Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT); Trump Imposes New Iran Sanctions After Canceling Strikes As His Foreign Policy Takes Sudden, Erratic Shifts; Supreme Court Ruling Will Allow Use Of FUCT And Other Scandalous Words In Trademarks; Magazine Columnist Accuses Trump Of Sexual Assault; Actor Jussie Smollett Seen With Noose Around His Neck In Newly Released Surveillance Video. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 24, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: After the mysterious deaths of 10 Americans in the Dominican Republic, two people who suddenly fell ill on the island share their disturbing story with CNN. Their vacation turned into a fight for their lives.

And radioactive tourism. Fans of the HBO series "Chernobyl" are blocking to the real-life site of the worst nuclear disaster in history. CNN is there as well to explore the surprising tourism boom in a wasteland.

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 erratic shifts in President Trump's foreign policy.

Tonight, he's imposed new sanctions on Iran, calling his response to the downing of a U.S. drone hard-hitting, but it's a far cry from the military strikes he ordered just days ago before abruptly calling them off.

The president is backing off another provocative threat tonight. He's delaying plans for arrest and deportations of undocumented immigrants after the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi told him he was scaring the children.

Also breaking, CNN has learned it's growing increasingly likely the House Judiciary Committee will issue a subpoena within days calling for Robert Mueller's public testimony. The House Intelligence Committee also can decide to subpoena Mueller this week.

This hour, I will talk to House Intelligence Committee member Jim Himes, who just came out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president's response to Iran has done a 180 over the last few

days.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

President Trump is imposing new sanctions on Iran after the downing of an unmanned U.S. drone last week. The sanctions are the latest example of Mr. Trump engaging in brinkmanship with a foreign adversary, something he's tried time and time in the past.

It's a pattern that raises the question whether this is brinksmanship or more bluster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is ratcheting up the pressure on Iran, announcing what he described as new hard-hitting sanctions on Tehran's top leaders, adding the move is partly in retaliation for the downing of a U.S. drone last week.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This, you could probably, Steve, add that into it, but, basically, this is something that was going to happen anyway.

ACOSTA: As he's done in the past with other adversaries, the president teased that more tough action could be on the way if Iran doesn't change its behavior.

TRUMP: I won't say what I will do, but I don't think they should do it.

ACOSTA: But it's a kind of brinksmanship he has used before with mixed results. Consider what Mr. Trump discussed just moments after he unveiled the sanctions on Iran, that he has just received a birthday message from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the same man he once dubbed Little Rocket Man, the kind of bravado that doesn't always lead to big wins.

TRUMP: He sent me birthday wishes, but it was just a very friendly letter both ways.

ACOSTA: The president just pulled back from his threats to round up millions of undocumented immigrants, tweeting he has delayed that process for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the problems at the southern border.

But Mr. Trump had also heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who warned his deportation rhetoric is frightening children across the country.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): When I spoke to the president, I said, I'm a mom. I have five kids, nine grandchildren, and children are scared. You're scaring the children of America, not just in those families, but their neighbors and their communities. ACOSTA: The president has also hinted he might take action against

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, but he denied reports that he considered demoting Powell over rising interest rates.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Your threat to demote him, do you think that's had an impact?

TRUMP: I didn't ever threaten to demote him.

TODD: There's been some talk that you might demote him to the number two slot.

TRUMP: I would be able to do that, if I wanted, but I haven't suggested that.

TODD: That's not a threat? That's just a reminder that you can?

TRUMP: No, I have the right to do that, but I haven't said that.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump defended his attacks on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying he wishes he had never hired him in the first place.

TRUMP: I would say, if I had one do-over, it would be, I would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.

ACOSTA: For all of that bluster, the president revealed one of his own vulnerabilities, that he's not prepared to lose in 2020.

TODD: Are you prepared to lose?

TRUMP: No, probably not. Probably not. It would be much better if I said yes. It would be much easier for me to say, well, yes. No, I'm probably not too prepared to lose.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: The president is about to embark on another foreign trip where his pattern of brinksmanship will be put to the test. Mr. Trump will be heading off to Japan for a G20 summit, where he will meet with U.S. allies that are wary of his handling of Iran, not to mention North Korea, another critical national security challenge where his brinkmanship has not yet paid off -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thank you.

[18:05:02]

There's breaking news up on Capitol Hill. We're learning that House Democrats could be just days away from issuing a subpoena for Robert Mueller to testify, this as the number two Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee just came out in favor of an impeachment inquiry.

Congressman Jim Himes is standing by. We will talk with him live in his first interview since his announcement. But, first, let's bring in congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, there are now two committees that are primed to subpoena Robert Mueller to testify about his probe.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, potentially a very significant moment on two fronts, in front of two congressional committees up here on Capitol Hill, on something that Democrats have been pushing for and wanting for so long, to get Robert Mueller up here on Capitol Hill to testify about the Mueller probe.

Now, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, his team and the special counsel's team, they have been engaged in ongoing discussions over the last weeks and months to try to negotiate to get him up here on Capitol Hill.

And sources now tell CNN tonight that it looks increasingly likely that we will see potentially movement on this, this week, key question being, of course, will that actually be a subpoena for Robert Mueller to try to compel him to testify or not?

Now, similarly, over in House Intelligence Committee, the chairman of that committee, Adam Schiff, he is facing essentially a very similar spot, a very similar timeline. He says, he too, has been having private discussions with the special counsel's team and that he will make a decision whether to subpoena Robert Mueller or not this week.

Here's what he said Sunday on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We are running out of time. It's my hope that we will reach a final conclusion. Either he's going to come in voluntarily or we're going to have to subpoena him. I hope that we will reach that decision this week, because we want to have him come in during July.

And I think that's going to be the case, Jake, whether it's voluntarily or involuntary by subpoena.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: Now, Robert Mueller himself, he has been very clear that he does not want to testify. He said he wants essentially to let his own work and his own report speak for itself, and he does not feel that he says he can go farther than what the actual report, those 400 pages of the report, actually said.

Now, both committee chairmen basically saying, if it comes to that, we will actually definitely issue a subpoena. We could see some movement in the coming days on that, potentially a significant moment for something Democrats have wanted for quite some time.

BLITZER: I'm about to speak with Congressman Jim Himes, who has made this dramatic announcement today. How much pressure is there right now for formal impeachment proceedings to begin? SERFATY: Well, there certainly are growing vocal calls, Wolf, and

increasing numbers among Democrats calling for a formal impeachment inquiry to be opened up.

And it was a significant statement by Congressman Himes today. He acknowledged in his statement -- notably, he says, the politics of impeachment are messy and uncertain, and it might in the short run actually serve the president's political interests.

But Himes also pointing out in the statement that -- you know, noting that the president has refused to comply with oversight, subpoenas, refused to have people come up here on Capitol Hill and testify. And he says, in his own words, the president has shown no contempt -- shown a contempt for the truth, and he says now, because of all this, it is the time to move forward.

And he does join that growing number, now 79 House Democrats, calling for an inquiry to be opened up. Notably, they are still in the minority. And perhaps more significantly, these numbers have not moved Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi an inch in her position, her very stated public position that they should just stay the course, focus on investigations and oversight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

Joining me now to talk about his new position on impeachment, the House Intelligence Committee member Jim Himes.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Good evening, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, so in the statement you released today, you laid out a long list of reasons for impeaching the president, beginning formal impeachment procedures.

Was there a specific tipping point that pushed you over the edge?

HIMES: There probably was, Wolf. It was a sort of a straw that broke the camel's back type situation.

You know the long list of the president's refusing to send people to testify to the Congress, refusing the production of documents, claiming executive privilege over and over and over again, even for things that didn't happen during his presidency.

Probably, to answer your question, what finally pushed me over the edge, amongst other things, was the week two weeks ago when the president said absolutely not to a subpoena which was looking for answers to the question of why the administration has chosen to put a citizenship question on the census, something that we know is designed to tamp down the counting of people of immigrant heritage.

And that had nothing to do with Russia. It had nothing to do with the possible challenge to his credibility as president. It was just an in-your-face no to a body, the Congress, that the president cannot say no to.

[18:10:03]

That was also, of course, the week when the inspector general came out with the remarkable and unprecedented report about Kellyanne Conway's breaking of the of the Hatch Act by doing political things on the taxpayer dime. And the president said, I don't care.

It was probably that week that I realized that this president has no interest in the law or in abiding by the Constitution, and that it was time for Congress, as a co-equal branch, to stand up and say, that will not fly.

BLITZER: You note in your statement that impeachment actually might wind up serving the president's political interests.

Do you think this could seriously endanger Democrats' chances of taking the White House in 2020?

HIMES: Well, I must say, if I thought it was going to seriously endanger their chances, I might not have done what I did today. And, of course, that's an unknowable question.

It does worry me, and it has -- that has probably been one of the considerations that has kept me on the sidelines until now.

But here's what I think, Wolf, and here's why I decided to do what I did today. I believe that, when you speak with clarity and conviction, and when you speak with moral authority and say, this is wrong, and we won't stand for it, when you remind Republicans that there will come a day when there will be a Democratic president, and they won't want that Democratic president saying absolutely not to every request of Congress, when you show the American people, as an inquiry, an impeachment inquiry, would do, the facts in a fair and open way.

In other words, there will be supporters of the president on one side, prosecutors of the president on the other. That, I suspect, is appealing to the American people. I'm a believer that the American people are fundamentally good.

And when they look at a president who writes hush money checks to porn stars with whom he may have had an affair in the Oval Office of the White House, the more those stories get out there in a fair format, in a fair forum, it's not clear to me that that would be a political problem going forward.

But, fundamentally here, what we have, Wolf, is not so much a political question as it is, are we going to stand up against a president who is interested in essentially rewriting the relationship between the Congress and the presidency?

BLITZER: And when you say he wrote the checks in the Oval Office for the hush money payments, I want you to be specific on that.

HIMES: Well, this, of course, came out a couple of months ago in the Michael Cohen situation, where Michael Cohen actually produced the checks that the president wrote to him to reimburse Michael Cohen for paying Stormy Daniels hush money.

Again, it's a pretty sordid thing. It doesn't get me quite as excited as when the president decides he wants to act like a dictator vis-a- vis the Congress. But that's just something that, I promise you, if a Democratic president had done it, my Republican colleagues would be absolutely howling for impeachment.

So -- and, again, that's just one example of the president's ongoing lawless behavior, behavior that most Americans don't subscribe to.

BLITZER: You insist you're trying not -- you're not trying to pressure the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, into opening up a formal impeachment inquiry, but that's ultimately up also to the House Judiciary Committee, not the speaker.

Should the Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, open an impeachment inquiry without Speaker Pelosi's blessing?

HIMES: Well, I would urge against that.

Again, as I said in my statement today, the things that I say are the things that I say because of what I believe to be right and because of what my constituents hopefully want me to do.

The speaker of the House, she sits on a slightly higher peak than I do. She sees a little bit more than I do. She needs to think about and probably understands better than I do the way people feel elsewhere, other than in Connecticut.

And so that's why I'm deferential to her. And I say, look, here's where I am. Here's what my constituents want me to do.

But, Wolf, one of the things, to get to your question, that we cannot do as Democrats going into 2020 is that we cannot get involved in the classic Democratic circular firing squad. We have got to have the robust debate. We have got to state our opinions with strength and conviction.

But, at the end of the day, we need to remember that we're part of the team, and we need to subsume our individual beliefs and passions into an effort to make sure that we win in 2020.

Wolf, I do not believe, despite what I said today, that there is anything that this president could do or any fact that would out that would cause the president to convict -- sorry -- that would cause the Senate to convict the president.

If you agree with me on that, you know that the only way the president will face true accountability, in terms of getting him out of office, will be in the November 2020 election. We need to act like a team and make sure that we put our best foot forward in that regard.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, there are some -- plenty of vulnerable Democrats in the House of Representatives who won in 2018 in districts that potentially the president had carried in 2016, for example.

Do you believe the impeachment procedure that you now support potentially could put your majority in jeopardy? Clearly, that's what Nancy Pelosi fears.

HIMES: Yes, I personally do not believe that.

[18:15:00]

We have already seen a number of our younger members who actually come from districts where they defeated Republicans come out in support of an impeachment inquiry. And that's an important distinction. An impeachment inquiry, that's what I called for.

I'm thinking of Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, of Katie Porter in California, of Sean Casten of Illinois. All three of those members defeated Republicans. And so it looks like the politics of this, while unclear -- and the fact that they're unclear gives me pause and has probably kept me on the sideline partly, until now -- the fact that many of our brand-new members who won in Republican districts are coming out in support of an impeachment inquiry suggests that the politics of this may be evolving somewhat.

BLITZER: As you know, you're splitting with the chairman of your committee, the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. He's reluctant to do what you're doing right now, propose formal procedures on impeachment begin.

Are you trying to change his mind?

HIMES: Again, I'm going to be deferential to people who are in different positions than I am.

And the chairman, Adam Schiff, of the Intelligence Committee, he sees more than I do. He coordinates more with the leadership. So my objective here is not to pressure them, not to say that you're doing the wrong thing.

My objection here is just to speak with conviction and clarity about what I believe. And I find that, on moral issues -- and this is a moral issue. It's a moral issue about how we treat people, about whether we attack the free press, about whether we belittle people because of their religion, and, most importantly, about whether we stand up for our prerogatives as a Congress.

I believe, personally, that we should speak as loudly and as clearly and with as much conviction as we can. But the chairman and the leadership, they see other things that I don't see.

So, again, in the service of making sure that the Democratic majority in the House is -- gets the benefit of all sorts of different points of view, but, at the end of the day, we're an effective, mission- oriented team, I'm not going to try to put pressure on any of them.

BLITZER: Do you agree with the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, that it may now be time to go ahead and subpoena Robert Mueller to come before Congress and testify publicly?

HIMES: I do. I do.

I think we are grinding through this process, not just with Robert Mueller, who doesn't want to come to Congress, because I think he doesn't want to sort of get caught up in the political whirlwind, but we're, of course, in that situation with any number of other witnesses and any number of other people who have been subpoenaed.

And I give Nancy Pelosi a lot of credit. She's shown a lot of patience. She has won in court over and over again. I imagine that we will continue to win in court.

But, yes, look, at some point, these processes have to come to an end. And if Bob Mueller won't come voluntarily, I do think it's important that we subpoena him.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, the public polls nationwide show the American public not ready to go ahead with impeachment right now, don't favor impeachment right now.

Do you think a public hearing with Mueller, for example, with others, might change public attitudes?

HIMES: I think it might. I think it might.

I suspect the number of people out there who have read all nearly 500 pages of the Mueller report, I can probably count them on two hands and two feet.

So, just having Bob Mueller -- and I think this is what he would do in his testimony -- just having Bob Mueller summarize his conclusions in the report, I think, would educate the American public.

Look -- and that's the point of an impeachment inquiry too. I have already acknowledged that an impeachment inquiry is not going to lead to the removal of this president. But what it will do is, it will, in a fair environment, because, again, you will have supporters and prosecutors of the president arguing in public, the American people will be educated about the behavior of this president.

Look, and then they should make their own conclusions. Once the information is out there, the American people, I have -- I have utter faith in them. And so this is largely an exercise in making sure they have got the facts, that they understand the facts from both perspectives, so that they can make an informed decision in 2020.

BLITZER: Congressman Jim Himes, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

HIMES: Thank you Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead: Robert Mueller says his report speaks for itself. So how much will Democrats get out of him if they go ahead and issue formal subpoenas this week?

And the site of the nuclear devastation turns into a tourist attraction. CNN goes to Chernobyl to see how the HBO series about the meltdown is drawing visitors, despite the potential radiation risks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:52]

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories tonight, including the second-ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee joining those calling from the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry.

Let's get some more with our correspondents and our analysts.

And, Gloria, you just heard Congressman Jim Himes, very, very serious guy. He's now shifted his position. He wants this procedure, this impeachment procedure, to begin.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He wants an inquiry. He's not calling for impeachment.

Here's somebody who's on the Senate Intelligence Committee -- I mean the House Intelligence Committee -- who has seen things that we have not seen, who clearly is being thoughtful and considered about this, and said, effectively, there comes a moment when you just have to say, I have had enough.

And I think what you heard from him in your interview is that things were piling on top of each other. And, at a certain point, he felt, I just can't not pay attention to this anymore.

And that's what we heard from him. He is not someone on the left-left side of the Democratic Party. He is somebody who Nancy Pelosi probably relies on to us certain extent.

[18:25:00]

And he said, look, I'm not pressuring her, but this is what I believe right now, and I have to say it.

BLITZER: You think, Bianna, the speaker is going to change her position amidst this growing number of House Democrats doing what Jim Himes has just done?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, she hasn't indicated that she's willing to do that right now, because they are still in the minority, even though we continue to hear more and more voices calling for an impeachment inquiry.

One of the reasons that Nancy Pelosi is right now staying firm in wanting to stay away from any impeachment inquiry talk is because the president will run with this. This is, of course, an impeachment inquiry, but you hear the word impeachment, and you know the president is giving these weekly interviews, and that's the one thing he's going to be talking about. From Nancy Pelosi's perspective, she feels like these committees still

have the investigative process that they're focusing on now. They have the court system that they can go down the routes and the court victories that they have won in the past.

And, ultimately, she still believes that they have time for impeachment inquiries down the road. We have an election over a year away. And she views that there is still time to go there, if that's in fact where things lead, because everything you heard from the congressman, even though it's quite compelling, none of it that we have heard is new.

None of that was information that we hadn't heard before. So from the overall pulse of American voters and where they stand on impeachment, to wanting to protect more moderate Democrats, Nancy Pelosi seems to be standing firm and avoiding that right now.

BLITZER: Very interesting.

Laura Jarrett, you cover the Justice Department for us. We now know that not one, but two House committee chairmen are thinking maybe as early as this week issuing a formal subpoena to Robert Mueller to come before Congress and testify publicly. You think they're going to be successful?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You have to wonder what took so long, first of all.

I mean, the report has been done since March. The report has been out since April. And we're now heading into the July recess, and we still have not had the author of this report. It's pretty amazing, given that Democrats control the House and they control these committees.

But Mueller is going to follow the law. He is not going to ignore a duly issued subpoena. He's not going to blow it off. The question is whether the White House and the Justice Department have any tools in their bag of tricks to use to try to stop him or thwart him in any way.

But he is now a former employee. He is free to speak. And he is not someone like former White House counsel Don McGahn, where the same executive privilege line might be a bit of a tricky issue.

BORGER: But the attorney general said at one point, I have no problem with Mueller testifying.

JARRETT: Absolutely, yes.

BLITZER: He said it a couple of times.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: So, why would he fight it now?

BLITZER: Is it time to subpoena the former special counsel, and will it work? SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I think there's just no

question that Robert Mueller has to testify and has to testify publicly, right?

Mueller said the report speaks for himself. But acting as though this 448-page document is crystal clear, there aren't any questions, that's not true. Congress has questions. The American public has questions. They need to hear Robert Mueller answer those questions in a public format.

Now, it's reasonable to attempt to find an accommodation. That's what they have been trying to do, right, the Congress accommodating the executive branch on timing, on scope of questions, on things like that.

But if they have reached an impasse, then I think they have to move to the subpoena. They have to say, all right, we couldn't figure this out amongst ourselves. And so we're going to go to the courts.

To Laura's point, I think she is right that, if Congress takes the step of issuing that subpoena, it's very unlikely that Robert Mueller would actually make them enforce it in court.

BORGER: I'm surprised that there would even be a need for subpoena with Robert Mueller. It's clear that he wants to testify privately. And I don't think that's a good idea. I think he needs to be heard by the American public.

But he's a public servant. The public spent $25 million, whatever it is, on this investigation, and they need to hear him, even if he's not going to say anything beyond what he said in his report.

JARRETT: Since most people didn't read the report.

BORGER: Exactly.

So I think that it's stunning to me that it's taken this long. It should have been done already. And he's their friend. He's not their enemy. I mean, it's not like they have a bad relationship with Bob Mueller. So I'm kind of confused by all this.

BLITZER: Because, so far, he's, what, given a 10-minute statement, didn't take any questions.

BORGER: Yes. He doesn't want to testify.

BLITZER: And, clearly, Congress wants a lot more.

Go ahead, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: And, right now, Bill Barr effectively is the spokesperson for this report, and we have seen how his interpretation has not exactly fallen into line with how Robert Mueller presented it.

I think you're going to see fewer people who are sympathetic to Robert Mueller for not wanting to testify, especially now that you hear reports that one of his chief prosecutors has a book deal in the work. So if people are willing to pen and make money off of these investigations, testifying before Congress shouldn't necessarily be such an uphill battle.

BLITZER: Quickly, on the sanctions, Gloria, that the president announced today against Iran, some tough new sanctions, are they going to be effective?

BORGER: Well, if you listen to the Iranians, the answer is no.

I mean, these come on top of the oil export sanctions, but it really applies to top Iranian officials and doesn't allow them to use the international banking system, which, by the way, they probably don't use anyway.

[18:30:03]

So it seem to me like these are not as effective as what was originally in place. But I think the President finds himself in a position where he had to do something because he pulled back, even though he said he didn't.

BLITZER: He also pulled back from beginning the deportation raids that were supposed to begin last weekend.

HENNESSEY: So the President, again and again, sort of backed off the political precipice. One thing we've seen sort of on the Iran sanctions piece is he is now -- right, he undid all of the work that the Obama administration done in the Iran deal. Now, he has to do it all over again.

We see this tough talk on immigration and deportation, lots and lots of headlines. And then he has to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan. And so this inability to stick to a consistent message, to think things through in advance and not just constantly sort of be off the cuff.

Again and again, we're seeing him pay the price, not just in terms of domestic politics but in the actual interests, both national security and foreign policy of the United States.

BLITZER: Still, Bianna, this tension between the U.S. and Iran right now, extremely, extremely dangerous.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the target of these sanctions in Iran now, the supreme leader, the ayatollah, are a bit naive. I mean, if you think that the ayatollah is at this time of year going sailing along the French Riviera, it's just not what he does. It's different from sanctioning, say, Russian oligarchs.

This has become extremely personal in a way that maybe the President thinks he can get out of the way. Things became personal between Kim Jong-un, but that is not how the Iranians and specifically the supreme leader works. He already rebuffed the President's offer for any sort of negotiations from the Japanese Prime Minister and you're now seeing the President counter that. This, I believe, really makes any sort of future negotiations or talks look much more difficult.

BITZER: Let's get on some other quick issues. And, Laura Jarrett, you're our legal expert. The Supreme Court ruling that this clothing line can keep their trademark named, FUCT. What are the implications for the First Amendment?

JARRETT: It's an interesting case because you see Justice Kagan sort of taking a hard line here, saying the American legal system stands up for the First Amendment in terms of not having viewpoint discrimination. So the government doesn't get to say what's scandalous and not.

But on the other hand, you have Justice Sotomayor sort of laying out the fact that are we taking a step too far towards allowing racial slurs to be trademarked and things that most people would find offensive, and so there's sort of an interesting tension between even the more liberal or so-called liberal justices on the court in that case. But it's a pretty robust appreciation of the first amendment, and in the opinion by Kagan.

BITZER: Yes, it's an important decision indeed. Let's get to this magazine columnist, and I want all of you to weigh in.

E. Jean Carroll accusing the President back in the 1990s of sexual assault at Bergdorf Goodman Department Store in New York. You've seen both sides. He's flatly denying it. You've seen her allegations. What do you think?

HENNESSEY: Well, look, in sort of the Me Too era, I think we've developed a set of tools for how exactly we should evaluate these decades-old allegations. Keep in mind, by most statistics, fewer than 40 percent of rapes are actually reported, but things like did they tell someone contemporaneously. Is there evidence that these are two individuals who actually met and knew one another? Does the alleged victim have a motive to lie? You know, I think that this allegation sort of passes all of the sort of initial tests of credibility, whether or not it should be taken seriously.

This is a very serious allegation. It's an allegation of rape. Ms. Carroll doesn't want to use that term, which is her prerogative. Do you think it's important for women and girls who might be listening to this to understand the behavior described is legal rape, and, you know, that Ms. Carroll is not just out here on her own. She's one of 22 women who have accused the President of the United States of serious harassment and assault and rape.

And that's something whenever we talk about sort of the impeachment questions that playing out, it's coming back not just against sort of the Russia investigation, but also the backdrop of really astonishing, appalling conduct, where we have really no tools to address what it means to have someone accused of this behavior sitting in the Oval Office.

BITZER: Bianna, what do you think?

GOLODRYGA: Well, it's so important that we not grow numb to whatever number this is now, approaching 20 of women who claimed they were sexually assaulted or violated by this President. I mean, read George Conway's op-ed in The Washington Post who called this latest allegation very credible. This is something that we should be taking very seriously as a nation, should never grow numb to.

And I think as we approach another presidential election, the President has got to be worried about the impact of just these allegations alone, and the details for women voters. And I think for the democrats to focus on issues like this going forward as well may be a very important issue for them.

BORGER: You know, and Conway's point was that if you believed Juanita Broaddrick and her charges against Bill Clinton, why would those same people now not believe this woman against Donald Trump?

[18:35:07]

You can't have it both ways. And that yet, that is what is going on in this country, and I think in many ways, we have become numb to it, as Bianna says. And it's a little bit of deja vu, and, oh, my god, this is number 21 or 22, and that's who Donald Trump is.

But on the other hand, how can we justify paying no attention to this when we should have -- in my opinion, we should have paid more attention in the '90s to the charges against Bill Clinton, and we did not. So I think this is something people are struggling with right now. And it is hard to think of a president in this situation now, just as it was back then.

JARRETT: But what she's describing is a crime. I mean, let's be frank about it. It is a violent, violent attack that she's --

BORGER: Which he denies.

JARRETT: Which -- but -- when his first denial is to say, I don't know this person, and yet the picture of them is clearly in the article, I mean, it's right there.

BITZER: All right. We're going to stay on top of this story, all these other -- the breaking news. But there's other news coming into The Situation Room right now. New video just released by Chicago police showing the Empire star Jussie Smollett with a noose around his neck the night he reported a hate crime.

Also ahead, a woman says she was poisoned in the Dominican Republic where at least ten Americans have died in the last year. Tonight, she tells her disturbing story to CNN.

Plus, a nuclear wasteland now drawing a growing number of tourists thanks to a hit HBO miniseries.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. Chicago police have just released dozens of hours of surveillance video in the case of the actor, Jussie Smollett, who claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. Our National Correspondent, Ryan Young, is standing by.

Ryan, the video shows Smollett with a noose around his neck when police enter his home the night he says he was attacked. I want to show our viewers the video then we're going to discuss. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I explained how you were going to get something. And the reason I called is because of this shit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Do you want to take it off or anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do. I just wanted you to see it. There's bleach on me. They poured bleach on me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're filming this, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is all being visually recorded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to take it off? They're filming you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like audio?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like audio, yes. I guess, when I've -- okay. Today, you know, you (INAUDIBLE) and I don't want to be filmed, okay. So can we turn it off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Ryan, you've watched this video closely. You've seen the other video that's been released. First of all, tell us about why he was wearing that noose.

YOUNG: Well, we believe that's a part of his story. He told police that the two attackers who hit him several times had put the noose around his neck. And I can tell you, detectives actually started reaching into that story almost from the moment they saw that noose because one of the things they wanted to talk about is, look, it looks like a very new rope and it looked like it just had been pulled out of the package.

But something that worried detectives, really, from the beginning, because they wanted to see why someone would have a newly packaged rope in their possession when they would go to do an attack on Jussie Smollett. So that was one question they had.

The other voice that we think we hear in the background is Jussie Smollett's manager. And he's probably the person who actually asked police officers to turn off the body camera. All the police officers here are in Chicago are equipped with those body-worn cameras. And, of course, in the initial stages of any investigation, sometimes this proves to be very helpful to police.

We've also asked him why did they decide to blur out his face when they released this video. So far, we haven't heard why they decided to blur out just Jussie Smollett's face. But also, look at the sweater that he's wearing. It's one of the coldest days in Chicago, and, of course, he was out and about. We believe there may have been a bleach substance on that sweater as well. It's something that police took into evidence.

From here, we do know the story sort of takes a turn because they asked Jussie Smollett, did they want him to be taken to the hospital. He refuses to go with the police officers to the hospital.

Look, so many questions about this story, Wolf. We know a special prosecutor has just been put into place in terms of this investigation. Because there are so many questions about how this case was handled in the days after. So many people in Chicago are upset that Jussie Smollett basically had a slap on the wrist after this apparent elaborate hoax that, according to the Osundairo brothers who were involved in this, who told police that it was Jussie Smollett who came up with this story all along.

Now, the actor, for his part, has said, no, he didn't, and he was a victim. But the two brothers who went along with this, who apparently placed that noose around Jussie Smollett's neck and also hit him a couple times tell police that it was the actor who came up with this elaborate plot to get more attention.

Now, we know there's been big fallout from this. He lost his spot on Empire even though he's still going to get paid. But since then, the city of Chicago has aggressively gone after this entire story. At one point, looking to seek financial damages from Jussie Smollett after this case brought international scrutiny on the city of Chicago and the police department.

I should go on to say, there are detectives and police officers who were also very upset with the Prosecutor's Office because they felt like they put in so much work in this case, especially with the scrutiny that was put on the police department in those days, that they wanted to see Jussie Smollett face charges.

[18:45:07] Now, look, he first was indicted with more than 16 counts. No one ever thought it was going to go that far, but they wanted to see more from the actor in terms of having to pay for what they believe was a crime.

This story continues to unfold. Wolf, I never thought when we started this case in January, we would still be talking about it in June. But now, we're starting to see this video. There's more than 70 hours of video clips that have been released so far.

One of the things we also see is that the two brothers being arrested at the airport, I'm sure we'll be going through this for the next couple days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure we will.

Ryan Young in Chicago for us -- Ryan, thank you for that report.

Other news we're following. Tonight, more people are coming forward with very disturbing stories of falling gravely ill while visiting the Dominican Republic. That follows the deaths there of at least 10 Americans over the last year.

Our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their stories sound similar to others. A dream trip to the Dominican Republic that ends in serious illness.

The trouble for Tina and John Hammell started when they were woken from a nap by a powerful chemical smell in their hotel room.

TINA HAMMELL, SAYS SHE WAS POISONED AT DOMINICAN RESORT: It was so strong that I was burning, and coughing. And it was very upsetting. But just panic sets in because you don't know where the smell is coming from.

GRIFFIN: Tina lost her voice, felt nauseous. The couple moved rooms but Tina's health kept getting worse.

T. HAMMELL: I just remember saying something's not right. Something's not right. I don't -- and he said do I call the doctor? And I said I think so.

And after that, it just quickly, quickly progressed. I'm on the bed. And I remember --

GRIFFIN (on camera): It's OK.

T. HAMMELL: I remember my muscles, my hands all turned in. And my legs came up. I just was spasming, and I lost consciousness.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): She spent four nights in a hospital in the Dominican Republic, where doctors found lesions on her lungs, according to hospital records.

JOHN HAMMELL, WIFE FELL ILL AT DOMINICAN RESORT: My wife still was having a hard time basically breathing and staying alive.

T. HAMMELL: My muscles, my muscles.

J. HAMMELL: She just kept having these convulsions and they kept sticking needles into her.

You don't want to lose anybody, especially your wife or your children. And there was nothing I could do.

T. HAMMELL: You got me there. You got me there.

GRIFFIN: It's been three years now, but Tina says she still has lingering effects. She doesn't know what made her sick. All her doctors in Canada can tell her is something she encountered in the Dominican Republic could have poisoned her.

T. HAMMELL: I never had a breathing problem before. I never had asthma. I never smoked. I never -- you know, we were healthy.

J. HAMMELL: The first doctor was adamant she had been poisoned. He said to us in the room, your wife has been poisoned.

GRIFFIN: The Grand Bahia Punta Cana Hotel where the Hammells stayed is run by the same company that operates the Grand Bahia La Romana where the three mysterious deaths of three American tourists are under investigated.

And CNN has spoken to dozens of tourists like the Hammells who have gotten extremely sick while on vacation in the Dominican Republic. Many who spoke to CNN believe their symptoms go beyond typical travel- related illnesses. But it's unclear what caused them.

Several reports smelling a strong chemical odor in their rooms before getting sick. Many say they suffered stomach cramps, diarrhea, and malaise that lasted after they returned home.

CNN previously reported the case of Kaylynn Knull and her boyfriend Tom Schwander who both fell ill after smelling chemicals in their room at Bahia La Romana in 2017. According to medical records, their doctors in Colorado think they were exposed to organophosphates, toxic chemicals found in pesticides that poison them.

TOM SCHWANDER, SAYS HE WAS POISONED AT DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The abdominal cramping and G.I. upset lasted for a few weeks.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And you said drooling?

SCHWANDER: Drooling.

GRIFFIN: Sweat?

SCHWANDER: Bad sweat, tearing.

GRIFFIN: Dizzy?

SCHWANDER: Dizzy, nauseous. Yes. And abdominal cramping was the worst, that was the hardest symptom to deal with. There's so much pain.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Bahia Principe Hotels and Resorts says it can't comment on specific allegations but did send a statement to CNN saying: The safety and comfort of our guests and staff stand at the core of our company values. And that we regularly audit all hotels in respect to health and safety. And consistently receive high certification scores for hygiene.

[19:50:01] Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What a story. Drew, thank you very much for that report.

Other news, a hit HBO miniseries sparks a tourism boom to the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history has become a popular tourist attraction.

[19:55:00] There is new interest in Chernobyl because of the HBO series about the catastrophic meltdown more than 30 years ago.

Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance traveled to Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. He's joining now live from Moscow with an exclusive report.

Matthew, visitors are flocking to Chernobyl despite lingering concerns about radiation.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. It is actually incredible. I mean, look, scientists say it's going to be tens of thousands of years before it is safe enough to actually live in Chernobyl. You can visit now. They say that you can get about as much of a radiation as you on a transatlantic flight. Still incredible I think that so many people are going up. You know, in three occasions, the first two there was virtually nobody there.

This time, hundreds of people trampling through the exclusion zone, the scene of the world's worst nuclear disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): It used to be a nursery school for the children of Chernobyl. Now is one of the morbid attractions for the tourist hordes exploring this nuclear exclusion zone.

The beeping radiation alarms, part of the creepy experience. This entire area complete with a Ferris wheel that was never used, was evacuated back in 1986 after the then-Soviet Union acknowledged the catastrophic release of radiation from Chernobyl reactor number four. You can still see it looming on the horizon.

It's also the dramatic back drop for the recent HBO drama which paints a terrifying picture of the Soviet regime in denial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In terms of radiation, I'm told it is the equivalent of a chest X-ray.

CHANCE: Leaving its own citizens in harm's way.

Chernobyl, the mini-series, has been viewed so widely, it is credited with raising global awareness for the dangers of our nuclear age. EDGARS BOITMANIS, TOURIST: I like about how real it was and intense

it was. It kept you in response and you realize it all happened in real life. After the show I was watching a lot of documentaries. And I found out there's tourists and you can come over.

CHANCE: You're not worried about radiation? I mean, you saw --

BOITMANIS: The way I understand is the risk of being here one day is like the same as smoking three cigarettes. And I'm a non-smoker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, that facility is our school.

CHANCE: Tour operators say visitor numbers are expected to double this year as a caution towards Chernobyl turns to curiosity.

(on camera): Walking through this nuclear ghost town, you get a strong sense of the catastrophic dangers of nuclear power. I mean, how could you avoid it?

But there is something much broader, too, the idea that Chernobyl is a warning from the past about what can happen when governments try to hide the truth and how even innocent people can be sacrificed to protect those in power.

(voice-over): For some Chernobyl visitors like Ed from Texas, it's a message still relevant today.

ED CHARLESWORTH, TOURIST: It symbolizes a very strong need for not prevaricating about information.

CHANCE: Not lying.

CHARLESWORTH: Not lying about information, but being forth right and a lot could have happened differently had the line not taken place. I mean, it's still --

CHANCE: Chernobyl is the ultimate consequence, isn't it, what happens when governments fail to acknowledge reality.

CHARLESWORTH: Exactly. Exactly.

CHANCE (voice-over): But there are concerns, the horrors portrayed so graphically in the HBO series, especially of the so-called liquidators, sacrificed to clean up radioactive mess are being trivialized by Chernobyl's tourism boom.

One Instagrammer recently posted these racy images of herself, apparently near the reactor. She later apologized and said she wasn't really at Chernobyl at all.

But perhaps a few tasteless selfies are a low price to pay for relearning the terrible lessons of the world's worst nuclear disaster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: I should say that CNN and HBO both owned by -- CNN and HBO, of course, both owned by Warner Media.

Chernobyl, though, has been growing in population. Books, video games and now this mini-series really supercharging the visitor numbers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Were you worried about your own safety going there?

CHANCE: Well, I was a little bit, yes, despite the assurances that it is absolutely fine to be. I mean, for example, you know, I threw away all the clothes I was wearing during that shoot. That may have been in abundance of caution. But, you know, I have been there three times. I'm sure I'm going to go there a fourth and a fifth.

BLITZER: Yes, I would hold up.

All right. Thanks very much, Matthew Chance in Moscow.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

[19:00:00]