Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump "Very Surprised" by Don Jr.'s Subpoena; Trump Moves to Impose New Tariffs on China as Trade Talks Begin in Washington; Interview with Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) on Trump Jr. and DOJ Subpoenas; Trump to Let Barr Decide on Mueller Testimony. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 9, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a great night.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, up to Barr: President Trump goes off the rails with a rant against the special counsel Robert Mueller then says it's up to the attorney general William Barr whether Mueller should testify before Congress.

Subpoena surprise: the president says he was very surprised that the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed his son, Donald Trump Jr., blasting the move by committee's Republican chairman.

Negotiating now: U.S. and Chinese officials are sitting down right now here in Washington.

Can they make enough progress on a trade deal to stave off the tough new sanctions that President Trump has promised will go into effect in just a few hours?

And seizing Kim's ship: as the U.S. seizes a ship allegedly involved in sanctions busting, North Korea test fires more missiles.

Is Kim Jong-un testing President Trump?

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

(MUSIC PLAYING)

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

BLITZER: Breaking news: President Trump says he's very surprised that the Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed his son, Donald Trump Jr. At an informal news conference that turned into a tirade, he slammed the move by the committee's Republican chairman, Richard Burr.

The president also repeatedly slammed special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he'd leave it up to the attorney general as to whether Mueller should testify before Congress. And as U.S. and Chinese officials get ready to sit down here in

Washington, the president is sticking with his plan to raise tariffs on Chinese imports just hours from now.

But even as he sends Wall Street on a roller coaster ride, he's holding up the prospect of an agreement, saying he got a, quote, "very beautiful letter" from China's leader. I'll speak with Congressman Danny Heck of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with the breaking news and CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, the president seemed angry, he seemed frustrated, especially over the subpoena sent to his son.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And the president was airing his grievances about it today. But one thing he didn't talk about while he was speaking with reporters is now that the White House has announced he does intend to nominate Patrick Shanahan as the new Defense Secretary.

Patrick Shanahan has been the acting defense secretary for four months now, ever since Jim Mattis stepped down after he had a dispute with the president. But the president continued to not nominate him over the last several months, including part of which had an inspector general's investigation into allegations that Patrick Shanahan had been partial to his former employer, Boeing, while he was at the Pentagon.

He was recently cleared of that and now the White House says the president does intend to nominate him and, Wolf, we're told in part that came because of the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who was advising the president he doesn't need another general in this role.

But when the president was speaking with reporters today for about 30 minutes, Patrick Shanahan was not one of the many topics that came up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: My son is a good person. My son testified for hours and hours.

COLLINS (voice-over): A mix of surprise and frustration from President Trump today after the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed his son.

TRUMP: I'm just very surprised. I really am.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president blasting the decision by Republican senator Richard Burr to bring Donald Trump Jr. back in for questioning. But he stopped short of saying whether he'll fight it.

TRUMP: My son is a very good person. Works very hard. The last thing he needs is Washington, D.C. COLLINS (voice-over): The spur of the moment news conference was supposed to be a rare moment of bipartisanship in Washington over health care legislation. But for the first time since the release of the special counsel's report, Trump fumed in front of the cameras for half an hour.

TRUMP: The Mueller report came out. That's the Bible.

COLLINS (voice-over): After declaring on Twitter that the special counsel shouldn't testify in front of Congress, the president reversed his position.

TRUMP: I'm going to leave that up to the attorney general as to whether or not -- I think, to me, it looks like a redo.

COLLINS (voice-over): As he repeated his claims the special counsel has an anti-Trump agenda...

TRUMP: He's going wild. He was so angry. And this man now is judging me.

COLLINS (voice-over): -- he added a qualifier to his line that there was no collusion and no obstruction.

TRUMP: At the end of the testimony, no collusion and essentially no obstruction.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president aired his grievances over the Mueller report as a critical deadline for U.S. trade talks with China approaches.

TRUMP: I have no idea what's going to happen.

COLLINS (voice-over): Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods at midnight. But sources tell CNN, if a deal is made, those may not go into effect.

[17:05:00]

TRUMP: The vice premier is one of the most respected men, one of the highest officials in China is coming.

COLLINS (voice-over): Talks between the two countries were upended after the Chinese tried to make big changes to parts of the deal the U.S. said they'd already agreed to.

TRUMP: They took many, many parts of that deal and they've renegotiated. You can't do that.

COLLINS (voice-over): And today, Trump praised his national security adviser while admitting they have major policy differences.

TRUMP: He has strong views on things but that's OK. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president was addressing reports he's clashed with his national security adviser over teasing a military option in Venezuela.

TRUMP: I have different sides. I mean, I have John Bolton and I have other people that are a little more dovish than him. And, ultimately, I make the decision.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president also accusing former secretary of state John Kerry of violating the Logan Act by meeting with Iranian officials.

TRUMP: John Kerry violated the Logan Act.

COLLINS (voice-over): The statute bars private citizens from interfering with diplomatic relations between the U.S. and foreign governments, though no one has ever been convicted of violating it. Trump claimed Kerry has told Iranian officials not to talk to the Trump administration.

TRUMP: John Kerry tells them not to call. That's a violation of the Logan Act. And, frankly, he should be prosecuted on that.

COLLINS (voice-over): A spokesman for Kerry fired back quickly, saying, "The president was wrong about the facts, wrong about the law and, sadly, he's been wrong about how to use diplomacy to keep America safe."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now Wolf, those critical trade talks between the U.S. and the Chinese are under way right now. And the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Robert Lighthizer, the president's chief trade negotiator, are now going to have dinner with the Chinese chief trade negotiator.

But the question is whether or not they can make any progress before those tariffs are set to go into effect tonight at midnight.

BLITZER: Lots at stake on that front for sure. Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

Let's go to our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski, joining us from the State Department.

As these talks get underway, the president is touting what he calls "a beautiful letter" from the Chinese president.

Is a deal possible?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: That's the question. You hear the president nearly in the same breath saying he has no idea what's going to happen. So on the one hand, you have the U.S. side very frustrated as what it sees as China renegotiating and reneging on parts of what they thought was going to be a deal.

You have us hours away from the U.S. raising tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of Chinese imports. You see markets responding. So it seems we're back to a trade war with China. On the other hand, you have a delegation here, meetings happening

tonight, the president saying he got this beautiful letter from President Xi and that everybody is probably going to be very impressed with the results.

What we do know is, just as the Trump administration is under tons of pressure from the U.S. business community, President Xi of China is also under pressure by his own economy and by his party to get something done. So it's very likely that something is going to be worked out.

As Kaitlan said, it may not be soon enough for there to be additions to the trade war in that element. And also, Wolf, this affects other issues, too.

When you talk to allies in the region and say, what about North Korea?

What happens now that we're at a stalemate with them?

They say the U.S. needs China's help on this. And before that can happen, they say, let's see what happens in trade talks between those two countries.

BLITZER: We'll find out fairly soon. Amidst all of this, Michelle, tensions with Iran clearly are also very high right now after U.S. intelligence saw evidence Iran was threatening U.S. troops in the region.

What are you learning about that threat?

KOSINSKI: The U.S. side is calling this "specific and credible threat" on the part of Iran and its proxies to plan attacks against the U.S. This is based on intercepts and imagery. Part of that was the moving of short-range ballistic missiles on Iranian boats in the Persian Gulf.

So there was that threat posture the U.S. picked up on multiple threads of intelligence here. They're still trying to assess that. According to Barbara Starr's reporting tonight, what the U.S. is also saying is no movement on the part of Iran to decrease that threat or what looks to be that posture of planning attacks against the U.S.

One official told Barbara Starr, we're looking for anything to reflect a change in their behavior and we're not seeing it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. A significant threat on that front, too. Michelle Kosinski, thank you. very much

Joining us now, Congressman Denny Heck of Washington State, a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Thanks for joining us. Lots to discuss. Let's get to the president. Donald Trump Jr. gave a private interview to your committee --

[17:10:00]

BLITZER: -- back in December of 2017 after reading the Mueller report, all 400-plus pages.

Why do you think the Senate Intelligence Committee now has subpoenaed him to come back?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA), MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, Wolf, anything I would say would principally be speculation but it doesn't seem to me this is the kind of thing where they're just wrapping up loose ends. It seems they want to explore some inconsistencies and attempt to get Junior to reconcile them for them.

Anybody who thinks this is over just isn't paying attention to the facts. Above and beyond Donald Trump Jr., there were, count them, 12 investigations spun out to various federal prosecutors, about which we had no idea prior to the issuance of the Mueller report. So this is just part of the ongoing saga here.

BLITZER: Do you think your Senate colleagues suspect Donald Trump Jr. may have perjured himself?

HECK: Well, that's one plausible explanation for why they would want him to come back but it would be speculation on my part and unfair to Donald Trump Jr. to assert thus. It could be any number of reasons.

But here's what's interesting to me. Out of all of the people that they interviewed -- and I think they interviewed staff and members, well over 100 -- that they chose him to come back, I think, is revealing in and of itself.

BLITZER: It's revealing that the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee approved this subpoena. A Republican chairman, not a Democratic chairman.

Why do you think President Trump is so concerned about the prospect of his son testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee?

HECK: Well, I think the answer to that question is obvious, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, explain.

HECK: That he may reveal something that reflects poorly on the president.

Why else would he care?

Of course, I've had that question all along, when there's been resistance to disclosure of documents or coming forth to testify.

Why?

If there's no underlying reason for being concerned, why would it concern him that the Senate Intelligence Committee would call Don Jr. back?

BLITZER: It is pretty extraordinary that the committee -- the Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed the son of the president of the United States. It's pretty extraordinary. The president is back to saying it's up to the attorney general to, if

Robert Mueller will testify before Congress, after tweeting that Mueller should not testify.

Do you still expect Barr, the attorney general, to allow Mueller to appear before your committee?

HECK: So there's some point in the near future at a date yet to be determined where Bob Mueller is no longer an employee of the Department of Justice. And I'm unaware of whether or not he signed a document prior to being hired as special counsel that would prohibit him from coming back in the capacity as a civilian.

So, frankly, I do expect Bob Mueller to appear before either or both the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee.

Here's how I look at this. We have the redacted version of this report. We're seeking the unredacted version as well as underlying documents. Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Schiff subpoenaed them yesterday.

But having all of that is kind of like having the sheet music without having ever heard the song. And there's only one person who can sing the song and that's Director Mueller.

When you stop and think about it, it's pretty amazing. In some 20 months since this investigation began, not one time, not for one second have we heard the voice of Bob Mueller. It's time to hear from Bob Mueller.

BLITZER: The House Intelligence Committee chairman, your chairman, Adam Schiff, the top Republican on the committee, Devin Nunes, they have jointly requested the unredacted Mueller report.

Do you expect the Justice Department to be more accommodating to this request than what we saw with the House Judiciary Committee?

HECK: No, no. Miracles still do happen, though. Not only did they jointly request that once, they actually jointly requested it twice. In March and in April. Here's how I view this.

This is just going to continue to play out, where the president is going to ignore every legitimate Article I constitutional oversight effort on the part of the Congress. It's going to go to court.

And in the absence of something disrupting of all of that and a significant change in public opinion, especially among the Republicans' base, this is headed toward a constitutional crisis. Or it would just eventually be litigated on November 3rd, 2020.

BLITZER: Are you concerned that holding the attorney general in contempt will hurt your efforts to get information from the Justice Department?

HECK: I don't know how it would do that. Look, I am not an attorney, Wolf. As I've told you, I don't play one on TV. But I joined with the more than 800 former federal prosecutors, who

indicated that section two of the Mueller report is a clear pattern of obstruction of justice by the president. And it is time to hear from Director Mueller about that and to get color on it and to be able to ask questions about that --

[17:15:00]

HECK: -- and to be able to ask him the questions, very explicitly, were it not for the precedent in the Office of Legal Counsel saying you cannot indict a sitting president, would you have indicted President Trump?

That, too, may be a disrupting event but only time will tell.

BLITZER: What about next Wednesday?

That was the date that we had heard that he might show up before the House Judiciary Committee.

What are you hearing?

HECK: You can hear everything and all sides of that story that you want to. We're just going to -- this is going to play out a day at a time. I still maintain that, sooner or later, Director Mueller will come before some committee of the Congress in House or Senate. I hope before the Intelligence Committee.

And particular, I hope this, Wolf, because, as has been indicated, we believe he gathered significant information and material of a counterintelligence nature that did not fit neatly into either section one or two of his report.

And it would help us do our job in keeping America safe if we knew more fully what it is that he learn about how Russia interfered in our election.

BLITZER: Congressman Denny Heck, you got through with all that crosstalk in the background as a broadcast professional. We're grateful to you. Thank you very much.

Up next, breaking news. President Trump goes on a tirade against the special counsel Robert Mueller. He says it's up to the attorney general whether Mueller should testify before Congress.

Is he afraid of what Mueller would say?

And the president slams the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee for issuing a subpoena to his son, Donald Trump Jr.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

BLITZER: The breaking news: multiple headlines from President Trump's impromptu question and answer session with reporters today, including another change of course that leaves open the possibility of the special counsel Robert Mueller testifying before Congress. Let's bring in our political and legal experts.

Laura Jarrett, the president announced it's up to, in his words, "our very great attorney general" to decide if Mueller should testify. That's a shift from the weekend, when he said he shouldn't testify.

What are you hearing?

What's the latest?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this certainly isn't the first time we've seen the president say something on Twitter, only to reverse himself a short time later. But I wondered how he was going to handle this, especially since the attorney general had been on the record under oath, telling members of Congress he was happy to see Bob Mueller testify. Didn't care at all one way or another.

So it was going to put the attorney general in a bit of a tricky spot if the president made good on that threat, saying he really didn't want him to testify. And perhaps, you know, he doesn't want to appear as though he's afraid of what Mueller would say to lawmakers.

But the real question is, when is this hearing going to get scheduled?

We still don't have a date yet. Last night Chairman Nadler told Don Lemon he'll subpoena Mueller if he has to. But it doesn't appear there's any great sense of urgency in getting this date scheduled.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, what do you think the president is so afraid of?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it's any secret he hates this investigation. He's only called it a witch hunt 500 times.

And, you know, there's a very big difference in the world between a 450-page report, which a handful of people will read, and the author of that report coming forward and saying, look, there were 10 examples of obstruction of justice and here they are.

And that's what Mueller would do. You can certainly understand why the president doesn't want to see that on national television.

BLITZER: Chris Cillizza, do you believe the president when he says he's leaving the decision to the attorney general?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, if you do take him at his word, the answer to that, is Bob Mueller will testify because, on multiple occasions, in testimony, Bill Barr has been asked that.

Is it OK?

Is it OK if Bob Mueller testifies?

He said, yes, fine, he should do it.

So if Bob Mueller -- if Barr decides Bob Mueller shouldn't testify, then it's going to be tough for me to be convinced that Donald Trump didn't put a thumb on the scale because, again -- and this isn't six years ago or two years ago when the investigation started. This is Bill Barr within the last six weeks, Wolf, saying, I'm fine with Bob Mueller testifying.

So I think we have to wait and see if Bob Mueller actually testifies. If he doesn't, if Barr blocks that, then I think you can rightly assume that was Donald Trump.

BLITZER: He said he's more than happy to let him testify. He didn't say when he should testify but let him testify.

CILLIZZA: And that's a legitimate question. At some point, as we've seen in the administration do on other things, at some point there's a running the clock out element to this, too. The Mueller report is now out, right?

Nowish or the next month would seem like an appropriate time. Six months, a year from now, Bob Mueller's recollection won't be what it is today. So I do think we need to have it in a relatively narrow timeframe.

BLITZER: Jamie Gangel, the president certainly today not disguising his shock and anger over his son getting a subpoena from the Republican majority Senate Intelligence Committee. Listen to the president in his own words.

[17:25:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: For my son, after being exonerated, to now get a subpoena to go again and speak again, after close to 20 hours of telling everybody that would listen about a nothing meeting, yes, I'm pretty surprised.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What are you hearing about this?

It's a stunning development.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's just remember, despite -- we didn't have this part of the clip. But despite what the president says, this report did not exonerate his son. It did not exonerate him. And he's not happy about this.

And what I'm hearing from the Hill is something that makes a lot of sense. Richard Burr is not running for re-election. He is a free man. He can do what he wants to do. He cares about his reputation. I'm told he was not happy; if you look through the Mueller report,

there's a reference to his maybe having briefed the White House. I don't think he liked that. And he has prided himself on making this bipartisan. And the president also has to hear this and think, this isn't the end. This isn't just House Democrats.

CILLIZZA: And just one other quick thing. That's really important. If there's anything bipartisan that we've seen, it's Burr and Warner, Mark Warner, the ranking member. They haven't always agreed on everything but they put a relatively united front.

The other thing is today Donald Trump said, Don Junior is a good guy. He doesn't want to have anything to do with Washington.

Well, that's absolutely nothing -- being a good guy in your dad's eyes has zero to do with whether or not you should appear before this committee. I know he probably knows that --

BLITZER: And it's a big deal to subpoena the son of the president. That's not an easy decision.

Everybody stand by. There's a lot more we're following. We'll do that right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:28] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our political and legal experts.

Jeffrey Toobin, Senator Richard Blumenthal says that if Donald Trump, Jr. defies and ignores the subpoena he's received from the Senate Intelligence Committee -- he says he should be jailed. That's what Senator Blumenthal is saying. Is that a realistic outcome?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's not.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: I mean, it's just not going to happen. He is -- you know, he is going to figure out a way to talk to the lawyers. His lawyers will talk to the committee. There hasn't been someone jailed for defying a congressional subpoena, certainly in decades, and it's just -- it's just not going to happen.

But I think this comment by Senator Blumenthal -- who is a former U.S. attorney, someone who is very familiar with the legal system, a former state attorney general -- it's indicative of the level of frustration that Democrats feel as person after person refuses to testify, documents are not produced. And they're frustrated, but Don Junior is not going to jail.

BLITZER: Yes. You know, the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Cillizza, is now joining the Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler in declaring a, quote, constitutional crisis.

How has Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker's political strategy evolved in the face --

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes.

BLITZER: -- of the administration's stonewalling?

CILLIZZA: I mean, she has gotten more aggressive. As they have stonewalled more, she's become a little bit more aggressive in what she's willing to say.

I will note Nancy Pelosi is still not calling for Donald Trump to be impeached and I think, behind the scenes, is a voice of what I believe to be political smarts and savvy to say, let's not go down this road. She essentially said, earlier in the week, Donald Trump is -- he's trying to goad us into impeaching him. I think it's a very fine line to walk.

Because I talked to a Democratic pollster, John Anzalone, who did work for Barack Obama, and he said, look, here's the problem. People want to hear about our solutions on healthcare, on education, on immigration. Those are things that touch people's lives. They want to hear about the tax plan and why it didn't work for the average person.

It is hard to sell people on Donald Trump wanting to be impeached -- impeaching Donald Trump now whether or not he deserves it. So Nancy Pelosi has a caucus that a chunk of it wants to impeach Donald Trump yesterday. And she has to balance that against the political reality out in the country, even within the Democratic base, of people who may not be willing to do that.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: But I will say we are seeing -- she's leaving the door open.

CILLIZZA: Absolutely.

GANGEL: And we're seeing every day, first it was self-impeachment. Now, today, she's talking about that they are not living up, honoring their oath. She's leaving the door open.

CILLIZZA: Which I think is smart. I mean, look, if you're Nancy Pelosi, again, there's no benefit in saying absolutely not, under no circumstances.

We saw Steny Hoyer right after the Mueller report came out and say we're not going to impeach him now. Well, he's walked that back that, too, because, again, you need to keep that door open.

I would just say I think she is wary about it, which politically speaking --

GANGEL: For political reasons.

CILLIZZA: -- is the right approach.

BLITZER: You're probably right. You know, Laura Jarrett, the Justice Department was bidding farewell

today to the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. You attended the ceremony. Rosenstein declared justice is in good hands. What stood out to you as you were watching all of this unfold?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think the former Attorney General Jeff Sessions might have put it best, describing sort of the atmosphere over here at the department over the last two years, saying things were often a bit not normal.

(LAUGHTER)

[17:34:58] JARRETT: And I think, you know, the Mueller investigation loomed large. It was the elephant in the room today because, obviously, Rosenstein oversaw the investigation since its inception for the most part. He didn't directly address it in his remarks, but most other people did, including Sessions who has, obviously, recused from it.

And the current Attorney General Bill Barr joking about it at times, praising Rosenstein, calling him unflappable. Also joking about the fact that Rosenstein actually interned for Bob Mueller as a young lawyer, talking about how they're basically getting the gang back together, all of them over here now, at their -- their second time around, at least for Attorney General Bill Barr.

So it was an upbeat farewell for an Attorney General who has had a long kiss good-bye at this department.

BLITZER: What's going to be his legacy, Jeffrey Toobin? We're talking about Rosenstein.

TOOBIN: Well, I'm writing that book right now, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: It's complicated. He is a less colorful figure than Chris' shirt, but he is someone who has an enormous legacy. I mean, he is the person who picked Robert Mueller to be the Special Counsel. He is the person who stood side by side with Bill Barr as they misinterpreted, according to Robert Mueller, Mueller's report.

I mean, he has something to offer both sides in terms of his legacy. And certainly, there has never been a Deputy Attorney General of the United States as famous or as consequential as Rod Rosenstein.

BLITZER: And it's interesting, Jeffrey, all of these leaders who were involved over the past couple of years in doing this, they're all Republicans, right?

TOOBIN: They certainly are. And Rod Rosenstein, you know, for my reporting, all he ever wanted was to be a judge. That's what he wanted, and somehow he got involved in this craziness. And he has a much more robust legacy than he would have as some judge in Maryland, which is what he wanted to be. BLITZER: Interesting. All right, guys, we're going to continue to

follow all of this. We've got an important announcement, an important reminder for our viewers.

The former FBI Director, James Comey, takes part in a live "AC360 TOWN HALL" later tonight. CNN's Anderson Cooper moderates. It begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, we're learning of an ominous warning about conditions at that Colorado school where a deadly shooting occurred this week. One parent feared a repeat of Columbine.

[17:37:30] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, we have new details about ominous warnings which school district authorities knew about in the months leading up to this week's deadly shooting at a Colorado school. The attack left one student dead, eight others wounded.

CNN's Ryan Young is outside the school in suburban Denver. What are you learning, Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we could be hours away from the two potential shooters being charged in this case, and there we can learn from investigators exactly what they've learned over the last few hours. But there are still questions because, apparently, a parent sent a warning letter to the school.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YOUNG (voice-over): Tonight, concerns from parents whether there were missed warning signs ahead of this week's deadly shooting. This letter from the Douglas County School District lists more than a dozen complaints from an anonymous parent, including concerns about student violence that could lead to a repeat of Columbine.

The parent called the situation at the school the perfect storm, blaming a high-pressure environment and citing a recent bomb threat. The parent also claiming that many students are suicidal and violent in the school. Several students have reported sexual assault in school and that nothing is being done.

The letter was sent in December, five months before Tuesday's shooting that left one student dead and eight others injured.

CAMI BRAINARD, PARENT OF A STUDENT OF STEM SCHOOL HIGHLANDS RANCH: It's extremely disturbing, but I haven't heard of anything like that, you know, through my son at all.

YOUNG (voice-over): Acknowledging the grave allegations, the school district put the STEM School on alert, writing the concerns expressed by this individual are very serious and need to be looked into to the extent possible. Please keep the district apprised of your investigation and conclusions.

BRAINARD: There has definitely been a lot of stuff going on around here but nothing really personal, you know. Like my son's talked about kids saying that they have depression or whatever but nothing quite to that extent.

YOUNG (voice-over): The school's principal Penny Eucker called the allegations at the time an attack in a letter to parents, saying they were false accusations and that an investigation by a STEM board and staff leadership revealed no evidence of these allegations. The school even filed a defamation lawsuit against a Jane Doe since the parent remains anonymous.

Still, the school leadership has been under fire in recent years for the way it's run. In December, a group of parents wrote a 240-page report asking the county to intervene, describing an atmosphere of distrust, uncertainty, and hostility about issues ranging from safety concerns to special education programs.

The county board of education even wrote, we urge you to consider a change in leadership. The school's response? We have tried our best to resolve any concerns.

As questions are raised about missed cues, the community gathering for a vigil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of the students here are leaving.

YOUNG (voice-over): The event turned from sorrow to anger as students walked out in protest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anybody would like to speak.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YOUNG: Now, Wolf, late this afternoon, we released -- received a statement from the administration at the school.

[17:44:59] And it says, in part, like any school with more than 1,800 students, we receive complaints, all of which we take seriously and investigate promptly. The safety and well-being of our students and staff are our highest priority.

But, Wolf, this community is in pain. In fact, right before we went on for our live shot, there were two young ladies who walked across the street to drop off some flowers here. They barely could make it across the street, we didn't even want to approach them.

People have been talking about the young man who stood up and put his life on the line. Obviously, he lost it to try to stop that shooter. That's what we've been hearing over and over again about the sense of loss here, the fact that they lost someone that they thought could be a community pillar.

And then there are three other kids who still remain at the hospital. So many thoughts and prayers for them. People are wondering when someone is going to stand up and sort of give them the information they can feel to heal. Wolf, it's going to be a long, long healing process. BLITZER: Yes, it's so, so sad. Ryan Young, on the scene for us,

thank you.

Coming up, Kim Jong-un's military launches two more missiles, and President Trump says nobody is happy about it. What's next for U.S. relations with North Korea?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:43] BLITZER: North Korea has test -- test-fired more missiles, and it may be a sign that Kim Jong-un is testing President Trump.

Brian Todd has been looking into this for us. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just moments ago, we're hearing that Kim Jong-un personally supervised the latest test firing of North Korean missiles which occurred overnight. Tonight, the North Korean leader is not only testing missiles, he is busting sanctions and driving President Trump to the point of frustration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): North Korea's ruthless young dictator is ramping up his aggression tonight, seemingly determined to press the Trump team's buttons.

South Korean military officials tell CNN Kim Jong-un test-fired two short-range missiles overnight, capable of traveling more than 200 miles or the distance from Washington to New York.

The overnight launches came less than a week after Kim's regime fired off another short-range missile. Today, President Trump reacted, not with fire and fury but with frustration.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody is happy about it, but we're taking a good look and we'll see. We'll see. The relationship continues, but we'll see what happens.

I know they want to negotiate. They're talking about negotiating, but I don't think they're ready to negotiate.

TODD (voice-over): The overnight launches came just hours before news broke that the U.S. had seized a North Korean ship accused of busting sanctions.

U.S. officials say the cargo ship, ironically named "The Wise Honest," was illegally shipping coal out of North Korea and heavy machinery into the country. The ship was intercepted by Indonesia's Navy last year. Tonight, it's on its way to American Samoa.

Kim's efforts to bust sanctions and test missiles are provocative moves from the North Korean leader, experts say, aimed at sending a message to President Trump.

COL. DAVID MAXWELL (RET.), SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: They are obviously trying to use provocations in raising tensions to gain political and economic concessions. Particularly, they want to set the conditions to drive us back to the negotiating table and give them concessions.

TODD (voice-over): But analysts say Kim's latest moves aren't just designed to send a message. They say they're a sign of the pressure Kim is feeling internally, the desperation of a dictator who didn't bring home what he promised from the summit in Hanoi.

MAXWELL: His bank accounts are being drained, and so he is under pressure from his elite because he's not able to support them to the standard that they are used to.

TODD (voice-over): Since February, North Korea has begun rebuilding shuttered missile sites and Kim has attended military drills, moves designed not only to prod the U.S. but to show his military officers that he is still in command.

South Korean officials say North Korea launched its latest missiles from a base near Kusong, north of Pyongyang, one of more than a dozen secret missile facilities the regime operates. The missiles flew east over North Korean territory before landing in the Sea of Japan.

THOMAS KARAKO, DIRECTOR OF THE MISSILE DEFENSE PROJECT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: That comes with a risk of hitting their own population. They've had that happen in the past with a lot of deaths.

TODD (voice-over): Experts who track North Korea's missiles say the missiles fired today and last week are new, never before tested by the regime, and that they could pose a significant threat to U.S. forces in South Korea and their allies.

KARAKO: That can be targeting U.S. military base or perhaps Seoul down in South Korea. And because of its flight trajectory, it might just be a little bit harder to intercept.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Do all these provocative moves from Kim increase the pressure on Donald Trump to get back to the negotiating table?

One analyst says it's just the opposite, that Kim is the one feeling all the pressure from the sanctions placed on him. This analyst says Donald Trump should just be patient and ride out what he calls Kim's blackmail diplomacy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Brian, you're getting some disturbing new information on the design of those North Korean missiles that were fired last week, right?

TODD: Right, Wolf. A respected missile expert is telling us this missile and the launcher that it was fired from look a lot like the Russian Iskander missiles, the same designs for both this vehicle and the launcher. Analysts say if the Russians are exporting their missile technology to

North Korea, that could violate U.N. sanctions and could be a real problem for the U.S.

BLITZER: It certainly could be. All right, Brian Todd, good report. Thank you.

Coming up, the breaking news. President Trump goes on a tirade against the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, saying it's up to the Attorney General whether Mueller should testify before Congress.

And the President says he was surprised that the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed his son, Donald Trump, Jr., blasting the move by the panel's Republican chairman.

[17:55:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:59:56] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Railing on Mueller. President Trump goes after the Special Counsel in his first extended on-camera remarks since the release of the Mueller report.