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Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; Terror in Africa; Ted Cruz Under Fire; Iran Controversy; Clinton Slams Sanders Over Health Care, New Ad. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 15, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: breaking news, hotel attack. U.S. troops are poised to go in as gunmen open fire and take hostages. Stand by. We will have a live report.

Staged by Iran. U.S. sailors reveal more information about their hours in captivity and how they were pressured to act while the camera was rolling. It's raising more doubts tonight about why Iran showed this video to the world.

Raining money. Bills fly in dramatic new video of a coalition airstrike targeting ISIS and its massive stockpile of cash.

And biting the Apple. After Ted Cruz condemned so-called New York values, he's getting a one-two political punch from Donald Trump and from several major East Coast Democrats. Did Cruz's debate strategy backfire?

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 CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news right now, gunmen storming a hotel in Africa that's very popular with Westerners. We're told U.S. troops are now on the site. And they may be preparing some kind of rescue operation as the crisis unfolds.

Also tonight, the Obama White House says there is ample reason to distrust Iran just hours before the Iran nuclear deal may take effect and just days after 10 U.S. sailors were held by Iranian regime elements. Video of the sailors in captivity may be adding to that distrust right now. CNN has learned members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps apparently choreographed the video, telling the sailors to -- quote -- "act happy" while they were being recorded, this as the Obama administration waits for verification that Iran is complying with terms of the nuclear agreement.

International inspectors could release that report as soon as tomorrow. Tonight, Secretary of State John Kerry is heading to Vienna for talks with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Here in the United States, there are growing concerns, meanwhile, about how Iran will spend billions of dollars it stands to gain in the coming days when the deal goes through and the sanctions are lifted.

I will ask Congressman John Garamendi about all of that. He's a leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. And our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by as we cover all the news that's breaking right now.

Up first, the breaking news.

Let's go to CNN's Robyn Kriel. She's joining us now live from Nairobi. We're learning about an attack, a terror attack not too far away.

What's the latest you're getting about what's going on?

ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it has just gone 11:00 p.m. on Friday night in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou.

That is where an ongoing hostage situation is unfolding. And we are told by -- the media has been informed on the ground by the Gendarmerie -- that is Burkina Faso police -- that an assault is imminent, that an elite commando unit of Burkina Faso police are preparing to enter the hotel and restaurant where these attackers are apparently holed up.

I can tell you, Wolf, that there are U.S. troops reportedly -- according to a journalist at the scene -- U.S. troops and French troops, special forces, on the scene. We're not sure if they are going to be involved in that assault or are simply there as an advisory capacity.

BLITZER: Robyn, so we're talking about this hotel. It's called the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. This is a hotel where usually there are Westerners. We don't know, correct me if I'm wrong, if any Americans were there. But, sometimes, U.N. personnel, other international diplomats go to this hotel, the Splendid hotel in Ouagadougou?

KRIEL: Yes, the Splendid Hotel, Wolf, very popular with U.N. staff, we're told, as well as Westerners. And, indeed, this would include Americans. This would include French and various other diplomats and other folks who would be going through there. In any case, it would usually be people in the NGO community. Journalists perhaps would stay at this hotel, which is in the center of downtown.

The U.S. Embassy has tweeted that they are aware of the situation unfolding in downtown Ouagadougou. The French Embassy has also tweeted that they want their citizens to stay at home. We do understand that there was some sort of intelligence ahead of this attack, the French telling their citizens, warning of a perhaps impending attack.

Wolf, this is the country right next door to Mali, which was the scene of a very similar hotel siege that unfolded in December, where dozens of people, at least more than a dozen people, were killed Bamako, the capital of Mali, gunmen entering the hotel and killing people using gunfire during breakfast. [18:05:03]

BLITZER: Robyn Kriel, stand by.

I want to bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, what can you tell us? What are you learning from U.S. sources?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is not confirmed, but there are early claims of responsibility for think by the group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, sometimes known as AQIM.

This is an Qaeda-, of course, affiliated group in North Africa, part of, really, a witch's brew of groups that are operating in this area. You might have heard of the group al Mourabitoun, which carried on an attack a number of months ago on a Western gas and oil facility in Algeria.

So, it's a group that has targeted foreigners in the past. One other thing I would note about Burkina Faso. This is a country, as Robyn noted, close to Mali. It is considered an ally in the fight against terrorist groups in the area, of which there are many operating, and both French and U.S. forces have operated there before because of that.

It's one of many groups splintering of al Qaeda, as we have seen it, no affiliation with ISIS. In fact, they have had a bit of a competition of sorts with ISIS in the area. But it just shows how the reach even of al Qaeda after it's lost really its home base in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

BLITZER: We're going to continue to follow obviously this development at the Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou.

But you're also following -- there's more fallout emerging, even as we speak right now, about those 10 American sailors who were captured and relatively quickly released by the Iranians.

SCIUTTO: That's right.

I would say two headlines today. One of them it appears that the capture and the videotaped images that we have seen so much of showing their Americans on their knees and then later this apology on camera by their commander, that this was very much stage-managed, it sounds like, based on the accounts of those sailors, that they were told to look happy in those pictures as they were shot by Iranian state TV and then broadcast there, and indications that the commander of that Naval unit was pressured to make an apology during that.

But we're also learning new details about how they ended up in Iranian hands, in particular, that it looks like there was a navigational error that put them inside Iranian waters, where, as we know, after a short time, they were surrounded and detained by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, new information that the capture of 10 U.S. sailors by Iran was at times stage-managed by their captors, the Americans told to smile and look happy while they were being filmed. Their commander, U.S. military officials tell CNN, felt he had no choice but to apologize for entering Iranian waters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a mistake that was our fault and we apologize for our mistake.

SCIUTTO: Despite images that many inside and outside the military find humiliating, administration officials continue to argue that the final result, the sailors' release within less than 24 hours, was a successful end to what could have been a far worse situation.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think there's any reason for anybody to be embarrassed. If we had followed the advice of some of the Republican critics of the administration, you know, we'd probably be in a bloody war with Iran right now over our sailors.

SCIUTTO: The images stand in sharp contrast to the expected implementation of a nuclear agreement with Iran, which U.S. officials tell CNN could come as soon as this weekend.

Implementation means the end of punishing economic sanctions. Iran will be able to sell its oil and gas more freely on international markets. European and American firms will have many restrictions on doing business with Iran lifted. And Iran will regain access to some $150 billion in assets frozen overseas, though U.S. Treasury officials estimate Tehran will only net about a third of that amount.

The administration contends it's all worth it to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that it will continue to closely monitor Iran's compliance.

EARNEST: We do have the ability, if we detect that Iran is not fulfilling all of their commitments, that we can snap sanctions back into place.

SCIUTTO: Still, critics say that recent steps by Iran, including test-firing ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions, show why the U.S. should be wary.

MARK DUBOWITZ, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: They took 10 American sailors and they're supporting the genocidal regime in Syria. So, it's deep concern that this regime is going to get hundreds of billion dollars to support violence and future terrorism.


SCIUTTO: We learned a short time ago that Secretary of State John Kerry will be traveling to Vienna tomorrow to meet with his Iranian counterpart, the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif.

Wolf, as you know, they spent a lot of time across the negotiating table during those Iran nuclear talks, does not necessarily mean they're going to announce implementation tomorrow. But, clearly, we're in the final stretch here, that coming in the next several days. And, of course, when that happens, you will see the lifting of these punishing economic sanctions on Iran.

BLITZER: And we will see how Javad Zarif, he will be reacting very favorably. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, on the other hand, that's sort of a wild card still.

SCIUTTO: They have publicly been critical of the deal and the negotiations with the U.S.


But, as you know, they listen to the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. He clearly allowed this deal to go forward and they will listen to him.

BLITZER: OK. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for that report.

Let's bring in Congressman John Garamendi. He's a leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, before we talk about Iran, what's going on with those sailors, you worked in Africa. You helped negotiate peace treaties, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Congo. Explain the influence of this terror group, these various terror groups in Africa right now. You see what's going on in Burkina Faso. Terrorists apparently have stormed the Splendid Hotel there in Ouagadougou, the capital. And there are French, American troops maybe getting ready to move in.

First of all, what are you hearing?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, all that you have heard thus far. But it's not a surprise.

We do know that throughout that entire area, that entire Sahel area, that is the southern portion of the great desert in that region, these terrorist groups operate. We have seen in Northern Nigeria, obviously Mali, all the way across to the west as well as to the east, Somalia.

And so this entire area is littered with these various terrorist groups. They are dangerous. And they are very, very aggressive. Fortunately, the United States government, working with the French government, as well as the local governments in the area, is pushing back very, very strongly. And we must also carry out the economic and social development upon which a lot of this terrorism is able to breed and grow.

BLITZER: A lot Americans probably will be surprised, Congressman, that there are American troops there on the scene together with French troops ready to get -- come to the assistance of the government and maybe storm this hotel where hostages are being held and terrorists may be inside. Are you surprised there are U.S. troops there?

GARAMENDI: No, not at all. We have known that for some time. If you will recall, there was this thing called Ebola. It was the United States military that provided the relief in that same region. And we have had troops in that area. We also provide a lot of what we

call intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance using our high- altitude aerial platforms of various kinds, so that we can identify and help. We are major -- with the French, who provide most of the ground operations in that area. But we also provide transportation, logistics, and the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance.

And we do it all across that region. AFRICOM, which operates in that area, AFRICOM being the military command responsible for Africa, is active. We don't have a lot of troops, but we have some in various places, including some fast-response operations. Perhaps that is what is taking place there in that hotel situation.

BLITZER: Because now we know there are some American troops in Burkina Faso as well.

All right, Congressman, stand by. There's a lot more to discuss, including the way Iran treated those 10 U.S. sailors.

We will have a lot more with Congressman John Garamendi when we come back.



BLITZER: We're back with Congressman John Garamendi.

And a new video from the war against ISIS just declassified by the U.S.-led coalition, it shows an airstrike targeting some of the terror group's vast wealth.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, you were the first to report on this strike. And now we see the video. Explain to our viewers what happened.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Exclusive video to CNN of this U.S. airstrike, two 2,000-pound bombs dropping in the middle of Mosul, Iraq, Iraq's second largest city, on ISIS cash depot, millions in ISIS cash destroyed.

But look at this video very carefully. You see a huge flutter of paper. For some region, perhaps the direction of the blast, there was a flutter of cash that sprung up into the air. The military found that pretty fascinating. They're not really sure why it all didn't get incinerated.

But the CENTCOM commander, General Lloyd Austin, told reporters this really was a good hit. They got the bulk of the ISIS cash depot. This is money that ISIS uses to pay its troops, to finance its operations. These are the kinds of economic and financial targets that the coalition is trying to hit to take ISIS' ability to finance those operations away from the organization -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much. Very dramatic video, indeed. Congressman Garamendi is still with us.

Congressman, the strike against this ISIS financial center in Mosul, clearly a blow to their operations. And you see all that cash blowing up right there. The criticism is, though, that civilian casualties occurred, that even in the process of trying to destroy all this money, there were civilian casualties.

Are you OK with that?

GARAMENDI: I don't think there's any choice but to go after ISIS in a very, very formidable and aggressive manner. And, yes, there will be civilian casualties.

But we must keep in mind that the U.S. military, unlike the Russian military, is doing everything it possibly can to minimize those. We use almost always smart bombs, which we probably used in this situation, so as to not miss the target. But these things do happen.

But we also recognize that this is one dangerous terrorist group and we need to be very aggressive. We need to do the very best we can to target only the fighters. But there is going to be collateral damage, which means civilian casualties. And that's just unfortunate.

BLITZER: As you heard from Jim Sciutto, the Iran nuclear deal could go into effect as early as this weekend. And, initially, U.S. officials say $30 billion to $50 billion in frozen assets will be unfrozen.


The money will quickly get into the hands of the Iranians. Is there any way to track that money to make sure it doesn't go to terror groups, if you will, out there? Because the U.S. government, as you know, still considers Iran to be a state sponsor of terrorism.

GARAMENDI: Well, yes, there could be. But we're looking at a situation in which Iran has some serious problems at home.

My guess is they're going to have to spend a lot of that money on the infrastructure in the oil industry, so that they can move their oil out of their country. And right now, with the price of oil tanking, they're not going to be in a very wealthy situation.

One thing we as Americans need to keep in mind, and that is the other side of this equation. Most of what I have heard in your reporting thus far is about the lifting of the sanctions and the effect that that will have, including the cash. The other side of this is that Iran's nuclear potential is seriously degraded at least for the next decade and quite possibly for the next 25 years.

Their centrifuges, 19,000, they have had to give up 14,000 of those centrifuges. Their highly enriched plutonium has been shipped out of the country. And their -- the reactor could produce plutonium is now filled with concrete. And so we have avoided a North Korea situation in the Iran country. So, this is good news. The sanctions are not all lifted. Only the

sanctions having to do with the nuclear issue are lifted. All of the sanctions that have to do with the bad acting, including where that money might go, those sanctions stay in place.

BLITZER: Congressman John Garamendi, thanks very much for joining us.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, Democrats find some rare reason to agree with Donald Trump, after he fired back at Ted Cruz for his attack on so- called New York values, Trump citing 9/11 in a very strong defense of his turf.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.





BLITZER: Tonight, the Republican presidential race is boiling down to a two-man grudge match, just hours after tensions between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz exploded on live television, the two candidates clashing on the debate stage, trying to sow doubts about the other. Who will it hurt? Who will it help when Iowans cast their first ballots of 2016 campaign just a little more than two weeks from now?

Let's go to our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. She's the story.

Fiery debate last night, Dana. We're watching the fallout.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And you mentioned two-and-a-half weeks until Iowa.

Because of that, most candidates have already done what is a rite of passage in Iowa presidential politics, stopping at a pizza ranch. But Donald Trump did that for the very first time today, not surprising, since this campaign is anything but traditional.


TRUMP: I'm going to be here so much in the next two weeks, you are going to be sick of me.

BASH (voice-over): Energized by a strong debate performance, Donald Trump rallied for votes in the first caucus state Trump-style. TRUMP: People say, oh, well just say you want to do well in Iowa.

Just say you want to do well. That way, at the end, if you come in second or third or fourth, you know, you can say -- I said I want to win Iowa.

BASH: He is neck and neck in Iowa with Ted Cruz, a political death match that spilled onto the South Carolina debate stage last night.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald's mother was born in Scotland. She was naturalized. Now, Donald...

TRUMP: But I was born here.

CRUZ: ... on the issue -- on the issue of citizenship, Donald...


TRUMP: Big difference.

CRUZ: On the issue of citizenship, Donald, I'm not going to use your mother's birth against you.

TRUMP: OK, good, because it wouldn't work.

BASH: Cruz tried to turn the tables on Trump, who has been questioning the Canadian-born Cruz's eligibility to be president.

CRUZ: Back in September, my friend Donald said that he had had his lawyers look at this from every which way, and there was no issue there.

Since September, the Constitution hasn't changed.


CRUZ: But the poll numbers have.

NEIL CAVUTO, MODERATOR: Why are you raising this issue now?

TRUMP: Because now he's going a little bit better.

BASH: But Trump got the last word, going after Cruz for disparaging his -- quote -- "New York values," by invoking 9/11.

TRUMP: And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched. That was a very insulting statement that Ted made.

BASH: For that, Trump got rare backup from New York Democrats, former New York Senator, now Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted, "Just this once, Trump's right. New Yorkers value hard work, diversity, tolerance, resilience and building better lives for our families."

"The New York Daily News" was more blunt, saying, "Drop Dead, Ted," with the Statue of Liberty giving him the one-finger salute.

This afternoon in South Carolina, Cruz responded.

CRUZ: I'm happy to apologize. I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been let down by liberal politicians in that state.

BASH: As for Trump and Cruz, their scuffles would be standard fare, had the competitors not been embracing only months ago.

[18:45:07] CRUZ: Donald Trump has been tremendously beneficial to our campaign.

BASH: Why do you have this bromance?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that is a little bit of a romance. I like him, he likes me. He's backed me 100 percent.

BASH: That was then, this is now.

TRUMP: So I guess the bromance is over.

BASH: Do you see Ted Cruz as your biggest competition right now?

TRUMP: No, not really. I mean, we're going to see what happens. But certainly I don't see him as my biggest competition. I see him as competition. Certainly he's competition and others are competition.

BASH: Now, the former presidential Candidate Trump sparred with a lot. Lindsey Graham threw his support behind Jeb Bush, today.

Graham who is the Senior Senator from South Carolina, which holds the first in the south primaries, said, he believes Bush is best prepared to be Commander in Chief. And well as, he said he likes Marco Rubio too you but he's only 44 and he's not ready yet.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Standby, Dana, I want you to participate in this conversation.

Also I want to bring in our Senior Political Correspondent, Brianna Keilar and our Political Commentator Ryan Lizza, he's the Washington Correspondent for the New Yorker Magazine.

And also joining us our CNN Senior Political Analyst, Ronald Brownstein, he's the Editorial Director for the National Journal.

Brianna, I want to put the front page, the cover of the New York Daily News up on the screen. Once again, it was very tough, "Drop Dead, Ted." The second line basically says, "Go back to Canada."

Are we surprised that Ted Cruz, apparently, in the debate last night wasn't better prepared to deal with this?

BRIANNA KEILER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was really surprised. And I also thought Ted Cruz was sort of surprised that Ted Cruz wasn't better prepared to deal with this moment.

You know, politics aside, I think when you look at Ted Cruz, he's someone who is kind of almost chest-like and that he's sort of looking ahead, the wheels are kind of turning in a way. He really does sort of see around some corners, I think rhetorically and he's always pretty prepared.

But watching him last night, I saw the side of him that I really haven't seen before. He seemed to be sort of, you know, spinning his wheels a little bit. And I thought he was really struggling to answer the question and I kind of thought he kind of kept going in circles a little bit as he tried to deal with that.

BLITZER: And then our Jake Tapper spent some time with Donald Trump, today. And that they had an exchange about Cruz.

Let me play the clip and then we'll discuss.


TRUMP: It's simple and that there's a cloud. You can't have a cloud. You can't pick a candidate that may have a 5 percent, 10 percent, 25 percent chance.

By the way, since that happened, there have been lawsuits filed. You know that. It's been filed. And I said lawsuits are going to be filed. The democrats are going to be file lawsuits. They filed lawsuits.

Now, he's got a problem. He was born in Canada. He was a Canadian citizen until 15 months ago. I mean, if you can believe that.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, dual citizenship. Yeah.

TRUMP: Yes, but he was a Canadian citizen.

TAPPER: Fifteen months ago.

TRUMP: And he said he didn't know. He didn't know. Well, he didn't know about his financial papers either. You know, how are you going to be president if you don't know about a million dollars loan from Goldman Sachs and you said it's something you don't know about?

Now, he doesn't known he was a Canadian citizen. I mean, that's, in a way, maybe worse than all of the other things we're talking about.


BLITZER: You know, that's a pretty good line from a Donald Trump about Ted Cruz. This war is going to continue between the two of them.

BASH: Oh, absolutely, because the battle is on. You know, it's just a couple of weeks then these people are actually -- it's not just talking anymore. People are actually going go to go to the caucuses and vote soon. And it is incredibly tight between the two of them in Iowa. So of course, it's again to continue to go on.

One thing that I might just as -- as a potential candidate -- and I'm not sure if this is true. When it comes to your argument that maybe Cruz was caught flat footed. Maybe he was but maybe he also kind of knew exactly what he was doing. To try to give a message to Iowans, his supporters there and he just decided to let it go.

KEILER: Did it play -- I mean it does play well, right? Like he said if you're talking about in South Carolina, this is something that's going to play well. And I don't think you can really disagree with that. But I think he also delivered for Donald Trump a really genuine moment where even people who don't agree with Donald Trump at all sort of said, "Yeah.", of what he said, you know.

BLITZER: You know, Ron, that Donald Trump is increasingly getting optimistic about winning the Republican Presidential Nomination. And then going on and winning the presidency. He laid out, he was on MSNBC this morning, he laid out a strategy of how he's going to do that. Listen to this.


TRUMP: One of the best locations I have in the whole country is New York State, which is almost 50 percent of New York. I mean, can you imagine if we ever won New York? Nobody even thinks about that when they do the polls.

Plus we're going to win West Virginia big, we're going to win Virginia, we're going to win places that we're not normally -- that nobody else is going to win. We're going to win New Jersey, we're going to win Pennsylvania, we're going to win Florida, we're going to win Ohio.


BLITZER: You know, if he wins, he'll run all those states as you know as well as I. He will be the next president of the United States.

RONALD BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's right. You're right. Well, it's a little easier said than done.

Look, in the 11 states from Maryland to Maine except for New Hampshire of all voted democratic in at least every election since 1992. They are part of what I called the blue wall.

[18:35:03] Could Donald Trump breach the blue wall? Well, it would be a test of competing theories about how you win the White House.

On the one hand, I think Trump embodies the belief of many conservatives that the problem Republican has to face, is they have not turned out enough of their base particularly culturally conservative blue collar white voters. Trump is a magnet for those voters.

On the other hand, if you look at the poll and even as Trump's numbers have improved among the Republicans, they remain overwhelmingly negative among the key elements of the Democratic press, primarily, millennials, minorities, socially liberal, secular urban whites.

So in a sense, Trump would test that if Trump does become the nominee, he does test the theory about whether this idea that conservatives can win the White House by turning out more of the base works, because in fact, if they win states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey and New York, where you have this large presence of the democratic coalition and his tremendous negative numbers among them, he would need truly heroic turn out numbers among, particularly, blue collar whites. . BLITZER: He certainly would get Ryan as, you know, South Carolina follows Iowa and New Hampshire. The first list up primary as Dana just said that, "Today Lindsey Graham, the Senator from South Carolina, endorsed Jeb Bush."

Here's Trump's reaction.


TRUMP: (Inaudible) that was zero. He had zero. He had nothing. That's number one. So, he's not going to get any voters. And I think it's a bad thing for Lindsey Graham and I think it shows -- I mean, why is he endorsing -- Jeb has no chance.


BLITZER: Does he make a good point?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINTON CORRESPONDENT FOR NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, it's not like there're a lot of votes from Lindsey Graham that are going to be to Jeb, right? Because in presidential primary he didn't do very well, but Lindsey Graham was a senator from South Carolina. He has some important constituents, down -- his constituent is down there that look to him for leadership that support him.

And, you know, look, there -- before this campaign, I would have said, endorsements are really important. We look historically since 1980. The candidate with the most endorsements ends up being the nominee. The party, it's a source of indicator of the party coordinating around one of the candidates.

This cycle endorsements have been very slow to come out. The establishment has been very slow to rally around a single candidate. We all thought that was going to be Jeb Bush early on and that momentum was halted.

If this leads to a reassessment of the Jeb Bush candidacy and other senators like a Republican senators and constituents start following in Graham's lead, then this will matter.

BASH: But I think this is more about Lindsey Graham than Jeb Bush. This is the way he's buttoning his campaign. He didn't work for him. Donald Trump is right, he got nowhere. But he ran with the idea that he wanted to make sure that there is -- from his perspective a strong Commander in Chief. And Jeb Bush is his guy. And so he wants to kind of stick with his brand, if he will. And finish off what he started.

LIZZA: I think it's a real shot at Marco Rubio. Lindsey Graham worked very closely with Marco Rubio on that gang of eight bill, he saw him up close. They were friends and colleagues on that bill. BASH: And he said he ...

LIZZA: They have the same views on foreign policy.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Ron, what do you think of Rubio?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. But Wolf, I think I agree it's a shot at Marco Rubio, but it's also a sign of how difficult it has been for the establishment to find a horse that Lindsey Graham in the critical state of South Carolina is rallying around a candidate who has been sinking in the polls.

Let's see what Nikki Haley and Tim Scott go to each of which in their own way have been critical of the direction that Donald Trump is proposing for the party. Can they find someone to make a stand behind in South Carolina? Because certainly at the debate last night there was not a lot of urgency, I thought, from most of the candidates in making the case against the clear frontrunner in the race. . BLITZER: All right, guys, standby. We have a lot more to discuss, much more politics coming up.

Also, the important note to our viewers, you can see our Jake Tapper's interview with Donald Trump on CNN State of the Union this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern as well as Noon Eastern.

All right, we'll take a quick break, much more on the race for the White House, when we come back.


[18:43:31] BLITZER: We're back with our political team.

But tonight, Hillary Clinton's campaign is accusing Bernie Sanders of breaking his promise not to run negative ads. Sanders has disputing the ad. But there's one thing that's unboundedly clear right now. The Democratic presidential race is clearly getting testier as the Iowa caucuses get closer and closer.

Our Senior Political Correspondent Brianna Keilar now has the latest on that Hillary Clinton.

Brianna, she's ramping up her criticism of Bernie Sanders' Healthcare plan.

KEILER: She certainly is will because she's contending that Bernie Sanders cannot afford to put his plan in place without increasing taxes on middle class Americans, and now, what has been months of these two candidates mostly playing nice. And these final two weeks before Iowa has turned into political punches that keep on coming.


KEILER: Hillary Clinton is unleashing a blitz of criticism calling Sanders' plan for a single-payer healthcare system unrealistic and expensive. Today, Clinton accused Sanders of purposely withholding details about how he would give all Americans health coverage through Medicare, effectively eliminating private insurance companies.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Basically what he's doing is saying, "Hey, we need to start all over again. Let's tear it up and replace it, details to be forthcoming and another big national divisive debate, which I just don't agree with."

KEILER: Sanders says he does not want to scrap ObamaCare.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clearly, despite the gains of the Affordable Care Act, we have got to build on it and go much further.

[18:45:00] KEILER: Some estimates says Sanders' plan will cause tax payers $15 trillion. So far, he hasn't offered specifics on how to pay for it. But he says those details are coming before the Iowa caucuses.

SANDERS: We will come out to that. We'll have an outline for that certainly before Iowa.

KEILAR: With the race in Iowa a dead heat and Sanders commanding a big lead in New Hampshire. He's dismissing Clinton's stepped up rhetoric as sour grapes from her campaign.

SANDERS: Got mad at my today, got mad at me yesterday, mad at me tomorrow. They're going to be mad at me for a long time.

Will they like me? No.

KEILAR: They're mad because of this.

SANDERS: There are two Democratic visions for regulating Wall Street. One says it's OK to take millions for big banks and then tell them what to do.

KEILAR: An ad highlighting Clinton's ties to Wall Street and his promise to break up the big banks. The Clinton campaign accusing Sanders of breaking his pledge not to run negative ads, a charge Sanders rejects.

SANDERS: You're looking at it public official, a U.S. senator, who was won elections and lost elections. I've been in a number of elections. I have never run a negative radio or television ad in my life.

KEILAR: All of this as Hillary Clinton so-called not so secret weapon is stumping in Iowa today.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: She's the best knowing how to find common ground and if you make her the standard ground.

KEILAR: As the race tightens, Bill Clinton so far is staying away from attacks like the ones he leveled at Barack Obama in 2008, an approach that ultimately backfired.

CLINTON: This whole thing is a biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.


KEILAR: Both candidates are spending some time getting ready for the next debate. That is Sunday in South Carolina. And everyone is going to be watching to see if this new combative tone we've been seeing between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders finds its way on to the debate stage, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, stand by.

Dana, you've spent time with Bernie Sanders. You've pressured him a few times to give specifics, how he's going to pay for universal healthcare for all Americans. They won't have to pay premiums any longer. He says he's going to do that before the Iowa caucuses. He's under a lot of pressure right now.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is. I interviewed him, I filled in for Jake on "STATE OF THE UNION" a couple of weeks, the first Sunday in January, asked him about it and he said, "We're going to get it." And on the night of the president's State of the Union Address, asked him again he said, "Oh, yes, we're going to do it."

But I know that you've been talking to some of Sanders' campaign aides who say, hmm, maybe not.

BLITZER: Are they saying that, Brianna, that they might not do it?

KEILAR: Well, his campaign manager has said, was saying this won't necessarily happen before the Iowa caucuses, but then Bernie Sanders came out again and said it's going to happen. So, he's the candidate --

BASH: So, the bottom line is it's two and a half weeks from now. And we still don't know the answer. And I -- look, this is let's be clear, we know, this is something that Hillary Clinton's campaign is pushing extremely hard. But on this issue, they have a point. The voters do have a right to know how he's going to pay for something which is so -- such a huge program.

BLITZER: Ryan, he says he's never run a negative ad. But the ad we just saw going after Hillary Clinton, her ties to Wall Street, that sounded pretty negative.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The second part of it was positive what he would do. But, you know, saying she took millions from Wall Street and then she's going to tell Wall Street what to do, that is I guess objectively negative. It's not the most negative ad we've seen in this cycle.

You know, in 2008 when Obama was running against Hillary Clinton, they walked the same tricky line, trying to figure out how hard you could go against here without alienating other Democrats, because Democrats like Hillary Clinton, even the ones that might vote for someone else. And their line was always that you had to raise issues about her sort of subtly. You couldn't be too overt about it. But not so subtle that the voters didn't know who you were talking about.

So, I think that ad gets the balance of that right.

BLITZER: Bill Clinton, he hasn't gone negative on Bernie Sanders, at least not yet. One of the problems the Hillary Clinton campaign has is you go too negative, you might alienate the progressive wing, liberal wing of the Democratic Party. You need them in the general election, to get elected.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Same issue that the Republicans are considering about Trump in some extent.

So, look, first of all, given the number of states in the House and Senate Democrats are likely to have after this election, debating how -- whether and how you can afford universal healthcare is a little bit like debating like who is going to build an irrigation system on Mars --


BROWNSTEIN: -- because it's not going to be politically plausible given the likely distribution of power in Congress.

But, look, there are real reasons for Hillary Clinton to be concerned. But there are also I think some important limits to what's happening that haven't been discussed enough. The reason to be concerned is that Sanders is expanding beyond his initial beachhead. He started as the classic what I call wine track candidate, dependent almost entirely on support of upper middle class white liberals. If you look at the recent polling in Iowa and New Hampshire, he's beginning to expand into working class white voters.

But, Wolf, there are still two red flags or dividing lines he has to get past. The first thing is he has not yet shown he can appeal significantly to minority voters who will matter much more as you move past Iowa and New Hampshire, probably about 40 percent of the total vote. The other thing that hasn't gotten a lot of attention is even in these polls showing him ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire they still show her leading by about 15 points among self-identified Democrats. His lead is dependent on overwhelming numbers among independent voters.

And as John McCain learned in 2000 when he had a similar profile early in that primary, it's very hard to win a party's nomination unless you win the voters from that party.

BLITZER: Brianna, Chelsea Clinton seems to have gone a little more negative on Bernie Sanders. Is that a strategic decision?

BLITZER: I do think it is. I wonder if we're going to see a little more of it. I think it's a natural role for Chelsea because she is being a surrogate for her mother. But it's also one that we've never seen her do before, so this is why I find it fascinating. Back in 2008, I remember she had that one comment where she said to

someone who brought up kind of the past, if we can call it that, that's none of your business. And that was the sharpest moment that we saw from her.

When she took on Bernie Sanders on health care, I thought it was really interesting because Bill Clinton hasn't done it. In 2008, it completely backfired. This is a fair -- I haven't seen a fairy tale like this kind of comment. He sort of dismissed then-Senator Obama winning South Carolina by saying Jesse Jackson won it twice, obviously, he didn't go on to be president.

So, I think with Bill Clinton out of that role, it's so interesting that Chelsea seems to be coming into it, and I'm looking to see if seems to be coming into it. And I'm looking to see if we see more of that from here.

LIZZA: Yes, I'd probably get in trouble for making this analogy, but it's almost like this family business, you know? And to become a made person, you know, you've got to go negative on your opponent if you want to --


BLITZER: Ryan Lizza, you'll definitely get in trouble with that comment.

LIZZA: But I'd just say, this is the first time she's had to do this. She's watched her parents do this her whole life. So --

BASH: But there's an important reason. I mean, I don't think I'm giving them too much credit, Bernie Sanders is getting the youth vote, Chelsea Clinton is younger. So, for her to make that comment, they think it might help.

BLITZER: All right, guys, good discussion. Thanks very much. Much more news coming up right after a quick break.


[18:56:43] BLITZER: It may be the deadliest sport in the world. It's called BASE jumping and it's the subject of a new CNN film. Here's CNN's Martin Savidge.



MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): BASE jumping is the world's most extreme and forbidden sport. No wonder Hollywood loves it.

In the newly released Warner brothers movie "Point Break," six BASE jumpers jump 60 times to create one amazing scene.

JEB CORLISS, "POINT BREAK" TECHNICAL ADVISER: It doesn't look real but it's almost too spectacular. But it is all real. When you see a person a foot off the ground, because they're a foot off the ground.

SAVIDGE: It's a long way from the late '70s when the father of BASE jumping Carl Boenish strapped a movie camera to his head and dove from a cliff in Yosemite.

JIMMY POUCHERT, BASE JUMPER: Back in the day, you know, you jumped this on your head.

SAVIDGE: Three things are fueling the sport's popularity, two of which have nothing to do with jumping.

POUCHERT: Now we can put forward facing, you can do what's called the unicorn cam where there's a pole that, you know, so you can film your head and your body flying through stuff --

SAVIDGE: Relatively inexpensive mini cameras such as GoPros allow BASE jumpers to capture their stunning death-defying stunts and thanks to the Internet, they share their video with the world.

POUCHERT: Two rigs so you can do --

SAVIDGE: BASE jumping's third forward, the wing suit.

(on camera): You wear it almost like a coat? I mean, it looks like that.

(voice-over): The wing suit gives modern BASE jumpers much more maneuverability, transforming what was once just falling into flying.

POUCHERT: You're flying at 100 miles an hour down through the trees and over the ground and out into the beautiful Swiss valley. There's nothing like it.

SAVIDGE: All three advances have made more people want to take up the sport. As its popularity rises, so does the death toll, in what was already perhaps the world's deadliest pastime.

DR. OMER MEI-DAN, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: Almost eight or nine of ten BASE jumpers who would die in BASE jumping would be -- that would be associated with ways of flight.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Adrenaline isn't the only thing propelling BASE jumpers, there's also the lure of big money from corporate sponsors.

(voice-over): Companies like Breitling and Red Bull pay extreme athletes to push the envelope, helping to fund jet-propelled wing suits.

And perhaps the most extreme jump of all, from the edge of space.

Carl Boenish who started all of this died on a jump in 1984. But BASE jumper Jimmy Pouchert thinks he'll be thrilled to see how the sport he helped start has taken off.

POUCHERT: Carl would love where it's gone. I think he'd also be very interested to see how many people are in it and how many people want to do it.

SAVIDGER: Those who do it say BASE jumping is not about living life on the edge, but going over it.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Boulder, Colorado.


BLITZER: And please be sure to watch the CNN film on BASE jumping. It's called "Sunshine Superman". It airs Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Immediately after that, please be sure to join me for a Democratic debate special as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley, they square off in the Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.