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Interview With Texas Congressman Michael McCaul; Interview With Maine Senator Susan Collins; President Trump Attacks Female News Anchor Over Her Looks; North Korea Tensions; Partial Trump Travel Ban Takes Effect Tonight; South Korean President at White House Amid North Korea Threats. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 29, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: "This has to stop."

That is the message some fellow Republicans are sending to President Trump tonight after his vicious tweet about a female news anchor. This hour, I will speak with one GOP critic of Mr. Trump's attack, Senator Susan Collins.

The fighter. The White House is defending the president, denying he crossed the line, claiming he is fighting fire with fire. Did Americans vote for this kind of behavior, as Mr. Trump's spokeswoman claims?

Subpoena threat. Tonight, House intelligence leaders are asking the White House for more information about possible recordings of the president's conversations with James Comey. They are making it clear that Mr. Trump's denial isn't enough, and they will take more dramatic action if needed.

And direct talk. Mr. Trump hosts the South Korean president this hour, as they face a common and urgent threat from North Korea. Could they be considering negotiations with Kim Jong-un as a way to deal with a growing nuclear crisis?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There is a lot of news this hour on critical issues for the president and the nation. But Mr. Trump has created a distraction from all of that by launching a vicious verbal attack on Twitter that's being widely condemned tonight, even by so many Republicans.

The leader of the free world taking precious time to insult the host of the cable news show "Morning Joe," singling out the female actor with demeaning allusions to her appearance.

Also tonight, the president's spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, is fiercely defending him, saying he is fighting fire with fire after being repeatedly attacked himself. But many Republicans in Congress are fuming. They are fed up. They are pleading with him to stop, calling his words beneath the dignity of the office. There is also breaking news in the Russia investigation. The leaders

of House Intelligence Committee are requesting more information from the White House about possible tapes of the president's conversations with James Comey. They are threatening to issue subpoenas if they don't get further clarification beyond Mr. Trump's tweets saying he didn't have or make any recordings.

This hour, the president is welcoming the South Korean president to the White House. They're set to discuss the worsening threat from North Korea. Tonight, the Trump administration is slapping new sanctions on a Chinese bank and others accused of enabling Kim Jong- un's nuclear and missile programs.

Looking at live pictures, the president and the first lady getting ready to welcome the visiting president of South Korea.

This hour, I will speak with Senator Susan Collins, very influential Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and our correspondents and specialists are also standing by first.

First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the White House strongly defending the president's stunning new tweet, but so many Republicans are not.


The White House tried to say today that the president was simply responding to his critics in the media, but it has been a steady stream of criticism from members of the president's own party all day long, from Senators Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham, to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Even House Speaker Paul Ryan said the president's tweets were not appropriate. Of course, he was taking aim at MSNBC TV host Mika Brzezinski when he tweeted.

And we can put this up on screen. Here are the tweets in question: "I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me. Don't watch 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-lift," the president says in this tweet. "I said no!"

Now, when pressed on this, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, she said there were no apologies coming from the president. Here's what she had to say.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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. I think the American people elected somebody who's tough, who's smart, and who's a fighter, and that's Donald Trump. And I don't think that it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire.

The things that this show has called him, and not just him, but numerous members of his staff, including myself and many others, are very deeply personal.

So to then turn and pretend like, you know, this approach is -- I guess it's kind of like we're living in "The Twilight Zone."


ACOSTA: Now, Sanders went on to lecture reporters that they weren't focused enough on the president's policies, but on this day, it was the president's tweets that pulled the White House off-message.

Sanders spent much of the briefing today defending the president's tweets just minutes before he delivered a speech on the administration's energy policy.


And she was also asked at one point whether Mr. Trump's rhetoric contributes to a volatile political climate. She said the president has -- quote -- "never encouraged violence."

But that is just not the case. Here is what she had to say.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence, if anything, quite the contrary.


ACOSTA: Now, that is just false.

During the campaign, the president said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, as well commenting at a rally in Nevada at one point that he wanted to punch a protester in the face.

Wolf, those are those two of many examples from our travels on the campaign trail. So, clearly, the president has fostered that kind of environment himself.

He did it time and again, Wolf, during that campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

We are going to have more on the president's tweet. That's coming up.

But I want to get to some breaking news in the Russia investigation. Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee now asking new questions about whether there are in fact White House tapes.

Let's go to our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju. He's up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what are you learning?


The two top members who are leading the House investigation into Russia meddling in the campaign, Congressman Mike Conaway, the Republican from Texas, and the Democrat Adam Schiff of California, both saying that the White House's requests to their letter asking for any recordings that may have existed between those conversations between President Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey, that the president's request -- that he did not whether there are any tapes of those recordings, that there was not any tapes of those recordings, they're saying that that is not sufficient, because they are asking for any memoranda, any notes and any other documentation about those interactions that occurred between President Trump and James Comey, any discussions about a loyalty pledge, and, of course, that allegation that James Comey raised that he should drop that investigation into Michael Flynn, President Trump's ex-national security adviser.

Now, this comes, Wolf, as other members of Trump's inner circle are getting scrutiny on Capitol Hill, including the president's son-in- law, Jared Kushner. Kushner has been asked by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to turn over records related to his security clearance form and whether or not he properly disclosed his contacts with foreign officials.

Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told me earlier today that is something that Kushner and the White House should turn over.


RAJU: You guys have sent a letter to Jared Kushner last week asking for information regarding his security clearance form. One, have you gotten responses and, two, what are you looking for?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we are looking for a response.

I think one needs to know 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.


RAJU: Now, also, the Senate Judiciary also looking for information regarding any surveillance that may have occurred during the campaign season of Trump associates.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina telling me earlier today that he was pushing for any sort of information if any Trump associates were under surveillance. As well, Wolf, the Senate Intelligence Committee going through new data turned over from the Treasury Department involved, including questions about whether or not there were any financial transactions between Trump officials and Russian officials.

Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, telling me earlier today they are looking through two batches of documents and they're trying to determine whether or not there's any leads that can continue to chase -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, you are learning about a new witness who has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Tell us about that.

RAJU: Yes, that's right.

Sources are telling both me and our colleague Tom LoBianco that Susan Rice, the former Obama national security adviser, has agreed to testify behind closed doors of the House Intelligence Committee next month. Now, this comes as Republicans have accused Susan Rice of unmasking the names of officials, Trump transition officials in intelligence reports, so-called unmasking.

They believe she acted improperly and did not handle classified information according to regulations. Now, this is something that Susan Rice has adamantly denied. She said she did nothing wrong. And people who have reviewed some of the intelligence reports, even Republicans, have told us separately they have seen whether or not she has done anything wrong.

But, nevertheless, she has agreed to testify behind closed doors as part of this investigation. And the House side, which is ramping up as they try to interview a number of high-profile witnesses next month, not only Susan Rice, but also Roger Stone and also J.D. Gordon, both Trump advisers who have agreed to talk to the committee in the coming weeks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They are going to be very, very busy. Manu, thanks very much.

We are also hearing new rumblings from Republicans that Senate leaders are not likely to draft compromise health care bill by tomorrow, as they had hoped. The legislation on hold and in peril because of Republican opposition.


Let's go to Ryan Nobles. He's also up on Capitol Hill.

Ryan, we are learning more about the Senate's plan's impact on Medicaid as well.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

A new addition to the Congressional Budget Office's report was released today. And it predicts that Medicaid funding will slow by 35 percent by 2036. But it doesn't go as far as to predict how many will come off the health insurance rolls that far into the future. They say it's just too difficult to make that prediction. But this report comes as Senate Republicans continue to haggle over this legislation.


NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, the White House is taking a more active role in the negotiations over health care with both Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway making trips to Capitol Hill, this as Senate Republicans hammer out changes to the currently stalled health care reform bill, all with the hopes that at least the framework of a deal can be struck before Congress leaves town.

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R), MISSISSIPPI: I just saw a genuine determination on the part of people center-right and more center-left in the caucus to get to yes.

NOBLES: But exactly what those changes are and which members are moving closer to a yes is still unclear. The senators at the center of the debate are reluctant to say which way they are leaning.

SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: I'm not going to negotiate that with the press here on what it is going to take to get to something favorable for the state of Nevada.

NOBLES: Nevada Senator Dean Heller, who has been a vocal opponent to the new bill, has been a part of the negotiations, but is unwilling to get into the details of the bill's progress.

HELLER: The bottom line is that if this bill is not good for the state of Nevada, I'm simply not going to support it.

NOBLES: Heller's resistance is just one example of the divide between the moderate and conservative wings of the party. Conservatives want to rein in the cost of Medicaid, including gradually ending federal funding for the expansion of the program under Obamacare.

Nevada is a state that expanded their Medicaid rolls and stands to lose billions in federal funding under the current draft of the bill.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Changing growth rates to make them a little more generous might help some. But if you do too much of that, you're going to lose other people.

NOBLES: Despite the GOP divide, there has been no outreach to Democrats to join the conversation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning conservatives to build consensus, suggesting if Democrats join the negotiations, the less conservative the bill will be.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We have made good progress and we will keep working.

NOBLES: And there are plenty of moderate Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin who are ready to deal.

QUESTION: Have any Republicans approached you?


QUESTION: You're the kind of person that they would talk to. Has anyone talked to you about it?

MANCHIN: We're working. We are just working a little bit. We will be talking. It will happen, hopefully.


NOBLES: And the idea that they are going to strike some sort of grand bargain by Friday is becoming increasingly less likely.

In fact, Senate leadership has told us not to expect a deal. In fact, they said that House -- Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never set that arbitrary deadline. And, Wolf, the fact that there are no votes scheduled in the Senate tomorrow means it is very likely that most of these senators are going to be heading out of town very soon.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure they will.

All right, Ryan, thanks very much, Ryan Nobles reporting.

Let's talk about all the major stories unfolding this hour with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. She's a member of the Intelligence Committee, also a very key player in the health care debate.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: You condemned President Trump's attack on Twitter this morning Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC.

But what are you and your fellow Republicans going to do to try to change this repeated behavior on the part of the president?

COLLINS: We are clearly sending a very strong message to the president that these kinds of tweets which attack individuals have got to stop.

The president has to better appreciate that there are three branches of government, plus the media, that we may not always get along, that we may disagree, but that his tone should always be civil and respectful.

And I hope that perhaps the response to this latest tweet will tell him that he really needs to change his ways if he hopes to get his accomplishments through and be successful.

BLITZER: Because he tweeted this morning that one line there about Mika Brzezinski. He says she was bleeding badly from a face-lift.

And that's pretty outrageous when you think about it. When you read that line this morning, what was your immediate reaction?

COLLINS: Well, frankly, I was stunned by it.

I had hoped that that kind of language had been left behind on the campaign trail. It's one thing for a candidate to say something like that. I still think it is offensive when a candidate does it, but for the president of the United States, the greatest country of the world, the person who is representing our country, to use that kind of language, it is just so inappropriate. And it simply has to stop.


BLITZER: Why do you think he would change as president? Because that kind of language, he used to use all the time on the campaign trail and certainly years before.

COLLINS: Because sometimes candidates on the campaign trail use over- the-top rhetoric or they are exhausted from campaigning, particularly an individual who is new to the political world.

So, I had hoped that once the president was in the White House, that he would leave that kind of insulting language behind.

BLITZER: Are you optimistic now that he will?

COLLINS: Well, this certainly was a step backwards and a disappointing one at that.

The president is the first president in our history who has had neither military nor political experience. And he is still feeling his way and learning how to interact with Congress, with the courts and with the media.

And I hope he will listen to his advisers, whom I believe are telling him that he needs to tone down his rhetoric, stop the personal attacks and focus on the issues that are important to the American people. That's what he should be doing, particularly at a time when our country is already polarized and divided. We don't need a president to add to that.

BLITZER: We all saw you, Senator, sitting next to the president at that health care roundtable with Republican senators over at the White House on Wednesday.

The next time you see the president, will you tell him all that to his face that this kind of behavior towards women especially is unacceptable?

COLLINS: Well, I don't know whether the president is really seeking my advice on this issue.

I'm sure he is aware that I'm not happy about that kind of language. How could I possibly be? And I may go through his daughter, with whom I have developed a relationship.

BLITZER: What kind of impact do you think these types of sexist attacks on female anchors, for example -- not the first time he's done this -- will have on your own party, your Republican Party's reputation?

COLLINS: Well, I would point out that he attacked not just Mika, but Joe as well, and though his words were worse with regard to Mika.

They're just not helpful. I don't think it is spread to the entire party. We don't talk like that. Most of us don't talk like that. The vast majority of us don't talk like that. And Republican members of the Senate were just as vocal as Democrats in expressing their concerns about the president's language.

BLITZER: Because the attack on the media, the attack on the press by the president, that has been going on.

Here's the question. Is it in line with democratic values to encourage Americans not to trust or respect a free press?

COLLINS: No, it is not.

The press is a very important institution in our country, and it's important for the health of our democracy. Now, all of us, including myself, get annoyed at times when we see a story that isn't exactly right. But that goes with the territory.

BLITZER: Let's turn to a very serious issue facing the country right now. As you know, the Senate has passed a new Russia sanctions bill. Does it worry you that President Trump hasn't pushed the House of Representatives to put this bill on his desk to sign it?

Is the president committed to holding Russia accountable for hacking, for interfering in the U.S. presidential election?

COLLINS: The Senate passed the Russian sanctions and Iranian sanctions bill overwhelmingly. I think there were only two dissenting votes.

What I would have liked to have seen as the tweet from the president this morning, instead of the one that he sent out, was one urging the House to act quickly and send the bill to his desk, so that he could sign it into law. That's the kind of tweet he ought to be sending.

BLITZER: Let's turn to health care right now. It's a critical moment.

You haven't received any outline or draft of potential changes to the Republican health care bill. Are there any changes do you believe at this late stage that can be negotiated maybe in the next 24 hours that would bring you and your colleagues on board?

COLLINS: The only change that I'm definitely aware of is the administration and the Republican leaders have agreed to add $45 billion for an opioid treatment fund.

[18:20:02] That certainly is going to be helpful to states like mine that are in

the grip of an opioid addiction crisis, but it's not sufficient. There are so many issues with this bill, including the deep cuts in the Medicaid program which will affect some of our most vulnerable citizens, as well as our rural hospitals and nursing homes.

We have got the brand-new CBO analysis that has just come out and that your reporter just talked about that says that spending on the Medicaid program would drop by 35 percent over the next decades. That is going to cause a lot of harm. And that's one of my biggest concerns about the bill.

BLITZER: Senator Collins, thanks so much for joining us.

COLLINS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will get more Republican reaction to the president's tweet and other issues.

The House homeland security chairman, Mike McCaul, there you see him. He's standing by live up on Capitol Hill. We will also talk about the president's travel ban that is partially taking effect later tonight. We will be back in a moment.



BLITZER: Tonight, members of the president's own party are joining in the widespread condemnation of a new tweet that is arguably one of his ugliest attacks yet.

He's fired on this message slamming the host of a cable news show -- and I'm quoting now -- "I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me. Don't watch 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-lift. I said no!"

Let's talk about a whole lot more Republican Congressman Mike McCaul. He's the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very quickly, are you embarrassed that the leader of your party, the commander in chief, the president of the United States, is spending his time on Twitter launching an attack like this, rather than focusing in on very serious challenges facing the country right now?

MCCAUL: Well, I think it is a huge distraction from the real issues at hand.

We just passed Kate's Law on sanctuary cities an hour ago in the Congress. We have serious threats facing the nation. We will be talking about the laptop ban. I know you will be getting into that. Serious national security issues.

I wish he would treat tweets more about those issues that I think the American people are more concerned about, real issues that face real Americans.

BLITZER: Why do you think he does this?

MCCAUL: I can't explain it.

I think he has found power in the tweets that he does. I think this may be a throwback to the campaign, where he had 25 million Twitter followers and he finds some power in doing this. But I would, again, I think try to stay on message here.

We are dealing with some very serious policy issues in Congress, whether it be health care reform, tax reform, border security, and national security issues, that we would prefer him to tweet about those issues.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some major substantive issues. The Senate, now for a second time, they have just passed new sanctions legislation, a bill tightening sanctions against Russia and Iran, for that matter.

I think the vote was, what, 98-2. Only two senators opposed it. It has now come before the House. I assume you are going to vote for it. But the White House seems to be resisting this tightening of sanctions against Russia right now. What is your understanding?

MCCAUL: Well, it did pass overwhelmingly in the Senate. I know it is on its way to the House. It will be reviewed by the House.

I'm also on the Foreign Affairs Committee, very senior member on that committee. We will be taking a look at this. There are a couple of issues related to energy companies and national security waivers. But I think we all agree that after what Russia has done in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, where I just came back from, in addition to cyber- attacks on our democratic process and the elections, that Russia needs to be sanctioned.

BLITZER: But do you believe the president is committed to holding the Russians, Putin particularly, accountable for interfering in the U.S. presidential election?

MCCAUL: I think he would like some flexibility with the sanctions.

But I think we all agree -- and we all got the briefing -- that Russia interfered in our democratic process. They did attempt to influence the presidential election. And at the time I got those briefings, Wolf, last October, at that time in a classified setting, now unclassified, I was very vocal about the fact that Russia needs to be called out for what they did and there needs to be consequences to their actions.

And I think the sanction bill really addresses that bad behavior.

BLITZER: The president doesn't seem to be convinced. As you know, he calls it a hoax, a witch-hunt. He doesn't seem to be convinced. How do you explain that?

MCCAUL: Well, I think he doesn't want any optics that his election could be illegitimate. It was a legitimate election.

I think the question is what, if any, influence these Russian hacks had on the election system in the presidential election. I don't -- haven't seen hard evidence of that to date. But just the fact that they tried to do it disturbs me, and I think they need to be consequences to that.

And let's not forget that we have another election coming up in 2018. Foreign adversaries have always tried to influence our elections, whether it be Russia or China.

When I prosecuted the Johnny Chung case, it led us to the director of Chinese intelligence trying to influence our elections by putting money into the Clinton campaign. This is nothing new. They have always tried to do this. They -- Wolf, they just

MCCAUL: ... from Chinese intelligence. another election coming up in 2018. Whether it be Russia or China. The case of trying to influence our elections by putting money into the Clinton campaign, this is nothing new. They have always tried to do this. Wolf, they just have a new tool, and it's a cyber tool.

[18:30:22] BLITZER: You're the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and the Department of Homeland Security, as you know, they're implementing new security measures to avoid having to ban laptops from flights coming into the United States. The secretary -- Secretary Kelly says the threat has not diminished. Should Americans feel safe right now flying with laptops in the main cabin and in the baggage compartment?

MCCAUL: Well, you know, Al Qaeda and ISIS, the crown jewel for them is aviation. Always has been. And I think they're still trying to target and bring down aircraft airliners inbound into the United States. This threat, I can tell you, is one of the most serious and consequential and potentially destructive threats I've seen since 9/11.

I think the secretary is taking the correct precautions by having a laptop ban on the ten major high risk last point of departure airports but also expanding it to 280 airports that are also last point departure airports. If they can't comply with these new security standards then, of course, they may be put on the list of the laptop ban. We have to put the safety of the traveling public first and foremost. BLITZER: Parts of the president's travel ban will go into effect in

an hour and a half or so from now. Is there a national security rationale, Mr. Chairman, for what relationships are considered bona fide? What is the national security rationale, for example, why a grandparent or a fiance is more of a threat than a half-sibling or mother-in-law?

MCCAUL: Well, if you have a bona fide relationship to the United States, as I understand it under the -- what the Supreme Court has come down with, you can still come back into the United States.

These countries didn't come out of thin air. Four were out of my visa waiver security bill, three added by the Obama administration. And what it is, it's supposed to be a temporary ban until we can have higher vetting in high-threat areas. And I think that's really the key here.

And, you know, it's been six months since this executive order has come out. And I've urged the administration to start beginning the process of finding how to better vet these high-threat areas. This was not supposed to be a permanent ban but rather a temporary pause. And I think we can achieve that goal.

BLITZER: Congressman McCaul, thanks so much for joining us.

MCCAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll have more on the president's explosive new tweets. What are his repeated attacks on women doing to the Republicans' reputation?

And North Korea's nuclear threat will take center stage as President Trump hosts South Korea's new president, who has just arrived over at the White House for dinner. What military options does the U.S. really have?


[18:37:50] BLITZER: Tonight, the White House is fiercely defending a new presidential tweet that even many Republicans find indefensible. Let's talk more about the president's newest attack and the fallout with our political analysts and specialists.

And David Chalian, let me read that tweet one more time for viewers who may just be tuning in, the president tweeting this morning, "I heard poorly rated 'Morning Joe' speaks badly of me, don't watch anymore. Then low come low I.Q. Crazy Mika along with Psycho Joe come 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."

With so much going on right now, you know, with North Korea, with Syria, with health care, he's tweeting about this. Why?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I can't explain why, because it is inexplicable. This is -- this is beyond politics. I really do think so. I know we look at moments like this: "Oh, are Republicans sticking with him or not?" I actually think it's beyond politics.

Think about your own life? Do you know any adult who acts like that? He is not doing the job the American people hired him to do. Because you can't actually do that job and send out totally inappropriate tweets like that all in the same day. You can't. His mind is elsewhere.

And, you know, you heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders in her defense today saying that he's a fighter and that he's going to fight fire with fire. He's the president of the United States. I know when people hear us say this, they're like, "Oh, there the media goes again, just shaking their head, not understanding he's different." Or his supporters will say -- no, I really think this is out of the realm of politics. It's not the normal behavior of an adult person in a responsible -- in a responsible position.

BLITZER: What was your reaction, Bianna, when you read that tweet this morning?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, Wolf, obviously I was shocked, but I have to say the first thing that came to my mind was it was strikingly similar to things that Vladimir Putin has said about women. Just recently, he said in an interview when asked if he has bad days, he said, "No, I don't have bad days, because I'm not a woman."

I mean, you've got the president of the United States demeaning the office of the presidency of the United States. Mika is a fine journalist, a very close friend of mine, more than capable of defending herself, which she has, but somebody needs to defend the office of the presidency.

[18:40:06] And I heard your conversation with Senator Collins earlier, and she said that she was going to be speaking with the president's daughter, Ivanka, about this.

And I have to say, you know, a lot of people were relieved to hear that Ivanka and Jared would be surrounding the president, not because they're experts in women's issues or the Middle East or tax policy. They were relieved, because they thought that they would keep the president grounded; they would keep him in check and prevent him from making statements like this.

At six months in, it doesn't seem like they've been able to do that at all, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Our -- Rebecca Berg, what were your thoughts when you saw it?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, again, I mean, this is inexplicable for someone who is president of the United States. And that was reflected in the responses that we saw all day, not only from Democrats, which you would expect, but from Republicans.

Republicans who, I should note, are not usually critics of the president. So you have a certain subset of Republican who have been critical of Donald Trump all along. But there were others coming out today, like James Lankford, who has been relatively supportive...

BLITZER: Republican senator from Oklahoma.

BERG: The senator from Oklahoma, who said that this was not appropriate. This is not the sort of political rhetoric that you should have coming from the president of the United States.

So it just goes to show not only how inappropriate this comment was, which I think most people would agree, but also just how worried Republicans and Democrats are alike about this and the fact that they can't change it. They have, time and again, begged the president to stop tweeting, to stop using this sort of rhetoric. And it didn't work in the campaign, and it hasn't worked for the six months that he has been president.

BLITZER: A lot of Republicans are really condemning this. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, the Republican senator. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina.

You know, David, the fact is, he's got to govern. He's the commander in chief. He's the president of the United States. A tweet like this, how does that impact his ability to lead the nation?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in the very short term, we're sitting here talking about this instead of the very important issues facing the country. We're not talking about health care. We're not talking about national security, because this demands discussion, through the sheer outrageousness of the quote.

You know, but here's the thing. Donald Trump did all of these kinds of things before he got elected president. He's been behaving badly all his life. He's flouted norms; he's flouted rules. He's pushed laws. And he's president of the United States. And in his mind, that's what got him here.

You hear his enablers today saying, "Well, he's a fighter." You know, there's a difference between being a fighter and being an epic jerk. And one shouldn't mistake the two.

Fighting means fighting for those things that you believe in. Fighting means not putting yourself and your ego in the middle of every single interaction you have.

And I quite agree with David Chalian. If the president would spend even a quarter of the time that he spends watching television and tweeting on trying to master the details of issues like health care, he would be better off, and the country would be better off.

BLITZER: You know, Bianna, this certainly isn't the first time we've seen this style of attack from the president. I want to play for you and for our viewers how he went after then-FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly after a Republican primary debate in 2015.


TRUMP (via phone): She flips 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 out of her wherever.


BLITZER: Why does he do this? Why does he go after women in this way?

GOLODRYGA: The only person that knows is the president of the United States, Wolf. But I do have to say, as somebody who identifies and calls himself a great businessman, any CEO of a company that would say comments like this would be fired immediately. You saw a director of the board at Uber say demeaning comments about women in joking and in passing, and -- and he resigned. He stepped down.

So however the president identifies himself, however senators and other politicians want to come to his somewhat defense by saying he's new to this, in no job, in no profession is language like this acceptable. And it's something that parents, unfortunately, are having to talk to their kids about at home, too, because obviously, their kids would be sent to the principal's offices if they said some of the things that the president has said.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. Just ahead, we're going to have more on this.

Also, the president's travel ban partially takes effect later tonight, and there are so many questions about who will be allowed to come into the United States and who will be shut out.


[18:49:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our analysts as we count down to a pivotal moment for the president and his immigration policy. His controversial travel ban partially takes effect a little over an hour from now.

You know, David Chalian, take a look. You need a bona fide relationship with an individual or an entity in order to be allowed to come into the United States. Look at the approved relationships -- parents, spouses. You can see the unapproved relationships.

What's the national security logic behind all of this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You know, I heard you ask that question to Chairman McCaul and I really didn't hear a really definitive answer from him. So, I'm not sure I can come up with a better one.

But you've heard that the president has put the entire ban in the context of national security and I assume that division there is the first most immediately familial relations you have counts as a bona fide relationship here.

[18:50:00] Anything extended beyond that, the administration clearly feels that starts exposing some risk. I -- to me it seems you're going to get caught in very tricky waters because some of those relations on the other side are primary bona fide relationships here in the U.S. and I'd imagine if we are going to see future lawsuits based on whatever happens once this goes into effect, that division of who is bona fide and who isn't may be part of that.

BLITZER: Clearly, Bianna, these guidelines are difficult to interpret. Could we see some chaos when the travel ban -- similarly when the travel ban was at least initially implemented?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS AND FINANCE ANCHOR: Well, I think that's exactly what the Justice Clarence Thomas was eluding at, when he offered his dissent, saying, how are you going to differentiate and decide which people are legally bound to certain people here in the States and how do you define that legality. Remember, this is taking place in other countries. What defines their rule of law with regards to marriage licenses, birth certificates, what-have-you?

So, how are you going to keep those guidelines in check here in the U.S.? I think that's a big concern. And, obviously, another question is who originated these guidelines, too? Where in the State Department did they come from and what precedent did they really have to come after? So, a lot of questions remain and we'll just have to see how this is implemented indeed.

BLITZER: You know, David Axelrod, the president and his top advisers, they see this as a huge win, the Supreme Court decision the other day. They are going to hear arguments in the fall as to the long-term prospects. But they see this as a victory.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I'm not a lawyer. But I think that the nature of the ruling and the language of the ruling probably bodes well for them for the fall. And in the short-term they had beaten back so badly by the lower courts that given a partial victory was something that was very, very meaningful to them.

But as you have all pointed out, the standard is so ambiguous that it just invites further controversy. And the last thing they need here is more ambiguity and more controversy around something that already has tied them up for the first six months of their administration.

BLITZER: Yes. One of the things here, Rebecca, grandparents not approved entry relatives. A lot of grandparents are probably going to be upset about that.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, Michelle Obama's mother lived with her in the White House. There are many grandparents we can point to who have very close relationships with their sons and daughters and their families. And so, that could indeed be controversial. But as other panelists have pointed out, many elements of this still to be suss out. It's not a clean victory yet for this administration.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Standby. There is much more coming up as the president meets with the leader of South Korea. They're meeting right now in the White House. What military options are on the table to deal with a nuclear threat from North Korea?


[18:57:17] BLITZER: Breaking this hour, President Trump is meeting with South Korea's new leader as they both face an increasingly dangerous adversary in North Korea. We saw President Moon Jae-in arrive at the White House just a little while ago.

The visit coming as the Trump administration imposes new sanctions on a Chinese bank and others accused of enabling Kim Jong-un's nuclear and missile programs.

Let's check in with our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, any details on what we can expect from this White House meeting tonight?


Well, President Moon of South Korea coming into this meeting with a bit of a different view than Donald Trump. The South Koreans opening the door to the possibility of talks with the North Koreans, a diplomatic channel, if you will.

But at this time, the Trump administration is still very much adamant that North Korea has to start by giving up its nuclear and ballistic missile program. U.S. intelligence watching for the next several days signs of a possible, possible North Korean ballistic missile launch again. And those updated options for the -- from the Pentagon to the president, because the concern now, at least in the U.S. administration, is that North Korea has advanced so much and is able to hide its activities that the U.S. may have very little time to predict and watch any kind of destabilizing action, missile test or underground nuclear test by the North Koreans, that concern, Wolf.

The bottom line for President Trump is that North Korea could build some kind of missile and weapon that could some day attack the United States.

But moving ahead with a military option against North Korea always problematic. What would the North Koreans do? How much would they lash out at South Korea?

And tonight, President Moon very much aware that his country would be at risk if the U.S. were to launch any kind of preemptive attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about launching direct talks with the North Koreans? That's what the new South Korean leader I think wants.

STARR: He does. He's really open to that idea. The U.S., not so much right now because it's really put its policy on the line that before there is any kind of direct talks, they need to see action by the North Koreans to give up their weapons program. And for years now, there's just simply been no sign that Kim Jong-un is willing to do that. Maneuvering behind the scenes, pressure by the Chinese, diplomacy by the South Koreans, it could work, but not just yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thanks very much. Barbara Starr reporting from Pentagon.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.