous budget, you know, the omnibus that just got approved in about like 15 seconds. I never saw a budget of that size. Who would ever believe a budget like that gets approved so quickly?

I mean, the only thing Obama negotiates well with, frankly, are the Republicans. He always seems to come out on top with the Republicans. Iran beats him. Everybody beats him. We're the laughingstock all over the world. But the only one he beats are the Republicans.

And the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for allowing that budget to pass. So, now we're at $19 trillion-plus. We're going to be at $21 trillion right now. So, yes, I want other countries to get involved.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some other tensions. As bad as the Middle East is, it's getting worse right now.

TRUMP: Getting worse.

BLITZER: There's tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the execution of the Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia, the ransacking and burning of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.

First of all, would you condemn Saudi Arabia for the beheadings of these clerics and these terrorists who were convicted?

TRUMP: I don't like it. I mean, I don't like it. They're supposed to be our -- our -- you know, our great ally. I don't like to see it.

They -- you know, they executed all of these people. Who knows? I mean, you know, here in this country, if we execute like one person a year, it's like a major event. They do it, like, routinely. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia is sort of the one that we picked, and we are there. I have many friends from Saudi Arabia, very good people.

But Saudi Arabia's got to pay. If we're going to protect them from Iran, which we made a superpower -- you know, we gave them $150 billion. We essentially gave them the right to make nukes, because that's what they're going to do. And, if they don't make them, they'll just buy them because they have so much money.

And, you know, they'll be doing...


BLITZER: You know, the Saudis hated this nuclear deal with Iran.

TRUMP: I hated it more than them.

BLITZER: I know you hated it.

TRUMP: And Israel hated it.

BLITZER: Israel hated it. The UAE hates -- they all hated it.

And are you concerned, the Saudis now, given this tension with Iran, Saudi Arabia may decide, you know what, we're going to go buy a nuclear bomb, maybe from Pakistan or someplace like that? The nuclear proliferation issue is really serious.


TRUMP: I said that that deal -- and I said it to CNN -- I said it to anybody that would listen -- is going to lead to great nuclear proliferation, and that's what's happening. That's what's going to happen, and you can't blame them.

BLITZER: The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, I don't know if you know, used to be the ambassador, he told me last year he wasn't ruling out the possibility that Saudi Arabia could go ahead and develop or maybe even buy a nuclear bomb. They have a lot of money.


BLITZER: They have a lot of money.

TRUMP: They have plenty of money, believe me. And they have plenty of money.

And, you know, when I see Yemen, with that long border right along Saudi Arabia -- and I saw the event the other day where, you know with the -- in, in Iran, which was caused, in my opinion, by the government of Iran as an excuse to go and -- because they want to take over Saudi Arabia. They want to get the oil. They want to take over Saudi Arabia.

And the other reason they wanted Yemen, in my opinion, is because now they have a nice, long border, right in its -- perfect feeder right into Saudi Arabia. And, you know, at some point we have to be reimbursed. We actually pay rent, you know, in Saudi Arabia where we have a base. We pay rent. We pay rent. We're protecting them. Why are we paying rent? They have to pay up.

South Korea has to pay up. Germany, we protect Germany. You know that, right? We protect so many different countries. We get nothing.

BLITZER: There's still about 40,000 U.S. troops in Germany, right? Now 70 years after World War II.

TRUMP: And you know what? They -- they're passed practically nothing. They make Mercedes. They are a behemoth economically. They have tremendous money. We're protecting them. One of the things I do very early, I want to protect a lot of people, but they have to help us. They have to help us economically.

We are becoming a third-world country. We are a debtor nation. Nineteen trillion dollars, and the new, very dumb budget that was approved by everybody a few weeks ago, that's going to add at least another $2 trillion. So we're at $21 trillion.

BLITZER: You heard the president of the United States, 30,000 Americans die each year from gun violence, about half suicides.

What would you do right now to prevent that kind of slaughter?

TRUMP: OK. The first thing I'd do is protect the Second Amendment. The second thing I'd do is I wouldn't use executive orders to do this. You've got to get people -- you know, our country was founded on the basis that you're supposed to negotiate back and forth with different members of different parties, and you come to a conclusion through negotiation and compromise. You don't go and so -- just keep signing orders.

And all he's doing is taking chunks out of the Second Amendment. That won't happen. You know...

BLITZER: You don't want -- you don't want convicted felons or mentally ill people to be able to go to a gun -- a gun -- any place, online or whatever, and get access to a gun.

TRUMP: Well, when you say any place, we have very strong laws right now on the books, but the federal government, for example...


BLITZER: Gun shows for example, you don't want bad apples to get access to guns.

TRUMP: I know. But when you get into the gun shows, it's a slippery slope. That stops a father from giving his child a gun.

BLITZER: What about online purchases?

TRUMP: Here's -- let me just go a step further. Because we have to...

BLITZER: Background checks make sense, right?

TRUMP: We have to protect the Second Amendment. We have no choice. We have to do that. It's very important. believe in it...

BLITZER: The President says he believes in the Second Amendment, too.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think he does, because he's -- and Hillary's a disaster. Hillary wants to take the guns away from everybody. I mean, Hillary's going to be worse off than Obama. Hillary is -- I can't imagine this. She wants to take the guns.

You know, it's interesting. In California, when you had the two people, these two horrible people, shoot people that gave them a wedding party. These people that got killed gave them a wedding party.

Anyway, they went in, they shot. If a couple of people in that room had guns, or, if a couple of people in Paris had guns, you wouldn't have had 130 people, or 14 people in California laying dead with more to follow, because you have so many people so badly wounded.

If people in Paris, as an example, which is the toughest gun control place on Earth, they say. Paris and France, can't. Now, if you're a bad guy, you can have a gun. If you're a good guy, you can't.

If they had guns, right here, or right here on their ankle, and those guys walked in there and they started shooting, it would have been a much different story. So, and you know, it's very interesting. 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.

We need the Second Amendment, we can't have it chopped up. But if it is going to be changed, it's got to be done through a process, not through executive orders.

BLITZER: Very different question. Your wife, Melania, she's featured now on the new issue of "Harper's Bazaar." You've seen that -- you've seen that cover.

TRUMP: Right.

BLITZER: Is she going to be actively going out there now on the campaign working for you?

TRUMP: She will be. And she's already been, to a certain extent. And you know, we have a young boy, Barron. She wants to devote a lot to him, and so do I. I want her to devote a lot of time to Barron. And he's doing really well.

But she has been quite active, very -- has a good political mind, really gets it. And she'll start doing interviews very soon. She'll be amazing. She's got a great heart, and she's very smart.

And, you know, 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, if it ever comes to it.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for joining us.

TRUMP: Thank you.


[18:35:25] BLITZER: We're going to dig deeper into what we just heard with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. He's the editorial director of "The National Journal." And CNN anchor and CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish. And CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine.

Guys, everybody stand by for a moment. There's a lot to dissect, a lot to review. We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's get some more on my one-on-one interview today with Donald Trump. The GOP presidential frontrunner accusing President Obama of, quote, "taking chunks out of the Second Amendment," telling me that Hillary Clinton wants to take everyone's guns, basically, away.

Gloria, on the heels of the president's announcement yesterday on gun control, Trump insisted he had no choice but to protect the Second Amendment. That -- that's going to play well among conservative Republicans.

[18:40:14] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Absolutely. It will play well among conservative Republicans. He understands that.

And look, I think what -- the argument he is making is the argument, the slippery slope argument that we've heard time and time again, which is, essentially, if you do anything to expand a background checks in any way, shape or form, that would lead to some kind of gun registry and that, in turn, would lead to some kind of confiscation of your guns.

And he made the clear point about Hillary Clinton that she would be, quote, "worse than President Obama," as he puts it; and it's clear he's taking direct aim at her and saying that she would take away your guns, because this plays very, very well with Republican primary voters.

On the other hand, this also now plays very well for Democrats to be pro-gun control. They've been afraid of the issue since 2000. A lot of them believe it cost Al Gore the election. But now demographics in the country have changed. They're looking at younger, more urban voters where gun control is a popular issue for them.

BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, what is your take away on what Donald Trump had to say about Saudi Arabia, the conflict it's now having with Iran, what he had to say about North Korea? Did he sound presidential? Did he sound as if he's on top of these sensitive issues?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was very interesting, Wolf. I think it was a broad point and a narrow point about Saudi Arabia.

The broad point is what he said about Saudi Arabia really encapsulates what I see as the consistent line in his foreign policy and, more broadly, his interaction with the world, which is what you call a defensive nationalism. It's a very muscular, even belligerent assertion of American interests but a very narrow definition of American self-interest in world events.

So on the one end, he says if someone threatens us, yes, we will go bomb oil fields if ISIS is a threat to us. But he rejects the kind of broader roles for the U.S. of balancing regional, you know, balance of power, providing kind of broad security without demanding more from the nation directly affected.

So it's a very -- it's a belligerent but narrow and even insular sort of vision of America's oil on the world.

The second point, though, is on Saudi Arabia, there is no doubt Iran and Saudi Arabia, specifically, there's no doubt Iran and Saudi are bitter rivals for regional dominance. They are also bitter rivals in terms of being the leader of the Shiite and Sunni blocks in the Islamic world.

But you would know better than I. I have not heard someone say before that Iran physically wants to invade and occupy Saudi Arabia and take their oil, which seemed to be what Donald Trump was suggesting.

BLITZER: He was suggesting that by going into Yemen, the southern part of that Arabian Peninsula, that eventually, moving up through that long border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He clearly made that point.

Ryan Lizza, your thoughts?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Wolf, I thought on the foreign policy, you asked the essential question, which is he seems to want to outsource foreign policy to all of these other countries, right? He's constantly asking, what is the U.S. getting out of these deals? Why can't China solve our problem with North Korea, right? Why can't Germany solve the problem with Russia and the Ukraine?

And it sort of contradicts the sort of bluster and nationalism that Ron was describing that is the sort of other part of his foreign policy, which is he thinks that the president that we still live in a world where the president of the United States snaps his or her finger, and the rest of the world just bends to our wishes.

I think a lot of, frankly, what he described as American foreign policy is simplistic. If he were actually president, he would find that he can't just tell China to solve the problem in North Korea. That he can just bomb ISIS into oblivion and make that problem go away. And that most of the foreign policy problems of the Obama era are intractable, because there are no easy solutions. And there's a superficial appeal to the kind of nationalism that he's -- he's putting forth, but the world's a lot more complicated than Donald Trump would like to believe.

BLITZER: You also heard, Michael Smerconish, Donald Trump say he's not backing away at all from that wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. And he's insisting, you know what? Mexico will pay for it.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR/POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And then when you asked him for specificity, he immediately dodged and moved on to another issue. I agree with Ryan that simplicity sells for Donald Trump. And I will give him credit for this, Wolf. He has a great ear. His instincts are right in tune with a very populist appeal, not necessarily for the majority of Americans, but at least with a majority of the Republican base thus far.

So what you're getting from him is what they most want to hear. And they're not demanding any more specificity. BLITZER: Gloria, is this going to help him, all this foreign policy talk, what he wants to do about North Korea, about Syria, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, is it going to help him among conservative Republicans, let's say, in Iowa and New Hampshire?

BORGER: You know, I think the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire are going to listen to what he'd say and take it as part of a broader package which is -- his slogan, which is Donald Trump is the man that's going to make America great again.

So, if you like Donald Trump, you're going to like his foreign policy and you're not going to parse it and you're not going to pick it apart. You're going to say, I like what he stands for. You like the fact that he's politically correct, you like the fact that he calls out the Chinese and that he says Putin likes him. I mean, you're not even going to be offended by that because he's a bigger package than that, Wolf.

And so, I think in terms of Iowa voters or New Hampshire voters that kind of like what he represents, he hasn't spent his time on the campaign trail being really specific in case you hadn't noticed.

And so, I don't think that's what his campaign is about, at least not yet.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say, I think there is a consistent line here that is very different, at least from what Republican elites have, you know, advanced over many decades. I mean, it is a very narrow definition of American interest in the world. I think what he basically comes back issue after issue is, we're not going to nation- build, we're not going to be responsible for regional security, we're not going to play the balance of power, we're going to pull back in essence behind walls unless someone threatens us directly in which case we're going to act with overwhelming force.

I think that is the consistent line when you hear him talk about these different challenges. It's doing less and unless threatens, in which case we will do more, and the underlying vision is the world is a dangerous and duplicitous place. They are trying to take advantage of the U.S. We have to keep out foreign influences and when we are engaging with these foreign countries, often they take advantage of us. We need a more narrow and more almost ruthless vision of American self-interest.

BLITZER: He's told me, what he's been saying for many, many years, that the U.S. intervention in Iraq was a huge, huge blunder for the United States.

All right. Everyone, stand by.

We just heard Donald Trump questioning whether Ted Cruz can be president of the United States since he was born in Canada. Up next, Cruz responds. He talks to our own Dana Bash about his latest so- called birther controversy. Stand by. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:27] BLITZER: There is more breaking political news. Republican presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz, defending his citizenship tonight as rival Donald Trump questions whether Cruz can actually be president of the United States because he was born in Canada.

Cruz talked about it with our chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Dana is joining us now from Iowa.

He's calling this a nonissue, Dana. Tell us what he told you.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You all know that Ted Cruz has made a point of not responding to Donald Trump every time he has tried to bait Senator Cruz into having a discussion about something that Donald Trump clearly thinks will hurt him as we head closer to the vote. It's clearly the strategy of Senator Cruz that he's not going to stop a good thing. That was clear in the conversation that we had about this particular issue. Watch this.


BASH: Speaking of the Constitution, you may have heard that Donald Trump is bringing up the fact that you were born in Canada and saying that if you're the Republican nominee, it could be held up in a court for two years.

You're a constitutional scholar. You've argued before the Supreme Court. Why do you think, on the legal basis, he's wrong?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, the legal issue is straightforward. The son of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen.

BASH: But it's never been tested. You know full well because you've done it on other issues.

CRUZ: Listen, the Constitution in law of the United States is straightforward. The very first Congress defined the child of the U.S. citizen born abroad as a natural born citizen, and by the way, many of those members of the First Congress were framers of the constitutional convention.

At the end of the day, this is a nonissue. But, you know, my response, as you and I were talking about just a few minutes ago, I tweeted a link to a video of Fonzie jumping a shark.

You know, I'm not going to engage in this and the reason is simple. There are far too many serious issues facing this country. Last night, North Korea claims to have tested a hydrogen bomb. What the American people are looking for is who is prepared for commander in chief? Who has the seriousness, who has the judgment, who has the knowledge, who has the clarity of vision --

(CROSSTALK) BASH: Let's button this up, though. Just on the issue of the passport.

CRUZ: What passport?

BASH: Donald Trump is suggesting -- saying that you had a Canadian passport.

CRUZ: It's not true.

BASH: False?

CRUZ: Yes.

BASH: You've never had a Canadian passport?

CRUZ: No, of course.

BASH: In your entire life?

CRUZ: Of course not, no.

BASH: And you're sure you asked your mother, you asked your dad, never had one?

CRUZ: Yes, I'm sure.


BASH: So clearly trying to put that question to rest. Unclear how successful he's going to be because Donald Trump, as we saw in your interview, Wolf, is determined to keep this up.

And as we get closer to the Iowa caucuses, Ted Cruz has been really blanketing this state, with his bus. I was with him on his bus, we're in a very rural part of the state. He's reaching counties here that a lot of people don't even bother going to because he's trying to get an insurance policy on winning the caucuses here.

It's kind of an odd situation. Expectations are pretty high for him to actually win here. So, he's got to meet those expectations if he wants to continue in this contest to New Hampshire and South Carolina and beyond. But I had some interesting conversations with him aides and campaign staff about the team that they are building, which we can talk about in the days and weeks to come, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Dana Bash in Iowa for us -- thanks very much.

We also heard Donald Trump tell me that Ted Cruz can resolve this relatively quickly, go to a federal judge and get a ruling from the federal judge, whether into fact you are eligible to serve as president of the United States.

[18:55:06] Gloria, what's your reaction to what we just heard from Senator Cruz? BORGER: Look, I think Ted Cruz is being smart about this. He's not

going to take the bait from Donald Trump. He understands that there's nothing in it for him to get into an argument with Donald Trump about whether he has the citizenship rights to run for the presidency of the United States.

He deflected the issue. He answered it very firmly to Dana and then he deflected the issue and said, look, there are more important things out there that we should be talking about and I'm the serious person in this race. I'm not the posturer. I'm serious. And these are dangerous times and maybe we should talk about North Korea and the hydrogen bomb, right?

So, I think that he's playing this in a very smart way. He's the front runner right now in Iowa and doesn't want to get off track, and he doesn't want to talk about Donald Trump.

BLITZER: We're showing you live pictures of Ted Cruz speaking in Iowa right now.

Ryan Lizza, how long do you expect Trump to try to ride this issue?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think once he gets into an issue and he sees people talking about it, he rides it as far as he can go.

Frankly, I think this is the first week that Donald Trump has been scared. He's done two things this week that show that. One, he's launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign in Iowa, after bragging for months that he's doing so well with free media that he doesn't have to spend any money.

And now, he is attacking Ted Cruz on an issue that, frankly, is kind of silly, right? It's been pretty -- most legal scholars agree that Ted Cruz is eligible to be president. It's true that the Supreme Court has never addressed this constitutional question. So, there's a very small shadow of a doubt.

And, frankly, if Trump wanted to resolve this, he actually has standing to resolve it, or he potentially had standing because he's something that would be damaged by Cruz's campaign, he could go to court potentially and sue Cruz over this. I think that would be a sign that he thinks this is a real issue.

Or what he's really trying to do is get us to talk about the fact that Cruz is somehow foreign. Before this issue, he talked about Cruz being from Cuba and not being a real evangelical because he's from Cuba, and he's trying to paint this guy as someone other than a real American.

BLITZER: But, Michael Smerconish, Donald Trump was right when he said there are some Democratic lawmakers out there who want to go to court against Ted Cruz on this whole so-called birther issue.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Donald Trump more than anyone else I can think of was instrumental in convincing 43 percent of Republicans that Barack Obama is a Muslim. And so, now, he's trying to do the exact same thing with regard to Ted Cruz as a Canadian. Will it be successful?

I'm listening to the conversation and there are such parallels of conversations passed relatively to President Obama, it played very well with the base. I agree with Ryan that the bigger picture issue here is now to try and paint Ted Cruz as an other, which has been a very effective strategy with the GOP pertaining to the president.

Will it work with regard to Cruz? Probably with some. I can't imagine that it will play well with too many but it doesn't need that many, does he?

BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, let me switch gears, because we heard from Vice President Biden today in an interview with WBIT. He expressed regrets for not throwing his hat into the presidential ring.

Listen to this.

Actually, basically, he said, any regrets to not throwing your hat on the ring? He said, "I regret it every day but it was the right decision for my family and for me. And I plan on staying deeply involved." He then said, "You've got two good candidates." I guess he was not referring to Martin O'Malley as the third candidate.

What was your reaction to that, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Wanting to be president is a bug that never entirely gets cured. But, you know, the best book ever written about modern politics was, "What It Takes" by Richard Ben Cramer. And the money moment in that book is when Tom Donilon of all people gives a speech to Joe Biden and says, "What it takes is everything", and Joe Biden at that point was not in a position to give it everything in the race. I think he made the right decision for him and his family.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: Yes, I agree and I'm not surprised that he regrets it because he spends his entire life in public service, and he's the sitting vice president of the United States. But, as Ron says, this wasn't the right time for Biden or for his family, which he's still grieving over the death of his son, and I think he also thought that it would be very difficult for him to win getting in this late.

So, does he regret it? Absolutely. Every person who decides not to run, does at some point regret it.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very much.

This important programming note: tomorrow night, President Obama will join CNN's Anderson Cooper and a live audience for a CNN primetime event, "Guns in America", airs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night.

In the meantime, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.