Return to Transcripts main page


White House Blocking Hope Hicks Testimony?; Interview With Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL); Interview With Presidential Candidate Julian Castro; Trump In Florida Tonight To Kick Off 2020 Campaign As He Faces New Controversies And Setbacks; Trump Threatens To Start Deporting Millions; Patrick Shanahan Withdraws As Defense Secretary Nominee; President Trump Kicks Off 2020 Reelection Campaign; Justice Department Intervenes In Manafort Prison Transfer; America Crumbles: The Infrastructure Crisis. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 18, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Resigning his post. The acting defense secretary is on the way out, as details of a past family scandal emerge. Tonight, the president is speaking out about the shakeup at the Pentagon.

Immunity for Hope. Tonight, the White House is going to new lengths to prevent Hope Hicks from spilling secrets to Congress, asserting immunity for the longtime Trump confident. We will get new reaction this hour.

And Manafort intervention. The convicted former Trump campaign chairman likely isn't going to one of New York's most notorious jails, after the Justice Department stepped in. Was the Department of Justice is involved in Paul Manafort's prison transfer improper?

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 controversies dogging President Trump, as he's about to formally launch his reelection campaign.

Mr. Trump insisting just a little while ago that he did not ask the acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to withdraw from the confirmation process and quit his job. Shanahan is leaving the Pentagon amid reports detailing his contentious divorce.

The president claims he only recently learned about the red flags in Shanahan's background, but he denies there are problems with the administration's vetting process.

As the president heads to Florida tonight, we're also learning that the White House will assert immunity for Hope Hicks. Mr. Trump's former aide and confident is due to appear at a closed House hearing tomorrow.

This hour, I will talk with the number two Senate Democrat, the minority whip, Dick Durbin, and with Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, the president lands in Florida soon to kick off formally his campaign. He spoke about Patrick Shanahan's exit and more as he was leaving the White House.


Speaking moments ago here at the White House, President Trump claimed he found out just yesterday about the Shanahan allegations. I then asked him whether that made him concerned about the White House vetting process. He denied that there are any issues with the process, despite Shanahan now being one of multiple individuals withdrawing from consideration for a post after being announced.


BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump heading to Florida to launch his reelection campaign, but leaving behind turmoil, as his acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, announces he's stepping down.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't ask him to withdraw, but he walked in this morning and he said it's going to be a rough time for him because of, obviously, what happened. But I did not ask him to withdraw.

BROWN: Trump tweeting that Shanahan has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process, so that he can devote more time to his family, and that Secretary of the Army Mark Esper will be the new acting secretary.

TRUMP: We put Mark Esper in. Mark is highly experienced. I think he's going to fit in very easily.

BROWN: An administration official tells CNN the White House has grown increasingly concerned that Shanahan's messy divorce could turn into a P.R. disaster, pointing to former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who was forced to resign after abuse allegations from both of his former wives.

Shanahan and his ex-wife had accused each other of assault nearly a decade ago. She was the only one arrested after the incident. But the charges were later dropped.

(on camera): Does that make you concerned then about the White House vetting process, if you had just heard about it yesterday?

TRUMP: No, we have a very good vetting process. And you take a look at our Cabinet and our secretaries, it's very

good. But we have a great vetting process. But this is something that came up a little bit over the last short period of time.

And, as you know, Pat was acting.

BROWN (voice-over): The president was also having second thoughts about nominating Shanahan, since he lacked military experience and has a more reserved demeanor, the official says.

Shanahan's announcement leaves the Pentagon without a permanent leader, less than a day after the decision to send more troops to the Middle East amid increasing tensions with Iran.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We talked about the CENTCOM decision. Then Secretary Shanahan and the president approved to move 1,000 more Americans into theater to make sure that we're in a position to do the right thing.

BROWN: The president tonight also reverting back to things from his 2016 campaign, vowing a mass immigration crackdown. That announcement coming as a surprise to Homeland Security and ICE officials, sources tell CNN.

A senior immigration official saying: "There is no operation next week to pick up millions. No clue where he," Trump, "got that impression."

QUESTION: Immigration officials say they don't know anything about a planned roundup of millions of people in the next few weeks.

TRUMP: Well, they know. They know. And they're going to start next week. And when people come into our country and they come in illegally, they have to go out.


BROWN: The official says there are tentative plans for an operation of pick up families who did not show up to immigration hearings. But the list doesn't include millions, and the timing is still up in the air.

The president's immigration rant coming as he officially kicks off his 2020 campaign tonight. Some supporters camping out hours before Trump's arrival, but not everyone is welcoming the president. "The Orlando Sentinel" out with an op-ed announcing its endorsement for 2020 is not Donald Trump.

And while the president considers Florida his second home, it's a battleground state that Trump won in 2016 by just 1.2 percent. And just hours before his arrival, a new Quinnipiac poll in Florida out today showing President Trump trailing Democratic front-runner Joe Biden by nine points and Senator Bernie Sanders by six points.

Trump recently fired his internal pollsters and has rejected any polls that show him trailing his opponents and claims his polls show him leading in all 17 swing states. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Now, as for who could be the next defense secretary, President Trump said here at the White House today that he will most likely nominate Mark Esper, who is now the acting secretary, to the post, and he says we will do it pretty soon.

Meantime, the president is expected to land there in Florida shortly for that rally tonight, where he will announce his second term presidential run -- back to you, Wolf.

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

Now to the breaking news on the White House asserting immunity involving Hope Hicks.

Let's go to our congressional corresponding, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, what are you learning?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Hope Hicks doesn't arrive to testify behind closed doors in front of the House Judiciary Committee until tomorrow, but the battle lines for direct confrontation between Hicks, the White House and committee Democrats already being drawn tonight.

Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, sending a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, making clear that Hope Hicks has -- quote -- "absolute immunity" to be compelled when she's asked about any questions when she was a senior adviser at the White House.

That sets up a confrontation with House Democrats, who, according to an aide, are planning to ask her about several instances of potential obstruction laid out in the Mueller report during her time as a senior adviser to the White House.

They also plan to go further than that, asking about times and instances before her time in the White House while she was a senior campaign aide, including the alleged hush money payments for alleged affairs the president had that were laid out by Michael Cohen, the former adviser to President Trump.

The big question now is, will this effort, will this effort by the White House shut down any of the efforts from Democrats to get more information? An interesting element of the two-page letter Cipollone sent to Democrats is that it actually goes beyond just Hope Hicks' time in the White House.

It also states that they believe she has executive privilege and immunity from questions during President Trump's transition period, before he was president of the United States, after he was elected. That is a period the Democrats have made clear they want to ask about related to Michael Flynn, the fired national security adviser.

So, there's certainly conflict ahead. Some expectations this was coming, but certainly not this broad a scope -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thanks for that.

Joining us now, the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate, the Minority Whip, Dick Durbin. He's also a top member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. We have got a lot to get through.

But, first, is it appropriate, from your perspective, for the White House to assert immunity over Hope Hicks' testimony tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I don't think so.

And if you look at their pattern, they're denying documents and witnesses every time they're asked. They're coming up with excuses for it. Ultimately, this president is trying to conceal an awful lot about his past.

BLITZER: The other major news we're following is this decision by Patrick Shanahan to withdraw from the defense secretary nomination.

Now, what does this say to you about the Trump administration?

DURBIN: Well, first, let me say, I have worked with Mr. Shanahan and found him to be a professional and a good person to work with.

Second, let me tell you, as I read some of the details, it's a heartbreaking family tragedy that occurred many years ago, but is significant in scope.

And, third, obvious question, this just came out? What kind of investigation, what kind of background investigation took place for this man to be deputy secretary of defense?

If you look at the acting commissioners and acting secretaries and acting deputies, on and on and on, you see people who have not been carefully vetted. That raises questions about whether or not there are other situations with a background that's going to cause some embarrassment.

BLITZER: You voted to confirm Shanahan as deputy defense secretary back in 2017. And the vote was -- and I'm checking -- 92-7, overwhelmingly in favor of confirmation.

Do you and other Senate Democrats bear some of that responsibility as far as thoroughly vetting him?

DURBIN: Well, I will accept responsibility, though I'm not on the committee that directly recommends to the Senate. I did vote for him.

I can understand how the FBI investigation did not include this episode. It was clearly worthy of note and should have been part of the process. [18:10:03]

BLITZER: The senator -- Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, he says Shanahan may have lied to the Senate during his confirmation process.

Blumenthal is also a member of the Armed Services Committee. And Blumenthal is now calling for a full-scale investigation. Do you agree?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you, not serving on the Armed Services Committee, I don't know what his testimony was.

It does raise questions about all the other acting secretaries and those who've not gone through thorough vetting and thorough investigation, and an obvious question as to whether the FBI did its job.

BLITZER: It's been nearly six months since the country had a confirmed secretary of defense.

But we're also seeing the administration deploy more troops to the Middle East, as tensions clearly escalating right now with Iran. So what concerns does that raise?

DURBIN: John Bolton and Secretary Pompeo are itching for a war with Iran, pure and simple. And they have been for a long time.

This idea of walking away from the agreement, the treaty we had with Iran to stop their development nuclear weapons, was the first step. And now they are trying to find provocations by the day.

Make no mistake, the Iranians are not good actors. They're bad actors in many respects. But if they think -- if the administration thinks the American people are looking for a third war in the Middle East, I think they're wrong.

BLITZER: Well, what do you agree with Pompeo, with Bolton, with the president that Iran was responsible for hitting those oil tankers in the Gulf?

DURBIN: I don't know one way or the other, but I wouldn't put it past them.

BLITZER: You wouldn't put it past what, Iran?


BLITZER: And should the U.S. respond to something like that?

DURBIN: Well, I'm sure we are responding in some respect. We're sending troops and carrier groups and the like.

But this notion that this is a provocation, like a Gulf of Tonkin, that should lead to some sort of military action directly against Iran, I might remind the president the Constitution said the American people make the decision about war through their elected members of Congress.

BLITZER: The president is about to officially launch his reelection campaign in the next few hours. But, at the same, he's threatening to deport millions, he says, millions of undocumented immigrants starting next week.

A Department of -- a DHS official, I should say, says CNN -- tells CNN that this operation is still in the planning phase. But the president says it's about to begin.

How seriously do you take this threat?

DURBIN: I take this very seriously.

When the president puts out a tweet that suggests mass deportations and mass arrests, I take it very seriously. And we know that there's been shakeups in this Department of Homeland Security.

Incidentally, Wolf, two-and-a-half years into his administration, we have had four different people leading the Department of Homeland Security. And within that agency, this critical agency when it comes to border security, it's a revolving door at the highest levels.

One of the reasons that several left, I'm told, several weeks ago was over this very proposal of mass arrests and mass deportations. I just don't follow this White House. They tell us night and day the big problem is a humanitarian crisis at the border. And the president is tweeting out a new initiative that has nothing to do with the border.

He's going to go after people who have no criminal records and deport them? For goodness' sakes, let's put our money where our priorities should be. Let's solve this humanitarian crisis and stop the overwhelming numbers of people who are coming at our border.

BLITZER: In the aftermath of the president's comments that he would accept information from a foreign agent, including from Russia or China, Senate Democrats are now pushing for specific legislation.

But Republicans, including Senator Lisa Murkowski, they say there's no need for this kind of legislation. Senator Mitt Romney says the bill introduced by Senator Mark Warner is too broad.

Do you see any room to work with your Republican colleagues on this extremely important and very sensitive issue?

DURBIN: I would like to appeal to my Republican colleagues. If the shoe were on the other foot, if a Democratic president was entertaining information from a foreign power in the course of a campaign, they'd be screaming bloody murder about it. And they should.

The fact the matter is, if we want to maintain the integrity of our election process, we cannot follow the course that the president suggested in his interview with ABC. We have got to say that that kind of information would be rejected, and the very suggestion of it should be presented to law enforcement authorities. BLITZER: Senator Dick Durbin, thanks so much for joining us.

DURBIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, all eyes are on Florida right now, as President Trump is about to land there for his campaign kickoff.

Is his new threat of immigration deportations part of his reelection strategy? I will get reaction from Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro. There you see him. He's standing by live.



BLITZER: We're following a lot of breaking news, including the sudden resignation of the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan.

It's raising new questions about the Trump administration's vetting process, even as the president is denying any problems along those lines tonight. Much more on that coming up.

But joining us right now, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro. He served as secretary of housing and urban development under President Obama. He's also a former mayor of San Antonio.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's get to this very sensitive issue of immigration.

As you know, the president has announced an upcoming ICE operation that he says will remove millions, he says, millions of undocumented people from this country starting next week.

This took a lot of people at ICE, elsewhere, the Department of Homeland Security, by surprise.

How likely is it that we're going to see the administration follow through on this threat?


CASTRO: Well, I mean, I wouldn't put it past them, but it's very interesting, as you note, that he did this right as he announces his reelection bid.

If this president is about anything, he's about smoke and mirrors, about dishonesty, and also about incompetence. Just think about it. No matter what your politics are, whether you're Republican, Democrat, you're liberal or conservative.

Think about when this president announced his candidacy and then when he became president, what he said. He said that he was going to -- quote -- "fix" this immigration problem.

Today, there are more people that are coming to our southern border than before he became president. In our name, as Americans, little children have been separated from their mothers. People right now are sleeping under a bridge in El Paso, Texas, in the 100-degree heat.

They're fenced in like animals, unable to shower or even change their clothes. That is the Trump presidency.

So, I have my own vision of what we ought to do to fix our broken immigration system.

BLITZER: All right.

CASTRO: And it represents something completely different, that would be more humane and more effective than what this president has offered.

BLITZER: I know one of your proposals is to actually break up ICE, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

So, under a President Castro, which agency would be responsible for deporting people who are already in the country, if they're guilty, for example, of a crime or pose a major security risk?

CASTRO: Yes. And that's a good point, Wolf.

Let's be clear about this. If somebody poses a major security risk, or if they commit a serious crime, then they're not going to be in this country. They're going to be deported.

But let's also be clear that the vast majority of the people who are coming to this country who are requesting asylum are doing it not because they are criminals. They are not. They're desperate. They're fleeing violence in their home countries in Honduras or El Salvador or Guatemala.

They are mothers and children. They are mothers with infants, 6- month-old babies.

So what I would do is that I would make sure we have an immigration judiciary system that is equipped to handle this, that we have more judges and support staff, so we can get people an answer on their asylum claims, and they're not waiting in limbo in the country for years.

I would make sure that we also treat people with common sense and compassion, instead of treating them cruelly, like this president and his administration have.

I would make -- also make sure that we do something that is smart and that this administration is doing the totally wrong thing on. This week, they announced that they're ending foreign aid to these Central American countries.

Actually, I think we should do a 21st century Marshall Plan with these countries and partner with them so that people, their people, can find safety and opportunity at home over there, so 144,000 people don't have to come to our southern border.

That's what real long-term leadership for our country is about, and about getting to the root of the challenge, instead of just being reactionary, and trying to use immigration and immigrants as scapegoats to win another election.

BLITZER: You're a former housing secretary during the Obama administration.

You just unveiled a new dramatic housing program, a housing policy. Give us the headline, briefly, what you think can be achieved to deal with housing for poorer Americans?

CASTRO: Well, I see housing as a human right.

So one of the things I would do, for instance, is to make the housing choice voucher initiative an entitlement program, so that families, no matter where they live in our country, whether they're in a rural community or an urban community, they could -- if they make less than 50 percent of the area median income, they would get a housing choice voucher to be able to go and get safe, decent, affordable housing.

I would also set a goal of ending family homelessness, veteran homelessness and chronic homelessness over the next several years, with significant investments to reduce homelessness, and then end it in our country.

And I will say -- I mean, you're there in Washington, D.C. And we have a lot of folks that are watching in cities across the United States, where they see very clearly that, over the last couple of years, the number of people sleeping on the streets, under bridges in downtowns, in some suburban communities has increased, because this administration has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to combating homelessness.

I would make sure that we do what we should, so that nobody has to sleep on the streets in the wealthiest country in the world.

BLITZER: Yes, we have been doing a whole series of reports from Los Angeles, where tens of thousands of people are homeless right now.

CASTRO: Yes, that's a great example of it.


BLITZER: I mean, it's -- and here in Washington, D.C., too. Our heart goes out to all these homeless people you see on the streets of Washington within blocks of the White House and up on Capitol Hill. It's a very, very painful thing to see here in the United States.


You served in the Obama administration along with the then Vice President Joe Biden. You were secretary of housing and urban development.

Why do you believe you are more qualified to be president of the United States than the former vice president?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, I think there are 22 other people. And I believe that I'm the one that voters should select. And here's why.

I grew up -- I know what it's like to struggle in this country. I grew up in a single-parent household on the west side of San Antonio. I'm a proud product of the public schools. I know what it's like growing up to wonder whether we're going to be able to pay the rent, to take the bus to school, to dream big dreams.

But I also know what it's like in this country to achieve my dreams. I feel like I have achieved my American dream. And I don't begrudge people who have achieved their success, but I want to make sure that everybody, no matter who you are, can achieve their dreams.

And I'm one of the few people in this race that actually has executive experience, a track record of getting things done, as the mayor of the seventh largest city in the United States in San Antonio, and also as secretary of housing and urban development, managed a $48 billion budget, 8,000 employees.

I went and I saw 100 different communities in this nation and how they're grappling with poverty and homelessness and trying to make sure that people can have a good quality of life.

And I also have a strong vision for the country's future, in the 21st century, to be the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest, and the most prosperous nation on Earth.

The last thing I will say about this is that I would encourage folks to go look at the plans that I have laid out, whether they're on immigration, on education, on police reform. I'm the only candidate that's released a plan on police reform, on making sure that lead is no longer a major public health threat.

I went and visited Flint and proposed something concrete, so that we can eliminate lead as a major public health threat. And then, just this week, I released this proposal on housing.

So when people start -- we're heading into this debate, these debates. When they start looking around for who has the right vision, who has the right experience, and who has the right plan for the future of our country, I think what you're going to see is that a lot of folks are going to give me a look.

BLITZER: So, just to be precise on this, Mr. Secretary, you think you're more qualified right now because of the vision, the plan, the other issues that you raised than the former vice president, a man you worked with closely during the Obama administration?

CASTRO: Yes, I think I'm the best qualified candidate. If I didn't, I wouldn't be running.

BLITZER: That's why you're running.

But a new poll that's just out today from Quinnipiac shows Biden and Bernie Sanders, two of your rivals for the Democratic nomination, beating President Trump in a head-to-head matchup, potential one, in Florida.

In that poll, you're polling less than 1 percent in that Florida poll right now. So tell us why you think Democratic voters should consider you.

CASTRO: Well, as you know, Wolf, right now, we're still seven-and-a- half months away before anybody who votes, when the Iowa caucus happens in early February.

And so, right now, those polls are all about name I.D. And the fact is that I don't have the name I.D. right now that Bernie does or certainly the vice president.

And that's why it's important that, during these debates -- and they're going to be six of them that happen before the Iowa caucuses -- people get to know who I am and what I stand for and what I would like to do for the country.

And as my name I.D. improves -- and we can tell this in the polling when you ask folks who actually are aware of who I am. My favorable vs. unfavorable, it's actually very good.

So I feel confident that, as more people know me, what I stand for, and what I want to do for our country, that I'm actually going to start to rise in the polls.

And it's interesting. Yesterday -- two days ago, I saw this NBC poll from June 22, 2015. And the headline on it was that Jeb Bush had just surged to his biggest lead yet. He was at 22 percent. And Donald Trump, who had just announced his candidacy a few days earlier, was at 1 percent.

And it's not uncommon for folks to start off near the bottom, and actually end up getting the nomination. And I'm going to work hard and go everywhere and talk about my vision for the future of the country.

And I believe that, by the time February 3 comes around, that I will be the front-runner.

BLITZER: Yes, I posted on Twitter this week that, back at this point in 1991, Bill Clinton was in the very, very low single digits as well. And we know what happened 17 months later.

Julian Castro, Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on President Trump in Florida tonight trying to dominate the 2020 spotlight, this as the White House is taking new action to ensure Hope Hicks keeps Mr. Trump's secrets secret.



BLITZER: It's a busy night of breaking news, President Trump just touching down in Florida to officially launch his re-election campaign. His acting Defense Secretary is out, his longtime confidant is being granted immunity a he's trailing top democrats in a new battleground poll.

Let's bring in our analysts. And, David Chalian, he's going to be giving his re-launch, his campaign speech announcing his bid for re- election just in a little while. What's his strategy now?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I we're going to find out tonight. Does he use this opportunity to sort of frame how he wants to run this re-election campaign or is this another Trump rally just sort of the Trump show continues, airing of grievances, responding to the headlines, bashing the media. I'm very curious to see.

You know, he's got the Vice President there. He's got the First Lady. The campaign has put a lot into organizing this event, doing voter registration around this event. I am very curious to see if the President himself sort of moves into that re-election candidate mode and uses this as an opportunity to frame his argument going forward.

BLITZER: It comes, Rebecca Buck, just as the President issued a statement on Twitter just this morning saying, next week, ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States, and he's standing by that. He says this mass deportation will begin next week.

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's what President says. We'll see if that actually happens though, Wolf.


We have evidence that this was not an organized plan by the President. DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, did not know that he was going to make this announcement, so they don't have any plan in place to actually execute on this, apart from the enforcement that they're already doing.

So the President might like to ramp up enforcement of deportation. We'll see if that happens. I think this is more of a political statement.

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey, then I'll go to April.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: But it's just the idea of removing even a million people from the United States.

BLITZER: No, he said millions. TOOBING: He said millions, okay. But let's just say it's one million. You know who these people are? These people are people with families, these people who work for a living, people who are in school, I mean, kids who are in school. I mean, the notion that, A, you could do such a thing or that you would want to do such a thing.

By the way, a lot of them have worked at Donald Trump's hotels and resorts. So these people have jobs, they have lives, they have families, and the idea that we would do this is just shocking.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And I talked to Joaquin Castro, Congressman Castro, who's the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He said this is a political dragnet. He said, you know, it's interesting that Homeland Security is asking for money, ICE needs money, but where are they getting this money to do this, quote, unquote, political dragnet.

This is very ugly. We don't know how it begins. What are the terms? What are the conditions? How are the people picked out? What happens, because even if you don't have documentation, you could possibly be taken into custody? So this is a very dangerous slope that this administration is going down.

BLITZER: Go ahead, David.

CHALIAN: I was just going to say, I do think, politically, apart from the substance of it, it does show that Donald Trump, just like when he took that escalator ride down four years ago and started down this road, he is consistently of the mind that this issue works for him politically. That's what he thinks.

RYAN: And that's exactly why.

CHALIAN: And he plans to use this.

BLITZER: So what do you do, Jeffrey? You're our legal expert. Let's say the parents are undocumented but the kids were born in the United States, and as a result, they're U.S. citizens. What do you do then?

TOOBIN: The parents get deported.

BLITZER: And what about the kids?

TOOBIN: And the kids go into foster care or the kids go with relatives. I mean, it's a nightmare. The Obama administration tried to deal with that through the DACA program. There was DACA for the --

BLITZER: The so-called DREAMers?

TOOBIN: Well, no. The Dreamers are the ones who were born overseas. The other program was the one for parents of young American citizens. Of course, President Trump has thrown that on the ash heap as well. Under this dragnet proposal, it would be lots of people with young children who are American citizens who would be dragged off.

RYAN: And zero tolerance has already taught us that they cannot keep track or tally of who is in the system. There are children that are still have not been able to find their mothers and mothers and fathers have not been able to find them. This is a dangerous situation. This is now a humanitarian issue beyond politics.

BLITZER: Do you agree this was not a coincidence that he made this statement today?

BUCK: There's no question. I mean, this is his bread and butter, politically. As David said, Donald Trump believes that immigration is an issue that works for him. It energizes his base.

I'll just offer one more data point to suggest that he is not necessarily realistic about implementing this policy. This is something that previously Steve King, the Congressman from Iowa, had proposed to President Trump privately. And Trump told him, Steve King told me about a year ago that he thought it wasn't politically tenable. And so this, for him, is also about energizing his base as he's announcing his re-election.

BLITZER: You know, David, let's look at these new Quinnipiac University polls in Florida. A hypothetical matchup between the President and democratic challengers, Biden beats the President 50 percent, to 41 percent, Bernie Sanders 48 to 42 for the President, Elizabeth Warren, 47 to 43. What does this tell you?

CHALIAN: Well, not a whole heck of a lot because we're a year-and-a- half away from the election. So it will tell us a lot more going forward. But Ithink what this snapshot in time tells us is that here is a major battleground state, one that was critical to Donald Trump's path to the presidency, and he is beginning his re-election effort there with clearly an uphill climb. But I just would not put a ton of stock into a poll about a race that is still a year-and-a-half away from voters making a decision.

BLITZER: It's a snapshot right now, but it could change, clearly.

TOOBIN: I know. We love us some polls here. I mean, you know, we love these polls and, you know, I love them too. I read them. But, come on, I mean, it's just really early and, you know, they haven't started really attacking whoever the democratic nominee is going to be. Whatever the race turns out be, it's not going to be -- we're not going say, oh, back in the middle of June in 2019, the polls predicted everything.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the sudden decision, Patrick Shanahan, the acting Defense Secretary, he says, withdraw my nomination to become the permanent Defense Secretary.


The President said he only learned about the problems yesterday. What do you think?

RYAN: You know, it's very strange. You know, some of the reporters that we know around here have been saying, they heard about it weeks ago. And for the President to just get it yesterday, he knows a lot about a lot. He likes to get information, as we already know. And the bottom line is is that this President is trying to paint a great picture. He's trying to paint a picture of confidence.

But there is a problem. The vetting process, there is a problem there. Not only is there a problem with the vetting process. This president has to fill that position. Even though he says he has great flexibility with an acting person, yes, he likes to micromanage. That is just smoke and mirrors because the optics look so bad.

BLITZER: Is there a vetting problem that the White House has?

BUCK: I mean, we've seen that time and again, Wolf. They nominate first, bring these people first and then check their backgrounds later, which is not the correct order of operations usually when you're going through this.

BLITZER: As usually, you and I have covered a lot of this confirmation process. The last question, usually, the lawyers for the White House ask a potential secretary nominee, is there anything at all in your background that if it would became public, could embarrass the President or embarrass you? And you're supposed to come forward and make that kind of declaration.

TOOBIN: You're supposed to, but also, you know, sometimes I feel bad for the FBI because there are things that are sometimes hard the find, especially if you're not told. But a contentious divorce is the red flag to end all red flags.

Why they didn't pursue this, where, you know -- and I think it's important to say that Secretary Shanahan has not been accused of wrongdoing, but this was a very bad situation where his wife was arrested, where his son was involved. And the idea this wasn't fully developed in the course of the vetting seems just bizarre to me.

CHALIAN: And just why they wouldn't get a ahead of this in some way. And that confounds me also because it was bound to come out. So I don't --

RYAN: Remember Rob Porter? They didn't get ahead of Rob Porter.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Hope Hicks, the President's former aide, former Communications Official at the White House, she's going to testify behind closed doors tomorrow in the House of Representatives, the Judiciary Committee. But the White House is now saying she has immunity. She doesn't have to answer questions regarding the time she served in the White House.

TOOBIN: You said she's going to give testimony. I believe she will attend the hearing. I think that's the accurate way to put this.

BLITZER: But she has the answer questions about before she came to the White House.

TOOBIN: But who cares? I mean, that's not the real purpose of her testimony. I mean, this is just a further example of how the White House is completely shutting down the congressional oversight function for anything involving the presidency. And, you know, what the Judiciary Committee, what Congress has to do is get these things into court or else the clock is just going to run out on all these investigations.

BLITZER: She'll be answering questions with two White House lawyers from the Counsel's Office, sitting there, saying, you can answer this, you can't answer that.

TOOBIN: Probably on both sides.

BLITZER: Yes, probably. All right, guys, stick around. There's a lot more news we're following.

Why did a top official at the Justice Department intervene to keep former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort out of an infamous New York prison?


[18:48:02] BLITZER: We're learning more about the Justice Department's unusual involvement in the prison transfer of Paul Manafort. The former-Trump-campaign-chairman-turned-convict reportedly might have faced time in the notorious Rikers Island prison in New York. That's apparently not the case tonight.

Let's bring in our Justice Correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, CNN now has a letter involving this transfer from the Justice Department.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We do have that letter, Wolf, and that letter is raising questions about whether the Justice Department breached normal protocol by stepping in seeming to make a play to protect Paul Manafort.


REPORTER: Any reaction, Mr. Manafort?

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, new indications convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is most likely not going to notorious Rikers Island jail after the Justice Department intervened.

In a letter date June 11th, Attorney General Bill Barr's deputy, Jeff Rosen, stepped in to ensure the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance was looking at a request from Manafort's lawyers that Manafort, quote, remain in federal custody but be made available to New York when needed for the prosecution of the state criminal matter, continuing, the department could like to know if your office has a response.

Former prosecutor Shan Wu says the deputy A.G.'s involvement is unusual.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: That's really something usually completely in the realm in the Bureau of Prisons. The deputy would have no need to become involve. SCHNEIDER: The DOJ does oversee the Bureau of Prisons. And a senior

DOJ official said the department wants to keep Manafort in federal custody to err on the side of caution. Manafort's situation is unusual. He's already been convicted and sentenced to seven and a half years for financial crimes and now, he's facing charges in New York stemming from the same circumstances.

Manafort's team cites his age, 70 years old and his declining health as reasons to keep him at the prison in Pennsylvania where he had been staying while his pretrial hearings in New York play out. Vance says his office has never taken the position that Mr. Manafort should be housed at Rikers Island and instead told the Pennsylvania prison warden that the options now are either to produce Mr. Manafort to New York state or to house him in a federal facility in New York City.

[18:50:011] Manafort has now been moved to one of those federal facilities, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he awaits arraignment on state charges.

Among the other inmates at the facility, the notorious drug lord El Chapo. The deputy attorney general's involvement in this case raises questions about any possible political interference on behalf of the Trump administration, especially since the president still hasn't ruled out a pardon for Manafort.

REPORTER: Will you pardon Paul Manafort.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have not even given it a thought as of this moment. It's not something that is right now on my mind. I do feel badly for Paul Manafort.


SCHNEIDER: Now a Justice Department official has acknowledged the situation with Paul Manafort is unusual compared with the average case but explained that since Manafort is a high profile defendant, the Bureau of Prisons kept DOJ apprised from the very beginning, Wolf. But, of course, it's still raising a lot of questions.

BLITZER: Certainly it is.

Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

A lot more news right after this.


[18:55:47] BLITZER: Tonight, CNN is investigating a dangerous crisis impacting Americans every day. Many of the nation's roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair and upgrading.

But that would cost U.S. taxpayers billions and billions of dollars and require a lot more political will right here in Washington.

CNN National Correspondent, Jason Carroll has our special report.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four million miles of roads and more than 600,000 bridges across the United States. And in many cases crumbling faster than they can be repaired.

SYLVIA CAMPOS, MICHIGAN DRIVER: It's terrible. It's terrible. I don't know how to tell you. It's horrible, too many potholes.

CARROLL: The nation's roads received a "D" in the last report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Texas, Louisiana, and California were among those nearly flunking, all getting D's.

The worst: New York and Michigan. Both D minuses.

CAMPOS: I have a flat and I'm pissed. Get out here and fix the potholes.

CARROLL: Last February, Sylvia Campos says a gaping pothole almost caused her to have an accident on I-75 in Detroit.

CAMPOS: They need to do something about it, ASAP now.

CARROLL: Three weeks ago, it happened again, this time on I-94.

CAMPOS: They need a pothole patrol or something. Something has to give. This is two times, two times to me.

CARROLL: County officials say given the poor condition of the state's roads it's likely there will be a third time.

CRAIG BRYSON, ROAD COMMISION FOR OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN: You get what you pay for. And right now we have been investing less than just about every other state in the nation. And we have the roads to prove it.

CARROLL: Craig Bryson with Oakland County's road commission says Michigan needs $2.5 billion more a year in road funding. And there is little appetite to raise taxes or increase vehicle registration fees.

BRYSON: We need the federal government to step up.

CARROLL: Federal infrastructure money is one way to help Michigan, a state that was crucial in paving the way for President Trump's 2016 victory.

TRUMP: The great state of Michigan.


CARROLL: Whatever the source of the money, one report found annual investments in the nation's roads and bridges needs to increase by $32 billion, a whopping 47,000 bridges in the country are listed as structurally deficient. That includes the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington D.C.'s Memorial Bridge, and the Pensacola Bay Bridge. Structurally deficient are defined as needing repairs but in the unsafe for travel.

In West Virginia, one in five bridges are structurally deficient, including the Evitts Run Bridge in Charles Town.

(on camera): It's hard to see the problems up above but once you get underneath bridges like this one in West Virginia, you can really start to see what's gone wrong. This is a piece of guardrail that's fallen off. Up there, there is a hole in the guardrail. More holes there, crumbling concrete. At the very end, you can see where the concrete has simply fallen away.

(voice-over): An estimated 11,000 people cross the Evitts Run Bridge every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tragedy waiting to happen.

CARROLL: Dan McGinn (ph) lives nearby and says the state has been promising to repair it for two years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not so much this bridge. It's what it represents across this state. We don't invest in infrastructure. And people here know it. They're angry about it but what can they do.

CARROLL: One solution, neighboring Pennsylvania increased taxes and fees which helped cut the number of structurally deficient bridges in half.


CARROLL: But it's still a constant fight to keep bridges like this one which will get a $54 million renovation in shape.

KEISER: We don't have any additional revenues, the ability to stay ahead of the curve so to speak, we're going to lose that in just a few years.

CARROLL: A rough road ahead, one that will cost billions to fix.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Columbia, Pennsylvania.


BLITZER: It's a disgrace what's going on with the infrastructure in this country.

The next installment of our special series on the infrastructure crisis airs tomorrow night right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Our week-long series, very important, "America Crumbles".

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer, tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

'ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.