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THE SITUATION ROOM

Senate Debates Gun Control; Deadly Weather; Interview With Newt Gingrich; North Korea Threatens Nuclear Test; Family of Woman Missing in Turkey Distraught

Aired January 30, 2013 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: Gabrielle Giffords struggles to speak at an emotional gun hearing. Her husband, Mark Kelly, tells me how she prepared for her testimony.

Tornadoes spawned by wild temperature changes.

New fears of a North Korean nuclear test within days.

And we talk to parents clinging to hope for their daughter missing in Turkey.

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

It's the hot-button issue in America right now, as evidenced by that huge crowd that turned out for today's Senate hearing on gun control. It came just under seven weeks since the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting and offered a platform to some of the powerful voices on the issue.

CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, was at the hearing. She's joining us now.

Tell us how it all went down, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, without question, the highlight came from somebody who wasn't even on the witness list, Gabby Giffords, who read a short 16-sentence speech and had everybody in the room, even those who disagreed with her on guns, mesmerized.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A dramatic entrance from a woman who was a congressional colleague until a gunman shot a bullet through her head while she was doing her job. Even more dramatic, Gabby Giffords' labored yet passionate plea for action.

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying, too many children. We must do something. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.

BASH: In Congress, Giffords was an advocate for gun rights and still owns a gun. So does her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, a star witness.

MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: I'm as strong supporter of the Second Amendment as anyone on this panel. My wife would not be sitting in this seat, she would not have been sitting here today if we had stronger background checks.

BASH: At the other end of the table, the other star witness with a very different perspective.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals.

BASH: Wayne LaPierre of the NRA said strengthening background checks won't stop criminals.

LAPIERRE: None of it makes any sense in the real world.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: Mr. LaPierre, that's the point. The criminals won't go to purchase the guns because there will be a background check. We will stop them from the original purchase. You missed that point completely. And I think it's basic.

LAPIERRE: Senator, I think you missed...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.

BASH: The line to get into this first hearing on guns since Newtown was huge, snaking down this long hallway and down the stairs, citizens on both sides of the issue.

SUSAN COLBERT, TEACHER: I truly care about this issue and want to support commonsense gun laws.

STEPHEN NESBITT, NRA MEMBER: Guns are not the primary cause of the issue. It's the people that operate or use the guns.

BASH: Inside, Republican Lindsey Graham wanted to bring in real guns, but red tape and laws prevented it, so he used pictures.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Does everybody on the panel agree that a convicted felon should not have either one of those guns?

BASH: A staunch defender of gun rights, he argued against limiting high-capacity gun magazines...

GRAHAM: Put yourself in the shoes of the mother.

BASH: ... by telling the story of a woman trying to fend off an intruder.

GRAHAM: Her husband said, shoot, shoot. She emptied the gun, six-shot revolver. The guy was hit five of the six times. He was able still to get up and drive away. BASH: Kelly pushed for limiting magazines by reminding people that Tucson shooter Jared Loughner shot 33 rounds from one magazine and was unable to reload.

KELLY: Meaning he did not have access to a high-capacity magazine and the same thing happened, Christina Taylor Green would be alive today. I certainly am willing to give up my right to own a high-capacity magazine to bring that young woman back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: So, the question is, what now? What can possibly get done legislatively, if anything?

Well, Wolf, one of the lead Democrats on this issue, Chuck Schumer, revealed he's in talks with some senators who have high NRA ratings. And we are told that the senator he is in most close contact with is Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican, one of the most -- the biggest advocates of gun rights in the United States Senate.

And in fact, I'm told by sources close to both senators that Schumer is holding off on releasing his legislation because he's making changes in the hopes of having a bipartisan bill with Tom Coburn, strictly on the issue of strengthening background checks.

BLITZER: Yes, that would be dramatic.

Dana, thanks very much for that report.

Kate Bolduan is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well.

There's a lot of movement on this story right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: There's a lot of movement, a lot of conversations at least happening on this big issue. And Gabby Giffords, and her husband, right after the hearing that Dana Bash was telling us about, she and her husband, as I said, Mark Kelly, they met with President Obama at the White House, and as you see here the White House sent out this photo of them talking in the Oval Office.

They were talking about, as he told you, the issue of gun control.

BLITZER: And right after that meeting at the White House, Mark Kelly came here to THE SITUATION ROOM and joined me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: First of all, let's talk about your wife. How did she prepare for that? Because that's really the first time we've heard her speak like that over these past two years.

KELLY: Yes. She suffers -- Gabby suffers a condition called aphasia and that kind of thing is difficult for her. So, she practiced. She hasn't been practicing for weeks. We only made the decision to come up here a few days ago. But she put in some time in getting ready and actually crafting the speech herself. So, she was involved in the writing on it and, you know, she worked on it.

BLITZER: We saw the handwritten notes that what her speech therapist had prepared, had wrote those out there. They are right there on the screen. So, she was basically reading from the handwritten notes.

KELLY: Yes. Some of it and you could see, sometimes she's looking up and she even ad-libbed a little bit at a time.

But I think the most important thing is that hopefully the senators and the people hearing this and hearing her, you know, take something away from that message. Because this is really serious and we need to do something.

BLITZER: She spoke from the heart.

KELLY: Yes.

BLITZER: And what does she want -- what do you want, in a nutshell, the United States Congress right now to do?

KELLY: Well, certainly, we want the United States Congress to work together to try to solve this problem. We've seen, especially over the last couple of years, just so much division that it's really hard to get things done.

But certainly everybody agrees that we have a problem. We, first of all, need to have a universal background check. We need to close the gun show loophole. We need to do something about mental illness in this country.

And then, for us, you know, specifically what happened in Tucson, high-capacity magazines. I don't think anybody has the need for a 33- round magazine like Jared Loughner had or a 100-round magazine that was used in Colorado.

And then, the assault weapons, I mean, we really need to seriously look at the lethality at these weapons and, you know, why they are so prevalent in our society.

BLITZER: Because the prevailing wisdom here in Washington is maybe you get something on background checks. But when it comes to the magazines and the assault-type weapons, that's a major uphill struggle.

KELLY: I agree. Yes, it does get harder. I mean, you can see or I can see just watching this hearing, you know, many of the Republican senators seemed somewhat inclined to do something on the background checks. But when you start talking about banning hardware, you know, people like Wayne LaPierre who testified alongside me, they are adamant about their position on that issue.

But I really think they need to think about this. I mean, these guns were made to kill a lot of people all at once, designed, basically, for use by the military. I have served in the military for 25 years. You know, I understand how lethal they are and I honestly don't think you need that type of weapon to protect yourself.

BLITZER: Here's what a lot of people don't understand. Maybe because you've been -- you've got a new group, Americans Responsible for Solutions. You and Gabby have launched this. This is going to be your cause, right?

KELLY: Yes.

BLITZER: So, why should someone on a no-fly list or a criminal, if you will, be able to go to a gun show or from a private sale, be able to go buy a gun without any background checks?

KELLY: Well, they shouldn't be.

BLITZER: Has anyone given you a good explanation for that?

KELLY: Well, I mean, I think with the --

BLITZER: Did you hear Wayne LaPierre give you a good explanation for that?

KELLY: He gave me an explanation. I don't think it was a good explanation. I mean, his explanation was, basically, more bureaucracy. It creates more bureaucracy. But I know from what happened in Tucson --

BLITZER: But it would save lives.

KELLY: It would save lives -- absolutely, it would save lives.

Jared Loughner, who was the shooter in Tucson, he actually had somewhat of a criminal background. He was an admitted drug user. He also was intent on mass murder and assassination. He went through a background check.

Now, if there was the correct information in the background check system, he would -- he would have been denied access to the gun, like 1. 7 million Americans have been since 1999, who should not have been able to buy a gun. Now, obviously in his case, he probably would have went to a gun show.

That's why we need to close the gun show loophole. You know, the argument that criminals will often get the guns some -- in some other manner, that's probably true in some cases. But I think in the case of what happened in Tucson, certainly in that case, if he would have been denied access to the gun, I don't think that would have happened that day.

BLITZER: Even much more difficult to get it --

KELLY: Yes.

BLITZER: -- that could potentially save some lives. KELLY: It also gives you time. If you make it more difficult -- may be in that period of time, you would have gotten some treatment.

BLITZER: Americans for Responsible Solutions, is that going to be, if you have your way, the counter to the NRA?

KELLY: Well -- I mean, our goal is not to be the counter to the NRA. I mean, Gabby and I are both supporters of the Second Amendment. We're both gun owners.

I mean, part of what I want to do is protect the rights of Americans to own a gun. I think you should be allowed to own a gun to protect yourself, and to protect your family, to protect your property. But that only extends so far.

I mean, I think part of being a responsible gun owner is to have a responsible background check. I recently bought a hunting rifle at Wal-Mart a few months ago and I went through a background check. It didn't take that long to do that.

BLITZER: And you did it.

One final thing, at the end, we saw you shaking hands with Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association. Did you exchange any words? Did you say anything to each other?

KELLY: Yes, I think I said, you know, "Nice to meet you and enjoyed testifying with you today."

BLITZER: We'll see how this situation moves on.

Mark Kelly, please pass along our best wishes to Gabby. Wish her only, only the best. We've all been impressed with her remarkable progress over these past two years.

KELLY: Thank you very much, Wolf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, he's a very impressive guy.

BOLDUAN: Yes, he's an astronaut.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And he appreciates how difficult of a political challenge to get this legislation through. They might get something on background checks, unlikely on the magazines, unlikely on the assault weapons.

He understands that, but he and Gabby are in it for the long haul.

BOLDUAN: And he says he wants Congress, and he and Gabby want Congress to work together to solve the problem. I mean, therein lies the rub. There's no clear consensus among members of Congress how to actually go about doing that. And you wonder, the more and more we talk about it, and the more time that passes after a tragedy, you wonder if there is that political will there to accomplish it.

BLITZER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: We will see.

BLITZER: Well, this fight will intensify.

BOLDUAN: It absolutely will, Wolf. You're right.

And Anderson Cooper is tackling the gun issue with a special town hall, "Guns Under Fire." The big question, can there be a solution to America's gun problem? Find out Thursday night, 8:00 Eastern, right here, only on CNN.

Seems like everyone's also talking about the weather right now. Here in Washington, D.C., it's the unusually warm temperatures. Down South, the nasty storms -- in one town, a tornado ripped apart a Georgia town. We're on the scene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's one of the stories everyone's talking about right now, wild weather stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

BOLDUAN: It's amazing how huge it is. One of the most vivid examples today, a tornado caught on camera by our Atlanta affiliate, WSB.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can see circulation in the clouds right here. It looks like a tornado right near downtown Cartersville at this moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The Georgia Department of Transportation says that twister overturned about 100 cars. More on that coming up in just a few seconds.

Next door in Tennessee, the line of storms is blamed for killing a 47-year-old man when a tree fell on his home. And on either side of this front, people are dealing with a temperature roller-coaster ride. Temperatures in -- are hitting in the 70s here in Washington, and they're dropping into the 20s in Chicago.

BLITZER: Our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, is standing by to explain what's going on.

But, first, let's go to CNN's Miguel Marquez. He's in Adairsville, Georgia, where that tornado it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one person died here in Adairsville. And the government has now declared this county a disaster area, as well as an adjacent county.

It is absolutely amazing, though, that only one person was killed here. If you look over to my right, this is the Daiki plant, where they make tractor-trailers and parts for them. As many as 100 people were in this plant this morning. They took cover in the bathroom, and all of them survived, amazingly, because it is flattened.

If you come around this way, you can see that there are trucks and cars on the road here that are -- they were tossed around like toys. There were even -- there were even tractor-trailers that fell on over these trucks, and it's amazing that nobody was killed in those either. Across the way, there were two buildings that were completely destroyed, and in the center of them, another building that is damaged, but up, and actually -- and seems to be in good structural shape.

Right now, what's happening is Georgia Power is moving into this area. You can just see all of these lines in here, all of these power lines. They are all down throughout the area. Electricity is out throughout the area, which is a big problem for people now tonight, because the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees. It's going to get much colder tonight and the rain has not let up all day -- Wolf, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Miguel, thank you so much.

The cause of all of this, some really dramatic temperature swings.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BOLDUAN: To get all the latest storm tracking or to send us your weather-related iReports, be sure to click on CNN.com/weather. And be safe, please.

BLITZER: Good advice.

A scary developing story emerging out of Alabama right now -- a little boy, just 6 years old, held hostage for more than 24 hours. We have the latest on the efforts to save him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BOLDUAN: A very scary story out of Alabama still developing this evening. A man is holding a 6-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker. He told the boy -- he took the boy after shooting and killing a school bus driver late yesterday. Authorities continue negotiating with the hostage taker.

Let's get the latest from our George Howell, who is in Midland City, Alabama, this evening.

George, what's the latest?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you know, just a few minutes ago, we heard from authorities here.

They held a press conference and, number one, they said that they still believe that this young boy, this 6-year-old boy, is unharmed, he is OK. They also believe that, you know, they were able to get medication to this young boy. Not sure how they were able to do that, but that's very important. It's a child who needs medication, daily medication, suffers from Asperger's syndrome and ADHD, so that's very important.

And, then, third, they say that they were able to get him his coloring book and crayons. So everybody here is just keeping a very close eye on what happens here. Again, Kate, as you mentioned, the person, Jimmy Dykes, apparently, according to investigators, shot and killed the school bus driver and then got on the bus, demanded two kids, but was able to grab one, make away with that young boy, and has been held up in an underground bunker back behind me over here.

I don't know if you can see it well, but this is going on day two. Investigators are monitoring this, Kate, hour by hour, a desperate situation. The young boy's family, according to one person I spoke with, is hanging on by a thread, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Oh, my gosh. What a scary situation. George, keep us updated, because I'm sure it's going to be developing throughout this evening. George Howell in Alabama, thank you so much, George.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Congress takes up the gun control controversy. We are going to get an inside perspective from the former House speaker and former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. He's standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now: The former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is here to talk gun control, immigration, and more.

An emotional interview with the parents of a New York woman missing in Turkey.

Plus, drug smugglers trying some unusual new tactics.

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

An important Senate hearing today on gun control with testimony ranging from inspiring to emotional to very contentious.

BOLDUAN: And it started with surprise remarks from former congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence that makes it difficult for her to speak. Listen here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act.

MARK KELLY, GABRIELLE GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: My wife would not be sitting in this seat, she would not have been sitting here today, if we had stronger background checks.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EVP/CEO, NRA: We could dramatically cut crime in this country with guns and save lives, all over this country, if we would start enforcing the 9,000 federal laws we have on the books. I'm talking about drug dealers with guns, gangs with guns and felons with guns. They're simply not being enforced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Let's get more on gun control with the former House speaker and presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, thanks for -- once again for coming in.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in.

BLITZER: Let's talk about universal background checks. Criminals, they can go and buy a gun, legally. Just go to a gun show, if you will, or from a friend or a neighbor. People on the no-fly list. They can go out -- they can't fly, but they can go buy guns. Shouldn't there be universal background checks, to make sure bad guys simply can't go buy a weapon?

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, first of all, I think there are over 70,000 convicted felons who have been reported having trying to buy a gun, who were checked by the current background checks. This administration has prosecuted virtually none of them.

Now, if we already have a law, if the law is not even being enforced, there's something fundamentally wrong with this.

Second, when you go to -- and you've heard me talk about this before, that the No. 1 place they hold hearings is Chicago. Eighty percent of the killings in Chicago are gang-related. Tragedy, I think, today or yesterday, of a wonderful young woman, who had a great high-school record, who was at the inaugural, who was killed by being near gang members, all right? Those gang members aren't going to go someplace that has a background check.

I mean, what we do in this country is, there's a whole group of people who say, "Gee, why don't we harass the innocent, because we don't have the guts to stand up to the criminals?"

BLITZER: I don't think anybody wants to harass the innocent. I don't think anyone -- everybody wants to enforce. I agree, we should be enforcing the current laws, but why should a criminal just be able to go to a gun show or a terrorist, if you will, and buy a gun? GINGRICH: Well, first of all...

BLITZER: If you were on the no-fly list, for example, you would not be -- you would not be cleared to buy a gun. You can't go get on an airplane. Shouldn't we tighten the laws right now? Forget about the assault weapons ban or magazines, just on background checks. Why not tighten the laws to save lives?

GINGRICH: I think background checks that involve any kind of a commercial dealer should be required, and frankly, even at gun shows, commercial dealers run background checks. Because they're commercial dealers.

Now you're telling me that my cousin, who's about to sell a deer rifle to his nephew, is going to run a background check? I mean, at what level of intrusiveness -- why do the innocent -- we refuse to go after the criminals, and this is a problem in every major American city, except New York. We refuse to go after the criminals. We refuse to take down the people who aren't legally allowed to have guns...

BOLDUAN: But what about this...

GINGRICH: By the way, when they did it in Richmond, they had a very tough check people -- if you have a gun and you're a felon, you're gone. That program radically reduced the murder rate in Richmond.

BOLDUAN: But even the former vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, he's come out to say that we should be looking at this so-called gun show loophole. Do you not think that that should be looked at?

GINGRICH: You can look at the gun show loophole, and then when people who decide -- the people we're describing, who want to get a gun who are bad people, figure out, "OK, I'm not going to go to the gun show, I'll be in the parking lot."

BOLDUAN: So you think there's nothing...

GINGRICH: I'll meet you at the Denny's.

Well, I think, first of all, take on 70,000 felons who have already been identified. And the morning you see the Obama administration interested in action rather than politics, you're going to have a different kind of tone.

But we also should be looking at two things. What are those psychiatric problems, and to what degree does the federal privacy law make it almost impossible to identify people who have psychological problems?

I suspect we're going to find this tragic situation in Alabama right this minute involves somebody with a deep psychological problem. And then, second, I think we have to look at, what is happening in big cities, where it is, in fact, largely pistols that are involved, and largely gangs that are involved? BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about another big issue that we've been talking about a lot this week, the issue of immigration. There's been a big bipartisan push, you know, this week, including Republicans, Marco Rubio, John McCain, talking about this comprehensive immigration reform. But, clearly, not all Republicans are on board with this latest push.

Listen here to Senator David Vitter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA (via phone): I love and respect Marco. I think he's just amazingly naive on this issue. This is the same old formula that we've dealt with before, including when it passed in 1986. And that is promises of enforcement and immediate amnesty. And, of course, the promises of enforcement never materialize. The amnesty happens immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Well, I think...

BOLDUAN: What do you think -- because I've heard you say that you think Republicans should really be listening to Senator Marco Rubio?

GINGRICH: Well, I campaigned last year on the need to have a practical, common sense, honest conversation about where we're at.

BOLDUAN: Is that what we're having now?

GINGRICH: ell, we're starting. I mean, I think we've had some progress in the last few days. And I actually think the president was remarkably tempered in Nevada, and less partisan than usual. So I'm modestly encouraged.

I don't personally believe, and I've said it over and again, that a comprehensive bill can pass. I think that it's too hard. I think that you could pass seven or eight bills that together form a comprehensive reform. My advice to the House Republicans would be, start passing bills. You don't have to hang on...

BLITZER: Jeb Bush says that's -- that's impractical, and he wrote that article last week in the "Wall Street Journal." he says, go for the comprehensive, don't do it piecemeal.

GINGRICH: Look -- well, I have great respect for Jeb Bush, but I believe that in this city, what you end up with is 11 at night, in the white House, six people in secret, writing a bill they don't know anything about, dumping stuff in the bill at the last minute. It is the worst possible form of legislation.

They ought to hold hearings -- first of all, let's hold hearings. Let's get out in the open.

BLITZER: They will be holding hearings, and they'll be introduced -- quickly, are you with Marco Rubio or David Vitter?

GINGRICH: I think I'm in between. I think Marco's moving us in the right direction. I haven't seen any bill language. I'm not inclined to endorse something I haven't read. And I don't want -- I don't want to see us get pushed into a corner, where you have to once again say yes or no to some 1,700 pages, without ever having markups and hearings and amendments.

BOLDUAN: You talked about -- you talked about immigration during the -- during the campaign, but how much do you think of this latest push is purely politics, purely Republicans seeing that you can't win elections with the number of Latino voters that supported Mitt Romney.

GINGRICH: I believe with Jeb Bush's leadership in Florida, with Marco Rubio's leadership, with Bobby Jindal, with a whole range of people, Susanna Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, I do believe there is an attitude of being honest about the problem. Rick Perry tried to talk about it in a candid way.

I think it was very unfortunate, and frankly, helped cost us the election. If Mitt Romney had gotten 36 percent of the Latino vote, he would have won a majority of the popular vote.

BLITZER: Who do you blame for his lack of Hispanic support?

GINGRICH: Well, I have to blame Mitt Romney. I mean, as you know...

BLITZER: You had a big fight...

GINGRICH: As you know -- as you know, I said something I thought was self-evident, when I said, we're not going to deport grandmothers who have been here 25 years. And Romney came and said, well, they'll self-deport. Now, that is the most anti-human phrase you can imagine. You think a grandmother is going to self-deport, leave her grandchildren and children? So now you try to talk to the son about jobs, and he's standing there going, "What, you want to deport my mother and you want to talk to me about jobs?"

That's why -- we didn't just lose Latinos, we lost Asian Americans by a greater number...

BLITZER: You still remember those debates?

GINGRICH: Vividly. I remember being with you. I remember being with you right after one of them.

BLITZER: You remember those debates vividly.

BOLDUAN: You enjoyed them very much. I can tell.

BLITZER: Was there one moment in one of those debates you want to relive, looking back, historically, and you say, "You know what? I wish I had a do-over"?

GINGRICH: Sure. Look, I'd love to do the two Florida debates again, because I was frankly off my game, and I couldn't figure out how to deal with the wave of negative...

BLITZER: The one in Jacksonville and Tampa?

GINGRICH: Yes, I was drowning in the negative advertising, and I didn't -- I wasn't -- didn't have a grip on how to answer it.

BOLDUAN: Can I ask you real quick, on the future of the Republican Party. You talked about it. You talked about it kind of in the immigration -- when you're talking about immigration.

Post-2012 election, there's a lot of soul searching going on. Do you think that the Chris Christies, the northeast Republicans, do you think that is what will save the Republican Party? Do you think that's what will...

GINGRICH: It's a piece of it. I just did a paper on this in English productions (ph), and it's pretty lengthy. Look, we have 30 governors, 215 electoral votes, we have 24 states with the Republican governor and Republican legislature, 51 percent of the country. We have control of the House. I mean, we're a fairly robust party by historical tradition.

BOLDUAN: The way Republicans are talking about it, it doesn't look like it.

GINGRICH: NO. That's because Washington is just nuts. But -- but if you look at the states, I'm very encouraged by what I see going on in the states.

And I agree with Bobby Jindal, who may not have realized it, but he was quoting an old Irving Kristol 1976 article entitled "The Stupid Party," when he said the other night, "We need to quit being stupid. I know it's a bold position. I think it would be good to not be stupid."

BOLDUAN: That's a bold, bold statement right here.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, we'll have you back here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

BOLDUAN: Take care. Great to see you. Thank you.

BLITZER: We've got an imminent nuclear test, apparently, by North Korea. Why the U.S. believes it could happen at any time. We're getting brand-new information. We'll have a live update from the Pentagon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following some troubling new signs in North Korea right now.

BOLDUAN: U.S. officials believe the rogue nation is posed to conduct a nuclear test really at any time. CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been working this story today.

Barbara, what are you picking up this evening?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now the watch word is uncertainty. And that is not a word the Pentagon likes when it comes to North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): South Korea's latest rocket launch, upping the stakes in a region that is bracing for North Korea's threatened nuclear weapons test. The Obama administration believes it could come at any time

JOHN PARK: The latest consensus view is that we're within a few days away. The North Koreans have been preparing this test for some time now.

GEORGE LITTLE, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: If we're entering a provocative phase, and we hope we aren't, that's problematic.

STARR: A U.S. defense official tells CNN, quote, "We think they are preparing for a test. We are watching it all as closely as we can."

It would be the third North Korean nuclear test. Commercial imagery shows a tunnel where the test could happen and a bunker to shield equipment and personnel during a test.

U.S. government satellites are picking up vehicles and personnel at the nuclear test site, indicating preparations are underway. And a further indication to the U.S. that North Korea's ruler is not changing course.

HILLARY CLINTON, OUTGOING SECRETARY OF STATE: I think with a new, young leader, we all expected something different. We expected him to focus on improving the lives of the North Korean people.

STARR: North Korea's state media this week accused the U.S. of nuclear blackmail and said it had no choice but to be defended by their own efforts.

On a practical basis, the U.S. can do nothing to stop the underground test. The only realistic option is more condemnation from the United Nations once it happens. But it took weeks to get a resolution after last month's launch of a rocket by Pyongyang.

LITTLE: The U.N. Security Council resolution or security council adopted a resolution just a few days ago and expressed its determination to take significant action in the event of a further launch of some sort of a missile or a nuclear test.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Barbara's joining me once again.

So Barbara, will the U.S. government, is there a way we'll be able to actually detect this impending test, this nuclear test, before it actually takes place, or is it just you wait, you watch, and you see?

STARR: You have to wait, watch, and see, Kate. In fact, you know, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said just a couple of days ago, he essentially warned that, no, the U.S. might not know in advance.

The problem is, underground tests, all the final preparations will be underground in that tunnel and those U.S. spy satellites flying overhead won't be able to see it. So it may only be after the fact -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us this evening. Thank you so much, Barbara.

BLITZER: We'll see what Kim Kong-un is up to.

BOLDUAN: Really flexing his muscles.

BLITZER: A lot more on that situation.

They are living through a wrenching ordeal right now. We're going to talk to the parents of a young New York mother missing in Turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETZAIDA JIMENEZ, MOTHER OF MISSING WOMAN: I'll be sleeping and wake up crying, thinking about her constantly. A lot of times, I don't even want to get out of bed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We've been following the story of a young American mother missing in Turkey. Now, her parents are talking about the wrenching ordeal their family is going through. They spoke to CNN's Mary Snow. Mary is joining us right now.

Mary, what did they say?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are just absolutely distraught and they're at a loss for answers. Sierra's mother in particular was very emotional at times, but she wanted to speak out in hopes that someone with information will come forward.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): More than a week after 33-year-old Sarai Sierra disappeared in Turkey, her parents cling to hope. As they wait in New York, Sierra's husband and brother are in Istanbul, working with authorities to find the missing mother of two.

B. JIMENEZ: I see myself just running, just running to her, just grabbing her and holding her.

SNOW: The image foremost in their minds right now is the surveillance video. It was released by Turkish police, showing Sierra in an Istanbul shopping mall on January 20. A day earlier, her parents say they spoke to her on Skype.

DENNIS JIMENEZ, FATHER OF MISSING WOMAN: Giving me the flight information when she was coming in on the 22, what the flight was and what time she was coming in. And she was telling me don't forget.

SNOW: They say she had shortened her trip by a few days. Dennis Jimenez went to Newark Airport to pick up his daughter, but she never showed.

B. JIMENEZ: Because she kept in contact with us all the time, and then not to hear from her, it's not -- it's not like her.

SNOW: Sierra traveled by herself to Turkey on January 7, they say, because a friend who was supposed to go with her canceled. They say she had rented a private room she found on the Internet. Her passport and bags were later found inside, they say, after she was reported missing.

Perhaps the strongest clues about what may have happened to her may be found online and social media. Through photos, she documented her first trip abroad on Instagram, visiting not only Istanbul but Amsterdam and Germany, as well. Her husband told CNN she had chosen to take this trip through help of the people she'd met through Instagram.

As her parents wait for news, they're taking care of Sierra's two boys, working to shield them from what has happened.

B. JIMENEZ: Having the kids, have to get up -- I have to get up and be strong, you know? But I'm just like broken inside.

SNOW: And on Sierra's account, more than 3,000 followers with messages like these: "You're in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you come home safe."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Family members are counting on those prayers as U.S. and Turkish authorities work together to find Sarai Sierra -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I hope they find her and hope they find her quickly. Thank you, Mary, for that report.

BOLDUAN: It's amazing how long it's been. I mean, they continued and continued. They keep searching and two young boys are still at home. So sad.

Still at top -- coming up at the top of the hour, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" on the gun-control hearing today by fact checking the NRA's claims. We'll see what her team found in just a few minutes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Duct tape, as we all know, has plenty of uses.

BOLDUAN: Plenty of uses. But Jeanne Moos found one you definitely should not try.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In nothing to sniff at, duct-tape diapers used to smuggle cocaine. Two women were caught coming into JFK Airport wearing them. When two women flew in from the Dominican Republic, a canine alerted and responded to one suspect's midsection. The other suspect walked with an awkward gait. Strip searches revealed each was carrying over three kilos of cocaine in the duct tape diapers.

A pro like Scarface would turn up his nose.

Such a ridiculous smuggling technique.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hide it.

MOOS: We haven't seen anyone hide drugs in diapers since "Three Men and a Baby" conspired to successfully elude a narcotics detective.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She feels as though she's ready for a change.

MOOS: According to the complaint, one of the duct-tape-diapered suspects said she was offered 9 to $10,000 to smuggle the coke into the U.S.

"Crack-cocaine" tweeted one jokester.

(on camera): And while we're on the subject of cocaine in diapers, guess what they found on nine out of ten baby changing stations in public restrooms in the U.K.

(voice-over): For a documentary, journalists at Real Radio used wipes to swab public bathrooms. Ninety-two of the 100 plus baby- changing units examined tested positive for cocaine. Though it sure seems like a weird place to snort a line.

(on camera): Duct-tape diapers got us thinking about how handy duct tape is for so many things.

(voice-over): From prom outfits to aprons and rain hats, it was even used to take down an out-of-control passenger on a plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift off.

MOOS: NASA space shuttles never left earth without it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tell you, I think we'd be lost without duct tape up here.

MOOS: A duct-tape bandit even used it when he robbed a liquor store. He covered his face. They covered their butts. It's enough to give diapers a dirty name.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You know -- you know those dogs are going to smell something.

BOLDUAN: That's what I was just thinking, how -- why, oh why did these women, did anyone think that they were going to be able to walk through an airport with cocaine on their tushies?

BLITZER: You can make $9,000, put some tape around.

BOLDUAN: I'm sure we can all feel bad for them, but still, I don't think 9, $10,000 is worth going to jail for a very long time.

BLITZER: They probably will be going to jail.

BOLDUAN: They probably will be going to jail. No more duct tape on your tushie.

BLITZER: Remember, you can always follow what's going on behind the scenes, in front of the scenes here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. You can tweet me: @WolfBlitzer.

BOLDUAN: You can tweet me, @KateBolduan.

BLITZER: And we will be getting a lot of tweets on this show tonight.

BOLDUAN: I'm sure about this last story, definitely.

BLITZER: Duct tape. Hash tag duct tape.

That's it for us. Thanks very much for joining us. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.