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House Votes To Enforce Subpoenas In Court; Donald Trump Jr. Testifying Again; Interview With Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA); Russia Intercepts U.S., Swedish Spy Planes Over Baltic Sea; House Votes To Enforce Subpoenas In Court As Democrats Slam Trump Stonewalling, Vow To Hold Him Accountable; Trump And Biden Ramp Up Attacks On One Another As They Hold Competing Campaign Events In Iowa Tonight; CNN: Acting Pentagon Chief Stresses "Apolitical Nature" Of Military In New Memos After Trump-McCain Controversy; Clues Emerge About Deadly Helicopter Crash on New York Skyscraper. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 11, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Testifying again. Donald Trump Jr. is heading back to Capitol Hill for a new closed-door interview on the Russia probe and more. What do Senate investigators hope to get out of the president's son?

And aggressive moves. Russia is at it again, intercepting a U.S. spy plane just days after a near collision of Kremlin and American warships. We're following the tensions and the confrontations in the air and at sea.

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 the Democrats getting new power to enforce subpoenas and fight stonewalling by President Trump.

The full House voting just a little while ago to authorize court action to try to force Trump administration figures to give interviews and to turn over information. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler says he wants to move forward with lawsuits as soon as possible.

Also breaking, President Trump and Joe Biden are going after one another with new ferocity, as they hold competing events in Iowa tonight. The Democratic front-runner is ramping up attacks on the president's fitness for office, declaring him an existential threat to America.

Mr. Trump responding with personal insults about the former vice president's physical and mental health.

This hour, I will talk with Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a member of the intelligence and Oversight Committees investigating the president. And our correspondents and analysts, they will have full coverage as well.

Let's begin with our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, what power does this resolution give the House committees investigating the president?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Significant new power, Wolf.

These committees now can essentially go directly to court, bypass the full House, and go to court if their subpoenas are not complied with, something that key committee chairmen warned today they plan to do in the coming days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: We are facing a constitutional crisis. We have a president who believes he is above the law, which he is not, and refuses to be held accountable, which he will be.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: None of us wanted to be in this position. But the Trump administration is challenging the very constitutionality of congressional oversight. And it is happening in broad daylight.

In all of our investigations, the White House has not turned over one single shred of paper in response to any of our requests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, the Oversight Committee Chairman, Elijah Cummings there, plans to move forward with a vote in his committee tomorrow to hold Bill Barr, the attorney general, in contempt, as well as Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, over a separate probe, that dealing with how the citizenship question was added to the 2020 census.

And Cummings, of course, could go to court now with this new power quickly, if he were to choose to do so, after that vote by the committee. Now he doesn't have to worry about the full House. That will allow members who don't want to take those votes on the floor to avoid doing that.

But these -- these court fights Wolf could be significantly escalated with this new power given by the full House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, is this a step toward beginning formal impeachment proceedings?

RAJU: Well, some Democrats are still pushing very hard to open up an impeachment inquiry. Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary chairman, behind the scenes has made the case to Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, to move forward with an impeachment inquiry, arguing that their cases in court would be strengthened because doing so, having an impeachment inquiry, could convince courts to essentially force the administration to comply with their demands. Now, Wolf, in the aftermath of today's vote, I asked the House

Judiciary chairman directly how this could help cases in court if they were to open an impeachment inquiry. And he said this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Won't your hand in court be strengthen if you were actually to launch an impeachment inquiry?

NADLER: The congressional power is at its zenith in an impeachment inquiry. How much of a difference it is, is a different question.

RAJU: Do you still support moving forward with an impeachment inquiry?

NADLER: I have never said I did. I will simply say all options are on the table. That's all I'm going to say publicly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: "All I'm going to say publicly," that's the key word there.

Privately, it's been a different case, that debate raging behind the scenes on various levels of the House Democratic Caucus. But one thing that Jerry Nadler did publicly say at this press conference is, in light of this new power given by the full House, he's prepared to go to court soon to enforce the subpoenas for Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, as well as Annie Donaldson, who worked in the White House Counsel's Office, if those subpoenas are ultimately not complied with.

And right now we're seeing the White House trying to intervene to prevent, at least from Donaldson's perspective, getting that information turned over to the committee. So, Jerry Nadler prepared to move forward on at least the court fights, even if he makes his case privately behind the scenes for an impeachment inquiry -- Wolf.

[18:05:10]

BLITZER: Manu, you also interviewed the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, today, and you pushed her on whether she would launch impeachment proceedings.

Tell our viewers what she said.

RAJU: Yes, she wanted to make it very clear that she wants to continue her current pursuit, to investigate, to look into all the allegations that have come up and to fight these matters one by one in court.

But she notably would not take off the issue of launching an impeachment proceeding off the table, saying that that's something that they may pursue if it were to come to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: You have said in the past you're not on a path to impeachment.

Are you still -- how do you reconcile those two things?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: But it's not off the table. You can. I don't think you should impeach for political reasons.

RAJU: If you really believe the president may have committed crimes in office, isn't it your obligation to mount an impeachment inquiry?

PELOSI: My obligation is to do whatever we do in the most effective way possible.

RAJU: And you believe he committed crimes in office?

PELOSI: I think it's -- the Mueller report very clearly spells out at least 10 or 11 instances of obstruction of justice. But I'm not here to have that discussion here. That's for the committees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to get back to Manu in just a few moments, more of his interview with Nancy Pelosi coming up.

But let's go to President Trump right now. He's doing battle with Joe Biden tonight in the key battleground of Iowa.

Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, the president is proving once again that Biden is very much on his mind and under his skin.

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

Tonight, President Trump is taking his criticisms of Biden to a whole new level, throwing punch after punch even while on the ground in Iowa. The president is claiming that he's not worried about Biden, but his words seem to suggest otherwise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump sharing the Iowa spotlight and slamming his top political rival.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was someplace in Iowa today, and he said my name so many times that people couldn't stand it anymore. No, don't keep saying it. Sleepy guy.

BROWN: The president also taking direct aim at Democratic front- runner Joe Biden's mental and physical health before leaving Washington, as both men are making several stops across the key early voting state today.

TRUMP: I would rather run against, I think Biden, than anybody. I think he's the weakest mentally. And I like running against people that are weak mentally.

BROWN: Trump easily won Iowa in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton by 10 points, a big change after President Barack Obama won the state twice.

TRUMP: Joe never got more than 1 percent, except Obama took him off the trash heap. But now it looks like he's failing.

BROWN: But sources say Trump believes Biden poses a more serious threat to his blue-collar appeal that helped him win in 2016. And he regularly phones aides and allies in the early morning hours, asking them about Biden.

Trump even lashing out after an internal polls showed him lagging behind Biden in states such as Michigan, and even told some he doubted the numbers.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the polling got it completely wrong in 2016. I don't think it's right now. I'm not going to get into a lot of details, but we feel incredibly good about what the president has been able to accomplish.

BROWN: And while some aides have advised the president to refrain from attacking Biden by name...

TRUMP: Look, but I don't bring him up.

BROWN: ... in reality, Trump rarely holds back and focuses much more on Biden than any other Democratic candidate.

TRUMP: Sleepy Joe. That Joe Biden is a low-I.Q. individual. He probably is. Biden deserted you. I heard his whole campaign is to hit Trump.

BROWN: Trump also recently sided with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over his criticism of Biden, and today, Trump, showered praise on the murderous dictator.

TRUMP: I think North Korea has tremendous potential. And the one that feels that more than anybody is Kim Jong-un. He gets it.

BROWN: Telling reporters he has received another letter from the North Korean leader.

TRUMP: I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong-un. I can't tell you the letter, obviously. But it was a very personal, very warm, very nice letter. I appreciate it.

BROWN: And, again, the president pushed back on Democratic criticism of his deal with Mexico.

PELOSI: If they were agreed to, they were agreed to long before the president made the announcement, A, but they were designed to take your attention away from the Mueller report. Look at the timing.

BROWN: Today waving a folded piece of paper around.

TRUMP: That's the agreement that everybody says I don't have.

BROWN: Claiming it was the signed agreement with Mexico, but refusing to show its contents, instead defending his decision to threaten tariffs,

TRUMP: This will go into effect. And it's my option. It's not Mexico's. But it will go into effect when Mexico tells me it's OK to release it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A source familiar with the matter tells me that the president's son Don Jr. will be back in front of the Senate Intel Committee tomorrow for a limited interview behind closed doors relating to Russia matters.

[18:10:07]

And this testimony comes at an inconvenient time for President Trump, when he is clearly trying to make the case the Russia probe is over and it's time to move on -- Wolf.

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

After a day of competing events and dueling attacks, Joe Biden is expected to deliver his harshest jabs at the president at an event tonight.

CNN Political Reporter, Arlette Saenz is covering Biden in Iowa for us.

Arlette Saenz, we got a taste of Biden's message at earlier events today. What will we hear tonight?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, Joe Biden will be here in Davenport in just a few hours, where he's really going to hammer away at President Trump when it comes to trade and those tariff fights that he's involved in.

But today is really the latest example of Joe Biden trying to frame this as a matchup between himself and the president. And these criticisms are not expected to let up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ (voice-over): It's an Iowa-style face-off for Joe Biden and President Trump.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that the president is literally an existential threat to America.

SAENZ: After weeks of taking shots at each other from afar, the two men descending on the Hawkeye State, putting their matchup on display in the early caucus state. BIDEN: He found time to go after Bette Midler, for God's sake, in the

middle of the D-Day ceremonies, for real. Not a joke. And instead of repairing the relationships with our allies, he's continued to damage them.

SAENZ: The Democratic front-runner sharpening his attacks on the president, taking aim over trade.

BIDEN: He thinks that being tough is great. Well, it's really easy to be tough when someone else absorbs the pain.

SAENZ: Biden planning to say in a speech later today: "Trump doesn't get the basics. He thinks his tariffs are being paid by China. Any beginning econ student at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you that the American people are paying his tariffs," adding: "The cashiers at Target see what's going on. They know more about economics than Trump."

BIDEN: Apparently, he had my speech on in Air Force One. I guess he really is fascinated with me.

SAENZ: Biden also criticizing the president on his coziness with U.S. adversaries like Russia.

BIDEN: A guy named Vladimir Putin, who is a flat dictator. And he stands there in front of the whole world and says, I don't -- I believe him, not our intelligence agencies. Folks, it's got to end. Whether it's me or not, it's got to end.

SAENZ: Biden's two-day swing in the state takes him through Eastern Iowa to three counties Trump won in 2016, two of which voted for the Obama-Biden ticket in 2012. He's also making a stop in Scott County, which Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016.

BIDEN: This is a critical state.

SAENZ: This marks Biden's second trip to the state since announcing his 2020 run in April. It comes two days after nearly the entire Democratic field gathered in Iowa, an event Biden missed to attend his granddaughter's high school graduation.

But Biden is still at the top of the polls, both here in Iowa and nationally. And a new Quinnipiac poll finds Biden leading Trump 53 percent to 40 percent in a potential matchup nationwide.

As he prepares to fend off his 22 Democratic rivals, Biden for now keeping up a general election strategy, training his focus on Trump.

BIDEN: We talk about the fact that let's make America great again. I would settle for just let America be American again. You know what I mean?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAENZ: Now, that same Quinnipiac poll also found Joe Biden still leading his Democratic rivals at 30 percent. That's down five points since mid-May.

And Biden today acknowledging the importance of Iowa, saying that if you can't cross the finish line in Iowa, you can't win the marathon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arlette Saenz reporting for us from Iowa, thank you, Arlette.

Joining us now, Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She's a Democrat. She serves on the Intelligence and Oversight committees.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me start right away with this important vote on the House floor. This will allow committees to go to the courts to enforce subpoenas. The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, says he wants to file lawsuits as soon as possible.

That could mean securing perhaps former White House counsel Don McGahn's testimony or getting the grand jury material in the Mueller report. What do you believe should be Nadler's top priority?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think Don McGahn should be his top priority. And I think it is his top priority.

Don McGahn is the brain trust of all of the information around obstruction of justice. That's the criminal behavior that the president has engaged in during his presidency. That becomes key to any impeachment action.

BLITZER: You're a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

The Chairman, Chairman Adam Schiff, he said you have already seen some of the Mueller counterintelligence documents, members of the committee, but you're seeking many more documents.

[18:15:02]

Can you tell us what you have seen so far?

SPEIER: No, I'm not really in a position to tell you, Wolf.

But I will say that what has happened over the course of the last month to six weeks is a very slow dance by the administration to provide as little as possible for as long as possible.

So they're going to drag this out as long as they can, because the clock will be with them if we go into the end of September-October without being able to move forward with interviews with any of these people.

It is critical to our oversight function in Congress, in Article 1 of the Constitution, that we do this. I have now focused on what I call the four C's. It is coordination, which is clearly pointed out in the Mueller report. It's criminality and it is contempt, contempt of Congress, in terms of not putting forth the kinds of documents that we want to see.

And, all in all, in the end, what we have is a cover-up. So those four C's are what I am focused on as we move forward.

BLITZER: What additional documents are you seeking -- is the committee, I should say, seeking?

SPEIER: So, all the underlying documents that the Mueller investigation relied on, particularly as they relate to counterintelligence work. And we will be having a hearing tomorrow specifically on counterintelligence, so we can help the American people understand what it is.

That is when people in this country, either wittingly or unwittingly, engage with a foreign entity. That was clearly the case with George Papadopoulos. It was clearly the case with Paul Manafort and probably many others, again, the underlying information we have not yet received. And that will be very important.

BLITZER: The Chairman, Adam Schiff, also gave a pretty preview of tomorrow's hearing on the Mueller counterintelligence probe.

And Schiff said, you can't get a clear answer on where the investigations stand right now.

What did he mean by that?

SPEIER: Well, I think what he's suggesting is that, from our perspective, until we can get the key witnesses, whether it is Special Counsel Mueller or Don McGahn, we are not in a position to be able to move forward with conclusions.

And that's probably what he's most concerned about. The counterintelligence focus for the Intelligence Committee is really key. I mean, Russia has done so much in order to interrupt our election process and to create division in this country.

And there's evidence in that Mueller report that Donald Trump knew before the WikiLeaks dump took place. He was doing that in coordination with the Russians.

Now, the special counsel couldn't elevate it to the criminality level of beyond a reasonable doubt. But, my God, isn't that treasonous, to work with a foreign power to try and impact the election in the United States?

BLITZER: What evidence, Congresswoman, have you seen that the president knew in advance about that WikiLeaks stuff?

SPEIER: That's actually in the Mueller report. There is references to that specifically.

A lot of that will come out in a manner that is going to be easily digestible by the public, as we have more hearings to go over the Mueller report.

BLITZER: You also serve on the Oversight Committee.

Your chairman, Elijah Cummings, was incredibly frustrated, describing today how the White House hasn't turned over what he described as a single shred of paper in any of your committee investigations.

So, how does your committee plan to use this new oversight power?

SPEIER: Well, the Republicans keep talking about 17,000 pages that have been turned over. They're 17,000 pages of irrelevant information.

There is a specific memo that we want to access. And that memo, in conjunction with the material that was in the thumb drive that has become public that was done by a Republican operative who passed away last year, shows that, in terms of the census, it was the intention of this administration to suppress the numbers in the census by -- and, by doing so, elevate Republicans and their ability to get elected around the country.

BLITZER: Significant developments, indeed.

All right, Congresswoman Speier, thanks so much for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still ahead: As the House gives him the green light, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler says he will go to court as soon as possible to enforce subpoenas against the Trump administration.

The former U.S. attorney CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Preet Bharara -- there you see him -- he is standing by live. We will discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:24:32]

BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news on the Democrats' plans to go to court quickly to enforce subpoenas of the Trump administration figures.

The full House voting to give them new authority to challenge the president's stonewalling.

Let's bring in the former U.S. attorney CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Preet Bharara.

Preet Bharara, thanks so much for joining us.

And, as you heard, the Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, says he plans to use this new power to go to the courts as soon as possible -- as soon as possible.

[18:25:00] We expect he will try to secure testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn. He will also try to get that secret grand jury information involved in the Mueller report.

How significant, Preet, is this?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's a significant step.

I mean, what we have been seeing for the last number of weeks is a sort of -- a game of chicken back and forth between the White House and between not just Jerry Nadler's committee, but other committees in the Congress as well.

And, obviously, if you're going to have a fight about something, you need to lay the groundwork in order to go to court. As I have been saying for a while, it depends on what judge you get, it depends on what the legal arguments are to see how quickly they can be resolved.

I have been heartened by a recent decision in the D.C. district court with respect to a subpoena being issued by the House Oversight Committee. That's unfolding very rapidly. So you got to take the step that Jerry Nadler and the rest of the House took to lay the groundwork for having the legal case brought and argued about, and we will see if that results in something soon.

BLITZER: Nadler did reach a deal with the Justice Department to get other sensitive documents from the Mueller investigation.

But CNN has now learned that the White House can review those documents and possibly block Congress from seeing certain material. Do they have legal standing to do that?

BHARARA: Yes, I mean, I think they have the opportunity to go to court, as they have in other contexts like this, with other committees and other witnesses and other pieces of information.

Whether or not those arguments will be good, whether or not the executive privilege argument, if they choose to make it, will hold water, I have a lot of doubts about. But there could be other reasons relating to national security or classification issues.

I mean, the problem you have here in dealing with an issue like that is, there's lots and lots of information. The categories of documents that underlie the Mueller report fall into different kinds of kinds of buckets. You have grand jury information. You have potential information that's covered by privilege. You have other things that may be classified.

And there are other categories that I'm probably forgetting to rattle off right now. So they will take the opportunity to make arguments, if they think they can win them, and prevent this from going forward.

BLITZER: The president's legal team has also filed an appeal after a judge upheld a congressional subpoena for financial documents from Mazars. That's a tax and accounting firm that did work for President Trump. And they're arguing that Democrats shouldn't have access to these

documents because they haven't launched impeachment proceedings. What do you make of that?

BHARARA: So this is the decision I was referring to a couple of minutes ago by the D.C. district court.

And, obviously, the White House, the administration lost, and the judge said that the subpoena was OK and appropriate and had to go forward. And the president's lawyers are making not just, I think, an incorrect argument, but kind of an outlandish argument.

And I'm the first one to say when they have legal arguments to make and they have standing to make arguments. On this one, the district court judge found that the president doesn't have any legs to stand on with respect to the argument that, short of impeachment, that Congress doesn't really have any oversight authority and any ability to get information or documents, and, actually, in the beginning of the opinion, cited back to President James Buchanan for having whined about the same thing back in the 1800s.

And he found no merit at all in the argument and also found the argument to be -- he didn't say the word frivolous, but bordering on frivolous. I would hope and expect that the appellate court to which they have gone has the same conclusion.

BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

BHARARA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, more on the Democrats moving forward tonight to enforce subpoenas. What will it mean for former White House Counsel Don McGahn, Attorney General William Barr, and other Trump administration figures?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Top Democrats are hailing a House vote tonight as a step toward holding President Trump and his allies accountable, the full House authorizing court actions to enforce subpoenas. Let's bring in our analysts.

Jeffrey Toobin, the Chairman, Jerry Nadler, says he plans to use the new authority in his words, as soon as possible. How big of a step potentially is this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'd say, as the lawyers like to say, it's necessary but not sufficient. I mean, it gets the process going. The Democrats big problem is not that they are going to lose these court cases but they're just going to eat up so much time.

This vote by the House allows the court process to begin, but it's only beginning. And at that point, it's out of the hands of the Democrats, because they have to get a judge to rule their way, do so in a timely fashion, win in the Court of Appeals and then see if the Supreme Court takes the case.

All of that is going to take a long time under the best of circumstances. But at least today's vote allows the Judiciary Committee, in particular, to get the process going sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: The Chairman, Jerry Nadler, David, he wants to go after -- he wants testimony from the former White House Council, Don McGahn. McGahn is a former Chief of Staff, Annie Donaldson, Hope Hicks, the former Trump Communications Director. He wants to go over secret Mueller report grand jury material. How does he prioritize the most important?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wolf, I think it depends on what the Democrats think they're best case is. If they're going in the obstruction of justice direction, then I think you want to go after getting McGahn to testify openly and ask him whether or not he was told by Trump either directly or in a roundabout way about getting rid of Special Counsel Mueller.

If you want to know a little more about, let's say, what happened on Air Force One, the day that supposedly President Trump was involved with Donald Trump Jr. writing a response on the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, then you probably want to emphasize trying to get Hope Hicks before Congress.

[18:35:08]

It depends on how they think their case is best laid out to the public.

BLITZER: You know, Rebecca Buck, the House Oversight Committee Chairman, Elijah Cummings, he says that this decision, this vote on the House floor today goes beyond the Russia investigation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): This is not just about Russia. This is a broad, coordinated campaign to stonewall investigations across the board. And it is being directed from the very top.

This entire year, the White House did not produced, not one document to the Oversight Committee. Let me say that again. In all of our investigations, the White House has not turned over one single shred of paper in response to any of our requests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: As you know, the President keeps saying that the Democrats simply want a do-over of the Mueller report but there are a lot of other non-Russia related pieces of information the Democrats are seeking. REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's absolutely right, Wolf. And Democrats in Congress, in general, just can't cower as the President and the executive branch decide that they're going to try to obstruct their work, not only their investigations but just their oversight work that is within the authority of Congress.

And so it's not even notable that Democrats would need to push back against that, but this is important for them to explain to the American people why they are pushing back because the great fear politically that Democrats have is that they are going to overstep, that people aren't going to understand. They're going to believe the President that this is all a witch hunt and then that there would be some political backlash.

They are trying to lay out the steps as they take them here.

BLITZER: You know, Samantha Vinograd, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, he said that his committee still can't get a simple answer on whether the counterintelligence investigation is still going on or people are still being investigated either willingly or unwillingly as foreign agents. What do you make of that?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Adam Schiff really plays two roles. He's a Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on intelligence and he's also a member of what we call the gang of eight. So in both of those cases, he should be aware of a counterintelligence investigation that's ongoing.

Statutorily, the executive branch has to keep the intelligence committees fully and currently informed on major intelligence activities. The counterintelligence investigation, we checked that box. And we also know that the gang of eight, of which Schiff is a member, was informed when President Trump was a subject of a counterintelligence investigation in the past.

My question is aren't the CIA red flags flying a little bit higher since the Mueller report came out than even before the Mueller report was published? The ignorance is bliss card that many members of the Trump campaign played during the 2016 campaign is no longer relevant. We have Jared Kushner saying he wouldn't contact the FBI if contacted by Russia. We have the Trump 2020 campaign saying they take more dirt from Russia.

So at this point, there are even more counterintelligence concerns that are very public at this point.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There's a lot more we're going to discuss, much more on the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: We're back with our analysts as President Trump and Joe Biden are getting ready to hold their last dueling campaign events of the day in Iowa. And, David Swerdlick, the words that were exchanged by these two men today, they were intense.

SWERDLICK: Yes. They see each other as probably their likely adversaries and they also contemporaries, so they're going at it fiercely. President Trump, I'm a little curious as to what his strategy is. On the one hand, he sees Biden as a threat so he's going more directly after him. On the other hand, every time he goes after him, he elevates him as the likely general election contender. So it's curious to me what his strategy is there.

But Vice President Biden, I will say this, he has made a lot of loosey-goosey comments about China and about the Hyde Amendment. When we get to debates, which are coming right up, he is really going to have to tighten up what he says, because this isn't like running for Congress. This isn't even like being on the ticket as a vice presidential campaign.

BLITZER: The President says Joe Biden is a dummy and he's weak mentally.

TOOBIN: It's very impressive argument by the President. You know what I thought was interesting on the part of Biden, his speech tonight, a big long speech, he really raised climate change as political issue, which has not been something that resonated with the public very much. But with all the flood, with the rise of the levels of the rivers, even in rural states like Iowa, it's going to be interesting to see if climate change finally is something that grabs voters, which it hasn't so far.

BLITZER: This new Quinnipiac poll, Rebecca, a hypothetical if the race were today has Joe Biden 53 percent nationally, Donald Trump, 40 percent.

BUCK: That's right. And so the reality is Joe Biden is the frontrunner and that's why we see President Trump acting in the way he is, speaking about him in the way he is, targeting Joe Biden because he is expecting at this point that he could be facing him. And he and his campaign see him as a very challenging foe in the general election, because he's more moderate than some of the other Democrats running, because he appeals to such a broad swath potentially of the electorate.

[18:45:05] The one silver lining that the Republicans and Trump and his allies see potentially is that maybe in the course of this process, Joe Biden could get pulled to the left and they point to his recent shift on the Hyde Amendment.

BLITZER: Let me go back to Samantha Vinograd.

I want to get to a different subject. Sam, earlier today, the president responded to this report in "The Wall Street Journal". Also a report from Anna Fifield of "The Washington Post", who's got a new book out on Kim Jong-un, that Kim Jong-un's half brother was supposedly assassinated and he was assassinated in February 2017 but he was supposedly, according to these reports, an informant for the CIA.

The president was asked about that earlier today. Watch how he responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half brother. I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices. That's for sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How do you interpret the president's comment?

VINOGRAD: Well, Trump has never been a poster child for intelligence, but after a statement like this, you kind of have to wonder whose side is he on. He's seemingly non-flushed by Russian intelligence services targeting his friend and family during campaigns. But he's hamstringing the ability of our CIA to do their own jobs when it comes to finding sources.

Someone like Kim's half brother would be a high value source. He spent time in North Korea, he understands the system. And Trump saying he's off limits and people like him are off limits because I don't want to upset Kim Jong-un.

And let's also remember, Kim assassinated his half brother with WMD in Malaysia. So, President Trump is sending a message to sources, U.S. intelligence sources or potential sources that he's not going to say anything if they're assassinated with nerve agents in a third country. He is signaling that he's throwing his own intelligence community.

TOOBIN: This is why we have a CIA.

SWERDLICK: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, this is the whole purpose of the CIA.

VINOGRAD: Well, these are the exactly the type of sources that the CIA looks to get. You want to target people that are close to people of power and have information on a country like North Korea.

TOOBIN: I mean, it's just unbelievable. Anyway. I apologize.

BLITZER: Don't apologize.

TOOBIN: I'm keeping calm. Keeping calm.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by.

There's more news we're following. Just ahead, days after a near collision between warships, Russia carries on another military intercept, this time in the skies over the Baltic Sea.

So, what's behind the aggressive move?

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[18:52:05] BLITZER: Tonight, another tense encounter between Russia and the United States, as Kremlin fighters intercepted U.S. and Swedish spy planes. It comes just days after a Russian warship nearly collided with an American naval ship.

Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, tell us about this new Russian interception.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Wolf. It did happened, this time over the Baltic Sea in Europe.

A U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plan was flying, the U.S. says, in international air space when the Russian Sukhoi fighter came up alongside of it and intercepted it. Now, this interaction was deemed safe by the U.S. military.

But that may be small comfort. Just last week, we saw that Russian warship out in the Pacific made a sudden sharp turn towards a U.S. Navy warship, almost causing a collision. There was an unsafe intercept between a Russian and U.S. aircraft over the Mediterranean days before that incident out in the Pacific. The U.S. has been intercepting Russian aircraft off the coast of Alaska.

The concern, Wolf, is when these interactions happen, no one can be exactly certain what the Russians may be planning, growing concern that there could be a miscalculation and an absolute disaster in the sea or in the air. No one wants to see that happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: On another sensitive issue, CNN has obtained I understand, Barbara, internal Pentagon memos emphasizing in part the military does not do politics. What have you learned?

STARR: This is something Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan wanted to put out after the incident we all remember a couple of weeks ago when the president was in Japan and the White House travel office made an effort to try and keep the warship John S. McCain hidden from view, if you will, because of the president's extremely unpleasant remarks about Senator McCain, they didn't want to upset him supposedly. But the Navy decided not to move the ship because that would have been a politically motivated keep the president politically happy, a politically motivated move.

And what Shanahan is reminding the troops and all commanders and the Pentagon in these two memos today is the U.S. military, the Defense Department does not do politics. And a special reminder with the presidential election coming up: be a good citizen, vote. But don't do politics while you're on the job -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- thank you.

Just ahead, investigators find clues about the final minutes leading up to the deadly helicopter crash on top of a New York City skyscraper.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:59:10] BLITZER: We're learning new details about the deadly helicopter crash on top of a New York City skyscraper. An FAA spokeswoman says the pilot did not have the required instrument rating to fly in bad weather. An NTSB official says a flight data recorder and voice recorder were not installed on the helicopter but were not required. Nor was the pilot required to be in communication with the air traffic control. But the official notes that the pilot may have tried to make radio calls.

Investigators have been carrying out witness interviews including one with the passenger dropped at the Manhattan heliport just prior to the incident. Investigators want to remove the wreckage from the roof as soon as possible. The NTSB official says the preliminary report should be expected in about two weeks but will not deal with the cause of the crash. A full investigation could take up to two years. We'll stay on top of this story.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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