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Trump en Route to Summit with Kim as Lawmakers Prepare to Grill Michael Cohen; Deputy AG Rosenstein Hints Justice Department May Not Be Transparent about Mueller Report; Interview with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D), Oversight Committee; Trump's Business Asks House Committee to Stop Investigation. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 25, 2019 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, making concessions as President Trump heads to his second summit with Kim Jong-un, saying they see eye to eye. Some White House aides worry it could be making too many concessions to the dictator.

Lack of transparency, the official who until recently oversaw the Russia probe suggests the Justice Department may not be transparent about Mueller's upcoming report.

How will Congress react to that?

Calling it a conflict: the Trump Organization asked a congressional committee to call off the investigation of the president's business dealings.

Why is the president's company claiming there is a conflict of interest?

And ready to talk: Michael Cohen will testify before three congressional committees this week.

Is he ready to tell all he knows about hush money payments and president's business dealings?

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

President Trump tonight is on the way to a second summit with Kim Jong-un predicting it will be a tremendous success, claiming they see "eye to eye." There is no tangible sign Kim is moving towards denuclearization and some White House advisers raised concerns the president could offer too much to North Korea.

The summit could be overshadowed by action back here at home. Michael Cohen will testify and may give details about hush money payments. The man who until recently oversaw the investigation hints the Justice Department may not be transparent about Mueller's upcoming report. I'll speak with Jamie Raskin of the Oversight Committee, which will

question Michael Cohen on Wednesday. Our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Trump is on the way to a summit with Kim Jong-un but back here in Washington it could be a damaging week for the president.

Let's begin with Abby Phillip.

What should we expect?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump is talking up his friendship with Kim Jong-un ahead of the summit in Hanoi this week. There are some real questions about what exactly the United States is getting out of this summit.

Back home, President Trump is leaving behind a number of controversies on the home front.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Tonight President Trump heading to a summit with Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, touting the personal relationship with Kim as doubts persist about whether the regime is truly committed to giving up nuclear weapons.


TRUMP: We are speaking and we are speaking loud. I think we can have a very good -- a very good summit. I think we'll have a very tremendous summit. We want denuclearization.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Trump spent the weekend praising Kim, tweeting he realized better than anyone else that without nuclear weapons his country could fast become one of the greatest economic powers anywhere in the world.

But also lowering expectations about what might be achieved in the second summit.

TRUMP: What is going to happen, I can't tell you. I think eventually it would. But I'm not in a rush and I don't want to rush anybody. I just don't want testing. As long as there's no testing, we are happy.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Despite Trump's rosy outlook for the summit, White House aides tell CNN they are concerned he might concede too much to Kim in Vietnam.

So far North Korea has taken no known concrete steps toward denuclearization since the last summit. Intelligence officials have concluded they are unlikely to give up their nuclear weapons at all. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo maintaining that North Korea is still a major threat despite the claim to the contrary after the last summit with Kim. JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?


PHILLIP (voice-over): Meantime, in Washington President Trump's national emergency declaration to build the wall faces its first major test on Tuesday as House Democrats plan to vote on a resolution that could undo it.

Trump insisting there is an emergency at the border.

TRUMP: We do have an emergency. We have an emergency of people pouring into our country that we don't want, criminals, smugglers. We have drugs pouring into our country. We can't have it.

PHILLIP (voice-over): He seems concerned that Republicans could join Democrats in rebuking him. The president warning his party not to support the resolution, tweeting, "I hope our great Republican senators don't get lead down the path of weak and ineffective border security. Be strong and smart. Don't fall into the Democrats' trap of open borders and crime."

Fifty-eight former senior national security officials say otherwise --


PHILLIP (voice-over): -- in a new letter, writing, in our professional opinion there is no factual basis for the declaration of a national emergency.

All this as the president is announcing an official parade for this 4th of July, tweeting, "Hold the date. We'll be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington D.C., on July 4th. It will be called a salute to America and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite president, me."


PHILLIP: This will be a very high stakes week for President Trump besides the world watching what happens in Vietnam. Michael Cohen is testifying on Capitol Hill behind closed doors and in public. One thing that is not going to happen this week, the Mueller report is not coming. That is one reprieve for President Trump.

BLITZER: Abby Phillip, reporting from the White House. Thank you.

As President Trump flies to Vietnam, North Korea's Kim Jong-un is expected to arrive shortly aboard his heavily armored train. CNN's Will Ripley is joining us live from Hanoi right now.

Will, you're there in front of Kim Jong-un's hotel.

What does he want out of this summit? WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what he wants is economic relief and normalization of ties with the United States. We're getting hints from the South Korean Blue House that he might get it, saying President Trump and Kim Jong-un could potentially declare an agreement to formally end the Korean War without Kim actually taking any tangible steps to get rid of his nuclear weapons.

To set the scene for you here, we are here in Hanoi near the hotel, where yesterday we were able to stand across the street. Today the entire road is blocked off. You can see police are here checking everyone's ID. Reporters not allowed inside.

As we pan up, we know Kim Jong-un is expected to be staying in a lavish suite. His security detail already arrived. The equivalent of the North Korean Secret Service, the same people who we saw running next to Kim's limousine back in April.

In terms of how this is going to play out, we know Kim's heavily armored, luxury train should be pulling up to border of Vietnam, somewhere perhaps within the next hour or so. They are actually shutting down all of the roads that lead from the Vietnam-China border here.

So you'll see roadblocks like this, incredibly disruptive, as Kim decided to make a land trip into the summit. He wasn't very happy he had to use a Chinese plane when he flew last time and his fleet of aircraft simply aren't up to making a journey, even a short trip to Vietnam, which is why he has been on the rails for a couple of days.

BLITZER: 2,500-mile train trip from North Korea over to Vietnam. Thanks very much, Will. We'll be staying in close touch with you.

Back here in Washington, the Mueller Russia probe is expected to be over soon. A report will be delivered to the Justice Department. Let's bring in Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, the man who oversaw the investigation. Rod Rosenstein, is suggesting there might not be full transparency.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes. He could be preparing the country that we may not be seeing everything in this report that people perhaps have been hoping to see.

Certainly there is a lot of concern there is information in the report that should not be made public, like people who may not have been charged with any crimes. Rosenstein will be leaving the Department of Justice in just a few weeks. Here is what he had to say about what we should expect.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY AG: It's a kneejerk reaction suggests we should be transparent about what we do in government. But there are a lot of reasons not to be transparent about what we do in government. Just because the government collects information it doesn't mean that information is accurate. It could be misleading if you're overly transparent about information that the government collects.

I think do we need to be cautious about that. If we aren't prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, we have no business making allegations against American citizens.


PROKUPECZ: And this is certainly something William Barr, when he testified, is concerned about. Rosenstein did go on the say that he believes that William Barr will do the right thing. There's always been this concern between Rosenstein and the incoming, now attorney general, that putting anything out there that could indicate thing, that could say that people were involved but not charged, is concerning to them.

BLITZER: So the Justice Department guideline is you can't indict a sitting American president and another Justice Department guideline is you don't put out information about someone that is not being indicted.

PROKUPECZ: Take a listen what the Southern District of New York did. They have an allegation that the president directed and coordinated Michael Cohen in these payments. That is an accusation of wrongdoing. They found a way --


PROKUPECZ: -- to get that into the court documents.

It is possible that unless something happens, where Mueller puts something in a court document or someone is charged with something new, we may not see any more information or certainly anything that will directly link the president to any kind of collusion.

BLITZER: What kind of action can Congress take if the report isn't transparent?

PROKUPECZ: As they have said, they are planning to call people to testify. They may subpoena the report. They may subpoena Mueller. They may subpoena Rosenstein, who will be leaving. They may call in William Barr. There is a whole host of things they can do to get this report.

The thing is what we have seen in other instances when anytime Congress tries to get a hold of sensitive documents and classified information, there will be a fight. I think the Department of Justice is going to fight that. I also think members of the public, we, the media, are going to be probably suing for this information.

BLITZER: Amidst all of this, Michael Cohen will spend three days testifying up on Capitol Hill, tomorrow the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors; Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee will be open. We'll have live coverage of that. Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee will be closed door as well.

What do these members want to hear from this guy? PROKUPECZ: They want to hear a lot. We know that the Department of Justice has cleared Michael Cohen. They have cleared him to talk about a lot of the president's past and his business dealings, the organization, foundation work. So they can ask a lot more questions than I think anyone initially anticipated.

It will really have to do with the history of the president, between Michael Cohen, payments, other things; the hush payments will be a big topic to the women. There will be taxes that may come up. There is a whole list of really information that Michael Cohen says he can provide. And the members of this committee are planning on asking those questions.

BLITZER: He spent 10 years working for Trump as a lawyer and a fixer. He obviously knows a lot. All right, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Joining us now, the Democratic congressman from Maryland, Jamie Raskin. He is a member of both the Judiciary and the Oversight Committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: Does it sound like the deputy attorney general is suggesting the Russia report will be suppressed in some significant way?

RASKIN: It's hard to read the tea leaves on that. I keep hearing them repeat the Department of Justice position that the president can't be indicted directly by the Justice Department while he is still in office. Of course that doesn't mean necessarily that the material about the president should be taken out of the report if there were crimes committed, if there's evidence of crimes being committed.

That should be turned over to us because it's a mere technicality that the president is not being indicted at that point. We think that we're owed that information and the people's representatives have a right to it.

BLITZER: Will Democrats subpoena that report?

RASKIN: There's a slogan in the information age that information that wants to be free and I think this is information that really wants to be free. It goes to the heart of democratic self-government. So I think that we are determined to get basically any evidence of wrong doing that was compiled by the special counsel.

BLITZER: The House intelligence chairman Adam Schiff says he is prepared to subpoena Robert Mueller himself.

Do you agree?

RASKIN: Certainly there are a lot of people interested in doing that. You know, I would hope that the report would be turned over in its entirety, unless there's some compelling reason that it cannot be turned over or part of it has to be censored out.

You know, if it requires subpoenaing various individuals with knowledge of it, then I think we are willing to go there. This is a democracy. What we're talking about is crimes against the republic. We have a constitutional oversight responsibility to try to get to the bottom of what's been taking place in our country.

BLITZER: Rosenstein, the outgoing deputy AG, says the new attorney general will do the right thing.

Do you trust Bill Barr?

RASKIN: Obviously he is new to the office. He wrote a memo that essentially endorsed the most extreme version of the unitary executive philosophy, which is that everybody in the executive branch can be fired by the president at any time for any reason, including what the rest of us would consider obstruction of justice.

So I think a lot of us have a wary stance toward the new attorney general. But the real point is we are going to get to the bottom of what has been taking place. We know about several campaign violations that took place by Michael Cohen and the president working with him.


RASKIN: We are interested in trying to get to the bottom of all of the campaign finance violations that were taking place, all of the hush money payoffs that went to all of the women and the various tax violations and the failures to disclose on public forums. There's a lot of lawlessness permeating out of the White House.

BLITZER: When he comes before your committee, the House Oversight Committee, what are you planning on asking the president's former fixer and attorney?

RASKIN: The Intelligence Committee will focus on the Russian connection and what took place in terms of the oligarchs and Putin and so on. We'll focus on campaign finance violations, the hush money payments, the obstruction of justice, various other abuses of power.

But, you know, this guy was with the president for more than a decade. He has a bird's-eye view of the what's taken place. I believe that the president has basically tried to turn the government of the United States into a moneymaking operation for himself, his business, his family and his friends.

I think Michael Cohen understands how the whole operation was working. We want him to tell us what exactly has been taking place.

BLITZER: Am I hearing you correctly, that you are not going to ask him about Russia, for example, the Trump Tower project that was proposed to be built in Moscow?

Cohen was involved in that. We won't hear anything like that on Wednesday?

RASKIN: I think that the jurisdictions of the various committees are kind of overlapping. Undoubtedly, there will be things asked about the Moscow project and the Trump Tower project in Moscow. But we are trying to allow the Intelligence Committee to do a lot of the research and investigation into the Russia connection and we are looking at the domestic side of the lawlessness.

But obviously they blur together there.

BLITZER: A lot of American public is interested in what Michael Cohen has to say. He will be behind closed doors on Tuesday and Thursday. It is your committee that will have him in open session.

Are there particular things you think he needs to discuss for the American public to hear?

RASKIN: Well, one of the things that he pled guilty to lying about for the president was whether or not there were continuing negotiations taking place through the year. Originally he testified that it ended in January 2016.

We want to know what kinds of negotiations took place, who was involved in them, what banks and financial institutions on the Russian side and on this side, where was the financing going to come from and who are all of the individuals who were involved in trying to negotiate that deal?

So there is a lot we want to know that goes to the domestic side of the equation. We know what came out of that was efforts by Russia, through the greatest active measure intelligence operation of all time, to get the White House to change its position on various sanctions that have been leveled against Russia. So we are interested in what he knows about that, what was the quo in the quid pro quo.

BLITZER: We know the hearing is scheduled at 10:00 am Wednesday.

How much time have you budgeted for this hearing?

RASKIN: I think that the members of the committee have pretty much cleared out their day. We don't get a lot of time as individual members. There are a bunch of issues we are looking into because the respect for the rule of law within the White House is obviously at a very low state. So there is a lot for us to sink our teeth into.

BLITZER: We'll have live coverage of all of that. Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, thanks so much for joining us.

RASKIN: I'm delighted to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, the Trump Organization asked a congressional panel to halt the investigation into the president's business dealings.

Why is it claiming a conflict of interest?





BLITZER: As congressional Democrats gear up for multiple investigations, the Trump Organization is asking one House committee to call off its probe of the president's business dealings. The Trump Organization claims one lawyer has a conflict of interest. Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what does it signal that the Trump Organization is making in this demand?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It signals a long and entrenched fight between House Democrats and the Trump Organization as Democrats are vowing to investigate a variety of aspects, controversies involving the Trump Organization.

In this remarkable letter that was set to two different House committee chairmen today, the Trump Organization's lawyers say they will not comply with these document requests until these, quote, "ethical issues" they see are resolved with this newly appointed adviser, Barry Burke (ph), because his firm, Kramer Levin (ph), is a client of the Trump Organization.

In this letter that went to the House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler and a completely separate committee, Elijah Cummings, it says these fundamental ethics issues raised in this letter must be carefully investigated and resolved before the committee's request can be addressed.

You'll recall that Elijah Cummings is looking into the hush money payments that went from the president through Michael Cohen to silence those alleged affairs right before the 2016 elections. Cummings himself demanded a range of documents by this last Friday, seeking information about those payments and about whether or not a Trump Organization attorney gave false information to federal --


RAJU: ethics officials who are investigating that payment and why it was not initially disclosed of the president's own financial disclosure forms. Kramer Levin, the law firm, did put out a statement, pushing back, calling the claims baseless, saying none of the work the firm has done pertain to what Barry Burke will be doing on the House Judiciary Committee, which is helping oversee the Justice Department, the Mueller investigation.

The report said that any work that the firm has done with the Trump Organization have been minor issues involving building code violations and other issues involving condominiums, nothing to do with the matters here. The Democrats see this as all an effort to foot drag and delay and not comply with these requests. Of course, these committee chairmen, Jerry Nadler, Elijah Cummings, they have subpoena power. Expect them to use it if these requests are not met.

BLITZER: Legal battle will definitely take place, Manu Raju, on chills, thank you.

Coming up, the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein warns against too much transparency in government investigations.

Is that a hint about what's coming when Robert Mueller files his final report?

Also a CNN exclusive you won't want to miss. Our chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, spent 36 hours with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Have they changed their ways?

Stay with us.


[17:31:02] BLITZER: The outgoing Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, today hinted that Justice Department may not be fully transparent, especially when it comes to revealing information about people who aren't being charged with a crime.

Let's bring in our political and legal experts. Susan Hennessey, he was speaking rather bluntly about transparency. Listen to this.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's a knee jerk reaction to suggest that we should be transparent about what we do in government. But there are a lot of reasons not to be transparent about what we do in government. Just because the government collects information doesn't mean that information is accurate. And it can be really misleading if you're overly transparent about information that the government collects. So I think we do need to be cautious about that if we aren't prepared today prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizens.


BLITZER: How do you interpret that?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY : So I think it's possible that it's sort of an effort to temper some expectations about what might be included. It's not a crazy argument. It's actually the argument. It's actually the argument that Rosenstein used to criticize Jim Comey in saying that he shouldn't have had that press conference and Senate testimony about Hillary Clinton, right?

So, in some sense, he is just kind of repeating the standard DOJ line that either you investigate and either you indict someone or you let them go. The problem is that this argument work for one individual, and that's the President of the United States. Because the Department of Justice policy is that the President can't be indicted, the impeachment, the political remedy is the appropriate check. You can't also say and we aren't going to provide any information about an unindicted individual, because then what you do is you've effectively immunized the President.

And so this is a case in which if DOJ wants to have the policy that that President can't be indicted, they have to be willing to give information to Congress so that Congress can use its constitutional prerogatives to potentially hold the President accountable. This isn't just related to the President's personal activity. In order for Congress to understand the full picture of what happened, they are going to have to know what the President's family and close associates might have done.

So, look, this isn't an area in which there are firm lines. They can't talk about an unindicted individual. You know, it's a balancing test. It's a prudential decision. And what we're balancing here is individual privacy rights of these people, many of whom are in government against the public interest and need to know. And this is a case in which there's really an overwhelming need for transparency.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I totally agree with you. I think what he's doing is lowering expectations and saying, don't expect this complete report. And in which we're going to talk about people who were unindicted or people we didn't charge, and that would, of course, be the President of the United States. I mean, he is is the guy who wrote the memo about Comey talking too much about Hillary Clinton. Remember Comey's famous presser where he said, we're not going to pursue this but she was reckless.

But I do think what he may be saying is that the place for this is the Congress. I mean, he didn't come out and say that but the Congress isn't going to accept that explanation. And they're going to - as Adam Schiff said, they're going to call Bob Mueller, they're going to subpoena Bob Mueller if they have to to testify. And we'll have to see what they get out of him. But this is going to be a tug of war. I mean, this is going to signal, I think, and I don't know if you agree, a court battle, because Congress isn't going to take no for an answer.

BLITZER: It's going to be a congressional action that's probably going to lead to a lot of these documents being released that they are reluctant to release.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. So the story thus far largely has been the Justice Department Special Counsel and what Mueller has done, charges he has brought, people who have pled guilty. Once the report comes out in whatever form it comes out, assuming it does come out in some form, which I assume it does, then I think the action moves both to Susan's point about impeachment or whatever process follow from it, impeachment obviously being the most severe, but also any revelation, any attempt to discover what has not already been released. That's going to be a a Congress fight.

Adam Schiff did suggest, look, we'll bring Bob Mueller out here. I think some of that, it's like Rosenstein, some of its posturing right now, because no one knows. Maybe there won't be a need to bring Bob Mueller up.


Maybe there will be. I suspect there probably will be. I think most of us, we should assume there will be less than you think there is.

I talk to people over the weekend too, including my uncle who thinks, well, the Mueller report is going to simply tell us that that's going to be it and we'll either know Donald Trump did it or didn't, whatever it is. But as I said to him, I'm skeptical you'll get a hard and fast answer that everyone agrees with, because even if there was a hard and fast answer, so I'm not sure there will be, I don't think everyone would agree with it anyway.

HENNESSEY: I mean, one thing to keep in mind is the end stage the Nixon fight was the President attempting to hide information through a legal process. Once he lost that court battle and realized that information was going to be coming out one way or another, that is ultimately what caused Nixon to resign.

BLITZER: Amidst all of this, Michael Cohen is going to be testifying for three days, Sabrina, before House and Senate committees two days behind closed doors. But on Wednesday it will be open. What do you anticipate we're going to be hearing? What questions will you be hearing and what do you anticipate we'll learn?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: Well, based on a memo that went out to members of the House Oversight Committee, the agreement includes a fairly broad scope and some of the questions I think you'll expect lawmakers to ask of Cohen are about the hush money payments that were made to women during the campaign who alleged that they had an affair with the President as well as who was involved in the decision making behind those payments, what the then candidate Trump know.

There's also going to be a lot of interest in the President's family business and any compliance issues, any campaign finance issues, as well as the accuracy of the President's public statements, so also the President's own credibility is something I think lawmakers will ask Michael Cohen about.

And I think there is also potentially inappropriate practices of the Trump Foundation that will come up, especially that lines up with some reporting based on what Cohen has told prosecutors. And so it's important to remember that Michael Cohen, although he does bring some baggage with respect to credibility, he had - he's been charged with lying to prosecutors.

BLITZER: He has been convicted of that.

SIDDIQUI: Yes, and convicted of it. At the same time, he is someone who comes with perhaps unmatched firsthand knowledge of the President's personal and professional dealings and the inner workings of the Trump Organization.

BORGER: Well, I mean, what we want to know is did Trump direct you to lie to Congress, period. Did he dangle a pardon, for example, in front of you and tell us about the business practices of the Trump Organization that you're talking about? They are going to ask all of that. They have a very wide birth here, which is kind of surprising to me. There may be stuff on Russia they have to sort of tiptoe around. But it seems to me that they're going to dig deep into it.

CILLIZZA: And the hush money payment Thing, Wolf, look, if you believe what he has said publicly and Michael Cohen has confessed to, Donald Trump, in Cohen's words, directed and coordinated me to make these payments. I want to hear more about that.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stick around. There is more we're going to be discussing.

We're counting down also to CNN's Presidential Town Hall with Senator Bernie Sanders. I'll be moderating that in just a few hours, 8:00 P.M. Eastern, a lot more to discuss right after this.



[17:42:43] BLITZER: We're back with our political and legal experts. And, Gloria, Senator Bernie Sanders' second bid for the White House now, a week old, he still has a very strong base of support.

BORGER: He absolutely does. I mean, look, it's a different political moment now than it was when he ran the last time. He doesn't have this progressive lane to himself. He's got Elizabeth Warren, for example. But he starts out very strong. He has a 50-state organization. He has a very strong donor base. I think right after 12 hours after he announced, he raised $4 million. Lots of democratic candidates are jealous of that.

So he provides a foil, of course, for Donald Trump, democratic socialists, all of the rest of it. But he has to elbow people out of his way this time in a way he didn't have to in 2016. There was just Hillary Clinton standing there for him in the end. And now, he has got to look to his left as well as to his right.

BLITZER: And he has got some looking to the left who may even be more to the left.

CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean, I do. It's a totally different race. Gloria is exactly right. And even if it wasn't different, and in the next four years, the Democratic Party looks differently, right? But what you have seen, I think one thing that is frustrating probably to Bernie Sanders is the things that Bernie Sanders proposed in the 2016 election, some of which Hillary Clinton literally laughed, including Medicare for all, single pair [ph], which she said, well, it's unattainable and it would undermine Obamacare. Well, now, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, all of them are now for Medicare for all.

So I think it may be frustrating to him in that there are a lot of democrats who have taken up the message that he had been touted for a long time sort of out in the wilderness, so how it worked in 2016 and have co-opted it. And I think that may ultimately be his problem is do you like that message with Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker.

The problem for Sanders is two-fold at least. One, he's 77-year-old white male in a party that's increasingly young, diverse and female dominated. And two, I'm not sure how big an issue it is, but it is an issue, the guy has run for it as a democrat ever in his life one previous time before this race, and was in 2016. He immediately, after the 2016 race, reregistered as an independent, one for reelection. And that, again, the question is do you like Bernie Sanders' policies wrapped up in someone doesn't necessarily look like Bernie Sanders and has been a democrat their whole life.


And that may be his challenge.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Of course. Sabrina, what does he need to do to stand out?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, I think that that's exactly right, what Chris is saying as well as what Gloria is saying, that he doesn't have the ability to distinguish himself in the same way that he did in 2016 when his insurgent campaign was very much a foil to Hillary Clinton.

I was going to mention that he raised a really incredible amount of money in the 24 hours since he launched his campaign. I think the total haul was $6 million. So that does show he still has a strong base of supporters.

And he can also make the case that the Democratic Party has effectively refashioned itself in my image by embracing Medicare for all, by embracing debt-free college tuition, some form of a guaranteed jobs program. But all of those candidates on this stage not necessarily will support those exact proposals but some variation of them.

And I also think that one thing that might be different is because he is, in some ways, more of a frontrunner this time, he'll also, perhaps, be on the receiving end of a lot more scrutiny --

BLITZER: Yes, I think --

SIDDIQUI: -- than when he was up against Hillary Clinton who had been in the public eye for a few decades (ph).

BLITZER: I think you're right. Susan, what are you going to be listening for at the town hall tonight? SUSAN HENNESSEY, SENIOR FELLOW IN NATIONAL SECURITY IN GOVERNANCE

STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: So I'll be listening for whether or not Bernie Sanders is ready to make a stronger foreign policy or national security argument. It's a major, major liability.

And also, in terms of specifics, whether he is ready to commit to things like the pledge proposed by Vice President Joe Biden suggesting that all candidates commit to not accepting, wittingly or unwittingly, any help from foreign interference, right?

All of our 2016 has been focused on sort of the Clinton/Trump. Bernie was a big beneficiary of this, so it will be interesting to see. Is he ready to commit to not using hacked and stolen materials, even if it benefits his campaign?

BLITZER: And to our viewers, be sure to join me later tonight when I moderate our next CNN presidential town hall with Senator Bernie Sanders live from right here in Washington. That airs 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Coming up, we're awaiting the arrival of Kim Jong-un's armored train. And Air Force One is carrying President Trump to Vietnam for his second summit with the North Korean leader. Stay with us for more on their high-stakes meeting.

Also ahead, a CNN exclusive you won't want to miss. Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward spent 36 hours with the Taliban in Afghanistan.


[17:51:55] BLITZER: President Trump is on his way to Vietnam where he'll meet, for a second time, with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The President says he and Kim see eye to eye and predicts a, quote, very tremendous summit.

Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, the stakes, clearly very high for this meeting.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The stakes are enormous, Wolf, mostly because of what's widely seen as an ineffective deal the two leaders made in Singapore a little over eight months ago.

Tonight, we've spoken to veteran diplomats who have very specific ideas about what would constitute success or failure at this summit.


TODD (voice-over): It is a high-stakes meeting that the President is predicting will come down to a personal connection.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right after this meeting, I leave for Vietnam where I meet with Chairman Kim, and we talk about something that, frankly, he never spoke to anybody about.

TODD (voice-over): The President's second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un comes with the possibilities of huge successes or major pitfalls for the two men.

FRANK JANNUZI, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think President Trump expects Chairman Kim to talk with him about complete denuclearization and peace, and I think President Trump sees himself on the cusp of a great historical accomplishment.

TODD (voice-over): But, tonight, as Kim moves toward Vietnam in his heavily armored train, there's enormous pressure on both leaders to come up with a more substantive deal than the vague agreement they struck in Singapore more than eight months ago.

MARK LIPPERT, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: It's really a test of Kim Jong-un's sincerity, and this will be something that, I think, is the most important indicator to watch for in the summit.

TODD (voice-over): Mark Lippert knows something about how difficult it is to reach a deal. Lippert put his life on the line working toward peace between the two Koreas and the U.S.

LIPPERT: I need an ambulance fast. Get me to the hospital.

TODD (voice-over): In 2015, a South Korean extremist stabbed him in the face at an event in Seoul while Lippert served as U.S. Ambassador to South Korea. He believes a successful summit would be for Trump to get Kim to make specific commitments.

LIPPERT: I think that, at a minimum, it would start to define future activities -- in other words, freezes on nuclear missile activities -- and then, I think, get at the present program: reductions, more inspections, things we haven't seen before. In other words, a rollback.

TODD (voice-over): But Lippert and other analysts say expectations this week are not high, given that the Trump administration seems to have abandoned its earlier request for Kim's regime to agree at this summit to give a full inventory list of its nuclear program. And there's no indication Kim will stop being secretive about what he has.

Since the Singapore summit, reports have come out that North Korea has continued to operate a secret web of missile bases, many of them buried deep in mountains and narrow valleys. Given these challenges, what would constitute a failure at the Vietnam summit?

JANNUZI: If there are no U.S. inspectors scheduled to go into North Korea, if North Korea continues to manufacture plutonium and highly enriched uranium, that will be a failure.


TODD: Now, among the concerns from U.S. officials and analysts about President Trump maybe giving away too much at the summit is a concern that Trump might agree to withdraw at least some U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula. But senior administration officials tell CNN that is not even under

consideration, at least for this summit, Wolf. They won't discuss troop withdrawals right away.

[17:55:03] BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, the official who, until recently, oversaw the Russia probe suggests the Justice Department may not be transparent about Robert Mueller's upcoming report.

And former Trump fixer Michael Cohen will testify three times on Capitol Hill this week. Will he tell all he knows about the hush money payments and the President's business dealings?


BLITZER: Happening now, do the right thing. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says he's confident the new Attorney General, Bill Barr, will make the right decision about how much of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report to share with the public but says transparency isn't always best.