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Republican Congressman Accused of Using Campaign Funds For Girlfriends; Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); U.S. Targets Iran Proxy With Cyberattack; Trump Administration Under Fire Over Child Detention Conditions. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Congress sex scandal. Stunning new allegations that conservative Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter embezzled campaign funds to pay for affairs with lobbyists and staffers. Did his wife reveal the salacious details after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors?

And staging Mueller. The special counsel's dramatic report comes to life, with Hollywood stars playing the roles of President Trump, Robert Mueller and many more.

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 crisis at the border.

After the Trump administration moved more than 100 migrant children back to a filthy detention facility, the president is trying to shift the blame to Democrats and shake up his team.

Tonight, the acting Customs and Border Protection chief is suddenly calling it quits. President Trump says he's moving some people around in border security, while acknowledging conditions for detainees are concerning.

Also breaking, the president says he's ready for whatever Iran does next, as he's now threatening the country with obliteration if attacks -- if it attacks anything American. After calling off airstrikes, Mr. Trump is talking and tweeting very tough once again, egged on by Iran's president, who says the White House suffers from mental disability.

This hour, I will talk with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who serves on the Armed Services and Judiciary committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our White House correspondent, Abby Phillip.

Abby, you were there in the Oval Office as the president spoke about border security and Iran.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

President Trump told me this afternoon that he is very concerned about what's going on at these facilities at the border. And he's punting to Congress, saying that they need to pass more money for humanitarian aid.

But there are some real questions about what his administration is doing and why they aren't doing more to alleviate some of these concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

DONALD TRUMP, 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: 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: 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 are -- we are seeing this administration hold kids, thousands of children hostage by not giving them food, water, basic conditions.

PHILLIP: 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, VISITED BORDER DETENTION FACILITY: I spoke with children who were dirty, who said that they had not had adequate opportunities to take a bath. They were noticeably -- had mucus stains or mud.

PHILLIP: 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 knew there was going to be a change there. I have made changes, very good changes. PHILLIP: 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 have ever spoken to him.

PHILLIP: All this as the president is turning up the heat 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: And insisting that, after he altered plans for a counterstrike after the regime shot down an American drone, his threats of using military force haven't lost their punch.

QUESTION: Do they take your threats seriously?

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

Goodbye.

PHILLIP: 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. 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)

[18:05:05]

PHILLIP: And, tonight, we're learning that the acting ICE director, Mark Morgan, is going to take over at Customs and Border Protection for John Sanders, who is leaving his post.

And as President Trump is really struggling to deal with all of this turmoil, even in his own his administration, he's heading abroad, leaving tomorrow for the G20 in Osaka, Japan. He's got a couple of big meetings, including with China's President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, over issues like trade and those tensions with Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you.

Let's go up to Capitol Hill, where House Democrats have been feuding over that border funding measure that President Trump is threatening to veto. Our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is joining us.

Sunlen, Speaker Pelosi is pushing toward a vote. Have House Democrats, first of all, come up with a bill that they can pass?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They believe they have, Wolf.

And the wheels are now officially in motion for the House to vote on this bill in just a few hours. Just a few minutes ago, the House Rules Committee, they voted to move the bill out of their committee.

That procedurally sets up this vote to be able to happen on the full House floor later this evening.

And Democratic leaders, they have worked behind the scenes all day today, essentially trying to broker a deal, negotiating over the final script, the text of the legislative text, and make certain changes that specifically a group of House progressives who have been very vocal in the last 24 hours wanted.

Specifically, they wanted more guardrails to protect and ensure that migrant children were better protected. But Democratic leaders tonight feel that they are in a good spot. They are confident that this bill will pass later tonight.

But then, looking forward, the path forward is very unclear at this moment. The Senate, they have been working on their own bill. That is very different from the House bill. So, of course, those two bills needs to be reconciled.

And the House -- the White House, of course, has issued a veto threat on the House bill. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying today that he believes the White House will support what the Senate is going to put forward, but the key word there, of course, Wolf, being believes.

Certainly, the X-factor in all of these negotiations are what President Trump will sign. So, fair to say, while the House is going to take a step forward very likely this evening, the fate of this bill is still very uncertain -- Wolf.

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

Let's get back to U.S. tensions with Iran, very serious right now.

As President Trump is making new threats tonight, we're learning about U.S. military action against a key Iranian proxy group.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has the breaking story for us.

Barbara, this was a major cyberattack, I understand. What are you hearing from your sources?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a very highly classified mission.

Even as the president last week was calling off airstrikes against Iranian missile sites, the cyber-warriors at the Pentagon were in full action. There was a cyberattack, we have confirmed from multiple sources, against an Iranian militia group that operates in Iran, Syria and Iraq.

The concern about groups like this, of course, is they have access to advanced missiles, advanced weapons, and they can pose an extreme threat to U.S. forces and allies throughout the region. The U.S. goal was to take out their network communications, to try and keep them from communicating amongst their various cells.

We don't know how well it worked. Cyber keeps U.S. pilot safe. You don't put U.S. troops into action, but it can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes, you want to keep their communications going, so you can eavesdrop on them, intercept, know what your adversaries are up to.

But in this case, the president did choose a cyber-option. But now, with the recent comments about obliteration, tensions back on the rise. The Pentagon hoping it's not back in the business of looking at airstrikes, at least not anytime soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

Joining us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat who serves on both the Armed Services and Judiciary committees.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's begin with Barbara Starr just reporting.

Do you think these cyberattacks against these Iranian-backed militias are an appropriate response to the downing of that American drone?

BLUMENTHAL: They are part of an appropriate response. Economic sanctions are another element.

But there also has to be some reliance on diplomacy. And right now, we are failing as a nation to involve allies who are essential to bringing Iran back to the table, as the president says he wants to do.

Our allies are in the middle of this dispute about economic sanctions. And involving them and engaging them is essential.

BLITZER: But the president has repeatedly said over the past few days he's willing to meet with the Iranian leadership without any preconditions. It's the Iranians who say that, as long as these sanctions continue, they don't want to talk to him.

BLUMENTHAL: The threat to obliterate Iran, saying that we have no exit strategy, and the lack of conclusive proof that the drone was even in international waters, as opposed to the Iranian territory, all belie the president's approach here.

[18:10:12]

And...

BLITZER: So, you don't accept the U.S. position that that drone was in international -- over international waters, not in Iranian airspace?

BLUMENTHAL: Our allies certainly haven't indicated they do.

BLITZER: But you -- I assume, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, you have been briefed.

BLUMENTHAL: I have been briefed.

I think that the Iranians purposely shot down that plane. It is yet to be confirmed where exactly it was.

BLITZER: So you have doubts on the U.S. version?

BLUMENTHAL: I continue to have doubts.

And I think the administration owes it to the American people and the world community to present that conclusive evidence.

BLITZER: So did you make that point to the briefers, the Pentagon briefers, others who came to brief the Armed Services Committee?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, I can't go into the classified briefing that we received.

But we need a strategy. We are lacking an endgame here. We're lacking even a tactical strategy. To think that the president had no idea about the number of casualties and deaths there would be until right before the potential strike is extremely alarming.

BLITZER: But you think, in the end, he made the right decision and called off that strike that potentially, he says, could have killed 150 Iranians?

BLUMENTHAL: He made the right step in a crisis that was self- generated and self-inflicted.

BLITZER: What about the personal attacks that we have from the top Iranian leadership that are now being leveled against the White House and the president, mental disability and all of that?

How should the U.S. respond to that?

BLUMENTHAL: We need to keep our eye on American interests and our national security.

Engaging in these kinds of personal attacks seems to be the president's modus operandi. And he's receiving back what he's giving. But, in the end, our national security and our strategy has to be determined by what serves our interest.

We backed out of a deal that was working on nuclear arms. We need to find a way back into it.

BLITZER: So do you think this is a crisis of the president's making?

BLUMENTHAL: It is definitely a crisis, maybe not solely of the president's making, but it would not be there but for the president's actions.

BLITZER: Well, do you think it's doable to do a new nuclear deal with the Iranians?

BLUMENTHAL: The only way it's doable is if we involve and engage our allies.

Right now, they continue to hope that Iran will stay within the limits on enriched uranium. The Iranians give every indication of perhaps moving beyond that limit. But, before they do, we need to reengage our allies.

And, yes, I think it's possible to bring them back to the table.

BLITZER: And very quickly on -- then I want to move on.

But the president now says, you know what, the U.S. doesn't need, for its own interest, to keep the Straits of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf free. The Japanese have a lot more interest in that. The Chinese have a lot more interest, the Indonesians.

Do you think it's time for the U.S. to pull out of that Persian Gulf region?

BLUMENTHAL: We have a vital interest in that region.

Our allies depend on some of the fuel. Japan depends on it. And, yes, we are more and more energy-independent, but our partners and allies in the world depend on it.

And there's a central principle here. We have defended the navigational rights of free passage in the Straits of Hormuz for generations, and we need to continue to do so.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the border situation right now.

It's amazing and it's awful that kids, little kids, are suffering on U.S. territory. They don't have toothpaste, they don't have soap. Toddlers don't have diapers, the bath -- no baths, no showers.

How is this possible? And what are you doing about it?

BLUMENTHAL: It is inhumane and un-American. And my hope and belief is that we will pass that supplemental aid package that will provide more than $4 billion to address the unfolding humanitarian tragedy that we're seeing at the border. BLITZER: Some of the liberals, Democrats in the House, they're

reluctant to go ahead and pass the legislation that the Senate has moved forward.

BLUMENTHAL: I believe that they will approve it in the House. And I think the Senate will move forward.

And I think the two versions of this bill will be reconciled, with conditions and safeguards, like congressional oversight, and standards that have to be imposed on contractors.

BLITZER: Are you encouraging your fellow Democrats in the House to go ahead and pass this -- it's a compromise.

BLUMENTHAL: It is a compromise. And compromise is not a dirty word.

My hope is, Wolf, that this compromise will, in fact, be bipartisan, because we have an equal stake.

BLITZER: All right.

Finally, you want to -- seem to have won a nice win today, big victory against the president of the United States in a lawsuit. Tell us about that.

BLUMENTHAL: In a lawsuit named Blumenthal vs. Trump seeking to enforce the main anti-corruption provision of the United States Constitution, the Emoluments Clause, we have already won a couple of victories in court telling the president we have standing, as members of Congress.

[18:15:07]

There are 200 of us, including the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler. And, today, the court ruled, really a tremendous victory, that we can move forward with discovery, that is, ascertaining the records and the documents that will show the president is receiving benefits and payments from foreign governments, in violation of that clause, without coming to Congress.

And we're going to make every effort to avoid the president running out the clock, as he no doubt...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So you think you're going to be able to get those business documents?

BLUMENTHAL: The court, my hope is, will order it. I don't want to presume what the court is going to do.

But it is essential to our lawsuit that these facts come out. We already know that the president has taken uncounted benefits from Saudi Arabia, from other countries around the world for his hotels, his condos, his rental properties. Those payments and benefits violate the Constitution. We're seeking to enforce accountability. He is not above the accountability the Constitution imposes on him.

BLITZER: An impressive legal victory today. We will see what happens next.

Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: The prosecution's case against Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California gets more scandalous, the staunch conservative now accused of multiple extramarital affairs.

And the Mueller investigation as political theater. You're going to see the drama, as big name stars act out scenes from the special counsel's report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:06]

BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following, a new twist tonight in the case of Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, who's charged with misusing campaign funds.

Prosecutors now say that included spending on multiple extramarital affairs.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us with details.

Tom, as this news was breaking, Duncan Hunter was attending a Medal of Honor ceremony he was invited to attend over at the White House.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

And these charges against him, Wolf, just keep piling up and piling up, even as he keeps saying, this is just another political hoax.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): During five affairs with five women, the court documents allege Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter spent thousands of dollars embezzled from campaign funds for hotel rooms, golf, a concert, car rentals, meals and much.

The arch-conservative married lawmaker has always insisted he's done nothing wrong.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA): Let's go to court. Let's have a trial. And everybody will see everything.

FOREMAN: But his wife recently agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. And the new details, if proven, are damning. In just one example, prosecutors describe a trip to Heavenly Mountain

Resort in California in 2010, where the congressman and a female lobbyist spent the weekend skiing, ordering room service, and enjoying the amenities, using his campaign credit card to cover the $1,000 tab and more campaign cash for travel.

Other trips with the same woman? A double date to Virginia Beach, where prosecutors say Hunter dropped $900, a concert at which Hunter spent $121 in campaign funds on beer, nachos and wings, and a golf outing with greens fees for two, 10 beers, an Adidas shirt, and a visor, all paid for, prosecutors contend, with campaign money.

At the Republican Convention in Tampa in 2012, the papers say Hunter took up with a woman who worked for a Republican House leadership member, using campaign funds to cover dinners, cocktails and Uber rides to her home. A similar pattern allegedly occurred with another woman from his own office in early 2015, where the papers say the two occasionally spent nights together, then again with another lobbyist that fall, and yet again with another lobbyist the next year.

Prosecutors told a judge they tried to cut a deal with Hunter to avoid revealing the alleged tryst, but his attorneys refused. They say, in addition to funding his affairs, Hunter and his wife used more than $250,000 in campaign cash to pay for a lavish lifestyle, even as they had less than $1,000 in their own bank account.

Hunter, who was one of the earliest congressional backers of Donald Trump, insists this too is a witch-hunt, telling Politico: "You have criminally political prosecutors in this case on a personal smear campaign."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: No response from the congressman to CNN directly about all this today.

So far, he has been stripped of all his committee assignments, but he's holding on to his office. But it is worth noting, the papers wink at even more undisclosed salacious behavior also allegedly paid for with campaign cash -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story.

Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

So, how strong is the case against Congressman Duncan Hunter? We're going to talk about that, all the breaking news. Our analysts are standing by.

But, first, let's take a quick break, and then we will discuss. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:29:11]

BLITZER: All right, let's get some more now on the breaking news about Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California.

Let's dig deeper with our experts and analysts.

Jeffrey Toobin, you heard Tom Foreman's report, the prosecutors now alleging that Congressman Dr. Hunter use campaign funds illegally to wine and dine women as he had five extramarital affairs. That's the allegation.

Did they present a strong case?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I read the legal document today. And I would like to say this: Oh, boy.

We are, of course, too high-minded to be interested in the five extramarital affairs. And that's, of course, not a crime. The crime here is whether he spent campaign contributions in a way that is prohibited.

Now, he may argue -- and this is alluded to in the briefs -- that he -- these people were all somehow related to his congressional work. Some were lobbyists. Some were staff members.

[18:30:01]

And he may go to court and tell the jury, no, no, no, we were going to heavenly mountain for the most, you know, work-related reasons. And I would just like to say, good luck to him with that argument because this looks pretty grim for him.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Susan Hennessey, how strong of a case do they have?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's a strong case. They really lay out a wealth of evidence, things like a thousand dollar hotel bill at the ski resort, you know, really, really documents. But keep in mind that these five extramarital affairs are actually only part of the story of what Hunter has been accused of. He's also accused one with his spouse of using campaign funds for family vacations, the fly their pet rabbits across the country, you know, for all sorts of improper and illegal purposes.

Meanwhile, they said that the -- Hunter and his wife said that they were using it for things like the Wounded Warrior project. It's also worth noting that Hunter was re-elected after he had been indicted. He's been stripped of his committee assignment. But the way Hunter was re-elected was essentially by running one of the most racist, vicious, anti-Muslim campaigns we've seen in modern political history, and that is really saying something against his opponent who happens to be a Christian but was of Middle Eastern descent. He even accused his opponent, who was an Obama administration official who held a security clearance of being a national security threat.

So this really is just the next chapter in a really, really ugly, salacious situation.

BLITZER: You know, Joey Jackson, his wife, Margaret, who is charged alongside with him, recently changed her plea from not guilty to guilty. She's presumably helping to build a case against her husband right now. How significant is that?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it's very significant, Wolf, for two reasons. First of which, of course, is whenever a co- defendant of yours comes out and wants to enter into a plea, you wonder why and is it part of a larger cooperation agreement. The second issue is when it's your wife who really knows what the detail, the circumstance, knows you (ph), there's something called marital privilege, right, a spouse can waive that or a spouse can remain silent not having to testify. But apparently, you know, I do believe that as part of the plea agreement, she'll be giving up the goods against him.

But let's address briefly, Wolf, the elephant in the room. He knows a pretty powerful person in Washington. And, of course, he is arguing that -- as Duncan Hunter, that this is all politics, that the U.S. attorneys were attending Hillary Clinton fundraisers and there's a certain person occupant in Washington who doesn't think too kindly of Hillary Clinton and he has a pardon power.

So, yes, the case is compelling, it's ugly, it's strong, it's embarrassing, all those things, but at the end of the day, if they do prevail, I just wonder what President Trump --

BLITZER: But very quickly, if -- does the marital privilege stand if she was accused of actually committing a crime?

JACKSON: Well, yes. The reality is that it stands and as much as she doesn't have the up the goods on him, Wolf. So to the extent that everybody accused of a crime has, number one, a right to remain silent, and then number two, they don't have to dish against anyone else, particularly if it's a spouse. But here, to the extent that she is cooperating now, I do believe that they just didn't say that as prosecutors, okay, fine, cooperate. We'll enter into a plea for one count of a 60-count indictment, let's remind everybody. I think there's a lot of strings attached to that. And I think the biggest string, Wolf, is to talk about what he did.

BLITZER: You know, Ron Brownstein -- I just want to get Ron Brownstein to weigh in on this. The fact that the embattled congressman, Duncan Hunter, he was actually invited and attended the Medal of Honor ceremony over at the White House today. Is that at all surprising that they would invite him to attend this honor?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's pretty brazen but you'd have to say compared to what? He was there with the President who responded to a serious and credible allegation of rape this week by saying she's not my type. So, you know, again, as Joey was kind of saying, you know, the tone of Duncan Hunter throughout this has been to basically kind of follow down Donald Trump's tracks and say, it's all politics, it's all kind of a ruse against me and to kind of demonize anybody raising the allegations against him.

It is worth noting that while he did win re-election last year, his vote share dropped significantly to 52 percent. He's one of only eight republicans left in the California congressional delegation, the smallest chair held by the republicans since the 1880s. And you've got to think that if he does, in fact, try to brazen this out all the way through the next election, that will be right at the top of the target list for democrats.

TOOBIN: It's really quite amazing, Ron, when you say, you know, after listing this incredible array of charges, he only got 52 percent. You know what call 52 percent, a majority. And they call the person who gets 52 percent congressmen.

I mean, look, let's be --

BROWNSTEIN: These allegations were -- and just to be clear, I mean, these were not public at that point. And as Susan said, he ran an extraordinary campaign. But I don't think you can conclude from the fact he got 52 percent in 2018 that the kind of the rope extends infinitely. And I do think that if he somehow did try to kind of push through this and run again, boy, that would be something.

[18:35:02]

HENNESSEY: Campaign finance violations weren't enough but the five affairs are where his constituents might draw the line.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There is more news that we're reporting on right now. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following breaking news and we're back with our experts and our analysts. Susan Hennessey, CNN has learned about a hundred migrant children are being transferred back to this facility in Clint, Texas despite unconscionable conditions there.

[18:40:07]

Is there are reason to believe this crisis, and it's a real crisis, involving kids along the border is going to be resolved any time soon?

HENNESSEY: It's not clear that it's going to be resolved any time soon. And let's keep in mind that border security and what to do with immigration has been an issue that has plagued both republicans and democrats for decades. It is only going to be exacerbated by the inhumane and sort of immoral policy of keeping these kids in absolutely horrific conditions.

And let's keep in mind, the Trump administration policy itself are exacerbating the border crisis. They are cutting foreign aid in countries of origin, the conditions -- cutting aid intended to, you know, ameliorate the conditions that people are fleeing from. And keep in mind that there's an extra layer of cruelty here imposed by the Trump administration's policy of child separation, taking kids away from their parents in order to deter and punish those parents, you know, a policy that shocks the conscience and it's a moral stain on this country. BLITZER: You know, Ron Brownstein, will the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, be able to unify the democratic caucus and get spending legislation passed to deal with this crisis?

BROWNSTEIN: It looks that's way, Wolf, today, but it is extraordinarily a difficult issue for democrats. Because on the one hand, they clearly want to direct some more funds toward the care of these children who are being held. But they want clear restrictions on it. They don't want President Trump to be able to divert it toward his enforcement. And they are also not confident that whatever restrictions they are able to put in law that the administration will follow.

My guess is that they will pass it, because the need is so compelling. I don't know if you noticed today, but there were journalists who are on Twitter, journalists who have been held by Iran and Afghanistan by the Taliban noting that they were given soap and toothbrushes during their captivity, sometimes with nothing else. So this is just an extraordinary situation and one in which that goes to one of the core issues that the President, you know, has raised as one of his central flags for 2020 that he is getting control of the border. Nothing looks like it's under control.

BLITZER: You know, it's hard to believe this is happening in the United States of America,

TOOBIN: It is. You know, we don't know how Donald Trump's presidency is going to look in history. We don't know if it's going to be four years or eight years. But we do know that this issue of immigration and what's happened at the border is going to be one of the things he is known for. I mean, there is no question.

And if he thinks that he can blame Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, even he can't believe that. Because as Harry Truman said with the design on his desk, the buck stops here. And when it comes to immigration, this is president's responsibility.

BLITZER: But we're not talking about a ton of money to make sure, Joey Jackson, that kids have soap and toothbrushes and toothpastes and that these little toddlers have diapers. How much money is that?

JACKSON: Yes. You know what? You have to have the will to want to do it. And I think it's just an antagonistic and demonizing view right now in terms of a policy position towards immigrants. We start with separating them from families. Now, we're looking at these whole detention centers where they have substandard conditions. We have Department of Justice lawyers justifying the fact and saying, what does a blanket mean, what does a toothbrush mean.

And so, yes, I think if you have a humane immigration policy and you don't want to use children as pawns, Wolf, then, of course, yes, it's a resource issue, limited resources that you can still make it and have it. But when you don't have the will and you want to use kids as chips (ph), this is what you do and it's quite, frankly, dehumanizing, disgusting and really immoral. BLITZER: Yes, it's hard to believe it. Let me quickly shift gears, Ron Brownstein. I want your thoughts on what the President told the Hill about his potential democratic rival, Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think he can only go down. I don't think he's going up. He doesn't have -- look, there's 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does the President see Biden as real threat?

BROWNSTEIN: Clearly. And you know what's interesting about this? I mean, there are lots of ups and downs and positive and negatives about Joe Biden as a presidential candidate. But one positive is I think it's much harder for Donald Trump to redefine him to the American public than it would be for some of the other nominees. For better or worse, people have a pretty good idea of who Joe Biden is, what he's good at, what he's not so good at. And I don't think he is much of a blank slate for Donald Trump to write on as it might in the case of some of the other potential nominees.

BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's more news we're following. Just ahead, what newly released video reveals about the investigation into the alleged attack on the actor, Jussie Smollett.

Plus A list stars bring the Mueller report to the stage.

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[18:49:30] BLITZER: We're learning new details tonight of the police investigation into the alleged racist and homophobic attack on the actor Jussie Smollett following the release of hours of video and hundreds of documents.

CNN's national correspondent Ryan Young is working the story for us.

So, Ryan, police now believe Smollett staged the entire attack but he continues to deny that.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. You're talking about bombshell information. And, of course, every one sort of waiting to see if the actor will ever focus back and talk about what he sees in this video.

[18:50:00] In fact, take a look for yourself to see what police first saw when they first walked into his apartment minutes after that attack.

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YOUNG (voice-over): Nearly 70 hours of footage, over 400 pages of warrants and electronic records. Tonight, we're getting a deeper look into the treasure trove of evidence released by Chicago police, detailing how they investigated the alleged hate-filled attack against "Empire" star Jussie Smollett.

Detectives say Smollett paid these two men, Abel And Ola Osundairo, $3,500 to stage the attack and in order to promote his career.

SUPERINTENDENT EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE: When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off.

YOUNG: Including in a massive release of evidence ride share cameras like this one showing the Osundairo brothers on their way to carry out the alleged attack and later seen on the city surveillance cameras walking near Smollett's apartment. The actor can be seen here minutes later walking in the opposite direction.

Detectives also highlighting communications Smollett had with the brothers in the days leading up to the attack. On January 25th, Smollett texted: Might need your help on the low. You around to talk face-to-face?

Smollett has always maintained his innocence.

JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I've been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.

Come on in, sir.

YOUNG: And from that first day, newly released police bodycam video show the moment Chicago police first arrived at Jussie Smollett's apartment the night he called police.

OFFICER: Any weapons or anything inside the apartment?

YOUNG: As officers entered the apartment, Smollett is seen wearing a sweater with a rope tie and a noose he says attackers put around his neck.

FRIEND: The reason I'm calling is because of this (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

OFFICER: OK. Do you want to take it off or anything?

SMOLLETT: Yes, I do. I just wanted y'all to see.

YOUNG: For the first time, Smollett is seen telling officers details of the alleged assault.

SMOLLETT: There's a bleach on me. They poured bleach on me.

YOUNG: Smollett then asked officers to turn off their body cameras.

SMOLLETT: I don't want to be filmed. OFFICER: Yes. You're giving us permission to turn it off?

YOUNG: Smollett's claims of innocence did not stop a grand jury from indicting him on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct. But on March 26th, the Cook County state's attorney's office shocked the city when they dropped all the charges against Smollett in exchange for a community service and $10,000 fine, something they came under repeated criticism for. Prosecutors say Smollett was not innocent but the decision was fair.

The release of the video comes just days after a county judge ruled to appoint a special prosecutor to examine the state attorney's office handling of the case, including possible further prosecution of Smollett.

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YOUNG: Wolf, something that stands out to me is the Osundairo brothers have never given an interview about this case. In fact, they've only talked to that grand jury. So, you can only imagine the details they have that's never been shared with the public. And if they were to talk, you can only imagine the pressure it would put on the actor.

BLITZER: Ryan Young reporting for us from Chicago. Thank you.

Just ahead, the Mueller report is a best selling book and now, it's also a play. We're going to show you scenes from the star-studded performance.

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UNIDENTIFED MALE: Whether he wanted to continue serving as attorney general.

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[18:57:42] BLITZER: More than two months after the release of the Mueller report, Americans have gotten to experience it in a whole new way, live on stage. Big name stars turned out to dramatize the special counsel's findings.

CNN's Alexandra Field reports.

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JOHN LITHGOW, ACTOR: Oh, my god, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood stars and Washington's biggest drama.

LITHGOW: How can you let this happen, Jeff?

FIELD: The Mueller report coming to life on stage for one night.

LITHGOW: I need loyalty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will always get honesty from me.

LITHGOW: That's what I want, honest loyalty.

FIELD: The play featuring a star-studded cast, including John Lithgow as President Trump.

LITHGOW: You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me that if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years, and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.

The president then told Sessions that he should resign as attorney general.

JOEL GREY, ACTOR: Sessions agreed to submit his resignation and left the Oval Office.

FIELD: Annette Bening, Mark Hamill, Julia Louis-Dreyfus all taking part in the live reading. Ben McKenzie in the role of Donald Trump Jr.

BEN MCKENZIE, ACTOR: And if it's what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.

FIELD: And Kyra Sedgwick as outgoing White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders.

KYRA SEDGWICK, ACTRESS: He weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.

FIELD: The show's creators describe it as a historic live play in 10 acts ripped from the pages of the Mueller report, and even portraying the weeks after capping off the night with lines from Robert Mueller's long awaited statement at the Justice Department last month.

KEVIN KLINE, ACTOR: As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.

Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.

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BLITZER: Finally, we want to say thanks and so long to a member of our SITUATION ROOM team. Carolyn Stone is a veteran technical director, MVP in our control room. There she is.

After nearly three decades at CNN, she's moving to new adventures.

Carolyn, we wish you all the best. You will be missed.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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