CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript: Nairobi, Syria, and ACA

Interview

By:  Pete King
Date: Sept. 26, 2013
Location: Unknown

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BLITZER: The FBI now taking an active role in the investigation into that terror attack on a Nairobi mall that left at least 67 people dead.

Were any Americans involved in that brutal strike?

Let's get some more now from Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He sits on both the House Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees.
Do you have the answer to that question, Congressman?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Not yet, Wolf.

But when I was chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, we held the Islamic radicalization hearings and we focused on Al-Shabab and the fact that it heard recruited between at that stage -- that was a year-and-a-half -- actually, two-and-a-half years ago -- they had recruited between 40 and 50 Americans, mainly from the Minneapolis- Saint Paul area.

These were Somali-Americans. Approximately 15 of them have been killed that we know of, so there's at least 25 Somali-Americans we know of who are actively involved with Al-Shabab. There could well be more. And so it's very likely that there could have been Americans involved in that attack, absolutely.

BLITZER: What do you make of this new heightened security at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi right now?

KING: I think it's something that has to be done, Wolf.

It's probably true that there is no specific threat. But when the fact is when you have Al-Shabab, when we know that al Qaeda has carried out attacks against American embassies in Africa, in Kenya especially, that -- to me it makes tremendous sense to have the extra security, to do what we can to make sure there's no follow-up attacks.

So, this is part of the dangerous world in which we live and which so many people want to make believe is not out there. This is an ongoing threat. Like, everyone is now concerned about attacks on malls. Malls have been susceptible to attacks for the last 11 years.

And that's why we need the intelligence to stop the attacks. People are concerned about Al-Shabab having Americans involved. The fact is we have known this for several years, but too many people wanted to ignore it. So, if anything, if anything positive -- and I hate to even say that -- can come out of the attack on the mall, it's to wake Americans up and make them realize how serious this threat is and continues to be.

BLITZER: Very quickly on Syria, because I know you have been passionate on this subject, now these reports that some of the rebels who were once aligned with the U.S. and others, they're losing heart and moving toward Al-Nusra, a terrorist organization, and other militants, how concerned are you about this?

KING: Wolf, we have to be concerned.

And this is part of the -- this is a partial result of the fact that our government has not taken action for the last two years. If they had taken action two years ago, we would not be in this position now. I still believe, however, from, again, the meetings I have been involved in, the briefings I have received, that the predominant number of rebels, rebel force are still individuals that we can work with, groups that we can work with, and that we can still be in a position to minimize the impact of Al-Nusra as far as negotiations, and as far as any aftermath of Assad being removed or any change in the Syrian government.

Having said that, the situation does get more concerning and more dangerous. And either we're going to have to take action as far as training and arming them soon or there is going to be again real consequences.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the government shutdown potentially Monday night at midnight, raising the debt ceiling. What good is coming from this huge debate that is under way right now between Republicans and the president and Democrats?

KING: Well, some good that can come from it is, I think -- especially on the debt ceiling, I think the president does have an obligation to negotiate with Republicans. This is an opportunity that's been taken advantage of in the past.

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BLITZER: But you know he's not going to give up on Obamacare. That's a nonstarter, right?

KING: Yes, as far as defunding Obamacare, absolutely not.

And that's why I'm so critical of Ted Cruz. He's a false leader. He's led people down a false path there. And he's been putting pressure on conservative Republicans, basically saying that if they voted to defund Obamacare, he would take care of it when he goes to the Senate.

The fact is, he can't, and it's a false bill of goods he's been telling people. It's really been fraudulent advertising on his part. And now the government and the Congress are tied up in knots because of the -- really the phony tactics that he's been following. Hopefully, in the next four days, we can begin to get this resolved.

BLITZER: You have suggested he's engaged in a policy of what you call governmental terrorism. And you are getting very, very ugly phone calls from some of his supporters. Tell us about that.

KING: Yes, listen, you can't always blame a person if his followers act in a terrible way.

But, I mean, the type of vile, obscene phone calls that are coming in from people who claim to be his supporters -- and I have young women, women interns and full-timers in their early -- late teens, early 20s, and they get these phone calls, again, the most gross, vile, obscene type of comments being made.

And, again, I'm not saying that's his fault, but I think he's tapping into something out there which is mean and ugly. And we have an obligation to again not go down this path and not somehow give people this idea that I could just vote tomorrow to defund Obamacare and that's going to repeal the president's health care bill.

The fact is it passed both houses of Congress. It was signed by the president. It was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. A presidential election was fought on it, and the president won. If we want to repeal it -- and we should. I want to repeal it as strongly as possible.

We have to do it through the ordinary legislative process. And that's to repeal it in both houses. To do that, we need more Republicans in the House and Senate. And then we have to have it signed by a Republican president.

BLITZER: Peter King, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

KING: Wolf, thank you.

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