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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Takes Bipartisan Heat For Backing Kim Jong-un; Millions In U.S. Bracing For Severe Storms; Interview With Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) On Trump Financial Records; Biden Resumes Campaigning After 10-Day Break As His Team Blasts Trump For Remarks In Japan; GOP Lawmaker Who Called Trump's Actions Impeachable Holds Town Hall; U.N. Report: Vicious Cycle Of Deprivation, Corruption, And Repression Trap North Koreans. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 28, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: severe impact from deadly tornadoes to record flooding. The center of the country is grappling with catastrophic weather and more storms may be on the way, putting millions at risk.

Seeking evidence: Democratic lawmakers tell a judge they want to begin pursuing President Trump's financial records, seeking evidence on how he may be receiving funds from his businesses while in office.

Beneath the office: the president is taking bipartisan criticism for siding with North Korea's dictator during his trip to Japan, as Joe Biden's campaign says the president's attacks are beneath the dignity of the office.

And bribes and extortion: as President Trump praises Kim Jong-un, a U.N. human rights report paints a grim picture of suffering under North Korea's corrupt regime, where bribes and extortion are the price for survival.

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

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

BLITZER: Breaking news: millions of Americans tonight are bracing for severe weather or picking up the pieces from devastating storms. In Western Ohio, powerful tornadoes destroyed dozens of homes, killing at least one person.

More than 50 tornadoes were reported in eight states overnight. In Arkansas and Oklahoma, there's historic flooding with evacuations and water rescues and more bad weather expected. Meantime, President Trump may be beginning to feel the heat. He's

back at the White House, facing heavy criticism after siding with North Korea's dictator during his visit to Japan. The president excused Kim Jong-un's latest missile firings and applauded his attack on Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

Biden's camp says the president's comments are beneath the dignity of the office. I'll speak with Senator Chris van Hollen of the Appropriations committee and our correspondents and analysts, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with the catastrophic storms from tornadoes to flooding that have devastated much of the country. Let's go straight to CNN's Ed Lavandera, he's in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, for us right now.

What's the latest, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are the floodwaters you see in a town of Sand Springs just west of Tulsa, where the mayor in that city is warning residents tonight to brace themselves for the worst-case scenario of flooding that this city has ever seen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): A trail of devastation as severe storms rip through the central United States and entire neighborhoods drown in floodwaters.

At least two reported tornadoes touched down near Dayton, Ohio, Monday night, just 30 minutes apart.

RACHEL HENDERSON, CELINA RESIDENT: I was scared and not knowing what I was going to see at my house.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): An EF-3 tornado struck the small town of Celina, Ohio. One man was killed when the twister smashed a car into his home. At least seven others were injured.

MAYOR JEFF HAZEL, CELINA, OHIO: In a tragedy like this, you often reel a little bit when you look at it. Back in the neighborhood, there's areas that look truly like a war zone.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Winds ripped through walls and flipped cars, damaging or destroying at least 40 homes there.

RENEE MONIZ, CELINA RESIDENT: There was this big gush of wind and then I heard something hit the roof -- well, I thought it was hail. But it wasn't hail. It was those 2 x 4s.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Debris like that hit this man in nearby Brookville, Ohio, as he described the roof being torn from his house.

MICHAEL SUSSMAN, BROOKEVILLE RESIDENT: This was just an ominous feeling. Something made my body move two foot to the left, thank God, because the entire front room I was standing is no longer there. LAVANDERA (voice-over): These Ohio storms come on the heels of weeks of deadly weather across the central U.S. There have been over 500 reports of tornadoes in the past 30 days. It's one of the strongest storm seasons ever recorded.

In Oklahoma and Arkansas, the same storm systems are bringing historic flooding and even more rain is forecast. Homeowners battle to save their property in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, just east of the Keystone Dam, where three Olympic-sized pools of water are released from the floodgates every second.

LAVANDERA: Has it been a pretty nerve-racking experience?

RICK SAWN, SAND SPRINGS RESIDENT: Yes.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The flooding forced Rick Sawn to leave his home last night and now he can't get back.

SAWN: The water was encroaching at that point but, if we didn't leave then, we were going to be landlocked.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): CNN helped him check out his home by flying a drone over his street nearly a mile from the Arkansas River. It's safe, so far.

SAWN: Here's the water right there.

LAVANDERA: Here it is.

[17:05:00]

SAWN: So it's still coming up that berm. Oh, it's come up a pretty fair amount but we're dry, thank God.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Others have not been so lucky, with emergency teams working to rescue people from rooftops in the floodwaters.

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LAVANDERA: And Wolf, the concern tonight across Oklahoma and Western Arkansas is that more rain is in the forecast. And that means the floodwaters you see above -- on the ground here in Sand Springs, that the Army Corps of Engineers, according to the mayor of Tulsa, might have to release more floodwaters through those floodgates.

And if that happens, these floodwaters you see behind me could continue to rise even higher in the coming days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very awful situation, indeed, Ed Lavandera on the scene for us in Oklahoma, thanks very much.

There's more breaking news right now as House and Senate Democrats tell a federal judge they want to sue for access to the president's financial records and perhaps access to the president himself. Let's bring in our CNN Political Correspondent, Sara Murray.

So Sara, what kind of information are they looking for?

What do they hope to learn?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, they want access to the president's financial records and want to ask the president a few questions as well as access other officials from the Trump Organization and question them.

And essentially, what House and Senate Democrats want to know is whether the president is receiving any proceeds from his business. They're particularly interested, of course, in whether any revenue from foreign governments to the president's businesses could be going to him.

Now a judge has not weighed in on this yet but in their argument to the judge, they're saying, look, this will only take a marginal amount of the president's time; we'll wrap this up by September of this year, well before the re-election fight.

And the Justice Department is saying, wait, wait, wait, the president's time is very limited; this is going to be disruptive. We're going to try to appeal this.

But, Wolf, we're still weight for the judge to weigh in.

BLITZER: And top of that, we may be getting some more information from Robert Mueller's court filings after a federal judge approved a CNN request to get that kind of information.

What do we anticipate we might learn?

MURRAY: That's right. CNN has asked for more information about miscellaneous court actions. They want them to be unsealed. We've asked the judge for this.

And the Justice Department says, you know, give us a couple of minutes to redact some stuff. They want a little bit of time to make some additional redactions, particularly from ongoing matters.

But otherwise, they say they're fine with unsealing a number of these actions. These could be things like search warrants or seizure warrants or asking for access to someone's iCloud account, asking to track phone calls to or from a certain phone number.

So we could get a better sense of the body of evidence that Robert Mueller's team was looking at and looking to collect. It's unclear exactly how much we'll learn from it. We may just see, oh, this is a request to a telephone company; we want access to a number of phone numbers and we'll have to go from there.

So we'll see but it certainly is a big victory for transparency.

BLITZER: It certainly is. We'll see what happens. Sara Murray, thank you very much.

President Trump has now returned from Japan to face a storm of criticism after publicly siding with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Let's go straight to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, I take it there's bipartisan outrage.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is back at the White House after a weekend trip to Japan that was teeming with controversy after he slammed former Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden's campaign, by the way, they are firing back, accusing the president of behavior that is, quote, "beneath the dignity of the office."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Any regrets on your comments on Joe Biden?

ACOSTA (voice-over): Biting his tongue as he returns from Japan, President Trump is facing bipartisan blowback after embracing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Biden campaign released a scathing statement that hit inboxes as soon as Mr. Trump was back on the ground in the U.S., saying, "The president's comments are beneath the dignity of the office. To be on foreign soil on Memorial Day and to side repeatedly with a murderous dictator against a fellow American and former vice president speaks for itself."

That swipe came after the president made waves in Tokyo over the weekend.

TRUMP: Well, Kim Jong-un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low IQ individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Since that moment, some fellow Republicans have blasted the president's remark.

The latest, long-time GOP House member Peter King, who tweeted, "Wrong for President Trump to criticize Joe Biden in Japan and to agree with Kim Jong-un. Politics stops at water's edge. Never right to side with murderous dictator versus fellow American."

But that tradition of steering clear of domestic politics on the world stage ended long ago. Former president Barack Obama slammed Mr. Trump while in Japan back in 2016, when the real estate tycoon was only a candidate.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So they're rattled by him. And for good reason because a lot of the proposals that he's made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also sided with Democrats who have criticized Biden for his support of a controversial crime bill in the '90s, tweeting, "Anyone associated with the 1994 crime bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you."

[17:10:00]

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president is overlooking his own role in inflaming tensions back in the '80s, when he took out an ad calling for the death penalty for a group of African American and Latino teens wrongfully convicted in a Central Park rape case.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Were you pre-judging those arrested?

TRUMP: No, I'm not pre-judging at all. I'm not in this particular case. I'm saying, if they're found guilty, if the woman died, which she hopefully will not be dying. But if the woman died, I think they should be executed.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the Russia investigation, one of President Trump's toughest critics, Republican congressman Justin Amash, took to Twitter, to hammer attorney general William Barr's handling of the Mueller report, tweeting, "Barr has so far successfully used his position to sell the president's false narrative to the American people.

"This will continue if those who have read the report do not start pushing back on his misrepresentations and share the truth."

The president got a brief reprieve from the investigations in Congress, as he wished both Japanese troops --

TRUMP: I want to start by saying happy Memorial Day. Happy Memorial Day. It's a great day.

ACOSTA (voice-over): --- and U.S. service members a happy Memorial Day.

TRUMP: I have to wish you all a very happy Memorial Day, right?

Memorial Day. Very special back home. And I always like to be back in the U.S., as you do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now one person who hasn't personally responded to the president's attacks on Joe Biden is the former vice president himself. Biden has left that task to his campaign aides, a return to the strategy Mr. Trump's GOP rivals used back in 2016. They, too, tried to keep Mr. Trump's attacks at arm's length during that campaign.

It's an open question whether that stay above the fray approach will work in 2020.

And Wolf, we should point out the Trump campaign has put out some statements defending the president's behavior when he was over in Japan and the comments that he made about the former vice president, an indication with the president's upcoming foreign trips next month that these attacks will continue -- Wolf. BLITZER: I'm sure they will. OK, Jim Acosta at the White House,

thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He's a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Thanks so much for joining us. Democrats in the House and Senate say they would like to start pursuing President Trump's personal financial and corporate records as part of a lawsuit over his businesses.

What do you hope to learn from those records?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Wolf, the Constitution is very clear. That Presidents of the United States should not be benefiting financially from foreign governments when they're in office. And there's a whole lot of evidence that, on many decisions, President Trump is putting the welfare of foreign governments ahead of our own people.

And so, this is a lawsuit -- and I'm part of this lawsuit -- to get additional information about Trump's finances, specifically whether or not and exactly how he's benefiting from these foreign investments.

Take the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. You've got a lot of foreign governments deciding to use that, including Saudi Arabia, that cozies up to the president. And look what Saudi Arabia's getting.

I mean, the president looks the other way when they murder a New York -- excuse me, Khashoggi, a "Washington Post" writer. Now the president has essentially used so-called emergency powers, abusing the process, to send the Saudis more arms. So these are the kinds of things we have to look at.

BLITZER: Do you have any specific evidence, Senator, that the president is acting in his own personal financial interests rather than the interests of the United States?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, you can see, Wolf, that one of the most profitable hotels right now is the Trump hotel in Washington. And part of the reason it's doing well is that foreign governments are choosing to send their delegations there. So that is one clear set of, you know, evidence.

We need to look into it more deeply. And if you look at a lot of the president's foreign policy decisions, it's hard to explain them, if not for the president having a personal interest at stake.

So this is part of the regular discovery process. Again, this is written right into our Constitution. The president had an opportunity to essentially divest himself of his ownership interests. He chose not to. And now it's perfectly appropriate for Congress to determine whether there is a constitutional violation.

BLITZER: Yes, it's the emoluments clause, Article I, Section IX, Clause VIII which says that no president should, quote, "accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatsoever from any king, prince or foreign state."

That's what you're referring to. Let's turn to the latest fight, Senator, between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. It all started with the president embracing Kim Jong-un, as the North Korean dictator taunted Biden. Now Biden says the president is behaving beneath the dignity of the office. That's what Biden's campaign is saying.

What do you make of that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Wolf, it was a despicable statement. And unfortunately --

[17:15:00]

VAN HOLLEN: -- every time the president of the United States goes overseas, he embarrasses our country, he embarrasses himself.

And this was just wrong on two counts. I mean, number one, taking a potshot like this at Biden overseas but, probably more importantly here, siding with a North Korean dictator, a brutal dictator, who essentially murdered an American citizen, Otto Warmbier.

And instead of holding Kim Jong-un accountable, he's playing pattycakes with this North Korean leader, while he not only insults Joe Biden but he's standing next to the Japanese prime minister, Prime Minister Abe, who made clear that North Korea's firing of ballistic missiles violated the U.N. sanctions regime.

And you have Donald Trump, our president, standing right next to him, saying, oh, no, no problem, it doesn't matter, very much like we saw President Trump do when he stood next to President Putin in Helsinki, siding with the Russian dictator over U.S. intelligence agencies on the question of Russian interference in our elections. So we see a pattern here.

BLITZER: You were referring to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. The Trump campaign has responded to Biden's campaign statement. Let me read a portion of what Trump campaign just said.

"That's rich coming from Joe Biden, who bashed President Trump while standing on foreign soil earlier this year in Germany. From the Iraq War to the Russia reset, Joe Biden has been wrong on virtually every foreign policy call in the last four decades."

President Obama also went after Donald Trump during a 2016 campaign event while he was abroad.

Can Joe Biden claim the high ground here?

VAN HOLLEN: Yes, Wolf. The issue here is not so much criticism of Joe Biden, as crass as it was. It was President Trump deciding to essentially second and endorse the comments of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, who's a brutal dictator, who is, as I said, essentially murdered Otto Warmbier and has been violating U.S. sanctions. And yet when the moment comes, you have the president of the United

States, Donald Trump, siding with the remarks of Kim Jong-un.

What this tells me is that the North Korean dictator knows how to play Donald Trump. He is playing him beautifully and at the expense of our national security. When the president looks the other way in the face of violations of the sanctions agreement and the president continues to elevate Kim Jong-un on the world stage without getting an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

BLITZER: Senator Chris Van Hollen, thanks so much for joining us.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Up next, President Trump takes bipartisan heat for backing Kim Jong-un's attack on Joe Biden. How the Biden and Trump campaigns are slugging it out.

Plus, will Democratic lawmakers get to question President Trump as part of a new lawsuit seeking his financial records?

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[17:20:00]

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BLITZER: Breaking news: after taking a 10-day break from the campaign trail, former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife will be attending a town hall this hour in Texas. CNN Political Reporter, Arlette Saenz is in Houston for us.

Arlette, the Biden campaign waited for President Trump to return to the United States from Japan, then hit back hard at the president's attacks.

What's the latest?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Joe Biden's campaign refrained from engaging directly with President Trump yesterday on Memorial Day, saying they were trying to respect the sacred purpose of the day.

But today, his campaign released a statement from the deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, saying, quote, "The president's comments are beneath the dignity of the office. To be on foreign soil, on Memorial Day and to side repeatedly with a murderous dictator against a fellow American and former vice president speaks for itself."

She added, "And it's part of a pattern of embracing autocrats at the expense of our institutions, whether taking Putin's word at face value in Helsinki or exchanging 'love letters' with Kim Jong-un."

Those are both arguments that you hear former Vice President Joe Biden make frequently on the campaign trail about President Trump and his approach to foreign policy.

And now you have the Trump campaign responding to the Biden campaign's response. A spokesman saying, quote, "That's rich, coming from Joe Biden, who bashed President Trump while standing on foreign soil earlier this year in Germany."

And Biden's campaign is also fundraising off of these comments from President Trump, relating to North Korea's criticism of the former vice president. So they sent out a fundraising email that said that the reason that Trump is reacting like this is because he is afraid he is going to lose.

Now one person we haven't heard from directly in this entire little fight is Joe Biden himself. We'll see if he has any remarks to make about that today in Houston -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see what he says. Biden, as you know, Arlette, he's been making fewer appearances than his Democratic opponents.

Is this part of his front-runner strategy?

And is it sustainable?

[17:25:00]

SAENZ: Well, that's one big question, Wolf, is whether he's going to be able to keep this up, this campaign with fewer public appearances compared to his Democratic opponents. Biden has held only 11 public campaign events. This will be his 12th event today since he entered the race once month ago.

He's also spent a lot of time doing fundraisers. He's held nine fundraisers overall. He'll be having another one later today in Houston and another tomorrow in Dallas.

But really, you've seen Biden adopt this front-runner campaign, really staying away from engaging with his Democratic opponents and keeping his focus right now squarely on President Trump.

BLITZER: Arlette Saenz, reporting from Houston for us. Arlette, thank you very much.

Coming up, more on the breaking news. Democrats open a new front in their effort to obtain President Trump's financial records.

And coming up later, a new report exposes the suffering and corruption that North Koreans have to endure while their leader maintains his lavish lifestyle.

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[17:31:40] BLITZER: The breaking news. We're awaiting the start of former Vice President Joe Biden's first campaign event in some 10 days. It comes as the Biden and Trump campaigns are exchanging accusations about inappropriate criticism and siding with murderous dictators. Let's bring in our political and legal experts. We'll talk about the

latest campaign developments first.

And, Gloria Borger, I want to start with the former Vice President's campaign statement. I'll read it to you.

The President's comments are beneath the dignity of the office, to be on foreign soil on Memorial Day and to side repeatedly with a murderous dictator against a fellow American and former Vice President speaks for itself.

Now, just a little while ago, the Trump campaign fired right back. That's rich coming from Joe Biden, who bashed President Trump while standing on foreign soil earlier this year in Germany. From the Iraq war to the Russia reset, Joe Biden has been wrong on virtually every foreign policy call in the last four decades.

What's your analysis?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think game on. And I think, by the President talking about Joe Biden overseas, he played right into Biden's hands.

And I think that the campaign was probably very smart in not having Biden respond to it directly. They had a campaign person respond to it. And I would add, only after the President returned from overseas.

And what Biden has been doing is trying to make this a race about the President's values, about his character, and about foreign policy. And I think if they want to have a foreign policy debate, I think that's something Biden is clearly ready to have with Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: Vice President for eight years. He's ready for that debate, for sure.

RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ESQUIRE: Yes.

BLITZER: The former Vice President, as Gloria said, Ryan, waited until the Air Force One was back on U.S. soil before they issued that statement. They used to say in the old days, politics stops at the water's edge. That's gone away, a long time ago, on both sides.

LIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: But what does that tell you about the Biden campaign?

LIZZA: That's going to -- and I don't think the issue with the Trump statement was that he was abroad. It's the statement itself. It's siding with the leader of North Korea against a former Vice President. It's, in a sense, praising this ridiculous op-ed that North Korea propaganda wrote, attacking Biden.

That's the issue. It didn't matter where Trump was when he wrote that tweet. It was the -- who he was siding with and against.

You know, as you point out, it's long -- you know, the politics stops at the water's edge idea of American politics has been dead a long time.

And as, you know, the Trump people pointed out, Biden did criticize Trump while he was abroad. But Biden did not side with some, you know, despot -- foreign despot against Trump.

BORGER: Right.

LIZZA: And that's the issue. But --

BLITZER: But is he sending a message, Biden, to other despots out there?

LIZZA: Look, I think Trump is sending a message. He's, you know, blinking green light to any despot in the world that if you want to mess around in our election, if you take my side against my opponent's, that's fine with me. And I think that's the real danger here.

You know, one day it's siding with a comment. The other -- you know, next, what if North Korea intervenes the way the Russians did?

BLITZER: What do you think of this strategy coming from both sides?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: I think that former Vice President Joe Biden has centered so much of his campaign strategy in restoring the norms of governance.

And so much of the argument that he makes before voters is that the President has eroded trust in our institutions, that he's done away with decorum, that we don't have the trust from our allies or no longer do we have their respect. And so this, in many ways, plays right into that message.

I think, as Ryan pointed out, it's not just that the President was overseas when he made these remarks. It's that he sided with a brutal dictator and, once again, reinforced that he will take any opportunity that is handed to him to attack a political opponent.

It doesn't matter where he is. It doesn't matter if it's coming from a foreign adversary. That's just who he is.

It also allows, frankly, Joe Biden's campaign to make the President that the President keeps on attacking him, and it's because they are uniquely afraid of his campaign. And so that's something that also, I think, in many ways, plays into their hands.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, how do you see it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think that -- from a political perspective, that's really the main point. As long as Donald Trump is talking constantly about Joe Biden, Joe Biden looks like the Democratic nominee. And that's certainly fine with the Biden campaign.

[17:35:08] Obviously, you know, we have a long way to go, and the polls in May do not determine the outcome in the convention next summer, much less the Iowa caucuses.

But I just can't believe that the Biden campaign isn't thrilled to be constantly attacked by Donald Trump. That's a badge of honor in the Democratic world today. And he's happy to have that, and it deprives oxygen of all of his scores of other candidates.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, it's been, what, 10 days since the last Biden campaign public event. He's about to speak right now. Is this part of a new strategy to sort of stay on the sideline?

BORGER: Well, I don't think any candidate should or can have a strategy to stay on the sideline. I think they believe -- the campaign believes that Biden has the name recognition he needs. He doesn't have to go out there in the same way that, say, a Senator Bennett has to go out there and introduce himself to the American public.

They're behind in fund-raising. They've got a -- they know that they've got a long road ahead of them in terms of raising money. But I think when you get to a state like Iowa, where you've got to shake everyone's hand, same -- you know, same in New Hampshire, I think Biden's going to have to get out there and press the flesh.

And I think that's something he's going to -- he is going to do. Otherwise, you will have Donald Trump attacking him as not being up to the job because he's too old and he's not well and all the rest of it. You know, those kinds of attacks come from Donald Trump. They came against Hillary Clinton, and I presume he would do it against Joe Biden.

So I think they're taking their time, they're raising their money, but they're going to have to get out there more often, I think.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, everybody, standby. There's a lot more we need to discuss. We will do that right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:41:34] BLITZER: All right, we're back. Just moments ago, a Republican Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, spoke out at a town hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And among other things, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: But I think it's really important that we do our job as a Congress, that we not allow misconduct to go undeterred. That we not just say, someone can violate the public trust and that there are no consequences to it.

And if you get a chance, I encourage you all to read the tweet where it lays all of this out. Mueller's report lays all of this out. And I'm confident that if you read Volume II, you'll be appalled at much of the conduct.

And I was appalled by it. And that's why I stated what I stated. That's why I came to that conclusion because I think we can't go -- we can't let conduct like that go unchecked. Congress has a duty to keep the President in check. And it is a difficult process.

For those who are worried about, you know, Congress intruding on the President's powers consistently, it is a difficult process to remove someone from office. It's not easy. So no one's suggesting that just because you start some inquiry or process, that a person's removed from office.

Nonetheless, we have a job to do. And I think we owe it to the American people to represent them, to ensure that the people we have in office are doing the right thing, are of good character, aren't violating the public trust. And --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Earlier in the day, he went after the Attorney General, William Barr, and the President in a series of about 20 tweets.

Ryan Lizza, remember, he's a Republican.

LIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: And right now, I think the only Republican member of the House of Representatives who's speaking out so forcefully against the Republican president.

LIZZA: Not only is he the only Republican doing it, but I don't even see that many Democrats out there -- or maybe we're just not giving them as much attention, out there making the coherent case that he is making about impeachment.

This is clearly what a lot of Democrats believe. And you know, the argument that they've been stuck on is that, politically, impeachment's a dead end because of the -- how the Senate is controlled by Republicans.

But this is someone who's actually making the case. And the more people who are exposed to this, you know, public opinion can change. And so I'm -- it will be very interesting to see if some Democrats actually are sparked into action by Amash.

BLITZER: Sabrina, he's not mincing words at all, Justin Amash.

SIDDIQUI: He's not. In fact, he explicitly said that after reading the Mueller report, he believed that the President committed impeachable offenses. And he's the only Republican in Congress to go that far.

Now, having said that, the backlash from within his own party has been pretty severe. He's earned a primary challenge. Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, has said that Justin Amash is just seeking attention. [17:44:57] So he's been rebuked by his own party leaders, and I think

that their backlash just reinforces that this really is Donald Trump's Republican Party.

The fact that there are no other Republicans who are joining Amash in his assessment -- you know, most of them aren't even willing to criticize the President -- that tells you everything you need to know.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

BORGER: All right, call me crazy, but I think he might be running for president.

(LAUGHTER)

LIZZA: You're not crazy.

BORGER: I think Justin Amash is out there, singing his own tune, not aligned with the Republican Party on this issue, and not backing down. Having a public town hall, tweeting all those tweets today about the Attorney General, and how he's in the tank for the President and shouldn't be that way.

As you all point out, it's very rare for a Republican to be doing this. They've excommunicated him. And I don't think this is the last word we've heard from Justin Amash. I think he could be running for something else.

BLITZER: We'll see if he is. Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more we're watching. We're going to continue to monitor the town hall with Justin Amash. We'll have more of that coming up.

Also ahead, despite the lavish lifestyle of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, a new report paints a grim picture of how hard it is for people in his country to survive.

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[17:50:55] BLITZER: As President Trump takes heat for praising North Korea's dictator, a United Nation's human rights study paints a grim picture of suffering under a repressive regime.

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

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning new information tonight from this report that corruption in Kim Jong-un's regime is so infested all over the place that survival for the average North Korean depends on how much bribe money they can throw around.

This comes as President Trump is still talking about his friendship and all sorts of deals to be made with the dictator.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In President Trump's mind, North Korea is an economic powerhouse just ready to be unleashed. Something he described to reporters in Japan on Monday.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong-un understands the unbelievable economic potential that country has. It's located between Russia and China on one side and South Korea on the other. And it's all waterfront property. It's a great location, as we used to say in the real estate business, and I think he sees that.

TODD (voice-over): But tonight, a new U.N. report says North Korea is, in reality, the opposite. An increasingly desperate, poor country so rife with corruption that according to a person who escaped, quote, one cannot lead a life in North Korea if he or she does not bribe his or her way.

GREG SCARLATOIU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: Access to a decent job, access to the markets, access to decent housing, all of these cannot be accomplished unless palms are greased. North Korea has never been as corrupt as it is today under the regime of Kim Jong-un.

TODD (voice-over): The U.N. says many above board jobs in North Korea don't pay salaries, and bribes have to be paid to get jobs in the growing black market economy.

What happens to people who can't pay bribes?

SCARLATOIU: If they cannot afford to pay bribes, they might end up being imprisoned, sent to prison camps and to other types of detention facilities.

TODD (voice-over): In North Korea, buying and selling things openly which Westerners consider completely normal is potentially illegal, so defectors say officials can extort anyone caught doing business.

LEE HAN-BYEOL, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (through translator): In North Korean markets, if we get caught by a guard, the only way we can get back our property was through paying bribes.

TODD (voice-over): And defectors have told CNN people are turning to black markets because the lack of food is so desperate.

JI SEONG-HO, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (through translator): It is a horrendous state and there is a lot of suffering and many children are taking to the streets for begging. And the quality of life in the countryside is even worse.

TODD (voice-over): Officials are bribed with cash, cigarettes, and other goods, defectors say. The report says women are especially vulnerable in this vicious cycle. Many women bribe border guards to get into China where their fate can be equally horrifying.

MARCUS NOLAND, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF STUDIES, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: Once they're in China, they have very high levels of anxiety and fear because they are vulnerable to sex trafficking. And many of these women end up being sold off as brides and then they can be sold among the peasants in the rural areas or forced into commercial sex activities. TODD (voice-over): Tonight, analysts are concerned that many of these

abuses are being swept aside with President Trump's eagerness to strike a nuclear deal with Kim Jong-un.

NOLAND: The President seems to turn a blind eye both to the brutality of the regime operating a Gulag as well as its corruption.

Kim Jong-un is the head of a mafia family. He's got a bunch of lieutenants under him who, in a kind of pyramid scheme, all predate on the population. And they are allowed to keep some of their ill-gotten gains as long as they keep on kicking some of it back up the line.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: North Korea has always denied allegations of human rights abuses. And the regime has responded to this U.N. report with one of its diplomatic missions telling the Reuters news agency that the report is, quote, politically motivated for sinister purposes and that all of these reports are based on fabricated information from defectors -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd, reporting.

Coming up, breaking news. Deadly tornadoes and record flooding and more storms may be on the way, putting millions of Americans at risk.

[17:55:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:59:55] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Deadly wind and water. After a new round of devastating tornadoes and dangerous flooding, more severe weather is in the forecast tonight.