Return to Transcripts main page


Feds Reveal Details of Lawmaker's Alleged Affairs; Warren Rolls Out Detailed Policy On Election Security As 2020 Dems Compete for Attention; New Details, Deep Concern About Missing University Student. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

And of course our thanks to S/Sgt. David Bellavia and his family for his service and their sacrifice.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JakeTapper, tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: deplorable conditions as 100 migrant children are returned to an overcrowded border facility, where conditions have been described as unconscionable. The acting head of Customs and Border Protection suddenly resigns and even the president says he is very concerned.

Trading insults: the president warns Iran that attacks on anything American will lead to an overwhelming response and even obliteration. But Iran's leader said the White House is suffering from mental disability.

Duncan cheater? Prosecutors allege Republican congressman Duncan Hunter embezzled thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with five women, including staffers and lobbyists.

And student vanishes: concern is growing for a University of Utah student, who disappeared a week ago after getting into a vehicle with someone she appeared to know. Her phone has been off since she went missing.

Is she the victim of foul play or did she deliberately vanish?

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

BLITZER: Breaking news: President Trump said he's very concerned about conditions on the border, where more than a hundred migrant children have been returned to a crowded, unsanitary facility.

The president is asking Congress to provide what he calls humanitarian aid as Democrats wrangle over the funding of the detention of migrants and the White House is now threatening a veto.

Amid the turmoil, the acting head of Customs and Border Protection has suddenly resigned.

Also breaking, the president is warning Iran that any attacks on American interests will be met with overwhelming force to the point of obliteration. That after Iran reacted to new U.S. sanctions by saying the White House is suffering from mental disability.

And as American officials reveal, the United States conducted a major cyber attack on an Iranian-backed militia following the Iran downing of the U.S. drone. I'll speak with Senator Chris Coons in the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with White House correspondent Abby Phillip.

The president seems to be feeling the heat amid the reports of truly abysmal conditions for migrant children.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right. The president told me today he was very concerned about these conditions in the facilities but it punting to Congress saying they need to do more to provide aid to those children on the border. But there are real questions about why the administration isn't doing more themselves right now.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Tonight pressure is mounting on President Trump over the substandard treatment of children in detention facilities at the border.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I am, I'm very concerned and they're much better than they were under President Obama by far.

PHILLIP (voice-over): As reports emerge of children not being given access to regular showers, soap and toothpaste in government facilities, Trump is calling on Congress to act.

TRUMP: And we're trying to get the Democrats to agree to really give us some humanitarian aid. I call it humanitarian aid. This isn't even about border.

PHILLIP (voice-over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi planning a vote on the floor over additional money for the border. But Trump has already threatened to veto it because it does not expand detention beds. And some Democratic lawmakers are divided over giving the Trump administration a blank check.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I have a lot of concerns and I think we're -- we're seeing this administration hold kids, thousands of children, hostage by not giving them food, water and basic conditions.

PHILLIP (voice-over): More than 100 children are being moved back to a Texas border facility, the same facility that, just yesterday, was shut down for what some called major health and hygiene problems.

CLARA LONG, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I spoke with children who were dirty, who said they had not had adequate opportunities to take a bath. They were noticeably -- had mucus stains or mud.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And tonight there is more turnover among the top officials responsible for the border facilities, as acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner John Sanders submits his resignation.

TRUMP: No, I know there was going to be a change there. I'd made changes, very good changes.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Trump downplaying the changes but also suggesting that he didn't even know the official responsible for one of his administration's top priorities.

TRUMP: I didn't speak to him. I don't think I've ever spoken to him.

PHILLIP (voice-over): All this as the president is turning up the heat --


PHILLIP (voice-over): -- on Tehran, one day after announcing new sanctions targeting Iran's supreme leader.

Asked if he has an exit strategy if war breaks out, Trump claiming he doesn't need one.

TRUMP: You're not going to need an exit strategy. I don't need exit strategies.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And insisting that, after he halted plans for a counter strike after the regime shot down an American drone, his threats of using military force haven't lost their punch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do they take your threats seriously?

TRUMP: I think everybody does. I think you do, too. Goodbye.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Meantime Trump filling a critical posting in the West Wing tonight, naming first lady Melania Trump's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, as the new press secretary and communications director.

TRUMP: So Stephanie has been with me from the beginning, as most of you know. And then, over the last couple of years, she's worked for the first lady, done a fantastic job. The first lady loves her. And I think she's been just incredible, she's very talented.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIP: And tonight we're learning the president is likely to name the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Mark Morgan to take over as the acting head of the Customs and Border Protection Agency.

But as all of this turmoil is unfolding here at home, President Trump tomorrow is leaving for the G20 in Osaka, Japan, where he has some important meetings set up with the president of China, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin over issues like trade and also those tensions in Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of tensions with Iran. We'll have more on that as well. Abby, thank you very much.

Up on Capitol Hill, House Democrats are divided over a bill to provide additional money for the border crisis. Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, has Speaker Pelosi gotten her people on board?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It appears that way, Wolf. After a roller coaster 24 hours, in which Speaker Pelosi negotiated with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as the progressive bloc within the larger House Democratic Caucus, she appears to have locked down enough support to push this bill through the House tonight.

This is the $4.6 billion bill that would deal with the humanitarian crisis at the border. Democrats had been concerned, particularly liberals, that there had been not enough safeguards for migrants and not enough conditions about how these facilities are dealing with migrant children.

But in a late deal that was struck between the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Speaker's office, they agreed to include language resolving those concerns. Pramila Jayapal, who's a co-chair of that caucus, told me that she plans to support this bill even after this was added.

She expects most of her caucus to do so as well. But, Wolf, a number of Democrats, and liberals in particular, not particularly happy with the bill even though they will support it as Raul Grijalva told me earlier today.


REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D-AZ): I don't trust Trump. I worry that even the restrictions that are in the bill to prohibit him reprogramming this money for other purposes, I think that is still going to be a problem.

This is not even a good bill. But it -- my initial reaction is that I think that it has to be a humanitarian gesture at some point and, for that money and that money alone, it is probably worth the vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: So even as some Democrats are concerned, they didn't go far enough in dealing with the migrant crisis or the children and ensuring that the administration can't just move money around and spend money however it likes, if Democrats appear to be falling in line.

But there is still opposition from the man who holds the veto pen, Trump. His advisers recommended that he veto this bill. So even though it is expected to pass the House tonight, this bill far from over. Negotiations will continue.

It still remains to be seen how this becomes law, as a key office within the Health and Human Services Department is slated to run out of money and that office deals with the unaccompanied minor children.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you very much, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, President Trump is warning Iran that attacks on anything American will be met with overwhelming force, even obliteration. But his national security adviser, John Bolton, said the door is still open to negotiations.

Let's go live to our correspondent Fred Pleitgen from Tehran.

What are you hearing in Iran?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. We're hearing tough talk from the Iranians. A senior Iranian commander came out and said any nation that indulges in what they call adventurism here in the region will not survive. Obviously clearly pointing to the United States.

Meanwhile Iran president Hassan Rouhani on the one hand laughing off those sanctions that the Trump administration put on Iran's supreme leader and senior military commanders, saying they won't at all affect Iran's economy or even the people sanctioned, but the same time lashing out at the Trump administration, saying the sanctions effectively close the door for any sort of negotiations in the future and even questioning the sanity of the Trump administration. Here is what he had to say.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They have become frustrated and confused.


ROUHANI (through translator): They do not know what to do. They do strange things that no sane person in the history of world politics has done or at least I don't remember. This is because of their total confusion. They have become mentally disabled. The White House is suffering from mental disability.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PLEITGEN: Pretty tough talk there from Hassan Rouhani. The Iranians saying that one of the people sanctioned in this week is going to be Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif and the Iranians are saying, on the one hand, the Trump administration says they want Iran to go back to diplomacy and, on the other hand, they're sanctioning Iran's top diplomat, the Iranians are saying that shows that the Trump administration is lying about wanting to go back to the table.

At the same time that top diplomat, Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, tweeted himself this time, seemingly attacking national security adviser John Bolton, saying Iran never left the negotiating table, the B team, which he calls John Bolton and folks who are close to him, dragged the U.S. out while plotting for war.

Meanwhile the Iranians tonight, just a couple of minutes ago, Wolf, said they don't want war with the U.S. but will confront the U.S. if there are any more incursions into their airspace.

BLITZER: The tension continues. Fred Pleitgen in Tehran for us, Fred, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic senator Chris Coons of Delaware, he's a member of the Foreign Relations and the Judiciary Committees.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

Do you worry that these personal attacks now between President Trump and Iranian leaders could escalate into a very dangerous confrontation?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I am concerned that the back and forth, this Twitter-fueled fury by our president and the counter insults by the leadership of Iran, simply makes more tense and is more likely to lead to a confrontation out of an already difficult environment.

When the president said he would tear up the Iran nuclear deal and he also promised to get a better deal, I don't see how he can negotiate a better deal with a country where he's imposing sanctions on their top diplomat.

And I'm concerned that we haven't heard a coherent strategy from the administration. In the segment you just played, Wolf, President Trump said he doesn't need an exit strategy if there is a war with Iran.

That is to me hauntingly reminiscent of the bravado before the beginning of the Iraq War, where it was mistakenly assumed it would just be a matter of weeks before we would win. I'll remind you that it took a very long time and has been very expensive and we lost many American lives in the conflict in Iraq.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator, that President Trump, do you believe him when he says he wants to stay out of the war with Iran?

COONS: Well, his recent action, calling off a strike just a few minutes before it actually was carried out, suggests that he has some uncertainty about whether to go to war with Iran. I am not at all clear what his strategy is. I'm concerned that he

has, in fact, driven away some of our allies, who had previously supported us in pulling together a global strategy of isolation for Iran.

My hope is that at the G20 meeting coming up in Osaka, that President Trump will redouble his efforts at engaging with our allies. I do think it is preferable that he's imposed another round of sanctions rather than taking military action. That should be our last resort and not our first resort.

And I'm concerned his advisers closest to him may underestimate the likely cost and length of any military confrontation with Iran.

BLITZER: Do you believe that U.S. cyber attacks against Iranian- backed militia are an appropriate response to the attack on the American drone?

COONS: Well, press reports, Wolf, that there were some cyber attacks taken out, I think suggest that there was an attempt made to push back, to show forcefulness against Iran's actions, shooting down our Global Hawk drone, and that they were -- there was an attempt made for it to be proportional.

BLITZER: Have you been briefed on the cyber attacks?

COONS: I have not.

BLITZER: Do you support the cyber attacks?

COONS: Having not been briefed on them, it is hard for me to say whether I support them since I don't really understand their scope. But I'll say I prefer a proportional response to one that might have resulted in hundreds of casualties and a risk of further escalation.

BLITZER: I recall that President Obama, when he was confronted with threats from Iran before the Iran nuclear deal, he launched what was called Stuxnet, a very sophisticated U.S. cyber attack against Iran.

Do you believe that was appropriate?

COONS: Well, I'll remind you, according to press reports, Stuxnet was not only a sophisticated attack, it was very targeted at disabling Iran's centrifuges and setting back their nuclear enrichment program.

I think that if it was carried out as is reported in the press, I think that was an important strategic move to make it clear to Iran that we're going to take every action possible to deny them a nuclear weapon.

Let me be clear, Wolf, I do not think Iran is simply misunderstood and that we should be happy to negotiate with them.


COONS: I do think Iran is a leading state sponsor of terror, a very destabilizing force in the region. And their ballistic missile programs and their human rights violation both worthy of condemnation and of our action to try and get a better, stronger deal that puts Iran's behavior in a box.

I just don't see how the current actions by the Trump administration will lead to that result.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Last week you voted to advance a bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee that would provide additional funds to take care of detained migrant kids, children.

But the House is voting on its own legislation because many Democrats worry your bill simply doesn't go far enough in addressing the horrible conditions many of these children are forced to endure at some of the facilities.

What is your response to that criticism from your fellow Democrats in the House?

COONS: Well, let's be clear. First we have a humanitarian crisis at our border largely of President Trump's making. The idea that he's not responsible for the conditions at the border and the ways in which children in custody of the American government are being treated, I think misses the core point here, which is, as president, he is responsible for what happens in HHS and in CBP facilities and by their organization.

That he said in a segment you just showed earlier this evening, he literally hasn't met and doesn't know the name of senior officials within the relevant agency suggests a lack of interest and engagement.

I'll remind you, it is President Trump who has been trying hard to redirect millions, if not billion of dollars, toward building a border wall rather than providing appropriate care and support for children who are here seeking asylum.

I do think it is possible for us to do both, Wolf, for us to secure America's border and be a humane country that provides appropriate support for children and parents who are fleeing violence in their home countries.

That is why I voted for the bill, the $4.5 billion appropriation bill, to come out of the Senate. It is my hope that the Senate and House can resolve the differences between the two bills and that we can invest not just in humane conditions at the border but also in stabilizing the three Northern Triangle countries in Central America, from which so many of these folks are coming, fleeing the violence and disorder in their home countries.

BLITZER: Senator Coons, thank you so much for joining us.

COONS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, prosecutor allege that embattled GOP congressman Duncan Hunter used campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with lobbyists and congressional staffers.

And President Trump goes after Joe Biden, saying the Democratic front- runner looks and sounds different than he used to.





BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including President Trump telling reporters he's very concerned about conditions at detention facilities for people seeking asylum at the southern border. Congress is working on an emergency spending bill right now. Let's get insight from our correspondents and our analysts.

Gloria, as you know, CNN has learned that more than 100 migrant children are now moving -- being moved back to this facility in Clint, Texas, despite reports of filthy conditions, dire health conditions. They're trying to come up with some sort of legislative spending solution.

Are they going to succeed?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it looks now -- and Dana knows more than I do and Manu -- late tonight that Nancy Pelosi, after speaking to her caucus very forcefully this morning, saying, look this is about children and not about immigration policy and by the way, you heard the president echo those words today when he said this is about the children.

When you see this kind of a crisis, you have this $4.5 billion bill and the Democrats have now convinced liberals that, with certain changes in it, like improving the standards of care at these facilities and et cetera, that you will be able to get the Democrats on board. Pelosi has said I want big numbers.

The Senate bill will be different. But then they have to go to conference and see if they can come up with something the president can sign but I think everybody knows at this point that this is important.

And the question is when do they get it done?

How quickly can they do it?

BLITZER: In the meantime they should be able to come up with some emergency funding, the executive branch of the U.S. government, to deal with these kids. This is a horrendous situation.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And that is the argument that you're hearing from some of the progressives, who are most likely not going to vote for this under any circumstance because they say, wait a minute, not only are they arguing that the Congress is bailing out the administration on a crisis that they created, which is definitely debatable because there have been crises under presidents before -- President Obama had a crisis at the border with dealing with children.

But it is extremely bad. And what you are seeing, which is so fascinating, is exhibit A, of Democrats who are in control, who do have power, in the House of Representatives, trying to balance the governing and the needs of the most vulnerable children and the disdain that they have for this president and for his policies. And that is what I'm told Nita Lowey --


BASH: -- the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said behind closed doors in one of the several contentious meetings, saying you cannot let your anger at this president, your blind anger at him overtake what really needs to be done here.

BLITZER: Because these kids, they need toothpaste, they need soap. The toddlers, they need diapers.

What is so difficult about making sure, Ryan Lizza, that these kids get that kind of badly needed stuff?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: For Democrats who are torn on this issue, the issue is all the other stuff in the bill, right. And increasingly in the last couple of decades, we've seen, when you have divided government, one party in the House is always tempted to use the power of the purse to stop a policy they don't like and along with that a lot of stuff they might support gets stopped.

We saw this with Democrats in the war in Iraq, who wanted to hold up Pentagon funding during that period, or Republicans and ObamaCare, where they want to hold up funding for that and it gets in the way of other priorities.

And now you have Democrats who are so torn on this very fraught issue they don't want money going for ICE. They don't want money going for what they see as bad immigration policies.

But at the same time, the immediate need that Nancy Pelosi is pointing to is tied up in this same package. So I think Pelosi did a lot of work today to get some of the liberals back on her team.

And this is the beginning of a long process. It has to go through the Senate and a conference committee. But I think people on the Left will continue to put pressure on Pelosi to get the best deal she can.

BLITZER: They have to do this quickly.

The president, Laura Jarrett, said he doesn't think he met with the acting customs and Border Protection president, John Sanders, who actually resigned today.

Isn't that pretty unusual? LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is odd that this is supposed to be one of the president's major priorities. He talks about immigration all of the time and it is a pretty important position.

But clearly you get the impression he was trying to put distance between himself and Sanders because the situation is so bad. It is one thing for the president to have a hard line about immigration, it is another thing for day after day for us to talk about filthy conditions and no soap and he knows that is not, I think from an optics point, something that is sustainable.

And so that is why you hear the rhetoric about the children and him trying to put a little bit of daylight in there.

BLITZER: Awful. This is going on in the United States of America.

Everybody stand by. There is a lot more news we're following. We have some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Federal prosecutors reveal shocking details about a California congressman's alleged use of campaign funds to pay for affairs with lobbyists and Capitol Hill staffers.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our correspondents and our analysts.

And, Laura Jarrett, in a new court filing, prosecutors now allege that Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California used campaign funds to pay for expenses related to -- five -- five extramarital affairs. How strong is their case?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, any time a sitting member of Congress is complaining about a political prosecution when the Justice Department is run by his own party, you know things sort have gone downhill.


JARRETT: And the indictment is scathing. I mean, we've seen this. It's detailed. It's not just extramarital affairs. It's things like Uber rides, it's tuition payments. He was using, according to the prosecutors, campaign money for everything personal imaginable. And his wife has now flipped on him, so we'll see what happens.

BLITZER: She's cooperating with the prosecutors.

JARRETT: She's cooperating.

BLITZER: She's ready to plead guilty.

JARRETT: Not a good sign because she was, obviously, intimately involved in all of the bookkeeping here. So they have a very strong case. It doesn't mean he won't have a defense.

And he was at White House today. So to the extent that he has suffered from this, he still, you know, is a member of Congress, and he's -- he will have a robust defense, that's all (ph).

BLITZER: Yes. Dana, he was there at that Medal of Honor ceremony --


BLITZER: -- at the White House today. He was invited.

BASH: He's an Iraq war vet. He's a member of Congress. He serves on, you know, committees that certainly are relevant. And, Laura just explained, he's trying to say this is all a smear campaign -- this is all political, I did nothing wrong -- and so his M.O. is business as usual.

So given that, that that is his strategy, it's not surprising that he showed up at the White House. I mean, there is so much here and there are so many details in these court filings, it's hard to believe, as you so rightly said, particularly since this is the Trump Republican Justice Department -- this is a Republican member of Congress -- that they'd -- that there is a real political witch-hunt going on against one of their own.

BLITZER: And his wife, as we mentioned, Gloria, she recently changed her plea --


BLITZER: -- from not guilty to guilty, and she's cooperating.

BORGER: Right. And she was the one -- as he pointed out when he threw her under the bus, she was the one who did the books. And so now, the fact that she's flipped -- and I'm just wondering out here whether the fact that this money was spent for extramarital affairs, et cetera, et cetera, may have something to do with it, just raising that possibility, that she has flipped and is now willing to testify against him.

BORGER: Just want to correct that he was actually kicked off of the Oversight Committee. He is still an Iraq war vet, he's a member of Congress, but he just isn't on any committee.

BLITZER: All right. You know, Ryan Lizza, let's turn to the criticism of the Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden by the President of the United States. Listen to what he said in this interview with "The Hill." Listen to this.


[17:35:06] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he can only go down. I don't think he's going up. He is -- he doesn't have -- he doesn't have -- look, there is something different. He's a different person than he was four or five years ago, and he wasn't so hot four or five years ago. There is something going on in that brain of his.


BLITZER: I mean, what do you think?

RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ESQUIRE: Well, it's classic Trump in trying to raise these issues about, you know, maybe his health or whatever. You know, the same thing he did with Hillary Clinton.

I think, strategically, it is mind-boggling that Trump continues to help Joe Biden the way that he does because, look, Biden's whole campaign is very simple. He's the most famous Democrat in the race running against a lot of people who are not that familiar even to Democratic voters, right, and he talks about two people -- Donald Trump and Barack Obama. He condemns one and hugs the other.

And every time that Trump goes after Biden, it makes it more difficult for Democrats to go after Biden because they don't want to be seen as piling on. And it plays right into Biden's strategy. So I think from the Biden camp's perspective, they -- you know, they can -- Trump can say anything they want about Biden during this Democratic primary, it fits completely in his strategy to ignore his opponents and just focus on the President.

BLITZER: Because, clearly, Gloria, the President sees Biden as, potentially, a huge threat in some blue-collar states like Pennsylvania or Michigan, for example.

BORGER: Sure, he does, and that's why he is trying to diminish him. What is stunning to me is that he keeps throwing these insults at Biden that can be flipped on their head and turned around and used against him. I mean, don't forget, this is a president who said, OK, I'm going to take a test about my mental acuity because all of you people have been talking about it. And then the test showed that -- we were shown he was just fine, but, A, why would you try and elevate Biden as Ryan says, but, B, why use something like this, which could be turned around so easily against you in a general election campaign?


BASH: We've reported several times that his aides -- some of his aides are frustrated that he doesn't just stop talking about Biden.



BASH: Having said that, I'm also told that he is -- he, the President, is convinced Biden will be his opponent, and he wants to get a head start on weakening him.

BLITZER: And he's --

BORGER: We'll see if he live tweets.



BORGER: We'll see if he live tweets the debates.

JARRETT: During the debates.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. There's more news we're following. As the 2020 Democrats jostle to stand out from the crowd, Senator Elizabeth Warren reveals yet another detailed policy proposal.


BLITZER: Senator Elizabeth Warren, today, issued yet another in her series of detailed policy proposals, this time dealing with election security and voter fraud. This comes as she and the nearly two dozen other Democratic presidential candidates, they're jostling to stand out from the crowd.

Let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's working the story. Ryan, what is the latest?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, I know it seems like this Democratic primary has been going on for quite some time, but I had a senior campaign aide tell me last night that everything up until this point has been like spring training. Many of the campaigns view this week's upcoming debates as the moment when the primary really begins, and they are going to great lengths to seize the moment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are your candidates.

NOBLES (voice-over): The countdown is on to the first primary debates, and the Democratic hopefuls are working hard to shape the narrative before the first question is even asked.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, we are, in fact, offering a revolutionary proposal.

NOBLES (voice-over): In the days leading up to their first face-off, several candidates have rolled out policy proposals designed to drive the debate. Ahead of her campaign event in South Florida today, policy pacesetter Elizabeth Warren unveiling yet another plan aimed at protecting U.S. elections, writing in a medium post, quote, enough is enough. It's time to make high-quality voting in the greatest democracy in the world easy, convenient, and professional.

Warren isn't alone in the policy push. Progressive rival Bernie Sanders introduced a plan, Monday, to eliminate the student loan debt of every American.

SANDERS: All student debt would be canceled in six months.

NOBLES (voice-over): Meanwhile, Beto O'Rourke is calling for a new war tax on those who have not served to help support veterans.

BETO O'ROURKE, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to do much more for the veterans who have served this country. NOBLES (voice-over): For other candidates who've struggled to gain

traction, the debate offers a chance at a breakout moment.



NOBLES (voice-over): Cory Booker's campaign issuing a memo that says the debate will be a chance to, quote, introduce himself for the first time to many Democratic voters.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, currently near the back of the pack, says the debate presents both an opportunity and a challenge.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's literally going to be speed dating with the American people. And so within one minute, you've got to leave some impression with them about who you are, where you come from, and what you stand for.

NOBLES (voice-over): One candidate, though, who's familiar with the primary debate stage is the current front-runner, Joe Biden.


NOBLES (voice-over): The former Vice President has been spending time studying his long record, preparing for it to come under attack, although he has been less focused on big policy rollouts.


[17:44:55] NOBLES: And one thing we aren't seeing a lot of is these candidates prepare mock debates with 10 candidates per night and several moderators. It makes it impossible to truly simulate the experience. And given the fact that many of these candidates have never participated in a forum like this before, Wolf, it could make for a very unpredictable event.

BLITZER: And there will be plenty more debates down the road as well. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much for that.

Coming up, authorities just finished a news conference about a university student who has been missing now for more than a week. Stand by, we have new information.


[17:50:05] BLITZER: We're following breaking news in Utah where there's growing concern about a University of Utah student who vanished more than a week ago. Authorities finished the news conference just a short time ago.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, tell us more.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, police releasing new information to us just moments ago, including new images of this young woman, MacKenzie Lueck, arriving at the Salt Lake City airport just before she vanished. Tonight, police are scrambling to find out if she is in danger or if she wanted to disappear.


TODD (voice-over): MacKenzie Lueck's friends say her recent silence is out of character.

KENNEDY STONER, FRIEND OF MISSING UNIVERSITY OF UTAH STUDENT: For her not to reach out to me -- Snapchat, Instagram, anything -- is very unlike her, very uncommon. She's usually in touch with me almost every day.

TODD (voice-over): That's why Salt Lake Police say they are engaged in an urgent search for the 23-year-old University of Utah student, whose disappearance a week ago is steeped in mystery.

TIM DOUBT, ASSISTANT CHIEF OF POLICE, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: MacKenzie, in the case you just want to be left alone, please let us know you're safe.

TODD (voice-over): Salt Lake City Police tell CNN, Lueck's phone has been turned off since the morning she went missing, and they're concerned she's gone off the grid. Police tells CNN Lueck returned to Salt Lake City early on Monday, June 17th, from California where she had gone to attend her grandmother's funeral. Today, police released new photos, time-lapsed images of Lueck at Salt Lake City International Airport.

They say when she landed there, she texted her parents at 2:01 in the morning to tell them she'd arrived. Police say she got off the plane at 2:09 in the morning and got into a Lyft at2:40. That's where police say things become murky.

Police now say Lueck took the Lyft from the airport to the Hatch Park in North Salt Lake City about 20 minutes away, arriving at the park just before 3:00 in the morning, where she got into another vehicle with a person she appeared to know.

DOUBT: The Lyft driver left MacKenzie at the park with that person and stated that MacKenzie did not appear to be in any type of distress.

TODD (voice-over): But police tells CNN they don't have a description of the other driver or even the vehicle that Lueck got into.

WILLIAM RITCHIE, FORMER HOMICIDE COMMANDER, WASHINGTON D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: The Lyft driver probably saw no reason to commit to his memory the description of the car. On a daily basis, probably have a variety of different encounters with his clients, therefore, may not necessarily be unusual.

TODD (voice-over): Police say their search for surveillance footage near the park has, so far, come up empty. The Lyft driver and the company have been cooperating with police. Friends tell CNN, MacKenzie Lueck has now missed an important college exam and a flight back to California, which they say is not like her. Tonight, her friends are grasping for answers. ASHLEY FINE, FRIEND OF MISSING UNIVERSITY OF UTAH STUDENT: She might

have been meeting someone there. I just don't see any other reason as to why she would be there at that time.

TODD (voice-over): Police say, so far, they have no evidence that MacKenzie Lueck has been harmed, but they can't be sure if she is in danger or if she wanted to disappear.

RITCHIE: If this is a secret situation, she does not want family or friends to know about it, then it makes it very difficult, and there are limits to what law enforcement can do to try to locate her.


TODD: Salt Lake City Police, meanwhile, tells CNN that MacKenzie Lueck's dating situation, her possible use of dating apps, and her presence on social media are a major focus of this investigation. They say she was previously known to police regarding three incidents in the past, two of those were minor but one of them was an assault a year ago. Police would not say whether she was a victim in that incident or otherwise involved, but they say no charges were filed, and they believe none of those three incidents are connected to her disappearance -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. What if she were to contact police somehow and tells them she doesn't want people to know where she is?

TODD: Well, Wolf, Bill Ritchie, the former D.C. police detective we spoke to, says, in many police departments as in D.C.'s, they are required to notify her family that she is all right, but that is it. They are instructed not to tell family and friends where she is or who she is with if she does not want that information out there.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Still ahead, breaking news, President Trump says he's very concerned about conditions on the border where more than a hundred migrant children have been returned to what has been a crowded, unsanitary facility.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Border squalor. Dozens of migrant children moved back to a facility that monitors call unconscionable. Tonight, a top immigration official is stepping down as the President feels the heat, and Democrats worry about enabling his policies.

No exit plan. The President admits he doesn't have an exit strategy to a standoff with Iran as he's renewing fears of war by threatening obliteration. The President insists Iran takes him seriously as its leaders slam his new sanctions and question his sanity.

[18:00:01] Congress sex scandal. Stunning new allegations that conservative Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter embezzled campaign funds to pay for --