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THE SITUATION ROOM

WikiLeaks Founder Indicted; Interview With Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL); Pelosi vs. Trump; Now: Millions Face Severe Storm Threat After 29 Tornadoes Strike in 24 Hours; Trump Off The Rails During White House Event, Calls Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) California Crazy And A Mess After She Says He needs An Intervention; House Democrats Reach Deal With Trump Lawyers Over Subpoena Of His Longtime Accounting Firm; Trump Rips Tillerson As Dumb After His Former Secretary Of State Says Putin Out-Prepared Him. Aired on 6-7p ET

Aired May 23, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Channel: Indicted again. The U.S. files new charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, accusing him of illegally obtaining classified information and putting lives at risk.

Destructive weather. After more than two dozen tornadoes in 24 hours, more violent storms are threatening parts of the Midwest and Northeast. CNN is on the scene, where a twister hit with the devastating power of a hurricane.

And publicity stunt. That's how Howard Stern is describing President Trump's candidacy. Stand by to hear directly from Howard Stern, as he shares inside about Mr. Trump in a new CNN interview.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the president going off the rails and firing back at the House speaker, as Nancy Pelosi keeps proving that she pushes -- she can push his buttons like no one else can.

Tonight, Mr. Trump is calling Nancy Pelosi crazy Nancy, claiming she's a -- quote -- "mess" after she suggested the president's family should stage an intervention for the good of the country.

Their war of words escalating for a second day, with Pelosi arguing that the president is crying out for impeachment, and Mr. Trump insisting again that he's a stable genius and calling on aides one by one to back him up.

I will get reaction from Mike Quigley. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, once again, Nancy Pelosi speaks and the president goes off on a tear.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

It really got nasty at the White House earlier today, as the president went off on the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, after she said that she hopes Mr. Trump's aides and family stage an intervention, as she called it.

Then, this afternoon, in that wild exchange with reporters, the president described Pelosi as -- quote -- "crazy," as he dubbed himself an extremely stable genius, and in front of the cameras the president then put his own top aides on the spot to talk about how stable he really is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Trading barbs with his chief Democratic nemesis, President Trump took a swipe at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying she can't comprehend the U.S. trade deal with Mexico and Canada now pending before Congress.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's a mess. Look, let's face it. She doesn't understand it.

ACOSTA: The president then got even more personal, relitigating his confrontation one day earlier with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, complete with schoolyard nicknames.

TRUMP: I was extremely calm. I was probably even more so in that room. So, I walked into the Cabinet room. You had the group, crying Chuck, crazy Nancy. I tell you what. I have been watching her, and I have -- I have been watching her for a long period of time. She's not the same person. She's lost it.

ACOSTA: The verbal tussling comes one day after the president lashed out in the Rose Garden, a performance Democrats derided as another Trump temper tantrum.

TRUMP: I don't do cover-ups.

ACOSTA: Pelosi appears to have gotten under Mr. Trump's skin referring to the two I's, impeachment.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): There's no question. The White House is just crying out for impeachment.

ACOSTA: And intervention, a new Pelosi trigger word.

PELOSI: I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.

ACOSTA: The president turned to his own aides to back him up. One after one, top officials were called on by the president to reassure the public Mr. Trump was calm in his meeting with Democrats.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: You were very calm.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Kellyanne is right. You were very calm.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Very clam and straightforward and clear.

TRUMP: I'm an extremely stable genius.

ACOSTA: The president said he's not goading Pelosi into impeaching him.

TRUMP: I don't think anybody wants to be impeached.

ACOSTA: The White House is accusing Democrats of being more interested in investigation than legislation.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think it's a complete lie that Democrats in Congress think they can do two things at once. So far, we haven't seen them do anything. Nancy Pelosi has had the majority in the House for months, and has yet to accomplish a single thing.

They haven't gotten -- they literally haven't gotten anything done since she's taken over.

ACOSTA: But that's not true. The House has so far passed dozens of bills, including legislation aimed at gun control and climate change. And just today, lawmakers announced a multibillion-dollar disaster relief package that should make its way through both the House and the Senate and be signed by Mr. Trump in the coming days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, as for the president's fight with Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker responded just a short while ago with a tweet.

We can put this up on screen, saying -- quote -- "When the extremely stable genius starts acting more presidential, I will be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues."

But a source close to the White House said the president is settling on a strategy at this point for dealing with these House Democratic investigations, ramping up the rhetoric to force his adversaries up on Capitol Hill to put up or shut up, this source said, on impeachment.

[18:05:03]

The problem for the president, Wolf, is that Pelosi appears to enjoy the sparring as much as he does. And it's hard to argue that she did not land some punches on the president this week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you, Jim Acosta at the White House.

I want to bring in our CNN political director, David Chalian.

It was an extraordinary exchange that they had today. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It really was.

Sometimes, you think you're living on another planet, that this is the president of the United States referring to the speaker of the House as crazy, which she is not, and also this total obsession on the president's part to line up his staff.

He's the president of the United States, one of those powerful people on Earth. He's lining up his staff, his advisers, his press secretary, his deputy press secretary, to attest to the fact that he was calm.

That's not even the point. The point was, it doesn't matter what his demeanor was. He walked out of a meeting and said, we're not going to legislate on the American people's priorities, his priorities, infrastructure, trade, his own agenda items, I am not moving forward with that until you stop investigating me.

That's not how the Constitution works.

BLITZER: So what's going to happen now? I mean, this exchange was so bitter, so nasty. What happens?

CHALIAN: Well, what is clear is that Nancy Pelosi is getting under the president's skin. There's no doubt about that.

And she -- Jim said she landed some punches. She is walking away the victor from these exchanges. And Donald Trump, I don't know if he gets this or not. He is helping Nancy Pelosi with her own politics with Democrats.

Wolf, just at the beginning of this week, there was this minority of Democrats, a growing chorus, a minority, wanting to move to impeachment now, something Nancy Pelosi thinks is politically perilous and does not want to do. And she was going to have to beat back this growing number of people in her caucus.

Guess what? She was able to totally do that because of the president's help. He calls her crazy. He walks out of a meeting. She goes back to the Democrats on the Hill, and they all rally around her because she just was in a fight with Donald Trump that she won.

So he is an unwitting co-conspirator in her effort to unify her caucus.

BLITZER: Is President Trump capable now of walking back and saying, you know what, never mind, let's negotiate infrastructure, let's do a deal on infrastructure, drug prices, all the other key issues that affect every American?

CHALIAN: I have no doubt that he's capable of that. Of course he is, the moment he sees that as actually in his political interest.

For some reason, he doesn't believe right now that that is in his political interest. The moment he sees that that is, that that is a path, maybe a more secure path to reelection for him, I am sure we would see him change his colors.

BLITZER: But does he think that he's going to get reelected as long as he's battling Democrats like this?

CHALIAN: He does.

I think what you hear in the framing of Nancy Pelosi right now is, he has finally decided to sink his teeth into this notion that she is the political opponent to defeat, before he gets to Biden, before he gets to the 23 Democrats who are running.

He now is framing an entire political campaign against her, because he -- I guess he sees that as the first opponent he has to get through in order to get onto to his reelection campaign.

BLITZER: Today was the first day he started calling her...

CHALIAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... yes, crazy Nancy.

Until now, no adjective for Nancy Pelosi. Thanks very much, David Chalian, for that analysis.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now for more on Speaker Pelosi as the president's rattler in chief.

We're joined by our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, Pelosi wasn't just talking to the president at her news conference earlier in the day. She had a message for her own party when it comes to impeachment. Isn't that right?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, she did.

And that message today was absolutely crystal clear, Nancy Pelosi today saying that she believes that President Trump is crying out for impeachment. And the directive that she's telling her caucus members is very clear. She's saying, essentially, do not take the bait that he's dangling out there for us.

And this is something that, privately, she has expressed time and time again, but this is certainly coming at a very important moment for her. By CNN's count, now 35 House Democrats have said that they would think now is the time to start the impeachment inquiry process.

So, certainly, that is important for her to express to those Democrats. And notable that many of those Democrats have moved to that position just in the last week alone.

So, Nancy Pelosi today saying, essentially, do not be tempted in this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PELOSI: And I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country. And what -- we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation that may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment, or not. But we're not at that place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: So the speaker really having to be like a broken record on her strategy here, emphasizing to stay the course. Do not put the cart before the horse on impeachment, and focus right in on investigation, and notch those court wins when they can.

Notable that she's been celebrating two big court decisions in her favor this weekend -- week. And for the moment, she seems to have stabilized the rebellion that we certainly saw bubble up over this week -- Wolf.

[18:10:03]

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thank you, Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.

Joining us now, Congressman Mike Quigley, a Democrat who serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

And, as you heard, the president says Democrats -- and you're a Democrat -- Democrats are obstructing the country right now by not working with him on legislation. How do you respond?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Well, there's a lot of bills coming your way, Mr. President.

We're passing a couple bills a week of significant note. Today, we dealt with how to help Americans in retirement. So we're willing to sit down and talk about these things. And rather than being petulant and somewhat impulsive, let's sit down and talk about infrastructure. Let's talk about trade, and recognize that we can do more than one thing at a time.

BLITZER: The president is adamant that he was, in his words, extremely calm when he walked out on those Democratic leaders at the White House yesterday.

But is the House speaker trying to goad the president?

QUIGLEY: I don't think the speaker has to goad the president. I think he's a self-winding toy that shoots off occasionally. It's unfortunate.

Look, I think he's somewhat spurred by the court decisions that you just referenced. Those were important, significant decisions by the court, recognizing what the president's starting to understand, that we do have broad authority to do these investigations. And he reminds me something of my defense attorney career. When the

law is not with you, you pound the facts. If the facts aren't with you, you pound the table. He's pounding the table. And part of that's walking out of important meetings.

BLITZER: The speaker is trying to sway her fellow Democrats away from impeachment proceedings, at least right now, by saying that's exactly what the president wants.

She says the president wants, in her words, to be impeached. Do you buy that argument?

QUIGLEY: Oh, I think there's something to that.

But the speaker can also recognize that the real battle here is the battle in front of the public, the court of public opinion. And I do there's some real value to that. For almost three years now that I have watched this unfold, I have recognized that there's a lot of Americans who either weren't paying attention or were undecided.

And our message to them is, we believe in the rule of law. We're following the legal process through the courts. And we're giving the president every opportunity to comply. And it is he who is acting against the rule of law and making this all the more difficult.

So I think the speaker is onto this.

BLITZER: More than 30 of your House colleagues are not want to formally open an impeachment inquiry. Where do you fall, Congressman, on this?

QUIGLEY: You know, I understand that patience is wearing thin. It certainly is for me.

A part of what I'm watching is to see what happens with the ongoing court battles. What we're starting to hear is that -- look, if these issues get bogged down in the courts, it's important to recognize that the special counsel wanted Congress to make the decision whether or not there were crimes committed, whether or not there was obstruction.

But if the president refuses to allow his people to testify, refuses lawful subpoenas, doesn't allow us to see the unredacted report, it is conceivable that, at that point that I think the speaker is referencing, then an inquiry may be the only legal remedy to get those documents and decide whether or not impeachment is warranted.

BLITZER: But you're not there yet, right?

QUIGLEY: I'm not there yet.

Obviously, the patience is wearing thin. And I understand.

I believe the speaker was right. The president obstructed, as the special counsel referenced before the -- he issued a report. And he has clearly obstructed after the fact. But we all can count votes in the Senate and recognize we still have a job ahead of us. We need to move forward.

But, again, if the court system bogs down in this process, through the -- through the president's efforts, and then the only way to get these documents to find the truth, to see if a crime is committed, is to open an inquiry, then that's going to have to be it.

BLITZER: But you just said he obstructed. Isn't that a crime?

QUIGLEY: Oh, I believe the president obstructed. I believe he's unfit for office.

But I also want to get the complete, unredacted report. And, again, we're going to follow the rules, the rule of law, to get this information that we need through the courts.

BLITZER: But if he committed a crime, isn't that a high crime and misdemeanor? Isn't that enough to begin at least the impeachment inquiry?

QUIGLEY: Sure.

But I also learned that, when you're doing a criminal investigation, you don't stop when you have got what you think is enough. You get all that information. And I don't think that we can go in there with half a loaf.

We need the full body of information. And, again, I have watched this investigation from its first day. I was part of the investigation from its first day. I saw my Republican colleagues join the president in obstructing it.

There's no one who wants to get to the truth more. But I will tell you, there is more out there. There's more involving counterintelligence, in my mind, and the belief that the president of the United States was compromised.

[18:15:07]

The American public deserves all that information. I will be a little more patient in following the rule of law to get to the truth.

BLITZER: Last night here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Congressman, I had a chance to speak to the chairman of your Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.

He told me very clearly that he thinks the Mueller report shows that President Trump committed a crime. But here's why he said that doesn't lead him to an impeachment inquiry, at least not yet.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I think if we had a Republican Party that was willing to undertake that process in good faith and follow the facts, it would be one thing. We don't have that. We have a cult of personality around the

president.

We can't ignore the facts that, apart from now one House Republican, none of the Republicans are willing to question anything this president is doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, is this purely a political calculation, at least right now?

QUIGLEY: It's unfortunate.

What led Richard Nixon to finally resign, a lot would argue it's Senator Barry Goldwater finally told him that he was on the other side.

You can count the profiles and courage on the Republican side on one hand since this president took office. That's something we have to counter, recognize, and you simply don't have the votes in the Senate.

So, at some point in time, all you have done with an inquiry, moving forward on attachment, is to appease your base and antagonize the other base. At some point, what are the other values in going forward with the inquiry?

And it's my point, if the courts bombing down, how do we get the rest of this information?

BLITZER: Congressman Mike Quigley, thanks so much for joining us.

QUIGLEY: Any time. Thank you.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news just ahead on Speaker Pelosi vs. President Trump, her strategy and how it figures into the possibility of his impeachment.

Also, new federal charges against Julian Assange. How significant is the indictment against the founder of WikiLeaks?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:31]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, including the escalating war of words between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

We're going to have much more on that in just a couple of moments, but, first, some other important news we're following right now.

Federal prosecutors have hit WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with a series of new charges under the U.S. Espionage Act.

Let's go to our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett.

Laura, how significant are these new charges?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a major development and really a controversial move by the Justice Department.

And here's why. Traditionally, prosecutors go after government officials who leak confidential information to reporters. They do not prosecute the reporters as the recipients of the information. But, in this case, it's very different.

And they are prosecuting Julian Assange, hitting him with 17 new counts for soliciting, obtaining and then publishing highly sensitive diplomatic cables, war-related materials from Afghanistan and Iraq, all in concert, in conspiracy, the government alleges, with Chelsea Manning, that former military intelligence officer.

And, now, the Justice Department is very mindful of the optics here, officials over here telling reporters that Assange is no journalist, and he wasn't just the mere passive recipient of it.

But I should note there has never been a single successful prosecution under the Espionage Act of a publisher of classified information like this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Could we still see more charges, Laura, for Julian Assange, perhaps even related to the Russia probe?

JARRETT: That's one of the big open questions right there, Wolf, because under the relevant statutes here, the Justice Department actually has 65 days from when Assange was arrested back in April to put together a full extradition package.

He's obviously still being held in jail in London. So they are going to put together their full package, submit it to the British court. They have 65 days to do that. That takes us to June.

And so we could see additional charges. And when asked about that, officials over here declined to comment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Laura Jarrett at the Justice Department for us, thank you.

Just ahead: a mash-up of the president's off-the-rails response to the new needling by the speaker, Nancy Pelosi. What was he thinking?

And millions of Americans bracing for violent weather tonight, after a punishing series of tornadoes, a monster twister hitting at the heart of a capital city. We're going there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:28:35]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on President Trump making a nearly 30-minute attempt with reporters to defend his stability by labeling the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, as crazy.

His rant tonight comes after new attacks by Pelosi that apparently hit a nerve with the commander in chief. It's an eye-popping sequel to their face-off a day earlier, when she accused him of a cover-up, and he stormed out of a meeting with top Democrats over at the White House.

Let's bringing our analysts.

And, Gloria Borger, the president, he strongly defended himself during that exchange he had with reporters. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I walked out. I was so calm. I was extremely calm.

Crazy Nancy, I tell you what. I have been watching her, and I have been watching her for a long period of time. She's not the same person. She's lost it.

Pelosi does not understand the bill. She doesn't understand it. I don't think she's capable right now of understanding it. I think she's got a lot of problems. And they sort of feel she's disintegrating before their eyes.

She's a mess. Look, let's face it. When I watch Nancy all moving, the movement in the hands and the craziness, and I watch it, that's, by the way, a person that's got some problems.

I'm an extremely stable genius.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What did you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's hard to know what to say, Wolf.

But I will tell you, it sounded to me like an old dog with old tricks. The more he kept calling Nancy Pelosi sort of crazy and unstable, the more I started thinking about the way he was describing Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign.

[18:30:01]

So I went back and I looked August of 2016. He called Hillary Clinton unstable. He said she's unhinged. She's unbalanced. All you have to do is watch her. She's going to short circuit up there.

And you look at what he is saying about Nancy Pelosi. Aside from the fact that it was incredibly insulting to say about somebody as substantive as Nancy Pelosi that she doesn't understand the trade bill, you can call it sexist. I just call it insulting.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I call it sexist.

BORGER: Okay. You can call it whatever you want. This attack against an enemy as unstable and losing it is very familiar to me. And the fact that he had to declare himself -- I'm not a shrink (ph), the fact that he had to declare himself a stable genius as opposed to her being unstable, what does that tell you?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: A very stable genius --

BORGER: Very stable genius. Right, very.

BLITZER: -- to be precise.

The House Speaker responded by Tweeting this, Sabrina. When the extremely stable genius starts acting more presidential, I'll be very -- I'll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues.

But let me play a clip from what she said earlier in the day that clearly got under his skin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I can only think that he wasn't up to the task of figuring out the difficult choices of how to cover the cost of the important infrastructure legislation.

He was not prepared and so he used some excuse to go out the door.

Who is in charge here, because you agree and then all of a sudden something changes? What goes on there? Who is in charge.

I pray for the President of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.

Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence. I don't know.

We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I hope he can too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That clearly set the President off.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it was clear that Nancy Pelosi's words triggered the President and we've now seen not one but two very public meltdowns on his part stemming from the fact that Nancy Pelosi has a unique ability to get under his skin. And I think she's doing it, one, because she knows that the President has no real intention of working with democrats on infrastructure, on trade, on immigration and this helps her earn goodwill from her caucus at a time when there are growing calls for impeachment.

Now, we've seen her continue to play down the prospects of launching impeachment proceedings, saying that the democrats could pay a political price, that Congress simply isn't there yet, but it does beg the question when she plays up this threat that she says the President poses to the country. And when she questions his fitness to serve, I think she's going to invite then scrutiny especially from democrats in her caucus as to why she has not been willing to impeach.

BLITZER: Susan, how do you see it? SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I think it sort of -- Pelosi's whole message that impeachment proceedings are actually going to somehow benefit Donald Trump, that they shouldn't do this because it's going to help him win re-election basically just defies logic and common sense. And Nancy Pelosi is really committed to this view. She said it a lot of times. The problem is that she actually isn't offering any evidence behind that.

The Clinton impeachment not only was incredibly politically damaging to Clinton personally, Al Gore didn't win the presidency. He likely would have won by a landslide. But for the impeachment -- those impeachment proceedings and republicans managed to control both the House and the Senate in the next election. And so I --

BORGER: They lost seats. They lost seats. Newt Gingrich lost seats.

HENNESSEY: Sure. But I think that that's a different question as to whether or not it would actually benefit Donald Trump. And so I do think that it's a little bit disturbing to hear the Speaker of the House talk about this as a raw political calculation, as a visage just about what's going to help your side the most rather than about the higher principles about what the United States constitution demands and requires of members of Congress.

SWERDLICK: I do hear what you're saying, Susan. I see it just a little bit differently. I think it's worth remembering that Pelosi has been doing this since she was knee high to a grasshopper. Her father was in Congress. Her father was the Mayor of Baltimore. She has been the Speaker twice. She held her caucus together through the Iraq war.

I think she sees herself right now doing two things for her caucus. Even if we wind up at impeachment at someplace down the road, we're going into a holiday weekend where she's ahead a week where she acted as a heat shield protecting all her members. If you're going to Little Marco or Pocahontas my members, she's saying, you're going to have to come through me, Mr. President. And she also bought them time to decide whether they're going to impeach because they don't know yet.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: Look, I don't think -- I don't think she is there yet. And I think -- I agree with David. I think Nancy Pelosi knows exactly what she's doing and she doesn't want to get out in front of the American public because then you give Donald Trump a cudgel to say they're trying to delegitimize my election. They're trying to take away my job. That's what this is about.

And I understand your constitutional point of view and I understand the importance for history, and I think you're absolutely right about that.

[18:35:00]

But I don't think you have to rush into it right away. I think you have to very methodically investigate, make your case, continue to do it and see where the public is.

Now, Donald Trump understands one thing, and my reporting is and talking to somebody who talks to him, is that he believes that the public is over this Russia thing, as he calls it, and that he's on the right side of public opinion on this, and he's right about that right now.

HENNESSEY: But the problem is that the manner in which you build precisely this case is by opening an impeachment inquiry. And so what we're seeing is Pelosi being really, really hesitant to even take that first initial step. And I think the challenge here is that it's going to be very, very hard for Pelosi to credibly make the case that having seen the abuse of office, the criminal conduct described to the Mueller report, that's all tolerable for the next 18 months, but it's not tolerable for the next four years.

BORGER: But they have to get people to testify. That's the problem. They can't get anybody up in Congress right now.

HENNESSEY: And initiating a formal impeachment inquiry not only would strengthen their argument for holding those hearings, it would also strengthen the court case that allowed them an even stronger legal argument to obtain the documents in the face of the administration's stonewall policy.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more we need to discuss. There's a lot more news unfolding, as we speak. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. We're back with our analysts. And, Susan Hennessey, I suspect the President is deeply irritated by these two federal court decisions ruling against him in favor of House Democrats.

HENNESSEY: I'm sure that he is incredibly frustrated. And I think it does show the way that the dems are responding to this does show how strongly they are in the merit. So this Mazars case, this is where the House Oversight has subpoenaed the President's financial records, a judge ruled in favor of Congress in this case. They said that the records did have to be turned over.

House Oversight reached a deal with Trump's attorneys in which they basically agreed to extend that deadline, even though, ordinarily -- even though, ordinarily, they would have to turn over the documents right away.

Now, they're doing that in order to basically force the D.C. circuit to take up that appeal right away to keep the pressure on the courts because they want a final decision on this and they want one quickly. So it really does show how incredibly confident House Democrats are that they're ultimately going to prevail against the President on the merits. BLITZER: You've done a lot of reporting on Donald Trump going back to his business days before he ran for President of the United States. He told The New York Times at one point, if you go after the personal family or the business, that's crossing a red line.

BORGER: Yes. He's always seeing that as crossing a red line. So it infuriates him. And particularly --

BLITZER: What is he so scared of the public learning?

BORGER: Ask him. Don't ask me. I don't know what's in his tax returns. But he feels that his family shouldn't be -- you know, shouldn't be put through this, et cetera, et cetera. But I believe in these fights, and I was talking to somebody who talks to him quite frequently today, while we may be thinking, oh, my God, he's on a rant and he's -- he is happy about this, the way this is going because he's got a new enemy, he's got Nancy Pelosi, he loves to have an enemy. He believes if the democrats go towards impeachment, it's a fight he wants.

He was asked about it at his press conference. Do you want impeachment? He said, well, nobody wants impeachment. But he didn't say, are you kidding me? And he believes now that he's kind of mastered this and that he can handle the democrats first in the Congress and then go on to whomever the democratic nominee is and he's thrilled. There is a huge field against him.

SWERDLICK: oh, yes, no. I mean, I agree with you, Gloria, that the President probably sees it that way. But at the same time, this is a situation where each one of these court case, however they turn out, interrupt the President's narrative, number one, that he's winning and that there's nothing to see here, he's exonerated, because there are federal judges saying, wait a second, not so fast.

The other thing is that I think that he wants to be able to say, look, everything has been looked into. My family business, my political dealing and these are instances where --

BORGER: I'm the most transparent president.

SWERDLICK: I'm the most transparent president, extremely stable genius. And it turns out, no, there is more to find out that meets the eye.

BLITZER: And, Sabrina, amidst all of this, the President is having another war with his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who testified behind closed doors for the House Foreign Affairs Committee for about seven hours, and at one point suggested that one of the summit meetings with Putin was better prepared than the President was. The President Tweeted right back at Tillerson, Rex Tillerson, a man who is as dumb as a rock and totally ill-prepared and ill-equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story he got fired that I was out- prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany. I don't think Putin would agree. Look at how the U.S. is doing.

And let me point out the way the President, at one point, spoke about Tillerson when he was nominated and how he speaks about him now. Then, he is a man with broad experience, one of the truly great business leaders of the word. He was ExxonMobil. Now, he's dumb as a rock, totally ill-prepared and ill-equipped. He's the one that brought him in to the government to become Secretary of State.

SIDDIQUI: And I thought that the President only hires the best people. That's what he said all along. And he is now calling someone dumb as a rock who he appointed to be the nation's top diplomat.

[18:45:00]

And, look, I think that Rex Tillerson's disagreements with the President when he was serving as Secretary of State were very public on -- the U.S. posture towards Russia, on withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, on how to approach negotiations with North Korea, on the president's support for the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, and the list goes on and on.

[18:45:21] They simply were not in the same page. Tillerson also publicly advocated for staying in the Paris climate accord. And so, now, you know, as he's testifying about the president's dealings with Vladimir Putin, we know all things Russia are a very sensitive spot for the president.

It's not surprising that he is hitting back but I think in some ways to kind of take it back to Nancy Pelosi, this is also how he responds to people who say no to the president which are not words that we know he's used to hearing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You see this pattern before.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BLITZER: The president likes somebody and, all of a sudden, he doesn't like somebody.

Guys, stick around. There's more news we're following, including some very severe weather on the radar once again tonight after a deadly tornado disaster. We're going to show you just how hard the heartland has been hit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:50:43] BLITZER: Tonight, parts of the Northeast and Midwest are at risk for a new round of very serious storms, after 29 tornados in 24 hours, including a powerful twister that smashed into the heart of the Missouri's capital.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Jefferson City, Missouri, for us tonight.

So, Ed, what are you seeing on the ground?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Well, residents here in this neighborhood in Jefferson City describe an incredibly scary situation last night. As the storm was approaching, residents tell us they couldn't see the storm but they could hear it. And they didn't realize how bad and dangerous it all was until the windows inside their homes started exploding.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Widespread damage in Missouri, 29 tornadoes ripped through the Midwest in the last 24 hours, killing at least three people and injuring dozens more

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope -- no. I hope not.

LAVANDERA: The Weather Service rated this massive twister that touched down in Jefferson City an EF-3, winds up to 160-mile-per-hour hurling debris 13,000 feet into the air.

KAYLEIGH DE ROSA, JEFFERSON CITY RESIDENT: It sounded exactly how you picture it does. Kind of like a train. But you don't expect it, like it just came within seconds. We barely made it to the bathroom.

LAVANDERA: It tore off rooftops and destroyed a 24-hour day care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, just to experience that, you know what I mean, like -- like that's crazy.

LAVANDERA: Officials report about 20 people were hurt in the state capitol but remarkably no one was killed here.

MAYOR CARRIE TERGIN, JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI: Had this been during the day, it would have been catastrophic.

LAVANDERA: The storm was nearly invisible at night.

KALEB BRANDT, JEFFERSON CITY RESIDENT: You don't know where it's at. You can't see it. You can't -- all you know you can hear it and feel just presence of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they in there?

LAVANDERA: The three lives lost happened several hours away in Golden City, Missouri.

LT. GOV. MIKE KEHOE (R-MO): Unfortunately, we lost three people in the Golden City area. Carl Junction was hit, just north of Joplin. Coincidentally, eight years ago yesterday was the Joplin tornado.

LAVANDERA: The deadly storm system has also brought serious flooding to Oklahoma. In Webbers Falls, two barges that broke free along the Arkansas River struck a dam. Neighborhoods forced to evacuate last night for fear that the dam could be breached.

These homes in Crescent, Oklahoma, also were no match for the flood waters.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, it's been a brutal week of severe weather all across the mid-section of the country, from far west Texas into Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, all kind of -- of an exclamation point with what happened here last night in Jefferson City -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, are more Americans at serious risk tonight from these storms?

LAVANDERA: Right, tonight, the severe weather risk stretches from the Texas panhandle through western Oklahoma into Kansas as well. And then tomorrow, there is still a risk of severe weather stretching from far west Texas, all the way up to Chicago.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us, thank you, Ed, very much.

Just ahead, he is known for being outrageous. And tonight, Howard Stern is talking to CNN and dishing on President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:58:36] BLITZER: Tonight, legendary radio host Howard Stern tells CNN he has inside information on President Trump and he is convinced Mr. Trump launched his 2016 campaign as a publicity stunt.

Listen to Howard Stern in a new interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC360": When you see him now in the White House as president, what do you see?

HOWARD STERN, RADIO HOST: Well, you know, I go into great --

COOPER: You have a history with him and how you know him.

STERN: Well, first of all, it's unbelievable to me. I documented my thoughts about how this whole candidacy came about. This was a publicity stunt. I happen to have --

COOPER: You have no doubt about that?

STERN: I have no doubt because I have some inside information. And the thing is that it started out with "The Art of the Deal", the book.

And it was a PR guy's idea. Says, Donald, what you need to do is -- we'll make a sort of a rumor that you're running for president. And Donald is like, oh, so, all of a sudden, he was interviewed. The book goes to number one.

When the second book came out, that's when he decided to start the rumor that he was running for president. And then this time around, in the last election, "The Apprentice" ratings were not what they were. NBC was not going to give him a raise. And what's a better way than to get NBC's interest, I'll run for president and I get lots of press, and I think that's what happened.

COOPER: Do you think he likes being president.

STERN: I don't think he likes being president at all. I think he liked winning the presidency. He likes to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You're going to hear more from Howard Stern on "AC360" later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The full interview, one hour long, tomorrow night 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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