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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Ed Royce; Indiana to Alter Religious Freedom Law; Flight 9525 Investigation Continues; Iranian Nuclear Talks Extended. Aired 6-7:00p ET
Aired March 31, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Severe depression. Lufthansa Airlines now admits it knew the co-pilot had a history of psychological problems before he crashed the plane. Why was he allowed to fly?
Talks extending. With the deadline passing right now, the U.S. says negotiators will keep working to try to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. But one delegation is getting ready to walk out.
And fix this law. Indiana's governor promises in controversial religious freedom legislation to show it's not anti-gay, but, tonight, protesters aren't satisfied.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news in the crash of Flight 9525, new claims of cell phone video recovered at the scene. Two European publications now say the video was shot inside the plane, capturing the raw fear and chaos just seconds before impact.
CNN cannot independently confirm the details. But if true, the accounts are chilling.
Also tonight, Lufthansa is admitting for the first time that the airline actually knew back in 2009 that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, suffered from severe depression, information that it had for years before Lubitz flew that jet into the French Alps.
We have our correspondents and analysts. They're all standing by. They are all covering the breaking news.
First, let's go to our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, for the very latest -- Rene.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we know more than one cell phone has been found at the crash site. The focus now, what sights and sounds did cell phone video capture? French and German publications describing one reported piece of video in chilling detail.
If true, the video will provide investigators with a rare look inside the crash of a major commercial airliner.
MARSH (voice-over): In the rubble at the crash site of Germanwings Flight 9525, a cell phone reportedly found, on it, video shot from the back of the doomed Airbus 320. Someone on board captured the final terrifying moments that may help investigators better understand what happened before the crash.
As reported by French "Paris Match" magazine and German newspaper "Bild," the video captures metallic banging more than three times. Ninety seconds later, according to leaked transcripts of the cockpit voice recorder, alarms were triggered in the cockpit that sounded like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrain. Pull up.
MARSH: Screams, "Oh, my God," in several different languages were heard, according to the report.
CAPT. JOHN BARTON, COMMERCIAL AIRLINE PILOT: I think every pilot across the United States is horrified and very saddened that their profession has been taken to a step so low.
Obviously, we will never know everything about what this pilot was thinking, but, again, I have to say -- and watching this video will be tough to watch.
MARSH: Thirty-eight minutes after takeoff, the plane now at 13,000 feet as the captain allegedly pleads, "Open the damn door." The co-pilot is only heard breathing steadily.
Two minutes later, the plane's right wing is believed to have scraped a mountain. Then, after a heavy shake, the cabin abruptly jerks to the side. The screams intensify, then silence.
MARSH: It's unclear whether a passenger or flight crew member shot the reported video. A French official telling CNN with the rescue efforts says the video claims are completely wrong. And that's a quote. While cell phones have been collected, they say they have not yet been analyzed.
I should also add, Wolf, a BEA official tells me tonight they are not aware of any such video, but did not confirm or deny whether the video exists.
BLITZER: Rene, thanks very much.
Let's get an update from the crash site, including the pushback from investigators on the scene about that reported cell phone video.
CNN's Karl Penhaul is on the scene. He's joining us from Southern France near the crash site.
What are you hearing, Karl?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Wolf, from what I was told this afternoon by commanders of the high mountain rescue and recovery units that are actually carrying out operations at the crash site, things have been moving a lot quicker than initially predicted and they say that within possibly tomorrow, possibly the day after, that will be the end of recovery of human remains, because they are pretty sure that they will have found everything that can be found.
They also say that then going into the weekend, probably by Sunday, all the personal possessions, all of the belongings that they can recover will also have been recovered.
But then, of course, the black box, where is that flight data recorder, the second black box that is still missing? Well, investigators have a new hunch. They think, because of the speed of the impact, the speed that the plane hit that steep-sided ravine, perhaps the black box, if hasn't disintegrated, may be bury under shale or gravel.
[18:05:09] And so what they're doing now is probing. They are prodding into that gravel and they're preparing to rake and dig through it to see if perhaps the black box has been buried, Wolf.
BLITZER: What a task that is. All right, Karl, thank you very much.
Tonight, Lufthansa is saying it is setting the record straight about what it really knew years ago about the mental health of the Flight 9525 co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz. The admission is raising even more questions about why Lubitz was even allowed to fly.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is joining us from Dusseldorf, Germany, once again tonight.
What's the latest over there, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in a stunning turn of events, we learned today from Lufthansa that back in 2009, Andreas Lubitz self-reported, even turned over his medical records to the airline when he was going through training indicating that he had just been through a severe bout with depression.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, Lufthansa officials are admitting it knew in 2009 during flight training with the airline that Andreas Lubitz had suffered from a -- quote -- "previous episode of severe depression."
JIM PHILLIPS, GERMAN PILOTS ASSOCIATION: I would expect that Lufthansa, at the very beginning of the investigation, would have handed over everything and would have worked with the prosecutor and investigators to find the solutions. And if they withheld information intentionally, that's not good. BROWN: Head of the German Pilots Association, Jim Phillips, says
the circumstances surrounding Lubitz's depression are a critical factor in determining whether he should have been able to become a commercial pilot in 2013.
PHILLIPS: I would hope that Lufthansa required him to see a psychologist.
BROWN: Sources tell CNN Lubitz, seen here flying a glider as a teenager, may have been afraid his medical issues would cost him his pilot's license. And that is looked as a primary motive behind what authorities say is the deliberate crash of Flight 9525.
CHRISTOPH KUMPA, DUSSELDORF PROSECUTOR: We haven't found a letter or anything like that that contains a confession.
BROWN: A European government official tells CNN the co-pilot's girlfriend knew he had psychological issues, but did not know the extent of the problems. The girlfriend also told investigators she knew Lubitz had been to see two doctors, an eye doctor and a neuropsychologist, and CNN has learned both of them very recently deemed the co-pilot unfit to work, after determining Lubitz had psychological issues, including a psychosomatic disorder.
BROWN: And Lufthansa says that found those documents from Lubitz in 2009 today and it immediately turned them over to the prosecutors here in Dusseldorf to help with the investigation, this after an internal investigation by Lufthansa -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're getting new information. Thanks very much, Pamela Brown.
Let's bring in our experts, our aviation correspondent Richard Quest, the former FAA chief of staff Michael Goldfarb, our CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien, and our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.
Michael, Lufthansa now acknowledges they knew of what they themselves describe as Lubitz's previous episode of severe depression and they knew he had received injections of what they call antipsychotic medication. Earlier, they said that he was hiding all of this. Lufthansa knew it then. Should this guy have been a pilot with 149 people on board?
MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FORMER FAA CHIEF OF STAFF: Clearly, no. The answer is no.
BLITZER: How does that happen? How does he get through the system? Lufthansa is not a fly-by-night operation. It's Lufthansa.
GOLDFARB: It is. And they're preeminent. They have the best technical capability in the world, but, once again, we talked about this. The pressure is in the market for expansion, for having Germanwings, having low-cost carriers. Someone took their eye off the ball.
Now, the psychologist and psychiatrist who talked to him, there's two different cultural views of this. We have to understand the German view. After World War II, and with the East German Stasi, Germany after that said that they would never allow the state or the government to intervene in the private lives of their citizens.
So in Germany, if you do report these problems and nothing happens, you pay a huge price. In the United States, if you don't report these problems and something does happen, you also pay a huge price.
BLITZER: Yes. And, Richard Quest, what's your reaction to that revelation? Why did it take so long for Lufthansa to confirm, to reveal the information it had since 2009?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I have no doubt why it took so long. There's in the middle of a firestorm here, Wolf.
They have got many, many competing issues in the sense of, you have got the relatives, you have got what's happening. You're still running the airline, you're just trying to find out the facts. You have got to go and get the facts. It does not surprise me that it takes a little bit longer than maybe you and I would like just to clarify.
[18:10:03] Remember one thing, Wolf. People were asking the CEO of Lufthansa detailed questions the day or two after the event. He gives an answer. Somebody has to go and find the file and actually look through it and analyze it. It doesn't surprise me that you get these discrepancies.
What the CEO said was, he was 100 percent fit to fly. He was talking about when he passed his tests, when he -- he was talking about when he passed his tests, when he became a co-pilot and what they believe to be on the state. But remember that injection and that report goes back to 2009. He didn't become a pilot with them until 2013.
BLITZER: Let me get Miles O'Brien to react to that, because obviously we know the end result of all of this. Go ahead, Miles.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: There should have been all kinds of red flags that came out of that admission to Lufthansa.
And I'm with Michael on this. These low-cost carriers are dealing with rapid expansion, low ticket prices and a pilot shortage all at once and what they are trying to do is get people in those seats as quickly as possible. That's why you had a 600-hour pilot, a baby of a pilot in that seat in the first place. They are trying to get people in there too quickly. They are cutting corners. It's as simple as that.
And this is an egregious example of that and the airline needs to be held accountable for this, and it's going to invite regulation, as it should. BLITZER: Do you agree, Richard?
QUEST: Oh, absolutely not. I have never heard such tosh. You're talking about airlines that are regulated.
O'BRIEN: What? What is that? What is tosh?
QUEST: Well, you can imagine, Miles.
The reality is, you're talking about airlines, those same airlines that are regulated by the same regulator in the same structures as a Lufthansa, Iberia, British Airways. What Miles is suggesting, that the EasyJets of this world, the Wizz Airs, the Norwegians, I put this to the CEO of Norwegian today, exactly what Miles is saying and he said no.
Bear in mind, Lubitz was trained by Lufthansa.
O'BRIEN: What do you expect him to say, Richard? What do you expect him to say?
QUEST: But he said he was trained by the same people that trained Lufthansa.
O'BRIEN: Well, clearly, there are some gaps in this system we have created here.
At the very least, we need to increase the experience requirements for people to fly in an Airbus A-320. That would be a good start. Number two, we need to start recognizing that mental illness is an illness that should be treated like other physical ailments and that people who are psychotic should not be flying commercial airliners.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, guys, because I want to get some more on all of this, also on this purported new cell phone video that's supposedly was found at the crash site. Two European publications are now reporting this. There's some pushback from authorities. Stay with us. We have much more right after this.
[18:17:53] BLITZER: We're back with our aviation experts and the breaking news, new unconfirmed reports out of Europe describing video said to have been taken from the back of the flight, Flight 9525, in the final seconds before that plane crashed.
Tom Fuentes, are you surprised this alleged video -- because two publications in Europe saying they have actually seen the videos. Official authorities in France, they are denying that there is -- or at least they are pushing back, saying they haven't seen this video. What do you make of this?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think, Wolf, the lack of discipline and integrity so far in this investigation, it doesn't surprise me that one of the people on that mountain found a SIM card, put it in his pocket and maybe sold it to one of these tabloids, got money for it.
And the next day, he could bring it back and say, I just found this. That doesn't surprise me. It won't surprise me if they find a selfie made by the co-pilot himself, since he's so narcissistic, and wanted to be famous. He may have taken his own video in that cockpit and that may turn up.
But I would like to add one more thing, on the topic of tosh for Richard. I think...
BLITZER: When he said that Miles was full of tosh?
FUENTES: Yes. And he's going to say that I'm full of tosh now.
BLITZER: We looked it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It means like utter ridiculousness or absurdity, whatever.
FUENTES: OK. Here's mine.
The CEO of Lufthansa, from the first minute that it was divulged that the co-pilot flew that plane into the mountain, he has had nothing more important on his plate to deal with. He doesn't have to worry about the stockholder. He doesn't have to worry about the -- he doesn't have any other issue, I don't think, that mattered more than explaining what did Lufthansa know and when did they know it.
BLITZER: Let me go back to Richard, because, tosh -- sheer nonsense, that's the actual definition of tosh.
Go ahead and respond to what Tom Fuentes just said, Richard.
QUEST: Oh, I agree. I agree with Tom completely. He's had nothing more important to deal with than this.
However, you are talking about one aspect of this, an aspect that is crucially important, but, frankly, ain't going to change a jot. He also has to deal with the regulators. He also has to deal with all of the families, the relatives, the arrangements, the search-and-rescue, the airline.
[18:20:02] All these other things have to be dealt with and -- and he needs to get it right. And, yes, maybe he misspoke in that investigation or in that press conference three days after, but he has to get it right.
BLITZER: All right.
FUENTES: He should have had his hands on that personnel file within a an hour of that crash.
BLITZER: All right. Let me bring Michael Goldfarb into this. Let's say the video, alleged video these two German and French
publications say they have actually -- let's say it's accurate. Should that video be shown to the public?
GOLDFARB: Oh, in my view, absolutely not. I know Miles has a slightly different view.
BLITZER: Tell me your view.
GOLDFARB: I think it's outrageous.
First of all, this is an investigation getting out of control. Do you think the investigators want to be spending their time both confirming the cockpit tapes or things? Think of the families and how they would feel if this got out. Sometimes, information needs to be publicly disclosed. If there's something in the plane that crashed or whatever, or if there was something that cut across all different airlines, you need to get that information out. But I think this is outrageous.
BLITZER: We did learn from Will Ripley, who is on the scene in Dusseldorf for us, Miles, that they have recovered other cell phones that were found amidst all of the wreckage. What do you think? If that video of the final seconds, people screaming, the horror, what was going on, the pilots trying to knock on that door, should we show that video if, in fact, we confirm it's authentic?
O'BRIEN: I don't think I even want to really watch it, Wolf. But here's the thing.
We have been talking for the past year about investigations that move at a glacial pace, MH370, AirAsia. We still haven't even seen the transcript of the cockpit voice recording there. These investigations move at a 19th century pace in a 24-hour news cycle world.
They need to speed up to match the demand for information. This is a rather ugly episode in the release of information. And I'm not a believer in checkbook journalism, nor can I afford it, frankly. But the fact is that the information needs to come out, people need to know, transparency is important. It's very difficult to draw the line between that desire, which I think we all agree on, and this rather kind of ugly episode, frankly.
BLITZER: Yes, Richard Quest, because the leaks, as you well know over the past week, they have really been amazing, the detailed information that has come out.
QUEST: They have. It's wrong. We need to know, of course, from which side the leaks have come, from the prosecutor's side or from the investigative side, the BEA side.
And I have to take issues with Miles again. Do forgive me. But Miles is doing the old journalistic two-step. It's got to come out sooner rather than later.
But where do you draw the line, Miles? This information is going to come out.
O'BRIEN: Richard, I kind of wish you would quit making apologies for CEOs and start thinking a little bit like a journalist here for just a moment.
There's nothing wrong with telling people what went on in that plane. It's important to people in the world to know. It's important for the aviation industry to know what happened.
QUEST: But you want the tail to wag the dog. You want the 24- hour news cycle to determine when that information is being given, not the correct -- because exactly what will happen, Miles, is what Tom Fuentes has criticized the CEO for.
You will rush out information that hasn't been verified, which then has to be corrected. And that's what happens if you rush it out before it has had a chance to be verified.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on a minute. I want Michael Goldfarb to button this up for us.
BLITZER: Hold on one second, Miles.
Michael, go ahead. Weigh in on this debate.
GOLDFARB: Well, I agree with Richard on this. I think that we have no knowledge that any of these leaks are in fact going to be validated.
We don't know -- the investigators, it's always a series of things. We know the pilot, what he did, from the tape. We haven't found the flight data recorder. This is hampering the investigation and there's no reason to believe that there won't be other views on this and then each day we will be responding.
BLITZER: These reports are amazing, going back over these past several days. I have covered a lot of these plane crashes. I don't think I have ever seen information come out as quickly like this over the past week.
Guys, stand by. We will have much more on the breaking news, the crash of Flight 9525, the new information coming out, this alleged video as well.
Also another breaking story we're following, the clock is now being reset. Now that a deadline has passed on U.S. nuclear talks with Iran, will another 24 hours make or break the deal? I will ask the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce. There he is. He's standing by live to join us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[18:29:05] BLITZER: There's more breaking news tonight.
U.S. officials say nuclear talks with Iran are being extended an extra day now that a deadline has passed only a few moments ago. CNN has learned that the French delegation is threatening, though, to walk out and walk out soon. Stand by for much more on that.
Let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, though. He's got the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this latest extension just a few hours just today, but keep in mind, it's just the latest of several extensions.
We have to look back a year-and-a-half ago, to when the first interim deal was signed. That one went to July of 2014, last year. The talks were extended to November of last year in Vienna. I was there. They extended them again to March of this year, just a political framework agreement, a general agreement. The real deadline, of course, is on June 30, when you need a final deal.
But the trouble is, some of the most contentious issues still have yet to be decided.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Negotiators worked within hours of the deadline but, again, disappointment. No agreement and one more one- day extension.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Our negotiators have determined, over the context of a mostly sleepless night last night and long negotiations over the course of the day in Europe today, that they're going to continue these conversations tomorrow.
SCIUTTO: The sticking points remain the same. The pace of lifting economic sanctions on Iran, how much nuclear research and development Iran will be able to maintain, and the question of whether Iran will ship its stockpiled enriched uranium out of the country for reprocessing into a safer form.
Even if those issues are resolved to the west's satisfaction, however, the deal's opponents argue an agreement would leave Iran closer to a nuclear weapon.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The deal being formed will most likely leave Iran with underground facilities, a nuclear reactor and advanced centrifuges.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials say any agreement will involve heavy monitoring.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like any agreement, it can't be based on trust. It has to be based on verification. There is a good agreement to have. Obviously, it's worth waiting for and completing the negotiations.
SCIUTTO: But it now seems clear that the sides, at best, are working now toward a general statement of principles, leaving the most contentious issues for another deadline, June 30, when a final agreement is due.
LEONARD SPECTOR, CENTER FOR NONPROLIFERATION STUDIES: It sounds as if progress is being made, and I'd say the way the interim agreement has been followed on both sides. It gives you some confidence that the two sides can trust each other and that they'll find a work out before it's all over.
SCIUTTO: The reaction from Capitol Hill to this latest delay is skeptical at best. Reached out to the Senate intelligence chairman Richard Burr. This is what he had to say. The potential concessions in the deal are deeply concerning to me, especially on critical issues that would endanger the safety of America and its allies. And furthermore, negotiators can't even decide on what to call this arrangement.
No deal is better than a bad deal. You'll see that often. You can't come to a decent agreement. We need to walk away and postpone these talks. That's really one of the issues there. They cannot agree what they will actually be agreeing to tomorrow, how they described it. Apparently, there will be a statement but nothing hard on paper that the Iranians have agreed to. The Iranians waiting for that June 30 deadline. You really have something like a memorandum of understanding tomorrow, which is not binding with a lot of the most contentious issues. For instance, the lifting the sanctions, the pacing of the lifting of the sanctions, left undecided.
BLITZER: They're not going to be able to declare victory tomorrow?
SCIUTTO: Far from it.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Sciutto, reporting for us. Thanks very much.
Let's get an update now from the site of the negotiations in Switzerland and a new pressure tactic by France. Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is joining us from Lausanne, Switzerland, right now.
I take it it's now, what, after midnight. The negotiations, the talks are still continuing at this late hour. Is that right, Elise?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're not meeting as a group anymore, Wolf. Some individual delegations are meeting among each other, consulting the capitals. But there's a lot of brinkmanship going on here tonight.
The French foreign minister threatened, said he was leaving, returning to Paris first thing in the morning, just hours from now. A little bit of a pressure tactic. The brinksmanship, trying to put the pressure on the Iranians. There's been a lot of frustration from many delegations here that Iran will not budge. They have said they've made progress, but on those key issues, Iran is really not moving -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Elise, we're going to get back to you. If there's a break through, you let us know. Any moment now, I suspect there won't be for a while.
In the meantime, let's bring in the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us. What's your reaction to the fact that they say progress is being made, but they need more time? Big deal or little deal?
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think the administration is not at the point that they thought they would be at here, because these four major issues of dissension. They expected an agreement with Iran on these and then thought that they would be extending the technical issues.
Instead, on all four of these issues, the Iranians are pushing back and, as a matter of fact, it looks like we're actually losing some ground. For a while it seemed as if the question of what would be done with the enriched uranium might be one that would be decided by taking that enriched uranium and having it refined in another country, in Russia, for example, so that we wouldn't have to worry about the stockpile being in Iranian hands.
And, likewise, we had a question about the extent of the enrichment. Now they've got a new supersonic centrifuge which is six times faster that they developed in the middle of this negotiation without us finding out.
So these are very concerning issues, especially to the French, who want the IAEA inspectors to have the right to inspect anywhere any time.
BLITZER: The president's critics are now suggesting he seems to want a deal with Iran more than the Iranians want a deal. Do you believe that?
ROYCE: Well, I think we need, Wolf, as you know -- my feeling has been we need more leverage to get that deal out of Iran. And that's why I believe that the legislation that I and Elliott Engle had passed by a vote of 400 to 20 through the House and the administration was able to stymie that last night in the Senate.
I think that would have given the administration the additional leverage they needed to force the ayatollah to make these serious concessions in the nuclear program. But without that kind of leverage, I don't know that we end up at that point.
BLITZER: Stand by, Mr. Chairman, because we have more to discuss, including new indications the Saudis -- the Saudis may pursue some sort of nuclear weapon if they're not happy with what this deal has from Iran.
Stand by. More with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce of California. We're following the breaking news on nuclear talks with Iran being extended at least for another day.
Mr. Chairman, the defense secretary, Ash Carter, now says a military option will, in his words, remain on the table.
Here's the question. Do you support, if necessary, a pre-emptive military strike to take out -- take out Iran's nuclear facilities?
ROYCE: Well, that is the position that the president of the United States also has articulated. And I think it's one that the United States, that we all have supported as being on the table.
The question is, can we put the types of sanctions on Iran that would give them no choice but to make significant compromises and end their nuclear weapons program? If we can do that, we've got an alternative.
So I think it's important to point out there is this very real option of doing to the regime what we did to South Africa, which is put the sanctions on of the type that would really collapse the economy and say it's not being lifted until the inspectors can go in. That's the right answer.
BLITZER: Let me read to you from a story in today's "New York Times." With another major aid recipient, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia is also expected to step up its efforts to develop a nuclear bomb, potentially setting off an arms race in the region. That from David Kirkpatrick (ph), writing in "The New York Times." As you know, the Saudis, like the Israelis and Emiratis, a lot of others, are really worried about this potential deal.
Do you see the possibility if Saudi Arabia or Egypt or other countries in the region don't like this deal with Iran, they could start developing their own nuclear program?
ROYCE: Well, here's why it's so concerning. I and Elliott Engle had lunch with one of the gulf state ambassadors who shared with us, maybe your administration is willing to allow Iran to become a hegemon that in the Middle East but we can't afford to be.
Now, what does an as ambassador mean by "We can't afford to be"? Increasingly, we see references from Saudi Arabia, to UAE, Turkey, Egypt, we see these references that indicate that they're -- that they may be considering steps. And this is why we have to solve this problem of not allowing Iran to go forward.
Secondarily, Iran has now opened up a front in Yemen, where they have overthrown a pro-American government there, and Yemen is on the Saudi boundary, the border.
And the concern on the part of the Saudis is that Iran will also support this low-level insurgency among a Shia minority in Saudi Arabia to try to overthrow the government.
Recently, there was a comment by a senior Iranian official to the effect, "We control four Arab capitals today." He was referring to Yemen, Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad. And he was saying -- he was intimating that there would be additional capitals that would fall. And this is what had the Saudis so nervous.
BLITZER: I know they're very nervous. And when I interviewed Abdel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador here in Washington last week right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, he refused to rule out some sort of Saudi nuclear capability if, in fact, this deal -- they hate it, it finds them in danger.
Here's what also worries me, Mr. Chairman. I remember covering the White House during the Clinton administration when Bill Clinton reached the deal with North Korea to end its nuclear program, and he said this. Listen to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, all Americans should know that, as a result of this achievement on Korea, our nation will be safer, and the future of our people more secure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, for a variety of reasons, including North Korea cheating and working around that deal that was achieved at that time, we all know the end result, how that deal worked out. North Korea now has at least one, maybe several nuclear bombs.
Here's the question. Based on that, and you lived through that period, as well, you were a member of Congress. What's the lesson the U.S. should have learned?
ROYCE: I think we should have listened to the undersecretary of the treasury, Stuart Levey, who was looking at this problem and designed a program to put the type of sanctions on North Korea. And you'll recall for a while he did that, because he caught them counterfeiting $100 U.S. bills. So as treasury secretary, he went in, put the sanctions on, and the regime just came to a halt. The dictator couldn't pay his generals. The missile program came to a halt because they didn't have the hard currency to pay for it.
The State Department leaned in, this would have been during the Bush administration, and convinced treasury or overrode treasury and lifted those sanctions in return for promise of additional negotiations. But Levey's point was this -- let's shut down their economy and leave it shut down until they agree to allow the inspectors in anywhere, anytime to see if they are cheating.
And I think it goes back to that fundamental bottom line. You've got to be able to be prepared to do that and collapse the economic system.
Levey was right. We should have kept that on with North Korea, as an example to the Iranians. We didn't and now, the Iranians have stolen the playbook from North Korea, I believe.
BLITZER: All right. Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- thanks very much for joining us.
ROYCE: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We have more of the breaking news of the crash of Flight 9525. There's new information coming in. Stand by for that.
Also, protesters are keeping the pressure up tonight on the governor of Indiana. They are very skeptical about his new call to change a controversial law to fix it, in his words, to avoid anti-gay discrimination. And a similar uproar is unfolding right now in a second state.
[18:51:12] BLITZER: We continue following the investigation of the crash of Flight 9525. Indiana's new law on religious freedom has sparked growing fury across the country and street protests at home. It's another important story we're following. Critics say it allows businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers. And now, Indiana's governor who's staunchly defended the law is calling on legislator to do something about it.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us now from Indianapolis with much more. What's the latest there, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is we have a little breaking news on how they're going to fix that bill. Republicans here are saying that the speaker of the House is now meeting with people across the state, stakeholders from businesses to sports teams, trying to figure out how to fix it. This as that bill has caused controversy across this state.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: It's been a tough week.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Indiana Governor Mike Pence today asked lawmakers to fix his state's new religious freedom law following a growing wave of outrage.
PENCE: The suggestion that we had in some way created a license to discriminate, was deeply offensive to me, deeply offensive to millions of Hoosiers, and we're going to correct it and move in regard.
MARQUEZ: "Fix this now", blared Tuesday's front page editorial in "The Indianapolis Star".
PROTESTERS: No hate in our state! No hate in our state!
MARQUEZ: As protests popped up across Indiana, in a chorus of companies and government officials moved to publicly distance themselves from the law and the state. Opponents said the law could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers if the owners thought their religious freedoms were being violated.
GOV. DANIEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: It's time for the people of Indiana to admit that this is an unbelievable embarrassment to their state.
MARQUEZ: Pence who signed the bill in private said the law had been misunderstood, but he also says he got the message.
PENCE: Indiana has come under the harsh glare of criticism from around the country. We want to make it clear that Indiana is open for business.
MARQUEZ: A stark turnaround from a combative interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week".
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that illegal now Indiana?
PENCE: George, this is -- this is where this debate has gone, with misinformation and frankly --
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's just a question, sir, yes or no?
PENCE: Well, there's been shameless rhetoric about my state.
MARQUEZ: Governor Pence says by the end of the week, he wants to see new legislation on his desk, but state Democratic leaders are pushing for a full repeal of the law, warning a fix is no longer enough.
SCOTT PELATH (D), INDIANA STATE HOUSE: The most clear, decisive and understandable thing that we can do is to repeal the statute and repeal it promptly.
MARQUEZ: Now, these religious freedom acts are picking up steam across the country. Arkansas which has gone back and forth on this has just approved them in their House and their Senate. Protests broke out there in the statehouse in Arkansas, it goes to the governor's desk next, and the governor there, Republican governor, says he will sign it.
As for Indiana, we can expect, say Republicans here, to say that new language, the fix here go to conference committee -- four members total, two Democrats, two Republicans, tomorrow or Thursday. Then, it will be on -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see how they fix it. All right. Thanks very much, Miguel Marquez.
And you're right. Governor Asa Hutchison of Arkansas said he will sign that legislation into law.
Let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, and our CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin.
Did the governor, Gloria, really have any choice but to say he's got to fix this, given the economic pressure there now going to come down to boycotts or whatever?
[18:55:02] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You were seeing a conflicted public official there. This is clearly a law that he supported, that he encouraged. He didn't anticipate the backlash against it.
He's a conservative, at one point, a potential presidential candidate and he's also a governor who stood to lose millions and millions and millions of dollars of revenues in his state.
So, what he's saying is said we're going to fix it, we're not going to get rid of it. But what he didn't tell us was exactly what they were going to do to fix it. He also stood there and didn't say there was nothing wrong with the law. He said that it had been mischaracterized, it had been smeared, that there was a perception problem.
So, the question is, how do you fix something you actually think is just being perceived badly?
You know, Sunny, the governor in addition to saying that it was mischaracterized, the law misperceived, he also says this law that was signed in Indiana was really no different than the federal law protecting religious freedom signed by then President Bill Clinton back in the '90s. Is he right on that?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, he's not right on it. It's certainly is very different in a couple of ways. First, it's sort of granting personhood to corporations. And so, now, corporations have the same religious protections that individuals do.
And I think the other thing the look at is when you look at the burden, instead of very -- there's a very low threshold in this new law, instead of substantially burden, the language is very curious. It's likely to be substantially burdened.
And I think also what's important, Wolf, is that you got to look at this in context. When you look at it in context, it was very clear that while this was being pushed forth on the floor, law makers voted not to have amendments that would have made it very clear that this law was not meant to discriminate. They intentionally didn't put those safeguards in that many of the other laws have. And since Indiana doesn't have anti-discrimination laws based on
sexual orientation, this law is certainly right to give license to discrimination on sexual orientation, and it's very different from the federal law and quite frankly the other states that have similar laws.
BLITZER: Very quickly, under this law, does it cut both ways? For example, if a gay florist in Indianapolis wouldn't want to provide services for a Christian evangelical wedding for whatever reason, would he be able to refuse under this law?
HOSTIN: You know, I think so. I think, certainly, it opens up the door to that kind of thing, because, one, it not only gives individuals rights, it also gives corporations religious rights and, quite frankly, there aren't a lot of safeguards. And it opens it up to lawsuits, the government doesn't even have to be a party to the suit, it can just be private individuals and that's very troubling.
BLITZER: Jeff, how does all of this play looking ahead to 2016?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It plays in this way. I mean, Republicans first have to win their primaries, so they're trying to appeal to social conservatives. And for all the talk of what's going on in Indiana, there are people that really believe that their religious liberty is under assault here. So, they are speaking out to these guys who are running for president.
But what's happening, there is a collision between the social conservatives and basically the Chamber of Commerce, the business wing of the party. So, that's what these candidates have to navigate. So far they have all come out in support, most of them have come out in support of Governor Pence and what's happening.
But the problem is, once it reaches the general election, will they have gone too far or not?
The issue with same-sex marriage is basically a settled debate. We're on the way to becoming a settled debate. But the issue of religious liberty is going to be a central part of this Republican primary election.
BORGER: It's kind of a new it's the new wedge issue, but it's dividing Republicans. And as they run in one direction know, the question is, how do they -- what direction do they want to in the general? You know, Jeb Bush loves to say that you don't have to win every primary to win the general, but you do have to win some primaries.
ZELENY: That's why he was one of the first yesterday supporting Governor Pence.
BORGER: He was. And this was also a law in the state of Florida, although it's a different kind of law. There are more protections built into the law in Florida, but we're going to have to see this play out because this is going to be an issue that's going to divide Republicans in the end. BLITZER: We've got to see what the governor does in the next day
or two. The NCAA basketball, the Final Four is supposed to be in Indianapolis this weekend. And there's a lot of --
BORGER: NASCAR came out against it.
All right, guys, thanks very much. Sunny, thanks to you as well.
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