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Biden Battles Back; No Laughing Matter; Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Presidential Candidate, Is Interviewed About Presidential Debate; Biden Touts "Lifetime Commitment To Civil Rights" After Senator Harris Slammed Him On Race, Busing In Rough Debate; Trump Jokes To Putin About Election Meddling; Jimmy Carter Suggests Trump Is Illegitimate President; Missing Student Dead, Suspect Charged With Murder. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired June 28, 2019 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news.

Biden battles back. After Kamala Harris scores in the Democratic debate by hammering Joe Biden's past stand on desegregation busing, the front-runner is battling back defending what he portrays as a lifetime devoted to civil rights. I'll speak to Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee.

No laughing matter. President Trump jokes about Russia's attack on the presidential election, smiling as he tells Vladimir Putin not to do it again.

Illegitimate president. A stunning statement by former President Jimmy Carter who suggests Donald Trump is an ill illegitimate president saying a full investigation would show that he did not win the 2016 election because Russia interfered on his behalf.

And Utah murder mystery. Tonight police have one man in custody and are investigating others were involved after the search for a missing Utah college student ends with a gruesome discovery.

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

ANNOUNCER: this is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Breaking news, Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden today offered a vigorous defense of his civil rights record after a less than vigorous debate performance in which he was hammered by Senator Kamala Harris on his past opposition to mandatory busing for school desegregation. Biden said today he heard and listened to Harris but touted his lifetime commitment to civil rights noting legislation he sponsored and his years as vice president under Barack Obama.

Also tonight, President Trump has met Russia's Vladimir Putin for the first time since the Mueller report was released with its damning conclusion of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Asked if he'll tell Russia not to do it again, the president smirked and told Putin, don't meddle in the election. The president faces a crucial meeting shortly with China's President Xi. I'll speak with Democratic presidential candidate Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of today's top stories.

Let's begin with CNN Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, after a rough time in last night's Democratic debate, Joe Biden is doing some serious damage control today.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is no question. Joe Biden is trying to clean up from that debate last evening. He knows the burden is on him to prove that he is the frontrunner in this race. So he traveled to Chicago today, the home town of former President Barack Obama. He wrapped himself in the glow of President Obama calling him my president as he tried to salvage his own candidacy.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Before I start, I would like to say something about the debate we had last night.


ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, Joe Biden is playing clean-up. After a rocky first debate raised questions about whether he deserves to be the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race.


BIDEN: I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris. But you know we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can't do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights.


ZELENY: In a previously scheduled appearance at Jesse Jackson Rainbow PUSH Coalition meeting in Chicago, the former vice president trying to turn the page over this extraordinary moment with Senator Kamala Harris Thursday night at Miami.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me. Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose bussing in America then? Do you agree --

BIDEN: No. I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: It was a performance even many admirers charitably describe as rusty with one ally telling CNN, he knows has to do better. After waking up to brutal headlines, tough critics, Biden is trying to seize command over his long record which he struggled to do on the debate stage.


BIDEN: I want to be absolutely clear about my record and position on racial justice, including busing. I never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing.


ZELENY: But the issue wasn't voluntary busing it was the federal government's stepping in to desegregate schools which Biden repeatedly opposed.


BIDEN: The one way to ensure that you set the civil rights movement in America further back is to continue to push busing because it is a bankrupt policy.


ZELENY: In the 2020 campaign the controversy isn't really about busing but instead a conversation about the direction of Democrats and whether Biden fits the moment as the party increasingly shifts to the lift. The post-debate spotlight would have shined brighter for Harris if she wasn't still trying to clean up a political mess of her own about whether she supports abolishing private health insurance.

[17:05:08] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESTER HOLT, PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE MODERATOR: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government run plan?


ZELENY: She and Senator Bernie Sanders were the only candidate to raise their hands. But she now says she misunderstood the question insisting she was only talking about her personal plan, not those for millions of Americans. It is an issue she's repeatedly struggled to make clear since this moment at a CNN Town Hall in January.


HARRIS: Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on.



ZELENY: So, Senator Harris spent a lot of the day trying to explain that as Vice President Biden was trying to explain his civil rights record as well, Wolf, all of the other candidates also trying to make their case.

One thing that has stood out from being in Miami for a couple of days here, it is a very diverse Democratic field. It is a general - it's certainly an ideological divide, a generational divide here. This race is just getting started. Voters out there we talked to said they are just learning these candidates.

So it is more important to take a full measure of Vice President Biden in particular. His advisers are worried and a little bit concerned about the first performance but say wait and see what he does going forward. I'm told he'll be doing more campaigning in July and of course the next debate here on CNN at the end of the month.

BLITZER: Supporters believe he could have done better last night. There is no doubt about that.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

There is more breaking news right now. President Trump is getting ready for a crucial meeting at the G20 summit but the shock waves are still spreading after his stunning remarks during earlier talks in Japan with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Let's go live to CNN's Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's in Osaka, Japan, for us at the G20 summit. What is the latest, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump is just hours away from holding a high-stakes meeting with the China Leader Xi Jinping to see if both leaders can figure out a way to end their costly trade war. The president is also expected to hold a news conference later in the day where he's expected to face a nagging question. Why won't he get tough on Vladimir Putin?


ACOSTA (voice-over): It was hardly a warning that will send shivers down the spine of Vladimir Putin, as President Trump appeared to jokingly tell the Russian leader to stay out of the 2020 election with a smile on his face.


QUESTION: Mr. President, will you tell Russia not to interfere in the election -

TRUMP: Yes, of course I will. Don't meddle in the election please. Don't - don't meddle in the election.


ACOSTA: The president's comments at the G20 summit were the latest indication that Mr. Trump is unwilling to accept the U.S. Intelligence Community conclusion that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election. At their previous meeting in Helsinki last year, the president was siding with Putin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


ACOSTA: The president's latest encounter with Putin comes after Special Counsel Robert Mueller warned that Russia had been caught red- handed.


ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.


ACOSTA: Contrast the Trump/Putin warmth with the icy reception the Russian leader found with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May whose spokesperson said in a statement, "She told Putin that there cannot not be a normalization of our bilateral relationship until Russia stops the irresponsible and destabilizing activity that threatens the UK and its allies - including hostile interventions in other countries, disinformation and cyberattacks. Back in the U.S., former President Jimmy Carter alleged that Russia had essentially hand-picked Mr. Trump.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- although not yet quantified, if fully investigated, would show that Trump didn't actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.

JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN: Do you believe President Trump is an illegitimate president?

CARTER: Based on what I just said, which I can't retract.



ACOSTA: But the reality is President Trump has never really warned Putin to bud out of U.S. politics, an opportunity he passed up back in 2016.


ACOSTA (on camera); Why not get tough on Putin and say stay out. Why not say that?

TRUMP: Why do I have to get involved about Putin for? I have nothing to do with Putin.

I will tell you this, Russia, if you're listening. I Hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens.


ACOSTA: The president and Putin shared one other lighthearted moment when Mr. Trump took aim at the media.


TRUMP: You don't have the problem in Russia. We have it. You don't have it. You don't have that problem.

PUTIN: Yes, yes, yes, we have it. We have the problem.

TRUMP: You still have it?

PUTIN: Yes, the same.


ACOSTA: But in Putin's Russia the press is hardly free as journalists have been imprisoned and even murdered for their coverage of the Kremlin. The president took a jab at the press on the same day he greeted Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman whose government is widely seen as responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


[17:10:09] ACOSTA: And the president will be meeting with Mohammad Bin Salman later on this morning. We'll be watching to see whether or not the president raises with the crown prince the case of Jamal Khashoggi.

Meanwhile, the financial markets are bracing for the outcome of the president's meeting with China Xi Jinping later on here at the G20 summit. There are hopes of some kind of ceasefire between the two leaders in their trade war, something we expect the president to discuss further at his news conference later today and, Wolf, it is hard to imagine getting through this news conference without the president being asked about the stunning comments from the former President Jimmy Carter. Wolf?

BLITZER: Sure he will be asked indeed. Jim Acosta in Japan for us. Thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic presidential candidate and Washington state Governor Jay Inslee. Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You bet. BLITZER: I want to talk more about your ideas and your candidacy in just a moment. But first let me get your reaction to what we heard from some of your Democratic rivals last night at that debate. Do you think former Vice President Joe Biden's record on civil rights is fair game?

INSLEE: Well, I do. Look, we've got to have a nominee who is up to the tasks of the current decade. And I think there are legitimate questions. We need to heal this company -- country racially after the division of Donald Trump. I think there are some concerns legitimately raised in that debate. We need someone to stop this rush to war in Iran. And I totally oppose the Iraq war. The vice president supported it. And most importantly, we need a candidate who will have a full mobilization of the United States to defeat the climate crisis.

But today we've got the Miami -- the Everglades were on fire. It is 114 degrees in Paris. I have a full throated call to mobilize the United States to defeat climate crisis and I have a decision to make it top priority. I don't think the vice president has the same views. So, yes, we need to have a debate about the current mission statement of the United States in this decade.

BLITZER: One of your Democratic rivals now, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, he's actually joined your demand for a debate focusing strictly on climate change which of course is your signature issue. But the Democratic National Committee at least as far as I know has promised to stick to its current debate schedule and its current format. Have you heard from the DNC Chair Tom Perez or anyone else at the DNC about your demands to hold a debate solely on climate change?

INSLEE: Not today. And the party needs to do this. Look, this is a personal passion of mine. I've been working on this for decades. I've written a book about it. I helped form the U.S. Climate Alliance. My dedication to this is unparalleled in the field of candidates. But this is not about one candidate. It is about one planet. And we need to have an adequate discussion of this, which we did not the other night.

In four hours of debate, the Democratic Party only talked about the threat existential threat to survival as we know it for about 15 minutes. That does not give America the ability to find out what these candidates say, or do not say. Look, there is differences between the candidates. I'm saying we need to get off coal, others are not. I am saying this has to be the top priority of the United States. Others are not. I've called for a mobilization of the United States. Others treat this as just kind of a peripheral thing on the to-do list. So I believe Americans needs to sparse out where the candidates stand and we're going to continue this effort.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the meeting that President Trump had with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit. That's the first meeting that they've had since the release of the Mueller report. As you saw, the president jokingly chided Putin for election interference here in the United States. It's clear he wasn't serious at all about that. What did you make of that moment? INSLEE: I'm continually stunned by a president who either treats this as a humorous event, or absolutely requests the assistance of Russia. Look, not only did he do that before the last election, he did it again two weeks ago. He basically said, look, send me stuff. I'll be happy to take a look at it. He continues on the wink and nod when we're in a mortal situation where a foreign power is attempting to subvert our Democracy. In clear, unequivocal and beyond a reasonable doubt terms.

This man is a threat to national security. He is a threat to Democracy. And I think Jimmy Carter's comments went to the heart of something that is not a peripheral matter, it is a dire threat to who we are as a nation. And it will not stand. And that is one of the reasons I believe that the House needs to move forward at this point with impeachment inquiry. He's called for it. He's made it inevitable.

[17:15:10] BLITZER: Governor Inslee, thank you so much for joining us.

INSLEE: Thank you.

BLITZER: We have some breaking news from the sports world. Just moments ago the U.S. women's national soccer team defeated France 2-1. Both U.S. goals were scored by Megan Rapinoe who was criticized by President Trump this week for saying she wouldn't go to the White House to meet with him if the U.S. team were to win the overall tournament. This victory puts the U.S. in the World Cup semifinals.

Up next, President Trump jokes about Russia's attack on the presidential election, smirking as he tells Vladimir Putin not to do it again. I'll ask former director of National Intelligence James Clapper about that and more.

And police in Utah make an arrest as the search for a missing college student ends with a grim discovery.


[17:20:45] BLITZER: In this first meeting with Vladimir Putin since the Mueller report came out, President Trump joked about Russia's election attack here in the United States. Joining us now, former director of National Security, James Clapper, he's a CNN national security analyst. General Clapper, the president chided in a very joking way the Russian leader. Watch this.


QUESTION: Will you tell Russia not to meddle in the 2020 election?

TRUMP: Yes of course I will. Don't meddle in the election please. Don't - don't meddle in the election.


BLITZER: He had a smirk and a smile. And he said, "Don't meddle in the election, please. Don't meddle in the election." How do you think Putin, a man you studied for a long time in the U.S. Intelligence Community, reacted to that?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well I think first, you know, the president and his supporters will say he was just smoking and joking with Vladimir Putin. And then for people like me that take the Russian threat seriously, this is stunning but not amazing. And I think Putin, for his part, feels as though that attitude, a cavalier attitude about the Russians threat to our fundamental system gives him license to continue to do what he's been doing. And we can count on it for the election in 2020.

BLITZER: So based on what you know, why is the president seemingly in your word so cavalier about this issue when he meets with Putin?

CLAPPER: That is of course a question of the hour and has been for some time. The president's ambivalence about the Russian interference, his deference to Putin among other autocrats is something of a mystery. He's yet to call him out or dime him out for the profound broad gauged and deep interference in our election in 2016.

BLITZER: As you remember, it was not long ago, a few weeks ago, the president told ABC News that he would accept the information on his political opponents from foreign governments even hostile foreign governments like Russia or China and he might or might not. He might also call the FBI, might not call the FBI. Based on what you saw, based on what we're seeing now at the G20. Is the 2020 election season here in the United States open season, fair game?

CLAPPER: Oh, absolutely. For not only the Russians but I think others having seen the impact of the Russian interference and the divisiveness and polarization that the Russian interference amplified. I'm sure not only Russia will continue to do what they've been doing but others will as well. And it's -- it doesn't bode well when the commander-in-chief refuses to call out for the American public the threat posed by the Russians.

BLITZER: As you saw in Jim Acosta's reporter, former President Jimmy Carter went so far as he suggested that President Trump election was illegitimate because of the Russian interference. Do you think that's true?

CLAPPER: I have a little different take on that, Wolf. In my book, I do believe that the magnitude to the Russian effort as recounted in the Mueller report where they reached social media platforms alone, some 136 Americans. Election was decided on less than 80,000 votes in three states which it wasn't targeted. And that is not an indictment for people who voted for President Trump. It is an indictment clearly the Russians and perhaps our failure to prevent the magnitude of the attack.

BLITZER: The president also joked with Putin about what the president calls fake news. Let me play the clip. Watch this.


TRUMP: You don't have the problem in Russia. We have it. You don't have it. PUTIN: Yes. We have it.

TRUMP: You still have it?

PUTIN: Yes, the same.


BLITZER: He says we have the problem, yes, yes, the same. As you know, journalists in Russia, they are either imprisoned, some have actually been killed because what they are reporting about the Kremlin. How dangerous is it, this kind of rhetoric that we're seeing from the president with a leader like Putin?

CLAPPER: Well it is quite dangerous to characterize our media as the enemy of the people. A free and independent media is one of the hallmarks of our political system.

[17:25:02] And clearly, I think the control and the impression of any free media in Russia is something that I think President Trump had his preference and that is the way it would be in this country and that is very dangerous.

BLITZER: Very dangerous. James Clapper, General, thank you so much for joining us.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Wolf, for having me.

BLITZER: Coming up, more on the breaking political news. Former Vice President Joe Biden begins to do some serious damage control after last night's debate, scolding by Senator Kamala Harris.

Also a gruesome discovery leads to an arrest and murder charges in the disappearance of the University of Utah student.


[17:30:18] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories including former Vice President Joe Biden wasting no time in trying to recover from the scolding over racial issues he received from Senator Kamala Harris during last night's Democratic presidential debate. In a speech this afternoon, the former Vice President touted his lifetime commitment to civil rights.

Let's bring in our experts and discuss Biden's attempt at damage control.

Jeff Zeleny, he's got a lot of work ahead of him. All of them have a lot of work ahead of them. But you were there in Miami for both of these presidential debates. Who were the winners and the losers?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: After four hours and 20 candidates, I think we do know a little bit more than we knew at the beginning of the week. One, I think the winners were, no question, Senator Kamala Harris. She has been -- and she had a very good beginning of her candidacy in January, and then she's sort of fallen into the recesses a bit.

Last night, she came on the stage in an aggressive way and a strategic way to get these issues. A, to introduce herself, she got a lot of biography in there when she was making these confrontations with the former Vice President. So I think she did very well. I think the night before, Elizabeth Warren also did well in terms of presenting her plans, her ideas.

I think the biggest question mark hanging over all of this is about Joe Biden. Is he the placeholder in this race or is he the front- runner? He's a little fragile, if you will. And we don't know the answer to that. One debate won't tell us that, but it told us last night that he is not a strong front-runner.

BLITZER: You know, April -- April Ryan is here -- in a tense moment, Senator Kamala Harris questioned the former Vice President on his record on busing going way back several decades. Let me play a part --


BLITZER: -- of their exchange.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then?


HARRIS: Do you agree?

BIDEN: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That's what I opposed. I did not oppose --

HARRIS: Look, there was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America.

BIDEN: No, but --

HARRIS: I was part of this second class to integrate Berkeley, California public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.

BIDEN: Because your city council made the decision. It was a local decision.

HARRIS: So that's where the federal government must step in.

BIDEN: No, the federal government must step --

HARRIS: That's why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.



BLITZER: So give us some context here. I know this is a subject, desegregation busing, close to your heart.

RYAN: Yes, it's -- a lot of Black people who grew up in that '70s era had to deal with issues of busing. As a child, my parents opted out of keeping me in public school because they didn't want the residue of hate from White people who were upset about it, about me possibly going to their public school, so they sent me to a Catholic school.

So Kamala Harris is not alone in this, and there are so many people who have a story. But let's get to the issue of Joe Biden with this. That is a '70s mindset. That is even a mindset even before the '70s.

2019, he has to do something to fix it. He's getting into the weeds as to if it's about the federal government or if it's about the city council or the state. At issue is Joe Biden says that he has a great record, and he got into politics, you know, trying to work with civil rights.

Civil rights are about integration. The federal government -- as he talks about, he didn't want the Department of Education to do busing. The federal government integrated the military, the federal government integrated federal workspaces, the federal government integrated the post office.

And if it weren't for the lead of the federal government and other agencies, like, I might not even be sitting here talking to you, Wolf Blitzer. So integration is a part of civil rights.

BLITZER: How did you see it last night, Jackie Kucinich?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: You know, it really seemed like Harris had Biden on his heels. And the question is, how is he not prepared for this question?

If he wasn't going to get it -- maybe he was surprised he got it from Senator Harris. From talking to people in Biden world today, they actually weren't. They knew there were -- that she -- they assumed that she was going to take him on in some way, but he certainly would have gotten it from the moderators.

And, you know, all you need to know is when you're watching him work through it and then he -- when has a candidate ever, in your history of hosting debates, stopped themselves, said, no, I'm out of time?


KUCINICH: That's unusual.

RYAN: And she was ready for it with the picture. And not only that, Joe Biden came out with the Mayor of Atlanta to say, OK, wait a minute, this is -- we were caught off guard, but I'm showing you I've got Black support. This is about the fact that Joe Biden still has the largest number of Black people supporting him, and Kamala Harris wants it.

BLITZER: Let me get Shawn Turner into this. He does have a lifetime commitment, Shawn, to civil rights. He was the Vice President of the United States under the first Black President of the United States. Is he effectively communicating his record?

[17:35:07] SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, Wolf, I think he certainly is trying to send a strong message to the Democrat Party that he has a record of advocacy and leadership on civil rights, and I think that's a good thing. But I think the problem that Joe Biden has right now is that he has to understand how to balance talking about what he has done and his long record with what he will do.

If you go back and you look at what was said on the stage last night and you look at the kind of target audience of all the people who was -- he was on stage with, many of them were talking to this kind of more progressive, left-winning -- left-leaning wing of the Democrat Party.

And they were talking about the future because that's what they want to hear. That's what they want to talk about. Joe Biden spent more time talking about his record and what he's done. And again, that's not a bad thing, but the balance is off there. And I think that if he makes that adjustment, I think that he -- you know, last night, certainly, he's -- he was knocked down a few points, and I think we'll probably see that in some of the polling.

But if he makes that adjustment and if he does -- if he does what he's doing today and specifically goes out and talks to African-American voters, particularly young African-American voters because I think that he's doing fairly well with those kind of middle of the road moderate Democrat African-American voters, then he can recover from this.

BLITZER: OK, guys, stand by. There's a lot more we need to discuss. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:40:58] BLITZER: We're back with our experts. Shawn Turner, what did you think of the way the President sort of smirked and smiled and had a little friendly warning to Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Japan today when he said don't meddle in the U.S. Presidential elections anymore? What did you think of that, the way he handled that?

TURNER: Yes. You know, I think it's -- it represents kind of the President's new thinking on this. The President has gone from being angry about the suggestion that Russia interfered into the -- in the election to just kind of smirking and being dismissive of it.

And I think he is that way because he understands that it's almost -- it's virtually impossible to quantify the impact, the effect of Russia's interference. And so I think the President is at a point where he'll just kind of be dismissive of it and won't really care if Russia interferes again. But to be clear, it is a serious and significant national security threat that the President should take seriously.

BLITZER: And the former Vice -- the former President, I should say, Jimmy Carter, Jeff, he's actually questioning the legitimacy of President Trump's election because of Russian interference on his behalf. Watch this.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the election. And I think the interference, although not yet quantified, fully investigated, would show that Trump didn't actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election, and he was put in office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.

JON MEACHAM, MODERATOR, CARTER CENTER WEEKEND: DONOR RETREAT AND AUCTION: So do you believe President Trump is an illegitimate President?


CARTER: Based on what I just said, which I can't retract.



BLITZER: A pretty stunning statement.

ZELENY: It certainly is, and also from someone like Jimmy Carter. He's actually given the President some more leeway than some other Democrats have. On North Korea and other matters, he has given him some support and some backup, so it's an extraordinary tough statement.

But that is at the heart of why many people suspect the President has the relationship he has with Vladimir Putin. He is unable to get, you know, his mind around the fact that he may not have actually won the presidency fair and square. Of course, he lost the popular vote. I mean, we --

RYAN: Yes, he did.

ZELENY: We all know that, but that was -- we've never heard Jimmy Carter say anything like that as -- I mean, I'm not sure he has access to any intelligence information, but based on the public record, that's what he's saying.

But the reality is, going forward, you can't do this election over again. The question is, what is going to happen for 2020? What is this government doing to protect the sanctity and security of the next election?

And you don't hear much talk about that. Mitch McConnell is trying to block a security bill in the Senate here. So I think that's the value of talking about this now. It's about the future, not the past.

BLITZER: And another very disturbing moment in the meeting between the President and Putin, he commiserated with Putin about what the President calls fake news. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news. You don't have the problem in Russia. We have it. You don't have it.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Yes. Yes. Yes. We have it. We have the problem.

TRUMP: You still have it?

PUTIN: Yes, the same.



BLITZER: Jackie, how problematic is that.

KUCINICH: Problematic is a word, considering they murdered journalists in Russia. It's not only what the President says. I mean, certainly, that is disturbing and has ramifications the world over. It's what the President already has or has not done.

There still haven't been any ramifications for what happened to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia hasn't had any consequences for that.

BLITZER: What do you think about the fact that the President is joking with Putin, April, about so-called fake news?

RYAN: Wolf, as someone who has to fight every day for survival for asking questions at the White House, it's atrocious.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stick around. There's more news we got to follow. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, many unanswered questions remain after police announce the missing University of Utah student is dead and a suspect is under arrest and charged with murder. CNN's Brian Todd has been following the story for us.

Brian, tell us the latest.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Salt Lake City Police giving us jarring new details tonight of the suspect's alleged contacts with MacKenzie Lueck and of his alleged efforts to cover up her murder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): It was a dramatic and, police say, heartbreaking

end to a nationwide mystery. The SWAT team in Salt Lake City arresting Ayoola Ajayi, the prime suspect in the disappearance of University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck.

MIKE BROWN, CHIEF OF POLICE, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: We are filing charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a body in the homicide of MacKenzie Lueck.

[17:49:59] TODD (voice-over): Tonight, police say they believe Ajayi, a former Army I.T. specialist, killed MacKenzie Lueck sometime after picking her up at a park in North Salt Lake City at about 3:00 in the morning on June 17th.

Police say the 23-year-old student had just landed at the airport returning from her grandmother's funeral. They say she used the Lyft car service to take her from the airport to the park where the driver saw her get into Ajayi's car.

Police say phone records showed Lueck and the 31-year-old suspect had been in touch, texting just hours before she vanished, and that their phones placed them in the park within a minute of each other that morning.

BROWN: In an interview with him, he admitted to having text conversations with MacKenzie on June 16th at approximately 6:00 p.m. but nothing after that time.

TODD (voice-over): Police say Ajayi denied having any personal contact with Lueck and denied knowing what she looked like, but authorities say he had photos of her in his possession.

SIM GILL, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SALT LAKE COUNTY, UTAH: The way he communicated to us, saying that he didn't know who she was or that -- that just didn't seem -- ring true, given we knew what the nature of their contact was.

TODD (voice-over): Police are not giving specifics of how Lueck died, but they searched Ajayi's house which is just a few miles from the park where they met earlier this week. Police then called him a person of interest.

Investigators say Ajayi gave away a mattress and a box spring shortly after Lueck disappeared. Police and neighbors also told CNN neighbors observed him burning something in his backyard with gasoline on the day Lueck went missing and again the day after.

TERESA DRAHEIM, NEIGHBOR OF AYOOLA AJAYI: The smell of gas was outrageous. And I thought maybe -- I was in my bedroom and I smelled it through my window and I thought maybe it was my motor home. And so I came outside to make sure, and there was this smell in the air that was just almost rancid. It was just really disgusting smelling.

TODD (voice-over): Police say when they dug up his backyard, they found burned items they believe belonged to MacKenzie Lueck, along with what they believe are Lueck's remains.

BROWN: Other charred material was located which has now been -- forensically has been determined to be female human tissue and is consistent with the DNA profile obtained through further forensic testing of personal items of MacKenzie Lueck.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, police say they don't know if someone may have helped Ajayi, and they're not saying how Lueck and Ajayi might have known each other before she met up with him in that park.

A former FBI profiler says there are gaps of information which are crucial in this case including what was going through this young woman's mind just before she disappeared. Police have said the Lyft driver indicated MacKenzie Lueck was not in distress when she switched cars.

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER AGENT AND PROFILER, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: The reason the victim would get into the car is going to be important, and that reason will probably evolve over time. They probably don't know the full extent of why she was confident enough to do that.


TODD: Police are also not saying tonight what they believe the suspect's motive was. They do say, as we mentioned, that they are still looking into whether he acted alone or if he had help -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, do they believe he might have tried to do anything with her cell phone?

TODD: Wolf, police are indicating that he might have tried to manipulate her cell phone in some way. They say that her phone was turned off from the moment that she disappeared from that park on June 17th.

But just two days ago, we were checking some of her social media accounts. We found indications that her phone was used to access an Instagram account, so he may have had that phone in his possession as recently as two days ago.

BLITZER: What have her friends and her family, Brian, been saying during this ordeal?

TODD: Friends mostly speaking, Wolf, saying that this was really not like MacKenzie Lueck to just disappear like this. They said that she would've easily been in touch with family, with friends during these periods, but they just cannot figure out why she might have gone to that park that night. And that may be an answer that we may never get.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting for us. Brian, thank you very much.

Coming up, after Kamala Harris hammers Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential debate for his past stance on busing, the front-runner is battling back and defending what he portrays as a lifetime devoted to civil rights.

Plus, a big win for the U.S. national team at the Women's World Cup. Both U.S. goals were scored by a player who's drawn criticism from President Trump.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Firing back. After a bruising Democratic debate, Joe Biden is offering a forceful and scripted defense of his record on racial issues. Is it enough to undo any damage from Kamala Harris' attack and keep his campaign on track?

Laughing it off. President Trump jokes with Vladimir Putin about Russia's attack on U.S. democracy, asking him with a smile and a smirk not to medal in the 2020 election. Why won't he get tough on the Kremlin leader?

He lost the election. Former President Jimmy Carter takes a powerful shot at his successor. He's arguing that Mr. Trump did not legitimately win in 2016 and is only in the White House because of the Russians.

[17:59:53] And gruesome discovery. A missing Utah student is found dead, her burned remains uncovered in the backyard of a man now charged with murder. But tonight, there's still some mystery surrounding her sudden disappearance and the suspect's motive.