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Rep. Jim Himes (D) Connecticut Interviewed About Giving Barr Power To Declassify Russia Probe Intelligence; Trump Declassifies "Millions" Of Secret Documents; Trump Attacks Pelosi's Mental Fitness After Sharing Editor Video Of Her Slurring Speech; Trump Considering Pardon For Navy SEAL Accused Of War Crimes; Ominous Message From North Korea As Trump Heads To Region. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news.

Declassifying everything. President Trump says he's given his attorney general the authority to take the wraps off of all intelligence related to the origins of the Russia investigation, which he calls an attempted takedown of his presidency. But critics say the president is weaponizing intelligence and putting U.S. national security at risk.

Hurt feelings. President Trump is still smarting from the scolding by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying she said horrible and terrible things about him. Is that why he tweeted an edited video of her?

Bucking Congress. The Trump administration says it will bypass Congress to expedite arm sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as the president says he's sending another 1,500 U.S. troops to the Middle East to deter Iranian threats.

And fierce reaction as President Trump heads to Japan, there's an ominous message from North Korea warning of a fierce reaction. What is Kim Jong-un planning?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Breaking news. The president is on his way to Japan at this hour, leaving behind another growing controversy, as he departed the White House, he defended his decision to give Attorney General William Barr extraordinary power to declassify sensitive intelligence materials in his review of the Russia probe. The president claims it's not political payback, even though he calls the Russia investigation an attempted takedown of his presidency. But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the president and Barr are weaponizing intelligence and he says the committee will vigorously examine any moves to distort classified information.

I'll speak with Congressman Jim Himes. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

President Trump is on his way to Tokyo right now, but our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown is already there on the ground. Pamela, the president set off yet another controversy before he took off.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. President Trump clearly had a lot on his mind as he left the White House for Japan today. He doubled down on attacks against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He once again played the victim in the Russia probe, saying without evidence that officials conspired against him. And he talked about all of this declassification power he has bestowed on his attorney general as he investigates the investigators.


BROWN (voice-over): Facing mounting pressure after a weak of multiple court losses and a public brawl with Nancy Pelosi, President Trump tonight unloading before his long flight to Japan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I declassified everything, everything they want. You're going to learn a lot. I hope it's going to be nice, but perhaps it won't be.


BROWN: Trump defending his decision to give Attorney General Bill Barr sweeping new access to top government secrets, ordering U.S. Intelligence agencies to assist Barr as he investigates the investigators who launched the Russia probe.


TRUMP: They'll be able to see how this hoax, how the hoax or witch hunt started. It was an attempted coup or an attempted takedown of the president of the United States.


BROWN: Democrats quick to pounce. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff saying the move allows Barr to weaponize and politicize the nation's intelligence and law enforcement entities.

This extraordinary move comes as Trump shifts again on whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller should testify before Congress. And after saying it was up to his attorney general to decide.


TRUMP: They want to do a redo, like, even the fact that they're asking Bob Mueller to come and testify. He just gave them a 434-page report, which says no collusion, which leads to absolutely no obstruction. He just gave that report. Why does he have to testify? It's ridiculous.


BROWN: The president's frustration building as his feud with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi takes a personal turn.


TRUMP: I've 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.


BROWN: In the latest attack, Trump tweeted a heavily edited video of Pelosi, supposedly slurring her words and made the baseless claim Pelosi has lost it.


TRUMP: Look, you think Nancy's the same as she was? She's not.


BROWN: The hostility boiling over publicly in the last 24 hours. The president, though, says Pelosi drew first blood.


TRUMP: Did you hear what she said about me long before I went after her? Did you hear? She made horrible statements. She knows they're not true.

[17:05:03] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Again, 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.


BROWN: And as the president heads to Japan for the Memorial Day weekend, he announced the Pentagon will deploy an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East in response to a growing threat from Iran, a big step for a president who campaigned on pulling troops out of foreign entanglements.


TRUMP: We want to have protection, the Middle East, we're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops mostly protect protective and some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we'll see how and we'll see what happens.



BROWN: And President Trump is expected to arrive here in Japan at 5:00 p.m. local time, where he'll be the first foreign leader to meet with the newly crowned emperor. He'll then have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Abe. The two are expected to discuss trade and defense.

A senior administration official saying that this trip is really more about ceremony than substance. So, Wolf, this will be a reprieve from President Trump from all the pressure he faces in Washington.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown in Tokyo for us. Pamela, thank you.

I want to bring in our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett. Laura, what are the implications of giving the attorney general the sweeping power to declassify, if he wants to, all of these very sensitive intelligence documents?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: So, traditionally, the president is king when it comes to classification. He's the ultimate classification authority, but this new order from Trump last night turns all of that on its head and it makes Barr the master of the classification domain, if you will.

Now, as to the question of why do this? One possible theory is that we know the inspector general over at the Justice Department is looking into how the FBI monitored that former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. They're looking into the FISA warrants we've heard so much about. And so, it could be that to do this allows Barr to declassify some of those documents, the president perhaps thinks are helpful to his case. We'll have to wait and see whether Barr actually uses that power. But he certainly has the last call on it now.

BLITZER: As you know, the attorney general has been widely criticized for the way he handled the release of the Mueller report. And some are wondering, is he going to be credible right now in handling the release of all the sensitive information?

JARRETT: Well, he does it on a clean slate here. Not only his handling of the Mueller report and that rollout of that four-page what he calls sort of a memo on the principle conclusions of Mueller's report was resoundly criticized for being misleading, even by Mueller. The question here is what does he do, given that this is intelligence information? You can't take that back, once the genie is out of the bottle.

But he has gone back even to 2017, saying that this deserves a look, this deserves a closer examination, rather, at even more so than the so-called Russia collusion, is what he says.

BLITZER: Before he left the White House today for the trip to Japan, he said he didn't know what or how many documents he was sending over to the attorney general to potentially declassify. What are you hearing? Are there significant national security threats at play right now?

JARRETT: Well, Barr isn't doing this alone. Remember he's doing this in conjunction with the FBI, the CIA, and the director of National Intelligence. It is interesting Dan Coats put out a statement just a short time ago. I want to read you a piece of it.

BLITZER: The director of National Intelligence. JARRETT: Yes, the director. He says in part here, Wolf, "...the Intelligence Community will provide the Department of Justice all of the appropriate information." So you note there, not all the information, all the appropriate information for its review.

And he goes on to say, Wolf, "I am confident that the attorney general will work with the IC in accordance with the long-standing established standards to protect highly-sensitive classified information that if publicly released would put our national security at risk."

So, clearly, Coates saying there, obviously, the Justice Department is going to do this review, but I still have a job to do.

BLITZER: IC is the Intelligence Community. Just want to make sure everybody knows what IC is. Laura, thank you very much.

As tensions escalate with Iran, the White House had made clear it will go around Congress to expedite an arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Let go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly is up on Capitol Hill. Phil, how will this be received by lawmakers?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've already seen sharply critical statements from Democrats before this announcement was made, when there was word it was coming. Republicans who were concerned about it raised concerns, as well. But the reality is this, Wolf. There's likely little lawmakers on Capitol Hill can do about it. What the administration chose to do, they informed Congress earlier today by letter.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just released a statement, announcing it publicly, is they used an obscure provision in an arms control law that allows the administration to essentially end run around Capitol Hill, where they had been blocking this weapons sale for months. What it will allow them to do is complete about $8 billion in weapons, reconnaissance, maintenance sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. And their rationale is it's on emergency basis because of escalations and tensions with Iran.

What I'm hearing on Capitol Hill right now is really three problems. First, they're going around Congress with this, kind of usurping their authority, if you will, although they believe this is being done on legal grounds.

[17:10:03] Democrats are very concerned that this will create, as one Democratic senator told me earlier, a cascading effect with the kind of trading back and forth of escalations and tensions with Iran itself. Obviously, supplying weapons, ammunitions to two regional allies of the United States who typically are against Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia would present major problems.

On the Republican side of things, the support for Saudi Arabia over the course of the last nine to 10 months in particular has really wilted in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist who was murdered, as well as some of the actions that Saudi Arabia has taken in Yemen in their civil war. The bottom line here is lawmakers right now, Democrats in particular, are incensed, but they do not believe, at least at this point, that there's anything they can do about that $8 billion sale that will be completed on an expedited basis, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's significant. You know I want -- I also want to ask you, Phil, about this long overdue disaster relief bill. One lawmaker prevented this from advancing the president for his signature. He was expected to sign this into law. What happened?

MATTINGLY: It has been mired in controversy for months, something that usually a disaster relief bill moves in a bipartisan manner and a rather quick manner on Capitol Hill for months. They have not been able to find a solution. Yesterday, Senate Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement. They convinced the president, who had been opposed for this $19.1 billion deal for months, in particular because it was adding aid to Puerto Rico in the wake of the hurricanes that hit that island, to say yes, to come onboard.

One problem, the House of Representatives had already gaveled out for the Memorial Day recess. The House in a pro forma session today attempted to do it unanimously. One Republican Congressman, Chip Roy, a conservative from Texas, who had problems with these spending that wasn't paid for in the bill, had problems with the fact that it did not include money for the immigration border issue that the administration had put up, came out, objected to it. It was within his right with the House gone, even though there was wide-ranging support, as many as 400 votes in favor of this bill, I'm told, in the House. Right now, it has been blocked, at least for the time being.

Now, the bottom line here is some point soon, it will be passed likely when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill. But for those who have been waiting for this aide and to be completely clear, it's not just hurricanes, it's not just Puerto Rico, and Florida, and Texas, it's wildfires in California, it's flooding in the Midwest, states like Georgia and the south, it has crossed ideological lines, Republicans and Democrats have been pushing for this to move forward. But at least for the moment, it won't be moving forward quite yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congress going into recess for a few days as well around Memorial Day weekend. Thanks very much, Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, he's a member of the Intelligence Committee. Congressman thanks so much for joining us. And as you heard, the president says his decision to give the attorney general declassification power is all about transparency. That's what the president says. But the chairman of your committee, Adam Schiff, says this is an effort in his word to weaponize intelligence. What are your concerns?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, of course it is. My concerns, quite frankly, Wolf, are the attorney general, Bill Barr. Look, I've actually seen all of the intelligence and work that led to the initiation of this investigation. And I know if that information were to get out there, it would completely contradict the president's story that there was some kind of coup attempt here.

Look -- and that's not just me talking. The inspector general of the Department of Justice did an investigation and checked this out and the conclusion was that Peter Strzok and all of the people that the president likes talking about constantly, that there was no evidence that political bias entered into the way they did their work.

I would also urge people, and Wolf, this is important. I would urge people to step back, because we're going to get into FISA affidavits and the way investigations are originated, step back here a second and remember what happened and what is not in dispute.

Here's what happened. Jim Comey at the time, the director of the FBI and now, of course, the enemy of the president, Jim Comey twice, before the presidential election of November 2016, announced an investigation into one candidate, to Hillary Clinton, and did not announce an investigation that was ongoing into another candidate, Donald Trump.

So there is an argument to be made that the FBI and in particular Jim Comey handed this election to Donald Trump. It was that close. And yet, here we are two years later plus and the president believes this mad cap theory that there was something going on in the FBI that was designed to stop him from becoming president. And again, who knows. Someday mathematicians will figure this out. But the historical facts show that the FBI, if anything, was a dramatic assist in Donald Trump becoming president.

Now, we'll have this conversation about how that investigation started. What worries me just to answer your question is that Bill Barr has shown himself from moment one to not be a fair arbiter here, when he called surveillance spying, when he came out with a pre-spin on Bob Mueller's report that Bob Mueller himself rejected, we know that he is not treating this situation fairly. He is going to pick and choose whatever he can find that buttresses the president's bizarre, insane, and completely wrong argument, but which is in his favor.

[17:15:14] BLITZER: So what's the worst-case scenario? What do you fear could happen with the declassification of these documents, if they're all made public?

HIMES: Well, look, it's a limited thing. It's not like everything comes apart. But what could happen is that, let's just imagine that there were wiretaps or signals intelligence or other intercepts. If he declassifies something and this is Bill Barr, he will declassify what he needs to declassify in the service of the president.

It is possible that our foes will learn a little bit about our capabilities. Even larger, though, Wolf, and this I feel very strongly about this, all over the world right now, CIA case officers are talking to people in very dangerous places it might be Kabul, it might be Moscow, who knows where it is, and they are saying, trust us, trust us. If you work for us, if you help us, there is no risk that you will ever be exposed.

The president of the United States, in the service of a complete fantasy, has basically announced to the world that for political reasons, we may blow sources and methods. And that is going to have a profoundly damaging effect on our ability to learn the secrets we need to learn to keep Americans safe.

BLITZER: You make an important point. When you heard the president earlier today say he hopes the attorney general looks at the United Kingdom, Australia, and Ukraine. The UK and Australia obviously among the closest allies the United States has, an enormous amount of intelligence cooperation that goes on with them. What was your reaction?

HIMES: Well, it sort of doesn't matter what the president says, because the president could not be more wrong. Not a single allegation that the president has made has been sustained in this area. Again, Department of Justice inspector general report says that the FBI was not motivated by politics.

You know the conclusions of the famous Devin Nunes report in the Intelligence Community, which said that the Russians were not trying to help Donald Trump, refuted by the Mueller report. So facts are not in any way, shape, or form this president's friend, but I do worry about the fact that now somebody who has clearly identified themselves as on the president's team, that's Bill Barr, the attorney general, will selectively pick and choose things that make the president look good and it will be done at the expense of our ability to gather secrets around the world that are important to keeping Americans safe.

BLITZER: Because some sources have said to me, today in fact, they suggested, this is going to make it more difficult for the U.S. to gather intelligence, shared intelligence with among the closest U.S. allies. They might all of a sudden become more reluctant to share very sensitive information if they find that that information is made public and could undermine their respective sources and methods. I assume you've heard that as well?

HIMES: Well that's exactly right. As you probably know, Wolf, we do an immense amount of intelligence sharing with our allies. They're known as the five I's, Great Britain, other countries that - Australia that we just plain trust. And you know, they've already been pretty badly beaten up, because let's talk very briefly about some other episodes in which American secrets were blown. The Snowden Case. The Snowden case, Snowden goes out there and sort of discloses all sorts of sources and methods. Two things happen.

The bad guys changed their ways of operating. So Edward Snowden's releases changed very bad people's way of operating, in ways that make it hard for us to know what they're doing. And secondarily, of course, our allies who share information now say you really can't trust the United States. Now, look, Edward Snowden, you know sadly it's impossible to fully prevent that.

But a president saying, for political purposes, to further my fantasy. And let's face it, nobody outside to have the White House and Donald Trump's most fervent supporters believes that there was some coup plotted, some political attack on the president's presidency. What the UK and Australia and New Zealand see is because the president, in order to forward a political fantasy may blow our sources and methods, put our people at risk. This is a very dangerous thing for the United States.

BLITZER: The president obviously strongly disagrees with you. He says there was an attempted coup and he says those coup plotters, in his words, committed treason. Congressman Jim Himes thanks so much for joining us.

HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, breaking news. President Trump defends his move to let the attorney general declassify all intelligence linked to the origins of the Russia investigation. But will that put U.S. security at risk? And as President Trump heads to Japan right now, North Korea sends an ominous message, what is the warning from Kim Jong-un?


[17:24:53] BLITZER: Breaking news. President Trump is granting the Attorney General William Barr sweeping new powers to declassify documents from the Russia investigation.

[17:25:00] The move is raising alarm among some lawmakers who worry the president may try to distort intelligence gathered during the probe.

Let's bring in our legal and political experts for some analysis. The president said he's not even sure, Gloria, what he's declassifying. I want you listen to what he said just before leaving the White House.


TRUMP: As you know, I declassified, I guess potentially millions of pages of documents. I don't know what it is. I have no idea. But I want to be transparent. Everybody wanted me to declassify. I've done it.


BLITZER: How concerning is that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's very concerning. First of all, he hasn't declassified anything. He's given the attorney general the authority to declassify, which is enough. And, you know, the question really is, what is the attorney general going to decide to do? If you're a member of the intelligence agencies right now, you're thinking, is it possible that sources and methods will be revealed?

If you're an ally of the United States, would you be sharing intelligence with us if you thought that your sources and methods could be revealed? The president said, I want to know what happened with Australia. I want to know what happened with the United Kingdom.

Well, if you're Australia or the United Kingdom right now, what are you thinking? You know, you don't want intelligence investigations to go awry, of course. Everybody deserves oversight, but the inspector general is looking into it right now and the question is whether Barr is really going to be an honest broker in all of this.

BLITZER: You know, Joey Jackson, the president says that the attorney general, in his words, is a highly respected man. But as you know, the attorney general was widely criticized for his handling of the release of the Mueller report. Are there any serious checks on what the attorney general now can do as far as declassifying this very sensitive information?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, let's start here. I recall an op-ed, right, last year, back, I think, in September where members of his own administration, anonymous op-ed, were speaking about deep concerns they had about his recklessness and they said, essentially that, you know what, we're here, we have your back. I think the biggest concern here, obviously, in relating declassified information is that there needs to be a protocol and process, which there is, by which information is declassified. You just don't say, I release millions and millions of pages, I don't know what it is. How reckless is that? But I think that the biggest check will be the Intelligence Community themselves.

Let's remember that the Intelligence Community consists of 16 governmental agencies. And I think that essentially, you're going to see people resign, and certainly resist handing over information that they believe will be damaging to the national security of the United States. And so, yes, we all need to be concerned about the recklessness of releasing information and using it for political purposes.

But I do believe those people within those agencies are very aware of their jobs, are very aware of the opportunity they have in overseeing the country and making sure that information does not get out that would be detrimental to the security interests.

BLITZER: Sabrina Siddiqui, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, he called this move by the president, he said, the president was attempting to weaponize and politicize intelligence. Will Schiff be successful in carrying out Congressional oversight of this latest development?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Adam Schiff said that the House Intelligence Committee will conduct vigorous oversight into any steps that the administration might take to selectively release or distort classified information. I think given the broader lack of cooperation between the Trump administration and Democrats in Congress, how they would be able to really determine what the processes are internally, that remains to be seen.

But that really is what this issue is all about. The president has long been trying to muddy the water between authorized surveillance and the notion of spying on his campaign. And I think the concern that Democrats have is that the administration is going to selectively release information to try and suggest that there was some kind of impropriety during the course of the investigation, when so far, there isn't any evidence to back up that claim and for the first time, it may be, as Gloria pointed out, we'll wait to see how Attorney General William Barr reacts but it may be that he has a willing participant at the helm of the Justice Department.

BLITZER: You know, Rebecca Buck, after months and months of the president railing against the Russia probe, a witch hunt, a hoax, the president now insists that his latest decision is about transparency, not payback. Is that believable?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It doesn't pass the smell test, Wolf. I think it's abundantly clear to anyone who has watched the past two years unfold, that the president cares much more about his own personal well-being than the rule of law in this country. And so that's going to be his biggest challenge politically. How can he persuade people that he's doing this for the right reasons, for the good of the country, as opposed to for his own good and his own political good?

BLITZER: There's a lot more developing as we speak. I need to take a quick break. We'll have all the latest breaking news right after this.


BLITZER: Now, let's get back to our analysts.

And, Gloria, the feud between the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the President of the United States is escalating even as we speak. The President insisting that she started it, that she made all those, what he calls, horrible statements. Are you surprised how personal --


BLITZER: -- this is now getting?

BORGER: No. No, I'm not. I think Nancy Pelosi left that meeting -- as Chuck Schumer said, if you were in the room, your jaw would have dropped. I think her jaw did drop.

She left and spoke about Donald Trump in a way, as a mother, I can say, as somebody would talk about a child. And say, you know, there's something really wrong here, I'm praying for him, I'm praying for his family, and then continued.

And then it escalated because Donald Trump, as he is fond of telling us, likes to fight back. And then he started accusing her of losing it, which is, of course, what he used to say about Hillary Clinton.

And I don't know whether it's just about Nancy Pelosi or whether this is the way he likes to describe women that he can't really deal with, which is that he's much smarter than they are and they're losing and, of course, he's not.

So it's childish and ridiculous on his part, but he's opened a new vein here. And we're going to see more of this. I mean, it's going to get worse. It's not going to get any better, and I think he's given her an opportunity to unite the Democrats behind her.

BLITZER: What do you think, Sabrina?

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that the challenge here is that there is no room for bipartisan cooperation between the President and Democrats in Congress. And the President, in particular, has been so distracted by this cloud that has loomed over his presidency that he's incapable of focusing on anything else.

And that's why you've seen these repeated escalations, in particular, with Nancy Pelosi who's also, in turn, gone toe-to-toe with him and pushed all of the right buttons by playing right into all of his insecurities and his vulnerabilities and the language that she's used to describe him.

Which is why you saw him, you know, give that sort of rambling statement yesterday, insisting he is an extremely stable genius. And it goes back to this idea that, you know, if you have to say it, then that says something about where you are in this particular moment.

But, you know, this will play out for so long as there's this battle between the White House and congressional Democrats over their investigative pursuits. But I think, realistically, at some point, the question is, is there actually going to be any legislating, or is this just, you know, the remainder of the course of the -- until the 2020 election next November?

[17:35:07] BLITZER: Yes. In one -- in response to one question today, Rebecca, he said -- the President said he still could work with Nancy Pelosi, but, you know, Gloria makes an important point.

What you heard him say about Nancy Pelosi yesterday was very similar to what he used to say about Hillary Clinton during the campaign, that she was losing it, she wasn't in control.

Some of his supporters, you know, sending out this fake video, this doctored video, making Nancy Pelosi look like she's losing it. Some fake video was sent about Hillary Clinton as well. Some similar procedures.

BUCK: Right, and make no mistake, Wolf, women are picking up on this. It's one of the reasons of many that you see so many women disapproving of Donald Trump's presidency, looking for other alternatives. It's one of the reasons that women came out in such large numbers in the midterm elections and supported Democrats.

And so if the President is concerned, as he should be, about his political future, if he's thinking to his re-election in 2020, you would think that he would be working harder to try to bring women into the fold to win their support. But instead, he's doing things to actively turn them off.

BLITZER: You know, Joey, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, now says that Robert Mueller might be willing to testify behind closed doors and maybe make an opening statement publicly. Is that going to be worth it? Is that going to have the same impact as opposed to him just going before the committee and answering the lawmakers' questions? JACKSON: Yes, Wolf, not at all. I think this is something certainly

-- I look at the Mueller report as the people's report. And I don't think that any American has the time or, I don't know, the interest to look through 400 pages and exhibits, et cetera. I think it would be a great opportunity for the American people in the event that it were a public forum.

And make no mistake about it, I think the committee has some real significant questions, the most of which is, would you have indicted the President in the event that you had the opportunity? Lay out the 10 different, obviously, points that he made in terms of obstruction of justice, taking him through that.

And not only as to the substance but as to the process. You called Barr. You expressed your concerns. What specifically did he say in response, when he laid out that four pages that you thought was misleading?

And so I think that there's a lot that the American people would be able to glean in the event that it were a public forum. If it's private, it has no such impact.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stick around. There's more news we're following. The President, he's on his way right now to Kim Jong-un's backyard as North Korea sends out a rather sinister new warning. How far is the North Korean dictator willing to go to grab the President's attention?


BLITZER: Breaking news. President Trump says he's keeping an eye on the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes but won't say if he's planning to issue a pardon before his trial. CNN's Nick Watt has the latest.



NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher, war hero, held in shackles unfairly, or war criminal, premeditated murderer facing the punishment he deserves?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we teach them how to be great fighters. And then when they fight, sometimes they get really treated very unfairly.

WATT (voice-over): President Trump was reportedly considering a pretrial Memorial Day pardon for Gallagher. Today, he backed down just a little.

TRUMP: It's a little bit controversial. It's very possible that I'll let the trials go on, and I'll make my decision after the trial.

WATT (voice-over): Gallagher's court martial is scheduled to begin June 10th. Prosecutors say, in 2017, while stationed in Mosul, he shot civilians and stabbed a wounded ISIS fighter to death, took a photo with the corpse, sent it to friends.

In an almost unheard of move, members of his own platoon went around commanders, turned him in. Gallagher denies all wrongdoing.

WATT (on camera): So how do you explain the texts that he sent? The messages he sent to people, I got this one with my hunting knife, I got my knife skills on, how do you explain that?


WATT (on camera): What do you mean?

PARLATORE: It's a joke.

WATT (on camera): Like a funny joke?

PARLATORE: Well, to guys on the SEAL teams, yes, it's stark humor.

SEAN GALLAGHER, BROTHER OF EDDIE GALLAGHER: Imagine what a modern-day war hero would be, it'd be Eddie.

WATT (voice-over): Some suggest the President is feeling pressured to pardon from T.V. hosts, supporters, perhaps even his own lawyer. All of whom have rallied around this Navy SEAL.

PETE HEGSETH, FOX NEWS HOST: Including the murder of an ISIS dirtbag.

WATT (voice-over): Fox News host Pete Hegseth has been publicly banging the drum.

HEGSETH: Your message to Army leadership -- you know, Navy leadership, to the President, to those that have the power to review this case.

ANDREA GALLAGHER, WIFE OF EDDIE GALLAGHER: Well, something needs to be done. This has to stop.

WATT (voice-over): A person familiar with the conversation tells CNN, Hegseth also privately petitioned the President to issue a pardon.

PARLATORE: I didn't ask him. And if he is doing that, I don't have a problem with it.

WATT (voice-over): Tim Parlatore, Gallagher's lead attorney, has also represented Hegseth.

WATT (on camera): He has nothing to do with you getting involved in this case?

PARLATORE: No, he has not. No, I was recommended this -- to this case by Commissioner Kerik.

WATT (voice-over): Commissioner Kerik is Bernie Kerik, Trump acolyte, Fox News guest, former top cop in New York City, and convicted tax evader.

The source tells CNN Kerik also recruited Marc Mukasey to the case. He is a Trump Organization attorney currently fighting congressional subpoenas for the President's financial records.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that not a conflict of interest?

PARLATORE: Do you want to make a motion on that?

WATT (voice-over): Gallagher's wife who has been campaigning on Capitol Hill for help says she didn't know about Kerik and Mukasey's connections to Trump when they joined the defense.

[17:44:57] A. GALLAGHER: It had nothing to do with presidential intervention or pardon. It is coincidental at most.

Free Eddie!

E. GALLAGHER: See you guys.

WATT (voice-over): Gallagher's lawyer claims none of these people have spoken to the President about the case.

PARLATORE: If the President chooses to act, it will be on his own. We have not -- we haven't had any communications.

WATT (voice-over): But we know the President watches Fox where Gallagher has been defended repeatedly.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: They've got him in with rapists. They've got him in with pedophiles.

WATT (voice-over): Shortly after that comment, the President tweeted, Eddie Gallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement, tagging "Fox and Friends." Gallagher was moved hours later. Now, Trump's considering a pardon.

JESSICA LEVINSON, CLINICAL PROFESSOR OF LAW, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: In order for a president to do that, we want them to have had a considered review, to go through factors. We don't want a president to just turn on the T.V., think something's a good idea.


WATT: Now, Gallagher's case, Wolf, is far from cut and dried. The defense says those SEALs who turned him in just didn't like him, and they say it's unclear how many will actually testify against him in court. Also, the prosecution has been involved in e-mailing some kind of malware to the defense, trying to find out who has been leaking from the case.

You know, the Gallagher family would've been happy with a pre-trial pardon. It looks now, after we heard from the President this morning, that they will, quote, very possibly have to wait until after a jury has had its say -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens. We'll monitor it down the road. Nick Watt, thank you very much.

Coming up, as President Trump heads over to Japan, there's an ominous message coming in from North Korea. What is Kim Jong-un planning?

Plus, an exclusive insider's look at those long flights on Air Force One. Why some White House staffers compared trips abroad -- trips aboard, I should say, the presidential aircraft to being held captive.


[17:51:23] BLITZER: As President Trump heads to Japan right now, there's an ominous message from the region as Kim Jong-un is, again, letting the President know he is unhappy.

Brian Todd has been looking into this for us. So what's North Korea saying, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Kim's regime is blaming President Trump's team for the failed summit in Hanoi and is making a not-so-veiled threat. Tonight, analysts are worried that while the President is in Japan over this holiday weekend, Kim might try to divert attention away from Trump's visit with a serious provocation.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, as President Trump heads toward Japan, the ambitious young dictator next door is, once again, rattling his saber. In a new statement from his state news agency, North Korea's Kim Jong-un is issuing another brazen challenge to Trump, saying the further America's so-called mistrust and hostility grow, quote, the fiercer our reaction will be.

Analysts say there's one particular threat the dictator could be holding over Trump tonight -- a missile launch.

MICHAEL GREEN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR ASIA AND JAPAN CHAIR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: He may start testing again. He needs to put pressure on Donald Trump. He also needs to show his internal audience that even though he came away from Hanoi with nothing in his last summit with Donald Trump, he is pressing hard to get results.

TODD (voice-over): Kim likes to make a splash and to keep the U.S. off balance. In the past, he's tested missiles around American holidays and presidential visits. With President Trump heading to Japan for the coronation of the new Japanese emperor, analysts are concerned that Kim Jong-un will take the opportunity to anger the Japanese to grab headlines and grab the President's attention.

BRUCE KLINGNER, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW FOR NORTHEAST ASIA, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The obvious thing would be that now that they've launched short-range missiles and the U.S. didn't respond, that they could then go to a medium-range missile, perhaps a static rocket engine test of a long-range missile. It would indicate that the ICBM program is continuing. TODD (voice-over): But why provoke President Trump now after two

summits? Veteran diplomats say Kim Jong-un was much more surprised and embarrassed that Trump walked out on him in Hanoi in February than either side has let on.

During that summit, Kim demanded a complete end to sanctions on North Korea in exchange for partially dismantling his nuclear facilities, something Trump refused to accept.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER UNITED STATES-NORTH KOREA NEGOTIATOR: Kim Jong-un is frustrated. The last summit in Hanoi was a failure for him. With his own people, he had promised sanctions relief, American investment, possibly a nuclear deal, and it was a spectacular failure.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, North Korea's news statement places the blame for the failed summit in Hanoi on the, quote, dishonest position taken by the United States and says if the Trump team doesn't change its approach, dialogue will never be resumed.

SOO KIM, FORMER ANALYST, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: It's pressuring the United States to come back to the table, not on U.S.' terms, obviously, but according to Pyongyang's timeline, according to Pyongyang's conditions and then its demands.


TODD: Responding to North Korea's latest message of blame and threats, a State Department spokesperson tells CNN tonight that President Trump remains committed to building a lasting peace with Kim's regime and that the President believes Kim Jong-un will stick to his commitment to denuclearize.

Wolf, despite all these threats, the Trump team remaining a little bit patient tonight.

BLITZER: We'll watch it closely with you, Brian. Thank you very much. Brian Todd, reporting.

Coming up, breaking news. President Trump defends his move to let the Attorney General declassify all intelligence linked to the origins of the Russia investigation. Will that harm U.S. security?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. It's not payback. The President signs off on an investigation of the investigators, giving his Attorney General broad authority to look into surveillance of his campaign that led to the Mueller probe and ordering intelligence agencies to help. But he insists it's not retribution.