Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Lawyers Want to Use Daniels' Ex-Manager Against Her; Trump Admin Accidentally Releases Documents Undermining Its Decision to Shrink National Monuments; President Trump Urges Supporters to Ignore Criticism; Interview With California Congressman Ted Lieu; Interview With Maine Senator Angus King. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 24, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: See isn't believing.

President Trump urges supporters to ignore the criticism of the Putin summit, his trade policy, and much, much more. Tonight, he's taking new liberties with the facts as he pursues the art of distraction.

Dodging Mueller. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is trying to set new limits on the special counsel in exchange for an interview with the president. Is he making an offer Robert Mueller is certain to refuse?

Chant sessions. As a conservative crowd yells "Lock her up," the attorney general of the United States acts amused and even repeats the anti-Hillary Clinton mantra of Trump supporters. Is this how the nation's top law enforcement officer should act?

And out of fashion. Ivanka Trump is shutting down her clothing and accessories company, saying she sees her future in public policy. Are sagging profits and ethics problems the real reason she's calling it quits?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news all -- on all of the new zigging and zagging and distracting by the president a week after his disastrous summit with Vladimir Putin.

Tonight, Mr. Trump is putting a brazen new spin on as attacks on the news media and on his critics. He's telling supporters that what they're seeing and hearing is not what's really happening and he's making a very dubious and misleading claim about Russian interference, saying Moscow is looking to help Democrats win the midterm election.

This hour, I will talk with House Judiciary Committee member Ted Lieu and Senate Intelligence Committee member Angus King. And our correspondents and analysts are all standing by. First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, after huge controversies on the world stage, the president is back clearly in campaign mode.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president was giving a speech to the VFW convention in Kansas City. But boy, by the middle of it, it did sure sound like a campaign-style rally, firing up His supporters, but, interestingly, telling them that he is the only person they can believe.

Now, Wolf, this is coming after a week of unusual criticism. Of course, he's used to that. But, today, it was almost all coming from Republicans.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just remember what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

ZELENY (voice-over): At the VFW National Convention in Kansas City, a defensive president imploring supporters to stand with him, regardless of what they see.

TRUMP: Folks, stick with us, stick with us.

ZELENY: It came on another day of White House whiplash. A week after downplaying Russia's role in attacking American democracy...

TRUMP: I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

ZELENY: ... the president changing course, suddenly saying on Twitter: "I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election. No president has been tougher on Russia than me. They will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump."

Yet just last week in Helsinki, Putin said he did want Trump to win.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.

ZELENY: The president also changing his tune on Iran. A day after warning he could wage war with Iran for threatening the U.S., he said he was open to brokering a deal.

TRUMP: We're ready to make a real deal. And Iran is not the same country anymore. That, I can say.

ZELENY: But it's fallout from his trade policy that's causing alarm among Republicans heading into the midterm elections. The president pointing his fingers at his favorite target, the press.

TRUMP: So, when I say, well, I'm going to put tariffs on them, they all start screaming, he's using tariffs.

ZELENY: But it's the disapproving voices of Republicans that reverberated in Washington.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't think tariffs are the right answer. I don't -- I don't support tariffs. I think tariffs or taxes.

ZELENY: Republicans rounding rejecting Trump's new plan to send farmers $12 billion in emergency relief to ease the tariff pain.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul saying: "The answer is not welfare for farmers. The answer is remove the tariffs."

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse: "This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and the White House's plan is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches."

And South Dakota Senator John Thune: "This is not the right remedy."

Speaking for nearly an hour to veterans.

TRUMP: We don't apologize for America anymore. We stand up for America.

ZELENY: The president did not mention Putin or their much-maligned Helsinki summit. He also didn't say whether he intends to go ahead with his plan to strip security clearances from former top intelligence officials simply because they criticized him.

Speaker Paul Ryan had this to say about what some call a Trump enemies list.

RYAN: I think he's trolling people. Honestly, I think he's just trolling people.

ZELENY: All this as some Trump supporters can't quit Hillary Clinton, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions laughing along like this to a high school group.




AUDIENCE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

SESSIONS: I heard that a long time over the last campaign.


ZELENY: Now, as for that suggestion that the Russians are interested in Democrats winning the midterm elections, we checked with the office of director of national intelligence and they said there's no evidence to back up that assertion. They would not comment on the president saying that.

So certainly an interesting claim, a complete reversal from one week ago in the wake of that Helsinki summit. Now, President Trump is going to arrive back here at the White House any moment, Wolf. If he does answer our questions about any of this, we will certainly let you know -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good. Let us know. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

Now to the one of the most critical questions hanging over the president. Will he agreed to be interviewed by the special counsel, Robert Mueller?

We're now learning more about efforts by the Trump legal team to set limits on what Mueller can ask.

Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, says the president would be open to answering Mueller's questions about possible collusion with Russia, but not questions of obstruction. What else can you tell us?


This is obviously a discussion that's still ongoing, it's been going since January. That's almost eight months now of negotiations back and forth between the special counsel's office and the president's legal team.

I think the latest idea is for there to be some kind of bifurcated interview, perhaps a sit-down interview, whereas the president can answer some questions, perhaps written questions, a take-home test, if you will, on other matters that they don't want to have him answer in person with the special counsel's investigators.

So we will see. We don't know whether or not this is the proposal that will win the day. Obviously, this is something that, again, has been going on for about eight months.

BLITZER: Is this simply part of a new stalling tactic? How likely is it that the president will sit down with Mueller?

PEREZ: Well, so far, the special counsel has not been willing to budge on the idea that they want a sit-down interview with the president, that for this investigation to be over, for it to be wrapped up, especially the obstruction of justice questions, Wolf, for that to happen, the president has to sit down with the special counsel.

So we will see. It doesn't seem likely that the special counsel is going to accept this, this idea either.

BLITZER: The Trump campaign's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, his trial has now been delayed until next week, but potential jurors were given a questionnaire to determine their ability to serve.

What stood out to you, Evan, about the questionnaire?

PEREZ: Well, we were in court today, Wolf, when they brought into the 70 or so jurors, potential jurors that will be filling out this questionnaire, they were given that questionnaire today.

The judge really was emphasizing, this is going to be a three-week trial. And one of the things that stood out to me was the -- one of the things that the jurors are being asked is, if they -- if they or their family members have ever worked in law enforcement, and in particular, they were being asked whether they had worked with the IRS, with the FBI or with -- and, of course, this a trial that's focusing on Paul Manafort business, on tax and -- tax fraud and bank fraud.

So this a financial issues trial. So that's the reason why that question was being was being asked. And, Wolf, one question that was not going to be asked that also stood out to me was the judge said, absolutely not, were juries going to be asked who they voted for in 2016.

So that question is off the table.

BLITZER: We will see what happens in that trial. Evan, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Senator Angus King. He's an independent. He serves on both the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: So all of a sudden, a pretty dramatic accusation by the president of the United States today. He says that Putin, the Russian president, is now going to be pushing and meddling in the upcoming midterm elections, but pushing for Democrats, Democrats, to win.

That's what -- we put it up on the screen, the president's tweet over there. You're on the Intelligence Committee. Have you seen any evidence that the Russians will meddle in the midterm elections to try to benefit the Democrats against the republic?

KING: Well, I don't want to say what I have seen or not seen as a member of the Intelligence Committee, but I think you can go on what Dan Coats said today, which is, he hasn't seen any such evidence.

And the evidence, the only evidence we saw was last week, when President Putin said himself, I supported Donald Trump in 2016. He answered the question affirmatively in Helsinki.

So I don't know of any evidence about it. And I don't understand why the president is saying it. Now, one of the things I have been saying for a year-and-a-half is, Putin as an opportunist, and he is going to make trouble wherever he can. I don't think that means he's going to support Democrats or Republicans or anybody else.


His job is to sow discord and undermine this country and undermine NATO and all of those kinds of things. So, the president's tweet is kind of interesting, but I don't think there's any basis for it.

BLITZER: But shouldn't the president be railing against Russian meddling in the U.S. election, midterm elections, irrespective of who Putin might be wanting to help?

KING: Of course he should. And that's the missed opportunity for the last year-and-a-half.

The problem is, the president doesn't seem to be able to separate the collusion issue between his campaign, whether there was any collusion between his campaign and the Russians, and the fact that the Russians did in fact attack our democracy.

The sad part is, by not making that distinction, he has maintained this idea it's a hoax, it's a witch-hunt, and it has paralyzed our ability to effectively respond to an ongoing challenge from Russia. That's what's really unfortunate.

BLITZER: And it's very amazing that, immediately after the summit, which was a week ago Monday in Helsinki, the president was contradicting his intelligence chiefs.

Just yesterday, he called Russia's 2016 election meddling a big hoax. Why haven't members of Congress come out more forcefully, as they did immediately after the Helsinki press conference, to defend the U.S. intelligence community?

KING: Well, I think part of the problem is, these charges come so thick and fast. It's -- you got to sort of be on alert to be responsive to them.

But I think you're going to see members of Congress responding. But today, as you showed in the intro to your program, there are four or five different things to respond to, everything from trade issues to supposed assistance to the Democrats, all of those kinds of things being confused.

BLITZER: Here's what the problem is. And it's a major problem, because the president's attacks on the Mueller-Russia investigation, calling it all a hoax, a vicious hoax, a witch-hunt, in his words, 60 percent, according to a brand-new poll, 60 percent of Republicans say they trust President Trump more than they trust U.S. intelligence agencies.

This is a Quinnipiac University poll up -- 60 percent to 27 percent among Republicans. Among Democrats, 1 percent say they trust Trump, 93 percent say they trust the U.S. intelligence community. KING: Well, and when you talk about the intelligence community,

you're talking about career professionals. You're talking about people that have been there for 20 and 30 years. They're not partisans.

And, in fact, Clapper and Brennan were both -- between the two of them, they had 80 years of experience in the intelligence community. They weren't partisans. I have no idea what party they belong to.

And when you attack that, you're really attacking facts. You're attacking data.

BLITZER: But this could clearly be a national security issue, this kind of sense among at least a majority of Republicans, according to this Quinnipiac poll, the fact that they believe Trump more than they believe the intelligence community.

If there's a real serious intelligence-related issue, that could have national security ramifications.

KING: It is a national security issue, because there are two reasons that it's impairing our ability to respond to this attack.

One is, we need presidential leadership to pull together all the aspects of the United States government to meet this. The problem is, the response is scattered all over the government, CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security. And we need some kind of coordinated response. And there isn't it. That's number one.

Number two, the best defense, Wolf, from talking to people in Eastern Europe that have been living with Russia meddling for decades, the best defense is for the people to understand that it's happened.

And by continuing to deny it, it's robbed us of the ability to have the American people say, oh, it's just the Russians again. And that's the best defense that we have. And that's why this is so unfortunate that the president has continued for a year-and-a-half. And we now know he was briefed on, I think January 7, something like that, before his inauguration, 2017, in detail the sources and methods that got him -- that got us this information.

BLITZER: He was fully briefed by the U.S. intelligence community two weeks before he was inaugurated.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: But he also -- earlier, I think it was August 17 of 2016, while he was the candidate, the Republican nominee, he also received a similar briefing from the U.S. intelligence community.

KING: And the problem is, as I said at the beginning, if he could distinguish the two issues and say, my campaign didn't collude, and if they did, they're going to be punished and go the full extent of the law, but what the Russians did was wrong, they attacked our democracy, and we're not going to let them do it again.

He hasn't been able to make that distinction and make that speech that I think is really necessary.

BLITZER: Has Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Republican, has he and other Republicans on your committee, do you believe, done enough to speak up to defend the U.S. intelligence community and to rail against what the president is accusing them of doing?


KING: I think yes.

And I think Richard Burr deserves an enormous amount of credit. He served on Donald Trump's foreign policy advisory committee during the campaign. He's a Republican, a loyal Republican.

He has specifically endorsed the findings of the intelligence community about what happened. Just today, he endorsed the FISA warrant that was issued against Carter Page, saying there wasn't any funny business with that, it was justified. And he has stepped up, I think, in a big way.

And that's one of the reasons that our committee is still functioning on a bipartisan basis, and we're going to get to the bottom of this.

BLITZER: In total contrast to the House Intelligence Committee, where Devin Nunes, the chairman, has taken a totally different stance.

KING: You said it. I didn't.

BLITZER: Well, you can say it if you want.


KING: Of course. No.

But Richard Burr and Mark Warner have really served the country well and I think deserve some serious credit.

BLITZER: They have bipartisan operation. I have covered intelligence for a long time in the House and the Senate. It's supposed to work together. This is national security, the intelligence community.

And it's shocking to see what's going on the House side. The Senate is just still working the way it's supposed to be.

KING: It's shocking, and it's undermining of national security.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks so much for coming in.

KING: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we will have more on the attorney general. He's laughing and repeating the "Lock her up" line about Hillary Clinton. Wait until you hear what else Jeff Sessions said today.

And a new move by the Trump team to undermine Stormy Daniels' case against the president. What might her former manager reveal?



BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the president's new attempt to convince supporters that his critics are distorting reality, this as the attorney general of the United States is telling Mr. Trump's base what it wants to hear, even if it undermines his role as America's top law enforcement officer.

We have more now on Jeff Sessions repeating "Lock her up" and laughing off the anti-Hillary Clinton chants of young conservative.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tom, Sessions' speech was packed with a lot of red meat out there, wasn't it?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he could have been reading from a speech by his boss, Donald Trump.

This had everything that people would normally look for in such a speech, incendiary language, mocking of the political left, and catering to conservative voters.


SESSIONS: Lock her up.


AUDIENCE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

FOREMAN (voice-over): At a high school conference for conservative leadership, students chanted "Lock her up," and the attorney general repeated the words. Then he let it all hang out.

SESSIONS: Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus is under attack today, of all places.


FOREMAN: In a series of blistering attacks, he tore into universities in general and by name, Cornell, Kansas, William & Mary.

SESSIONS: They have cry closets, safe spaces, optional exams, therapy goats, and grade inflation. Some schools are doing everything they can to create a generation of sanctimonious, sensitive, supercilious snowflakes.

FOREMAN: The University of Michigan took some of the hardest hits, as Sessions noted rules against harassment, bullying and bias, and also saluted conservative arguments that the restrictions go much further.

SESSIONS: They also forbid space that is interpreted as demeaning, bothersome or hurtful. These aren't legal terms. Who knows what that means?

FOREMAN: And yet, even as he pushed for more free speech, he praised conservative commentator Candace Owens, who has called for journalists, including several at CNN, to be jailed.

SESSIONS: Kanye West, he likes that. And she's got the same kind of dragon energy that he says the president has, I got to say.

FOREMAN: He was referring to a tweet earlier this year from the controversial rapper. It all stood in contrast to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who spoke to the same group and warned against inflammatory language.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This kind of speech isn't leadership. It's the opposite. It's a recipe for both sides to dig in.

FOREMAN: Her comments were not aimed at Sessions, nor is it clear here heard about them. And his audience, they just kept cheering.

SESSIONS: Donald Trump doesn't believe anybody can tell him how to speak. Isn't that true?



FOREMAN: This was an unusual display of political passion for the attorney general, but precisely the kind of thing his boss, Donald Trump, really likes?

And how do we know that? Because that boss has frequently let fly with his own tirades against Jeff Sessions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Tom, thank you, Tom Foreman reporting.

Let's talk about this and more with Congressman Ted Lieu. He's a Democrat. He sits on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the attorney general of the United States.

Is this how an attorney general should be responding to a chant of "Lock her up," what we just heard?

LIEU: Not at all.

It is highly irresponsible and inappropriate for the nation's top law enforcement officer to joke about locking anybody up. Jeff Sessions should apologize.

But his comments also show that Republicans are focused on the past. Hillary Clinton is not president, and she's not running for president. Democrats are focused on the future, on reducing health care costs, increasing wages.


And Americans have a chance this November to decide how they want this country to go.

BLITZER: Yesterday, the president said that the Russian cyber-warfare that went on during the 2016 campaign was -- quote -- "a big hoax."

Today, he said Putin wants to help Democrats in November in the midterm elections. Both of those statements contradict what his intelligence chiefs say. So why aren't we hearing members of Congress speak up to defend the intelligence community this time?

LIEU: Wolf, that's a great question. You see Democrat speaking up. Unfortunately, you don't see Republicans doing the same.

And if the president truly believes his own tweet today, then I hope he would advocate for funding election security. Democrats fought for that last week, but House Republicans rejected it. My hope is Donald Trump can now push for funding for election security. That's what we need going into November.

BLITZER: Is that tweet, the tweet today saying the Russians want to help the Democrats in the midterm elections, is it laying the groundwork, Congressman, to blame Russia if the Republicans lose the majority in the House in November?

LIEU: It's possible. It's also not true.

What we know from 2016 is that Russians attacked not just the DNC. They also attack the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also known as the DCCC. I'm a vice chair of the DCCC.

And it's very clear the Russians were also attacking Democratic congressional campaigns. They're going to try to do that again this November. So the president is simply not true on that one point.

BLITZER: Today, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said that many things came from the meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

And he said it's unequaled -- his word -- unequaled in the history of the United States how tough the Trump administration has been on Russia. Your reaction?

LIEU: Yes. That is simply not true.

The president's performance in Helsinki was so disgraceful, when he took Putin's position on election interference over the position of our American intelligence officials.

In addition, the Trump administration has been slow in implementing the bipartisan congressional sanctions on Russia. And it's gotten so bad that the U.S. Senate, on a bipartisan basis, has now introduced increased sanctions on Russia. BLITZER: Congressman Ted Lieu, thanks so much for joining us.

LIEU: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead: Reality bites. We're going to have more on the president's dodging and distracting, as he urges and supporters to ignore his critics.

And has Mr. Trump found a new ally in his war against Stormy Daniels?


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's erratic remarks about Russia's attack on the 2016 election continued tonight, with the president now voicing concern about the upcoming midterm election and attempts by Moscow to help Democrats.

[18:32:23] Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and analysts.

David Chalian, this is what the president tweeted today, contradicting his intelligence chiefs once again: "I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election. Based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump."

Now I want you to listen to what Vladimir Putin told everyone at a news conference in Helsinki just last week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.


BLITZER: All right. So what's the president trying to achieve with his tweet today?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He's trying to provide disinformation to his supporters to believe and tout. That's what he's trying to achieve.

But look at that tweet. I just want to break it down. "I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to impact -- impact on the upcoming election." First sentence. Well, my God, that's a first for this president, that he's expressing real concern about a really serious problem that his intel chiefs say is happening. "Based on the fact that no president's been tougher on Russia than me" -- not true. "And will be pushing very hard for the Democrats." As you just pointed out from the press conference in Helsinki, that's not true at all. That's not who Putin is pushing for.

So it's untruths, an unprecedented first time actually expressing alarm, which I'm skeptical that he truly believes. But mostly, it's trying to kick up dirt and provide disinformation to his supporters.

BLITZER: As you know, Rebecca Berg, a lot of the pundits out there, the polls suggest the Democrats have a very good chance of taking the majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections. And as a result, there's a lot of suspicion out there right now the president is already trying to craft some sort of excuse, Russian meddling to help the Democrats, if that happens.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right, Wolf, that Democrats do have the advantage. They've been leading consistently in generic polling into the midterm election.

But I think we're maybe giving President Trump a little too much credit if we're saying that this is all some part of a big strategy by him to lower expectations for the election.

Fundamentally, this president has been so bothered by people believing that Russia helped him win the presidency, and that's what all of this goes back to for President Trump, is any whiff of delegitimacy for his presidency is really disturbing to him. And so he keeps trying to think of new ways to get across this idea that Russia doesn't actually support him. That's really what this tweet is all about.

And of course, it is very newsworthy that the president here is saying that Russia does have the intent to interfere in the next election, which is consistent with what the intelligence agencies say.

BLITZER: Yes. Except the intelligence agencies are not saying that's to help the Democrats. That's what the president of the United States is saying.

[18:35:17] He's also defending, Jackie Kucinich, his tariffs, tariffs on the E.U., China, Canada, other countries. He said in a tweet, "Tariffs are the greatest," and then in his speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, he added this.


TRUMP: I said, "We're going to have to tariff your cars."

They said, "When can we show up? When can we be there? Would tomorrow be OK?"

Folks, stick with us. Stick with us. Amazing.

But remember, they're the biggest, best, strongest lobbyists, and they're doing a number. Just stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.

It's all working out. And just remember: what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.


BLITZER: Clearly, the president is feeling a lot of pressure, not just from Democrats but from his own Republican allies.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I can tell you on the Hill today his Republican allies were not happy about the $12 billion bailout that he's planning for farm workers, who are actually feeling the effects of the tariffs. If you're a soybean farmer, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

And you heard Republicans from Pat Roberts, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, to Bob Corker, Jeff Flake -- I could go on and on and on -- Pat Toomey also with a statement today, saying that these tariffs are actually what's hurting these people; and a bailout for farmers is not what they want. They want to work. They want to sell their goods, and they can't right now because of this president.

Whether he will be punished or not for that, that remains an open question.

BLITZER: And as you know, David, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, he said he strongly opposes these tariffs. He said they really are taxes on the American public. Because the price of everything is going to go up if these tariffs explode, as the president is threatening to do.

You don't often hear that kind of broad, open criticism of the president on a sensitive issue like this.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Speaker Ryan kind of decides when and when he does not want to show up and enunciate a conservative opinion. But clearly, today he did.

What President Trump is doing with tariffs is neither ideologically, economically nor temperamentally conservative. President Obama handed off a pretty strong economy to him. And his response to that has been to shake things up with tariffs and the like, things that, as you're saying, neither Republicans or Democrats on the Hill are standing behind. And then to follow it up with a bailout, basically welfare for farmers who are losing money in this soybean fight.

BLITZER: And David, when the president says to his supporters out there "What you're seeing, what you're reading, don't believe it. It's all fake news."

CHALIAN: I mean, it's so problematic. It is just part of a pattern that this president has had, trying to really breakdown some institutions that are at the core of our democracy, the free press being one of them. And he clearly is trying to dismantle it as much as he can to make sure that, as I said before with this tweet, that the information he chooses to put out to his supporters is the only information that they consider valid.

But it is so hard on the ears to hear the president of the United States tell Americans that what they're seeing and reading is not true. That is just -- it will never cease to amaze me, even if it's not surprising.

BASH: They may not believe their eyes. They might not believe their ears, but when it hits their pocketbook --

CHALIAN: No doubt about that.

BASH: -- they're going to believe that.

SWERDLICK: He'll be able to do this as long as the stock market is up and as long as unemployment is low. It will change, as you say, when that changes.

BLITZER: Yes. Rebecca, go ahead and give us your bottom line on this whole sensitive issue of tariffs.

BERG: Well, I think the Band-Aid that the president is putting on this issue with subsidies to farmers is really going to put a big question mark on what happens next. Because Republicans who oppose this policy by the administration have believed that the pressure from the public who are feeling this, who are hurting, would help turn this issue around for them.

But if they feel like -- if they're not feeling that pain, if they're getting these subsidies, putting that Band-Aid on this issue, it might take a little bit longer.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jackie, is behind Ivanka Trump's announcement today she's shutting down her fashion line?

KUCINICH: Well, it seems like it was losing money. It seems like this was -- this was an ethical issue for a long time. And she probably should have stepped away from this at the front end. She received a lot of criticism. And perhaps they're just winding it down.

She says it's because she wants to commit to public policy. I have a feeling there's more to this story.

CHALIAN: And I would just caution and ask, actually, how much of the Trump -- the headlines of the Trump presidency have damaged the Ivanka Trump brand in some way that it became a money-losing proposition.

BORGER: Right.

CHALIAN: Is it connected to the day-in and day-out controversies or not? I don't think there's a definitive answer, but I think it's certainly a fair question to ask.

[18:40:04] BLITZER: You remember earlier when Nordstrom dropped the Ivanka Trump brand, the Ivanka Trump line because it wasn't selling. A few days later, the president of the United States tweeted how unfair and awful Nordstrom's was.

SWERDLICK: Absolutely. There are still people who are fans of Ivanka Trump and her brand. But there's a mismatch between her brand and the type of people she's trying to reach and the politics of her father's administration, which she's part of.

We're a long way away, Wolf, from that interview she gave "60 Minutes" a few days after the 2016 election, where she just said, "Look, my role is going to be primarily as a daughter." Now she's in this situation where she hasn't done the ethical thing in the beginning, and now she's, you know, sort of --

KUCINICH: She made quite a bit of money off of it last year.

SWERDLICK: Indeed. Indeed.

BLITZER: And some people already suspect she's got political ambitions of her own. We'll see what happens down the road.

Guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, the Trump team's new legal tactic against porn star Stormy Daniels.


[18:45:32]BLITZER: We are learning new information tonight about a new tactic President Trump's lawyers want to use to fight Stormy Daniels' defamation lawsuit against Mr. Trump and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Our national correspondent Athena Jones is working the story for us.

Athena, what are you finding out?


Well, this is from a new court filing by President Trump's lawyers. We're learning about some potential witnesses they may want to call in the Stormy Daniels case. They say that Stormy Daniels' former manager, Gina Rodriguez, Gina Rodriguez's boyfriend and Stormy Daniels' former attorney Keith Davidson have information that may refute claims that Daniels has been making in several lawsuits.

We're talking about claims related to nondisclosure agreement, the NDA she signed before the election to stay quiet about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2016. Trump denies that encounter.

She's also made claim about being threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011. Now, as you mentioned, Stormy Daniels is suing the president and Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney for defamation. She's also suing to nullify that nondisclosure agreement, and she's suing her former lawyer, Keith Davidson, and Michael Cohen for allegedly working together improperly on that NDA.

Now, Trump's attorney, Charles Harder, points to one example as the kind of information they hope to get from witnesses if they take the stand. He points to Anthony Kotzev, who is the boyfriend of Gina Rodriguez, and he says that Anthony Kotzev has raised doubts about some of Daniels' claims, specifically this claim that she was coerced or intimidated into signing a statement denying any affair with Trump. Kotzev says that he called that claim asinine and says that he was there when she signed the paper. She had no issues with signing it at the time.

So, that's an example of the kind of testimony Trump's lawyers are hoping to use against her in this case when it comes to trial -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're also learning, Athena, that Trump's lawyers want a change of venue in one of the Daniels lawsuits. Tell us more about that.

JONES: That's right. This is all part of a court filing where Trump's lawyers are arguing to transfer this defamation lawsuit filed against the president in New York. They want that case either put on hold, dismissed, or transferred to California to join the other cases. That's where Stormy Daniels filed all of the other cases.

They argue that Daniels is venue shopping, forum shopping, because the California judge put a hold on the California case because of the ongoing criminal investigation into Michael Cohen in the southern district of New York. And so, Trump's lawyers are saying, look, they only filed in New York to try to keep this case going. This case really belongs with other related cases, substantially similar cases in California and combining or transferring there would be in the interest of judicial economy and in the interest of justice and would mean there would be consistent rulings by one court and not potentially inconsistent rulings by two separate courts on two ends of the country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones reporting for us -- Athena, thank you.

Just ahead, we're getting some details right now of major blunder that tipped the Trump administration's hand after a controversial environmental decision. Why were some facts hidden?


[18:53:21] BLITZER: The Trump administration has accidentally revealed information it didn't want the public to see about two protected wilderness areas it decided to shrink. Strong arguments against the controversial move are contained in unredacted documents inadvertently released by the Interior Department.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, is out working the story for us.

Drew, this looks like a major blunder.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it absolutely was an embarrassing blunder, but environmental groups suing the department of interior are glad it happened. They say this accidental release of documents proves to them the Interior Department is hiding facts from the public.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Shortly after President Obama established Bears Ears national Monument and expanded the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, the government noted positive change on the federal protected lands. Tourism was up. Vandalism in the protected areas was down. And paleontologists, amateur and professional, were making incredible finds.

A Department of Interior memo outlined it all in may of 2017, showing is just how well the protections were working. It is reasonable to conclude that visitation would be less if the lands had not been designated as a monument, the memo read. More vandalism would have likely occurred. And one region of Grand Escalante contains a plethora of paleontological specimens, 12 new dinosaur species have been discovered since designation.

There was one big problem. All of that good news did not fit in with President Trump's decision to strip away protections and open up those protected lands to business.

[18:55:02] So, Interior Department officials hid it. By accident, all of this was recently revealed, including the proposed redactions. In an errant document dumped to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Western Priorities.

AARON WEISS, CENTER FOR WESTERN PRIORITIES: Oh, it's obvious. When you look at the documents, there are big, red outlines, big boxes around what they tried to redact. It was clearly just an error on the production end, where they failed to actually hit the final redact button in Adobe Acrobat.

GRIFFIN: The Department of Interior tried to recall the documents, but it was too late. Allowing Aaron Weiss and other environmental watchdogs to see exactly how Trump's politically appointed Interior Department staff was working.

WEISS: It shows that all of their claims around the national monument's review were false. Secretary Zinke said there was no outcome that was preordained. These documents prove definitively that the outcome was preordained and that Secretary Zinke's political appointees were going out of their way to hide information that didn't make their case. This really is incredibly embarrassing for the Interior Department.

GRIFFIN: In another example, this one involving offshore protections, interior didn't want the public to see this document about a protected area off the coast of New England, that says these areas support fisheries for a variety of species of fish and shellfish, providing income and employment throughout the northeastern United States.

A newly released e-mail says this section, while accurate, seems to me to undercut the case for the commercial fishing closure being harmful. I suggest in the attached, deleting most of it for that reason.

WEISS: You shouldn't be table to redact basic facts just because you don't like those basic facts.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GRIFFIN: Wolf, there are rules that allow some redactions to take place, but we have no idea why the Department of Interior would delete things like tourism up or dinosaur bones are found. The Interior Department simply not talking about any of this to CNN -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Drew Griffin reporting for us. Thank you very much.

Let's get back to our top story, President Trump's newest twist and turn regarding the Russian election interference.

CNN's Chris Cuomo is joining us now with a preview of "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

So, what do you think, Chris, about this latest twist in the president's arguments, yes, the Russians are planning on interfering with the midterm elections, but this time, to help the Democrats win?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Well, look, it's a little bit of a tricky situation in terms of how to assess, because technically, this is what you would want to hear the president say, at least the first part, which is to accept the findings of his intelligence community -- which is what you just said, Wolf -- which is that the efforts are ongoing to attack our democracy.

Now, the idea that it will be to help the Democrats, the president would have to put meet on the bones of that speculation. I don't understand why he would think that. But, you know, in theory, Wolf, the president of the United States should know way more about this than we ever could, because he's got such access to intelligence.

Now, the flip-flopping stories has been an ongoing problem for the president in this regard, and I continue to maintain that the motivation for it is he's looking at it through the lens of what is best for him personally.

BLITZER: I want you to watch this moment with the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, earlier today. Look at this.





BLITZER: Conservatives in the audience are chanting "lock her up" regarding Hillary Clinton. He smiles, says "lock her up," chuckles a little bit. Is that appropriate?

CUOMO: No. I mean, that's pretty easy. It's different them him leading the crowd in a chant of "lock her up" as some are portraying it. But, of course, it's not appropriate. But these are the times we are living in where the bias that is wrong is the bias that you don't like. And the president saying that he's going to pull security clearances from people because he believes they're politicizing things.

Now, obviously, sessions has done him no favors, by doing that. The disposition with Flynn and how he was handled does the president no favors in that regard. But, Wolf, let's be honest. We're living through times right now where everybody sees reality the way they want it to be, not the way it is.

BLITZER: And what's interesting is if Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman, he's the one who's locked up right now, awaiting trial, right?

CUOMO: That is true and we still have to wait on what the full sufficiency of those charges are and what the witnesses have to say, and if there's any time of corroboration to any of his efforts during the campaign, we'll have to see.

Now, on that score of trying to understand the facts better, tonight, we have counsel for Michael Cohen, Lanny Davis, is coming on the show. He has proof of what he wants people to know about the situation regarding Michael Cohen, the president, and David Pecker, the head of the "National Enquirer." New evidence for people to digest themselves tonight.

BLITZER: Nine p.m. Eastern, we'll be watching.

Chris, thank you.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.