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THE SITUATION ROOM
House Intel Chair Announces Investigation into Trump's Finances and Russia; Interview with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI.), Judiciary Committee; Virginia Attorney General Apologizes for Blackface Incident in Virginia's Latest Scandal as Lt. Governor's Accuser Details Sexual Assault Allegation; Aired 5-6p ET
Aired February 6, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now: breaking news. Expanding investigation: hours after President Trump decried partisan investigations in his State of the Union speech, the new chairman of the Democratically controlled House Intelligence Committee announces a broad investigation of the president's finances, Russia and more.
Delaying his testimony: the president former fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen, postpones his closed door appearance before the House Intelligence Committee suggesting it has something to do with the Mueller probe.
Is it a sign the special counsel's report is imminent?
Virginia in turmoil: the state's Democratic Party is imploding right now as its attorney general joins the governor in admitting he once wore blackface. And now the woman accusing the lieutenant governor of sexual assault is speaking up, giving very disturbing new details.
And heating up the Cold War: as President Trump pulls out of a nuclear weapons treaty with Russia and brags about America's missile development, Russia test-fires an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads into the heart of the United States.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. President Trump railing against new House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff after he announced his panel will conduct a sweeping investigation into the president's finances, Russia and whether the two may be connected and driving Mr. Trump's decision-making.
The president responded by calling Schiff -- and I'm quoting the president now -- "a political hack," trying to make a name for himself and he accused the California Democrat of what Mr. Trump called "presidential harassment."
I'll talk about that and more with Senator Mazie Hirono of the Judiciary and the Armed Services Committees and our correspondents, analysts and specialists, they will have full covering of the day's top stories.
First, details of the new investigation the president is facing tonight. Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, is the committee reprising, for all practical purposes, the entire Mueller investigation?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a very ambitious investigation, not only looking into Russian interference and the 2016 campaign as well as collusion, if any existed, between Trump campaign officials and the Russians and any conspiracy that may have occurred.
But also moving beyond Russia, in the words of Adam Schiff, the chairman of this committee, looking into financial interest driving the president and his family and looking whether any other foreign interests are influencing decisions within the White House.
Adam Schiff making clear he wants to look into a wide range of aspects as part of this partisan investigation going forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The American people have a right to know; indeed, have a need to know that their president is acting on their behalf and not for some pecuniary or other reasons.
That pertains to any critical allegations of leverage by the Russians or the Saudis or anyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: This investigation also is going to encompass several committees, including not just the House Intelligence Committee but they're looking at bringing in other House panels as well to look into the financial issue going forward.
Republicans tried to push Democrats in this closed door meeting today to look into the Clinton campaign as well as whether or not the Clinton campaign colluded with the Russians but House Democrats, we're told, rejected that. Said they didn't want to look into that and didn't want to look into whether there was any abuse in the surveillance process that occurred back in 2016 to monitor actions of certain individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
Republicans made that a big focus when they were in power. But Democrats in the first actions here made very clear they were not going to do what Republicans did in the last Congress. BLITZER: Yes, the democrats won 40 House seats. Elections have consequences. The Democrats are clearly in the majority right now. Manu, I want you to stand by. I want to bring in our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez.
Evan, this investigation clearly will now go beyond Russia.
How problematic potentially is this for the president?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think problematic not only for the president but members his family, Wolf. The Democrats have been asking questions when they were in the minority trying, to get information about whether or not Jared Kushner or the children of the president were trying to mix business at the same time they were --
PEREZ: -- trying to lead the transition or trying to stand up the new government after the president was elected in 2016.
I think now you can see that, now that they have the power to subpoena for these people, to get information, I think they will tie these people up for the next two years, probably the rest of the Trump presidency, at least the first term of the Trump presidency, with exactly trying to figure out the answers to those questions.
BLITZER: That's an important issue right there.
Manu, the committee took its first action today voting to send more than 50 transcripts from its Russian interviews to Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
What transcripts will be turned over and what is Mueller looking for right now?
RAJU: What Adam Schiff has been saying for several days and weeks heading up to this vote today to send over more than 50 transcripts to Mueller's team is that any potential false statements that happened when witnesses came before this committee, as part of the Russia investigation in the last Congress, there have been suggestions that some Trump associations have been less than truthful with this committee and that Mueller's team could decide whether or not to prosecute those individuals.
Back in December, the same committee, the House Intelligence Committee, did send to Mueller Roger Stone's transcript of his closed door interview and, of course, he is being accused by the Mueller team of not telling the truth to investigators as part of the investigation.
We'll see what Mueller ultimately decides and how it impacts his investigation, whether it prolongs the investigation or whether it doesn't. But Democrats have said they have been pushing for this for some time. They have found some resistance within Republican ranks in the last Congress. But today it was approved by a voice vote on this committee to send
these transcripts over to Mueller. So we'll see what he decides to do in the coming days and weeks.
BLITZER: OK. We'll be watching closely.
Evan, Michael Cohen, the president's long-time former lawyer, fixer, he was supposed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors this coming Friday. That has now been pushed back until the end of the month.
What does that signal?
Why did that happen?
PEREZ: You know, one of the big questions has been what can Michael Cohen say, given the fact that the Mueller investigation is still ongoing. Today there were not a lot of explanations of exactly why this happened. But listen to Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, explain it. He seems to suggest that the Mueller investigation is the reason why this got pushed back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We look forward to his testimony on February 28th. And Mr. Cohen has been fully cooperative with us. And we hope and expect that will continue. But we felt it was in the investigation's interest that we postpone to that date.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: So I think the suggestion there is that perhaps maybe by month's end, the Mueller investigation will no longer be an impediment, will no longer be an issue for scheduling Michael Cohen's testimony. We shall see whether or not that is the case. But it is an important thing that Michael Cohen obviously wants to be able to speak freely and wants to be able to address all the different issues that the Democrats especially have questions for him on.
And if he can't address those because of the ongoing investigation, that limits the ability, you know, what he could say.
BLITZER: Yes, Michael Cohen is supposed to be given his three-year prison sentence, I think on March 6th --
PEREZ: At the beginning of the month.
BLITZER: -- not a whole lot of time.
Evan, thanks very much.
Manu, thanks to you as well.
President Trump is bristling at all of this. And he is lashing out publicly. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now with more on the president's reaction.
Jim, it's a far cry from what we heard last night from the president.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Wolf. Those calls for unity that we heard in the president's State of the Union speech, they appear to be long gone as he bashes the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Earlier today that chairman, Adam Schiff, as you were just saying, announced he will be launching investigations into the president's ties to Russia and his businesses. As he so often does, the president stooped to name calling earlier today when Schiff's name came up.
The president says he doesn't want to see new investigations but he is beginning to learn what life is like with Democrats in charge in the House.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president has gone from Kumbaya to combat and lashed out at House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff.
TRUMP: Did you say Adam Schiff?
ACOSTA (voice-over): Brand new probes into Russian election meddling...
TRUMP: Never heard of him.
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- and any possible links to Mr. Trump's global business dealings.
TRUMP: Under what basis would he do that?
He has no basis to do that. He is just a political hack who's trying to build a name for himself. It is called presidential harassment. And it's unfortunate. And it really does hurt our country.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The reason for the president's outburst: Schiff's investigations will be invasive, looking into whether the Russians have any compromising information on the president or his family members that is being used as leverage.
SCHIFF: We'll be conducting our investigation to make sure that the country is protected.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The Democratic chairman's announcement comes on the heels of the president's plea during --
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- the State of the Union address that the Democrats, now in control the House, to not open new Russia investigations.
TRUMP: If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way.
ACOSTA (voice-over): That was just one of many moments that seemed to divide, not unite, members of Congress during a speech that was falsely billed as bipartisan.
TRUMP: Simply put, walls work and walls save lives.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Even with another government shutdown looming over his demand for his wall, the president previewed a strategy for the 2020 campaign, labeling Democrats as socialists.
TRUMP: Tonight we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president is facing an uphill climb, as a new CNN poll finds more than half of voters are not likely to support Mr. Trump's bid for reelection. Driving much of that opposition: women, the voting bloc the president tried to woo in a speech to unexpected results.
TRUMP: No one has benefitted more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the newly created jobs last year.
You weren't suppose to do that. Thank you very much.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As he called on Americans to resist the resistance ...
TRUMP: But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.
ACOSTA (voice-over): He received a bit of shame from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. All throughout the speech, female members of Congress could be seen registering their disapproval again and again.
TRUMP: We are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world, not even close.
ACOSTA: The president will be going back to doing what he loves most about being president, it seems, when he heads to El Paso next week for a reelection rally, where the expressions on the faces there should be a whole lot different. Expect the president to continue to accuse Democrats of being socialists.
As one campaign adviser told me, the president wants to run against socialism in 2020, Wolf, no matter who his opponent is -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you, Jim Acosta at the White House.
Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii is joining us. She is both a member of the Judiciary and the Armed Services Committees.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI.), MEMBER, JUDICIARY AND ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEES: Certainly.
BLITZER: So you just heard the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California, outline five areas of investigation he now wants to pursue that Democrats have control of the House.
What did you make of today's announcement from Congressman Schiff?
HIRONO: There are two things that President Trump cares about. One is protecting himself and money. So the kind of financial ties that President Trump and his organization and people around him have, with Russia, for example, Saudi Arabia, any other countries that would compromise how he views our relationships with these countries and what we are going to do, I think those are very legitimate areas of inquiry for Adam Schiff.
Because we want to know that the president is actually working on behalf of the U.S., us, Americans, rather than Russia or Saudi Arabia, but particularly Russia at this point.
BLITZER: Do you believe your committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, has done a thorough job pursuing those same areas of investigation?
HIRONO: No, because we haven't gone into his relationships with the financial aspects to the degree that Adam Schiff is going to do. And I served with Adam Schiff. He is very thorough, very smart. And I think he wants to get to the bottom of what he is investigating.
And these are proper avenues of inquiry for us. Sadly, under his predecessor, Nunes, none of this is happening. If there's anybody who was a political hack, it was Nunes.
BLITZER: The House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Adam Schiff, also voted to send the special counsel more than 50 official transcripts from interviews they've conducted in the course of their Russia investigation. That is important because the special counsel, Robert Mueller, could use those transcripts to indict witnesses who actually lied to Congress. That's a crime.
Do you have any reason to believe that witnesses may have lied to your committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee as well?
HIRONO: I wouldn't be surprised but, on the other hand, I'm glad that Adam Schiff and some of the other investigatory committees in the House are going to pursue these areas. It is much more likely that a --
HIRONO: -- House that is majority of Democrats will pursue those inquiries as opposed to the Senate, sadly.
BLITZER: The president is calling all these investigations presidential harassment. And during the speech, State of the Union address last night, he said -- and I'm quoting the president now -- "If there's going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation."
What is your response to the president?
HIRONO: I suppose that's what he considers dealmaking, where he threatens the Congress. And he says this is not how I work.
No, Mr. President. This is not how Congress works. You do not threaten Congress with something that involves the Congress actually doing its job. So once again, the president resorts to threats. And it didn't take him long go on the attack today.
Last night, whatever conciliatory words he had do not wipe away the two years, that real Trump that we have had, with the ripping of children from their parents with 800,000 people who have had no pay for two pay periods and the harm that that caused all those families, community and our country, not to mention his constant attacks on immigrants and the attacks on the Affordable Care Act.
That is the real Trump and we've had two years of him so all the nice things about coming together last night truly rang hollow to me.
BILA: We are only nine days away from another potential government shutdown.
Are you optimistic, Senator, that congressional negotiators will be able to come to some sort of compromise agreement that eventually will satisfy the president and satisfy the Democratic majority in the House?
HIRONO: I think that if Mitch McConnell can see his way to bringing a bill to the floor that will keep government running until the end of the fiscal year regardless of whether or not President Trump agrees to it, because his words, his agreements do not count for very much because he changes his mind on a whim.
But if Congress acts the way we are supposed to, which is to enact legislation that will keep government running, and if Mitch McConnell will bring those bills to the floor, then we can get something done.
And the president can either veto these bills or he can let them become law without his signature. But we're waiting around for the president to figure out what he wants, is what brought the shutdown in the first place.
And what I didn't hear from the president last night was a commitment not to have another shutdown. In fact, he contemplates it. It's almost as though he would like to have another shutdown.
BLITZER: Senator Mazie Hirono, thanks so much for joining us.
HIRONO: Thank you.
BLITZER: The breaking news continues. We'll have more on the new House Intelligence Committee investigation that President Trump is now facing.
Plus Virginia's top three elected officials, all Democrats, are now embroiled by scandal as the state's attorney general admits he wore blackface to a party in college.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news in Virginia, where the list of top state government officials coping with scandals keeps on growing.
Now the state's attorney general has major problems, as do the governor and the lieutenant governor. All three of them are Democrats. CNN's Ryan Nobles is joining us from Richmond right now.
Ryan, the multiple scandals are rocking one of the country's most influential states. Update our viewers on the very latest.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, to say that Virginia was already spinning because of scandal would be an understatement. But now things are almost out of control.
Today we learned that the state's attorney general, Mark Herring, who, just a few days ago, called on the state's governor, Ralph Northam, to step down because of a racist photo, has admitted that when he was in college, he, too, appeared in blackface as part of a costume party.
This is what Herring said in a lengthy statement this afternoon.
He said, quote, "It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others, we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.
This was a one-time occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct."
Now we have not been able to ask Herring any questions. He has been holed up in his office all day. His office not responding to inquiries on this particular topic.
But Wolf, if I could paint a picture for you here at Capital Square in Richmond, as Herring's statement was coming down, we received a new statement, this statement coming from the accuser of lt. gov. Justin Fairfax, who is now embroiled in a sexual assault scandal.
Vanessa Tyson is her name. She goes into great detail to talk about an incident between her and the lt. gov. back in 2004, where she claims she was sexually assaulted. This is what Tyson said in her statement. She said, quote, "What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into
a sexual assault. Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head down toward his crotch.
"As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him. I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual.
"To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent after the assault. I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame."
And Wolf, this comes after Lt. Governor Fairfax had attempted to get ahead of this scandal, issuing a statement before Vanessa Tyson ever told her side of the story. He vehemently denies these accusations, says the encounter was consensual and also behind closed doors, he has gone into an expletive-laden rant against her and her supporters, saying that she is just attempting to bring him down.
Just in the last few minutes, Wolf, we did receive a statement from the lieutenant governor in direct response to these accusations.
It says in part, "Reading Dr. Tyson's account is painful and," he says, "I have never done anything like --
NOBLES: -- what she suggests.
The big question here tonight, Wolf, is can these three men, the governor, the Lt. Governor and the attorney general, stay in their current positions, given these enormous scandals?
BLITZER: What a horrible series of developments in Virginia. Ryan Nobles, we'll get back to you. Stand by. We have got our experts, our reporters, our analysts, they are here as well. We have got a lot to discuss on all of the breaking news. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The breaking news this hour: the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, announcing a broad new investigation of President Trump's finances and whether Russians or others have leverage over the president, his business, his family or his associates.
Let's get some more with our correspondents, analysts and experts.
And Gloria Borger, how significant is this announcement from Schiff today? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is very significant. If I were in the White House, I would think it is extraordinarily significant. This is the new world in which we are living. You not only have the committee saying that they will open this broad investigation.
And, by the way, they have to be very careful not to step on the Southern District of New York if they are doing it, which is investigating a lot of the same things about the Trump Organization.
But they have also shared all their transcripts with the special counsel to see if there are differing stories that were told the special counsel versus the committee. You have the Ways and Means Committee saying we're going to get the president's tax returns one way or another.
As Laura knows, you have the acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, coming up to the Hill on Friday. And he will be questioned very directly about his conflicts of interest. So it is the new world in which the White House is living. And I think it's very significant for them.
BLITZER: You know, David Chalian, listen to the president. He had this exchange with a reporter at the White House today, getting reaction to the Schiff announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Did you say Adam Schiff?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adam Schiff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said -- he said --
TRUMP: Never heard of him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Says he would --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- not only into Russia but into personal financial transactions.
What is your reaction?
TRUMP: Under what basis would he do that?
He has no basis to do that. He is just a political hack who's trying to build a name for himself. And I think that's fine because that's what they do. But there would be no reason to do that. No other politician has to go through that. It is called presidential harassment. And it's unfortunate. And it really does hurt our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Schiff seems to have hit a nerve.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's not called presidential harassment. That's how it's being perceived. That's what Donald Trump is feeling. It is called oversight and it's called using the investigative power of Congress.
Now let me say one thing to the president's credit here, do I think politics is at play here?
Yes, I think politics is a part of the equation here. There's no doubt.
But to say there's no basis for this would be to have closed your eyes and ears to everything you've learned in public of Trump business ties to Russia while the investigation into the election interference is happening.
It is quite clear there's a basis for what he's saying. To Gloria's point, it is very broad. So I understand why the president feels a little under the gun there. But to say there's no basis is to deny --
BLITZER: Because at one point, Nia, everybody thought there was a red line, a supposed red line. If you go after the president's family business or his personal finances, you're crossing a red line, something he would not accept. And it clearly --
BLITZER: -- Adam Schiff crossed that red line.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he has no choice in this matter. You remember, in the last Congress, there wasn't a lot of oversight. One of the things you talked about voters, leading into November of 2018, they did want to check on this presidency. And that's why you saw the flood of Democrats in the House at this point.
So this, to Gloria's point, this is the new reality. The president is nervous. He should be nervous. Folks in his circle should also be nervous because this is going to be something that is really broad and it's something that the president hasn't been exposed to so far.
BLITZER: Also today, Laura, the House Intelligence Committee voted to send all the official transcripts of people they interviewed in connection with the Russia probe to the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
How significant is that?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the insinuation from some of the committee members is that some of those witnesses haven't been fully transparent. And they are almost essentially digging the Mueller investigators a referral for perjury.
Now whether Mueller will do anything about that remains to be seen. But it is also curious that they are doing this, knowing that Mueller has a pretty good idea of what these witnesses have been saying. Even though, remember, he asked for Roger Stone's transcript, the president's long-time confidant. He asked for that transcript right before Stone was formally indicted.
But he knew exactly what Stone had said even before he went ahead with those charges. So even -- it is interesting. Stone is really the only one that Mueller specifically asked for. So it remains to be seen whether anyone is actually on the line for this.
BLITZER: Michael Cohen's testimony behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee was supposed to be this coming Friday. But it has now been postponed until February 28th. Schiff, the chairman of the committee, said the postponement was in the interest of the investigation.
What do you make of the delay?
BORGER: Well, reading between the lines in that, it leads me to believe that Mueller didn't want him to appear, that there are things that they are still talking to Michael Cohen about and that perhaps they are not done with him.
I mean, it's -- he is scheduled to go to jail --
BORGER: -- on March 6th but, if you'll recall, Mueller was very kind to Michael Cohen. And I still think that perhaps he is still being helpful to him.
BLITZER: And once again, Michael Cohen begins his three-year prison sentence, I think March 6th, in New York state. He still potentially, David, is very useful to Mueller and the entire Russia probe.
CHALIAN: I think without a doubt. I think, as Gloria was saying, I think that's why we are seeing some of the delay here. If he was not of use anymore, if he had nothing else to give, even if he is still providing context to things, if he has given all -- everything he knew personally, even if he is helpful to them in framing the narrative, if a report is to come soon, they want to make sure they get everything out of him possible, every bit of understanding he has before they let him go and testify to Congress and before he heads to jail.
BLITZER: Before the House Intelligence Committee, Nia, it's going to be behind closed doors. I'm sure there might be leaks or whatever. But before the House Oversight Committee, he was supposed to appear publicly. But at least for now, that's not happened.
HENDERSON: And there was all this back and forth about him pulling out and the reasons why he pulled out. Did he feel some sort of threat from the president, who had in conversations talked about his family? It certainly would be must-see TV if he ever appears before cameras because, remember, this was the president's fixer for years and years and years, a lot of questions about what exactly he was fixing.
BLITZER: And what about the acting attorney general, Laura?
He is supposed to testify, I think, this coming Friday.
COATES: Yes. And there could be some real fireworks at that hearing because obviously lawmakers want to question him fiercely about any and all conversations that Whitaker has had with President Trump.
There has been this assumption, especially among Democrats, that Whitaker was placed there for one reason, to keep the eyes and ears on the Justice Department after the firing of Jeff Sessions. So they want to question him about that.
And Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the committee, the chairman, has said, tell me if you're going to exert executive privilege ahead of time. He has a subpoena in his back pocket, ready to smack him down at the hearing.
And I'm now told tonight that Whitaker is undergoing preparations for this hearing. He's pulling out all the stops. He's met with all of the DOJ components. They are doing mock hearings with senior DOJ officials right now, trying to get him ready for this. So we'll wait to see what exactly he says about his conversations with Trump.
BLITZER: We'll all watch it very, very closely. Everybody stick around. Much more on the breaking news -- right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with our political and legal experts and, Nia, look what's going on in Virginia right now. We have the governor, Ralph Northam, he's got a scandal. The Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax, he has got a scandal. Now Mark Herring, the attorney general of Virginia, he's got a scandal. All of them are Democrats. And that state is in turmoil.
HENDERSON: In turmoil. It seems like it was just Friday, where we were talking about Northam and the blackface scandal there and then what happened on Saturday and then these allegations against Justin Fairfax, pretty serious allegations.
And the statement came out today. And then of course Mark Herring also dealing with a blackface scandal. I think things are going to move quickly. If we remember back to Friday, the governor was in a very different place by the end of the day. He started in a different place, and by Saturday he was in a different place.
I think we'll have to look at a couple of figures, Bobby Scott, who is the senior African American congressman there. We're going to have to look for the Black Caucus in Virginia to see what in terms of whether or not they break with Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax because they had previously essentially said they need to wait for an investigation and see what happens.
But I think with this statement coming out and given the party, the Democratic Party of their brand and the concerns they have had in terms of women, the #MeToo movement, I think they will have some real hard choices to make going forward. And I think we'll have to look throughout this evening and see who comes out strongly against --
BLITZER: This statement from Dr. Vanessa Tyson, Gloria --
BORGER: Very strong.
BLITZER: -- it's really, really detailed, specific; the Lt. Governor is denying but it is going to be a huge --
BORGER: Well, and it's -- and if he's -- if he's just, you know, denying it and her statement is so detailed, it's very difficult to see how he keeps any support because, as you were pointing out during the break, a crime may have been committed here.
And so, you know, it's just a total mess. I don't know what the Democrats do to find their way out of this. And Northam, clearly, is not going anywhere.
BORGER: I bet you money -- and I may have bet you money on Friday --
BORGER: -- that Northam would be gone. But that seems not to be happening and he's looking at all his colleagues and saying, OK, why shouldn't I --
BLITZER: These are the top three Democrats in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
CHALIAN: Right. And so two things there, Nia was talking about the brand. And she was talking about certain segments of the base of the Democratic Party that have been critical to the Democrats' success, that they need to be really wary of as they move through these issues.
There is also this 10-year project of the Democrats, of turning Virginia from red to blue. And, yes, there are demographic realities that may make that a long-term trend. But when you a brand damaging moment like this, that could be really problematic in Virginia politics, all of a sudden makes it a little more up for grabs. I will say, we saw a steady stream of Democrats, presidential
candidates, national leaders of the party, come out against Northam one after the other.
Where is that now on the Lt. Governor?
This is -- I don't think they will be able to behave differently in this case, simply because he's denying what is a really serious allegation, than they were in Northam's case. I just think that you're going to start seeing Democrats calling for Justin Fairfax to resign.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And once one does --
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.
BORGER: -- they'll be a --
HENDERSON: Then it's going to be --
BORGER: -- cascade.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think of the way these three men have handled these respective scandals?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's just -- it's so striking how this is the Trump playbook, and we have never seen this work for anybody but Trump.
Only Trump was able to dig in after those "Access Hollywood" allegations and him on tape talking about women in that way. We've only seen Trump able to somehow rise and still stay in the game. No one else has been able to.
So I've looked at Al Franken, as David mentioned during the break, and how Democrats went after him right away and he was out the door. And yet, somehow, here, they're digging their heels in.
Now, we could see a dramatic turnaround even as early as tomorrow, who knows, and we might be having a different conversation. But if they manage to stick this out, it does suggest that, somehow, the game has been changed here. And --
HENDERSON: And that the fact that there are three of them.
HENDERSON: This sort of idea that everybody has a scandal.
JARRETT: And they've been pointing their fingers at each other, even.
JARRETT: You saw that with Fairfax earlier in the week, somehow insinuating --
HENDERSON: Yes, and --
JARRETT: -- that Northam was behind those allegations. I mean, it's just a kind of a --
HENDERSON: And then Herring calling on --
HENDERSON: -- Northam to step down, yes.
BLITZER: And all three of them were stars in Virginia a week ago, you know.
HENDERSON: No longer.
BLITZER: It was a totally different world.
BORGER: But they've handled it --
HENDERSON: It's humbling.
BORGER: They've just handled it -- I mean, Mark Herring's statement was apologetic and appropriate, I think, but --
JARRETT: Very different from Northam.
HENDERSON: Because he learned from Northam.
BORGER: Right. But if you --
BORGER: But if you look at the way Northam has handled this and Fairfax has handled this, it's case studies in how not to do damage control for yourself.
BLITZER: This is a fast-moving story.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Guys, stick around. Coming up, Russia tests a new missile just as President Trump warns the U.S. will outspend and out-innovate any potential competitor for military supremacy. Is a new arms race already underway?
[17:51:34] BLITZER: Tonight, there are troubling signs pointing to a new arms race between the U.S. and Russia. CNN's Brian Todd has been working his sources for us.
Brian, what are you seeing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are told tonight by people who keep track of nuclear weapons that they believe we're heading into a full-on arms race. President Trump and Vladimir Putin have thrown down the gauntlet, and experts are saying this reminds them of the worst days of the Cold War.
TODD (voice-over): It's an enormous piece of firepower at Vladimir Putin's fingertips -- the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile test fired by Putin's forces today, launched from a base in northern Russia into Siberia according to the Russian military.
One of these can carry multiple nuclear warheads at a time, right into the heart of the continental United States.
KINGSTON REIF, DIRECTOR OF DISARMAMENT AND THREAT REDUCTION POLICY, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: Equivalent to as much as five times as powerful as the nuclear weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
TODD (voice-over): While the Russian test firing is not a violation of international treaties and the U.S. conducts similar tests, the missile launch raises eyebrows because it came just a few hours after President Trump, in his state of the union address, explained why the U.S. is getting out of a medium-range nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, claiming Putin's government cheated on the deal, which Russia denies.
In the speech, Trump also seemed to deliver an ominous warning about America's missile development.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others. Or perhaps we can't. In which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, analysts are warning about what the President and Putin could be unleashing.
REIF: The President is proposing steps that, in my view, increase the risk of renewed nuclear competition and a potential arms race.
We know what that world looks like. We saw that word during the Cold War. It's not a world in which the United States is safer or better off. In fact, it's a world in which the United States is far less safe.
TODD (voice-over): Experts are worried not only about the U.S. and Russia getting out of that medium-range nuclear weapons treaty, they say another deal called the New START Treaty, limiting the number of long-range missiles and bombers on both sides, runs out in two years, and the two powers may not renew it. Putin and his generals, experts say, seem to be preparing for an
unlimited arms race.
MICHAEL CARPENTER, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE, AND EURASIA: They're still investing heavily in modern capabilities, including nuclear capabilities, submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the like.
TODD (voice-over): Just over the past year, Putin has unveiled a battery of advanced weapons he is developing -- an intercontinental ballistic missile called the Sarmat, which the Russians say can carry 16 nuclear warheads, enough to wipe out Texas; a nuclear-powered cruise missile that can fly around the world low to the ground; and an unmanned underwater drone launched from a submarine, which could carry a nuclear warhead directly to an enemy city.
Analysts say, by building up these weapons and making aggressive moves like invading Crimea, Putin seems to be antagonizing the U.S. in ways where he knows America won't respond directly.
CARPENTER: Putin's strategy is competition short of conflict. He doesn't want to elevate these to the point of conflict because, then, he knows he loses.
TODD: But experts warn there are scenarios where American forces could actually respond and get drawn into a dangerous military confrontation with the Russians. Like if there's a miscalculation by a field commander in a place where Russian forces are deployed.
[17:55:01] They point out that has already happened in Syria when Russian mercenaries tried to take up one area held by American-backed forces, and a couple hundred Russians were killed according to then- CIA Director Mike Pompeo -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's very, very scary stuff indeed. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.
There's breaking news, next. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee launch a sweeping new probe of the President, his finances, Russia, and more.
[17:59:54] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Probing Trump's money. Less than 24 hours after the President faced lawmakers, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman is zeroing in on Mr. Trump's finances.