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Drop In Oil Prices; Dow Is Diving; Militants Attack Pakistan University; Guns And Grenades Targeted Ceremony; Four Attackers Are Dead; Thousands Of Civilians Killed In Iraq In 21 Months; Oldest Monastery In Iraq Destroyed; U.S. Faces Serious Threat From Extremists; Find, Fix And Finish Our Enemy; Senate Vote On Syrian And Iraqi Refugees; Sarah Palin Endorses Donald Trump. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 20, 2016 - 13:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's noon in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 11:00 p.m. in Islamabad, Pakistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Up first, the breaking news, the price of oil is dropping so is the stock market. The Dow Jones plunging more than 400 points in early trading. Right now, it's down. You can see about 456 points.

Let's bring in CNN Business Correspondent Richard Quest. He's the host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." He's joining us from Davos, Switzerland where world leaders are now gathered. Richard, as you know, this is the worst start to the year on record for the U.S. stock market. How worried are investors right now?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They're going to be increasingly worried. On the one hand, Wolf, they always like to tell you they're in it for the long haul, that they know that the fundamentals of the global economy are sound. But the truth of the matter is when you see a seven percent drop in the price oil, now under $28 a barrel, and you do not see any reason for that to stop, coupled with a market which seemingly has decided to go completely on a frolic of its own.

Last week, the Dow Jones down 300, then down 400, then you got a bounce back on Monday. And, all of a sudden, today. I think once you start going over 500 points, you start seeing losses of more than three percent at any given time. It gives people pause for thought.

And they realize, one, Japan's Nikkei index is now in bear territory. It's now a bear market. Two, oil prices are low and the pressure is down. Three, China's growth is OK, moderate, not good, but it's likely to get worse. And, four, investors are saying, we need safety, security. The market is not there.

BLITZER: Yes, the good news for consumers, the price of oil, gasoline is way, way down. The bad news, the markets are really going down at the same time.

Richard, we'll get back to you. Richard Quest joining us from Davos, Switzerland.

Other news we're following. Under the cover of heavy fog, gunmen stormed a university in Pakistan killing at least 19 people and injuring many others. It happened at the Bacha Khan University at Bacha (ph) where the attack coincided with a campus ceremony catching so many people off guard.

A Pakistani Army spokesman says the attackers first threw grenades then opened fire. A battle broke out between the gunmen and security forces. By the time it was finished, the four attackers were dead.

Our Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is tracking the developments. He's joining us live from Beirut. Nick, do we know specifically who is responsible?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know who's claimed it and we know who said it's not them. And that actually is both of the same group, the Pakistani Taliban. Officially, their statement says, that was not us. And they called the attack against innocent civilians like this not according to Sharia or Islamic law.

But one of their leaders, a man called Umar Mansoor (ph), who was also the man said to be behind the Peshawar attacks in December 2015 against another school there in which over 130, often very young children, lost their lives, he said he did do it. And he blamed the Pakistani military for provoking the attack saying it was a response to military operations in those tribal regions, some of which, in fact, came down heavier after that Peshawar attack I just mentioned.

So, clearly, a split in a fractured Taliban here, although some, perhaps, suggesting they're officially denying it and not kind of lose sympathy with those parts of society that still assist the Pakistani Taliban while one of their more radical leaders stepping forward and claiming full responsibility.

But certainly well planned here. We are hearing from Pakistani military in a press conference that on the bodies of the four attackers, they found Afghan SIM cards. So, it's suggesting, perhaps, they have come from Afghanistan or been in touch with people in Afghanistan during the attack. That's unclear at this stage.

They say all four attackers were, in fact, alive when security forces stormed in and it may well be that the death toll, often as it is, of course, for those loved ones, could have been higher. They chose a time when there are many more students there than normal.

And it does appear that apparently a bit of intelligence tip-off earlier enabled a higher security presence that meant when the attackers got there, they were contained mostly in two buildings on one side of the huge university campus.

But still, educational institutions, the innocent here targeted, yet again, by a Pakistani Taliban. It's being hit hard by the Pakistani military and gone across the border from Afghanistan where it's wreaking havoc against the Afghanistan government -- Wolf. BLITZER: Horrible situation in Pakistan right now. Nick Paton Walsh joining us from Beirut. Thank you.

Turning now to Iraq in a death toll that the United Nations calls staggering. As the country battles ISIS, a new U.N. report just released says this, nearly 19,000 civilians have been killed in a 20- month period in Iraq. More than 36,000 were injured and about 3.2 million Iraqis have been displaced.

[13:05:13] For more about the U.S. involvement in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, we're joined now by Colonel Steve Warren. He's the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve.

Colonel, thanks very much. You're in Baghdad right now. You're right in the thick of things. What is your assessment of this fight against ISIS right now in Iraq?

COL. STEVE WARREN, SPOKESMAN, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: Well, this is a brutal and evil enemy that we're fighting and that's very well known. We have seen progress, though. The Iraqi security forces have taken back 40 percent of the land that ISIS once held. So, that's progress.

We've seen news about Ramadi, and we've seen news about Sinjar, we've seen news about Baji. So, this Iraqi security force is beginning to get better and, of course, the power of our devastating air strikes has been significant.

BLITZER: There's a report now that one major monastery, a Christian monastery in Iraq, St. Elijah's Monastery, 1,400 years old, probably the oldest monastery in Iraq, has been leveled by ISIS, completely destroyed. Is that true?

WARREN: We can't confirm it yet. We are -- we are looking into it to try and determine using some of our overhead surveillance assets. But if true, it would yet, again, verify how genuinely savage this group really is.

BLITZER: Because there have been reports that ISIS is specifically going after Iraqi Christians. Thousands have been killed. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee. There is legitimate fear, you're there in Baghdad, that the long history of Christians living peacefully, productively in Iraq is coming to an end. How worried should we be about the Christian community in Iraq?

WARREN: Wolf, it -- ISIL doesn't care if you're Christian, if you're Muslim, if you're Turkmenistan (ph), if you're anything. This is a brutal, savage organization who is going after everyone who doesn't align up specifically with them. We've seen those specific evidence of a specific targeting towards Christians or any other group. This is a terrorist organization. It's a proto state who wants to kill everything that they see.

BLITZER: There are about, what, 3,000, maybe a little bit more, U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq right now. Is that enough? WARREN: Yes. So, the troops that we have on the ground now are here

to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi Army had trouble a year ago where we saw them collapse but they're getting better. We've seen success in several cities. So, they're getting better and we're going to stick with them.

BLITZER: Any chance that Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq with nearly 2 million people under ISIS' control right now, and any chance that is about to be liberated any time soon?

WARREN: It's going to be a while, Wolf. We'll be honest with you. We have to generate combat power. We have to set battlefield conditions. We have to isolate that city. And then, only then, we'll be able to move in and liberate it. So, it will take a long time. We haven't really established the time line yet, but we know it's going to take a while.

BLITZER: Colonel Warren, good luck over there. Thanks very much for joining us.

WARREN: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Colonel Steve Warren is a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve. That was the view from the U.S. military in Baghdad.

Let's focus in now in the effort to protect the United States from an ISIS attack. Joining us are the Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He's the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. He also serves on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us. First of all, your reaction to what we just heard from Colonel Warren. Give us your reaction when you hear that kind of assessment he provides.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN, CHAIRMAN, SENATE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, it's obviously good news we're making some progress. But certainly the hearing we held today, talked about the importance of the territory for the establishment and the ongoing fact of the caliphate. And as long as that caliphate holds territory, they're generating revenue, they're also generating additional recruits and more adherence to the barbaric ideology.

So, the fact of the matter is we actually have to defeat them. But defeat means denying them all of their territories, so that caliphate actually is defeated --

BLITZER: You're hear --

JOHNSON: -- and no longer exists.

BLITZER: -- you're hearing today, and it was an important hearing entitled "Inside the mind of ISIS, understanding its goals and ideology to better protect the homeland." What was the most important conclusion that you heard? JOHNSON: Well, it's really pretty interesting, and, again, I hit on

it in terms of the importance of the territory and the fact that that caliphate exists, that that sets in motion, you know, Sharia Law, and it just -- you know, for those who adhere to that, that ideology, they have a duty to support the caliphate whether by traveling to Syria and Iraq to join the fight or kill in place. And so, that is why it's so important.

You know, the other thing we pointed out is there are 1.6 million Muslim -- or billion Muslims in the world. A very small fraction, let's say one percent, is still 16 million, potentially, adherence to this ideology. And I'm not -- nobody now can tell you what that is but a small percentage is still a really big problem.

[13:10:13] The other thing we learned is because what the other part of our hearing was, you know, what attracts people? You know, is there is a typical, basically, background of somebody who's attracted to this ideology? And there is none. The diversity of people who have actually joined this fight makes it very difficult for us to really identify those and prevent it. So, that's why you get back to the main goal initially with ISIS, they have to be defeated. We have to actually accomplish President's Obama's stated goal of defeating ISIS.

BLITZER: And related to this, an important vote on the Senate floor coming up in the next hour or two on Syrian refugees allowed to come into the United States. Tell us about this vote and how you will vote on it.

JOHNSON: I'm going to vote yes because I think it's pretty reasonable to hold this administration to defeat the fire. They have -- this administration has the legal authority to let in basically any refugee from wherever. And so, we have responsibility to make sure that they do not take any short cuts. They don't short circuit the process.

And so, this is just kind of -- kind of like under Sarbanes-Oxley, we require CEOs to certify that their financial statements are accurate. You know, why not have the director of Homeland -- or the secretary of Homeland Security, the director of the FBI and our counterterrorism center certify that we have not taken any shortcuts in the vetting process. And so, the people we let in really don't pose risk to this country and to our homeland.

BLITZER: So, no refugees will be allowed to come in from Syria if this vote were to pass. No refugees would be allowed --

JOHNSON: No, I --

BLITZER: -- hold on a second, unless the director of the FBI and the secretary of the Homeland Security certified that there is -- they've thoroughly been vetted. Is that right?

JOHNSON: Yes, I think that's a pretty reasonable proposal, quite honestly. And, Wolf, you cited earlier statistics in our hearing. We talked about the State Department's start report. It started in 2012. And just from 2012 to 2014, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide have gone from 6,700 to over -- almost 17,000. The number of people killed have gone from 11,000 to almost 44,000. A four-fold increase of people killed in terrorist attacks in just a two-year time period. The threat of Islamic terror is real and is growing.

BLITZER: Do you have the 60 votes needed to pass this legislation?

JOHNSON: I hope so. You know, at least to proceed to the consideration of a debate. I mean, what would be wrong with that? I hope Democrats in the Senate to, you know, provide us that vote so we can at least discuss this on the floor of the Senate and offer it up for amendments.

BLITZER: Senator Ron Johnson is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. We'll follow the vote. We'll update our viewers, obviously once it takes place. Thanks, as usual, for joining us.

JOHNSON: Have a great day.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Up next, Sarah Palin is back on the campaign trail after endorsing Donald Trump last night. She's now joining him on stage in Oklahoma this hour. You're looking at live pictures from the event. We'll go there live.

And Governor John Kasich is focusing his entire presidential campaign right now on the first primary in the United States, New Hampshire. That's coming up in a few weeks. He's doing well in the latest polls. Can he catch up, though, to Donald Trump? We'll speak with John Kasich live. That's coming up as well.

[13:13:16]

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[13:17:23] BLITZER: To the U.S. presidential race right now, and just a day after giving Donald Trump his biggest endorsement to date, the former vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, is helping him rally supporters out there on the campaign trail. Here's a live look at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Donald Trump and Sarah Palin will shortly take the stage after this passionate and sometimes salty speech by Palin last night. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Only one candidate's record of success proves that he is the master of the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one but we the people. How refreshing. He is perfectly positioned to let you make America great again. Are you ready for that, Iowa?

No more pussy-footing around. Our troops deserve the best. You deserve the best. He is from the private sector, not a politician. Can I get a hallelujah!

CROWD: Hallelujah. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And there's more good news for Donald Trump today. A brand- new Monmouth University national poll shows Trump remains well ahead of his GOP competitors with 36 percent support, slightly down from December, but still way, way ahead of everyone else.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us now from Tulsa.

They're getting ready behind you. I take it Trump and Palin, once they -- once -- once again will come out together and speak. What's the feeling out there, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is another one of those vintage Donald Trump rallies. We're inside an auditorium here on the campus of Oral Roberts University and it's packed. And the music is loud and the crowd is getting fired up here. And what Donald Trump has been doing all week, Wolf, he is checking some major boxes on the path to this Iowa caucus that is coming up in less than two weeks. He was wooing Christian conservatives at Liberty University on Monday. He picked up the endorsement of Sarah Palin yesterday. And now the two of them will be out on the campaign trail together in just a few moments here at this basketball arena auditorium here on the campus of Oral Roberts University, another school founded by Christian conservative.

And it's interesting, Wolf, earlier today, even though the campaign put out a statement saying that she would be appearing with Donald Trump at his events today, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, was a no-show at his morning event in Iowa. We have not gotten an explanation for that. We do understand from talking to a senior campaign official that the former Alaskan government will be out in just a few moments with Donald Trump. We should expect Donald Trump to give essentially the same stump speech he gives everywhere, and then introduce Sarah Palin later on during the event. Maybe they'll change that up. Maybe they'll both come out together and do things differently than what we saw yesterday.

[13:20:09] But while Sarah Palin was not with Donald Trump earlier this morning, the billionaire tycoon was tearing into his archrival in the Iowa caucus, Ted Cruz, once again questioning whether or not the Texas senator is eligible to be president. Here's what Donald Trump had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I understand he was sued recently over the last couple of days. In fact, I understand there are two lawsuits out there. But there will be more. The Democrats will sue if they're going to run again. They're not going to sue now. They'll take their time. But at the right time, just as sure as you're standing here -- sorry we couldn't give you seats, there's too many people, sorry about that. But just as -- you know, just like you're standing here, the Democrats are going to sue. So how can you be running with a cloud over your head? (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now the question becomes, what is the Palin effect for Donald Trump? Well, as you talked about earlier in the show, Donald Trump is once again comfortably ahead in the Monmouth University poll. But I think the really critical thing to look at in the coming days is what kind of effect Sarah Palin has on these state polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. You know, does she still have that same star power that she had back in 2008. She is certainly somebody who is capable of firing up the conservative base of the Republican Party. We're about to see that here in Tulsa in just a few moments, Wolf.

BLITZER: Another huge crowd for Donald Trump, now backed by Sarah Palin. I suspect those crowds, if they go out together, are going to get even bigger.

All right, Jim Acosta, we'll stand by to hear from Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. Thanks very much.

Let's bring in our CNN political commentators, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, conservative S.E. Cupp.

S.E., "New York Times" quoted Ralph Read (ph), a well-known evangelical leader, a good conservative Republican as saying, "Palin's brand among evangelicals is as gold as the faucets in Trump Tower. Endorsements alone don't guarantee victory, but Palin's embrace of Trump may turn the fight over the evangelical vote into a war for the soul of the party." How big of a deal is this?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, it's a big deal for Ted Cruz. I know he was really hoping to get Sarah Palin's endorsement for exactly that reason, to win the fight with evangelicals. But Sarah Palin's influence among Republicans at large has really diminished significantly over the past few years. 538 (ph) did some number crunching and they estimate her loss to be about 55 percentage points. So I'm not sure that she open a magic box to moderate Republican voters that Trump is also hoping to get. I think she's right where Trump is, and gives him access to the very voters that he's been really turning on over the past few months.

BLITZER: But among the evangelical voters in Iowa and the home schoolers --

CUPP: Yes.

BLITZER: He's going to -- that's going to really be a big help for him in Iowa.

CUPP: She's -- yes, Sarah Palin is a big deal among evangelicals in Iowa, among home schoolers in Iowa, among moms. I mean she still does have some influence. But nationally, I don't think this endorsement -- I don't think you're going to see a lot of Sarah Palin after Iowa.

BLITZER: All right, what does it say from the Democratic perspective, Donna? DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, I think this is operation saving grace. Look, Donald Trump, who said on Monday, he said two Corinthians, not 2nd Corinthians. Even a catholic understand the difference. This is Donald Trump's opportunity to get into that evangelical, Tea Party lane and to cause the kind of chaos that you see in the establishment lane. I think Sarah Palin will help him with those home schoolers, with evangelicals. But more importantly, Donald Trump did -- you know, would like to see women come to him, especially conservative women. So I think this is a saving grace move for him. Oral Roberts, Liberty University, I mean, come on, look at the venue.

BLITZER: We'll stand by to hear what they have to say.

Donna, I want to get your reaction to this CNN/WMUR poll that we released last night.

BRAZILE: Yes.

BLITZER: Democrats' choice for the nominee in New Hampshire, the first primary state, Bernie Sanders, 60 percent --

BRAZILE: Yes.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton, 33 percent. Martin O'Malley, 1 percent. He's got almost twice as much support there. This is horrible news for her in New Hampshire.

BRAZILE: For a neighboring senator, I'm not surprised that the numbers are that strong. But what surprises me is how fickle these polls are. You see some polls, the RG polls a little closer. But, look, the bottom line is, the Clinton campaign has to put a lot of focus right now on Iowa. I know they have operations all across the country because I've seen a lot of it. But they need to focus on winning Iowa. If they do that, they can, you know, continue to fight this very vigorous campaign. I have to tell you, I'm neutral. But Bernie has a lot of energy. Hillary has a lot of support. And she has what I call unused assets sitting on the sideline, whether it's the supporters of labor unions, Planned Parenthood and others, and it's time that she turn on the spigot and not hold it all for (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: And even in Iowa --

CUPP: Yes.

BLITZER: Yes, New Hampshire's a neighboring state to Vermont.

CUPP: Yes.

BLITZER: Bernie Sanders' home state. But even in Iowa he's doing so much better.

[13:25:03] CUPP: Yes, and even being --

BLITZER: Not necessarily ahead of her, but his numbers have gone up.

CUPP: Yes. Inconveniently for Clinton, he is doing well lots of places --

BRAZILE: Yes.

CUPP: Not just next to Vermont. I think that Bernie is probably going to win Iowa and New Hampshire. But after that, the map gets very diverse. He does really well with white progressives and millennials. But after that, he's, I think, going to have a real tough time, which is why you're seeing him starting to explore, you know, south of the Mason Dixon line, because he know after Iowa and New Hampshire, if he can pull those two off, he's still got an uphill battle.

BRAZILE: He has enough fuel in his tank to keep going, keep going beyond March 1st, because you have liberal states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, of course you have Colorado.

CUPP: Yes.

BRAZILE: So he has enough fuel to burn through the last of March.

BLITZER: We've got to wrap it up, but one wild card is this e-mail investigation of the inspector general at the State Department has investigated, the FBI is looking into Hillary Clinton's private server, if you will, and now this --

CUPP: Not great timing.

BLITZER: Suggestion by the inspector general, not only secret, top secret, what they call SCI, sensitive compartmented information, but also SAP, special access program information, may have been on that server. That represents potentially --

BRAZILE: Potentially.

BLITZER: A real problem.

BRAZILE: But I think her campaign has said, look, they have looked at these e-mails and they have retroactively called them classified. We need to get more information, just not the headlines, but look a little deeper.

BLITZER: We'll see what the FBI and the Justice Department do on this (INAUDIBLE).

BRAZILE: That's correct.

BLITZER: But that's a cloud that potentially could disrupt this entire Democratic campaign.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that. Thanks very much, guys.

An important note to our viewers. We want to let you know about a big event that's coming next Monday night in Iowa. It will be seen only here on CNN. Exactly one week before the Iowa caucuses, Monday night, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley, they will all go face to face with the voters in Iowa in the CNN Democratic presidential town hall live from "Des Moines." CNN's Chris Cuomo will moderate. It's the final pitch for all the candidates before the first votes are cast, and a unique opportunity for Iowans to ask questions of the three Democratic candidates. That's next Monday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, live only here on CNN.

Up next, Christiane Amanpour just sat down with the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif. She'll tell us what Iran is now saying about sanctions, their relationship also with Saudi Arabia.

Plus, we'll check back on the stock market as the tumble continues right now. It's down about 480 points today. Much more coming up.

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