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V.P. Pence Meets Mexican Foreign Minister amid GOP Revolt against Trump's Planned Tariffs; Interview with Rep. Jerry Nadler (D- NY) on the Potential for Impeachment; Intel Shows Saudi Arabia Escalated Its Missile Program with Help from China; Interview with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 5, 2019 - 17:00   ET



DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can see these people behind me and with the river expected to crest sometime on Friday, Jake, there is a concern that things could get worse before they get better. Back to you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Dan Simon in Missouri, thank you so much.

Thanks so much for watching. CNN continues right now.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: tariff-ied. Vice president Pence meets with Mexico's foreign minister as GOP lawmakers step up their revolt against the president's plan to impose tariffs on Mexican imports. Some Republicans now say the president should make his case to them directly.

Fighting intel?

A CNN exclusive: did the Trump administration hide intelligence from members of Congress about Saudi Arabia's buying Chinese help for its missile program?

Both ways: asked about climate change, the president says weather changes both ways but climate isn't the same as weather.

Does the president know the difference?

And feeling the pressure: Kim Jong-un lashes out at the organizers of a propaganda pageant after publicly scolding city planners and other officials.

As President Trump says he still wants to make a deal, is the North Korean dictator feeling the pressure?

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

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

BLITZER: Breaking news: vice president Pence meets with Mexico's foreign minister to underscore the president's threat of tariffs if Mexico doesn't halt the flow of undocumented migrants.

Some Republican senators who fear the impact on the American economy say they want to hear directly from the president. But the president warns he's prepared to go ahead with tariffs. He's been firing a series of broadsides before going to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

He called Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer "a creep" for saying he's bluffing on tariffs. Other targets, the media, Democratic candidate Joe Biden and, strangely, actress Bette Midler.

Meanwhile, Democrats push ahead with investigations, seeking testimony from Robert Mueller. But as many push for impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's not feeling any pressure. I'll speak with House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler and Senator Chris Murphy of the Foreign Relations Committee and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top story.

Let's begin with CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, he's in Normandy, France, ahead of the D-Day observance.

Jim, the president has launched his own multi-front offensive.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump will be here in Normandy tomorrow to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day but before that somber occasion, the president has been sounding awfully combative lately, picking fights on Twitter and also renewing his call for tariffs on Mexico.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Landing in Ireland one day before the world marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, President Trump is making waves, stepping up his warning that he will impose new tariffs on Mexico to crack down on the border.

TRUMP: I think Mexico has to step up and, if they don't, tariffs will go on and the people aren't going to have to worry about paying the tax, because the companies are going to move back into the United States. There won't be any tariff.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But part of that is not quite true, as economists predict those tariffs will lead to higher prices for American consumers. Still, the White House is sending mixed messages. After GOP lawmakers began to rebel against the plan, aides to President Trump cautioned, the tariffs may not happen after all.

PETER NAVARRO, TRUMP TRADE ADVISER: After the tariffs are put in place, the Mexican government will bear costs of that. We believe that these tariffs may not have to go into effect, precisely because we have the Mexicans' attention. ACOSTA (voice-over): Heading into the D-Day anniversary, the president addressed criticism that he avoided service during the Vietnam War, arguing in an interview on British television that he's helping the military as commander in chief.

TRUMP: Well, I was never a fan of that war, I'll be honest with you. I thought it was a terrible war. I thought it was very far away. And I think I'm making up for it rapidly, because we're rebuilding our military at a level that it's never seen before.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also defended his decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military, insisting their prescription drug costs are too high, while ignoring that other service members run up medical bills, too.

TRUMP: They take massive amounts of drugs. They have to. And also -- and you're not allowed to take drugs. You know, in the military, you're not allowed to take any drugs.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump was also back to denying climate change, something the scientific community agrees is happening.

TRUMP: I believe that there's a change in weather and I think it changes both ways. Don't forget, it used to be called global warming. That wasn't working. Then it was called climate change. Now it's actually called extreme weather.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also found time to launch a Twitter attack on Bette Midler, calling her "a washed-up psycho" and "a sick scammer" after the actress mistakenly misquoted Mr. Trump. Despite the odd timing of that insult, the RNC's chairwoman --


ACOSTA (voice-over): -- said the president should be celebrated on D- Day.

RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, RNC: We're celebrating the anniversary, 75 years of D-Day. This is a time where we should be celebrating our president, the great achievements of America and I don't think the American people like this constant negativity.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Republicans may be feeling more confident about Mr. Trump's chances in 2020 after a new CNN poll found most Americans think he will win re-election.

Back in Ireland, the president still has his mind on his real estate business, as he swatted away questions that he was only stopping in the country to promote his golf course there, where he's spending the night.

TRUMP: No, this trip is really about great relationships that we have with the U.K. and I really wanted to do this stop in Ireland. It was very important to me because of the relationship I have with the people and with your prime minister.


ACOSTA: And asked whether or not there was a chance that President Trump might delay the upcoming tariffs on Mexico, a senior White House official told me, quote, "very little."

And tomorrow, when the world remembers what happened on D-Day 75 years ago, much of the world will be watching to see whether or not the president can put aside these distractions, these grievances and join the world in that remembrance -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, already on Omaha Beach. Thank you so much, Jim, for that report.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.

Senate Republicans, Sunlen, they're revolting against the president, at least several of them. They're warning him against tariffs on Mexico

But will they actually vote against him?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's certainly the key question, Wolf. And at this point, it's still very unclear. We have heard over the last 48 hours so much concern and anger coming from Republicans, saying these tariffs are a mistake and they're going to make moves to block them.

But the key question is when push comes to shove, when and if they might need to break with the president officially on this and cast a vote against him, will they actually stand up to President Trump?

Now when you're talking about the numbers, that still is very much an open question, too. Even if they have enough support to get a veto- proof majority, that is an extremely high threshold up here in Congress, still an open question whether they have that veto-proof majority.

So for the moment what we're seeing from Republicans is they're really trying to avoid it getting to that point and they are speaking up loud and clear, hoping to send the message to the White House and to President Trump, don't do this.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Tariffs on the other hand would be a massive tax. The U.S. Chamber estimates that Texas alone would face $5.35 billion in increased costs as a result of the 5 percent tariffs that could take effect as early as Monday.

This translates into about $1,000 more on a car. I can only hope they come up with some sort of agreement so these tariffs do not go into effect.

SEN. PATRICK TOOMEY (R-PA): We would all be better off if we don't put a round of tariffs on Mexico and let's see what happens.


SERFATY: And a lot of Republicans are holding out hope that all of this can be avoided. We've heard from them say that they hope the president changes course or change his mind or potentially there could be a resolution over the next few days and certainly many senators hoping they will hear directly from President Trump before he makes any moves on this next week.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Sunlen, because a growing number of House Democrats at the same time are now calling for the president to actually be impeached.

What pressure is the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, getting to move ahead?

SERFATY: This is still certainly a very small group who's pushing for Speaker Pelosi to open up an impeachment inquiry against President Trump but it is a growing group and they are extremely vocal.

By CNN's count now, 59 Democrats are in that camp and the Speaker today pushing back very directly on this small group, saying she's not feeling any pressure, she says, at all by their vocal outspokenness about impeachment.

And she downplayed the ultimate impact of impeachment, saying that people are mistaken to think that just impeaching the president alone would remove him from office.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: So when you're impeaching somebody, you want to make sure you have the strongest possible indictment because it's not the means to the end that people think. All you do, vote to impeach, bye-bye birdie. Well, it isn't that.


SERFATY: And she really defended her own strategy that she has been very clear on, from the start, to focus on investigations, she says, follow the facts and she admitted today that this may take more time than some people, a nod to those 59 Democrats, would like but she said very clearly, we know exactly what path we're on -- Wolf.

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

Joining us now, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Democratic congressman Jerry Nadler of New York.

Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Thank you. Great to be here.

BLITZER: Thank you. So you heard the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi say today, she's not feeling any pressure on --


BLITZER: -- the question of starting formal impeachment proceedings.

But on your committee alone, as you know, at least 11 Democrats are calling for beginning these kind of impeachment proceedings. That's nearly half of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.

Are you, Mr. Chairman, feeling any pressure from your members to at least open an impeachment inquiry?

NADLER: Well, the question -- let me put it this way. It may come to that. It may very well come to a formal impeachment inquiry. We will see.

And remember what an impeachment is. An impeachment -- an impeachment inquiry. An impeachment inquiry is a formal inquiry into whether you can prove that the president has committed sufficient impeachable offenses to warrant his being impeached by a formal vote of the House, which then sends it for trial to the Senate.

We'll go step by step. First, we're investigating all the things we would investigate in an impeachment inquiry. We are starting with the Mueller report, which shows -- I think it shows ample evidence of multiple crimes of obstruction of justice and abuse of power. And we will have the testimony about that. We will go into that --


BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, why not open a formal inquiry?

NADLER: As I said, it may come to that.

BLITZER: But why not now?

What's the problem if you start it right now and you begin the process?

You'll go ahead with investigations to begin with?

NADLER: Well, right now, there doesn't appear to be the support for it.

BLITZER: In your committee or in the -- among the Democrats in the whole --

NADLER: I'm not going to get into that but there does not appear to be the support for it now. And we will see; the support may develop.

Right now, we have to get the facts out, we have to educate the American people, because, after all, the American people have been lied to consistently by the president, by the attorney general, who have misrepresented what was in the Mueller report. That's why it's important for us to get Mueller to testify.

And remember what Mueller said last week. Mueller said, he characterized the findings of the Mueller report as, number one, that the Russians attacked our elections; number two, that they attacked it for the purpose of helping to elect Donald Trump; number three, that there were many people in the Trump campaign welcomed that interference on their behalf.

And number four, that after the campaign was over, the president, President Trump, when he was president, repeatedly obstructed justice, obstructed the investigation of the attack on our investigation. Those are very serious charges which we have to examine very carefully.

BLITZER: If you opened a formal inquiry, wouldn't that give you better access to witnesses, to documents?

Wouldn't you have a better case to make in obtaining that kind of information?

NADLER: In certain instances, it would give -- it might give us better cases -- better access. And the lawyers argue about the extent of that.

BLITZER: Are you on the same page with the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, when it comes to impeachment?

NADLER: As I said, we are launching an inquiry now and whether we launch an impeachment inquiry, it may come to that. It may come to that.

BLITZER: Well, is there any chance, Mr. Chairman, you would open up an impeachment inquiry without Speaker Pelosi's support?

NADAL: I think that if -- when that decision has to be made, it will be made not by any one individual, it will be made probably by the caucus as a whole. Certainly, Nancy will have the largest single voice in it; various committee chairmen and rank-and-file members.

BLITZER: And you're not there yet but it's potentially over the horizon. Let's move on, Mr. Chairman.

Why are you so confident that the former special counsel Robert Mueller will appear in public before your committee without a formal subpoena?

NADLER: Well, I didn't say without a formal subpoena. Hopefully, it won't come to that. But it may.

BLITZER: Are you confident he will appear, one way or another, with a subpoena or without a subpoena?

NADLER: Oh, sure. Sure. He's an honest, honorable person, unlike the White House, which is defying congressional subpoenas. There's no legal excuse for defying these subpoenas and I can't imagine that Mr. Mueller would defy the law. He's an honorable person.

BLITZER: Mueller says he won't be giving Congress any new information beyond what's already written in his 448-page report.

So why does he need to repeat himself during a public hearing?

NADLER: Well, first of all, he may give information without realizing it. He apparently -- I mean, he is a consummate civil servant and a very honest one and I think he's internalized that people --


NADLER: -- read the 448-page report carefully and certainly some lawyers do and hopefully most members of Congress have and other people. But most people don't.

And it's important for him to answer the questions, for example, what was the difference between him and Barr, when he said that the attorney general was misrepresenting the spirit of the -- of the report?

What did he mean?

That's not in the report.

But what did he mean?

And we may want to ask him questions about, Barr said this about the report, is that true?

BLITZER: Yes, I know there are a lot of questions you want to ask him.

But do you think you'll be able to convince him to give you additional new information?

NADLER: I think he's an honest man and he will answer the questions.

BLITZER: You've rejected an offer, I understand, from the Justice Department to drop a contempt resolution against the attorney general William Barr in exchange for additional documents from the Mueller report.

But in a letter to the Justice Department, you also say you're still willing to negotiate.

Can you share with us what you're willing to negotiate, some of your terms?

NADLER: I'm not going to get into specifics. The May 24th letter that we sent in was very specific about our last offer. But the fact of the matter is that the -- that they have tried to play us for fools and we're not fools. We've been through this story before.

We make good faith offers and they make a bad faith offer, which doesn't move at all or moves very little. And then they -- and then this goes on, back and forth for weeks. And then the night before McGahn is supposed to appear at the hearing, they say he won't appear.

The night before, after 10:00. Now they say they'll be willing to reopen the negotiations that they broke off if we will drop the contempt.

Let them give us a good faith offer and maybe we won't need the contempt. But I don't believe they will do that. BLITZER: You're supposed to vote on the full House floor on that contempt resolution as early as next week, right?

NADLER: Tuesday.

BLITZER: So will it happen?

NADLER: I am almost definitely sure it will happen. It will happen unless they give us a very good faith offer, which I can't imagine they would do, because they've been dishonest throughout the entire process.

BLITZER: What would a very good faith offer mean?

NADLER: To let at least all the members of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees see the redacted portions of the report, except for grand jury information, an agreement to go with us, as they did in every previous case, to the court to ask for the release of grand jury information.

BLITZER: Well, haven't they basically -- haven't they basically already done that with the exception of the grand jury information?

You can go do into a closed-door room up on the Hill and read that redacted portion of the Mueller report?

NADLER: No. They've said that I can do that and the ranking member but I can't tell anybody on the committee what I read.

Well, of what use is that information?

So I know information but I can't tell anybody.

BLITZER: Have you actually gone and read that?

NADLER: No, certainly not. I'm not going to go there until the members of my committee can go.

BLITZER: So you want all members of the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee to have access to that information because a lot of Republicans have already gone and read that information.

NADLER: A lot have not, because the offer was only to the chairman and the ranking members of several committees.

BLITZER: Right. But the Republicans, who are the ranking members, they -- on those committees, most of them have gone.

NADLER: Sure. Because they don't care. They don't care to communicate the information to anybody else. And they don't care about doing anything with the information.

The fact is, Congress is a collective body. If I know information but I can't share it with members of the committee, the committee can't do anything with that information.

So of what use is it?

It's a completely silly offer. Now we did offer, we made various offers of limiting some of the information, some of the underlying -- more important than the redacted portions of the report is the underlying information, which is what we really want to see.

And we've made various offers as to limiting how much, in essence, be more specific about which parts of the underlying evidence we wanted to see. And they have not been forth coming to even discuss that.

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, you've been very generous with your time. Thanks so much for joining us. But very quickly, before I let you go, I just want to make sure you're feeling OK. I know you had a little incident a couple of weeks ago.

NADLER: I'm fine, thank you.

BLITZER: All right, good. Good to hear that. Thanks so much and you're always welcome to come back here into THE SITUATION ROOM. Appreciate it very much.

NADLER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, there's breaking news. A CNN exclusive.

Did the Trump administration hide intelligence from lawmakers about Saudi Arabia's buying Chinese help for its missile program?

I'll speak with Senator Chris Murphy of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There you see him. He's standing by live.





BLITZER: More breaking news now, a CNN exclusive.

Has the U.S. government misled lawmakers about how the Saudis may be expanding their missile program with Chinese help?


BLITZER: Our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly has been digging into this.

What are you learning, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there has long been simmering tension between a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the Trump administration. And what we've found is it's not just public.

Behind the scenes, there are perhaps even more explosive issues and broader concerns.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, sources tell CNN exclusively that the U.S. government has obtained intelligence that Saudi Arabia has significantly expanded its ballistic missile program through purchases from China, a move that challenges long-standing U.S. policy of preventing missile proliferation in the country and raising concerns of a growing arms race in the volatile Middle East.

JEFFREY LEWIS, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE EAST ASIA NON-PROLIFERATION PROGRAM: Many countries, including Israel and Iran, have missiles. And I think the Saudis, they want their own capability, too.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Sources also tell CNN that the Trump administration initially left out the intelligence, which showed China secretly aided advances in both technology and infrastructure from a key Senate committee, prompting questions whether the Trump administration has implicitly given its OK for the advances.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Right now the situation is not acceptable.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The dispute over the withheld intelligence spilled into the open during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing with secretary of state Mike Pompeo in April.

MENENDEZ: I would like to flag for your attention a classified matter, the details of which I won't and can't discuss here, where we raise with the department an important issue that had not previously been shared with us, would not, in fact, have been shared with us had we not raised it with you and may have made the difference in how senators voted on a particular matter.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, who declined to discuss the issue or the underlying intelligence with CNN, only received a classified briefing on the matter after requesting one.

Sources said Menendez was initially made aware of the Saudi advances from Democratic staffers, including one who traveled to the region. The intelligence echoes a January "Washington Post" report, citing satellite imagery that analysts said showed advances in Saudi infrastructure and technology and new images taken just last month, showing their activity has not stopped.

With tensions escalating between Saudi Arabia and regional rival Iran, the move raises questions about whether the kingdom is taking a step forward, preparing to seek a nuclear weapon, something crown prince Mohammed bin Salman made clear could one day be on the table.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, SAUDI ARABIAN CROWN PRINCE (through translator): Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb but, without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Pompeo, blunt about the administration views of that reality.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The Islamic Republic of Iran was permitted to continue its missile program under the JCPOA. It didn't slow them down. And so others are doing what they need to do to create a deterrence tool for themselves.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The Saudi embassy in the U.S. did not respond to CNN's request for comment. The Chinese foreign ministry did not deny the sales but noted its strategic partnership with the kingdom, quote, "does not violate any international laws nor does it involve the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

TRUMP: Crown prince, thank you very much.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The U.S. administration for months has made a concerted effort to strengthen allies in the region, most notably, Saudi Arabia, even amid bipartisan uproar over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the brutal war in Yemen, where the Saudis have fought against Iranian proxies and civilians have paid the price.

Pompeo They're an enormous support to us and we're aiming to keep that relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The State Department declined to comment on classified material but said they expected the kingdom to adhere to its commitment not to pursue nuclear weapons.


MATTINGLY: And Wolf, this information comes at the same time that we learned two weeks ago that the administration would be going around Congress to approve a weapons sale, $8.1 billion to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Lawmakers on a bipartisan basis, they are now pushing back on that, considering voting to cancel out that sale, just another step in a process, one other thing to keep an eye on, there's a Saudi sanctions bill on a bipartisan basis that has been worked on. This is an issue that may come up with that, as that moves forward in the weeks ahead.

BLITZER: Very strong reporting, Phil Mattingly, thank you very much for that report.

Joining us now, Democratic senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: So you and other top lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced a package of joint resolutions to block U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. You just heard this excellent report from our Phil Mattingly.

Do you have any specific concerns about China's involvement?

MURPHY: So I can't comment on the substance of classified briefings. But let me say this, I was in those briefings and I have nothing to offer that contradicts the reporting of Phil Mattingly.

It has long been the policy of the United States that we don't want to sell ballistic missiles nor do we want anybody else to sell ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia because it would essentially be a green light to the Iranians to continue to build up their ballistic missile program.

[17:30:00] Many of us on both sides of the aisle support a moratorium on arms sales to Saudi Arabia today because our relationship with the Saudis has, you know, fundamentally gone off the rails.

And we can talk about all of the ways in which that has happened. The war in Yemen is a disaster of epic proportions. The targeting of American residents and journalists is obviously beyond the pale.

But if there is, indeed, going to be a ballistic missiles arms race in the region, that would be very bad for the United States, that would be very bad for Israel, and very bad for our allies.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you believe, Senator, that the Trump administration deliberately misled lawmakers about China's involvement?

MURPHY: Well, again, I can't specifically report -- talk to you about the contents of that classified briefing. What I can tell you is that this administration has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis and has committed a record amount of arms sales.

They are under the belief that if the Saudis just get bigger and stronger and obtain more military capabilities, that that will cow Iran back into its corner. In fact, the opposite is happening.

The more weapons we sell to Saudi Arabia, the more advanced their military becomes, frankly, the more interested Iran becomes in increasing the size and scope and capacity of their military. And that's bad for us.

BLITZER: I know that it's sensitive and classified information, but, in general, can you tell us whether you believe the administration has been hiding intelligence from your committee?

MURPHY: Well, let me say this, there -- I agree with Senator Menendez, there was a classified briefing that we got that would not have been given to us if Democratic staff had not uncovered that information.

And if, indeed, the Chinese are selling ballistic missiles to the Saudis, the question is, why would that need to be classified in the first place?

The sources and methods that we might uncover intelligence like that may need to be classified. But if that is indeed true, that is very relevant to a public debate that Congress is having about our future relationship with Saudi Arabia.

And beyond it potentially being embarrassing to the administration or to others that might be trying to hide that information were it to be true, there isn't really any other reason to not have it out in the public domain.

BLITZER: When it comes to U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia -- and they're in the billions and billions of dollars -- do you believe, Senator, you have enough bipartisan support in the Senate to override a potential presidential veto?

MURPHY: I think we're getting closer. When I first brought up a resolution to disapprove of a Saudi arms sale during the Obama administration, I got about 24 of my colleagues to vote for it.

Today, there are certainly over 50 Democrats and Republicans who would vote to stop this most recent arms sale that's been noticed to the Saudis, and it includes bombs that the Saudis used to drop inside Yemen on civilians.

I think it is a question as to whether we can get to 67. Lindsey Graham, who is one of the chief proponents of these arms sales in the past, is now the lead Republican sponsor on the effort to stop the arms sale. And so that shows you how quickly the votes have shifted.

I think we're closing in on a veto-proof majority in the Senate when it comes to Saudi arms sales. Because Republicans are as perplexed as Democrats are as to why this administration treats Saudi Arabia as if they are the senior partner in our relationship.

BLITZER: Senator Murphy, thanks so much for joining us.

MURPHY: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, still ahead, North Korea's unpredictable dictator lashes out in public. Why is Kim Jong-un upset?


BLITZER: On to breaking news, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, here in THE SITUATION ROOM just moments ago telling me -- and I'm quoting him now -- it may very well come to a formal impeachment inquiry.

Let's get some reaction from our political and legal experts.

And, Gloria Borger, what do you think? He's holding out that possibility very clearly.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But he doesn't seem in any rush.


BORGER: You know, he says it might come to that but not so fast. I think he's in the Nancy Pelosi school here. HENDERSON: Totally.

BORGER: And that is, I'm going to try to get people before my committee. He said to you, you know, it's important that Bob Mueller testifies.

He thinks he's a public servant. He thinks he's going to be able to get him to testify publicly because that is what they want. It's important for the -- for the American public to hear what he has to say because not everyone has read the Mueller report, as he pointed out.

So I think what he's saying to you is one foot in front of the other, and we're not going to be pushed into this. But first, we have to tell the story to the American public.

BLITZER: And, Nia, he's also making it clear he wants to make sure that there's a consensus among the Democratic leadership and that he and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, are on the same page.

HENDERSON: That's right. And one of the things he said was, at this point, there's just not the support in his caucus. There, of course, is this very vocal minority of folks who do want an impeachment inquiry and do want impeachment charges filed, but there are not enough of them yet.

We'll see how this goes day by day. There do -- they do seem to be louder, and they do seem to be more of them. But I was just sort of struck by Jerry Nadler's basic tone. I mean, there was no sense of urgency really.

[17:40:04] You know, if you certainly compare him to what we hear from progressives and the folks who really want to march towards impeachment, he was very measured, almost diffident, in terms of where they stand right now in terms of this impeachment inquiry.


BLITZER: It's interesting, Bianna, because nearly half of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want to begin some sort of formal impeachment proceeding. Fifty-nine Democrats in the House out of 235 want to do so, so it's not -- it's not happening yet.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and he may be - have been addressing some of their concerns by seemingly stating that what they're doing now is not so different from an inquiry.

He said there just may be a few levels of the process that would be different if, in fact, they did launch an official inquiry. But he made it seem, I agree with the panel, as if they are making inroads, and they are continuing to do the work that they are focusing on right now.

Now, what did stand out -- and maybe it was just an oversight, but you specifically asked him if he was on the same page with Nancy Pelosi -- he didn't say yes. (LAUGHTER)

GOLODRYGA: He also didn't say no. But he did say, you know, if that's what it will take, we will get there. We're not there yet.


GOLODRYGA: But he didn't give you a yes or no definitive answer.

BLITZER: I heard that also. And from a legal standpoint, Laura Coates, would it make much of a difference in obtaining documents from the administration, in getting witnesses to appear before the committee, if there was a formal -- formal -- proceeding underway as opposed to this informal inquiry that's going on?

COATES: Well, yes. I mean, the subpoena process, we're already seeing, they thumb their nose at it continuously because they have to rely on the courts to kind of enforce it and hope that the courts will say, there's no good legislative reason to have this and kind of dismiss it.

But in reality, the impeachment inquiry gives a great deal more power. They don't have to have legislative purpose as their basis. That is the constitutional purpose that's there.

Also, it opens the floodgates. They don't have to think about the Rule 6c. They don't have to think about the notions of whether or not they have to have -- is it an oversight function alone and is it tied enough, they need all of these details for legislation?

They can simply say, look, the constitution guarantees us the right to have oversight and accountability in the executive branch of government. We're doing just that.

So it does open more avenues but remember, again, as we're saying, this is a political process. And political processes don't have the same level of common sense, perhaps, as the judicial process going on.

BLITZER: Let's get to some other sensitive political issues.

And, Gloria, the former Vice President, Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner right now, he's facing some heat from some of his Democratic presidential rivals over Biden's support for what's called the Hyde Amendment which prohibits federal funds from funding abortion with a few exceptions.

Is this going to be troubling for the Democratic front-runner?

BORGER: Well, it's going to be troubling very much so in the primaries. And you could see that Bernie Sanders has tweeted about it, Kirsten Gillibrand has tweeted about it, Jay Inslee has tweeted about it, Beto O'Rourke has tweeted about it.

HENDERSON: On and on and on, yes.

BORGER: Let me see, I got a bunch of pages here. Kamala Harris -- COATES: Kamala Harris.



BORGER: Oh, yes.


BORGER: Right, there you go. Right, and Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell, Julian Castro. So, yes.

BLITZER: You can see all the tweets on the screen.


BORGER: Oh, yes.


BORGER: Thank you for helping me out.


BORGER: So, yes, it's going to -- it's going to be an issue, particularly since abortion is going to be an issue given what's happening around the country, in state legislatures, and given the fact that that issue could very well wind up before the Supreme Court.

However -- let me just say one little however, which is, should he get the nomination, I don't think it hurts him.

BLITZER: So is he looking beyond the primaries --


BLITZER: -- to a general election?

HENDERSON: I think that's right. And if you look at past presidential Democratic nominees, they've been where Biden was in terms of the Hyde Amendment.

BORGER: Right.

HENDERSON: And Hillary Clinton was in a different place on this. But also, even if you look at the Democratic primary, there are some voters in the Democratic Party, sort of the silent center of the Democratic Party, who this won't be a problem with --

COATES: Right.

HENDERSON: -- his stance on the Hyde Amendment. Conservative voters, moderate voters who are Democrats as well, non-college White voters as well, Catholic voters, religious voters in the south. So the voters that he's already doing well with, I think this is --

these are the voters he can actually ride to the nomination. You see him already grabbing about a third of support now in this crowded field.

BLITZER: Let me get Bianna --

BORGER: And in the general, that's fine.

HENDERSON: In the general, that's fine.

BLITZER: Bianna, I want you to weigh in.

GOLODRYGA: Well, there is a big difference between the primaries and a general election. And obviously, for the first time, you now see Democratic candidates really being able to jump on an issue.

I remember last week, they were defending Joe Biden when the President was attacking him overseas. Yet this is an issue that plays to the left of Democrats and a lot of their supporters. This is also an issue, however, that Joe Biden has really stuck with his convictions throughout his career.

You talk about a candidate evolving. He's spoken out publicly about the struggles that he's had with his own public opinion, his own -- I mean, his own personal opinion and his own religious views about abortion.

Now, he has been a firm supporter of Roe throughout all of this, and he has said that, in fact, if this does become an issue brought before the Supreme Court, that he would, you know, focus on codifying it into law.

[17:45:02] But when you go to a general election, a general issue, most Americans do not support federal funds paying for abortions at this point. So this could be something that in a general -- remember, the President himself has flip-flopped on this issue. He supported abortion before he didn't. So two different areas to focus on here.

BORGER: But, you know, the thing about Biden is that he's running a general election campaign right now.


BORGER: As if he has the nomination, which, by the way, he does not. But everything we see about Biden is geared towards running against Donald Trump.

BLITZER: All right, everybody, stand by. There's more news we're covering right now including -- North Korea's brutal dictator vents his anger at top officials in public. What's bothering Kim Jong-un right now?


[17:50:17] BLITZER: This afternoon, President Trump told reporters he still wants to make a deal with Kim Jong-un.

He also said he knows nothing about what was supposedly happening to some top North Korean officials who, reportedly, were punished after the failed summit meeting in Hanoi. This comes as the North Korean dictator is lashing out in public.

Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a clear pattern in recent days. At least three times in about a week, Kim Jong-un has come out publicly and just blistered his own officials, city planners, event organizers.

He's making these people cower in fear and prompting intelligence agencies to try to figure out what kind of pressures he's dealing with.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Kim Jong-un's carefully crafted image at home seems to be wearing thin as the North Korean dictator is now trading his jovial public persona for pointed personal insults designed to show his people he is in charge.

In this new video aired on his national T.V. network, Kim is seen with his glamorous wife, Ri Sol-ju, by his side, taking in the opening ceremonies of the so-called mass games, a propaganda spectacle featuring tens of thousands of performers.

Kim claps and waves as the extravaganza unfolds in front of him. This pageant typically lasts for months, but tonight, it's on hold.

In a public bulletin from his state news service, the North Korean government said Kim called the creators of the performance to, quote, seriously criticize them, quote, for their wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude.

MARTYN WILLIAMS, JOURNALIST, NORTH KOREA TECH: One of the things that you don't want to be in North Korea is, you know, in the focus of Kim Jong-un.

Those people are now under a lot of pressure to not just respond to what he said and to do it perfectly, but then also, probably in some way, to atone for the fact that they got it wrong in the first place.

TODD (voice-over): Kim has come out a total of three times in recent days with blistering public criticism of planners and other North Korean officials. He blasted officials in two cities for master plans that were, quote, half haphazardly done.

And on another occasion, while he was all smiles and hugging small children at an education center, he was cutting the designers of their facility off at the knees, saying the place was built in a, quote, slipshod manner. JOSEPH YUN, FORMER SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY:

That is, indeed, I believe, an attempt to make sure that people know who's the boss.

TODD (voice-over): Kim's verbal lashing may also be a way for him to show his people he is on their side, especially after leaving his recent summit with President Trump empty-handed.

Each time Kim has offered a critique, he has suggested that government services or performances are not up to the high standards he has set for his country.

One propaganda analyst says Kim could be worried about more foreign influence coming into North Korea. T.V. shows, movies, music from South Korea flowing in in smaller formats, like thumb drives and digital cards, all of which could show that a better life exists outside his country's borders.

WILLIAMS: What we're seeing is more and more people looking at it, more and more people watching it, and that is, I think, what's worrying him at the moment. The biggest thing that North Korea has going for it, the one thing that it absolutely has to command, is complete dominance of everything that the population receives.

TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong-un's public insults of his officials come as President Trump today, once again, praised Kim, dismissing as overblown a recent report which said Kim had violently purged two of his top negotiators.

Sources tell CNN one of them is not dead as a South Korean newspaper reported, and the other was not doing hard labor as that paper reported.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They like to blame Kim Jong-un immediately. I think that they would like to make a deal, and we'd like to make a deal with them. We'll see how it goes. It's been going pretty well.

TODD (voice-over): But just hours before Trump said that, Kim's news agency had, again, scolded Trump's diplomatic team, saying the U.S. had blown a, quote, lifetime opportunity at the failed summit in Hanoi.


TODD: Analysts point out Kim's regime has given the Trump team until the end of this year to change tactics and make better progress on a nuclear deal. They say if nothing happens by then, the North Koreans may start testing nuclear bombs and missiles again.

And expert believes Trump, eager to hold all of that off before his re-election campaign, may try to pacify the North Koreans by at least arranging one more summit by year's end, Wolf.

BLITZER: And I understand, Brian, you're also picking up some other signs that Kim may be feeling more stressed these days. TODD: Right, Wolf. Pay attention to the pictures here. And a lot of

these pictures of Kim attending events -- public events in recent days, he is shown with a cigarette in his hand.

He's always been a heavy smoker and a drinker. One analyst says he believes Kim is smoking more these days, points out he was chain smoking on that train between the summit in Hanoi and Pyongyang. That, plus his weight, experts say, all clear sign of stress for the Supreme Leader.

[17:55:00] BLITZER: Excellent report, Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Coming up, breaking news. As the President denies he's bluffing, Vice President Pence meets with Mexico's Foreign Minister to underscore the terror threat. But GOP senators say they want to hear directly from the President.


[17:59:55] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, Republican revolt. With the President overseas, the Vice President delivers Mr. Trump's terror threat directly to Mexican officials despite growing protests within the GOP.