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Scientists: Zika Virus Has Potential to Become Pandemic; Dr. Anthony Fauci Talks 31 U.S. Zika Virus Cases; Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee to Join Donald Trump at Veterans Event; Bernie Sanders Released Medical Records as Gap in Polls Closing Between Sanders, Clinton; A Look at Syria Ravaged by ISIS, Civil War. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 28, 2016 - 13:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[13:30:00] SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here we've seen the heartache and financial burden this is putting on families. More than 4,000 cases of newborn Microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since Zika was detected less than a year ago. A third of them are here, where babies and moms face endless jabs and tests.

Doctor Angela Rocha, one of the first to make the link between Zika and Microcephaly.

"These babies have brain damage to differing degrees, which means inserting this generation into society is going to be very complicated," she says.

Research continues to establish a cause and effect with the Zika Virus, spread by the same mosquitoes that transmit yellow fever and dengue. There's no vaccine or no cure, which means the mosquito is public enemy number one.

JACKSON DE BARROS CORRERA, ROCHE HEALTH SECRETARY: All the effort is being put on prevention, by having the population of mosquitoes under control.

DARLINGTON: 200,000 troops now going door to door, eliminating the stagnant water that serves as the mosquitoes' breeding ground and educating families.

The health ministry admits it's been losing the war against the mosquito, and mothers-to-be across Brazil see their moment of hope turned into moments of unbelievable anguish.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Brazil.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Here in the United States, there are now 31 cases of the Zika Virus across 11 states and in Washington, D.C., the District of Columbia.

Here to talk about this is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the world's experts on these kinds of viruses.

Dr. Fauci, thanks very much for joining us.

Some say out there right now there are reports that we could be as far as, what, 10 years away from a vaccine to combat this virus? Is that right?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, it's usually takes a few years in order to get a vaccine that goes to the full process of being tested and approved. But we're accelerating the early part of that, and we're putting together a protocol right now, literally as we speak, where we'll have a product that hopefully we will get into what's called early phase one testing to determine if it's safe and if it induces a response that you would predict would be protective. And we are likely going to get into that phase one trial within the calendar year of 2016. So we're moving very quickly on that. To get ultimately an approved vaccine will likely take several years. I don't think it's going to be 10 years. That's a bit long, Wolf. I think it's more like three to five years.

BLITZER: What can the world do right now to stop the rapid spread of this disease?

FAUCI: Good question, and there's a good answer to that. And that is, mosquito control, vector control. The enemy here is the mosquito. And if you can control the mosquito, eliminate the mosquito, you can do an awful lot to containing and curtailing this epidemic.

And you do it by several ways. You do it by insecticides and you do it by removing standing water in little pots or tires or what have you. And, in fact, the Brazilian government is putting a full-court press on in getting some of the troops to go in and do that kind of a cleanup. They're being very aggressive about it.

The other approach is mosquito avoidance. In other words, be very careful when you go out. Wear long-sleeved clothes, shirts that go up to the neck, and wear insect repellant to prevent the mosquitoes from biting.

So either you protect yourself against the mosquito or the government and the community destroys the mosquito. That's the approach right now that we need to do.

BLITZER: Good advice, as usual, from Dr. Fauci.

Thanks very much for joining us.

FAUCI: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Up next, more breaking news in the race for the White House. We have just learned that another Republican presidential candidate will join Donald Trump at the veterans' event later tonight. First, it was Mike Huckabee. You saw him live here on CNN. Now another candidate getting ready to join Trump. You're going to find out who that is when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:38:08] BLITZER: We're also now learning that yet another Republican presidential candidate will attend Donald Trump's veterans event later tonight in competition with the main GOP presidential debate. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator, will attend the Trump event. He'll be joining, by the way, our Brooke Baldwin live during the 3:00 p.m. eastern hour to explain his decision.

Earlier, Mike Huckabee was here with me. He explained why he will go from the so-called undercard debate to Donald Trump's prime time event honoring and trying to raise money for veterans. Listen to what Governor Huckabee told me just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: You know, I'm not invited to the main stage. I would love to have been on that stage. I think I should have been on that stage. But, you know, I'm going to be on a stage earlier. You know, if they're not sitting out in the audience watching me, I don't feel any compulsion that I, you know, have to be there for that debate. And quite frankly, as I say, I'm free at 8:00. So I offered, by the way, Wolf, I would take his podium at the 8:00 debate. And that was rejected. So I said, OK, well, I'll find something else to do at 8:00 and that's exactly what I've done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now on the phone is Bill Bennett, the national radio talk show host, former secretary of education. Old friend of Bill.

Thanks very much for joining us.

First of all, what do you make of Huckabee's decision, Santorum's decision to go to the Donald Trump veterans' event.

BILL BENNETT, NATIONAL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST & FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION (ph): What a year, huh? Well, they're free at 8:00. That's what we're into this year. They have no reason to go to the main debate. They're miffed, they would rather be at the main debate, and I'm sure there's diffracting from the main debate.

BLITZER: I know you're upset with the way FOX has handled the issue. Tell us why.

[13:40:01] BENNETT: I am upset. You know, I have -- I love people at FOX. I have a lot of dear friends there. But you know that FOX, like CNN, like anyone, can never depart from its posture of impartiality. And what they did here was gave an excuse to Donald Trump to exit the debate. There was a statement issued by FOX. I've talked to some people at FOX. They don't know who issued it. But it did come out, and talked about Donald Trump being irritated by Megyn Kelly. Wait until he runs into Putin in the ayatollah. This is making fun of Trump, being very snarky toward Trump. And be again, they should never depart from that posture of impartiality. You stand there and you hear candidates attack you or attack the network, and, you know, you have to stand there and take it, and say, OK, OK, and be impartial. But to come back -- gave Trump the opportunity to leave. He said, why should I go on a debate on a network that so clearly has it in for me. And that statement gave him that ground to do.

BLITZER: Have you, Bill, endorsed or supported, come out in favor of any of these Republican candidates yet?

BENNETT: No, I have not. There are several there I like. I also like tom cotton, but he's not running. No, we're talking -- I'll have them on the show, on my radio show, and interviewing them. And I'm trying to just give an honest analysis here. But I just think this was a big mistake by FOX. And I'm sorry to see them do it.

BLITZER: And you think Trump was right as a result of that statement that FOX put out to go ahead and boycott the debate?

BENNETT: I think -- you know, as I said from the beginning, Wolf, I thought he should have participated. Actually, he does pretty well in these debates. You know, he can handle Megyn Kelly, and anyone else. I don't think it's about that. But he had some reason he wanted to get out. This certainly gives him the ground. And he's going to draw a lot of attention. I was asking my listening audience this morning, Wolf, what are you going to do? What are you going to watch? Are you going to watch FOX or are you going to watch somebody else? I assume you guys are probably going to cover Trump, aren't you?

BLITZER: So what are you going to watch, Bill?

(LAUGHTER)

BENNETT: Back and forth. That's what we have clickers for, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. I suspect a lot of people will be doing that, as well.

All right, Bill Bennett, good to have you here back on CNN. Thanks very much for joining us.

BENNETT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, Bernie Sanders releases his medical records. We're going to tell you what they reveal about the health of the 74- year-old presidential candidate, just as a new poll shows him gaining right now on Hillary Clinton in Iowa. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:46:29] BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, releasing his medical records today as we count down to the Iowa caucuses Monday night. A letter from his doctor declares the 74- year-old Sanders to be in, quote, "overall good health and active in his professional work and recreational lifestyle without limitation."

The announcement comes as a brand-new poll from Monmouth University shows Senator Sanders closing the gap with Hillary Clinton in Iowa. He trails her now by just five points. A month ago, it was 22 points.

Today, both candidates are ramping up their events across Iowa. This map showing all the places where Sanders and Clinton and Hillary Clinton's husband, the former president, Bill Clinton, are campaigning today.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us now from Iowa.

Jeff, you had a chance to speak with Senator Sanders a while ago, not only about his medical records, but also about the back and forth over whether to have more Democratic debates. What did he tell you?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we did. For all the anticipation, for the Republican debate tonight, there is a question mark hanging over the Democratic debates. Well, now Hillary Clinton yesterday said she wants to hold a debate next week in New Hampshire. It was not on the schedule at all. But she, of course, sees how tight the race is there.

We asked Senator Sanders today what his thoughts were.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just can't understand why Secretary Clinton wants to change the rules. And have a debate in New Hampshire next week. Now, my feeling is, as somebody who from day one has said, as you've heard me say, I want more debates. I love debates. I think it's good for the process. So what we have said to Secretary Clinton, you want more debates, that's great. We propose to do at least three more debates after New Hampshire. But she can't just dictate the rules of the game. These were rules I had nothing to do with. Established by the DNC, which most people perceive to be different to her. Now, you know, she's falling apparently behind in New Hampshire, wants to change the rules. But we are willing to say, if she is willing to do a number of debates later on --

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: If she's not, you will not be in New Hampshire next week?

SANDERS: That's right.

ZELENY: She also says she wants real action, not gridlock. She says you'll bring more gridlock to Washington.

SANDERS: The idea that I can't work with Republicans is nonsense. Where there has been common ground, I have worked with Republicans for decades. In the last session of Congress, probably the major piece of legislation passed was comprehensive veterans health care legislation. I was chairman of the Veterans Committee. I worked with people like John McCain and others in the House to pass it. So it is nonsense to suggest that I can't work with Republicans.

ZELENY: And you're releasing your medical records. SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

ZELENY: You say you're in very good health. How do you feel?

SANDERS: I feel great.

ZELENY: Good fighting form?

SANDERS: I'm in good fighting form.

ZELENY: Your letter was not as dramatic as Donald Trump's.

SANDERS: I know. My doctor is not his --

(LAUGHTER)

-- is not quite as dramatic. He's a more sober guy. But thank god I am in very good health.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: That, of course, was a reference to Trump's own medical report from his doctors, just a few weeks ago. His doctor said he would be the most healthy person ever to serve as president. Sanders was a little more medical, if you will, Wolf.

But he is the oldest presidential candidate. He would be the oldest president to serve, six years older than Ronald Reagan, if he were to be elected here, Wolf.

The bottom line on all this is Senator Sanders says if she agrees, if Secretary Clinton agrees to debates in March, April and May, he will agree to a debate next week. So we're going to have to see how all this unfolds as the Iowa caucuses happen, then, of course, into the New Hampshire primary the following week -- Wolf?

[13:50:12] BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thanks very much. Good work.

Jeff Zeleny for us reporting from Iowa.

By the way, I'll be speaking with Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, later today as she campaigns across Iowa. We'll talk about the race, debates, Senator Sanders, a whole lot more. My interview with Hillary Clinton coming up in "The Situation Room" at 5:00 p.m. eastern, only here on CNN.

Still to come, we'll take you live inside Syria to hear how anti-ISIS fighters are accepting the challenge as peace talks are supposed to begin in Switzerland. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:54:56] BLITZER: There's breaking news in France. A pair of arrests were made in the last few hours at Disneyland, Paris. Police say a man carrying multiple weapons tried to get through security at a hotel. Police say the man was carrying at least two guns, ammunition and a copy of the Koran. But they say, as of right now, the police department's counterterrorism department is not yet involved in the investigation. We'll update you when we get more information. At least one arrest right now. A woman still on the loose.

Let's go to Syria right now, a country ravaged by ISIS and civil war. Our senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, has been traveling through Syria right now. She's one of the very few Western journalists to go there. Courageous enough to do so. Clarissa is joining us live from northern Syria.

Clarissa, you're in a place very few Westerners have had an opportunity to see firsthand. Describe what you're seeing there and what you're hearing.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're here in the northeast of the country with the Syrian Democratic forces. That force, made up primarily of Kurdish fighters. They have been enjoying some significant successes on the battlefield against ISIS, pushing the militants both to the south and to the West.

But now, Wolf, it's getting a little more complicated for them as they come out of Kurdish areas and into Arab areas. As we saw today, we visited a town called Allhal (ph). It is completely deserted. It's been liberated for about two months. When ISIS was pushed out, all the Arab residents left the town along with ISIS. That is because many of them have real misgivings about living under what they would deem to be Kurdish occupation. I know that's really hard for our viewers to get our heads around because as we were wandering around the town, much of it had been flattened by air strikes and by fighting. We saw an ISIS bomb factory with an extraordinary amount of munitions. Many of them homemade explosives, land mines. And yet these residents have largely chosen to leave this village along with ISIS. I think that really gives you a feel, Wolf, for the complexion sectarian dynamics we're seeing here at play in Syria and the challenges groups like the Democratic forces, which do have Arab fighters, but are primarily Kurdish fighters, are up against as they push into this stronghold.

BLITZER: Peace talks are trying to put an end to this deadly civil war. They're supposed to begin tomorrow in Geneva, Switzerland. These Kurdish fighters are playing a major role now. What's their view of the talks in Geneva?

WARD: Well, Wolf, the Kurds are absolutely furious about these talks because they're not invited, even though they have a significant chunk of territory here in the northeast of the country, even though they really are the U.S. and the coalition's main ally on the ground in the fight against ISIS. They view these talks as prioritizing regional interests over the future of Syria. They say that minorities such as the Kurds and the Christians are largely being ignored. One commander even told us, Wolf, he felt particularly disappointed with the U.S. because of all the support militarily that the Kurds have provided in the fight against ISIS. And he said that military support and that alliance with the coalition is now in jeopardy, because the U.S. has not pushed harder to get the Kurds a seat at the table. But of course, the problem here really is Turkey. That's another key

U.S. ally. Turkey views the Kurds as a serious threat to its national security and the Turks have said if the Kurds are present at the negotiating table, we simply won't attend those talks at all -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward reporting for us from northern Syria.

Clarissa, be careful over there. We'll check back with you. Excellent work for all of our viewers. Thank you.

73 seconds we won't forget happened 30 years ago today, January 28, 1986, the day that the world watched the 25th space shuttle mission end in disaster. The shuttle "Challenger" was making its tenth voyage to space. We all listened as Commander Dick Scobey said, "Roger, go, throttles up." Those were the last words from the crew as the "Challenger" disintegrated into a fireball. Lost that day with Commander Scobey, Pilot Michael Smith, Mission Specialists Ronald McNair, Ellison Onozuka and Judith Resnick. Also, Payload Specialist Reg Jarvis and school teacher-turned astronaut, Christa McAuliffe. Deepest, deepest condolences, of course, all these years later to their families and to their friends.

That's it for me. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room." My interview at that time with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The news continues next on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:00:14] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer, thank you --