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Interview With Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally; Donald Trump Under Fire; Churches Up in Flames. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired July 1, 2015 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Up in flames. We're learning more about the possible, possible cause of the newest fire at a Southern black church. Are fears of racially motivated arson attacks easing?

And towering Trump. As the billionaire candidate rises in our new presidential poll, his mouth is costing him more money. Tonight, Trump is talking to CNN. And you never know what he will say next.

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: Let's get to the breaking news tonight, new details about the unprecedented security for July 4. They're driving home the gravity of the terrorist threat right now.

A top New York City counterterrorism official says this may be the most complex counterterrorism operation ever put in place for this holiday weekend. And, tonight, the NYPD is deploying special forces- type police and bomb-sniffing dogs. The U.S. military also on heightened alert right now, taking serious precautions, fearing its forces may be targeted by ISIS sympathizers or other terrorists in the coming days.

I will ask Congresswoman Martha McSally what she is learning. She's a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, a member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees. And our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by as we cover all the news breaking right now.

First, let's get the very latest from our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, intelligence officials are more concerned about this Fourth of July because of how much of an impact ISIS now has on social media, the recent global terror attacks and how difficult it has become to detect attacks before they happen.

That concern is leading to boosted security across the country. With


BROWN (voice-over): With heightened concerned this Fourth of July, major cities like New York are deploying radiation detection devices, resources on waterways, and in the air, in addition to utilizing their more than 7,000 closed-circuit cameras to prepare for the threat.

JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: This may be potential the most complex counterterrorism overlay for this event ever.

BROWN: U.S. law enforcement officials are concerned ISIS supporters could be inspired to carry out an attack during the holiday, because it's symbolic in nature and falls at the same time as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

With the U.S. tracking hundreds of alleged ISIS followers, officials say it's difficult to detect in advance who could act out.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: They get it over the Internet, that ISIS wants an attack over the Fourth of July, and there's any number of soft targets that one of these psychos, if you will, can just go out and carry out an attack.

BROWN: Sources tell CNN there's increased chatter among ISIS supporters leading into the holiday, but no specific credible threats. But the homegrown violent extremists remain the number one concern for law enforcement. Just recently, authorities arrested cells of ISIS supporters, including in Boston and five suspect in New York, and overseas, three near-simultaneous terrorist attacks have U.S. officials on edge.

MILLER: We have what appeared to be three coordinated attacks overseas in France and Kuwait and in Tunisia. So, given the world situation, we wanted to put those layers of protection behind the regular patrol piece.

BROWN: London is also in the middle of a frighteningly realistic rehearsal for a possible attack, after the terrorists struck in three countries last week.


BROWN: And police departments like the NYPD say that they will be stepping up monitoring social media looking for the kind of tips and cues online similar to what happened right before attempted terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, when, as you may recall, Wolf, the shooter tweeted about what he was going to do hours before -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember that very, very clearly. Thanks very much, Pamela.

Now to concerns that ISIS or other terrorists will target the United States military around July 4.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is over at the Pentagon for us tonight. What are you learning, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. forces around the country since May have been at force protection or security level Bravo. That means increased checks of vehicles coming into bases, I.D. checks for everybody.

And it describes a threat that in the words of military parlance has increased and more predictable. But we spoke to defense secretary today and he described just how concerned they are in particular about this coming weekend.


ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are always vigilant at holiday time. We are always vigilant as an institution about force protection and protecting our people. And ISIL is another reason. Are we concerned about that? Absolutely, we are concerned about it.


SCIUTTO: The only threat levels above this are threat level Charlie. That means a specific and credible threat to particular target, and threat level Delta, which means a threat is under way, an attack is under way.


The military feels the level they're at right now is already elevated and they're taking measures to prevent the kinds of attacks that law enforcement is worried about around the country.

BLITZER: Overseas, Jim, the Joint Chiefs chairman, Martin Dempsey now acknowledging this battle against ISIS is moving well beyond Iraq and Syria, right?

SCIUTTO: No question. And you just look at the attacks in recent days. You had a major attack in Egypt in the last 24 hours, killed 20 Egyptian soldiers. And of course those attacks last Friday in Tunisia killing those tourists in that mosque in Kuwait. And the attack in France.

I asked him, is there a military strategy for military action beyond Iraq and Syria? Have a listen.


SCIUTTO: Are there plans in place or under consideration to expand coalition military action beyond Iraq and Syria to respond to those threats?

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: We are trying to build a framework, a scaffolding to address this problem trans-regionally in an enduring way so it actually -- that their defeat lasts.


SCIUTTO: So what kind of military action do you look at outside of Iraq and Syria? Things that we have seen to date. Drone strikes. Some ground actions. They say that if there is a threat to the U.S., they will act, but nothing like what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria and from the air in Iraq and Syria.

But they do say they will not hesitate to take military action if they see a threat and they believe they can take that threat out.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks very much. Jim Sciutto is over at the Pentagon today.

Let's get some more on what is going on, this July 4 terror threat.

Right now, I'm joined now by Congresswoman Martha McSally. She's a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, a member of the Armed Services and Homeland Securities Committees.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us.

Are you aware of any specific threats right now at this time or is it just more of a general threat?

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: Wolf, it is not a specific threat towards a specific place or installation.

But we have really a perfect storm coming together of the Ramadan season, where the ISIS leaders are using their social media in order to tell people you should be attacking during this time frame. And then we have national holidays, like we had Armed Forces Day in the U.K. with some foiled plots. Now we are coming up on Independence Day in America.

We have the attacks that happened on Friday. We have the anniversary of ISIS declaring their state. And so it's this confluence of this perfect storm of this all coming together. And we are seeing some chatter trying to inspire individuals to take on attacks wherever they are that has caused us to be heightening the alert around the Fourth of July holiday.

BLITZER: What type of attack, Congresswoman, are you more concerned about, that small-scale, relatively small-scale so-called lone wolf attack or something more complex, a larger-scale attack, something along the lines that al Qaeda has done?

MCSALLY: Well, we are seeing the metastasizing of this jihadist and radicalized threat. And it more of the small-scale threat from the lone wolf that is either directed by ISIS or inspired by them to just take it into their own hands, do something like we saw in Tunisia.

That's really difficult for law enforcement to be able to identify and track down, because they're not planning a large-scale activity. So they don't pick that information up. Also, if an individual feels that they want to do something, they're going into these dark rooms of Surespot and Kik and other ones that law enforcement, even with a warrant, is unable to see what is going on in those rooms, as individuals might be inspired or directed to do something.

So, if there is a large-scale attack going on, usually we can see those indications and that planning. But it is really the individuals acting on themselves that become more of a threat and they're much more difficult to prevent.

BLITZER: Are these just individuals acting by themselves or are there actual ISIS cells where they're coordinating potential terror attacks against the United States?

MCSALLY: So what we have seen is that there are some ISIS leaders and part of their operation is to use social media in a very sophisticated way.

It's estimated over 200,000 positive tweets or other points on social media on any given day toward ISIS. So they send out messages trying to inspire people. Then they're looking for some sort of communication from an individual to maybe follow up to be directed or they're just hoping people take things into their own hands.

And so some of this direction and this inspiration is certainly coming from the ISIS leadership using social media in a way that we never really saw al Qaeda using it before.

BLITZER: We heard the defense secretary, Ash Carter, today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, say today that they have heightened security at U.S. military facilities here in the United States, especially going into this July 4 weekend.

What does that say to you?

MCSALLY: Well, we have got good force protection procedures and alerts. And we have seen that ISIS wants to attack military targets and individuals.

So that just shows we are being vigilant and raising our alerts. But it is going to be much more difficult for them to actually penetrate and attack a military base. There is more concern with law enforcement about larger gatherings, more soft targets, those individuals coming together for a parade or some other large-scale event.


But, look, Wolf, I want to make sure anybody who is watching, that doesn't mean stay home. We don't need to be living in fear. This is our Independence Day. And the whole point of terrorists is they want to us live in fear and take away our way of life. And if they can do that without even having a bomb go off, then they have won.

So, we, as Americans, we need to be vigilant, be on the alert. But have your Fourth of July activities. Go to those parades. Go to the activities. Just be paying attention to your surroundings. If you see something, say something. But worst thing that we could do is stay home. We really need to give these terrorists the proverbial middle finger and show them, you know what? This is what America is about.

We're actually going to celebrate, and do everything that we believe in. And we're not going to be living in fear. And so I think that's a really important message.

BLITZER: I totally agree.

Congresswoman, stand by. We are going to have more to discuss what is going on in this war against ISIS, not only here at home, but around the world, especially in Iraq and Syria.

Much more with Congresswoman McSally when we come back.



BLITZER: We're back with a leading member of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as the Intelligence Committee, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Martha McSally.

Congresswoman, we're talking about the breaking news, the unprecedented ramping up of security around the July 4 holiday at civilian locations, military locations across the United States, concerns about a possible terrorist attack.

We know there have been, what, nine arrests of ISIS sympathizers here in the United States this past month alone, over 30 this year, maybe more. Are you confident the Department of Homeland Security is up to speed, knows what it is doing and tracking these individuals, potential terrorists out there?

MCSALLY: You know, Wolf there's a couple different elements.

So, what we have got is individuals that are flowing over to Iraq and Syria, the foreign fighter flow, over 20,000 of them. And over 4,000 of them are Westerners and estimated 200 Americans. But those are the only ones that we know about, not the ones that we don't know about.

And some of them are flowing back into the country, and some from visa waiver countries, Western countries, could easily just come into America. So, that's one element, is countering the flow of these foreign fighters and terrorists.

The other element are those that are staying right here at home and just being inspired through the radicalization and through the social media from ISIS. And you would be shocked to find out that there is only 16 people across all of our federal government with Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the Counterterrorism Center that are responsible for countering this radicalization, only 16 people.

We have 20,000 IRS agents that are making sure that you and I are paying our taxes and making those right deductions, but we only have 16 people that are responsible for countering radicalization here at home. And we have had 57 arrests so far. About 10 percent of them are women that are, you know, in America. And it keeps ticking up.

This is 19 different states and growing. So this is not somebody else's neighborhood. This is happening right here in our own neighborhood. And one thing we are doing on the Homeland Security Committee is really taking a look at this issue and the lack of manpower in addressing the counter-radicalization.

And we will be marking up legislation here coming up soon in order to increase the authorities and the direction in order to make that happen.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise what I am hearing. You say, Congresswoman, 16 individuals, federal employees across the federal government, whether Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Council, only 16 people you say are monitoring what?

MCSALLY: That are doing counter-radicalization.

So part of what we need to do to address what is happening is, we have got individuals being radicalized. And so we have got to counter that, countermessaging, using social media ourselves, working with local law enforcement, working with faith leaders in the community with local law enforcement to make sure that those that we see that are taking that road to radicalization are somehow intercepted and we can counter that.

So, there is only 16 people doing that right now.

BLITZER: Well, why is that? That sounds like such of a tiny number, given the threat.


Well, this is a new phenomena that we have seen certainly. We didn't see quite this level with al Qaeda. ISIS is its own sort of terror franchise that has in the last year been stepping up their sophisticated use of social media. But the problem is that we are moving at the speed of bureaucracy, while they're proving at the speed of broadband.

So, we have got to be much more responsive off to this change and this threat and be more nimble to get out there and to counter it. But we can't just do it with the federal government, Wolf. I mean, this is a matter we have seen with many of these arrests. You have got family members who maybe saw that somebody was becoming radicalized or they're posting something on Facebook or maybe faith leaders or teachers or coaches.

So it really is up to all of us that if we are seeing someone in our life who is taking those steps and moving down that road, that we try and do something to intercept that, because we can't rely on the federal government to be pointing that out in our communities. It really takes all of us to take that effort.

BLITZER: So, basically, just want to be precise on this, Congresswoman, only 16 people are engaged in this anti-ISIS, counter- ISIS social media activity? There are probably hundreds, if not thousand of ISIS sympathizers all over social media, as you say. But there's only 16 U.S. officials engaged in countering them on the social media sites?

MCSALLY: Yes, at home, yes. There are some additional from the State Department that are trying to address it abroad.

But at home, across the federal government, there's only 16 people on the payroll that are -- that are focused on countering violent extremism and countering radicalization. And we have got to change that. Like I said, 20,000 IRS agents, that's a little bit out of balance.



BLITZER: Yes. That's why so many of the top U.S. officials concede ISIS right now is winning that battle on social media. And the U.S. has a lot of work to do to try to catch up.


BLITZER: Even though we invented basically all that social media out there.

How is that war against ISIS working out so far in Syria and Iraq?

MCSALLY: Not so good, Wolf.

I have been very critical of it. I think we have got a false narrative here, where people are looking at, well, airpower is an option, or massive boots on the ground. And they're looking at the air campaign so far, which I have been critical of, and saying, well, maybe airpower isn't working. But I believe we are not using airpower in the way that we could in order to actually put ISIS on their heels, destroy some of their capabilities, change the momentum, because one of the reasons they're able to recruit so many new individuals is, it looks like they're taking on America and they're winning right now.

So, that just adds to the sort of romantic effort to, why don't I go over there and join the fight? So, we have got to use airpower in a much stronger way to stop their momentum, roll it back, destroy some of their capabilities, and provide the space for the political and diplomatic and countering the basically ideological solutions.

But right now, we're holding one hand behind our back, really, sometimes both hand behind our back, in using airpower. And it's allowing them to continue to build momentum, which is just adding to the recruitment and their success.

BLITZER: And you speak with authority as a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, the first female fighter pilot to actually fly in combat. You know that region well. Give us a final thought. What does the U.S. need to strengthen the capability of that airpower against ISIS?

MCSALLY: Absolutely.

We need to be putting attack controllers on the ground. They can help identify targets. We need better intelligence, special operations embedded with the indigenous forces. And we need -- if we have a legitimate target, we need to certainly minimize civilian casualties. But we shouldn't be called off that target specifically because of perhaps one civilian casualty, while we're allowing ISIS to then murder thousands of individuals as a result.

So, we need to use airpower as a strong element of our military operation, in order to actually get them on their heels, destroy their capabilities, destroy their command-and-control, their logistics capability. We can do this. We just need the will to do it and the rules of engagement to let airpower work the way it should.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Martha McSally, thanks very much for joining us.

MCSALLY: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it. Have a happy Fourth. Be safe, but be vigilant.

BLITZER: You too. Thank you.

Just ahead, we're live at the scene of the latest fire to strike an African-American church across the South. Stand by. We have new information about what happened.

And can Donald Trump explain his surge in our new Republican presidential poll? He's talking to CNN's Don Lemon. And as usual, he isn't mincing any words.



BLITZER: Tonight we are following the investigation into a sixth fire in an African-American church in the South. There are now fears across the region of racially motivated attacks after the shooting massacre at a black church in Charleston.

Brian Todd is joining us now from Greeleyville in South Carolina, just an hour away from Charleston.

What's the latest over there, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, behind me, you can see what's left of the Mount Zion AME Church. Inside, you can see charred walls and nothing but rubble, outside, the brick structure still there.

ATF investigators told us a short time ago that not long ago they sent in canine teams to look for accelerants. But, tonight, Wolf, federal investigators believe this fire might have been started by a lightning strike, that according to senior officials in the FBI.

Still, given the Charleston shootings, the recent church burnings, and the history of this church, no one is ruling out a sinister motive.


TODD (voice-over): So far, no sign of arson.

Federal investigators suspect lightning may have caused the fire. There was plenty of it in the area Tuesday night. A forensics report of lightening strikes by CNN meteorologists shows four strikes occurred in the immediate vicinity of the church, all around the time the fire was raging, just after 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

It was just two weeks ago that nine worshipers were shot and killed in a Charleston, South Carolina, church, that shooting by a white 21-year-old saying he wanted to star a race war. Since then, at least six black churches have burned in the Southeastern United States. A fire at the Glover Grove Baptist Church of Warrenville, South Carolina, cause undetermined.

Two more in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee, both caused by arson. The cause of Macon, Georgia's recent fire is undetermined. Authorities say a fire at a Tallahassee, Florida, church was likely a result of natural causes.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the most recent religious targets of hate crimes have been synagogues and mosques, but senior fellow Mark Potok says little there's no real evidence so far suggesting any of these fires is a political motivated arson, the recent flurry of black church burnings is cause for concern.

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: It is very difficult not to be struck by how these fires have been kind of bunched together, very closely, after extremely widespread criticism of the Confederate Battle Flag, which is a symbol really revered by white supremacists and others in the country.

TODD: Former FBI Director Tom Fuentes cites current FBI statistics, indicating an average of one fire per day in a religious institution.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: In the investigation of those fires they'd determine that about 60 percent of the fires are arson. And the vast majority of the arson cases turn out to be insurance fraud or, in some cases, somebody was pulling a prank or a vandalism that went too far.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FUENTES: And threats against churches are commonplace across the

U.S. Sheriff's officials in a nearby county told us today that recently five AME Churches in this area received threatening letters before and after the Charleston shootings. But officials say those letters are not believed related to any of this, because they think that those threats are connected to the fact that those churches are headed up by women. Female pastors head up those congregations, and those threats were not racially motivated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Church behind you, what's left of it. There was a fire there, what, 20 years ago that burned that church, as well. So what are local religious political leaders on the scene there in Greeleyville telling you about how they feel emotionally, given everything that's happened?

TODD: They've been devastated by this, Wolf. One local official told us this is a punch to the gut. The local mayor said he's got an ill feeling from all of this. They really revere this church because of what happened here 20 years ago. It was burned to the ground by two members of the KKK, then renovated, and President Clinton came back to dedicate this.

But just given everything that's happened, the nerves are so raw around here. Anyone affiliated with the church is just walking on eggshells right now.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Brian Todd on the scene for us, outside that church.

Joining us now to discuss what's going on, the South Carolina state senator, Marlon Kimpson, and the National Urban League president, Marc Morial.

Marlon, Senator, first to you. Even though it looks like this fire may have been started by lightning, there have been several instances we just heard in Brian's report of other predominantly African-American historic churches in the south being torched, if you will, by arson. What's going on? What is your analysis?

SEN. MARLON KIMPSON, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATOR: Well, as the official noted that we have not determined the cause. I can assure you that we will concede that lightning didn't -- indeed strike the area.

But the cause is still being investigated, and we have a number of federal authorities and state authorities analyzing data and gathering the facts.

We know in this nation that hate groups strategically target particularly African-American churches to elicit fear and pain and inflict violence. We -- if it is determined to be that this was associated with hate groups, we will not let this defeat us.

Be sure that the Charleston community is sending its prayers and support to the Williamsburg County, Williamsburg County was one of first counties to donate to the Charleston victims of the massacre. And we are going to be there to support Williamsburg County and the city of Greeleyville and Mount Zion as they repair and rebuild.

BLITZER: What do you think, Marc Morial? Do these churches need to increase their security right now?

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: I think everyone has to be vigilant, all churches, particularly African-American churches, but all houses of worship have to be vigilant. Because it's clear that churches and houses of worship are targets of hate groups.

And lest we think that perhaps these incidents are isolated, I mean, there were 3,600 hate crimes reported in 2013. And if you go back to the 1990s, there were 670, Wolf, incidents of arsons, bombings, attempted bombings directed at African-American churches. I hope that we're not returning to that period. But there is great, a great deal of consternation, pain, anguish, when you see these church burnings in the aftermath of what we witnessed in Charleston.

And I might add all of this is taking place in the South. Much of it is taking place in smaller communities, or rural communities. Indeed in the South. We must be vigilant. We want to urge all law enforcement not to speculate prematurely. And we're not going to speculate prematurely.

We have got to determine, and there's got to be a determination as to whether or not this is a hate crime or whatever the -- the cause is of these, of these awful burnings. And we certainly keep all of the congregants and the leaders of these congregations in our thoughts and our prayers. Because now they've got a challenge to rebuild. Thank God no people have been hurt thus far.

[18:35:13] BLITZER: But it is -- and a lot of people fear, based on the e-mails I'm getting, tweets I'm getting, a lot of people fear that this is not just a coincidence, that this is happening in the aftermath of that massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.

All right, guys, let's continue to watch what's going on. We won't draw any hard and fast conclusions yet, but we'll continue to monitor. This is obviously a very, very important story.

Thanks very much to Senator Marlon Kimpson and Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League.

Just ahead, other news we're following, including Donald Trump. He's now dismissing Jeb Bush as he gains on him in our brand-new CNN poll. And tonight the mogul turned presidential candidate is talking to CNN's Don Lemon about his Republican rivals.

Trump also has a tongue lashing for the latest company to send him packing because of his controversial remarks about Mexicans.


[18:40:28] BLITZER: Tonight Donald Trump's political stock is rising higher, even as his controversial remarks about immigrants are costing him more money. Take a look at our exclusive CNN/ORC poll of Republicans

nationwide. Trump has leaped into second place among the GOP presidential candidates, with 12 percent just behind Jeb Bush with 19 percent. All the other Republicans are in single digits right now. This as another big company severs its ties to Trump. Macy's now saying it's pulling Trump-brand merchandise from stores because he referred to immigrants from Mexico and other countries as, quote, "killers and rapists."

The retailer now says Trump's statements are inconsistent with Macy's values. Trump contends Macy's, quote, "totally caved to the controversy." He says his principles are far more important than business.

And tonight, Trump is speaking out even more in an interview with CNN's Don Lemon. Don is joining us now.

Don, you had a chance to ask Trump about his second place finish in this new CNN poll behind Jeb Bush. What did he say?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he's got mixed feelings about that poll. He loves that he's polling high. But Donald Trump, as you know, Wolf, he does not like coming in second. He thinks he should be first. He should be polling higher.

And obviously, he thinks he is the right man for the American people. He's not a big fan of Jeb Bush right now. And here's what he said to me.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): Well, I'm not happy being behind Jeb Bush, to be honest with you, because I don't get it. He's in favor of common core. He's very weak on immigration, extremely weak on immigration. And he thinks people come over for love. And I'm not at all happy. I don't understand how he's in first place.

But I'm certainly honored by the poll. And people are understanding my message, which is basically make America great again. And we're doing very well.

LEMON: Why is he beating you, then?

TRUMP: I have absolutely no idea. Maybe it's the Bush name. But the last thing we need is another Bush. But I will tell you, I'm a little surprised that he would be in the position he's in.


LEMON: So he's surprised at that. He also talked about some of the other candidates. And it was a rare moment that he held his tongue when I asked him about the other candidates. You'll hear that question a little bit later on. And how he responded to it here tonight at 10 p.m. But Wolf, it was -- he was very candid, as usual. He talked

about Chris Christie, because they sort of have the same brand when it comes to speaking their minds. And you're going to hear what he had to say about Chris Christie in that interview, as well.

But he'd like to be No. 1. He says in his estimation the party leadership is taking him seriously. The other candidates may be firing back at him because they're afraid of him. But he thinks the Republican Party leadership takes him very seriously, and he says they want him to be, you know, in so many words, the nominee.

BLITZER: You also had a chance, Don, to ask him about those controversial comments about immigrants, comments about rape. He didn't back down, did he?

LEMON: He did not. He -- in fact, he -- he doubled down. And he believes that he is right. And the interesting thing is that he believes when it comes to -- and I said the party thing, party leadership and with these comments, that the American people are on his side. The leadership are on his side. It's just that sometimes the media portrays him, he says, negatively. And sometimes other people who are running for president portray him negatively, because they're afraid of him.

But he says he's polling so high, he believes, because he resonates with the people. And that's what's important. Even when it comes to those comments about rapists coming across the border and criminals coming across the borders and criminals coming across the borders. Have a listen.


TRUMP: Well, if you look at the statistics of people coming -- I didn't say about Mexicans, I say, the illegal immigrants. You look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country, they're mind-boggling.

If you go to Fusion, you will see a story about 80 percent of the women coming in, I mean, you have to take a look at these stories. And you know who owns Fusion? Univision. That was in the Huffington Post. I said, "Let me get some of these articles, because I've heard some horrible things."

I deal a lot of talking with people on the border patrols.


TRUMP: They're incredible people.

LEMON: I want to get to -- I want to get to...

TRUMP: They love our country. They're incredible.

LEMON: I want to get some clarification, though.

TRUMP: Don, all you have to do is go to Fusion. And pick up the stories on rape. And it's unbelievable when you look at what's going on. So all I'm doing is telling the truth.

LEMON: I've read the -- I've read "The Washington Post." I read the Fusion. I read "The Huffington Post." And that's about women being raped. It's not about criminals coming across the border entering the country.

TRUMP: Somebody is doing the raping, Don. I mean, you know, I mean, somebody is doing. Don't just think it's women being raped. Well, who is doing the raping? Who is doing the raping? I mean, how can you say such a thing?


LEMON: That's going to be the headline. Who is doing the raping? The distinction is that -- I was trying to make the articles make, is that the price of admission for the women who are coming across the borders, sometime they're sexually abused by men who may be helping them to get across the border. Not that rapists and criminals are coming into the country.

But he's -- again, you heard his reaction tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly did. He's not a shy guy at all. We're really looking forward to the full interview later tonight.

Don Lemon, thanks very much.

Don's wide ranging interview with Donald Trump airs later tonight on CNN, tonight, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Check it out.

Just ahead, a bitter feud laid bare between two of the biggest names in Democratic politics right now. Will it hurt the party in 2016?


[18:50:49] BLITZER: Tonight, an ugly spat between two of the nation's most prominent Democrats is becoming very, very public. Both have a history with Hillary Clinton. Some are wondering if the tension could spill over into the presidential race.

Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with more.

This is pretty extraordinary what's going on.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. As you know, it's not really that unusual for a governor of New York and the mayor of New York City, even if they're from the same party to be at odds. But this is just something entirely different. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, they are having quite the fight. De Blasio going, essentially, nuclear after a very unfiltered interview.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: That reeks of politics and game-playing.

KEILAR (voice-over): New York Mayor Bill de Blasio taking his frustration with Governor Andrew Cuomo public.

DE BLASIO: What we've often seen is if someone disagrees with him openly, some kind of revenge or vendetta follows.

KEILAR: In an interview with New York 1, he blasted Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, for what he called a lack of leadership and game- playing. De Blasio accusing the governor of stymieing a housing initiative for low income New Yorkers, and undermining the mayor's authority to run New York City public school.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The new mayor of New York truly is a friend.

KEILAR: The two men go back decades to the Clinton administration.

But recently, as de Blasio chafes against Cuomo's hold on New York City's purse strings, their simmering feud erupted with this calculated TV appearance.

DE BLASIO: He believes deeply in the transactional model. And I think he needs to transcend that model if he wants to be a more effective leader.

KEILAR: De Blasio, a staunch liberal, has publicly aired concerns about other Democrats before.

DE BLASIO: Look, I think it's a very close race.

KEILAR: He managed Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign. She attended his 2014 inauguration. But these days, he's withholding an endorsement of her presidential bid.

DE BLASIO: Until I see an actual vision of where they want to go, I think she's a tremendous public servant. I think she's one of the most qualified people to even run for this office. But we need to see the substance.

KEILAR: Today, after attacking Cuomo, de Blasio left town for a family holiday, as the governor's office noted in a response to the mayor's interview. "For those new to the process, it takes coalition building and compromise to get things done in government," a Cuomo spokeswoman said. "We wish the mayor well on his vacation."


KEILAR: Now, this is going to play out for some time. The mayor's term goes until 2018. The governor was just re-elected last year. So, Wolf, there's more where this came from.

BLITZER: There probably is. These guys are really battling it out. Stand by, Brianna. I want to bring in our senior Washington

correspondent and our political director David Chalian, who's with us as well.

David, you followed this very closely. It's quite extraordinary as Brianna reported. How could this play out potentially assuming this fight, this bitterness continues impacting Hillary Clinton?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I'm not sure it's going to have a huge impact on Hillary Clinton. Obviously, as Brianna's piece pointed out, there's a long relationship there. Bill Clinton was introducing Bill de Blasio. Bill Clinton on the other side of the relationship helped ease Cuomo out of a gubernatorial primary back in 2002.

So, there is a deep embedding with the Clintons with these two guys. But I don't see any spillover affect. This is a traditional tension between a governor and a mayor in New York that has now spilled out in a very non-traditional way. I think it will have more of an impact on their own re-election battles than I do think it will be on Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: I suspect you are right. Jeff, poll numbers for Donald Trump. He is doing well not only nationally among Republicans, but in New Hampshire, as well as Iowa. Is it just, what, he's Donald Trump, the name recognition? What's going on?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think, definitely part of it is name recognition. Part of it is people are in a non-political mood. Voters out there are angry at Washington. They love the fact that Donald Trump says it like it is or as he sort of sees it. And he is not a political known quantity.

But on the other hand, Wolf, I can tell you, I have never heard sort of so much alarm at this point in the campaign from Republicans here in Washington and governors across the country concerned about his rise here, particularly on the tone of immigration. It's music to the ears of some Republican activists who are sort of anti- immigration.

[18:55:01] But it's worrisome to the party. Don't forget, Mitt Romney got 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. George W. Bush got 40 percent in 2004. That's the target they need. They think Trump is hurting that.

BLITZER: But having said that, a lot of these Republicans are reluctant to go after him publicly.

ZELENY: Sure they are. But Lindsey Graham in Iowa just this afternoon said he thinks that Trump is wrong on this. Jeb Bush said that. I think we'll see more and more of that come. But the question is, now they're going to be mixing it up among themselves. That's not good for the party.

BLITZER: Yes. And George Pataki, the former governor of New York, he issued a statement today as, you know, going after Trump on all of this. How is it going to play out on the debate stage? He's going to be presumably in the top 10 candidates according to the national polls. He's going to be up there on stage. The impact could be significant if he starts berating Jeb Bush publicly at one of these debates or some of the other candidates.

ZELENY: Can you imagine that spectacle? I mean, we talk about the spat between Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo is. That would be small fry compared to what we would see if Donald Trump is on the debate stage, really bringing these Republican candidates into this -- into what would just be I think like something that we have never seen on a debate stage.

What is interesting to me is talking to Republicans, there seems to be in plan to deal with it. And when I talk to Republican sources, they say they're just not convinced Donald Trump is going to stay in the race that long. One person actually said to me, this financial scrutiny that he'd have to go through is akin to a proctological exam. And I don't think he is going to actually go through with something like that. They don't have a plan, Wolf.

CHALIAN: But I will say, Wolf, that Jeb Bush, when he did slap the comments down and said they were wrong, he did a little foreshadowing and said perhaps we will have the opportunity to discuss this on a stage soon. So, not shying away from what that confrontation --

BLITZER: That first debate is in early August. Jeb Bush is doing well. He got a nice bounce I take it with his formal announcement.

CHALIAN: He did. And we have seen that with several candidates. But I also think you've got to give Jeb Bush credit for the last several weeks. He had a near flawless trip overseas, which is not the easiest thing to do for these presidential candidates as we have seen with others, a strong announcement speech.

He has been separating himself in the field in these town halls, as being sort of the real adult presidential material kind of guy in the room. And I think this is benefitting him. He replaced his campaign manager. He has gotten his house in order. I actually think he is benefitting now from some of the attention to Trump, because I think there's a clear alternative there for the non-Trump wing of the party.

ZELENY: So far, he hasn't been attacked, though. And that is going to happen when some candidates get desperate out there. There are people crowded in the social conservative lane. They're going to start taking him on in Iowa.

BLITZER: On the Democratic side, we see Hillary Clinton. She's way ahead in our brand new poll. But Biden is now number two even though he hasn't made a decision about whether he's going to run, certainly hasn't announced. Bernie Sanders is three.

What do you make of what's going on? Will this put pressure on Joe Biden to actually throw his hat in the ring? ZELENY: I still think that Joe Biden is in a period of mourning.

We talked to friends of his. They believe he's not in a position to run. But he has to be happy about that. That's a respectful -- that's a sign of respect in the Democratic Party that people would like to see him run.

But tonight in Madison, Wisconsin, perhaps up to 10,000 people are gathering to see Bernie Sanders. What knows what that means? But the energy is out there on his side.

KEILAR: When I think of Joe Biden, I think of at least, you know, from his perspective, he's not just a bridesmaid, right? He's the maid of honor in a way. He's the sort of second choice.

But I don't really see a lane for him. At this point, Hillary Clinton sucked up so much of the oxygen. When it comes to money, when it comes to resources, when it comes to staffers, that's been the case for months and months, almost over a year now.

BLITZER: She's raised $45 million. That's a lot of money in just the first quarter, right?

CHALIAN: Just in the first quarter, and just primary dollars. That's something different than she did in 2007 and 2008. We can mark this down on the lessons learned sheet from that last campaign, where she mixed general dollars and primary dollars to get an inflated number. They have been working her hard. She raised a ton of money that nobody is going to come --

BLITZER: Primary dollars. She can use them during the primaries and caucuses. The general dollars, she has to wait, assuming she gets the nomination.

ZELENY: It's twice as much as she raised in her first period of 2007. So, that's significant.

CHALIAN: And more than Barack Obama in 2011 when he was the incumbent sitting president. And that comparison is an interesting one, too, because it reminds that Hillary Clinton really is quasi- incumbent.

BLITZER: What does it say, Brianna, that Sanders is getting huge crowds wherever he goes?

KEILAR: It says there's an appetite among Democrats for an alternative to Hillary Clinton. There are a lot -- this is what we see in the polls -- there are liberal Democrats who don't believe that Hillary Clinton is as liberal as they are. And they believe Bernie Sanders when he talks about his views, which is more liberal, and that's why he'll have a role in really sort of shaping where she goes. We have seen that play out.

BLITZER: We'll watch the political scene unfold in the coming days, weeks and months. Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

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