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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz; ISIS Attack; Top Al Qaeda Leader Killed: Sex Party Scandal; Rand Paul's Secret Weapon. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired April 14, 2015 - 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: Lurid new details about federal drug enforcement agents repeatedly hooking up with prostitutes with American taxpayers' money, and the drug cartels also footing the bill. Why hasn't anyone been fired?
Al Qaeda killed. The terror group revealed that a top leader who was once a prisoner of the U.S. has been taken out in an airstrike. What does it say about al Qaeda's power right now?
ISIS attack. Fierce battles are under way in a major oil refinery. Are Iraqi forces strong enough to fight back?
And dash cam drama, astounding new video of a police car ramming into a suspect. Did it actually save the man's life? Stand by to see the stunning moment of impact.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Breaking now, a new bipartisan vote to give Congress a say over any nuclear agreement with Iran. The White House says President Obama would likely sign the compromise that just cleared a Senate committee. But there is still enormous doubt about whether Iran's leaders will ever seal the nuclear deal.
Also breaking, the head of the federal drug enforcement agency grilled about wild sex parties. Lawmakers are demanding to know why no DEA agents were fired for allegedly hooking up with prostitutes who were paid, paid by international drug dealers. The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Jason Chaffetz, there you see him. He is here with us. He held that fiery hearing today. Also, our correspondents and analysts, they're standing by as we cover all the news breaking right now.
First, let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
He has the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the president is not particularly thrilled with the legislation, but indicated he will sign it. In fact, he won't have much choice, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting 19-0 to approve the compromise bill struck between Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and the ranking Democrat, Ben Cardin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: More fully than ever, I believe Congress should play a role in ensuring that all the details that need to be in place are there.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I think this is the right way for Congress to be -- to take up this issue. I think this is congressional prerogative. And we're the ones who imposed the sanctions. We're the ones who are going to have to take it up for permanent changes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Some changes in this compromise. Under it, the original 60-day review period of the Iran deal cut to 30 days, plus a further 22 days to allow time for a possible veto, and a provision requiring the president to certify every 90 days that Iran is no longer backing terrorism against Americans, either here on the homeland or overseas, watered down just to periodic reports on Iran's terror and missile-related activities.
Now, this is likely to go to the full Senate later this month, where it appears to have the support of a veto-proof majority. I will tell you, Wolf, Iran watching Capitol Hill closely as well. I was in touch with a senior Iranian diplomat after the Senate vote.
He reacted with these strong words. "We only deal with the administration and expect it to deliver by any method it deems appropriate."
So, in effect, the Iranian side in these still difficult negotiations that still have a couple of months to go, a lot of issues to get through, saying they're going to hold the president to his word on these talks.
BLITZER: And even without a deal, they still have two-and-a-half months to negotiate. What, Russia is now going ahead with a new agreement to deliver surface-to-air missiles to Iran. How does this complicate the situation?
SCIUTTO: It complicates it in a number of different ways. One, if the talks fall apart and the possibility of military action comes on the table, these new missiles are designed to hit low-flying aircraft and missiles. That's exactly the method that either the U.S. or Israel might use to strike Iranian nuclear sites if that decision was made.
I'm told that U.S. aircraft have the technology to get around these missiles. It would be more of an effect on Israeli aircraft, which is a possibility if Israel decides to strike and the U.S. does not. But it also has implications for NATO, because these missiles could defend Iranian medium- and long-range missile sites that could strike Europe. That's a big deal for NATO. This is another complication here.
You have got Iran, party to these nuclear talks, in effect, on the West side. On the other side, you have all this tension between Russia and NATO. And this missile sale could very much affect that.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for that report.
Now we have some lurid new details about federal drug enforcement agents accused of spending your tax dollars on sex parties, hooking up with prostitutes who were paid with drug money as well. A House committee held an explosive hearing today, scolding the DEA chief and demanding to know why no one, yes, no one has been fired.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's got details -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It was a very fiery hearing, Wolf.
Today, members of Congress ripped into the DEA chief for not doing more after humiliating allegations surfaced in a recent inspector general report, including revelations of more than a dozen sex parties sponsored by drug cartels, according to one Congress member.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: It's embarrassing that we have to talk about in.
BROWN (voice-over): The Drug Enforcement Administration's chief under fire, Michele Leonhart's agents accused of working with the international drug dealers they're supposed to be going after to get hooked up with prostitutes.
REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You're protecting the people who solicited prostitutes who have 15 to 20 sex parties, went through this whole operation, used taxpayer money to do it, and I believe compromised the national security.
BROWN: Stunning revelations in an inspector general report saying police in an unidentified foreign country claim they arranged sex parties for DEA agents, including senior supervisors at the agents' U.S.-paid apartments. Three agents were also given money, expensive gifts and weapons from drug cartel members, according to the report.
CHAFFETZ: A DEA agent in Bogota was accused of physically assaulting a prostitute over a payment dispute. A security guard witnessed this agent throwing a glass and hitting the woman. And you know what the punishment for this person was? Fourteen days unpaid leave. Go on vacation for two weeks. MICHELE LEONHART, DEA ADMINISTRATOR: I'm very disappointed in
CHAFFETZ: You're the administrator. It's an embarrassment that you don't fire that person. It's an embarrassment that you don't revoke his security clearance.
BROWN: And none of the DEA agents was fired, something a noticeably uncomfortable Leonhart struggled to explain.
LEONHART: I'm not in the disciplinary process. I am very disappointed.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You have to work with agents over whom you can't discipline and have no control, and you have no control over the security clearance. What the hell do you get to do?
BROWN: Congress members also raised questions today about whether the DEA needs a new leader -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that report, Pamela Brown reporting for us.
Joining us now is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, joining us from Capitol Hill, beautiful Statuary Hall right there.
Congressman, what is going on here? Why hasn't the DEA fired anyone?
CHAFFETZ: They have a deep cultural problem. We did not buy the idea that the DEA administrator has done enough.
She has been either the deputy or the acting or the actual administrator of the DEA for more than a decade now. And we still continue to have these problems. It's happened lots of times. Nobody was fired, which I have a fundamental problem with. But they didn't even lose their security clearances.
I mean, these people went on either to -- between two and 14 days of paid leave. That sounds more like a vacation, rather than a severe consequence for sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.
BLITZER: Why wouldn't they lose their security clearance at least in the short-term after something like this?
CHAFFETZ: We went after it for more than three-and-a-half-hours, and I don't think she ever satisfied the committee or gave us answers that meet any sort of standard of decency.
I mean, these are sexual assaults. At one point, you had a DEA agent throwing a glass at a woman that was there as a prostitute. And they were arguing over the money that was -- that they were supposed to have paid. And that is witnessed by a security person. And the person gets 14 days unpaid leave. It's just unbelievable. But it's happened time and again. And they haven't dealt with it.
BLITZER: Basically, from what I heard, she was suggesting that there was no regulation there that will allow her, forget about firing someone, even to take some punitive measures. She didn't have that authority. Is that what you heard as well?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we may need to have some changes to the law. I think she made a good point of that. And members pointed that out. But how could she not lose her security clearance?
Even the attorney general, Eric Holder, on Friday had to go out and send another e-mail out to all of the Department of Justice saying, you cannot engage in prosecution, even if it's legal. But you have compromises in terms of physical security. You have guns. You have weapons. You have computers. You have contact with foreign nationals.
And for her to say, well, we got to just let a board look at that, that's not good enough, Wolf. You have got to fire these people.
BLITZER: There seems to be a culture, a problem there, because the report also said these parties happened as early as 2001. That was during President Bush's administration. You heard that as well, right?
CHAFFETZ: Yes. It happened over a couple of different presidents. The problem is, the administrator has been in that position for more than a decade, and it's not changing.
Only after Cartagena did somebody get fired. But we had an incident that happened in the 2009-2010 time frame. And, again, the guy got 14 days unpaid leave. And it's embarrassing. It's a national security consequence. There are great ramifications to national security here.
And who wants to serve with these people who make those kind of judgments? They're still working at the DEA.
BLITZER: Should the DEA administrator be fired?
CHAFFETZ: I believe we have -- I have come to that conclusion that I have, A, no confidence in her, and that if this administration truly wants to hold people accountable, they're going to have to fire her, or she is going to have to step down.
They have not changed that culture in more than a decade. There has been this promiscuity that has been tolerated. These were poor judgments, as they were labeled, as opposed to serious sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. And I'm to the point where I think she should be fired or she should resign. I don't have the confidence in her. And I don't think the committee does as a whole either. BLITZER: Congressman, I want you stand by because we have more
to discuss, other critically important issues out there on the agenda right now.
Much more with Jason Chaffetz right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He is the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Congressman, right now, there is this unanimously approved bipartisan compromise in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would in fact give Congress some serious oversight of any final nuclear deal that might be worked out with Iran. What do you think about that?
CHAFFETZ: Well, the fact that it was unanimous says a lot about the strength on both sides of the aisle. I have serious concerns about such an agreement, but I do agree that Congress ought to have a role in it. The people, particularly the Senate, should have an opportunity to review this. It's a good sign.
BLITZER: The president, the White House now says they're willing to go along and not veto this legislation. Do you think they blinked?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I'm concerned more about results.
And, you know, there was a lot of blustering there from the White House. But the fact that they came up with the unanimous conclusion to this says a lot for Senator Corker and his leadership in moving this through.
BLITZER: At the same time, we're getting word that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has now authorized the delivery of missiles to Iran, even before there is a deal, even before sanctions are supposed to be removed. What do you make of that?
CHAFFETZ: I think Putin is still on the move. I'm worried about what he is posturing to do in Ukraine. I'm worried what -- about his proximity to Iran and what he is doing there.
I think President Obama lacks credibility on the world stage, particularly in the Middle East. We have failed on many fronts there. I don't think our friends believe us. And I don't think our enemies fear us. And that's a problem.
BLITZER: Certainly is.
The U.S., the White House today announced that the U.S. is about to provide another $200 million in what is being described as humanitarian aid to Iraq, Iraq being an oil-rich country. It has very close ties with Iran right now. Are you going to vote in favor of that $200 million expenditure to provide that kind of humanitarian aid to Iraq?
CHAFFETZ: It's increasingly difficult to do so, unless you know what the results are. We have poured literally hundreds of billions of dollars into Iraq and Afghanistan, into the Middle East, but what kind of results? I mean, how many times does the American taxpayer have to fund this, and to what end? And where is that money going?
And when you talk to the special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction, the SIGAR, and the -- and SIGIR and the SIGAR and the inspectors, we have less oversight and less accountability. And it's a problem, not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Yes, that inspector general for Afghanistan says literally tens of billions of dollars in U.S. aid can't even be accounted for. They don't know where it is. If you read that report that just came out last week, it's pretty depressing, I must say.
But getting back to Iraq right now, the U.S. also wants to provide some sophisticated military equipment, more of it, to Iraq, to the Iraqi military, even though the Iraqi military abandoned armored personnel carriers, tanks, where they simply walked away, dropped their weapons at Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq in the face of that ISIS onslaught.
Do you have confidence that any additional military equipment provided to the Iraqi military won't wind up in the hands of ISIS or other terror groups?
CHAFFETZ: Well, that's the concern is that it does end up in the hands of these nefarious actors that do want to harm the United States, Iraq in particular.
I want to know what kind of oversight. What sort of U.S. military presence and training do we have there? We can't just keep sending them money and assets, because a lot of that comes back to haunt us. And I'm not convinced, the administration has not made the case that this is what has to happen.
BLITZER: The president today said he is submitting to Congress a request to rescind Cuba's listing as a state sponsor of terror as part of the normalization process with Cuba. Will you support that?
CHAFFETZ: Look, I supported the president on lifting the travel ban. I think it was a freedom issue. I think Americans should have the right to travel anywhere in the world that they want, including Cuba. So I was very supportive of the president on that.
But I think the president does have a burden to come to Congress and articulate to the American people why a month ago they were on the state sponsor of terrorism, now they're not. Some latte with Raul Castro there in Panama is not necessarily enough.
I worry about what Cuba is doing with the FARC, what they're doing with Venezuela, what they're doing to sponsor terrorism around the world. And if something has changed, then show us the intelligence reports, because I want to normalize things, but, you know, one step at a time.
BLITZER: As you know, three Republican senators now, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, they all have officially announced they're running for Republican presidential nomination. Now, are you ready to endorse anyone?
CHAFFETZ: Not yet. We have got a lot of good candidates. I got to tell you, Marco Rubio is a very exciting candidate. I'm thrilled that he is running in the race. There is a lot to like about him. But I have not yet endorsed, and maybe on your show, but not today, Wolf.
BLITZER: But, yes, clearly, you like Marco Rubio?
CHAFFETZ: Oh, yes. He is a good man. He is inspirational. I believe in him personally. He is a great communicator. He inspires a lot of people.
And the election is about tomorrow. It's not about yesterday. And I think Hillary Clinton is going to have a hard time convincing people that after 20 years behind the shield of the Secret Service that she represents the everyday mom and pop out there. I think Marco Rubio has a much better story to tell than Hillary Clinton, that's for sure.
BLITZER: That may not be an endorsement. It sounds like a little bit of an endorsement. I have got to say that.
Jason Chaffetz, thanks very much for joining us.
CHAFFETZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead: ISIS says it's gaining ground in a pitched battle for control of a major oil refinery. Should the U.S. help the Iraqis fight back?
And why are police actually praising an officer for ramming his car into a suspect? Stand by. We have the shocking moment of impact, the video. The dash cam video is coming up.
BLITZER: Dramatic new video from ISIS allegedly showing terrorist forces inside Iraq's largest oil refinery. ISIS claims to control most of the facility that's about 140 miles north of Baghdad. Hundreds of Iraqi troops are being deployed to try to retake the refinery. CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of this ISIS video.
Let's dig deeper right now.
Joining, our CNN counterterrorism terrorist Philip Mudd. He's the author of the brand-new book "The Head Game." Check it out. Also joining us, our intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer and CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.
What do you make, Philip Mudd, of this ISIS claim that they're going after this major oil refinery? Iraq is an OPEC member, a major exporter of oil. If they take over these oil refineries, that's a big deal.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It is. But you have got to look back when we were talking about this last summer, and we saw the ISIS onslaught through some Sunni province areas in Western/Northwestern Iraq.
What we have seen within the past months -- and the Pentagon is talking about it -- is ISIS has been pushed back, not in Syria, but in maybe 20, 25 percent of the area that they owned in Iraq. They're looking for places where they can have success. But overall the picture hasn't been great for them.
BLITZER: Do you think the U.S. should be providing more Apaches, armored personnel carriers, tanks, other sophisticated equipment to this Iraqi military that simply abandoned a lot of this stuff when they abandoned it, they walked away from Mosul?
MUDD: I think we ought to be cautious here, trust but verify. If we give them this equipment, especially going into major offensives they're planning through the spring and summer, we ought to attach some metrics.
That is, once we give you the equipment, how much territory are you going to take, how are you going use the equipment? One question for you, Wolf. We're talking about adding capability to Iraq. The questions we will face in the coming months won't be about capability. They will be about will. Do the Iraqis want to proceed, not do they have the equipment to proceed?
BLITZER: When you see these ISIS guys driving around American Humvees and tanks, it's pretty nauseating when you see all the sacrifice the U.S. made over the years in Iraq.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, what do you make of this ISIS video, this release of this video? What does it signal to you? Because, clearly, they see it as propaganda.
BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm not sure it's propaganda. There is a lot of video clips of this, of burning oil storage tanks and the rest of it. It looks authentic to me.
What we're seeing in ISIS is a guerrilla army. They withdrew from Tikrit or didn't commit to it. Then they attacked Ramadi, two suburbs, took them, held them for a while. And then they turned their forces to Baiji, which is an important, as you said, refinery. And they can move. They're very mobile. And they're certainly not done with this war. And what it tells me more than that is the Iraqi army isn't
prepared to really move on Mosul or close this organization down. It could be a year or two.
BLITZER: Or longer.
Who knows. Peter Bergen, another major development today, an al Qaeda leader, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader in Yemen was supposedly targeted by a U.S. drone airstrike. This is a release put out by AQAP. This is a guy named Ibrahim al-Rubaish. He was a Gitmo detainee. the U.S. released him, what, back a few years ago, 2006, I believe.
What is going on over there?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the leadership of this group actually is made up of Guantanamo detainees. They were released from Guantanamo. They went to Saudi Arabia.
They went through a rehabilitation program that has some success, but obviously not perfect, because they then moved to Yemen and set up al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. But the fact is, it's interesting. Al Qaeda often will say, look, one of our leaders is dead. They're often the first to announce it. For them, this is a martyrdom.
But it does suggest that, despite the fact that the embassy has closed and U.S. special forces have got out of there, that the drone program is continuing to have some success in Yemen.
BLITZER: They're still -- clearly, the Obama administration wants to continue to target terrorists in Yemen, even though, as Peter says, there are no more U.S. troops in Yemen, no more U.S. Embassy in Yemen.
[18:30:07] MUDD: But remember, there are some places around the world where we've been extremely effective with standoff weapons. That is drones when we don't have a significant presence. Think the travel areas of Pakistan near Afghanistan. Think Somalia. Two places we don't have embassies. Two places we don't have forces in place. And I think drones have been devastating in eliminating terror leadership in both places.
BLITZER: And it's going to presumably continue. What do you think, Bob?
BAER: Well, the problem is these guys regenerate, just like they did in Somalia, just like the Islamic state does and the rest of them. This organization goes a lot deeper than the leadership. And to really take it on, you have to do it militarily on the ground and take over what territory they hold.
And now that Yemen -- there is no state of Yemen, what I'm afraid of is this -- al Qaeda will really take roots and own territory and become more of a menace, and even a menace to Saudi Arabia.
BLITZER: Yes. These are really worrisome developments. Bob Baer, Peter Bergen, Philip Mudd. Guys, thanks very much.
And this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We have amazing dash cam video of a police car running into a suspect. And get this: it may have saved the man's life. CNN's Brian Todd is here to show us this new video. We need to warn our viewers it's disturbing, isn't it, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed it is, Wolf. This is the suspect in question. His name is Mario Valencia. This is some incredible dash cam video just released from the Marana, Arizona, Police Department. That is near Tucson.
This information comes to us from affiliate KOLD. That station says police were following an armed suspect on foot. This is back on February 19, we should say. This is a man named Mario Valencia, who police say had stolen a rifle from a Walmart and fired a shot as he was walking.
We pick it up as an officer in one police cruiser is slowly following this suspect, giving information to his dispatchers. Then you see another cruiser speed around that officer and barrel into this man. We have to warn viewers, as Wolf mentioned, this video is graphic and could be disturbing to some.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One round just went out into the sky. It's definitely unlocked now. He's definitely loaded. All units, be prepared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10-4. Is the subject shooting or did you shoot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative, I did not shoot. Unit, standoff, standoff. The gun is loaded. Unit on -- stay off. Oh! Jesus Christ, man down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: That suspect survived that hit. Now according to KOLD, the police chief says the officer who rammed him probably saved his life, that he'd already been intercepted and pointed the rifle at his own head, threatening suicide. That is, of course, the police account. We'll need to hear other accounts as we move along in the story.
Now we pick up the scene from the dash camera of the squad car which actually struck Mario Valencia. Again, a warning to viewers of the graphic nature of this video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The unit right there, do stand off, stand off. The gun is loaded. Unit on Portero (ph) Drive, stay off. Christ. Man down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The officer who struck the suspect is identified by KOLD as Marana Police Officer Michael Rapiejko.
Police do claim that the suspect, Mario Valencia, had been sought in a string of incidents in the Tucson and Marana area, that he was a suspect in those incidents, some robberies, some home invasions and another theft of a convenience store, Wolf. They'd been tracking him for much of that morning.
BLITZER: So the fear was he was going to kill himself. So that's why they rammed him. So he's alive right now. He survived being rammed by that police vehicle. What kind of condition, though, is he in?
TODD: I'm not quite sure what the condition is, Wolf. According to KOLD, after he was rammed, he stayed in the hospital for a couple of days. Then he was booked and sent to jail.
And again, these are versions we're hearing from the police, as far as them saving his life. We'll need to hear from his attorney. We're reaching out, of course. We're trying to get some of this information to get this man's perspective on what happened that morning.
And again, we have to reiterate, this happened on February 19. This video just being released now.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much. Very disturbing video indeed. We're going to have much more on this dramatic dash cam video. That's coming up.
Also, other news. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[18:39:09] BLITZER: It's the first official event of her second presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton holding a roundtable conversation at a community college in Monticello, Iowa, a town of just under 3,800 people.
Let's get some more on what's going on. Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is with us. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; and our CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Gloria, this is the first official event. It sort of reminds me of what she did in 2000 when she ran for the Senate in New York state. Go on a listening tour, bringing together some folks to listen to some of their problems.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: She was listening. She sort of gave her biography at the outset, telling everybody who she is. And by the way, she was secretary of state.
You know, I think Hillary Clinton is in a position where she's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. She's the most famous woman in America. Yet, she has to let voters in Iowa know that she understands their everyday problems, and she gets them. And you know, I think at a certain point, you have an authenticity problem here, because she isn't like everyone else. She is a former secretary of state.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you think of her taking the notes, Jeff? Was it great?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's very typical of her. Her aides will say she takes very, very, very detailed notes.
You're right. She can't win in this necessarily. But we're all probably a little more cynical about this than people in Iowa and New Hampshire will be when they're seeing the local news coverage of this. It's a really good roll-out from her on the ground in that perspective. And that's what the most important thing.
BLITZER: And Dana, you're just back from Miami. You were there when Marco Rubio launched his campaign. A very different launching than Hillary Clinton's launching of her campaign. She did it in about a two-and-a-half, three-minute video, and then she took this little road trip from New York out to Iowa.
He says she is really a candidate of yesterday. That's a big theme he has. What did you make of that?
BASH: It's a big theme. You know, I was thinking as I was listening, too, because I was in the room last night. You remember when Ronald Reagan tried to sort of take his own age off the table by saying, "I'm not going to make my opponent's youth and inexperience an issue"?
He took that and did the reverse. Tried to make his youth a plus, a positive at a time when, you know -- I know we've been talking about it -- but at a time when Barack Obama's youth and his inexperience has become an issue for Republicans over the past seven years, saying part of the problem with the things that have gone wrong is that he didn't have enough experience, particularly in an executive position.
And Marco Rubio has been in a legislative position for many, many years, not just in the Senate recently, but he was the speaker of the state house in Florida. And before that even on a city level. He also doesn't have executive experience. So as much as he wants to talk about the hope-and-change-y thing, he still doesn't have that experience.
BLITZER: He is 43 years old, Marco Rubio. Hillary is 67. But Jeb Bush is 63. So is this the sort of way that he can go after his Republican rival who at one point was his mentor?
BORGER: It's a different way of saying change. It's sort of saying, you know, don't reach back a generation. This is a time for change. Only he doesn't want to use the Barack Obama line. So he's not going to use it. But people want experience. Not in Congress. They hate
Congress. They think legislative experience is useless, particularly Republicans by the three to one margin say executive, as you were talking about. That bodes well for governors, not for senators.
BLITZER: Chris Christie. What's he up to now? We haven't heard a lot about him lately. But all of the sudden he's showing up in what, New Hampshire?
ZELENY: He is in New Hampshire. He's in New Hampshire today. You're right. We haven't heard a lot about him. That has frustrated his advisers, that he kind of has been left out of this conversation.
But it's far, far, far too early to rule him out of this race overall. He was in New Hampshire today. He had a -- was meeting people, some retail stops, had a speech. He'll be there for the next several days, actually. So he is still in this race.
What is hanging over him are possible indictments in this Bridge- gate scandal. They could come perhaps next week, we're told, possibly. But his advisers still say that they're looking for an early summer announcement. So don't rule him out yet. But he has been left out of this conversation.
BASH: That hasn't -- hasn't necessarily been the worst thing in the world, because in part of the conversation at this point is all the baggage that he has, what you were just talking about. And it is very, very early.
They're hoping inside Christie world that he kind of has the McCain moment. Remember John McCain back in 2007, he was the guy who everybody thought was going to make it. Then he failed miserably, and then he came back up. They're hoping that he's going to follow that pattern.
BORGER: The question I have is his message. His message is about cutting entitlements and cutting spending. And no Republicans are talking about that now, because guess what? The deficit has actually decreased over the past couple of years. So it's not as hot an issue, you know, cutting Medicare, Social Security. But it's something he feels strongly about. And I don't know how that's going to resonate on the trail.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Rand Paul for a moment. I know, Dana, you had a chance to meet with one of his principle, shall we say, advisers?
BASH: Principle advisers, certainly, for the past couple of years in the background. But this is somebody -- and we're talking about his wife, Kelley Paul, who people said to me, Democrats and Republicans, you've got to go meet her. She is somebody who you wouldn't suspect would be married to Rand Paul. And here's why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY PAUL, RAND PAUL'S WIFE: Hi, Dana. BASH: Hi there. How are you?
K. PAUL: Come on in.
BASH (voice-over): Even Democrats who know her say Rand Paul's wife Kelley just may be his secret weapon. That's because in many ways, she is everything he is not: stylish, warm, open, and gracious about the woman her husband loves to attack.
K. PAUL: I think Hillary is a very strong woman. I mean, there are a lot of things that I admire about her, obviously. She's hardworking. And she refuses to let other people define her. She's weathered her share of things in politics.
BASH: If Rand Paul is elected president, Kelly Paul will follow in Hillary Clinton's footsteps as first lady. Already she is quietly involved in her husband's political career, giving him advice on speeches and critiquing his performances, and she is keenly aware of his mistakes.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Kelly -- Kelly...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry, go ahead. I'm sorry, go ahead.
R. PAUL: Calm down a bit here, Kelly.
BASH: Did you go, "Oh, don't shush a woman"?
K. PAUL: You know, I think that day, I didn't see that until later. At that point, I didn't need to tell him that. He was like, yes, it wasn't my best. He didn't need me to pile on.
BASH (voice-over): Paul has worked as a writer and did get a bit of political experience at the marketing firm in 2012. Then-Senate candidate Ted Cruz was a client.
(on camera): What do you think about Ted Cruz as the next president of the United States?
K. PAUL: I think I can think of someone that would be better.
BASH (voice-over): But she is no political animal, was not keen on his first run for political office, the Senate, five years ago, and was very reluctant for him to run for president.
K. PAUL: I do have trepidation. He wouldn't run if I didn't want him to. But for that reason, I don't want to be the person that says, don't do it.
You know what I mean? For that very reason, I wouldn't want to quash his dreams, the things that he could accomplish just out of fear.
BASH: She says the more involved she is in his campaign, the less anxious she feels. That's why she was front and center at his announcement, and plans to stay very engaged. K. PAUL: I would be traveling some with him, helping with
speeches, working with our media team. I'd be doing it all. Sometimes life hands you things that are unexpected, and you don't really at first thing you're going to enjoy it. And then you realize it's good to have a new challenge.
BASH: To get through it, Kelley has her own secret weapons -- her girlfriends, seven women close since college, a bond she writes about in her new book, "True and Constant Friends."
K. PAUL: I have certain friends that I call to make me laugh and look at the absurd side of all of this. I have friends that I will call if I need to cry and say, oh, my gosh, you know, I can't stand this life.
This one is the Truckee River.
BASH: They're now spread across the country, but get together once a year.
K. PAUL: I think it's such a wonderful thing to make friends with someone at 17 or 18 and still be friends at 51, because you truly have seen each other through all the stages of our lives.
BASH: She has seen her husband change too since they got together 25 years ago.
K. PAUL: That was before the transformation.
BASH: When they first met, his name was Randy, yes, Randy Paul. She changed it to Rand.
K. PAUL: I remember thinking, your name just does not fit you. You don't seem like a Randy. And I started calling him Rand. And he liked it.
BASH: Do you feel like you pull him out of a shell a little bit?
K. PAUL: Perhaps. I feel I'm a little more of a social person. People that know Rand well know he is. But I don't think he has a natural political personality. He is not extremely outgoing.
BASH: For all the influence Kelley Paul has over her husband, there is an area she surrendered, his famous mock turtlenecks.
K. PAUL: The truth is I've always been anti. But like so many things, you have to let him be who he is. By now, it's kind of a good thing now. He is so known for that. They're kind of hard to find. I walked into Target, and there were like ten of them. And I bought every one that they had at Target.
BASH (on camera): Really?
K. PAUL: Yes.
BASH: This is one of your pick your battle moments. K. PAUL: Yes, that and cutting his own hair. Those are sort of
BASH: He cuts his own hair?
K. PAUL: Yes.
BASH: Are you kidding me?
K. PAUL: He just sort of stands in the mirror and does this.
K. PAUL: Um-hmm.
BASH: Wow. What about the back?
K. PAUL: It's not that he doesn't necessarily like to get his haircut. It's just he is impatient with things like that.
BASH (voice-over): Clearly, she has the patience in the family.
K. PAUL: So, you can put in a couple of cubes of this basil.
BASH (on camera): Just two?
K. PAUL: Yes, frozen basil.
BASH (voice-over): Teaching this non-cook one of her favorite recipes.
(on camera): My goal is to not burn your house down.
K. PAUL: Yes.
BASH (voice-over): This is the home of a libertarian. So, where else would she get recipes but a cookbook compiled from other libertarians.
(on camera): You can't make this up that Rand Paul has the libertarian cookbook. This is not a prop. This actually really is here.
K. PAUL: You can tell this is real. I couldn't create this 25 years worth of cooking stains.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very funny stuff. How did it taste? Did you eat the actual food there?
BASH: You know what? It actually took so long that we didn't get to eat it.
But funny enough, when I was down in Kentucky for Rand Paul's announcement, I bumped into some of her friends from the neighborhood who -- this is so Kentucky, I guess. It's a small state, with not very many people and they all know each other.
This woman said oh, I'm friends with Kelley Paul, and we ate your dinner that night, and it was very good. I said, good. I didn't get any.
BLITZER: I've met her. She is very, very lively. And I think she could be a terrific asset for his campaign if his campaign really gets going.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, in just watching Dana's great piece, she seems very comfortable in her own skin -- not at all nervous about being out on the campaign trail, kind of honest about her husband.
BLITZER: She said he is not a natural politician.
[18:50:00] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And the target line reminded me of someone else -- Michelle Obama. In 2007, she used to go around Iowa and say we still shop at Target. We know what it's like. So, she was very real.
BASH: Do you cut your own hair?
ZELENY: Only the front.
BASH: Not even the beard?
BLITZER: I do trim my own beard. But I have one of those little -- you know?
But you did an excellent piece. Very good work.
BASH: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks, guys, very much. We'll see what happens to Rand Paul, all of these candidates, the coming weeks and months. It's going to be a lively political season for all of us.
Stay with us. We have a lot more news coming up right after this.
[18:55:15] BLITZER: An environmental disaster of historic proportions, and the impact, the impact is still being felt today. Tonight, CNN looks at the oil spill that got more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico five years ago.
CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-
over): Barataria Bay, Louisiana, the marshes and the shores of these small islands were once covered in oil. Today, from our boat, we spot two dozen workers wearing face masks, shoveling, working on a stretch of beach. We pull up to take a look.
(on camera): How are you doing? Doing good. Drew Griffin with CNN. Nice to meet you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay away from the hazardous material. This is a clean-up site.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The hazardous material turned out to be BP's oil, a 90-foot-long, 30,000 pound tar mats. We had a small tar ball tested and it matched the oil from the spill.
(on camera): The fact is five years later, there is still soil, oil in big enough clumps that it needs to be dug up by a crew like this, digging down 30 inches, trying to take it and remove it.
GEOFF MORRELL, BP SPOKESMAN: The pockets of tar mat that still exist are in areas known to us but which were deemed by the federal government to be better to leave alone there and let them be naturally exposed to -- through erosion and then for us to clean them.
So as they appear, we are finding them and removing them. But none of them poses a threat to human or aquatic life.
GRIFFIN: And is this going to go on for years and years?
MORRELL: However long it goes on, the company is committed to cleaning up that which is exposed and that which is Macondo oil.
BLITZER: And Drew is joining us live.
Drew, BP makes it sound like the Gulf really is back to normal despite this huge spill, everything seems to be OK, if you hear what they're saying. But is that true?
GRIFFIN: You know, if you just go down and look at the Gulf, dive in the water, as we did, you're on the beaches, it really looks like the Gulf is back. Very resilient, bouncing back. Fish catches are back. The fish are clean. You can eat them. The oysters are coming back. You can eat them.
But for these tar mats that are showing up due to natural erosion along the way, the oil is pretty much gone. The mystery is, Wolf, what about all the oil that scientists believe is still at the bottom of the deep sea? And whether or not that is going to affect the food chain, the environment, in the years to come?
There's still so much science waiting to be told, but right now, it looks really, really good. BLITZER: One of the people that were so directly affected by
this, the people in the fishing industry, the oystermen, as you point out, what are they saying about how their lives have changed? I assume they have.
GRIFFIN: Their lives have changed, Wolf. Keep in mind that a lot of the change in their life has been emotional, which was surprising for me to see. But for these many years, five years now, they weren't convinced everything was going to be coming back. There was a lot of delayed investment in fishing industry. A lot of families left the business, fearing that the fish would not come back, or God forbid, there would be another accident that would basically wipe them out economically.
There still is a lot of fear, trepidation, worry about the future. But for right now, they have their fingers crossed and they're hoping indeed that even though this was a massive, massive spill, it's not a cataclysmic long term event.
BLITZER: So, they're not convinced by any means that it's over, that the recovery has occurred?
GRIFFIN: No. And the government trustees in charge of determining that, actually, came out with a rebuke against BP, which said that after five years it looks like everything is rebounding.
The government scientists basically said that was very premature, irresponsible, cherry picked studies. That's in our report tonight. You'll see that. But the studies that have been done or completed so far say, do say up until this point for these species that were drastically affected, there appears to be a natural rebound taking place.
BLITZER: It's really a terrific and excellent documentary that I highly recommend. Drew, thanks very much for doing it.
Please be sure to tune in later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern for our special report, "Blowout: The Gulf Oil Disaster", only seen right here on CNN.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.