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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA); President Trump In Great Britain; Will Congress Hold Attorney General In Contempt?; Jared Kushner Struggles In Rare Interview; Kushner Not Sure He Would Alert The FBI If Russians Offered Campaign Support Again; 2020 Democrats Take Swipes At Absent Biden At California Party Convention; Virginia Beach Gunman Resigned For "Personal Reasons" Before Killing Rampage That Left 12 Dead; New Questions For Trump's FAA Pick About Alleged Retaliation Against Female Delta Pilot Who Reported Safety Violations. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 3, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: As Queen Elizabeth pulls out the stops for a state visit, including dinner and toasts at the palace tonight. We're following all the pomp, as well as the potshots taken by Mr. Trump before he landed in London.
Impeachment inquiry. Congress is back in session, with the I-word on the lips of more Democrats who are eager to see Mr. Trump go. Tonight, there's a new move in the House to keep the pressure on the president.
Kushner's interview, eye-popping new comments by the president's son- in-law and senior adviser on Middle East peace, Russian election interference, and the president's birther conspiracy theory.
And search for answers. We're getting new information about the Virginia Beach shooter, his motives, and his gun battle with police. CNN is on the scene, as a survivor opens up about the horror while the bullets were flying.
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: Breaking news this hour: a crowning moment for President Trump, as he wraps day one up of his state visit to the United Kingdom.
He and the first lady or about to leave Buckingham Palace after breaking bread and exchanging toasts with Queen Elizabeth at a lavish formal banquet. The president known for breaking traditions has been embracing them during a series of welcoming events, the royals apparently looking past controversial tweets and comments Mr. Trump made ahead of his visit, including jabs at the London mayor and at Meghan Markle. Back here in the United States, as the pressure builds among Democrats
to launch impeachment proceedings, the House Judiciary Committee just announced a series of new hearings on the Mueller report.
I will speak with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's with the president in London right now.
Pamela, this has been quite a day for the president and his family.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It has been quite a day.
The state banquet has just wrapped up, Wolf, capping off a very busy day for the president and the first lady. President Trump now of his way to the ambassador's residence, where he is staying. And he began this trip stirring controversy, but that did not upend the carefully crafted royal pomp and pageantry.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump raising a glass and delivering a toast from the Buckingham Palace ballroom.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I offer a toast to the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations, and to the long-cherished and truly remarkable reign of Her Majesty, the queen.
Every detail of this lavish white-tie affair personally approved by Queen Elizabeth, including a menu that's been in the works for six months.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II, UNITED KINGDOM: Tonight, we celebrate an alliance that has helped to ensure the safety and prosperity of both our peoples for decades, and which I believe will endure for many years to come.
BROWN: Tonight's main event capping off a busy first day of the president's long-awaited state visit to the United Kingdom. The elaborate displays of hospitality toward Mr. Trump and the first lady started early, including a private lunch with the queen, inspecting the honor guard, a tour of Westminster Abbey, and tea with Prince Charles.
President Trump for the most part now respecting royal protocol, despite throwing diplomatic and political protocol out the window ahead of his visit, the president making waves by criticizing London's Mayor Sadiq Khan as a -- quote -- "stone-cold loser" just minutes before Air Force One touchdown in his city.
The insulting tweet apparently in response to an explosive op-ed written by the mayor describing Trump as -- quote -- "one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat." And in a separate controversy, Mr. Trump, in an interview, described Meghan Markle, now the duchess of Sussex, as nasty after learning she once said she would move to Canada if Trump were ever elected.
Trump tweeting Sunday morning: "I never called Meghan Markle nasty," despite audio of the interview that would suggest otherwise.
TRUMP: I didn't know that she was nasty.
BROWN: The trip happening as the U.K. faces its own issues in leadership amid their Brexit vote to leave the European Union. The president set to meet with the exiting Prime Minister Theresa May tomorrow, who is stepping aside on Friday, the country not knowing who their next leader will be.
Boris Johnson is a contender to take over. And President Trump says he's a fan.
TRUMP: Well, I may meet with him. He's been a friend of mine. He's been very nice. I have a very good relationship with him.
BROWN: Now, a USA official said earlier today that there is no planned meeting between Boris Johnson and President Trump. Of course, that could change.
We do know that the president is expected to meet with Prime Minister May tomorrow. He has a very busy day. There are a lot of issues to cover, including trade. And it's also clear, Wolf, that President Trump has had other things on his mind.
Since landing here in London, he has tweeted about Mexico. He's also complained about his cable TV options, even calling on a ban of a big American company, AT&T, because he doesn't like what he sees on CNN. Of course, AT&T is CNN's parent company -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A pretty outrageous development, indeed, on that front.
Pamela Brown, thank you very much.
Let's go to our senior our senior -- our CNN Royal Correspondent, Max Foster.
Max, your takeaway on the queen's message to the president as they exchanged toasts at Buckingham Palace tonight? What do you think?
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting seeing President Trump be so reverential towards the queen, when he is so dismissive of much of the British political system and the political class.
But it was interesting to see the queen step in as well on an issue which Trump is criticized for on this side of the Atlantic. So both speeches hinged on D-Day and that military and security cooperation that's existed ever since between the two countries.
She talks about: "After the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of international institutions to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated. Whilst the world has changed, we're forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures, nations working together to safeguard a hard-won peace."
She must be referring to the U.N., to NATO, to the E.U., all institutions which, on this side of the Atlantic, Wolf, seen -- Donald Trump seen as degrading and trying to break down over time.
BLITZER: Max Foster reporting for us, Max, thank you very much.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where Congress back in session and Democrats are keeping the pressure on President Trump as talk of impeachment grows louder. The House Judiciary Committee revealing its next move, a series of hearings on the Mueller report.
Let's bring in our Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly.
Phil, tell us about these hearings and the strategy behind them.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, House Democratic leaders are keen to elevate the Mueller report, which they fear may be losing attention as the weeks pass, and that 440-page report, and they're also keen on mollifying an increasing number of Democrats who are calling on leadership to move towards impeachment.
Now, what will happen is, even though the testimony of Robert Mueller hasn't been solidified yet, he's made clear he's wary of doing so. Even though the testimony of recent White House Counsel Don McGahn hasn't been secured yet, he ignored a subpoena, they will have another White House counsel.
John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel, will testify first in what will be a series of hearings starting next week in the Judiciary Committee that is designed to elevate them the Mueller report and have discussions about the committee's investigation into potential obstruction of justice of the Trump administration.
Now, the reason for this is just as much trying to continue their push on this Mueller report as it is to calm down the growing number of members inside the caucus calling for impeachment. At current count, 57 Democrats are asking House Democratic leadership or say they support at least the opening of an impeachment inquiry.
Now, keep in mind that's less than 25 percent of the 235-member Democratic Caucus. But there's no question, Wolf, in the wake of Robert Mueller's public comments yesterday (sic), the first in more than two years, a growing number of Democrats want more action.
The Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jerry Nadler, trying to give them something. We will have to wait and see if it's enough -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You're also learning, Phil, that the House Oversight Committee is now working to hold both the attorney general, William Barr, and the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, in contempt in relation to the 2020 census.
What's behind this latest move?
MATTINGLY: That's exactly right, Wolf.
And it underscores that there's not just one investigation going on in the House Democratic majority. There are multiple across multiple committees. And one of them is related to a citizenship question that was included in the 2020 census.
The committee, the Oversight Committee, led by Chairman Elijah Cummings, has been digging into this issue, trying to understand the origins of how this question came to be. And as part of that, they subpoenaed the Justice Department and the Commerce Department for documents, specific documents related to how that question came to be.
They have not gotten any response to those documents. And Chairman Cummings says now he's willing to hold the attorney general, William Barr, and the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, in contempt if they do not reply with those documents in short order.
Now, it's worth keeping in mind the House Judiciary Committee has already held William Barr, the attorney general, in contempt. There may be a full House vote on that contempt citation as soon as next week.
But the open question becomes, will the administration that has been so clear they're not going to comply on any of the Democratic requests for documents and subpoenas, if they will comply now? Cummings is willing to give them some space. But it looks right now that the committee is fully engaged on moving forward on contempt citations for two other Cabinet secretaries -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, lots going on up on Capitol Hill already.
Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
And, as you just heard, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are now going to hold hearings on what they call lessons learned from the Mueller report. Could these hearings persuade more of your colleagues and perhaps more Americans to actually support opening formal impeachment proceedings?
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I don't know about the persuasion, but I do know about the necessity.
It's absolutely necessary that we hear Mueller explain to the American public and to Congress what his report is all about. The 400-and-some pages, a written document, that's good, but, frankly, it's -- unless you happen to be an attorney, it's rather boring.
We need to know. This is critically important. There are serious allegations, 10 instances of obstruction of justice on one side, on the other side, clear information that needs to be brought out, both to us and to the general public, about the Russian engagement in the 2016 election.
And what do we knew -- what do we need to know to protect ourselves in 2020? Critical issues. We need that public testimony.
BLITZER: On Sunday, the number three House Democrat, Congressman James Clyburn, said he thinks that Democrats will eventually start an impeachment inquiry.
Do you see any shift in the Democratic leadership on this, at least so far?
GARAMENDI: I really can't say, but I do know there's increasing concern.
My personal concern is that the general public and the Congress need to have Mueller testify. We need to hear him, in his own words, explain what his report is all about and other people that are associated with that report.
As that information is out there, as that knowledge grows here in the Congress, then the issue of what do we do with it comes up. Is that an impeachment issue, or is it not? It's too early for me and I believe too early for this Congress to make a decision about whether to go all out on impeachment.
I am all out, however, on full public testimony.
BLITZER: Let's get to some foreign policy-sensitive issues, Congressman.
The president is on his first state visit, as you know, to the United Kingdom. This trip is about strengthening bilateral relations. But President Trump launched the trip by actually criticizing the duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, attacking the mayor of London, praising potential candidates to be Britain's next prime minister.
Is that appropriate?
GARAMENDI: Absolutely not. It is not appropriate.
The queen said so carefully and correctly it is about an alliance. It is about common values. It is about democracy. It is about each country deciding for themselves how they want to go.
The president, it's nice to go to Buckingham Palace wonderful and have a state dinner and to have lunch with a very, very proper lady, the queen, and then at the same time to just show your, frankly, immaturity, your inability to control your own emotions, when you are somehow, in a -- in an editorial, somebody speaks out against you.
And what does the president of the United States does? Takes to his tweet, and then takes on the political system, the key politicians in the United Kingdom. It's just immature.
BLITZER: The president's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, gave a rare interview to Axios. He was asked about his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, but he questioned whether Palestinians could actually govern themselves.
This comes as the secretary of state, Congressman, Mike Pompeo, was recorded saying that this plan might be un-executable, his word.
Is it dead, do you believe, on arrival? And it certainly hasn't even arrived yet.
GARAMENDI: Well, whatever that peace plan is, if it does not call for a two-state solution, it is indeed dead.
The two-state solution has gone now for at least four administrations that recognize that you have a Palestinian group there, a nation, if you will. You have an Israeli nation. And that's the two-state solution.
It seems to have been abandoned by the Trump administration, quite possibly by Kushner, as well as by, some say, the political process in Israel itself.
I don't see any way to solve the Palestinian issue without a two-state solution. If Kushner is not going there, I don't see how that plan can go anyplace.
BLITZER: Well, he hasn't made a commitment yet. And we don't know what his plan will include. We will see what happens, but it's going to be months down the road, after their new elections in September in Israel, a new government is formed. That could take another month or two.
BLITZER: So it's going to be quite a while before we learn what his peace plan includes.
Congressman Garamendi, thanks so much for joining.
GARAMENDI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Still ahead, we're going to tell you why a former key witness in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation has now been arrested.
BLITZER: A former key witness in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation has now been arrested on child pornography charges.
CNN's Kara Scannell is working the story for us.
Kara, this is George Nader we're talking about. He gave multiple interviews to the Mueller team. He testified before the grand jury.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And so, today, this morning, George Nader was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York when he was arriving in the U.S. on charges of transporting child porn.
Now, according to an FBI affidavit filed in this case, Nader had a dozen graphic videos depicting minors engaged in sexual conduct on one of his cell phones.
Now, these charges were initially brought in April of 2018, but they were filed under seal. And it was through the Mueller investigation, in fact, that these -- these charges eventually came to light. Nader was stopped by prosecutors and FBI agents working for Mueller in January of 2018.
They interviewed him then. He became a cooperating witness and he met with them multiple times. He appear before the grand jury, but it was through a forensic analysis of one of his cell phones that the FBI agents depicted this child porn, and then they referred it over to prosecutors working this case now in Virginia.
Now, Nader was presented in court this afternoon. The judge is detaining him overnight, and saying he's giving his attorneys until tomorrow to come up with some kind of plan for how he will be dealt with.
Nader was coming to the U.S. to -- in fact to see a doctor in New York because he just had heart surgery about five weeks ago. But, for right now, he's going to be detained. And under these -- these very serious charges, he could face a minimum of 15 years in prison.
BLITZER: A minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted.
All right, thanks very much. We will watch this, together with you, Kara, Kara Scannell working the story.
Just ahead, a rare interview and a surprising answer from Jared Kushner about Russian election meddling.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news.
House Democrats just set a vote for next week on holding the attorney general, William Barr, potentially in contempt, unless he hands over the full unredacted Mueller report to Congress, that vote now scheduled for June 11.
Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts.
It already passed, the contempt motion, in the House Judiciary Committee, but now it's going to come up for a full vote potentially on the House floor.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right.
Wolf, I still think that House Democrats made a mistake when they didn't reach a deal with Attorney General Barr to have him just come testify and see what information they could get from an open hearing.
That being said, they are the Article 1 branch of government. They're entitled to conduct oversight. So I think that, once this has gone through the committee, it only makes sense that now you're seeing the full House say, look, if you don't turn over the information we seek, you're going to be in contempt of Congress.
BLITZER: What do you think, Kaitlan? How's the White House is going to react?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they saw this coming, kind of. They knew that they were going to do this. They'd already moved forward with the first motion. Now they were essentially just waiting on this.
But they were hopeful that it wouldn't come to this, that maybe they could somehow push this off. But, as you have seen the way that Bill Barr has acted in recent interviews he's given, they're pushing back on this pretty strongly. They're being defiant, and they're essentially standing by their decision for him not to do this.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, what do you think?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think this is a mistake, clearly, by the Democrats.
Look, they have an opportunity here to take this up a notch. Let's see if we can get some consensus on bringing people in like Don McGahn, the counsel for the White House, to speak. This is going to look like a -- I'm going to use the appropriate language -- a match between two cage fighters in Washington that 99 percent of Americans don't worry about, especially since we have seen most of the report anyway.
I think this is a Democratic mistake. They're infighting within the Beltway, instead of focusing on bigger targets, like questioning key witnesses.
BLITZER: Bianna, I want to get your reaction to Jared Kushner's interview with Jonathan Swan from Axios, specifically this exchange -- and I will play it for you and for our viewers -- on that 2016 very controversial Trump Tower meeting with Russians in New York.
Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Does it not set off at least some alarm bell when you see an e-mail saying that the Russian government wants to help your candidate?
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Like I said, the e-mail that I got on my iPhone at the time basically said, show up at 4:00. I didn't scroll down. I never would have thought about that.
SWAN: It had Russia in the subject line.
KUSHNER: Again, I would get about 250 e-mails a day. And so I literally saw, show up at 4:00. I showed up at 4:00.
SWAN: Would you call the FBI if it happened again?
KUSHNER: I don't know. It's hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is, is that we were not given anything that was salacious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Bianna, what do you think?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, if you go back to the beginning of that portion of the interview, you see Jared Kushner question, what e-mail, as if he didn't know what Jonathan Swan was talking about.
Clearly, you see him angry. You see him vindicated, in a sense, given that the Mueller report is out and he hadn't been indicted, as many had perhaps anticipated or predicted. And you see him dismissing what took place as sort of a run-of-the-mill meeting, and I have so many, and I have so many e-mails.
We all know what happened during that -- that meeting. He e-mailed his assistant and asked for an excuse to get him out of that meeting. Nonetheless, what stood out from that exchange was the fact that he was not able to say even now that he would have, in hindsight -- looking back, would have called the FBI or would have been more suspicious or alert of the situation.
And that only leads you to one conclusion, and that this is the common go-to response from everyone within the Trump's orbit. They don't want to upset the president. This is what Giuliani had said as well. No laws were broken. They want to look about this as though they didn't do anything wrong, and this could perhaps be -- give us some indication of what we can expect in 2020.
BLITZER: Were you surprised, Phil, when he didn't say specifically when he was asked, "Would you call the FBI if it happened again?"
The simple answer would be, yes, I would call the FBI. And he said, I don't know, it's hard to do hypotheticals.
MUDD: Are you kidding me? I mean, we go through 2.5 years where his father-in-law's administration is damaged by comments from the left and the right, including conservatives about the inappropriateness of even considering accepting dirt from people representing a foreign intelligence service.
By the way, Russian intelligence officers were indicted in this campaign. In the past couple of years, more than two dozen Russians, including defense intelligence officers, are indicted and he can't figure out how to pick up an iPhone and say, if you're approached again, do you think you'd let your father-in-law go through that again?
How about pick up the phone, as Director Mueller told us in the final thing he said publicly, every American should be concerned about Russian intervention. Pick up the phone if a Russian offers dirt about your opponents. Man, I was not just surprised. I almost fell down and cried. Unbelievable.
BLITZER: Yes, Kaitlan, go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: And, Wolf, if I could -- go ahead. Sorry.
COLLINS: Now, White House officials are questioning not why he did this interview but the level of preparation he did beforehand. Because, of course, this is a question that they could have assumed was going to come up, especially since Jared Kushner is someone we rarely hear from speaking publicly or doing an interview like that one on camera.
So to see him answer that question in that way where he seemed a little caught off guard, a lot of people inside the White House are talking about that answer today. Because, of course, if he had been prepared for it, in their mind, he would have said, of course, no, I wouldn't, or, yes, I would have called the FBI. But they do seem to think that if he said that, it would seem as if he was admitting a mistake and that is not the sense that the White House is under right now.
BLITZER: Bianna, go ahead?
GOLODRYGA: Well, I was going to say this falls in line with the previous interview that he had given with time when he mentioned Russians buying a few Facebook ads as if it were trivial and not a big deal. Clearly, you saw from the Mueller report and how when we heard from Bob Mueller last week, he began his statement by talking about Russian interference in U.S. elections and he ended it with that.
Yet you see once and again from lead Jared Kushner and from the Trump orbit that this is not taken as seriously given their statements now for the second time in just a few months from Jared Kushner, sort of dismissing this as not that big of a deal. I think many Democrats and even many republicans would have seen this as a very simple question to answer, yes, if I had known then, I would have called the FBI. That's not what he's saying. BLITZER: On another sensitive Q&A that he in this interview, David, Kushner was asked specifically about his father-in-law's long campaign before coming president to discredit the first African-American President of the United States. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was birtherism racist?
JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Look, I wasn't really involved in that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you weren't. But was it racist?
KUSHNER: Like I said, I wasn't involved in that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you weren't. But was it racist?
KUSHNER: Look, I know who the president is and I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So, again, I was not involve in that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you wish he didn't do that?
KUSHNER: Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
SWERDLICK: So part of the big rift of Trump world, President Trump and his close cronies, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, is reliance on Americans having short memories, Wolf. But people aren't going to forget about the birtherism. Because, one, it wasn't that long ago, President Trump didn't do his not very believable disavowal of it until 2016, and number two, because it was so egregious, it was a barely camouflaged appeal to racial hostility.
And so you see there in real-time Jared Kushner trying to grapple with the idea that he is sort of tainted with that brush and he didn't give an, at all, compelling answer.
COLLINS: Well -- and that's a pattern that we kind of see coming out of the West Wing, is that people say that they can work there and they can try to advance the President's agenda without subscribing to his personal politics. And that's what you see Jared Kushner doing there.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna, let me play another clip. This is -- well, actually, we'll play that maybe later, but we've got to take a quick commercial break. There's more breaking news we're following, including the Virginia Beach gunman resignation letter. Does it contain clues about what motivated his killing rampage?
[18:35:00] BLITZER: Almost all of the 2020 democratic White House hopefuls were in California for the party's state convention with the notable exception of the frontrunner, the former Vice President, Joe Biden. CNN Political Director David Challian is with us.
David, Joe Biden wasn't in San Francisco for the convention but he appeared to be on the minds of most of those other democratic candidates. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: As you all know, there is a debate among presidential candidates who have spoken to you here in this room, and those who have chosen for whatever reason not to be in this room.
JULIAN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Vice President Biden can do what he wants to do. I'm sure he has his own strategy. I'm going to work hard.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Some say if we all just calm down, the republicans will come to their senses. But our country is in a time of crisis. The time for small ideas is over.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), INDIANA: Why not someone who represents a new generation of leadership? He wins if we look like Washington. And so the riskiest thing we could do is try too hard to play it safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Not too subtle with those comments.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Not too subtle at all. And each of them on their main message, right, Elizabeth Warren wanting to portray herself as a fighter and suggesting perhaps somebody with smaller ideas or just wanting to Tweet things, would not be there to fight for you, Pete Buttigieg making the generational argument.
It seems to me we're about three weeks from that first debate, Wolf. And although these candidates don't know which one of them will be on the stage with Joe Biden, because you know they're going to split it over two nights, they are starting to practice and rehearse how to take on the frontrunner without, by the way, offending his supporters because he is the dominant frontrunner in the race. So it's a delicate dance that these candidates are doing and they're trying out some new lines to create some separation.
BLITZER: Several of the 2020 democratic candidates are already calling for formal impeachment proceedings to begin but some are not.
CHALIAN: Yes. And do you know why so many of them are? It is because if you look in the polling, Democrats suggest -- 76 percent in our latest poll are in favor of impeachment. But here is the rub, 54 percent of the country is opposed. So a majority of the country is opposed but overwhelmingly majority of Democrats are in favor. Most of these Democrats are courting those democratic primary voters with that position.
Who hasn't taken that position? Joe Biden. Because he is thinking about the general election, he is thinking about his general election viability, not just wanting to court the primary voters and wants to preserve the flexibility of not running to a too far left position on this issue.
BLITZER: We always learn something from David Chalian. Thank you very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
There's more breaking news next. We've got some new details of the resignation letter the Virginia Beach gunman submitted right before his deadly attack.
[18:46:26] BLITZER: There's more breaking news.
New details emerging involving the gunman who killed 12 people at the city offices in Virginia Beach, Virginia, before he was killed by police.
CNN's Brian Todd is on the scene for us.
Brian, we're learning more about the resignation letter he submitted just before the attack.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. We've gotten copies of that resignation letter and other new information tonight about the shooter's situation at his workplace. And new details, an inside look at the running gun battle that unfolded in this building behind me. We've learned one of the victims laid down his own life to save several others.
CHRISTI DEWAR, VIRGINIA BEACH SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We heard pop, pop, pop.
TODD (voice-over): Christi Dewar was in building two during Friday's mass shooting during the Virginia Beach City government complex. She describes a scene of panic.
DEWAR: We all started running towards the south exit towards the south stairwell and somebody screamed in front of us, it's too late, run the other way.
TODD: She and some colleagues hid in a room which the gunman approached.
DEWAR: We locked the door and barricaded it. We pushed a metal filing cabinet against the door, and no sooner than we had that done, DeWayne was at the office door we were in and he fired four times. Two of the bullets almost came to the back of the cabinet and left bulges and chips of paint where they tried to penetrate through. And we all fell to the ground. TODD: They survived in part because police officers arrived on scene
in just two minutes to engage in a fierce gun battle with the suspect, DeWayne Craddock, a city employee.
CHIEF JAMES CERVERA, VIRGINIA BEACH POLICE: They were returning fire and at one point the suspect was firing through the door and through the wall at the officers.
TODD: Police found two handguns legally purchased in 2016 and 2018, plus extended magazines that hold extra ammunition and a sound suppressor. But no answers yet on a motive, why would DeWayne Craddock go on a shooting rampage at the city government complex where he worked killing 12 people? Authorities say he was not fired or in the process of being fired but resigned earlier that day by email, betraying no signs of malice, quote: It has been a pleasure to serve the city but due for personal reasons, I must relieve my position.
BOB MONTAGUE, DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA BEACH DEPT. OF PUBLIC UTILITIES: He had some issues in the past, just normal performance issues. Many of the issues that he had experienced in the past had been resolved, where he was doing a very good job. We're shocked.
TODD: Not everyone realized their complex had been turned into a death trap.
NED CARLSTROM, VIRGINIA BEACH SHOOTING WITNESS: We passed by a gentleman carrying a gun in his hand but it looked so theatrical because of the extended magazine and suppressor on the end of it, I thought he was playing the part of an active shooter for our drill.
TODD: Twelve victims being remembered and one of them, Ryan Keith Cox, being hailed as a hero for helping save lives. He led co-workers to a barricaded room as shots rang out, and then went out to find others and never returned, according to Christi Dewar.
DEWAR: He said come out, I have to check on other people. And he left us.
TODD: Cox was always watching out for others, his ex-wife told CNN.
ROCHELLE ZIEGLER, RYAN KEITH COX'S EX-WIFE: He was very protective of family and friends and would not think about dangerous things happening to him, but he wanted to make sure everybody else is safe.
[18:50:00] TODD: Key questions now that investigators are looking at tonight, was the shooter targeting specific people, firing randomly or a combination of both? At least two witnesses who were right there during the shooting now say that the came close to them, looked them right in the eye and turned away -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, we're also getting some new information about the massive first response just moments after the shooting started. Tell us about that. TODD: Right, Wolf. Our colleague David Shortell spoke to a senior
emergency official today here in Virginia Beach. He said that 22 ambulances streamed into this complex behind me in the moments after the shooting. They had 60 first responders here immediately. Some of them went into the building, Wolf, as the shots were still being fired, risking their own lives, according to this official.
Also learning tonight this is still a massive crime scene. They've got teams of FBI agents, 40 agents in each team, working 24/7 here.
BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us, thanks very much.
Just ahead, new questions about President Trump's pick to head the FAA. He's being accused of approving retaliation against the whistle- blower.
[18:55:40] BLITZER: First on CNN, big questions tonight for President Trump's pick to run the FAA, about alleged retaliation against a whistle-blower during his time as a Delta Airlines executive.
Let's go to our Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin who's working this story for us.
Drew, Steve Dickson failed to disclose this case to senators.
What are you learning?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Republican chairman of the Senate Commerce and Transportation Committee, Roger Wicker, says this new information merits further examination. He wants answers from both the White House and the Department of Transportation.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): His resume makes him an ideal candidate to run the FAA. A former fighter pilot, nearly 30 years at Delta and his recent confirmation hearing senators had little more than high praise for Captain Steve Dickson.
STEVE DICKSON, FAA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE: It's an honor to appear before you today.
GRIFFIN: Dickson answered questions, none difficult and committed himself to expanding aviation safety.
DICKSON: I will never abdicate my responsibility and my devotion to safety.
GRIFFIN: But that is exactly what Captain Steve Dickson is accused of in a legal case, that he did not report in his disclosure forms to the U.S. Senate. The case, Karlene Petitt versus Delta, the allegation denied by the airline that a female Delta pilot was retaliated against, accused of being mentally unstable after reporting alleged safety violations to Delta's senior vice president of flight operations, Captain Dickson.
(on camera): You think there is a clear link between her reporting a safety issue and being declared by Delta mentally incompetent?
LEE SEHAM, ATTORNEY FOR DELTA PILOT: There is no doubt in my mind that there's a link.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): In 2016, Karlene Petitt was concerned about safety at Delta. She called for a meeting and delivered a more than 40-page report to Dickson and his second in command. She felt a pilot qualification test wasn't being taken seriously, that pilots were afraid to admit they were fatigued and that a pilot's travel time to assignment was not being properly added to calculate an hourly limit for flying.
SEHAM: And she wanted these safety issues addressed before some calamity occurred.
GRIFFIN: Petitt's attorney Lee Seham said, instead during another meeting with a supervisor, Petitt became frustrated and her eyes filled with tears. What happened next was shocking.
SEHAM: All she knew is seven weeks after I reported these serious safety issues without explanation, I'm being sent to a psychiatrist.
GRIFFIN: That psychiatrist declared Petitt bipolar, she was grounded.
And in his deposition taken just last year, Steve Dickson said he had ultimate authority over that decision and agreed with his staff's recommendation to refer Petitt for a mental evaluation. It was a sound course of action.
In the end, that diagnosis was completely wrong.
SEHAM: Ultimately, two teams of psychiatrists clear her and said she's fine, she's perfectly fine. She should be back in the cockpit, which is where she is today.
GRIFFIN: A year and a half after being grounded, Petitt is back flying a 777 for Delta and she's suing the company for damages.
SEHAM: This was all a terrible mistake, but it was a terrible mistake that went on for a year and a half because of the lack of diligence that Captain Dickson accepted.
GRIFFIN: Delta did order a safety audit after hearing her concerns and the FAA validated her complaint dealing with pilot scheduling, which Delta says it had already addressed. But this is all news to the Senate Transportation Committee who knew none of this was going on when Dickson testified.
On his Senate questionnaire for nomination, Dickson didn't mention the case but did write that Delta was involved in various judicial, administrative or regulatory proceedings related to its business, although I was not a named party in any such actions. Now, CNN has learned committee staffers are asking for more
information, more records. One Democratic committee staffer saying the omission is troubling.
GRIFFIN: Wolf, we understand Dickson has been cooperative with the committee since this new information has come to light. It's not clear yet if any of this will affect his Senate confirmation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We shall see.
Great reporting, Drew. Thanks very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.