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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Lashes Out at Mueller, Then Admits He Will Watch His Testimony; Iran Releases Video of Crew From Seized British Tanker; Trump Escalates Racist Attacks on Congresswomen; Interview with Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) on Trump Tweets. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 22, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @BriKeilarCNN or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: watching Mueller. Clearly bothered by former special counsel Robert Mueller's upcoming public testimony, President Trump declares he won't watch, then admits he might watch a little bit, then unloads, rehashing all of his familiar attacks.

And now we're learning how Mueller himself is prepping for his testimony.

Spyplanes: Iran says it is holding 17 citizens, accusing them of spying for the CIA, a claim President Trump calls a lie. Tonight, he's escalating tensions, declaring it's getting harder for him to want to make a deal with Iran.

Firing squad: the president also keeps firing away at four Democratic congresswomen, calling them racist troublemakers in a tweet and, in the Oval Office, insisting they're bad for the country. I'll talk with a member of the House Republican leadership, North Carolina congressman Mark Walker, who came out against the "send her back" chants at Trump's rally in his state.

And Puerto Rico protests: hundreds of thousands taking to the streets, blocking a major highway, demanding the resignation of their governor. Now President Trump is slamming what he calls Puerto Rico's grossly incompetent leadership.

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

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

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories after today's wild question-and-answer session in the Oval Office. President Trump lashed out at former special counsel Robert Mueller, who will be on Capitol Hill this Wednesday to testify in public about his investigation.

After first declaring he wouldn't watch, the president backtracked, admitted he might watch a little bit, then launched into a bitter personal attack on Mueller. CNN has learned Mueller himself has also been preparing and will make an opening statement before taking questions on Wednesday.

Also today, President Trump insisted Iran was lying when it announced that it had broken up a CIA spy ring with the arrest of 17 Iranian citizens. The president says he's ready for the absolute worst with Iran.

Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina, a member of the House Republican leadership, is standing by to take our questions and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the top stories. Let's begin with our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Does the president appear worried about special counsel Robert Mueller's upcoming testimony?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, sources say the president is certainly irritated by the prospect of having the special counsel go up on Capitol Hill to testify about this report that has loomed over his presidency, though now he's backing off those comments that he won't be watching, as the former special counsel is up there while signaling what he thinks Republicans should spend their time quizzing him about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: You can't take all those bites out of the apple --

COLLINS (voice-over): After claiming he won't watch Robert Mueller testify on Capitol Hill, President Trump now admits he might tune in.

TRUMP: No, I'm not going to be watching -- probably, maybe I'll see a little bit of it.

COLLINS (voice-over): But he insists Democrats are wasting their time attempting a do-over.

TRUMP: What they're doing is just hearing after hearing after hearing, it's nonsense, OK.

COLLINS (voice-over): The former special counsel will testify for five hours before two committees Wednesday. And the president is gearing up by renewing his old attacks.

TRUMP: But he's got conflicts with me, too. He's got big conflicts with me.

COLLINS (voice-over): It's an assertion his own former aide, Steve Bannon, called "ridiculous and petty," as Trump is still falsely claiming the report exonerated him when it came to obstruction.

TRUMP: But you know what, he still ruled and I respect him for it, he still ruled no collusion, no obstruction.

COLLINS (voice-over): Mueller never said there was no obstruction. Instead, explaining that charging the president with a crime wasn't an option he had because of a longstanding DOJ policy.

TRUMP: They're pulling the Democrats way left.

COLLINS (voice-over): Tonight, the president is also escalating his attacks on four Democratic freshmen congresswomen, accusing them of being a racist group of troublemakers, who are young, inexperienced and not very smart even as he insists there's no racial tension.

TRUMP: No, I think they're very bad for our country. No, no. No racial tension.

COLLINS (voice-over): As the feud turns into a political strategy for Trump, one of those Democrats is vowing to hold her ground.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): No, I'm not going nowhere. Not until I impeach this president.

COLLINS (voice-over): At the White House today, the president souring on the idea of a diplomatic deal with Iran.

TRUMP: Frankly, it's getting harder for me to want to make a deal with Iran.

COLLINS (voice-over): As he denies the country's claims it arrested 17 of its citizens for their connections to an alleged CIA spy ring.

TRUMP: That's totally a false story. That's another lie.

COLLINS (voice-over): Sources tell CNN that in recent days, Trump has reverted to a more hawkish position on Iran, as his public offers to sit down with the country's leadership have gone unanswered.

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TRUMP: They put out propaganda. They put out lies. Pakistan never lies. But Iran does, unfortunately.

COLLINS (voice-over): In the Oval Office with the prime minister of Pakistan, the president raising eyebrows when he said he could wipe Afghanistan off the face of the Earth if he wanted to.

TRUMP: If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don't want to kill 10 million people.

COLLINS (voice-over): Trump hinting at a secret military plan while revealing no details as he said he'll lean on Pakistan for planning an exit instead.

TRUMP: We've been there for 19 years. And we've acted as policemen, not soldiers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now the president's attorney, Jay Sekulow said there is no war room plan ahead of Robert Mueller's testimony. There are no preplanned meetings going on for how they're going to combat when he does finally come in front of lawmakers.

But officials and even the president's allies are conceding behind the scenes that they're going to tune in, even if just out of curiosity.

BLITZER: Thank you, Kaitlan Collins at the White House. As President Trump complains about Robert Mueller, CNN has learned Mueller has been busy preparing. Our Justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has been working her sources.

What are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two key things I've learned tonight. First of all, the special counsel Robert Mueller, he has been preparing for this. He's been working with a small team from the special counsel's office.

Of course, these are the same people that he's been working closely with over the past two years.

We've learned that this team, along with Robert Mueller, they've actually been in unoccupied office space at Robert Mueller's former law firm right here in Washington, D.C.

And I asked specifically to Mueller's spokesperson how has Robert Mueller been preparing for and how will he answer what will likely be a key question, an often repeated question from Democrats being if Donald Trump were not president, would he in fact have been charged with obstruction of justice?

And the spokesperson, of course, wouldn't answer that, wouldn't talk about any of the content of Mueller's testimony. Only to say that he will stick to his report.

Of course, in the report, Robert Mueller didn't come to a conclusion on obstruction.

Also, the other thing I've learned tonight, is that Robert Mueller will, in fact, have an opening statement, that he will sit down, he will give it to members of both committees before the real questioning begins. That opening statement likely won't be released until just before he's about to give it.

As for any official statement of record that goes to the committee, I've learned that that won't be anything special. Robert Mueller will actually just give his 448-page report the committee, in a sense saying look, I've already told you, my testimony is the report itself.

I've also asked the spokesperson, Robert Mueller we know doesn't want to testify before Congress. He's made that clear in that May 29th public statement that he gave. I asked, what's his demeanor like, what will we see?

What kind of Robert Mueller will we see in this big blockbuster set of hearings?

The spokesperson basically said, well, we'll leave it until Wednesday. A lot of prep going on but we're likely not to see much more beyond the report itself.

BLITZER: A lot of people will be watching. Special coverage will begin at 8:00 am Eastern. Thank you so much.

We'll go to Capitol Hill now, where Democrats say Mueller's testimony is make or break. Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on the scene for us.

What are you learning about how Democrats are preparing and what they're hoping to get out of this hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This has been some of the most intensive deliberations and preparations of any congressional hearing in recent memory.

Behind the scenes, Democrats and also Republicans have held separate mock hearing sessions, very unusual on Capitol Hill for doing something like that.

And tomorrow, there will be another one I'm told by a source familiar with the Judiciary Committee, Democrats planning to go behind closed doors tomorrow and have a mock hearing for about two hours to prepare for Wednesday's very high-stakes hearing.

What they want to do is limit their questions to a handful of areas, five in particular, areas of obstruction of justice laid out in the Mueller report. Of course, there were 10 but Democrats are choosing five to really focus in on because they believe they're the ones that show the most in their view criminal wrongdoing by this president.

They want Robert Mueller to show a narrative that there was clear evidence in their view of obstruction and some believe enough to impeach this president. Ultimately, the question is going to be whether or not it changes the dynamics on Capitol Hill to move further, potentially on impeachment.

Right now, the House Democratic leadership is opposed on moving that route. But pressure could grow, depending on what Robert Mueller says and whether public opinion shifts in any way.

So at the moment, the Democrats are trying to force, trying to plan so Mueller really shows the contents of the report even as though he is signaling he's not going to go beyond the four corners of the report.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

As we reported, President Trump today said it's getting harder to want to make a deal with Iran. And he's ready for, quote, "the absolute worst," quoting the president there. This came after the Iranians accused 17 --

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BLITZER: -- of their own citizens of spying for the CIA. Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

What do you make of this claim by Iran that they've captured, busted an alleged CIA spy ring?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Generally when countries speak publicly about covert operations, they're not telling the truth. So this just as likely is propaganda as anything else. We know that Iran's certainly an intelligence target of the U.S. because there is no U.S. embassy in Iran. You don't have a CIA station in the embassy, no declared or undeclared spies on the ground there.

U.S. nationals would only get on the ground there under intense danger. That leaves you to rely on Iranian nationals. But as you said, secretary of state Mike Pompeo said you should take this with a grain of salt. And there's good reason to take it with a grain of salt.

BLITZER: There certainly is. All this is happening as there's a huge incident in the Strait of Hormuz right now. There's a crisis because the Iranians have captured this British tanker. They've released some footage of the captured crew. Talk a little about this because this could clearly escalate.

SCIUTTO: Listen, this has become a familiar ritual in Iran. They take people hostage. U.S. sailors, a number of years ago in the same situation, they released the images of them. That's for propaganda domestically, to show the power that they have, in effect. You have the sailors there in what is clearly a staged scene.

But what does it demonstrate?

It demonstrates that they're very much in Iranian detention right now.

Is this an escalation?

I spoke with a number of U.S. military and intelligence officials in the last 72 hours about what Iran is up to here and the U.S. reading this, Iran is trying to change the status quo here. They don't like the economic pressure that they're facing. They're trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its European partners here.

Of course, oddly, ironically you might even say by taking a British ship, Britain, of course, staying in the Iranian nuclear deal, you might be bringing in the U.S. and Britain closer together than further apart.

You heard the president there next to the Pakistani prime minister saying he is further away from reconciliation and the possibility of negotiation than he was some days ago.

BLITZER: Clearly that seems to be what's happening. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina. He's a member of the House Republican leadership, also serves on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

REP. MARK WALKER (R-NC): Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We have a lot to get to. First, you were at that rally in North Carolina with President Trump when the crowd started chanting "send her back."

What went through your mind when you heard that?

WALKER: Well, it was an immediate dagger that went through my heart when I heard such comments. My wife, Wolf, is a two-time historical black college and university graduate; as a former minister we have worked in the inner cities.

The minority communities that value or put a little trust and value in what we're trying to do in Washington, I immediately thought of those folks, not from the political gain but to make sure that I do not want to support in any way, shape or fashion a phrase that, for decades, has been represented to hurt people in the minority communities.

Now at the same time, there is a consumption over this and I feel like that we're overlooking some of the racially charged language. In fact, I just returned from the border over the weekend.

The morale among our border agents after being referred as concentration camps or drawn something kind of Nazi comparison there has been very hurtful. I hope that we can put the energy and the emphasis on those using the language across the board.

BLITZER: That's a fair point. President Trump trying to distance himself from the chant but said he disagreed with it. He continues, though, to attack these women. On Sunday he tweeted that they are, in his words, "not capable of loving our country."

Do you believe that?

WALKER: What I do believe, it is very hard to answer someone's motives or someone's heart. What you're left to do is sometimes judge someone's actions. And when you have people who are advocating things that are sometimes anti-Semitic or sometimes policies that we believe that hurt portions of our country, I think it is our responsibilities -- responsibility as an elected member of Congress to call that out.

I'm much more comfortable focusing on the policy. I know that we have done some, I feel like, great work when it comes to opportunity zones, criminal justice reform, even, in fact, in my home state of North Carolina --

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER: Go ahead --

BLITZER: I was just going to point out, though, that these are duly elected members of Congress. They were elected by their constituents in their respective districts.

Even if you strongly disagree with them, even if you strongly criticize the words they're saying, you really can't question, though, can you, whether or not they love the United States of America?

WALKER: I think it's very difficult to make that perspective sometimes just based on the language. I think what you have to do is watch your pattern of behavior sometimes to be able to make sure which way are they wanting to lead the country. And I think the --

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WALKER: -- president, he is politically incorrect, probably not as sensitive if some of these areas. But the American people sent someone to Washington to get us from point A to point B, even if it means scorched earth sometimes. And I believe that's why the loyalty he has, specifically throughout much of the Republican base, has remained intact because he has accomplished some of these things.

And much of this, Wolf, has benefited our minority communities. Listen, President Obama, solid man, solid husband; nobody questions his moral aptitude. In fact, I'd want my children to emulate the kind of a husband and father that he's wanted to be.

But some of the policies, such as homeownership in North Carolina, went down all eight years under his leadership. We want to talk about the policies that are impacting all of our communities for the better.

BLITZER: But the president, over the past 24 hours, said these four women, these congresswomen, are very bad for the country. And he also said, I'm quoting, "they must hate our country." He called them racists, not very smart. He said they're not capable, again, of loving our country.

Is that the message you want Republicans to run on in 2020?

WALKER: I want Republicans to run on how impactful opportunity zones are. I want Republicans to run on the lowest unemployment rate in some of our minority communities. Top down, administration down, I want to see us talking about those policies because that's the policies that we can win again in 2020.

BLITZER: You were at the rally in your home state of North Carolina when the president spoke. He waited for 13 seconds while the crowd calmed down. Then he began to speak, once -- did you tell the president that night after the rally how upset you were?

WALKER: I did not see the president that night. In fact, I drove back to Washington, D.C., from Greenville, 4-4.5 hours. Even that night, I struggled. I put out something immediately that night, followed it up the next day. The president knows how I feel. I've had a chance to voice it to

several people in the administration, including the vice president. And that's something that we're going to continue to -- listen, the president in that moment, to -- probably 40 percent of the audience were chanting that.

I believe he recognized that. In fact, in his own words, he said he didn't like that. And I believe in the future, if that was to take place, I believe that he would be focused enough to say we're not going do that.

BLITZER: Well, 40 percent, that's a big chunk of that -- that was a huge crowd. That's a lot of people there.

WALKER: Yes. It is. I think that the capacity was about 8,000. So I'm doing the math in my head, that's about 3,500 that were shouting that.

But I will tell you, many of the people that were around us, you could tell by the looks, that was not something that we are comfortable with. And Republicans must do better. If Republicans truly believe that we have the best policies for the minority communities --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I just want to point out, and as you know and all of us know, over the years the president has very often insulted what's going on here in the United States. He's used some pretty tough language.

But is he setting up a loyalty test here?

If you disagree with him, you really don't love America?

WALKER: I don't think so. I think that he is so rambunctious when it comes to his passion, of doing it the way that he believes should be done, when it comes to loving America, he does call out things.

But listen, this is -- we've got a history of him branding and calling out different people. A lot of us thought it was almost humorous when he gave some of the nicknames to crooked Hillary or little Marco, some of those.

This has been his style. It isn't something necessarily that we all agree with, nevertheless it is part of his winning strategy. I hope we can grow as a party --

BLITZER: Yes, I was going to say, if the chant were to break out at another rally, I know he's got one planned August 1st, what specifically -- what would you tell the president you want to hear him say?

WALKER: I would hope that he would condemn it immediately. But I also want to give him the latitude to continue to focus on the policies. This is not just about The Squad. There were 100 Democrats that voted against the humanitarian aid. This kind of hard left leaning is where the energy in the Democratic Party is.

I would encourage the president to call that out when it comes to the actions by those that are advocating for such left-leaning policies.

BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts -- ahead of Robert Mueller's testimony on Wednesday, if President Trump is confident that the Mueller report showed no collusion and no obstruction, he keeps saying that all the time, why did he tweet that Mueller should not be given another bite at the apple?

WALKER: Well, I don't know what his thinking was specifically on that. I would caution, I -- Jerry Nadler, with all due respect to Hugh Jackman, looks like he wants to be the next greatest showman. I would say be careful what you wish for.

Friends of mine, John Ratcliff, the former Texas state attorney, I know they're going to be questioning about the origin of some of these FISA warrants, who was behind it, how the whole process got started. I would advocate that Mueller, unlike Comey, is someone that may stick to the script as opposed to seeking the spotlight.

BLITZER: Because all of them are basically approved by Republican- appointed judges. The investigation --

[17:20:00]

BLITZER: -- concluded that the Trump campaign, I'm quoting now, "expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts."

Does that concern you when you think about attorneys from actors trying to do the same thing, looking ahead to 2020?

WALKER: It should concern us all. It should concern us all how long it's been going on. I believe there was a set presidential candidate that tried to warn the previous administration that Russia was our biggest geopolitical threat.

They've been doing this for years. I can tell you that, between Russia and Chinese, we are cyber attacked tens of thousands of -- tens of thousands of times per days. It should be concerning to all of us and we need to do everything members of Congress to make sure that those elections are completely just and fair.

BLITZER: On a different subject, Congressman, President Trump hasn't yet endorsed the debt and budget deal that seems to be taking shape in these final days of Congress before the August recess. We're waiting to see the reaction.

Would you encourage him based on what you know right now to get behind this deal and move on?

WALKER: I have some concerns. I believe that we have to be focused on fiscal responsibility. It's one thing for Republicans to talk about it. But we've got to live up -- with $22 trillion in debt and the deficits that's have been out of control, we've got to find some things specifically, maybe even in the mandatory side, to make sure that we're curbing that and not leaving our children and grandchildren a debt that they cannot repay.

BLITZER: So will you vote against raising the debt ceiling?

WALKER: I've got to see all the details. I would be leaning that way. Right now, before I can make any kind of hard, affirmative yes or no, I want to make sure to see what all the components are in this particular piece.

BLITZER: Because the government presumably would be in danger of shutting down if you were in the majority and you and others voted to avoid increasing the debt ceiling.

WALKER: Sure. I don't have advocate, nor have I ever advocated that a government shutdown is good for the American people. It's not good for our economy. We've been 2.5 years where we're continuing to move forward. We want to try to find a solution to that.

But as I said earlier, Republicans can't keep continue to be talking about monitoring our spending and still continue to vote for every spending bill that comes down the pike.

BLITZER: Let me end this interview, Congressman. You've been generous with your time, with where I began. Your outrage, your anger when you heard the chant at that rally in North Carolina. I want to point out to our viewers, you served as a Baptist pastor, a minister for 16 years. You were chairman of the congressional prayer caucus.

When you see this talk that's going on, even if you strongly disagree with these four congresswomen of color, when you see the president say these awful things about them, even as you make some fair points about some of the things they've said, what does that say to you as a Baptist minister?

What's going on with our -- in our country?

WALKER: Well, it's -- it's frightening, Wolf, that we have gotten away from political discourse. And I'm saddened by that. My job is to make sure that my speech and my tone, to quote Paul the apostle, is seasoned with salt and with grace.

I think of the many people in the minority communities that I love and I cherish their friendships and I'm going to continue to be out there advocating for those because if we truly believe we have the right message, it should be good for all communities.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from Matthew, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me. And also love your neighbor as yourself."

Is that what we're seeing right now?

WALKER: I don't know that we could say that we're seeing that specifically in any aspect. It has become harsh. But historically, there have been moments and spikes in our country, where the rhetoric was harsh. I think what each member of Congress and each member of the administration, you have to do some soul searching.

Is it just about winning the argument, Wolf, or is it about making a difference?

And I think if you can look back and say, I want my time for me, serving in Congress to, be more than just making an argument and making a difference, I think that's where you can find the right tone and the spirit and the heart to proclaim what it is that you truly believe in.

BLITZER: We've got to tone down the rhetoric. Congressman Mark Walker, thank you so much for joining us.

WALKER: Thanks, my privilege.

BLITZER: Up next, President Trump backtracks and now says he may watch former special counsel Robert Mueller's testimony before Congress on Wednesday. We're also keeping our eyes on Puerto Rico right now, where huge crowds are in the street once again, demanding the immediate resignation of the island's governor.

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BLITZER: Breaking news. House Democrats are making last-minute preparations for Wednesday's blockbuster testimony from the former special counsel, Robert Mueller. President Trump is already on attack, on the attack, accusing Democrats of giving Mueller, quote, "another bite at the apple."

Let's discuss with our political analysts.

And Gloria, a spokesman for Mueller says the former special counsel will deliver a prepared opening statement that no one from the Department of Justice, not even the attorney general, Bill Barr, has seen.

What does that tell you?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He doesn't work for the attorney general anymore. He is an independent citizen. He's coming before Congress as a private citizen. And so he no longer has to clear anything with Barr.

[17:30:00] And if you'll recall, the last time the Attorney General tried to summarize the Mueller Report, it didn't go so well for Mueller so I don't blame. Why should he let the Attorney General know anything about what he's going to say? WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You know, Chris Cillizza, Mueller is

preparing for the hearings, clearly, but the President is simultaneously trying to discredit the former Special Counsel in a tweet earlier today. He said, highly conflicted Robert Mueller should not be given another bite at the apple. He then went into details why he's highly conflicted.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. I mean, the nature, as far as I understand, you know, of Donald Trump's assessment of highly conflicted Robert Mueller is because Bob Mueller was a member of a golf club that Donald Trump owned, decided not to go to the golf club anymore -- because it was in Virginia and he lived in D.C. -- and that -- that's it.

BLITZER: Yes.

CILLIZZA: That was the whole nature of it. I mean, there are people who say, well, he wanted to be the FBI Director.

BORGER: Right.

CILLIZZA: Well, we have no --

BORGER: No, he didn't.

CILLIZZA: We have no evidence that's the case. So, yes, this is Donald Trump doing what Donald Trump does. I'll note before he said that, taking another bite at the apple, he also said no collusion, no obstruction, which, to be clear, in the Mueller Report, it says, if we could state that the President of the United States had not obstructed justice, we would so do. That's not what Donald Trump is saying.

BLITZER: Yes. April Ryan, you cover the White House. The President now says he might watch, in his words, a little bit of Mueller's testimony on Wednesday. Potentially, this could be a very critical moment for the President, right?

APRIL RYAN, WASHINGTON, D.C., BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes, it's very critical, Wolf. This president is a T.V. president, and Mueller's testimony will be during the President's executive time, so we can't expect the President to watch. But the President wants to hear what Mueller has to say because Mueller will ultimately contradict everything this president has said. This President said there was no obstruction of justice, there was no collusion, but, indeed, that's not the case.

And you also have to remember that this testimony comes at a time when Democrats and Republicans are really in a fierce fight to see who can win over various issues. And I talked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today here in Detroit at the NAACP Convention, and she said it's time to hear the truth. She also said that she's hoping that Republicans don't abuse their authority while Mueller is testifying.

BLITZER: You know, Ryan Lizza, what are you hearing? Democratic members of Congress on the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, they're gearing up for what's expected to be about five hours of public testimony.

RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ESQUIRE: Yes. Look, they -- some of the staff have briefed reporters about this, so there's a lot of reports about - out there about what they're trying to do. And I think that one of the best quotes from a staffer was that a lot of people didn't read the book, but they're going to see the movie, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: Yes.

RYAN: That's right.

LIZZA: April pointed out that Trump cares a lot about T.V. I guarantee you, he cares more about this hearing than the actual print version of the report because he knows a lot of Americans didn't have time to digest it. And that he and his Attorney General and the people around him, they, frankly, did a very good job of spinning the findings.

BORGER: You know -

LIZZA: So, getting Mueller to dramatize this for the cameras is the number one priority of the Democrats.

BLITZER: But is it, for the Democrats who want impeachment, too little too late?

BORGER: Yes. Look, I think the public has moved on. I think this is the middle of the summer, and the public has already sort of been there, done that on Russia. And I think there are a lot of people pinning a lot of hopes on Bob Mueller. And I have -- would have to tell you, from what I know about Bob Mueller, he's not someone who is prone to doing a dramatic reading of anything.

LIZZA: Right. Yes.

BORGER: So, he will stick to his --

CILLIZZA: They got their work cut out for them, yes.

BORGER: He will stick to his report, and they will try and ask all kind of questions like, would you have indicted this President if he were not president, for example. And, you know, I doubt he's going to go beyond the report.

And they're going to twist themselves into pretzels, and rightly so, trying to get him to go beyond or explain why they came to the conclusion that they couldn't come up with a charge of obstruction. But I think, in a way, it's going to be like trying to get water from a stone.

RYAN: Yes.

BORGER: It's going to be very difficult. BLITZER: Yes. But I'm hearing -- and maybe you guys are hearing the

same thing - a lot of these hypothetical questions, he's going to answer with, "I'm not going to respond to hypothetical questions."

CILLIZZA: Yes. He --

BORGER: Right. Right, right.

CILLIZZA: You're likely to get out of Bob Mueller a -- if not dramatic reading of the report, a staying within the boundaries of the report. To me, what I'm interested in is two things. One, if you think Donald Trump isn't going to watch this, I have a great video company called blockbuster that you -

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: -- you really should be initial investors in. It's very hot right now. And second, you know that he's going to watch it because he can't resist talking about it, right? We're two days away. If he really didn't -- if you really don't care, you don't tweet about how conflicted Bob Mueller is and --

RYAN: That's right.

CILLIZZA: He didn't -- he talked about it in the photo spray today, so, I mean, it's clearly on his mind. Anyone who knows anything about this president knows he's going to be watching.

[17:35:02] I'm more interested in what he says or tweets because I think, to Gloria and Ryan's point, you're very likely to get from Bob Mueller a verbal -- not even interpretation, a verbal reading of what we basically already know.

BLITZER: You know, let me go back to April because you're there in Detroit at the NAACP Convention.

RYAN: Yes.

BLITZER: You're going to be interviewing a lot of these Democratic presidential candidates. The President, today, renewed his attack on the four progressive Democratic congresswomen, all of color, saying they must hate our country. That's a quote, they must hate our country. How concerning is this escalating battle?

RYAN: Well, Wolf, I will say this. I talked to Rashida Tlaib -- Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib before she went on stage at the NAACP. And she said, look -- she said, there is time for activism and legislation, so she's combining both. And she says this is a time when there is a call for a new movement.

So, she believes in this cause, but she's also saying that the squad is more than four people. It's about issues that pertain to people as well as people. She feels this is her right. She says Michigan, Detroit is a place where we've seen a lot of movements come through or be birthed here, and she says there is time for a new movement. So, what's happening? She's digging in. The other three are digging

in. And this President and the squad -- she doesn't like that name, but this President and the squad will be in battle for a while. She wants to see him gone.

But what it's doing is galvanizing people. I mean, here in Detroit, I'm watching those -- the conventioneers here at the NAACP. They are very much behind Tlaib and the three others because of just simply the words, go back to where you came from if you don't like it. Who says that?

BLITZER: Yes.

RYAN: So, the movement continues.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, I'll play a clip from Rashida -- Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib today at the NAACP convention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: Yes, I'm not going nowhere! Not until I impeach this President!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This situation is escalating big time.

BORGER: Well, it is. And if I'm Nancy Pelosi and I'm watching that, I'm thinking, you know what, don't -- don't say that. I mean, Nancy Pelosi right now is trying to hold back the tide. And we'll see what happens with the Mueller testimony, as we were talking about, whether that increases calls for impeachment or not.

But what Donald Trump is clearly trying to do is make these four women, whom he calls socialists, emblematic of the Democratic Party, and that is why you should vote for Donald Trump because they're way -- you know, they're way to the left. And when she talks about that right now, I think it doesn't help her leader try and -- we know that Pelosi's going to meet with AOC on Thursday.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

RYAN: Yes.

BORGER: And they're going to have to try and settle how they approach Donald Trump and come at it in a unified way without allowing the President to say all Democrats are socialists.

CILLIZZA: And we know Trump has gone down this road before. I mean, I was just looking back at 2018 midterms. Remember, low I.Q. Maxine Waters, right? He was trying to do exactly what Gloria is saying he's trying to do with these four progressive congresswomen, make Maxine Waters a face of the Democratic party.

Is it an accident that all five of those people are women of color in the Democratic Party? It's not. We've seen this blueprint. LIZZA: And he pushes the boundary and pushes the boundary to see what

he can get away with. But what he's doing with this send them back, and if he allows his crowds to do that, that's further than any of this stuff that's really, really ugly.

BLITZER: And he thinks it's good politics, but we shall see.

Everybody, stick around. There's more news. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans are taking to the streets tonight, demanding the resignation of the island's scandal-plagued governor. Will the growing outrage force him to step down?

[17:38:59] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking news. Hundreds of thousands of protesters are flooding the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, demanding the resignation of the Governor, Ricardo Rossello. He's refusing to step down despite scandals over highly offensive text messages and alleged corruption inside his administration.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is on the ground for us in San Juan. Nick, give us the very latest.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're seeing now here crowds growing in number, again, outside of the governor's mansion. They were in there, tens if not hundreds of thousands, out on the main expressway heading into San Juan.

In the morning, the rain took some of the energy out there, but they were buoyed by Puerto Rican celebrities like Ricky Martin. Even the rapper Daddy Yankee, and Residente, have been in the crowd buoying them up. They're starting to come towards the governor's mansion now as we speak. Intermittently, rain saps their energy or makes them feel, perhaps, they've got to get a little bit more done a little faster.

And remarkably, throughout all of this, Governor Ricardo Rossello, the focus of really a lot of that anger about decades of political mismanagement and corruption in Puerto Rico, well, he's given an extraordinary interview in which he offered sort of slightly half- hearted apologies. Again, said he thought he could win these people back. Well, that's not happening soon.

He's also said, I'm leaving politics, I'm not going to stand in the next election. Well, he was probably going to lose anyway. And remarkably, when asked who supports him, well, he offered the name of a mayor who, when asked, didn't say that at all. In fact, he said he's going to wait to see what the impeachment process underway began.

[17:45:05] Whether or not he reconsiders his decision tonight, it's really unclear. This crowd has been in evidence for quite a while every night, the same message, sometimes profane, usually very imaginative.

He is obviously not inside that building there. The interview he gave, it was clearly sunny. It's been raining here a lot of the time. And I think that echoes a bit how detached he is from what's been happening here on the streets.

Many say, well, listen, wait for the election. That's how you kick out democratically elected officials. People here say the crimes he's committed or alleged to have committed amongst his inner circle and the attitude exposed by those leaked -- Ricky leaks, they're called -- chat messages, that just shows really how the whole political elite here needs some kind of an overhaul.

But concerns, though, still a lot of people coming here. The last time they surged in this way was Wednesday earlier on, and there were clashes then with police. So, concerns about how tonight goes, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nick Paton Walsh in San Juan for us. We'll see what happens there.

Coming up, a new report reveals a giant Chinese tech firm, which is blacklisted here in the United States, has been secretly helping Kim Jong-un's North Korea. We have details, and we have President Trump's reaction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:44] BLITZER: At the White House today, President Trump was asked about a new report revealing a Chinese tech firm blacklisted here in the United States helped set up a wireless network, so North Korea's elites can use smartphones.

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

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this tech firm, Huawei, was already in trouble with the U.S. government for its dealings with Iran. Tonight, there are new details of how that firm worked in secret to skirt international rules and help North Korea build its cell phone networks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In a regime where the propaganda is carefully crafted and information from the outside world is completely controlled, having a cell phone in North Korea isn't just a luxury, it's a privilege.

This North Korean woman told a CNN crew in 2017 she likes to read books and listen to music on her phone. Analysts say only about 4 to 5 million of North Korea's 25 million people have cell phones, but until now, how they were able to use them was a mystery.

But, tonight, a new investigation shows the Chinese tech giant Huawei, already blacklisted by the U.S. government as a national security threat, secretly helped North Korea build its wireless network for nearly a decade.

The revelation comes from "The Washington Post," which says it received documents detailing the secret cell service project from a former Huawei employee. JOHN HUDSON, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: For

years, Huawei was helping North Korea build base stations, antennas, other equipment, and helping furnish this wireless 3G provider to North Korea. This is how many North Koreans were using their phones. This was done in secret. They used code names in order to avoid saying North Korea.

TODD (voice-over): Huawei did that, "The Post" reports, to avoid being punished for skirting international sanctions on North Korea. "The Post" reports Huawei was doing all this roughly between 2008 and 2016. Today, President Trump appeared not to know about the relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The Post" is reporting about Huawei's relationship with North Korea.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we'll have to find out.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Our relationship with North Korea has been very good.

TODD (voice-over): But experts say the ramifications of Huawei doing business with North Korea could be enormous for the President.

HUDSON: This comes at the intersection of President Trump's main economic policy, his trade war with China. It also comes at the centerpiece of his main foreign policy objective deal with North Korea to denuclearize it.

TODD (voice-over): Huawei was blacklisted by the U.S. Commerce Department this spring for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Huawei denies doing that, denies violating export control law regarding North Korea, and denies the allegation that the company is a security threat to the U.S.

"The Post" reports Huawei set up cell phone transmission, software, and equipment for Koryolink, North Korea's main provider of cell and Internet service which is operated by Kim Jong-un's regime. Analysts say only those with money and connections can have cell phones. But in North Korea, being afforded that luxury also means you're being spied upon.

In a report released at the same time as "The Post's," the group 38 North said North Korea asked Huawei about providing technology that would allow it to intercept and eavesdrop on calls inside the country.

MARTYN WILLIAMS, JOURNALIST, NORTH KOREA TECH: Definitely one of the dangers of a cell phone is it allows information to spread. And for a regime like North Korea, free flow of information is probably the worst thing that can happen. So, the North Korean government keeps a very tight control on who can get a cell phone. You need permission to get one. Also, there's surveillance on the calls that are happening.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: In an email to CNN, Huawei said it has no current business presence in North Korea. But when we asked if the company did business there in the past and whether it might still operate there through third parties, they didn't answer those questions. The U.S. Commerce Department has been investigating links between Huawei and North Korea, but that department is not commenting tonight on the latest reporting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, there's breaking news. President Trump says congressional leaders have reached a deal on a two-year budget debt ceiling agreement. We're gathering new details. We'll bring them to you right after the break.

[17:54:57] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Mueller agitation. A clearly bothered President Trump declares he won't watch Robert Mueller's congressional testimony then declares he'll watch a little of it, maybe, before unleashing old attacks designed to undermine Mueller's credibility. Tonight, new details on how the former Special Counsel is preparing for his back-to-back hearings.

[17:59:55] Reigniting impeachment. Democrats are hoping Mueller's testimony will fuel the simmering calls for impeachment with a breakout moment that will resonate with the American people.