Rubio: Iran testing boundaries of administration's resolve

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 12, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, HOST: Joining me now to talk more about the presidential race and tonight's State of the Union address -- Republican presidential candidate, Marco Rubio.

Senator -- thanks for being here.


BAIER: First let me talk about this breaking news about the Iran situation with the 10 U.S. sailors. What do you know about it and how concerned are you?

RUBIO: Well, it sounds like these sailors were on a routine patrol. I think they were Riverines so they were looking at -- they look for mines in the water -- anything that might be there especially from the Iraq-Iran war. And it sounds like they had engine failure and they drifted into the waters that Iran claims. And they were taken by the Iranian navy on to this island called Farsi and that's where they're being held. Iran needs to release them and the boats immediately.

BAIER: Is this provocative action? And how do you paint the picture about what Iran has done? December 26th, they fired some missiles pretty close to the USS Harry Truman. There have been other actions including ballistic missile tests.

What do you say about the administration and what they're doing or not doing?

RUBIO: Well, this particular case we'll find out soon enough. If they are not immediately released, when the boats are not immediately released then we know that there's something else is at play here.

As far as provocative, beyond it -- absolutely. Look, Iran is testing the boundaries of this administration's resolve. And they know that the boundaries are pretty wide but the administration is willing to let them get away with many things.

You're only seeing this accelerate since the deal was signed with Iran. That's why as president, on my first day in office I will repeal the nuclear deal that Barack Obama has signed with Iran. They're going to use that money to build up their conventional capability that includes their navy, to continue to build their long-range missiles which they continue to test, to sponsor terrorism with Hezbollah and other groups in the region.

So again, I think you're only going to see a continued pattern of provocation, as long as a weak president like Barack Obama is in the White House.

BAIER: State of the Union address tonight -- his last. The administration is forecasting it will be different, more optimistic, looking towards the future. They say Republicans are pessimistic and are overlooking some of the positive things happening.

RUBIO: I'm actually optimistic because Barack Obama is going to be gone in a year and I think we're going to elect -- I'm going to be the next president of the United States. On my first day in office I will begin to revoke and reverse all of the damage this president has done to this country.

This is a president that believes that America is an arrogant global power and needs to be weakened. I will reverse that. This is a president that is obsessed with undermining the constitution especially the Second Amendment, I will reverse that. And this is a president that is under -- he doesn't believe in free enterprise and he's undermined. When I'm president of the United States we are going to reverse all the damage he's done to our economy as well.

So I'm optimistic. We're going to win this election and we're going to turn this country around but we're going to have to deal with him for the next 12 months. That's the only part that I worry about.

BAIER: Let's turn to the GOP race. Obviously elbows are being sharpened as we get close to Iowa and New Hampshire. Your friend, as you've talked about him, Governor Bush, Super PAC supporting him is out with a new ad about your positions. And it focuses on your footwear as well.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boots were made for flipping and that's just what they'll do. One of these days young Marco's going to flip-flop-flip on you.


BAIER: You get the gist, it continues on there with many quotes -- your reaction to that?

MARCO: Well, look, this is a campaign about important issues. I mean ISIS is setting people on fire in cages. We have a president that has undermined our national security. Our military is about to have the smallest Army since the end of the Second World War, the smallest Navy in 100 year and the smallest Air Force ever.

So these are things campaigns put out and they can put -- spend their money on whatever they want. I'm going to focus on --

BAIER: Well, to be fair, your Super PAC has put out ads against Cruz and Christie as well. You don't control that?

RUBIO: No, I don't. But I watch those ads, and they're factual. Those things actually -- and they're policy issues. There are policy differences between the campaigns. Those should be debated in a respectful way.

I do believe that the next president of the United States, for example, needs to be someone that will reverse Common Core, not support it like Jeb Bush does and Chris Christie does. Think the next president has to be someone that will protect the Second Amendment, not support gun control like Chris Christie does. So look, those are policy differences and those are going to be debated and that's about --

BAIER: Here's a policy difference on immigration. You say you've changed. That you, you obviously supported the Gang of Eight legislation. You sponsored it. You pushed it. You say that that's not possible.

First of all, is that a political decision because it can't get through? Or a principled decision that you literally have changed your mind?

RUBIO: No, first off -- I do not support amnesty. I never have. I've always believe there has to be real consequences for violating our immigration laws.

When I'm president, there will not be amnesty. Criminal aliens will be immediately deported and for example, sanctuary cities are going to lose their federal funding. Now the issue has changed.

BAIER: But what you said on the campaign trail in 2010 and what you said when you were pushing the Gang of Eight bill were two different things.

RUBIO: Right. In 2010, that was in the context of the McCain, another bill that had been filed in 2006 which basically was a real fast path to not just legalization but to citizenship. I believe there needs to be real and significant consequences to violating our immigration laws and that that should be triggered and linked to security -- securing our border.

That's why I supported the largest border surge in American history -- 700 miles of fencing and walls; 20,000 new border agents. But the issue of immigration has changed as well.

ISIS did not come into being until late 2013, 2014. Now, they have a very sophisticated understanding of our immigration issue. They're using the refugee crisis to beat the waivers. They're even trying to get people into the United States as engineers and students and doctors. And this issue has now become primarily a national security issue.

BAIER: If the Gang of Eight Bill came up today, would you sign it?

RUBIO: We're not passing the Gang of Eight Bill when I'm president.

BAIER: Because of principle or politics?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, because it didn't go far enough as I said that at the time. I said that that was the best you can do in the Senate controlled by Harry Reid. I wanted a conservative House to make it even stronger. And I repeatedly warned that it wasn't strong enough on border security.

But the bottom line is when I'm president of the United States we're not going to have amnesty. You're not getting into this country if we don't know who you are or why you're coming. We're going to enforce our immigration laws and we're going to deal with immigration for what it's become now which is a national security issue.

BAIER: But you know that you're getting attacked on this you're getting attacked on this issue. Even in the fiancee visa which is part of the Gang of Eight legislation. You factored in on the San Bernardino shootings.

RUBIO: Yes. But the fiancee visa is an existing visa. The problem with the fiancee visa is not that they're fiancees, the majority of fiancees, the overwhelming majority are not terrorists. The issue is the way the program was carried out.

The people that were supposed to vet her missed key information. For example, they failed to confirm that these two even knew each other before they got engaged.

BAIER: Are you back in line with your party on this issue?

RUBIO: Well, first of all as I said, I think the party is where it has always been where I am now which is number one, we have to enforce our immigration laws especially that a group like ISIS is trying to manipulate the immigration process to get people into America. And until we do that you're not going to be able to do anything else. That's always been where the Republican Party is at. And it continues to be now more than ever because of the ISIS threat using immigration.

BAIER: Well Senator, thanks for the time tonight.

RUBIO: Thank you.

BAIER: And we'll see you in a couple of weeks in Des Moines.

RUBIO: Yes, sir. Good to see you.

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