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70 Million Plus Brace For Storm; Cruz Establishing Lining Up Behind Trump; Rand Paul Struggles To Break Into Top Tier; Two Americans Released; Clinton In Iowa And Trump In Vegas; Rick Santorum On Iowa Strategy. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 21, 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 12:00 p.m. noon in Indianola, Iowa. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. It's 9:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

Nearly 75 million people in the United States could be affected by it. Thousands of flights will likely be canceled because of it. And the record books may be changed by it. Get ready for what's shaping up to be the first massive blizzard of 2016.

Just this hour, the National Weather Service put Washington, D.C., the Baltimore area, under a blizzard warning. Our Meteorologist Tom Sater is tracking the situation from our Severe Weather Center. What's the latest forecast and how bad is it going to be?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, unfortunately, Wolf, the computer models we've been watching the last several days continue to be an incredible agreement with how much snow is going to fall in the Washington-Baltimore area. On an average year, 15 1/2 inches in D.C. All of last year, 18.3. We can see that in just a single 24-hour period.

And for our international viewers, this is like 65 to even 75 centimeters. This is going to be a paralyzing storm. And we need to talk about the watches and warnings. Washington in D.C. now under a blizzard warning. It goes into effect at 1:00 p.m. It was yellow which was a blizzard watch which has been extended now up to New York and Long Island. That's 30 million Americans.

Wolf, yesterday, I know we talked conservatively about maybe a million or so losing power. We could see several million Americans lose power. Any of you with international interest having a flight over the east coast, listen closely because in Charlotte, Douglas International Airport was shut down for over a centimeter of ice. That's -- it might be a half inch in some cases. To Dulles International. To BWI. All of these airports could be shut down.

Now, New York City, this is where it gets interesting. We've got a dozen states with warnings right now. But there's so many elements that, with this storm, it is severe.

Wolf, here it is just starting to take shape. But we've got severe weather in the form of damaging winds and isolated tornadoes. Yes, tornadoes. You don't see this very much in the month of January.

Once the storm starts to ramp up and we find the center, in the next few hours, then we'll be able to track it because that means everything. Significant icing into Tennessee. Up in the Ohio Valley, it changes over to significant snow. The icing that will take effect in the Carolinas is going to shut down power to millions.

Then, as it really ramps up and the energy off the coast picks up, not only will we have more icing dotting the power lines and trees, but the snow accumulation is going to come down at a rate that many have never seen before and it will be a story for children and grandchildren.

But the winds with this, we're talking about winds that could create, at full moon on Saturday, a storm surge that could rival that of Superstorm Sandy. So, as we look at the accumulations here, Wolf, though we're still talking a good 20-30 inches in D.C., but this model cuts it off at New York.

So, quickly for you. Even though some forecast models want to give New York maybe six to 12 inches, the latest American model still gives a good 31 in D.C. and drops New York down to two. So, Wolf, until the storm is defined and we have a real track with it, this is still up in the air for New York City. We're watching it closely.

BLITZER: We're getting ready to shovel snow here in Washington, D.C. Tom Sater, thanks very much.

To presidential politics here in the United States right now. Republican Senator Ted Cruz, he's on the campaign trail this hour. He's under attack from so-called establishment Republicans. Within the last 48 hours alone, former senator and presidential candidate, Bob Dole, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, they've all come out against Cruz.

Our National Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is out on the campaign trail. She's with the senator of Manchester right now. Sunlen, how is the Cruz campaign, the senator specifically, responding?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIOANAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really interesting, Wolf, Ted Cruz is really holding this up almost as a badge of honor, proudly, you know, using this criticism from Republican establishment wing of the party meaning that to really hold it up to prove in its evidence to voters, he says that he is the anti- establishment candidate. The one to choose from, as saying that this is a sign that the establishment is in full panic mode over its candidacy. And touting that this has really galvanized his supporters who donate money to his campaign. They've been fund-raising over these attacks. The campaign touting they've raised $700,000 this week alone since this pile-on has started.

But no doubt about it, this is where Ted Cruz finds his comfort, really directing fire at the establishment. But also, I do have to say, as we've been with him all week here in New Hampshire, it has managed to really knock him off his message. He's been having to respond to questions about this criticism rather than focus on framing his final message going into the Iowa caucuses and going into New Hampshire here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thanks very much.

The Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, he's struggling right now to break into the top tier of Republican primary candidates. With the Iowa caucuses just 11 days away, his time running out. Senator Paul is joining us right here right now.

[13:05:05] Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

BLITZER: First of all, I'm curious, your dad, the former Congressman Ron Paul, who you love, obviously, I've talked to him many times, he says your campaign may surprise everybody. But he also tells "The Hill" newspaper that it's realistic, his word, realistic, that Donald Trump could be the Republican nominee. Is it realistic, Donald Trump could be the Republican nominee?

PAUL: It's kind of funny how things get misrepresented. They ask him, is it realistic? And he took it to mean, is it a possibility? But then, he went on to say, well, I thought the polls were wrong and that we were really going to surprise people. So, the Internet's sort of like the circular game as a kid. You whisper from one to the next. By the time it makes it around the circle, everybody's, like, well, that's not what I meant to say at all.

BLITZER: In New Hampshire, according to our CNN-WMUR poll, you're now tied with Christie and Kasich with six percent. But Donald Trump, he's at 34 percent. It's pretty impressive.

PAUL: Yes, I think the polls are probably inaccurate. A lot of young people aren't polled. We haven't met a college student who's ever been polled. And we think our strength is with the young people because I've been the leading advocate for saying the government shouldn't collect the phone records. I don't think the government should put our young people in jail for marijuana. And I also don't think our government ought to send young people to war back in the Middle East again. So, I think we're going to get a lot of the youth vote that doesn't show up in polls, necessarily.

BLITZER: Because in Iowa, these most recent poll, the most recent CNN poll of polls, shows Cruz and Trump almost in a dead heat in Iowa right now. You're together with a lot of others way, way down. But you don't think those polls are accurate in Iowa either?

PAUL: One of the things they're underestimating is, you know, my dad got over 20 percent. Most of the polls when they ask, who did you vote for in 2012, are way under 10 percent for him. So, they're losing about half of the vote that he got in 2012. So, I just don't think the polls are finding them. The polls also may be finding people who are angry that never show up at a caucus. Those might be Trump voters.

So, there's -- I think it's a mistake to prejudge this and say, oh, you know what? The election's over. I think it's still very fluid. The last Des Moines register poll, over half the people in the poll were not yet certain who they were going to vote for.

BLITZER: I think at least a third, maybe a lot more, in New Hampshire as well. They still haven't 100 percent made up their mind. Maybe 50 percent of the people are still on the fence.

There's a notion that this race, among the Republicans, is a race between the so-called outsiders and the establishment. Where do you fit in?

PAUL: Well, you know, I've been running against the establishment ever since I got involved in politics. The establishment handpicked somebody who I was able to beat. I'm a physician. I've been a physician most of my career. Took time often from being a physician to try to straighten things out in Washington. But I think I would be one of the biggest opponents of the establishment that you probably have up here.

BLITZER: As you know, I assume you know, Monday night, CNN is going to host a town hall in Iowa. Chris Cuomo will moderate. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, they'll all be interviewed by people. There will be -- people at the town hall will ask questions. If you were one of those people at a town all, what would you ask Hillary Clinton right now?

PAUL: What I would ask Hillary Clinton is why do you think that regime change in the Middle East, toppling Gaddafi, was a good idea, when it seemed to make ISIS stronger? And why do you think the same for Syria? Why do you think toppling Assad in Syria will make us safer when, in reality, I think it makes ISIS stronger?

BLITZER: Basically, the argument against you has been you're an isolationist which you reject. You call yourself an non- interventionist, right?

PAUL: What I would say is we have to look at our intervention and find out whether it's worked or not. I don't see any instance in the Middle East where our intervention has really worked. When we toppled Gaddafi, I we got a chaos in a failed state in Libya. When Mubarak left in Egypt, we got the Muslim brotherhood. If we topple Assad, my fear is that we get ISIS. I think when we toppled Saddam Hussein, we made Iran stronger and we emboldened Iran. So, I don't see any instance that really our intervention has worked. And it's not a question of never intervening, it's a question of more versus less and I think considerably less.

BLITZER: It sounds like, on these issues, you and Donald Trump aren't that far apart. You've studied his foreign policy.

PAUL: Well, I'm not sure he can call it a foreign policy but he said he was against the Iraq War and he did after a while --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You're critical very critical on the U.S. position on Libya or the Iraq war that's going on in Syria? He seems to say much of the same thing you're saying. PAUL: Sometimes. I don't think he has a consistent foreign policy.

But I do think that he and Ted Cruz who want to make the sand glow and want to do carpet bombing over there or bomb the heck out of them. I think that if you do indiscriminate bombing in the Middle East, you may well create more terrorists than you kill. I think we do have to kill our enemies. But if we're going to kill whole towns, as Cruz has proposed or as Donald Trump has proposed, I think indiscriminate killing actually creates more terrorists than you kill.

BLITZER: The governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, he says it would be a disaster, basically, for the Republicans if Ted Cruz were the nominee. He says, don't vote for Ted Cruz. He didn't endorse you or anyone else, for that matter. But he said don't vote for Ted Cruz. Who would be worse, from your perspective, as the Republican nominee, Cruz or Trump?

[13:10:03] PAUL: I think Ted Cruz's problem is one of authenticity right now. You know, for example, the liberty voters, the people who we like and like us, they don't want the NSA collecting all the phone records.

But Ted Cruz says, oh, well, I voted for reform, but I voted for the reform so the government could collect 100 percent of your phone records. Our people pause at that and say, my goodness, is he trying to have it both ways? He says he's for reforming the NSA, and, in the same breath, he says he wants the NSA to collect 100 percent of your cell phone records. That kind of leap back and forth or trying to have it both ways really, we think, is probably Cruz's biggest problem right now.

BLITZER: So, from your libertarian perspective, who is worse, Trump or Cruz?

PAUL: I can tell you who's best and that would be my candidacy.

BLITZER: I know you think you're best but who's -- who would be worse for the Republicans? You're an honest guy, be blunt.

PAUL: I don't think it's probably instructive. I do worry a little more about Don Trump -- Donald Trump. And the main reason I do is that I believe he wants more power to come to him and he'll take care of us all if we just give him power. But I'm part of a limited government tradition that says, you know what? Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And we have to be very, very careful about giving up power. I want to devolve power back to the states and the people. And there's a long-standing conservative, slash, libertarian tradition of that. And I'm more than willing to hold that up against what Trump wants because I think what Trump wants is bad for America.

BLITZER: As far as the Iran nuclear deal is concerned, it's now being implemented, you voted against it. But Americans have been released, I think, as part of that Iran nuclear deal. They're on their way home, Saeed Al Abedini, Amir Hekmati. You're happy that these Americans are coming home. Are you happy this Iran nuclear deal is now being implemented right now, given a chance? PAUL: If it -- if Iran adheres to the deal, it will be a great thing.

Because the deal actually prescribes them getting rid of their nuclear program, not making -- you know, enriching uranium that could be used for weaponization. The question always has been, in my mind an others, will they adhere to the agreement? I would have preferred more leverage to hold over them to enforce their compliance, keeping the sanctions on over a longer period of time. Now that it's a done deal though, if they adhere to it, it's still a good thing. The question is, are they adhering now because they have the carrot of the money or will they continue to adhere when we're six months out or a year out from now?

BLITZER: Senator Rand Paul ,thanks very much for joining us.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: You have to do how well, by the way, in Iowa and New Hampshire, otherwise you'll drop out? Give us an answer.

PAUL: We're in it to win it. I grew up as an athlete. When we go into a swimming meet, you don't go into a swimming meet and say, I'm going to get third maybe fourth maybe sixth. We're in to win it, and we're going to shock a lot of people.

BLITZER: OK. Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, Hillary Clinton campaigning in Iowa while Donald Trump heads to Vegas. We're going to talk to both representatives from both campaigns.

And later, Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, joins us. We'll talk about his strategy in Iowa. He won Iowa four years ago. What would he ask Hillary Clinton in CNN's Monday Democratic town hall? Stay with us.

[13:12:59]

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[13:17:06] BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is looking for an edge in Iowa as the clock ticks down up to the first day of actual voting.

This as we learned that her husband's Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas plans to release nearly 500 pages of documents about Donald Trump's interactions with the Clinton in White House. The files potentially could revive some questions about the once friendly relationship Trump had with the Clintons before he launched his presidential bid.

Joining us now is Joel Benenson, he's the Chief Strategist for the Clinton 2016 campaign.

Joel, thanks very much for joining us. What do you think these documents will do? Do you believe they will raise questions about the past Trump/Clinton relationship?

JOEL BENENSON, HILLARY FOR AMERICA, CHIEF STRATEGIST: You know, I don't know. I don't know what will matter to Republican primary voters or not as it relates to Mr. Trump. Certainly, I think independent voters, middle of the road voters, who are following that closely, are not going to be over the long term in any general election.

I think looking at that, those documents, I think they're going to be looking about whether or not what Mr. Trump is saying is offensive to them, is it appealing to them. And I think he's got a -- like every other Republican candidate, they've got a host of positions, I think, that are alienating to middle of the road voters that you have to win down the line in a general election.

I think that's going to be a whole lot more important than what happens with these documents.

BLITZER: As you know, the polls show very, very close in Iowa between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He's got a very impressive lead though in New Hampshire right now according to our latest CNN/WMUR poll.

Is it possible, do you believe it's possible for her to lose in Iowa, lose in New Hampshire but still go on and win the nomination?

BENENSON: Well, first, Wolf, and, you know, we've gone back and forth on polls before. I notice you said the polls show and indeed at the time your poll was in the field, there were two other polls in New Hampshire that showed a single digit race, two and three points. I think both of these states are going to be competitive. We said that from the beginning back in the summer, I think, when I was on your show, I said I expected that these things would be competitive because that's the nature of these first two states.

You don't been all your marbles on any of these states, we're in this. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You were there in 2008. I was there in 2008. This is about winning delegates over the long run and winning states over the long run. And we're very well positioned for that.

We feel very good about Iowa. We feel very good about our ground game. And we feel that Secretary Clinton's message about making real differences and getting real results that will make a difference in people lives is resonating.

We know New Hampshire is going to be tough. It's always a strong state for New Englanders. All New Englanders have been like favorite sons in New Hampshire. So, we're going to fight in both states till the end and we feel good about our prospects going forward.

BLITZER: Why is she more qualified to be the Democratic nominee than Bernie Sanders?

[13:19:58] The major argument here, the Hillary Clinton campaign major argument against him is what? BENENSON: Well, first of all, I think the major argument against him is that people need a president who can do all parts of the job. Get their economic lives moving forward and building on that progress, and as a commander-in-chief and who can keep America safe.

You know, if you look in recent days, there's been an array of criticism coming from the national security and counterterrorism community about what Senator Sanders is offering when we face the biggest global threat we face today is ISIS. We all know it. They can't be contained. They have to be destroyed.

The plans he's recommending on ISIS are to send Iranian troops into Syria which would not only weaken the coalition we built to combat ISIS but it would also put troops on Israel's doorsteps, which I don't think anybody thinks is a good idea.

He's also called for Iran and Saudi Arabia to work together. These are two intense enemies. This is an idea that no one can understand that he's put on the table whether you're talking about any expert in the region or national security experts and counterterrorism experts. I don't think you can find a single one who will say that what Senator Sanders is doing is a pathway to a coalition that will stabilize the region. It's a pathway to creating more conflict and chaos in the region. It's inexplicable.

On the economic side of things, I think Senator Sanders is a passionate advocate. I think what voters and people at home want is a president who can deliver real results, improve their lives when it comes to getting equal pay, creating good paying jobs that will raise people's incomes because that's how you has to raise incomes in this country.

I think Democrats are not as far apart with each other as they are with Republicans. And I think what primary voters are going to be looking at in these next two weeks is which one of these people can get those results done that will make a difference in their lives.

BLITZER: One final question, Joel, before I let you go.

BENENSON: Sure.

BLITZER: The whole issue of the e-mail controversy that's out there sort of hovering over Hillary Clinton's head that Brian Fallon who's sponsoring for your campaign. He said that the inspector general for the intelligence community, Charles McCullough, is not acting in good faith

What evidence do you have he's not acting in good faith?

BENENSON: Well, look, I'm not an expert in what the inspector general is doing or not doing. What I know about it is that nothing is materially changed. There have been no e-mails that were classified that were sent or received by Secretary Clinton.

That materially has not changed. There's no evidence of it. Nobody's asserted it. And I think the American people are aware of that. They saw her testify for 11 hours before a Benghazi committee that even Republicans admitted was built to hurt her politically. And they saw her go toe-to-toe with that committee for 11 hours.

And I think they know that she's got the toughness and the tenacity it takes to do the job. And that's what's going to matter to them on caucus day in Iowa and primary day in New Hampshire.

BLIZTER: All right. Joel, Benenson from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Thanks very much, Joel, for joining us.

BENENSON: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: In this note (ph), I'll be interviewing Hillary Clinton later today in the "Situation Room." that interview 5:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.

Joining us now is Katrina Pierson. She's the national Spokeswoman for the Trump campaign. Katrina, thanks to you very much for joining us.

What's your take on these nearly 500 pages of documents being released by the Clinton Library that are all about the Donald Trump relationship with the Clintons, going back to the Clinton White House?

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: Well, Wolf, I got to tell you, this lets us know that Hillary Clinton is very much aware that Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee or she wouldn't even be addressing this right now.

We're not really concerned about that. Donald Trump has made very clear of all of his past positions and relationships. He hasn't inadvertently left anything out.

And we're prepared to go through that. I mean, Donald Trump has shown that he has been able to build a coalition of voters from Republicans to Democrats, independents, minorities, women, even on the conservative side but evangelicals and moderates. So, we're very much prepared to go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton in the general.

BLITZER: As you know, Sarah Palin who's endorsed Donald Trump now, she got a lot of people talking yesterday when she told Trump supporters at a rally in Oklahoma, that her son's recent arrest on domestic violence charges stem from PTSD. He served in the U.S. military. And that was because of President Obama's lack of respect for veterans, she asserted. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: But my son, like so many others, they comeback a bit different. They comeback a bit different, they comeback hardened. They comeback wondering. If there is that respect for what it is that their fellow soldiers, and airmen, and every other member of the military so sacrificially have given to this country.

And that starts from that, the top is ashamed that our military personnel even have to wonder, if they have to question, if they're respected anymore. It starts from the top. The question though, that comes from our own president where they have to look at him and wonder, do you know what we go through?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[13:25:05] BLITZER: In response to head of the New York-based Veterans Organization in Iraq and Afghanistan, Veterans of America, they told NBC News that the President can't be blamed for someone coming back with PTSD. Your response.

PIERSON: Well, I would say that the President is in charge of his administration. And I think it's been very well-documented that there are several problems in the Veterans administration and there are no transition programs to help these veterans come home and transition back into the community.

And I can say from experience of 14 years in health care, something needs to be done to help our veterans and nothing's being done. This president has gone so far out of his way as to exert executive orders to help illegal aliens in this country get access to benefits but not veterans and there's a problem there, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, the bromance between your candidate, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, that bromance is clearly over. They're really going back at each other very seriously.

Here's the latest thing that Cruz said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right now, the Washington establishment is abandoning Marco Rubio. They've made the assessment that Marco can't win this race. And the Washington establishment is rushing over to support Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what's the point here? What are you trying to suggest?

PIERSON: Well, I think what's happening is only one person can win. And it's come down to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. So, of course, he positioned himself to be the Washington outsider, the fighter, the anti-establishment guy.

But unfortunately, there's a lot of people that have come to the aid of Donald Trump who are outsiders, who have been and have a clear record of fighting against the establishment, even when you look at the endorsement of Sarah Palin. And when you look at Phyllis Schlafly, someone who is very much well-respected on the religious right has come out and supported Donald Trump, Jerry Falwell Jr.

So Mr. Cruz is having a really hard time trying to reconcile where he fits in to this race. Donald Trump is not the establishment. A lot of people understand that. But what a lot of people also know is that it's going to take a coalition to win in a general election and only Donald Trump has proven that he's able to build one. BLITZER: The final question, Katrina. Today Donald Trump took a swipe at the conservative commentator Glenn Beck for endorsing Ted Cruz. He tweeted this, "Wacko @glennbeck is a sad answer to the @SarahPalinUSA endorsement that Cruz so desperately wanted. Glenn is a failing, crying, lost soul."

You're smiling. Tell us why you're smiling.

PIERSON: Well, because this is also on the cusp of a fake tweet that Glenn Beck had been sending out about Donald Trump supporting Barrack Obama in 2008. And there has been a lot of backlash from that.

So it's one thing to go out there and support your candidate but it's another thing to tear down someone with fake information. So that's why Donald Trump is responding that way.

And plus, Glenn Beck went after Sarah Palin of all people. When you have someone going after someone that you know is tried and true, there's a serious problem with integrity in your own argument.

BLITZER: Katrina Pierson, the national spokesperson for the Trump campaign. And, Katrina, thanks very much for joining us.

PIERSON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Four years ago, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses. He is aiming to try to do it again right now. But will his low poll numbers hurt the high number of competitors out there right now.

There he is, the former Pennsylvania Senator. He is here with me. He'll answer all the questions live, right after a break

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