Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Morning Tweets Draw Widespread Condemnation; Congressional Russia Investigations Heating Up. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 29, 2017 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: -- Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, bully pulpit. President Trump faces intense backlash over a scathing personal attack on a female news anchor. Republican lawmakers are criticizing his tweets and asking the president to show more respect and civility. Will he listen?

[17:00:24] Meeting Putin. President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit next week. But what message will Mr. Trump deliver? I'll talk to Hillary Clinton's former campaign chairman, whose e-mails were targeted by Putin's hackers.

Follow the money. The Trump administration announces new sanctions on a Chinese bank in an effort to cut the flow of money to North Korea. Will the move pressure Kim Jong-un to rein in his nuclear threats?

And frustrated state. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is said to be upset with the White House for interfering in his decision making as dozens of critical positions in his department remain unfilled. Can America's top diplomat make peace with the Trump team?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The White House is defending President Trump as he faces bipartisan condemnation over one of his most inflammatory Twitter attacks since taking office. The president lashed out at MSNBC anchors Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, singling out her disparaging remarking about her intelligence and appearance. With a number of congressional Republicans rebuking the president, the White House said, quote, "He fights fire with fire."

Meanwhile, the congressional investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election are heating up. The House Intelligence Committee is threatening to subpoena the White House for information about recordings President Trump suggested he had of his conversations with former FBI director James Comey.

And on the Senate side, investigators are looking at possible obstruction of justice related to Comey's firing, as well as potential financial ties between Trump associates and Russia. At the same time, the White House is confirming that President Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany next week. It will be their first face-to-face encounter since Mr. Trump took office.

We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our guests, including the former chair of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, John Podesta, whose e-mails were hacked by Russia. Our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

But let's begin with the controversy over President Trump's latest Twitter attack. Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He has details.

Jim, even by the president's standards, this is explosive.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, the White House has yet to issue an apology from President Trump for his ugly Twitter attack on Mika Brzezinski. And it certainly does not sound like one is coming. Aides to the president say it's nothing more than the president punching back, despite his long history of nasty comments about women and offensive tweets aimed at just about everyone.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Just as President Trump is touting his administration's energy policy, he's fueling mounting bipartisan criticism that he lacks the temperament for the Oval Office. The latest evidence: a pair of offensive tweets aimed at MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski. "I heard poorly rated 'Morning Joe' speaks badly of me. Don't watch anymore," the president tweeted. "Then how come low-I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around New Year's Eve and insisted on joining me? She was bleeding badly from a facelift. I said no."

Brzezinski hit back at the president with a tweet mocking the size of the president's hands.

Asked to respond, the White House said, the president has no regrets.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think that it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire.

ACOSTA: Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president's tweets as a justified response to attacks from the media.

SANDERS: It's kind of like we're living in "The Twilight Zone." They do this day after day after day. And then the president responds and defends himself, and everybody is appalled and blown away.

I think that the president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program. And I think he's been very clear that when he gets attacked, he's going to hit back.

ACOSTA: The president's behavior, Sanders argued, is not beneath the dignity of his office. SANDERS: I think that he shows that every day in the decisions that

he's making, the focus and the priorities. The only person that I see a war on is this president and everybody that works for him.

ACOSTA: Still, a slew of top Republicans quickly criticized the president's tweets. Senator Susan Collins, "This has to stop. We all have a job. Three branches of government and media. We don't have do get along but we must show respect and civility."

Senator Lindsey Graham, "Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America."

And House Speaker Paul Ryan.

[17:05:00] REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Obviously, I don't see that as an appropriate comment.

ACOSTA: The public has had quite enough. An NPR/PBS poll found just 21 percent of Americans found the president's Twitter use effective and informative, while 69 percent said it's reckless and distracting.

But the president's critics say this is also his attitudes toward women. And his degrading comments on TV host Megyn Kelly during the campaign...

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): She -- she gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. And, you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming our of her -- wherever.

ACOSTA: ... to his questionable treatment of a female reporter from Ireland in the Oval Office just this week.

TRUMP (on camera): And where are you from? Go ahead. Come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press. Where are you from?

CATRIONA PERRY, RTE NEWS: I'm from RTE News. Caitriona Perry.

TRUMP: Caitriona Perry, she has a nice smile on her face, so I bet she treats you well.

ACOSTA: As for the president's tweets, first lady Melania Trump once told "60 Minutes" she has tried at times to rein in her husband.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: I think he hears me. But he will do what he wants to do on the end. He's an adult. He knows the consequences, and I give him my opinion; and he could do whatever he likes with it.

ACOSTA: When it comes to the White House message, the president was again his own worst enemy, stepping all over his administration's announcements of new sanctions against a bank in China, a measure aimed at pressuring North Korea, as well as Mr. Trump's upcoming meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin next week.

With the president, it seems, there are rarely ever any apologies.

(on camera): No apology from the president, sir?


ACOSTA: And there wasn't. We should also point out during the briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president has never encouraged or promoted violence. That's simply false. As a candidate, he said he wanted to punch a protester in the face at one rally and said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

Also, the White House has repeatedly said they don't want to hold on- camera briefings with the press, so as not to step on the president's message of the day, but that's exactly what happened today. A reminder, Wolf, that the excuses coming out of the White House for restricting press access don't always passion the smell test -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House for us. Thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. The former chair of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, John Podesta, is with us. John, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: When you heard the tweet, you're a former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton. You were counselor to President Obama. You read the tweet this morning about Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. What was your reaction?

PODESTA: Well, you know, I think it -- no one says "no" to this guy. And it is -- probably comes as no shock to anybody that he can do despicable things, particularly towards women.

But I think really what he has done is he has spent the day distracting everybody from the fact that his health care bill that will knock 22 billion people off of health care isn't being talked about on shows like this. So, perhaps, you know, he's doing what he always does, which is when he's in a bad place, he changes the subject.

BLITZER: Do you think it was deliberate that he tweeted this very, very...

PODESTA: Well, no, I think he really has no -- he has no ability, really -- he has no impulse control. So, he gets mad at somebody, and he just fires it off.

BLITZER: Isn't there -- nobody on his staff...

PODESTA: The real problem is there's no one on the staff who can say "no" to him.

BLITZER: There's no one on his staff, a chief of staff, a counselor, advisers, family members that say to him, "You know what? This might not be such a good idea"?

PODESTA: Well, I assume that they do say that to him and he doesn't listen to them. Or as we saw in that cabinet -- the famous cabinet meeting. They -- their only means of really interacting with him is to just lavish praise on him and say what an important historic figure he is.

So, I think there's -- the White House is -- is chaotic. And I think it -- you know, it starts at the top.

BLITZER: You know, during the campaign, and you were the campaign chair for the Hillary Clinton campaign, he said all sorts of strange things, tweeted all sorts of strange things, as you well know.

There was that "Access Hollywood" video that came out right near the end. You guys put out an ad, a commercial going after him on all those statements. Let me play a little bit of that.


GRAPHIC: He really believes this:

D. TRUMP: Putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.

GRAPHIC: And this?

D. TRUMP: When I come home and dinner's not ready, I go through the roof.

GRAPHIC: He really said this:

D. TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: More accusers coming forward to say they were sexually assaulted by Donald Trump.

D. TRUMP: And I'll go backstage before a show, and everyone is getting dressed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants, some as young as 15, were changing.


BLITZER: That clearly was not enough for you guys to win. What happened?

PODESTA: Well, look, we said that he was temperamentally unfit and unqualified to be president. He spends each and every day of his presidency proving that we were right.

But notwithstanding that we got 3 million more votes in the popular vote, we lost the states that counted and Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: Why? PODESTA: You know, I think people were -- you know, had a sense that they were willing to take -- even though they -- 20 percent of his voters believed he was unfit to be president, they wanted radical change and they wanted to blow the system up. And that's what he's given them, I guess.

BLITZER: You know, he's running for re-election already, even though the re-election is in 2020. He had a fundraiser at his hotel here in Washington last night, raised reportedly $10 million. So he has a strong base of support.

PODESTA: He does, but his job approval has -- has dipped precipitously for any president. So I think that -- I think if you look at that 69 percent of people who wish he would just stop tweeting, you know, I think he's run into a serious amount of trouble. And I think that he's -- either his job approval hovers in the high 30s now.

The -- his colleagues on Capitol Hill can't make their minds up about whether they need to defend him or they need to attack him. And I think that he will -- he does have a solid core base of supporters who will stick with him no matter how outrageous his behavior is, no matter how out of control his activities are.

But that has become a shrinking base. And I think that, you know, if he keeps it up, and he keeps doing things like he did this morning, that that number is likely to go lower.

BLITZER: So, John, your advice to your fellow Democrats: get out of the way, or seize this moment and do something?

PODESTA: No, I think that my advice to my fellow Democrats is, stick to what's important. And that is, stopping this Senate health care bill that will knock 22 million people out of their health insurance that will raise premiums, particularly for people who are nearing retirement that has consequences, bad -- you know, defunds Planned Parenthood.

Stick to the substance. Talk about the economy. Talk about what their plan is for jobs. And let him do what he's going to do.

I think the public knows what his personality is like, at this point. There's no point in reinforcing that or proving it. They've got to stick and ensure that those Republican senators are hearing from their constituents when they go home over the Fourth of July that they're not having a bill that will massively cut taxes for the wealthy and burden the poor and burden the middle classes.

BLITZER: All right. John, stand by. We have a lot more to discuss. We're going to be talking about several important issues.

We're also going to be speaking in the next hour with two influential congressional Republicans, get their reaction to all of this news. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:17:25] BLITZER: The White House is now confirming that President Trump will meet with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany next week.

We're back with former Clinton campaign chair, John Podesta. I want to talk to him about that. Multiple investigations into Russian cyber meddling in the United States election.

But first, I want to get the latest on the various probes from our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, I understand there are some new developments.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Committees in both the House and Senate are ramping up requests to the White House and their probes into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, seeking information about Jared Kushner's security clearance and information on whether any tapes exist of conversations between President Trump and James Comey.


BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, the investigation into Russian election meddling is ramping up as congressional committees expand their scrutiny. The Senate Intelligence Committee is analyzing financial data from the Treasury Department to determine any potential financial ties between Trump associates and Russia.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: It's one of the areas that we've now received two batches of information from Treasury. And we may make more requests. We're just starting that review.

BROWN: The committee chairman, Senator Richard Burr, tells CNN he feels confident the committee will eventually be given access to the memos James Comey wrote after his meetings with President Trump. And he claims that their investigation is quite a bit ahead of the special counsel criminal probe led by Robert Mueller.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We've been active in the investigation for about 4 1/2 months. We're making tremendous progress. We've interviewed well over -- we've had over 40 interviews. And we continue very privately to make significant progress.

BROWN: Meanwhile, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee told CNN today lawmakers on her committee are examining potential obstruction of justice surrounding the president's firing of Comey.

SEN. DIANNE WEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is meant to be an investigation that's within our jurisdiction, having to do with possible obfuscation of justice or obstruction of justice. And looking at Comey's memos and what he said, and whether events were truthfully related to the public. I think that's very important.

BROWN: She's also asking the president's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, about his security clearance form, after he initially failed to disclose multiple meetings with Russian officials and other foreign contacts.

[17:20:05] WEINSTEIN: What was the reason that the security form was not addressed correctly? And I'm not going to say what reasons are. We want to know what his reason is for making that error, because it's a substantial error.

BROWN: Top Republicans on the same committee -- Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham also want to know if any Trump associates were under surveillance by the FBI as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

In a letter to the deputy attorney general and the acting director of the FBI, they asked the bureau to hand over all, quote, "proposed FISA applications" that the FBI and Justice Department submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as well as the court's responses to those applications.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to know was there ever a warrant issued by anybody in the Trump world? Was there probable cause found by a judge that would allow a warrant to be issued? And if that person was surveilled, did anything come of it?


BROWN: And meanwhile, sources tell CNN that Daniel Levin, a former chief of staff to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia, is in talks to possibly join President Trump's legal team -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right. Pamela Brown, our justice correspondent thanks very much.

We're back with John Podesta, who was the chair for the Hillary for America presidential campaign.

You testified before the House Intelligence Committee earlier this week. What did they want to know from you particularly? Because we all know all of your personal emails were hacked by the Russians and then released through WikiLeaks.

PODESTA: Well, the House Intelligence Committee has sort of gotten itself a little bit more back on track after the incident with their -- with Chairman Devin Nunes, who was kind of conspiring with the White House and had to recuse himself.

So there's a bipartisan investigation. They're looking at the incidences of hacking. How did the FBI respond to that? What -- what occurred? How much damage it did. Most importantly, I think, what can we do about it? How are we going to deter future incidents?

They asked me not to get into the specific questions and answers that I asked, and I told them I would respect that. But broadly, the -- there were members from both sides of the aisle. They asked me questions about what went on in 2016, what did I know?

And I was happy to cooperate and come up and discuss that with them.

BLITZER: Did you get -- based on what you heard, and I know you're not going to go into a lot of specifics, but did you get the impression they were investigating whether there was some sort of collusion between Trump associates and the Russians that resulted in the hacking, your personal email hack as well as the DNC?

PODESTA: I think that's clearly within their charge. And they're clearly looking at it.

BLITZER: Did you get the impression that's what -- they have specific indications that that's what they're looking at?

PODESTA: I don't -- I don't really want to characterize what they're doing. But they're definitely -- that's in their mandate, and they're looking at that question.

What I would say, though, is that I think, first and foremost, what they're taking seriously now, is the fact that the Russians did interfere in our election. They did it on behalf -- and trying to help Donald Trump, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded. And that is a direct assault on our democracy and needs to be dealt with.

Now, Mr. Trump is going to, you know, visit with Mr. Putin. His last visit with Russians, when he saw the foreign minister of Russia and the ambassador to the United States from Russia, didn't go so well. It was in there where he was kind of bragging about the fact that he fired Jim Comey and the heat was off of him.

We'll see how this meeting with Vladimir Putin goes. The last time, I think, President Obama saw Putin, he told him to get out of the U.S. elections. Obviously, that was -- that didn't happen. They stayed in.

BLITZER: But you've seen all the criticism that President Obama has been receiving lately...

PODESTA: Well, we'll see what President Trump...

BLITZER: ... that even though in early August was told by the CIA the Russians were interfering at the personal instruction of Putin, his response was restrained.

PODESTA: Well, you know, I think that with 20/20 hindsight, I think that they were focused on -- on the vote itself. But I think that what really ended up happening was the fruits of the hacking activity that was carried on, including of my personal email account, by Russian

intelligence, was weaponized. It was used to damage Hillary Clinton and to help elect Donald Trump.

BLITZER: But did he...

PODESTA: And I think that -- I assume that many of the people in the -- who serve President Obama -- I'm not trying to second-guess their judgments at the time. I think they had a difficult set of decisions to make, but I'm sure many people look back with 20/20 hindsight and wish they had been more aggressive in putting that out to the public in -- at an earlier time frame.

They did, on October 7, issue a letter from the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security that the Russians were interfering in our electoral process.

BLITZER: But the president's restrained reaction, which has come under a lot of criticism, even including from some Democrats, a lot of Democrats, for that matter, was it because he simply assumed that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and he didn't have to worry about Donald Trump?

PODESTA: I mean, that's a -- that's a question better addressed to him.

BLITZER: Well, what do you think?

PODESTA: I think it was -- I think he looked at the overall situation and was concerned about looking like he was playing -- you know, being partisan, playing favorites. And they made judgments that, you know, they can defend on their own.

I think from our perspective, we were saying to the mainstream media at the time, the Russians are here. They're interfering in the election. They're at the heart of these leaks. They're working with WikiLeaks. And quite frankly, I think the media failed, as well, to take this as seriously as it was, with respect to the assault on our democratic process by the -- by the Russian Federation.

BLITZER: As you know, the longtime Trump confidant, associate Roger Stone, he's scheduled to testify at the end of July before the House Intelligence Committee.

In a statement to CNN, Stone said, and I'm reading it now: "I am confident that Podesta most likely repeated his lie that I knew in advance about the hacking of his email. And I'm anxious to rebut this falsehood."

Your reaction?

PODESTA: You know, Mr. Stone's relationship to the truth is about as good as President Trump's. And you know, he's threatened to sue me. And I -- you know, I think, you know, send the process servers, because we'll see who wins in court, you know.

I think that Mr. Stone said in August of -- of 2016...

BLITZER: I have the tweet; let me read it. August 21st of last year, Roger Stone tweeted this: "Trust me, it will soon [SIC] the Podesta's time in the barrel" -- that's the way he wrote it -- "#CrookedHillary."

That was on August 21st. On October 7th, your emails were dumped by WikiLeaks.

PODESTA: You know, so the -- those facts speak for themselves. And I think that I'm sure they'll have lots...


BLITZER: ... the fact that you're saying that -- what, that Stone...

PODESTA: Well, Stone said he was in touch with -- with Julian Assange; he later retracted that. He was in touch privately with Guccifer 2.0, which the U.S. government had said is -- is an agent of the -- of the Russian government. You know, all I know are the facts.

The explanation of that, what was real, what was not, I'm not -- you know, we'll have to wait until these investigations get to the bottom of it. But I'm sure they're going to have a lot of questions for him about that.

BLITZER: Yes, he said he wanted to testify in open session, but they're going to do it behind closed doors. You would have liked to have seen it in open session, I assume?

PODESTA: I -- you know, look, I think the more the public knows about this, the more they know about the activities of the Russian government. Also not just here in the U.S., they did it in the French elections by dumping the -- by both hacking and dumping emails, by production of fake news, by the distribution of fake news into the -- into the French election. It didn't work there.

There are already active measures going on in the German election. This is a very serious threat to democracy.

BLITZER: Do you believe President Trump obstructed justice by firing the FBI director, James Comey?

PODESTA: That's -- you know, I'm going to defer from offering my -- I am a -- I am a law professor, but I'm going to defer from offering a legal opinion in that regard.

I would say it was a terrible mistake of judgment. And I think it raises serious issues about why, first in his interactions with Mr. Comey, trying to get him to get off of the Mike Flynn investigation, sending, evidently -- I don't know this, all I know is that Mr. Priebus followed that up by talking to Mr. Comey, talking to Mr. McCabe with similar requests.

You know, there's a lot of smoke there. But it's up to Robert Mueller to decide, you know, whether that meets the legal bar of obstruction of justice. And ultimately, it will be up to Senator Feinstein, Senator Grassley, and the Judiciary Committee to render their own judgment about it.

I think it's -- you know, I think it's conduct unbecoming a president. I think it was a terrible mistake of judgment. And I think that the fact that the Republicans sort of on Capitol Hill defended him in that regard, they're going to probably come to regret.

BLITZER: Let's continue this conversation down the road.


BLITZER: John Podesta, thanks very much for joining us.

PODESTA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up more of the political firestorm provoked by President Trump's personal attack on a female anchor.

And later Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's frustration with the Trump White House. It's now out in the open. We have new details about a meeting officials described as intense and uncomfortable.


BLITZER: We're following the political firestorm ignited by President Trump's personal attack via Twitter this morning on Mika Brzezinski and her MSNBC co-host Joe Scarborough. Here is what the President tweeted. I'll read it.

"I heard poorly rated morning Joe speaks badly of me. Don't watch it anymore. Then how come low I.Q. crazy Mika along with psycho Joe came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around New Year's Eve and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face life. I said, 'no'."

[17:35:09] Let's bring in our political specialist to discuss, Mark Preston, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Deputy Press Secretary. She said the President was just fighting fire with fire and she chastised the news media for not focusing on policy issues instead of this. What do you make of that defense?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: She went behind the podium and defended the indefensible today. You know, the fact of the matter is, look at how much President Barack Obama was attacked by his enemies. Look at President George W. Bush how much he was attacked by his enemies. Did we ever see them act in this manner? Did we ever see them act unpresidential?

And we've seen this time and time again now from President Trump. The fact of the matter is, he has no governor on him which would regulate what he says, he uses his inside voice too much as an outside voice, quite frankly. And he really needs to reconsider how he communicates not only with the American people but with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and foreign leaders, quite frankly.

BLITZER: Dana, is gender and sexism an issue here?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course, it's -- whether it was intended that way, there's no question it's perceived that way. For no other reason than it's pattern. It's the same kind of language he used against Megyn Kelly; it's the same kind of thing that he said just when he wants to criticize a woman, he criticizes their appearance -- Carly Fiorina, and so, the list goes on.

So, in that sense, yes. But to go back to the conversation you and I had earlier today, Wolf, for me, it's not so much about gender, it's about the fact that it is not how a person should act. I mean, do you know anybody who acts like this? Never mind the President of the United States. And he took a job that requires you to have some semblance of understanding that you are a role model, not just for people around the world, but for people in this country and for kids.

And for parents, you're almost one, we're parents, your -- you know, I mean, what -- like, what do you say to your grandson? This is not OK to act like this. It's very, very difficult. And the fact that he's putting people in this position is -- frankly, I just think it's unfair.

BLITZER: How did you react when you saw the tweet this morning, Jackie?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It's strange because it's a mix of surprise and of course, he did this. Because as Dana said, it is a pattern. We've seen him go after women for their looks, we've seen him say very harsh things on Twitter.

But to your point about the gender aspect of it, you saw female Republican lawmakers immediately in the aftermath of this say, as a -- as a lawmaker, as a woman, I've been judged on my appearance. That alone, that perception makes it personal. A lot of -- a lot of us have been on the -- on the receiving end of nasty grams about our appearance, and those female lawmakers have to. And to see it coming from the President of the United States, it's inherently shocking and it isn't OK.

Is this going to hurt him? Probably not from among his fans, but this does get into real life in that you that have Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, women that he needs to support his health care bill and his initiatives, responding to this. And that makes them less amenable to work with someone who has that sort of attitude and that sort of dismissiveness.

BLITZER: And those are Republican weapon, too. Couldn't imagine the Democrat -- the Democrats are really going after him on this as well. Everybody stay with us. There's much more we need to assess. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:43:18] BLITZER: We're back with our political specialists. Mark Preston, as you know, the House Intelligence Community, the leaders of this investigation, they now don't necessarily believe that the President's tweets about tapes, represents the bottom line or the last word. They now are going back to the White House and they say they want to know if there are any recordings at all. They're not just satisfied with that sort of ambiguous tweet the President put out. What do you see going on here? PRESTON: So, a couple of things. One is, it's actually good to see that a committee that was in a bit of disarray about three months ago, the Democrat and Republican are at least getting along and they're doing things together, whatever that may be. The second thing is, though, which is really important, it's not even just recordings they're looking for. They're looking for any kind of memorandums or any kind of memos that were written, because, think about this. What if there were aides involved in telling Trump about how to address Comey? You know, was this more than just a quick pull aside a couple times that was just all on Trump's shoulders? Was this much bigger? And I think that's what they're getting at in this.

BLITZER: You would think, you know, Dana, that the White House would be anxious to get all of this behind them and just answer the question?

BASH: You would think. And the fact of the matter is that the President did send out his tweet last week saying that there are no tapes.

BLITZER: He said that he doesn't know of any tapes.

BASH: Exactly. But that it's understandable that it's not unsatisfactory to house investigators because they asked for a formal answer, a formal answer for the investigation on whether or not there are tapes. And I think that your point about, you know, whether or not there were any contemporaneous notes or memoranda -- I mean, probably not to the detail of the screenplay that James Comey, but something along those lines. And you're absolutely right, though, Wolf, why not just get it out? I don't think that -- I think it's entirely possible that it's not a question of something to hide. It's just a question of organization.

[17:45:15] BLITZER: Because it keeps alive, you know, Jackie, this investigation as to whether there was some sort of obstruction of justice in the firing of James Comey. And that looks like the House Intelligence Committee, the Republicans and the Democrats, they want answers on this?

KUCINICH: Of course, they do, because this is an important question. And one of the things that I think has been frustrating the President is, this isn't over yet. And what they're saying is, OK. Well, buckle up, this is just the beginning, we still have a lot of questions and you're not answering those. So it's just prolonging the parts of this investigation that really could be put to bed by a simple, I was wrong.

BASH: Good luck with that.

KUCINICH: Exactly. That's not in that -- we do not live in that reality where the President is going to say that.

PRESTON: You know, from a strategic communications messaging standpoint, the idea of dumping all of the information that you know about the situation, that being President Trump all at once, is extremely smart and always works in the end. It takes time to go through those documents but to your point, it's not a drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. There's all the information, have at it. I think that I'm innocent, and let's see where the chips fall.

And at that point, I think the American public actually looks at the President or whoever, you know, is this being subjected to and you have a little more faith in that person.

KUCINICH: But basic crisis comes, is not exactly this White House is (INAUDIBLE) more like chaos comes.

PRESTON: Correct. I'll give you that.

BLITZER: And what should potential, Dana, worry the White House is there now seems to be bipartisan cooperation in the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the special counsel Robert Mueller, he's plugging along as well.

BASH: Right. And -- or maybe not. Maybe it's not going to end up being a worry for them. It's a headache, it's a political headache that frankly, the President himself continues to make worse with, you know, sort of self-inflicted political wounds. But the fact is that if there is a bipartisan -- or when there is a bipartisan conclusion in the House, in the Senate, and then you have the legal conclusion with the special council, and if they don't come up with collusion, that's the best thing that they could hope for, that it would be bipartisan. If they do, that's a different story.

BLITZER: It's going to take a long time.

BASH: It will.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by. Coming up, trouble between Rex Tillerson's State Department and Donald Trump's White House. The Secretary's frustration, it is now in the open.


BLITZER: Tonight we're getting new details about the friction between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump White House. Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's always tension between cabinet agencies in the White House over appointments. But as the former CEO of one of the world's largest companies, Rex Tillerson was used to having the final world. That's not the case in his new role as America's top diplomat. Now, Tillerson's methodical, some might say, slow efforts to reorganize the State Department are clashing with White House demands for quick political appointments.


LABOTT: Tonight, Rex Tillerson's frustration with the White House out in the open. The Secretary of State coming to blows with President Trump's aides over the process of filling dozens of key vacancies at the State Department.

In a meeting first reported by POLITICO, Tillerson made clear to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Johnny Destefano, the head of presidential personnel, and Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law and senior adviser, he wants to pick his own staff. White House aides describe the discussion as intense and uncomfortable, blaming Tillerson for the gridlock.

A Tillerson aid told CNN, "The Secretary is working on a process of evaluating people on merit. He wants to put forward the best candidate for the job. The desire for political patronage does not overcome a lack of competence."

JAMES CARAFANO, VICE PRESIDENT FOR FOREIGN AND DEFENSE POLICY STUDIES HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We have this tradition in Washington, let's just bring in our tribe and our tribe will run things. Well, first of all, almost none of these guys have a tribe. You know, Tillerson certainly doesn't have a State Department tribe. And so, he in a sense is building his tribe and like a lot of really good professionals, I think there's an effort to let's make sure that we get the right people in here.

TRUMP: You really have had a tremendous life heading up one of the great companies of the world and doing it magnificently.

LABOTT: The President hired the former ExxonMobil CEO for his global deal-making skills. But America's top diplomat doesn't enjoy the same autonomy. Case and point, while Tillerson tries to mediate a dispute between Qatar and other Gulf countries, President Trump has openly sided with Saudi Arabia.

TRUMP: The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.

LABOTT: Trump has also taken much of Mid-East policy including the peace process of Tillerson's plate, giving it Kushner instead.

TRUMP: If you can't produce peace in the Middle-East, nobody can.

LABOTT: And his Tillerson seeks to reorganize his State Department, the White House has pushed him to make major cuts, flashing a whopping 30 percent to his budget, shocking lawmakers who call the proposal a waste of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My reaction is it's probably dead on arrival.

LABOTT: Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, now a CNN Global Affairs Analyst says the end result is a weakened State Department unable to shape and execute foreign policy.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST AND FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: If you look at two things, one, the budget, and you know, show me the money and I'll tell you what your priorities are. Clearly, the State Department is not their priority. And second, personnel, you've got to have the people to run the place. In the absence of both the State Department plays a diminished role. (END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:55:08] LABOTT: Now, officials say President Trump's loyalty test is also slowing down the nomination's process across the government. The President is ruling out many candidates who criticized him during the campaign. Tillerson's aides say a confirmation of a deputy John Sullivan have sped up the nominations of state and that as a result of that White House meeting, everyone's concerns are now out in the open and they expect the process to run much smoother now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see, Elise. Thanks very much. Coming up, the White House is on the defense tonight as President Trump comes under bipartisan fire for a stunning Twitter attack.


BLITZER: Happening now. This has to stop.