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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 8th, 2014
05:56 PM ET

White House official on Obama earlier this year calling ISIS junior varsity

(CNN) – In January President Obama told The New Yorker magazine that ISIS, the militant group which has taken control of parts of western and northern Iraq, was like a junior varsity basketball team.

"The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant," Obama said.

Obama authorized "targeted airstrikes" against ISIS Thursday. The military began a second round of airstrikes against ISIS near Irbil on Friday, U.S. officials told CNN.

But Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken denies the White House underestimated the threat of the militant group.

"The President was right. They did not pose a threat like al Qaeda central to us in the homeland," Blinken said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has been targeting minorities, Shiite Muslims, and Christians - threatening Christians with "death by the sword" if they do not convert.

"Their focus is not on attacking the U.S. homeland or our interests here in the United States or abroad. It's focused intently trying to create a caliphate in Iraq and a base from which over time to operate," he said.

"We're focused on making sure we can help empower the Iraqis and others to prevent them from doing just that," said Blinken.

For more of our interview with Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, check out the video above.

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