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THE SITUATION ROOM
Feds: Florida Man Plotted Beach Bombing for ISIS; American Who Spied for Israel Granted Parole; Trump Aide Apologizes for Rape Comment; Donald Trump Reacts to Aide's Rape Remarks; New Hampshire Poll: Trump Leads, Kasich Tied for Third; Prison Worker Pleads Guilty to Helping Killers Escape; North Korea Touts Its Nukes. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 28, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Beach terror plot: a Florida man, an alleged ISIS sympathizer, arrested and charged with plotting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction on one of America's most famous beaches.
Spy release. A former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who passed U.S. secrets to Israel is granted parole after 30 years. Is it a tradeoff to push through the Iran nuclear deal as the administration faces an uphill battle, selling it to Congress, and allies including Israel. I'll ask the State Department point person, Marie Harf.
It's not rape. A top adviser to Donald Trump makes a shocking statement about rape during an interviews, then threatens the reporter. Tonight he's apologizing, and the campaign is distancing itself from him. Will Trump be forced to say to him, "You're fired"?
Unbelievably jealous? Kim Jong-un's North Korea trying to steal the headlines from the Iran nuclear deal, summoning global reporters to tout its own nuclear program and vowing it's here to stay. Is Kim feeling ignored as the news media's spotlight -- spotlight shines elsewhere?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news, an alleged bomb plot targeting a famous U.S. beach. Federal officials now say a Florida man and ISIS sympathizer plan to bomb a beach in Key West with what they describe as a weapon of mass destruction.
We're also following the controversial parole granted to the convicted spy, Jonathan Pollard. The former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst was sentenced to life for passing secrets to Israel, which is now strongly opposing the nuclear agreement with Iran.
And there's a new uproar swirling around Donald Trump's campaign tonight. But this time, it's not about something the candidate said. Instead, a top Trump adviser is apologizing for saying during an interview -- and I'm quoting him now -- "You cannot rape your spouse." He also threatened the reporter he was talking to. We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our
correspondents and guests, including the State Department senior advisor for strategic communications, Marie Harf.
But first, let's go to our justice reporter, Evan Perez. He begins our coverage. He has more on the Florida man, an alleged ISIS sympathizer, charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Evan, what was this person allegedly planning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight federal prosecutors say the 23-year-old Harlem Suarez was plotting to bomb a beach in Key West. As far as allegedly, obtained what he thought was a backpack bomb. He discussed buying components, including nails, to use in this bomb. Now Suarez recorded a martyrdom video in which he said, quote, "We will destroy America and divide it in two. We will raise our black flag on top of your White House; and any president on duty, we'll cut his head."
The FBI was investigating in May when he went to a -- when a pawn shop in Key West called agents to say that Suarez had bought an AK-47 over the Internet and arranged for it to be shipped to the store. And he never took possession of the weapon because of a clerical problem.
According to the FBI, Investigators first began investigating Suarez after he sent a Facebook friend request to someone seeking to recruit them to join ISIS.
And Wolf, this now makes 51 people that have been charged with supporting ISIS related to terrorism issues since the beginning of this year.
BLITZER: And he was what, a sympathizer, alleged sympathizer. How did he get to that? I take it he converted, he changed his name. Is that right?
PEREZ: It's not clear when he converted, Wolf. But according to the FBI, he has apparently been very active in social media, supporting ISIS and sending out messages, trying to find recruits and even trying to figure out ways to reach people in Syria. He talked about attacking -- doing an attack in Miami Beach or even traveling to Syria to join ISIS. It is a very disturbing case.
Again, this -- the initial thought was that he might do this around July 4, which you remember was one of the warnings we were getting.
BLITZER: We're getting indications there were several plots unfolding. And even last week, James Comey, the FBI director, told me that there were fears they thwarted some July 4 plots, or at least one plot to get more on this.
Another story you're following, the decision by the U.S. parole board to release Jonathan J. Pollard, the American who worked U.S. naval intelligence, convicted of spying for Israel. Sentenced to life, but now after 30 years, he's about to be freed. PEREZ: Right, exactly. And there's a lot of controversy over this,
because there are a lot of people who think this is related to the U.S. disagreements with Israel over the Iran nuclear talks.
According to the Justice Department, according to Pollard's own lawyers, this has nothing to do with that. They say that November 21st, which is the date he is going to be released, according to the U.S. Parole Commission, is simply the end of his sentence. After 30 years, it would have been extraordinary for the U.S. to try to hold him in prison.
[17:05:04] Again, he's been a model citizen, a model prisoner, according to the Justice Department. And they don't view that he is any danger to the United States, because of the information that he possesses.
Obviously, Wolf, as you know, there's also a lot of controversy, simply because people in the intelligence community view Pollard to be one of the worst cases of espionage in the United States in history. And they would like for him to remain in prison in some way. Obviously, his sentence has now run out, and according to this, according to a statement from his lawyers, they are now going to ask President Obama for some kind of clemency, because even after he's released on November 21st, he is required to stay in the United States for five years. They would like permission for him to return to Israel, where he has citizenship and where his wife now lives.
BLITZER: We're going to ask Marie Harf of the State Department about this, coming up shortly.
All right. Thanks very much.
Meanwhile, there's a disturbing image sent from the Twitter account of Iran's supreme ayatollah, complicating efforts to sell the landmark nuclear deal with Iran. The tweet appears to show President Obama with a gun to his head.
Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is here with more on this story.
All this comes, Elise, as you know, as a very difficult time for the Obama administration, trying to get congressional approval of this nuclear deal.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Well, Secretary of State John Kerry got a grilling today from Republicans on Capitol Hill who were armed with ammunition from Iran's supreme leader, who continues to take jabs at the U.S.
LABOTT (voice-over): Iran's supreme leader sends a chilling message to President Obama. This image from his Twitter account, appears to portray the president holding a gun to his own head, warning, quote, "If any war happens, the one who will emerge loser will be the aggressive and criminal U.S.," only giving fuel to opponents of the nuclear deal.
REP. ED ROYCE (R-CA), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We're presuming Iran is going to change its behavior, that behavior did not change last weekend when they were chanting again, "death to America."
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. Chairman, please, with all due respect, we're not presuming any such thing. There's one objective. Make sure they can't get a nuclear weapon.
LABOTT: On Capitol Hill, another bruising for Secretary Kerry, trying to defend the deal against firm Republican opposition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stand for America. You represent America.
KERRY: Congressman, I don't need any lessons from you about who I represent. I've represented and fought for our country since I was out of college.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And god bless you for your service.
KERRY: Don't give me any lessons about that, OK?
LABOTT: A new CNN poll finds 52 percent of Americans want Congress to reject the deal. Only 44 percent say it should be approved.
In Africa, President Obama blamed, quote, "fast and loose attacks" from Republican presidential contenders like Mike Huckabee, who evoked the Holocaust.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): He's so naive, he would trust the Iranians, and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are, I think, part of just a general pattern that we've seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren't so sad.
Well, the harshest pushback to the deal coming from the Republicans, the president is struggling to keep his own party on board to override a veto. Even the chairwoman of the Democratic Party is, at best, noncommittal.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIRWOMAN: There's a lot of merits to the deal, but there's also a legitimate cause for concern, and I think this is a decision that no member of Congress should make lightly.
LABOTT: The White House picked up an important Democratic endorsement today. Congressman Steve -- Sandy Levin, the longest serving Jewish member of Congress, came out in support of the deal. But Senator Chuck Schumer on tap to become the next Senate Majority Leader, remains undecided, despite mounting pressure from the president to support it, Wolf. BLITZER: Congressman Elliott Engle of New York, also the ranking
Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I spoke to him earlier today. He is still undecided, as well. Elise, thanks very much.
Let's talk about all of this and a lot more with State Department senior advisor for strategic communications, Marie Harf, who's here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. Marie, thanks very much for joining us.
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR ADVISOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Happy to be here.
BLITZER: I want to get your reaction, first of all, to what the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, who's a Republican presidential candidate, said about the Obama administration, the president marching Israel to the doors of the oven, invoking, in effect, invoking the Holocaust as part of this nuclear deal. I know you've been speaking with the secretary of state and others. What's the reaction?
HARF: Well, I think the president really put it best in his press availability. He played a clip from, look, this is so sad that our politics in this primary season have devolved to the point where these kinds of outrageous, horribly offensive comments are made.
Look, reasonable people can argue the merits of this deal, but they should argue on the merits, on the facts, not using this kind of rhetoric. You know, when you have a sitting member of the Senate calling my boss, John Kerry, Pontius Pilate, that is beyond the pale. Truly, Governor Huckabee's comments have no place in this debate, and they are really sad that this is where our politics is today. The American people deserve better, Wolf.
[17:10:13] BLITZER: What do you make of the fact that, obviously, almost all the Republicans in the House and Senate, I suspect, are going to vote against the deal, but there are a whole bunch of influential Democrats who are on the fence right now. You just heard Elliott Engle, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the congresswoman from Florida, she's the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Chuck Schumer, the senior senator from New York, in line to become the next Democratic leader in the Senate.
Why is the administration having such a tough time convincing these Democrats that this is a good deal?
HARF: Well, I think a lot of reasonable people who want to evaluate this deal on the merits were waiting for -- last week we had a hearing up in the Senate with Secretary Kerry and Moniz and Lew. Today they were up in the House. Tomorrow they'll be briefing the Senate Armed Services Committee. Some people wanted to hear the facts, wanted to hear our defense of this deal, and wanted to make a reasonable decision based on those facts.
I honestly, Wolf, think a lot of people that came out right in the hours and days after we announced this argument, hadn't even read it. Some of them admitted that, and it was a pure political move to come out and oppose it.
You have heard our Representative Levin and others come out and say, as they learn more, as they talk to us, they are supportive of it, and I think you will hear more voices like that in the days ahead.
BLITZER: What you're saying is the Republicans quickly opposed it, they didn't even look at it. They didn't study it. Their concerns aren't legitimate. Is that what you're saying?
HARF: I think there are legitimate questions people can ask about this deal. I do think there is some opposition to this deal that is not based in fact. When people come out hours after it's announced, admit they haven't even read it, haven't had time to digest the 150- plus pages, haven't waited for congressional hearings to hear from the people that actually negotiated it, I absolutely think maybe there's politics at play here.
I mean, Governor Huckabee himself in 2008 said, we should engage with Iran. What has changed in that time period, except their program is closer to getting a nuclear weapon, and we've come up with a way to stop that?
BLITZER: The American people, according to our new CNN poll, are worried about this deal. Only 44 percent think that Congress should approve the nuclear agreement with Iran. A majority thinks that Congress should not approve this deal. Fifty-two percent say it's a bad deal.
You've got a lot of work ahead of you in these coming -- less than 60 days.
HARF: Well, I think a couple points. We've seen a number of polls, and they've been all across the map here, but one thing that's been consistent about the polls, is that when the questions are asked, the more information you give people about the deal, the more they like it.
And I think that that's an important trajectory that we certainly find heartening when it comes to some of these polls. I also think that there is a general mistrust in the United States that's not unfounded based on the history here that just doesn't trust Iran.
And so I think that people are naturally inclined to be skeptical. And that's why this deal isn't based on trust. It's based on verification of all these nuclear steps Iran has.
BLITZER: What about these secret provisions? A lot of members of Congress right now saying there's a secret provision between the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Iran, that members of Congress are not necessarily going to even see, let alone the American public.
HARF: Well, members of Congress are going to be briefed in detail. Some already have been briefed in detail. BLITZER: On every aspect of the...
HARF: Every aspect of the safeguards confidential to use a technical term, agreement between the IAEA and Iran. They are referenced in the joint comprehensive plan of action. So these aren't secret. They are there. The existence of them is widely known publicly, has been since we announced the deal. And in a close setting, we can brief in detail what those arrangements...
BLITZER: Every member of Congress?
HARF: Every member of Congress.
BLITZER: Every House, 435 members?
HARF: All 535 are entitled to get briefed -- and the secretary said he will -- on the details of those provisions.
Now, the IAEA does business in a certain way. With every country it has these kinds of agreements, including us, including the U.S. They keep some information out of the public domain for very good reasons in terms of how you protect nuclear technology secrets, in order, basically, to not let this information get out.
BLITZER: Is the IAEA keeping secret some of these details, even to Secretary of State John Kerry?
HARF: No, so what was very important, this is an important point. It was very important for us in our P5+1 counterparts to be briefed on all the details of the IAEA's arrangements with Iran, when it comes to addressing the possible military dimensions. That's what we're talking about.
And so we've been briefed on those on those in detail. Our experts are comfortable with that arrangement, and they can brief Congress on that, and they will.
BLITZER: All right. Marie Harf, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about. Marie Harf from the State Department will be here with me when we come back.
[17:19:15] BLITZER: A notorious spy convicted of passing U.S. military secrets to Israel now just months away from release. The former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, Jonathan J. Pollard, has been granted parole after serving 30 years of a life sentence.
We're back with the State Department senior adviser for strategic communications, Marie Harf. As you know, Marie, a lot of speculation out there the timing of this may be coordinated with the Iran nuclear deal, as sort of compensation to the Israelis, who have wanted Pollard, as you know, for years.
HARF: No trick to that whatsoever. This date is a mandatory parole date, based on the sentencing guidelines for Mr. Pollard when he was convicted 30 years ago. He was going to be released on this date no matter what happened with the Iran nuclear talks. Not related in any way.
BLITZER: The parole board says he'll be released November 21 and has to stay in the United States for five years. He'd like to go to Israel. The only way that will happen is if the president gives him some sort of clemency. Is that on the table?
HARF: I certainly have not heard anything about that. But there will be, to my understanding, restrictions on his ability to travel, in terms of who he talks to. There will be some restrictions on his parole. But again, this was in no way tied to the Iran talks. This was a mandatory parole that was dictated by the sentencing guidelines.
BLITZER: As you know, four American citizens are being held in Iran right now. A lot of people who would like to see those Americans back home. The secretary was asked about that today at the congressional hearing, here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: My last conversation with Foreign Minister Zarif and with the brother of the president was regarding the four people being held. Four American citizens. And we have followed up on that conversation. Since then, we are in direct conversations. That's all I'm going to say here today, I hope that they will be returned to be with their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So I hear him say, "We are in direct conversations. That's all I'm going to say here today." That raises suspicion that something may be in the works right now. Update us.
HARF: Well, I was standing just a few feet from Secretary Kerry when he had that last conversation with Foreign Minister Zarif in Vienna. And I can assure you, as we've always said, that we continue to talk to the Iranians about this. We are very focused on this, we will not rest until these Americans are home with their family.
BLITZER: Because many members of Congress, including Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan, has been working really hard to get Amir Hekmati, one of the Americans, a former U.S. Marine, out of there. He has said specifically, if Iran were willing to release these Americans, that would show their serious place, maybe changing. Might convince some of these skeptics that maybe the Iran nuclear deal is a good deal. You've heard that?
HARF: Well, we think these Americans should be released regardless of where things stand with the nuclear deal, regardless of where Congress stands in terms of a vote. They should have been home a long time ago, and we are doing everything we can to bring them home today.
BLITZER: Marie Harf, thanks very much for joining us. Let's hope they're home soon.
BLITZER: Coming up, so what's behind Kim Jong-un's latest attempt to hog the international spotlight.
Plus, a new controversy for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, as a top aide is forced to apologize for threatening a reporter and making inflammatory comments about rape. Will Donald Trump fire him? Stand by the for the answer.
BLITZER: We're following explosive developments in the 2016 presidential race. The top advisor to Republican presidential front- runner Donald Trump now is apologizing for his angry comments in response to a story about rape allegations made by Trump's ex-wife Ivana.
CNN political reporter Sara Murray is here. She's got the very latest. This is a pretty explosive story.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is an explosive story, Wolf. And it is a rare apology coming from Trump's inner circle. But tonight, a contrite Trump staffer is apologizing for his inappropriate remarks about rape.
MURRAY (voice-over): Even for a campaign known for overstatement.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.
MURRAY: And offensive remarks.
TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.
MURRAY: Tonight comments about rape from Donald Trump's long-time counsel and surrogate Michael Cohen may have gone too far.
In an interview with the "Daily Beast" published overnight, Cohen said that legally, quote, "You cannot rape your spouse" when asked about a decade's old allegation made by Trump's first wife, Ivana, during their divorce proceedings.
At the time, Ivana alleged Trump had forced her to have sex against her will, an accusation she later walked back. Cohen allegedly then threatened the "Daily Beast" reporter saying, quote, "I'm warning you. Tread very expletive lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be disgusting.
Within hours, the campaign distanced itself from Cohen, who until today had been an omnipresent surrogate for the developer turned candidate.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ADVISOR OF DONALD TRUMP'S CAMPAIGN: Donald Trump has hit a cord. There's a long road ahead for this campaign.
MURRAY: Trump's campaign manager now tells CNN only Trump speaks for Trump, saying Cohen, quote, is a corporate employee and is not affiliated with the campaign in anyway.
In a statement today, Cohen tried to walk back his controversial comments, saying the reporter had upset him, and that "in my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment which I do not believe and which I apologized for entirely."
Meanwhile, Trump's former wife Ivana, the mother of three of his children, called the "Daily Beast" account of her rape allegation totally without merit, saying, "I think he would make an incredible president."
And tonight there's no sign Trump's no holds barred campaign is slowing his political rise. A new Monmouth University poll shows Trump on top among GOP primary voters in New Hampshire, polling at double his closest rival, Jeb Bush.
MURRAY: And you can tell from those poll numbers Trump has been pretty successful at navigating contentious issues so far, but it's too soon to say whether Trump supporters will shrug off this latest controversy.
BLITZER: Sara, thanks very much. Our CNN anchor, Don Lemon, just spoke with Donald Trump. Don is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All right, Don, what did he tell you?
[17:30:07] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It was a wide-ranging interview that we will talk about later, but specifically, Wolf, I'm sure you want to hear about his account as it relates to Michael Cohen.
He's -- listen, he's upset with the "Daily Beast" for publishing a story, he said, that was 30 years old and that he and his wife and everyone involved had denied for decades now. But he also says he wasn't even sure if the "Daily Beast" is reporting it right. He doesn't agree with the comments, if Michael Cohen made them. Here's what he said to me just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You still stand by -- still stand by Michael Cohen?
TRUMP (via phone): No, you have to understand Michael was extremely angry, because he knew it never took place. He knew this website was a joke, considered a joke. And he was very angry. And maybe he didn't even understand the question.
But no, I don't, I disagreed with him. In fact when I read it, I disagreed. I didn't know if he said it. Who knows what he said, because frankly, I'm not sure that they reported it accurately anyway. But, assuming he said it, no, I disagree with that. LEMON: But you're still -- I mean, you're not going to fire him or
get rid of him?
TRUMP: No, I'm not. He was very angry, because they issued a false story to get publicity for themselves and to try to make themselves relevant, which they're not. People have been fired all over the place from them. And others are failing too, as you know, in that world. A lot of them are failing, but this one's particularly bad. A lot of money was spent on it, and it's been a disaster.
And he knew that, and he said to him, you know, "You're doing the wrong thing. You do this, you're doing the wrong thing."
So what happened is, he probably got angry. No, I disagree with him. When I first saw it, I said, wow! There's something I disagree with, but that's the way it is. And you know, he's speaking for himself. He's not speaking for me, obviously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So if those comments seem sort of nebulous where he was on the fence a little bit, I asked him later on in the interview, Wolf, if he, you know, just did not stand by those statements; and unequivocally he said, "No, I do not agree with those statements, if Michael Cohen actually made those statements. I do not agree with that at all." And he said, the story as far as the "Daily Beast" is concerned, absolutely without merit, and he also referred to the Obama Trump statement, as well, the full statement.
BLITZER: All right. I know we're going to have more of your interview with Donald Trump coming up in the next hour, Don. The full interview, later tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern on your program, "CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON." Don, thanks very much for that.
Meanwhile, as Sara just mentioned, there's a new poll in the first-in- the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. It shows Donald Trump far ahead of Jeb Bush. But there's a real eye opener in the poll, as well. The Ohio governor, John Kasich, who only joined the race a few days ago, is the 16th Republican candidate, is doing exceptionally well in New Hampshire. The Monmouth University poll shows he's already in a tie for third place with the Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker. Governor Kasich is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us. I've got a lot of policy issues, Iran, other stuff to talk to you with. But I've got to get your reaction to this Donald Trump development. He's the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, not only nationally, but in key states like New Hampshire right now. What do you make of this?
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just leave him alone. I mean, obviously it's a painful story for him, for his family, for his former wife. Leave him alone. That's my reaction.
BLITZER: What do you mean, leave him alone? I don't get that.
KASICH: Just leave it, let it go, move on, go to something else. Talk about his policies on something else. I don't like to see this happen to anybody. It's not something that I really want to comment on, Wolf. Just -- go beyond that. It's already -- everything that he said, he said. Leave him alone; that's what I think.
BLITZER: All right. That's your right to think that, but as you know, as all of us know, when you're running for president of the United States, your whole life, basically, is opened; and your life is going to be opened if you continue to do well in the polls. That's just the nature of the beast, right?
KASICH: Well, you know, maybe the nature of the beast ought to change a little bit, you know? I mean, you know, there are limits here, and this -- I don't want to comment. Maybe somebody else will comment on it. I'm not going to do it, because I'm sure that it is extremely painful for him, for his former wife, for his kids, and you know, that shouldn't be what we're doing in this business.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on. Talk about something else that's at least very painful, the Iran nuclear deal. You heard one of your other competitors, the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, say this nuclear deal that the Obama administration worked on is, his words, marching Israel to the doors of the oven. A reference to the Holocaust. I assume you agree he went too far with that statement?
KASICH: Well, I haven't really studied what Huckabee has said, but I will tell you, Wolf, I think it's a bad agreement. I've actually been trying to get ahold of a Democrat who I think could be pivotal in this, because what I think we're going to see is, we're going to see Iran get a nuclear weapon and then have loads of cash to be able to fund all of our adversaries and the adversaries of our allies in the Middle East.
So I think it is a very bad deal. I am hoping that the United States Senate -- first of all, I think they will vote this down, and then the question gets to be on whether they can override a presidential veto. And it's going to be a very important time for Democrats to decide what they want to do on this.
[17:35:17] And look, I've been in positions where I've had to vote against the president of my own party. I voted against U.S. troops in Lebanon. It didn't make people happy when I did it, but sometimes, you've got to do the right thing, and I think this is a wrong deal at the wrong time, with the wrong country.
BLITZER: Well, if you were president, what would be your alternative?
KASICH: Well, listen, if I were there, I would first of all, have a better relationship with our allies. I would work on it. And you know, I'm sure you scratched your head, Wolf, when we have those people murdered at that magazine over in France, and then had he they had that mourning ceremony in Paris, and we didn't bother to send anybody, really.
We need to rebuild our alliances. And frankly, I would have left the sanctions on them. And, you know, Mr. Netan -- I'm sorry. Look, we had a guy who sat in
the Soviet prison for a long time, Shiransky, who wrote an op-Ed piece saying we faced the same kind of thing against the Soviet Union when it came to Nixon making an agreement. It was voted down. Scoop Jackson led the way, and we ended up crushing the Soviet Union.
I think robust sanctions spread even further would have gotten a change in their attitude and perhaps a change in their regime. So what I would do now, hopefully the Senate will reject this. If they don't, I think we need to have all the parties to this agreement agreeing that if Iran makes one violation, that we slap the sanctions back on, and I think that's what we need to do.
So look, until their behavior changes, and not just American or politicians' views, but look at our Arab allies, what they had to say about this early on. They don't want to have more people who are trying to create tremendous problems for them, to be empowered, namely Hamas or Hezbollah.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Obamacare. You've been elected twice now as the governor of Ohio, which everyone knows is a key state. No Republican has ever been elected president of the United States without carrying Ohio. I think you got 60 or 65 percent of the vote the last time.
As governor, you opted for the so-called Medicaid expansion part of Obama care in your state, even though a lot of other Republicans rejected it. And a lot of these Republican presidential candidates say they'll get rid of Obamacare on day one if they're elected. Would you?
KASICH: Yes. Look, you know, Ronald Reagan expanded Medicaid, I don't know, three or four times, Wolf, and we're bringing 14 billion over 7 years back to Ohio to treat the -- to treat the mentally ill, the drug-addicted and to help the working poor get on their feet. I think it's -- and it's working here in Ohio.
But I believe that Medicaid itself ought to be moved to the states to be in power so that governors and legislators can fashion their own solution in terms of how they treat the poor. If I had fewer strings, fewer regulations, not a one-size-fits-all mentality, I think I could be very effective.
And by the way, Medicaid in Ohio went from 9 percent growth to less than 4 percent. Not one cut in benefit and not one person taken off the role, because we're fashioning it as best as we can.
And in terms of healthcare reform, we're already moving forward to empower primary care doctors to work with insurance companies and providers to create quality-based medicine not quantity-based medicine that we have today.
BLITZER: So what would you do about Obamacare on day one of your presidency?
KASICH: Well, I mean, on day one of being president, you've got to talk to the Congress, right? I mean, you just can't repeal it, you know, unilaterally, but I would have a program to replace Obamacare. And it would be all part of a package to also move us towards a balance budget, which I think we need, Wolf.
I think we need three things. One is we need a credible plan to balance the budget so the economy will grow. We need to reform our -- reform the Pentagon and strengthen the military. And we've got to have a message that everybody in America should have an opportunity to rise and be included when it comes to the American dream.
BLITZER: You're on the bubble right now to make that top ten list for the prime-time Republican presidential debate in your home state of Ohio, in Cleveland next week. Do you think you're going to make the stage?
KASICH: I don't know, Wolf. But you know, it's so funny. You cited that poll at the beginning. I don't pay that much attention to polls. But you know, look, I'm like the little train that, I think the little engine that can. We just keep a little bit every day, put a little hay in the barn every day, and see where it all goes.
I love the town hall meetings in New Hampshire. I love town hall meetings all over the country. People look at you. They ask you questions. They try to figure -- take the measure of the person. And I like the forum; it's fun. You ought to come out sometime. I'll let you even do some questions when we're out there, if you'll come.
BLITZER: We'll do some serious questions. I've only been questioning you for about 20 years or so, Governor, so...
BLITZER: Maybe 30 years, when you were chairman of the House Budget Committee. You were on the Armed Services Committee. So we've done these Q&A's before, and we'll do them many times down the road.
One final question: VP, would you consider that?
KASICH: Absolutely not. I have no interest in anything like that. I'm governor of Ohio. And you know what? Ed Koch ran for governor of New York, and he lost to Mario Cuomo. And they said, "What do you think?"
He said, "Well, I may not be governor of New York, but I'm mayor of New York City, and that ain't bad."
And if I don't win, guess what? I'll still be governor of Ohio. It's a great job in a great state. So no thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right.
KASICH: I'm for you. I think you can attract voters from across the spectrum.
BLITZER: All right.
KASICH: Blitzer for vice president.
BLITZER: No, I -- thanks very much.
KASICH: I'll consider you. When I'm the nominee, I'll consider you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
KASICH: It's all about the beard, Wolf. Come on.
BLITZER: John Kasich. A happy John Kasich out there. He should be happy with these latest polls in New Hampshire show you're No. 3 and moving up. Appreciate it very much.
KASICH: Thanks, Wolf. God bless.
BLITZER: Coming up, Donald Trump says he won't fire one of his top aides, despite the man's comments about rape. Stand by for more, more of Don Lemon's latest interview with Donald Trump.
Plus, the woman who helped a pair of convicted murderers break out of a New York prison now making a deal with the prosecutors.
[17:45:35] BLITZER: New details about today's surprising guilty plea by the woman who helped a pair of killers break out of a New York prison last month. Joyce Mitchell made a deal with prosecutors.
CNN's Randi Kaye has been working on a special report for CNN about the breakout. Randi is joining us right now.
Randi, why did they make a deal with Joyce Mitchell rather than go to a trial and convict her?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quite simply, Wolf, they need information from her and they need her cooperation. I mean, she knows how they pulled this escape off. She knows the weaknesses in the prison system which they are now trying to fix, a little bit late of course. So they really need her. And for her part, she gets to avoid further charges of conspiracy for the plan to kill her husband and she also gets to avoid any more charges for having a sexual relationship with Richard Matt, one of the escapees.
A source close to the investigation have told us about she was apparently having sex with him inside the tailor shop, and she said, Wolf, that he made her feel special.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE (voice-over): It all started with David Sweat who in 2013 was working in the prison tailor shop. There he befriended Mitchell, the prison seamstress. Eric Jensen also worked in the tailor shop with the fugitives and Joyce Mitchell. David Sweat was Jensen's supervisor. Jensen said many believed Sweat was having a sexual relationship with Mitchell. ERIC JENSEN, FORMER INMATE: She used to keep him back from the mess
hall, when we would go to the mess hall for lunch and we come back to work. He'd be there eating all types of fried chicken, barbecue chicken. It was like, you know, the handsome jock on the football team asking the chubby fat girl out to the prom.
KAYE: Did people sort of joke? Did people sort of talk about their relationship?
JENSEN: Yes. We all joke. We all joke. We used to call her his boo.
KAYE: His boo?
JENSEN: His boo as in girlfriend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So that was a clip from your documentary tonight. Can't wait to see it. How key was Joyce Mitchell, though, to David Sweat and Richard Matt's escape?
KAYE: She was really key to their escape, Wolf. I mean, not only did she provide those hacksaw blades and the drill bits, but she also was aware of their escape route from the tailor shop where they all work together. They could see this power plant in the distance. And that was the meeting point that they chose. They came up with that because they could all see it from the prison.
So she knew the meeting point, she knew how they were going to cut themselves out of their cells and then wind their way through the pipes underground, and she knew what time she was supposed to pick them up. She only changed her mind, Wolf, after having that nice Chinese dinner with her husband Lyle and she just said she didn't want to leave him.
BLITZER: Randi, thanks very much.
And to all our viewers, an important note, you can watch Randi Kaye's CNN SPECIAL REPORT, "THE GREAT PRISON ESCAPE," later tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. I highly recommend you watch it.
Coming up, more from our Don Lemon brand new interview with Donald Trump. He says he won't fire one of his top aides, despite the man's comments about rape.
[17:52:50] BLITZER: With the world now focused on the historic nuclear agreement with Iran, North Korea may be feeling a bit left out of the global spotlight right now. That's what the Kim Jong-Un leadership usually relishes, that kind of spotlight. That may have been the driving force behind a rare news conference today.
Let's go to CNN's Will Ripley. He's joining us now from Beijing.
Will, tell us our viewers what happened over there today?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The North Korean ambassador here in Beijing is trying to reassert his country as a dangerous nuclear power that pose a serious threat to its number one enemy, the United States.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Apparently hungry for attention after weeks of international focus on a nuclear deal with Iran, North Korea tried putting the spotlight back on its own nuclear ambitions. Inviting journalists to a rare press conference with Pyongyang's ambassador to China, Ji Jae Ryong.
For 22 minutes the diplomat ran through the usual litany of anti- American rhetoric insisting North Korea is a nuclear power under constant threat of attack from the U.S. with no plans to disarm.
"The DPRK is not interested at all in a dialogue to discuss the issue of making us freeze or dismantle our nukes unilaterally first," the ambassador said. And he blamed the U.S. for what he call an increasingly violent situation on the Korean peninsula. Expressing outrage over next month's annual joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S.
On Monday, North Korea celebrated what it calls Victory Day. The 62nd anniversary of the truce ending the Korean War. Supreme leader Kim Jong-Un Seen on state media thanking veterans for defeating the U.S. aggressors. Above him, a huge portrait of his grandfather, Kim Il- Sung, the founder of the North Korean state, bearing a remarkable and many say deliberately cultivated resemblance to the young, third generation leader.
Back in North Korea's embassy, the press conference is over and it's time to go.
(On camera): We're certainly being watched very closely as we film inside the embassy and that's very similar to what it's like when you're actually reporting in North Korea as well.
[17:55:05] Clearly the idea of any media being here, especially Western media, makes government leaders a bit uncomfortable. And so they're watching our every move and they carefully guard the kind of access that we get. But just being able to go through these gates, being able to see the inside of the embassy is still quite rare.
(Voice-over): The kind of access North Korea only grants when it wants the world to pay attention. Promising to strike back with force against its number one enemy, the United States.
RIPLEY: North Korea and the U.S. haven't had any substantive nuclear talks since 2009. And judging by the fiery rhetoric here in Beijing, Wolf, looks like that isolation is only set to continue.
BLITZER: Certainly does. Will Ripley, thank you. Coming up, we'll have more of Don Lemon's new interview with Donald