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Deadly Storm; Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf; Ferguson Tensions; Obama to Reveal Action on Immigration Tomorrow; Interview with Florida Governor Rick Scott

Aired November 19, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I Will ask the State Department's deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.

Deadly storm, six feet of snow and counting, parts of New York State paralyzed. The nation is bracing for a second run of record- breaking cold.

Decision day in Ferguson, Missouri. Will the streets turn into a combat zone again? We have new details on the timing of a grand jury announcement that could trigger violence.

And the president's big reveal. He is about to share his plans to change the nation's immigration system on his own and start a new fight with Republicans in Congress.

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: Let's get right to breaking news tonight.

An official in Iraq now says ISIS is behind a deadly suicide car bombing in a city that's been relatively secure until now. The terror group on the attack near a key base for American forces, even as new U.S. led airstrikes are targeting ISIS fighters. And 30 attacks have been launched over the past 72 hours in Iraq and in Syria. By the way, we're getting new information about the war against ISIS and the threat to Americans.

The State Department's deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf, she is standing by, along with our correspondents, our analysts. They're covering all the stories that are breaking right now.

First, let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, with the very latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what's concerning here is that to this point, Irbil has been different.

You visit there, it is wealthier, it's more organized, and crucially it is safer, and in large part because of that very fact, there are 75 U.S. military advisers based there, some 200 diplomats, many more American businessmen and officials who travel to Irbil on a regular basis. Perhaps most importantly, it is a base for Kurdish forces that are fighting alongside the U.S. against ISIS.

Today, however, ISIS demonstrated its ability to penetrate some of the best security in the country.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): It has been an oasis of relative security in war-torn Iraq. But today, ISIS brought terror to the streets of Irbil., a suicide car bomb detonating at the entrance of a government building, killing at least four, and wounding another 29.

The Kurdish stronghold is one of two main bases for U.S. military advisers in Iraq, and the site of a visit earlier this week by Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey. Today, General Dempsey acknowledged the U.S. strategy for fighting ISIS is under constant review.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: We have a strategy, but here is what I will tell you about that strategy, it is going to change. It is going to change often. The objective is not going to change, but I am not obsessing so much about what's in the middle because the middle is going to change.

SCIUTTO: ISIS' latest violent video showing the death of American Peter Kassig is now yielding new clues. French authorities have identified two citizens, Maxime Hauchard and Michael Dos Santos, as among the ISIS fighters seen slaughtering a dozen men, described as Syrian military pilots.

Already hundreds of Westerners, including about a dozen Americans, are known to have joined ISIS or attempted to. The group's remarkable recruiting overseas so far uninterrupted by the U.S.-led war.

FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): They could be from any background, from any ethnic origin. But they easily can be brainwashed into becoming converts, and this is a very important matter. We must be vigilant.

SCIUTTO: President Obama has so far failed to seek new congressional authority to defeat ISIS. Questioned by senators at his confirmation hearing today, deputy secretary of state nominee Tony Blinken said the White House would introduce legislation if it can pass Congress.

TONY BLINKEN, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We would like to have a targeted, focused AUMF that deals with the challenge before us which is defeating ISIL. If we can get an AUMF that gets broad support, there's no question we will be better off.


SCIUTTO: Regarding today's bombing in Irbil, a senior U.S. military official tells me -- quote -- "We have no information to indicate U.S. personnel were being specifically targeted in this attack."

And just as a matter of reference, the U.S. Consulate some two- and-a-half miles from the location of today's bombing today. But the real concern here, Wolf, is ISIS' capability. It had shown it can strike with regularity inside the capital Baghdad and it shown it can strike in Irbil as well.

BLITZER: Yes, a very worrisome development indeed. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Now the view from the ground in this war against ISIS.

Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh. He's right near the border of Syria and Turkey.

What's the latest there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with regards to that attack, we know four were killed as a suicide car bomber attempted to get near the governorate inside of Irbil.

An official also telling me 29 people were injured, among the dead, though, police officers who saw this vehicle try and approach the governorate's gate, it seems opened fire and then lost their lives in the subsequent explosion, that of course sending shockwaves across Irbil literally as well as emotionally too.

As Jim was saying, this is a city which has been not immune to violence but certainly significantly more prosperous, distant from the front line, about an hour's drive away. A lot more violence around Kirkuk, where there have in the last 24 hours been a lot of U.S. airstrikes in support of Kurdish moves against ISIS around there.

This blast certainly making many concerned that ISIS may have a new capability to penetrate inside the more secure areas the Kurds and Peshmerga have in Northern Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, the fighting is continuing not far away from where you are. U.S. Retired General John Allen, he is the man in charge of coordinating this expanding coalition against ISIS. He was in Turkey today. What can you tell us about that visit?

WALSH: A somewhat brief visit in Ankara, the capital, meeting comparatively lower-level Foreign Ministry officials, and then the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced he quite swiftly went on to Brussels, the next stop on his trip here.

Now, you bear in mind too the backdrop to this visit. We don't precisely know what's on the table. But certainly the U.S. very keen to get its hands on more facilities here in the southern Turkish area. But it came as President Erdogan repeated the position that Turkey wasn't really willing to budge on its contribution to the fight against ISIS unless it had its conditions more closely met.

They want the focus really to be less ISIS, more about finding a solution, in the eyes of Turkey, for the Syrian regime, with President Bashar al-Assad, effectively removing it, but also establishing a no- fly zone in the north of Syria.

That's a key thing Turkey wants to see to allow perhaps some refugees back in, to slow what they see as the slaughter of civilians by the regime air force in Northern Syria, too, and give them effectively a security buffer zone before the Turkish border, increasingly volatile month by month by here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us, as he always is, thank you.

Representatives of the Obama administration are now involved in critical talks overseas on the war against ISIS and on Iran's nuclear program at the same time.

The State Department's deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf is joining us now from Vienna, Austria.

Marie, thanks very much for joining us. I want to get to all those issues. But specifically, based on everything you know, are American diplomats, military personnel, other American business men and women specifically being targeted by ISIS in Irbil?

MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, Wolf, we have no information to suggest that the horrific attack we saw in Irbil was aimed at American personnel.

Obviously, we know this is a very tough security situation. We know Americans there have been targeted by ISIL. All you have to do is mention that awful video of Peter Kassig's murder. But in terms in this attack in Irbil, no information that American personnel were targeted.

BLITZER: Are you beefing up diplomatic security for the American diplomats in Irbil?

HARF: I think it's safe to say we always have a very high level of security at our facilities in Iraq, in Basra, in Baghdad, and Irbil. We are always looking to see if we can do more, but it is always very, very high.

BLITZER: As you know and as we just reported, General Allen, he was in Turkey today. The U.S. has had a pretty difficult time getting Turkey,a NATO ally, on board. Based on the reports you're receiving, did General Allen make progress with Turkish officials today?

HARF: Well, General Allen had a very productive set of discussions in Ankara today, and this is an ongoing conversation with the Turks about what they can do.

They have already played a role if you look at the humanitarian side, if you look at other parts of this coalition. But we will keep having the conversation with them about what more they can do. Obviously, they make their own decisions, but they're more affected by this crisis than most any other country just given their geography. We will keep having the conversation with them. BLITZER: Because I know the U.S. would like Turkey to allow the

U.S. and other coalition partners to use some of their air bases at Incirlik and other places in Turkey.

Any progress at all on convincing the Turks to let the U.S. use those air bases to launch strikes against ISIS targets in Syria?

HARF: Well, as I said, the conversation continues on a variety of fronts about what more Turkey can do, how more we can work together in terms of this fight against ISIL.

But suffice to say, we have the military resources we need, we're confident in that, but we will keep having the conversation about what additional ways we can work together.

BLITZER: On the terror attack yesterday morning at that Jerusalem synagogue, we know the secretary of state, John Kerry, your boss, urged the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to issue a condemnation.

The Israelis say that condemnation didn't go far enough. Were you satisfied with what the president of the Palestinian Authority said in reaction to the murder of those rabbis at the synagogue?

HARF: Well, you're absolutely right. This was a horrific murder we saw yesterday happen, including with some unfortunately American citizens that were targets of this.

We have called on all sides, on the P.A., on President Abbas and on the Israelis to take steps to tone down the rhetoric, to reduce tensions and restore calm. That's the best path forward here and all sides really need to take steps do that.

BLITZER: Were you satisfied with President Abbas' condemnation?

HARF: Well, we're continuing to have the conversation with both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Secretary Kerry has been in contact with the different parties in the past few hours today about this issue. So we will keep having the conversation. But no one statement is enough. This needs to be a consistent, continued effort by leaders on all sides to reduce tensions.

We need to see a different path forward here. The scenes we have seen just over the last 24 hours are horrific, they're unacceptable, and that is not what needs to continue happening here.

BLITZER: What do you want the Israelis to do? Because you say you want them to calm down. What do you want them to do?

HARF: Well, it is some of the things you have heard Secretary Kerry and all of us talk about over the past week or so, a couple weeks actually since tensions have really flared up, particularly around the holy sites in Jerusalem. We need leaders who leader people in this area to stand up and

take steps to reduce calm, not take steps to further tensions. We know what some of those are. We have asked them not to do that, because it is really in the best interest of their people to do everything they can to take the temperature down, again, to try to prevent things like we saw happen yesterday.

BLITZER: So, be specific. What specifically should the Israel government do in the aftermath of this terror attack yesterday?

HARF: Well, we have these conversations privately, Wolf, about what we think they should do.

And obviously Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have responsibility for their people and they will take the steps they think are necessary to protect their people, but we don't want any side taking steps, even though sometimes in the aftermath of these kind of horrific events, these are steps that people want to take, to increase tension.

The opposite is really what needs to happen. And we will have those conversations privately about what those steps should or shouldn't be.

BLITZER: Are you OK with the Israelis destroying, blowing up the homes of these two terrorists who killed these rabbis?

HARF: Well, in general, we don't think home demolition is a positive step that contributes to reducing tensions. Again, the Israelis make their own decisions about their actions. But, in general, this isn't an action we think always contributes to a reduction in tensions.

BLITZER: You're in Vienna, Austria, right now. The secretary is on his way over there, may be there, for all I know, even as we speak. Monday is the deadline for the members of the U.N. Security Council in Germany to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear program. Are you close to a deal or not so close?

HARF: Well, Wolf, the secretary will be coming to Vienna later this week. He's not here yet.

Our negotiating team has been here for the past two days. And just to be quite frank, the discussions have been very tough and they have been very serious, and they have been very direct. Iran has said it does not want a nuclear weapon. And just technically speaking, if that's true, that's not a hard thing to prove.

And all we're asking them to do is take credible and verifiable actions to prove that. But there are still some very significant gaps that remain. I don't ever say I'm optimistic. I am realistic about the fact that we can still get this done, but a lot of work still remains and, as you mentioned, time is pretty short here.

BLITZER: But you could do an extension, right? You could keep it going a few more months, right? HARF: Well, we are focused on the 24th.

We have been negotiating now for a year. You remember last year at this time when we concluded the joint plan of action. Again, if you want to prove your program is peaceful, it is not a difficult thing to do. What we are focused on in the room is not taking more time, is not an extension. It is seeing if in the time left we can get this done and we can see if we can get to an agreement. That's our focus.

BLITZER: The deadline being Monday.

All right, Marie Harf in Vienna, Austria, thanks very much. We will stay in touch with you as well.

Breaking news coming up next. We're just learning of another death blamed on epic snowfall as frigid weather grips much of the United States. Some areas are now buried under six feet of snow in New York State.

And CNN is now learning new information about the timing of the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury decision. Will the officer, the police officer, Darren Wilson, be charged in the death of Michael Brown? We have breaking news. All of that and a lot more coming up.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking weather news.

Some of the heaviest snow in decades falling on Western New York. We have just learned, unfortunately, of another weather-related death, bringing the toll coming to at least seven people killed, as up to six feet of snow have buried parts of the region, and guess what, it's not over yet.

CNN's Martin Savidge is joining us from South Buffalo right now.

Martin, what are you seeing, what's going on?


This is really the effort right now, clearing the snow. And we're not talking about just plowing the snow. No, they have got to lift it. they have got to load it into these trucks. They're all lined up here like a conveyer built. They're going to keep moving down the road and they will be loaded and then they will haul the snow out.

This is essential, because it is the only way that people are going to get around. They had a break, but it looks like that break is over.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): As Buffalo tries to dig out from an avalanche of snow, even more is on the way. The lake-effect blizzard hammered southern areas of the city Tuesday, dropping nearly six feet, yes, feet.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I believe when all is said and done, this snowfall may break all sorts of records.

SAVIDGE: Of the 42 square miles that make up Buffalo, only 10 were impacted, but they're overwhelmed with snow the likes of which rarely, maybe even never, seen before. The impact was so specific to South Buffalo, even the airport just three miles away got only six- and-a-half inches.

A break in the weather Wednesday allowed emergency crews to start the big dig. More snow is expected Wednesday night into Friday, which could add a couple more feet on top of what they already have.

BYRON BROWN, MAYOR OF BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Please, do not be fooled by the beautiful sunshine. There is still tremendous amounts of snow on the ground in South Buffalo. If you don't have to drive, if you don't have to go out to work in other parts of the city as well, stay home.

SAVIDGE: Driving bans are still in effect in South Buffalo, where snow left many stranded on the New York Thruway, including the Niagara University women's basketball team, who got stuck on I-90 for 24 hours. That team was finally rescued, but calls keep coming in from those still stranded and, in many cases, rescues like this one last night were carried out on foot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning since 6:00 a.m., we had 12 new calls. So, those people right now, they should be OK, but officers last night were responding on foot.

SAVIDGE: EMS and firefighters have been depending on volunteers with snowmobiles to get into hardest-hit areas. The death toll from this brutal storm has climbed to six so far, some from cardiac arrest shoveling and others trapped in the snow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sadly, we have to announce, we found an individual today, 46-year-old male in the town of Alden. The car was buried under approximately 12 to 15 feet of snow and he was found deceased.

SAVIDGE: One of the biggest struggles, simply clearing streets. Plows aren't enough. They need front-end loaders hauling the snow away using hundreds of dump trucks.

Rescuers from as far away as Nevada have contacted Buffalo officials to offer their help, and the city says its most urgent need is for anything that can dig up and haul away the seemingly unending mountain of snow.


SAVIDGE: One of the very interesting things about the storm, Wolf, is that it has been so specific to a certain area, South Buffalo. In other words, the major downtown area for the most part is

clear. They had some snow, but they're functioning just fine. It is areas like this that have just been inundated, and it is equipment, well, like this, that's the shovel you need in this incredible kind of snow, Wolf.

BLITZER: Buffalo does know how to deal with snow and the equipment underscores that. Martin, thank you.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's also right is in the middle of the snow emergency.

You're in Chautauqua, just south of Buffalo, right?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, here in Chautauqua, where the snow is coming down again.

This is round two of this snow event. It is much more than an event. This is historic, as we have been talking about all day long. We do have one update for you. Authorities here have just announced that seventh person has died as a result of the snowstorms, an elderly man who had a previous heart condition that was aggravated by the snowstorms. He died at an urgent care facility because he couldn't get to a hospital.

We will show you what we are talking about. This is what more than five feet of snow looks like. Comes up to about my neck. This is a drift in front of the house here on Borden Road. There are drifts and accumulations even higher than this at places here in the Buffalo area.

And here is a big problem, abandoned cars on these roads. You have an abandoned car right here. Luckily, this one is off to the side. There is another one over here behind me a few feet down. But a lot of the time, Wolf, they are leaving these cars smack dab in the middle of these roads, and you can see how narrow this is.

That is really causing nightmares for the first-responders that have to try to either plow around those cars or just maybe try to move them sometimes to get to people in an emergency. The travel ban -- that's why the driving ban is still on tonight and it will remain in effect of course through tomorrow and Friday.

But a lot of people here, a lot of Buffalonians who are used to snow are still coming out because they want to see it and they think they can handle it. But the firemen and the first-responders who we're talking say a lot of them cannot handle it. They are getting stuck out here.

And they really want people to stay inside and don't necessarily try to shovel, because what a lot of people do here is, they try to shovel in stages. When a foot comes down, they try to get that out of the way. A lot of the time, they're just getting exhausted. They say just wait for it. There is warmer weather coming, so it will melt -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us.

And the bad news is, more snow is coming before better weather arrives. So the people there are going to have a problem over the next several days. Brian, thank you.

Breaking news just ahead. The Ferguson, Missouri grand jury report, we have all been waiting for it. We're learning a decision on charging the police officer, Darren Wilson, in the shooting death of Michael Brown could be reached very, very soon. Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news in the Michael Brown police case, sources telling CNN the grand jury investigating the shooting could decide as early as Friday whether to charge the police officer, Darren Wilson.

Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, he broke the news first here on CNN. He's joining us from Clayton, Missouri.

Also joining us, the community activist John Gaskin; our CNN anchor Don Lemon; and the St. Louis city alderman Antonio French.

Evan, let me begin with you. Your sources on the ground, they're saying a grand jury decision could come as early as Friday. Tell us what you know.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Looks like Friday is going to be a big day at the county prosecutor's office behind me. The plan is for the grand jury to return to reconvene here on Friday. The prosecutors will present some more evidence to them, and then they begin some deliberations. We expect that the decision will come pretty soon after that.

The grand jury decision will not be released immediately, however. The prosecutors plan to keep that -- keep it under wraps for 48 hours while they give some notice to law enforcement. And then make an official announcement on Sunday, Wolf.

BLITZER: On Sunday. But there could be a leak, right? That's what they're worried about?

PEREZ: You know, they're worried about the leaks. They're worried about that, you know, the people on the streets will react to leaks, even before they have a chance to make an announcement.

And I've got to tell you, I don't know how it won't leak out between Friday and Sunday, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Antonio French? How worried should the folks there be and the rest of the country about this grand jury decision being leaked early and the potential -- assuming if there's no indictment of this police officer, the potential for some angry, angry protests that could turn violent?

ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS CITY ALDERMAN: Well, one, I don't think people should be worried at all. There's too much fear and anxiety going on in the community now. I think people should be calm. We've actually heard lots of these different rumors over the last few days and weeks about an impending announcement.

And so the prosecutor said that once they do reach decision, he will notify school districts and law enforcement and give us 48 hours' notice. So when I hear an official announcement from the prosecutor's office, then we'll start preparing.

BLITZER: As you probably should.

Don, you know, there's this website, that's been set up by protesters, providing some potential protest plan resources, based on the assumption that the police Officer Wilson won't be indicted by the grand jury. The website calls for peaceful protesting, but there could be something that will incite. There could be violent clashes. What do you think? How -- is the community prepared for all of this? And you spent a lot of time there in Ferguson.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I think the community is prepared, and I think we have to -- we must start giving the people of Ferguson, the citizens of Ferguson their due respect. And we should not underestimate their ability to understand the situation and that they want peace.

As I was there witnessing what went on on the ground, most of the people in Ferguson, as I said in the beginning when I was there and I've been saying ever since, they want this to be resolved, and they were protesting peacefully. And they just want their voices to be heard.

Many of the people who came there and were agitators -- I hate to say outside agitators. That's such a cliche. But it really is, Wolf, people coming in from outside the community who don't have anything better to do, and they want to instigate. But we should give the people of Ferguson more credit. And I think that they know how to deal with it.

BLITZER: I want to get to John Gaskin in a moment.

But Antonio French, you wrote a letter to the Missouri governor, Jay Nixon today, appealing for mental health professionals, counselors, others for the protesters, in your words, who have been victimized by police. Have you received a response yet from the governor or from his office?

FRENCH: I have talked to someone from the governor's office, and will be talking over the next few days to see if some of these needs can get addressed.

But I think it's important to remind folks that there are more than just security needs going on right now, and that there isn't a military solution to many of the problems we have here. Some of them just involve understanding, love, compassion, empathy. And hopefully, we can get some professionals on the ground who

can help with some of the issues that people have been going through. It's been a very traumatic and trying time for all of us in the community.

BLITZER: It certainly has been.

John Gaskin, another Ferguson school district released a contingency plan in advance of the grand jury decision. There will be no prosecution. They'll be giving law enforcement 48 hours before making the decision public. What other plans have you been advised?

JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Well, what -- simply what -- pretty much what y'all have been told. Them give the public 48 hours' notice, particularly law enforcement.

I think it's critically important that school leaders have an opportunity to get students safely home from school, if that announcement is not made on Sunday.

But school district leaders have been very proactive. They've already begun plans to communicate with parents regarding their contingency plans if students have to be home for more than a day, possibly a week.

And so they're doing their due diligence to ensure the students have the resources, have food and other resources that they may need from being away from school for an extended period of time.

BLITZER: And Don, you know that the conceal carry permit applications in St. Louis County -- that's where Ferguson is -- they're up over 50 percent since Michael Brown was killed, that according to a local report. Local stories -- stores, I should say, gun stores telling CNN gun purchases have soared in the aftermath of the shooting.

Should Ferguson be concerned about all of this, about this rise in the number of guns that have been distributed, sold in recent weeks and months?

LEMON: Of course they should. There's more manpower on the street. And the reason that they should be concerned is because the training for many of the gun stores for a right to carry concealed weapons, the training is backed up until 2015. There's a waiting list. So there may be people out there who are in possession of these guns and are not trained for it. So yes, there should be some concern.

But I am optimistic and I am hopeful that calmer and cooler minds will prevail here and actions and that there won't be violence on a mass level, at least, except for maybe some sporadic things when this announcement is given.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens the way you described it, Don. You'll have a lot more at 10 p.m. Eastern later tonight, "CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON," coming up only here on CNN. Guys, thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll stay on top of

this story over the next several days, as we always do.

There's more breaking news coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. An arrest at the White House by the U.S. Secret Service. We now have new information coming in. We're going live to the White House for the very latest.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news involving, once again, unfortunately, security over at the White House. Our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is standing by. Tell our viewers what happened, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a case, a much welcome one, of things working as they should, but you can also see how things could have had a different outcome.

This afternoon, a 41-year-old man from Iowa walked up to a uniformed Secret Service officer about a block from the White House and said that someone told him in Iowa to drive to the White House, and he did.

Well, that didn't sit well with the Secret Service. They found his car again about a block from the White House, asked him if they could search it. And in the trunk, they found a hunting rifle and ammunition. So they arrested him on the spot. He is accused of having an unregistered gun, and other charges that could happen, as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So at least that's over with for now. Unfortunately, there have been some other incidents at the White House, security related incidents that did not go well, as all of our viewers know.

BLITZER: The other breaking story we're following, Michelle, of course, President Obama's prime-time address to the nation tomorrow night on immigration reform. He's going to take unilateral executive -- just make a decision unilaterally. What are you learning? What can we expect?

KOSINSKI: Right. Well, tonight just before he takes this momentous executive action, he was out to have dinner with more than a dozen congressional leaders, but all of them are Democrats.

The White House said that they have repeatedly had discussions with Republicans, but they are the ones that have held up immigration reform. The White House said there are still some policy points that need to be locked down, but that they feel confident that this action has a strong legal foundation and that it will be fully implemented.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): President Obama finally announced his impending announcement on Facebook.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I'm going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.

KOSINSKI: Tomorrow at 8 p.m. on television, he will unveil his plan, and according to sources is likely to offer work permits and defer deportation to more than 3 million people, including the undocumented parents of children who are American citizens or have some legal status already, if those parents have been living in the U.S. for a number of years.

It could expand those same allowances that the president granted in 2012 to people brought here illegally as children, known as DREAMers. But sources believe it will not include the parents of those DREAMers, and is not a path to citizenship but a temporary renewable right to stay and work, leading some groups to already complain the president's action won't do enough.

The White House director for domestic policy, Cecilia Munoz, said this about its scope.

CECILIA MUNOZ, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR FOR DOMESTIC POLICY: He is going to go as far as he can under the law.

KOSINSKI: But asked about that today and questioned surrounding what legal authority the president does have, considering that he himself has said repeatedly he didn't have the authority to act.

OBAMA: I wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself, but that's not how democracy works.

KOSINSKI: The White House answered a bit differently.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: An impartial observer would conclude the president sought to maximize the use of his authority to try to solve these problems. And frankly, I think it's what the American people expect the president of the United States to do.

KOSINSKI: On the other side, Republicans infuriated by what they view as, quote, "Emperor Obama," far overstepping his legal bounds.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: If he goes through with this, and he sticks a finger in the eye of the American people with no thought about it, other than "This is what I want to do and I'm going to do it," then I think he jeopardizes the long term ability of Democrats to get back in Washington, D.C.


KOSINSKI: And we just heard House Speaker Boehner say that this action threatens to ruin Congress taking action on immigration and other things as well. But today, the White House put the blame for ruining things squarely on the shoulders of the House speaker, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Michelle, thanks very much. Michelle Kosinski over at the White House.

Let's get a closer look now at the president's plan to try to fix the immigration system and the fallout. Remember, we are told he is likely to defer deportation, expand work visas for several million undocumented immigrants, while also bolstering resources for border security.

Let's bring in our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Dana, what are you hearing from Republicans on Capitol Hill?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, they're so happy. No, I'm just kidding.

I mean, as you can imagine, they have been warning the president for weeks not to do this, expecting the would, now he is, as you heard in Michelle's report, they're calling him everything from an emperor to dictator.

Now, the question, of course, is, what are they going to do? And there aren't very good options for them to do much at all because they don't want to shut down the government, and they're trying to bend over backwards to avoid it while trying to use their tools of the power of the purse, funding, maybe even filing suit, trying to block the president's nominees, things like that. Maybe a combination of all those things, but they're just not sure exactly how to fight back.

BLITZER: As you know, the president invited Democratic congressional leaders for dinner at the White House.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They should have a nice dinner.

BLITZER: He is going to have them on board. Why not invite Republicans over for dinner as well?

BORGER: Because I think he knows exactly what Republicans would say to him, which they already said publicly, they would say it privately, don't do this. And in talking to a senior administration official today, I think the White House posture is effectively -- put up or shut up.

You guys had over a year. This is you guy have had over a year since the Senate passed its bill. You haven't done anything. We're going to put this on the table now. You know that if you legislate, that supersedes any kind of action.

And also, if you're Democrat and you look at the demographics of a Democratic majority, it includes Hispanic voters. And it's very important to their base, it's very important to their political future, and Hispanics believe the president has been sitting on his hands, waiting for Republicans to act, and they're saying no more. BLITZER: Is there any chance there could be another government


BASH: Extremely, extremely small. Extremely small. I don't want to say no chance because I don't want you to come back and say I told you so.

But I have not found anybody who is for a government shutdown, except for the conservative groups who make money off pushing Republicans to do things like shutting down the government. I mean, even the most conservative members do not think that is a good strategy right now, which is why they're trying to figure out. Really, they are twisting into pretzels to figure out how to use the power of the purse to stop the president without shutting the government down.

And one, this might sound like a minor thing, but it is important thing. The way that the whole -- the way the president did it isn't by Congress, it's through fees, by custom fees. Custom agencies, they use fees from customs and they take that money, that's how they pay for enforcement. So, it's not even Congress. So, shutting down the government won't do anything to that end.

BLITZER: Is there any political negative as far as the president is concerned in taking this decision?

BORGER: Sure. This notion of the imperial presidency polled well for Republicans during midterm elections, and they used it in every race, particularly after the president said he was going to take executive action using the pen and phone. So, this plays into their hands on that.

I think the big question that I have is whether these grownups or so-called grownups, can actually compartmentalize, and say, OK, we're going to be after each other on certain things, but maybe a couple things we can work together on. I don't know the answer of that, or whether this poisons the well so much that they may as well pack up and go home.

BLITZER: All right. Gloria, Dana, guys, thanks very much.

I just want to remind our viewers, CNN will, of course, carry President Obama's address to the nation live, full coverage, starting 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night.

Let's talk now to a leading Republican about immigration and more, the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, joins us for his first national interview since getting himself reelected the other day.

Governor, first of all, congratulations on your re-election. Thanks very much for joining us.

What's your reaction to the breaking news that the president will announce tomorrow night he is unilaterally going to use his executive authority to change the immigration status for 3 million or 3.5 million, maybe 4 million people living who are here in the United States?

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Well, Wolf, first, I hope you hurry up and move to Florida. It's a lot warmer down here than the cold in Northeast.

Look, the president, you know, it's frustrating. He hasn't secured our borders. We have a humanitarian crisis on our borders this summer, with all of these undocumented children coming over. They've sent them into states like Florida without any -- telling us what to do.

And now, without working with Congress, he's going to take executive action. We can't comment until we know exactly what we are going to do, but I can't do that in Florida. I work with my legislature. I don't get exactly what I want. I work with them to make the best decisions possible. I'm surprised the president doesn't want to work with Congress for the benefit of all Americans.

BLITZER: But as you know, he's been waiting 16 months. The Senate in a bipartisan fashion did pass comprehensive immigration reform, your Florida senator, Marco Rubio, Republican, he voted for it, John McCain voted for it, but it's been sitting in the House of Representatives for well -- for more than a year and the speaker hasn't allowed it to come up for a vote. And the president says, you know what, he can't wait forever. Does he have a point?

SCOTT: You know, Wolf, here's what I do. If I want something to pass, I sit down with the leadership in the House and in the Senate, and I find out what their needs are to try to come up with something that everybody is OK with, where we can get the votes to pass something. I don't sit there and say, well, golly, you didn't pass something so I'm going to do something by myself.

You sit there and you find out what the needs are, what the concerns of their citizens, their constituents are, and you try to come up with something that fits everybody. The president needs to, first off, secure the border and then sit down with everybody and say, how -- what can we get done? And maybe the right thing is a comprehensive package. But do what you can get done.

That's what I do in my state. I've got taxes 40 times, I've got regulations. I've done things on education. And that's why we have 650,000 more jobs because I work with my legislature like he should work with Congress to say, what's the most I can get done today and what is the most I can get done tomorrow. Every day, he should be doing that.

BLITZER: Governor, I want you to stand by. We want to continue our conversation. We'll take a quick break.

Much more with Governor Rick Scott of Florida right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with the newly re-elected governor of Florida, Republican Rick Scott. Governor, as you know, the student loan debt in the country is a

huge problem right now. More and more Americans are graduating from college with mounds and mounds of debt. The CNN film "Ivory Tower" tackles that topic.

I want to play this little clip from the film that will air here tomorrow night. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rise in student tuition is unsustainable. We can not continue to charge significantly more year after year after year without running into some kind of a brick wall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: College tuition has increased more than any other good or service in the entire U.S. economy since 1978.


BLITZER: Earlier today, I spoke with "TIME" magazine's Rana Foroohar. She told me she thinks this rise in student debt nationwide could lead to the country's next economic crisis. Do you agree?

SCOTT: Wolf, it's a significant problem. I grew up in a very poor family. After high school I went to the Navy and got the G.I. bill. But my wife and I both had to pay our own way through school.

And you look at what's happening to these children today, our students, the debt they are ending up with is unsustainable. So, here's what I've done. We have 23 state colleges with four-year degrees and now they have a total tuition for a four-year degree for $10,000.

I stopped the tuition increases. They were going up 15 percent a year in Florida. I stopped that after we came in. We reduced that for the prepaid, if you want to buy one for a newborn, it went from $54,000 to $27,000 this last year.

I'm going to continue to hold the line on tuition. On top of that, we have performance funding for universities, talking about what it costs for a degree, do you get a job when you walk out and how much money do you make. So, get the universities to focus on where the jobs are, what's a cost to get a degree, and how much money do you make.

BLITZER: Is it worth it for everybody to get a college degree or is there a better alternative for some young people out there?

SCOTT: Well, clearly, there are better alternatives but students need to understand, they need to understand, if you go get this degree, what is the chance you're going to get a job? What are you going to make? And what's the long-term opportunity?

And so, what we're doing also in Florida is we're giving our students that information starting as early as 7th grade. We are giving our students that information so when -- if they decide to go on, whether it's to a state college or a university or someplace else, they know what the option is.

Why -- what is it going to cost me? Do I get a job? How much money do I make? So they can make a logical decision. It's based on a return on investment. If you are going to invest your time and money, what happens?

BLITZER: Governor, good to have your thoughts. Thanks for joining us. We'll, of course, continue our conversations.

SCOTT: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And once again congratulations on your re-election.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow night 9:00 p.m. Eastern, for the all new CNN film "Ivory Tower". You will want to see this really important documentary.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNET OUTFRONT" starts right now.