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THE SITUATION ROOM
After Talks with Putin, Kim Jong-un Accuses the U.S. of "Bad Faith" During His Second Summit with Trump; Biden Holding First Fundraiser After Launching 2020 Presidential Campaign and Slamming Trump; Trump Denies Telling McGahn to Fire Robert Mueller; Admitted Russian Agent Sentencing Tomorrow Amid Uncertainty About her Faith. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 25, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:00] BLITZER: The former vice president makes his big duffer, the White House official with takedown of President Trump's response to white supremacists in Charlottesville. This hour, Joe Biden is playing catch-up in the race for campaign cash.
To tell the truth, the president claims he never told his former White House council to fire Robert Mueller as he keeps trying to deny hard evidence in the Special Counsel's report. We're separating the facts from the fiction.
White House stall, as the Trump administration fight subpoenas and blocks more testimony, democrats are launching yet another investigation. I'll talk to a key democrat who says the stone walling may be pushing his party toward impeachment.
And build for release, CNN has learned that North Korea has sent a $2 million bill to the United States for the care of the American captive Otto Warmbier. Is it essentially a ransom payment for the now dead college student's release?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer; you're in The Situation Room.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the roll out of Joe Biden's presidential campaign. Right now, the former vice president is holding a big money fundraiser in Pennsylvania. He's going after President Trump right out of the gate declaring the 2020 race is a battle for the soul of this nation.
Also breaking, House democrats open another investigation of the Trump administration. They're demanding documents related to the firings of Homeland Security officials who reportedly refused to follow orders to break the law. Al this comes as the White House, a blocked top aide Stephen Miller from testifying about his role in the shakeup.
I get reaction from House Oversight Committee member Gerry Connolly. And our correspondent and analysts are also standing by. First, let's go to CNN's Jessica Dean with more on the launch of the Biden campaign. Jessica, Biden took his time but now he's all in and he's directly going after President Trump.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right, Wolf. There was a lot of back and forth. When will he get in? Is he getting in? And now we finally now for sure, and him getting in to this race fundamentally changes the dynamics of an already historic 2020 democratic field.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER V.P. OF THE U.S.: Everybody knows Donald Trump.
DEAN: Officially a presidential candidate, Joe Biden began his campaign by going right after President Donald Trump.
BIDEN: We can't forget what happened in Charlottesville.
DEAN: In his video announcement, Biden focused on Trump's response to the 2017 deadly clash in Charlottesville, Virginia between white nationalist and counter protestors.
BIDEN: Very fine people on both sides, but those words the present of the United States assigned moral equivalence between those spreading hate than those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.
DEAN: Biden framed the 2020 race as a battle for the soul of the nation.
BIDEN: If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.
DEAN: Biden faces a few potential headwinds, including his age possibly becoming the oldest president ever elected and his centrist politics in a historically diverse and crowded field that's becoming more progressive.
BIDEN: Not only who can win this, but who's the best person to lead the country? And that's what's its going to be all about. And it's going to be for the voters to decide that.
DEAN: The former vice president is now scrambling to raise an impressive amount of cash to show his clout in the race. One of Biden's first campaign stops is a Philadelphia fundraiser where event organizers hope to raise $500,000.
SEN. BOB CASEY, PENNSYLVANIA (D): I have confidence in his leadership, but I have known him quite a while. DEAN: The former vice president begins his campaign with a number of endorsements, including Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware and Doug Jones of Alabama.
President Obama who has said he has no plans to endorse anyone right now did praise Biden through a spokesperson. He said quote, "President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made."
BIDEN: I asked President Obama not to endorse. And h doesn't want to -- we should -- whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.
DEAN: Another president also weighed in, President Trump writing about the race in a tweet quote, "It will be nasty. You will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see you at the starting gate."
And on this day when former Vice President Biden officially gets in to the race, we're also hearing from Anita Hill, a spokesperson for Biden saying that the two spoke and that he expressed regret for what she had endured.
We're also learning that Hill gave an interview to "The New York Times." I want to show you what she told "The New York Times."
She said, about that meeting, "I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I'm sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose." Wolf, we'll see what continues to unfurl from that.
BLITZER: Jessica Dean, I know you're going to be covering the Biden campaign.
DEAN: That's right.
BLITZER: We'll watch it closely. You'll watch more closely. Thanks very much for that report. We're going have a lot more just ahead on Joe Biden's campaign announcement, his fundraiser tonight, the challenges ahead.
But right now I want to turn to President Trump and his newest attempt to try to undermine the Mueller report. Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president is now denying one of the key findings of Mueller's investigation.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Wolf. President Trump angrily denied one of the key findings in the Mueller report that he ordered former White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel Robert Mueller. The problem for the president, Mueller's report is drawn from comments made by people who swore to tell the truth. That, of course, raises the question. If the White House isn't
worried about what McGahn has to say, why is the west wing blocking his testimony? The White House used to welcome this Mueller report. Now they seem to be saying don't believe it.
Swatting away a key finding in the Mueller report, President Trump denied he attempted to shut down the Russia investigation, a denial that came in his favorite social media echo chambers, as he tweeted, "I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so. If I wanted to fire Mueller I didn't need don McGahn to do it. I could have done it myself."
But that's not true, according to the Mueller report. Based on interviews with top White House officials who swore to tell the truth or face perjury charges, the report states the president called McGahn at home and directed him to call the acting attorney general and say that the special counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. Democrats have subpoenaed McGahn to settle the issue at a hearing.
REP. DAVID CICILINE: D-RI: A witness is compelled to comply. If a witness does not, he or she will held in contempt and thereafter, a civil action can be undertaken that can impose fines and even imprisonment for the failure to comply.
ACOSTA: The president has vowed to fight that subpoena.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're fighting all the subpoenas. Look, these aren't, like, impartial people. The democrats are trying to win 2020.
ACOSTA: But a former Trump transition official, who's now a critic of the president, wonders why he is standing in the way of McGahn's testimony.
J.W. VERRET, FORMER TRUMP TRANSITION AIDE: Well, I think it's incredibly unfair and dishonorable of the president to call Don McGahn a lair and then forbid him an opportunity to speak up for himself in a public forum. I think someone who doesn't give his staff that kind of loyalty doesn't deserve it in return, to be frank.
ACOSTA: New questions are also being raised about the Trump administration's high-stakes negotiations with North Korea, after "The Washington Post" reported that Pyongyang demanded a $2 million payment to cover the medical expenses for Otto Warmbeir, who died after being imprisoned by the regime. A former U.S. official who helped negotiate Warmbeir's release said he was under strict orders to secure the American student's release.
JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA: It was clearly understood by me, and Rex Tillerson, indeed, tell me, get him out.
ACOSTA: Earlier this year, the president said he accepted North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's denials about Warmbeir's condition. TRUMP: Some really bad things happened to Otto, some really, really bad things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you -
TRUMP: But he tells me - he tells me that he didn't know about it. And I will take him at his word.
ACOSTA: The president also appears ready to troll the latest contender in the 2020 field of democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden -
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't forget what happened in Charlottesville.
ACOSTA: - who jumped into the race with a video, slamming Mr. Trump for his handling of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. The president tweeted, "Welcome to the race, Sleepy Joe. I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign. It will be nasty. You'll be dealing with people who truly have very sick and demented ideas. Biden brushed off the tweet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President, do you have a message for President Trump? He welcomed you in the race, questioned whether you have the intelligence to be the president of the United States.
BIDEN: Everybody knows Donald Trump.
ACOSTA: As for the president's tweet about Don McGahn, it perfectly illustrates why the Trump legal team was adamantly opposed to an interview with the special counsel, given the president's history of making false statements. The president's lawyers were fearful that Mr. Trump would perjure himself by contradicting the sworn statements made by top White House officials.
But a source familiar with the issue says the president has not waived his right to assert executive privilege and block McGahn from testifying up on Capitol Hill. The source said that the president is allowed to express his opinions on Twitter without affecting his rights and privileges. But Wolf, if you listen to democrats, who're already weighting in on all of this, they are very much expected to challenge that legal reasoning, when this matter gets to the courts. It almost certainly will, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta, thank you very much. Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where House democrats are investing the shakeup in the Homeland Security Department, including the ouster of the secretary, Kristjen Nielsen. Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.
Phil, tell us more about this investigation as the White House is continuing to stone wall democrats.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, for every action there appears to be a reaction in the very hostile back and forth between the White House and House democrats, this one pertaining to Stephen Miller, senior White House advisor. House democrats have requested his testimony.
They were informed yesterday by the White House Stephen Miller would not testify. The White House setting long precedent over several administrations from both parties, democrats responded.
Three powerful committee chairmen sending a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan asking for all documents, all communications related to the ouster of several top Department of Homeland Security officials. The goal for democrats right now is to probe why those officials were removed.
Their removals reported to be because they disagreed with the White House position on several border related issues, including when the president proposed shutting down the birder with Mexico and its entirety. What you see in this back and forth, Wolf, is just increasing escalation between House democrats and the White House.
One that the White House has made very clear, they have no problem with ignoring each and every request. One House democratic aide told me earlier today up to this point, the White House has ignored or slow walked 35 request for documents, more than nine administration officials have either refused to testify or decided to come later in their testimony.
This is a back and forth that shows no end anytime soon. Democrats clearly the tension exist. If the White House doesn't comply, how this plays out is certainly going to be something to watch when democrats come back in to town next week, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the battle will certainly intensify. Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thank you. Let's talk about all the breaking news. Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia is joining us. He's a democrat that serves on the Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees. Congressman thanks so much for joining.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY, OVERSIGHT & REFORM COMMITTEE (D): My pleasure.
BLITZER: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you spent about a decade working for Senator Biden on the Foreign Relations Committee when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So, is Biden your guy for 2020?
REP. CONNOLLY: I haven't made a commitment yet. But I will say this; Joe Biden's an awfully qualified candidate. I've known him for 40 years. And of all the senators and member of congress I've worked with, I would say he was maybe the quickest study.
You can give him a complex subject and he get to the heart of it faster than anybody I know. The idea that he is not an intelligent man is simply false. And Mr. Trump is going to learn that the hard way.
BLITZER: He calls him Sleepy Joe. Is he Sleepy Joe? REP. CONNOLLY: No, he is not.
BLITZER: Yes, he's not.
REP. CONNOLLY: He's also a man who has suffered grievous losses in his life that really have helped shape him and given him an empathy for fellow human beings that most mortals don't have to experience.
BLITZER: So, why not endorse him?
REP. CONNOLLY: Well, he and I have to have that conversation.
BLITZER: And presumably you'll have a conversation--
REP. CONNOLLY: Presumably.
BLITZER: -- with him at some point. In this video that he released at 6:00 A.M. this morning, a video announcing he was running for president of the United States. He referred a big chunk of the whole beginning was the 2017 white supremacist rally in your home state of Virginia.
He says it's -- right now, everyone should be battling for the soul of the nation. How do you think his opening message went?
REP. CONNOLLY: I think that's pretty powerful. I think that's really capturing for Americans what is that stake in this election? It's the soul of our country. And do you really like the direction of the soulless occupant of the Oval Office and the amoral narcissistic kind of tendencies coming out of that office?
Or do you want to restore a sense of ethics and purpose and vision to that Oval Office? And I think that's a great way of framing what's at stake.
BLITZER: Let's get to the developments involving your committee in the House, Oversight Committee, your chairman Elijah Cummings now asking the Homeland Security Department for documents related to Stephen Miller.
He's a senior White House aide, his role in the removal of top Department of Homeland Security officials. What are you hoping to learn?
REP. CONNOLLY: I think there are lots of things that Stephen Miller has in his head. He's sort of the immigration whisperer for this president. And he has provided obviously a lot of advice that's been followed, unfortunately.
And so, we see it time and again about the policy of the border with the whole sakes changes at the Department of Homeland Security which I think frankly out national security at risk with a whole sale decapitation of leadership at a key critical agency like DHS.
So, I think we want to hear from him, what is your thinking? What is it you've been advising the president? And where is it you think you're going to be taking us as a country with these kinds of policies and personnel changes?
BLITZER: Three officials now -- administration officials have directly been told by the Trump administration not to testify before your committee. None of the investigations are related by the way to the Mueller report. We're talking bout Stephen Miller testifying on immigration.
[18:15:00] Carl Kline, testifying on security clearances. Then we're given John Gore testifying on the U.S. senses and a question involving U.S. citizenship. Do their justifications fir denying these individuals the right to go and appear before your committee hold up?
REP. CONNOLLY: No. This is an assault on the legislative branch of our government. And it's an assault on the constitutional framework of our government. And if it's allowed to stand, frankly, the legislative branch will be a pale shadow of what it was intended to be by the constitution of the United States.
So no, we're going to resist. And if a subpoena is issued and you are told you must testify, we will back that up. And we will use any and all power in our command to make sure it's backed up whether that's contempt citation, whether that's going to court and getting that citation enforced, whether it's fines, whether it's possible incarceration.
We will go to the max to enforce the constitutional role of the legislative branch in government.
BLITZER: That'd be a huge fight. Congressman Connolly, thanks--
REP. CONNOLLY: My pleasure.
BLITZER: -- for coming in.
REP. CONNOLLY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Gerry Connolly of Virginia. Just ahead, Joe Biden's go after Trump strategy. How's his campaign announcement playing?
BLITZER: Tonight, Joe is raising campaign cash in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state democrats are hoping to take back from President Trump. Let's bring in our analysts and political experts and Jeff Zeleny. The former vice president, he jumped into the race with a video, released early this morning.
Let's watch a little bit of that announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We are in the battle for the soul of this nation. I believe history will look back on four years of this president and the embraces as an abhorrent moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A real sense of urgency in his message. What do you make of that approach?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there certainly is. And you know, he's not introducing himself, because everyone knows Joe Biden. He is introducing the moment and saying, "Look, I am going to come in essentially off the sidelines and rescue the country."
And it was a clarion call to democrats, of course, but it also had other strains in there to, you know, perhaps independents, even republicans, who are concerned at the direction that the president has taken the country, the integrity. He says the soul of the nation.
So one thing he was trying to do is sort of shake the democratic race into focus, trying to elevate it to show what the stakes actually are, beyond the fights of the day that we often, you know, are discussing so much about. So he was trying to, you know, essentially say that he is here to save the day.
Of course, though, he mentioned President Trump; that was the centerpiece of it. He has a democratic primary to get through, and that is just starting. So that's why his challenges here are many, but his advantages, also, as he enters this race, are plentiful.
BLITZER: Was his message, Sabrina, effective?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that one thing was clear about the video. It essentially catapulted Joe Biden into the general election. You could effectively play that video as a closest argument in November of 2020. I think that the thing about Joe Biden is he is a very effective messenger, especially when it comes to the working class white voters who swung away from democrats and were certainly instrumental in Donald Trump's victory in 2016. He's the big union guy.
And I think that, while he made much more a moral argument in that video, you will also see him talk a lot about economic policies geared toward the middle class. But to just point, he does first have to go what will be a very grueling primary. And in the same way he is coming into the field as one of the most experienced candidates, that also does position himself as beings someone who perhaps has more baggage right now.
His domestic and foreign record - records are both under renewed scrutiny. And so, I think those are some of the questions he's going to encounter, especially as he's up on that debate stage, in what is now the most crowded democratic field in modern history.
BLITZER: In his campaign video this morning, announcing his candidacy, you know, Joey Jackson, the former vice president, who invoked that Dudley (ph) clash between white nationalist and counter- protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, as he criticized the morality of President Trump, does he make a strong, powerful case.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, I think he makes an exceptionally strong case, and he's why. I think we are in defining times. You know, whenever there's an issue that occurs, which rips apart the nation and tears at the heart of who we are, it's time for leadership.
It's time for someone to stand up, and it's time to say things that may not be appealing to a group of people who support you, that may not be popular with people who support you, but are the right thing to. Leadership is about expending your political capital to do what's right, to say what's right, to set the appropriate and proper tone.
We're in a time where immigrants are being attacked. There's criminals. There's rapists. There's terrible people. We're in a time where walking while black, driving while black, going to a coffee shop and planning meetings while black, bed and breakfast while black, there are assailing times.
And so, the fact is, is that, at a time like that, when you're drawing a moral equivalency between white supremacists and those who would stand for justice, stand for what's proper, stand for what's right, and stand for what we should be about as a society, we expect the president to condemn it.
And when it doesn't happen, yes, we are in a fight for the heart and soul of who we are as Americans, and the fact that diversity makes us stronger and better. And when you play off that, it's a problem. And so, I think he hit, that is, the president, Biden, to be - or who he hopes to be, I think, in setting the tone for what's the prize here. It's to go after Trump. I thought it was a very effective message, and that's what we need in leadership.
BLITZER: As you know, Susan, Joe Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, back in 1991, when Clarence Thomas was going through his conformation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court. Anita Hill came forward and testified.
Now, we've learned today that Anita Hill and Joe Biden have had a private conversation. She emerged from that conversation, telling "The New York Times," "I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I'm sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose." So is the former vice president going to be able to maneuver around this really sensitive issue?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean this is the flipside of Biden's deep experiences, that he also comes with quite a bit of baggage, including things like Anita Hill. You know, it's a little bit surprising that he would go out of his way to make a phone call, 28 years after the fact, and not just offer sort of the plain apology there. But I think people are looking to this as more just whether - more
than just whether or not Joe Biden can put the Anita Hill hearings behind him, but also people who are concerned about whether not Joe Biden is gaff-prone, whether or not he really understands the seismic shift of the Me Too Movement.
Is he going to get tripped up in the future on things like race, criminal justice reform, all of those issues. And so, I think that this is an early test, right out the gate, of whether or not he is really prepared to sort of reconcile his past and this country's past and move us forward.
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's a lot of more we need to discuss on the former vice president and other important news. And we'll do that right after this.
[18:31:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our analysts. And, Susan, the President, he's been on a sort of a post-Mueller Twitter tirade, writing in part earlier this morning -- I'll put it up on the screen -- quote, I never told then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller even though I had the legal right to do so.
Here is what the Mueller report concludes. It concludes that substantial evidence supports McGahn's account that the President had directed him to have the Special Counsel removed.
So how do you square those clearly contradictory statements?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: That one person is lying and one person is telling the truth. In this case, the President of the United States is tweeting. Everybody else is putting their statements on the record under oath and to federal investigators.
Now, keep in mind what Donald Trump is doing here is accusing Don McGahn, his former White House Counsel, of committing a crime. McGahn is quoted in the Mueller report as having said that this exchange occurred to investigators. The report also details Trump sort of campaigned to attempt to get McGahn to retract from the statement, to test his mettle.
And, you know, this is an area in which there is -- there's a reason why Trump is so sensitive about this particular accusation, and that's that this is the area in which Mueller has basically said that the President has met every single statutory element of obstruction of justice in which the President has no legal or constitutional defenses.
And so even on the Mueller report, it doesn't technically accuse him of a crime; it tipped us right up to the edge. At the same time that Trump is accusing McGahn of essentially perjuring himself, he's also trying to prevent McGahn from testifying before members of Congress that want to clear up precisely that question. BLITZER: You know, Joey, Susan makes an important point that
everything McGahn told the investigators was under oath. If you lie to Mueller's team, that's perjury. You can go to jail. And Mueller and his team, they're not shy in sending people to jail for lying, as we all know.
The President, on the other hand, he declined various requests to go and actually appear and answer questions orally before the investigators. So how do you see this clear contradiction emerging?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I see it this way, and I really can't say it any better than Susan did. Look, the bottom line is that you put up one thing which is a tweet, right? You can talk to the press. You can lie to the press. The President's lied a time or two, did he not? And therefore, you continue to tweet.
You continue to really brand yourself and, you know, like no collusion, no obstruction, and saying anything you want. I'm going to take a dictator's word over another. Putin told me so it's OK.
And so, ultimately, at the end of the day, what are you going to do? Are you going to believe a tweet, or are you going to believe someone who said, under oath, right, knowing what the significance of that is, knowing what the consequences of that is, knowing that you could be jailed for perjury against someone who is tweeting something? I think the facts speak for themselves.
BLITZER: In effect --
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And by the way, Don McGahn --
BLITZER: Joey, I want to say, in effect, the President is accusing his former White House Counsel of lying.
SIDDIQUI: Absolutely. And I think one of the things that's important to remember about the Mueller report is that it also made clear that Don McGahn kept notes. There is a particularly damning section of the report in which the President asks McGahn why he's taking notes, and he says that he's never had a lawyer who takes notes. And McGahn responds that he is, in fact, a real lawyer.
And it is because of those contemporaneous notes that we were able to learn from McGahn, from former FBI Director James Comey, about some of the President's efforts to, in fact, interfere with the Russia investigation.
So, you know, as Susan said, one of these two individuals is a reliable narrator, and it is not the President of the United States.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: But the President is counting on his supporters to listen to his narration of this. He -- you know, he does not want people to read the report. He believes that his supporters -- and, you know, in fact, he's sending out a message to commentators and others who are big supporters of his to repeat that.
But the bottom line is we know that Don McGahn is going to do the right thing. He showed that. He's mentioned 157 times in the Mueller report. So if he appears before Congress, which I think, you know, he will at some point, we know what he's going to do.
[18:35:10] BLITZER: The President's tweets this morning, Susan, did they at least inadvertently encourage Don McGahn to speak out publicly and try to defend himself?
HENNESSEY: Well, certainly, they might have encouraged McGahn to want to clear his name. They also might have waived executive privilege, right? Executive -- he can't -- the President cannot exert any executive privilege over a conversation that didn't exist.
And so those are, you know -- once again, you know, the President is sort of -- he just can't resist opening his mouth even in situations in which it would be much better for his legal interest for him not to speak.
That said, I do think that this is an illustration of how important public hearings and televised congressional hearings might be, hearing Don McGahn tell his very compelling story before the Congress (ph).
BLITZER: But, Joey, didn't the President waive executive privilege by allowing Don McGahn to go testify for 30 hours before the Mueller investigation?
JACKSON: I don't think there is any question about it. The fact is, is that when you have an opportunity as there was to go and testify, there was no objection made to executive privilege at that particular time. And, you know, the fact of the matter is, is that Don McGahn stated a lot of things.
I think he has more credibility to the extent that he was there for not only a period of time, to the except that he testified under oath, to the extent that his story makes sense, and to the extent that you have one person who, clearly, has misled the American people time and time again and another person who said I'm going to resign rather than carry out your directive, which, I think, will get you into more trouble.
Which would have gotten him to more trouble had Don McGahn done what the President wanted him to do, and that was to issue the fire.
ZELENY: We should point out that Don McGahn has had a long relationship with Donald Trump. He was not some new hire. He worked on every day of the campaign, and he was his real estate lawyer for a long time during deals in Atlantic City. So they have known each other for a long time. So for the President to say that no one sort of surrounding him participated in this, it's not true.
ZELENY: He's known Don McGahn for more than a decade, nearly two decades. That's why this stings so much, I think, for the President. BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There is more news we're following,
including the uncertain fate right now of Maria Butina as the admitted Russian agent faces sentencing in a matter of hours.
And after a summit with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un is taking a new slap at President Trump, accusing the United States of acting in bad faith.
[18:42:01] BLITZER: Tonight, Maria Butina is just hours away from learning her fate. The Russian woman accused of conspiring to gain political influence in the United States will be sentenced tomorrow.
Sara Murray is joining us right now. Her fate is, apparently, still uncertain.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf, and this is a little bit of a surprise. You know, when we got these memos about sentencing, we expected that both sides would sort of agree.
You know, she's cooperated extensively. She said she worked at the direction of Aleksandr Torshin, this Russian banker, and tried to infiltrate political circles. And she's given the government a lot of information.
So we thought both sides would agree that time served -- you know, she's been behind bars for nine months -- would be sufficient, and then she would be sent back to Russia. But prosecutors surprised us, and they are asking that she spend 18 months behind bars.
They're saying even though she is not a Russian spy, they're saying she was still involved in some espionage-like activities, some intelligence gathering, and they're trying to make the case that what she did could have actually been harmful to national security.
BLITZER: You know, it's very interesting because this was a big case for prosecutors when it was announced months and months ago, as you correctly point out, last summer. But since then, the prosecutors, they've actually had to walk back some of the more scandalous allegations against her.
MURRAY: That's right. You know, it seemed like this bombshell case. You have, you know, this young, redheaded Russian woman. She's, you know, built ties with the National Rifle Association. She's made friends with Republican politicians.
And prosecutors said she even went so far as being willing to trade sex for access to try to get a job with a special interest group. They said that her time in American University was just a cover-up. She said, you know, her boyfriend, Paul Ericson, it was just a duplicitous relationship, essentially part of a cover.
They have had to walk nearly all of that back. They've acknowledged she was legitimately enrolled at American University. They've said they misunderstood these messages that suggested she was willing to trade sex. They've stopped commenting on her personal life entirely.
And what's also notable, Wolf, is they haven't charged any of the Americans that they sort of pointed to as people being involved in this scheme, including Paul Ericson, her boyfriend who she's cooperated extensively with prosecutors against. So it's certainly not the case, I think, that prosecutors believed they were making at the outset.
BLITZER: We'll see what kind of sentence she gets tomorrow morning, and you'll be back joining us after that. Thank you very much, Sara, for that report.
Just ahead, North Korea is now accusing the Trump administration of acting in bad faith just hours after Kim Jong-un cozied up to Vladimir Putin.
[18:49:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news tonight, North Korea's Kim Jong-un is accusing the United States of acting in bad faith during a second summit with President Trump. Kim saying the fate of peace on the Korean peninsula all depends on the attitude of the United States. This just hours after Kim met with Vladimir Putin in Russia.
Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is at the site of the Kim/Putin summit.
Matthew, Putin says he's pleased at how the summit played out.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I think both leaders must have been very satisfied because they got what they wanted. Putin showing himself once again to be a global power broker, Kim Jong-un much less isolated.
CHANCE (voice-over): Heaving himself out of his specialty imported stretch limo, North Korean dictator gets a red carpet reception to Russia's strongman president.
This is the first time these two autocrats have actually met. A first chance to discuss Kim Jong-un's nuclear weapons and how Russia might help get rid of them.
[18:50:05] This is classic Vladimir Putin, inserting himself yet again into an international crisis.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): I'm sure your visit to Russia will also help to develop our bilateral relations and will help us to understand the ways we can settle the situation on the Korean peninsula.
CHANCE: Putin says Kim has asked him to inform the U.S. about North Korea's position. This now looks increasingly like a three-way nuclear negotiation with the Kremlin in the middle.
Details were sparse, but there was no shortage of diplomatic niceties at this summit. President Putin giving Kim a saber and a special Russian tea set. Putin was gifted an elaborate ceremonial sword.
Later, a formal reception dinner for both leaders. These optics are key. Growing allies with a close personal bond. Not the isolated figures often portrayed in the West.
(on camera): Well, these talks seem to have been short on specifics. What exactly they talked about when it comes to disarmament on the Korean peninsula is unclear.
We do know, though, what they ate because we got into this room where the reception was held. There's a plate of bulgur wheat and beef. Some confectioneries and chocolate and this little cheesecake here, a chocolate cheesecake with the North Korean and Russian flag.
(voice-over): Outside the Vladivostok summit, a final farewell after what the Kremlin describes as constructive talks. Next stop for Putin is China, another key ally, leaving his new North Korean friend to explore this Russian city on his own.
CHANCE: We're seeing a bit more of Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok. He's going to be visiting a naval memorial this morning and then a Russian warship before getting back on his train and heading home to Pyongyang -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting.
All right. Matthew, thank you very much.
There is more breaking news ahead, as Joe Biden follows up the presidential announcement with an urgent appeal for campaign cash.
[18:56:33] BLITZER: Tonight, as Joe Biden makes the first fundraising pitch of his presidential campaign, we're getting more reaction to his announcement.
Joining us now, former Obama administration official, CNN political commentator, Van Jones. He has a new CNN original series entitled "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT" that premiers in Sunday.
Van, we're gong to talk about "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT" in a moment. But I want to get your take on Joe Biden's opening strategy directly taking on President Trump.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I thought it was actually beautifully done. You know, in some ways he is calling Trump out but really kind of calling us up. I felt like watching it, you know, hope and help is on the way. You know, Biden is somebody who his heart as big as all outdoors. He
has a soulful quality to him. And I think people share his concern about the direction of the country. I welcome him to -- I may not vote or agree with him on everything process, we'll see. But I welcome him coming into the race appear and bringing his voice of hope and healing to the country.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the new series, "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT", van. Each episode highlights what's called the restorative justice project- process where victims of horrific crimes meet face- to-face with the offenders. I want to play a clip from the first episode.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If my actions started the cycle of violence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He took the love and what my life could have been like. I want him to look me in the face and tell me why he killed my mother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no way that you could actually prepare for something like this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the last piece of the puzzle from a lifetime of what if.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Really incredible event to see this woman sit cross from the person who killed her mother, why are the people in your series willing to have these face-to-face truly extraordinary conversations?
JONES: Well, I mean, I think that people assume that after the verdict, you know, if the person goes away to jail, everything is fine, everybody is happy. And a lot of true crimes just like about the whodunit.
This is not true crime. This is the truth long after the crime, decades people still hurting, still don't have the answers they need. And so, we go and we try to help people get to a different level of healing.
But for me it's also a way to go 180 degrees against our existing culture. Right now, everything is no forgiveness, no empathy, no listening, cancel culture, call out culture, I'm going to block you culture. And it's become a sickness. It's toxic.
This show is a little bit of medicine. It shows people who ordinarily wouldn't ever talk sitting down trying to talk. It doesn't always work out warm and fuzzy. But in the eight episodes, you're going to see Olympic levels of moral courage and a willingness for people to try, that I hope inspire all of us to try harder.
So, it's a beautiful heartbreak to hope kind of story arc every time and I think it's going to bring a lot of healing to people watching. BLITZER: It's really an amazing, amazing series you put together.
And our viewers are going to learn a lot. There's going to be excellent, excellent moments. I'm proud of you and our network for doing this.
Van Jones, thank you so much for that.
JONES: Thank you.
BLITZER: And to our viewers, be sure to watch the CNN original series, "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT" with Van Jones. The series premiers this Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You're going to want to see it.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.