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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) Texas; Forty-Nine People Killed In New Zealand Mass Shooting; Trump Issues First Veto; Flynn Finishes Cooperating With Special Counsel, His Information Still Part Of Other Investigations, White House And Democrats Battle Over John Kelly, Ex-officials In Trump Probes, Mueller Team: Rick Gates Still Cooperating In Several Ongoing Investigations And Isn't Ready For Sentencing; Trump Says White Nationalism Is Not A Rising Threat After A White Nationalist Kills 49 In Mosque Attacks; NYT: New Evidence In Ethiopian Crash Points At Connection To Earlier Jet Disaster. Aired on 6-7p ET
Aired March 15, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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."
Why did the suspect reference Mr. Trump in his hate-filled manifesto?
Still cooperating. Special Counsel Robert Mueller asks for Rick Gates' sentencing to be postponed again, saying the former Manafort partner is still cooperating and helping several ongoing investigations. What does it reveal about the Russia probe?
And veto. President Trump makes good on his promise and rejects the bipartisan resolution blocking his national emergency declaration, issuing the first veto of his presidency. Now it appears the courts will decide if the president went too far.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the man suspected of gunning down 49 people inside two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, is in court right now.
We're learning about him tonight, including chilling details of his extremist views, the planning for the attack, and why he chose New Zealand as the target.
Also, President Trump has issued the first veto of his presidency, rejecting the bipartisan resolution blocking his declaration of a national emergency to get money for his border wall. The president was asked about the New Zealand attack and said he does not think white nationalism is a rising threat. I will talk about the breaking news and more with Congresswoman
Joaquin Castro of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. And our correspondents, analysts and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's get the very latest on the breaking news.
Our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is working the story for us.
Clarissa, New Zealand's prime minister spoke just a little while ago, revealing that the killer used five guns, and vowing the country's gun laws will now change.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
She also gave a little bit more of a picture of this suspect, saying he is Australian. He does not live in New Zealand. But he has spent time there and he has traveled all over the world.
But right now, Wolf, investigators are trying to focus on how exactly this attack was planned and whether anyone else possibly could have been involved.
WARD (voice-over): Investigators now say the brutal terror attacks at two mosques appear to have been planned for years; 49 people lay dead, as New Zealand's prime minister revealed the killer used multiple legally obtained weapons in his attack.
JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER, NEW ZEALAND: There five guns used by the primary perpetrator. They were two semiautomatic weapons and two shotguns. I can tell you one thing right now. Our gun laws will change.
WARD: The suspected terrorist is a 28-year-old white Australian man. He posted a manifesto online under the name of Brenton Tarrant. He allegedly entered the Masjid Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch around 1:40 p.m. Friday, just as prayers began.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hearing the shooting, the shooting, the shooting. It went on about six minutes or more.
WARD: The killer used a body camera to live-stream video to Facebook as he fired and reloaded, those in his sights trying to escape and protect each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First time, I went, but one guy was sitting out just beside a wall. And what he did was, he told me, no, no. And then I went back again where I was. And next thing, the guy came and shoot this guy who told me not to get out.
WARD: Forty-one victims are now confirmed dead at the first mosque. At a second mosque, seven more people were gunned down during services and one other died at the hospital. The dual atrocities have shocked New Zealand, which prides itself on
YASMIN ALI, RESIDENT OF CHRISTCHURCH: We're such a small community. We're so kind and loving, so I just don't understand why someone would hurt us like this, in such a way just like an animal.
WARD: The gunman is now in custody and charged with murder, while two others have been arrested on suspicion of possessing firearms.
ARDERN: None of those apprehended had a criminal history either here or in Australia.
WARD: In addition to live-streaming his massacre on social media, the accused killer left behind an 87-page manifesto online. In it, he says he chose Christchurch to show that nowhere in the world is safe, adding many anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and pro-white supremacist sentiments.
He also made clear the attacks were designed well in advance.
WARD: Now, CNN has not been able to confirm the name of the suspected terrorist yet.
New Zealand police also have not positively IDed him, but we expect to learn more any moment when he appears in court. That court appearance will not be open to the public. But I think, Wolf, it'll be very interesting to see, or at least to learn afterwards, how he addresses the courtroom, whether he uses this appearance as another opportunity to continue to spread his vile and hateful views -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we will find out very soon. Clarissa Ward, reporting for us, thank you.
Let's get some more on that so-called manifesto that the suspect put out online.
Our Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin, is working that part of the story for us.
Drew, this is a very, very disturbing document.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I would call it bizarre.
And, as Clarissa said, it outlines how he has been planning this attack for years, specifically plotting his targets for months, and in a sense tries to justify his own evil act, which he labels, Wolf, as terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GRIFFIN (voice-over): It's titled "The Great Replacement," 87 pages, more than 16,000 words, not rambling, but a spell-checked, referenced dissertation on a hate-filled view of immigrants, immigration and Muslims.
Unsigned, it is the killer's explanation for why he did this.
ARDERN: 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.
GRIFFIN: The manifesto was posted online by this man under the name Brenton Tarrant. CNN has not yet confirmed this is his real name.
But there is no doubt the 28-year-old under arrest is a white supremacist who believed his own white European race is being wiped out by immigration, labeling it white genocide. It is also the universal rallying cry of hate-filled white supremacists across the world.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, the neo-Nazi cry was:
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us!
GRIFFIN: In Warsaw, Poland, in 2017, some marches in an Independence Day demonstration carried banners that read, "White Europe" and "Clean Blood."
In 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a white teenager named Dylann Roof murdered nine African-Americans in a church. The white supremacist reportedly said, "You all are raping our white women, you all are taking over the world," as he gunned down unarmed parishioners."
The rhetoric is old. But new technology has allowed these messages of hate to be spread in real time across the globe. The New Zealand killer streamed parts of his attack live on Facebook. The video spread to YouTube, Twitter, news sites, before police pleaded for it to stop.
MIKE BUSH, NEW ZEALAND POLICE COMMISSIONER: I have seen social media footage. It's very disturbing. That shouldn't be in the public domain. And we're doing everything we can to remove it.
GRIFFIN: But hours after the attack, copies of the gruesome video still continued to appear, shared by social media users. While police will not discuss motive, the suspect refers to Dylann Roof and writes, he was inspired by white supremacist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway eight years ago.
He does try to explain his own breaking point came in 2017, the French presidential election of what he describes as an anti-white ex-banker and the terror-related death of an 11-year-old Swedish girl run down by a Muslim terrorist in a stolen truck in Stockholm, a crime he writes he could no longer ignore.
GRIFFIN: And, Wolf, in the 87 pages, there is one reference to Donald Trump.
This is what the person says. "Are you a supporter?" he asks. "As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose," he answers, "Sure," then adds, "Though not as a leader" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Drew Griffin reporting for us, thank you.
The New Zealand massacre is prompting increased security here in the United States.
Our Justice Correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has the latest on that part of the story.
Major cities, I take it, Jessica, across the United States, they have significantly stepped up security around mosques?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right.
Officials in major cities all across the country, they were very quick to react to this attack. And, tonight, we're seeing increased security and armed officers outside mosques in major cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, right here in Washington, D.C.
The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, she put out a statement saying that there is no credible threat right here in the U.S., nor is there any information about ties between the perpetrators in New Zealand, anyone here in the U.S.
But, still, despite that, she's encouraging Muslim American communities to contact their law enforcement if they have any concerns. Now, as for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, he has called these -- this attack horrifying in a series of tweets.
And here's what he said in a radio interview to offer some comfort to those Muslim American communities.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We are immediately -- NYPD is reinforcing Muslim community centers and mosques. So you will see a lot of NYPD presence. Of course, folks will be going to pray today. We want them to be supported.
I'm reaching out later today to Muslim community leaders to let them know that we will have their back, we will support them. And people are going through a lot of pain and a lot of fear right now. And we have to be there with them. And it is about sending a message that hate will not be tolerated in New York City and that we truly embrace our Muslim community, and we will stand up against Islamophobia in all its forms. (END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So Mayor de Blasio saying, in his view, intolerance is spreading all across the country, all across the world, Wolf. He's urging people there to stand up against it.
BLITZER: And the FBI is saying they're ready to assist New Zealand in dealing with this attack?
SCHNEIDER: They are. And they talk about the fact that they have agents in that region, actually in Canberra, Australia, the capital.
And they -- it is important to note, though, that the FBI usually becomes involved in a criminal investigation on foreign soil that doesn't involve Americans only at the invitation of that country. So we will wait and see how this investigation progresses.
The FBI has also issued a statement where they said in part: "The attacks in New Zealand serve as a reminder of the need for all of us to be vigilant."
And to that end, the number of terrorism arrests at the end of 2018, the last few months of that year, both international terrorism and domestic terrorism, it actually did show a slight uptick from other months that we have seen, in fact, 25 arrests of domestic terrorism suspects in the final few months of 2018.
So, really, this steady pace of domestic terrorism arrests, it is a focus for the FBI, but, you know, really, Wolf, prosecutors here, their hands are tied when it comes to domestic terrorism, because there isn't a domestic terrorism statute, per se. A lot of these prosecutors, they have to rely on other charges, like weapons charges or drug charges. They can't charge with domestic terrorism.
There's no such law.
BLITZER: Well, maybe that should change. We will see if it does.
SCHNEIDER: People have urged for it.
BLITZER: Jessica Schneider, thanks very much for that report.
President Trump spoke to the New Zealand's prime minister today and was asked about the attack as he issued his first veto of his presidency.
Our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining now.
Jim, the president made good on his promise.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The president did use 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 was facing other tough questions this afternoon on the terror attack in New Zealand, specifically whether the president's immigration rhetoric is somehow emboldening right-wing extremism.
The president said he didn't believe that white nationalism is a rising threat, despite signs all around the world that it is indeed a growing danger.
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 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), CONNECTICUT: 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.
ACOSTA: The president said he hadn't read the New Zealand killer's manifesto, so Mr. Trump declined to weigh in on that.
But as for the president's claim that white nationalism is not a rising threat, he may want to consider recent FBI figures and other studies showing right-wing extremism is a growing concern, from the neo-Nazi violence on the streets of Charlottesville, to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting from last year, and now the mosque attack in New Zealand.
It is a threat that can't be denied, Wolf, unless you're denying reality -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you, Jim Acosta at the White House.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, is joining us.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Let me start with the horrific attack on the Muslim community. President Trump says he doesn't see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world. How do you respond to the president?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, first that it's a horrible tragedy, the shooting in New Zealand.
And it represents what happens when you have a climate of fear and intolerance. And, in this case, you had the shooter himself who said that he had listened to Donald Trump's rhetoric.
And the president, as you all mentioned, has shown intolerance, tried to pass a -- of trying to put forward a Muslim travel ban, talking about both sides being good people in Charlottesville.
And there is a cost to that. And the cost is what we see, part of what we see today, that there are people out there who are unstable that will be inspired by that and then take action and, in this case, shoot people and kill people.
BLITZER: The president today described undocumented immigration once again -- he's done it before -- as an invasion. He said that people are coming into the United States, illegal immigrants, in droves, he says.
What's the impact of that type of rhetoric coming from the Oval Office?
CASTRO: Well, what it does is, it creates an otherness towards people, in this case immigrants, brown immigrants.
And it uses them -- really, he's using them for fear-mongering purposes, scapegoating purposes, to build his political career. That's what he's done since the first day he announced for office.
And people pay a price for that. We have seen videos of people being berated because they're speaking Spanish, of young Hispanic boys and girls at volleyball games or basketball games being called wetback and other slurs just because of who they are.
So there is a price for the president's rhetoric. And I think this country -- many people in this country continue to pay that price.
BLITZER: Security, understandably, has been increased at mosques around the country today.
What's your message to Muslim Americans who feel scared right now?
CASTRO: That we're with you, that our hearts are with you, that we stand with you together, that I believe that this is a nation that is compassionate, that loves the fact that we are a nation made up of people from different places and different religions and different backgrounds.
Unfortunately, right now, in the White House, we don't have a leader that sees it that way. But I think that -- I think that that will change soon.
BLITZER: When you say you think it will change, how's it going to change?
CASTRO: I think that we will change that in the next election.
BLITZER: All right. I thought maybe you had something else in mind before the election.
Is the United States devoting enough resources, Congressman, to the threat from white supremacists?
CASTRO: We're not, actually.
And one of the things in the Intelligence Committee that many of us have committed to take on is domestic terrorism and right-wing terrorism, including white supremacist terrorism.
I don't think that the Congress is doing enough right now. And I don't think that the administration is doing enough right now. And, Wolf, there's no debating. If you look at the numbers in different cities across the country, the number of anti-Muslim, anti-Latino, anti-black, anti-Semitic incidents has risen in the last few years.
So, this is not the figment of somebody's imagination. The numbers speak for themselves. And we should do more.
BLITZER: How do you explain that increase?
CASTRO: Well, I think part of the explanation is, as I said, you have a leader in the United States, a president, the person that holds the highest office, that is setting a climate of fear and intolerance.
And he has built a political brand on that intolerance. And there is a cost that all of us pay for that. And you see communities across the country paying that very high cost, some people, I think, with their lives.
BLITZER: While I have you, let's turn to some other news.
Your committees, the House Intelligence Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, one other committee, they had set today as a deadline for the White House and the State Department, for that matter, to provide details on President Trump's meetings with Vladimir Putin.
So far, you haven't gotten any response, I understand, at all. What can you tell us about your next steps on this?
CASTRO: Well, of course, our chairman, Adam Schiff, and the other -- the chairs of the other committees will take the lead on it.
But we will continue to press the White House. And I believe, if necessary, we will ultimately take legal action to get the documents that we're entitled to see.
BLITZER: Yesterday, you and 419 of your fellow members of the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans, voted unanimously for the Mueller report to be released to the public once it's concluded.
But, earlier today, the president tweeted -- and I'm quoting him now -- "There should be no Mueller report."
Are you concerned that this public pressure might influence the new attorney general?
CASTRO: That's absolutely a concern.
And the president should know that the Mueller report is a report that is owed most of all not just to Congress, but, more than that, to the American people. So we're going to do everything possible to make sure that the Mueller report is transparent, and that it's open to the public, so that any American can read it for themselves.
And I was very encouraged to see that I believe that was a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives that the report should be made public. So that was a very strong signal to the White House that this report will be put out to the public.
All right, thanks so much, Congressman Joaquin Castro. We will see what happens. Appreciate your joining us.
CASTRO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the Mueller investigation shows signs of winding down, but the special counsel is not ready to have former Manafort Deputy, Rick Gates sentenced, saying he's still cooperating.
BLITZER: A new court filing by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is raising new questions tonight, after revealing that former Trump campaign aid Rick Gates is continuing to provide information in -- quote -- "several ongoing investigations."
Our Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is here. CNN's Kara Scannell is with us. They both have a lot more information.
So, what did we learn, Shimon, today?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's as simple as that, Wolf, that there are several ongoing investigations that Rick Gates is continuing to cooperate on.
It doesn't tell us what those investigations are, who's being investigated, where those investigations are ongoing, but it's significant in the sense that there are still parts of this investigation, of the Mueller investigation perhaps, that have been extended out to other prosecutors, other U.S. attorney's offices, like the Southern District of New York, where he is still cooperating, still providing information. And the whole point of why they're not ready to sentence, I think, is
really important here, is because they just are not ready to tell the public what these cases are about. They're not ready to bring charges. So they're asking for another 60 days. They could extend it again, or they could -- we could see in 30 days that they could be ready to do this, because they have already charged some cases.
BLITZER: Yes, they have been extending it and extending it time after time.
PROKUPECZ: He's clearly providing a lot of information on several different cases.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, he worked -- was a partner with Paul Manafort, worked on the Trump campaign, was the vice chairman, beyond working with Paul -- but then he stayed through the transition long after Paul Manafort was removed.
Talk to us about these other investigations, Kara, that he may be assisting federal authorities on.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, as you were just saying, Rick Gates, we have to remember who he is.
He was a member of the campaign. He was involved in the transition and he was a senior official in the presidential inaugural committee. So Rick Gates knows a lot of information over a big period of time that we know prosecutors are interested in.
And we have reported previously that the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan -- that's the Southern District of New York -- is investigating the president's inaugural committee. So Rick Gates, as part of his plea agreement, has to cooperate with any investigation.
So it stands to reason that he would be someone that they would want to talk to. And that could be one of these investigations here that we know is ongoing.
BLITZER: What did we learn about the president's a former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn today, in contrast to Rick Gates?
PROKUPECZ: So, I think what we saw there was a filing there as well that they're asking -- they're done. The special counsel's office has made it very clear.
BLITZER: With Michael Flynn.
PROKUPECZ: With Michael Flynn.
They have made it very clear that they're done with him. He has one thing that's still going on, which is a case out of Virginia with his former business associate. The difference is that it seems that Rick Gates is -- his cooperation is much more extensive and involves many more jurisdictions.
We don't know, obviously, how many, but there -- it's extended beyond obviously Washington, D.C. There could be cases here in D.C. There could be other cases in the Southern District of New York. That's what they have made very clear.
Michael Flynn, it appears, really is -- was providing information or is still providing information on this one case. But the special counsel's office has said, we're done with him.
They haven't, though, done that in the Rick Gates situation. They have just said, there are several ongoing investigations, and that's why we're not ready to have him sentenced.
It's also interesting that they put the names of those Special Counsel's office, the prosecutor from there. And one of them is Andrew Weissmann on this court document. He is leaving in just a matter of weeks. But they are doing that strategically because revealing other prosecutors on this court filing will tell us where these other investigation are going, whether ongoing, and they don't want to do that.
BLITZER: Keep looking for clues. We find some clues, but there's still a lot we don't know, guys. Thank you very, very much, Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell.
The breaking news continues next, the administration misses the deadline to provide three house committees with details of President Trump's meetings with Vladimir Putin. Is the Trump team stonewalling?
[18:35:21] BLITZER: Tonight, a battle is heating up between the White House and House Democrats over the lawmakers' multiple investigations of President Trump. Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts.
And, Kaitlan Collins, you have been staying on top of the White House's efforts to push back on these investigations. The House Oversight Committee really wants to question John Kelly, the former White House Chief of Staff. How is that going?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They want to question a lot of White House officials because they feel that they're central to these investigations that they're conducting. John Kelly is at the center of one of these disputes, because the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, wants to talk to John Kelly about how the White House has handled the security clearances, in particular Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law who we recently reported the President asked officials to grant him a security clearance unilaterally.
Now, the problem here is that the White House is trying to make this difficult for these Democrats who are eager to investigate the President. The Democrats have reached out to John Kelly directly multiple times, and that is something that the White House is not okay with. They say that these Democrats should be going through them first to then get permission to talk to these officials, even if they're people like John Kelly who no longer work in the White House.
Now, when the White House Legal Counsel, Pat Cipollone, found out the Oversight Committee had reached out to John Kelly directly, he sent them a pretty stinging rebuke in this letter saying, I have told you, you need to go through me. But, really, what this is, it shows the backdrop of just how ugly the Democrats trying to investigate the President is truly going to be over the next several months and years.
BLITZER: On top of this, Phil, three committees, the House Oversight Committee, Intelligence Committee, Foreign Affair Committee. They had set today as a deadline for the White House to respond with information, the State Department for that matter as well, about the President's meetings with Vladimir Putin. They got nothing so far. What message does that send?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Well, they're going to get nothing. The prospect to the White House is going to release documents about secret conversations when there's only one other person in the room between the President Putin, that's about --
BLITZER: That's the interpreter?
MUDD: Yes. There's nothing going to happen there. I think the interesting message, what Kaitlan was talking about, is backdrop here. We're going in with now, obviously, Democratic Congress a year-and-a- half before election. Every time the White House moves, whether it's on security clearances or Russia, they're going to get some questions from the Congress. And those questions are going to be tough, not only for the White House but for any nominee who shows up before a committee.
The other thing I'd say is, here is a twist, Robert Mueller is going to show up and he's going to lay something on the table, not only in terms of a document, but I'd bet a paycheck that he testifies. He's going to lay a lot of investigative material out there. And then these committees are going to say, in every person he talked about, we want to talk to them too. This is not going to end.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect it's only just beginning. Laura, very significantly, the President today -- he is not letting up at all in his denunciation of the entire Mueller investigation, the Mueller report that's expected at some point fairly soon. He tweeted today, the Special Counsel should never have been appointed. There should be no Mueller report. This was an illegal and conflicted investigation in search of a crime.
That's a message in contrast to what the House of Representatives unanimously voted yesterday, 420 to 0, that the Mueller report should be made public. But I suspect the President is trying to send a message to the new Attorney General.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: I'm sure he is. But the American people are not with him on this. They overwhelmingly want to know what Robert Mueller has found. Now, whether the Attorney General agrees with that and how much he reveals, if anything, to Congress and, by extension, the public, remains to be seen.
But what I continue to find fascinating, Wolf, is that he is priming the pump as if the Mueller report is going to be bad. Why does he assume it's going to be bad? What if it clears him? Why is he weighing in already, saying there should be no report? I understand he thinks that there shouldn't be any Mueller in the first place. But why not leave open the possibility that this is going to work out just fine for you?
BLITZER: Well, maybe he is worries and it's not going to work out just fine for him. The Mueller team, in this report to the U.S. District Court record here in Washington said they still need at least another 60 days before they go ahead and sentence Rick Gates, the former trump campaign official, a former partner of Paul Manafort. He's cooperating, they say, still cooperating in several ongoing investigations. Shawn, what does that say to you?
SHAWN TURNER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATION FOR U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Yes. Well, you know, this is the key because there's been a lot of talk about whether or not the Mueller report was coming to an end here. And when you find out that Gates is still cooperating, that tells us that despite the fact that some people are starting to leave the investigation, it tells us that there's still a lot to be uncovered here.
Now, one of the things I think is really interesting about this is that this isn't about just the Mueller investigation. They talked about several different investigations that he might be cooperating on.
And what that tells me is that, just like with Paul Manafort, with some other people here, every time Mueller finds something, some indication of some crime, some rabbit hole that's worth going down in the conduct of his primary investigation, then he is looking at that or referring that information to the appropriate authorities to take a look at.
And, clearly, he's finding a lot.
BLITZER: Yes. I'm anxious to get your reaction, Phil, to something the President told Breitbart in an interview. I'll put it up on the screen, quote, 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. How do you interpret that?
MUDD: You know, we used that politics in this country that said if you are a Republican or Democrat, you might have a difference of opinion about national security spending, about infrastructure spending. Now, if it's -- you're a Jew, you're a Republican, all right. If you are a biker, you're a Republican. If you are a black after Charlottesville, maybe you are Democrat.
The problem with what the President is doing is he is starting to say that politics in this country identifies who you are racially, who you are in terms of religion. And if you don't like the other people, as he said about Democrats, they are evil. You are creating a situation in this country where the opposition is evil. And that, in my experience overseas, eventually in democracies leads to violence.
BLITZER: Kaitlan, that's a pretty disturbing quote from the President of the United States.
COLLINS: Well, the President is saying this. And he was getting a lot of criticism about this today. And aides behind the scenes were pushing back on this saying, that's just the way the President talks. That's often something you hear when the President makes a remark like this. But I don't think what the President said is surprising, because he said it publically in front of cameras, at rallies and events like that. And I think that's what the White House is trying to deal with.
But aides don't really know how to respond to this. They don't know how to spin this or anything like that. So they hope that this is one of those comments because the President says so many things that they can just kind of let go by with the news cycle.
BLITZER: As it comes on the heels, Shawn, of the President's former lawyer Michael Cohen telling Congress the other day that if the President loses his bid for re-election, there might not be a peaceful transfer of power.
TURNER: And the President is feeding that. Let's make no mistake about it. This was a threat, a not so veiled threat that the President made here. What the President is doing is he understands all you need to do is say something like this and people act on it. I spent 21 years in the Marine Corps.
And I throw out my career. I worked lot with law enforcement. And I can tell you unequivocally that when people in the military hear this, when people in law enforcement hear this, this put some back on their heels, because this is not the way that our law enforcement or military behave.
Now, I think that, fortunately, for all of us, when they hear this, what their reflection of society, and I think that they're going to say, look, I know the President likes to say these kind of things, but we are not ever going to support the President through violence or through what he said would be very bad action.
BLITZER: Important point, all right. Everybody stand by. There's a lot more we need to discuss, and we'll do that right after this.
[18:47:29] BLITZER: Breaking news this hour, new details emerging about the suspect in the shooting deaths of 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 28-year-old Australian man just made his first court appearance. He was charged with murder.
Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and analysts.
And I want to play a clip, Laura. This is the exchange the president had in the Oval Office with a reporter on the increase of white supremacy, white nationalism and the fear of more terrorism. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you see today white nationalism is a rising threat around the world?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 a case. I don't know enough about it yet. They're just learning about the person and the people involved. It's certainly a terrible thing. Terrible thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, he doesn't see white supremacy necessarily as a broader, growing threat. Does that line up with what you're seeing, the statistics from the FBI, for example?
JARRETT: Sadly, no. According to the FBI, there has been an uptick in hate crimes, I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 percent from 2016 to 2017. Now, not all of those are white nationalist hate crimes, but there has been an uptick in anti-Semitic crimes. And there's also been an uptick according to the FBI --
BLITZER: See the numbers there. Yes.
JARRETT: Exactly. And according to the FBI, there's also been an uptick in domestic terrorism. And those are hard cases to track, but we know of at least 900 open cases at the FBI. So, there's clearly a problem here. The question is, why doesn't the president want to recognize it on a day when 49 people are dead?
BLITZER: You know, Shawn, the white nationalism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, hatred of immigrants, Islamophobia, fuelled all sorts of attacks, 49 people killed at two mosques in New Zealand.
Look at this. Mass shootings at houses of worship in the past 10 years.
August 5, 2012, six killed in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In June 2015, nine killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. November 2017, 26 killed at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Spring, Texas. October of last year, 11 killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
These are so disturbing, these developments, these white supremacists killing all these wonderful people. SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, it's clear,
indisputable evidence that hate crimes are on the rise. And I think what the president has to realize is the president's words tell you, they tell me, they tell the American people and they tell law enforcement what his priorities are.
[18:50:01] So, when all the data tells us that hate crimes are on the rise and that these people are acting out in ways that are atrocious, what he is telling law enforcement is that I don't believe it. When he tells law enforcement that he doesn't believe it, that has an affect on their ability to protect us.
And what I would hope in this case is that law enforcement leaders would speak out and they would say while the president doesn't see hate crimes as a priority, that the law enforcement community does. The law enforcement community is going to do everything they can to bring these numbers down.
BLITZER: What do you think?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I -- let me be blunt. The story is simpler. And that is -- this would never happen.
But I would suggest one could go to the Bush Library and to the Obama team and say, how often on a weekly basis was President Bush and President Obama briefed on issues related to terrorism, including having the FBI director at the table talking about white supremism (ph). And both of them, Bush and Bush, had frequent face to face meetings with the entire team including both the CIA and FBI.
The White House will never say this. Nobody but my friends around having a beer would say this. But I guarantee you, that if you compare Bush and Obama versus the number of times President Trump has talked to his team about terrorism, it's night and day. He just doesn't know. That's the bottom line. He doesn't know what's going on in the country.
COLLINS: The president actually said there that he didn't know a lot about the details about the shooter here. That's what he said after he was asked about the reporter if he thinks this was a threat.
But it's interesting that right before the president spoke with those reporters, he had just gotten off the phone with the prime minister of New Zealand. So, presumably, he did speak to the leader of New Zealand where this attack happened about these details. So it's interesting if he did not discuss what was going on because he was offering the U.S.'s assistance in all of this during that call with the world leader after a major terrorist attack.
BLITZER: What's so sad is, all of a sudden, Muslim Americans want to go pray in a mosque, they get a little nervous. What's going to happen?
They see increased security outside Jewish Americans. After the Tree of Life synagogue, they get nervous. They go to synagogue, they see increased security outside of synagogues. African-American churches, all of a sudden, people go there, families
to church, they get a little bit nervous. It's so sad to see the impact of this kind of terrorism.
JARRETT: It is. It's a national security threat. I think that's part of the issue here. It's not being treated by the commander in chief as a threat to national security.
There are people who are dying and it's being sort of dismissed and you have to wonder if part of the reason it's being dismissed because there is so much talk this morning especially about the gunman's manifesto, how he referenced the president. And every time this happens, you see the White House trying to distance themselves from any connection from the president to the assailant.
COLLINS: And you can't ignore that the president when he's making those comments is signing a veto opposing a measure that would reject his emergency declaration on something he thinks is a national security threat, which is the southern border. So, that is something that's obviously important to the president.
BLITZER: Guys, stick around. There's more news we're following, more breaking news.
Some major new developments in the investigation into the latest crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8. Tonight, a new report says there's evidence linking it to a similar crash five months ago.
[18:57:46] BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. "The New York Times" is reporting tonight that there's new evidence connecting the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 in Ethiopia to a similar crash last October.
CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us from Paris right now. That's where the plane's voice and data recorders are being analyzed.
Oren, "The New York Times" says there's new information from two sources with knowledge of the recovery operations. What are you learning?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the piece of equipment we're talking about here is it's called a jack screw. And what it does is sets the position of a horizontal stabilizer on the tail of an airplane. "The New York Times" is reporting that the jack screw was found at the crash scene such that it will put a stabilizer in a position to force a nose down attitude of the airplane.
That would do two things. First, it would force an airplane to go very fast, and second, it would cause an airplane to dive. In the minutes right after takeoff, that would be both very unusual and very dangerous.
The question then, what put the stabilizer in that position? It could be pilot input. It could be the auto pilot. Or it could be what's known as the MCAS system, an automated system on
the 737 MAX series intended to help the pilot avoid an intentional low speed stall. It is this MCAS system that's a focus of the investigation in the Lion Air crash from back in October perhaps because of a faulty sensor reading.
The question now, is it that same MCAS system that caused this problem in this Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash? The answer there depends on the black boxes. The flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder to figure out what caused the stabilizer to be in that position.
Those black boxes are at the BEA, French aviation investigators. Wolf, if all goes well, and that's a big "if" at this moment, if those recorders are in good condition, it could take until Saturday night, Sunday to unpack the raw data and then it needs to be analyzed to figure out what went wrong here and what caused this crash.
BLITZER: And as you know, dozens of countries around the world have grounded this Boeing plane. How long could the grounding last?
LIEBERMANN: If it's a quick fix, if it was simply an auto pilot or pilot error, it could be a quick fix. If this requires software upgrade, recertification of that software, it could be much longer, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly could be.
Oren Liebermann in Paris for us, thanks very much.
And to our viewers, thanks for watching. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.