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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Indiana Congressman Andre Carson; Interview With Jordanian King Abdullah; Republican Party Division; Controversy Over Detained Sailors; Polls: Sanders Leading Clinton in Iowa, New Hampshire; King Abdullah Weighs in on Refugees; Haley's Speech Highlights GOP's Trump Divide; Border Tension Increases Concern Over North Korea. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 13, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, under duress? Dramatic new images of 10 American soldiers ceased by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, one of them now apologizing, possibly by force.
Tonight, new information about what happened. Did Iran get its hands on sensitive U.S. military equipment?
Jordan's king, my exclusive interview with King Abdullah II. We talk about fighting ISIS and if more can be done by the U.S. and its allies, as well as the growing refugee crisis. What's his reaction to calls to ban Muslims from coming into the United States?
Fake missile? New evidence North Korea may have doctored video of a failed missile launch to make it appear successful. Is it the latest effort by Kim Jong-un to desperately flex his country's military muscle?
And taking on Trump. From President Obama's State of the Union speech to the official Republican response by South Carolina's governor, Donald Trump getting hit on all sides, and, tonight, what he's saying about the rising GOP star Nikki Haley.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're THE SITUATION ROOM.
No official apology from the United States government, but video of an American sailor apologizing for straying into Iranian waters now raising new questions about the seizure of 10 U.S. Navy personnel by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Iranian state television showed the sailor calling the incident a mistake, saying -- and I'm quoting now -- "It was our fault."
It's not clear whether he was forced to make that statement. All 10 sailors were later released. Iran just one of the topics I discuss in my exclusive interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan. He says he's concerned about what Iran may do with hundreds of millions of dollars it's about to receive with the lifting of sanctions as part of the nuclear agreement with the West, $100 billion potentially in the next few weeks. We're standing by for a Donald Trump campaign event and his possible
response to the indirect slams against him in President Obama's State of the Union speech and the official Republican response by the South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley. Her remarks have infuriated some conservatives and they're spotlighting a growing divide over Trump inside the GOP.
We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our guests, including Congressman Andre Carson. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee. He's one of only two Muslims in the United States Congress. Also, our correspondents and our expert analysts, they are also standing by.
Let's begin with Iran's release of those 10 American sailors and an apparent apology by one of them.
Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working the story for us.
Jim, we now have some dramatic images of that incident.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right.
And U.S. officials now calling into question the on-camera apology that we see in that Iranian state TV interview with that Navy crew member, a U.S. official saying clearly this staged video exhibits a sailor making an apology in an unknown context as an effort to defuse a tense situation and protect his crew, but the sailor said one more thing again on Iranian state television. That's that the Iranians took control of their boats with guns drawn, weapons drawn and that would run counter to the U.S. officials' narrative of a diplomatic victory in this incident.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): U.S. sailors on their knees, their hands up and behind their heads, this is the moment 10 Americans were detained by Iranian Revolutionary Guards after mistakenly entering Iranian waters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did not mean to go into Iranian territorial water.
SCIUTTO: The sailors spent the night in Iranian custody, fed and given blankets, say Iranian officials, before they were freed early this morning. U.S. officials made clear that Secretary Kerry did not apologize for the incident.
But Iranian state TV aired video by what appeared to be an apology by one of the Navy crew.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a mistake that was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake.
SCIUTTO: Tonight, it remains unclear if it was made under duress. At 12:13 p.m. local time, Iranian forces released the American sailors
from Farsi Island. The sailors departed on the same two riverine command boats they'd been captured on and headed to USS Anzio, a Naval missile cruiser positioned in the Persian Gulf.
From the Anzio, the sailors were transferred to the USS Truman aircraft carrier and then flown to shore.
Secretary Kerry, who called his Iranian counterpart five times on Tuesday, credited the new diplomatic ties between the two countries for the resolution of a potentially tense standoff.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think we can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago. In fact, this kind of issue was able to be peacefully resolved and officially resolved, and that is a testament to the critical role that diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe.
SCIUTTO: But, tonight, some are questioning just why U.S. sailors found themselves in this situation in the first place.
CHRISTOPHER HARMER, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: My concern is that the U.S. Navy's professional incompetence put these sailors in harm's way without giving them clear rules of engagement or a clear exit plan from Iranian territorial waters.
SCIUTTO: U.S. and Iranian officials seemingly on point in calling this a diplomatic victory.
Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Javad Zarif tweeting: "Happy to see dialogue and respect, not threats and impetuousness, swiftly resolved the sailors' episode. Let's learn from this latest example."
And it is true, Wolf, that you wouldn't have had this diplomatic channel just a couple of years ago, before those nuclear negotiations, which clearly helped to resolve this, but let's keep in mind there are five Americans still being held in Iran, including Jason Rezaian, "The Washington" reporter, and all that friendship, all that diplomatic communication has not led to their release by any means.
BLITZER: And Amir Hekmati, a U.S. -- former Marine who has been held for years now as well.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jim Sciutto.
Let's get some more on the investigation.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working her sources for us.
Barbara, it's still not clear how these two boats actually wound up in those Iranian waters, is it?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Not clear at all, Wolf.
The crew is being debriefed, but you're beginning see some ripples of concern, especially from the Republicans. Republican Senator John McCain, of course, a highly decorated veteran and POW himself, raising concerns that the administration isn't taking this seriously enough.
Look at this video. This is the Iranians taking video for propaganda purposes of U.S. military personnel and distributing it worldwide. This is not supposed to happen. When mariners are in distress, they are to be rendered aid and then released.
The administration very oddly, some feel, not even responding to this notion that the Iranians are using these sailors for their own propaganda value, showing them on their knees, stripped of their weapons, interviewing them. The U.S. Central Command putting -- which governs and oversees military operations in the Middle East, putting out that statement a short time ago saying the sailor was making an apology -- and I quote -- "in an unknown context as an effort to defuse a tense situation and protect his crew."
So you see the U.S. Navy sailor in the eyes of the Pentagon trying to protect his crew. The Iranians making these propaganda videos, there is no other purpose for them, and the Pentagon not even responding to it, at least not yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure they are doing a full review, right, to make sure it doesn't happen again, a postmortem.
What are you hearing about that, Barbara?
STARR: Indeed, Wolf. They are debriefing the sailors now, we are told, to try and find out what happened. Did, in fact, they have an engine failure? Did that really happen? Was the sailor speaking under duress? Did they make a mistake in their navigation and drift into Iranian waters?
Did the Iranians in some sense force them into Iranian waters? These are the things that they are being asked. I think it is logical to assume that somebody in the U.S. military more than 24 hours later after the incident has some indication of what happened, but the sensitivity, because of everything Jim just talked about, the diplomacy, the nuclear agreement, you are just not yet seeing the White House, the Pentagon or the State Department ready to talk about it.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.
Let's dig deeper into all of this with Democratic Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ANDRE CARSON, D-INDIANA: Thank you.
BLITZER: What are you hearing? Was this a forced confession, a forced apology by this U.S. sailor?
CARSON: Well, what we know at this point is that it was accidental.
I think something could be said of the great work that the administration has done, led by Secretary Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, and the Iranians informed us in a very timely fashion, and they are going to release them.
And so I think it speaks to the great work of diplomacy that the United States has done in terms of bringing Iran to the table and bringing them further into the world community.
BLITZER: There is some concern, as you know, Congressman, that Iran potentially could have extracted sensitive intelligence from the two U.S. military vessels. Are you hearing concern about that?
CARSON: At this point, there's no concern.
I mean, this isn't an issue of the United States vs. Iran. Again, as I have said, the Iranians have -- they notified the United States in a very timely manner, which we appreciate, and they have promised their release in the next few hours.
And so I'm more concerned about Iran coming to the table and coming to the international community and looking at what they will do with a negotiation that is at hand, in terms of the implantation date that we all are waiting for.
BLITZER: There's a lot of concern, as you also know, that, yes, these 10 American sailors were released, but there are four or five, six U.S. citizens, including a "Washington Post" reporter, a former Marine, who are still being held by Iran, Iran showing no indication they are ready to give up any of these Americans who are being held in Iran.
You want them back, obviously. Should that have been put on the table in exchange for the $100 billion that Iran is about to get in eased sanctions?
CARSON: Well, it's something that we are going to have to push the issue on.
We have to remember that Iran is still largely considered to be a state sponsor or terrorism, and so as we look at the implantation date that is looming, these are things that we will have to talk about. We are going to be monitoring the situation very closely.
But I can say this isn't the time for politicians like myself and some of my colleagues to stir the pot or to even fan the flames. We have to give them time to come through with their promise, and we will see what happens from there.
BLITZER: Congressman, stand by. There's a lot more to discuss.
And we will take a quick break, much more with Congressman Andre Carson right after this.
BLITZER: There is breaking news we're following, The FBI now saying that shooting of a Philadelphia police officer by a man who says he pledged allegiance to ISIS, that incident now being investigated as a terrorist attack.
A tipster told police the accused gunman, Edward Archer, has ties to a group with radical beliefs. The officer suffered serious injuries, but he is certainly now expected to recover. That's good news.
We're back with Democratic Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, the fact that this is now being investigated as a terrorist attack, you have looked into this. What do you know about any connections the shooter may have had with overseas terror groups?
CARSON: What we do know is that there are scores of people who are now being self-radicalized. They are going online. They are going to social media sites and they're looking at individuals and even groups who share their value system or who share their skewed belief system.
And what is happening is that we're working with the administration in their countering violent extremism effort, or commonly known as CVE, where you have faith leaders, imams, rabbis, pastors and other leaders, along with psychologists and educators and parents and families who are taking this, if you see something, say something approach, where we can all kind of have this community of information to intervene and even to thwart those who want to do us harm.
BLITZER: Before you became a congressman, you worked in law enforcement. Do you think policing tactics now need to change if ISIS is deliberately targeting police officers, as the suggestion out there is?
CARSON: Well, there are over a dozen police models. The commonly known police model, of course, is community policing.
But there is another model called problem-oriented policing. And other models that could be implemented truly look more closely at other extremists groups even outside of ISIL.
But I think what is most concerning is that now police departments across the country have to look at retooling, especially in the police academy, and look at more minority recruitment. We're seeing where law enforcement has abused powers in many ways, not only in the African-American and Latino communities, but also in the Muslim communities, where you have Muslim communities being spied upon without having established a reasonable suspicion or even probable cause test.
And so law enforcement agencies now are wrestling with changing the way they recruit, changing the way they operate, changing the way their training models have been over the past few decades. And so I think a part of the problem-oriented policing model and even the community policing model has to deal with greater recruitment efforts of minorities and greater recruitment efforts of minorities, be they Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish, or even non-theist.
BLITZER: You speak with some authority. You're one of only two Muslims in the United States Congressman right now.
What's your message to your fellow Muslims out there around the country right now as far as trying to help stem this potential terror threat?
CARSON: I think that there are a lot of groups on the ground who are doing a phenomenal job already.
You have groups like Impact. They are doing a great job. You have other groups across the spectrum, groups like Emerge and ISNA, ICNA. I can go on and on. And you have CAIR on the other side of the civil rights fight. And you have a lot of groups.
You have the African-American Muslim community who has been at the forefront of this fight for over 100 years now, particularly beginning in the late '20s and early '30s, with their anti-violence initiatives, and really starting their own communities and grocery stores and businesses to give alternatives to people who would become self- radicalized or even disillusioned because of economic conditions.
And so I think that the Muslim community in a post-9/11 reality is now kind of dealing with how the community can come together, over eight million Muslims in the country -- of course, they are not monolithic -- but how they can come together to make greater contributions, not only to our country, but to take a stance against extremism.
BLITZER: Last night, the Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, stood up to some factions of her own party on the issue of immigration, made some thinly veiled references to some of the Republican presidential candidates.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She's the daughter of immigrants to the United States from India. The White House says what she said last night took courage. Do you agree? CARSON: Oh, absolutely.
I commend Governor Haley, who is of South Asian descent. She had look -- witnessed the struggles of her own parents. And you look at our immigrant community in this country, and there are folks, Wolf, who have come to our country and they're starting businesses and they're helping to put Americans back to work and they're making tremendous contributions.
I think you have politicians who want to tap into the worst part of our fears and anxieties and stir the political pot. But the American people are smarter than that. And I think we will see in the next few years the immigrant community really, really have a greater political presence and it's something that politicians should look to in terms of courting their vote.
BLITZER: Congressman Carson, thanks very much for joining us.
CARSON: Always an honor. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
There is new information also coming in tonight about Sean Penn's controversial interview with the fugitive Mexican drug lord El Chapo Guzman, who was recaptured in the deadly raid last week.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has the details.
Pamela, what are you hearing from your sources?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned from our sources that U.S. law enforcement was aware of a connection between the actor Sean Penn and the drug kingpin El Chapo even before that Mexico visit last October. Communications between Sean Penn and the actress Kate del Castillo garnered attention of U.S. law enforcement around the same time.
We know that Mexican authorities had picked up these text messages between El Chapo and del Castillo. When Sean Penn arrived at the airport in Mexico last October, U.S. authorities were made aware. But after that, authorities lost track of Penn and the fear was that he was going to meet with El Chapo at a location where an operation was about to be launched to capture the drug kingpin.
Here is the exchange I had with the attorney general, Loretta Lynch, about that today in an exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: We have learned that an operation back in October on a Mexican compound where El Chapo was believed to be hiding was delayed because of the belief that there may be two Americans there, including Sean Penn. What role did your office play in that decision?
LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The operation that did capture El Chapo, as well as the efforts to bring him to justice after his escape, were operations of the Mexican government.
We're tremendously gratified that the capture was successful and we look forward to having El Chapo face justice in an American court.
Certainly, if you look at the number of cases he's involved in, the depth and breadth of his criminal organization, the amount of money he's siphoned off of Americans who are addicted to the poison that he peddles, obviously, he's a very, very important target for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: She made it clear that she wants to see El Chapo face justice here in the United States -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Pamela, thank you. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, my exclusive interview with Jordan's King Abdullah. His country has taken in more than a million refugees. What's his reaction to the refugee debate raging here in the United States right now?
Plus, the Republican governor of a critical early voting state slamming Donald Trump and exposing a deep GOP divide. We're standing by to hear from Donald Trump tonight. Will he react?
BLITZER: Now my exclusive interview with Jordan's King Abdullah II, one of America's best friends in the Middle East.
We sat down to discuss tensions with Iran, calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States, and the exploding refugee crisis. Jordan is currently on the front line.
BLITZER: The Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz has called allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, his word, lunacy.
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner now, says taking in Syrian refugees could be a Trojan horse in the United States.
When you hear these comments, what's your reaction?
KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: There are Trojan horses in there. We definitely know that.
And so you have to be careful about the screening. But, at the same time, we can't probably let the 80 percent of other refugees or the 90 percent of the other refugees suffer at the same time.
So it's always got to be a balance of your moral code of being able to look after people that are in plight to the balance of security. And this is something that we always have to deal with.
BLITZER: How many Syrian refugees has Jordan accepted?
ABDULLAH: Well, more -- we have about 1.2, 1.3 million refugees at the moment, but, obviously, we have accepted more than that, because some have come in. Some have gone back into Syria, and some have gone to other countries.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, here in the United States, there is a big debate about allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. About 1,500 so far have been accepted.
The administration says maybe 10,000 will be able to come in. Do you believe the U.S. is doing enough to help Syrian refugees?
[18:30:07] ABUDLLAH: Well, we have been challenged recently, because there is 12,000 or 14,000 refugees across our border on the eastern side that have not been allowed to come in, except for very strict screening.
Part of the problem is they've come from the north of Syria, from Raqqah, which is the heartland of where ISIS is. We know that there are ISIS members inside those camps.
And we have tremendous pressure from NGOs and other countries that keep telling us that we have to let them in. We vet about 50 to 100 every day.
We do have our government, our military and our hospitals, as well as NGOs on the other side, looking after them. But the pressure we get from the international community, saying, look, we got 1.2 from a humanitarian point of view and a moral point of view, you really can't question our -- our determination.
But these -- this particular group has a major red flag when it comes to our security. And so we're being very, very careful on vetting. So I tend to understand when other countries are concerned, but at the same time, we can't ignore the plight of refugees, and we have to let people in.
BLITZER: What's your reaction to Donald Trump saying that there should be a temporary ban on Muslims coming into the United States until the U.S. can figure out what's going on?
ABUDLLAH: Well, I think that's the same challenge that we're being pushed to at the moment with -- with the group that we're talking about. We're saying to those, you know, we've had this comment given to us by the United States, that you need to allow these refugees into the country. So we're going back to the United States, where these comments have been made, saying, "Look, we understand. We are trying to bring these people in. But we're trying to make sure that the mechanisms that we put in place, make sure -- it's never going to be foolproof, but we're going to try and make it as sterile as possible."
But like I said, we're accepting 50 to 100 every day from an area that we know there's a major danger. Obviously, it's those that are ill, the elderly, women and children. I know some people could be callous and say, "Well, let all the women in," but as we saw in California and we've seen in Paris recently, women unfortunately, have been part of terrorist organizations and terror strikes.
But we can't ignore and just keep refugees isolated. So you've just got to be smart. And you've got to think with heart.
BLITZER: Because Donald Trump isn't just talking about refugees. He's talking about all Muslims on a temporary basis not being allowed to come into the United States. You're a major Muslim leader of a Muslim country. You hear these comments. Your reaction.
ABUDLLAH: You're into an election cycle, so I don't think it's fair for you to ask a foreign leader to express his opinion on candidates in your country running for election.
BLITZER: The Saudis, as you know, executed a Shiite cleric, others accused of terrorism. In response, the Saudi embassy in Tehran was burned, ransacked. The Saudi severed diplomatic relations. Other Sunni Arab countries, the UAE and Kuwait and Bahrain, Qatar, they've downgraded or severed relations. Jordan didn't. Why?
ABUDLLAH: Well, we are in coordination with the Saudis. We took a firm position against what the Iranians did. We fully support our Saudi friends, and we took the position that we took. We would end the Iranian ambassador and expressed our displeasure. This was done in coordination with our Saudi allies.
We have an amazingly strong relationship with our Saudi brethren. My relationship with his majesty the king and the crown prince and deputy crown prince extremely strong. And this was the position that we had worked out between ourselves.
And again, don't forget that we are part of the Vienna talks when it comes to Syria. So it was felt that having us in a bit more of a flexible -- flexible position at the talks is probably more prudent at this stage.
And obviously, there is now a heightened tensions between the Saudis and the Iranians that is going to play out in the Vienna talks. But more importantly, what I think the Saudis, looking at the higher moral ground, don't want this to escalate into a regional Shia-Sunni conflict, so I think everybody is trying to make sure we can calm this down and focus on what needs to be done, especially at the Vienna talk table.
BLITZER: Because I know you have, Jordan has very good relations with Saudi Arabia. But did you have a problem with their execution, the beheading of these -- of these terrorists?
ABUDLLAH: No, they told us about this beforehand. This is an internal issue. And we respect, obviously, their decisions and their internal decisions cycle. And as we said, we fully supported what they had to do.
[18:35:07] BLITZER: Your majesty, you've been very generous with your time. Thank you so much. Welcome to Washington.
ABUDLLAH: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: King Abdullah's visit to Washington, including -- included meetings with the vice president, the secretary of state, secretary of defense, top members of Congress, but originally, there was no meeting scheduled with President Obama over the past few days. The White House communications director, Jen Psaki, cited scheduling conflicts when I interviewed her yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Today I asked the king if he felt he was being snubbed by the president of the United States. He replied that he did not feel he was being snubbed. He said they would be meeting, potentially, next month. He says they have met often in the past.
But guess what? Earlier this afternoon, suddenly, the White House announced a hastily-scheduled meeting between the king and the president at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington D.C. This photograph released by Jordan. Good thing they met.
Just ahead, a rising GOP star slams Donald Trump infuriating some conservatives and shining a spotlight on a growing Republican rift.
Plus, we have new evidence North Korea may have doctored video of a failed missile launch to make it appear successful.
[18:40:58] BLITZER: Donald Trump holding a campaign event tonight in Florida. Will he react to the not-so-subtle dig the South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, made at last night's presentation when she gave the Republican response to the president's State of the Union address.
Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is in South Carolina tonight for us tonight. Dana, Haley's remarks have outraged some conservatives. They certainly highlight -- highlighted the GOP's Trump divide, shall we call it. What's the latest?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly did. You can see on here at a Ted Cruz event in South Carolina. He is kept his aim squarely at President Obama, not even talking about address last night given by the home state governor here, Nikki Haley.
But of course, that is a lot of the talk within the Republican world today. And I spoke to somebody who's close to Nikki Haley who said that, when she was asked to give this speech, the speaker of the House told her it would be your ideas, your words.
BASH (voice-over): The Republican response is supposed to rally the party. This time this part made many in the GOP livid.
HALEY: During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.
BASH: Conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham called it insane for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to use her platform to chide her own party.
LAURA INGRAHAM, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO HOST: This is about intimidating, demonizing and a rather lame attempt to dismantle the growing populist movement in the country.
BASH: Conservative provocateur Ann Coulter tweeted "Trump should deport Nikki Haley."
But the daughter of Indian immigrant is standing by her decision to stand up against over-heated rhetoric on the GOP campaign trail.
HALEY: I can appreciate that they're angry. I said what I believe. I stand by what I believe. I think that this country is better when we work together and acknowledge the fact that the fabric of America is based on legal immigrants.
BASH: Haley was asked to rebut the president's State of the Union by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Both have expressed concern about the direction and future of their party in the wake of Donald Trump's call to temporarily ban all Muslims from America.
Still, a Haley advisor tells CNN that when Republican leaders in Washington asked her to deliver the GOP response, she said yes only on the condition she would have full control over what she said.
HALEY: It was my speech. They let me write it. And to their credit, they didn't try and keep me quiet.
BASH: The fact that Haley is the governor of the critical primary state of South Carolina means Republican candidates are forced to decide whether to side with her, further illustrating the GOP divide. Marco Rubio threw subtle support behind Haley, saying he was proud of her.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I'm personally most impressed about, she did it without a single sip of water.
BASH: Meanwhile, the bromance between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is officially over. Cruz's lead is shrinking in Iowa, and Trump continues to question if the Canadian-born Cruz is eligible to be president, tweeting today, "Sadly there is no way that Ted Cruz can continue running in the Republican primary unless he can erase doubt on eligibility. Dems will sue."
Trump is even playing "Born in the USA" at rallies. And Cruz is no longer trying to kill Trump with kindness.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he may shift in his new rallies to playing "New York, New York," because you know, Donald comes from New York, and he embodies New York values. And listen, the Donald seems to be a little rattled. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BASH: Now that is quite a different tactic for Ted Cruz who for months and months has said explicitly he is not going to respond in kind to Donald Trump. But as his numbers have slipped in Iowa, a Cruz source said that it was clear they had to show that he could stand up for himself. And that is what he did.
But I should tell you that he's not mentioned Donald Trump once here.
[18:45:03] One thing I do want to mention that Cruz got today was what he certainly considers a key endorsement. Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty", and they put out kind of kitschy video for the web, and on it, Phil Robertson talked about the fact he had criteria for who he would support. One of the criteria, will they kill a duck and put him in a pot and make him a good duck gumbo -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana Bash joining us in South Carolina -- Dana, thank you very much.
Let's get some more -- joining us, our CNN political reporter Nia Malika-Henderson, also our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and "The Washington Post" assistant editor, David Swerdlick.
Gloria, Donald Trump was very successful in undermining Jeb Bush. Can he do the same thing to Senator Cruz?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He's trying. He's really trying and I think Cruz has a point when he says Donald Trump is kind of getting a little nervous because when you look at -- when you look at these numbers, Cruz is above him now in Iowa and, you know, while it's within the margin of error, I think that Cruz has a very good shot at winning Iowa because if you look at the polling, when you ask voters who is their second choice, 23 percent of potential caucus- goers say that Cruz is their second choice.
So, you know, I think they are neck and neck and I think Cruz is taking the gloves off because he's got to be sure that he keeps, that he keeps Trump at bay and I think both of them should be a little nervous at this point.
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.
BLITZER: Nikki Haley, he was widely prized by some Democrats including the White House, Josh Earnest, the press secretary said she . She also faced some bitter criticism from conservatives. How does this impact her?
HENDERSON: Well, you know, I think she is exactly where she wants to be. We're talking about her here on this panel. I think she did a fantastic job in terms of the performance of the State of the Union response.
That's always a difficult thing to do and she did it, I think, magnificently in terms of the content, she is raising some eyebrows and this is really a flash back to where she was in 2012 after she was elected. She endorsed Mitt Romney, a Tea Party folks were not happy with that. She was at about a 35 percent approval rating.
But you flash forward to now, She's at 80 percent approval rating in South Carolina, the most popular politician. Tim Scott comes in second. She's exactly where she wants to be. She had a rough road there, Tea Party folks buoyed her and put her in office and at some point were upset with her because she was in locks up with the legislature not taking them on enough but here again, she is upset at some Tea Party folks and consecutives, but she's certainly trending in political circles.
BLITZER: She certainly is in South Carolina early state, right after Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, Nevada. She is getting support praise from someone like Marco Rubio. Donald Trump not so happy with what she had to say.
It does under score the split, the divide inside the GOP right now.
DAVID SWERDLICK, THE WASHINGTON POST: It under scores the split, but I think Governor Haley has options, right? She is young, she's a woman, she's of color. She's the governor of a deep red state, Wolf.
So, she's an attractive candidate for someone looking for a vice presidential running mate if it comes to that, and maybe she thought last night, look, I might be able to take a chance and show where I stand and make myself stand out from the pack with that message saying, look, let's tone down the rhetoric. I'm a conservative, but I want to be a moderately toned conservative.
BLITZER: Yes, and she pointed out she's the daughter of immigrants from India in her speech last night.
BORGER: Here is what is amazing about Nikki Haley, is that she said what she wanted to say. These speeches are usually pretty canned.
BORGER: And, you know, I was wondering in the last hour whether her speech was vetted. It had been read by the leaders, Republican leaders of Congress but they didn't really change anything and they might have disagreed with some of what she said, but she has enough standing within the party to say, OK, the only way I'm going to do this is if I do it on my terms and they understand what a powerful message she has and they kind of backed off, which, you know, I think is sort of remarkable.
I mean, they read her speech and all the rest, but in the end, I think this was Nikki Haley's message. And don't forget, Donald Trump has to compete in her state and so far, he's doing well there, doing really well.
HENDERSON: Doing really, yes.
BORGER: We'll have to see what kind of an impact.
BLITZER: You know who else is doing well, Bernie Sanders right now. Nia, take a look at this poll in New Hampshire. This is this is a neighboring state to Vermont. He's at 53 percent. Hillary Clinton 39 percent.
Another poll in Iowa, he's gone from 40 percent back in December to 49 percent. Now Hillary Clinton has gone from 51 percent down to 44 percent in Iowa.
[18:50:01] He points out that he thinks there is a good chance he could win both Iowa and New Hampshire.
HENDERSON: And their sense is that they would be able to slingshot off of those two victories and then do well in Nevada, and then do well in South Carolina, making the comparison to what then-Senator Obama was able to do in 2008. If you look at polls, though, in South Carolina, he's not doing so well. He only gets about 10 percent of the African American vote down there. That primary will be 50 percent African-American voters.
So, he's got a real challenge. His campaign is going to launch an HBCU tour, a tour of black colleges on Thursday. He won't be there but Cornell West will be. And they are talking about surrogates, surrogates like Tatiana Ali, like Killer Mike, people like that, and they're going to roll out some more. So, they really see --
BLITZER: Because --
HENDERSON: They need African-American voters.
BLITZER: -- all indications are Hillary Clinton does really well in the African-American community among Democrats right now.
SWERDLICK: Yes, absolutely. To Nia's point, right, I mean, Bernie Sanders is not for lack of effort. He has met with leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, he has also sort of addressed some of these issues of deep concern to African-American voters in debate. But to your point, right, when you get to the southern states particularly, the Democratic primary, the Democratic primary base is heavily African-American and he doesn't do as well.
BLITZER: All right, guys. So, we're going to leave on that note, but we will continue these conversations.
Just ahead, a very different story we're following. North Korea, its successful missile launch from a submarine or did it have a successful missile launching? We're taking a look at new evidence suggesting the video is a fake.
[18:55:59] BLITZER: We're following the disturbing rise in tension between North and South Korea right now. Now, evident along the demilitarized zone that divides the two countries, and there is growing concern tonight over how far North Korea's Kim Jong-un will go, now that he claims to have a hydrogen bomb.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
So, Brian, all eyes on North Korea once again tonight. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are tonight, Wolf. Intelligence
agencies around the world closely watching North Korea's volatile border, the heavily fortified with South Korea. We are again seeing cross border incursions, provocations, gun fire. A U.S. defense official tells me tonight, they are concerned about an escalation and they are calling on the North Koreans to dial it back. But tonight, we're told that Kim Jong-un could be ramping all of this up because it's likely helping him internally.
TODD (voice-over): North Korea's violent erratic young leader's latest provocation: triggering gunfire. Tonight, the heavily fortified border, the DMZ, is on a razor's edge after South Korean forces fired several machine gun warning rounds at a suspected North Korean drone. The unmanned aircraft had flown over the border, and when fired upon, a South Korean commander says it quickly returned, quote, "towards the North".
(on camera): What was likely the drone's mission?
LT. COL. TONY SHAFFER (RET), FORMER U.S. ARMY SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: The likely mission for these drones, as rudimentary as they are was probably tactical reconnaissance. The North Koreans did not have sophisticated surveillance technology like we do. Therefore, it's very likely they were trying to figure out troop disposition. The second thing they were trying to do obviously is probably provocation.
TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong-un is also engaging in an intense propaganda battle with South Korea tonight. In Seoul and some border cities, South Korean troops picked up leaflets dropped by North Korean balloons. Among their messages, an incitement to attack South Korea's president, quote, "Let's beat up Park Geun-hye's clique like you would do to a mad dog."
South Korea had launched its own propaganda salvo in recent days.
Loud speaker broadcasts blaring across the border following North Korea's fourth nuclear test. In any potential escalation, Americans and their allies are in the crossfire.
SHAFFER: What I really worry about is the fact that we have tense of thousands of troops, U.S. and South Korean standing troops, it's like a trip wire. Both sides are standing their arm, and the fact that they have been armed, facing off for all this time has resulted in the death of U.S. soldiers on multiple occasions.
TODD: Analysts say look for Kim to keep the dangerous game going.
BONNIE GLASER, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Kim Jong-un is willing to engage and continue provocations in part because it benefits him domestically. He tells his people, North Korea is now detonated allegedly a hydrogen bomb and this means North Korea is now a member of this very elite club. TODD: U.S. officials say it likely wasn't a hydrogen bomb, but
tonight, Kim is again threatening nuclear war with the U.S. Could he carry out that threat?
PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: He is crazy enough to create an incident that could go nuclear. But I don't think he would launch a nuclear weapon, except in the most desperate straights. But he could miscalculate. He's fully capable of miscalculating.
TODD: And here is another weapon that Kim could miscalculate with. North Korea boasted in recent days they have conducted a missile launch from a submarine. This is a freeze grab of some video, but analysts say the test may have been a failure. The video appears to be edited, one from the middle of the Middlebury Institute compares the North Korean launch here on the left with a successful launch on the right. On the left, they see black smoke, several explosions on the way up. At one point, they believe that debris was falling off of that rocket. Another agency, 38 North, says they believe that the North Koreans launched this from a barge under water and not a sub -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They still could have that capability in the future, though, right?
TODD: That's the key thing, Wolf. That's the important thing to remember. They are working hard on a sub launch missile, 38 North, this group that monitors them constantly says they could have it by 2020.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.
Thanks very much to our viewers for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.