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Mueller Makes Late Request To Swear In Deputy For Hearing, Trump Edgy; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Is Interviewed On Justice Department Directive To Mueller; Interview With Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), New York City, Presidential Candidate, On Mueller Expectations; Justice Department Launching Broad Antitrust Review Of Big Techs; North Korea Shows Kim Jong-un Inspecting Submarine. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Deescalate tensions in the Persian Gulf and, of course, forge those key relationships with the European Union and the United States.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Bianca Nobilo, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: irritated by Mueller. The president is on edge ahead of the historic testimony by Robert Mueller. The president complaining of a witch hunt and asking aides what to expect from the hearing.

And why is the former special counsel suddenly asking for his deputy to be sworn in with him?

Suing everyone: President Trump files suit to prevent the release of his tax returns. He's suing the House Ways and Means Committee, the New York State attorney general and the New York tax commissioner.

Did he leave anyone out?

Reaching a deal: the Trump administration reaches agreement with congressional leaders on a budget deal that would raise the debt ceiling, Democrats are on board but what about conservative Republicans?

And Kim's submarine: North Korea shows photos of Kim Jong-un inspecting a new submarine under construction. Given the North's nuclear arsenal and missiles, the implications may be ominous for the U.S. and its allies.

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


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

BLITZER: Breaking news: tension is building ahead of tomorrow's landmark testimony by Robert Mueller. And the former special counsel has just added to it with a last-minute request that his deputy be sworn in alongside him.

A source says the deputy is expected to provide advice but not to testify. Feverish preparations are underway for the back-to-back hearings by the House Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee. Judiciary Democrats want to explore alleged obstruction by the president while the Intelligence Committee will focus in on Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

The Justice Department has instructed Mueller not to stray beyond the boundaries of his report. For the dozens of Democrats who are pushing for an impeachment inquiry, this could be a do or die moment.

For Republicans, it could be a chance to shut the door on the Russia probe while President Trump is showing signs of agitation, once again speaking of a witch hunt. I'll speak with Democratic presidential candidate New York mayor Bill de Blasio, along with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of the Intelligence Committee and our correspondents will have full coverage of the top stories.

First, let's go straight to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Robert Mueller, Manu, has made a last-minute request to have his deputy sworn in to appear at his side in tomorrow's hearings.

What are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, big drama in this months-long negotiations to bring in the special counsel after the Democrats were told by the special counsel's team that he wanted Aaron Zebley, his deputy, to be sworn in alongside him.

Republicans objected, saying this was a last-minute change and they said this was not the way that this was agreed to initially.

But we're now told by sources familiar with the matter that Zebley will, in fact, be there but not sworn in. He'll be sitting alongside the special counsel to provide advice and counsel to Robert Mueller as he gets questions for hours tomorrow in a public setting before the House Judiciary Committee, followed by the House Intelligence Committee.

But for hours today, there were questions about exactly what would happen in this very high-stakes hearing with millions of people watching. The chairman of the committee just told us moments ago the hearing will undoubtedly go on and he explained how the format will take place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Is the hearing going to go on tomorrow?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The hearing is going to go on tomorrow.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We want this hearing to be about Director Mueller. We are in discussions with them about the role of his counsel and those discussions are ongoing. I expect that he will be there.

But we would like to make sure that, to the degree that he participates, that it may be on technical issues or other matters, we don't want him as a substitute for Mueller's voice.


RAJU: Now right now in the door, right next to me, the House Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are having a mock hearing to go through exactly their lines of questioning for the special counsel tomorrow.

They are trying to narrow down their lines of questioning to a handful of areas that they believe will be digestible to the American public. roughly five areas of potential obstruction of justice involving the president's effort to allegedly fire the special counsel, to allegedly limit the scope of the investigation to exclude him as well as potential witness tampering that the president appears to have been involved in, according to the Mueller report.

Those questions will take shape tomorrow. Republicans have a different plan. They want to poke holes in the credibility of the special counsel's team, raise questions about alleged bias by --


RAJU: -- the special counsel, so all the negotiations of the format really just a preview of tomorrow's very dramatic testimony, as Democrats hope this reshapes the narrative and the public understanding about alleged criminal conduct in the White House.

But others are downplaying the impact this will have and Republicans hoping it does what the president has hoped, to show, in his view, that he was exonerated.

BLITZER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Stand by. I want to bring in our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, why is Mueller insisting on having his deputy by his side?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Quite honestly, for me, it seems that they want to protect Mueller whichever way they can, they want to give him cover. So they're hoping to have -- they were hoping to have him sit there and answer some of the questions that the committee members were going to have.

And what we're seeing here from the letter yesterday that the Department of Justice published, from Mueller asking for guidance about what he can testify to, what he can't testify to. And now we have word that Mueller wants his deputy -- yes, he was a special counsel there -- sitting next to him, wanted him answering questions.

The committee said no. That is not going to happen. It all seems to be every effort possible from all sides, certainly from the Mueller folks, that they want to protect Robert Mueller from what's going to happen tomorrow from the Republicans.

And it could also be from the Democrats. There's going to be a lot of tough questions posed to him from the Democrats and it seems that by all accounts, everyone wants to protect Mueller.

A spokesperson for Mueller did release this statement. He said that Aaron Zebley was the deputy special counsel and had the day-to-day oversight of the investigation conducted by the office. He will accompany special counsel Mueller to the Wednesday hearing as was discussed with the committees more than a week ago.

They're saying this was no surprise to them. We'll see what happens.

BLITZER: So was it a last-minute decision on the part of Mueller?

PROKUPECZ: This is what they're saying.

But why are we just learning of this today?

It is not entirely clear. It's the same reason, why did we just learn of the letter yesterday from the Department of Justice, that Mueller was seeking guidance about what he can and can't testify to?

It all seems like everyone right now wants to protect Robert Mueller from about what is to happen tomorrow. It's going to be A lot of tough questions and they're trying to insulate him. It is the only reason you would want someone else, I think, sitting next to him.

BLITZER: Yes, clearly a lot after stake right now. Shimon, stand by as well.

President Trump appears to be on the edge ahead of Mueller's testimony. Let's go to our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

The stakes are clearly very high for the president.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And officials back here at the White House have been downplaying the upcoming testimony tomorrow. But behind the scenes they're paying close attention to what will happen tomorrow, including the last-minute drama you just heard from Manu and Shimon, as the president himself sounds irritated that the man who has been leading this investigation is now going to be front and center in front of the cameras.


COLLINS (voice-over): On the eve of Robert Mueller's Capitol Hill testimony... TRUMP: How about this whole witch hunt?

COLLINS (voice-over): -- the White House is bracing for impact.

TRUMP: First of all, it is very bad for our country.

COLLINS (voice-over): Tonight, sources telling CNN, President Trump has spent the last several days discussing Mueller's upcoming appearance and he seems more irritated than anxious than he is to watch the man who has loomed over his presidency take center stage.

TRUMP: I saw Mueller is to testify tomorrow. Yes. How many times? Two and a half years --

COLLINS (voice-over): Trump has been quizzing people about what to expect while complaining that Democrats will never let the investigation go.

TRUMP: They think this is helping them.

COLLINS (voice-over): His Republican allies are assuring him, it won't change a thing.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I've heard all I need to hear from Mueller.

COLLINS (voice-over): But even if Mueller reveals nothing new, sources say Trump wants to expose the investigation as the hoax he believes it is.

TRUMP: Actually, it started practically from the time I came down on the escalator.

COLLINS (voice-over): Trump tweeting that Republicans should turn the tables by asking why were all of Clinton's people given immunity and why were the text messages of Peter S. and his lover, Lisa Page, deleted or destroyed right after they left Mueller and after we requested them?

TRUMP: I'm not going to be watching -- probably -- maybe I'll see a little bit of it.

COLLINS (voice-over): And while Mueller will be front and center in front of the cameras, Trump's schedule is currently wide open.

The focus on Mueller in Washington may help a budget deal that's facing blowback from fiscal conservatives, pass through Congress and win the president's signature. Congressional leaders and White House officials are working overtime to sell the deal that raises spending levels by $320 billion over the next two years.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: It is a pretty good deal under the circumstances. That is the way I would put it.

COLLINS (voice-over): And with an eye on 2020, the president is ramping up his attacks on four Democratic freshman congresswomen. TRUMP: This Tlaib, Tlaib -- from Michigan, right? That is a great state. We won Michigan.

COLLINS (voice-over): Telling a group of young conservatives Tuesday, Rashida Tlaib is --


COLLINS (voice-over): -- a lunatic after a video of her shouting at a Trump event in 2016 resurfaces.

TRUMP: She's vicious. She's like a crazed lunatic. She's screaming.

COLLINS (voice-over): But Trump making clear the attacks are part of a bigger political strategy.

TRUMP: Socialism is not as easy to beat as you think.


COLLINS: Now Wolf, Robert Mueller's first hearing will get kicked off around 8:30 tomorrow morning, which sources say is long before the president typically arrives in the West Wing. He's usually still in the residence, reading the newspapers, watching television, making phone calls.

The only other thing right now on his schedule is a lunch with the vice president before he goes to West Virginia tomorrow night for a fundraiser. We'll likely hear from him as he's on his way out of the White House.

BLITZER: I suspect we will. Kaitlan, thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

Do you have any reservations, first of all, about letting Mueller's deputy, Aaron Zebley, to testify alongside him?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): My understanding is that he will not necessarily testify but he be there so that Robert Mueller can occasionally seek his advice.

But I hope that we're not going to be interrupted by consultations as much as Mr. Mueller has a chance to kind of speak his mind and tell us what is in the report and why it matters.

BLITZER: Will Aaron Zebley be formally sworn in as a witness or will he just sit there as an aide to the former special counsel and whisper in his ear from time to time?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I'm not sure. I think that is being hashed out right now. But it appears he will be at least accessible to Mr. Mueller. BLITZER: Your colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee plan to focus their questions on issues surrounding potential obstruction of justice by the president. Your committee, the Intelligence Committee, will focus in on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

What is the biggest question you have for the former special counsel on that front?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I've several questions but I think the biggest question is, what did he find and what does it matter?

Especially with regard to the Trump campaign having advance knowledge of this interference that was about to happen in 2016, then welcoming it and then using the product of that interference, having numerous contacts with Russians, which they didn't report to the FBI or law enforcement, and then finally covering it up.

So we'll be asking Mr. Mueller about all of those things, plus did he look at the counterintelligence aspects of the links, the 140-plus links between the Trump campaign and Russia, even if it didn't amount to a criminal conspiracy?

BLITZER: Because as you know, the Mueller report concluded on the sensitive issue of collusion or whatever you want to call it -- he doesn't use the word collusion -- the report said, "The evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election."

That is a significant statement, which I assume Mueller is going to repeat tomorrow.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: He will likely do that. But on the other hand, there were so many links, just take one example, Trump Tower Moscow, where the president repeatedly said he had nothing to do with Russia.

Meanwhile Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, was negotiating a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

And the reason why that is significant is that if the Russians know that the president is not telling the truth, they could use that information to compromise him. And that is very serious and that is the source of counterintelligence concerns in this investigation.

BLITZER: The Department of Justice has instructed Mueller to stick to his report, the 448-page report.

Will that significantly impact the questions that you guys, the lawmakers, will ask Mueller?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, as you know, he's not necessarily confined to that report, despite what DOJ is asking and we are not necessarily confined in asking questions.

That being said, I think that we will be very happy to hear him talk about what is in the report, because him giving voice to those findings will likely be the first time that much of the audience, who has not read the report, will actually hear what it is about.

As you know, this is kind of like a lot more people have seen the movie "The Godfather" rather than read the book.

BLITZER: Should Mueller ignore the instructions from the Justice Department?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that -- look, he is a man of high integrity and honor. He's a patriot. I think he has to do what is right. If the Justice Department and Bill Barr are somehow instructing him not to talk about certain things, even though he should talk about them at the hearing, then he should do what is right and answer the --


KRISHNAMOORTHI: -- questions because at the end of the day, this is about protecting our country and our national security as well.

BLITZER: Eighty-eight Democrats so far on the House support beginning formal impeachment proceedings against the president. You're not among them.

Could Mueller's testimony tomorrow change your mind?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Possibly. He's one person who commands a tremendous amount of stature and credibility and, depending on what he says, a lot of people's minds could be changed tomorrow. And so that is why I think tomorrow's hearing is so important and that is why I think so many people are going to watch it as well.

BLITZER: Some Democrats hope Mueller's testimony will certainly bring his report to life, as you say.

But do you worry, Congressman, it could backfire and instead give the president potentially fresh ammunition, that the investigation is over and it is time for the country to move on?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't think so. I think that the conclusions of the report were so significant and such a small portion of the country has actually read the report that I think tomorrow, it is going to be about educating the public and I think a lot more people will understand the import and the significance of what he found.

And hopefully, that will be an impetus for action as well in protecting our 2020 elections from similar interference by Russia and our other adversaries.

BLITZER: We'll of course have special coverage all day tomorrow. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thanks so much for joining us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, with the next round of debates only a week away here on CNN, I'll speak live with Democratic presidential candidate New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. There you see him. And President Trump is showing signs of irritation just ahead of Robert Mueller testimony, calling the Russia investigation once again a witch hunt and asking allies what to expect from the hearing.





BLITZER: Breaking news: we're following the last-minute scramble on Capitol Hill as the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees prepare to question the former special counsel, Robert Mueller. President Trump is described as irritated about the public testimony.

With us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, he's running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Mayor, thank you very much for coming in.


BLITZER: So what are you expecting from Mueller's testimony tomorrow?

DE BLASIO: I think we'll hear the truth. I think Mueller is a guy that actually is respected across this country and, at the press conference, he was trying to tell us something more. That was clear. So I think some of the questions will give us an opportunity here, maybe a deeper thinking.

BLITZER: So what specifically would you want him to answer?

What do you want to learn tomorrow?

What do you think the American public should be hearing?

DE BLASIO: I think the obvious question; if it were not for the restrictions that he was told were placed on him, would he have seen a path to prosecution?

And I think the report -- I mean, from my read of it, the answer is yes. But I think they're going to try to get him to say it out loud.

BLITZER: Because the Department of Justice guidelines is a sitting president can't be indicted. You're raising questions about that guideline?

DE BLASIO: It makes no sense. It doesn't fit with American values and American history.

How can one person be above the law? You know, we read about this in other countries, where folks want to

be president or prime minister to avoid prosecution. You don't think of that in the case of the United States of America. We think of what happened to Richard Nixon as an example of the system working and finding corruption to do something about it.

It made no sense that Mueller's hands were tied and I think the committee and the American people will want to hear him say out loud, if he had his druthers, what would he do?

BLITZER: The Department of Justice guideline is a sitting president can't be charged or indicted but the House of Representatives can begin impeachment proceedings against a sitting President of the United States. So you support that.


BLITZER: But most of the Democrats in the House of Representatives still oppose formal impeachment proceedings, at least at this point.

DE BLASIO: Wolf, the straw that broke the camel's back for me was that Oval Office interview, where the president invited hostile nations to share dirt on his opponents with him, invited treason, in effect.

And I saw that and I said, wait a minute, this guy is -- you know, he's been extreme in so many ways but that goes beyond anything that is acceptable in America. We've got to start the impeachment process. The evidence has to come out.

But the American people have to be convinced during that process. And I also say, as a Democrat, Democrats should not only talk about impeachment; I fear sometimes they do too much. Talk about the issues of working people to show we're doing the work that Americans sent us to do, not just talk.

BLITZER: Because a lot of the Democratic leadership fears exactly what you are saying, focusing on Trump, Trump, Trump, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, you're ignoring all the substantive issues, like health care, infrastructure, stuff like that, that has to be worked out.

DE BLASIO: And it is a real danger. Now I do want to give the House credit. They passed the $15 minimum wage in the last days and they showed the willingness to act on something that is an actual kitchen table issue that affects everyday people, working people. That is good.

But they got to keep that balance all of the time. Keep talking about those kitchen table issues that affect everyday Americans, if it is just impeachment --


DE BLASIO: -- I think a lot of voters will say, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is not about us. And one of the things that I'm working on is to push this Democratic Party of mine to talk about working people, which, bluntly has not been the Democratic agenda for a long time, to actually talk things like that $15 minimum wage, how to make sure that people have decent working conditions, some time off each year, some paid vacation, which millions of Americans don't have, the right to keep your job.

And if you're challenged by a boss, actually having some due process, just cause termination, not just whatever the boss thinks. These are the things -- and I put it in this workers' bill of rights, this is what the election could be about for Democrats.

And in 2016 we lost a lot of working people because they didn't hear Democrats talking about their lives, what it meant for them to try to make ends meet. If Democrats this time talk about working people, I think you'll see a very different result.

BLITZER: We'll find out fairly soon. Let me get your thoughts on the president making it clear that he's going to continue his attack on these four progressive Democratic congresswomen, all of color. It is part of his political strategy that seems to be emerging, looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election. He wants them to be the face of your party.

What do you say about that?

DE BLASIO: It is a clear tactic to try to distract people from the more central issues. In the end, voters do vote according to those kitchen table issues and here is my argument.

Trump goes after those four women, demonizes them and tries to create a racial divide and tries to blame immigrants for all the problems in the country, all the problems that regular, everyday, working-class, middle class Americans are suffering, when, in fact, the truth is, the challenges everyday people are facing, they are caused by those in power, they are caused by Wall Street, they're caused by the big corporations.

And people are angry, Wolf. They're really angry about their circumstances. It came out in 2016. In frustration, folks voted for Donald Trump, who probably disagreed with him on a lot of things but they thought maybe he'll shake things up.

Democrats cannot let that happen again. Trump is succeeding if he manages to demonize these women and Democrats do not come back and say, no, that is not acceptable.

And in fact what Trump is really doing is baiting and switching, giving away the store to the 1 percent and trying to distract people from it.

BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts on a very sensitive issue that occurred in New York City. The president the other day once again directly blamed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for scuttling the new Amazon project in New York City that the president said would have created so many jobs.

You were a champion of that deal until it fell apart. Listen to what the president said about the congresswoman.


TRUMP: One of them kept Amazon out of New York. Tens of thousands of jobs and would have been a great thing and she kept Amazon from going -- it would have been a good deal. I mean, pretty have made better maybe. But tens of thousands of jobs and New York has not been the same since that happened. It has really hurt New York and New York City.


BLITZER: He's a New Yorker and you're a New Yorker.

What is your response to the president?

DE BLASIO: He was a New Yorker.

BLITZER: He still has got a place in New York.

DE BLASIO: Yes. And I'm sure he's welcome back when this is over. So the bottom line, Wolf, he's wrong on pretty much every score. The New York City economy is strong; we've been adding jobs since Amazon made their decision and that is the crucial point. Amazon made the decision.

BLITZER: But do you blame her in part --


BLITZER: -- for Amazon -- because she was one of those urging Amazon to get out of New York City. She thought it would hurt the working class.

DE BLASIO: She was wrong in my opinion. And I said that at the time because it was a plan that would have brought us tens of thousands of jobs and a huge amount of tax revenue that we could have done things with.

BLITZER: But it is a major setback for New York City. On that you agree with the president.

DE BLASIO: Yes. But I disagree with the way he thinks it went down. Amazon walked away. We had a deal and they walked away from the deal.

BLITZER: But you understand why they walked away, given all the political pressure?

DE BLASIO: I don't buy it. I don't buy it.

BLITZER: Because there were so many other communities across the country --


BLITZER: -- that were dying for Amazon to -- DE BLASIO: They made a deal and they walked away. It is not even her congressional district. So I disagree with what she assumed about the deal. But let's put the horse before the cart.

Amazon had a deal; everything was moving along and, in the dead of night, they just said, we're out of here. I don't put that on her. I put that on them.

But it was a lost opportunity for the communities that would have benefited, for sure. New York City is doing just fine, nonetheless. We have 4.5 million jobs. We're doing just fine.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the former Vice President Joe Biden, arguably the front-runner still right now. He released his criminal justice reform plan. I don't know if you've had a chance to go through it but it is already being criticized by several of your colleagues, including New Jersey senator Cory Booker, who said, "Biden's policy falls short of the transformative change our broken criminal justice system needs."

Do you see short comings in Biden's plan?

DE BLASIO: Sure. And the bigger problem with Joe Biden is that he's associated with so many things that have backfired on everyday Americans.

[17:30:00] So that criminal justice plan -- he led the way in the crime bill in the '90s and it backfired and it helped create mass incarceration.

He was a strong backer of NAFTA. We lost a million manufacturing jobs. NAFTA is coming back again. How are people going to trust if it's Joe Biden that he's not going to make the same mistake again?

Here's a guy who voted for the Iraq war. I respect his service to the country, but he has to answer these concerns because how is it believable?

We got to take on Donald Trump who's a very tough customer. We got to beat him by showing we are the party of change, that we're actually going to change the lives of working Americans. The Democratic Party is not entirely believable to a lot of working-class and middle-class Americans. We've got to show them something different.

How is Joe Biden going to say he's anything but the candidate of the status quo? He had a big fundraiser in New York. It was well reported, he invited the media in. And he literally said to some of the richest people in New York City, don't worry, nothing's going to change if I'm president. How is that going to tell working people that they should have any faith in the Democrats then?

BLITZER: So, at the CNN debate in Detroit, you're going to be on the stage with the -- with Vice President Biden. You're going to look at him. What are you going to say to him?

DE BLASIO: Look, I'm not going over every strategy right now, but I'll the bottom line. The bottom line is we have to put working people first in America, and Democrats have to be the party of working people again. We are not seen that way by enough working people. And if we don't fix it, we're going to lose this election.

So, if I happen to have a conversation with Joe Biden, I'm going to challenge him -- I'm going to challenge all my colleagues, prove that you're not part of the status quo. Prove that you're actually willing to do things like this Bill of Rights that literally put power back in the hands of working people, take it away from multi-national corporations.

Prove you're not going to just approve another NAFTA, which Donald Trump wants Democrats to do right now. And, Wolf, I am scared that a lot of Democrats in the House and Senate are going to quietly vote for a new NAFTA and dig that hole again for working Americans. I think there is a lot to talk about in Detroit, and it's how are we going to be the party of change again.

BLITZER: But you don't have to wait to have an opportunity. If you want to go after Biden at that debate, you could just do it.

DE BLASIO: Unquestionably, but the point is, it's not just about Joe Biden. It is the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: But he doesn't represent the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

DE BLASIO: He is absolutely a Democrat. And I give him credit for some real good public service, but I have to say, if we're at a moment where we have to change or die -- let's be clear, we have to either be party of change, be the party that will resist a broken status quo, show working people in all those states in the Midwest that went for Trump, show working people that we actually are on their side again, not on the side of one percent.

I challenge Biden. I challenge all Democrats. Prove to people that that's who you are. I can prove it because of what I've done in New York. We've done a host of things to put money back in the hands of working people.

I'm going to challenge people because this is a fight we better have now. It's not a fight that could wait for the debate stage with Donald Trump. If Donald Trump can run to the left of the Democrat and act like he's more on the side of working people than the Democrat -- that's what he did in 2016, and he got away with it. If he can do it again, we're in a bad -- really bad place as a party.

BLITZER: We're going to see you in Detroit next Tuesday and Wednesday. The first round on Tuesday, second round on Wednesday. CNN will have -- obviously, will host that debate next week.

DE BLASIO: Looking forward to it.

BLITZER: Mayor, thanks so much for coming in.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Good luck out there on the campaign trail.

We're going to get a lot more information coming in right now about the former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's last-minute request to allow his top aide to join him at tomorrow's hearing.

Also, the President's legal team sues to keep congressional investigators from seeing the President's tax returns. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The breaking news, President Trump is described as irritated, and there has been plenty of last-minute jockeying going on up on Capitol Hill just ahead of the former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's public testimony about his investigation. Let's bring in our legal and political analysts. We'll discuss the latest developments.

And, Laura Coates, what do you make of this request -- maybe it's a last-minute request -- by Mueller to bring his top deputy in to sit alongside him.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It tells me he wants to give comprehensive answers, and he wants them to have one bite at this testimonial apple. He doesn't want to go back and say, let me check it out, I'll figure it out, I'll come back to you. He wants this to be the moment he turns to the person and says, you know the answers, let me get back to them right now.

It also shows to me that he is hoping to really have not evasive answers but actually forthcoming, be candid, and actually give them the information they are seeking. And also, somebody to maybe to nudge or remind him, we're actually not talking about that. We may have 12 of other investigations we have to report on, sir, let's tamp it down.

BLITZER: What do you think of the Justice Department's warning to him in this letter that they sent him last night, saying he should stay within the constraints of his official 448-page report?

COATES: Well, thanks for that opinion, people at DOJ, but, in reality, he can stay in the four corners of the actual report and still be very comprehensive. The questions people have are not asking him to go beyond. It's about going behind the scenes and behind the 448 pages with the sound bites there.

Also, the idea of trying to putting the toothpaste back in the tube, trying to assert, now, executive privilege and saying, please be quiet about privilege issues, you had all these interviews. You had 500 witnesses. You had thousands of subpoenas issued. Now, you'd ask him to say, when the public has a chance to hear from the horse's mouth, to be quiet? I don't think so.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But Mueller asked for this letter, and that's -- COATES: He asked for guidance, right.

[17:39:57] BORGER: And -- but he wanted the guidance, so it's sitting right there, so -- and he's a reluctant witness, as we all know. So, he could look at this guidance and say, well, the Department of Justice says, you know, I can't really answer that because of privilege.

And then he's got somebody who worked with him in the counsel's office sitting on the other side of him, you know, saying, well, you can't really answer that question. So, I wonder if this means that, you know, Mueller is sort of cocooning himself in a way against the committee's questions.

BLITZER: Yes, you're right.

COATES: Well, here's why I wonder about the cover, though, in that area because, remember, he has a conflict, a little bit, not in terms of ethical but with Barr --

BORGER: Yes, sure.

COATES: -- essentially trying to say, here is the cover I need. He wants to be able to address what Barr did to roll this out and how the DOJ did not cover him.

BORGER: Not -- exactly.

BLITZER: You know, Ryan, it's pretty clear what the Democrats want to achieve tomorrow.


BLITZER: But the Republicans, they have their own agenda. They're going to get almost as much time for their questioning.

LIZZA: Yes. Look, they have to make a decision of whether they're going to go with one of the two strategies that Trump and Republicans have toyed with. One is that this report just exonerates the President and that, you know, Mueller is this great investigator. He looked at everything, and it's pure exoneration.

The flip side of that is that a lot of them have argued, oh, this was -- you know, he was conflicted from the beginning and this entire investigation was a hoax, and that's it's more about, you know, damaging his credibility. And I think, basically, as a team, they want to pick one of those or the other because they're not in harmony, and Trump goes back and forth with the tweets between those two.

BLITZER: We all remember, Carl Bernstein, your excellent reporting, Bob Woodward's excellent reporting during Watergate. We remember the Watergate hearings that eventually resulted with new information that caused then-President Nixon to resign. Do you think there is a make- or-break moment like that, potentially, that could occur tomorrow?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CO-AUTHOR, "THE FINAL DAYS": It seems unlikely because in the Watergate hearings, you had the testimony of John Dean from the inside turning dramatically on the President of the United States for the minute-by-minute account of the President's direction of the cover-up. So, I don't think something like that is likely. But one thing that is happening here is that we now have an Attorney General of the United States who has put a gag order on the Special Prosecutor.

And the difference between Watergate and this is that the system worked in Watergate because Republicans were open to joining Democrats in trying to learn the truth rather than suppress it. And what we're seeing so far about tomorrow is the Attorney General and the Republicans want to continue to suppress the truth and are happy that a cover-up may well be going on.

BLITZER: So, you don't think we'll get a John Dean type bombshell from Robert Mueller tomorrow?

BERNSTEIN: There is reacted material. In Watergate, for instance, the redacted material reached the Congress of the United States. Very significant, as Laura, I think, knows better than anybody. But here, there is no access to that redacted material. There has been an insidious attempt to keep the American people and the Congress of the United States from the facts in this investigation beyond those in the Mueller report itself, and it's quite extraordinary.

BLITZER: It was very clear today, Laura, the President is clearly irritated by Mueller's upcoming testimony tomorrow morning. He suggested earlier today that the U.S. constitution basically gives him the right to do whatever he wants. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Then I have an Article Two where I have the right to do whatever I want as president, but I don't even talk about that. Because they did a report and there was no obstruction.


BLITZER: What's your reaction? Because you know the constitution.


COATES: Well, clearly, he does not, Wolf Blitzer, in that respect. Think about it. The entire premise is the separation of powers and three co-equal branches of government whose job it is to impose checks and balances as appropriate. And it's a government of, for, and by the people, so the notion that the President would be able to be a king and that constituents are now subjects is completely off the mark.

And isn't it that we have heard the President -- the President, ad nauseam, talk about all the reasons he could do what he wants to do, one particular point, in particular, is why you want to hear from Mueller tomorrow, because he has been able to stonewall Congress' attempts to actually impose those checks and balances. So, the question is, what did Mueller intend for them to do about it, with a process or an indictment?

BORGER: Well, you know, he is parroting his lawyers because his lawyers have been saying to him this entire time, Article Two of the Constitution allows you to fire anybody you would like -- meaning James Comey, for example -- and it gives you extraordinary authority over the entire executive branch. What it doesn't do is give him the right to do something illegal which he should not be doing. And, Carl, you know about this better than anybody.

BERNSTEIN: But he has a habit of doing it.

BORGER: And -- but --


BORGER: So, the President is saying, oh, have you ever heard of our -- remember, he said, have you ever heard of Article Two? Well, this is what has been -- he's been hearing from his lawyers.


BORGER: And so, he feels, well, you know, I've got Teflon on.

LIZZA: Yes, he's mangling --

BORGER: There's nothing can touch me.

LIZZA: He's mangling this, you know --


LIZZA: -- serious legal case that some on the right make that if you obstruct justice or something that looks like obstructing justice in the course of using your Article Two powers, that's not actually obstruction of justice.

BORGER: Right.

LIZZA: Now, that's not exactly what he said, but that's what the sort of --

BORGER: That's what he means.

[17:45:00] LIZZA: That's germ. But even that, obviously, is a controversial view.

BERNSTEIN: But it's still a version of unlimited power designated to the President of the United States --

BORGER: And unchecked.

BERNSTEIN: -- at the expense of the other branches of government. The question --

BLITZER: But it isn't unlimited power because --

BERNSTEIN: Of course, it's -- right.

BLITZER: -- if he does something really, really bad --

BORGER: Illegal.

BLITZER: -- there is an impeachment proceeding that can begin in the House, impeachment, and then a trial in the Senate. If convicted, he is removed from office.

BERNSTEIN: Yes, that could happen. But what you have -- again, you had Nixon who asserted similarly that he was above the law -- but he did it in private, his assertion.


COATES: Right.

BERNSTEIN: What's so unusual here is that the President of the United States gets up almost every day and really asserts, I am above the law. I am contemptuous of the law. I will do what I want and not what the law says.

COATES: And that --

BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on for a moment. We're some getting breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. I want to go to our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, what are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are learning in the past few minutes tonight that the Department of Justice will be launching a formal antitrust review of the nation's biggest tech companies. The DOJ not saying exactly what those companies would be, but it could encompass Google, Amazon, Facebook.

Now, we have known that the DOJ has been inquiring into Google in tandem with the FTC at the beginning stages of a probe of some other tech companies. But now, the DOJ is confirming that this antitrust review is happening, and it will explore how digital platforms compete and deal with consumer demands.

This is of note because the topic of privacy and competition and fairness of these search engines has really been a hot topic on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in recent days and weeks have had -- held multiple hearings grilling these tech executives about their practices. And in particular, President Trump has been lashing out repeatedly over the last several months on Twitter, in interviews, going after Facebook and Twitter and Google, calling a lot of these companies biased against conservatives.

Even the Attorney General, Bill Barr, at his confirmation hearing in January talked about how these companies, these behemoths as he called them, aren't being properly investigated, saying once he got into the DOJ, that that was something that he wanted his antitrust division to look into. So, now, Wolf, we know that the DOJ will be launching this extensive

review, a widespread review, of these digital and techno -- and tech platforms like Google and Amazon and Facebook. The way they are putting it is they're going to be looking at how these online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that, as they put it, have reduced competition, stifled innovation, and harmed consumers.

So, we've been kind of awaiting something from DOJ. And, Wolf, now we know that this big review is happening, likely sending shock waves now through Silicon Valley.

LIZZA: Wolf --

BLITZER: I'm sure it is. Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.

Laura Coates, give us your analysis. This is a major development.

COATES: It is. And, of course, we knew -- we had that hint from Bill Barr's confirmation hearing about him taking tech companies very seriously. There is an interesting coincidence. The President also happens to have an issue with each of those particular companies and, now, it's a priority of DOJ. But it does still have bipartisan support.

Well, the interesting thing about this issue will be how they are able to get information about whether they have engaged in unfair practices. It would to require them to hand over documents. Will it be voluntarily? Will it be through a subpoena?

Will this be a contentious battle to say, you know, it's possible you may have become the so-called behemoth lawfully, but in the event you didn't, hand me all of your documents, including about search engines, user profiles, user search tendencies and tactics? We have had -- we're going to have a very long road ahead of us, and it's going to be about privacy.

BLITZER: It has significant political implications, Gloria, as well.


BLITZER: A bunch of Democrats have been talking about stricter regulations, as well, as far as these big tech companies.

BORGER: Right, and it's sort of strange bedfellows. We were talking about this. You could have somebody like Elizabeth Warren who's called for the breakup of these companies joining with conservative voices who feel like they've been treated unfairly by these companies.

So, I think the question that I have is that the President himself has suggested that the United States should sue Google and Facebook and is this the result of that, or is this -- or is this something else? And will that complicate their case --

BLITZER: Because we --

BORGER: -- because the President has weighed in to a degree in it.

BLITZER: Yes, he often criticizes these big tech companies as being biased against conservatives.

LIZZA: Yes. And, look, we'll have to see more about what they're investigating, but I don't think what they are investigating is that. I don't think --


BERNSTEIN: You got it.

LIZZA: Trump and a lot of people on the right believe that, Twitter and Facebook, their algorithms can sometimes be biased against right- wing views, right? But that is not an antitrust issue.

BERNSTEIN: That's right.

LIZZA: I'm not an antitrust expert, but I don't think that's an antitrust issue. What it looks like the Justice Department is looking at is, frankly, what the same thing that Elizabeth Warren --


LIZZA: -- and other Democrats have been concerned about, is anticompetitive behavior.

BLITZER: Carl, how do you see it?

[17:49:46] BERNSTEIN: First thing is that the whole question of this Attorney General conducting this kind of a politicized investigation, seems to me, is fraught. And if there were ever an occasion for the do-nothing Congress of the United States to have a select committee, both Republicans and Democrats joining together, to look at the whole question of privacy, of the power of these companies, it is a great subject to be undertaken on a bipartisan basis. But trust this Attorney General and this atmosphere to do it and the antitrust division of the Justice Department? I wouldn't.

BLITZER: You think there's bipartisan cooperation --

BORGER: Well, there could be --

BLITZER: -- just ahead?

BORGER: I would never predict that, Wolf, but --

BERNSTEIN: Why not let Congress do it?

BORGER: But I do think that there are people on both sides of the aisle who agree that these companies need to be looked at seriously. Not necessarily broken up the way Elizabeth Warren believes they should be, but I think that there's enough interest in it. So, a serious investigation like Carl talks about would be something that lots of folks on Capitol Hill --

BERNSTEIN: Including First Amendment questions.

BORGER: -- would entertain.

BERNSTEIN: It'd enter into it, which is very important.

BLITZER: All right.

BORGER: Exactly, but not what the President is talking about, which is they're not nice to conservatives. That's --

BLITZER: This is a significant development. We're going to have a lot more on this coming up.

There's other important news just coming in, as well. North Korea has published photos of the dictator Kim Jong-un inspecting what's said to be a submarine under construction. And given the North's nuclear arsenal, the implications are ominous.

Brian Todd has been working his sources. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we're told that this submarine, an enormous vessel much bigger than one Kim showed off about three years ago, could have the capability of firing multiple nuclear-tipped missiles. Analysts say this poses a threat to the region including nearly 30,000 American troops there, and they're examining whether it could have implications for the U.S. homeland.


TODD (voice-over): Experts say this is the latest example of Kim Jong-un's unbridled military ambition and the newest threat he poses to the U.S. and its allies. In these newly released pictures, Kim is inspecting what appears to be a submarine under construction. Kim's news agency says this hulking vessel, which analysts worry could fire nuclear missiles, will soon be deployed to the waters between North Korea and Japan.

ANKIT PANDA, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW IN THE DEFENSE POSTURE PROJECT, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: For the first time since February 2018, the North Korean leader has publicly inspected something that is very much designed to carry and launch nuclear weapons. And that's significant because we've been in this diplomatic process where Kim Jong-un has really put a lid on things.

TODD (voice-over): A senior U.S. official tells CNN, the U.S. has been tracking the development of this submarine for a year-and-a-half. Analysts say Kim Jong-un could well be signaling to President Trump his frustration over the diplomatic impasse regarding his nuclear weapons.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: This is an opportunity for Kim to say, look, I'm not testing nukes, I'm not launching intercontinental ballistic missiles, but I still have this ability or I want to get this capability and you need to take me seriously. TODD (voice-over): Analysts say Kim's got about 70 submarines, most

of which are old, slow, and loud, but the regime has used the fleet to deadly effect. In 2010, a North Korean submarine torpedoed the South Korean Navy ship, the Cheonan, killing more than 40 sailors.

And Kim has been determined to modernize his undersea fleet in recent years. In 2016, he successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine for the first time, a missile that traveled about 300 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan. Experts say this newest submarine looks to be much bigger.

PANDA: This submarine does appear to be capable of carrying multiple ballistic missiles, possibly as many as three or four. And once they build this and they build it out, I fully expect that they'll continue building submarines like this.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say there's no question that, tonight, Kim's submarine fleet poses a significant threat to Japan, South Korea, and to the 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. But they also believe he's trying to build bigger, quieter submarines that could travel further and go undetected.

RICHARD FISHER, SENIOR FELLOW, INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGY CENTER: They could, potentially, within the next decade, develop submarines capable of transiting the Pacific Ocean, within range sufficient to launch missile strikes against the United States.


TODD: A senior U.S. official telling CNN tonight, the U.S. assessment is that this latest vessel Kim was seen with is likely a refurbished, old submarine. Still, it could be lethal to the U.S.

Now, how can the U.S. and its allies counter the submarine missile threat from Kim Jong-un? Military analysts say the allies are going to have to put more spy planes in the air, more ships and underwater sensors in the Pacific Ocean to try to detect and intercept those North Korean subs. It's going to be difficult, expensive, and it could provoke China and Russia into being more aggressive in the Pacific. But the allies really may have no other choice at this point -- Wolf.

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

Coming up, President Trump is on edge right now just ahead of the landmark testimony by Robert Mueller. The President is complaining once again of a witch-hunt. He's asking aides what to expect from the hearings. And why is the former Special Counsel suddenly asking for his deputy to be sworn in with him?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Mueller under oath. On the eve of his highly anticipated congressional appearance, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller makes a surprise last-minute request to be joined by his deputy as he testifies before two House committees. Ready to pounce. President Trump tweeting and talking repeatedly

about Mueller, even to a group of students after days on the phone with aides and allies discussing tomorrow's testimony. How will he respond?

Trump goes to court. The President files suit against the House Ways and Means Committee, the New York State Attorney General, and the New York tax commissioner to prevent the disclosure of his tax returns. Why is he going to extreme lengths to keep them secret?