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THE SITUATION ROOM

Soon: Trump to Reveal 'Powerful' Endorsement; Cruz Campaign: Trump Not a Lock for Nominee; Controversial Sheriff to Endorse Trump; Security Officials Grapple with New Terror Threats; Iraqis, U.S. Preparing for Urban Warfare Against ISIS; Interview with Representative Will Hurd. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 26, 2016 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, menacing the moderator. Donald Trump comes out swinging, following up on his complaints in our one-on-one interview about what he considers unfair treatment by Megyn Kelly at the first Republican presidential debate. Now Trump is asking his supporters for advice. If they say boycott, will he sit out this week's big debate?

Unstoppable. A camera catches Ted Cruz warning evangelical pastors about Trump's growing momentum and predicting the Republican frontrunner may be unstoppable if he wins in Iowa. Can Cruz stop Trump? I'll talk with one of the senator's top advisers.

High alert. Concern is growing about the likelihood of a new terror attack. One report says the threat level in Europe is the most serious it's been in ten years. This comes just as we're seeing new suspicion that ISIS can crank out fake passports. And new warnings that an al Qaeda affiliate may be an even bigger threat to the United States.

And jail break, stunning new details about a daring escape that's being compared to the Shawshank Redemption. Are police any closer to finding three dangerous fugitives? And what's the connection between one of the escapees and Iran?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We've got breaking news of the presidential race. We're awaiting the news conference where Donald Trump is expected to reveal what he's calling a powerful endorsement. We're going there live.

It comes just as his closest rival, Senator Ted Cruz, is warning that Trump may be unstoppable if he wins Monday's Iowa caucuses. I'll be speaking with a top adviser to Senator Cruz.

And we're also seeing very ominous new warnings about the threat of ISIS terrorism, like the deadly multifaceted attacks in Paris. The organization is warning police across Europe, who now says the danger level is at its highest level in more than a decade. We're also monitoring an under-the-radar threat emerging here in the

United States. Our correspondents, analysts and guests, they'll have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's begin with the breaking news in Iowa. As we await Donald Trump's announcement of another major endorsement, Senator Ted Cruz is warning that Trump may soon be unstoppable. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is following the Cruz campaign for us. Sunlen, what's the latest?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Ted Cruz here really ratcheting up the warnings, telling evangelicals here in Iowa if they want anybody other than Donald Trump, that time may be running out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): Ted Cruz's final pitch framed as dire warning. Sounding the alarm among conservatives.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Donald wins Iowa, he right now has a substantial lead in New Hampshire. If he went on to win New Hampshire, as well, there's a very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee.

SERFATY: Ted Cruz now casting himself as the underdog, in a private meeting with evangelical pastors making his final pitch not about himself but about how he is the best chance to stop Donald Trump.

CRUZ: So even if you're thinking about another candidate, the simple reality is, there is only one campaign that can beat Trump in this state.

SERFATY: That stark characterization of the race underscores the pressure and urgency of the moment Cruz is feeling in Iowa.

CRUZ: I said no state is a must-win. We're all in in Iowa. We're all in in New Hampshire. We're all in in South Carolina, and we're all in in Nevada. I believe we will compete and do well in each of the first four states.

SERFATY: The Cruz campaign out with a new TV ad today, trying to label Trump as a phony conservative.

TRUMP: I lived in Manhattan all my life. So, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa.

SERFATY: Using Trump's own words against him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would President Trump ban partial birth abortion?

TRUMP: Look, I'm pro-choice in every respect.

SERFATY: A new poll from the Hawkeye State showing the race dead even between Trump and Cruz, but nationally, Trump holding his biggest lead of the race yet. A new CNN/ORC poll showing no one within 20 points. This comes as Donald Trump goes on the war path, bringing a scorched- earth strategy against Ted Cruz in Iowa. TRUMP: My new battle is with a gentleman named Ted Cruz. Because got

to speak the truth. You got to speak the truth. Canadian. The man is from Canada.

SERFATY: Unloading on Cruz at every opportunity.

TRUMP (via phone): Ted Cruz lies. He's a liar. And that's why nobody likes him. That's why his Senate people won't endorse him. That's why he stands on the middle of the Senate floor and can't make a deal with anybody, he looks like a jerk.

SERFATY: Trump also renewing his feud with FOX News' Megyn Kelly, just two days before she's set to moderate the next Republican debate.

TRUMP: Megyn Kelly's really biased against me. She knows that. I know that. Everybody knows that. Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: FOX News responding back to that statement by Trump tonight with a tongue-in-cheek statement of their own, saying that they've heard that the ayatollah, that Putin, all plan to treat Donald Trump unfairly if he becomes president. Of course, the implicit question there is, if he thinks this debate is hard, how will he handle the White House -- Wolf?

[17:05:15] BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty joining us. Sunlen, thank you.

Let's get some more now on the endorsement Donald Trump is about to reveal. Our political reporter, Sara Murray, has been working her sources. What you learning, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, over the last week, Ted Cruz has attacked Donald Trump on immigration. He's attacked Donald Trump on his values. And now Trump has come up with a shrewd way to take back that narrative. He's going to be joined today by immigration hard-liner, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona. That's his second big endorsement of the day.

He also picked up an endorsement from Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. Now, that's the kind of thing that could boost Trump with evangelicals here in the Hawkeye State, a state where the evangelical vote is very important and where people have had some questions after Donald Trump has stumbled.

It was at Liberty University that he called the New Testament book 2 Corinthians instead of 2nd Corinthians. In the past, he said he'd never asked God for forgiveness and said he called the holy communion the little wine and the little cracker.

In spite of all of that, Falwell is throwing his support behind Donald Trump. And so it will be interesting to see if the pair of endorsements is enough to sort of rebut those attacks that we've been seeing against Cruz here in the -- from Cruz against Trump here in the Hawkeye State -- Wolf. BLITZER: Sara, so we're going to see Sheriff Arpaio there with Trump

at some sort of photo op before the rally? Is that what you're hearing?

MURRAY: We are expecting to see Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Donald Trump is planning on taking questions from reporters before the rally. So Joe Arpaio could be with him and field those questions.

And I don't know if you can tell behind me, but there are two chairs on stage here. There are two microphones, so it's possible that we could see them together on stage. Maybe even fielding questions from the audience. So we'll have to see if that pans out.

The rally should start soon now, Wolf, so we should get the answer shortly.

BLITZER: We'll have live coverage. We'll check it out with you. I know you're going to be there, as well. Sara Murray, thanks very much.

We want to follow up on what we just heard all of this very significant in the race for the White House. The Republican contest in Iowa, especially according to all most recent polls very, very close. The two frontrunners, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Let's get an insider's look at the race for the Republican presidential nomination. I'm joined by Alice Stewart. She's a senior communications adviser to Senator Cruz, the Cruz for president campaign. Thanks very much for joining us. I know that Senator Cruz told Iowa pastors -- we just heard it -- that if you don't stop Trump in Iowa, he might be unstoppable, because he looks like he's going to do well in New Hampshire, South Carolina.

Does Cruz believe that if he loses, let's say, Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump will be the Republican nominee?

ALICE STEWART, SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISOR TO TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Absolutely not. We're looking at a long-range strategy here, Wolf. And the key to the clip that was just played, this was a last-pitch call, call to action for evangelicals at a meeting last night. And it's important to take that into context. The key word, he said, was "if" Donald Trump were to win Iowa.

And the purpose was to appeal to these evangelicals who are very supportive of Ted Cruz and urge them to go out to their congregation and those in the faith community. And if they want someone who represents their values and views and stand up for the same views that they believe in, they need to stand behind someone that has been consistent on the issues that are important to them, that goes for traditional marriage, that goes for the life issue, that goes for faith and family. Donald Trump has been on both sides of the issues.

And they want someone that -- people in the faith community want someone who has been a consistent candidate, not someone who's just a conservative on the campaign trail. So what Ted was saying was make sure you get behind the religious

faith leader who will not only win Iowa but we've got a long-range strategy. We're not a single state strategy campaign. We have a great organization in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Ted has done significant campaigning in the SEC Primary states, Georgia, Alabama, and all throughout the SEC Primary states. We're looking at a long- range strategy. We raised $50 million to execute that strategy. So that's important.

BLITZER: All right, Alice, hold on for a moment.

STEWART: A tremendous organization here.

BLITZER: But the senator himself said, if -- and you're right, if Trump were to win in Iowa, he might be unstoppable. He used the word "unstoppable" in that meeting with pastors.

Let me follow up, because the endorsements for Donald Trump are coming in from the Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and from Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University. That's very significant, because it was at Liberty University in Virginia where Senator Cruz announced his presidential bid.

Are these endorsements of Donald Trump a slap in the face to Senator Cruz?

STEWART: Well, Liberty University is also where Donald Trump referred to as "2 Corinthians." So we'll leave his religious cred right there.

But the point here is that we rolled out this morning the fantastic endorsement of former Texas governor Rick Perry. Talk about someone who knows about securing the border and fighting immigration. Rick Perry is stellar on that, as well as promoting a state into tremendous economic prosperity.

He's going to be out here on the trail, was with us all day today throughout the night and the next several days, campaigning for Ted Cruz.

And also, Wolf, we'll give you a heads up. We have a fantastic endorsement that will be coming out this evening that shows the tremendous support that Ted has with those in the faith community, and we look forward to getting that announcement out and having a lot of these people come out on the trail with us. We have Glenn Beck over the weekend here in Iowa, out there campaigning.

And the key is, conservatives realize now is the time to unite. And that's exactly what they're doing.

BLITZER: Who's the -- who's the person that's going to endorse Senator Cruz tonight?

STEWART: We can't say who it is. I can tell you that it's someone that has a tremendous voice in the conservative movement, someone that will be helping us out on the campaign trail in Iowa. And it's very important to have those. Look, this is a very competitive race. We're in a very tough

competition. There are going to be people that line up with Donald Trump. There will be people that line up with Ted Cruz.

But the key is, we are pleased with the people that are lining up with us, because we're seeing true, consistent conservatives lining up, just as we saw last week in "The National Review," we had 22 prominent conservatives outlining the case, why Donald Trump should not be the next president of the United States.

Why he is not good for conservatives and not good for the United States. So we're having key conservatives outline the case why Donald Trump is not the one that should begin this nomination and solid conservatives, like here in Iowa. You know the importance of Congressman Steve C. King, and Bob Vander Plaats and Steve Deace. They're here on the trail with us, because they want to make sure they are standing behind someone who can win Iowa and the viability to win the nomination.

BLITZER: It must be -- it just be a major disappointment to Senator Cruz that Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty -- Liberty University, is now endorsing Donald Trump and Sheriff Arpaio, as well. But Donald Trump, he's mincing no words. He's really going after Senator Cruz.

Listen to what he told me in our interview yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You have to make deals. You have to get along. That's the purpose of what our founders created. And Ted cannot get along with anybody. He's a nasty person. You don't see that.

And even when he was supportive of me, I kept saying, "Watch what's going to happen. He's a nasty guy." And he brought it up at the debate. He started it; I finished it. But he brought it -- you know, he started getting very bad at the debate. And then he tells lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Says he's a liar, and he's a nasty person. Your response?

STEWART: Well, my nephew said that he'd get his mouth washed out with soap.

But I can tell you this. It's not about calling people names. Ted Cruz is not going to go around and insult his competitors. He's not going to go out and put someone else down. However, he will stand off, if someone's going to say false statements of him or misrepresent his record, he's going to -- he's going to stand up.

He's going to fight back. And he's going to show that the policy differences between the two of them are stark. Because, while we have Donald Trump on one side, calling him names and insults, what Ted Cruz is doing is pointing out Donald Trump's record, not the least of which the ad you recently played, where Donald Trump acknowledges, he has New York values; he supported traditional gay marriage and abortion.

And worst of which, the worst thing he has possibly said was referring to the people of Iowa were stupid. You can't get much worse than that, but now you're out here campaigning across Iowa, trying to get these people to come out and caucus for you, and you're inferring that they are stupid.

BLITZER: Alice.

STEWART: And secondly, there's no place for that in this race.

BLITZER: Alice, one final question before I let you go. This whole issue of Senator Cruz being born in Canada. Trump calls him now a Canadian. But it's sort of resonating.

If you take a look, I'm sure you saw that Monmouth University poll, a national poll, and it showed that about a third of the people in this poll did have some questions about whether or not Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen eligible to be president of the United States.

They were asked, is Ted Cruz a natural-born citizen. Twelve percent said no. Twenty-four percent said they were unsure. Is this issue resonating out there and hurting Senator Cruz?

STEWART: Not at all. And what we're hearing from the people of Iowa, once they have heard the explanation that Ted is a natural-born citizen and 100 percent eligible to run for president, they put it aside. They realize this is a candidate, Donald Trump, whenever the polls come out, showing Ted ahead.

He pulls out the citizenship attack, and it doesn't work. the people here in Iowa realize they understand that Ted Cruz is eligible to be president. And they're asking him about what he's going to do to fight immigration, what he's going to do to create jobs.

[17:15:09] They -- every time he talks about his opposition to Common Core and doing away with the Department of Education, he gets a standing ovation.

But those are the kind of issues they're sort of talking about. The Monmouth poll says one thing. It's a national poll. There are no national caucuses coming up next week. And the people of Iowa here understand that Ted not only is eligible to run for president. We're seeing more and more we're going to 30 stops this week directly, talking, and connecting with the people of Iowa.

Ted is able to one-on-one convey that he understands what they're going through. He understands what they -- what it takes to put food on the table and gas in the tank, and he's doing what -- how you win Iowa.

And this is how -- this happened past the two cycles, one-on-one direct-connecting with the people, and conveying your message to these people. Fortunately, we also have the resources to also execute a nice air campaign with ads this week that show a stark contrast...

BLITZER: Alice.

STEWART: ... with our record and Donald Trump.

BLITZER: I just want to point out, that Monmouth University poll was of Republicans nationally, a third of whom have doubts whether Senator Cruz would be eligible to be president of the United States. That's a big number that you've got to deal with.

We're going to continue these discussions down the road. Alice, thanks very much for joining us.

STEWART: Thank you.

BLITZER: Stay with us. We're standing by to bring you Donald Trump's news conference. He's going to reveal his latest endorsement. Live coverage coming up. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:57] BLITZER: Following the breaking news, Donald Trump getting ready to reveal what he's calling a powerful endorsement, as we await his news conference.

Let's turn our attention to the Democratic race out in Iowa. Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us right now. Brianna, what's the latest on the Democratic front?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigning furiously in this final week before the Iowa caucuses. Bernie Sanders trying to snag some of Clinton's union support, and Clinton looking to the past as she tries to convince Iowans to help make her their future president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the areas that I've been particularly interested in is the area of children.

KEILAR (voice-over): the Clinton campaign out with a new documentary- style ad in Iowa.

CLINTON: No matter where they're born, no matter to whom they are born...

KEILAR: Trying to showcase a decade-long commitment to women and children. Now as Bernie Sanders looks to rally union support.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a fight that we cannot afford to lose.

KEILAR: Well, also lowering expectations ahead of Monday's caucuses, saying he isn't likely to repeat President Obama's 2008 showing.

SANDERS: Do I think in this campaign that we are going to match that? I would love to see us do that. I hope we can. Frankly, I don't think we can. What Obama did in 2008 was extraordinary. KEILAR: The front-running candidates building on their CNN town hall

appearances, a final primetime appeal before Iowans caucus.

SANDERS: We need a political revolution.

CLINTON: You have to have somebody who is a proven, proven fighter.

KEILAR: A new FOX News poll shows Clinton with a slight lead over Sanders with likely Democratic caucus goers. But a recent CNN/ORC poll shows Sanders leading, a sign of just how close the race is here. Sanders trying to push ahead by going after Clinton's record.

SANDERS: I voted against the war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq.

KEILAR: But Clinton, taking a noticeably softer approach after recent sharp attacks on Sanders, and she's embracing President Obama.

CLINTON: I had the opportunity when he asked me to serve as his secretary of state, and not only was a great working relationship but turned into a real friendship.

KEILAR: And she found herself answering a blunt question about her character.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've heard from quite a few people my age that they think you're dishonest.

KEILAR: I've been on the front lines of change and progress since I was your age. I have been fighting to give kids and women and the people who are left out and left behind the chance to make the most out of their own lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Some revisionist history on both of their parts, Bernie Sanders touting how he has fought for Wall Street deregulation, glossing over his vote for a bill that deregulated Wall Street products and helped pave the way for the financial crisis.

Hillary Clinton talking about how she supported LGBT rights for decades, no mention of her support in the '90s, Wolf, for the Defense of Marriage Act or her recent conversion to support same-sex marriage.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna. Thanks very much.

I want to get some insight from our political experts. David Swerdlick is an assistant editor at "The Washington Post"; CNN Politics executive editor, Mark Preston; and CNN political director David Chalian.

David, you're out there in Iowa. React to that moment when Hillary Clinton was asked whether she was dishonest by that young questioner there. Did she show the passion as a fighter she needed to show last night? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Without a doubt, Wolf. I

think it was one of the best moments Hillary Clinton has had on the campaign trail this entire cycle. And in fact, she's been asked a question about sort of the enthusiasm gap with Bernie Sanders, many times in interviews, in other town-hall settings.

But this was her best answer, by far, in addressing that, because she did it in with her own passion and energy for the reason she's running for president. And I think that was a very successful moment for her at a time when she really needed to up-end this narrative that Bernie Sanders is having all of this momentum and big crowds and what have you; and that she's in trouble in Iowa. You know it's a close race in the polls, and she needed that kind of moment, and she delivered on it.

[17:25:22] Mark, Senator Sanders also showed a lot of passion and a lot of fight last night going after Hillary Clinton on several issues, but did the senator get specific enough when it came to his own policies?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, the criticism about Bernie Sanders is that he's not offering out proposals and then not backing up with how he would get there. The criticism is that he would never be able to get there.

Certainly, in a divided Washington or Congress that would be divided in a very divisive environment in Washington. That's why you'll be hearing over and over again the idea of pragmatism versus the heart. And Bernie Sanders has been the heart of the campaign.

Now, last night he was very specific when he was talking about where he was on certain issues, specifically the Iraq War, income inequality, and comparing and contrasting them with Hillary Clinton. So Bernie Sanders was trying to show his differences with Hillary Clinton last night.

Again, Wolf, not a question about will he give you details about his proposal? The question is, are those proposals even viable to get through anything in Washington, D.C.?

BLITZER: All right. David, Hillary Clinton certainly touted her ability to get things done. Listen to this clue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I'm going to be just giving them all bear hugs, whether they like it or not. We're going to get together. We're going to talk about what we can do. Maybe we can get something done together. If not, maybe I can find that slice of common ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But in this election season, when there's so much anti- establishment out there, the bear hug and all of this working together, is that going to work in a Democratic contest? DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, she's

got this tough situation. She's almost got a situation that she had in 2008 against Obama, right?

Democratic-based voters see her as competent, smart, experienced, but she doesn't excite them the way that Obama did in '08. And that Sanders seems to be exciting people now, so she's got to play the experience card because that's really one of the few cards that she does have.

BLITZER: We have the 74-year-old Sanders really exciting a lot of young people...

SWERDLICK: Yes, he is.

BLITZER: ... in Iowa. He's in Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, a big, big crowd there.

David, the Iowa race, very tight right now between Sanders and Clinton. Will a good get-out-the-vote strategy really make all the difference Monday night?

CHALIAN: Without a doubt, Wolf. You know that Iowa is all about ground game. Remember what the caucuses are. You're asking folks to show up to a local neighborhood meeting and publicly discuss and declare their allegiances over an hour and a half or two hours on a cold Monday night. That requires a level of commitment and a sophisticated organization to get those people out to those caucus sites around the state.

Hillary Clinton's campaign has invested a ton of money and time. They really studied that Obama 2008 model, and they have put in an organization across the state to try to accomplish what they couldn't eight years ago.

Bernie Sanders, who also has been clearly organized in the state but has been riding this more organic enthusiasm, is now having to sort of prove that he's more Barack Obama, a sophisticated turnout operation, than Howard Dean when the enthusiasm fizzled when it came to actually having folks show up to caucuses.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We're going to get a lot more. We're also awaiting Donald Trump's announcement of his latest endorsement. We're going back live to Iowa for his news conference. We'll see what he has to say. Stand by for that.

Also ahead, caught on camera. Part of a double bombing as ISIS continues its terror campaign. And the Pentagon preparing to station hundreds of U.S. trainers near the front lines of the fight. We have new information.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from Donald Trump. He's out there in Iowa right now. You're looking at live pictures coming in. He's about to join the podium over there with a major endorsement. We'll hear what he has to say. We'll have live coverage of that coming up. Don't go too far away.

[17:33:38] Meanwhile, there's other news we're following. A new video from ISIS has security officials now on edge. They're worried that the terrorists are planning an attack similar to the one that killed 130 people in Paris. But a new report finds that al Qaeda affiliate terror group might actually pose a greater threat to the United States.

Let bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's got details.

Jim, what are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, in effect what you're seeing here, a case where both ISIS and Nusra pose a threat but different ones. New report finding that Nusra is most capable of catastrophic 9/11-scale attacks on U.S. soil, drawing on all the resources and personnel of core al Qaeda, both in Pakistan and around the world.

While at the same time, ISIS continues to be the most immediate threat, with an unparalleled ability to inspire lone wolves but also direct and carry out coordinated attacks abroad, like we saw in Paris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): A violent, new ISIS video features the men who carried out the Paris attacks, purporting to show their final messages. And the video ends with an ominous new warning. The terror group will strike Britain next.

The terror threat to Europe says Europol is the most severe in more than a decade. ISIS and other terror groups likely to attempt significant coordinated attacks similar to the deadly rampage in Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Islamic state has a willingness and a capability to carry out further attacks in Europe and, of course, all of the national authorities across Europe are working to prevent that from happening.

SCIUTTO: But tonight it's a different group that's sounding alarms in Washington, the al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra Front. A new report finds al Nusra has a greater capability to carry out catastrophic 9/11-scale attacks on U.S. soil, drawing on the resources of core al Qaeda in Pakistan and around the world.

Like ISIS, al Nusra controls swaths of territory in Syria and has attracted scores of foreign fighters.

Still, European and U.S. officials see ISIS as the more immediate threat, and the terror group is expanding its presence in the west, with training sites inside Europe and the ability to manufacture their own passports at will. One alarming example, the ISIS-inspired man who attacked a police station in Paris last month. VERA JOUROVA, EUROPEAN COMMISSION OFFICIAL: The person who intended

to attack this police station had passports of seven countries, various alias names and a criminal record in at least three member states under different names.

SCIUTTO: Now, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the crisis in Syria and Iraq, Europe is rapidly elevating its border controls to make sure that terrorists don't slip in, pretending to be refugees. The U.S. is aware that ISIS has the capability to make authentic- looking Syrian passports.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Part of the territory they took over happened to have a building that -- where the Syrians process passports. So they have blank passports, and they have the means to print them and fake them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: That Europol terror report made a somewhat surprising point, as well. And that is that Europe faces a greater militant threat, not from inside -- rather from inside its borders than from terrorists posing as refugees. The report says ISIS has now established an external actions command: in effect, its own military division, Wolf, for carrying out attacks abroad.

This has become a new focus of the group, and they're building the capability to do this. So -- and the fact is, they even have training camps now inside Europe. So while the Paris attackers were trained in Syria, some attackers for future attacks might be trained right there at home.

BLITZER: ISIS, al Nusra, this al Qaeda affiliate, these are huge problems, obviously, for the U.S. and the entire world. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Let's turn to the fight against ISIS in the Middle East right now. Iraqi police say a mass grave containing more than three dozen victims, that grave has been discovered in the recently-liberated city of Ramadi. It's a grim reminder as Iraqi troops, American training forces prepare to retake other major cities from ISIS.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been following the latest developments in the Middle East. What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we are looking at another possible, significant expansion of U.S. troop presence in Iraq, and it comes as the biggest fight against ISIS may be about to unfold.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Two bombs ripped through the city of Homs in western Syria, killing more than a dozen, injuring as many as 100.

First, a booby-trapped car exploded at a government checkpoint. Then, as people rushed to the scene, a suicide bomber detonated a vest in the crowd. It all targeted an area where many residents belong to the same sect as President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime, with help from Russia, made gains in the recent days against ISIS.

In Ramadi, west of Baghdad, ISIS brutality unearthed. A mass grave of ISIS victims, about 40 bodies, were discovered. Iraqis say captured ISIS operatives confessed to the location.

The fight is about to get more intense. The next looming battle is from Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. The Pentagon is making plans to send up to 400 additional trainers to help 24,000 Iraqi troops get ready for urban warfare in the city. Even talk of U.S. military advisers moving closer to Mosul's front lines.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They're going to have to be able to clear buildings. They're going to have to be able to secure large areas, large office buildings, institutions like mosques, hospitals, schools.

STARR: Defense Secretary Ash Carter openly now pressuring the Gulf allies to do more against ISIS. His most blunt remarks to date, in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: You want major Arab troops involved in this campaign, because so far you have almost none.

ASH CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is one of the great ironies, which is the countries of the region are -- have made the least contributions to the counter-ISIL coalition, including the Gulf countries.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:40:03] STARR: Now, Carter really is desperate, and urgently trying to get the Middle East allies to contribute more troops. That's the way he can keep U.S. troop numbers down in the coming months, just, of course, as the presidential election season heats up, and all of this can become a very hot issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He's on the Homeland Security Committee. He's a CIA clandestine officer, as well.

Congressman, I need you to stand by for a moment. We're getting more information. I want to assess what's going on. Stand by for that.

Also, we're awaiting Donald Trump. He's about to have a news conference out in Iowa. Make a major announcement of yet another endorsement, live coverage of that coming up, as well.

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[17:45:19] BLITZER: Once again, we're awaiting Donald Trump. He's about to make an announcement of what he's describing as another major endorsement. He's out in Iowa. He'll answer reporters' questions. We'll have live coverage coming up. Stay with us for that.

In the meantime, we're following important developments in the fight against ISIS. There are now new threats from the terror group, a growing push to liberate key cities in Iraq.

Let's discuss all the very latest developments with the Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, former clandestine officer in the CIA.

Congressman, react to these new reports. ISIS now saying their next target outside of the Middle East is Britain. How credible is a threat like that?

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, you got to take ISIS seriously. We've underestimated them before and if they're targeting a country like Britain, it's probably because they think they have a chance of doing something.

All of Europe needs to be prepared. You know, the reports you'll have about them being able to produce fake travel documents, this is something that all of the European Union needs to be mindful of, that needs to change the way they're checking travel documents. So they're a clear and present danger. We also can't forget about ISIS in Libya, as well, too. As they start losing some territory in Iraq they're looking West and they're regrouping in Libya.

And one of the things I learned when I was an undercover officer in the CIA you don't let the bad guys have an area where they can train and equip and plot against us.

BLITZER: Because ISIS clearly wants another Paris-style attack in Britain. Paris attack killed 130, injured hundreds more.

Here's the question. Can they do that here in the United States?

HURD: Well, we have to be prepared for that. We have seen one of the biggest areas -- I was on a committee that looked at foreign fighter travel, and one of the things that we learned is that our European allies are not checking travel documents against known watch lists. And our European allies aren't sharing enough information on suspected terrorists. So being able to get through Europe to come to the United States is a possibility and that's something that we need to be girding against.

BLITZER: And this notion that al-Nusra, this al Qaeda affiliate in Syria right now, long term maybe an even bigger threat to the United States? You buy that?

HURD: It's definitely a threat. Right now we should be looking at all of these organizations and then we should have a policy within the United States that we do not let terrorist organizations operate and train and equip without -- unencumbered. And we need to be just as serious at Nusra, we need to be -- as we are with ISIS. And there's also a group that oftentimes not talked, al-Shabaab out of East Africa. They are a threat, too. They have the capabilities to launch attack in the U.S. and they have the interest in doing that and all three.

And we need to make sure that ultimately we have a policy that our enemies fear us and our allies trust us.

BLITZER: Let's see if the Iraqi military is up to the task of retaking Mosul as some of these other areas, at least in the short term, not very upbeat, but we'll see -- we'll see what they can do. More U.S. troops apparently heading as trainers and advisers to Iraq as well.

Congressman Will Hurd, thanks very much for coming in.

HURD: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're awaiting Donald Trump. We'll go to Iowa as he's getting ready to make his major announcement. He's describing it as a major announcement of another important person who has decided he should be the next president of the United States. Stay with us for that.

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[17:53:04] BLITZER: We're taking you back now to Iowa for the breaking news. There you see live pictures, Donald Trump about to reveal his latest high-profile endorsement from the controversial sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona. That's the county that includes Phoenix.

Let's go back to our political director David Chalian. He's in Iowa where Trump will appear. He's going to do this news conference first then -- then speak at a rally second, is that right?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right. I'm standing here in what is the main gymnasium here in Marshalltown, Iowa, at the high school here, Wolf. And if you look behind me, you can see Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County is addressing this crowd right now.

Clearly it's a big endorsement that Donald Trump wants to tout. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio is right now telling this crowd that he's been fighting as a hardliner against immigration policy for quite some time and he is thrilled that Donald Trump has now taken this issue to a spotlight that it has never seen before in presidential politics.

As you know, it's one of the major driving forces of Trump's support and this crowd is loving what they're hearing from Sheriff Arpaio.

BLITZER: And Trump is getting another major endorsement from Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University in Virginia. That's important as well.

CHALIAN: It is, because that's a real play for the social conservative set. Donald Trump unveiling two endorsements today while he's campaigning here in Iowa. One focused on the social conservative set, one focused on the immigration issue. These are two key constituencies that make up a key part of the Republican Party that Donald Trump wants to make sure gets out and caucus on Monday night.

BLITZER: And it's embarrassing for Senator Cruz because he announced his race as running for the presidency at Liberty University. I'm sure he wanted -- David, he wanted Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s endorsement as well.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about that. And his campaign promises to roll out some more social conservative endorsements this week here in Iowa, but that Falwell one is a big one, Wolf, and yes, Ted Cruz certainly wanted it.

[17:55:00] BLITZER: All right. We'll stand by for that. David Chalian will be with us. David, don't go too far away.

Coming up, as we just reported Donald Trump collecting a pair of major endorsements. We'll have live coverage. The latest.

Also from a highly controversial sheriff who's being revealed this hour, there you saw him, Joe Arpaio, he now supports Donald Trump. He wants him to be the next president of the United States.

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BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Locked in. We're standing by for a Donald Trump rally. The GOP frontrunner poised to get a major endorsement from one of the most controversial lawmen in America.

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Lowering expectations. Bernie Sanders now saying he can't replicate the coalition that propelled Barack Obama to the White House back in 2008.