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House Panel Authorizes Subpoena for Mueller Report as Trump Backs away from Calls for Public Release; Trump Flip-Flops on Health Care and Lies about His Father; Interview with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D), House Majority Leader, on Mueller Report; Chinese Woman Breached Security at Mar-a-Lago. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 3, 2019 - 17:00   ET



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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Issuing subpoenas: House Democrats flex their muscles as the Judiciary Committee gets a subpoena for the full Mueller report and the Oversight Committee plans one to get President Trump's financial records.

Personal space: after multiple women say he made them feel uncomfortable, former vice president Joe Biden goes on camera to say he'll be more mindful about respecting personal space.

Is that a signal that Biden may jump into the 2020 race?

Flip and flop: President Trump zigs and zags and zigs again on health care, immigration, peppering his explanations with a series of misstatements, false claims and outright lies.

Why would he even lie about his father's birthplace?

And "Full House" to big house?

Two celebrity actresses appear in court in the scandal of parents accused of cheating and bribery to get their children into elite colleges.

Could they face serious prison time?

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

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

BLITZER: Breaking news: House Democrats have new weapons in their showdown with the Trump administration, a growing arsenal of subpoenas. The Judiciary Committee along party lines has authorized the use of a subpoena to pressure the Justice Department to turn over the full, unredacted Mueller report along with all the underlying evidence.

Also approved, subpoenas for five former White House officials, who Democrats say are instrumental in investigating possible abuses. And a day after issuing a subpoena in a probe of White House security clearances, the House Oversight Committee chairman says he'll send one to the president's former accounting firm, which he says has agreed to turn over financial documents.

I'll speak with Congressman Steny Hoyer and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories. Let's begin with Manu Raju.

Democrats are showing off their power ahead of a likely clash with the Trump administration.

What is the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jerry Nadler is now armed with a subpoena as he demands the Mueller report to be provided fully to the House Judiciary Committee and the underlying evidence. He is saying he will not accept any redactions. This after attorney general Bill Barr said that several areas of redactions would be forthcoming, including grand jury information and any names of individuals who are not indicted.

This is not sufficient to Democrats who say they are prepared to issue that subpoena if they are not -- don't get compliance with the Justice Department. Now just earlier today, Wolf, I had a chance to talk to both Jerry Nadler and the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who are coming at this from opposite sides.

Jerry Nadler says he will not negotiate with the Justice Department and Lindsey Graham says he does not want to see the unredacted report. He said he'll trust Bill Barr.


RAJU: Are you willing to negotiate any middle ground in terms of redactions of the Mueller report?


RAJU: You're not?

NADLER: No. The committee must see everything, as was done in every prior instance. The committee is entitled and must see all the material and make judgments as to what can be redacted for the public release by ourselves. We're not willing to let the attorney general, who, after all, is a

political appointee of the president, make that -- substitute his judgment ours.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.), MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I want the -- Barr to come before the committee May 1st and present the report minus grand jury information, minus classified information. I don't need to look at a million documents. Just tell us about the report.

RAJU: Unredacted. You don't want to see the unredacted report?



RAJU: It's still unclear exactly what the Justice Department will do. They are declining to comment. What Nadler told me is he is prepared to go to court to demand the grand jury information, people who testified before the Mueller grand jury.

They say they have precedent on their side. They cite past cases like Watergate, the Ken Starr investigation, which the House Judiciary Committee did get information like that.

I said, are you willing to go to court to get that information if you don't get support from the Justice Department?

Nadler said, absolutely. So they're gearing up for a protracted court fight about getting this information; still unclear what the Justice Department decides to do -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll find out soon enough. The House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings today said he plans to --


BLITZER: -- continue going after the president's finances, his personal finances, his business finances.

What have you learned on that front?

RAJU: Yes, Elijah Cummings told me today that he plans to issue a subpoena to firm Mazars USA, that is a firm that this committee had sent a letter to, asking for 10 years of financial statements from the president, between 2011 through 2013.

And this first came up during Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee. In that testimony Michael Cohen alleged that the president inflated his assets and mischaracterized his debt to try to put forward an offer to purchase the Buffalo Bills football team.

But the -- Cummings has asked his firm, well, whether or not the president misstated his assets and debts on number of issues, including whether he omitted real estate assets as well. Now what Cummings told me is that this firm has said they will provide

this information if they do get a subpoena and what Cummings is calling a friendly subpoena. So they plan to issue a subpoena in a matter of days and they expect compliance. We'll see what they learn.

BLITZER: I do remember when then citizen Trump was trying to buy the Buffalo Bills. Manu, thank you very much for that report.

President Trump meanwhile has been on a whirlwind of flips and flops as he changes his story on various issues, including health care and immigration, sprinkling his explanations with plenty of false claims. Let's go to our White House correspondent, Abby Phillip.

Abby, what's the latest?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Trump appears to be making a hard pivot to the policy issues that he believes will dominate the 2020 presidential election.

But the problem is there have been several days of head-spinning shifts in his rhetoric and it seems that President Trump himself can't seem to settle on what his political strategy actually is.


PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump trying to pivot to health care ahead of the 2020 elections but struggling to get his stories straight.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we're going to give a great health care plan and we're going to go and campaign on that plan.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Trump now claiming in a tweet that he was never planning a vote prior to the 2020 election on a Republican health care proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare. Just one day after saying this about his decision to punt...


TRUMP: I wanted to delay it myself. I want to put it after the election because we don't have the House.


PHILLIP (voice-over): -- Trump acknowledging that he didn't consult GOP leaders on Capitol Hill before declaring that Republicans would be the party of health care.


TRUMP: You're going to win your elections because of health care. And a lot of people were upset with me because I announced this like a week ago and I didn't want to waste my time by calling people. I didn't want to call the leaders, other than Kevin. I'd be afraid not to call Kevin. I blame myself a little bit but now they love it.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Meantime, after days of threatening Mexico...


TRUMP: But Mexico is going to have to do something. Otherwise I'm closing the border. I'll just close the border.


PHILLIP (voice-over): -- Trump now laying the blame for a crisis at the border at the feet of Congress and warning that if Democrats don't change immigration laws, the border or large sections of border will close.

All this as the president's false and outlandish claims seem to reach a new high watermark during a speech open to the media that he seemed to think was off the record.

TRUMP: Oh, somebody's going to leak this whole damn speech to the media.

PHILLIP (voice-over): The president returning to unproven theories about widespread voter fraud...

TRUMP: There were a lot of close elections that were -- they seemed to -- every single one of them went Democrat. If it was close, they say the Democrat, well, there's something going on.

PHILLIP (voice-over): -- and mocking a possible 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden, seeming to make light of the complaints by some women that Biden touched them inappropriately but not sexually.

TRUMP: I said, General, come here, give me a kiss. I felt like Joe Biden. But I meant it. See, I meant it. Big difference.

I was going to say welcome to the world, Joe. You having a good time, Joe? Are you having a good time?

PHILLIP (voice-over): At one point, Trump falsely claiming this about windmills.

TRUMP: If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value. And they say the noise causes cancer.

PHILLIP (voice-over): That comment leaving even Trump aides confused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do wind turbines cause cancer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have an answer on that. PHILLIP (voice-over): For the third time in less than a year, he says his father, who was born in New York, was born in Germany.

TRUMP: My father is German, right, was German and born in a very wonderful place in Germany.

PHILLIP (voice-over): The White --


PHILLIP: -- House not even bothering to explain that.


PHILLIP: And, Wolf, these are just some of the many false claims the president has made just in the last week alone. But it's notable that the White House has not even bothered to correct the record on any of them.

They seem comfortable, adding it to the nearly 10,000 falsehoods that President Trump has told since coming into office more than two years ago, according to "The Washington Post" fact-checker -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks very much.

There's more breaking news we're following after several women have complained he made them feel uncomfortable, even as other women have rallied to his defense, former vice president Joe Biden has released a new video promising to change his ways.

Our political reporter Arlette Saenz is joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

How significant is this new video message?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a clear acknowledgment from Joe Biden himself that his previous statements on this issue just weren't enough, that he is showing that he understands the gravity of this moment.

And one person that I spoke to that's close to Biden said that the former vice president wanted to provide some more context and explain a little bit more why he interacts the way that he does with voters and also make it clear that he gets it, that he knows what the current environment is like. Take a listen to what he had to say.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Social norms have begun to change. They're shifted. And the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset and I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying. I understand it.

And I'll be much more mindful. That's my responsibility, my responsibility, and I'll mean it. But I'll always believe governing, quite frankly, life, for that matter, is about connecting, about connecting with people. That won't change but I will be more mindful and respectful of people's personal space.

And that's a good thing. That's a good thing.


SAENZ: So Biden there was making it clear that he's going to be more aware of his behavior going forward. He had friends and former advisers encouraging him over the past two days to make a more of a statement. He even had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that he should join the straight arm club in the way he interacts with people.

But one question going forward, is this going to be enough for his critics and are we going to have Democrats and even President Trump going after him?

BLITZER: Looks like a clear sign he's going to be running for election, he's joining the campaign with the release of this video. Arlette, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the House majority leader, Democratic congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Thanks so much, Mr. Leader, for joining us.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD.), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: You bet, Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: Are you satisfied with Joe Biden's response today, his video message --


HOYER: Yes, I think --

BLITZER: -- involving these allegations?

HOYER: I think it recognizes the sensitivity and the importance of this to make sure that, as he said, people's space and feelings and are honored and considered and make sure that we don't violate those. So I think the vice president reflected that in his video. I think he reflected it in his remarks. And I think he's going to go forward with that.

BLITZER: Let's move on to our other top stories.

How long do you believe Congress should wait before actually serving the subpoenas for the entire unredacted Mueller report and all the underlying evidence?

HOYER: I don't have a specific timeframe, Wolf. Clearly, we need to give a reasonable time to look at the report. But the Congress voted without opposition, the House of Representatives voted without opposition the resolution that asked that the full report be not only be given to the Congress but be made available to the American public so they can read it and make their own evaluation. The only thing we really have is a four-page letter from attorney

general Barr, who was hired by Donald Trump. So that we need the full report. I think the Congress made that very clear. And I'm hopeful that we will get the full report made available to us and the American people within the near term.

The timeframe, certainly couple of weeks ought to be enough time to go through it and make sure that they are doing what the law requires them to do.

BLITZER: You're OK if they redact some sections, like involving national security, classified administration, sources and methods or would you be OK if they redacted all the grand jury information as well?

HOYER: Look, I don't know what's in there so when you say all of those items, certainly I understand that there will be some legal requirement for them to protect some of that information.

However, what I will not be satisfied with and what the Congress and the American people ought not to be satisfied with, if, in fact, the redactions is such that the sense and purpose and conclusions of the investigators is not known to the American public. But they need to make that decision

BLITZER: Are you OK with lawmakers negotiating with the Justice Department over redactions --


BLITZER: -- to the report before actually handing down, serving any subpoenas?

HOYER: No, I think the subpoenas are -- the Judiciary Committee wants to get them out and wants to get this -- their oversight responsibilities proceeding. But I think, certainly, we're going to have to look at the report and what we get before we do anything specifically with respect to the report.

BLITZER: Are Democrats in danger, Mr. Leader, of overreaching with all these investigations involving the president?

HOYER: No, I don't think we're in danger of overreaching but I want to emphasize is that we're concentrating on that on which we campaigned with the American public. In particular, we're focused on health care. We think the health care, the Affordable Care Act is a critical issue in this country.

Your report that preceded me was at the ambivalence and the contradictions that the president has pursued, saying that he wants to have a health care bill as he said during the campaign. That was a very good health care bill that covered everybody.

But by the way he's not going to tell us what it is until 2021, after the election. And that's because they don't have a plan. And we're focused. We had hearings today on some nine bills. We have

markups on those bills. We're going to be proceeding to make sure that not just the 20 million people who are advantaged by the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid recipients but actually the hundreds of millions of people who are affected by the protections in the Affordable Care Act against being denied insurance because of the preexisting conditions.

We think that's critically important, who are protected from having their health care canceled or annual caps or lifetime caps on what could be reimbursed for the health care. Those protections are -- we think are critical. We're moving ahead on those.

We also think wages, infrastructure, climate change are all issues that we are currently having hearings on. So, yes, subpoena's getting a lot of publicity but the real work of what we campaigned on is being done, being reported to the floor.

We did pay equity, make sure women are paid equally, as the law requires. Today, we're considering the Violence against Women reauthorization, which should have been reauthorized in the last Congress; was not. We're doing that.

So we're moving ahead with the people's work and the oversight and responsibilities can go parallel to that.

BLITZER: I know you have to go vote. One quick question.

Would you be willing to work with Republicans, including the president, between now and the election in 2020 to improve the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare as it's known, to try to find improvements -- because I'm sure you agree it's not perfect.

HOYER: A, I agree, it's not perfect. We've always agreed that it wasn't perfect and the answer to your question is yes. I think we're willing to work with the administration and with the -- our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate to make improvements that are necessary and would be good for the American people.

I don't think we've ever been in any different position, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congressman Steny Hoyer, thanks so much for joining us.

HOYER: Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: Up next, House Democrats get new weapons in a showdown with the Trump administration, approving a subpoena for the full Mueller report and preparing another to get President Trump's financial records.

And CNN learns the FBI is now investigating the weekend security breach at the president's Mar-a-lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, to determine if it was an attempt at espionage.





BLITZER: Breaking news: CNN has learned the FBI is investigating the weekend security breach at President Trump's Mar-a-lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, looking to see if it was attempted espionage.

The woman was carrying Chinese passports, multiple cellphones, a laptop computer and, ominously, a thumb drive, described in court documents as containing malicious malware.

Let's bring in our Justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

So, first of all, what are you learning about this woman, the suggestion, the allegation, she could be a Chinese spy?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what we've now learned the FBI is looking into. So we've learned the FBI is investigating this Mar-a-lago incident for the possibility that this could be some sort of espionage effort.

That is, of course, a precaution that they have to take because this is a foreign national and it raises concerns about counterintelligence, also cybersecurity. So right now, Yujing Zhang, we know that she's being detained at the Palm Beach County Jail. She'll be there until at least Monday and that's when the judge will decide whether or not she's going to remain detained, at a court appearance on Monday.

There's a lot we don't know about Zhang. She showed up at Mar-a-lago with these two Chinese passports. She gained entry not through one but two checkpoints by the Secret Service and it wasn't until she got to the main reception area that the receptionist raised the red flag on her.

But there are some real problem areas with Zhang. First of all -- the first thing is that she had this stash of electronics on her, Wolf. She had four cellphones, one laptop computer, one external hard drive and that one thumb drive that contained that malicious malware.

In addition, when she was finally taken off the property and subsequently interviewed by these Secret Service agents, she told them that she was sent there from Shanghai to Palm Beach. She was told by this so-called Charles, via this chat application, that she should go there and try to meet with members of the president's family.

So these are two real concerns of possibly part of this investigation. And we also know that some top Democrats are now raising concerns. They've --


SCHNEIDER: -- sent this letter to the FBI, asking FBI director Wray and the FBI to assess the security situation at Mar-a-lago. And they're also putting it this way.

Senator Chuck Schumer as well as Dianne Feinstein and Mark Warner saying this.

"We ask that you determine, in consultation with the Secret Service, the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to or conduct electronic surveillance or acquire material at Mar-a-lago or President Trump's other properties."

So obviously a real concern here, both from Congress and now we know the FBI investigating this as a possible espionage effort.

BLITZER: How is the Secret Service explaining this apparent security breach?

SCHNEIDER: It's really interesting. In their very lengthy statement here, the Secret Service really highlights what a difficult job it is to safeguard Mar-a-lago. This is a place that doubles both as a private club for members as well as the president's preferred retreat on these weekends in the winter down at Mar-a-lago.

So the Secret Service, they put out this statement and made it clear that the Secret Service itself does not determine who is invited or welcomed into Mar-a-lago. That is the job of Mar-a-lago management.

The Secret Service said look, we have these two perimeters, these two checkpoints, one at the perimeter and then once you get into Mar-a- lago. So the Secret Service saying they're doing their job here.

But again, Congress is demanding some answers here. We've seen that letter to FBI director Wray from those top Democrats in the Senate and we also know that Chairman Cummings of the Oversight Committee, along with Jim Jordan, the top Republican, they'll be getting a briefing by Secret Service tomorrow.

And now Adam Schiff also will be getting a briefing from the FBI.

BLITZER: And while she was walking around Mar-a-lago, we know the president was staying there for the weekend but he happened to be away from Mar-a-lago, playing golf in West Palm Beach at his golf club. But the first lady was there at Mar-a-lago.

Jessica, thank you very much for that report.

Coming up, Democratic lawmakers are using their new powers to investigate the president.

Will they get information?

Plus, does former Vice President Biden's new video signal he's definitely running in 2020?



BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including a new threat by congressional Democrats to issue subpoenas, demanding information about President Trump's finances. And this comes in the wake of the House Judiciary Committee approving a subpoena to get the full Mueller report unredacted.

Let's bring in our political and legal analysts and discuss these various legal fights.

Dana Bash, the factors that the democrats are using now as their weighing what to do next. The threat against the Trump administration is pretty significant with all these subpoenas on the verge of being issued.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, but with regard to the Mueller report, it's obviously more tactical than anything else. Because this is something that the Attorney General himself has made clear that he is likely to release publicly. And so what they're doing is trying -- the democrats are trying to position themselves so that if that doesn't happen, they are kind of terra form [ph] legally to get ready the fight it in the Supreme Court.

They don't think that, that's going to have to happen. That's the honest truth. But they want to be prepared to do it. And also, politically speaking, you know, they have the majority. They have the subpoena power. Why not use it just to be prepared, to be ready.

BLITZER: Gloria, how do you see them?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I agree with, Dana. Look, I think it ratchets up the pressure on Barr or so they think. I'm not sure that it does. And this are kind of preemptive subpoenas, , you know. And they're doing it so Barr is put on notice. Now, I have to say that Mueller is sitting on Barr's shoulder as he goes through all of this. And I find it difficult to believe that Mueller wasn't aware when he was writing this report that it could become public some day. So I'm not sure how much is in there aside from grand jury testimony in the addendum that there could be fights over. But, you know, I just think they want to say to Barr, look, we're going to do this if you don't.

BLITZER: Nia, did it surprise you that the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, told our Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill that he really doesn't want to see the full Mueller report? He trusts the Attorney General, Bill Barr, whatever he wants to redact for whatever reason is fine with him.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: In some way, no, because this is the Lindsey Graham we know now, which is the Lindsey Graham who basically is fully supportive of this President in a way that he obviously wouldn't be if it was a different President of a different party. He basically is of the Barr position, which is that a report can be released, but transparency only up to a point, right, that you redact the national security passages in the piece and also anything that has to do with grand jury testimony.

So, you know, it isn't surprising he's taken that position. You've seen other republicans take that position too, certainly the ones on that panel that voted against the majority coming out of the House, the Nadler committee. So it's not surprising.

And we also knew that, eventually, this probably wouldn't work its way through the courts and also be a very partisan fight.

BLITZER: Is this, Jeffrey Toobin, the right moment for the democrats to test their new subpoena power now that they're the majority in the House of Representatives?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. What's the alternative to, you know, ask very, very nicely? I mean there's just no point in being in the majority if you want information other than to issue a subpoena. It's not a declaration of war. It is simply the application of a power that is assigned to the Congress and it will be one part of the effort to get to this document. Whether the White House will even respond to this subpoena and what is the result of a court fight, I don't think anyone knows. I certainly don't know. I think this would be an untested legal area. But there's really no excuse for Congress not to try and they're trying.

BLITZER: They certainly are. You know, Dana, on another issue, the former Vice President Joe Biden, he's responded to these allegations from these women that he made them feel uncomfortable. He issued a video response earlier today. Watch this.


FMR. SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), D.L.: The social norms have begun to change. They have shifted. And the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. And I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying. I understand it. And I'll be much more mindful. That's my responsibility. My responsibility and I'll meet it. But I always believe governing quite frank, life for that matter, is about connecting, about connecting with people. That won't change. But I will be more mindful and respectful people's personal space, and that's a good thing. That's a good thing.


BLITZER: What do you make of that?

BASH: That is about as 20/20 literate as somebody like Joe Biden could possibly be. When I say, somebody like Joe Biden, somebody who, as he explains in that video, has been around a very long time and learned the ways of Washington and of politics when, you know, it was about backslapping and obviously the way this it has been perceived by people like Lucy Flores and others is much more than backslapping. It has been perceived through the lens of the MeToo era.


So this is probably the most extreme example of the apology tour that all of these democratic candidates that we've seen go through have done it and the most necessary, just the words that he was saying but also the optics of it, casual, obviously, trying to do it in a way that's on somebody's phone. It's not a high production value. You know, no ties, sitting back, trying to look relaxed. The whole package was something that I think, you know, he's obviously -- according to people around him, he's trying to get a hold of this narrative and he went pretty far in doing it.

HENDERSON: Yes, and borrowed language from Nancy Pelosi. She essentially scripted this video because it's essentially what she said yesterday.

BASH: Personal space.

HENDERSON: Yes, personal space is important. Cut it out. How about a handshake? You don't need to hug folks. But, my goodness, it took them a long time to get here. I mean, if you think about, this story broke on Friday. You had Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, you had I think two statements from his spokesperson and this was the second statement from Joe Biden. So as he runs, this is a whole different news cycle.

BASH: But he's not a candidate yet.

BORGER: If he runs, no, but he's running. He said in the statement, folks, in the coming months, I'm expecting to be talking to you about a whole lot of issues.


BORGER: What does that mean? It means that he's running. The thing they did not do, and it was clearly on purpose, is that they didn't have Biden sit down with somebody to answer questions about this or hold some kind of a press availability. They decided to put him in front of a camera in a way that, Dana, was saying, in sort of an informal way and try to bridge the generational gap by saying, and now, it's all about taking selfies together. You know, he said I grew up in a generation where you hugged each other and put hands on your shoulders, et cetera, et cetera. Now, it's about selfies, and I get this and I'll change.

The one thing I would say is that none of these women have accused Biden of sexual harassment.

BASH: Absolutely.

BORGER: They have accused him of invading their space. And what he said is, you know, that's a good thing and I can change that, and, you know, we'll just have to see. But he is going to be asked about it. And they know that.

BLITZER: When he starts doing interviews, which he's not right now. We'll see when that happens.

Guys, stick around. There's more news we're following. Defendants including two actresses head to court hearings on the college entrance cheating scandal. There are new developments to that.



[17:42:07] BLITZER: We're following new developments in the scandal involving parents accused of cheating and bribery to have their children admitted to elite colleges and universities. Two celebrity actresses were among the defendants who went to court today. CNN's Erica Hill is following the story for us. Erica, tell us more.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Huffman and Loughlin, just two of the 33 parents who are charged in total and that today's initial appearance, they acknowledged their rights, the charges and maximum possible penalties. And, Wolf, jail time is a real possibility.


HILL: Avoiding eye contact, actress Felicity Huffman arriving at court, hours before her first schedule appearance. She's accused of paying $15,000 to a college prep business to doctor her daughter's college admission test scores. Actress Lori Loughlin seen signing autographs at the airport Tuesday morning before smiling greeting fans as she made her way through the crash of cameras into court. Both actresses facing between six and 21 months in prison.

One law enforcement official telling CNN prosecutors are expected to ask for jail time for every defendant sending the clear message. There will be no special treatment.

ANDREW LELLING, U.S. ATTORNEY: These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege. For every student admitted through fraud and honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.

HILL: Prosecutors say Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer, Mossimo Giannulli, paid half a million dollars to get their daughters into USC as recruits on the crew team though neither participated in the sport. Loughlin's husband allegedly emailed pictures of his daughters on indoor rowing machines to create fake athletic profiles. Payments were disguised as charitable donations according to the complaint.

Before the scam was exposed, their younger daughter offered her thoughts on college to her nearly 2 million YouTube followers.

OLIVIA GIANNULLI, DAUGHTER OF LORI LOUGHLIN: I'm going to go in and talk to my deans and everyone, hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of like game days, partying, I don't really care about school.

HILL: Major brands including Sephora and HP severed ties with the 19- year-old and with her mother. Loughlin was also dropped by the Hallmark Channel. Asked about her co-star earlier this week, Candace Cameron-Bure offering support to Loughlin.

CANDACE CAMERON-BURE, ACTRESS: We are family and we stand by each other and pray for each other and we'll always be there for each other.

HILL: In the three weeks since federal prosecutors announced their findings, four of the 50 people charged have pleaded guilty, including mastermind Rick Singer, who told the judge, I created a side door that would guarantee families would get in. In some cases, coaches were bribed, including Former Yale Women's Soccer Coach. Rudy Meredith. Both men are now cooperating witnesses, along with Mark Riddell, who cheated for students on their A.C.T.'s and S.A.T.'s.


John Vandemoer, the former Sailing Coach at Stanford also pleaded guilty.

According to the latest filing, at least one parent who allegedly tried to get his son into USC -

[17:45:00] According to the latest filing, at least one parent who allegedly tried to get his son into USC as a water polo player is now in talks with the government.

And the investigation isn't over. A law enforcement official familiar with the probe telling CNN more arrests are expected and could include students. Meantime, the Department of Education has opened its own investigation as schools try to control the damage.

Yale rescinded the admission of a student whose parents paid $1.2 million to Singer -- they are not named in the complaint -- while USC tells CNN any applicants connected to the scheme would be denied admission. They've identified six.


HILL: Democratic lawmakers in California also proposing changes including a ban on preferential admissions for donors and alumni, evaluating the phase-out of the SAT and ACT exams, and regulating private admissions consultants.

And we should also note CNN has reached out to representatives for Huffman, Loughlin, and Giannulli. Wolf, we have not heard back.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Erica Hill reporting for us. Erica, thanks very much.

Coming up, a closer look at what may be behind President Trump's repeated and blatantly false claims even about his father's birthplace.


[17:51:01] BLITZER: President Trump often tells flat out lies perhaps for some presumed political gain. But over the past 24 hours, he's strung together a series of falsehood, misstatements, and even wild lies for no apparent reason at all, including an absurd claim about his father's birthplace.

Brian Todd has been digging into all of this for us. What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have put together several instances where President Trump has told this same specific lie about his father's birthplace. We found it's part of a pattern from Trump. Not just lying for political gain, not simply getting his facts wrong, but lying to win over the people who happen to be right in front of him.


TODD (voice-over): The President makes a claim about his family history which we presume he has to know isn't true.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My father is German, right? Was German and born in a very wonderful place in Germany. And so I have a great feeling for Germany.

TODD (voice-over): It's well established that President Trump's father, Fred, was born in the Bronx in 1905. A Trump adviser defended the President, telling CNN, quote, Obama thought we had 57 states, sometimes mistakes happen. But this isn't the first time Trump has made this claim.

TRUMP: I have great respect for Germany. My father is from Germany.

Don't forget, both of my parents were born in E.U. sectors, OK? I mean, my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany.

TODD (voice-over): Trump's mother, Mary Anne, was born in Scotland. His paternal grandfather was born in Germany. Trump has a pattern of making not just misstatements where he simply has his facts wrong --

TRUMP: It took 11 months to build the Empire State Building.

TODD (voice-over): -- but statements which are outlandishly untrue.

TRUMP: If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value.


TRUMP: And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, OK.

TODD (voice-over): One example of a blatant lie? This year, the Trump administration ravaged the budget of a project called The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, slashing it from $300 million to $30 million. Just days later, Trump came out and said this at a rally in Michigan.

TRUMP: I'm going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


TODD (voice-over): One famous Trump lie came after he botched the name of Apple's CEO Tim Cook.

TRUMP: We appreciate it very much, Tim Apple.

TODD (voice-over): Trump then told two donors that he actually said Tim Cook Apple really fast, and the Cook part of the sentence was soft. According to Axios?

TRUMP: Tim Apple.

TODD (voice-over): Trump later tweeted, I quickly referred to Tim and Apple as Tim Apple as an easy way to save time and words. The fake news was disparagingly all over this.

Just about every American president has lied about something.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

TODD (voice-over): And, of course, some were big lies.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I first learned from news reports of the Watergate break-in. I was appalled.

TODD (voice-over): But Richard Nixon's lies about Watergate, Bill Clinton's on his affair, and Lyndon Johnson's on Vietnam were committed for political expediency.

MARC FISHER, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP REVEALED: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY OF AMBITION, EGO, MONEY, AND POWER": For most politicians when they do dissemble, when they do say things that aren't true, they're doing it to try to get by. They're doing it to try to gain some political advantage. In Donald Trump's case, it's just an endemic part of who he is.

TODD (voice-over): Trump's biographers say his proclivity to lie, dating back at least to his days as a real estate developer in New York, is more about instant gratification than anything else.

FISHER: He's just riffing. He's doing the moment. This is what Donald Trump does. He -- life takes place for him in the present. He doesn't really care about the past, not even that much about the future. He wants to win the moment at every turn.


TODD: One key question tonight, why don't the President's aides who speak for him publicly, people like Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, ever publicly correct the President's lies?

[17:55:01] Trump's biographers say that's for their own survival. That he would punish them if they ever did that, accusing them of undermining him. They say those aides have to be careful about how they even approach Trump in private over that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you very much. Coming up, we have some major breaking news, a CNN exclusive on President Trump's taxes. That's next. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Getting Trump's taxes. We're learning about a significant new move by House Democrats to get hold of the President's tax returns going back years. CNN has exclusively obtained a letter demanding the IRS Commissioner to hand over documents that Mr. Trump has adamantly refused to release.

[18:00:07] Spying at Mar-a-Lago?