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Clinton, Sanders Spar in Debate; Peyton Manning Announces NFL Retirement; Presidential Race Heats Up; U.S. Strikes Terrorists in Mogadishu; Adam Schiff on How U.S. Can Beat ISIS. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 7, 2016 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I was not offended by this. I thought it was at a Democratic debate in front of Democratic viewers and voters. I thought it was actually pretty funny. I think even the most ardent conservative Republicans would have to watch what is going on our side and laugh at the very least. I think what Bernie did well last night was he -- I don't think he was attacking secretary Clinton, but I think he did, you know, go after her in ways that we haven't seen him do thus far.

You know, correcting her on her really preposterous distortion of his record, whether on the auto bailout. This is a pattern for Hillary Clinton where she takes something that he's done and omits actual important facts. When Chelsea Clinton said he was going to dismantle Obamacare, for example, I thought that was silly. To see Bernie Sanders coming back at her and saying, wait a second, that's not my record on guns, on the bailout, on Obamacare. I thought that was healthy. I thought it was good for Bernie Sanders.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Scottie, you heard Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders insist they could beat the Republican front runner, Donald Trump, in a general election campaign. How will Republicans watching this debate from your perspective as a Trump supporter?

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA RADIO NETWORK: I think it was interesting the RNC released their talking points all about Hillary, not discounting anything that Bernie said, fact checking what Hillary said. I think the Republicans are convinced that Hillary will be the contender.

Last night's debate was a clue in to how one of our guys will have to handle Hillary. Some of the tough push back that Bernie did to Hillary, yet no charges of sexism. It will be interested to see if you will see that same standard put together when you have a Republican candidate charges against her in one of these debates, they will say, he is sexist, that's why --


BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on. Hold up for a moment. We will continue this conversation.

But I quickly want to go to an unrelated story. Peyton Manning, quarterback, is holding a press conference in Denver right now announcing his retirement from the Broncos after the Super Bowl win. Let's listen in briefly.

PEYTON MANNING, QUARTERBACK, DENVER BRONCOS: -- a state dinner at Saint Elmo's in Indianapolis after a win. My battles with players named Lynch, Lewis, Thomas, Dawkins, Urlacher, Polamalu, Harrison, Woodson and Reid. With coaches like Fisher, Ryan, Belichick, Kippen, Phillips, Rivera, Cornell, Capers, Lewis, the late Jimmie Johnson, and so many more.

I always felt like I was playing against the middle linebacker or that safety or that defensive coach, Reggi. Sitting on the bench next to me and perfecting a fake handoff to James. I will miss Thomas telling me he loved me and thanking me for coming to Denver after every touchdown I threw to him. I will miss putting in a play with Tom Moore on Sunday.

On Friday, I will miss picking out the game balls with my equipment guys and talking football with the broadcast crews after the game and afterwards recapping the game with my dad and checking to see if the Giants won and calling Eli. I will miss the hand shake of Tom Brady. And I'll miss the plane ride after a big win, with 53 teammates standing in the aisles laughing and celebrating during the whole flight. I will miss playing in front of so many great fans, both at home and on the road. I will even miss the Patriot fans in Foxboro and they should miss me because they sure did get a lot of wins off of me.

This is important, football fans everywhere need to know how much they meant to me over the years. Fans, you were at the core of what makes this game remarkable. I received more letters from you than I can count. Fan letters that have touched me, made me think, act. I was made mistakes and learned it is a platform that has given me a voice that can echo well beyond the game.

Football has taught me not to be led by obstructions and set backs but instead to be led by dreams. Due to good genes, I'm smart enough to know those lessons can enrich who I am and where I go from here. I'm totally convinced that the end of my football career is just the beginning of something I haven't even discovered yet. Life is not shrinking for me. It's morphing in to a new world of possibilities.

Pundits will speculate that my effort and drive over the past 18 years were mastery and working to master every aspect of the NFL game. Don't believe them. Because every moment, every drop of sweat, every bleary eye night of preparation, every note I took and every frame of film I watched was about one thing, the game.

I look back at my NFL career, I know without a doubt I gave everything I had to help my team, walk away with a win. Other players were more talented but there was no one who could out prepare me. Because of that, I have no regrets. There's a scripture reading, II timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, finished the race."

I fought the good fight, finished my football race and, after 18 years, it's time. God bless all of you and God bless football.

(APPLAUSE) [13:36:07] BLITZER: A very emotional Peyton Manning, only 39, spending half of his life as an NFL quarterback, 18 years, fresh off of a super bowl win announcing his retirement as an active player. There you see the management and team, the Broncos, wishing him only the best. Peyton Manning, only one of the great quarterbacks of all times in the NFL.

Scottie, I know you are a big football fan and I want you to weigh in on this moment. You saw him choking back tears. He got emotional, which is understandable at a moment like this.

HUGHES: Absolutely, Wolf. I will be honest, I'm in the studio and all of us are watching and are involved Peyton Manning, the year he won the national championship the year I was graduating. He has been a son to Tennessee here. A lot of emotion in Tennessee and we hope maybe he will come back and help our school teams. This means a lot to us. He made Tennessee proud in his civic and what he has given to us and how he promoted his football life. This is a big day for us in Tennessee and we are proud of everything he has done.

BLITZER: All of us who are NFL football fans appreciate the great quarterback skills that he has showed all of these years. 18 years as a great quarterback in the NFL. He went through a lot as we know. We wish him the best.

Scottie, stand by.

More politics to discuss. We will turn the table and move back to that issue, the race for the White House. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz in complete agreement on one key issue, they both want Marco Rubio to drop out of the race. What are they doing to narrow the field? And what about Marco Rubio's strategy to strike back? We will assess when we come back.


[13:42:12] BLITZER: There's some critical contests coming up in the presidential race that could change the course of several campaigns. This, as this race between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio grows more intense.

Let's return to our discussion with our panel. Once again, we have Jennifer Granholm, former Democratic governor of Michigan; our CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp; Scottie Nell Hughes, chief political correspondent for USA Radio Network, a Trump supporter; and Larry Cohen, a senior advisor for the Bernie Sanders campaign, a former president of the Communications Workers of America.

I want to turn to the Republican contest right now.

Jennifer, listen to this. Last week, as you know, the former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, spoke out against the current front runner, Donald Trump. Listen to Romney yesterday on FOX.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY, (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: No Republican should say that. That makes no sense for someone to say if they were drafted by their country they would say no. What I can tell you is I'm not running for president. I'm not going to run for president. I'm going to support one of these four people to be our nominee.


BLITZER: I know you are a Hillary Clinton supporter, Jennifer, and a politician. From the perspective of the Democrat, is Romney leaving the door slightly open to a possible run if it comes down to some sort of contested convention?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Of course. You can read between the lines. Of course, he is. He is hoping for -- who knows what he is hoping for. He is not saying he would turn it down but I don't know if he would be more successful than last time should he decide to raise his hand. One point he makes in coming out hard against Donald Trump is a good one. They have taken too long to try to take Trump down. They waited so way too far in to this series of contests and now Ohio and Florida, it's going to be unstoppable. I can understand why there's a pile on right now but I think it is too little too late.

BLITZER: Those contests are winner take all. Critically important states.

S.E., listen to this sound byte. This is something that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz both having something in common. They both want Marco Rubio to drop out.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As long as the field is divided, it gives Donald an advantage.

If you are not able to prevail or amass enough delegates to have a plausible path, there comes a point where other candidates, other campaigns have to pray or consider do I have a path going forward.

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Rubio had a bad night. And personally I call for him to drop out of the race. I think it is time he dropped out of the race. I really think so.


BLITZER: Is there any indications, S.E., at all that Marco Rubio will listen to their advice?

[13:45:00] CUPP: No. Honor that point, Ted Cruz is right. Ted Cruz is right to call for Rubio to drop out. He would benefit tremendously from his absence. Trump, however, is wrong to call for Rubio to drop out. Donald Trump Benefits from having the not Trump vote divided two as many as people. Marco Rubio indicated he plans to stay on through Florida. He won all of Puerto Rico's 23 delegates over the weekend. And say what you want, but there are a lot of Puerto Ricans in Florida. So he is hoping that gives him an edge there. It is an up hill battle for sure. I'm sure he will stay on until Florida.

BLITZER: Larry, in your experience, these areas of political business, one of Cruz's super PACs launched radio ads in Florida to encourage him to drop out or, for that matter, to do poorly on March 15th. What do you think? Do you think it is possible? You speak as a loyal Democrat, a Bernie Sanders supporter.

LARRY COHEN, SENIOR ADVISOR, BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & FORMER PRESIDENT, COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA: I think it's not possible. Definitely has his eye on Florida and beyond. It's not authentic to expect him to drop out.

BLITZER: But do you agree, Larry, if Trump wins in Florida it's over for Rubio, and if Trump wins in Ohio on March 15th it is over for John Kasich?

COHEN: I think that is true in both cases. If they don't win their home states, I think they are finished.

BLITZER: Scottie, you are a Trump supporter. If that happens and it boils down to Trump versus Cruz, set the scene for us, how do you think it will turn out?

HUGHES: Well, I think it will continue. Before we get to Trump versus Cruz, Illinois is next Tuesday. That's a winner take all state that. Is 69 points right. There and Michigan because we have the former governor on, we have a poll from FOX that said that Kasich is beating Cruz in second place. If I am Rubio and Ted Cruz, I know they are going to try to take out Trump but Trump is starting to say I would go after Kasich. I think he might be stronger than people give him credit for right now. And if Rubio got out I think Kasich would be the fall to guy. We will have Kasich going into Ohio. A Trump versus Cruz --


BLITZER: Kasich has to win Ohio to stay in the race.

Jennifer, you know Michigan. You know your state well. Forget about the Democrats for now. I know you are a Hillary Clinton supporter. What do you think will happen on the Republican side?

GRANHOLM: I think Trump will win. And I think Kasich has a really good shot at second because people respect that he has taken a different tactic with respect to these debates. He's not got in the gutter. Number two, Ohio is similar to Michigan in terms of the economy, and he's been a strong supporter of manufacturing. That will be his benefit.

BLITZER: Good discussion. We will see what happens. Live coverage, of course, tomorrow. Super Tuesday, too. And so many over events coming up.

Guys, thank you very much.


BLITZER: Still ahead, there's breaking news we're getting in to CNN right now out of Somalia about a U.S. attack on a suspected terrorist site there. We will update you on what we know.

Also, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff is standing by to join us. We will talk about how he thinks the U.S. could beat ISIS in Libya.


[13:52:29] BLITZER: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We have breaking news coming in to CNN for you right now. The U.S. says it has carried out an air strike involving both drones and manned aircraft killing, according to U.S. officials, 150 al Shabaab fighters at a camp north of Mogadishu in Somalia.

This is an update we're getting from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, who told us before that this was not just a drone strike. Barbara Starr has been following all of these developments over at the Pentagon.

Barbara, are you there, Barbara, do you have more information you can share with us?

Unfortunately, we've lost contact with Barbara Starr. We're going to get back to Barbara.

There's other news on the whole battle against ISIS in Libya.

I want to bring in Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The attack on al Shabaab in Somalia, have you been briefed on that already? 150 terrorists killed in these U.S. manned and unmanned air strikes. That's a big deal.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It is a big deal. We haven't gotten a formal briefing yet. This was evidently a group of a couple hundred fighters that were in the last stages of planning attacks on African forces or Western targets. It's rare to see a group this large make itself a target like this. But the combination of both manned and unmanned aircraft apparently took out the target and most of the people in it. This, I think, will be very important in protecting the lives of the African-American troops.

BLITZER: I think we've reestablished contact with Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon.

Barbara, update our viewers on what we know. It's not every day the U.S. launches manned and unmanned air strikes and kills, according to U.S. officials, 150 terrorists.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I think this may well be one of the largest if not the largest air strike against a single group of terrorists ever at least in some years. This was north of Mogadishu about 150 miles-plus north of Mogadishu as the Congressman just said, a training camp in a fairly remote area. They believe there were about 200 al Shabaab terrorists there. The drones and aircraft moved in, killing, they believe, 150 of them. A very significant operation. The U.S. had the camp under observation for some weeks we are told.

So what they were doing clearly, U.S. Special Operations, establishing a so-called pattern of life. Keeping eyes on the camp through satellites, through drone imagery, however, they could, to see how the fighters were training, how they came and went, where they were. By all accounts, it was when they observed the final stages of this training and then the fighters preparing perhaps to leave the camp that they moved in and decided to begin the air strike.

The U.S. says that these fighters were in the final stages of carrying out what they called, the U.S. calls, an imminent threat against U.S. troops and Africa peacekeeping troops. In Mogadishu, it is well known, among those who follow it, there are indeed a small number of U.S. troops at the airport in Mogadishu that interact with the African peace keepers, with the Somali government, such as it is, to help them out. So was the airport in Mogadishu, the actual target, to try to storm the airport and go after the U.S. troops who are there, we don't know at this point. The U.S. very tight-lipped about all of it. But, you know, you'll recall we saw al Shabaab bring down that airliner a few weeks ago and even today further violence attributed to al Shabaab in Mogadishu -- Wolf?

[13:51:10] BLITZER: Barbara, very disturbing information.

Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon.

Congressman Schiff is still with us.

It's part of a bigger U.S. military strategy to deal with al Shabaab, ISIS, other terror -- al Qaeda, other terror groups, and you're specifically worried about what ISIS is now engaged in doing in North Africa in Libya.

SCHIFF: Exactly right, Wolf. If we're not careful, we could see ISIS establish the same kind of caliphate in places like Libya and elsewhere and once they get firmly entrenched, once they have the capacity to draw oil revenues, to tax people living with them, then it becomes very tough to uproot them. So I've been urging the administration to be more aggressive in Libya not only on the political end and trying to bring these rival factions together and form a unified government but not to wait, to go after them militarily. I think we really need to.

BLITZER: Libya, for all practical purposes, a failed state. You don't want U.S. ground troops. You're talking about what we just saw the U.S. do in Somalia, air strikes.

SCHIFF: Air strikes, exactly, and as well to see our European allies that have really the most at stake in Libya gets out of hand as it would be a gateway to southern Europe. To see our allies take the lead in terms of military action there. To push back, make sure that they don't expand that foothold. Because if they do, it's going to be another nightmare.

BLITZER: You think the administration's going to do that, the president's going to sign off on a more aggressive air campaign against ISIS in Libya?

SCHIFF: I think they'll have to. I think we saw the beginning of that with the strike that took out that Tunisian leader who was recruiting and facilitating people moving into from Tunisia to Libya. But it has to be part of a broader strategy, quite frankly, in much of north South Africa. Boko Haram is the most deadly of the terrorist affiliates. But also a growing presence in places like Tunisia. Tunisia contributing more foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria and Libya than any other country. As ISIS becomes under more pressure in Syria, in Iraq, as its operating space there shrinks, it's going to seek to grow in other places, like Libya, as well as lash out at places like Europe and the West.

BLITZER: You saw this report today that British police, British police are preparing for what they call an enormous and spectacular potential attack on the U.K. by ISIS. What can you tell us about this? Because when I saw that report, I was pretty disturbed.

SCHIFF: I think Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, they all are at grave risk of another Paris kind of attack. There are just too many foreign fighters who have returned from the fight, too few resources directed to tracking them. And really, it doesn't require as much, resource-wise, for ISIS launch attacks like this. U.K. is right to be on guard, as are other European partners, because the risks remain extremely high.

BLITZER: The risks are high here in the United States as well.

SCHIFF: They are. Frankly, they're highest for home-grown radicals, situation like what we saw in San Bernardino, that people who are radicalized online. In Europe, they're facing a different threat. That is, they're facing a threat from people who have actually gone to fight who have been trained who have now come back and are working on the logistics of attacks in Europe.

BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff is the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Obviously disturbing information, indeed.

Thanks very much for joining us.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you.

That's it for me. To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."

For international viewers, "Amanpour" is next. For viewers in North America, NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts

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