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THE SITUATION ROOM
A.G. Barr Heeds Trump Call To "Investigate The Investigators"; Putin Praises Work Of Special Counsel Robert Mueller; House Intel Asks Trump Lawyers About Cohen's False Testimony; Interview With Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) On Republican Opposition To Further Cohen Inquiries; Trump Jr. Makes Deal To Testify Before Senate Intel; North Korea Demands Return Of Cargo Ship Seized By U.S. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 14, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: Putin praises Mueller. Russia's leader calls the special counsel's Russia report "exotic but objective," stressing that Robert Mueller found no trace of collusion.
That comes as Florida's governor reveals two counties in his state were hacked during the 2016 election.
Was Russia to blame?
I didn't ask: President Trump praises his attorney general for working with the nation's intel chiefs to review the origins of the Russia investigation. The president claims he didn't ask William Barr to do so but he has repeatedly demanded in public a probe to investigate the investigators.
War footing: a new report says the military is planning to stage tens of thousands of troops in the Middle East after dispatching ships, planes and defensive missiles to the region.
Is the U.S. suddenly going on a possible war footing against Iran?
And give it back: Kim Jong-un's regime is demanding the U.S. give back a cargo ship seized for allegedly violating sanctions.
But why is the North Korean dictator reportedly also demanding that the U.S. send him basketball players?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news: the House Intelligence Committee has asked lawyers for the president, his daughter and son-in-law and his business to submit to voluntary interviews tied to Michael Cohen's claims that they helped edit his false testimony to Congress. The committee chairman is warning of a subpoena.
Also tonight, the attorney general, William Barr, is working with U.S. intelligence chiefs to review the origins of the Russia investigation. The president denies asking Barr to act but he has repeatedly called for such a probe to, quote, "investigate the investigators."
That comes as the Trump administration's battle against congressional investigations today moved to a federal court, where a judge heard arguments on a House Oversight subpoena for documents from President Trump's accounting firm. The judge has stressed that it would be unusual for a court to limit congressional subpoena power.
I'll speak with Congressman Chris Stewart of the House Intelligence Committee and our correspondents and analysts, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the attorney general is heeding the president's call to look into the beginnings of the Russia investigation.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And no surprise, President Trump gave his blessing to attorney general William Barr's decision to launch an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that began during the 2016 campaign.
But he claimed today in front of reporters that he didn't ask for that. Asked for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, he did pick up one notable endorsement today from Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
ACOSTA (voice-over): After weeks of complaints about the Mueller report, President Trump is getting what he wanted, an investigation of the investigators who probed Trump campaign contacts with the Russians during the 2016 election.
Asked about attorney general William Barr's move to tap a federal prosecutor to launch an inquiry, the president said it wasn't something he ordered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't ask him to do that. I didn't know it but I think it's a great thing that he did it. And you know what?
I am so proud of our attorney general, that he is looking into it. I think it's great. I did not know about it. No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): But Barr didn't exactly need a nudge. He could just check the president's Twitter feed, such as this tweet from last month that said, "Investigate the investigators."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, Mr. Director.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It seems the president has already made up his mind on the subject, criticizing his hand-picked FBI director, Christopher Wray, who testified he didn't think federal investigators were spying on the Trump campaign.
TRUMP: Well, I didn't understand his answer, because I thought the attorney general answered it perfectly. So I certainly didn't understand that answer. I thought it was a ridiculous answer.
ACOSTA (voice-over): That answer from Wray came at a hearing last week.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Do you have any evidence that any illegal surveillance into the campaigns or individuals associated with the campaigns by the FBI occurred?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I don't think I personally have any evidence of that sort.
ACOSTA (voice-over): A rare but notable moment of public disagreement with the attorney general.
WEBER: I think spying did occur.
ACOSTA (voice-over): While the president has aired his frustration with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, that probe did find a fan in Russia's Vladimir Putin.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Despite the exotic nature of the work of special counsel Mueller, we must give him credit.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is meeting with Putin in Russia, warned the U.S. won't tolerate Moscow's meddling in 2020.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Interference in American elections is unacceptable. If the Russians were to engage in that in 2020, it would put in our relationship in an even worse place than it has been.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The full scale --
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- of that interference is still being revealed, as Florida's governor told reporters today, voter databases in two of his state's counties were infiltrated by Russian operatives.
REP. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA.: For the 2016 election, two Florida counties experienced intrusion into the supervisor of election networks. There was no manipulation or anything. But there was voter data that was able to be get. ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is eager to wrap up the Russia probe, complaining he doesn't want his son, Donald Trump Jr., to spend any more time testifying in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, despite receiving a subpoena to do so.
TRUMP: I have no idea why but it seems very unfair to me.
ACOSTA (voice-over): On his trade war, Mr. Trump is defending his tariffs on China, tweeting, "Our great patriot farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now," despite growing complaints that the U.S. agricultural sector is suffering.
TRUMP: We're having a little squabble with China because we've been treated very unfairly for many, many decades, for actually a long time.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is also rejecting reports that his administration is making plans in the event of a massive military confrontation with Iran.
TRUMP: Now would I do that?
Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we're not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that.
ACOSTA: And the president is certainly applying pressure on the Senate Intelligence Committee, when he says it's unfair for his son to have to spend more time detailing what he knows about Russian interference. But the GOP-led Intelligence Committee appears to have the support of Republican leadership, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier today, he's not going to tell that committee's chairman, Richard Burr, how to do his job.
And one thing we should point out, getting back to what Vladimir Putin said about the Mueller probe, when he echoed President Trump's line, that there was no collusion found by the special counsel's investigation, Vladimir Putin completely overlooked the fact that that same Mueller investigation did find that Russian interference occurred in the 2016 election -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it did. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Now there's more breaking news. Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell.
Kara, CNN has learned that the House Intelligence Committee is now investigating the role that lawyers tied to the president and his family played in Michael Cohen's false testimony to Congress.
What's the latest on that?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that the House Intelligence Committee has asked four lawyers associated with Trump, his personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, two lawyers who work for the Trump Organization and the lawyer for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, to preserve documents and be ready to sit for voluntary interviews all relating to the bigger question of whether anyone had helped mislead his committee, the House committee's investigation.
Now this stems in part from Michael Cohen's testimony, where he admitted that he lied to Congress when he said he was discussing the length and the duration of the talks to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Now what the House Intelligence Committee is looking into is whether any of those lawyers were involved in those statements. Because when Michael Cohen was testifying, he said that changes were made to his statement. He specifically mentioned one of those attorneys.
And we have a statement from Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
And in that he said, "We must determine how expansive the obstruction effort was and whether others were involved beyond those who were indicted. The materials we are requesting in these letters go to the heart of that investigation and to Congress' ability to conduct meaningful oversight."
A source tells our colleagues on the Hill that it's possible that Adam Schiff will move to subpoena these lawyers for their testimony. Lawyers are pushing back in letters to the committee, saying they have to protect attorney-client privilege.
And we have a statement from one lawyer representing all four of those attorneys.
He says, "Instead of addressing important intelligence needs, the House Intelligence Committee appears to seek a truly needless dispute, this one with private attorneys, that would force them to violate privileges and ethical rules.
"As committed defense lawyers, we will respect the Constitution and defend the attorney-client privilege, one of the oldest and most sacred privileges in the law."
It appears that, at this point, they're not going to comply with this. We'll see how strong Schiff has to go on this, if he does seek to subpoena them. But this is yet another new investigation that we're learning of. This into whether these lawyers were involved in Michael Cohen's false testimony before Congress.
BLITZER: Very interesting. There's another intriguing development. You were in a federal courthouse today, when lawyers representing the president and Democrats, they got into -- they're in a big fight right now about getting access to the president's financial records.
SCANNELL: That's right. So President Trump is trying to stop the House from obtaining accounting records that his accounting firm has. And this was the first test in the courtroom today, where we saw them having to make these arguments.
The judge overseeing the case said he was not going to rule today and would not rule this week.
But he did quiz both sides but really appeared skeptical of President Trump's legal team's argument, which they were arguing that any action by Congress was looking to investigate, not legislate. And the judge pushed back on them, saying, there --
SCANNELL: -- hasn't been a court case since 1880 that limited congressional subpoenas. So it looks like he is leaning to side with Congress, saying that there's really very limited, you know, reasons to curtail congressional investigations.
You know, he even brought up Watergate and Whitewater, saying, you know, to Trump's attorney, you know, were those legitimate investigative tools and reasons that Congress was looking into those areas?
So it appears as though he's leaning towards Congress. This is the first courtroom test, you know, we're also going to see another test next week in New York, where the president is also seeking to stop Deutsche Bank and Capitol One, two lenders and two banks he's dealt with, from complying with a House subpoena in that case.
So this real issue and the separation of powers is on the table now and now in the courts, where we should see a decision in the near term.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect there'll be more legal battles down the road as well. Kara Scannell, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah. He's a key member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Thanks very much for joining us.
REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get with the breaking news. We just heard the House Intelligence Committee, your committee, the chairman, Adam Schiff, among others, seeking specific information from various attorneys for the president, his family, his business, in connection with Michael Cohen's claims that clearly were false, that -- he said they helped him edit that false testimony before Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower project.
First of all, do you support this inquiry by your committee?
STEWART: No, look, Wolf, if you think you've got to beat this dead horse any longer, you've got to dig this dude out of the grave to beat it. Look, Mr. Mueller completed his report. There's been so many investigations. This seems to be much, much more of the same. And here's my concern with this. And I think this is something that
you and others would appreciate. This isn't the purview of the House Intelligence Committee. Our committee is there to look at national security, to look at intelligence issues, to look at things about keeping Americans safe. This has nothing at all to do with that.
Now if you're on the House Judiciary, I understand. Maybe that committee would look at this and have concerns.
But the House Intelligence Committee?
This isn't what we were created and designed for. I just think, honestly, it's such a diversion from the things that really matter to most of us on the committee, the reasons we wanted to be on the committee.
BLITZER: But if individuals lied or obstructed information in terms of their testimony before your committee or other House committees during the course of this investigation, don't you want to learn about that?
Isn't that the responsibility of Congress, of individuals lying?
STEWART: No, I understand that and I've said that on your show many times, that people come before our committee and lie, we want to know about that.
But honestly, does Mr. Cohen or is there anyone in America that has less credibility than Mr. Cohen does?
Every time he's appeared before our committee, including after his conviction, he came back to our committee and he lied to us once again. There were additional suggested referrals because of that.
And I just don't think he has the credibility to open up an entire line of investigation and I think, to back that up, let's remember, he is the one responsible for this statement. It was about information that only he had knowledge of.
And for him to now say, I did this at the behest of some attorneys, I don't think it just passes the credibility test. But it is this. Look, some of my Democratic colleagues want to keep this president under suspicion, investigations open as long as they can. Obviously, through the next election, at least. And I think they'll follow almost any path in order to do that.
BLITZER: Here's another sensitive issue I want to pick your brain on, Congressman. The attorney general, William Barr, is now starting a brand-new investigation into the origins of the entire Russia probe. What surprised me is, the inspector general over at the Department of Justice is about to finish his own probe into that specific question.
Why do you think the attorney general is launching a new one before the inspector general concludes his?
STEWART: Well, I think he's just so deeply concerned. And he felt like maybe having another set of eyes on this. But I'm looking forward to the inspector general's report. It's something many of us have been looking at for more than a year.
For more than a year, many of us have been saying that the predicate, that the idea of this -- of the investigation and what it was formulated on is deeply flawed. And I know the inspector general is looking at that.
But he's looking at an awful lot of things. It's not just that, he has a plethora of items that he has responsibility for. And I think the attorney general just felt like this was such an important item that he wanted another set of eyes to look at just this issue, someone who would have the resources and the time to really pursue it in a meaningful way, that perhaps the inspector general wouldn't have.
BLITZER: Well, don't you -- but you agree that Russia did interfere in 2016, they did get involved in doing all sorts of things, as the Mueller report, the various U.S. intelligence agencies --
BLITZER: -- all of the current national security intelligence types in the Trump administration, they all agree that Russia was doing it.
Wasn't that the reason for the origin of the Russia investigation?
STEWART: Well, A, yes, I agree with that. In fact, as I said on your show a dozen times, not only do I agree that it happened, I was in Moscow just for the election and I came home and said, it's going to happen. Many of us knew they were going to do it. There's no question --
BLITZER: Isn't that a legitimate reason for beginning a probe like this?
STEWART: It absolutely is and they should have.
But this is something different, Wolf. And this is, you're taking people, who we now know that the charges against them and the suspicion against them is unwarranted. We know that now. Mr. Mueller was declarative on that. There was no evidence of this.
And if that's true, if there's no evidence that would support opening this investigation, then I think it's a very important question and that is, why did you open it, then?
Based on what evidence?
Look, this isn't -- we're not looking at a mafia family or drug cartels. We're looking at a campaign for the president of the United States.
And if you're going to put some of those individuals under surveillance, as we know that they did, and if you're going to put them where their communications are being eavesdropped, as we know they were, then you better have a good reason for that.
And I think that's what the attorney general and these others are looking at, is was there proper caution, was there proper political considerations given to that origins was it done, perhaps, as many of us have been concerned about for a long time now, perhaps for political purposes rather than for real national security concerns.
BLITZER: Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah, thanks as usual for joining us.
STEWART: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, more breaking news. Russia's Vladimir Putin praises the special counsel's Russia report, saying that Robert Mueller found no trace of collusion. But Putin leaves out the part where Mueller found that Russia did, indeed, attack the U.S. presidential election.
And CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, there you see him. He's standing by live. We'll talk about his brand-new, very important book entitled, "The Shadow War, Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America."
BLITZER: We have breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. "The New York Times" reporting that Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, has made a deal to come testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
I want to bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's also the author of a brand-new, very important book entitled "The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America."
Let me tell you what our colleague, Maggie Haberman, Jim, is reporting from "The New York Times." She says this.
She says, a deal was struck between the Senate committee, subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr. for a limited appearance, between two to four hours, in mid-June. After an intense battle by his allies against the chairman, Richard Burr, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, story via (ph)."
Then she said, coming soon on "The New York Times."
There's a very significant development if the president's son now will appear before the committee for between two to four hours to answer questions. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, and I can say now that CNN has confirmed this story, as well, that this deal is reached here. It's important, because it's a resolution of a significant standoff. One, between Congress and the White House on whether Congress, whether a key congressional committee has the ability and the power to, in effect, subpoena who they want to subpoena, to ask hard questions about this investigation.
And particularly significant in this case, because, of course, this is a committee chaired not by a Democrat, as the House committees are, but chaired by a Republican.
Senator Burr, which had led to enormous criticism of the Republican chairman of that committee, from members of his own caucus, saying that somehow -- and some of the Trump supporters -- saying that somehow he was not a real Republican or is being disloyal here, standing his ground, the committee standing its ground here.
And now Donald Trump Jr. agreeing to sit down to be questioned.
Of course, the question going forward is, what is the line of inquiry here?
Are they concerned that he was not truthful before the committee when he appeared weeks ago?
Is it possible they want to test his statements to see if he committed perjury then?
Of course, the other question is, what more do they want to learn about what was a central part of the Russia investigation?
And that is that Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, where he was interested and the campaign was interested in receiving foreign help, dirt on Hillary Clinton, from Russia.
Yes, the special counsel concluded that there was no conspiracy between the two sides but it did cite a number of instances, like this one, to speak to contacts and interests and, as the special counsel said, you'll remember in that report, that there was interest from the Trump campaign in receiving that help.
What more do they want to learn?
We'll find out after two to four hours that he will sit before that committee.
BLITZER: And they also want to presumably question him about the project, the Trump Tower project, that was being discussed in Moscow, what he was -- was he involved in that?
How much he knew about that. I think in addition to the Trump Tower meeting in New York, they want to talk to him about that. What's really significant is --
[17:25:00] BLITZER: -- remember, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, he recommended that Donald Trump Jr. simply ignore the subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee led by Richard Burr.
SCIUTTO: That's right, encouraging him, as did a couple of other Republican senators, to take the Fifth, if they were to accept that subpoena. In effect, refuse to answer any of these questions, which is a remarkable thing to do, for members of Congress to give up that right for Congress to exercise its power of investigation here.
So it appears -- and I think we can reasonably call this good news -- that a resolution has been reached, so that committee gets its moment with Don Jr. to ask him questions.
BLITZER: And what's also significant is that this will be a verbal Q&A for between two to four hours, not simply written questions and written answers. That was one of the options that we were told yesterday could be on the table as well. This is a significant development.
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And of course, that is the way that the president answered questions from the special counsel. The special counsel -- and we learned this again, confirmed in the Mueller report -- sought to have a face to face interview but in effect gave up on that. Took those written answers, to which the president frequently answered, "I cannot recall."
It is a qualitative difference to be able to sit face to face with the witness and challenge their answers in person on the spot.
BLITZER: This is very important. We're going to have a lot more on this new development, the breaking news.
But you've also written a really significant, very important new book. And I want to talk a little bit about that and get your thoughts.
There was a meeting in Russia earlier today. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, told Vladimir Putin that President Trump very much wants better relations between the U.S. and Russia. The Russian president actually praised the work of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, but without mentioning the Mueller report, that the Mueller report concluded that Russia did, in fact, interfere in the election.
You've done a lot of research now, what Russia's up to here in the United States, what China's up to here in the United States.
What's your reaction when you hear this?
SCIUTTO: It's truly remarkable, because what is the potential area for agreement between Russia and the U.S.?
Just go through the list of issues on which the U.S. and Russia are on opposite ends of the spectrum: Venezuela, the Iran nuclear deal. Remember, Russia is a signatory to that deal. The U.S. has pulled out of it. Syria: the U.S. and Russia on opposite sides. Election interference,
not just in 2016 but which was attempted again in 2018 and is expected to happen again in 2020, Russia has not changed its behavior there.
Russia still occupies large parts of a European country, Ukraine, in spite of American protests.
And this is the point here, beyond the fact that the U.S. has many disagreements with Russia, so it's difficult to imagine how the two sitting across from each other can find a way forward on these things very easily.
But the fact is -- and I spoke to U.S. national security officials, military commanders, intelligence officials -- is that these are Russia's permanent interests. And it's part of a broader plan to undermine the U.S. on multiple fronts.
And they are the fronts that Americans are aware of, election interference being one of them. But there are others that they're not. Russia has deployed weapons in space, satellites designed to destroy U.S. satellites that the military and civilian technology depends on.
Russia has brought about -- is pursuing an enormous race, a great game under the waves with more advanced submarine technology, which is designed to get close to the U.S. coast, to at least have the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the U.S. homeland.
This is happening on a number of fronts at the same time, because Russia has the express interest of overcoming the U.S., undermining the U.S. So knowing that and knowing that's the way U.S. national security officials speak, it's remarkable to have the disconnect when you come with a president dispatching a secretary of state and saying, somehow, I'm going to figure this out and turn it around to a more positive relationship.
BLITZER: And I know this, because we work closely together, in your new book, "The Shadow War" -- and I have a hardcover copy of the new book that just came out today -- you received unprecedented access to some of America's most secure facilities and missions, some of which you actually debuted here in THE SITUATION ROOM over the past year or two.
Still, in your new book, you say you're concerned about the future.
Is the U.S. prepared for the threat, the new threat from China and Russia, the threat they pose to the U.S.?
It's a different kind of threat.
SCIUTTO: Here's the concern, as you know I spent time on the ground, on each of this fronts of this shadow war. I was in a U.S. surveillance jet over the South China Sea, where China is creating new territory, again, in the face of U.S. protests and international law.
I was on a U.S. nuclear submarine, under the Arctic, where the U.S. is fighting this new competition with Russia, as its submarines become more advanced.
[17:30:00] SCIUTTO: I was on the ground in Ukraine as Russia took this territory inside the NSA operation center as they fight cyber attacks on the U.S.
The way you have submarine commanders, aircraft commanders, and flight wing commanders, the way the NSA is talking about this, the way U.S. intelligence officials talk about it and diplomats, a complete disconnect from the way the President talks about it.
Those people on the front lines, they identify Russia as an adversary and one that the U.S. has to step up the fight simply to defend itself. The President speaks about it in a different way.
And the concern is that, across the board -- and, again, I spoke to officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations. They agree that you need leadership from the top to win this war, and the U.S. doesn't have that at this point. That disconnect is the concern here.
I will say that there are Americans, both in uniform and out of form -- uniform, who are defending the country today against this. But they say they can't do it properly unless they have the backing of the U.S. President. And they don't have confidence -- the confidence that they have that backing.
BLITZER: And you documented all very well in this new book, this new threat to the U.S. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
BLITZER: And once again, the new book is entitled "The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America." Worth your read.
Let's get some more on the breaking news right now. Donald Trump, Jr. has made a deal to come testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
You heard the news just moments ago. I quickly want to go to our Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Manu, this is a significant development, and I must say, a bit surprising.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. After days of push back, weeks of negotiation, this deal apparently brokered, according to a source familiar with the matter, that Donald Trump, Jr. will come in at mid-June.
Now, we are waiting for exactly what this agreement is about. One source telling our colleague, Jeremy Diamond, that this will be limited to two to four topics to discuss.
Now, we don't have a confirmation yet from the committee. The -- Richard Burr left a meeting, a closed-door meeting, just moments ago, declined to comment on any of these negotiations, but there was a subpoena that was issued that had a deadline for yesterday for him to appear before this committee.
Now, of course, that didn't happen. These negotiations have continued. They extended the deadline until today, and that's when this deal apparently was reached.
Now, we don't -- we do know, Wolf, that the Republicans and Democrats wanted to ask him roughly a dozen topics before and Don Junior pushed back. Specifically, he didn't want to talk about two topics, in particular, the Trump Tower meeting that he was a part of back in June 2016 as well as the pursuit of that Trump Tower Moscow project.
There have been questions about his previous testimony and whether that was truthful to Capitol Hill in the wake of the Mueller report.
Republicans and Democrats -- Burr -- Richard Burr and Mark Warner wanted to clear up any discrepancies. Donald Trump, Jr.'s legal team pushed back. And that's what led to the breakdown in the talks.
So we're going to see -- wait until we get details about whether or not he agreed to talk about those any -- two topics in particular and what were the topics that he will ultimately come in and talk about.
But nevertheless, it's significant that there is some movement after days of pressure, days of outrage from the right, going after Richard Burr, to at least have Donald Trump, Jr. come in and talk to this committee amid concerns among his team and his allies that he may be being set up for a -- by a perjury trap, Wolf.
BLITZER: And as you say, the subpoena, it was about his testimony related to the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York. That's going to be one of the topics I assume they will cover, right?
RAJU: That's what Mark Warner and Richard Burr both wanted to ask about. Whether he's going to answer those questions, I think, is unanswered at this point, Wolf. He had threatened not to show up because of precisely that reason, that they wanted to ask him about that.
And also, there was some talk from sources close to Donald Trump, Jr. that he actually may take the Fifth if he were asked about those questions. Now, will he come up and take the Fifth if he's asked about that? Will the -- will they agree not to ask him about those key topics?
I don't think -- we don't have the answers to that yet. This news just happening and developing right now. But we do know, apparently, that he has agreed to come back in.
Will they limit their questions to him? Will senators be allowed to question? Will it just be staff investigators? All of those areas have been the subject of intense negotiation for days.
And will they get any more clarity about what he meant to say or what he intended to say? Which apparently does not line up with what the Mueller report said about his knowledge of that Trump Tower meeting back in 2016, what he said in the run-up to that meeting, and his involvement and his knowledge about the pursuit of that Trump Tower Moscow project.
Will he shed any more light on that, or will -- has the committee agreed to stay away from that? We'll have to see as we continue to report this out, Wolf. But for the moment, it appears at least some movement after the two sides have been going at it for days, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very important information. Manu Raju, thank you very much.
I want to bring in our political and legal experts. We'll talk about the breaking news.
[17:34:58] And, Dana Bash, a win for Richard Burr. It looks like a significant win. The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee authorized that subpoena to Donald Trump, Jr. And now Donald Trump, Jr. is going to come back and testify.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We were talking about at this time yesterday on this very show, Wolf, about the difference between all the other requests that we have seen from House Democrats without any support from Republicans on that side of the capitol.
The difference between that and this -- which is bipartisan and led by Republicans who, of course, are on the majority in the Senate. It is very, very different. And it is, obviously, why Donald Trump, Jr. and his lawyers realized that they didn't have any choice but to negotiate, that no is not a legitimate answer.
Because Richard Burr was not playing around here and that he obviously did this in defiance of not just the President, but it seems to be his own leader who had gone to the floor last week and said case closed on all of this. But he has seen things that he wants to ask questions on.
As Manu was saying, the biggest is, what happened in the Trump Tower meeting in 2016? And his efforts and involvement in preparing the Trump Tower -- or for a potential Trump Tower Moscow project. Whether he'll answer those questions is TBD.
And perhaps that is one of the main reasons why he has agreed, because he doesn't intend to give anything that would allow him to walk into a potential perjury trap. But it is a very big deal and it is no question because it is the Republican chairman -- the fellow Republican chairman who demanded it.
BLITZER: And so many other Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, for example, Thom Tillis and others, were criticizing the Republican chairman, Richard Burr, for doing this.
BLITZER: They said Donald Trump, Jr. should simply, they recommended, ignore this request. How big of a deal, Susan Hennessey, is it that there was apparently some sort of deal worked out instead of Donald Trump, Jr., for example, just coming back and responding to the subpoena? That there are some details that are included in this arrangement?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: So it's significant that they didn't -- he ultimately is not testifying pursuant to a subpoena. This is the way that these things often conclude because it's a way to preserve flexibility on both sides.
Burr didn't want to have that politically embarrassing legal battle, but he wanted to have that testimony. This is Don Junior realizing that he probably wasn't going to win that fight, that Burr really was going to stick to his guns and not withdraw the subpoena, and so agreeing to come in.
Now, the most significant thing is, what are the questions that he has agreed to talk about? And is he going to plead the Fifth in relation to potential questions about whether or not he perjured himself before the committee in the past?
Now, sort of the Trump team's favorite legal term these days is a perjury trap, a perjury trap. This is absolutely not a perjury trap. Wanting to investigate whether or not somebody has been truthful with the committee, wanting to get to the heart of the matter of whether or not perjury has occurred, is wholly outside the definition of any kind of perjury trap as it exists.
BLITZER: And, Abby, you cover the House for us. I wonder how the President, Donald Trump, Jr.'s father, is going to react. Because over the past day or two, he's been saying, you know, this is terrible, shouldn't do it, end it, move on, and as recently as just a few hours ago as he was leaving the White House.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's unlikely that the President is going to change his tune about whether he thinks Don Junior should actually be sitting down.
But it seems unlikely to me that this accommodation would have been reached without the President's knowledge, considering that it is his son. It does actually have to do with what Don Junior told the committee around that Trump Tower meeting, which the President had played a role in explaining to the public.
And so President Trump was likely, like Donald Trump, Jr., faced with no choice but to give the committee something. He doesn't like this arrangement. He doesn't like that Burr defied him in this way, but they seem to have been left with no choice here.
But I think he might be heartened by the fact that this is going to be limited in scope -- limited in duration and also limited in scope, which might allow Don Junior to have some ability to escape a real grilling by the committee over a long period of time.
The President talks a lot about the 20 hours that he's already given to Congress in terms of testimony. This will be far short of that, two to four hours.
BLITZER: How do you see it, Ryan?
RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ESQUIRE: Well, I mean, look, this is the way that these things usually end, right?
We have -- and on the House side, there's this just total blockade by the administration not to cooperate. But generally, when Congress wants someone to testify or to come back and clarify testimony, there's a deal that gets worked out, right?
So Don Junior, you know, played a little bit of hardball with his lawyers that forced -- because they've been negotiating, remember, since December, right?
So even before the Mueller report came out apparently, according to CNN's reporting yesterday, Burr -- the committee and Don Junior's team have been negotiating. And they played hardball with the subpoena. And subpoenas work, right, especially if you're not protected in some way by being inside the administration.
[17:40:04] If you are just a citizen on the outside and you get subpoenaed by Congress, it's a serious thing. So he had to come back and come up with some -- he had to give them something, right? So he's giving them several hours and limiting the topics. Very, very important to see what those topics are.
I don't think we have the reporting yet on what exactly those topics are, but, obviously, they have to be what Warner and Burr wanted him to come in and talk about. It wouldn't make any sense if he said, oh, you know, I'm only going to talk about, you know, issues that you guys don't care about, so they must have gotten him pinned down on the issues that they want.
It's a, you know, good precedent, an interesting precedent, for all the other subpoenas and all the other testimony Congress wants to check.
BLITZER: And there are plenty of these other subpoenas.
HENNESSEY: Yes, but, a little bit, we're seeing the White House strategy sort of meet up against reality. We've seen the White House talk a big game about essentially rejecting any and all congressional oversight. Now, we're seeing that, no, Congress actually is a co- equal branch of government. It is possible to enforce its own will.
We're seeing that by Don Junior ultimately capitulating, albeit through a compromise, deciding to come in and testify.
We're also seeing it in the court case that played out today. Lawyers for the House of Representatives fighting over whether or not a third party has to respond to provide Trump financial statements.
You know, Trump's attorneys were making really astounding arguments in court today, essentially saying that investigating the President for corruption at all is not legitimate, that the Watergate inquiries weren't legitimate.
HENNESSEY: Like, really, sort of the most important acts of congressional oversight we've seen in our constitutional history.
BASH: You know --
HENNESSEY: And the judge pushed back on that very, very hard.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Dana.
BASH: But one point I just want to make -- and I think we've all gotten used to the Trump administration being a family affair and the Trump campaign before it, of course. But it is a big deal for the son of a president to not just go up initially and testify voluntarily but more importantly, to be subpoenaed by a Republican chairman of the intelligence committee.
I mean, if you take a step back and look at it, it obviously means and meant that Richard Burr, that Republican chairman, really meant business, and he wasn't going to give up. Again, we don't know exactly the content of the questions that he's going to get.
But the fact that he did that in a bipartisan way, that he was successful in compelling a presidential son to come up and answer questions about really important matters during the campaign having to do with Russia, having to do with, you know, Russia -- the Russian intent of trying to, you know, weasel their way into the Trump campaign, whether or not there was collusion or not, is a really big deal.
PHILLIP: And it's also an effort by Burr to protect the Senate as an institution. He is in a unique position to do that as a chairman and as someone who is not running for re-election.
PHILLIP: And in places elsewhere in that chamber where people like Lindsey Graham -- he spoke to reporters this morning, and he prefaced his comments about letting go of further investigations by saying, I am the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
That's how he framed his decision to move on from the Mueller investigation. Burr decided not to do that. And it's because there has been, for a long time in Washington, this idea that the Senate and that Congress is a co-equal branch of government.
They have to protect the fact that when people come before them, they are supposed to tell the truth. And if that didn't happen in the case of Don Junior's testimony, that needs to be cleared up. And letting it go, I think, would do some real damage to the institution.
HENNESSEY: This is also a little bit of a demonstration project for future inquiries. I don't know that Richard Burr anticipated getting quite this level of push back.
And so I do think that the pressure campaign launched against Burr, including by his own Senate colleagues, Senate Republicans, turning against him to criticize him publicly, I do think that's a message that's going to be received by other Senate chairmen, who might also be inclined to want to push back.
PHILLIP: And who are running for re-election and may have political aspirations that they need to think about.
LIZZA: And let's not forget one fact about Burr. He has gotten a lot of praise for running this committee investigation in a bipartisan way. But what was one new fact in the Mueller report?
It was that Burr, after the Gang of Eight was briefed, went to the White House and gave them a readout on that briefing. So I think a lot of people were surprised by Burr being a back channel to the White House on some very sensitive issues.
Burr, justifiably, I think, was criticized for that. And perhaps that went into his thinking here, in playing a little hardball with Don Junior, reasserting some independence from the White House.
BLITZER: Senator Burr, the chairman, he says he doesn't recollect, he doesn't remember doing that. But it was a very sensitive point that you correctly point out in the Mueller report.
The fact that he's a private citizen, Donald Trump, Jr. -- not a former White House official or a current White House official or a government official, just a private citizen who happens to be the son of the President of the United States -- does that make a difference?
[17:44:56] HENNESSEY: Well, it shouldn't make a difference. In the United States of America where we do not have a hereditary monarchy and it doesn't matter who you're related to, that everyone is equal before the eyes of the law, yes, Donald Trump is just a -- Donald Trump, Jr. is just a regular person, just like you and I.
He shouldn't be entitled to special rights. To some extent, the extent to which we've seen both Mueller and now Congress treat the President's family with kid gloves -- allow them to move in and out between official White House roles, just being the President's children, running his campaign, running his business.
They have been allowed, really, a tremendously free hand in, really, ways that are corrosive of very, very long-standing U.S. norms.
BLITZER: We have a lot more on this and all of the day's breaking stories. Everybody, stick around. There's much more coming up, including a new round of ultimatums from Kim Jong-un's North Korea, including the return of the seized cargo ship and a visit by U.S. basketball stars.
[17:50:32] BLITZER: This hour's breaking news. Donald Trump, Jr. has just made a deal to come testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. We'll have much more on that coming up in a few minutes.
Also, North Korea is making new demands on the United States. Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's digging into the late- breaking developments. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, once again, Kim Jong-un, tonight, is showing his swagger. Even with U.S.-led sanctions putting enormous pressure on his regime, the dictator is telling the U.S. it has to return a sanctions-busting cargo vessel. And he's put other brazen requests on the table.
TODD (voice-over): With his dialogue with President Trump over nuclear weapons all but stalled, North Korea's aggressive young leader is, again, issuing ultimatums.
Tonight, Kim Jong-un's Foreign Ministry is demanding that America return a North Korean cargo ship which the U.S. seized last week and took to American Samoa.
The North Koreans called the seizure a violent violation of international law which breaks the spirit of what Kim and President Trump negotiated in Singapore last year. And Pyongyang says the regime will, quote, keep a sharp eye out to see how America responds.
DEAN CHENG, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: As with any criminal family, the issue is always going to be what did you do that was wrong, not what did I do that was wrong.
TODD (voice-over): The ship in question, ironically named "The Wise Honest," was dubbed a sanctions buster by a top U.S. law enforcement official on Thursday. It was first intercepted by Indonesia's Navy last year.
U.S. officials say it was illegally shipping coal out of North Korea and heavy machinery into the country because the dictator is getting more desperate for cash.
DAVID ASHER, SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: He's made a lot of promises. He's building theme parks. He is importing more luxury vehicles in contravention to sanctions.
They've had a track record, in the case of Syria in the middle of the last decade, of being willing to sell a nuclear weapons program to state-sponsored terrorism. It's something that's, I think, keeping people up at night.
TODD (voice-over): How desperate is Kim's economy? North Korea's trade with China has taken a nosedive in the last year, official figures show, leaving the regime to turn to dangerous smuggling operations like ship-to-ship transfers on the high seas.
Seeking the return of the cargo ship is not the only way Kim's regime has tried to pressure the Trump administration. According to a recent report by ABC, Kim Jong-un requested that the U.S. send famous basketball players to North Korea as a way to normalize relations.
ABC, citing U.S. officials, says the request was made in writing before the failed summit in Hanoi in February and that the North Koreans insisted it be included in a joint statement on denuclearization.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has traveled to North Korea several times on his own, staging exhibition games for the basketball-crazy North Korean leader, presenting Kim with samples of Rodman's brand of vodka. Even once serenading the dictator.
DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER POWER FORWARD, DALLAS MAVERICKS: Happy birthday to you.
TODD (voice-over): One analyst says basketball diplomacy could work to soften tensions but hopes shouldn't be raised too high.
CHENG: The issue here is going to be if we go in with expectations that, somehow, this opens the door to denuclearization, greater fools are we. The North Koreans are not going to denuclearize because you got, you know, LeBron James to come and play.
TODD: Analysts are now worried that we may be at a point where Kim Jong-un is so desperate to get President Trump's personal attention again.
So keen to get back to those face-to-face meetings that Kim may ratchet up the tension even to more dangerous levels than we have seen in the past couple of weeks, that we could soon see a long-range missile or a nuclear bomb test, Wolf.
BLITZER: That would be pretty scary. Has that North Korean cargo ship, Brian, been taken into U.S. custody because of the stalled negotiations with Kim Jong-un?
TODD: Wolf, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which issued the seizure warrant for that ship, says the seizure had nothing to do with the deterioration of nuclear talks. And he says it had nothing to do with North Korea's tests of those short-range missiles last week.
But you have to think that the timing of that seizure warrant just a couple of days after those missiles tests, that raises a lot of questions.
BLITZER: It certainly does. All right, Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.
Coming up, the breaking news. Donald Trump, Jr. reaches a deal with the Senate Intelligence Committee to appear behind closed doors. A source says the interview will be limited to just a few hours and a handful of topics.
And the House Intelligence Committee is now investigating the role lawyers tied to the President played in Michael Cohen's false testimony to Congress. Will President Trump's lawyers cooperate?
[17:55:05] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Trump Jr.'s deal. Moments
ago, the President's son reached an agreement to testify again before the Senate Intelligence Committee complying with a subpoena. But we're told there are limits on what he's willing to discuss.
Few limits. A House subpoena for Mr. Trump's financial records faces its first courtroom test. The judge suggesting he's unlikely to curtail Congress's ability to investigate the President.
[18:00:05] Exotic and objective.