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Terror Threat; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Trump, Sanders Win New Hampshire; Intelligence Officials: ISIS to Attempt Attacks on U.S.; U.S. Military in Egypt Could Add ISIS Intel Duty. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 10, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:31]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Huge margin. Donald Trump about to hold his first rally in South Carolina since his very dramatic win in the New Hampshire primary. His lopsided lead prompting two to bow out of the race today. Can the GOP establishment find a candidate who can overtake Trump?

I will ask one of his rivals, Senator Marco Rubio.

Victory lap. Bernie Sanders riding a huge wave of momentum after his commanding win over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. On "The View" earlier today, eating some ice cream, shooting some baskets, but also meeting with Al Sharpton in New York laying the groundwork for South Carolina. Could Bernie Sanders chip away some of Hillary Clinton's considerable African-American support?

American terror threat. Chilling new assessments by top U.S. intelligence officials warning they expect to see ISIS attempt new attacks on U.S. soil this year. Critical clues may be hidden in the cell phone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers. Why are investigators still struggling to unlock it?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: There is breaking news in the Republican race for the White House tonight as the candidates set their sights on the next major contest, South Carolina. Donald Trump is about to hold his first campaign event there since his commanding win in New Hampshire, a contest that's shaken up the GOP.

Carly Fiorina has announced she's out of the race after her poor showing in the primary. Same for Chris Christie. A source telling CNN he's also suspending his campaign.

We're also following a disturbing terror warning from top U.S. intelligence officials. They believe ISIS will try to launch new attacks on U.S. soil this year, possibly using operatives and fighters hiding in the massive wave of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq. We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio. And our correspondents and our expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with the Democratic race for the White House, Hillary Clinton spending the day regrouping and Bernie Sanders celebrating his huge win in New Hampshire.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, has the very latest for us.

Joe, South Carolina is more important than ever before both of these Democratic candidates right now.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Wolf. You can see little signs of it in Bernie Sanders' schedule today.

This evening, he's recording an appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," who grew up near Charleston, South Carolina, and earlier today, he was reaching out to African-American voters who have a lot of power in the South Carolina primary by attending a morning meeting with civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because of a huge voter turnout, and I say huge, we won.

JOHNS (voice-over): Bernie Sanders is taking a victory lap today after his big New Hampshire primary win, as he also turns his attention to the battles ahead.

SANDERS: And now it's on to Nevada, South Carolina and beyond.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JOHNS: Part of Sanders' challenge going forward, making inroads with African-American voters, a key piece of the Democratic electorate in the South Carolina primary later this month. That's why one of his first stops today was in Harlem for a meeting with civil rights leader Al Sharpton.

Sharpton said he would not make an endorsement until after he meets with Hillary Clinton next week.

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: No endorsements this morning.

JOHNS: After tasting victory last night, Sanders got to sample the Ben and Jerry's flavor he inspired, Bernie's Yearning, during an appearance on "The View."

SANDERS: This is the first time I have tasted it.

WOMAN: It is? Did you like it?

SANDERS: Excellent. JOHNS: Sanders using the setting to highlight his populist economic

message.

SANDERS: The message that we are bringing forth, that this country is supposed to be a nation of fairness, and we're not seeing that fairness right now.

JOHNS: And making the case that his success in New Hampshire will be seen in other contests down the road.

SANDERS: What happened here in New Hampshire in terms of an enthusiastic and aroused electorate, people who came out in large numbers, that is what will happen all over this country.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

[18:05:08]

JOHNS: To help Sanders on his way, a huge fund-raising haul of $5.2 million since the polls closed Tuesday night.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still love New Hampshire and I always will.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JOHNS: Following her disappointing finish in New Hampshire, Clinton today taking a break from the trail, readying herself and her supporters for a long campaign.

CLINTON: Now we take this campaign to the entire country. We are going to fight for every vote in every state.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JOHNS: And taking stock of where her campaign needs to improve, including expanding her appeal to younger voters.

CLINTON: I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people, but I will repeat again what I have said this week. Even -- even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: A source familiar with the meeting today in New York tells me Reverend Al Sharpton is reserving judgment on who to support in South Carolina because he may have misgivings about both candidates, concerns Bernie Sanders can't deliver on all his promises and concerns about Bill Clinton's record, not just his rhetoric during the '08 primary race.

There's also the welfare reform bill he signed, the crime bill of 1994, the increase in incarceration rates, which Bill Clinton has said he has regrets about. So a lot in the mix as the race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton looks to South Carolina -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly does. All right, thanks very much, Joe, for that report.

The Republican battle for South Carolina also in full swing tonight. Donald Trump is about to hold his first campaign event there since his overwhelming victory in New Hampshire.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is in South Carolina for us right now.

Sunlen, a different political landscape there. Explain the latest.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Wolf. Tonight, Donald Trump coming into South Carolina more serious and a stronger candidate than ever before. Ted Cruz very eager to stop him in his tracks here in South Carolina, predicting that South Carolina will be the tipping point in this race going forward, setting up a fierce battle ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): After a decisive New Hampshire win...

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to make America great again.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SERFATY: ... Donald Trump is zeroing in on South Carolina.

TRUMP: We have already had dirty tricks in this campaign, so, you know, I'm ready for whatever they want to throw at me, and that's fine.

SERFATY: And he's setting his sights on rival Ted Cruz, already running this TV ad.

NARRATOR: What kind of man talks from both sides of his mouth on amnesty for illegals on national television and still denies it?

SERFATY: Just a small preview of the absolute collision course in South Carolina, the two insurgent candidates now both with a win under their belt gunning for the other.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iowa and New Hampshire have performed their historic role. They're narrowing the field, they're narrowing the choices. And now it's up to South Carolina to pick a president.

SERFATY: In a Web video, Cruz painting Trump as a fake Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hey, Hillary, I will give you money to be my friend.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Check out my house, Mr. Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That's a lousy house. I'm going to take your house with eminent domain and park my limos there. SERFATY: As they brace for impact, the dust settling from New

Hampshire has left little clarity on who might emerge as the clear establishment candidate to take on the mantle as the alternative to Trump.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They pushed the pause button, so everybody is going to have to make their case.

SERFATY: After getting help from his mother in New Hampshire...

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Vote for Jeb.

SERFATY: ... the Florida governor is leaning on his older brother, President George W. Bush, with this radio ad.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no doubt in my mind that Jeb Bush will be a great commander in chief for our military.

SERFATY: And anticipated visit to the state too. Others will have to resort to other means to build on New Hampshire momentum.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I guess I got to back to the beginning.

SERFATY: Ohio Governor John Kasich is hoping to capitalize on his solid second-place finish, but he faces an uphill climb, money, support, infrastructure, all huge hurdles as he looks to survive until the campaign moves to the Midwest.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm as conservative as anyone in this race,

A bruised Marco Rubio is now in South Carolina looking to reboot.

RUBIO: You learn from it, you take lessons and you move on.

SERFATY: The senator admitting he screwed up at Saturday's debate, his overly scripted performance costing him votes.

RUBIO: I just didn't finish strong. We wanted to do a lot better in New Hampshire. And clearly my performance on Saturday had an impact down the stretch.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And the Republican field did get a little smaller today, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina both dropping their presidential bids, Christie posting moments ago to his Facebook page -- quote -- that he "leaves the race without an ounce of regret" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty, thank you very much.

[18:10:01]

I want to go to CNN's Jim Acosta. He's with the Trump campaign right now covering this rally that is about to begin.

He's bringing all of his momentum for New Hampshire to South Carolina. What's the latest over there, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's is right.

That big shakeup in the race today that Sunlen just mentioned, the departure of Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina, that means way more Republicans may move right over to Donald Trump's campaign. The GOP front-runner has a huge line of supporters waiting outside to get inside this livestock arena here in South Carolina for this big rally that's set up tonight. It's going to be another -- you can hear them cheering behind me.

It's going to be another vintage Donald Trump rally, thousands of people on hand. And his GOP rivals right now at this point, they are spending less time hitting each other. They are going after Trump now.

Consider what we heard earlier today from Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Donald Trump, who is an extraordinary politician apparently and a great actor and entertainer, it's entertaining until you get insulted. Not so entertaining if you are a disabled person. That's a sign of weakness in my mind or if you disparage women or Hispanics.

CRUZ: We cannot nominate a candidate who has the same health care plan of socialized medicine as Bernie Sanders.

RUBIO: The hard thing about Donald in the short-term is that he doesn't have any policy positions. He tells you what he's going to do, but he tell you how he's going to do it.

I think once this race narrows, the pressure will be on him to say, OK, this is how I'm going to deal with ISIS. This is what we're going to do about bringing jobs back. Here is how we would handle the trade imbalance. I don't think you can keep saying, trust me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, as he said in his victory speech last night, Trump has learned his lesson from Iowa and he built up his ground operation in New Hampshire. He's done the same here in South Carolina.

The lieutenant governor in this state is backing Trump. We will probably see him tonight. And GOP operatives are telling us earlier today that they don't believe South Carolina's Governor Nikki Haley will endorse a candidate before the primary here. That's a potential boost for Trump if another candidate does not get her support.

I remember four years ago when Nikki Haley endorsed Mitt Romney, didn't help him there. Maybe that's why she's sitting out this time around, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, South Carolina on everybody's mind right now. Thank you very much.

We will stand by to hear what Donald Trump has to say in a little bit as well.

In the meantime, let's get some more from our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, our CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro. She's a good friend of Marco Rubio, and she's a supporter of Jeb Bush's. And our CNN political commentator Peter Beinart, he's a contributing editor for Atlantic Media.

Ana, you saw that ad, that Trump ad really going after Ted Cruz, a pretty big, pretty bold ad. How tight is it going to get in South Carolina? How intense? Maybe that is a better word. How angry between these candidates?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Wolf, when I watch the ad, the first thing that came to mind is, boy, those children are going to need therapy down the line, seeing their kids fight over eminent domain, fight over things like single-taxpayer tax -- a single-taxpayer health system.

But, look, South Carolina is a state that is known for tough, dirty fights. It's one where we see dirty tricks. It's one where it's bare-knuckles. It's one where being commander in chief matters. You know, there's a large military presence in South Carolina. And that matters a lot.

So I think you are going to see it get tight. I think you're going to see it get dirty. It's a long time now. It's a lot less than -- the time we had between Iowa and New Hampshire, this time, we have got 10 days between the two primaries. You're going to see it get dirty. Buckle up, folks.

BLITZER: But that was a tough ad the Cruz campaign launched against Donald Trump. Donald Trump, you saw that tough ad he's got against Cruz, basically lashing out bitterly against him as well. I guess we will see a lot more of that.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that's right.

This is Lee Atwater country. So, yes, it's going to be some mudslinging. I think Ted Cruz obviously wants to continue that argument that he began in Iowa, this whole thing about New York values. Eminent domain was actually a weakness for Donald Trump in Iowa. It's something Jeb Bush raised in that last debate.

He thinks he can finally make this case stick in South Carolina because of the climate down there with evangelicals, with conservatives, with kind of a Tea Party contingent as well. We will have to see if he's the one that can finally make this case and make everyone believe that Donald Trump is essentially a fake conservative, a fake, a convenient Republican.

BLITZER: Right. He's about to do this rally in South Carolina, Donald Trump, right now. Another big crowd standing by to listen to him.

But South Carolina, unlike, let's say, New Hampshire, much more conducive to that evangelical support that Ted Cruz is looking for.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Much more conducive to evangelical support. But also Ana was talking about the large military community and contingent there.

[18:15:00]

That plus some other demographics has made it historically more conducive to somebody doing well in the establishment lane. So this is -- really seems to be a jump ball in South Carolina. One thing that I found fascinating about the way Donald Trump is going after Ted Cruz is to make sure that those evangelicals and those real movement conservatives maybe think twice about Ted Cruz, trying to chip away at his solid, you know, values and understanding that people have that he's really one of them, saying, uh, uh, uh, not so fast.

BLITZER: Peter, John Kasich, he did well in New Hampshire. He came in second, way behind Donald Trump. But he still came in second. Can he repeat that in South Carolina?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's very unlikely. He was basically living in New Hampshire for a very long time. He's not been able to do that in South Carolina. He doesn't have much of an organization there.

And New Hampshire is a state that fits him better. It's a more secular electorate, a bit more moderate electorate than South Carolina. I think it's going to be tough. He's going to be jammed into that political establishment lane along with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. And given that Rubio and Bush have more money and that Bush has a stronger organization there, I think he needs to set expectations low and focus on the states.

He's really going to be a candidate who is going to do best in the North. He needs to focus his attention on states that come up later in the Midwest, where he has some strength.

BLITZER: Yes, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, states like that.

You were going to say, Dana?

BASH: I was just going to say that I have been talking to top Kasich aides about his strategy. He is trying to downplay expectations. And behind the scenes, even though John Kasich is talking about a positive campaign and not going negative, that might be true, but the number one goal coming out of South Carolina, I'm told, inside camp Kasich is to damage Jeb Bush, to make sure that he is really wounded to the point where maybe they are hoping that will be the end of the road for Jeb Bush. BLITZER: All right, guys, hold on for a moment. We're standing by.

We're about to speak live with the Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. He is here in Washington. He's up on Capitol Hill. There he is. We will have a lengthy discussion with him about all the issues in this race when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:36]

BLITZER: Republican primary voters just delivered an overwhelming victory to Donald Trump, disappointing results to several of the Republican candidates hoping to use the state as a springboard for a long campaign ahead.

One of the disappointed candidates was Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, faltered in New Hampshire after a very strong showing in the Iowa caucuses.

Senator Rubio is joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

RUBIO: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to go through some of the politics, what's going on in this race for the White House, some of the substantive issues, why you are here in Washington today, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, some of these other issues.

Let's talk politics first, though. You said last night to your supporters you did not do well in that Republican presidential debate last Saturday night. Explain. What was your mistake?

RUBIO: Well, unfortunately, it created a distraction that didn't allow us at the end of the campaign there to close with our message, because everybody wanted to talk about the fact that I said the same thing a couple times.

And it was a mistake in the sense that rather -- what I was trying to avoid, Wolf, is kind of an interparty fight. I didn't want -- I don't like Republican-on-Republican violence in these debates. If there are policy differences, we should discuss them.

And so I tried to pivot out of that and just go back to the core message. One of the things I always drive is that I believe the president and what he's doing now is not accidental. It's a deliberate effort to achieve change in this country in a way that's negative.

And I said it a couple of times, and it played into what the other guy was saying. And so it created a problem and the media just focused on that because I created that situation.

And so I just felt my people there work so hard on the ground. And I wanted them to know they did everything they could. It was on me. and we're going to correct that, and next time we will be even better.

BLITZER: You promised them it would, in your words, never happen again.

Jeb Bush, he's gone after you, as you well know. He said you repeated that canned phrase a few times. He says you're not ready to be president of the United States and that performance at the debate validated your weakness, the weakness of your campaign.

Your reaction to Jeb Bush?

RUBIO: Well, look, Jeb is trying to say whatever he can to get an advantage.

The fact of the matter is, Jeb has no foreign policy experience. None. He just has none, no foreign policy experience, and he was governor a long time ago. The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years and foreign policy has changed a lot in the last five years.

And no one on that stage has more experience or has shown better judgment or a better understanding of the national security threats before this country than I have. And I hope we will have those conversations in these debates.

And I think it's important to remember we have now had eight debates. And but for that one moment that created this distraction, I have performed very well in each of those debates. And I think the polls prove that and people's reaction to them and the coverage proves that.

So, I think we have to have some perspective here. Governor Bush spent a lot of money in New Hampshire and finished basically tied with me and Ted Cruz, despite spending a record amount there. Obviously, he's still in the race. He's going to go to South Carolina. We will see how things play out. But I feel really good about our team in South Carolina.

BLITZER: Your spokesman told CNN yesterday that the longer Jeb Bush is in the race, the more likely Donald Trump gets the nomination. Do you want Jeb Bush to drop out?

RUBIO: Well, look, every candidate will make their own decision. The time will come for everybody to make that decision.

And from my perspective, we are going to be the nominee. It's just going to take a little longer. Look, Donald Trump did very well last night. And I called and I congratulated him. But 70 -- 65 percent of the voters in New Hampshire chose someone else. As long as that 65 percent is divided up by four or five people, he's going to continue to be in first place.

[18:25:00]

Once the race narrows, as it has begun to do so already, those that don't support Donald Trump will begin to consolidate around a fewer number of choices. And then I think we're going to start see the real nature of the race. But as long as there's five or six people still running, I think Donald benefits from that. No doubt about it.

BLITZER: How did that phone conversation with Donald Trump go?

RUBIO: Pleasant.

I get along just fine with him. I mean, look, I get along with all these people running. For me, it's not personal. And I really don't want to be in a position where I'm attacking other Republicans. I'm more than happy to discuss policy issues. I think those are valid.

BLITZER: Ted Cruz says he doesn't have the temperament to be commander in chief. Do you believe he has the temperament, Donald Trump, to be commander in chief?

RUBIO: Well, I think that's an open question.

I think -- and certainly, to be commander in chief requires you oftentimes to have to choose between two less-than-ideal choices. It oftentimes requires you to do things in a way that's very calm and collected and cool, not emotionally driven.

And so Donald is going to have to show that. As we get closer, this race narrows and people begin to ask those questions, I think he's going to have to prove it like we're all going to have to prove it. There are open questions about that. No doubt about it.

I think the bigger issue is he really has failed to outline any concrete policy proposals on foreign policy. And being commander is chief is not just a huge issue in South Carolina. It's the most important job a president will ever have.

BLITZER: The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, as you know, he dropped out of the race today. He had been hammering you now for several weeks. He called you the other day the boy in the bubble. What's your reaction to Christie's decision to suspend his campaign?

RUBIO: Well, look, I like Chris Christie very much. And I respect him. And I don't agree with him on some policy issues, but that's normal.

I think Chris was someone who somehow concluded that attacking me would help him and his campaign. Obviously, it didn't work. But I don't hold -- I don't think that was personal, and I don't hold it -- against it.

I think he's very talented, very likable. And I think he has a future in public service, beyond what he's doing now in New Jersey. I expect to be hearing from Chris Christie for many, many years.

BLITZER: But he really went after you, Senator. I'm surprised to hear you like him. I wouldn't like somebody who attacked me like that.

RUBIO: Well, again, Wolf, you have been covering this for a long time. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went after each other even worse.

And she ended up being his secretary of state, although a very bad one. So, let's keep some perspective here.

Campaigns are competitive processes. People say things about each other in a campaign. That ultimately doesn't translate to the personal. I don't take these things personally. I just don't, at least not what happened here.

He was trying to win. And I -- he was being a competitor. And I -- I understand that. But it's not going to change how I feel about him.

BLITZER: It's interesting you say that, because you're absolutely right. There were some angry words between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama when they were running back in '08 for the Democratic nomination.

He got the nomination. He became president, invited her to be secretary of state.

Could you see yourself, if you were president, let's say, inviting Chris Christie to be in your Cabinet?

RUBIO: Well, it would be presumptuous to talk about anybody in that way.

But what I said about Chris and others is that we have a very talented party. Who do the Democrats have? They have nobody. The two Democrats running for president, Bernie Sanders, a nice guy, an avowed Democratic socialist and Hillary Clinton, that's all they have.

Where are the -- look at the diversity of the Republican field this year, a legitimate candidate running for president who is a woman, a neurosurgeon, a successful businessman, three or four very successful governors, two -- you know, four very successful governors -- or five, Mike Huckabee as well, two -- you know, three U.S. senators, two Hispanic Americans, an African-American.

We are young. We are diverse. Look at the talent in the Republican Party. Absolutely, there are people that could serve in multiple roles. The Democrats have nobody. Where are the 45-year-old up-and- coming Democrats? And, by the way, where are the moderate Democrats? There are none left. It's become a radical left-wing party.

BLITZER: What's your new strategy in the aftermath of New Hampshire, in the aftermath of last weekend's presidential debate?

RUBIO: In terms of the debate?

BLITZER: No, in terms of your strategy going forward.

RUBIO: Oh.

Well, we have a great -- look, we're going to continue with our message. Our message is not going to change. I find it -- it's interesting. We're now in an environment -- it used to be where if you changed your message too often, you were accused of flip-flopping.

And now if you're on message too often, you are accused of repeating it. So, we're going to stay on message. I think the difference in the race now is, when you are in Iowa, when you are in New Hampshire, you try to read as many voters as possible one on one.

In New Hampshire -- in Iowa, less than 200,000 people caucus. If you can get 30,000 of them or 40,000 in my case a week ago to caucus for you, you have a very strong showing.

So, you want to meet with people one on one. Now, a half-a-million voters are probably going to -- a half-a-million votes will be cast in South Carolina. So, we will still meet with people and try to touch as many voters as we can personally. But you're going to have to do a lot more through media coverage.

And that's why you're -- I think you're going to see us engage a lot more of the media, so we can reach voters that way.

BLITZER: Senator, we have a lot more to discuss. I want to take a quick break. I want to resume this interview in a moment.

Much more with Senator Marco Rubio right after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He's a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees.

[18:34:33] Senator, you've just voted on a bill to impose yet more sanctions on North Korea. Here's the question that someone like myself who has been to North Korea. Is this going to really stop North Korea's nuclear proliferation, more U.S.-led sanctions?

RUBIO: Well, first, it's not just geared at the nuclear weapons. It's geared at the ballistic missiles and cyber activity. And it actually allows us to expand designation beyond just the government to also target specific individuals that are responsible for allowing them to move forward in these projects. You know, the people that are selling them material.

I actually added a provision to that bill which is very important. It allows us to sanction individuals that are providing raw material. Things like aluminum and copper. The kind of raw material components that they need in order to be able to pursue both their nuclear program and their ballistic missiles program.

It also allows us to sanction individuals that are selling them cyber technology that they're using for cyberwarfare like what they did to Sony Pictures about a year ago, or at least alleged to have done in terms of that.

So these are important provisions. And it allows us to expand the scope beyond just the government to the people around the world, including many, by the way, who live in China who will now be subject to visa bans and having their assets frozen in U.S. financial institutions if they are part of the network that's providing North Korea these resources.

BLITZER: Is there a cooperation between North Korea and Iran, as far as missile technology is concerned or nuclear technology, for that matter?

RUBIO: Well, I mean, there's been some open-source reporting in the press about potential cooperation.

What I do believe is that the day may very well come where North Korea is more than willing to sell more even a developed nuclear warhead to Iran. I think that day could easily come. In fact, you know, there are indications that, in the past, North Korea has looked to proliferate and sell some of the component parts of a weapon to other nations.

I mean, this is a country with no economy. I mean, they're governed by a lunatic, but they have no economy. And so they're looking for any resource as a resource. And this is not a nation that in any way, under this leader, feels obstructed from doing things like selling nuclear components to terrorist organizations and/or a rogue nation state like Iran.

So there's been some reporting in the open press about potential coordination, and I think that's a matter of concern moving forward, especially on the ballistic missile component part of it. On that, I think there's clear coordination.

BLITZER: Do you know if there were any Iranian observers at the -- in North Korea for the launching of this missile, of this satellite the other day?

RUBIO: Well, let me just say, I think I've seen some open-source reporting about that in the press. I haven't seen anything that confirms that. I know there have been in the past and that's been widely reported in the press.

BLITZER: We know that North Korea helped Syria build its nuclear reactor, which the Israelis blew up back in 2007. And the North Koreans helped Pakistan develop its nuclear technology. How concerned are you that North Korea could help Iran, which has a nuclear deal now with the U.S. and other world powers develop some sort of nuclear capability?

RUBIO: Well, that's what I said a moment ago. This is a country with no economy. So they're always going to look for how can we generate resources? How can we generate money and revenue? And so one of the things that I don't think is beyond them is to go as far as...

BLITZER: Is there any evidence they're doing it?

RUBIO: Well, again, I'm just going to limit myself to what I've seen in the press and open-source reporting, and there's been some indication of that. But I don't think there's any clear indication in open sources yet of that happening. But that doesn't matter. We know enough about the North Korean

government to know that it is something they are capable of doing, especially at the right price. And in fact, I have often said that I believe that Iran will eventually buy or build a nuclear warhead to attach to their own ballistic missile programs. And the only nation I know that would sell them one, at least now today, is North Korea.

BLITZER: A quick question on ISIS right now. You heard the testimony from the director of national intelligence, general Clapper, and others saying that they fully anticipate ISIS could launch an take on U.S. soil this year. If you were president of the United States, what would you do about it?

RUBIO: Well, this is a complex issue that involves us to approach it in a number of ways.

First, I've already said we're going to have to change the entry immigration system for this country. We're not going to be able to continue to do things as we have in the past. We're going to have to be tougher in screening people entering the United States. We're going to have to know more about people than we've ever known before.

Second, I think we have to be on the lookout even more increasingly and more vigilant about home-grown violent extremism. And that, I think, calls on us to not just preserve but expand our intelligence- gathering capabilities.

You know, we have a very difficult issue now with encryption technology, where you have individuals communicating on encrypted devices that no government agency can look into. That's how good they are. That's a challenge we're going to have to work with Silicon Valley to overcome.

But the third and the ultimate best thing we can do is wipe out al Qaeda -- ISIS's core. In essence, they are using -- they are using their core, their presence in Syria and in Iraq, to be able to, as a place to generate propaganda and generate fighters, foreign fighters and also to make people extremists abroad like here in the United States.

They need to lose these safe havens. And that means targeting them more extensively in places Iraq and in Syria. I think that will require a combination of an Arab/Sunni army to confront them on the ground with help from our special operators to take out their ability to coordinate and operate from these safe havens.

And I think Libya is increasingly one of those places, as well, where ISIS -- in fact, I've been warning about that for over a year and a half. It has become a predominant place for ISIS to recruit foreign fighters but also to carry out propaganda. They need a place to operate from. We have to deny them those spaces.

BLITZER: One final question. I know you're got to run. You did well in Iowa, not so great in New Hampshire. How are you going to do in South Carolina? [18:40:03] RUBIO: We feel great. We have a great team there. This

is a state that's very strong on national security and on the military. I have as good a record, if not better, than anyone else in this race. It's a conservative state with a conservative closed Republican primary. I'm as conservative as anyone in the field, but I'm the conservative that can win. The conservative that can unite the Republican Party, grow the conservative movement, and the one Hillary Clinton doesn't want to run. That's why she attacks me more than they attack any other Republican. So we're excited about South Carolina.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

RUBIO: Thank you.

BLITZER: You're welcome to come back in THE SITUATION ROOM whenever you have some time out there on the campaign trail. We'll stay in touch.

RUBIO: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Marco Rubio is the Republican presidential candidate.

Let's take a quick break. Much more news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:03] BLITZER: Donald Trump, by the way, is about to speak in Pendleton, South Carolina. He's hoping to repeat his New Hampshire victory in just 10 days.

You just heard my interview with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida who is also trying to recover from a disappointing showing in New Hampshire. He wants to build momentum, working towards South Carolina.

Let's get reaction from our analyst.

Nia, you are from South Carolina. Bottom line question: Can Trump do in South Carolina what he did in New Hampshire?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think he can. I mean, as Dana and I were talking about, I mean, sure, they are evangelicals there, but there's sort of a Tea Party contingent, there's a moderate lane, and there's also a big Chamber of Commerce lane as well. And I think he's sort of business savvy and business record, I think he's going to show that he has brought appeal in the way that he did in New Hampshire, right? I mean, he won every demographic, whether you are sort of lower income, higher income, higher educated, lower educated.

And they also think, among some southerners, there's a sense that southerners have been looked down on, right, and people make fun of southerners. I think in that way, he can kind of tap into some of these grievances that some southerners have.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio, he showed his expertise in national security and foreign policy. Big military community in South Carolina. What do you think, Dana? How is he going to do there?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is one of the many areas of the Republican electorate down there that they're -- that they have been banking on inside the Rubio campaign.

Look, you know, there was a lot of talk about Donald Trump's campaign manager being from New Hampshire. That helps him a lot. Marco Rubio's campaign manager is from South Carolina, is of South Carolina. They have been -- he's been -- you know this, Nia. He's been down there a lot. At a certain point, it was by far more than anybody else, which is why it is such a bummer for this campaign that he lost the momentum that he had in New Hampshire.

We can't underscore how enough -- how quickly things change. I mean, Wolf, the day after Iowa, I was with Marco Rubio and there was such a sense of momentum, of energy. So many people were coming saying, wow, we did so well in Iowa. I'm giving him a second look. I might vote for him.

And with that, you know, one moment or, you know, 25 seconds, it changed everything. And so, they've really got to kind of come back up from that --

BLITZER: Ana, you're from Florida. You're friendly with Marco Rubio, although you support Jeb Bush. He seems to have acknowledged he made a mistake and now, he wants to move on. How do you think he's doing?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think that doing interviews like the one he just did, he really helps himself. He obviously has a breadth of knowledge on foreign policy issues.

I think that, you know, when he attacks Jeb and says that Jeb does not have the same breadth of knowledge, it's true. Jeb has not been in the foreign policy committee in the Senate for the years that Marco has, and I think it's going to -- Jeb Bush is going to make the argument that it's about leadership. Marco's going to make the argument that it's about what he knows as part of that committee.

I think he not only made a mistake in the debate but I also think he made a mistake in how he responded to it. You know, I'm used to a Marco Rubio who is very witty, very quick with humor, and who usually uses self-deprecating humor to deflect these gaffes. I was surprised that instead he went on the defensive, he tried to insist for four days that this is exactly what he meant to do, that he wanted to repeat it, instead of kind of laughing at himself.

Now, today, I had heard him crack a couple of jokes. He said, look, I'm not like Rick Perry. You know, he couldn't remember things. I remember them too well.

So, he -- you know, I think he's going back to what he knows how to do, which is deflect gaffes with humor, and I think yesterday in that concession speech, he did what he should have done right after that debate. Admit he made a mistake. Show some humility and promise to do better. He could take a page from his mentor Jeb Bush who had a very bad

debate and did just that, who had a very bad primary in Iowa and did just that. Shake it off and focus on the next step ahead of you.

BLITZER: Peter, your reaction?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It seems to me South Carolina is really two different races. There's a Cruz versus Trump race, which is really the race to be the frontrunner in this race. The person who -- one of those two guys, I think, will probably win. That person will be poised to really cash in on March 1st.

But then, there's the establishment race which I think will really be primarily between Rubio and Jeb. Rubio needs a big victory over Jeb Bush. He needs to do in South Carolina what he so dramatically failed to do in New Hampshire. What he has going for him is, I think he's a little bit of an undervalued stock now.

Let's remember, this guy is the most gifted political performer in the Republican Party today.

[18:50:03] He's a very, very naturally talented charismatic politician. He had one bad night, but you can see -- he's very good. And I think he will rebound to some degree.

BLITZER: All right, guys. I want all of you to stand by. There's a lot more coming up. We'll take another quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Very disturbing warning from America's top intelligence officials: ISIS is determined to attempt an attack in the United States during this year.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is learning more about this intelligence assessment.

What's the latest?

[18:55:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You had two days of really blunt and alarming testimony on the Hill.

Today, the president's point man for the war on ISIS said that many of the U.S.'s coalition partners are struggling to share intelligence on the terror group to a degree he describes as similar to U.S. intel agencies prior to 9/11. This as ISIS leaders increasingly focus on attacks on the West, including on the U.S. homeland.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): San Bernardino, the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 inspired by ISIS. Now, the nation's top spies warn that the terror group will attempt to direct new attacks on the homeland this year. JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: ISIL's leaders are

determined to strike the U.S. homeland, beyond inspiring homegrown violent extremist attacks.

LT. GEN. VINCENT STEWART, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: ISIL will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe and try attacks in the U.S. homeland in 2016.

SCIUTTO: ISIS, described by President Obama as solely a regional threat just over a year ago is now global, active in eight countries and counting, and it has a growing focus on carrying out attacks in the West.

STEWART: Spectacular external attacks demonstrate ISIL's relevance and reach. ISIL's foreign fighter cadre is core to its external attack capability. And a large number of Western jihadists in Iraq and Syria will pose a challenge for Western security services.

SCIUTTO: Intelligence officials warn that ISIS is hiding operatives and fighters inside the enormous human exodus from Syria and Iraq to plant terrorists in the West, manufacturing false passports and false identities so their fighters can pose as refugees.

CLAPPER: One technique they've used is taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow. They also have available to them and are pretty skilled at phony passports so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers as well.

SCIUTTO: Here in the U.S., the FBI is still trying to unravel the San Bernardino plot for clues as to where and how ISIS might strike next. But investigators have yet to unlock one of the attacker's cell phones, a sign of how violent extremists can go dark with encryption.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: We still have one of those killers' phones that we have not been able to open, and it's been over two months now. We're still working on it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Director Clapper warned terror groups, including ISIS, are thriving, as the number of failed states thrive. Violent extremists operating now today in 40 countries around the world. And Director Clapper said, Wolf, that there are more terror safe havens around the world than at any point in history.

BLITZER: Just take a look at Libya in North Africa right now.

SCIUTTO: And Yemen.

BLITZER: All over the place, failed states.

Jim, thanks very much.

We're also learning more about the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's getting new information.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.

You were just talking about Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. Well, now, have a look at Sinai -- the Sinai Peninsula.

CNN has learned inside the Pentagon there are very quiet conversations going on about the 700 or so U.S. troops in Sinai as peacekeepers monitoring the Camp David Accords from 1979. Could those U.S. troops now be used to monitor ISIS in Sinai?

A lot of concern. ISIS is growing there, was responsible for bringing down that Russian jetliner late last year, was responsible for an attack that hurt four American peacekeepers in that area with an IED. So, now, looking at could the U.S. adjust that peacekeeping agreement possibly to now include having them monitor ISIS in Sinai, looking where they are, gathering intelligence and being able to share that with countries in the region. Egypt and Israel, of course, the signatories to Camp David, they would to agree to all this.

But these quiet conversations, wolf, now under way -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm familiar with those 700 or so American military personnel who'd been in Sinai now for -- they're barely armed though, aren't they? They would really need to beef up their military credentials, if you will.

STARR: Well, I think the idea at the moment is that they would not be in combat, but would function more as an intelligence force. They're already there monitoring under Camp David the movement of personnel and equipment across Sinai, any military personnel in Sinai. So they have some of these reconnaissance assets, air and ground assets.

But you are right, Wolf. Make no mistake. ISIS is upping its game in Sinai. Those troops had been upping there's as well. More force protection, more armored vehicles, more taking care of what is going on there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I've always been worried about them, especially now with ISIS and Sinai. They are very, very vulnerable.

Barbara, good report. Thanks very much for sharing that with our viewers.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.