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ISIS Attacks; Dennis Hastert Indicted; Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; New Clinton Challenger Jumping Into 2016 Race. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired May 29, 2015 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: sex scandal, a former House speaker once second in line to the presidency charged with lying to investigators about hush money he allegedly paid. Now sources say Dennis Hastert was trying to silence accusations of sexual misconduct.

ISIS attacks. Claims of responsibility for new suicide bombings in the Iraqi capital and Saudi Arabia, even as terrorist forces expand their reach in Syria and now in Libya. Can the U.S.-led coalition counter this new ISIS offensive?

Spies wide shut. A major anti-terror program could should down in just two days, hampering government surveillance of terror suspects. President Obama is demanding swift action by the U.S. Senate to keep the program growing. Will lawmakers listen?

Flood disaster. More now rain in the forecast for some of the hardest-hit areas in the southwest already reeling from severe weather that's killed more than two dozen people. How long will the danger last?

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: We're following the breaking news, stunning new details of federal charges against the former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Sources now telling CNN the man who was once second in line to the presidency was paying a former student to keep quiet about allegations of sexual misconduct from the time when Hastert was a teacher and a wrestling coach back in Illinois.

We're also following ISIS now claiming responsibility for suicide bombings at two Baghdad hotels and at a mosque in Saudi Arabia, even as its forces seize more cities in Syria, all of it raising serious concern about an expanding terrorist reach.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news and more with our correspondents and our guests, including Congressman John Garamendi, a member of the Armed Services Committee. But let's begin with our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.

She has more on the new revelations about the case involving the former speaker, Dennis Hastert.

Pamela, what are you hearing from your sources?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first came the indictment, Justice Department officials saying Dennis Hastert lied to the FBI about money he was withdrawing from several banks.

Now we have learned from sources alleged sexual misconduct involving an underage student several years ago was the reason behind the hush money.


BROWN (voice-over): Federal sources telling CNN Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican U.S. House speaker, was paying hush money to a student at the Illinois high school where he once taught, more than $1 million for the former student to keep allegations Hastert had sexually abused him quiet.

Hastert has not commented publicly. But he abruptly resigned from this Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, as well as from a Chicago derivatives firm. The indictment does not discuss sexual abuse. Instead, it focuses on how the 73-year-old former wrestling coach moved the money he allegedly was paying the former student, prosecutors saying he agreed to pay an unnamed individual -- quote -- "$3.5 million to cover up his past misconduct."

According to court records, the investigation started two years ago, when the FBI started investigating mystery transactions made by Hastert, bank withdrawals of more than $950,000. The FBI alleges several of the withdrawals from less than $10,000, so he could evade IRS detection.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Banks have an obligation to record when you are withdrawing close to $10,000, and there's a pattern of doing this. It's called structuring. That's why they would be looking into this.

BROWN: Prosecutors say when the FBI asked Hastert about the pattern of large withdrawals, he said he was keeping the cash for himself.


BROWN: And a longtime friend of Dennis Hastert says that he spoke with the former speaker this morning. Here's what he says.

He says he perceives himself as the one who has been wronged, that he is actually the victim here. The friend who says he's been associated with Hastert since the '70s says he spoke with him and he's done an incredibly good job for the people. He's done that and done as well as he could, according to this friend.

And we have reached out to Hastert and have not heard back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And from now his former law firm, they haven't said anything either yet?

BROWN: No. They immediately took down his bio as soon as that indictment came out. We know that he resigned from that law firm. But we're really not hearing a lot. And we haven't even heard back from his attorney.

BLITZER: Stand by. I want to continue our reporting on what's going on.

Let's bring in Michael Schmidt. He's a reporter for "The New York Times" who is also working the story, and our CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Michael, what else are your sources telling you about this case?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, basically, the way that this really started was that the bank was the one that detected the money coming out, because there are these thresholds that you can't basically take money off on. So, that is the sort of the genesis of it. But the interesting thing here is that...

BLITZER: Go ahead, Michael.

SCHMIDT: Oh, is that the -- is what the FBI can't do here is make an extortion case, because the victim, Mr. Hastert, is the one who said that he kept the money himself. So they can't turn around and make a case against this man, because the witness -- their chief witness is telling them it was just cash that he held on to.


BLITZER: And the individual, Individual A, is this person receiving the money in cash from Hastert, Michael, this individual keeps the money; is that what you're hearing?

SCHMIDT: Yes. Well, the individual was taking the money. It was coming in different payments, sometimes $50,000, sometimes far less. It was coming about every five weeks.

And it was -- it was a routine thing. It was clearly something that had been set up. It started in 2010. And it went on and on and on, and that's sort of the way that -- this is what really got him into the trouble.

BLITZER: What do we know about this Individual A, the nature of the relationship? What are you learning?

SCHMIDT: We really don't know much. We know that he was a student at the school where Mr. Hastert was a coach and a teacher. He was very well-regarded.

And beyond that, you know, the documents that came out yesterday didn't really go into much of it at all. They basically just laid out the fact that Hastert was a teacher there from, you know, over about a 30-year period of time before he entered politics.

And it basically just said it was an individual. Didn't even say if it was a man or a woman. The funny thing is that this is apparently Mr. Hastert's lawyers that didn't want any of this information in the documents. But it's hard to believe that they thought that this wouldn't come out. And, look, 24 hours after the fact, we know it.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, the indictment is for illegal money withdrawals. But now this whole issue of an alleged sexual abuse, presumably of a minor, comes out. Where do we go from here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the case is what the case is. In other words, there is not a separate trial that's going to take place for sexual abuse.

There is an implicit threat in an indictment that is spelled out this way, which is, if this case goes to trial, the Justice Department is saying to Denny Hastert, you can expect that all of the accusations about sexual abuse will be aired in public in a trial. So there is an implicit threat that you better plead guilty. You better end this process right away, or all this very dirty linen is going to be aired in public.

And, frankly, when you have a 73-year-old defendant who could actually get prison time if this case goes to trial, very unlikely to get prison time if it ends in a plea, I think a plea bargain is a very likely outcome to this whole matter at this point.

BLITZER: And this whole notion of extortion, that there could be an extortion case, what are you hearing, Pamela?

BROWN: Well, we're hearing that that was something initially federal authorities were looking at, whether or not that should be pursued. And ultimately they concluded, Wolf, according to federal sources, that that is not something that they wanted to pursue.

As Michael pointed out, what would have been the chief witness allegedly lied to the FBI. And so they felt like, you know what, we don't have enough evidence to pursue this. Also, you have a victim who alleges sexual misconduct. Folks I have been speaking to say there aren't many prosecutors out there who would want to prosecute a victim of sexual misconduct if it did happen. We don't know.

And also, if you look in the indictment, the words say, they met, they met for a discussion, they reached an agreement for $3.5 million. That also insinuates that federal authorities aren't going to be pursuing extortion here.

BLITZER: Michael, any indication that anyone else may have been allegedly sexually abused?

SCHMIDT: No. And, unfortunately, though, in cases like this, as we have seen in the past, it's usually -- if there is indeed sexual misconduct, it's usually not just one person. But we only really know of one person here. It will be interesting to see going forward if there are more -- if there are others that come out.

TOOBIN: One point about extortion. Just because he -- the Individual A is not charged with extortion, it doesn't mean that Hastert's lawyers can't argue that Hastert was extorted.

If this case goes to trial -- I doubt that it will -- his lawyers almost certainly will say, look, Hastert was confronted with a lying, terrible accusation. He gave money to spare his family the embarrassment.

So that is an argument. I don't know if a jury would buy it. But it's an argument that is certainly available to Hastert, even if there are no criminal charges against Individual A.

BLITZER: All right, I want everyone to stand by. We are going to have more on this coming up.

But there's other breaking news we're following right now involving ISIS and a disturbing series of new attacks, ISIS claiming responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia, this the second time in a week.

And it's -- it also says it's behind two suicide bombings at two major Baghdad hotels that killed nine people and injured many others.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working the story for us.


What are you learning, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the simplest terms, this has been a good couple of weeks for ISIS, victory in Ramadi, bombings in Saudi Arabia, an airfield captured in Libya, and a very sobering week for the U.S.-led coalition.

And that concern is that ISIS gains are exposing broader, more enduring problems in the fight against the terror group.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Across the Mideast, this is ISIS on the offensive. In Saudi Arabia, the terror group claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing on a Shiite mosque, the second attack in the kingdom in the last week. In Libya, a growing base of ISIS support, the group says it has captured part of a civilian airport, and, in Baghdad, two massive suicide bombs on two prominent hotels, a shocking strike inside Iraq's highly protected capital, leaving shattered windows and a rattled government.

EDWARD DJEREJIAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA AND ISRAEL: The regime in Baghdad is very much on the defensive because of the gains that ISIS has made in Ramadi and in Anbar province, and in Syria, in Damascus. There's been a very important shift in the last couple of weeks. SCIUTTO: ISIS' attacks both inside and outside its bases in Iraq

and Syria are a worrying sign for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. Islamic militants have also taken over Ariha, Syria, one of the last under control of government forces of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, his regime now teetering.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They believe that they are the true army of Islam that is coming to save Islam. And, you know, that also kind of explains their violence and their brutality. Anybody who stands in our way, this is what we will do to you.

SCIUTTO: With Iraqi forces overwhelmed, the U.S. is now considering arming Sunni tribes in Anbar province directly.

DJEREJIAN: Obviously arming the Sunni, arming the Kurds, arming the army, arming any side in Iraq who will fight against ISIS will be welcome.


SCIUTTO: Retired General John Allen, the man leading the coalition, told CBS that ISIS has -- quote -- "only tactical momentum" and says the coalition battle plan remains sound, though he conceded, as U.S. officials have since the beginning, that the fight will take time.

Currently, however, on the ground the fight is looking more and more like a stalemate, Wolf, rather than a slow march to victory. And that is raising hard, understandable questions about what needs to change on the ground to change that momentum.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. All right, Jim Sciutto. Thank you.

We're also following the deadline looming over one of the government's key tools for tracking terror suspects. And a frustrated President Obama says he expects the Senate to act swiftly to extend the NSA's authorization to collect bulk phone data, which is set to expire this Sunday.

Our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is joining us now. She has more.

So, what's the president saying, Michelle?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, you can call this a deadline. You can call it a showdown.

And this is the White House's last big push before these parts of the Patriot Act are set to expire. We have heard repeatedly from the White House, I mean, calling this national security Russian roulette. And, today, we hear directly from the president. What's not so clear, though, is whether his reiterating what we have largely heard before is going to persuade any of those senators who feel just as strongly about personal privacy. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI (voice-over): A last push in the Oval Office with the attorney general, President Obama laid out what's at stake for national security.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want us to be in a situation in which, for a certain period of time, those authorities go away and suddenly we're dark, and heaven forbid we have got a problem, where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity.

KOSINSKI: The president has made clear his displeasure over the Senate leaving this down to the wire, going on break all week to come back late this Sunday, just as the NSA is having to start dismantling its servers for collecting Americans' phone data.

But other elements of the Patriot Act will expire, too, like roving wiretaps for terror suspects who keep switching cell phones. The White House today blasted the politics involved.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a pretty long history in the Commonwealth of Kentucky of pretty heated feuds going all the way back to the Hatfields and McCoys.


EARNEST: And the fact is, there seems to be a feud right now between the leader of the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell, a native of Kentucky, and Senator Paul.

KOSINSKI: Sunday, all eyes will be on presidential candidate Rand Paul. His firm stance blocked a vote on these programs last weekend, angering key members of his own party.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: This is a debate about whether or not a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all the records, all of the phone records of all of the people in our country with a single warrant.


KOSINSKI: Even drawing an eye roll from fellow presidential candidate Lindsey Graham.

Now comes this eyebrow-raising ad from a super PAC supporting Paul.

NARRATOR: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. Get ready, America. Defender of freedom, Senator Rand Paul, vs. the head of the Washington spy machine, Barack Obama.


KOSINSKI: OK, wow. All right. But you know what? The privacy issue has already been largely

addressed in this bipartisan bill that's already passed the House, taking the bulk phone data collection out of the hands of the government and putting it with the private phone companies.

There are only about three votes that the Senate needs right now to pass that same bill. And a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just told me that, on Sunday, the Senate will pass legislation. The question mark, though, is it going to be that same bill that the House passed? Because if it's not, this is still going to have to go through the process and those Patriot Acts programs still may expire -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski at the White House, thank you.

Let's get some more on what's going on with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

So, what -- how are you going to vote if this comes back to the House of Representatives? Will you be, for example, with Rand Paul or will you be with President Obama?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we have already passed the USA Freedom Act, 338 members of the House of Representatives. Only 80-some opposed the USA Freedom Act, which does deal with the central issue here, which is the Section 215 authority that I think was misused by the NSA in collecting the metadata.

We have already done what we needed to do in the House of Representatives. It's up to the Senate. They could easily take up that bill. Three more votes, and it passes, it becomes law, and this becomes yet one more issue of history where we came down to the cliff and decided not to jump off. That's what ought to happen in the Senate.

And I think the votes are there. When people stand back and get all their huffing and puffing out of the way, this is really important. The USA Freedom Act that the House passed will do the job. It will protect the privacy that we have. It will require that the U.S. government get a warrant. Rand Paul is absolutely incorrect. I cannot imagine a judge allowing the U.S. government to just go on a searching expedition of every single phone call that is made by -- or in the AT&T records.

That's not going to happen.


GARAMENDI: But we can get this solved very quickly.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, Congressman.

GARAMENDI: Sure. BLITZER: We have more to discuss.

We will take a quick break, much more with Congressman Garamendi when we come back.



BLITZER: We're following expanding ISIS attacks, the terrorists now claiming responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia, this for the second time in a week. ISIS also says it's behind two suicide bombings at two Baghdad hotels that killed nine people. The attacks come as the terrorists expand control in Syria and now in Libya as well.

We're back with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, there are reports the White House now considering ways to arm the Sunni tribes in Anbar province directly in this fight to try to take back Ramadi, other towns in Anbar, not go through the central government in Baghdad. Is this a good idea?

GARAMENDI: Maybe the only idea. It may be absolutely necessary to do that. It has to be done, I believe, in conjunction with the -- at least the knowledge, if not the acquiescence, of the central government.

But this is not new. Back in the early, the mid-stages of the Iraq war, it was those Sunni tribes that actually brought about what's -- together with the U.S. military, success in the -- in those towns. So it's not a new thing. It has to be done properly and carefully, but I think it probably is going to be necessary.

We also need to be very much aware that the threat may actually be the Shia militia. They have had in the past a very bad record when they were working, even with the Iraq government, and the Iraq military, taking over some of the towns that ISIL or ISIS had conquered or taken over.

They engaged in what some people think and say were some serious atrocities. So you got to watch this thing. It's very, very volatile. It is a very dangerous situation. And it's one where our options are limited, unless we want to go back in with tens of thousands of American troops, which I think would be a terrible idea.

BLITZER: As you know, the Kurds, the Peshmerga fighters, who are very pro-U.S., they wanted the U.S. to arm them directly, too. They don't want to have to wait for Baghdad to decide what U.S. weapons they get.

Is that something the U.S. should also be doing, arming the Kurds directly?

GARAMENDI: Well, the problem here is that, in doing so, you reduce the authority and the structure of the central government. And that could be leading to the breakdown or the collapse of the central government and the establishment of a ISIS state directly being attacked by both an independent Kurdish quasi-government and the Sunni tribes.


Now we have real chaos going on. That is the breakdown of the central authority in the area. Some might say that's already occurred. Obviously, the United States is trying to go the opposite direction, that is, to rebuild a central authority, the Baghdad government, which hopefully will be an inclusive government.

Now ISIS is off doing terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has got to get in this game in a serious way, because now it's not on their doorstep. It's in their home and so similarly in Libya, and that's got to be a serious concern for Egypt.

What are the Turks going to do? Well, they, too, are going to face a threat from this very radical jihadist group, whether it's Sunni in their own community. This is coming down.


GARAMENDI: This is what we feared would happen.

BLITZER: And, as you know, there were at least two suicide bombings in major hotels in Baghdad today. You also know that, when the ISIS terrorist, they took over Mosul, and started with first terrorist explosions, when they took over Ramadi, started with terrorist explosions.

How worried are you that Baghdad could be taken by ISIS?

GARAMENDI: I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think that will happen, for two reasons. One, the central government is there. It has a significant number of military and police in that area that are loyal to the government.

And that's where the Shia militia is located. And so it would be one bitter, bitter and very bloody brawl. So I don't think that's going to happen. The disruption caused by the suicide bombers is not new in Baghdad. That's been going on for the better part of 12, almost 14 years now.

So, nonetheless, it is a very troublesome situation and one that requires continued support by the United States, airpower, to be sure, weapons, absolutely. And we need to also continue the training and the bolstering of the morale of the central government forces.


All right, Congressman Garamendi, thanks very much for joining us.

GARAMENDI: Thank you. BLITZER: Just ahead: devastating floods adding even more misery

in Texas, bringing a major highway to a standstill.


BLITZER: ISIS is claiming responsibility for suicide bombings at two Baghdad hotels and at a mosque in Saudi Arabia, even as its forces seize more cities in Syria. All of it raising serious concerns right now about an expanding terrorist reach.

[18:32:08] Let's get some more on what's going on. Joining us, the former congresswoman, Jane Harman. She's a leading intelligence expert. She heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars here in Washington. Also joining us, CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen. Along with former CIA operative, CNN intelligence and security analyst, Robert Baer.

Bob, ISIS taking responsibility for these hotel bombings in Baghdad. Is this the beginning of a major new assault on the Iraqi capital?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I don't know if it's a new assault, but you certainly see them on the move, Wolf. This is a guerilla force. They go where it's weak. At the very least, they would like to get to Baghdad airport, hit that if they could. Anything to destabilize the regime, take attention off the Sunni areas, hold on to Ramadi. You know, you can never tell whether these guys are on the offensive or they're just taking -- you know, hitting where they can.

BLITZER: The head of ISIS as you know, Peter, is called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi obviously taking the Iraqi capital for ISIS. That would be huge.

PETER BERGEN, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It would be huge. But that is going to be you know, very, very difficult for ISIS. I mean, what they're likely to try and do, they have a strategy to strangle Baghdad, take cities and towns on the periphery. That was their strategy back during -- when they were al Qaeda in Iraq. That's what they're going to try and replicate.

Will it succeed? Who knows? It's a much more difficult target than Ramadi, which is, you know, a quarter of the size of Baghdad or a fifth of the size of Baghdad.

BLITZER: But they have Mosul, which has two million people. The second-largest city in Iraq.

BERGEN: Yes. That is a fact.

BLITZER: That's a major achievement that they have there. Mosul, Ramadi and now they're moving beyond, Jane. They're moving beyond Iraq. They're moving beyond Syria. In Libya right now, ISIS apparently is taking control of a key air base in Cirque. What's going on in North Africa? JANE HARMAN, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS:

Peter said it: they're on the move. And they have capacity in a number of countries. Some are estimating, Dianne Feinstein says they're in 12 countries. That's a lot of countries. And they're not that powerful yet in other places, but their tradecraft is better than anyone else in those countries. And air wars alone won't stop them.

BLITZER: And they're also moving decisively in Saudi Arabia. They can take credit right now, Bob Baer, for the assault at a mosque in Saudi Arabia this Friday, last Friday, another mosque killing a lot of people, injuring others. What's their goal here?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: They want to destabilize the royal family, Wolf. You know, with the war in Yemen, that's causing an enormous problem among the Saudi populace.

Today there was fighting along the border. Saudis are dying. This air campaign is very popular in Saudi Arabia.

What worries us all, the people who watch Saudi Arabia, is this country turning to the Wahhabis, which intellectually, at the very least, support the Islamic state. Now whether Saudi Arabia is about ready to fall, no one knows that. But observers who know a lot more than me worry about that possibility.


HARMAN: They have said they want Mecca in Saudi Arabia to be the capital of the Islamist state. That would make sense. And the worm is turning on itself. I mean, it was the Saudis who launched this whole Wahhabi sect of the Muslim religion, which is the ultraorthodox religious group, which has been hijacked by this group of very trained fighters and well-equipped fighters, now called ISIS.

BLITZER: Peter, you wanted to weigh in?

BERGEN: Yes, you know, the next king of Saudi Arabia is going to be Prince Muhammed bin Nayef. He's led this very aggressive campaign against al Qaeda in Iraq over the last decade. You can expect, you know, quite a lot of suppression going on.

But I think Congressman Harman is completely correct, which is Wahhabism is very intolerant of Shias. This is the intellectual kind of basis for these attacks.

BLITZER: Where does Iran fit into all of this?

BERGEN: I mean, Saudis, they're fomenting the Houthis in Yemen. And they see any kind of Shia kind of revolution or movement as basically being Iranian-backed, even if that's only partially true, in some cases.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, our correspondent, Jane, he's reporting that a senior police commander from Tajikistan, who was actually trained in counterterrorism here in the United States by Blackwater has now defected, and he's part of ISIS. He just issued a video. We're showing it to our viewers right now, in which he says, "We will come to your cities, to your homes, and we will kill you." This guy apparently trained here in the United States.

HARMAN: He also had some form of Russian training. I think we should assume this is a real video and this is a real threat. And this is a multi-front war. Not a good time to have our surveillance laws expire.

BLITZER: With the Patriot Act. Your reaction to this video, Bob Baer?

BAER: Wolf, I served two years in Tajikistan. And this country in any way succumbing to the Islamic state -- I don't know if this is a true sign of it -- is very, very dangerous. Because if you have the Islamic state moving up into central Asia, that's another front, and there are not enough Russian troops there to deal with it. So this is something to watch.

BLITZER: What's going to happen, do you think Sunday? Jane, you mentioned the NSA. They've got to extend it by Sunday midnight; otherwise, it lapses.

HARMAN: That's right. And it is not just this meta data program that seems to be controversial. It is roving wiretaps, lone-wolf protections, which are necessary in a serious counterterrorism effort. It's a really bad idea do let it lapse.

I think the options the Senate will have since the House is not coming bang into session, are either take the House bill or come up with a short extension which somehow the House will pass.

But I was just told by Adam Kinzinger, who was here on the show, that there are people waiting on the House floor to stop unanimous consent for a short extension. So I think the only choice the Senate will have is taking the House bill.

I personally think the House bill is a good compromise, supported by a majority of the House and the president. That seems to be a miracle. And I think the Senate should take it. But three senators have to be listening to me right now and change their votes.

BLITZER: They need 60 in order to get it passed?

HARMAN: That's correct.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens Sunday. Guys, thanks very much.

There's other breaking news we're following. We're getting new word of evacuations now being ordered as flood-stricken Texas braces for even more rain. We're going there live, when we come back.


[18:43:09] BLITZER: Breaking news, new evacuations ordered in flood-stricken Texas, where states of disaster have been declared in two dozen more counties. At least 19 people have been killed there, six more in Oklahoma. And now there's the threat of even more rain in the forecast.

Our correspondent, Dan Simon, is near Houston for us. Dan, what's the latest you're seeing where you are?


This is the wettest month on record for the state of Texas, and believe it or not, it's about to get wetter. That's because there is more rain in the forecast for the weekend. There is a fear that you could see more residential streets like this one where I'm standing.

I am in Highlands, Texas outside of Houston. This is an area known as the Banana Bend, and this street is entirely flooded. The only way you can get around some of these subdivisions is actually by boat.

Now I should point out that the houses here are elevated. They're used to seeing floods in this area. But I tell you what: They are concerned about more rain in the forecast.

And they're also concerned in a town called Wharton. That's where you have many homes under a mandatory evacuation order. In fact, there is a local junior high school that has opened up an emergency shelter for people who may not have a place to go.

Also, we've been talking all week, Wolf, about the town of Wimberley, Texas. That's where you saw so much death and misery when those flood waters rushed through. And you can imagine what it's going to be like for those searchers who are still looking for bodies in those waters if you have more rain over the weekend. That's just going to complicate matters.

But believe it or not: more rain in the forecast. So we'll just keep an eye on it and see what happens -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Simon, thanks very much. The disaster, as Dan noted, may be far from over.

Let's go to our meteorologist, Karen Maginnis. She has the latest forecast. How does it look here?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We are looking at a pattern that, over the next 12 to 24 hours, additional rainfall could be heavy in that Dallas Metroplex area that was so shut down because of the heavy rainfall, in some instances almost eight inches of rainfall that shut down the western portion of the loop, the 12-loop and Interstate 30.

[18:45:05] Take a look at what happens. This is a forecast radar. This is not the actual radar. But this is what is expected. From Amarillo to Lubbock, all the way to Midland, Texas, a complex of storms, as we head towards midnight.

Look at Dallas, not just yet, but after the midnight hour, it looks like an explosion of storms, we could see another round of potentially heavy rainfall. But kind of an east-west orientation around Waco, just outside of Austin. Now, Dallas, this radar doesn't go that far out. But it does look like you could see another couple of inches.

Also for Houston -- these are areas that don't need any more wet weather, because as we just heard Dan Simon mention, we have seen record-setting may rainfall totals.

Take a look at Fort Smith, Arkansas. I point this out, because now Arkansas is receiving extremely heavy rainfall. They have seen in excess of 19 inches already for this month. And we're looking at severe weather pushing into Arkansas as well as into Oklahoma. A tornado watch there, but also across the panhandle of Texas where we could see some strong storms later on this afternoon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Karen, thanks very much.

By the way to our viewers out there, for more on what you can do to help the victims of this the severe flooding, the storm damage, Texas, Oklahoma, the surrounding areas, visit

Just ahead, a new contender for the 2016 Democratic nomination says he's tuning up to take on Hillary Clinton. So, what are his chances of playing "Hail to the Chief" in the White House?


[18:51:36] BLITZER: An already crowded field in the race for the White House is about to expand yet again. The latest contender for the Democratic nomination is Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland. They're the one time support of Hillary Clinton. O'Malley is expected to formally announce his candidacy tomorrow.

Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny has been following the race for us.

What's going on, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Martin O'Malley says it is time for the Democratic Party to have a new face of leadership which, of course, is a not so subtle critique of Hillary Clinton. He sent out a video to begin his introduction to voters, reminding them he is not only a politician but also a musician.


ZELENY (voice-over): The man strumming "Hail to the Chief" is Martin O'Malley. And he wants to be president.


ZELENY: He's a musician and a former Maryland governor, ready to go head to head with Hillary Clinton.

O'MALLEY: Right now, our country is in a fight, the very future of the American dream. And I am drawn to that fight.

ZELENY: On a recent visit to New Hampshire, he acknowledged he is hardly a household name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was South Carolina.

ZELENY (on camera): You start this race having to introduce yourself to a lot of people?

O'MALLEY: Sure. I start this race just as -- you know, I start this race as a new face to a lot of people and somebody totally unknown to most. And -- but just the same way I started when I ran for city council or state senate or mayor.

ZELENY (voice-over): His time as mayor of Baltimore is now in the spotlight, given the violence and the protests in the city. He talked about it with CNN's Jake Tapper.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you shoulder any of the blame here? Are you responsible at all?

O'MALLEY: Well, we're all responsible. I was responsible when I decided to run for mayor in 1999. And I told people all across our city, vote for me and together, we will not only improve the policing of our streets. We'll improve the policing of our police.

ZELENY: His record will be seen in a new light in his uphill battle to knock off the Democratic front runner.

O'MALLEY: History is full of examples where the inevitable front runner was inevitable right up until she was no longer -- he was no longer inevitable.

ZELENY: This year, he's been sharply critical of Hillary Clinton.

O'MALLEY: The presidency of the United States is not a crown to be passed between two families.

ZELENY: It's a different tune from eight years ago when he was one of her biggest fans.

O'MALLEY: It is with great pride and enthusiasm that I endorse my friend, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to be the next president of the United States.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I could not be prouder than to have this endorsement.

ZELENY: Those old bonds now broken as he seeks to stop her presidential bid.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY: And we'll soon see new pictures of O'Malley and Clinton

standing side by side when they appear on a debate stage later this year. Like all presidential candidates these days, he has a super PAC. It's called Generation Forward, another implicit reminder of that call for new leadership -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jeff, thank you.

Let's get more from our senior politics digital correspondent, Chris Moody, who's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Also joining us, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and our CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza.

Gloria, what's his strategy here? Is age an issue? Is he trying to make himself be a little younger than Hillary Clinton, new ideas?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, he may have to be more magician than musician if he is going to win this nomination. Hillary Clinton is somebody with an 86 percent popularity rating within the Democratic Party.

[18:55:03] That's kind of hard to beat. It's a lot higher than her popularity was. Last time, she was the inevitable nominee but you're right, he's going to talk about age, he's going to talk about being from the younger generation.

It is very odd for Democrats to be going back a generation to pick a candidate who lost once before. That's what Republicans normally do. Democrats look for the shiny new object. And what O'Malley is trying to be is the shiny new object and say, you know what? I was progressive before you even heard of Elizabeth Warren. So vote for me.

BLITZER: He is trying to position himself somewhere, I guess, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders who is also running for the Democratic nomination.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. He'll be to the left of Clinton. Although there's not a lot of room right now to the left of Clinton. She is staking out some ground there as well.

Look, he came up in politics, in presidential politics, working for Gary Hart in his campaigns in the '80s. And in his clip that was in Jeff's package, he alluded to this fact that inevitable front runner always stumbles and there's someone there that has to be sophisticated and smart enough of a politician to take advantage of it.

And, look, Hillary Clinton will stumble. There will be a moment where the polls will narrow because they can't go anywhere but down and he will have a moment to seize that opportunity. I think the big problem he has is if she really implodes, there are other Democrats out there that will jump into the race. Joe Biden, John Kerry, maybe even Al Gore. I mean, there are establishment figures out there that will jump in if something dramatic happens to Clinton.

BLITZER: Maybe Elizabeth Warren, too, right?

LIZZA: Maybe Elizabeth Warren, exactly.

BLITZER: There are some who have suggested, you've heard this, Chris, that O'Malley is really running for the vice presidential running slot, if you will, maybe for a cabinet position. He doesn't really think he can be president of the United States, he can beat Hillary Clinton.

CHRIS MOODY, CNN POLITICS SR. DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, people run for different reasons. Some run to win. But others run as issue candidates. It may be Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders. Others run to raise speaking fees or to get that V.P. slot or cabinet.

With O'Malley, it seems a lot more like he is in the wing for Senator Clinton if something happens to her or like you mentioned, if her candidacy implodes, there needs to be someone there. Now, other people can swoop in but O'Malley will have infrastructure there and Democrats need someone like O'Malley, because -- with all the respect to Bernie Sanders, I don't think a lot of Democrats see him being the nominee even if Clinton is out.

BLITZER: You've just written an important article about the Latino vote. You've been out there looking at what's going on. Give us a quick review.

MOODY: Well, the Latino vote is going to be very important in 2016. The population is rising. So, there's a fierce battle going on, particularly in the Southwest between liberals and conservatives over the Latino vote.

Now, Republicans are doing something they never really have done before. They're putting million of dollars into social services for Latinos. A group called Libre Initiative, it's a group funded by the Charles and David Koch donor network, are funding social services like GED classes and driver's license training, including for undocumented immigrants.

And the work that they're doing is really infuriating Democrats or at least making them very worried, because this is something Democrats have been doing for a long time.

BLITZER: As you know, Gloria, Jeb Bush speaks Spanish, Marco Rubio speaks Spanish.

BORGER: Yes, he does.

BLITZER: Presumably, that could help win over some Latino votes.

BORGER: Yes, absolutely. Look, if you look at the Republicans, the high water mark in recent history for Republicans with Latino voters was George W. Bush. 2004, won 40 percent of Latinos. Compare that to Mitt Romney, 27 percent. Barack Obama won 71 percent of Latino voters.

Republicans understand exactly what they have to do. And everybody is aware that the Latino population is growing dramatically and really important swing states like where you were in New Mexico, for example. Colorado, for example.

So, this is -- this is an important population that both parties really care an awful lot about.

BLITZER: Comprehensive immigration reform, though, is a huge issue.

LIZZA: That's the issue and Chris' great piece pointed out that this organization supports comprehensive immigration reform but most of the Republican candidates do not -- with the exception of Jeb Bush who has been so far steadfast in sticking to his view on comprehensive immigration reform.

Marco Rubio, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, has backed away from it. You know, Marco Rubio is also a Cuban American. There are a lot of differences in the Latino community. So, it's not a sure thing that if Rubio were president -- excuse me, the Republican nominee, that he would have a lock on that community.

BORGER: And the Democrats' views, by the way, have been evolving as well on immigration. If you look back at Hillary Clinton when she last ran, she was talking about not supporting driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. So, there's a lot of evolving that's going to continue to go on with the issue of immigration.

BLITZER: Excellent -- CNN Politics, excellent article. "Being Moody", right?

MOODY: "Being Moody" on CNN

BORGER: What does "Being Moody" mean?

BLITZER: I don't know where they got --


MOODY: You'll to have watch.

BLITZER: Chris Moody, thanks very much.

Guys, that's it for me. Thank you for watching. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.