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THE SITUATION ROOM

Democrats Reach Deal With Justice Department Over Mueller Report; Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Pilot Killed In New York City Chopper Crash; Probing The Russia Probe; NRA Under Fire; "Washington Post:" NRA Paid Hundreds Of Thousands To Its Board Members For Services In Potential Conflict; Ex-Boston Red Sox Star Ortiz Being Flown Back To Boston After Ambush Shooting. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 10, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Probing the probe. We're learning more about the scope of the attorney general's new inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation. Who is being targeted?

And lavish spending. The National Rifle Association under new scrutiny for reportedly paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to supposedly unpaid board members. Is the NRA breaking the rules? And, if so, will it pay a price?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on a deadly helicopter crash on top of a New York City skyscraper near Times Square.

It's still unclear as to why the chopper slammed into the rooftop in the rain 11 minutes after takeoff, spewing fire and smoke, as terrified New Yorkers watch from below. One person is dead, the pilot.

The mayor of New York City tells me it's a mystery as to why the pilot was flying in the area in an erratic path. He says there's no indication of terrorism.

Also breaking, the Justice Department agrees to give congressional Democrats some of the Mueller probe evidence they have been demanding. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler says his committee will obtain key documents related to possible obstruction of justice by President Trump.

I will get reaction from a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrat Richard Blumenthal. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to CNN National Correspondent, Miguel Marquez near the scene of the helicopter crash in Manhattan.

Miguel, what more are you learning this hour?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just terrifying moments in New York City today, Wolf.

I want to show you sort of the building as it is right now. This is the weather, what it's been like for much of the day in New York. You can see what poor flying conditions it is. Full-on investigation now into what this pilot was doing and the crash. Did he mean to crash it on top of that building? Or was it just luck?

Whatever the outcome there, he saved -- he possibly saved many lives below.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Tonight, one person is dead after a helicopter crashed onto the roof a building in Manhattan, sparking fire and panic, as people tried to escape from their offices.

MORGAN ARIES, WORKS ON 14TH FLOOR: There was a moment in which we all couldn't get out of the building immediately because they're all just backlogged in there.

MARQUEZ: The victim is the pilot and believed to be the only person board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Battalion 9 to Manhattan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Battalion 9?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have what appears to be a helicopter that crashed into the roof. The helicopter is on fire. Crews are gaining access now. We're getting lines in place. Search is under way.

MARQUEZ: In a tweet, the New York City Fire Department saying the fire sparked by the crash happened been put out, but fuel was still leaking from the wreckage.

NICOLAS ESTEVES, CAR HIT BY DEBRIS: I saw the explosion when they came out, and smoke coming out, and then we think another piece in front of my vehicle.

MARQUEZ: Still unclear if the pilot intentionally crash-landed on the 51-story building, perhaps in an effort to save lives.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Preliminary information is that there was a helicopter that made a forced landing, emergency landing, or landed on the roof of the building for one reason or another. People who were in the building said they felt the building shake.

MARQUEZ: Morgan Aries, who works on the 14th floor of the building, says it took his entire office by surprise.

ARIES: We were all in our chairs, and we felt a little bit of a tremor. We're like, wow, that's -- that's something that's unusual. That doesn't normally happen. About another five minutes later, they said, OK, it's time to evacuate.

MARQUEZ: About 100 fire and EMS units responded to the scene.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to say the most important thing first. There is no indication at this time that this was an act of terror.

MARQUEZ: Now, as we wait to learn more about the pilot's identity, the NTSB will be leading an investigation to determine the probable cause of the crash.

CUOMO: If you're a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD, right, from 9/11. And I remember that morning all too well. So, as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker's mind goes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, I spoke to one individual who was on the 29th floor of this building, and he said that the building shook violently. People on lower floors said there were tremors, but not like this.

They waited. They we're told to wait for about 10 minutes, before finally evacuating. Then, once they hit the stairs on that 29th floor, he said they did smell smoke. So, they weren't sure they were doing the right thing, because they weren't sure if the fire was below them or not, just terrifying moments for the people in that building.

And here on the street, it could have been much worse -- Wolf.

[18:05:01]

BLITZER: Certainly could have been.

Miguel Marquez in New York City, thanks very much.

Let's bring in CNN Crime And Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, CNN Aviation Analyst, Miles O'Brien, and former NTSB Managing Director Peter Goelz.

Shimon, you're working your sources. What else are you learning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so some key clues already into investigators.

The NYPD has been over to the helipad. This is on the East Side of Manhattan, the 34th Street in Manhattan. They went over there immediately after the crash, once they figured out this is where the helicopter took off from. And they have talked to people there. And the people there tell them that the pilot here was concerned about the weather. He knew the weather was a concern and that he actually was waiting it out.

He was going to wait, wait, and he sat there and waited, in hopes that the weather would get better, and then for whatever reason, at some point, decided, you know what, it's safe enough for me to get up. And then he did.

And what I'm told by a source is that, based on what officials have now seen, is that he flew from the heliport there, from the helipad at 34th Street, and he went south on the East Side. He went around Battery Park, came up north on the West Side of Manhattan, up the Hudson River.

And somewhere around the 40s on the West Side, something starts to go wrong. And then the helicopter heads inland. And then obviously moments later he crashes into the building. They don't know why yet. That is the big mystery as to what was going on around the 40s that all of a sudden caused him to go inland and to head towards Times Square, Midtown in Manhattan.

It definitely was not any part of the flight path. He had no permission to be in the area of Midtown Manhattan, to be over it at all. It's very common for these helicopters to fly over the water, as you know, Wolf, but that is the big question now. What was he doing there and why?

BLITZER: Miles, I think we have some video -- and I want to show it to our viewers -- of this helicopter as it as it took off from the East Side of Manhattan and made this turn that Shimon was discussing.

MILES O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Wolf, this video comes from -- it's user-generated content, somebody who was along the West Side Highway or Riverside Park, somewhere in that neighborhood, over the Hudson River.

And what you see in the early seconds of that video is the aircraft almost headed straight down to the ground coming out of clouds and then leveling off, and then heading toward the south, and then going back into the clouds and across to Manhattan. That is, by any stretch, erratic flying.

Now, we don't know for certain if that is the helicopter that was involved in the crash. But if it isn't, the pilot of that helicopter needs to have a conversation with the FAA, because that is some serious, erratic and illegal flying that you're seeing there.

It is legal to fly a helicopter in this bad weather condition that we had in New York today, 500-foot ceilings, as long as you fly slowly enough, because helicopters, of course, can slow down to avoid a collision. But it is not illegal -- without an instrument flight plan, it is illegal to be in the clouds, and you can't cross the island of Manhattan without checking in with La Guardia tower.

There are certain -- they will give you permission occasion if traffic permits. And generally they send you over Central Park. So this video that we see is certainly illegal behavior on the part of either another helicopter pilot -- most likely, this is the helicopter that was involved in the crash.

Now, this helicopter, we do know this. It was owned by a company, a real estate holding firm that has offices on Park Avenue. And it is based -- the helicopter is based in Linden, New Jersey, near Newark. Unclear what the route of flight was or what was going on. Was this pilot incapacitated? Did he have a problem with the controls of the craft?

Was this something -- was there some other mental aspect to this that made him distracted? Unclear.

BLITZER: You know, Peter Goelz, I spoke with the mayor of New York City in the last hour. And he agreed this video is probably the video of this helicopter pilot flying around before it crashed into the rooftop of the skyscraper.

I want to show you another picture we have. This is a still picture of what we believe was the helicopter. This is the one, the actual one that flew and crashed. And now I'm going to show you a picture of the actual crash scene. You can see -- we will put it up on the screen right now -- the utter destruction of this helicopter.

This erratic flying, no communications with any of the controllers, what does that tell you, Peter?

PETER GOELZ, Former NTSB Managing Director: Well, one is, I don't think this guy was trying to land on the top of that building.

He crashed into it, because this is a very devastating wreckage field. Secondly, yes, we see him flying irregularly in the -- in the correct flight path. He might have been dropping down to try and get his bearings underneath the cloud cover.

But in any case, this is going to be a tough investigation in some way because it's unlikely the Agusta had a data recorder that was -- they're not required. And if he did have one, it probably wasn't armored. So it might not survived this kind of devastating accident.

[18:10:01]

BLITZER: We have no idea what was going through this pilot's mind.

But you seem to be suggesting, what, this could have been intentional?

GOELZ: No, I'm just saying I think he was -- he got himself into some hot water and did not know how to get out of it.

BLITZER: But if he's an experienced pilot, as he was, Peter -- and I want Miles to weigh in as well -- wouldn't be have communicated?

He had a radio there. He would say, I'm in trouble, whatever these pilots say in a situation like that.

GOELZ: I'm not sure that's right. I'm not sure that if you're a helicopter pilot and you're violating the FARs, you're going to call it down on yourself. You're going to try and get out of it.

PROKUPECZ: Wolf, the points you're making are valid, and this is certainly something that the NYPD is investigating.

That's why they responded to the helipad almost immediately after the crash and to talk to people who've interacted with him. They certainly, the investigators, did not see anything wrong. They say that he was very well-known to people at this helipad at 34th Street. Everyone there knew him. They knew what he was doing. They knew about his flying capability.

But the big thing right now is the weather obviously, because they want to know. Like, he was aware. He knew the weather could potentially be a problem. But yet he still took off.

BLITZER: Lots and lots of unanswered questions. We're going to try to find out what's going on.

Everybody, stand by, Shimon, Peter, and Miles.

There's other major breaking news we're following tonight. The Justice Department has just agreed to give the House Judiciary Committee what is described as key evidence from the Mueller investigation.

I want to bring in our Congressional Correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, how significant are these documents?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Potentially very significant, Wolf.

Democrats on the committee are indeed calling this key evidence, some, but not all of the underlying evidence that Robert Mueller collected over the course of his two-year-long information -- investigation, some information and documents that have been previously denied to the House Judiciary Committee, things like interview notes and firsthand accounts.

That's according to the Chairman of the committee Jerry Nadler, who said -- quote -- called this -- quote -- "Robert Mueller's most important files, providing us with key evidence that the special counsel used to assess whether the president and others obstructed justice or were engaged in other misconduct."

And members of the Judiciary Committee, Democrats and Republicans alike, they will all be able to view them potentially as early as tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen, the full House of Representatives is still voting to enforce a subpoena for those documents. Why?

SERFATY: That's right. That's because of this deal that Robert -- excuse me -- Jerry Nadler and the Department of Justice reached today. That takes Barr being held in criminal contempt off the table, at least for now.

But the full House is still going to go ahead and vote as scheduled tomorrow on a resolution that authorizes the chairman of the committee, Jerry Nadler, to go to court to compel the -- to compel Attorney General Bill Barr and Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, to comply with the congressional subpoena. Here's what Nadler said earlier today on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I see no need to resort to the criminal contempt statute to enforce our April 19 subpoena, at least for now, so long as the department upholds its end of the bargain.

And our arrangement with the department does not extend to the full scope of our request for the full Mueller report and its underlying materials, including grand jury information, nor does it extend to our demand that Don McGahn, a key fact witness, testify before this committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: And now they're going on to say that it's his expectation, based on the outcome of tomorrow's vote, that, as a result, McGahn would potentially testify in front of this committee, things that he has previously denied doing.

And Chairman Nadler also saying that the committee would not go ahead and take court action against Barr unless the Department of Justice stops cooperating -- Wolf.

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

Also tonight, Democrats are delving deeper into the questions of obstruction in the Trump era. The House Judiciary Committee has been hearing testimony from Watergate figured John Dean, among others.

Our senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown, is joining us right now.

Pamela, we heard President Trump slam John Dean just a little while ago, calling him a loser for many years.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

President Trump clearly has been paying attention to the fact that John Dean has been testifying on Capitol Hill today. The president took direct aim at him, criticizing him amid this testimony where Dean has been trying to show how there are parallels between findings in Mueller's report and President Nixon and Watergate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: The last time I appeared before your committee was July 11, 1974.

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, former White House counsel to President Nixon testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, saying Trump's former White House counsel Don McGahn should testify too.

DEAN: Mr. McGahn represents not Donald Trump, but the office of the president. His client is the office of the president. And I think he owes that office testimony before this committee.

[18:15:02]

BROWN: John Dean, a CNN contributor, whose testimony in the Watergate investigation helped topple Richard Nixon's presidency, telling Congress there are many similarities between Trump and Nixon.

DEAN: I would say the Trump administration is in fast competition with what happened in Nixon administration.

BROWN: Ranking member, Republican Doug Collins, calling today's hearing a -- quote -- "mock impeachment inquiry."

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): But don't appreciate the fact that here we are again with priorities and this committee turned upside down.

BROWN: But as the drumbeat among Democrats for an impeachment inquiry intensifies, Dean's testimony is drawing the ire of the president himself.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John's been a loser for a long time. We know that. I think he was disbarred, and he went to prison. Other than that, he's doing a great job.

BROWN: Trump also on the defensive over his tariff threat with Mexico, which critics have called a manufactured crisis of his own making.

TRUMP: If we didn't have tariffs, we wouldn't have made a deal with Mexico. We got everything we wanted. And we're going to be a great partner to Mexico now, because now they respect us.

BROWN: And while Trump claimed that a fully signed and documented agreement would be revealed, Mexico's foreign minister contradicted Trump, saying no secret immigration deal existed between his country and the U.S.

And President Trump's administration pushing back on "The New York Times"' reporting that parts of the deal were hashed out months ago.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have seen some reporting that says that these countless hours were nothing, that they amounted to a waste of time. I can tell you that the team here at the State Department believes full-throatedly that this is an important set of agreements, important set of understandings, one that we will continue to work on because in the end we will be measured by the outcomes that we deliver.

BROWN: Tonight, the president also turning up the heat on China trade talks, saying more tariffs will be imposed if the Chinese president doesn't meet with him at the G20 summit later this month.

TRUMP: I think he will go, and I have a great relationship with him. He's actually an incredible guy. He's a great man. He is very, very strong and very smart. But he's for China. And I'm for the United States. BROWN: Trump also railed against the Federal Reserve for raising

interest rates, saying they're undermining his negotiations with China.

TRUMP: We have people on the Fed that really weren't -- they're not my people. But they certainly didn't listen to me, because they made a big mistake. They raised interest rates far too fast. Don't forget, the head of the Fed in China is President Xi. He's the president of China. He also is the head of the Fed. He can do whatever he wants.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Now, here at the White House, I asked President Trump whether an impeachment inquiry could actually help his reelection chances, as some of his allies have said.

President Trump's that he is aware of those claims, but dodged the question, saying you can't impeach somebody who hasn't done anything wrong, of course, something we have heard from the president before -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We have already.

All right, Pamela, thank you, Pamela Brown at the White House.

Joining us now, a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

Senator, we have a lot to discuss, but I need to take a quick break.

Let's take the break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:41]

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on a deadly helicopter crash on top of a New York City skyscraper. More on that coming up.

But there's also breaking news here in Washington on the Justice Department agreeing to give the House Judiciary Committee key evidence from Robert Mueller's obstruction investigation.

Joining us now, a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you.

BLITZER: So, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, seems pretty optimistic about this new deal with the Justice Department. He says the full committee will now see Mueller's most important files.

How significant is this?

BLUMENTHAL: It is very significant, Wolf, because it is a first step and a very significant step forward toward presenting this case to the American people.

Remember the power of nine minutes of Robert Mueller talking about what's in the report, not anything new, really, just a cut-and-paste from the report. And, likewise, this evidence, the findings and the documents coming from the Department of Justice that further give life and voice and face to the black and white of this report can be extremely impactful to the American people.

And there's a parallel with Watergate. In Watergate, only 19 percent of the American people favored impeachment before the hearings. After those Watergate hearings, more than half the American people did. So this kind of evidence production will lead to the American people seeing the movie, so to speak.

They may not read the book, but they're going to see the movie. And the Mueller nine minutes is a kind of trailer or a preview of that very important set of hearings.

BLITZER: And we will see if Mueller actually appears and testifies in public.

As you know, Chairman Nadler, he's been privately lobbying the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to open formal impeachment proceedings. Should he rethink his approach, now that the Justice Department is offering this new concession?

BLUMENTHAL: There have to be hearings.

And whether you call them impeachment hearings or oversight hearings or investigative hearings, what's really important is that the American people see and hear Mueller, his team, McGahn, and as many of the other witnesses as they can do.

[18:25:05]

And the other part of Chairman Nadler's work today that's so important is that he will be seeking to petition the court for an order requiring McGahn and others to appear. And the court can enforce those kinds of orders with contempt citations and decrees and severe penalties.

So he is moving ahead in a very methodical way. And his strategy, I think, is the best one to hold the president accountable. That's the common goal here, to hold the president accountable for obstruction of justice and to protect the American people and our country against the ongoing Russian attack that Mueller so eloquently and powerfully warned about.

BLITZER: The Justice Department today said the attorney general William Barr's investigation into the start of the Russia probe will be, in their words, broad in scope and multifaceted. You have called for the attorney general to resign. So do you have concerns about how he will be conducting this new investigation of the investigators?

BLUMENTHAL: I have very deep concerns about the politicization of this investigation, in fact, the political weaponization of it against the president's enemies.

And some of his enemies are apparently the intelligence community and the FBI professionals who sought to protect this country when the Russians were meddling in our election. The president is one of the few people on the planet who still expressed doubts about that attack on our democracy.

And it is a disservice to protecting our country in the future. He believes Vladimir Putin over our intelligence community. So I'm concerned that the attorney general will serve the president's political purposes here, that he will be the president's Roy Cohn, as the president has always wanted.

And, remember, there are ongoing investigations already. The inspector general of the Department of Justice and others are looking into the origins. And Mueller's report graphically and powerfully describes how the FBI and the intelligence community began the investigation of Russian meddling.

So this whole attorney general inquiry seems more like a political stunt and a weaponization politically of the Department of Justice machinery.

BLITZER: But the U.S. attorney from Connecticut, your home state, John Durham, he's going to be in charge of this new investigation. Do you have confidence in him?

BLUMENTHAL: I supported John Durham to be United States attorney. I have great respect for him.

I think this investigation is a waste of his talent. And I am trusting and hopeful he will do the right thing here.

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

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, there's breaking news.

A helicopter crashes on the roof a New York City skyscraper, killing the pilot, sparking a fire, and shutting down several blocks right in the middle of Manhattan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: There's certainly a lot of breaking news we're following today, including the helicopter crash on top of a Manhattan skyscraper. The dead pilot has been identified.

Also tonight, Democrats are set to getting their hands on key evidence from Robert Mueller's obstruction investigation, the Justice Department agreeing to give the House Judiciary Committee access to the information.

Let's bring in our analysts. And, Jeffrey Toobin, let me get your reaction. Manu Raju, our Congressional Correspondent, is learning that Democratic staff and GOP staff have now gone over to the Justice Department to begin reviewing some Mueller probe documents as part of the new deal reached between the judiciary committee and the Department of Justice, this according to multiple sources with knowledge of the review. What's your analysis of what's going on?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think this is a bigger deal than even in the hearing today. Because, you know, this is not about people's opinions. It's not about spin. This is about the evidence in the case. And, yes, it's true, we have the Mueller report, but it is certainly true too that there is material in the underlying evidence, the FBI 302s, which are the summaries of the interviews that will be of interest to the public.

And I think getting access to facts, to interviews, to statements by witnesses is what the investigation needs. It also needs live witnesses. It needs Don McGahn to testify. It needs other people to testify. But this is an important first step in a real investigation by --

BLITZER: It needs Robert Mueller to testify certainly as well.

TOOBIN: That's for sure.

BLITZER: Dana, what's your analysis?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, obviously, I agree with Jeffrey. I mean, this is incredibly slow going, but each step that Democrats win, each battle that they win gets them closer to, first of all, just deciding affirmatively whether or not they even think that they can even go ahead with impeachment proceedings.

Obviously, you have a very strong sense from many in the base and many even in the caucus that they're just dragging their feet in the house Democratic leadership. They argue rightly so that they first need to try to get their hands on the evidence and more information.

[18:34:58]

And that starts with exactly what they're starting to look at at the Justice Department and at least what Jerry Nadler and House Democrats won with regard to the Justice Department, and that is negotiations overseeing the document, the underlying documents.

BLITZER: So do you think, David Swerdlick, that Chairman Nadler's contempt threats are working? DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that they at least got them a half step toward what they are doing today, as Dana and Jeffrey are discussing, right, getting additional information from the Justice Department, which will help them determine whether they can make this iron-clad case that Speaker Pelosi wants them to make before proceeding to impeachment.

That being said, it's not clear to me that Attorney General Barr was really sweating this contempt hanging over his head. He is as cool as a cucumber. In some ways, for Republicans now, anything the Democrats do against them is seen as a badge of honor. But we are one step closer to whatever Democrats are trying to weave together in the House.

BLITZER: And all of this --

TOOBIN: Can I just say --

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Well, I just -- I don't think it's threats. It's the law. I mean, Congress has the right to oversight. These documents exist. These documents are the relevant to Congress's investigation. I think it's not that, you know, Attorney General Barr was intimidated. It's that he and others at the Justice Department recognized that they would lose in court.

SWERDLICK: Right. But, Jeffrey, he has been playing a political game for weeks and weeks now. So I do think a lot of these decisions at some point are political. You're right. In a vacuum, subpoenas have to be complied with. People have to testify before Congress. But that hasn't been happening. Everything up to and including impeachment now is a balancing act for the Democrats on how much they can convince the public that they're with them versus Republicans standing their ground.

BLITZER: Sabrina Siddiqui, how do you see it?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think that, ultimately, what Democrats have won is access to a subset of documents. And if you look at the complete breakdown of communication precipitating this point, this is certainly a sign of some progress. But it's notable that Jerry Nadler is still holding on to the option to potentially hold Barr in contempt. And I think it really will come down to whether or not they believe that these documents are sufficient.

And I think to David's point, they want -- Democrats want to at least try and build a case that they are reviewing the relevant materials, especially when they have really struggled to get access to witnesses. Then remember, White House is still stonewalling by preventing Don McGahn from testifying, Hope Hicks, the former Communications Director for the President. Of course, they haven't yet heard from Robert Mueller, who clearly does not want to testify in public because of this fear of the partisan nature of these hearings.

So there's a lot more that they still need but these documents are at least some progress.

BASH: Exactly, and there is still going to be a vote in the House tomorrow to go ahead with the subpoena not just for Barr, but more importantly for Don McGahn, the former White House Counsel. It's all systems go as an insurance policy in some ways, the documents, but more importantly on the witnesses. It's because they know that that is going to be a very, very hard thing to get the White House or even Don McGahn, who is now a private citizen to agree to.

And I think you mentioned this as part of your question, Wolf. That's the ball game when it comes to public opinion and bringing the public along, as Nancy Pelosi says she wants to do. Hearing from Don McGahn, who was such a key player in this Mueller report in laying out alleged obstruction, it's hard to see that happening without him.

BLITZER: And hearing from him and from Robert Mueller would be very significant.

Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more news we're following.

Joe Biden and President Trump will hold dueling campaign events in Iowa tomorrow. Did Biden hurt himself by skipping a big showcase for the 2020 Democratic candidates?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: In the 2020 presidential race, all eyes are on Iowa as both Joe Biden and President Trump are set to hold dueling campaign events there tomorrow. But Biden skipped the major candidate showcase in the lead-off caucus state over the weekend. And that's giving his Democratic rivals another reason to pounce.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Des Moines for us. So, Leyla, there are a lot of questions about Biden's campaign strategy in Iowa and elsewhere. What's the latest?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, here in Iowa, it's really interesting to see how voters are reacting to Biden. Some really don't know what to make of his decisions and strategy. But one thing they say is clear, especially after this weekend, with such a crowded field, their decision won't be easy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: Chants, tricks, marches. 2020 candidates in Iowa today, looking to stand out and show strength.

FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX): It's not easy. And it requires a lot of work and a lot of miles and a lot of town halls.

SANTIAGO: The main event, the hall of fame dinner in Cedar Rapids, Sunday night.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Eyes on the prize. SANTIAGO: Largest 2020 candidate gathering to date, 19 of 23 hopefuls in attendance with one notable absence.

ANDREW YANG, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden must really not like to travel.

SANTIAGO: Biden missed the event for his granddaughter's high school graduation, Tweeting this photo Sunday afternoon. Latest CNN Des Moines Register Iowa poll shows the former Vice President leading the Democratic pack but with a smaller advantage than in recent national polls.

[18:45:00] SANTIAGO voice-over): In a three-way battle for second, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

As the first debate approaches, some candidates are taking opportunities to knock the front-runner.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now I understand that there are some well-intentioned Democrats and candidates who believe that the best way forward is a middle ground strategy that antagonizes no one, that stands up to nobody and that changes nothing.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not going to win by playing it safe or promising a return to normal. We are where we are because normal broke.

SANTIAGO: Biden not only missed Iowa's Hall of Fame event. He also missed the California Democratic Party Convention the previous weekend. And so far, his national media appearances are minimal, appearing only on "The View" and "Good Morning America" for national network interviews.

The former vice president however is planning a two-day trip to Iowa that starts Tuesday, the very same day President Trump visits the state where voters are waiting.

HANNA KINNEY, IOWA VOTER: I think it shows he's definitely not seeing it as the most important thing to invest his time in and that's a little annoying.

OTTO HALL, IOWA VOTER: It doesn't particularly bother me. He's kind of above the fray right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO: And you know, with so many candidates here all at the same time, it's almost impossible not to run into a presidential hopeful here, which means they ran into each other. And From what we were able to see, Wolf, pretty friendly interactions among the candidates.

BLITZER: Let's see how that goes.

Leyla Santiago, thank you very much. Just ahead, the NRA under scrutiny right now for lavish spending,

reportedly making big payments to board members who were not supposed to be paid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:27] BLITZER: Tonight, now questions emerging about lavish spending and potential conflicts of interest at the National Rifle Association. "The Washington Post" reports that the NRA has been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to board members who were supposed to be unpaid and who have oversight over the gun rights group's finances.

CNN's Tom Foreman has been looking to all of this for us.

Tom, this is the latest in a series of controversies involving the NRA.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and these revelations about how the NRA is spending its money and who is benefiting could test the loyalty of some NRA members like nothing we've ever seen before.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Three million dollars to a firearms company executive, $400,000 to a former pro football player, $255,000 to a former police officer, and $50,000 to a rock star. In all, "The Washington Post" cites 18 members of the National Rifle Association board getting paid for a variety of goods and services by the NRA.

Illegal? No. But for a powerful tax-exempt organization, such matters can draw scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service.

George Donnini is an attorney focused on corporate law.

GEORGE DONNINI, PARTNER, BUTZEL LONG LAW FIRM: It calls into question at least potentially people acting in their own self-interest versus the interest of the organization to which they owe a fiduciary duty.

FOREMAN: Tax law says a 501(c)3 organization such as the NRA is prohibited from allowing its income or assets to benefit insiders, typically board members, officers, directors and important employees.

The NRA says "The Post" has presented a distorted view and in the close-knit community of gun rights supporters and the NRA, connections between employees or board members and strategic partners are not unusual. But other allegations are also rocking the gun rights group.

OLIVER NORTH, FORMER NRA PRESIDENT: I always feel at home in an NRA annual meeting, surrounded by law-abiding citizens in this great republic.

FOREMAN: NRA President Oliver North was pushed out when he went to war with long time CEO Wayne LaPierre, who's been accused of lavish spending on clothes, foreign travel and approving exorbitant legal fees. WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA CEO: Well, I'll tell you, the only reason I can

keep up this fight is because of you.

FOREMAN: LaPierre pointed the finger at North, accusing him of cashing in on an NRA deal with an advertising company.

Everyone is denying everything. But amid this, the New York attorney general has launched a probe. Congressional investigators are looking at alleged contact between NRA officials and some people caught up in the Russia investigation.

And even President Trump who loves the NRA --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are great American patriots.

FOREMAN: -- has tweeted: Stop the internal fighting and get back to greatness.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: To be sure, for the NRA to lose its tax-exempt status would be a stretch, but if that happened, Wolf, it truly could threaten the very ability of the organization to exist.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman reporting for us, thank you very much.

Just ahead, an update on former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz after he was shot in the back in the Dominican Republic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:59:20] BLITZER: We have more breaking news.

Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz is now being transported back to Boston a day after he was ambushed and shot at a nightclub in his native Dominican Republic. Doctors say Ortiz still has injuries but he's stable enough for the move. Red Sox officials have arranged for the legendary slugger known as Big Papi to be flown by air ambulance.

The attack on Ortiz was caught on surveillance video. Police say two men rode up to the night club on a motorcycle and at least one of them shot Ortiz in the back. One suspect is in custody after being beaten up by bystanders. The other fled on foot.

Ortiz told police he doesn't known the man who was caught or why he was shot. Tonight, there's an outpouring of well-wishes by fans and friends of Ortiz, including a get well tweet from former President Barack Obama.

We certainly he gets well quickly.

Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.