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Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Returns to Capitol Hill to Testify on Gun Control; Sunday Super Bowl Features Sibling Rivalry; Former Senator Hagel Grilled by Republicans in Confirmation Hearing

Aired February 2, 2013 - 18:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Monday mornings, premiers this Monday at 10:00 p.m. eastern, 9:00 p.m., on our sister station, TNT.

I'm Don Lemon. I will see you back here in an hour. "The SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer begins right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Guns, immigration, defense, the battle lines are drawn. And the first (INAUDIBLE) are being fought over the president's second term agenda.

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords returns to Capitol Hill to testify on gun control. Her husband, former astronaut, Mark Kelly, tells me how she prepared for that emotional event.

And Sunday super bowl, featuring a sibling rivalry that bound to become part of the history of famous brothers.

We want to welcome our viewers from around the world.

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

We're a little over a week away from President Obama's state of the union address before Congress. But the battles over many of the president's top priorities already are in full swing on Capitol Hill.

Both the president and lawmakers started a new push for immigration. This past week, also featured contentious hearings on U.S. defense policy and on slowing the epidemic of gun violence in America. We'll take a closer look at guns, first beginning with vice president Joe Biden's admission after meeting with democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing we're going to do is going to fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting or guarantee that we will bring the deaths down to a thousand a year from what it is now.


BLITZER: The government's most recent report says nearly 32,000 people died of gun injuries in 2010. Many folks think the biggest obstacle to changing any of the nation's gun laws is the national rifle association.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns is joining us now here in the SITUATION ROOM. He has been taking a closer look at the scripts, money and influence at the nation's capitol.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, and Wolf. And you know, money donated to Canada is just one of the ways to measure political influence in Washington, along with other backers like lobbying club, grass roots organizing. And with the battle over guns hitting Capitol Hill this week, we took a look at the money the National Rifle Association has been spending on Canada and whether the organization is getting a big bang for its buck. Turns out, at least through the last election cycle the answer was not so much.


JOHNS (voice-over): The NRA took center stage on Capitol Hill and didn't give much ground.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Law abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals. Nor do we believe that government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families.

JOHNS: It is the influence of Wayne Lapierre and the National Rifle Association that makes gun control advocates like Senator Dianne Feinstein say, any legislation on gun will be an uphill battle.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The NRA is venom. They come after you. They put together large amounts of money to defeat you.

JOHNS: But freshman Democratic senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut doesn't buy it. And he is on a mission to convince his colleagues.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: We need to wake members up to the fact if they want to do the right thing her and join us on common sense gun reform, there is not really a political price to pay at the hands of the NRA like there may have been a decade or two ago.

JOHNS: In a new report, Murphy calls the NRA, a pay for tiger. During the 2012 campaign, the NRA flooded the airwaves with ads regarding targeting senate candidates with a low NRA rating like Tim Kaine in Virginia and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. In fact, figures from a nonpartisan senate for responsive politics shows the NRA spent over $4 million on the Senate campaigns last year, losing seven out of eight races where they spent over $100,000. The only winner, Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, who sits on the judiciary committee, the group that will craft any legislation on guns, but, money is not the only way to measure influence.

VIVECA NOVAL, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: I think that the NRA, as a single issue group, is extremely potent as a political force out there. And even though their success rate was less than 50 percent with their outside spending in the last election, they have these members, millions of members they can mobilize who are passionately motivated on this issue.

JOHNS: Four and a half million member, according to the NRA, who they can call on to lobby Congress or vote in elections.

DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The NRA doesn't have the power, but those Americans who believe in the second amendment do.

JOHNS: NRA president, David Keene, points to the Wisconsin recall as a prime example. That election kept the pro-rights Republican governor Scott Walker in office.

KEENE: In that race, we made of six-point difference. Gun owners in this country have as much influence as they always have and perhaps more because guns are more acceptable now than they were ten years ago.


JOHNS: And in case you were wondering, besides Jeff Flake, seven other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have gotten money from the NRA for their campaign since 1998. And win Democrats well, the committee's chairman, Patrick Leahy.

BLITZER: There seems to be a little bit of a split, Patrick Leahy on one side, Diane Feinstein, another Democrat, another side. So, not all the Democrats are on the same page.

JOHNS: Absolutely, it is the kind of thing that actually gets a lot of Democrats thinking about what is going to happen to them in the next election, especially if they come from states that sort of lean Republican.

BLITZER: Money still talks in Washington.

JOHNS: It certainly does, and the NRA absolutely does have clout, perhaps they just didn't do well in the last election.

BLITZER: Right. No doubt about that.

All right, thanks very much Joe, for that.

This week is second big fight on Capitol Hill with the confirmation for defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel. We were anticipating fireworks, but it turned out to be even tougher than a lot of us expected.

Republicans grilled Hagel, raising questions about his past statements, his positions, his votes, especially when it comes to Israel and Iran. At times, Hagel struggled to answer. Other times, he gave answers he later during the same hearing had to clarify.

For the fallout, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. It was pretty bruising, but I'm wondering, Jessica, in the end if it will have a huge result on the outlook. But, give us a little background.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Chuck Hagel was, as you say, battered and bruised but is still standing after what was widely considered an underwhelming shelling at his confirmation hearing.


YELLIN (voice-over): Former senator, Chuck Hagel, sat alone at the table, fielding intense sometimes hostile questions from his former senate colleagues, including one-time close friend John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I want to know absolute right or wrong. That is a direct question, I want a direct answer.

CHUCK TODD, HAGEL, FORMER SENATOR: I'm not going to give you a yes or no answer.

MCCAIN: Will the record show --

YELLIN: That exchange centered on Hagel's past opposition to the Iraq surge, a surge that Senator John McCain championed. In his opening remarks Hagel tried to pivot away from controversy over his past statements.

HAGEL: No one individual statement defines me, my beliefs or my record.

YELLIN: He insisted he will lead, not follow, at the Pentagon and around the world.

HAGEL: America must engage in the world, not to retreat from the world.

YELLIN: For hours, one Republican after another accused the former two-term Nebraska senator of shading his true believes. Among their concerns, past statements criticizing Israel.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Do you think that it is right that Israel was committing a quote "sickening slaughter" as you said in the Senate?

YELLIN: And complaining about intimidation by the pro-Israel lobby.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Name one person in your opinion who is intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the United States Senate?

HAGEL: I mean, your use of intimidation? I should have used influence.

YELLIN: More questions centered on this report he co-authored which support the elimination of all nuclear weapons even if the U.S. goes firsts. He says he doesn't agree with all the findings.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Why would you ever put your name on a report that is inertly inconsistent with what you're telling us today?

YELLIN: But the big flash point? Iran, where he stumbled talking about basic U.S. policy, calling Iran a quote "legitimate government". A Democrat followed up.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I do not see Iran as a legitimate government. I would like your thoughts on that.

HAGEL: What I meant to say, should have said, it is recognizable.

YELLIN: He also meant to say he supports the president's policy of prevention. Meaning the U.S. will try to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But instead, he said?

HAGEL: I just have been handed a note saying I misspoke and said I supported the president's position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say obviously his position on containment, we don't have a position on containment.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Just to make sure your correction is clear. We do have a position on containment, which is that we do not favor containment?

HAGEL: We do not favor containment. That is the president's position and that was my position.


YELLIN: Well, the administration officials say they believe senator -- former senator Hagel has all the votes he needs to get confirmed. And the armed services chairman says a vote on this issue could come as early as Thursday.

BLITZER: But the bottom line over at the White House, they're still pretty confident he will be confirmed. He will be the nation's next defense secretary.

YELLIN: That is right, because you know, it is not only for the performance in the room that sort of just for the TV cameras, what really counts is the amount of lobbying that goes on behind the scene, the amount of pressure applied. And the sense is that it is all working, senator Hagel will get the votes. He has the numbers and he will be confirmed, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Thanks very much Jessica Yellin for that.

So, how much could Chuck Hagel's performance though, hurt him with the Republicans and Democrats if in fact he does become the defense secretary? We are going to discuss that. Gloria Borger , Ron Brownstein, they are both standing by. Plus, an in passion plea to end gun violence in America from someone who bears some of the most severe scars, the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Her husband, the astronaut, Mark Kelly, was at her side. He is my guest here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's take a little bit deeper right now into this amazing week in Washington. We are joined now by Ron Brownstein. He is a senior political analyst for CNN, also the editorial director of "the National Journal," and CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

I think everybody agrees that Chuck Hagel had a poor performance. He shouldn't have had because he had a long time to prepare. The questions were obvious going into the hearing, didn't --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Iran, did he think he wouldn't be asked about Iran?

BLITZER: Do you think Democrats will now abandon him?

BORGER: I think that is a key question, Wolf. But, so far we haven't seen any sign that Democrats are going to jump ship. I think the question you have to look at is what happens on the Republican side of the aisle. The people who were tough on him yesterday, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, they clearly were not in his camp to begin with.

But you have to see whether somebody is actually going to takes that next step and puts a hold on his nomination. You know, it is one thing to oppose him. It is another thing to put a hold on the nomination and ask for a filibuster, because then you're declaring war on the president.

BLITZER: Then you need 60, in order to confirm him, there are 51 votes in order to confirm him and there are 55 Democrats, so you need five Republicans.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And you know, there have been filibuster threats on cabinet nominees, but I don't think there is a full-scale actual public filibuster to block a cabinet nominee in our history. So, it would be the extraordinary escalation of hostilities. No question, as Gloria said, there are a lot of Republicans, you know, someone who is in the tribe and moves out is often treated more harshly than someone who has never there to begin with. A lot of Republicans critical at senator Hagel didn't do himself a lot of favors at the hearing. But taking it to the next step would be a major escalation.

BLITZER: Even if he is confirmed on a strictly partisan base, how does that impact as a sitting defense secretary?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it is unusual right? I mean, this is usually one of the less partisan positions in the cabinet. We seen it a place for presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, who have often reached out to the other part to put someone in that job which is of course what Barack Obama is doing again here.

You know, my guess is as - or as the people who are against him in the hearing are likely not going to be the first ones he is looking to as secretary as allies, to begin with. But generally speaking, this is a position that does works across the aisle because the interest in military.

BORGER: And he is a man without a home because he is a Republican in name, Republicans don't think he is much of a Republican. Democrats, a lot of them don't -- they're not thrilled with him because of the Israeli comments. But he has got to have to reach out to both sides of the aisle because he is going preside over the downside in the Pentagon.

BLITZER: He has work to do.

Let's talk about the economy and how it potentially could impact the president's political strength this year going into his second term, 157,000 jobs created in January. You take a look at the -- a lot of jobs created last year, still not moving, the economic growth as much as should. But if you take a look at the Dow Jones, 14,000, it was under 7,000 when he took office. How much of a political impact will this going forward on the president's agenda?

BORGER: I think it is a reminder how the dysfunction in Congress could hurt the country's economy going forward. We're not out of this yet, Wolf. Nothing is robust about these numbers. And as you head in to the question of automatic spending cuts, what are you going to do on that? I think that this serves as a reminder that Congress needs to get something done. It is just hanging out there.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, it is a low-grade fever, I think. When you kind look what we are talking about here, the president is moving very aggressively on his agenda, on immigration, on guns, on the contraception ruling that came out this week. He is speaking on the new coalition that was a majority in 2012 despite 7.8 percent unemployment. But without economic growth, I mean, that is really the last piece he needs to try to cement this coalition for somebody that would be available for a successor in 2016. Without it, it is always a question.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton wrapped up her tenure, four years at the state department. I want to play two clips. This was when she told in April of last year when we talk about a future run for the presidency.


BLITZER: You know they would like you, a lot of Democrats and many others. They would like you to run in 2016. I just see you are smiling, so?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I am flattered and honored. That is not in the future for me, but obviously, I'm hoping that I'll get to cast my vote for a woman running for president of our country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And this was her, this past week with a little different tone, speaking to Jill Dougherty in (INAUDIBLE).



CLINTON. No, no. I am so looking forward to Monday when I have no schedule, no office to go to --

DOUGHERTY: You know the field -- I'm sorry, madam secretary, you know, the party says that the field is clear and open for you until you make your decision. Have you decided that you absolutely will not run?

CLINTON. Well, I have absolutely no plans to run.

BLITZER: Not necessarily a Shermanesque statement.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. And look, you know, she probably does not have any plans today to run. But the question is kind of the political gravity here. If you have two years of polls where you're in the 60s, in Iowa and New Hampshire, and no one else is above 12 percent, I mean, that has a certain poll of its own. And whatever she may be thinking today, the pressure on her to run will grow over the months.

BORGER: Particularly since, I believe, if she gets in the race, I believe that Joe Biden would not run. And so, I think that she freezes the Democratic side until she decides what to do.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens.


BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

And a mother living in fear over being separated from her child. Up next, you are going to meet a family in the frontlines of the heated immigration debate.

Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: President Obama is promising that comprehensive immigration reform will be a top priority for his second term, even saying he hopes to get a package passed this summer. Many of those whose lives would change dramatically by any kinds of reform, includes some mothers and fathers living in fear that any day at any moment they could be thrown out of the country, and possibly separated from their own children.

Lisa Sylvester spoke to one family. She is joining us now with details.

When you dig deep and look at the personal impact, this could have it is enormous.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. You know, this really gets to the heart of the issue, why does this is so difficult to solve? But people will say it is important to have the rule of law and not to reward rule-breakers. So now, there is a very valid argument on the macro level. But when you talk and you take it down to the micro level, the individual families, well, what do you do with families that are considered mixed status families, some of them legal, some of them not.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): A close-knit family always worried they could be torn apart. Marcela and her husband are undocumented immigrants. Her baby is a U.S. citizen. Her brother just received temporary legal status. They all want to stay in the U.S., the place they call home.

MARCELA CAMPOS, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: This is my country. I was a teenager when I came here.

SYLVESTER: When Marcella and her brother, Ricardo Campos, came to the United States from El Salvador, she was 16 and he was 12. They went to school here, graduated from high school, but have always lived in the shadows. Ricardo is a pre-med student in college. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Several operations later, he was cancer-free. Now he dreams of one day becoming a doctor.

RICARDO CAMPOS, SON OF UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: Helping people is helping folks is what I always wanted, especially after my cancer. Like I think I owe people, I owe the American people back for giving me my life back.

SYLVESTER: What stands in his way is his legal status. For now, he is free of the threat of deportation under the Obama deferred action program. But he wants to become a citizen. Last June, Ricardo joined several groups lobby in Capitol Hill for action on comprehensive immigration reform. Now with talk of a new bipartisan framework, he is optimistic.

RICARDO CAMPOS: What is necessary is a comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship. I mean, we are pretty much Americans, even though undocumented, that I call ourselves undocumented Americans.

SYLVESTER: But there are many in the country who may take issue with that. According to the latest CNN/ORC poll, 43 percent of Americans say U.S. government policy, should focus on deporting illegal immigrants and stopping more from coming in.

Deport all the people who are in this country illegally. What is your response to that? RICARDO CAMPOS: I mean it is clear that government has stated it is not even an option. These are people who are contributing to our economy. These are people who have lived here like probably for like 10, 15 years, 20 years. I don't know. Like, these are people who are truly Americans.

SYLVESTER: When you look at this family, you can see why the immigration issue is so hard.

MARCELA CAMPOS: I have a baby, and I don't know what will happen to me if they deport me to my country.

SYLVESTER: Marcela lives in fear and an impossible choice if she ever faces deportation, leave her child here in the United States where he can have a better life, or stay with her and go to a country that neither of them knows.


SYLVESTER: And on the front door of that family's home, two small American flags. Now, Ricardo Campos plans to go back to Capitol Hill in the coming week. He is going to continue lobbying Congress and working as an activist on these issues, Wolf.

BLITZER: I am sure he is and a lot of other folks are going to do their best deceive that comprehensive reform can't be passed in the coming months. It is going to be a big fight, we'll see what happens.

SYLVESTER: Yes. I mean, people say the tone has changed, particularly on the Republican side with these debates. So, you know, President Obama obviously, is a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, so we'll see, Wolf, what happens in the coming weeks.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester for the report.

After emotional testimony on Capitol Hill, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, the retired astronaut Mark Kelly, they met with the president at the White House. Mark Kelly is here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: This past week, Senate hearings on guns started with a dramatic statement by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived a gunshot to her head by a would-be assassin just over two years ago.


GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), DORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you. Thank you.


BLITZER: Very, very dramatic moment at those hearings. And as you saw Gifford's husband, the retired astronaut, Mark Kelly, was at her side that morning and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for hours afterward.


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

MARK KELLY, GABRIELLE GIFFORDS'S HUSBAND: Yes, she suffers - Gabby suffers from a condition called aphasia because of the gunshot wound to the head. And that is very difficult for her. So, she practiced and she cheated. She has been practicing for weeks. But 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 of it. And, you know, she worked on it.

BLITZER: And we saw the handwritten notes that her speech therapist had prepared, had wrote those on. There they are right there on the screen. And so, she was basically reading from those handwritten notes.

KELLY: Yes, some on it. You can see sometimes she is looking up, and she even adlib a little bit at the time. But I think the most important thing is hopefully the senators and the people hearing this and hearing her, you know, take something away from the message. This is really serious and we need to do something.

BLITZER: She spoke from the heart.


BLITZER: And is she wants -- 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 seen, especially over the last couple of years, this so much division that it is really hard to get things done. But certainly everybody agrees with we have a problem. We, first of all, need to have a universal background check. We need to close the guns shell loopholes. We need to do something about mental illness in this country. And then for us, you know, specifically for 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 the 100 round that was used in Colorado and then the assault weapons. And we really need to seriously look at the lethality of these weapons, and why they're so prevalent in our society.

BLITZER: Because it prevailing wisdom here in Washington, maybe you will 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 could 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, you know, they're 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 kind of weapon to protect yourself.

BLITZER: But there are still so many gun owners out there who will oppose any kind of restrictions, if you will, on these types of weapons. So, look in the camera, talk to them, and tell them why this is the time for action.

KELLY: Well, I mean, I can just say you know, we have had many, many, many mass murders in this country and we have had a lot of them. You know, especially recently. I mean what we saw in Newtown and Colorado and Tucson, I mean this is unacceptable. I mean, I think people understand that when somebody does a mass shooting and they uses semiautomatic weapon and assault rifle, twice as many people are hurt and injured.

It is not, you know, it is something that needs to be addressed. But more than that, you know, as a universal background check and closing the loophole, we really need to make sure that the criminals, the mentally ill, terrorists, do not have access to firearms.

You know, in fact 72 percent of the NRA members believe there should be a universal background check before buying a gun, 72 percent or 74 percent. You would think that the head of the NRA who testified today would agree with that position. But he doesn't.

BLITZER: Because here is what a lot of people don't understand, maybe - because you been - you have got the new group, Americans for responsible solutions. You and Gabby have launched this group. This is going to be your cause. Is that going to be, if you have your way, to counter 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, 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 Walmart and went through a background check. It didn't take that long to do that.

BLITZER: You did it final question. At the end, we saw you shaking hands with Wayne Lapierre, 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: Let's see where 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 progress over the past two years.

KELLY: Thank you very much, Wolf.


BLITZER: As tensions rise with North Korea, for the first time, you can see a Google map, images of that reclusive country and trace roots to its nuclear sites hidden prison camps and more.


BLITZER: Google has unveiled the newest, most detailed maps of North Korea. Before, much of their reclusive country was simply black. Now, you can follow some roads out of the capital of Pyongyang to the country's nuclear complex and its most notorious prison camps.

Back in the capital city, you can see and zoom in on some of the places I visited when I was in North Korea in December of 2010.


BLITZER: We're at the prosperity subway station, deep underground. You saw how long it takes to get through that those escalators. We are really, really deep underground, and patriotic pictures all over the place.

Here we are. This is Triple Sun (ph) square. As you can see, it is really huge. It is magnificent. And they often have events here, which is totally understandable. These are all government buildings over here, and this is a magnificent palace right in front of over here. If you want to just flip over you can see the foreign ministry. And then, you see this marvelous structure over here.

I had fun some watching when I saw the North Korean girl's national ice hockey team jogging outside the national ice rink.

We're running, we're running, everybody is looking good.


BLITZER: Indeed they were. The Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, by the way. He was in North Korea last month urging its leaders to an embrace the Internet. He was accompanied by the former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson as well as Tony ,Namkung a Korea expert.

Tony Namkung is joining us now.

Tony, you have been to North Korea 50 times over the past what, 20 to 30 years?

TONY NAMKUNG, INDEPENDENT SCHOLAR AND KOREA EXPERT: Yes, over the last 25 years and just twice in the last two weeks.

BLITZER: So, what is going on with Kim Jong-Un? Is there going to be another underground nuclear test?

NAMKUNG: Yes, they have stated they will conduct another explosion of a, this time, thermo-nuclear device, which is a hydrogen bomb, a thousand times more powerful than anything they have explosive up to now.

BLITZER: Why are they doing this?

NAMKUNG: They're doing this in retaliation for the U.N. Security Council sanctions that were levied on them which in turn were levied on them because of their launch of the space vehicle.

BLITZER: Don't they understand that these provocative steps are only going to cause more problems for North Korea?

NAMKUNG: Well, they certainly do. And they're caught in this vicious spiral. And we are all going down in this spiral at the moment and they have to find some way to pull back at the brink.

BLITZER: Do you think they will? Kim Jong-Un, we don't know much about him, other than he is 30 years old.

NAMKUNG: Yes, he has to balance both the hard line and there's moderate in his government and military. And he is now having to give the hard-liners a little more say, as opposed those who are more interested in engaging the world.

BLITZER: It sounds like he is trying to prove he is a tough guy to the establishment, if you will, in that North Korean government?

NAMKUNG: Yes, especially because he has been taking away some of their benefits. He has been diverting the defense budget to the economy in the last ten months or so.

BLITZER: Doesn't look like it, by this latest military test, the nuclear tests. He is still devoting most of his resources to military purpose.

NAMKUNG: Well, that is true. But on the other hand, if you visit Pyongyang, and you and I were there two years ago, Wolf, you will see that in just the past two years, the standard of living has gone up. There are signs of growth, construction, everywhere. There is a kind of bustling atmosphere in the capitol. Obviously, he is using some of the defense budget for the economy.

BLITZER: But a lot of people say that is just for show. And if you go outside of Pyongyang, you see death camps, you see prison camps, blue hawks, if you will. You see people starving. They can't even survive. NAMKUNG: Well, that is true, although those problems are pretty much localized to one region of the country. There are pockets of poverty everywhere. But in the northeast corner of the country is where you see most of this havoc, this famine and starving, and so forth. And the camps are very real. They are issues that are negotiators have always dealt with across the table and will continue to deal with.

BLITZER: So what you hear you saying, and I remember very vividly, we were there for six days two years ago, in Pyongyang, obviously very closely watched and all of that. It was a very tense time, n the Korean peninsula between north and South Korea. There is a million North Korea troops facing almost a million South Korean troops, 30,000 American soldiers in between. Are we going to see another really tense moment like that in the coming weeks?

NAMKUNG: Well, as you know, the North Korea nuclear threat is the single most important national security issue facing the U.S. and its allies, and South Korea and Japan, and its partner in China. We will -- if we go down this, continue to go down this road we will see the spiral go out of control. And then we will see some really, really dangerous situations that we've not seen in the last 50 years.

BLITZER: Because a lot of us thought, Kim Jong-un, educated at least a little bit in the west, a younger guy, he has a younger wife, maybe he would be more realistic and open the doors a little bit, but you don't see that?

NAMKUNG: Well, I think we are seeing the doors open a little bit. But, I mean, we have the example of the AP, now with the bureau in Pyongyang. It has been there for a year. It has its share problems. I'm having to help them navigate their ways.

BLITZER: You have been working with the Associated Press helping them in North Korea?

NAMKUNG: Yes. And then, I recently arranged the visit by Eric Schmidt of Google.

BLITZER: When you went with Bill Richardson, the former ambassador of the U.N.

NAMKUNG: That's correct.

BLITZER: Was there any progress made as the result of that visit?

NAMKUNG: Well, yes, I think so. I think they will expand their access to the Internet for select group of people. Right now, it is limited to a very small pool to people in the intelligence community and among some of the scientists and software engineers. But, I believe they will open that up. In the same way they opened up the mobile phone market already. We have over 1.3 million cell phones now in North Korea.

BLITZER: Tony, thanks very much for coming in. NAMKUNG: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: Netflix is taking a gamble on house of cards. The actor, Kevin Spacey, is here to talk about his role and why the series potentially a risky move?


BLITZER: A bold and risky move by Netflix. The company is branching out into an original programming. It shaking up the TV industry with a 13-episode series called "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey. Kevin joins me and Kate Bolduan in the SITUATION ROOM. That conversation, but first, here is a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the memo I have drafted on the Middle East policy we have been developing. Now I want to borrow from Reagan, I want to coin the phrase trickle down diplomacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to stop you there. We're not nominating you for secretary of state. I know he made you a promise, but circumstances have changed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nature of promise, Linda, is that they remain immune to change in circumstances.


BLITZER: A dramatic clip. Kevin Spacey is joining us now. He is the star of "House of Cards."

Kevin, thank you for joining us. I want to get right to the questions, you have been in a lot of political films, you played a lobbyist, now, the house majority whip in "house of cards." You have been synonymous with Washington politics.

Here is the question. What is drawing you to the political roles?

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: Well, I'm not only, as you know, Wolf, I do a lot of theater and therefore I can do Shakespeare and more classical work. But, I'm very driven by the opportunity to examine current situations and current things that are happening in our world. And I guess, when I look at the two other film that you mentioned, "Recount," which was about Gore/Bush election in Florida and how many days it took us to find out who our president was and the lobbying industry and what it has done in terms of Washington politics and examining that, in the Jack (INAUDIBLE) story in "Casino Jack," I think these are really important subjects for us to understand, to see how we got where we are, and to see maybe, in terms of Washington politics, how can we make it better than it is.

KATE BOLDUAN, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And almost reality is almost as outrageous as art. You cannot even make it up half the time. SPACEY: You are right, Kate, because I would come back to the hotel in Baltimore where we were shooting the first season of "house of cards" and I would watch, you know, this last election cycle that you were all, of course, a large part of it. And I watched the news at night and I think, you know, our story lines are not that I crazy. They are really not.

BOLDUAN: OK. So, let's talk specifically about this role in "house of cards." Your name - the character is Francis Frank Underwood, And to prepare, you actually worked with the current house majority leader, Kevin McCarthy and the house majority whip, Steny Hoyer, what did you learn from them, take us a little bit behind the scenes. What did they tell you?

SPACEY: Well, first, they were both generous with their time, and allowing me to comet o the capitol and sort of follow them around and see, in some sense, just what it is on a day-to-day structural basis to try to control 218 congressman to vote the way you want them to vote. And of course, as we've just seen, with the least productive Congress in the history of the United States, that is not an easy task.

So, I wanted to understand a lot of what it is to actually whip, what it means to whip. You know, I think that's there's something like maybe 62 deputy whips who are out there talking to specific congressman about why they should vote in a certain way on a certain bill. I got to go to a whip meeting which was a very informative. And they were both very up front in answering my questions.

You know, obviously, a lot of it was off the record. But I found it very, very helpful it's an extraordinary building. I got to go to the congressional cloakroom, you know, right outside the dome. And it's a pretty remarkable place. And you know, when you watch even a current film like "Lincoln" and you see even a president who was as beloved and in some sense has been almost put in a saintly spectrum in terms of how we view him in American politics and in our history, he was there doing back door deals to get the votes that he needed.

So, it's a very interesting opportunity for us to examine a fictional Congress, a fictional majority whip who while he may be deed is and diabolical, he, I believe, is going to prove to be very effective.

BLITZER: Do you think about making the transition for being movie star and actor to politics? I believe there was a guy named Ronald Reagan who made the transition.

SPACEY: Yes, and he did rather successfully. I think, perhaps the difference that I would feel is that I'm a person who likes to set a goal and then achieve it. And I like to get things done. I think if I ever -- I could not imagine entering politics because I think it would be a walking into a profession knowing that you would spend the rest of your life being frustrated.

Kevin Spacey's "house of cards," I can't wait to get into it. I'm looking forward to it. A lot of people have been comparing it, Kevin, to homeland and I'm obsessed about that program. So, I'm looking forward to see what you guys can do in "house of cards."

Thanks for joining us.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

SPACEY: Thank you for having me, guys.

BOLDUAN: See you.

BLITZER: The super bowl on Sunday features a sibling rivalry that is certain to be part of the history of famous brothers.


BLITZER: Some serious sibling rivalry between two brothers on super bowl Sunday between two brothers, one the coach of the San Francisco 49ers, the other the coach of the balls for Ravens.

Here's CNN's John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is brother against brother this Sunday. What everyone is calling the har-bowl, obviously, nothing like this has ever happened before at the super bowl, so how will it turn out for them? Well, maybe there are some lessons. We decided to back at pretty much all the famous brothers in history.






BERMAN (voice-over): One night, one game, one name. Coach, coach, Jim, John, Harbaugh, Harbaugh.

JOHN HARBAUGH, HEAD COACH, BALTIMORE RAVENS: We had a few fights. You know, we had a few arguments, just like all brothers.

BERMAN: Like, first brothers. Meet Cain, meet Abel, see Cain kill Abel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody told had him justice was a team sport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that mean?

BERMAN: It means sports. Football brothers, football brothers, Hoops brothers, Winkle brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 6'5", 220 and there's two of me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that mean? BERMAN: It means jokes. More bothers, Wayans brothers, Baldwin brothers, Stooge brothers. At least, Mo, Shep and Curly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that mean?

BERMAN: It means power. Emanuel brothers, Castro brothers, Castro brothers, Bush brothers and Kennedy brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will be remembered as a good and decent man, saw wrong and tried to right it and saw suffering and tried to heal it and saw war and tried to stop it.

BERMAN: It means genius. Story brothers, flight brothers, circus brothers, blues brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you the police?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No ma'am, we are musicians.

BERMAN: Someone say musicians? Allman brothers, Jackson brothers, Everly brothers, Gibb brothers.

HARBAUGH: We had a few fights, you know, we had a few arguments. Just like all brothers. Like roman brothers.

BERMAN: Like Roman brother, meet Romulus, meet Remus. See Romulus kill Remus. Crime brothers, car brothers, champ brothers, Dr. Joyce brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a blessing and curse.

BERMAN: Jim, John, coach, coach, Harbaugh, Harbaugh. After the big game, will they be good brothers, bad brothers, they will not be stepbrothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, are you awake?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want you to know I hate you.

BERMAN: No, no matter what happens, Jim and John will always be super brothers.


BLITZER: CNN's John Berman reporting doing an excellent job at it at the same time.

Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in "THE SITUATION ROOM", on Twitter, you can tweet me @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom as well. Like us on Facebook whenever you want.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". The news continues next on CNN.