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THE SITUATION ROOM

New Zealand Mosque Terror Attacks; Trump Says White Nationalists Are Small Group, Not Rising Threat; Interview with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Member, Judiciary and Armed Services Committees, about Trump on White Nationalism; Trump Says White Nationalism Is Not Rising Threat After A White Nationalist Kills 49 In Mosque Attacks; Mueller Team: Rick Gates Is Not Ready For Sentencing; Court Filing Says Ex-Manafort Deputy Still Cooperating; Mueller Team: Rick Gates Still Cooperating On "Several Ongoing Investigations" And Isn't Ready For Sentencing; North Korea Threatens To End Talks, Resume Missile Tests. Aired: 5-6p ET

Aired March 15, 2019 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, thanks, one and all. Be sure to tune in Sunday to CNN for "STATE OF THE UNION." My guest will be congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and presidential candidate Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar. It's at 9:00 am and noon Eastern on Sunday. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: Massacre in two mosques, 49 worshippers are slaughtered as a gunman opens fire at a pair of mosques in New Zealand. The terror attack is livestreamed on social media and a hate filled manifesto is posted online. We may learn more any moment now from the suspect's first court appearance.

Heightened alert: security stepped up at Muslim places of worship in the United States and around the world. But while condemning the attacks, President Trump insists he doesn't see white nationalism as a rising threat.

Exercising his veto: the president uses his veto power for the first time to strike down the bipartisan move by Congress to block his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.

Can Congress muster the votes for an override?

And threatening new missiles: a top North Korean official suggests Kim Jong-un's regime may stop talking with the United States about nuclear weapons and hints at the possibility of new missile tests. There's a new crisis brewing.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news: shootings at two mosques left 49 dead, more seriously hurt in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. The terror attack took place Friday when the mosques were full of worshippers. The gunmen livestreamed the slaughter online and a white supremacist manifesto was posted before the attack. A 28-year-old Australian is charged with murder and is making his first court appearance.

President Trump condemned the attacks but insists white nationalism is not a rising threat around the world. His remarks came as he used his presidential veto for the first time to strike down legislation attempt to block his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.

I'll speak with Senator Mazie Hirono of the Judiciary Committee. Our correspondents and analysts will have coverage. Let's begin in New Zealand and go straight to Will Ripley.

Will, update us on the very latest.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the coming hours, the man accused of going on this shooting rampage will face a judge in court and there are so many questions about his motivation after police discovered that manifesto filled with hate filled ideology.

People in Christchurch thought they lived in a safe haven free of the shootings that plagued the United States and elsewhere but tonight they are grappling with a new reality of perhaps a surging white supremacist subculture that has spewed out into the public.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY (voice-over): Police say the gunman opened fire shortly before 2:00 in the afternoon, targeting two mosques just as Friday prayers were beginning. The assault was brutal and relentless. The killer, at times, leaving the Al Noor mosque to retrieve a second gun and fire into the street before returning to continue the carnage, leaving more than 40 dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something like this could happen in New Zealand. We're such a small community. We're so kind and loving. So I don't understand why someone would hurt us like this in such a way, just an animal.

Why would you treat us like that?

We've done nothing wrong to you.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The killer appeared to have carefully planned the attack and may have driven to a second mosque about three miles away, opening fire and killing at least seven more. Tonight the 28- year-old man is under arrest and others are being questioned.

Police in Christchurch say they found explosives attached to cars, rifles used in the attacks covered in white supremacist graffiti. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern call it a terror attack and one of New Zealand's darkest days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIPLEY (voice-over): Police found an 87-page manifesto filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas, posted online just before the attack unfolded under the name Brenton Tarrant. A 17-minute video purported to be a livestream of the shootings taken from a body camera went viral on social media.

CNN is not showing the video and police strongly urge the public not to share it --

[17:05:00]

RIPLEY (voice-over): -- as websites scramble to take it down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are shocked. We are appalled. We are outraged. This attack reminds us of the evil that is ever present and would seek to strike out at any time.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Tonight police in major American cities are at a state of heightened alert with increased security staged at mosques in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Around the world stepped up security at mosques and places of worship as the U.N. secretary- general urged non-Muslims to show signs of solidarity with the bereaved Islamic community.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY: Tonight, New Zealand prime minister is vowing to change the country's gun laws. Two others remain in police custody, not charged; police trying to figure out what role, if any, they played in that attack.

BLITZER: Thanks so much. We are getting details on the hate filled manifesto. Let's bring in our senior international correspondent Alex Marquardt.

Alex, what are you learning?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This manifesto is almost 100 pages of pure toxic rage. Its title is "The Great Replacement." The shooter goes on a tirade against immigrants and Muslims, calling them "invaders."

He wrote that he chose New Zealand for this attack, normally so peaceful and isolated, to show that nowhere is safe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT (voice-over): It's a diatribe filled with hate, anger and vows of revenge, 87 neatly formatted pages of ranting about immigrants, minorities and Muslims. More than 16,000 words that the 28-year old who says his name is Brenton Tarrant posted on social media shortly before the attack.

The attacker calls immigrants "invaders" and says immigration must be crushed and, like other white nationalists, he falsely claimed there's a genocide of white people underway.

It's the kinds of toxic message heard in Charlottesville and from the Charleston massacre shooter, Dylann Roof. The New Zealand shooter referenced Roof's attack in his manifesto. Norwegian mass murderer Andres Brevik, who killed 77, mostly children, is held up as an inspiration.

ARDERN: There are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The U.S. president is also referenced one, calling President Trump "a symbol of renewed white identity" though he says he doesn't consider Trump a leader. The suspect claims to not belong to any organization and decided to carry out the shooting, which he admits is terrorism, on his own.

An attack he said that he'd been thinking about for two years and chose the targeted mosques three months ago. He expresses no remorse for those he planned to kill, even the children.

With white nationalism growing in the U.S. and in Europe, the gunman points to a number of global events that fueled his hate, including a terror attack in Sweden's capital in 2017, when an asylum seeker plowed a truck into a crowd, killing five.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: As for the choice of the deadly weapons used, the attacker said it was made specifically for the debate in this country, to rile up Americans, to fan the flames and deepen the divisions over the Second Amendment.

BLITZER: So awful. Alex Marquardt, thank you.

President Trump has voiced his condolences but downplayed the idea of a right-wing extremist threat. His comments came as he issued his first presidential veto.

Let's go to Jim Acosta.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump just used his veto pen for the first time, knocking down an attempt by Congress to block his national emergency declaration to build a wall on the border.

But the president is facing other tough questions on the terror attack in New Zealand, specifically whether the president is emboldening right-wing extremism with his immigration rhetoric. The president said to reporters a short while ago he doesn't believe white nationalism is a rising threat despite signs that it is indeed a rising danger. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Surrounded by supporters, the president turned of veto into the day's main event, officially rejecting a bipartisan measure in Congress that rebuked Mr. Trump for trying to use a national emergency declaration to go around lawmakers to build his border wall.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it.

ACOSTA: The president also sounded off on the mosque terror attack in New Zealand.

TRUMP: It's a horrible, horrible thing. I told the prime minister that the United States is with them all the way.

ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, the president offered his condolences, tweeting: "My warmest sympathy and best wishes go out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible --

[17:10:00]

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- "massacre in the mosques."

But the president's critics question whether that response should have been more forceful in condemning the attack allegedly carried out by a right-wing extremist. Mr. Trump was asked by reporters whether he thinks white nationalism is a rising threat.

TRUMP: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess, if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet. They're just learning about the person and the people involved. But it's certainly a terrible thing.

ACOSTA: As a candidate, Mr. Trump once called for a ban on Muslims coming into the U.S., a campaign promise the administration later tried to turn into policy.

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

ACOSTA: Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said thoughts and prayers are not enough, adding that attacks like the one in New Zealand are now all too common.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They are on the rise around the Western world. They're on the rise right here in this country. They're part of a larger disease of intolerance that has taken hold in what was thought to be the most tolerant, most open, most welcoming country the world had ever known.

ACOSTA: Before the mosque attack, authorities say the killer in New Zealand wrote a long manifesto expressing his anti-Muslim and anti- immigration views, even describing the president as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.

Top White House officials are blasting the notion that the president's rhetoric had anything to do with the violence in New Zealand.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: He says, I'm not a conservative, I'm not a Nazi. Sounds like he's an eco-terrorist. And he certainly absolutely is ruthless killer. And he's to blame.

ACOSTA: But just this week, questions are being raised about whether the president's rhetoric simply crosses the line.

In an interview with the conservative Breitbart Web site, Mr. Trump bragged about his support coming from -- quote -- "tough people," saying: "I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point. And then it would be very bad, very bad."

Democrats say the president is playing with fire.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CONN.), MEMBER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I interpret that kind of comment as a danger to peaceful transition of power in our democracy.

That's one of the fundamental principles of our Constitution, that we have that kind of peaceful transition of power and respect for the rule of law, which that kind of comment utterly betrays it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Just a few moments ago, the president said he hadn't read the manifesto so he declined to weigh on all of that. But as for the president's claim that white nationalism is not rising, he may want to consider recent FBI figures showing right-wing extremism is a growing concern with the neo-Nazi violence on the streets of Charlottesville to the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last year, now the mosque attack in New Zealand.

It is a threat that cannot be denied.

BLITZER: Absolutely correct. All right, Jim Acosta. Thanks very much .

Joining us now Democratic senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She's 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: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's begin with the massacre in New Zealand. The president said he doesn't believe white nationalism is a rising threat around the world.

How do you see it? HIRONO: It is another instance where the president doesn't pay attention to facts. In fact, after 9/11, President Bush went to mosques and went to see the Muslims. And hate crimes against Muslims dropped.

With this president, as he talks about a Muslim ban, we know hate crimes against Muslims have gone up.

Mr. President, are you listening?

Do you have any idea that your words truly matter?

So as he continues to act as though this is not a problem, why is it that, as a result of what happened in New Zealand, the mosques in our country are under heightened alert?

Why is that?

So I know New Zealand is in mourning right now and they're in a state of shock. I did have a chance to talk with the ambassador to the United States from New Zealand, Ambassador Banks. I expressed my deepest condolences with her. And we shared the concerns we both have about this kind of white supremacist, extremist terrorism that is on the rise.

BLITZER: Senator, several of your Democratic colleagues may have pointed the finger at President Trump, accusing him of actually emboldening right-wing extremism.

Do you agree?

HIRONO: I think the kinds of language and the words he uses just add fuel to the fire. And so for him to take absolutely --

[17:15:00]

HIRONO: -- no responsibility for the continuing divisive and hate and kind of language that he uses is a testament to the fact that we have a president who just doesn't care about the words that he uses.

He must know the words he uses are very harmful. That's why he does it. It really excites his base apparently.

BLITZER: Did you see the interview he did with Breitbart, in which he boasts that his base includes the police, the military, bikers for Trump. He was going out of his way to say if things get bad, there could be some serious problems down the road.

What did you think of that?

HIRONO: I thought of that as being appalling language. It seemed to be an invitation for people to take matters into their own hands and commit violence. That's what it sounded like to me. That's the kind of threat and language he likes to use.

To think he thinks that our military is so undisciplined that they're going to commit these kinds of violence but the fact that he even says these things shows us where he is at. Where he is at is not bringing the country together, that he wants to continue to use divisive language, particularly against immigrants, against minorities, against Muslims.

BLITZER: Amidst all of this, he just issued the first veto of his presidency.

So what comes next?

HIRONO: Let me just say, beginning that he hasn't to exert his veto because up to now, he's had the Republicans in the House and Senate totally compliant to him. Now we are at least seeing signs of the Republicans in the Senate behaving as though they believe they are a separate branch of government.

I know that the House is scheduling veto override vote. Mitch McConnell probably will not bring the vote to the floor of the Senate but we know there is litigation challenge the president.

We know if the courts, that if they let this president go ahead with the emergency declaration when there is no emergency, we are opening the floodgates for anything to be called an emergency.

I hope that everybody realizes, in order for him to make good, he is going to grab appropriations and authorized programs that the Congress has enacted. He will just grab billions and billions from programs and the military construction that are necessary.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens in the courts. There will be some serious challenges. Senator Hirono, thanks for joining us.

HIRONO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, more breaking news: 49 people are dead after a gunman opens fire in two New Zealand mosques. He livestreamed the slaughter online, posted a white supremacist manifesto. We're standing by for details of his first court appearance.

And President Trump issues his first presidential veto, slapping down a bipartisan congressional effort to block his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.

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[17:20:00]

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BLITZER: Our breaking news: 49 people were killed and dozens injured in the terror attack. The gunman posted a white supremacist manifesto online. President Trump has offered condolences on the attacks but says he does not see white nationalism as a rising threat.

Let's bring in now Peter Bergen and Ali Soufan. He's a former FBI supervisory special agent.

Ali, is there an ascendant global white supremacist terror movement on the rise right now?

ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: It's disappointing that the president said that. And the answer to your question is yes. In the United States, a white supremacist movement is on the rise. Also in Europe the white supremacist movement is on the rise.

Between 2016 and 2017, the number of killings associated with white supremacy in the United States doubled. From 2017 to 2018 it went up 35 percent. In the United Kingdom, operations associated with white supremacy and hate groups and ultra-rights went up 88 percent in 2018. In Germany it went up 60 percent.

So this is a global problem. I see a lot of similarities between what we are witnessing today with the white supremacist movement or the radical right movement or whatever you want to call it and everything that happened between the '80s and '90s with the Salafi jihadist movement and the Islamist terrorist groups.

BLITZER: It is really worrisome. It is surprising the president's saying what he's saying, given the FBI's own statistics which you, Peter, have studied very closely.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: White nationalism never went away. The idea that we -- we obviously have the Oklahoma city tax coming out of the far right in 1995 killed 186 people. But beyond all that, if you look at the figures since 9/11, right-wing terrorists have killed almost as many people in the United States as jihadi terrorists. I would add to what Ali said. Look at the rise of ultra-nationalist parties in Europe. They used to be very marginal five years ago.

But Marine Le Pen is now a very powerful politician --

[17:00:00]

BERGEN: -- in France. Geert Wilders is a very powerful politician in Holland.

Poland and Hungary are controlled by ultra-nationalist politicians. So the whole environment, it's not just simply white nationalist violent extremists but the whole environment in the West has become much more sympathetic to these ideas.

BLITZER: Is right-wing extremism, Ali, a real priority in the federal government, in the FBI specifically?

SOUFAN: When it comes to the federal government, no, it's not priority and it's not even listed in any national priorities for Homeland Security or for countering terrorism domestically.

You can see a lot of operations going on by the FBI in different state and local and different jurisdictions focusing on specific individuals who are part of this jihadist network. Yet these operations are happening in isolate of any national discussion or conversation in Washington.

It reminds me of the '90s in the New York field office of the FBI. We were focusing on Osama bin Laden but nobody in the federal government or Congress or even the State Department at the time wanted to basically pay attention to the rise of Al Qaeda or Salafist jihadi movement.

We see some similarities today. So, no. It's not a strategic priority, unlike Europe, for example; unlike the U.K. or Germany where significant amount of resources have been dedicated to deal with the problem. Now they deal with it in a very similar way.

Actually, it is in an identical way to the way they deal with Islamic extremists. In the United States, however, all of our security and intelligence apparatus is still focused on dealing with Islamic type of extremism but not with white supremacy.

BLITZER: Is that your assessment as well, Peter?

BERGEN: I mean there is a national counterterrorism strategy that the Trump administration release and to its credit, in that strategy, they did call out Nazi groups as part of the strategy. Ali's in a better position to know that I am. But I would say that the FBI has been aware that this is an issue for a long time.

The FBI doesn't care if you're a white supremacist, a violent black nationalist or a jihadist terrorist. If you're going out murdering people, they have a very strong interest in trying to find you.

We have seen black nationalists killed eight people in the country in the last couple of years. We have seen more political violence from the Right and a little from the Left. And the jihadi threat is still there, too.

But from an FBI point of view, these are all crimes they want to prevent or solve if they have already happened.

BLITZER: How does someone like this terrorist in New Zealand, Ali, get so radicalized, so full of hate, that he would do what he did today?

SOUFAN: Well, you know, basically from reading the manifesto, you read a lot about revenge and some kind of grievances. There's a lot of parallels with ISIS and Al Qaeda. Social media has a lot to do with that but there is something happening in the physical world, not only the cyber world.

That guy was significantly impacted by his trip to France and by meeting other guys who adhere to this ideology and narrative. He has heroes that he believes that they are -- they provide a solution to a more purer society. We see a lot of similarities with radicalizing (ph) of social movement, of social media.

We see a lot of similarities that the fact that violence is the only key in order to create a pure society. We see overlapping of, you know, cooperation between these different groups on a global level. I think now more and more, to build on what Peter said about the

ultranationalism in Europe and European politics, what we start seeing is that these extremist white supremacist groups trying to blend ,in taking advantage of the political and the social and the cultural divide in order to, first, make themselves more relevant and, second, to make themselves more mainstream.

These kinds of issues that we have seen happening before with the groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda seems to be like the murder in New Zealand.

[17:30:00]

BLITZER: Yes, it's an important point indeed. The Sky so called manifesto was entitled as you know The Great Replacement. I read the whole thing and it's awful. But the word replacement, we remember Charlottesville, those neo-Nazis, the white supremacist were saying, "Jews will not replace us." That has taken on for these white supremacists, these neo-Nazis, the word replacement a new meaning and they've been radicalized to a certain degree by that.

PETER BERGEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Usually these guys and they're almost always guys, we don't know if this guy had a support network or not. He may well be a lone actor or he may not, but the point is, look, in his own manifesto he said he tried anarchism, he tried communism, he tried libertarianism, he was shopping for an ideology.

My intuition is like a lot of these guys, he's sort of a loser and he's got a grievance unresolved. He's looking for an ideology that allows him to become a hero in his own story, to carry out this violent attack and that is kind of the typical profile we see in a lot of these terrorists and that's what this guy was. Look, he was looking for this ideology, eventually it ended up with militant white nationalism, but he was shopping around.

BLITZER: Awful situation. Peter Bergen and Ali Soufan, guys, thanks very much for joining us. This is a story that we're going to continue to watch. There's more news we're following as well. The Russia investigation may be winding down, but get this Robert Mueller's team says it's not ready to have former metaphoric Deputy Trump campaign official Rick Gates sentence, noting that he's still cooperating with federal authorities. Stay with us. You're on the Situation Room.

[17:35:00]

We're following multiple breaking stories, including President Trump telling reporters he doesn't think white nationalism is arising threat worldwide despite today's mass shooting by white supremacist in New Zealand. Also today, we got a new sign that even though the Mueller investigation seems to be winding down the Special Counsel Robert Mueller still isn't ready to have the key cooperating witness sentenced.

CNN's Pamela Brown has been looking into this for us. She's joining us along with our political and legal experts. Mueller in this court statement he says that he's not yet ready to go ahead and sentence Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign officials, because he's providing important information to federal authorities.

PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE House CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, this was certainly an interesting development, Wolf. This is the fifth time that Robert Muller has asked to delay Gates' sentencing. So what it tells you is that Gates is still providing useful information to prosecutors and that prosecutors still want his help moving forward.

Now, whether that's Robert Mueller's office or prosecutors in New York or other prosecutors from another office, that is unclear because our reporting shows that the Robert Mueller probe is wrapping up, Wolf, and so he could be, as we know, cooperating with SDNY because he played a key role in the Trump inaugural committee and our reporting is that SDNY has been investigating the committee.

BLITZER: Because he specifically says Susan that Gates is continuing to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY, CNN: Right, so we don't know what those investigations are or whether or not they're all directly related to the Russia investigation. Yes, we won't actually know the full scope of Gates' cooperation until that sentencing, until the government lays out the extent of his assistance in that ultimate sentencing memo.

With that said just for Mueller's purposes Gates has the potential to be a really significant witness. We know that the Special Counsel was really unsatisfied with Paul Manafort. They felt like he hadn't been forthcoming with them. Gates knows a lot about what Manafort knew and so to some extent he's in a position to actually stand in Manafort's shoes and sort of tell the Special Counsel office a little bit of that story.

The other thing we saw with Michael Cohen is that after the sentencing, Gates will be able to tell his own story about what he saw and what he did, separate and apart from actually court filings. That in itself can be a pretty powerful narrative for the American public.

BLITZER: Yesterday, Gloria, the House of Representatives unanimously, 422 to zero, passed a resolution.

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: I don't know when the last time that happened.

BLITZER: I know it hasn't happened a long time, they're saying that they want the full release of the Mueller report once it's concluded. Today, the President tweeted that Mueller should have never been appointed. There shouldn't even be a Russia Mueller report. The two seemed to be so out of touch right now. The President on the one hand, the entire House of Representatives on the other.

BORGER: Well, first of all let me just say this about the President tweeting that. Did he not think that there should have been an investigation into Russian meddling in the election? Does he think that's a joke that the United States shouldn't investigate because that is what Bob Mueller is investigating?

The President believes he's just investigating him, but actually he's investigating something much larger. As for the unanimous vote in the House I thought it was kind of surprising, but I think what Republicans are saying in the House is they don't want information to be kept from the public because they're afraid that the Democrats are going to cherry-pick it. Just pick out what they think is important and that they want to be able to have the opportunity to say, "You know what, we think this part of this report is really important." And present it themselves to the American public.

So you're going to have a battle going on there, depending on how much we get, but the notion coming from the President of the United States that he's not interested in finding out what Bob Muller knows after all of these Russian indictments about Russian hacking into our election, particularly is another election is coming up in 2020, it's kind of stunning.

BLITZER: He said today in his tweet, "This was an illegal and conflicted investigation in search of a crime."

[17:40:02]

It sounds to me like he's pretty nervous maybe what Mueller has come up with.

JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST POWER UP: Yes, and the rest we do know that the American public doesn't agree with the President on this and that there is a very large appetite to see the Mueller report. But I want to go back to what Pamela said about whether or not Gates' cooperation means that the Mueller report isn't necessarily wrapping up.

And I think regardless of the timing based on the sources that I've spoken with a lot of special criminal white-collar prosecutors who have worked with Mueller in the past say that Mueller views this investigation more as an investigative exercise rather than a prosecutorial exercise. And so I am really interested to see how the SDNY investigation into the inaugural committee is developing and what Gates is actually providing.

And I think it can open up an entirely new chapter to this that isn't even connected to Russia and is instead I think shines a lot of light on White House's relationships that have been a little bit suspicious with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and foreign entities and the foreign entities that were potentially putting money into the President's inauguration committee which is illegal.

BLITZER: Can we conclude, Pamela, because Robert Mueller's report to the court today said they need at least another 60 days to determine the sentencing of Rick Gates that there's not going to be a final report at least for another 60 days.

BROWN: I don't think we can conclude that. Again, that he could be helping out prosecutors from different offices. It's not necessarily just Robert Mueller's offices and by all indications, our reporting I believe Laura Jarrett and Evan Perez reported recently that Barr could announce very soon that he has received the confidential report from Mueller. So just because he's saying he needs 60 days doesn't mean that he's not going to turn over his confidential report before then.

BLITZER: Bill Barr, the new Attorney General, do you agree?

HENNESSEY: Yes, I think that's right. So we have a sort of circumstantial evidence on both sides. There's a lot more circumstantial evidence pointing to the idea that Robert Mueller is relatively close to wrapping up here, including the departure of key individuals, not just Andrew Weissmann one of his senior prosecutors, but also the senior FBI official on the case. (Dave Archie) that's someone that sort of DOJ insiders don't believe that Mueller would allow him to leave if they were planning to take additional investigative steps.

I think the question here is what does imminently ramping up mean? Does that mean Monday? Does that mean a few weeks from now.

BLITZER: We've been hearing that.

BROWN: And I can tell you from forces they're surprised.

BLITZER: We've been hearing imminent for weeks and weeks and weeks.

BROWN: I mean people who were very much in the know say, "I thought this was going to happen a couple of weeks ago." I mean there is a bid in Washington, people are sort of scratching their heads why isn't happen yet, I thought it was going to happen before now, so ...

BLITZER: Gloria, what do you ...

BORGER: ... us in the press.

BROWN: Exactly.

BLITZER: What do you make of the President's response to the terror attack in New Zealand?

BORGER: Well, look, I think it was lacking. I think the President is saying that there's not an increase in white supremacists. That's just a small group. I mean, obviously, I was just looking at some numbers from the Anti-Defamation League which has been tracking white supremacist incidents and they say that there was 182 percent increase of those incidents from 2017 to 2018.

So how can you say, "Nah, it's just a small group of deranged people." I mean it is deranged people, but how can you sort of dismiss it like that when it's staring you right in the face?

BLITZER: How do you see it?

HENNESSEY: Look, I think that whenever the President says that he doesn't think there's a threat here. He is going against U.S. law enforcement, the intelligence community, our international allies. But let's be honest here, it's not that the President doesn't understand that there's a significant threat from resurgent white nationalism just like he doesn't actually believe that the Russians had nothing to do with interfering in the U.S. election and he doesn't believe Mohammed bin Salman knew nothing about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Once again we see the President rejecting intelligence and information and plain facts that don't suit his narrative and I think that that shows us that the President is once again afraid of alienating some element of his base with a strong condemnation of white nationalism and racism. I think that really speaks volumes about who the President thinks are his supports.

BLITZER: Because the reaction has already been intense to what the President said today about he doesn't see a rising threat of white nationalism.

ALEMANY: Yes. This is a pattern of behavior from Charlottesville to the massacre of the synagogue in Pittsburgh to today. And I can't help but view the great contrast between the New Zealand Prime Minister and President Trump. The moral clarity with which she spoke outright saying that these white supremacists, this white supremacy, this extremism does not belong here. They are not our people. They do not belong anywhere in the world.

The President has not come close to using that kind of rhetoric in his whole time as presidency, time and time again. And the administration has actually done things in order to turn a blind eye to the growing domestic terrorism going on in America. They've gotten rid of the countering violent extremism grants and there's just been a series of events that really don't add up here.

HENNESSEY: And keep in mind it's not just the President's failure to strongly condemn in the Oval Office today immediately after condemning these attacks, he referred to the Southern border as an invasion. The precise language used by the shooter in this case and the shooter in the Tree of Life.

[17:45:03]

And so even though he's been warned again and again and about the consequences of his rhetoric, he continues to use it in the exact same breadth which he is expressing condolences.

BROWN: And it's not just what we're seeing play out. We have reporting now today by Josh Campbell that the FBI has seen an uptick in domestic terror arrest. There are 900 domestic terror investigations open. It's hard to imagine the President isn't briefed up on that and as he pointed out time and time again he misses opportunities to denounce white nationalism threats and even comments made.

Remember, Steve King, those comments he acted like he was unaware of them and didn't take it as an opportunity to denounce these acts of terror. Once, again, he is not using it as an opportunity to be a moral leader and to denounce. ALEMANY: And he has no problem calling out things when it is

politically expedient for him. I mean take this conversation that the Democrats are having on Israel. He has no problem in saying, "Oh, well, Democrats hate Jews." OK. So what about your own party and your own beliefs, why can't you speak with that sort of moral force there?

BLITZER: What's the answer to this? Why is he, according to his critics, tone deaf?

BORGER: Because it is who he is. That's who he is. I mean those of us who covered him during the campaign, who have been writing and talking about him, it is who he is. He's 70 something years old, 73 or something.

BROWN: Don't you think it has to do with his base knowing who --

BORGER: Well, it does but I don't think you can say that everyone who's part of his base ...

BROWN: No. No. No.

BORGER: ... agrees that there ...

BROWN: No, but he knows ...

BORGER: ... I don't think you have to say that, but he does know what pushes people's buttons. But it's not so much as - I agree with you, it may be political. He's afraid of alienating people.

BROWN: Let's be clear, it's not his whole, but it's a small fraction.

BORGER: It is but I also think it's about Donald Trump. It's about Donald Trump equivocating good people on both sides, not wanting to take a stand against white supremacy for whatever reason. I remember during the campaign there was questions about David Duke, maybe it was Jake who was asking him and at some point he said, "Who is that?" He know who it was.

So I just think this is Donald Trump, maybe it's uninformed, maybe it's political, but why are we surprised by it?

ALEMANY: Yes, I just want to say though, because I do think this is really important. Regardless of what he believes, the President needs to understand that when this kind of rhetoric enters the mainstream it metastasizes.

BLITZER: Everybody hold your thought because there's a lot more we're covering right now, including other important news, North Korea now threatening to suspend negotiations over Kim Jong-Un's nuclear weapons and resumed missile testing and they're blaming the United States.

[17:50:00]

A top North Korean official just hinted that Kim Jong-Un's negotiations may stop - negotiators may stop talking with United States about the Dictator's nuclear weapons program. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, CNN(off-camera): President Trump's top two North Korea advisors pushing back today saying the regime is wrong. They are not sabotaging nuclear talks with Pyongyang. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responding to comments from Kim Jong-Un's Deputy Foreign Minister suggesting weapons testing could now resume after the failed Hanoi summit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I can say only this, in Hanoi on multiple occasions he spoke directly to the President and made a commitment that he would not resume nuclear testing nor he resume missile testing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: North Korea also today appeared to threaten to walk away from denuclearization talks, when the deputy foreign minister told reporters that the American delegation at the failed Hanoi's summit was too demanding and inflexible, claiming the U.S. team were too busy with pursuing their own political interests and had no sincere intention to achieve a result.

National Security Advisor John Bolton rejecting the North Korean claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think that's inaccurate but the President is our decision maker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Military intelligence analysts say despite commercial satellite imagery showing some reconstruction activity at a satellite, launch facility for now there are no imminent signs of launches or testing. North Korea may simply be continuing to try to divide U.S. negotiators and pressure President Trump to loosen some sanctions, a proposal Kim pressed for and Trump rejected in Hanoi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: One indicator North Korea still wants a deal, the North Korean say the chemistry between Kim and Trump is "mysteriously wonderful" according to The New York Times. But some caution the President has weakened his own ability to keep up with so called maximum pressure on Kim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The reality is it's going to be impossible to return the maximum pressure because President Trump has legitimized Kim Jong-Un on the world stage. He's basically given him the American seal of approval and as a result of that, China and Russia have ramp down sanctions enforcements.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And tonight, Wolf, many North Korea watchers believe indeed it will be much tougher in the coming weeks and months for President Trump to go back to that maximum pressure campaign if he had to, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, good report. Thanks very much Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Coming up, we're standing by for details from the suspect's court appearance after 49 people were killed in a terror attack.

[17:55:06]

Happening Now breaking new, terror in New Zealand. The man suspected of killing 49 people during services at two mosque is now in court as new details emerge about the crime that shocked the world. Tonight, new information about the accused gunman and his extremist views.

Not a problem. President Trump, asked about the suspect's supremacist beliefs, denies that white nationalism is a rising threat around the world, blaming instead -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a small group of people."

[18:00:10]