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Trump Hits Campaign Trail, Not Unhappy With Uproar Over His Racism; House Dem Leaders Favor Killing Impeachment Resolution; Interview With Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Oversight And Intelligence Committees, On Trump Impeachment; Next Up In Presidential Debates; House Voting On Motion To Table Trump Impeachment Resolution; Trump Goes After Democratic Congresswomen As He Heads To Rally; Reports: Kim Jong-un Smuggles Limousines And Luxury Goods But Demands Money To Preserve Bodies of Predecessors. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thank you so much for watching. We'll see you tomorrow.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: race to the bottom. As he hits the campaign trail, President Trump is not retreating from the outrage over his racist attack on four minority congresswomen. And in a new interview he said he's, quote, "not unhappy" with the uproar his attack has triggered.

Impeachment and contempt: House Democrats are about to vote on a resolution holding two cabinet members in contempt and on the resolution of impeachment.

But will their leaders allow that measure to move forward?

Who is in and who is out?

We're standing by to find out which candidates have made the cut for this month's Democratic presidential debates, exclusively here on CNN; 20 were qualified for tomorrow night's draw.

So who is in and who is out?

And Kim's Ice Capades: new reports say that Kim Jong-un is smuggling limousines and luxury goods into North Korea even as he demands donations to keep the bodies of his father and grandfather on ice.

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


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

BLITZER: Breaking news: President Trump heads out on the campaign trail this hour. Leaving the Capitol in turmoil over his racist attacks on minority congresswomen and in a new interview he's says he "not unhappy" with the political firestorm that he sparked.

Despite a House resolution strongly condemning his words, the president is unrepentant and makes it clear he will raise the issue before a friendly crowd in North Carolina.

Democrats, meantime, are getting ready to vote on a resolution of contempt for two Trump cabinet members and one congressman is putting forward an impeachment resolution. But a source says Democratic leaders favor spiking that measure and even pro-impeachment Democrats prefer to focus in on next week's hearings with the former special counsel Robert Mueller.

I'll speak with congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of the Intelligence and Oversight Committees. And our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories. We begin with our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president is hitting the campaign trail tonight, still attacking four minority congresswomen.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. And he's heading to that rally as we speak. He's speaking with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. We're going to have notes from all of that in just a few moments and we'll get that to you.

But in the meantime, President Trump is now exploiting the battle with the House Democrats known as The Squad in a new campaign-style video. The video is a clear sign the president is now looking to weaponize his racist tweets from earlier in the week to soften up the Democrats for 2020.

For the Trump team, there is a new Squad goal and that is to attack The Squad.


ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump tweeted out this campaign-style video, filled with patriotic images, including shots of his taxpayer- funded Fourth of July event on the National Mall.

But the president's true message appears to come at the end of the video. In true Trumpian trolling, it says, "One 'squad' under God."

It's another dig at the four Democratic congresswomen of color, known as The Squad, who are the target of Trump's now infamous racist tweets, a signal the president still wants to fan the flames of the same firestorm he started this week.

TRUMP: It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me. And all I'm saying, they want to leave, they can leave. Now it doesn't say leave forever. It says leave.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president said he's pleased with the results of the controversy, telling the "Daily Mail," "Well, let's put it this way, I'm not unhappy."

The president is taking his crusade against The Squad one step further, tying them to the Democratic Party, tweeting, "They are now the top most visible members of the House Democrats who are now wedded to this bitterness and hate."

Republicans in Congress are now joining in on the schoolyard antics, kicking sand at The Squad, too.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Now this is their -- they're entitled to their opinion, they're Americans. But I'm entitled to my opinion and I just think they're left-wing cranks and they're the reason that their direction is on a shampoo bottle. I think we should ignore them.

I believe that the four congresswomen are more famous than wise.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The four congresswomen say they are not surprised.

TLAIB: This is a distraction.

GAYLE KING, CBS ANCHOR: Do you feel enough Republicans have spoken up against the president?


KING: What message does that send?

TLAIB: That the normalization of it, the fact that it is against our core American values, that they're choosing him over country.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Democratic contenders for 2020 are firing back, with Vice President Joe Biden accusing Mr. Trump of setting a poor example for younger Americans.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This isn't who we are. And the point of it is, very important to remember, our children are listening. Our children are listening.


ACOSTA (voice-over): And senator Kamala Harris throwing the president's words in his face.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know but he needs to go back where he came from and leave that office.


ACOSTA: The president just wrapped up some very brief remarks on the South Lawn of the White House. He talking about those four Democratic congresswomen, known as The Squad. Just talking to reporters, the president said that he believes he is winning this fight with those Democratic congresswomen.

And he said at one point to questions from reporters that he feels he is right now winning this battle and that he's enjoying it, saying that the Democratic Party is moving so far to the Left, in his words, that they're about to go off a cliff.

Now the president plans to keep stoking these tensions at his rally later on this evening in North Carolina. Earlier in the day, he tweeted that he'll be talking about people who, quote, "love and hate the U.S."

That appears to be a veiled reference to The Squad. It is another sign, Wolf, that this 2020 campaign is starting early and it is starting ugly.

BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta at White House, thank you.

Let's go to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on scene.

Manu, so what is the latest on this impeachment vote?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Al Green, the congressman who's pushing this impeachment resolution, emerged moments ago from the Speaker's office, Nancy Pelosi, and made clear he is not withdrawing this resolution to impeach the president if the House were to go that route.

The Speaker does not favor this. In fact, the Democratic leaders want to table this measure. Al Green at the moment is on the House floor. We do expect action that could happen potentially sometime this hour to try to kill that resolution because Democrats do not believe this is the way to go.

Now Al Green, I spoke to earlier today, made clear why he is doing this. This has nothing to do with the Mueller report, the allegations of obstruction of justice; he contends this is all about the president's racism.

REP. AL GREEN (D-TX): Today we have the opportunity to punish as a result of what we did yesterday, the president suffers no harm and he doesn't have to pay any fine or lose his job.

But today we have the opportunity to punish. Very similar to going to court. Where you have a bifurcated process, the first part of the trial you convict and the second part, you punish. This is that day.

RAJU: A lot of your colleagues say why not wait until the Mueller hearing?

GREEN: Well, because you don't delay justice. The Mueller hearing has nothing to do with what we're doing now. The Mueller hearing is all about obstruction, this is about bigotry and racism.

RAJU: Are racist tweets really high crimes and misdemeanors?

GREEN: His tweets can incite people to do harm.

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): I don't think this is the wisest moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will definitely vote for it.

RAJU: You think it is a distraction that he's doing this?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): We should continue to focus on kitchen table pocketbook issues.

RAJU: So you could see there that Al Green's move dividing the House Democratic Caucus. Overall, even people like Veronica Escobar, who we showed right there, who supports moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, doesn't think this is the right time and said wait for the Mueller hearing first. Do not go this route.

But Al Green moving forward. Right now on the House floor they're reading the impeachment resolution and they're going to lead to a vote because, under the rules, any member can force a vote within two legislative days on articles of impeachment.

So he wants to move forward. He plans to do that. But putting Democrats in a difficult spot, particularly ones who support moving forward in an impeachment proceeding because they don't believe this is the correct way to go, Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, what about the vote scheduled to hold two of President Trump's cabinet members in contempt?

RAJU: That is right. All have to do with the adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census. Democrats in the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary, and Bill Barr, the attorney general, to get information related to the investigation about that -- for that probe.

But they did not get information to the satisfaction of their subpoenas and they move forward with criminal contempt vote in the House Oversight Committee and now in just a matter of moments the full House will vote to hold those two officials in contempt.

Criminal contempt, the first time Trump cabinet officials have been held in contempt by the U.S. House and that will happen in a matter of moments.

The next steps after that, likely court action to try to compel them -- those cabinet to provide this information to Capitol Hill. We'll see how that plays out. But just another step, another sign of the contentious fight between House Democrats and the administration over all of the investigations.

BLITZER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much.

Joining us now Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He's a member of both the Oversight and Intelligence Committees.

Thank you for joining us.


BLITZER: We may have to interrupt our interview briefly to hear what the president just told reporters as he's leaving the White House. We're about to get that videotape. We'll play it for our viewers and then we'll continue our conversation.


BLITZER: So if I interrupt you will understand why.

So first of all, how do you plan on voting on the Al Green impeachment resolution tonight?


KRISHNAMOORTHI: I appreciate the sentiment. I will vote to table or refer it to the Judiciary Committee, where it is to be considered with the other impeachment matters. Bob Mueller is coming in one week, Wolf.

I'm preparing to question him from the Intelligence Committee and I'm going to be listening very intently on what he has to say before making any other further actions in this regard.

BLITZER: So we're going to see what happens on that front. The president has been speaking, as I pointed out to reporters, I think we're about to get that tape right now. And I want to go to it and play it. Our viewers can hear what the president is saying. You see him walking out of the White House on the South Lawn.

He's going to be taking Marine One over to Joint Base Andrews to head out to North Carolina for this big rally later tonight. I'm sure it will be very, very lively when the president goes out there.

He'll be speaking extensively but just before leaving the White House, just as he's leaving the White House, walked over to reporters and clearly wants to answer their questions. Listen in as the president gets closer to the news media.


TRUMP: About what?


TRUMP: No, if people want to leave our country, they can, if they don't want to love our country, if they don't want to fight for our country, they can. I'll never change on that, no.


TRUMP: What?


TRUMP: I do think I'm winning the political fight. I think I'm winning it by a lot.


TRUMP: I think that they are not espousing the views of our country, the four congresswomen. I think that they've said horrible things that the press doesn't cover. I think you should try covering it.

When you look at some of the things they said, they're unthinkable. If somebody else or me or anybody else said things like that, it would be historic. So you ought to look at some of the horrible statements because there has never been statements like that.


TRUMP: Well, the Democratic Party is really going in a direction that nobody thought possible. They're going so far Left they're going to fall off a cliff. So I think they're making a big mistake. But who knows. That's up to them.


TRUMP: Well, there is a lot of talk about the fact that she was married to her brother. I know nothing about it. I hear she was married to her brother. You're asking me a question about it. I don't know. But I'm sure that somebody would be looking at that.


TRUMP: Well, I think the story last night was that 187 Republicans voted in favor of Trump and four voted against. I think that was the big story. That seems to be the story.

There is great unity in the Republican Party and it is very unfair what happened with respect to the way I would say Republicans are being treated, frankly, but certainly the way -- certainly the way this president has been treated.

In the history of our country, there has never been anything like this and this should never be allowed to happen to another president again. Should never be allowed to happen.

Despite that, we've created the greatest economy in the history of our country, we're doing things like nobody has ever done, we have the best job numbers in the history of our country, African American and Asian American, women, Hispanic American, best job numbers we've ever had. And I have to go because I see it starting to pour.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did someone disagree with you, embellishing this fight with the congresswomen?

TRUMP: I'm not relishing the fight. I'm enjoying it because I have to get the word out to the American people. And you have to enjoy what you do. I enjoy what I do. The key is -- the key is -- it is not a question of relishing; they're wrong. They're absolutely wrong. That is not where our country wants to be. We're not going to go and we're not going to be a socialist country. It is not going to happen.

BLITZER: So there you heard the president of the United States, making some very, very tough statements, continuing his assault on the four Democratic congresswomen, all congresswomen of color.

Jim Acosta, he says --


BLITZER: -- he thinks he's winning this political fight over these four congresswomen and he said they say horrible things and he said there's never been statements like that before. He also answered other questions.

ACOSTA: That is right, Wolf. And he even worked in a dig at the press, saying that we don't give enough coverage to some of the comments that the Democratic congresswomen have made in the past. That is not the case.

Obviously we've given a lot of coverage to a lot of the things that they've been saying. But Wolf, one of the things that is very clear from the president's comments just a few moments ago is that he is relishing this fight with the four Democratic congresswomen who make up the so-called Squad.

And he said a couple of times there before he left for this rally down in North Carolina this evening, that he feels as though he is winning this battle. And so a week that started off with these racist tweets, that much of the country condemned, has now turned into something of a political weapon, a political cudgel that this president is now planning to wield, I think, in the coming days and we'll hear more about this later on this evening.

He's accusing these Democratic congresswomen of essentially hating their country. Obviously that is not the case. They say they don't hate this country. And, Wolf, one thing to point out, it got somewhat personal at one point. We're not exactly clear as to what the question was in terms of what was asked.

But he was asked about accusations or allegations about congresswoman Ilhan Omar; at one point he -- the president made some sort of suggestion there that perhaps she might be married to her brother. That is an accusation that is floated around on the Web and she has denied that.

And so it does seem as the president is leaving for this rally this evening that he's not only going after these Democratic congresswomen politically, he's hitting them in very personal ways, willing to engage in speculation, wild speculation, unproven speculation that is out there on Twitter.

So I think it is a very clear sign, Wolf, the president is not planning on letting up and he certainly is not backing down from this fight that he feels he's winning right now.

BLITZER: Yes, he said I'll never change. I want to go to -- Jim Acosta, stand by. I want to go back to congressman Raju Krishnamoorthi who listened together with all of us.

And I want to get your reaction, Congressman, to some of the specific things we just heard from the president. He said if these four Democratic congresswomen want to leave the country, they can leave the country and he promised he'll never change and he insists he's winning this political fight.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, he's not only doubling and tripling down, he's now quadrupling down with these racist comments.

Look, a lot of my colleagues may not agree with each other on certain issues. But one thing that unites us and energizes us is opposition to bigotry, racism, prejudice and intolerance and, in this particular case, I totally disagree with the president, that he said that he's somehow winning some kind of war, political war here.

I think that that is completely wrong. And he points out that, in his own Republican caucus, he had a lot of support in the House. But he ended up having 240 members vote on a resolution condemning his remarks as racist.

And that is very important and that is not only symbolically important but important for our children and everybody to know that his comments were wrong.

BLITZER: The president now boarding Air Force One. He's at Joint Base Andrews and flying off to North Carolina for a political rally. These are live pictures we're showing our viewers.

He also said, Congressman, that your party, the Democratic Party is so far to the Left -- and I'm quoting now -- that you guys are getting ready to fall off a cliff.

What do you say to is that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I disagree with him. I think that his comments are an effort to distract from what he did earlier in the week. And I think that it is also an attempt to distract from trying to deliver on the pocketbook priorities that the American people want us to jointly work on, whether it is making health care more affordable and accessible or investing in infrastructure or creating greater access to higher educational opportunities.

These things he knows that he's not able to deliver on. And so he's distracting by going toward these other messages. It is very sad that he had to go toward the message of racism in order to distract people from what really is important, to pocketbook issues right now.

BLITZER: He said he's not relishing this fight. But then he went -- the next sentence he said, I'm enjoying it. As you know, Congressman, some Democrats don't think yesterday's resolution strongly condemning the president was enough. Is there anything else you believe Congress can do or should be doing

right now to hold the president accountable short of impeachment?


KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know. There might be other measures that we might be able to take.

But as of right now, I think that what happened last night was strong.

But the other thing I would just say is we also have to send a message of unity to all of our constituents and to the American people; 30 percent of my constituents are foreign born, Wolf. They are not all Democrats or Republicans or independents but they are all Americans.

And they're upset about what the president did earlier this week. We have to send a message to them that America is not defined by your ethnicity or bloodline or where you came from or how many letters there are in your name. I have 29 in mine.

It is about a set of ideals and if you subscribe to those ideals, you're an American and that is something that we all are trying to communicate as far and loudly as we can right now.

BLITZER: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you so much for joining us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, thank you.

BLITZER: We've got some live pictures coming in from the floor of the House of Representatives. They're voting now on a motion to table Congressman Al Green's impeachment resolution and you can see the vote as it is unfolding. We're going to have live coverage of this.

There are significant developments unfolding right now, including this motion to impeach the president of the United States. Much more on the breaking news right after this.





BLITZER: Following breaking news we're watching as the House of Representatives voting on a motion to table a resolution to impeach President Trump. We'll continue to follow this.

In the meantime, as we await the final roll call, there is other breaking news as well. CNN can now reveal the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who have qualified for the CNN Democratic presidential debates, which will take place in Detroit on July 30th and July 31st.

Let me bring in our Political Director, David Chalian.

David, explain how all this works.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know that the DNC has capped the debate stage for this first round at 10 per night. There are two nights of debates, a total of 20 candidates.

How do you get onto that debate stage?

Well, you had to get at least 1 percent in three approved-of polls from the beginning of the year until just today in that qualifying window or needed 65,000 individual donors to your campaign, Wolf. Across 20 states you needed 200 donors inside of each of 20 states, trying to show real, broad grassroots support.

So we know, after the candidates submitted qualifications, the 20 candidates that will be debating in Detroit. Let me read the list to you.

Michael Bennet, the senator from Colorado; former Vice President Joe Biden; Senator Cory Booker; Governor Steve Bullock of Montana; Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Julian Castro, the former cabinet secretary; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; Maryland Congressman John Delaney; Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Kamala Harris, the senator from California; former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; Washington State Governor Jay Inslee; Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke; Tim Ryan, the congressman from Ohio; Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont; Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts; Marianne Williamson, the author and Andrew Yang, the businessman.

Those are the 20 candidates who have qualified for this next round of debating.

BLITZER: And 10 of them will debate on the first night and 10 of them will debate on the second night in Detroit. Tell us a little bit more about who made the stage for the first time and who didn't make it.

CHALIAN: Right. So 20 candidates debated in Miami a few weeks back in June in the first series of debates. There is one big change on that screen and that is Montana governor Steve Bullock. He is now going to be participating in these debates in Detroit. He was -- he had not made the debate stage in Miami.

Eric Swalwell, as you know, the congressman from California, has dropped out. There was some question, looking at the public polls available, if indeed Bullock may have not bounced Swalwell from making the Detroit debate stage. But that tie break never had to happen; Swalwell dropped out of the race. That opened a slot for Bullock. The rest of the field is at it was in Miami. And now the big question is who debates whom. And that is what we learn tomorrow night when we do the draw between the two stages.

BLITZER: Excellent point. And our viewers and the candidates will be able to find out which Democratic candidates will face off on each night of the next debate in a special live event. You can watch the draw for the CNN Democratic presidential debates tomorrow night at 8:00 pm Eastern here on CNN.

And stay with CNN for the Democratic presidential debates, live from Detroit at 8:00 pm Eastern on Tuesday, July 30th, and Wednesday, July 31. Dana Bash and Don Lemon and Jake Tapper they will moderate two big nights, 10 candidates each night, only here on CNN.

Coming up, we'll have more on all the breaking news. President Trump heading to a campaign rally after saying he's "not unhappy" with the fury he's touched off by attacking Democratic congresswomen.


BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories. The House of Representatives is now voting on a motion to table a Democratic lawmaker's attempt to impeach President Trump. The President is on his way to a political rally in North Carolina and is expected to keep up his attacks on progressive Democratic congresswomen.

Our political and legal experts are standing by. First, I want to go to CNN's Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

[17:35:01] So the roll call continues. I assume it's almost done. For all practical purposes, this motion is now being tabled.

RAJU: Yes, overwhelming rejection of this measure proposed by Al Green, a Democratic congressman, to impeach President Trump over racism. This is going to fail overwhelmingly. Right now, more than 300 votes, affirmatively, to essentially kill this measure from going forward.

But interestingly, Wolf, there are more than 80 votes at the moment -- and to their screens, it says 87 votes at the moment to essentially keep this alive. Now, that is more than what happened in 2017 and 2018 when there were votes to similarly kill impeachment resolutions against this president. In 2017, there were 58 votes, and in 2018, there were 66 votes. And as you can see, more than 80 right now.

And also, one key member voted to keep this alive. That's Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman. He voted to -- against killing this resolution. Now, we're told by his staff that the reason why he did so is because he supports the procedure of referring this back to his committee rather than killing it altogether.

And we've reported in the past that Jerry Nadler privately has lobbied the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to formally open up an impeachment inquiry, something that she has rejected. And at the moment, he is in line with her, publicly saying he's not going to -- not going to defy the Speaker.

But nevertheless, overwhelmingly rejected by the House. They're going to call this in a matter of moments on a bipartisan basis to prevent the President from being impeached. But a significant amount of Democrats now voting to keep this alive, more than 80 at the moment, approaching 90 Democratic members, who believe the President should be impeached because of concerns about racism -- Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, 328 members voting to table this resolution. Ninety in

favor of the resolution, one voting present. They're still waiting for 14 more members to vote. You can see no Republicans voting in favor, clearly, of this resolution.

But 90 Democrats -- Dana Bash, 90 Democrats including Jerry Nadler saying keep it alive.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Very significant that Jerry Nadler voted that way, especially since he is the guy who -- not only because he would be the guy who would be in charge of moving the impeachment proceedings through the committee that he chairs, the Judiciary Committee, but because it puts him squarely at odds on the record with the rest of the Democratic leadership.

We know, as Manu has been saying and reporting as of our other colleagues, that this is how he felt. Now, he has it on the congressional record. It's going to be interesting to see if there is a second vote because the second vote would be to send it formally to the -- the question to his committee. And that might be another way that they try to punt. And when -- by "they," I mean those inside of the Democratic leadership.

BLITZER: Clearly, April, Democratic Congressman Al Green is trying to send a signal out there even though his effort, at least for now, is going to fail.

APRIL RYAN, WASHINGTON, D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well, I'm not going to necessarily say that. Congressman Al Green calls the President unfit, and there are a lot of Democrats in the House, that I'm hearing, that feel the same way.

And I talked to Congressman Emanuel Cleaver just before we went on the air, about an hour or so ago, and he said if this actually came to a vote, he believes that it would be approved. It would be an overwhelming approval of this because Democrats are saying, when they go home to their home districts, they are hearing people talk about the President being unfit in who he is, in -- in his nature, what have you.

We're not talking about the obstruction of justice issue. We're talking about unfitness as it relates to humanity, as it relates to race. So Al Green has hit a nerve. And granted, Nancy Pelosi wants to see this play out with investigations in various committees, but there is a groundswell of people who feel that this is not right.

BASH: I'm not -- I mean, I want to, obviously, let them weigh. I'm not so sure that Emanuel Cleaver is entirely right when he is talking about the people who would get them to 218, the people who -- I think you, maybe, coined this the majority makers.


RYAN: Yes.

BASH: Those from moderate districts for whom -- this is the last thing they want to be doing. They want to be doing and talking about them passing bills on the issues that they campaigned on.

AXELROD: A little bit of a reality check, it may be that these numbers shifted a little over the weekend, but the --

RYAN: Yes.

AXELROD: There was a "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll that came out over the weekend. The impeachment question was asked. Twenty-one percent of Americans said they wanted the House to move on impeachment. That was actually down six points. Fifty percent said not -- they didn't want it pursued at all, and the rest said that they should continue with the investigations.

I think in those 31 districts where you have new freshman members of Congress --

BASH: Yes.

AXELROD: -- who had come from areas that Donald Trump carried --

BASH: Exactly.

AXELROD: -- they vitally interested in not moving right now on this. They want to show that the House is moving on substantive issues that they ran on, and they view this as an unhelpful distraction. So, yes, with all due respect to the Congressman, I'm not sure that that's the case.

[17:40:09] BLITZER: How do you think Nancy Pelosi is handling this?

AXELROD: You know, I think she is trying to -- this is -- these are rocky shoals to navigate because, on the one hand, there is enormous outrage about the President's racist comments. There was -- that she felt there was a need to do something. She put on the floor a resolution that was as stripped down as it possibly could be, but it did offer the opportunity for there to be this political back and forth. And what the Republican strategy was, was to turn this into a political scrum rather than a fight over principles.

So, you know, I think she's in a tough spot, and she -- she's right on this, though. I think that it would be a terrible mistake to move forward on impeachment right now.

BASH: But you know --


RYAN: But the strategy --


RYAN: But the strategy is for Nancy Pelosi, really from what I see and many Americans see, is that the fact that, right now, you have poll numbers with Democratic presidential candidates who could possibly beat this president. And she sees that that is -- that is the big piece that she sees before anything else, I believe. BLITZER: But --


BLITZER: Hold on one second. Laura, I'll get to you in a second. But you have some Democratic poll numbers that show what Nancy Pelosi may be thinking.

BASH: Well, I was told by a member who was in the room this morning that there was a meeting convened by the Speaker among Democrats, and there was internal polling presented to them. And that polling showed that the best argument against Donald Trump was to paint him as ineffective. To paint him as in ineffective, somebody who is blocking the Democrats and the country from getting things that they say that they want on infrastructure, on jobs, on bread and butter issues.

And the thing that they don't -- that they shouldn't do, this is according to the polling, according to a member in this meeting, was these issues. Impeachment, race, things that they believe, politically, ultimately, could actually help the President. That that is not as effective as sticking to the issues. And there was some frustration that they're being drawn into this.

BLITZER: Laura, you --

COATES: Well, the poll numbers are important, but I think the date is very important. Today was supposed to be the date you heard from Robert Mueller.

RYAN: That's true.

COATES: And, of course, the Democrats do not want to hang their hat on the hook that maybe it's racism, which is a foregone conclusion to many people about the President's state of mind. But the idea that they were hoping that if there was a discussion on impeachment, it had to do with the Mueller report, obstruction issues, the issues surrounding collusion and foreign interference. And so this was not the hill they wanted to die on.

Now, having said this, it's ironic because, of course, the entire theme of what he's done in this tweet is, of course, about racism. But it's also about undermining the power and legitimacy and credibility of members of Congress.

We have seen this for quite some time with the subpoena stonewalling, et cetera, and his towards Congress this entire process. And so the idea they're saying, well, this is a totally separate issue from the underlying issue about impeachment is a little bit ironic. I actually understand why the congressman was saying what you -- what he had to say, Cleaver, about this issue because he was watching yesterday.

RYAN: Yes, he did.

COATES: He threw down his gavel in protest and in disgust because there seemed to be so much passion around the President's statements and the vitriol around the racist tweets, and then, lo and behold, when it came time to saying it was, in fact, the straw that broke the camel's back, everyone had a 10-foot pole scenario. So I can see there being a different assessment of how he wins it with this scuffle (ph).

AXELROD: I have to say, you are a lawyer and you're looking at it through the eyes of a lawyer. I'm an old political hack, and what I see --

COATES: You said old, not me.

AXELROD: What I --



COATES: Personal.

AXELROD: Sometimes you have to acknowledge the obvious. And I -- what I see is a president who saw, you know, whether it was intuitive or planned out, saw an advantage in starting this fight.

RYAN: That's right.

BASH: Bingo.

RYAN: Yes.

AXELROD: Making these young members of Congress a symbol of the Democratic Party.

RYAN: Yes.

AXELROD: Riling his base and drawing Democrats into this. He creates a situation --

BASH: That's right.

RYAN: Yes.

AXELROD: -- where Democrats have to react because what he says is so outrageous that they can't -- they can't not be.

BLITZER: And I'm going to point, you know, April, the President just said, as he was leaving the White House, I do think I'm winning the political fight. He says these four women, these four Democratic congresswomen, they are saying horrible things.

RYAN: Yes. And not only that, he said, I'm enjoying the fight.

BLITZER: He says I'm not relishing the fight, I'm enjoying it.

RYAN: Right.


RYAN: A president of the United States. And the fight --

BASH: You never have wonder what he's thinking.

RYAN: Right!


AXELROD: Yes, give him that.

RYAN: What is the fight over? Race. He's enjoying it. The President of the United States, who is supposed to be the moral leader. Now, he started this fight, and it's this tit-for-tat you saw.

President Trump said go back to where you came from. Now, Kamala Harris is saying go back to where you came from. And now, you're -- we are -- we're anticipating something next week from the squad. When does it stop?

AXELROD: Yes, but I'll tell you something. I think one of the vulnerabilities he has is that people know he enjoys the fight. That the fight almost seems paramount to him. That entertaining himself with these fights, dividing and, you know --

RYAN: And that divide is going to cost someone to get hurt.

AXELROD: -- this raw -- stirring these raw emotions. At some point, it gets exhausting.

RYAN: It's not just --

AXELROD: And I think that's a vulnerability for him if Democrats treat it as the tactic that it is and not get into the back and forth.

RYAN: But, David, it's not just -- it's not just about the back and forth. Someone is going to get hurt.

[17:45:02] This fight is passionate. For Emanuel Cleaver to throw down that gavel yesterday and walk away, this is about -- you -- we don't have an option of being who we are in this nation. Being who we are in our being. And it's ramping up for this election cycle, and people are taking this seriously.


RYAN: There is race divide in this nation --


RYAN: -- that has been caused by the --

AXELROD: April, I understand that.

RYAN: I know, I get you.

AXELROD: I'm talking politics, OK? RYAN: I know, I know.

AXELROD: I'm talking politics.

RYAN: But this is caused by the President of the United States who is supposed to be the moral leader of this nation. He's supposed to be uniter, not the divider.


BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's more news we're following. In a country where reports say he's forcing workers to donate money to keep the bodies of his father and grandfather frozen, how does Kim Jong-un get his hands on expensive luxury goods, including very fancy new limousines?


[17:50:24] BLITZER: New reports indicate Kim Jong-un is going through great lengths to smuggle limousines and luxury goods into North Korea, even as he demands money to keep the bodies of his father and grandfather preserved.

Brian Todd has been looking into this for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the kind of hypocrisy that seems to be the jet fuel of Kim's regime. We have new information tonight on Kim's desperate attempts to keep North Koreans worshipping at the feet of his dead father and grandfather at the same time he operates a secretive, elaborate smuggling operation to indulge his taste for opulence.


TODD (voice-over): They're a flamboyant symbol of Kim Jong-un's power and, critics say, his unbridled greed. Bulletproof stretch limos made by Mercedes and Rolls-Royce, worth about $500,000 each, the North Korean dictator has toured around Pyongyang in them. Famously had flanks of security agents ran alongside them. And even waved to the masses alongside China's president from the open top of one.

The problem is, under U.N. sanctions, Kim's not supposed to have these luxury cars. He smuggles them in with an elaborate secret bootleg operation, only to turn around and flaunt his apparent fleet of limos.

JASON ARTERBURN, LEAD ANALYST, CENTER FOR ADVANCED DEFENSE STUDIES: North Korea's commercial facilitators overseas have global reach that stretches not only in northeast Asia, but also to places like Europe as well.

TODD (voice-over): The Center for Advanced Defense Studies and "The New York Times" tracked a secretive shipment of just two of these armored Mercedes limos to Pyongyang. They say the cars' journey started in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in June of last year, sent in containers on a major shipping line. After a 41-day journey, the cars arrived in the port of Dalian, China. Then they went to Japan. Then to Busan, South Korea.

But there, a mysterious ghost ship which the "Times" says was tied to a Russian businessman picked up the limos. Once out to sea, according to the "Times" and the think tank, the ship vanished, probably turning off its required transponder. Based on their tracking of shipping records and satellite pictures, they believe the ghost ship took the limos to Vladivostok, Russia, where they say North Korean cargo planes likely picked them up and flew them to Pyongyang.

ARTERBURN: They used some shady companies whose operations are not clear. They don't necessarily always report all of their commercial activities. They obfuscate the ownership of things like their vessels. What this means for law enforcement is it becomes exceedingly difficult to track some of these shipments.

TODD (voice-over): North Korea has been banned from importing luxury goods since 2016, but that hasn't stopped the regime from smuggling in items like high-end watches, yachts, cognac, and other expensive liquor. Even sky lifts for the resort which only North Korean elites can use. At least $191 million worth from 2015 to 2017, according to the new study. But while that's going on, Kim apparently still says he needs donations from average North Koreans to pay for keeping his dead father's and grandfather's bodies frozen.

Radio Free Asia, a news agency funded by the U.S. government, reports Kim has recently forced factory workers and others to donate money to pay for the expensive preservation of the bodies of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung at the Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang where they are displayed through glass for the North Korean people to worship and venerate them. Analysts say Kim may not be doing this because he lacks the cash, but because he wants his people to feel connected to his dynasty.

CHRISTOPHER STEINITZ, RESEARCH SCIENTIST, CNA: It's a way of crowdfunding by reaching out to party members, and by reaching out to the people. It makes them invested in maintaining this location which is an important symbol for the Kim family. It makes them part and parcel of the story of the Kim family. It gives them a stake.


TODD: But despite the Kim worship in North Korea, there could be some grumbling among North Koreans over the preservation of the leaders' bodies. Radio Free Asia, citing a source with knowledge of a ceremony where people were rewarded for donating to that cause, says some North Koreans are upset, saying it's ridiculous that authorities there are seemingly ignoring their livelihoods, even letting some people starve to death, while trying to raise money to keep dead bodies from rotting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.

Coming up, President Trump continues his attacks on four minority congresswomen as he hits the campaign trail, saying he believes he's winning the political fight that began with his racist tweets. And House Democrats get ready to hold two Trump cabinet members in

contempt for failing to provide documents in the dispute over the 2020 census.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. I'm winning. As he leaves Washington to rally his base, President Trump says he is enjoying the firestorm sparked by his racist tweets, and he believes he is winning the fight with four Democratic congresswomen of color. What will he say about them at tonight's rally?