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Pelosi Appeals For Unity Amid House Democratic Infighting; Hurricane Watch Along Louisiana Coast; North Korea May Be Targeting Former U.S. Marine Accused of Leading Rain on One of Its Embassies. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 10, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thank you so much for watching.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: defense of the deal. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta defends the secret 2008 plea deal he arranged as a U.S. attorney, which made multi- millionaire Jeffrey Epstein an easy sentence for sex crimes.

President Trump pushed him before the cameras.

Could he still push him out the door?

Call to resign: Speaker Nancy Pelosi adds her powerful voice to those calling on Alex Acosta to resign, adding that President Trump should ask him to step down.

Navigating Mueller: House Democrats are preparing for next week's testimony by former special counsel Robert Mueller. But while the hearings are seen as a possible make-or-break moment for impeachment advocates, some Democrats are already tamping down expectations.

And ambassador quits: Britain's ambassador to the United States resigns after leaked diplomatic cables show he had called President Trump insecure and incompetent, triggering a series of insults from the president.

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

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

BLITZER: Breaking news: embattled Labor Secretary Alex Acosta goes public to defend the still shocking plea deal he oversaw as a U.S. attorney a decade ago, which gave multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein a very light sentence for sex crimes involving underage girls. Acosta said his office stepped in when state prosecutors were ready to

let Epstein walk.

Epstein faces new federal charges for allegedly running a sex trafficking ring and abusing minors. Sources say President Trump told Acosta to step forward amid a drumbeat of calls for his resignation.

Also tonight: House Democrats are scrambling to get ready for the testimony of former special counsel Robert Mueller. They're trying to make the most of limited time but some are already cautioning against expecting too much from the hearings. The testimony is seen as a make-or-break moment for Democrats pushing for an impeachment inquiry.

I'll speak with Senator James Lankford of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. And our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

But let's begin with the breaking news. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta standing by. The president's embattled Labor Secretary is defending his actions as a U.S. attorney a decade ago.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In an update, so far officials here at the White House believe Labor Secretary Alex Acosta handled himself well at the press conference this afternoon.

As we saw, as he came out in front of the cameras, there were no apologies or regrets from the embattled Labor Secretary regarding his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case and Secretary Acosta also claimed he still has the support of the president even though Mr. Trump hasn't always stood by cabinet secretaries facing intense scrutiny in the past.

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J. ACOSTA (voice-over): Under fire over a plea deal he once cut for multi-millionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta defended his handling of the case during his days as a federal prosecutor.

ALEX ACOSTA, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: No regrets is a very hard question. You always look back and you say what if.

J. ACOSTA (voice-over): With new victims coming forward questioning whether Acosta was too lenient in the case, the secretary was asked whether he would have reached the same agreement today. Time and again, he pointed the finger at state prosecutors in Florida, claiming they were going to allow Epstein to avoid jail time.

A. ACOSTA: Today's world treats victims very, very differently. Today's world does not allow some of the victim shaming that could have taken place at trial. I don't think we can say take a case that is this old and fully know how it would play out today.

We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail. There is a value to a sure guilty plea because letting him walk, letting what the state attorney was ready to do, go forward, would have been absolutely awful.

J. ACOSTA (voice-over): The secretary made it clear he's not about to resign, talking up his relationship with President Trump while working in a plug for the administration's record.

A. ACOSTA: My relationship with the president is outstanding. He has, I think, very publicly made clear that I've got his support. I serve at the pleasure of the president. I thought yesterday he was kind and he showed great support. We are here because we are part of an administration that is creating jobs.

J. ACOSTA (voice-over): Senior administration official told officials President Trump was first to fight back against Democrats calling for the secretary's resignation. The official said Mr. Trump's attitude was, quote, "screw 'em." The secretary also --

[17:05:00]

J. ACOSTA (voice-over): -- blasted reports that he's on thin ice with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

A. ACOSTA: Our relationship is excellent, too, in that any articles to the contrary are, in his words, B.S.

J. ACOSTA (voice-over): In true Trump administration fashion, the secretary took a swipe at the media.

A. ACOSTA: I've read this and one of the things I find interesting is how facts become facts because they're in a newspaper. Thank you very much.

J. ACOSTA (voice-over): The question was whether the secretary's performance was enough to stay on. One of Mr. Trump's close friends was betting that his days were numbered.

CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX MEDIA: I think the plea agreement that he did is indefensible. I think that he's not going to stay for long.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

J. ACOSTA: But for now it seems Secretary Acosta may be able to stay on for now. But the secretary may want to look back at how other embattled cabinet members have fared in the past.

As one senior administration official put it, "One day you're working for President Trump and one day you are not."

There was one other departure here in Washington that was welcomed by the White House as the British ambassador to the U.S. announced he is stepping down after some of his past criticisms of Mr. Trump surfaced in the news media.

One top White House official told reporters earlier today that that was the right course of action. That was one departure over here at the White House they were welcoming.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you very much.

Let's dig deeper. CNN's Kara Scannell is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You've been going through the legal documents around this 2007 and 2008 case.

What did you find out?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So in combing through the record in this case -- and we found a number of letters between 2007 and 2008 just after this non-prosecution agreement was reached -- where lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein were reaching out to Alex Acosta, still trying to get him to knock two of his prosecutors off the case and to end the prosecution completely.

When that failed, Epstein's legal team brought in Ken Starr, the lawyer who prosecuted or went after Bill Clinton in the Whitewater investigation and Monica Lewinsky, and had him appeal to the Department of Justice in Washington.

He reached out to the criminal division, the child exploitation division and the deputy attorney general's office. And believe it or not, in one of those claims, they actually said that the prosecution of Epstein was politically motivated because of his, quote, "close personal association with the former president, Bill Clinton."

Now the deputy attorney general's office, one of the assistants there had responded saying that the prosecution was, quote, "appropriate."

Now remember, this prosecution wasn't even one that was ever really supposed to be made public. It involved no jail time and no actual federal charges.

BLITZER: Interesting. Because when Alex Acosta, the Labor Secretary, was asked today to look back at his handling of the case -- and I want to be precise -- he didn't appear to accept direct responsibility. In fact, he repeatedly pointed to others.

SCANNELL: Right. He pointed to both the state prosecutors on the case and then he even was passing some of the blame on to his line assistants, mentioning specifically one of them and the conduct and the actions that she had taken in this case.

Now that runs counter to the record. You see in the court filings that Acosta was involved, that he did have meetings with one of his former law partners who was representing Jeffrey Epstein and that also runs counter to the other cases that Acosta's office brought during that exact same time period where they prosecuted people for one person -- one victim that they had assaulted, not the alleged dozens of victims in this case.

BLITZER: Kara Scannell, doing some good, important reporting for us, thank you very much.

And let's go to our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. You just spoke with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

What did she have to say about Secretary Acosta's news conference?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Nancy Pelosi had been very clear she wants nothing short of Alex Acosta's resignation as Labor Secretary. And said in the aftermath of the indictment; she also made that clear in the days that have followed.

And as she was leaving a briefing this afternoon, I asked her about the press conference and Acosta making it clear he was not resigning and she said this.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: He should resign or the president should ask him to step down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So the question is what do Democrats do from here?

Nancy Pelosi made clear to me yesterday that she didn't really have much of an interest of launching a full-scale investigation into this plea deal offered back in Florida to Jeffrey Epstein.

She said that they want to focus on their legislative agenda instead. But there are interests from one House Oversight Committee, who sent a letter to Alex Acosta, asking him to testify this month to lay out the details of the plea agreement.

No word yet about whether or not Acosta will come and whether or not it will lead to a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee.

So there is still some interest on Capitol Hill to get some more answers to what -- what has happened here and whether Acosta properly moved forward with that plea agreement more than a decade ago, Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, what are you learning about the Democrats' --

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BLITZER: -- strategy for next week's Robert Mueller testimony?

RAJU: Well, behind the scenes, Democrats are scrambling to make sure that they get the most out of their time. They have only two hours in two separate hearings and that is split equally between Democrats and Republicans so for the House Judiciary Committee with more than 40 members, each side will have one hour only to ask questions of Robert Mueller.

Then the House Intelligence Committee will have a similar two-hour arrangement split equally between the two sides. And so Democrats are trying to figure out an exact strategy to get the answers they want to their questions. They're beginning meetings tonight, tomorrow as well, to figure out exactly what they want to ask, to divide up the -- among the members and effectively stick to the script.

But what I'm hearing from Democrats is they are concerned that just two hours isn't enough time to get exactly what they want, which is more information, to get the special counsel to detail all of the allegations in a more than 400-page report and already Democrats are saying that, look, we may need him to come back because that is just simply not going to be enough time.

So right now Democratic leaders are sorting out the logistics to divide up how to ask the questions. But you're hearing questions as the whole world is watching and people are saying this contains a dynamic that could lead to an impeachment of this president but some saying there is not enough time to get all of their questions answered.

So at the moment, Wolf, Democrats are trying to figure out exactly how to maximize the limited time with the special counsel.

BLITZER: Given the limited time, the Democrats and the Republicans for that matter, they have to be disciplined and ask questions rather than make speeches, which they often like to do in these kind of hearings. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Joining us now Republican senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, a key member of the Homeland Security Committee. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So we have a lot to discuss but let me begin with the breaking news.

Should the Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resign over his handling of the Epstein case?

LANKFORD: No, I don't think he should resign. I think we should allow the Department of Justice to their investigation and the background work on this. And what I'm disappointed is the coverage in the last 48 hours on every network is about President Trump and Acosta as Labor Secretary and we've not spent time talking about these girls that were abused in the process and trafficked and about Epstein and what the horrific acts that he really did.

So this is a horrific crime. When you keep the focus on it being a horrific crime and let the Department of Justice do their investigation, they're now in their second investigation and what happened in Florida a decade ago and now in New York to finish this out with new additional witnesses, let that go and let's get this person prosecuted and get through the process and get justice to folks and then allow that investigation to go forward and to go back and review what happened 10 years ago. I -- I think it is appropriate but the focus needed to be on those kids especially and actually getting justice to them.

BLITZER: Yes, those girls were 14, 15 years old. You make a very important point.

LANKFORD: It's horrific.

BLITZER: And they were clearly abused and that raises the question, why did the U.S. attorney at that time, Alex Acosta in South Florida, give this very lenient plea deal with Epstein?

LANKFORD: Yes, and I think those are all legitimate questions to ask and I think the Department of Justice will pull that up and there will be a normal investigation when they are retrying some of the issues and bringing up additional people with additional witnesses to go back and find out what did the State of Florida do and why were they struggling to prosecute the case?

And how did it end up in the U.S. attorney's office and how was the plea deal made?

Very reasonable questions and those answers should come out.

BLITZER: Because a federal judge, as you know, said Alex Acosta violated the law by not telling Epstein's victims about the prosecution agreement that was worked out, the plea agreement that the government signed onto.

Doesn't that alone warrant an apology from Alex Acosta?

LANKFORD: Yes, let's get all of the details out on that and find out from Acosta, again, he has to go back and review this with the Department of Justice and make it right in any way we can.

My impression is a lot of the push right now is because he's a Trump cabinet member and not because of the case. My focus would be let's focus on him as an attorney, not as a cabinet member and a U.S. attorney and find out what mistakes were made and how do we never do this again and how do we make sure there aren't some other individuals in other places that we had a prosecution that was not fully fulfilled.

BLITZER: Yes, you make an important point. These were 14- and 15-, 16-year-old girls who were abused in really awful ways.

Would you like to see Secretary Acosta come before Congress so lawmakers like you and others can directly ask him questions about the decisions he made a decade ago?

LANKFORD: So what I would like to see is the same way we would do with any other U.S. attorney, let the Department of Justice go through the process and let them do their investigation behind closed doors as they would for any other U.S. attorney to be able to get those hard questions, a deposition or a closed-door meeting will get much more out of it than a hearing would.

The only reason is a hearing is even being discussed in this is because he's Trump's Secretary of Labor. Otherwise, if this was any other U.S. attorney in any other question on a case, we would be going through normal protocol. So I would -- [17:15:00]

LANKFORD: -- ask that we go through normal protocol first and then if we don't get good answers then go forward with a Judiciary Committee.

BLITZER: Was he properly vetted in his confirmation hearings by the U.S. Senate?

You voted to confirm, all the Republicans did, eight Democrats opposed it and one independent, Angus King of Maine -- eight Democrats supported his confirmation. One independent, Angus King, also supported his confirmation.

Was he properly vetted?

Only Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia even asked questions about the Epstein case.

LANKFORD: I was actually about to say yes because that information was available and people could see it and Tim Kaine was able to ask information of him personally on that so the White House had looked at it and both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate looked at it. There were questions that were asked and everybody thought they had sufficient answers to go through the process.

Now we have additional information, additional witnesses that are coming forward. Now that allows for a renewed prosecution in that case, which is a good thing for the victims to be able to go through.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Robert Mueller upcoming testimony next week. One of Mueller's definitive conclusions at the beginning of the 450-page report was that the Russians directly interfered in our 2016 presidential election.

But in a briefing today up on Capitol Hill, top administration officials wouldn't even say whether President Trump has even received a comprehensive briefing on election security looking forward to 2020.

I know you were at a sensitive briefing on this issue today as well.

Does that worry you?

LANKFORD: No. That doesn't worry me because I was in a briefing today with the head of the FBI and the Office of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security and multiple leaders from multiple different areas in our government to get an update of what they're already doing to protect our elections for 2020 and what they did for 2018.

Lessons learned from 2016 and 2018 and what they are applying for 2020. And so they are a long way down the road. They were very clear they've had interaction with the president and the White House and had a go on all of the work behind the scenes to be able to make sure that they're working with individual states and all 50 states have an additional cyber protection on the election system that was not there four years ago. So dealing with cyber security is much more advanced now than it was

four years ago and a lot more awareness and interaction state to state and interaction agency to agency.

So our questions were focused on 2020 and behind the scenes and I'm impressed with what has been done and what they did in 2018 and which we saw go off without a hitch in 2018 because of the aggressive measures they took.

BLITZER: You make a very important point, Senator, because all of the top national security intelligence, cyber security people in the administration, in the government, they are all on the same page, they have to do something very, very serious to stop the Russians and they talk about it openly, they have no complaints about what the Mueller report came up with on that specific issue.

But why do we never hear the president of the United States speak about this?

LANKFORD: You would have to ask him on that one or his spokesperson on it. My perception is he feels like folks out there saying the only reason he is president is because the Russians were trying to interfere. He would vehemently push back and say he worked hard in the campaign and got more votes and all of that process.

So I think -- his perception is what I get from him is there is a sense that some people are trying to delegitimize his election. We have no evidence of any votes being switched. We've been consistent with our intelligence folks and we need to be vigilant to make sure we continue to protect the system so people can trust the system.

BLITZER: We have to go. You have no doubt the Russians interfered.

LANKFORD: I have no doubt they tried to interfere in 2016. They started as early as 2014 and I have no question they did that and our government is standing up ready to take them on for 2020 and push back now.

BLITZER: And you have no doubt their intention was to help Donald Trump get elected.

LANKFORD: Oh, no, I have a lot of doubts on that. Even things like the Christopher Steel, the famous dossier, I have no doubt that was Russian generated as information that was counter to Trump.

So there is a lot of things that were helpful to the president and there were a lot of things hurtful to the president that were out there so the Russians were playing both sides of this, trying to be able to create a stir as they went through the election, which they've been successful at.

BLITZER: They conclude the Russians want to sow political dissent and that is the goal to start this. But in the end they really went out of the way to try to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

LANKFORD: They did more to help candidate Trump, no question than they did Hillary Clinton but they also had information going the other direction. They also had pro-Bernie Sanders and Green Party things out there.

And when you go back and see a breakdown of the things on social media, by far they were doing more anti-Hillary Clinton. But they had other information, including as I mentioned the famous dossier that is a Russian document that was anti-candidate Trump. So there was quite a bit on both sides.

BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation --

[17:20:00]

BLITZER: -- down the road. Thank you for joining us.

LANKFORD: You bet.

BLITZER: Up next Labor Secretary Alex Acosta rejects calls that he resign defending the 2008 plea deal he arranged as a U.S. attorney which gave multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein a very light sentence for sex crimes.

Plus a hurricane watch issued for part of the Louisiana coast right now and heavy rains are already causing serious problems along the central Gulf Coast. Stand by for the latest.

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BLITZER: Breaking news, the Labor Secretary Alex Acosta this afternoon defended his actions when, as a federal prosecutor, he negotiated a plea deal with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein a decade ago. Acosta said he has no intention of resigning.

Let's bring in our experts, our correspondents and analysts to assess.

And Kaitlan, you were there at that news conference at the Department of Labor earlier today. And you've done some serious reporting on the pressure behind the scenes from the president on Alex Acosta to do something. Tell us about that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump was the reason he came out today and did answer the questions from reporters because they got on the phone yesterday and the president told him he needed to defend himself and do so in a press conference, maybe taking questions because he wanted him to go out there and defend his actions as he oversaw the plea deal.

We reported last night the president had been privately telling people he had confidence in Secretary Acosta, making the same argument he did in the Oval Office yesterday, downplaying his role in the deal, saying there were multiple people involved and also stating that it was 11 years ago.

Well, the president was saying it was a long time ago. So that is why he wanted him to come out and forcefully defend himself and a lot of people in the West Wing were saying this performance was really going to determine whether or not he stayed on as the Labor Secretary.

BLITZER: It is interesting because during that news conference, Susan, the Labor Secretary repeatedly sought to deflect. He was blaming others, whether the state of Florida or career prosecutors. He didn't take responsibility.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: was ready to throw everybody under the bus, intimating the state would pursue lesser charges and the responsibility lay with career prosecutors.

But this is not a deal that just happened to occur at the U.S. attorney's office while Acosta happened to be the boss. Acosta personally met with Epstein's lawyer, not at the U.S. attorney's office but at a Miami hotel, which goes to how incredibly irregular this was.

It was at that breakfast meeting they hashed out this deal by which Epstein served only 13 months in prison and was allowed to come and go at will. He also agreed to immunize unnamed co-conspirators, an astonishing deal considering the strength of the evidence.

BLITZER: He said, Acosta, that that breakfast meeting with the lawyers representing Epstein was done after the plea deal had already been worked out.

HENNESSEY: Well, "The Miami Herald" reporting contradicts that and I do think that one thing for -- while Acosta deserves credit for answering an hour's worth of questions today, he was not forthcoming on whether or not he fully informed the victims. He was evasive on so many key details.

So it is hard to say whether or not his account of the story is credible at this point.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He said we didn't inform the victims because we were afraid that if they knew about money that might be coming to them that it could be used against them by Epstein's attorneys. It seems to me they were kind of bludgeoned by Epstein's lawyers --

BLITZER: And he had some pretty famous lawyers, Epstein, some high- powered lawyers.

He certainly did, one of whom was a former law partner of Acosta's.

But Acosta, as Susan was saying, was blaming everybody else for this and saying that arrangement was B.S. He shouldn't have been allowed to go to work while he was serving his jail time, who did that.

And he didn't really say what new evidence there is that he was praising the Southern District of New York for finding. What is there new about this?

There were 36 victims at the time.

Wasn't that enough?

And also in this question of immunizing potential co-conspirators, he didn't really explain why that occurred, did he?

I mean I'm not a lawyer.

BLITZER: Is he too much of a liability now for the president?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is a thing, we never know with the president. We've seen this over and over again with people who work for the president either in the cabinet or in the White House, there is a lot of scrutiny, a lot of damaging scrutiny and damning evidence against them in terms of wrongdoing or in this case sort of I think what I thought was a bit of a pompous and weak performance by Acosta and seeming to sort of go along with the railroading by Epstein's lawyers.

So we've seen this play out. It is up to the president ultimately. We don't know if at some point he changes his mind. We do know his instinct is to fight and to draw a line between folks who want to see folks in his administration go, folks who want to take him down, folks who want to take people who work with him down.

And so he tends to kind of defend them at all costs. We've seen that over and over again. We'll see if this press conference makes a difference.

I thought it was a terrible press conference. The sort of blaming, the timing of it, saying, oh, this was a very, very long time ago. It was only 11 years ago. And these victims would have been treated differently then than they would now. I thought it was a terrible performance.

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

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BLITZER: We're back with analysts and our experts.

[17:34:56] We're looking ahead to the Mueller testimony, Gloria, next week. And Nancy Pelosi met with the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives today. She pleaded for unity, at one point saying, quote, you got a complaint, you come and talk to me about it, but do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK. Clearly, there is a rift emerging between her and some of the more liberal younger members emerging.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and I don't blame her, quite frankly. She's the leader of the party in the House, and what she is saying to them is not that you can't complain. Sure, you can complain, but how about coming to me, so I don't have to read it on Twitter first?

And I think she is -- you know, she put out the word there, look, you don't have to stand in line behind me all of the time, but we have to have a united front because we're dealing with these hugely important issues.

And, of course, this comes on the hill of -- heels of her saying to Maureen Dowd in "The New York Times" --

HENDERSON: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: Right, yes.

BORGER: -- they have four votes. And, by the way, she was also right about that, they have four votes. And so I think she's kind of saying to them, you know, I'm not going to roll over for you, and you need to understand where I am coming from and how important these issues are. And so, yes, there is a rift in the Democratic Party.

HENDERSON: But that -- I mean, that was a low blow, I thought, for Nancy Pelosi to go and talk to Maureen Dowd in this pretty big piece in "The New York Times" and sort of trash these younger members who do have a following and do have a perspective.

And it's not just all on Twitter. It's an entire wing of the Democratic Party. So for her, I think, to come and say, oh, we should make nice, well, you know, Nancy Pelosi, you were trashing them in the pages of "The New York Times" very publicly.

BLITZER: She was -- there is a serious rift that has emerged.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BLITZER: How's the White House, Kaitlan, viewing this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With glee.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Sure.

HENDERSON: That's right.

COLLINS: They love any kind of division with the Democratic Party that is -- part of it is saying that the President should be impeached; the other half of it is conducting widespread investigations into the President. And then, of course, there are over two dozen-ish, around that, Democrats running against Donald Trump, hoping to beat him in the presidential election.

So any kind of division like this between a party that is center left and a party that is way more to the left, that is something that the White House and the Trump campaign wants to not only see but also exploit over the next year and a half as they try to make the argument for why Trump should be re-elected.

BLITZER: Because Nancy Pelosi, Susan, she's been a minority leader in the House of Representatives, and she's been Speaker of the House of Representatives. She wants to stay on as Speaker. She wants the Democrats in the -- after the next election to maintain that majority and not go back to the minority.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, and I think she recognizes that any internal divisions are -- among the Democrats are going to help Trump get re-elected and that that's what she's up against. And that these tweets from younger members, they might be popular sort of on social media and with one wing of the party, but, at the end of the day, they don't actually help advance the progressive agenda. They don't get bills drafted or passed.

And so, eventually, people are going to have to decide whether or not they are playing a team sport here because if they are divided, they are not going to unseat an incumbent president.

BORGER: You know, she's got these, what, 30 moderates? She's got to --

COLLINS: Yes.

HENDERSON: Thirty-four, yes.

BORGER: -- she's got to worry about who were elected in Trump districts. And she -- you know, she has kind of given them a master class here on how this place works and saying to them, I want to remain -- in not so many words, I need to remain Speaker of the House, and you are not helping us. And you have to figure out which side you're on.

And she's saying, you know, sometimes you need to compromise -- dirty word -- and you may have to learn that just like she had to learn it when she had to compromise herself, so.

HENDERSON: But that said, she's also -- she's not just resisting this far left wing. Pelosi is also resisting major calls for impeachment --

BORGER: Exactly.

HENDERSON: -- calls for basic oversight into things like Alex Acosta's handling for Epstein. And so she's finding herself further and further, not just from the very progressive wing but even, perhaps, some of the centrists at this point.

BLITZER: And the consequences are enormous in this feud that has emerged. Guys, stick around, there's more breaking news. A hurricane watch has just been issued for part of the Louisiana coast. We have the latest forecast.

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BLITZER: Breaking news, a hurricane watch has just been issued for parts of the Louisiana coast ahead of a storm that isn't even fully formed yet.

Let's go to our meteorologist Tom Sater. Tom, what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, we don't even have a tropical depression yet, but how this formed is extremely interesting. This came from a bit of energy inland and then drifted south into the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane season started on June 1st. This could be a hurricane as we look at the weekend. It'll be the first landfall during the month of July in the Gulf since 2008, and that was Bonnie -- or Dolly, excuse me, that moved into Texas.

Tropical storm watch from the Pearl River to the mouth of the Mississippi. In peak is a hurricane watch from the mouth of the Mississippi across all of the way over toward Cameron, Louisiana.

There is a lot of uncertainty of where this is going to make landfall, but there are a couple of things we know for sure. A precursor today, tremendous amounts of rainfall, two tornado watches, a flash flood emergency, with over 250 emergency calls today, as the system brushed through the area.

The river system can't take any more right now. Just to give you an idea, the broad circulation is still well off to the west. In the next 24 hours, we could have a named storm, Barry. And then as it makes its way through this bath water -- this is like a hot tub in the Gulf; it's warmer than it should be, Wolf -- we're expecting some intensification to get to Category 1 hurricane.

But it doesn't matter the category right now. This is all about the rain. We had 9.42 inches. This is a one in 25 -- 50-year event following the one in 100-year event you had up in D.C.

[17:45:05] But it's about the warnings. When Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the levee on the Mississippi River in New Orleans was just over three feet. Right now, that same levee is at 16, expected to go to 20. The record is 21.

This could be the highest level at this levee system in 90 years. At 20 feet, Wolf, we're looking at this rainfall in this level to be right at the top of the levee system. This is going to be a real test on this system as we watch this system move in for the weekend. But it's all about 10, 15, maybe 20 inches of rain to come.

BLITZER: Yes. Next month, it will be 14 years since Hurricane Katrina hit that Louisiana area.

SATER: Right.

BLITZER: Tom Sater, we'll stay on top of this very serious development, indeed.

SATER: Yes.

BLITZER: Coming up, a former U.S. Marine threatened by North Korea. Could Kim Jong-un's hitmen target him and others right here in the United States?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:36] BLITZER: Kim Jong-un's regime may be planning to make a move against an American accused of leading a stunning raid on a North Korean embassy. Brian Todd has been working his sources for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have new information tonight from an attorney for that American man involved in the embassy raid in Spain and from court documents. They confirm the North Koreans have put a target on this man's back. And even if they are in the U.S., Spain, or elsewhere, neither he nor one of his cohorts are safe from the long arm of Kim Jong-un's intelligence service.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, new indications that North Korea's violent young dictator could be targeting some of his highest-profile adversaries who are Americans for assassination. They're members of a group called the Provisional Government of Free Joseon, whose goal is to overthrow Kim Jong-un's regime.

One of their members, former U.S. Marine Christopher Ahn, has just been granted bail by a judge in L.A. and should be under house detention within days. Ahn and other members of Free Joseon are accused of leading a brazen, broad daylight raid on North Korea's embassy in Madrid in February, making away with thumb drives, hard drives, computers, and cell phones.

Ahn was arrested in L.A. in April, and Spain wants the U.S. to extradite him there. Ahn's lawyer tells CNN, she's fighting that.

NAEUN RIM, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTOPHER AHN: There are people on the ground who are connected to the North Korean government. They can reach out to people in Spain if they want to commit a crime or harm somebody.

TODD (voice-over): The judge in Ahn's case backs her up, writing in a court order -- the FBI has confirmed that the North Korean government has threatened his life. He is, apparently, the target of a dictatorship's efforts to murder him.

Ahn's lawyer says she fears he'd be in danger even if he is incarcerated in Spain. Danger from North Korean agents and their criminal contacts.

RIM: The officials there are probably in touch with people in the underworld in Spain, people who would have no problem finding their way into a Spanish jail if Mr. Ahn were to be detained there.

TODD (voice-over): Ahn's lawyer is concerned that North Korean agents could even get to him while he's in the U.S. One former spy says North Korea could well have a network of operatives in the L.A. area, and they wouldn't blink at targeting Ahn there.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CASE OFFICER, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: They wouldn't hesitate of killing somebody in the United States. They're just not -- they're not going to. They're -- it's a vicious regime as we know.

TODD (voice-over): Christopher Ahn is not the only leader of Free Joseon who is apparently in danger tonight. American Adrian Hong, accused by Spain of being the mastermind of the embassy raid is in hiding, on the run from U.S. Marshals and, his lawyer says, North Korean agents.

LEE WOLOSKY, ATTORNEY FOR ADRIAN HONG: We know from credible sources that the North Korean government has -- is seeking Adrian Hong and some of his associates from the Provisional Government of Free Joseon and is seeking to target them for assassination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police!

TODD (voice-over): U.S. authorities raided Hong's apartment in April, but he wasn't there. The lawyers for Hong and Ahn deny Spain's accusations that they beat and tied up North Korean officials during the embassy raid in February. Still, analysts say Kim Jong-un must be enraged over that incident.

BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER DEPUTY DIVISION CHIEF FOR KOREA, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: To have someone enter the North Korean embassy, take control of it for some time, would really be seen as quite an insult, quite a criticism of North Korea, so Kim would take that personally. It would be seen as a personal affront of the regime, so he would want to lash out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Tonight, the attorneys for Christopher Ahn and Adrian Hong are also critical of the Justice Department, saying that it's dismaying that the department has executed warrants against Americans based on the accounts of North Korean officials in Spain.

Those attorneys tell CNN they are worried that Ahn and Hong, if he is ever caught, could eventually be extradited actually to North Korea if they are not harmed first. Justice officials tell CNN anyone extradited to Spain is going to get due process under Spanish law. And they've indicated they are not likely to help facilitate any extraditions to North Korea, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, good report. Thank you very much.

Coming up, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta rejects calls to resign, defending the secret 2008 plea deal he arranged as a U.S. attorney which gave multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein an easy sentence for sex crimes. Will President Trump stand by him?

[17:54:54] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Not backing down. Embattled Labor Secretary Alex Acosta defends the plea deal he cut for multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, refusing to resign, and blaming state prosecutors even as new victims come forward. Was his news conference performance on the President's orders enough for him to keep his job?

[18:00:08] Make or break moment.