Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Washington Congressman Adam Smith; Trump Undermining Travel Ban in Tweetstorm?; FBI Director to Testify About Trump Meetings; President Trump Attacks Mayor of London; New Diplomatic Crisis in Mideast Divides Key U.S. Allies. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 5, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: pathetic excuse. President Trump lashes out at the mayor of London again, seeming to twist his words, as Britain reels from new terrorist attacks.

Tonight, the White House is scrambling to defend President Trump's latest tweets that have sparked new firestorms.

Undermining his team. The president declares his executive order is indeed a travel ban, slamming his own Justice Department for the revised version of the measure that he signed. Even some administration allies are now warning Mr. Trump isn't helping his case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Comey testimony is on. The White House announces the president won't try to block his former FBI director from speaking out. Now the leaders of Senate Intelligence Committee are making a new attempt to get ahold of Comey's secret memos before they question him three days from now.

And diplomatic crisis, new concerns tonight for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS as a rift among Middle Eastern nations takes a very dramatic term. How will the Trump team respond?

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 breaking news.

Trump administration removes a potential roadblock for James Comey's high-stakes, must-see testimony after days of dangling the possibility of invoking executive privilege. The White House now says the president won't try to block his fired FBI director's appearance on Thursday.

Tonight, the chairs of the Senate Intelligence Committee are once again asking the FBI for Comey's secret memos about his conversations with the president. Also breaking, new warnings that the president is undermining his

administration's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce what he is flatly calling a travel ban. Mr. Trump tweeting that his Justice Department should not have submitted a new version of the ban, describing it as watered-down and politically correct.

The husband of Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway is calling the president's tweet sad because of the potentially impact on the high court case.

Also tonight, the White House is denying that Mr. Trump is trying to pick a fight with the mayor of London, despite the president's renewed criticism of Sadiq Khan and his handling of the weekend terror attack. The president now accusing Khan of responding to his verbal swipes with a pathetic excuse.

In London, British police have publicly named two of three dead attackers in Saturday's terror rampage. And just a little while ago, we learned multiple people who have been arrested in connection with the terror attack have now been released. This hour, I will speak with the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith. He is standing by. And our correspondents and specialists, they also are standing by.

First, let's go to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara, the president keeps tweeting and it is causing him trouble.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and setting off a debate about whether or not we should even pay attention to the president's tweets.

Some top his aides saying we are obsessing over them. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who briefed reporters today, said this is how the president speaks directly to the American public. Either way, a debate now is focused on his Twitter account, rather than infrastructure, which was supposed to be this weeks' big push.


MURRAY (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is trampling his own agenda.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we're proposing to take American air travel into the future, finally, finally.

MURRAY: After the administration teased a week of infrastructure- focused events, the president derailed that strategy with a fiery tweetstorm, Trump using the terror attack in London to defend his travel ban and slam his own Justice Department, tweeting: "The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered-down, politically correct version they submitted to Supreme Court."

This as the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to allow the travel ban, after lower courts have repeatedly rebuffed the national security explanations for such a ban, and, lest there be any confusion, the president is making clear the ban is a ban, tweeting: "People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a travel ban," a comment the White House communications shop is standing by today.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think the president care what you call it, whether you call it a ban, whether you call it a restriction.

He cares that we call it national security and that we take steps to protect the people of this country.

MURRAY: That's after other administration officials insisted it wasn't a ban at all.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not a Muslim ban. It's not a travel ban. It's a -- it's a vetting system to keep America safe.

MURRAY: The travel ban isn't the only tweetstorm taking the president and the White House off-message. The president took to Twitter to criticize London's response and the city's mayor directly, saying: "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who had to think fast on his no reason to be alarmed statement."


Mayor Khan had urged citizens in London not to be alarmed by a visible increase in police activity on the streets.

Today, a White House spokeswoman defended those tweets, too.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I don't see that the president is picking a fight. I think that the point is, is there is a reason to be alarmed. We have constant attacks going on, not just there, but across the globe.

MURRAY: As Trump aired his outrage on Twitter, one of his top advisers insisted the media shouldn't be paying so much attention to the president's own statements.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: But, you know, this obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president.

QUESTION: That's his preferred method of communication with the American people.

CONWAY: That's not true.

MURRAY: But his Twitter outbursts could have real world ramifications, like complicating the travel ban's fate in court, a concern aired by none other than Kellyanne Conway's own husband, George Conway.

He seized on one of Trump's tweets to say: "These tweets may make some people feel better. But they certainly won't help Office of the Solicitor General get five votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad."


MURRAY: Now, George Conway recently pulled his name out of consideration for a job at the Department of Justice. But his misgivings appear to be shared by a number of Americans. The latest Gallup tracking polls show President Trumps' approval ratings are mired in the mid-30s -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray at the White House, thank you.

Now a new green light for potentially damaging testimony about President Trump by the fired FBI Director James Comey. The White House revealing that Mr. Trump won't try to invoke executive privilege to muzzle Comey.

Let's get to CNN's Dianne Gallagher.

Dianne, with only three days to go, this is setting up as a huge, huge moment.


And just speaking today even Wolf with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, he says he has talked to Comey, he expects him to talk in detail about his conversations with the president, but doesn't think that the committee is actually going to see any of Comey's memos before the testimony, telling CNN they spoke with the acting FBI director today and he said that turning the memos over was a Justice Department determination.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey's scheduled testimony.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Tonight, first definitive word on the president's decision just three days ahead of FBI Director James Comey's testimony, and senators are ready to grill him.

QUESTION: What's the big question that you have for the FBI director?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The question that's being asked by West Virginians is, if you knew or if you thought there was obstruction of justice, why didn't you act on it?

GALLAGHER: Senator Joe Machine looking for clarification on a memo written by Comey in which sources say the former FBI director recounts that Trump allegedly urged him to go easy on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, as is Senator Susan Collins.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The's why the tone, the exact words that were spoken and the context are so important. And that is what we lack right now. And we can only get that by talking to those directly involved. GALLAGHER: In the meantime, the White House isn't commenting on the

Russia investigation itself, continuing to refer questions to outside counsel. But the Trump team is raising questions about Comey ahead of his testimony.

CONWAY: People should also look at the Rod Rosenstein memo again to see what the problem was in the department with FBI Director Jim Comey. Rosenstein clearly points out that the integrity and the morale were down. And he clearly points out said that Comey had tried to usurp the power of the attorney general.

GALLAGHER: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will likely be asked about the man he recommended be fired on Wednesday, when he appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss wiretapping authority.

Now, Rosenstein told the Associated Press Friday that if he became the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, Rosenstein would recuse himself from oversight of Mueller. Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the election is expansive and could look at the firing of Comey.

Senator Mark Warner telling Jake Tapper on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" that, while Comey may seem like the headliner, there's a full docket of key players to be questioned this week about their interactions with the president.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: One of the questions we will have, not only for Director Comey on Thursday, but on Wednesday for Director of National Intelligence Coats and NSA, National Security -- NSA Director Admiral Rogers, I'm going to want to ask them, because there have been reports that the president also talked to both of them in terms of asking them to downplay the Russian investigation.


GALLAGHER: And, again, Burr says that Comey is expected to testify openly on Thursday about his discussions with Trump. So, we will likely learn something, but just how much, well, that source says that Comey has informed Senators Burr and Warner that he spoke with Mueller and for most part is not going to be speaking largely about the federal Russia investigation, largely.


So, Wolf, no lack of anticipation, but we may not learn as much as many are hoping.

BLITZER: Well, we could be surprised. Let's watch it and observe. Thanks so much for that, Dianne Gallagher reporting.

Tonight, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman is speaking about what Comey may actually say when he testifies on Thursday.

Our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, is joining us right now from up on Capitol Hill. Manu, you had the chance to speak to Senator Richard Burr.


He actually has spoken with Director Comey several times, Wolf, over the last few days and he has given the indication that Director Comey will be able to discuss openly about his conversations with President Trump, saying that director Bob Mueller, the former FBI director who is now leading the special counsel investigation, has not walled off Comey in any way about the subjects that Comey wants to talk about.

And those seem to include his discussions with President Trump, as well as those allegations that President Trump tried to squash that investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

Richard Burr addressed those topics earlier today.


SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: He can't talk about anything that's classified in an open session. But I haven't gotten any indication that he is constrained in any way, shape or form (OFF-MIKE)

RAJU: Even in his conversations with President Trump to discuss those matters?

BURR: I feel certain that he can.

RAJU: So, you talked to him on Friday. How did that conversation go?

BURR: We had a very good conversation. It was actually Saturday. But I talked to him several times in the last few weeks. He is looking forward to having the opportunity to publicly share his thoughts and beliefs.

RAJU: Has Mueller urged him not the talk about the Russian investigation or stay away from certain areas?

BURR: They have talked, but I understand that the special counsel hasn't fenced him off in any way, shape or form from the items he intends to talk about.


RAJU: Another piece of news, Richard Burr also saying that Michael Flynn has provided the Intelligence Committee with some information related to two subpoenas the committee sent for Michael Flynn's businesses.

He did not say what was in those documents, but news that Michael Flynn did submit some information to the Senate Intelligence Committee. And about those Comey memos, Wolf, that James Comey wrote extensively about after those conversations with President Trump, Burr said that Comey believes -- that he believes he will see those memos eventually, maybe not Thursday, but he said nothing stays locked up in Washington forever -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a good point. Thanks very much, Manu Raju, up on Capitol Hill.

Let's get some more on all of this

Congressman Adam Smith is joining us. He's the ranking Democrat on House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate the chance.

BLITZER: So, you heard the White House saying today the president will not try to invoke executive privilege to try to block the former FBI Director James Comey's from testifying on Thursday.

From your vantage point, were you surprised? I assume you think that's a positive development coming from the White House.

SMITH: Yes. I think it is positive development. I'm not terribly surprised. The White House would have looked really bad if they looked like they were trying to silence Comey.

They cannot appear to be afraid of him, obviously. So, they have to let him testify. So, I won't terribly surprised. But then again, the White House is unpredictable, as you know. And we were all surprised when he fired Jim Comey in the first place.

BLITZER: Good point.

Let's get to some other issues. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, he said Londoners shouldn't be alarm when they see a much heavier police presence on the streets following the terror attack over the weekend. In response, the president tweeted -- quote -- "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who had to think fast on his 'no reason to be alarmed' statement. Mainstream media is working hard to sell it."

What do you think the president is saying about the London mayor two days after this terror attack in his city? What do you think is going on here?

SMITH: Well, I think it's very bad taste to be attacking the mayor of a city that has just been hit by a terrorist attack, especially over such minutia.

There is, I believe, an underlying point to what President Trump is trying to say. But, look, you're always in a difficult balance in these situations. You want to be vigilant, you want to try to protect against the attacks, but you also don't want panic.

And I think that's what the London mayor was trying to say. Panic never helps any situation. He was trying to calm people down and be prepared for the attacks. And I think the president, President Trump, saw a political opportunity here. Look, he wants to ramp this up constantly. He wants to constantly

focus on the battle against what he calls radical Islamic extremism and have it be the sole focus. And also he seems to want to attack other people for not doing enough.

I think right after an attack, it is in incredibly bad taste to go after the London mayor for this, who, by all accounts, is handling the attack very effectively. And the entire -- well, all of Europe, but certainly England, has a challenge in confronting all of the terror attacks that they have faced.


BLITZER: They certainly do.

What kind of message do you believe a tweet like this, tweet by the president, sends to other U.S. allies?

SMITH: Well, it's divisive.

And ultimately I think that's the big difference of opinion I have with President Trump in terms of our national security strategy. We need partners. We need allies, people to work with. This is a global threat.

And I think President Trump said it well in Saudi Arabia when he said, this is good vs. evil. But to do that, you need to bring the good people together, not be so divisive, not always trying to divide those of us who are trying to fight against this evil that President Trump described.

So I think not reaffirming our commitment to our NATO allies when he gave his speech in Brussels, attacking the London mayor, the leak of intelligence when the -- after the Manchester bombing, all of this servers to divide us from our allies.

And I think that's a key flaw in the Trump foreign policy. He seems like we're going to go it alone. That is not going to ultimately help us defeat the very real evil that he describes.

BLITZER: The president also tweeted about the travel ban.

He tweeted this. Let me read it to you. "The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered-down, politically correct version they submitted to Supreme Court."

He is calling it a travel ban, even though the White House earlier said it wasn't a travel ban. He is calling for a tougher version. He's pegging these needs to the London attacks.

But he is the one who signed this revised version of the travel ban, an executive order.


BLITZER: And it's his Justice Department that is now appealing it before the U.S. Supreme Court. Have you ever seen a sitting president criticize his own Justice Department like this on the eve of a Supreme Court decision?

SMITH: No, I don't believe anybody has.

And this is part of another troubling pattern with the way President Trump approaches his job. He seems to want to blame everybody for things that don't go well. He's the president. Look, he has got this long-running debate and argument that every time Democrats criticize him, it is just we're upset about the outcome of the election.

Well, obviously, we're not happy with the outcome of the election. But I, for one, acknowledge President Trump won, he is the president. I hope at some point he starts acting like it. He made these decisions. Be responsible for it. Take ownership of a decision.

That's a tough balancing act in terms of how far you want to two in your policy, but he signed the order. He made the decision. And then when things don't go well, he blames the people below him. A lot of these stories that we hear about the chaos in the White House, the different camps, the different divisions, certainly the leaks that have come out of the White House, show that that White House is divided.

And it's divided for a very good reason. The guy in charge is setting the tone. It is not about being united. It is about blaming somebody else and not taking responsibility. If Harry Truman had the buck stops here on his desk, Donald Trump is going to have the buck stops with arrows pointing about 1,000 different directions other than at him.

But he is the president, and it is about time he started taking responsibility for the decisions that he makes.

BLITZER: Congressman, there is more that we need to discuss, but I got to take a quick break. We will resume all of our special coverage right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith.

Congressman, want you to stand by. We are getting some new information on the London terror investigation, including the release of people detained in connection with the attack.

Let's go to CNN senior correspondent Alexander Marquardt. He's on the scene for us in London.

What's the very latest there, Alex?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Good evening, Wolf. That's right. Even as the authorities here hunt for accomplices, they

have now released every single person who was arrested in the wake of this attack. There were a dozen people, including seven women who have now all been released without charges, this as the authorities finally after 48 hours released some of the names of the attackers, two out of the three names, including a man named Khuram Shazad Butt, a Pakistani-born British national who actually lived right here.

And in addition to being known to the intelligence services here, he had participated in a group that was supportive of ISIS.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): Tonight, British police revealing the identities of two of the three men who carried out the deadly terror attack on London bridge, 27-year-old Khuram Shazad Butt and 30-year- old Rachid Redouane were in that white van plowing into passersby on the bridge and into Borough Market, where they went on a stabbing rampage.

The third attacker's name has still not been released, but was featured in a documentary last year about British jihadis. He's believed to have lived in this building in East London quickly raided by police, along with at least three other properties in this Barking neighborhood and nearby, where police investigators carried out searches and arrests.

The police are now looking for possible accomplices; 10 people have been detained, among them, six women, their connection to the attackers so far unclear.

Today, we met Michael Mimbo, who lives steps away from a building that was raided. He says Butt was his friend and had recently started talking to neighborhood kids about Islam.

MICHAEL MIMBO, NEIGHBOR: His views changed a lot, changing, but he became a bit more erratic about how he communicated with the kids and start telling them what to believe and stuff like that.

MARQUARDT (on camera): And then the kids would go home and tell their parents?

MIMBO: Yes, yes.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): And just hours before the attack, Mimbo saw Butt with a white van, like the one used that night, flying down their small street.

MIMBO: It's a 10-miles-per-hour zone. And then you're driving on that 30. And there's kids playing there with bicycles. And you're just -- the bends, you're quickly speeding on the bends. It was -- it was unusual.


MARQUARDT: Another neighbor told Britain's ITN that, when he rented a moving van, one of the suspects took an odd interest.

IKENNA CHIGBO, NEIGHBOR: He was quite getting inquisitive about the van. He was saying to me, oh, where can I get a van from, just asking me little details? How much is it? And just like asking where he could get a van, basically, because he -- and then he said to me, "Oh, I might be leaving shortly with my family as well."

MARQUARDT: The police have now revealed more about how they stopped the attack at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night, responding just eight minutes after it started, eight officers firing 50 rounds to take them down in a hail of bullets described as unprecedented for the U.K.

MARK ROWLEY, ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, METROPOLITAN POLICE: The situation these officers were confronted with was critical, a matter of life and death. Three armed men wearing what appeared to be suicide belts. They had already attacked and killed members of the public and had to be stopped immediately.


MARQUARDT: No word tonight on why the third attacker's name was not released. The another attacker, Redouane, claimed to be Libyan and Moroccan.

But, today, the head of the Metropolitan Police here in London said the greater threat to the United Kingdom was not foreign, but homegrown -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Alexander Marquardt on the scene in London for us, thanks so much.

Let's get back to Congressman Adam Smith.

Do you believe, Congressman, these attackers had direct ties to ISIS? In other words, was this an attack that was ordered or was it just inspired?

SMITH: Well, obviously, we don't know yet.

And it's disturbing either way. And I think the largest problem in what we've seen in a number of these attacks throughout Europe is, they are sort of independent. ISIS has become sort of a franchise in which people sign up and they may not have any direct contact with ISIS, but they still commit terrorist attacks in the name of this terrorist organization.

So getting a better handle on who these people are, how they become radicalized is going to be critical to the safety in Europe and also here domestically to see if -- we have some of the same concerns and same problems. And we really need to figure out, learn from the people who have committed these attacks, what is their background, who are their associates and, yes, learn more about whether or not they are directly connected to ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

BLITZER: Congressman Adam Smith, thanks so much for joining us.

SMITH: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead: The president's newest tweets undermine his own team and fuel a turbulent 24 hours for the White House. Will the cycle of outburst and controversy ever be broken?

And why did the president decide not to try to block James Comey's testimony? Our specialists, they are standing by with new insight on the president's strategy and what Comey may say under oath only three days from now.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[18:32:33] BLITZER: We have breaking news right now in the Russia investigation. We're just learning about charges filed against a federal contractor, accused in the leak of classified information. Let's go to our justice correspondent, Even Perez.

Evan, what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, earlier today The Intercept website published a document from the NSA detailing Russian attempts and Russian efforts to hack into an elections vendor in Florida. Now, the story that we had previously reported back in October. And just a few hours after The Intercept was able to publish this NSA document, the Justice Department announced that they had arrested the leaker of that document to The Intercept, a federal contractor by the name of Reality Lee Winner, who is a contractor in Georgia who works for the NSA.

And according to the documents released by the Justice Department and the FBI, they were able to track down this person who leaked this document to The Intercept, because The Intercept had provided a copy of the document to the NSA. The NSA quickly was able to determine that only six people had printed the document in question, and they were able to figure out that this person, Winner, had been the only one of those six who had been in touch with The Intercept, the news organization. Now, we reached out to The Intercept to see if they want to comment at all on this. We have not heard back on that, Wolf.

And just to go back to the actual report that -- the NSA report that The Intercept obtained, it's a May report, and it describes how the Russian security services, the intelligence services, had managed to hack into a very important voter systems vendor that operated out of Florida and helped -- and serviced machines in a number of other states. And that immediately, Wolf, raised a lot of questions and concerns that the Russian might have been able to get into the voting -- voting systems and perhaps even change voter tallies.

Now, we've known from the U.S. intelligence agencies in January and even today, they tell us that they believe that, despite those hacking efforts, the Russians were not able to change any vote tallies and vote totals at all. But it is something that, obviously, underscores the scary nature of these hacking attacks and why the U.S. was very, very concerned about what Russians were up to -- Wolf. BLITZER: Very important information. All right. Thanks very much

for that. Evan Perez with the breaking news.

Let's get some reaction from our experts. And Phil Mudd, you're an expert on this. What's your reaction when you hear that this federal contractor, a woman by the name of Reality Lee Winner, was -- has been charged with, quote, "removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet"?

[18:35:11] PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, I'm hearing it as you do. I'm -- let me control myself. I hope she goes to jail. If she's guilty, I hope she goes to jail.

We have a digital trail on terrorists that we talked about repeatedly. They leave an e-mail trail. They leave a travel trail, a financial trail. You're seeing the same thing play out in the counterintelligence world.

She downloaded a document. Evidently, only a half dozen people did it. And she e-mailed a news outlet. We don't always catch the smart ones, Wolf, but this is remarkably stupid for someone to leave that kind of digital trail.

I have one other question for news media. If you accept information from someone in the U.S. government who took a top-secret oath not to repeal information that the government collected, this is stolen information. I want to hear from who published this. Did you know you were taking stolen information, and what's your responsibility to go to the U.S. government and say, "I'm accepting stolen information"? Nobody's going to give that answer. They're going to blame Ms. Winner. I think there's questions also for the news media outlet that took this stuff and didn't tell anybody.

BORGER: Well, the question is about outing your source, quite honestly. The question is bringing it -- this -- I understand your question, but there's another. I do understand your question, but there's another one here which is, when you go to the NSA for -- to authenticate this.


BORGER: And are you assuming that the NSA isn't then going to check who leaked the information to you? And did you -- did you inadvertently out your source?

MUDD: Oh, heck yes. I'm going to guess the person who received this is probably in the same area that -- from the individual who e-mailed it. There's only so many people who downloaded that information on a printer. Whoever published this gave a clue to the feds. I guarantee that. But they didn't pick up the phone to the feds and say, "We're accepting stolen information from a person who took an oath." The same oath I did.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But if we could pull back for one second.


BERG: I mean, this would seem -- this would seem to reflect that the DOJ, the Department of Justice, is actually getting serious about finding leakers within the U.S. government, within the intelligence agencies, as President Trump and many Republicans and even some Democratic lawmakers have said is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. This would suggest that they are, in fact taking this very seriously.

BLITZER: Yes, and Dana, the notion is that this -- this Russian meddling in this particular case went beyond just trying to undermine, let's say, Hillary Clinton. It looks like, if it's true, they were actually trying to interfere with election processes in a few of those states. We've reported that earlier, but this seems to go into much more detail. This NSA classified document.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Which, you know, look, Phil, I totally hear you. But we also know there's a fine line between respecting national security, respecting sources and methods as journalists, and getting to the truth on something that is incredibly important for this country to learn about as much as we can, which is, how much did Russia really try to influence the election?

And I think that, as Gloria and Phil, you both said, that the way that this was handled on both sides was pretty sloppy. But at the end of the day, if this does give us a window, and it does seem to, into Russia really trying, never mind the conversations and all the things that CNN has been reporting, about the sort of avenues of trying to get to the Trump Organization and beyond, trying to get to the actual voting booth, that's a whole different ball game.

BLITZER: Yes. And I want to remind our viewers that the January 2017 intelligence community assessment found this in connection with this allegation of actually trying to change votes. Quote, "Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple U.S. state and local electoral boards. DHS" -- the Department of Homeland Security -- "assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying." Phil, that's significant.

MUDD: It is. But let's step back. There is a critically important issue here that's even bigger. We are coming out of a 120 days of a presidency where we've isolated ourselves from NATO. And just in the past day, we're alienating ourselves from our closest ally, the British.

In a typical environment in American national security, we are going to Europeans, especially after meddling in the French election, and saying, "We want to lead the charge to stop Russian meddling in elections," especially for an American election cycle in 2020.

What is our credibility with a president who wants to ignore this kind of stuff, to go to the Europeans and say it's not only fake news; it's attempting to get into the American electoral process. We can't tolerate. But we have no credibility with the Europeans to fight this right now.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We're getting more information on the breaking news. A lot going on right now. We'll resume all of this right after this quick break.


[18:44:31] BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents; we're back with our experts.

You know, Gloria, it's been a tumultuous 24 hours for the president. He's been tweeting a lot. I just checked. Started tweeting this morning at 6:25, 6:29, 6:44. Among other things, he's going after the mayor of London following the terrorist attacks in that city. Now he's attacking the Justice Department, as well, for the revised travel ban that he signed, calling it watered-down, politically correct.

What do these actions tell you about this president?

BORGER: I'm not so sure it tells you as much substantively as it does about where his head is. He's full of grievance right now. He's full of complaint. He is watching morning television and he is complaining.

And he is taking the mayor of London out of context in the middle, in the middle of a terror attack. I mean, it is astonishing to me that a president would do that. And then you saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders go up there today when she spoke with the press to try and explain that he did not take the mayor out of context, which of course he did. And then he went on to say that mayor was pathetic, basically saying he gave a pathetic excuse.

And what the mayor said was Londoners will see an increased police presence today. There's no reason to be alarmed.

And, of course, Donald Trump tweeted about the mayor saying, you know, essentially of course people should be alarmed. He took it out of context.

Nobody in the administration is willing to say the president made a mistake, which is exactly what he did in the middle of a terror attack.

BLITZER: He doubled down then tweeted again at 9:49 a.m., Phil, pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who had to think fast on his, quote, no reason to be alarmed statement. Mainstream media is working hard to sell it.

A pathetic mistake, talking about the mayor of a city where there is just a terror attack.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It's not just the mayor of the city. You know, 16 years on this, when ways in nine years after 9/11, if there is an issue, if there is somebody you want to cry on their shoulder, first person who would call me is the British, every time. MI5, MI6, they are not partners. They're brothers and sisters in arms. What do you say today if they call the CIA and the FBI? What do you



MUDD: You have to apologize for the president of the United States if you're at the FBI or the CIA.

There is another issue here, and that is the president doesn't set tone -- pardon me, policy alone, as Gloria suggested and he sets tone. Keep calm and carry on is the tone in any crisis. Whether it's President Bush dealing with the 9/11, whether it's President Obama dealing with the 2008 meltdown, keep calm and carry -- the president's message is, when it gets hot, panic.

I can't wait to see a panicked situation in some ways because you're going to sit there and say, unbelievable tragedy, the president can't keep his cool.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Or felt the president's very good friend Rudy Giuliani. The way he handled the post-9/11 New York situation was exactly how you said, keep calm, he might not have said the words, don't be alarmed, but that was his demeanor, and he was praised for it, rightly so, across the political spectrum and across the world.

So, it's hard to imagine if the roles were reversed and we heard this kind of response post-9/11 about Rudy Giuliani from the leader of Great Britain that there wouldn't be outrage.

BLITZER: You know, other tweets are generating a lot of interest as well. You know, Rebecca, on the travel ban. This is a sensitive issue. Kellyanne Conway's husband, George Conway, was under consideration to become the solicitors general in the Justice Department. He tweeted about the president's tweets.

These tweets may make some people feel better but they certainly won't help the office of the solicitor general get five votes in SCOTUS, the Supreme Court, which is what actually matters. Sad.

This is pretty amazing because George Conway, he doesn't tweet a lot. For him to criticize the president like this is pretty amazing.

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: It is pretty amazing, Wolf, not only because George Conway is a very well- respected attorney in his own right and was under consideration for some top administration posts but his wife, Kellyanne Conway, is a top adviser to the president. And so, many people looking at tweets interpreted this as a message from her as well to the president.

Now, he tweeted later that, you know, he was simply saying as a supporter of the president what he thought anyone with the president's best interest at heart would say, which is that the president is undermining his own objectives, undermining the administration's objectives, making it harder for his Justice Department to defend his executive order before the Supreme Court.

And really the question I think many of us are asking is why isn't Trump getting advice from in-house counsel, from the Justice Department, from his advisers. Or if he is getting that advice, why isn't he taking it?

BORGER: He doesn't listen.

BASH: Right.

BORGER: I think people try and give him advice and he doesn't listen.

And this morning on "NEW DAY", Sebastian Gorka was asked about the tweet and he dismissed it as social media. And I would say this is not just social media. This is a presidential record right now. These things are archived.

So, when the president tweets it is a Rosetta stone in his mind. It gives us -- it gives -- it lets us know what he is thinking, when he is thinking it. It is the best Rosetta stone we could possibly had.

[18:50:00] And it is very important to the American public, because God forbid something happens in this country that is -- that is dangerous, and we are nervous, and we are alarmed and we are scared, we have to be able to believe that he is in charge.

BLITZER: Dana, you know, I don't remember a time, maybe you can help me, where a sitting president on the eve of what potentially could be a major Supreme Court decision, has criticized his own Justice Department for revising that travel ban that he personally signed as an executive order. Have you ever seen anything like this before?

BASH: No, absolutely not, which is why George Conway, clearly with the wearing the hat of legal expert, supporter of the president, tweeted for the first time since 2015 and then he was tweeting about football, specifically saying this is not the way to do this, Mr. President. I talked a Republican senator this morning, who was tearing his hair out, saying we've all tried. We've all tried to say, Mr. President, cut it with the Twitter, it is not helpful, especially on something this delicate, like the Supreme Court, knowing that the Supreme Court or lower courts use the president's words during the campaign and aides since then to try to get to the heart of the rational.

It just -- it's mind-blowing to the people who are around him and, you know, a lot of them just kind of shrug their shoulders and say there's nothing much we can do.

BLITZER: You know, and, Phil, Sebastian Gorka was an adviser to the president, says it's social media. The president has, what, 100 million followers when you add up Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It goes out to a lot of people.

MUDD: Not only 100 million followers, you've got a couple million people in the U.S. government who work for him. Remember, people in my old world will look at this through one lens, he fired the FBI director after maligning the FBI. He accused the CIA of politicizing the investigation with other intelligence community members into Russian meddling in the election, and then eventually came around and say, maybe, they're right. He suggested they used Nazi tactics.

And now, another department of government, by the way, that works for him last time I check, he's saying the Justice Department did something I don't want to do. My question to him is, why don't you tell them to issue a different kind of directive? I don't understand.

BERG: Right.

BLITZER: He signed off on it when all is said and done.

BORGER: And now, he's calling it a travel ban. January 31, Sean Spicer said, it's not a Muslim ban, it's not a travel ban. So --


BLITZER: It's a travel ban.

All right, guys, just ahead, a diplomatic crisis with some of Washington's closest Middle Eastern allies right now at the center. How will it impact the fight against ISIS?


[18:57:04] BLITZER: Tonight, we're following the worst diplomatic crisis to hit the Gulf Arab States in decades.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, Qatar has now been frozen out, what, by at least six other Arab states.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. These are some of America's closest allies, cutting relations with Qatar, another close ally of the U.S. The question now tonight, is what will happen next?


STARR (voice-over): Just as the U.S. led coalition is approaching Raqqah, ISIS' self-declared capital, and is almost ready to declare victory over ISIS in Mosul, the worst diplomatic crisis in years has erupted across the Middle East, with several of the U.S.'s closest military allies.

At least six nations, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Yemen and the Maldives have cut off relations with Qatar over clams it is supporting terrorism and is too close to Iran, which makes the U.S.-led coalition to fight ISIS a bit more tricky.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think what we're witnessing is a growing list of some irritants in the region that have been there for some time. And, obviously, they have now bubbled up to a level that countries decided they needed to take action. STARR: So far, there's no indication that the approximately 11,000

U.S. troops stationed in Qatar or their military operations will be impacted, U.S. officials say. Qatar is vital, because the U.S. Air Force conducts air operations out of the Al Udeid Air Base, and runs an op center, coordinating all air combat missions over Iraq and Syria.

Defense Secretary James Mattis says the war against ISIS won't be affected.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I am confident there will be no implications coming out of this diplomatic situation at all.

STARR: Mattis also taking the opportunity to slam Iran's efforts in the region.

MATTIS: I believe Iran's actions speak louder than anyone's words.

STARR: But a move against Qatar is a problem for the Trump administration which wants an anti-Iran coalition.

JON ALTERMAN, CSIS: Our whole strategy toward deterring Iran and maintaining the security of the Gulf has been about getting the Arab militaries to work together and where we are now, the Arab militaries are farther than they have been in years and years.

STARR: Leaving President Trump, who met with Gulf leaders just days ago, with uncertainty about the next military moves on all sides.

ALTERMAN: If you're Jim Mattis, with good relations throughout the Gulf looking at a pre-eminent security threat coming out of Iran, life just got an awful lot more complicated in the last couple of days.


STARR: Tonight, Qatar saying there is no justification for these actions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thanks very much.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.