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Scott Walker Announces Run for President; Iranian Nuclear Deal?; Interview With Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Aired 18- 19:00p ET

Aired July 13, 2015 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, nearing a deal. Secretary of State John Kerry appears to be overcoming new hurdles in Iran nuclear talks. He's pushing toward a big announcement. Will negotiators reach the finish line in the next few hours?

Students targeted. New details about an ISIS-inspired plot to bomb college dorms and cafeterias and to execute students live online. Tonight, an American has now been arrested, along with an arsenal of weapons turned in by his own father.

Freeing prisoners. President Obama shortens the sentences of dozens of drug offenders, saying their punishments didn't match their crimes. Why is he making this a high priority now?

And Walker's leap. The Wisconsin governor is about to announce his presidential bid. He is the 15th Republican to join the race. Can he steal the thunder of some bigger names like Bush and Trump?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, diplomats say they hope to announce a historic nuclear deal with Iran in a matter of hours, this after a day of new snags in the high-stakes negotiations and rising and falling hopes for an agreement. We're digging for details. We're standing by for a possible news conference.

Also tonight, a chilling ISIS-inspired bomb plot exposed with a new arrest right here in the United States. A prosecutor says the son of a Boston police captain was planning mass killings on behalf of the terrorist group. We will talk about all those stories and more with Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. He's standing by live. And our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by with all the news that's breaking right now.

First, let's get the very latest from our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's working these Iran nuclear negotiations -- Elise. ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf,

diplomats in the talks in Vienna telling me they're putting the finishing touches on the agreement.

It's been a day of ups and the downs. There's been a lot of issues that have been cleared, but there are issues remain focused around the arms embargo. Iran wants a U.S. arms embargo lifted immediately while a deal is being implemented. The U.S. and its partners have been resistant, but we understand those issues are on their way to being finished. There are still issues relating to the wording of the document that they're finishing up right now, but diplomats tell me they hope to have a deal announced within several hours, Wolf.

BLITZER: Will that document immediately be released? I understand it's about 100 pages. Or will some of it be confidential or secret, only allowed to be known by the negotiators themselves, not the American public?

LABOTT: Well, I think most of it is going to have to be released. Right? And there are six parties, so it's going to need to be translated into six different -- seven different languages, including Farsi for the Iranians. It's going to need to be released to all these people.

But clearly the U.S. Congress is really where deal is going to need to be released. The president, Secretary Kerry have said that it's going to need to pass muster and the American people and Congress will have time to review it.

I have to note that they're still meeting, they don't know exactly when the deal will be announced, but they are putting the finishing touches on the agreement, Wolf. Sources tell me they hope there will be an announcement within the next couple of hours.

BLITZER: Because I have spoken with some members of Congress who are concerned that not all of it will be made public. There will be secret provisions maybe made known in confidential sessions with certain key members of the House and Senate, but the American people won't have access to all of it. Is that what you're hearing?

LABOTT: Well, I think there will be general principles that will be released to the public, in terms of the U.S. will clearly try to spin this the way it wants, that it has tough inspections.

Will the actual details of those inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities, Iranian military bases -- it's been a very contentious issue -- be in there? I'm not so sure. Even senior officials that have been backgrounding the press in months leading up to this agreement have said some of those details may have to be classified, may need to be secret.

I think they're going to want to give Congress as many details as they can, but I would expect some of the contents of this agreement, particularly in those very technical annexes, might not be released to the public. BLITZER: Yes, because that's a source of concern to some members

of Congress. They say that the Iranians will have all those details. The Chinese, Russians, Europeans, they will have all those details, but the American public won't have access to those details. And that's potentially going to be an issue if they keep some of the agreement secret.

We will see what happens. Elise, thanks very much.

We will get more on this story in a moment, but there's other details that are emerging right now of a very disturbing development, a new ISIS-related terror arrest here in the United States. A federal prosecutor says the son of a Boston police captain was planning attacks with pressure cooker bombs and other devices all in the name of ISIS, targeting big crowds, including college students in dorms and cafeterias.


Our justice reporter, Evan, Perez has been getting more information about the suspect, the alleged plot.

What are you learning, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the FBI describes a chilling plan to carry out terrorist attacks inspired by the Boston Marathon bombings.

Alexander Ciccolo was arrested July 4, after obtaining four firearms. And the FBI says that he's a Muslim convert who in recent months became obsessed with ISIS. According to the FBI, an undercover informant recorded conversations in which Ciccolo described various plans for attacks, including he wanted to use assault rifles and bombs to attack a university campus, targeting college dorms and the crowded cafeteria.

His plan included pressure cooker bombs, like those we saw used in Boston, and that they would be packed with nails and ball bearings. He also allegedly wanted to carry out executions of students and broadcast them on the Internet.

According to the FBI, when they searched Ciccolo's apartment, he already had several partially constructed Molotov cocktails, Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan Perez with that. We're staying on top of the story. I know you're working your sources. Thank you.

Meanwhile, a new assault on ISIS terrorists is being launched overseas right now. Iraqi forces are aiming to retake a critical ISIS stronghold.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf. The question is, is the battle, the crucial battle, to retake

Ramadi really on? U.S. officials say, not so fast.


STARR (voice-over): Near Ramadi, 29 airstrikes struck nearly 70 areas where ISIS has been staging fighters and weapons. It comes as Iraq says it has begun operations to recapture Anbar province west of Baghdad, the ISIS stronghold in Iraq.

U.S. officials say full-blown combat has yet to begin, and it's not clear how much ISIS weaponry airstrikes have hit. Shia forces are already moving east towards Fallujah, an attempt to freeze ISIS in place.

If it works, the plan then calls for Iraqi forces to move west towards Ramadi from Taqaddum Air Base. But two months after Iraqi forces ran from Ramadi, ISIS threatens their ability to get it back.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: First and foremost, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, these are basically car bombs and truck bombs, and those could wreak huge havoc on militia forces and Iraqi regular forces that would go into a place like Ramadi.

STARR: And in the not-so-friendly skies over the declared ISIS capital, Raqqa, Syria, the U.S.-led coalition found it had unwelcome company. On Saturday, for the first time, the coalition says Syrian warplanes conducted airstrikes over Raqqa at the same time coalition warplanes were bombing bridges just four miles away, worry the air campaign just got even more dangerous.

LEIGHTON: Since there's no coordination, the risk of a crash or some other incident, including firing on each other, could definitely occur. And that is one of the biggest issues that we would have flying over Syria.

STARR: Raqqa is very much in the USS crosshairs. The working theory is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, may be nearby. U.S. officials tell CNN they are also trying to confirm a top leader of an al Qaeda affiliate was killed in a recent strike in Syria.


STARR: Now, behind the scenes, the U.S. military has been heavily involved in developing that war plan for Ramadi back in Iraq. The U.S. says getting Ramadi back is a must-win for the Iraqis, but it's a very long road ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

Let's talk about all of this and more. Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum. He's now a Republican presidential candidate.

Once again, Senator, thanks very much for joining us. I just want to alert our viewers. We're standing by. Scott

Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, he's going to be making his announcement that he's running for president. I want to hear some of that speech as well.

But let's talk about this Iran nuclear deal. Could only be hours away. You -- I take it -- hate this deal, right?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it's a folly. I think the idea of negotiating with an organization that -- a government that continues to call for death to America, death to Israel, that has existing sanctions -- excuse me, existing commitments in place that they're not living up to. In fact, Iran has never lived up to any of its treaty obligations.

Why do we believe now that they're going to, all of a sudden, change when the only reason they came to the table was because of these diplomatic -- excuse me, these economic sanctions that were causing problems in their economy? And now, we've given them some relief on that. We're about to give them more relief on that. Why would they feel that they need to go along with this?


BLITZER: Are you willing to at least give the administration the benefit of the doubt, read the 100-page document, look at the details? Maybe there are some aspects of it that will seriously prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb?

SANTORUM: Well, number one, I don't believe they'll adhere to any of it.

BLITZER: The Iranians won't?

SANTORUM: The Iranians wouldn't adhere to any of it, number one.

BLITZER: But then, the administration says if they don't adhere to it, they could snap back those sanctions and even intensify the sanctions.

SANTORUM: Yes. And I think there's been lots of comments that once this deal has signed, it now creates an opportunity for the rest of the world, which is not as adamant about Iran not getting a nuclear weapon, at least much of the rest of the world. Actually, some of our European allies are being tougher than we are I think in these negotiations. But most of the rest of the --

BLITZER: Which one do you think? France?

SANTORUM: France has been remarkably strong on this. But the Russians -- they're -- all of them looking for the opportunities to wash their hands of any kind of sanctions with Iran and other countries also.

So, the idea that they'll be able to snap back, no one credibly believes that we'll be able to snap back any sanctions once this deal is signed because it will then be an argument of interpretation. The United States will say, well, they're not doing this. Iran say, yes, we are. And so, this will go on, a long, drawn-out process.

Meanwhile, the money is flowing back into Iran, they can reconstitute their program, they can better fund terrorism, and we're off -- they're off to the races of being a continued bad actor.

BLITZER: There's one school of thought that says, maybe this deal for 10 years, 15 years, stops Iran from developing a bomb during that period. Maybe there will be regime change in Iran, a more moderate regime will emerge, a more democratic regime that won't be interested in developing a nuclear bomb.

SANTORUM: Well, President Santorum, that's a possibility, because we'll certainly do everything we can to encourage regime change. I was in the Senate when I actually authored a bill called the Iran Freedom Support Act that actually funded a -- pro-democracy groups in Iran. President Obama cut that funding when he came into office and never used that funding to help support the green revolution or anything else there.

So, I don't think you can count on this administration of doing anything to foment any of regime change.

BLITZER: I want to get to other issues while I have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Today, as you know, is part of a larger attempt to deal with criminal justice, the president commuted prison sentences of 46 drug offenders.

Senator Rand Paul, for example, he supports these kind of moves. Where do you stand on this?

SANTORUM: Look, I think we need to take a look at our criminal justice system and particularly some of these crimes related to drugs. When I was in the United States Senate and the House in the 1990s, there was a big rush to federalize a lot of these crimes, put very tough penalties in place. I think we are filling up our prisons with a lot of nonviolent offenders.

This is -- it's not like it's not a serious crime, but some of the sentences given out are disproportionate to the crime.

BLITZER: So, on this issue, you agree with President Obama?

SANTORUM: I can't speak specifically to these particular cases because I haven't reviewed them, but I think this is an important issue we need to revisit as a country.

BLITZER: I'm sure you spent a lot of time thinking about how you, if you were elected president, would defeat ISIS, right? We had the Evan Perez report you heard, a 23-year-old Massachusetts man arrested today, supposedly allegedly plotting to bomb or attack college dorms, cafeterias in Massachusetts. What's your strategy in dealing with ISIS?

SANTORUM: As long as ISIS continues to hold their territory and expand this territory, they have legitimacy within the radical Islamic world and will be able to radicalize people. Not just to join them in Iraq and Syria but also here in the United States and around the world.

And so, that's why the public relations campaign which is primarily what this president is doing with respect to this war, as opposed to a serious campaign with a commitment to defeat ISIS is what we need. And --

BLITZER: Like what? Give me an example.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, I can only go by -- I'm not -- I'm not a military strategist, so for me to, without any kind of really proper briefings, to give you a detailed strategy, but I can tell you that I would arm the Kurds, because they are willing to fight. And we are not giving them the weapons to do so. The Jordanians need more help, but humanitarian turn help because of the refugee crisis. The Egyptians, which we are withholding arms from, have been very clear they're willing to fight ISIS in Libya and maybe other places.

So, we can start right there. And, of course, providing more support on the ground for the Iraqis, as well as the Kurds, to be able to push the ISIS out of Iraq, take back Ramadi, other places. We begin to push back, shrink this caliphate, they lose legitimacy in the radical Islamic world, and I think a lot of these activities will scale down.

BLITZER: Let's talk politics a little bit. You want to be president of the United States. You want to win more caucuses, primaries. You won 11 states last time around.


BLITZER: You won the Iowa caucuses, barely over Mitt Romney. But you did win the Iowa caucus.


SANTORUM: ... days late, but nevertheless...

BLITZER: There was a count that went on and on. You did win the Iowa caucuses.

Right now, though, you're not doing that well. Donald Trump is doing great in the polls right now, whether in Iowa, New Hampshire, or nationally for that matter. How do you explain that?


SANTORUM: You know, it's -- to me, what matters is how well you're doing when they cast votes. Four years ago, we were at 1 percent or 2 percent in the polls. In fact, two weeks before the election in Iowa, national polls had us at 2 percent.

So, I don't really pay much attention to what's going on in national polls. You've got to run the race where the race is. The first race is in Iowa. That's where we're going to spend our time and energy on.

The next races are New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada. I'll be in New Hampshire next week. I'll be in South Carolina next week. I'll be in Nevada in either a week or two.

So, we're going to be where the races are. And we're going to focus our time and energy on building a great grassroots team to support that.

BLITZER: But to be in that top ten for that first Republican debate August 6, it's a national poll, it's not where you stand in Iowa or New Hampshire, right?

SANTORUM: I think that's a mistake. I think the idea that we would --

BLITZER: How would you do it?

SANTORUM: I would be --

BLITZER: Because there are 15, with Scott Walker about to formally announce. He's already announced earlier on the day. He's going to make a speech in a few moments. How would you divide it up?

SANTORUM: I think at this early point the press shouldn't be deciding who's in and who's out. I think that's really for the voters to decide. So, I would have two debates. I think if you have 16 candidates, take the even-number candidates, put them as far as top to bottom in the polls, take the odd-number candidates, put in a pool, and do it that way.

BLITZER: Senator, stand by for a few moments. I want to have a key race alert, 15th major Republican candidate officially jumping into the presidential race.

Let's go live to Wisconsin, the announcement by the governor, Scott Walker. There he is



AUDIENCE: We want Scott! We want Scott! We want Scott!

WALKER: Thank you. Thank you.

AUDIENCE: We want Scott! We want Scott! We want Scott!

WALKER: I love America.


WALKER: You know, as kids, my brother David and I used to love to go over and visit one of our neighbors by the name of Claire Congdon. Mr. Congdon was a bit of a legend in our small town. You see, he had served our country in World War I and World War



WALKER: Then, like so many other veterans, he came back and served his community.

And over the years, we used to love to see him down at the concession stand at legion baseball. He'd help out in our church and he was a leader in my Boy Scout troop. In fact, I can remember over the years before Memorial Day he would organize me and all the other Scouts as we would go through and put up flags on the graves of the fallen.


WALKER: It was impossible to be around Mr. Congdon and not share his love for God and country.

I think back 30 years ago. Mr. Congdon's American Legion post helped me attend the program called Badger Boy State. And it was there that I learned about state and local government. And along the way, it was interesting. I got the chance to be selected to represent Wisconsin in a program out in Washington, D.C. called Boys Nation.

And there I met another veteran, a Vietnam veteran from Georgia by the name of Bob Turner. Now, Bob and all the other veterans that ran that program not only taught us about the federal government, the national elections. They shared their love for our country.


And they inspired within me the importance of public service when it comes to defending our liberties. Veterans like that remind me that what makes America great is the fact that America is a can-do kind of country.

Unfortunately, we have a government in Washington that just can't quite seem to get the job done. You know, Washington, or, as I call it, 68 square miles surrounded by reality, well, the good news is, it's not too late.


WALKER: We can turn things around.


WALKER: To do that, we need new, fresh leadership, leadership with big, bold ideas from outside of Washington, the kind of leadership that knows how to get things done, like we have done here in Wisconsin.


WALKER: Since I have been governor, we took on the unions and we won.


WALKER: We lowered taxes by $2 billion. In fact, we lowered taxes on individuals, on employers, and property owners. Property taxes today are lower than they were four years ago. How many other governors can say that?


WALKER: Since I have been governor, we have passed lawsuit reform and regulatory reform.

We defunded Planned Parenthood and passed pro-life legislation. We enacted Castle doctrine and concealed carry so we can protect ourselves, our families, and our property.


WALKER: And we now require a photo I.D. to vote in this state.


WALKER: If our reforms can work in a blue state like Wisconsin, they can work anywhere in America.


WALKER: As I travel this country, though, I got to tell you, I hear from people who say they're frustrated with politicians telling people what they're against and who they're against.

Americans want to vote for something and for someone. So, tonight, let me tell you what I'm for. I'm for reform, growth, safety. I'm for transferring power from Washington into the hands of hardworking taxpayers in states all across the country. That's real reform.

I'm for building a better economy that allows everyone to live their piece of the American dream. That's pro-growth.


WALKER: And I'm for protecting our children and our grandchildren from radical Islamic terrorism in all the parts of the world. That's true safety.


WALKER: My record shows that I know how to fight and win. Now, more than ever, America needs a president who will fight and win for America.


WALKER: So, first -- so, first, let me tell you why I'm for real reform in Washington.

You see, our big, bold reforms here in Wisconsin took the power out of the hands of the big government special interests and put them firmly into the hands of the hardworking taxpayers. Today, today, in this state, people who are actually elected by local property taxpayers literally run our schools. That means we got rid of things like seniority and tenure. That means we can hire and fire based on merit and pay based on performance and put the best and the brightest in our classrooms.

Now, think about that. Four years later, four years later, graduation rates are up. Third grade reading scores are higher. And Wisconsin's ACT scores are now second best in the country. Our reforms work.



WALKER: That just goes to show that government closest to the people is generally the best, which is precisely why we need to take power and money out of Washington and send it back to our states in key areas like Medicaid and transportation and work force development and education.


WALKER: Sadly, though, sadly, though, Washington seems to think that success is measured by how many people are dependent on the government.


WALKER: We -- we measure success by just the opposite, by how many people are no longer department on the government.



We understand that true freedom and prosperity do not come from the mighty hand of the government. They come from empowering people to control their own lives and their own destinies, to the dignity that is born of work, of work. That's what we stand for.

Now, as a kid, my first job was washing dishes at the Countryside Restaurant. Then I moved up to the big-time. I started flipping hamburgers in high school at McDonald's to save up for college. My dad, who you heard before, was a small-town preacher, and my mom was a part-time secretary and bookkeeper.

My grandparents were farmers who didn't have indoor plumbing until my mom went off to junior high school. My dad's dad was a machinist for 42 years at Barber-Colman down in Rockford, Illinois.

My brother and I have thought back throughout the years and we realized, we didn't inherit fame or fortune from our family. What we got was the belief that if you work hard and you play by the rules, you can do and be anything.


WALKER: That's right.

You see, that's the American dream. And that is worth fighting for. When we help -- when we help people -- when we help people, adults are able to work, transition from government dependence to true independence, we help more people live that piece of the American dream.

We have a program right here in Wisconsin that requires people to be signed up for one of our employability training programs, one of our job training programs, before they can get a welfare check. And now, as of the budget I just signed, we make the same requirement to make sure people can pass a drug test before they get a welfare check.


WALKER: That's right.

Now, you can only imagine what the defenders of the status quo thought when I proposed these reforms. They said I was making it harder to get government assistance. My reply? No, I'm making it easier to get a job. And isn't that what it's all about?


WALKER: Now, you know, strong families are important in this whole role as well. You see, we know that children who are raised in a household with both parents involved are more likely to finish school, to get a good job, and to live a life free of government dependence.

We need a federal government that will actually stand up and support strong families by getting rid of the marriage penalty, and by getting rid of policies, welfare policies that make it hard for fathers to play an active role in the lives of their children. We need to encourage families.


WALKER: I know, thinking about my own family, I know, for me, both my parents were so important for David and me as we grew up as kids. And now, for Tonette and I, we try to be good role models for Matt and Alex. And they have turned out pretty well, I would say. They're pretty impressive to watch.


WALKER: We're so proud of them. And I think about that. I think about Matt and I think about Alex and I think about all the others in their generation.

For them, I want them to grow up in a more free and prosperous country. That's really about the American dream there.



[18:52:17] BLITZER: The Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker making it official right there in Wisconsin, announcing he's running for president of the United States. He becomes the 15th Republican candidate to make this formal announcement.

We expect one more, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, to do it as early as next week. We have full analysis. Our political team is standing by.

Let's take a quick break. Much more on what's going on right after this.


[18:57:24] BLITZER: All right. We just heard the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced he's running for president of the United States, the 15th Republican candidate to do so.

Sara Murray is standing by. She's there in Wisconsin pretty warmly received, I see.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, he really was. This was sort of his moment to introduce himself to the American public more broadly. He fleshed out his record in Wisconsin. He talked a little bit about what he would do if he were elected president.

The goal was to make him look presidential, and still sort of touched on that every man shops at Kohl's appeal and I think he got his muscle, Wolf.

BLITZER: He certainly made some points there, Gloria. He's obviously atop the polls in Iowa right now, going into the Iowa caucuses, Wisconsin, a neighboring state.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he is. He leads Donald Trump 18 percent to 10 percent. So, he's doing very well in Iowa. Obviously, a Midwesterner, he connects on the stump, as we see.

The big question about him is whether -- and excuse my sports metaphor, you probably never heard from me before -- is whether he can hit major league pitching. We don't know that yet. He's made some mistakes early on, and we've got to see how he plays in the long term. Doing very well in Iowa, very important for him.

BLITZER: Ryan Lizza is our political commentator, also writes for "The New Yorker" magazine. How did he do?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought just from a performance level, he was great, one of the best of the speeches like this of 15 that I've watched. He's a great performer. The big question is, he's running on his victories against unions, political victories in Wisconsin. There's a hunger out there for bipartisanship in Washington, and the question is, is that enough to run on your partisan victories in a polarized state like that?

BLITZER: He's going to have some competition in Iowa, though, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum. He's got some competition there.

BASH: A lot of competition. And, you know, so many times with these campaigns, they play the expectations game, I don't necessarily have to win Iowa. They're not even pretending inside Walker world. He has to win Iowa. I mean, that is really the key.

And so far, he has been doing very well in Iowa. He had a very good speech out of the gate several months ago that really drew people towards him and what he is hoping and they're hoping in his campaign is that that key theme that you heard, not only is he able to win elections but he's able to fight and win those fights. That's really at the core that he thinks separates himself from some of the senators and some of the other governors.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see how he does in the first major nationally televised interview because he's going to be asked presumably some serious, tough questions on foreign policy issues, maybe not yet his strength. He's been learning at it, guys.

We'll have a lot more coming up.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.