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THE SITUATION ROOM

Man with Knife and ISIS Symbol Attacked Paris Police Station; New Images of North Korea Test Site; Worldwide Reaction to North Korea's Nuclear Test; Interview with Representative Ed Royce; Source: Belgium Operatives Ordered November Attacks; Cruz Responds to Trump Jabs Over Citizenship; White House Slams "Obama Wants Your Gun" Picture from Ted Cruz Web Site. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 7, 2016 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, anniversary attack. Europe on edge as a man with a knife, fake explosives and an ISIS symbol is shot dead outside a Paris police station exactly one year after the slaughter of the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine.

Nuclear sanctions. As new satellite pictures emerge of North Korea's test site, Congress moves to punish Kim Jong-Un. We'll go live exclusively at Pyongyang where the communist regime is celebrating what it calls a hydrogen bomb test.

Trumped up charge? Donald Trump keeps up the birther attack on Ted Cruz, hinting his rival may not be qualified to be president of the United States because he was born in Canada. Will this have an impact on the Iowa caucuses as they draw near?

And guns in America. As he pushes for tighter controls, President Obama is set to leave the White House for a special town hall event on gun violence. You'll see it live only here on CNN.

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

Paris gets a new terror scare near to the day after the bloody attack on the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine. French officials say a knife wielding man was shot dead as he tried to enter a police station. They say the assailant had a fake explosive device and carried an ISIS symbol.

It's the latest in a wave of terror including the November 13th slaughter of 130 people in attacks claimed by ISIS.

And we have new satellite images showing activity at the suspected test site where North Korea set off some sort of nuclear blast. The North is celebrating what it calls a hydrogen bomb test. The U.S. and its allies were skeptical but are scrambling to try to learn exactly what Kim Jong-Un's regime exploded.

South Korea plans to celebrate the North Korean leader's birthday in the coming hours with a propaganda barrage sent in booming into the DMZ and there are now moves in the U.S. Congress and at the United Nations to punish North Korea.

We'll go live to Pyongyang and I'll speak with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce, and our correspondents, analysts and guests will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's begin in Paris with our senior international correspondent Atika Shubert,

Atika, what are you learning about this latest terror incident?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just a short time ago the justice minister told our local affiliate here, DFM-TV, that the man was known to the authorities but as a petty criminal and it's not clear at this point if he was acting alone or whether or not he had the help of any accomplices. They're still piecing together the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUBERT (voice-over): Police say the man approached the station brandishing a meat cleaver yelling, "Allahu Akbar," God is great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): He had wires coming out of his coat and then he backed off and came back at the police, with his hands in the air. They shouted, get back, get back, get back, and when he didn't, they shot three times. Three shots at once, no hesitation, bam, bam, bam.

SHUBERT: A remote controlled device checked the body for what appeared to be a suicide vest. Police now say that device was fake. Also found, a rambling note handwritten in Arabic stamped with the black flag of ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): The person who committed this act of aggression and was killed when the police were forced to open fire is in the process of being identified and it's possible that in the coming hours, we will learn more about this person's plan and his motivation.

SHUBERT: This exactly one year after a gunman targeted the "Charlie Hebdo" office and a kosher market, killing 17. And barely three months after attackers with explosives belts and automatic rifles brutally murdered more than 100 people at a concert hall, cafes and a football match in Paris. A grim reminder that Paris remains on the highest terror alert.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUBERT: This is the sad reality in Paris today. There was a school right around the corner from that police station. An elementary school where children were sheltering in place there for several hours. And unfortunately Parisians have just about used to the idea that violence could strike at anytime and anywhere -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Scary situation indeed. Atika, thank you. Meanwhile, North Korea may have set itself up for some harsh new

punishment following its claimed H-bomb test. South Korea now ready to resume massive propaganda barrages through loud speakers near the DMZ. And there's a new push for sanctions in the U.S. Congress and at the United Nations as investigators scramble to try to learn just what it was that North Korea exploded.

We're now getting new images of the apparent test site. Our chief national security correspondent is joining us now.

Jim, what is the very latest you're learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is as close as you'll get to a real-time image of North Korea's claimed hydrogen test.

[17:05:05] These are satellite images obtained DigiGlobe taken just about an hour after that seismic event was sensed underneath the ground here in central North Korea.

I want to take you in a bit closer here. This analyzed by experts. And when you look here, these are the entrances to the tunnels. This was an underground explosion. It's an area where all four of North Korea's claimed nuclear tests have taken place. What they noticed here, and again, keep in mind this image taken just an hour after the seismic event went off, is on these heavily used roads leading into the tunnel entrance. There are what appeared to be instrumentation vehicles, military vehicles carrying instrumentation equipment. Over here as well possible equipment as well.

It would make sense, analyst say, for going into that tunnel site just after a blast and measure exactly when it went off. Measure radiation, et cetera. So a fascinating look just an hour after this test which looks like another indication that this was indeed an attempted nuclear explosion, whether it's an H-bomb test, a hydrogen bomb test, that's not known at this point.

What's happening now, the next step in effect, is to look at what you sense up in the atmosphere. You have Japanese military planes. They have been traveling up over the site close enough where the prevailing winds would take the air to try to sense radioactive isotopes in the air that would indicate a nuclear explosion. They have not sensed that yet but we are told by U.S. military officials that a U.S. Air Force sniffer plane as it's known could be deployed soon to the area as well to make a similar judgment or at least attempt to make a similar judgment so they know exactly how big this explosion was and what the components were. Key assessment going forward.

BLITZER: Key indeed and the ramification is enormous right now. All right, Jim, thanks very much.

It's already Friday in North Korea which is about to celebrate Kim Jong-Un's birthday as it also celebrates his claim of a hydrogen bomb test. In a CNN exclusive our Will Ripley is the only American television correspondent inside North Korea right now. He's joining us on the phone from Pyongyang, the capital. Will, there's very harsh worldwide reaction to the nuclear test. Are

the North Koreans worried about new sanctions that are about to be imposed?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I met with the North Korean official last night who told me not only are they not worried but they are expecting additional sanctions as a result of this fourth nuclear tests. A test that they insist is a hydrogen bomb in spite of objections from a number of international experts.

The North Koreans told me that they have lived under crippling sanctions for so many years that additional sanctions really won't have any impact on this country.

I'm standing here -- by the way, I'm talking on the phone because our line signal went down. We often have transmission problems on this country, a country where most people can't even make phone calls outside of the country and can't access the Internet. But I'm watching signs of activity in this city just after 6:30 in the morning. People are waking up to mostly dark skyline. Starting to light up. People turn on their lights in their housing units and get ready to go to work for the day, which is as you said Kim Jong-Un's birthday.

So business as usual here in Pyongyang, but we really need to watch very closely what's going to happen later today which the South Korean loud speaker broadcast that you mentioned because over the summer when South Korea turned on those -- the loud speakers after two of their soldiers were injured in a landmine blast, North Korea fired artillery across the border. They considered it an act of war and it became a very dangerous situation, given the fact that there was no pre-warning even to North Korea's closest friend China about this fourth nuclear test.

There's a lot of questions right now about the unpredictability of this regime and what the now 33-year-old leader Kim Jong-Un will do in response -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Will, Donald Trump told me that China now has, in his words, total control over North Korea. He wants China to get involved and ease this crisis. What's the reaction to that from officials where you are in North Korea?

RIPLEY: I asked them about your -- about those comments made during your interview and they stalked at those remarks by Donald Trump saying that nobody has total control over North Korea aside from the Workers' Party led by Kim Jong-Un. They compared their country to a hunter holding a loaded rifle and they compare the rest of the world to a pack of wolves waiting to pounce. And they say their hands are on trigger and they're ready to open fire if provoked.

That's why you see this country beginning to get so aggressively in their nuclear initial program. They feel it's their only way to defend their sovereignty, their society, their society ruled by the Kim family, three generations. Now they've celebrated 70 years of the Workers' Party which has been ruled by the same family. The grandfather, father and now Kim Jong-Un.

[17:10:02] BLITZER: Friday morning already in Pyongyang. Will Ripley is on the scene for us. We'll stay in close touch, Will. Thank you very much.

So what was Kim Jong-Un thinking when he ordered the nuclear explosion, frankly China's doorstep and then boasted it was a hydrogen bomb test. The North Korean leader may have a personal grudge.

Brian Todd is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You've been digging into this, Brian. What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight intelligence agencies are going through all the possible scenarios to figure out what triggered this escalation. That personal grudge you referred to, Wolf, is a real possibility. It has to do with, of all things, a wildly popular all-girl band from North Korea and an embarrassing snuff they received from China.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Tonight North Koreans are cheering even as the Chinese are smoldering over Kim Jong-Un's nuclear test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a great insult. I think the Chinese at least believe that they were making some progress to keep North Korea somewhat under control.

TODD: Analysts say the Chinese have never liked Kim Jong-Un and the feeling is mutual. And tonight questions are raised about a North Korean girl band and whether it could have had a strange connection to the nuclear test.

The Moranbong Band, Kim's handpicked group of young women in tight dresses who sing Korean pop songs and patriotic tributes to their boss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a band that Kim Jong-Un created. It is something that only has his name attached to it. These are emissaries for Kim Jong-Un himself.

TODD: The band made a much anticipated trip to Beijing last month to perform in front of top Chinese Communist Party officials. It was seen as a crucial olive branch between traditionally close allies who've had a falling out but just hours before the concert a curve ball from Kim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made an allusion in one of his visits internal in North Korea to claiming that North Korean not only had nuclear weapons but they could do thermal nuclear weapons as well.

TODD: The Chinese were furious and after a reported scramble in Beijing's backrooms they decided on the ultimate snub.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They made clear that they would not send their highest level representatives to this concert. They would downgrade its significance.

TODD: Then it was it Kim's turn to be furious. Without singing a note --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The band goes home. Dressed in military uniforms, I might add. And that -- at that point North Korea proceeds ahead with what was probably the plan all along.

TODD: Most analysts believe the nuclear tests had already been in the works but could the snub of the Moranbong Band have been the tipping point? A U.S. intelligence official told the "New York Times," quote, "I know this sounds like a crazy reason to set off a nuclear test, but stranger things have provoked North Korean action."

(On camera): Is Kim impetuous enough to take this girl band incident and then ordered a nuclear test because of it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes, he is. I think. He's -- impetuous is the operative word. He is someone who seems to act often on impulse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He can be swayed one way or another very quickly by emotions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Chinese officials in Beijing and here in Washington are not commenting to us on any possible connection between the Moranbong Band's cancellation and the North Korean nuclear test. But Chinese officials are very clearly upset over the test tonight. They say they had no advance warning of it and they have called it North Korea's ambassador to Beijing to lodge a protest, Wolf.

BLITZER: And the other shoe could drop as well. What could China do now, Brian, to actually punish North Korea?

TODD: They are under enormous pressure right now, Wolf, to punish Kim Jong-Un. Analysts say they could go along with U.S. or U.N.-led sanctions against the North Koreans. They could actually Kim Jong- Un's bank accounts that he has in China. He has quite a few of those, making him a very rich man. They could also crack down on all the counterfeit Viagra, other drugs, cigarettes, cash and liquor that the North Koreans smuggle all over the world but the Chinese have to be careful, Wolf. They are deathly afraid of destabilizing North Korea. That kind of economic retaliation could do that.

BLITZER: Because there could be swarms of people.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: Just coming into China if that can happen.

TODD: Very, very (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Thanks, Brian, very much.

Joining us now is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us. I know you're sponsoring new House legislation to further sanction North Korea. But all the -- they're already the most sanctioned country in the world. Do you really think more sanctions can achieve anything?

REP. ED ROYCE (R), HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, Wolf, you alluded to one change and that was the question of freezing those bank accounts, right? And that was something we tried in 2005 when we -- when we caught North Korea counterfeiting $100 bank notes. When that was done, we found out that as a consequence he could not pay his generals and we found out later that the production lines for his missile program came to a halt.

It turns out that he needs that hard currency from outside the country in order to pay for his nuclear weapons program.

[17:15:02] That is the argument for doing this and we passed -- we passed my bill out of the Foreign Affairs Committee this morning to do exactly that with strong bipartisan support. So we're going to -- we're going to bring this up next week before the Congress and try to get on to the president's desk as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Do you think China has the will or the ability to really get North Koreans under control? Because as you know, they're the major ally of North Korea. They have a lot of influence, potentially, there.

ROYCE: This is true, but the last time we put these sanctions on in 2005, China decided to comply. And the reason they decided to comply was because their bank in Macau and the other ten banks that were dealing with North Korea had a choice to make between dealing with the United States or only dealing with North Korea. They made the choice to freeze the North Korean accounts and did not hand that money over to North Korea.

BLITZER: The Republican -- I was going to say the Republican presidential frontrunner, Mr. Chairman, Donald Trump, he has suggested the U.S. should start cutting off support to China to force their hand on North Korea to make sure they do what the U.S. wants them to do. Would you support putting that kind of economic pressure on China, as well?

ROYCE: Well, the easy solution here is to go after the one place that they get the hard currency, which is the ten banks, you know, we know which banks. We know that this has worked in the past. So why not try what has worked? What has worked to shut down the ability of that regime to have any hard currency, not just to pay the troops or the secret police, but to pay the generals. And if you're the dictator, it's a bad place to be when you cannot pay your generals.

Now, I think this approach, the legislation we're passing is exactly what should be done, because it worked for a while in the past until we lifted those sanctions under the thought that North Korea might come back to the table. Of course, they cheated on that agreement. So -- so we made the wrong move. What we should do now is shut down their ability to move forward with a thermonuclear program and their other weapons programs.

BLITZER: Does President Obama support your initiative?

ROYCE: We don't know yet, but I can tell you this. Ranking member Engel, Democratic member on my committee, and I are doing this jointly with the Republicans and Democrats in the Foreign Affairs Committee. We have unanimous support. We believe we can get the administration to support this position, but we will see.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. Chairman, I want you to stand by, because just when you think the situation in the Middle East can't get much worse, all of a sudden it's dramatically getting worse, even as we speak right now.

Much more with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:46] BLITZER: We're back with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, Iran has now accused Saudi Arabia of intentionally bombing the Iranian embassy in Yemen. The Saudis deny this. How much more could this crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia now escalate?

ROYCE: Well, this is a difficult problem in the region, because as you know, the more it escalates, the more it divides Sunni and Shia into separate blocks; and it continues to spill over.

One of the difficulties we've had, I believe, is with the perceived tilt by the U.S. administration towards Iran, it's left us with very little leverage to influence not just Saudi Arabia but some of the other Sunni countries in the region.

And a secondary problem we have right now is the perception that the United States keeps backing down in the face of pressure from Iran. We really need a policy of more back down rather than more -- of backbone rather than more backing down. And this is what we hear from those in the region.

The United States should say something about Iran's attempts to overthrow the governments in Yemen, in Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia.

BLITZER: Because I've been told the Saudis -- the Saudi government, the Saudi monarchy has lost a lot of confidence in the United States going back to basically when President Mubarak of Egypt was removed. He was seen as a strong U.S. friend and ally, even though there were a lot of problems within Egypt.

And since then the Saudis have lost confidence in the U.S. Have you seen any evidence of that?

ROYCE: Wolf, what we've perceived was in 2009 when people went to the streets in Iran after a stolen election to protest against the ayatollah, what they perceived was that the U.S. administration did not speak out in favor of the people but instead, during that time, begin a policy of trying to engage the ayatollah, and with respect to Egypt, supported, in their minds, the Muslim Brotherhood rather than the government of Egypt. And from their standpoint it was Iran putting money into the Muslim Brotherhood that was helping support that effort to undermine Egypt.

So this whole decision to tilt to Iran becomes the issue for the Jordanians, for the Israelis, for the gulf state, for the Egyptians. This is part of the critique that you hear: Why doesn't the United States stand up, even when, you know, the Iranians send a missile off the -- 1,500 yards off of the bow of our aircraft carrier? They fire off missiles in violation of U.N. sanctions. They take another American hostage. Why doesn't the United States take a strong stand? This is what you hear.

BLITZER: Yes. The King Abdullah of Jordan, by the way, will be here in Washington meeting with the president next week. We'll see what he has to say.

You also know that ISIS has now been linked to this truck bombing in a police training center in western Libya today, killing at least 50 people, a lot of police officers. ISIS clearly spreading from Syria and Iraq now all the way into Libya. Is there anything the U.S. can do?

ROYCE: Well, this is the point, Wolf, that we should have hit ISIS early on, should have hit them when they were coming out of Raqqah, should have used our air power and not allowed them to take all of those cities. We did not begin to engage until after they had taken Mosul.

And by that point in time they'd ramped up their recruiting. They were training, and they were sending those trained out into Libya and other parts of the world to carry out attacks.

This takes us back to the point that we have to defeat ISIS on the ground. We should best do it by training the Sunni tribes and arming them, by arming the Kurdish forces, by arming the Yazidis, by allowing our U.S. pilots to hit these targets the way the French pilots were -- went in, you know, and hit all those training camps that we never hit. This is why we have to be on offense against ISIS now.

[17:25:04] BLITZER: Ed Royce is the chairman of the Jouse Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us.

Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we have breaking news about who may have really been giving the orders, pulling the strings for November's bloody terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more.

And is Ted Cruz -- the Ted Cruz birther issue gaining traction today? Now Senator John McCain is the latest to question Cruz's eligibility to be president of the United States. Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:28:57] BLITZER: Our top story on this, the one-year anniversary of the bloody massacre at the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine, Paris gets a new terror scare as police shoot dead a knife-wielding assailant who had a fake explosive device and carried an ISIS symbol.

All this coming as we get breaking news about who was behind the slaughter of 130 people in Paris in November, injuring hundreds more.

Joining us now, our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank; our CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd -- he's a former CIA official; and our CNN national security commentator, the former House Intelligence chairman, Mike Rogers.

Paul, you've broken the news on Belgium, where these high-level terrorists are -- remain at large on the heels of that knife-wielding man brought down in Paris. What's the mood now? What do we know about who these terrorists might actually be? We're showing drawings.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the Belgium counterterrorism officials say that they're close to establishing their real identities, Wolf.

[17:30:00] Back on December 4 they put out pictures to the public to try to identify these two individuals. Those pictures were circulated. They also had some intelligence on some fake Belgium identity cards that they were using, that they were using to travel to Hungary with Salah Abdelsalam, to go and pick up several attackers who had come Syria and transport them back to France. Also using those identity cards to wire money from a Western Union office of the attacks to the female cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader on the ground in Paris.

But before, during and after the attacks they were on the phone to the Paris attackers giving orders. They were senior in this conspiracy to Abdelhamid Abaaoud. They are now the two most wanted individuals in the whole of Europe -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil, could these two terrorists actually be long gone by now, maybe in Syria? How can analysts track them down? Tell us what kind of steps they might be taking.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think they could just be long gone. I think they are. There's a couple of things we got to look at as we sketch out this web of conspiracy.

When you look at cases like this, Wolf, you got to go down a checklist. Where did people get their money? Where did they live? Where did they travel to? Who were friends and family? Who were co- conspirators? But as Paul said until we identify the true names of these individuals, we can look at things like the cell phones they were using to call into Paris, but the huge element of the investigation that still has to take place, things like what kind of apartments did they rent, where did they live, what passports did they use.

That element of the investigation still has to go -- has to be concluded. And you can't conclude that without coming up with their true names, Wolf. We got a long ways to go here.

BLITZER: Is this, Mike Rogers, an intelligence failure, that these two leaders if you will managed to escape, they remain at large now?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I wouldn't call it an intelligence failure. This is a massive investigation. They have freedom of movement across Europe. We already know that there's a pipeline that's easier than most people want it to be to go from Europe to Syria and back again. So the fact that they don't know their true names makes that investigation more difficult. The fact that they can get false papers as easy as they can means that they can change their identity five times before they even know their true identity.

So this is a very difficult investigation. Think about the FBI's most wanted list. Some of those people on there are for years. Whitey Bulger was on that list for some 20 years before the FBI caught him. And if you're really good about using all the modern techniques to circumvent investigative techniques, phones, e-mail tracking, digital footprints, moving money, all of that which they are, it just makes their job that much more difficult. And they're crossing jurisdictions, another big problem.

BLITZER: Very difficult indeed.

Paul, you're also hearing about a new -- some new intelligence about the ISIS threat to Europe right now. What are you learning?

CRUICKSHANK: Wolf, this comes from a senior European counterterrorism official. And they tell me there's very recent intelligence that European ISIS operatives in Syria and Iraq are increasingly faking their own death over there. And the worry is that they're doing that so they can get back into Europe and launch attacks, sneak back into Europe because they wouldn't be so much on the radar screen if European security services believe that they are dead.

And that the ringleader as you'll recall in the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in late 2014 he did exactly that to try and slip back into Europe. He managed to do that, get to Greece. And he had coordinated that major plot that was thwarted in January of last year in eastern Belgium.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, that's a pretty intriguing development if true that these individuals, these terrorists might be faking their deaths.

MUDD: I think it is. But you have to look at this in a pretty short period -- pretty short timeframe. Europe and the United States are switching to biometric passports. Over the next few years you can slip across borders either by paying people off or by using bad paper, that is fake passports. But over time you're not going to be able to get in without showing your fingerprints, without doing iris scans. So I think this is a phenomenon that ISIS can exploit in the short, short term, but over the long term this is a phenomenon that I believe is going to disappear because of the rise of things like biometric passports, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Mike Rogers, very quickly, how much of a problem for the United States is this proxy war that's escalating clearly between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

ROGERS: It's a huge problem. It's going to get worse. First of all, Iran now has cash. That is ramping up their actions in Yemen.

BLITZER: You mean the start of the $150 billion or so --

ROGERS: Right. But it's not just --

BLITZER: The sanctions that are being lifted.

ROGERS: It's not just the sanctions. A lot of people focus on that. But all the commercial activity that they couldn't do before that they are doing now means a huge flow of cash going into Iran. Some of that is going to terrorism. Even the president said some of this money is going to terrorism.

[17:35:07] That involves this proxy war that is in Baghdad, it's in Syria and it's in Yemen. This is a huge problem we're going to have to get our arms around.

BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this. Obviously lots of worrisome developments, guys. Don't go too far away.

This important note to our viewers, don't forget we're now, what, only -- two hours or so away from President Obama's live town hall with CNN's Anderson Cooper, a primetime CNN event. "Guns in America," remember, that airs 8:00 p.m. Eastern, two and a half hours -- less than two and a half hours from now.

Coming up, more jabs at Ted Cruz about his citizenship. Donald Trump is at it again. So is Senator John McCain and several Democrats now weighing in.

What's Senator Cruz saying? We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In politics Donald Trump keeps jabbing Ted Cruz about whether the senator is qualified to be president of the United States because he was born in Canada. For his part Senator Cruz is trying to brush off Trump's questions.

Just moments ago our chief political correspondent Dana Bash asked the senator about something Trump suggested during my interview with him that Cruz ask a federal judge for a decision on whether he's a citizen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Trump is trying to give you some legal advice. I'm not sure if you've heard. He said that you can give what is called I think a declaratory judgment or ask for a declaratory judgment in federal court.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not anything that's going to happen. And I'm not going to be taking legal advice any time soon from Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Dana's joining us now live from Iowa. So what else is Senator Cruz saying, Dana?

BASH: Well, I should tell you I'm inside an airplane hangar where Senator Cruz just wrapped up a stump speech. It was the third of the day of his fourth day in this bus tour he's giving across Iowa. Not one word about Donald Trump. Not one word about this controversy.

[17:40:02] He is remarkably disciplined giving virtually the same stump speech all the time about why he should be president and nothing about the other candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Ted Cruz calls his eligibility to be president a nonissue.

CRUZ: The legal issue is straightforward. The son of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural born citizen.

BASH: Good luck as long as Donald Trump keeps it churning with his 5.5 million Twitter followers. Tweeting today, "Ted, free legal advice on how to preempt the Dems on citizen issue. Go to court now and seek declaratory judgment. You will win."

Never mind the irony of Trump giving the Harvard Law trained Cruz who clerked for the Supreme Court legal advice.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You go to federal court, you ask for a declaratory judgment.

BASH: Outside experts say what Trump is suggesting isn't possible anyway.