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'Roseanne' Canceled Over Star's Racist Tweets; Trump Heads to Rally after New Conspiracy Rant; Kim Jong-un's Right-Hand Man to Visit U.S. as Part of Summit Planning; Embattled Missouri Governor Resigns. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 29, 2018 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Off the air. ABC immediately cancels its hit sitcom, "Roseanne," after star Roseanne Barr goes on a shocking, racist Twitter rant. President Trump was a fan of the show. Will he bring it up at a rally this evening?

[17:00:08] Mueller and midterms. President Trump unleashes a new Twitter rant of his own, falsely claiming that the special counsel will meddle in the midterm elections. Is the president deliberately lying to undermine the Russia probe?

Salvaging the summit. Urgent talks are underway to lay the ground work for a meeting between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong- un. The dictator's right-hand man and former spy chief is on his way to the United States. But is he responsible for an attack on U.S. soil?

And 19 days. Melania Trump has been out of the public eye for nearly three weeks, including time spent in the hospital for a kidney procedure. Where is the first lady?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. A sudden and stunning response to shockingly crude and racist tweets.

ABC has abruptly cancelled its huge hit show "Roseanne" after the star, Roseanne Barr, compared former Obama official Valerie Jarrett to an ape.

That comes as President Trump pushes the bounds of decency and democratic norms with his latest Twitter rants, including new conspiracy claims aimed at undermining the entire Russia investigation. We're standing by for a Trump rally.

I'll speak with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of the House Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage.

But let's begin with the breaking news. ABC cancels its biggest hit show after an extraordinarily crude Twitter rant by its star. Let's get straight to our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter.

Take us through, Brian, these truly stunning chain of events.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Hollywood has never seen a day like this before in its history. To cancel the No. 1 new show on television because of a racist Twitter rant, it's something that is absolutely turning heads in Hollywood.

And here is what started it all, Wolf. This tweet from Roseanne Barr, one of several posts she shared on Twitter early this morning. She's referring to Valerie Jarrett, the former Obama aide, in this message, referring to "The Muslim Brotherhood and 'The Planet of the Apes' combined," as being Valerie Jarrett. So she's insulting both African- Americans and Muslims, while promoting a deranged conspiracy theory about Jarrett.

And that wasn't the only tweet that Barr posted. She also described Chelsea Clinton as a relative of George Soros. Then she posted anti- Semitic ideas about George Soros.

So it went on and on in this tweet storm early Tuesday morning. And by dawn out on the West Coast, Disney executives knew they had a big problem. After all, there is no "Roseanne" show without Roseanne Barr. She is the star of the show. Preproduction of season two was already underway.

But by about 9 a.m., West Coast time, executives at Disney and ABC, which is owned by Disney, had decided they had to pull the plug. It took a few hours to actually make the announcement. Many of the show's producers and stars were caught off-guard, but here's what ABC's entertainment president, Channing Dungey, said about the decision. A very short statement here, Wolf. She said, "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, so we've decided to cancel her show."

BLITZER: What kind of firestorm was ABC facing over her truly outrageous tweets?

STELTER: Well, that's an important piece of this. ABC was being accused of enabling and subsidizing Roseanne Barr's racist behavior, because her show is one of the key parts of ABC's lineup.

Now, Roseanne has always had a controversial Twitter presence. This goes back many years. In fact, she's posted things in the past that have been racist and offensive.

But ABC thought she would tamp it down, try to control herself, or they thought her managers and agents would try to help her reign in her tweets and focus on the show. But frankly, Wolf, that didn't happen.

Several times now in the past few months, she's posted absolute nonsense on Twitter, kind of B.S. like she did today. But this was even more egregious than anything she had posted before. So that's why ABC took this action.

BLITZER: How big of a hit was the show that ABC has now pulled?

STELTER: It burnt like a firework, the kind of firework network television has not seen in years. When it launched back in March, 18 million viewers watched live. Others watched later. It recently totaled 25 million viewers. Not even football games usually reach that big an audience in the U.S.

If you launch a new show these days and you get 5 million viewers, that is considered a hit. But "Roseanne" was off the charts.

And even as it cooled down a little bit -- the finale was a week or two ago -- it still had 10 million viewers live on Tuesday nights. That made it a huge hit for ABC.

But what the network did today was put morals over money. It is not something you see corporate America do very often, putting morals over money. [17:05:04] In fact, Wolf, there was an episode of "Roseanne," a repeat, scheduled to air tonight. But they've yanked it from the schedule.

BLITZER: It's interesting, because back in 2013, she posted a truly disgusting tweet about Susan Rice, President Obama's national security adviser. I'm not going to read it other than say she -- she made another comparison, like she did with Valerie Jarrett, both African American women, made a comparison of Susan Rice as being an ape, as well. There's a lot of history there. It's truly disgusting.

STELTER: Yes, Wolf, it's --

BLITZER: Which raises the question, Brian: Why was she hired in the first place to have a comeback for her career, given the history of disgusting statements and tweets?

STELTER: yes, it's like ABC tried to look the other way. You know, they tried to put earmuffs on and pretend like the past was the past and that they weren't going to judge Roseanne based on the past. They were going to give her another chance and see if she could, again, reign it in, try to stop sharing and attacking people on Twitter the way she used to.

But Roseanne continued to do it. She continued posting these tweets. And, of course, the subtext now is that we've seen this strain of intolerance in the Trump era that has many people concerned, including many people in corporate America. I think Disney is trying to make a statement here, not just about Roseanne Barr but about what should be acceptable throughout the entertainment world, throughout the culture when it comes to racist comments posted online.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Stelter reporting for us.

We're going to have much more on this story coming up a little bit later. But there's other important news. ABC's stunning response to Roseanne Barr's racist tweets comes as President Trump's has been unleashing a new Twitter barrage of his own, once again peddling some fake conspiracies about the special counsel's Russia probe. The president is on his way, by the way, to a rally in Nashville,

Tennessee. That's where our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is right now.

So what's behind the latest tweets from the president, Jim? And will they be echoed at the rally later tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump tweeted today that he's moving onto topics like North Korea and other important subjects. That after he ranted all weekend long about the Russia investigation and immigration. But at this rally here in Nashville, he's likely to go right back to those topics with more misleading statements as he had over the weekend, misleading public -- the public out there over and over again with tweets that seem to say more about him than anything else.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Heading back on the road for more campaigning, President Trump was in no mood to take questions from reporters. But the president's had plenty to say on Twitter. Since the end of last week, he's posted more than three dozen tweets, many venting his frustrations about the Russia investigation and spreading unproven conspiracy theories that offer a window into the mind of an angry president.

One of the more baffling tweets alleges that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team will be, quote, "meddling with the midterm elections, especially now that Republicans are taking the lead in the polls." But there's no proof of that. The president appears to be making it all up.

But he's peddled this kind of paranoia before, like when he said the 2016 election, that he ended up winning, would be rigged.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I'm afraid the election is going to be rigged. I have to be honest.

Folks, the system is rigged. It's rigged, OK?

And remember this. It's a rigged election.

ACOSTA: The president's top aides insist it's his adversaries who have an unhealthy fixation on the Russia probe.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: So much is happening that has nothing to do with this phony-baloney, talking about the 2016 election. And may I say one thing? Every time people talk act this phony Russia collusion, the word "collusion" doesn't even have legal significance.

ACOSTA: Democrats complain it's the White House that's hampering the investigation and that the only solution is for voters to take action in the upcoming midterms.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You need to throw the bums out. As long as there's a majority in Congress that is willing to do this president's will, and as long as we have a deeply unethical president, there's only one remedy.

ACOSTA: In another tweet the president even managed to make a Memorial Day statement about himself, saying, "Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud" of his record on the economy, and his handling of the military, ending the message by saying, "Nice!"

The president also tried to get away with spreading misleading information on the issue of immigration, blaming Democrats for separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents once they cross the border into the U.S. But that's not true. Both parties have shaped immigration policies for decades, and it's his administration's decision to divide up immigrant families. The president has said as much himself.

TRUMP: We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. It's a horrible thing we have to break up families.

ACOSTA: Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained earlier this month, the separations will deter more migrant families from crossing the border.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child may be separated from you.


ACOSTA: And the president is here in Nashville at a campaign for the Republican Party's Senate candidate in Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn. The fact that the president has to campaign in deep red Tennessee says more about the fact that the Republicans are having jitters right now about how they're going to do in the upcoming midterm elections than Robert Mueller or the Russia investigation and anything else.

[17:10:11] Of course, Wolf, they are concerned about every Senate seat that is up for grabs across the country. Because if the Democrats take control of the Congress, the Russia investigation is likely to continue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta, thank you. Jim Acosta in Tennessee for us.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me begin with your reaction to the president's baseless claim that Robert Mueller and his team are deliberately meddling in the upcoming midterm elections. Is the president, by doing so, trying to erode public faith in this investigation and, more importantly, in democracy? JEFFRIES: Well, absolutely. And this has been one of the problems

with the Donald Trump presidency from the beginning. He consistently has faced a choice. He could either act presidential or he can act like a paranoid political opportunist. And time after time, he's continued to do the latter and eroded confidence in all of our democratic institutions, just to serve his own petty political interests, as far as he sees it.

One of the reasons why I think he continues to go down this road is that he has had a failed administration. They failed on health care. Tried to take away health insurance from 23 million Americans, impose an age tax in people over the age of 50, and strip away protections against discrimination based on preexisting conditions.

He's failed on infrastructure. Put forth what we call a fake infrastructure plan that would do nothing to repair our nation's bridges, roads and tunnels.

Failed on taxes. Eighty-three percent of the benefits go to the wealthiest 1 percent. That's not middle-class tax reform. That doesn't benefit everyday Americans.

It's one raw deal after another. The president obviously is running away from his failed record and trying to distract the American people. That's unfortunate.

BLITZER: But you have to admit, Congressman, the president has been somewhat effective at swaying public opinion, especially among his Republican base, against Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation. Take a look at this poll, a CNN poll among Republicans. Approve of Mueller's handling of the Russia investigation. Twenty-nine percent among Republicans approved in March. It's now down to 17. Among independents and Democrats, it's remained basically the same. So at least for Republicans, his strategy seems to be working.

JEFFRIES: Well, he continues to play to his base. But we as Democrats are going to continue to talk about a forward-looking agenda focused on better jobs, better wages, a better future for the American people. What we believe is a better deal as it relates to focusing on good paying jobs and strong economic growth.

But it does, to me, belie reason that Donald Trump continues to convey the Mueller investigation as if it's some partisan political witch hunt. Every single person leading this investigation is a Republican. Bob Mueller, the special counsel, Republican. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, overseeing the investigation at the Department of Justice, a Republican. James Comey, the former FBI director, Republican. Christopher Wray, the current FBI director, a Republican.

The notion that this is some partisan political witch hunt is just a conspiratorial fantasy being peddled to the American people by an unhinged president at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

BLITZER: The president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, admitted that he's trying to undermine Mueller, because he believes this is going to come down, when all is said and done, to the court of public opinion.

Current Justice Department policy, by the way, says that a sitting president can't be indicted.

So do you believe Rudy Giuliani has a point when he says this will ultimately be up to you guys in the House and the Senate to decide whether to impeach and, if yes, whether to convict?

JEFFRIES: Well, Rudolph Giuliani continues to embarrass himself. He's a failed former mayor of the great city of New York, and now he's a failed attorney on behalf of the president.

Though when you listen to him, he does obviously communicate what is clear to those of us who have been paying attention to the president's strategy around this Russia investigation from the very beginning, which is to discredit, discredit, discredit. Largely to make it an illegitimate investigation. When the cloud of illegitimacy is really hanging over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, because many of us in America can't figure out was this president legitimately elected or not? That's the whole purpose of the investigation that is underway.

Now, many of us fought for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself. And he recused himself. We then fought for the appointment of a special counsel. Bob Mueller was appointed. He's a well-respected individual, a war hero. Distinguished former FBI director.

[17:15:06] My view of the situation is let Bob Mueller lead the investigation, come up with his conclusions, present that to the American people and Congress, and then we'll decide what's the best way to proceed for our democracy.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction, Congressman, to ABC's decision to cancel their highly successful sitcom, "Roseanne" after the star of the show, Roseanne Barr, tweeted more racist, anti-Semitic comments this morning. What did you think of the decision?

JEFFRIES: Well, it was the right decision, and it came swiftly. There was a lot of public condemnation as it relates to how in the world we even found ourselves in this situation, given Roseanne's prior history of issuing racist and conspiracy statements on Twitter and peddling those to the American people.

As you pointed out earlier, Wolf, this is not the first time she's gone down this road of a racist rant directed at a prominent African- American woman connected to the Obama administration. Today it was Valerie Jarrett. In the past, it was Susan Rice, the former national security advisor.

It's shameful that she was even given an opportunity to again have this platform. I'm thankful that ABC and Disney made the right decision. Hopefully, they'll be a little bit more careful moving forward.

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

JEFFRIES: Thank you. BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. ABC, once

again, pulls the plug on its biggest hit, "Roseanne," after a shockingly racist rant by its star, Roseanne Barr.

And other important news. Kim Jong-un's right-hand man is on his way to the United States right now amid intensive efforts to arrange a summit between President Trump and the North Korean dictator.


[17:21:19] BLITZER: High-stakes, high-level efforts are taking place right now to prepare for a summit between President Trump and North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong-un. Let's go to our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, Kim's right-hand man is on his way to where you are, New York City, right now.

I think we've lost Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf, this is another indication of how much this planned summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is wanted.

The U.S. has opened another front in these discussions. You have a team in Singapore talking logistics. You have a team in North Korea at the Demilitarized Zone, led by a U.S. ambassador with a lot of experience talking to North Korea.

Something in those meetings with North Korea has obviously gone well enough that now North Korea is sending one of Kim Jong-un's right-hand people here to New York, Kim Yong Chol.

BLITZER: You know, Michelle, the summit was --

KOSINSKI: I'm sorry.

BLITZER: -- was off, now it's back on, but maybe not. He cancelled it, the president cancelled it on Thursday. What's the latest you're hearing about the June 12 date for the summit in Singapore?

KOSINSKI: Well, no one is saying that that is not a possibility. This looks like all systems are go to have that be the date. We know how much President Trump wants that. Obviously, the North Koreans are going for it, as well.

Now that Kim Jong-un is sending one of his right-hand people, someone who formerly led intelligence services for North Korea, somebody who's been sanctioned by the U.S. but is allowed to travel here to New York City, and, in fact, tomorrow Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head to New York.

It's not expected to be a long meeting between the two of them. He's planning to go pack to D.C. the next day. Although that could change.

So it looks like things have gone well enough in North Korea for North Korea to now send one of Kim Jong-un's top people here to meet with the U.S. secretary of state.

Of course, what we don't know, Wolf, is the substance of any of these meetings. How broad did they go? How much distance will they cover in bridging that gap between how North Korea and the U.S. view denuclearization? What would it look like? What does denuclearization even mean?

Only once those questions are tackled are we or anyone going to know whether this summit, if it happens on June 12, or if it happens at all, will be just a historic meet and greet or more of a photo op, or will it be leading North Korea down an entirely different path, Wolf?

BLITZER: In the meantime, Kim Yong Chol will be the highest-ranking North Korean official allowed into the United States in some 18 years, and we'll watch these talks in New York together with you, Michelle. Thanks very much.

Coming up, there's more on the breaking news: ABC cancels "Roseanne" amid a furor over her racist tweets.

Plus, President Trump's latest conspiracy claim about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. How will it impact the midterm elections?


[17:29:10] BLITZER: Breaking news, Air Force One due shortly in Nashville, Tennessee, where President Trump will be holding a rally later tonight. We're waiting to hear what, if anything, he says about today's uproar started by a racist tweet from one of his high-profile supporters, the comedian Roseanne Barr. We're going to have live coverage. Stand by for that.

But in the meantime, there's a developing story unfolding in Missouri right now. Eric Greitens, the governor of Missouri, is making an announcement.

GOV. ERIC GREITENS (R), MISSOURI: And I love our people. That love remains. I am thankful to all those who have worked beside me, sweated beside me, those who gave their time, their energy, and their precious resources so that we could pursue our mission, taking Missouri a new and better direction. We have accomplished a lot together. I am proud of you, and I am proud of all of our work.

[17:30:15] The last few months have been incredibly difficult for me, for my family, for my team, for my friends, and for many, many people that I love. This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family. Millions of dollars of mounting legal bills. Endless personal attacks designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends. Legal harassment of colleagues, friends, and campaign workers. And it's clear that, for the forces that oppose us, there is no end in sight. I cannot allow those forces to continue to cause pain and difficulty to the people that I love.

I know, and people of good faith know, that I am not perfect. But I have not broken any laws nor committed any offense worthy of this treatment. I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history.

It has been a great honor and a privilege to serve as your governor. Traveling the state, I have talked to many of you who harbor extraordinary anger at this ordeal and for those who have pushed and promoted it. For those who would be moved to vengeance, let us allow history and God to bring justice.

We must, as we've always done, work to improve the lives of those around us. This is not the end of our fight. I will always be a fighter for the people of Missouri. A great deal of work is left undone. The time has come, though, to tend to those who have been wounded, and to care for those who need us most.

So for the moment, let us walk off the battlefield with our heads held high. We have a good and proud story to tell our children. Let's love them and each other every day.

May God continue to bless you and to bless the great state of Missouri. Thank you.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Missouri governor, Eric Greitens, a Republican, once a rising star in the Republican Party, has just resigned. He says his resignation will be effective Friday, June.

Our political reporter, Rebecca Berg, is joining us on the phone. We're also joined by CNN Politics senior writer Juana Summers, both of whom have covered Greitens for some time.

Rebecca, the governor was embroiled in multiple scandals but what led to today's resignation?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): That's right, Wolf. Well, most recently there was a court decision just today that the governor would have had to open documents from his campaign, from an affiliated nonprofit called A New Missouri for a Missouri House committee that has been investigating the governor, and so essentially all of their dirty laundry would have been out there in public, and really could have led to some really damaging revelations for Governor Eric Greitens.

And, of course, he had an impeachment process ahead of him. The Missouri House was poised in the next few weeks, potentially, to vote on his impeachment, and then he would have had a weeks' or months'- long process of an impeachment trial. And so he had all this ahead of him.

In addition, he faces a felony charge of computer tampering for his campaign using a nonprofit donor for their fundraising. And so there's really no light at the end of the tunnel for Eric Greitens, Wolf. It was going to be this long legal and political process, very painful, potentially some very painful revelations, damaging revelations. And it got to the point today, clearly, where he decided that it was not worth the political and legal damage that he could have incurred from that. BLITZER: Juana, remind our viewers what led to all of this, the

accusations against him.

[17:35:03] JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: Absolutely, Wolf. This is a saga that's been going on for five months. There have been five months of these accusations of inappropriate behavior and, in some cases, criminal wrongdoing.

That all dates back to in January, when an affiliate reported a tape that they had obtained from the ex-husband of a woman who had had a sexual relationship with Eric Greitens before he became governor. And the revelations that were in that tape were, I think, very, very hard to hear for a lot of people. Again, this was before he became governor. But that really was what got us down this road.

But the story is more than just about sex and inappropriate personal behavior. It's really evolved to include campaign finance questions, with Greitens, as Rebecca Berg reported, facing those felony charges related to that campaign donor list.

And I just -- from listening to him speak, just a few moments ago, what's interesting is he still remains defiant. He said -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- that he has not broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment. That is similar to what we've seen from him as this case has gone on for these five months.

But clearly, something -- there's a straw that broke the camel's back, and he just couldn't do it anymore.

BLITZER: Juana, thank you very much.

Rebecca, thanks to you, as well.

David Chalian is with us, our political director.

He was a rising star at one point. There were huge expectations for the Missouri governor.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right. I mean, people looked at him as a potential presidential prospect down the road in the Republican Party, Wolf.

It is important to understand the political context of what happened here. First of all, the pressure from his fellow Republicans had been so intense, but he was withstanding that, as he was saying, "I'm going to fight this. I want the trial. I want to go through this process. I'm going to stand and fight." It obviously became too much to bear.

The other thing to look at here is this was having an impact on the all-important Senate race, Claire McCaskill running for reelection there against the attorney general in the state, Josh Holly, in Missouri. It's one of the huge high-profile battles this year for the Senate. And the Greitens scandal was having a really downward pressure on the Republican Senate in the Senate race, as well. That's why a lot of the fellow Republicans of Greitens were urging him to move on and get past this and resign from office. This is still a surprise, though. It's a totally different posture

from where he's been. I think Rebecca Berg put it great when she said there just simply was no light at the end of the tunnel. Any way he turned, whether it was the court process or the impeachment process, he was in a heap of trouble.

BLITZER: Certainly was. Once again, the headline: The Missouri governor, Eric Greitens, has resigned effective this Friday. We'll stay on top of this story.

I want to get back to the other story, Roseanne Barr all of a sudden fired by ABC.

Bill Carter, you're with us, as well. A lot of people are asking why did ABC hire her to begin with, given her history of racist and conspiratorial tweets and statements?

BILL CARTER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, partly, of course, she's been popular. Her show was popular. There's been a movement in television to reboot these familiar shows.

But also, you have to say that her connection to Donald Trump was a factor here. I mean, she was a supporter of Trump. And there's an audience for that. ABC thought there was an audience for that.

ABC, by the way, has always had sort of a history of blue-collar shows. And that audience has been there for ABC. And I think they felt like this was someone that could reach that audience.

Now, they knew about a lot of the things she had said in the past, and they tried to write that off as "That's just Roseanne being Roseanne." They couldn't control her the first time she was on the air. She had a lot of excessive behavior back then. But I think they felt like this was a great gamble. The audience would be there. And it was, the audience was certainly there.

But they got the real Roseanne. They got what they should have anticipated. This is who she is. She's a person who you can't rely on, who's got unhinged views. And clearly, this racist view that is completely intolerable to everybody, finally got to the point where ABC said, "We can't put this on anymore. We can't take the heat from it."

The Disney Corporation is the most imag- conscious, perhaps, entertainment corporation in the world, and here they have this woman on the air, basically spouting conspiracy theories and extreme racist views. And I think they felt like they had to act.

BLITZER: Yes. Comparing Valerie Jarrett, President Obama's former senior adviser, to being an ape. And a few years ago in 2013, she compared Susan Rice, President Obama's national security adviser -- I won't even read the disgusting tweet that she put out then -- to an ape, as well.

Joey Jackson, when you heard ABC's decision, what did you think?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's the right call, and it's an act of corporate responsibility.

You know, Wolf, we've seen two things today that I think move the issue forward towards tolerance. If you don't get it and you're not getting it from the White House and government leaders, corporate leaders have a responsibility to do what they do. Because if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Case in point: they have shown, ABC, zero tolerance, and they looked to get rid of the problem. That is a major step. The same day that we saw Starbucks close stores and exercise some training.

Is it going to solve all problems? No, but it's an act of corporate responsibility that moves the issue forward.

We are in a trying time in our history, and I don't want to overstate it. But what does it say when we see, in New York City, here on the East, a lawyer, a person admitted by the bar, spewing racist things at, you know, people speaking Spanish, telling them that he's going to call ICE on them. Are you serious?

[17:40:14] You look to the West Coast, you have African-American women who are coming out of an AirBNB, and the police are called on them.

Yale University, a graduate student studying in her, you know, in a common area. Police called again.

And so we're in a trying time. If we're not going to have leadership from the White House, and if we're going to be in a time where we denigrate immigrants and you're not from the country, and when you come into the country, you're killing and raping people and you don't belong here, it's terrible. And we see more overt issue of this.

So it's about informing a culture of people and saying no. And pushing back and saying, "It's not tolerable. It's not acceptable. We don't care how popular your show is, you're gone." That's a major step forward in my view.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Bianna, I want to let you to weigh in, as well. Go ahead.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, Disney is a company that famously, a few years ago, banned any smoking, right, in any of their programs. So you think about the moral consciousness of that decision, and to not react to racism, vile racism of this nature would be unconscionable. So I don't think Disney had any other choice.

And if you think about it from a broader perspective, Disney strategically, and ABC strategically had it right by reaching out to middle America and to Trump voters. They made a tactical error, no doubt, in reaching out to Roseanne, as far as her being the face of their audience, because this shouldn't be a partisan issue. It's not just people who voted or didn't vote for Donald Trump who should be offended. The entire country should be offended. This is not a tolerable thing to say. It's not tolerable to tweet these things. It's not tolerable to employ these kind of people. If a student said this at school, they should be suspended. If an

employee said this at work, they would be fired. Disney did the right thing here.

And one has to wonder now what the ripple effects will be and whether Donald Trump will weigh in. Ordinarily, you would not want a president to weigh in, but obviously, the president weighed in when the show was a hit, ratings-wise. So now he's in this mess, and one has to wonder if he's going to speak out about it later today.

BLITZER: I want to get Kaitlan on this. You're our White House correspondent. Here's he said not that long ago about Roseanne. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at Roseanne. I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings. Look at her ratings. I got a call from Mark Burnett. He did "The Apprentice." He's a great guy. He said, "Donald, I called just to say hello and to tell you, did you see Roseanne's ratings?"

I said, "Mark, how big were they?"

"They were unbelievable. Over 18 million people. And it was about us."

They haven't figured it out. The fake news hasn't quite figured it out yet.


BLITZER: He's getting ready to speak at a rally in Tennessee in a little while. You think he's going to talk about Roseanne?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think the minute that they cancelled the show, pretty much every White House reporter immediately thought Trump is surely going to talk about this tonight. I mean, you saw that comment there. That was made at a rally. He's holding another rally tonight.

Of course, someone who has expressed great affection for Roseanne and her ratings. And of course, she is a Trump supporter, someone who's voiced support for him multiple times. That doesn't mean that the president has anything to do with the tweets or endorses these horrible views of hers. But we will be waiting to see if he says anything tonight.

I do want to note that the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, was just asked about this on Air Force One as she was gaggling with reporters on the way to Nashville. And instead of commenting on the show or saying what the White House's position was on this, she simply said the president was focused on other things like North Korea and trade. He didn't have time to be focused on the "Roseanne" cancellation. I don't think that's an excuse that pretty much anyone would buy. We saw the president's Twitter feed this morning. He's clearly focused on several other things.

But that was a chance for Sarah Sanders to denounce what Roseanne said and what she tweeted about someone who also worked in the White House that Sarah Sanders now works in. And she passed up that chance, didn't say anything about what she had said or anything about it's -- you know, how horrible it was or how in poor taste, and she really let that opportunity go, I think.

BLITZER: We'll see if the president does say anything about this issue. Guys, stick around.

Also tonight, we're looking into new questions about the first lady, Melania Trump. It's been a week since her last public appearance. During that time, she did have a kidney procedure.

Our White House reporter, Kate Bennett, is joining us now. She's been working her sources.

First and most importantly, how is the first lady's health? Has she returned to work?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Her communications director says that she's doing great. That's a quote, and that she has returned to work. She's taking meetings with her staff, discussing her initiatives and some upcoming things at the White House such as the congressional picnic, which typically happens in June, and Fourth of July festivities.

So it sounds pretty much like business is back to normal. But we still have yet to see the first lady make a public appearance. It's been about 19 days since we last saw her, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nineteen days, and she wasn't with the president yesterday when he laid a wreath at Arlington on Memorial Day. When will we see her next? Does she have any public events scheduled, Kate.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So far there's nothing on her public schedule. And, again, the sort of void of information is leading people down these paths of theories and conspiracies, et cetera, and Twitter is sort of going crazy about where is the first lady?

But this is quite sort of typical in a way of a first lady who is very private, who wanted to recover. Her office requested privacy as she recovered from her kidney procedure. We don't have anything on her schedule yet.

I would imagine we will see her in the next several days, certainly, just because of the length of time at this point is getting rather long. However, I do think it is something very sort of -- it goes with Melania Trump's personality, that she's not necessarily that concerned with being seen or doing a public appearance just to put people at ease.

This was a surgery. She was in the -- procedure. She was in the hospital for about five nights, and now she is recovering. So this could be, you know, a few more days until we actually lay eyes on her certainly.

BLITZER: Well, we certainly all hope that she makes a speedy and complete recovery from that kidney procedure.

Kate Bennett, thanks very much for that update. We'll stay in close touch with you.

Up next, not only is he Kim Jong-un's right-hand man, he's also thought to have overseen one of the most embarrassing and damaging cyber-attacks on the United States. And tonight, guess what? He is heading for New York City.


[17:51:03] BLITZER: At this hour, Kim Jong-un's right-hand man is on his way to the United States amid stepped up efforts to arrange a summit between President Trump and the North Korean dictator. But that top aide, a former spy chief, is seen as dangerous figure.

Brian Todd has been looking into all of these for us. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this man, Kim Yong-chol, is one of Kim Jong-un's top henchmen. There's real concern tonight about his visit to the United States because he's got his fingerprint on a brazen, very damaging North Korean attack on America.


TODD (voice-over): Heading to the United States tonight, a notorious enforcer for Kim Jong-un. A man believed to have overseen North Korea's only direct assault on American soil, the 2014 cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, Kim Yong-chol, whose meeting this week in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.

FRANK JANNUZI, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MAUREEN AND MIKE MANSFIELD FOUNDATION: This is a guy who arguably should be indicted as a war criminal.

TODD (voice-over): Kim Yong-chol has a political title now -- vice chairman of North Korea's Workers Party Central Committee.

BRUCE KLINGER, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW FOR NORTHEAST ASIA, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Sort of like Michael Corleone moving out of the family to become more respectable.

TODD (voice-over): A man who, analysts say, still has a top intelligence portfolio with considerable South Korean blood on his hand.

A former bodyguard to Kim's father and grandfather, Kim Yong-chol once headed the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea's most dangerous intelligence arm.

He is believed to have masterminded North Korea's 2010 sinking of a South Korean Navy ship, which killed 46 sailors.

South Koreans, calling for his execution, protested his presence at the Winter Olympics this year where he stood right behind Ivanka Trump at the closing ceremonies.

Early on, as Kim Jong-un was consolidating his power, purging and executing several top officials, it was Kim Yong-chol who the young dictator counted on the build North Korea's cyber warriors into an elite hacking team.

KLINGNER: Then the Sony hack and then the accompanying threats of 9/11 style attacks on any theater or theater goer that went to the movie, "The Interview," which ridiculed Kim Jong-un.

TODD (voice-over): The same year as the Sony hack, then-director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper met with Kim Yong-chol in Pyongyang. Clapper later recalled his counterpart berating him about American aggression.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: He just kept getting louder and louder, kept leaning towards me, pointing his finger at my chest and saying U.S. and South Korean exercises are a provocation of war.

TODD (voice-over): Kim Yong-chol had such swagger that he himself was once purged by Kim Jong-un, according to a South Korean official, for his, quote, overbearing manner.

Now back in favor, experts say his trip to the U.S. signifies just how important the planned summit is to Kim Jong-un.

JANNUZI: The upside of Kim Yong-chol is that, compared with the foreign ministry which basically has no authority and very few insights into the nuclear program, this is a guy who is very close to Kim Jong-un and has the authority of Kim Jong-un to speak on the record to President Trump or to the senior U.S. officials.


TODD: Now, is there an intelligence risk to the U.S. letting Kim Yong-chol into the country? Analysts say U.S. officials likely will be careful enough not to share important U.S. military or nuclear secrets with him, but they say his visit to the U.S. does give the perception of legitimizing Kim Yong-chol maybe more than he should be.

We asked the White House about those concerns. They haven't responded -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If you get a response, let us now. Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Coming up, breaking news. ABC immediately cancels its hit sitcom "Roseanne" after star Roseanne Barr goes on a shocking racist Twitter rant. President Trump was a big fan of the show. Will he bring it up at a rally this evening?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Cancelled. "Roseanne" gets the ax after the star of the megahit T.V. show's racist rant, including a tweet likening an African-American Obama administration official to an ape.

We're standing by to hear if President Trump weighs in on the fate of the program for which he claimed credit.

Meddling with Mueller. The President is floating a new conspiracy theory that the Special Counsel and his Russia probe will interfere with the November election.

We're tracking his newest tweetstorm and the outrage it's creating.

Seeking the summit. Kim Jong-un's meeting with Mr. Trump appears closer to being on again as a shadowy spy master from North Korea is coming to the United States.

How far will both sides go to make this summit happen?

[18:00:04] And lava to the sea. The red-hot flow from Hawaii's exploding volcano is oozing into the ocean, creating a new level of danger.