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THE SITUATION ROOM
Pope Francis Arrived in the Unites States; Interview with Republican Presidential Candidate Senator Rand Paul; Trump Defends His Stance on Muslims. Aired 6-7:00p ET
Aired September 22, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Greeted on the tarmac by President Obama and vice president Biden. Huge crowds turning out to welcome the pontiff to Washington. Will his meeting at the White House stir some controversy?
Protecting the pontiff, a massive security operation now surrounding a man who thrives on personal contact. How can the U.S. protect a Pope with no fear of the massive crowds he draws? We will talk to a former member of the Swiss guard.
Trump threat. Donald Trump says he'll sue a conservative group unless it stops hearing attack ads against him. With Trumps still leading the GOP pack, will his rivals support him if he's the nominee? I'll ask one of them. Senator Rand Paul is here this hour.
And Putin's deployment. New satellite images show Russian fighter jets in Syria. Part of Vladimir Putin's major and troubling military buildup in that country. What's his ultimate plan? I'll ask a leading member of the Senate intelligence committee James Risch.
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: We're following the breaking news, Pope Francis arriving in the United States for the first time starting a historic visit that will take him to Washington, New York and Philadelphia. President Obama, vice president Biden and their families welcomed the pontiff at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington, D.C., a little while ago. From there, the Pope was driven in a small fiat to the Vatican's residence here in Washington where he'll be staying while he's in town.
We're also following the 2016 presidential campaign and Republican front-runner Donald Trump lashing out at news networks and threatening to sue a conservative group over attack ads. We're covering all of that. Much more with our guests including Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul and Republican senator James Risch. He's a leading member of the intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees.
We also have our correspondents standing by in key locations.
Let's go to our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. He begins our coverage this hour. He's in Joint Base Andrews in Maryland outside Washington. That's where the Pope's plane landed just a little while ago.
Jim, walk us through what has happened since the Pope arrived.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you, it was a remarkable moment to witness. The sense of anticipation here at Andrews before he arrived, the crowd here from children to the elderly, brimming with excitement. And then the moment that that plane touched down. You hear the cheers. And then you saw the luminaries come out one by one to greet him.
Of course, the president, first lady, their children, Malia and Sasha. And the vice president as well and Dr. Jill Biden, his wife and two grandchildren, to have the two of them together here greeting a world leader, we've never seen that before. Truly unprecedented.
Of course, behind the scenes thousands of security agents keeping this Pope safe here at Andrews and throughout his trip. But here you felt not the security, you felt that welcome in those cheers, in the songs, in the handshakes. And then when you look at this Pope, this is a Pope of gestures. He lands, of course, with an Alitalia plane from Rome. But then when he started in his motorcade, he didn't have a fancy SUV or a Cadillac limousine. He had an Italian made fiat 500, a simple car, part of his gesture of a simple Pope, one who always wants to reach out not to luminaries first and foremost but to average people.
That is really what he hopes to define this trip is less the big meetings, more the meetings with Americans of every stripe and, of course, the first one for him. And then after that motorcade took him to downtown D.C., spending the night tonight in the residence of the Vatican emissary to the U.S., the Vatican ambassador, which happens to be right across the street from the vice president's house.
And in another gesture from this Pope because this is the start of the Jewish holiday of (INAUDIBLE), we're told no public events tonight because of that, in respect of that. He is going to have a very quiet first night here in the U.S. even as we saw those cheers greeting him there at the Vatican ambassador's residence. He is going to be quiet tonight. But I'll tell you tomorrow he's going to start a busy few days in the U.S.
Unprecedented, Wolf, on so many levels. The greetings, the energy and an unprecedented Pope with a very different style from his predecessors.
BLITZER: Indeed. All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you.
Tomorrow there will be an official welcoming ceremony for the Pope over at the White House followed by a private meeting with President Obama.
Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us with more.
Jim, what can we expect the president and Pope to discuss tomorrow?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think they'll be talking about a lot of the areas of agreement that they have, but there may be some areas of disagreement. We've seen that before between the president and Pope Francis when they've met in Rome last year.
But no doubt about it, as Jim Sciutto was saying, this is one of the biggest symbolic moments of the Obama presidency that we witnessed today. The president, the first family, the nation's first catholic vice president Dr. Jill Biden all together greeting Pope Francis that made for a one of a kind welcome to the United States.
And day two of the Pope's visit will be a sight to behold. Fifteen thousand visitors are expected to cram on to the White House south lawn to witness the Pope's official welcoming ceremony. And after the president greets the Pope, the two leaders will speak to the world before holding that one on one meeting with only translators in the room. The vice president, the secretary of state, they'll be in a separate room meeting with Vatican officials. And this is all before Pope Francis addresses Congress Thursday with the vice president in attendance.
And even though the president and the Pope are allies on issues ranging from climate change to income inequality, the Cuba and even the Iran nuclear deal, the White House is exercising some Vatican-like secrecy in refusing to reveal what these two men will discuss. Perhaps that's because, frankly, Wolf, this Pope can be full of surprises. The White House knows this. After their last meeting, we asked the president in Rome whether any hot button social issues were raised like the contraception mandated in Obamacare. And the president responded that the pope unexpectedly brought up immigration reform.
And White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, I talk to her earlier today about this historic meeting that we will be seeing tomorrow. She said these two leaders may have more business to tackle in the president's final months in office. They're very simpatico on a lot of issues. You see them go after issues like climate change and income inequality. So a lot of people are waiting and anticipation as to what they might go after next, Wolf.
[18:06:48] BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.
The homeland security department has declared the papal visit a national security special event prompting unprecedented precautions. CNN's Brian Todd is over at the Basilica, the national shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the country's largest Catholic Church where the Pope will celebrate mass tomorrow.
Brian, what do we know about security surrounding Pope Francis?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a massive event, Wolf. The biggest security event we've seen in the United States in a long, long time, we're told. And this is a marquee venue. You mentioned this is the basilica of the shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This is where tomorrow afternoon, there will be canonization of Junipero Serra, a missionary from California, the first canonization ever on American soil.
And here is a snapshot of the massive security undertaking going on in Washington, D.C. You have bike rack fencing going up all over the place here at the Basilica and cap at the University over there. You have got taller fencing over here and all along the roadways, and a lot of restriction of movement. But what is security really like right up next to the Pope? Well, we've got a unique take on that from someone who guarded another Pope very closely.
TODD (voice-over): Unplanned moments like this one two years ago in Rio de Janeiro are trademark Pope Francis, telling his drivers not to avoid crowds. At one point after a wrong turn his silver fiat hash- back becomes caught in the swirl of well-wishers. Trademark Francis and a nightmare for those who protect him.
It has to be nerve-racking.
ANDRES WIDMER, FORMER SWISS GUARD: You use your body a lot.
TODD: In what way?
WIDMER: You basically get in between and you use your body to protect the Pope.
TODD: Andres Widmer was a member of the Elite Swiss guards, the men who protected the Holy Father for more than five centuries. He has lived the fear those around Pope Francis are feeling today. Widmer says Pope John Paul II who he guarded in the '80s was a lot like Pope Francis, often wanting to make unplanned forays into large crowds.
Security around John Paul tightened after a gunman tried to assassinate him in 1981, shooting him at least twice. Secret service and police say they've done their homework on this Pope's patterns and observed how the Swiss Guards have protected him.
WILLIAM BRATTON, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK POLICE: They watch very closely all of his appearances around the world. How he interacts with the crowds.
TODD: Widmer and former secret service agents tell us there will be layers of security in the crowds, agents blending in, watching for strange body language and facial gestures. The Pope-mobile they say is armored although much of it is open air leaving him exposed. So does the Pope wear a bulletproof vest?
DAVE WILKINSON, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: A high level protectee would not wear armor or any type of ballistic vest in an interior site but they would most likely wear it at an outside venue.
TODD: We asked Widmer as a guard can you tell a Pope who likes to go off script to hold back? WIDMER: No, you don't. And you try to work with the Pope and see
what he wants to do, and then adapt and provide the best security that there is. The security is not what leads the Pope. It's the Pope that leads the security. Again, the Pope is doing his ministry and that needs to be optimized and that's what the Pope is all about. His security can be optimized around his activities.
[18:10:00] TODD: So you don't ever tell the Pope, sir, you cannot do that?
TODD: So what is the most dangerous threat to a Pope? Well, Andreas Widmer says it is usually someone who is mentally ill approaching the Pope trying to enact some scenario in their mind. You have to, of course, protect the Pope. You have to protect everyone in the area but you also have to protect that assailant from him or herself, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, sometimes when a pope or a president for that matter makes an impromptu side venture into a crowd, it's not always the most dangerous situation, right?
TODD: That's right. Sometimes, you know, when a Pope ventures into a crowd like that, of course, it's not scripted. Nobody really knows it beforehand. And Andreas Widmer and some of the secret service people we talked to say it's not always that dangerous because, of course, even though the security detail doesn't know he'll do it beforehand, neither do any potential assailants when it's unscripted like that. But still, it is a very nervous moment like we saw in Brazil a couple of years ago.
BLITZER: Certainly, as I have, Brian. Thank you.
The unprecedented security surrounding the Pope isn't just on the ground. It also extends to U.S. air space.
Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is working this part of the story for us.
Rene, what are you finding out?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, from the second that Pope Francis entered U.S. air space, a federal multi-agency security plan kicked in. And while there is no credible threat against the Pope, there is a new airborne threat that's causing concern.
MARSH (voice-over): As Pope Francis touches down here in Washington, the air space around him goes on lockdown. During the six-day trip, a moving virtual net follows him from Washington to New York and Philadelphia, all monitored by dozens of security agencies.
CNN flew to the edge of Washington's restricted air space to see how close we could get. That's the Washington monument in the distance.
The moment that someone breaches this very secure air space, a decision is made about what to do next.
THOMAS HANES, AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION: If they can't get your attention and help lead you out of that air space, f-16 fighters will be launched to intercept you, even at a tenth of a mile they've already launched helicopters.
MARSH: But authorities tell us there's a bigger concern in the air.
DON AVIV, SECURITY ANALYST: The greatest threat right now, airborne threat, is not a rogue airplane. The issue is the individual who's 300, 400 feet away from the protectee and launches a drone out of their backpack.
MARSH: Drones and even a gyro copter have penetrated some of the most protected real estate in America. Including the White House, the capitol and airport no-fly zones. The secret service, NYPD and NORAD have all conducted exercises designed to stop drones in their tracks, but security experts say there's no silver bullet.
AVIV: This is the greatest threat because biological, chemical, even a small explosive device could be packed in these drones and dropped within feet of a protectee.
MARSH: We asked the secret service how they'll stop rogue drones this time, but their answer not very detailed.
Breached air space here in Washington, D.C., on a couple of occasions. What's the greatest concern?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The air space subcommittee has a pretty robust plan. I think there are a lot of lessons learned from the incident here referred to.
MARSH: Well, it's a no-drone zone in all three of these major cities. But at the end of the day, Wolf it is going to come down to spotters on top of buildings with binoculars, people on the ground monitoring the air space around the pope and looking for anything coming their way. We spoke to several security experts who said the concept of shooting a rogue drone out of the sky is very difficult even for your best marksman -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Rene, thanks very much for that report.
Let's talk about all of this and more with Republican senator James Risch of Idaho. He is a member of the intelligence and foreign relations committee.
Senator, thanks very much you for coming in.
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Glad to be here.
BLITZER: Do you know if there have been any specific threats against this Pope?
RISCH: We have no reports of specific threats at this time. Having said that, we are also the freest people on this planet. And that, in of itself, generates possibilities of threats.
BLITZER: So what's the primary security concern?
RISCH: Well, primary security concern is the same things that we worry about every day. And that is the lone actor, the person who is, as your reporter said, may have mental issues, wants to make a statement, doing something without any reason behind it. This is the biggest threat that's faced, but our people are up to that. They're used to dealing with it. They keep getting more and more experience. As we know the drone thing is fairly new, but they've learned a lot already about drones from incidents, a lot of them that happened here in Washington, D.C. as you know.
BLITZER: That's certainly true. The English language, ISIS magazine (INAUDIBLE) today recently singled out Pope Francis in an issue, one of the recent issues. How much of a threat would a group like ISIS, for example, pose to this threat?
[18:15:03] RISCH: Yes. Well, ISIS is a threat to him just as they are to other things in America. This can shows you the mentality of these people that they would pick out someone like the Pope who is interested in peace and wanting people to get along. But they inspire people with this kind of talk and with the magazine that they put out, and so could they create a threat? They could possibly create a threat. But having said that, those are things that are also watched very, very closely.
BLITZER: They're afraid of that lone actor as you call them. Thursday morning he addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. I assume you'll be there.
RISCH: I will.
BLITZER: Listening to the Pope. What would you like to hear him say?
RISCH: Well, I'm catholic myself. So obviously, I've been to the catholic schools and I'm very familiar with the doctrines of the Catholic Church. And he's a man who is certainly a holy man. He views life differently than we do. Certainly he comes at this more from a perspective of a global perspective as opposed to an American perspective.
Whenever you have politics and religion collide, it's at very best an awkward moment. And they don't -- they're not always congruent in what the objectives are of each of them. So we'll listen carefully to what he has to say. I hope people listen politely to what he has to say, whether they agree or disagree. And I also hope it doesn't turn into a political rally like the state of the unions have over the recent year, indeed over recent decades where people are popping up and clapping all the time. I think this should be much more like a respectable, respectfully listening to the message.
BLITZER: But you don't think there will be any booing or anything?
RISCH: I don't think so, not at all. I think Congress will be very respectful to listening to what he has to say. We, as you know, we receive lots and lots of different leaders, both religious leaders and government leaders.
BLITZER: He's the first Jesuit pontiff. Did you go to Georgetown University?
RISCH: I did not.
BLITZER: I just wanted to make that point. Very quickly on these Russian planes --
BLITZER: On a totally different story, moving into Syria right now. Is that good or bad in this war against is?
RISCH: Well, I guess that remains to be seen, you know. There's risks involved in this. You know, we have planes flying there, too. When you have two countries that have sophisticated and high octane war machines like that in the sky at the same time, one has to be careful that there isn't a mistake made. It's been interesting to watch what's happened over this summer as the Russians really have doubled down in Syria and brought in all kinds of different things to support Assad.
Today CNN reported that the Russians have actually launched drones now flying over the Syrian countryside. Not a surprise because of the buildup. Those are the kinds of things that are going to continue to happen.
BLITZER: Senator Risch, thanks very much for coming in.
RISCH: Well, thank you. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: James Risch from Idaho.
Stay with CNN for complete coverage of the Pope's historic visit to the United States including a special report later tonight, "the people's Pope," that airs at 9:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN.
Just ahead, new Donald Trump controversy, now he is threatening to sue a conservative group and he's lashing out at a news network.
Plus Trump rival Rand Paul is here with us in the SITUATION ROOM. Would he support Donald Trump if he ends up being the GOP nominee? I'll ask him.
[18:23:26] BLITZER: The Republican presidential candidate and senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, he's joining me live. We'll speak with him in just a moment. But first, there are new developments tonight in the heated Republican
presidential campaign including number three in the polls Dr. Ben Carson. Tonight he's trying to calm the uproar he sparked with controversial remarks about a Muslim serving as U.S. president.
Let's go to our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns. He is in Ohio following the candidates for us.
Joe, what's the latest on the GOP race?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Ben Carson got a warm reception here in the campus of Cedarville University near Dayton. It's a Christian college. Meanwhile, he has taken a lot of heat on the campaign trail when he said he would not support a Muslim in the White House. He's been tweaking that language all day long, but I saw him out here just a little while ago and I asked him and he said he is not changing his position.
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't care what a person's religious beliefs are or what their religious heritage is.
JOHNS (voice-over): Tonight, Ben Carson shifting his position on whether a Muslim should serve as president.
CARSON: If they embrace American values and they place our constitution at the top level above their religious beliefs, I have no problem with them.
JOHNS: So it's a nationalist position?
CARSON: Well, I said that. It's On the Record on NBC. That's exactly what I said. That's exactly what I meant.
JOHNS: But that isn't exactly what Carson told NBC on Sunday when asked if a president's faith should matter.
CARSON: If it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, I have no problem.
[18:25:05] CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?
CARSON: No, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
JOHNS: A contrast from the comments delivered 14 years ago by George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam's all about. Islam is peace.
JOHNS: Now, many Republican presidential contenders are weighing in saying religion should not exclude anyone from serving as president. JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that religion
should be a criteria for being president.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I personally do not believe that your religious denomination should disqualify you from serving in office.
JOHNS: This is the two leading contenders for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina ramp up their criticism of each other.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I find it to be very robotic. And I a bigger problem, frankly, is her horrible tenure at various companies that, frankly, were destroyed.
JOHNS: Fiorina joking about Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin on late-night television.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've met Putin.
CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have. Well, the two of them have a lot in common, actually. But we'll just leave it at that.
JOHNS: Trump also renewing his war against FOX on twitter writing, why don't you have some knowledgeable talking heads on your show for a change instead of the same old Trump haters, boring.
And criticizing last week's debate telling "New York" magazine, I wasn't treated fairly by CNN. A different stance from his comments immediately after the event.
TRUMP: They were very professional, the way they handled it. CNN did a very good job.
JOHNS: And back live here in Cedarville, Ohio, Ben Carson addressed a crowd of about 4,000 people here. And it might look like they're in damage control, but talking to people on the campaign trail who turned out to see him, his supporters, they say the controversy over his words hasn't registered on their radar - Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Joe, thank you. Joe Johns reporting.
Let's get some more now with Republican presidential candidate, the senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul. He's a member of the homeland security and foreign relations committee.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
You heard the governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker yesterday say he's dropping out. He hopes other Republican candidates drop out as well, those who aren't doing well to prevent Donald Trump from getting the nomination. Are you ready to drop out?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, but I think it's important that we do differentiate ourselves from the celebrity that does appear to be dominating the polls. I've been pointing out that I'm a real conservative and that frankly Donald Trump is a fake conservative. I think that's important because most of us who came out of the tea party movement, we were opposed to President Obama's health care plan. Donald Trump was for it. We were opposed to the government stimulus plan. Donald Trump was for it.
And most of us are for property rights. We don't think the government should use eminent domain to take property from small property owners and give it to big corporations. Donald Trump actually supports that. So I don't think there's anything about his positions that are conservative. I think he's an angry individual with a lot of empty platitudes, but I don't think that - I think it's important that actually somebody point out that he's not a conservative.
BLITZER: So why is he in our latest poll at 24 percent and you're at four percent? Why is he resonating?
PAUL: It's going to take time. But I think it is anger. People are angry and so am I. And frankly, I ran for office and the pea party sort of arose because we were angry at Republicans who promised to be conservative and weren't. But that's sort of a little bit of what Donald Trump is. He's a person who promises to be conservative, promises to be against the establishment. But then when you ask him why he gives money to Harry Reid, why he gives money to Charlie Rangel, he says, well, it's because I want them to do whatever the hell I tell them to do. That's what's wrong with government. People buying and selling politicians and thinking they can buy influence up here. I want government to be so small there is no influence to be sold.
BLITZER: He's campaigning as a Washington outsider. You like to think you're a Washington outsider, too, right?
PAUL: Well, you know, I'm a physician. I practiced medicine for 20 years, and I ran because I was concerned that the government was running up so much debt. I still vote almost always against both parties that are running up the debt here. I've never voted for one of these continuing resolutions because it's a collection of all the spending and it continues the problem, continues the accumulation of debt. So yes, I'm one who is an outsider who says it's broken out here and I won't go along just to get along with the system.
BLITZER: Now that you've been a United States senator here in Washington for the past several years, a lot of people out there, voters, presumably, Republicans see you as an insider.
PAUL: Maybe. I think people also see me as someone who is willing to stand up to leadership when leadership is wrong. I stood on the floor of the Senate for ten-and-a-half hours and filibustered against the government collecting our phone records. I stood on the floor for thirteen-and-a-half hours and said, you know what? I think it's important that the president acknowledge that he's not going to kill U.S. citizens without any kind of due process, without a trial.
So I think I am seen as someone who is willing to stand up on principle and stand against the tide. I've never voted for any of the funding bills for any budget that doesn't balance.
BLITZER: The former Texas governor, Rick Perry, dropped out. He was running out of money. Scott Walker dropped out, the current governor of Wisconsin, yesterday. He was running out of money. How is your financial situation? How is your campaign doing as far as money is concerned?
PAUL: Well, we're doing pretty well. We just won an important straw poll in Michigan this last week. We're raising money. We're competing in all 50 states. We've organized 300 colleges. We've organized 15 colleges just in Iowa.
Our strength is among the youth. I think the youth most strongly disagree with President Obama's collecting of all of our phone records and storing them. So we think we have some advantages that the other candidates don't have.
Also when you look at my polling against the Democrats, against Hillary Clinton in a general election, I actually lead her in five states won by President Obama. So I'm the one Republican who can actually gain the independent vote and will go to the cities and try to get the vote that Republicans haven't gotten.
BLITZER: We've got to take a break, but very quickly, a lot of your Kentucky supporters, they want you to focus in on getting re-elected in Kentucky and forget about the presidential campaign.
PAUL: Well, I haven't forgotten about my day job. I am paid by the taxpayers of Kentucky. And I try to be here for every vote. I've made 99 percent of my votes. And I haven't forgotten where I came from or who I represent.
BLITZER: Stand by, Senator, because we have a lot more to discuss. Much more with Senator Rand Paul right after this.
[18:36:38] BLITZER: We're back with Senator Rand Paul. Senator, would you support a Muslim president of the United States?
PAUL: Well, I think it's important to separate out, you know, what the law is, whether you would personally or what the law should be. The Constitution says there will be no religious test. And when I ran for office there were some people who insinuated I wasn't a good enough Christian to run for office. So I'm pretty sensitive about people saying that your religion is not pure enough.
But I think there's an honest question that voters would have. There's obviously nothing precluding a Muslim from holding office. We do have several Muslims who, I think, are conscientious and well- meaning in Congress and some who I've actually worked on legislation of criminal justice reform.
But I do think there would be some questions to ask. Do you believe literally that a woman should be stoned to death for adultery? Do you believe that when someone steals something, their hands should be cut off? Under strict Islamic law in countries like Saudi Arabia, Brunei, other places, particularly some of these places -- this has been a question with Hillary Clinton. She's taken money from some of these Islamic countries that live under Islamic law, but they aren't very good to women. Women don't have the same rights as men. In fact, for adultery, I think women's testimony counts half as much as men. So you have to have two to three women to testify.
BLITZER: But personally, could you support a Muslim for president?
PAUL: Sure, if they -- if they support the things that made America great, constitutional principles, Bill of Rights. But some of those are inconsistent with the interpretation of the Koran that's being put forward by particularly some folks.
And I think this is a big deal, because we've made this really simple that, oh, Ben Carson is terrible because he said this, but think about what he's saying. In England, for example, 20 percent of the Islamic public in England thought the bombings were OK on the subway. These are important questions to ask if you have someone who's Muslim running for office. Do you think violence is OK? Do you think Sharia Law should be the law of the land? Do you think that the 9/11 bombings were OK?
For goodness sakes, I surely wouldn't vote for any Christian or Muslim that thought, you know, that violence was a way to shape your religious views.
BLITZER: Let me just get you on the record. Was President Obama born in the United States?
BLITZER: Is President Obama a Christian?
BLITZER: So you have no doubt about any of that.
Donald Trump has made these statements saying -- and he had that exchange at the debate on childhood vaccinations. Do these childhood vaccinations -- and you're a physician -- cause autism?
PAUL: There's no scientific study showing that there's a relationship between autism and vaccines. I'm a big fan and believe that one of the greatest medical breakthroughs -- and there's a wonderful book about this, about the smallpox vaccine, "The Speckled Monster." And smallpox had a 50 percent mortality. The vaccine was dangerous. It was taken from the pus of live sores from someone recovering from smallpox.
But within a 50-year period, without government mandates, George Washington was telling his wife Martha that "You can't come visit me in the military camps because -- unless you've been vaccinated." So vaccines are a great medical breakthrough.
But at the same time, we shouldn't just close our eyes and say, because they're a breakthrough, that the government really should be mandating 15 of them or that you have to take them all at one time or that we're going to hold you down. So we did chose -- choose to spread out some of our vaccines. I think in a free country that ought to be your option.
And so I worry a little bit about people who are so certain of themselves that they have this authoritarian nature; they're going to tell us all what to do. But by and large, yes, I recommend that people do get vaccinated. And I think it's a good idea to take the vaccines, but I'm also in favor of freedom, as well.
[18:40:16] BLITZER: Do you believe that these vaccines can cause autism?
PAUL: There's no scientific relationship that's been shown in any of the studies.
BLITZER: The bottom line, as a physician, if someone were to come to you, parents -- they have children -- you would recommend that they get a full vaccine program?
PAUL: I recommend that they do. But the thing is, is I also recommend freedom. And so if an individual truly believes otherwise and thinks that it just hasn't been proven yet, I'm not going to hold their child down or hold them down or take their child away from them, because they choose to operate on -- under a different set of beliefs.
BLITZER: But that does carry a risk, that these children who are not vaccinated could come down with the disease, and they could spread that disease.
PAUL: But this is one of the things that, like, the surgeon general does. And really, when we have a surgeon general, you do want them to promote good health, promote having people take their vaccines.
And the thing is, is that when polio came about, just about everybody took the vaccine. And anybody who's old enough to remember someone who got polio really understands the great value and how we wiped out. You talk about a medical miracle. Getting rid of smallpox and getting rid of polio worldwide, or virtually worldwide, for polio is one of the most amazing medical advancements that was seen in my time.
BLITZER: Senator Rand Paul, thanks very much for coming in.
PAUL: Thank you.
BLITZER: As I always tell you, say hi to your dad, as well.
PAUL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
Just ahead, inflammatory comments about Muslims from Donald Trump. We'll update you.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:46:14] BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul says he won't drop out of the race despite the call by former candidate Scott Walker for some of the Republican candidates to drop out to prevent Donald Trump from getting the nomination. The governor suspended his campaign a day ago, said others should follow his lead because the large GOP field is helping Donald Trump.
Let's dig deeper on what's going on with our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, the chief political correspondent of "Slate", Jamelle Bouie, and CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's the editorial director of "The National Journal".
Gloria, so, he's not going to drop out.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
BLITZER: Rand Paul.
You think others might start thinking about dropping out, accept Scott Walker's advice?
BORGER: I think people in the 2 percent to 5 percent range will think about it. But what I notice most about Rand Paul was that he kind of doubled down on his attacks on Donald Trump. He called him an angry individual with empty platitudes, right? And said, of course, that he's not a conservative.
I think you're going to hear this from more and more Republicans because I think they're hoping that eventually Republicans will start listening to what they are saying in their attacks on Donald Trump from the right.
BLITZER: So, Ron, if more of these Republican candidates in the lower tier start dropping out, will that eventually create someone who could be a real threat to donald trump?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that will happen eventually, but in the near term, I think it's more likely to be the opposite effect. As we talked about on this show, Donald Trump is consistently running better among non-college and college Republicans. CNN polling unit tells me in the latest CNN/ORC poll, he's nine points better among non-college and college Republican.
The candidates who are most likely, most at risk of dropping out are predominantly candidates fishing in that same pool, like Bobby Jindal, maybe Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee. And if those candidates leave, it creates more of a pool for Donald Trump rather than the kind of candidates on the other side like John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, they're not going anywhere.
BLITZER: Jamelle, as you know, Donald Trump now threatening to sue the Club for Growth with these attack ads against him, suggesting they're almost libelous. Is this just the start? Can we expect more of this kind of activity?
JAMELLE BOUIE, SLATE: Absolutely. You're going to see more groups attack Donald Trump is not a conservative. He doesn't support tax cuts like a lot of conservatives do. He's sort of on the left side of that. You're going to see Donald Trump kind of respond in this sort of blustery way to all these attacks. It will be interesting to see how his supporters react to this.
Will they applaud that he's threatening to sue people? Or will they kind of step back and say do we want this guy as our nominee?
BLITZER: Attack ads are so common in politics. Do you remember the time when candidates --
BORGER: I love it.
BLITZER: -- are going to sue someone for an attack ad?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I don't. I mean, that would be -- you know, even on the Democratic side where lawyers are big business, trial lawyers are. No, this is a litigious.
This is ridiculous. You can't sue someone for this. He's in the public sphere here.
So, I think that Donald Trump at some point is going to hit the whining meter, I think. He's on the verge of that. It's call the wah-mbulance, you know? You're running for president, and I think he is on --
BORGER: Call the wah-mbulance?
ZELENY: He said the debate is too long, other things. I think he's on the verge --
BORGER: I love this idea of one candidate suing another candidate. We've never sort of heard that.
BLITZER: Guys, hold your thought for a second. We're getting new comments from Donald Trump about Muslims in America. We'll get the clip for you. Stand by.
We'll be right back.
[18:54:23] BLITZER: All right. There's some breaking news. In a new interview, Donald Trump is defending his stance on Muslims. He had this exchange with Scott Pelley at an interview that will air over the weekend on "60 Minutes."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: We were with you in New Hampshire when that man stood up --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
PELLEY: -- and said we have a problem in this country and it's Muslims.
You let that pass. I wonder what that tells us about you.
TRUMP: Well, he said much more than that. That was part of the statement. He went on to say other things.
PELLEY: But the bigotry part.
TRUMP: Look, he said mostly about Obama. That whole question is about -- I don't have to defend President Obama. He's not going to defend me.
[18:55:00] So, whether you agree with the man or don't agree, and there were people in that audience as you probably noticed that did agree with him.
PELLEY: It was a testing moment for a man running for president.
TRUMP: I don't think so.
PELLEY: You never know when they are coming.
TRUMP: I don't think so.
PELLEY: But here, you had a bigot --
TRUMP: That wasn't a test.
PELLEY: -- you could have slapped down.
TRUMP: Well, you don't know that. You don't know that. I mean, he asked a question. You don't know that he was a bigot. But, look --
PELLEY: A problem in this country is Muslims?
TRUMP: Well, let me ask you this, so he said there is a problem in this country and it's Muslims, all right? I love the Muslims. I have many, many friends, people living in this building, Muslims. They're phenomenal people.
But like everything else, you have people where there are problems. Now, we can say there are no problems with the Muslims. There's no problem. There is no terrorism. There's no -- there's no anything, they didn't knock down the World Trade Center. To the best of my knowledge, the people that knocked down the World Trade Center, you know where they -- they didn't fly back to Sweden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Gloria, what do you think? BORGER: Oh, I think it's more of the same from Donald Trump. I mean,
he is not known for apologizing, for backing down, for saying I made a mistake, whether it's about the Muslim statement or it's about Carly Fiorina's face. This is who he is.
So, this doesn't surprise me. It's more of the same.
BLITZER: Is this going to continue to dominate this campaign right now, all this back and forth?
BOUIE: I think so. I think Trump will continue to make these kind of statements. Ben Carson, Trump, they I think correctly see this kind of Islamophobic rhetoric doesn't really hurt them at all. And for my part, just a sort of an observer of politics, I find it very disturbing and very worrying that that kind of rhetoric is finding a place in mainstream politics in a way that it hasn't been true really for the past --
BORGER: They're succeeding.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, this Republican race, if you think about things that dominated the Republican race in the past, taxes, regulation, role of government, all of them have been subsumed with this really fierce debate about American identity and what it means to live in a country that is rapidly diversifying. Now, you have a fissure in this field between the Republicans who are saying, we have to adopt a changing America, which was the message of the post-2012 after action of Republicans, and then you have another side that is largely saying whether the issue is undocumented immigration, gay marriage, or Muslims in America, we have to resist the changing America. And the party faces a big crossroads, the big implications of this election, and way beyond.
BORGER: If they want to grow.
BLITZER: Does this hurt Trump within a Republican primary context?
ZELENY: I don't think it hurts him among his supporters, but it stops his ability to grow, it stops his ability to evolve more as a candidate here. I think we are seeing a diminishing of Donald Trump. His supporters will stay with him.
But Ron is right. This divisive politics does not grow the party.
This interview, Gloria said, more of the same. We've heard him say this before. This is not surprising.
BORGER: And it gives his opponents an opportunity to separate themselves. I mean, you heard Rand Paul to you, just separated himself. Carly Fiorina has separated herself.
So, we see that the Republican field is dividing along this fault line between those who want to grow the party and those who believe that the party can remain -- BLITZER: Ron, how does the pope's visit here these days impact, if it
does, this campaign?
BROWNSTEIN: And it's fascinating, because -- I mean, if you think about Catholics in America, from the 1930s to 1960s, there were an absolute cornerstone of the Democratic coalition. By the way, in the aftermath of Republicans spearheading legislation 1924 that severely reduced the number of immigrants allowed in the country, had a generation-long effect, which is something worth concerning here.
Then, from 1960s through, say, the early part of this century, they were a key swing vote in American politics. Every election from 1980 to 2004, white Catholics voted with the winner. They moved right in the last two elections. President Obama lost white Catholics by more than Walter Mondale did against Ronald Reagan, but he still won. A big divide now between Hispanic Catholics, which are the most Democratic part of the Hispanic community and white Catholics which are more conservative.
So, I think, you know, Catholics are going to be a problem in the general election for Democrats. But the pope on many issues, like climate and immigration probably gives some reinforcement.
ZELENY: They are filling those church pews, signs of growing part of the Catholic Church. As a Catholic American, I can tell you, I go to mass. That is a growing part of this Catholic Church.
BROWNSTEIN: And he's very attuned to that.
ZELENY: He is.
BORGER: And the pope is a disruptor of politics, you know, in so many ways.
ZELENY: Some similarities to this race.
BORGER: Because -- you know, because he's with Republicans on abortion and same-sex marriage but Democrats on more issues -- immigration, income inequality, climate change. So, when he goes to address the Congress, you know, he is going to have supporters on both sides and detractors on both sides because he doesn't get voted on.
BLITZER: It's going to be fascinating Wednesday morning.
BOUIE: Yes, it is. I think it's a little funny that, you know, 40 years ago, 50 years ago, you would be, our equivalents are talking about who would be influenced by the pope in a negative way.
BOUIE: And now, who's going to be influenced by the pope in positive --
(CROSSTALK) BROWNSTEIN: It largely transcends our political divide. It's bigger.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by.
This important note for our viewers. CNN will host the first Democratic presidential debate October 13th -- mark your calendars -- in Nevada.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Tweet me @wolfblitzer. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.