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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Ted Lieu; Interview With Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond; Trump's Health; Trump's Racial Firestorm; Doctor: Trump "In Excellent Health," Details Tuesday; Cyber Firm: Russian-Linked Hackers Targeting U.S. Senate; Trump Admin Reviewing Policy on Elephant Trophies from Africa. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 12, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:38] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: racist and despicable.
The president's vulgar attack on immigrants from some African nations is under fire tonight at home and overseas. A top Democrat confirming what Mr. Trump said, as some lawmakers accuse the president of racism and seek to formally reprimand him in Congress.
Bill of health. We're standing by for a readout from the president's first medical checkup since taking office. Are the stresses of the job and his fast-food diet catching up with him?
Hacking the Senate. An alarming new warning that the same Russian hackers who stole Democratic Party e-mails now have a new target, the United States Senate. We will take a closer look at Moscow's newest threat to American democracy.
And last chance. The president gives U.S. allies an ultimatum, to fix the Iran nuclear deal or he will scrap it. After many months of threatening to withdraw from the agreement, why is he still honoring it tonight?
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: Breaking news this hour, we're standing by for a statement from President Trump's doctor on his medical exam just a little while ago.
We're also following the widespread outrage against over Mr. Trump's vile slur against immigrants in some African nations. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin is publicly confirming that he heard the president repeatedly use the S-hole word to describe those countries during a bipartisan meeting on immigration.
Durbin flatly contradicting Mr. Trump's denial that he used that kind of language. We're also told that other participants told colleagues about the very vulgar remark, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Tonight, Graham is all but confirming that, issuing a statement that
he directly challenged Mr. Trump's remarks.
On the same day that the president honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., there's little dispute about the ugly, ugly heart of what he said about keeping immigrants of color out of the United States and insulting the countries they come from.
A source tells CNN Mr. Trump loves the controversy, as White House staffers believe it will play into his political base.
Tonight, House Democrats are planning to introduce a resolution to censure the president, this as many Democrats and others are now openly accusing the president of the United States of being a racist.
We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our guests, including the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Cedric Richmond. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, a little while ago, African nations, the entire continent basically condemned the president's remarks. The backlash seems to be growing by the hour.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
No apologies, no regrets over here at the White House. President Trump declined to answer any questions about his ugly racially charged comments that came down yesterday. Instead, he offered a vague denial on Twitter this morning, but a top Democrat who heard the president's remarks says Mr. Trump is simply not telling the truth.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It was a moment filled with sad irony. On the same day the president signed a proclamation honoring civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Mr. Trump was dodging questions about his own racially charged rhetoric. The president is running away from comments he made to a bipartisan group of lawmakers on immigration.
On the subject of immigrants coming from Africa, the president said: "Why are we having people from all these shithole countries come here?" wondering whether more people could come from Norway.
Later, Mr. Trump questioned the need to protect Haitian immigrants from deportation, saying: "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out."
MLK's nephew, Isaac Newton Farris Jr., told CNN the president talked to him privately about the controversy.
ISAAC NEWTON FARRIS JR., NEPHEW OF MARTIN LUTHER KING: The president just simply said to me that, "I'm not the guy that is being described in the media." ACOSTA (on camera): And do you believe him?
FARRIS: I don't think that President Trump is a racist in the traditional sense as we know in this country. I think President Trump is racially ignorant or racially uninformed. But I don't think that he's a racist in the traditional sense.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president tried to deny the remarks, tweeting: "Never said anything derogatory about Haitians. Never said take them out. Made up by Dems. And the language used by me at the DACA immigration meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made. A big setback."
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who was at the meeting, says the president is not telling the truth.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: He said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist. He said, "Haitians. Do we need more Haitians?"
And then he went on when we started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure. That is when he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from shitholes.
ACOSTA: Two other Republican senators, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who were also at the meeting, issued a joint statement saying: "We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically."
But GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who was also there, all but confirmed the remarks, saying in a statement, "Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness."
The president has a long history of making racially insensitive remarks from his comments on Mexican immigrants.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some, I assume, are good people.
ACOSTA: To his defense of his white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville last year.
TRUMP: You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
ACOSTA: The president's latest questions raised questions about past White House denials that his immigration policy racially motivated.
(on camera): So, you're trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.
STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you have ever said.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Now lawmakers from both parties worry the president's remarks could jeopardize talks to reform the nation's immigration system.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I read those comments later last night.
So first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.
ACOSTA: Now, earlier today, the president underwent a physical exam over at the Walter Reed Medical Center just outside Washington.
The White House is expected to release a statement on the president's checkup. We have not received that yet. And brief reporters on all this next week.
But across Washington and much of the world, Wolf, there's less concern about an update on the president's health and more about the condition of his soul tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.
Tonight, the House Democrats want to put their outrage at the president and his remarks on the official record.
Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.
Phil, there's a censure resolution, I take it, in the works?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right.
Two Democrats, Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, putting out a statement earlier today, Wolf, saying that they would introduce a resolution to censure the president for his remarks.
Now, keep in mind, this is not something that Republicans, I'm told, are likely to come along with. So it will be largely symbolic. But for Democrats, it just underscores their outrage with the reports of the comments, that the comments were actually made.
And as one Democratic aid told me a short while ago: "We don't want this to go away. This shouldn't go away."
They want to shine a spotlight on this, Wolf, and that is exactly what they are going to be trying to do next week when they come back.
BLITZER: What does this all mean for immigration reform, hopes for a deal to allow those hundreds of thousands of dreamers, a DACA deal to go forward?
MATTINGLY: Well, Wolf, there's no question about it. This comes at a particularly precarious moment in these negotiations. The lone bipartisan policy proposal that exists has essentially been dead and buried by the president, rejecting it entirely. They are coming back, lawmakers, with just four legislative days to fund the government.
And the comments, the vulgar comments from the president, based on people I have talked to throughout the day, Wolf, they have only hardened Democratic resolve that a DACA fix, some type of DACA resolution has to be included if Republicans expect their support for a government funding resolution.
And, Wolf, at least in the U.S. Senate, when it comes to that support, Republicans have to have it if they want to keep the government open. The reality here is this. Democrats and Republicans are going into this weekend with no idea if they will be able to keep the government open by Friday.
Right now, it's an open question. When it comes to the DACA issue specifically, there's no clear pathway forward. Some aides I have been talking that have been working on the group of six proposal the president rejected tried to reject yesterday are hoping it could come back to the forefront as now lawmakers, leaders in both parties scramble to find some type of resolution at some point next week.
It is worth noting again, Wolf, the president seemed to flatly reject that yesterday. Did it again in tweets last night and this morning. And the Republican leaders are very wary of it. The real question becomes, if that's the only ball game, does that become the only answer? And if it doesn't, does that mean the government's going to shut down, Wolf?
BLITZER: Phil Mattingly up on Capitol, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of this with the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus leader, Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: Well, thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: You're introducing a resolution of censure in response to these remarks by President Trump.
Explain, Congressman, why you think this is necessary.
RICHMOND: Well, I think it's important for a number of reasons.
First of all, I think that those countries, Haiti and then you have Africa and you have El Salvador. I think they need to know that the American people don't view their homeland as shitholes, and that the motherland is not a shithole. But I think it's just for diplomacy and it's just the right thing to do. This is so disturbing in so many ways that we can label countries in such a derogatory way.
The president has a history of doing that, but it doesn't make it right. And I think that Congress should state for the record that we find these statements to be horrible, to be disturbing and to be factually incorrect.
So we will introduce a censure resolution. I'm sure that the Republican leadership will maneuver so that we don't have an up-and- down vote on it, but we think it is important, not only for America, but for the world to know that Donald Trump is not speaking for America when he says statements like that.
BLITZER: If the Republican majority allows an up-and-down roll call vote, do you think you have the votes to pass it?
RICHMOND: I think we would get some Republicans. I really do.
I think that many of them don't say it publicly or on TV, but many of them are very concerned about the president's temperament and disturbed by his words. I think you saw Tim Scott in the Senate. You saw Mia Love in the House call for an apology.
So I really believe that this statement is so far beyond the norm and it is so offensive that Republicans cannot just condone this. And they would have to -- on and up-and-down vote, we would get some of them.
BLITZER: Congressman, is President Trump a racist?
RICHMOND: You know, that's a good question. And most of the time, I just say that I really don't care if he's a racist or not. I know that his policies are discriminatory. And I know that everything he's done since he has been president has been an affront to the African- American community, from nominating Jeff Sessions, to disbanding the civil rights movement, to his voter fraud commission that he set up, which really was a voter suppression commission.
So I know his policies are very discriminatory, but, you know, my grandmother, who was very poor, but was very wise, she used to always say if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it's probably a duck.
And the president's actions would lead many reasonable people to conclude that, yes, he's a racist.
BLITZER: You have been in private meetings with President Trump, Congressman. You're the chairman, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Has he said things during those private meetings that have raised red flags for you?
RICHMOND: Well, look, I respect the position of the president, even if the president doesn't respect it. And most of what -- conversations with the president should be
private. He has not necessarily said anything just outlandish like he did here. But when you talk to him about certain policies, you are -- it's very clear that he is not aware or knowledgeable about many things that are important to minority communities.
And it was very clear from his actions and his response to our policy document which answered the question of what do black people have to lose under a Trump administration. They never responded. They never made any Cabinet officials available to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus.
So that's why we declined the second meeting, because we didn't think he was serious enough about advancing interests of the African- American community. And every day, he proves that that decision was the right decision by the Congressional Black Caucus to not be at a social gathering with the president, because we don't have anything socially to talk about.
We have business to talk about to advance America and making it a more perfect union, but that's why we declined the second meeting. And it just proves every day that we made the right decision.
BLITZER: Yesterday, you said his comments are further proof, in your words, "that his make America great again agenda is really make America white again agenda."
Explain why you say that. What policies can you point to?
RICHMOND: Well, if you look at the statement, and I will tell you, Wolf, as I walk through the airport, as I go about my daily routine, I get stopped all the time from African-Americans who are terrified of the actions of this president, the stability of this president, and his ability to talk in code.
And many of them feel that make America great again is really a code or dog whistle for make America white again.
And if you look at the Department of Education, whether they are challenging affirmative action admissions policies at our colleges and universities, whether you look at Jeff Sessions and his rollback of Smart On crime, if you look at the policies on -- Jeff Sessions particularly, but if you look at their response to crack cocaine, drugs in the inner city, that they are rolling back Smart on Crime.
They are going to mandatory minimum sentences. They're going to incarcerate as many people as they can, but then when it comes to the opioid crisis, they declare it a mental -- I mean, a public health epidemic. And they want to treat it with compassion, they want to treat it with -- and it's the right way.
It's the absolute right way to treat the opioid epidemic, but it was also the right thing to do for crack cocaine epidemic. And because of who the users primarily are, we have a different result. So I think it's well-founded for people to have that fear that this
president has a specific agenda, and that agenda includes policies that harm African-Americans and all minorities.
BLITZER: The House speaker, Paul Ryan, today called the president's comments, in his words, unfortunate and unhelpful.
Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who were in the meeting, by the way, in the Oval Office where the president made the vile comments, put out a statement that says -- and I'm reading it now -- 'We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically, but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system."
What do you make, Congressman, of those Republican responses?
RICHMOND: Well, I would say, with Speaker Ryan, who I do talk to regularly, I think it's too little, too late.
And for the two senators that were in the meeting and can't recall, I would say that they clearly don't get a profile in courage award. And it is very clear through the words of Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin that something was said in that meeting.
And I believe Dick Durbin when he says exactly what happened, and that all of the reports that he's heard have been accurate. So I don't think that that is something Dick Durbin would come out of that meeting and verify a made-up report.
But the silence is deafening. And as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Monday, one of his quotes is that, you know, you will not remember the words of your enemies, but what you will remember is the silence of your friends. And the fact that so many people are quiet on this, and so many Republicans are quiet, I think that that's the most unfortunate part of this that I have seen so far, besides the outlandish comments.
BLITZER: Yes. And, in contrast, you're getting a lot of positive statements for the president from racists out there, from neo-Nazi groups out there, which is obviously very, very disturbing.
As you know, Congressman, your colleague John Lewis, the civil rights icon, he says he won't attend President Trump's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress later this month. Will you follow John Lewis' lead?
RICHMOND: Well, look, I have absolutely no desire to question John Lewis' tactics.
His tactics are what made this country a more perfect union and allowed me to go to the best schools in the country and allowed me to vote without knowing how many bubbles in a bar or soap or how many jelly beans in a bar.
And he's somebody that, yes, I would follow. I will think about it over the weekend. I will talk to some constituents. I will talk to the CBC and make a decision.
But you don't want to sit there and listen to a man put on a show at the State of the Union and say a whole bunch of things that he does not mean and that he won't live up to. And you know how he really feels about the people you represent and primarily myself.
I mean, you know, I'm an African-American male, so when you start talking about the discrepancies in the judicial system, that affects African-American males. So the short answer is, yes, I would consider following John Lewis and not attending the State of the Union.
BLITZER: Congressman Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, thanks so much for joining us.
RICHMOND: Thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we're getting some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
I quickly want to go to CNN's Tom Foreman.
Tom, tell us what you're hearing.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that a woman was paid $130,000 a month before the election to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Donald Trump.
According to the story in "The Journal," Trump had this encounter with an adult film star that goes who goes the name of Stormy Daniels in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament.
"The Journal" says this new report of hush money comes from people familiar with the matter, but the president's longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, is hitting back hard, saying: "These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence, as has Ms. Daniels."
Cohen did not directly address the idea of a payment, but he did give CNN this signed statement. He says it's from Stormy Daniels, saying: "My involvement with Donald Trump was limited to a few public appearances and nothing more. When I met Donald Trump, he was gracious, professional and a complete gentleman to me and everyone in my presence. Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false. If indeed I did have a relationship with Donald Trump, trust me, you wouldn't be reading about it in the news. You would be reading about it in my book. The fact of matter is these stories are not true."
CNN has tried to reach out to Ms. Daniels for independent confirmation. We have not yet spoken to her. And Trump's lawyer, Cohen, has not provided contact information for her.
If the alleged event, nonetheless, did take place, it would have occurred the year after he married now first lady Melania Trump. The White House, however, is calling this old, recycled news strongly denied prior to the election -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman reporting for us, thank you very much.
Just ahead, we will get more reaction to the president's vulgar remark and the message it's sending to the rest of the world.
And a new target for Russians trying to meddle in American democracy. The United States Senate now in danger of being hacked.
BLITZER: We are back with the breaking news.
The exploding firestorm about the president's remarks about immigration from African nations, using a vulgar term widely condemned as racist.
Senator Dick Durbin confirming he heard it himself from the president, suggesting the president's denials are a complete lie.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California. He's a member of both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You just heard Congressman Cedric Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, lay out his case for official censure of the president in a resolution he wants to bring up next week. Will you vote for a resolution of censure?
And let me first congratulate Congressman Richmond on his leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The House Judiciary Democrats will also be joining the Congressional Black Caucus in introducing that censure resolution.
And, look, what makes America great is that we don't judge you based on your bloodline or your skin color or where you came from. We judge you based on the content of your character. The president of the United States does not understand that. And that is why I joined with Congressman Mia Love, a Republican, and called on him to apologize.
BLITZER: Do you think President Trump is a racist?
LIEU: It is a common human experience that a person who makes repeated racist statements is a racist.
BLITZER: So you think he's a racist?
LIEU: Absolutely. Absolutely. BLITZER: House Speaker Paul Ryan called his comments unfortunate and unhelpful.
Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who were in that meeting in the Oval Office, say they don't recall the president specifically making those offensive comments. What does that tell you?
LIEU: Well, it tells me that Senators Cotton and Perdue are lying.
If the president of the United States said the word shithole 24 hours ago, you would know that. Either the president said it or he didn't. You don't say you don't recall. And that tells me that the president actually did say that.
And in terms of Speaker Ryan, I think he needs to condemn the president's language much more strongly. And I think more Republicans need to join Mia Love and Lindsey Graham and others in calling on the president to really make things right, because the president right now is dividing America.
He needs to heal our nation, and the first step is to apologize.
BLITZER: Mia Love is a Republican congresswoman from Utah who is of Haitian descent. And she has been very outspoken in condemning what the president said about Haitians and about Africans, for that matter, as well.
You serve on the Foreign Relations Committee. What effects are these comments having?
LIEU: That's a great question, Wolf.
I think it is important for Americans to understand that not only has Donald Trump hurt America. He's actually made it harder for our deployed men and women in countries worldwide. I served on active duty. We have an entire command known as U.S. Africa Command.
And the president's comments just made their jobs more dangerous and harder. And, in addition, we need to make sure we can work with our allies in Africa to go after terrorists, to make sure we achieve American foreign policy objectives.
You don't do that by offending vulnerable nations in Africa and in other places. And, again, if the president apologized, he could make things right in a very big way.
BLITZER: Yes, I have been told the United States has 6,000 military personnel, 6,000 troops in Africa right now fighting terrorists, doing other important missions, training African countries.
And the concern is, they could be endangered to a greater degree because of what the president said. Do you believe that?
LIEU: I absolutely do. You're seeing huge reactions from countries in Africa. You have the
African Union now issuing a statement condemning the president of the United States. You don't want our allies to be doing that.
[18:30:12] And it's also very demoralizing to all the men and women who serve currently in our U.S. military who did come from places that were not from Europe.
Keep in mind: you know, my parents immigrated to the United States, and they came here to seek the American dream. And everyone in America, with the exception of Native Americans, came from somewhere else. That's what makes America great, that's what makes us a beautiful, successful, robust, strong country. And the president simply does not seem to understand that fundamental fact.
BLITZER: Yes. My parents did, as well.
Congressman Lewis -- Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights icon, says he won't attend President Trump's State of the Union address. Will you follow his lead?
LIEU: I will give that some serious thought. I do commend Congressman Lewis for his leadership.
I think if the president apologized, again, that would make things much better. If the president continues to want to stoke this controversy as your reporting indicates, then I think the president needs to at least have the courage to say that he said what he said. Otherwise, he's just being weak.
And I will seriously consider not attending. And I'm going to think about it over the weekend.
BLITZER: Yes, Cedric Richmond is going to think about it over the weekend, as well, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman Lieu, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
LIEU: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, there's growing fallout from President Trump's truly shocking immigration comments, now confirmed by a U.S. senator who was there in the meeting. That senator there calls them vile and racist. And now House members are moving to censure the president.
[18:36:24] BLITZER: Breaking tonight, from the continent of Africa to the halls of the U.S. Congress, very angry reaction to President Trump's vulgar remarks about immigrants of color. The president facing shouted questions from a reporter about whether he's a racist against a rather bizarre backdrop, an event honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Let's get to our panel. Cornell William Brooks, former NAACP president and CEO, is with us. Cornell, for you personally, what was it like hearing the president
paying tribute to Dr. King at this ceremony in the White House today, only hours after he used that disgusting slur to describe African countries?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER NAACP PRESIDENT AND CEO: It was very painful. I went to the same seminary as Dr. Martin Luther King and studied with a professor who admitted him and taught him. So to have the president of the United States stand with the family of Dr. King and, in effect, used Dr. King in his legacy as a prop, within hours of using a racial obscenity.
Let's be very clear about this. The president is an unreconstructed, uncensored racist. The fact of the matter is, we've seen time and time and time again this president use language to demean, degrade people based on race and ethnicity.
But this time, he's done something distinctively dangerous. That is to say he's endangered immigrant children here in the U.S. and endangered American service personnel abroad. Why? Because his comments fuel and inspire hate crimes at home. But his comments also make it more likely that our service personnel are endangered abroad, or they may inspire people to be less likely to support and protect our personnel.
He's failed as a commander in chief, principally because he cannot let go of his own racism.
BLITZER: Don Lemon is with us, as well.
Don, the idea of censuring the president of the United States in a Congressional resolution, it came up, you remember, right after Charlottesville, when the president said there were very fine people on both sides, including very fine people, I assume he was referring to neo-Nazis and racists in Charlottesville. Do you think it will be any different this time?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know if it will be different. Listen, if it does happen, I think it will be a productive step. But I have very little faith in the folks in Washington, especially the Republicans in Washington, because not many of them have spoken out, including the people who were in that room.
And I have to say, Wolf, that we have to stop trying to, you know, be judicious and eloquent in our language. And we have to call it what it is. And I'm glad Cornell just did.
It is how much -- how much more evidence do you need to figure this out? Before this person even became a presidential candidate, before he insulted Mexicans and called them rapists, coming down the elevator, he started the racist or at least he promoted the racist birther movement. And kept doing it. And that is how he gained prominence to come into the political arena. And so we have to call it what it is.
I saw John Kasich on air earlier, and Jake asked him, "Is this president a racist?"
And he said, "I don't want to call names."
Well, I'm black. Wolf, you're white. You're Jewish. I'm Protestant. We have to start calling things what they are. If an apple is an apple, then we need to call it that, it is not a banana.
[18:40:12] So if someone displays this racist behavior and language and rhetoric, and there's evidence time after time after time, then we need to start calling it what it is. I don't know what censuring will do. I don't know what any of that will do. We have to stop asking if this person is a racist, because the evidence is there. He is. And as a journalist, we have to that. That is what he is. That is what the evidence shows.
And so that is what we must do and stop beating around the bush. And we have to find, figure out who are we? That is the question, how do we react to it? How do we respond to it? Because it's not a question about whether he is or not. We know what he is. He's shown us what he is, and that's the evidence. There it is.
BLITZER: You know, there is a history, as Don Lemon points out. Jim Sciutto is with us, as well -- of racially-charged comments by the president. Let's put some of them up on the screen, and Don referred to, President Obama, he suggested not born in the United States. That's Donald Trump.
"Some Mexican immigrants are rapists." Calls for "shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Attacks on a U.S. Federal judge of Mexican heritage.
"Very fine people on both sides," including among the white supremacists in Charlottesville. He uses the term Pocahontas. "The New York Times" quoted him as saying, Nigerians will never "go back to their huts." "The New York Times" quoted him as saying Haitian immigrants all have AIDS. The White House denied both of that.
And most recently, Jim, what he said about these African nations.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There it is.
BLITZER: There is a pattern there.
SCIUTTO: Obviously. I've got three kids, is the thing. And this is what we teach our kids to avoid, you know, 100 miles, right? We teach tolerance. All this would be unacceptable in a classroom, right? In a corporation, in a church. God knows in a school. And yet, they come out of the president's mouth with a regularity which indicates that this is indicative of his thinking, frankly, right? On a number of levels.
And that has consequences. It has consequences at home, and it has consequences abroad. I mean, think of this. The president of the United States cannot set foot on the ground of our closest ally. He's not welcome in the U.K. This is truly remarkable. And for previous offensive comments that he's made about Muslims in
the U.K. or the character of the city of London, which is a very diverse city, criticizing the government there. That is remarkable.
And I think we have this tendency to say, "Well, it's just a comment. By tomorrow we'll be talking about something else." But it is having effects today. The American president cannot visit our closest ally. And the American president is going to need that ally. Right?
BLITZER: You know what? It's really amazing, Kaitlan. We've been doing reporting and, actually, some in the White House -- and you report from the White House -- are actually celebrating this.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSES CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that the president took what one White House official called a victory lap last night, calling his aides, his allies, his friends, phoning them to see what they thought of how this remark was playing out in the media.
And then another White House official told my colleague, Gloria Borger, that the president was loving this, all this controversy and chaos, surrounding this one remark.
And staffers, for most White Houses, this would be an absolute disaster, their worst nightmare that they would ever want to deal with on the planet. But for this White House, a lot of the staffers last night were telling me they didn't see it as that big of a deal, because they didn't think it would alienate the president's base. It would resonate with them, much like his attacks on those NFL players who protested during the national anthem.
BLITZER: You know, Cornell, a victory lap -- you just heard, a victory lap. But it's not just destroying the president's reputation. America's reputation here in the United States, around the world is on the line.
BROOKS: Absolutely. Let's be clear about this. This is the kind of -- the president is a distinctive racist, in that he's a racist stricken with narcissism.
The fact that he's bragging about this, the fact that he takes pride in it makes it clear that the racism is not merely personal; it's policy. And so to the extent it's policy, it is represented in the president's view of DACA and comprehensive immigration reform or the lack thereof.
That means the country should and will hold the GOP accountable. If they do not call him out, if they don't distance themselves from this racism, every American should hold them accountable during the midterms. You stand with the country or you stand with this racist president. You cannot have both.
BLITZER: Right. You know, Don, I want you to weigh in, as well, but Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, he was just on our show. He tweeted, he said yesterday that this is further proof, in his words, that the president's "Make America Great Again" agenda is really a "Make America White Again" agenda. I want you to react.
LEMON: Well, listen, that is Cedric Richmond, who is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is my hometown. And I will let his words stand for themselves.
[18:45:01] And listen, as I said, all you have to do is look at the evidence.
But here's what bothers me about what has happened, especially over the last couple of days, because this has been happening for the last few years. I mean, he started with the birther movement in 2011.
But when someone comes on our air and says, well, I don't want to call someone a name, I'm not a name caller, because we have more important things that we have to attend to. Well, for people who look like me and for people who look like Cedric and for people who look like Cornell, and for women on -- for Kaitlan and for Muslims and for people who are underserved in minorities, we don't have that priority.
It is important -- that is the utmost importance to us to be able to get a job, to be able to be treated equally under the Constitution. That is a priority to us and a pretty high priority. So, we don't get to prioritize racism and discrimination at a lower level.
So, I'm sick of people coming on the air saying, we have more important things to attend to. No, this is important as well. And the other people who say, well, I don't know what's in someone's heart. I don't know what is in a Klan member's heart.
All I know is what the evidence shows, it is what they tell me. They tell me they are racist, they exhibit racist behavior. And guess what? Even some people who are in the Ku Klux Klan don't think they are racist. They think it's their right to be treated better than other people.
They don't think that's racist. So it may be a possibility that this president, it doesn't matter if it is or not, that this president may not know the degree of his racism.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Can I add one thing to that? I saw today that some reporters, some White House officials were telling reporters, dismissing this as kitchen table talk, just like he dismissed his "Access Hollywood" comments as locker room talk.
But the president is not a kitchen table in this situation. He's in the Oval Office sitting at the resolute desk, meeting with lawmakers on a very serious issue such as immigration, making these comments while making very crucial decision that is are going to affect a lot of people.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following, I want everyone to standby.
An important note for our viewers, you can hear a lot more from Don later tonight, his program, "CNN TONIGHT," 10:00 p.m. Eastern. He's got a lot more for you on this. Don Lemon will be back later tonight. The other breaking news we are just getting in, the doctor's statement
on President Trump's medical exam that he underwent today.
You're also looking at live pictures of the president arriving in West Palm Beach, Florida. He'll be spending the weekend over at Mar-a- Lago, his resort.
All that coming up when we come back.
[18:52:16] BLITZER: Breaking news we're following. Air Force One just landed in West Palm Beach. The president will be spending the weekend at his resort in Palm Beach, in Mar-a-Lago.
We just got a statement, a very short statement from the president's medical exam. He underwent a medical exam at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center today.
Here's what the statement says from his physician, Dr. Ronnie Jackson, quote: The president's physical exam today at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center went exceptionally well. The president is in excellent health and I look forward to briefing some of the details on Tuesday.
There will be a briefing at the White House from Dr. Jackson.
Now, a very disturbing new warning that Russian hackers who stole Democratic Party e-mails have their sights on the United States Senate.
Let's go to our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with details.
Jessica, a cyber security firm is sounding the alarm.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I talked to a top expert from that firm today. He tells me they have been tracking hackers associated with the Russian government for years. Now they discovered that those same hackers that targeted the DNC in 2016, well, they're working on a similar scheme at the U.S. Senate, even designing sites that look official to try to fool U.S. senators and their staffers.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, an alarming warning from a cyber security firm that's been tracking Russian government aligned hackers for years. Their next target is the United States Senate. The hacking group often nicknamed Fancy Bear has honed in on the Senate's internal e-mail system, according to a new report from Trend Micro Incorporated.
Fancy Bear is the same Russian-linked entity that hacked the Democratic National Committee computer network during the election. Security researchers discovered suspicious Websites designed to resemble those used by the Senate. When they cross referenced those sites with a digital fingerprint associated with Fancy Bear, they matched.
Trend Micro used the same technique when it discovered decoy Websites apparently set up to harvest e-mails from now French President Emmanuel Macron's campaign in April.
MARK NUNNIKHOVEN, VP OF CLOUD RESEARCH, TREND MICRO INC.: Because we've been tracking them for so long, it gives us a very high level of confidence, because they left a little bit of evidence after every attack.
SCHNEIDER: Trend Micro says the hackers are attempting to get into the Senate system by sending highly sophisticated fishing e-mails.
NUNNIKHOVEN: They can pick a current issue, something like immigration, a statement by the president and use that as a hook to try to trick employees onto clicking on to this link that takes them to a fake log-in server.
SCHNEIDER: CNN has learned Senate staff had been briefed by the U.S. Senate security on this looming threat. Senate Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee released a report this week, claiming Russian-linked hackers have set their targets on the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential elections.
[18:55:07] If United States fails to work with urgency to address this complex and growing threat, the regime in Moscow will become further emboldened, it will continue to develop and refine its arsenal to use on democracies around the world, including against U.S. elections in 2018 and 2020.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: The president is not doing what he needs to. He still hasn't even acknowledged Russia's engagement in our own elections. He's failed to convene an interagency group to counter this attack. He has not announced a U.S. policy against Russia maligned influences.
SCHNEIDER: Federal agencies have stepped forward to fight the threat but said it starts with the president.
CARDIN: Our first recommendation is for President Trump to exercise executive leadership, presidential leadership, announce a policy and how that policy is going to be implemented.
SCHNEIDER: President Trump has refused to unequivocally acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, despite that exact conclusion from the U.S. intelligence community one year ago.
SCHNEIDER: When it comes to that cyber threat to the U.S. Senate, Republican Senator Ben Sasse is now calling on the attorney general to come back to Congress to explain what steps he has taken to combat that threat from Russia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jessica, thanks. Jessica Schneider reporting.
Tonight, as the president's views on Africa are making headlines around the world there's a big question mark over his policy on issue with an impact on that continent.
Let's bring in our senior Washington correspondent Brianna Keilar.
Brianna, elephant trophy hunting is the focus of a new CNN film debuting this weekend.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And it is an issue influx, Wolf. In 2014, the Obama administration specifically banned the import of elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe in November, as a decision by the Trump administration to reverse that ban seemed imminent. An odd thing happened, President Trump himself personally intervened, seeming to seriously reconsider upholding the Obama era ban in the face of public outcry.
KEILAR (voice-over): Nearly four years after the Obama administration banned elephant trophies from coming into the U.S., from Zambia and Zimbabwe, hunters and animal groups alike are waiting to see if President Trump will reverse the order. Zimbabwe game preservation or lack of it became infamous around the world in 2015 when a Minnesota dentist on a guided hunt lured a famed lion named Cecil out of a protected sanctuary and killed him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then they severed the head as a trophy.
KEILAR: The hunt was decried as illegal. But a year later, a Zimbabwean court throw out charges against the dentist and his hunting guide. So, when word leaked out in November that the Trump administration was preparing to reverse the Obama ban on the import of elephant trophies, conservationists sounded alarm.
WAYNE PACELLE, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: It's just thrill killing, bragging rights, trophies for a threatened species, the largest land animal in the world. I mean, shooting an elephant is like shooting a parked car. I mean, there's no sport in it either.
KEILAR: From 2007 to 2014, elephant populations in the African Savannah plummeted 30 percent, according to the great elephant census. In some places, it's dropped more than 75 percent, due to ivory poaching. Only about 350,000 remain, down from the estimated 20 million that roam the region before Africa was colonized by European countries.
But the rational from Fish and Wildlife Service was that allowing the import of elephant trophies would actually help elephants. Its statement in part read: Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.
Fish and Wildlife is overseen by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose appointment was championed by Donald Trump Jr., an avid big game hunter. These pictures from a 2012 trip to Zimbabwe show Donald Jr. and his brother Eric Trump, posing with their kills, including an elephant, Trump Jr. holding its severed tail.
Even then, an early sign that father and son might differ on the issue.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody tells me what they did in the world of hunting is fine, but I'm not a fan.
KEILAR: President Trump stepped in personally in November, squashing the lifting of the elephant trophy ban, at least for now.
The administration still has not made its final decision. Though Trump tweeted he will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show, in any way, helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.
KEILAR: Now, a court case could affect this outcome. In a split decision, the D.C. circuit court of appeals just ruled that the ban should stay in place while the case goes back to lower court. And attorneys tell us the ruling may make it harder for the administration to put in new restrictions or to repeal protections that are already in place, Wolf.
KEILAR: All right. Brianna, thanks very much.
The CNN film "Trophy" airs Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.