Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Senate Intel: U.S. Must Create Effective Deterrence Against An Ongoing Russian Threat To Elections; Bipartisan Senate Report Says Vulnerabilities Remain After 2016 Russian Election Attack; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)Is Interviewed About The Vulnerabilities In America's Electoral Infrastructure; Divided On Impeachment: Dems Plot Next Move As Trump Claims Victory After Mueller Hearings; Senate Intel Report Warns Of Ongoing Election Threat, Says U.S. Must Create Effective Deterrence And Response; Biden Jabs Back At Rivals As Presidential Debate Nears; Kim Jong-un's Missile Firings Seen As Message To Trump. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 25, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all it was.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Everyone thank you so much. I appreciate it. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching. See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now breaking news, insufficient warning. The Senate Intelligence Committee says the government did not do enough to warn about Russia's attack on the 2016 election. And the FBI director says look for more election cyber attacks in 2020 echoing Robert Mueller's warning that the Russians are still at it. So why did Republicans just block bills to boost election security?

Moving too slowly, as the President takes a victory lap after the Mueller testimony, Democrats will hope Mueller would provide a push for impeachment efforts say their leadership is moving too slowly, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's not standing in anyone's way.

Budget balk, as the House moves to pass a sweeping budget and debt limit deal negotiated with the Trump administration, some of the President's conservative allies are balking. Even though he's backed the bill, will he change his mind?

And Kim's new missiles, North Korea's dictator fires off a pair of new missiles which could threaten targets in South Korea and Japan. Is Kim Jong-un sending a direct threat to President Trump?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, a bipartisan report concludes Russia carried out an extensive assault on U.S. election infrastructure centered around the 2016 election. The Senate Intelligence Committee says the Russians sought to exploit the seams between federal authorities and states which largely run U.S. elections. The heavily redacted report as America's cyber defenses have improved,

but the threat remains urgent. That comes as the FBI expects a more election-related cyber attacks in 2020. Director Christopher Wray says the goal is to sow division and undermine voter confidence in the United States and that warning comes a day after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a one-time FBI chief warned that Russia is still interfering in the U.S. electoral process, calling that one of the most serious challenges to American democracy.

But twice, twice in the last 24 hours, Senate Republicans have blocked legislation aimed at boosting election security. I'll speak with Congressman Eric Swalwell of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. And our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of today's top stories.

Let's go straight to Capitol HILL on our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju.

Manu, the Senate Intel report is part of a two year ongoing investigation and it's raising a lot of red flag.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, urging states and the federal government to do more, saying that the Russian government exploited divisions between state governments and the federal government and saying that this is something that needs to be shored up in the elections ahead.

And one of the recommendations they do make here is to ensure that there are backup paper ballots throughout state election systems to ensure that if there was any nefarious activity, that there is something to back it up to make sure that those election results are sufficient and that they're accurate portrayal of how voters actually came down. Now, the committee also found, they said no evidence of Russian actors actually trying to manipulate vote tallies, but they say that the Intelligence Committee does not have a window into exactly how votes may have been affected back in the 2016 elections.

But they make very clear in the 67-page bipartisan report that there was extensive activity that was directed by the Russian government between the years of 2014 and 2017, all designed to exploit the seams between the federal government and the state government, urging those seems to be closed. Now, the FBI Director Christopher Wray has been sounding similar alarms as he did today, warning that the Russian threat still exists heading into 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We expect much of the same in 2020, especially with new cyber tools that are continuing to fall in the hands of adversaries who would do us harm. Things like some of the services that are sold on the dark net or some of the DDoS capabilities that have become available to an even wider range of would be activists.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MANU: Now, there have been several bills have been moving through the

Senate that Democrats in particular have been pushing. There have been some bipartisan bills, some have been done on party line basis. And today, Democrats will again try to renew efforts to move those elections security bills, but they were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It's just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:05:04] RAJU: Now, what McConnell has been arguing is that the efforts that have already been undertaken are essentially enough. Enough money has been spent. He argues that in 2018, they did a good job of securing the election infrastructure and further legislations certainly is not necessary, but he is facing pressure from some within his own ranks, some Republicans and a growing number of Democrats demanding action in the wake of the Mueller report and the wake of concerns raised by Christopher Wray.

The question is will the Majority Leader move off of his opposition at the moment. He's saying no, because he believes these efforts are duplicative in his view, partisan, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Robert Mueller yesterday made it clear he's deeply concerned about these kinds of cyber attacks going after the elections here in 2020. A day after his testimony, though, on another sensitive issue, Manu, where are the Democrats when it comes to the issue of impeachment?

RAJU: Well, behind the scenes, there has been a robust debate about how to proceed immediately after yesterday's hearing. Nancy Pelosi heard from a number of her members who wanted to know the way to move forward. Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee even floated the idea of drafting articles of impeachment, I'm told. But Pelosi at the moment still wants to fight this issue in court.

But when I asked her today, whether she would try to dissuade any of her members from voicing their support for an impeachment inquiry, she made clear she would give her members green light to do whatever they need to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Are you going to discourage your members at all from announcing their support for an impeachment inquiry?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I ever have done that. I've never, never have done that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Now, some of Pelosi's allies believe that her tone has shifted.

Perhaps she's more open now but at the moment Democrats want to keep their focus on those core fights and see what happens next. But some are worried time is running short and that they're going to run out of time here, not just this year but then when they run into the election year next year, they'll make things even more complicated moving forward with impeachment proceedings, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a very, very big busy day up on Capitol Hill today. Maybe the last day before they go into their recess. Lawmakers have been voting now for the past several minutes on this two year spending and debt limit deal. We're looking at the results on the screen. Right now they're still voting, but it clearly looks like it's going to pass relatively easily.

RAJU: Yes, relatively easily. The interesting number there, Wolf, is the Republican no vote on your screen, though at the moment 132 Republicans are voting no. Now, that's not a final number, so it could grow and it looks like it's 133 now. And that's significant, because the President had made an effort to urge his members to support this deal. He tweeted in support of this deal. He cut this deal with Democratic leaders and other Republicans to try to move forward and get a deal.

What it would do, why Republicans in the House are not happy about this is that it would increase federal spending by 320 billion dollars over two years, also suspend the debt limit up until July of 2021. Essentially punting that issue of a debt limit until after the 2020 elections. And the reason why they cut this deal, Wolf, is that they were concerned about deep spending cuts that were bound to take effect this fall. Also, the potential of a debt default, if the national debt limit were not raised.

So the administration cut a deal with the Speaker Nancy Pelosi who pushed for more domestic spending, Republicans push for more defense spending. So both sides pushing for more spending, they pushed off the debt limit increase, made these record high debt levels and trillion dollar deficits raising a lot of concerns from members, which is why the President's party is not listening to him when he says support this deal, Wolf.

BLITZER: But it now goes to the Senate where it's expected to pass, right?

RAJU: Yes. It should pass probably next week, but still we're hearing concerns from Republicans about the numbers, the spending levels there. So expect a potential revolt of sorts from Republicans, but probably not enough to stop this from eventually becoming law, Wolf.

BLITZER: And White House says the President will sign it into law. All right. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. I want to get back to the breaking news. Our top story, this Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian election interference. I want to bring in our Political Correspondent Sara Murray along with former FBI General Counsel, Jim Baker, he's a CNN Legal Analyst. Guys, I've gone through this report you have as well, about 64 pages

led committee on intelligence, Russian active measures, campaigns and interference in the 2016 election. Jim Baker, give us your major takeaway.

JIM BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: So the major takeaway is that there is a significant threat from Russia and from other foreign actors who might try to take advantage of weaknesses in our election system. The Senate Intelligence Committee is one of the best committees up on The Hill and their staff is excellent and so we need to take this very seriously. they've laid out a bunch of recommendations that we need to think about and if the majority leader in the Senate is not happy with the legislation that we were just discussing, then come up with something else but this needs to be addressed and we're running out of time.

[17:10:02] BLITZER: It's a critical ...

BAKER: It's a critically important thing and we're running out of time. The States need help.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Sara, unlike the House Intelligence Committee, which has seen a lot of drama, and partisanship with Senate Intelligence Committee. These guys work pretty much in tandem and I think it's reflected in this report.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, the House Committee became a spectacle in the way that the Senate committee really did not and we're seeing this as a bipartisan report. And it's not a bunch of red meat. These are sort of practical things that you could do to secure our election system, so we're talking about replacing old voter machines. We're talking about increasing the security around voter rolls, encouraging states to resist the urge to move any kind of voting online because those platforms are not secure.

And it's interesting to look through this report at the same day that Mitch McConnell says, "No, no, we're good here. Everything's secure." Because that's certainly not the takeaway from the bipartisan members of this committee.

BLITZER: It certainly isn't. The report says the government simply didn't do enough to warn about all of these threats and the vulnerabilities which clearly exists. One committee member, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, says the government shouldn't expect local officials to do what the federal government is more qualified to do. He writes this. This is Wyden.

"We would not ask a local sheriff to go to war against the missiles, planes and tanks of the Russian army. We shouldn't ask a country election IT employee to fight a war against the full capabilities and vast resources of Russia's cyber army." Does he have a point?

BAKER: Well, he has a point but up to a point, because if we take some of the lessons we've learned dealing with counterterrorism after 9/11, what we realized is there's a role for everybody. The federal government has a role and state and local authorities have a role to deal because they're the first responders as we all know. They're the ones that confront people who pose a threat most directly sometimes. So it needs to be a coherent, well organized level or well organized response at every level if we're going to try to be effective here.

BLITZER: The timing of this report is very significant. It comes the day after Robert Mueller testified and he warned of all of these threats as well, but that didn't necessarily come across during the course of the hearing.

MURRAY: Well, we had a full day of hearings but I do think the one thing we've learned from the two times Bob Mueller has spoken publicly is he has been most forceful in each of those instances, that 10 minutes statement he gave and then when he was appearing before the committees and essentially saying, "The biggest concern, the biggest takeaway here is that there was a hostile foreign power that interfered in our election, and they are going to continue to do that."

And we need to take that seriously and that's something that everyone on all sides of the aisle should care about, because at the end of the day when you go into the ballot box, you cast your vote, you want to walk out and you want to feel confident in American elections. That's what this report is about and that's I think what Robert Mueller wanted everyone to take away after his appearance on The Hill yesterday.

BLITZER: And the threat is so significant, this shouldn't be a partisan issue at all. But you noticed during the course of the hearings yesterday, few Republicans chose to use any of their time talking to Mueller about this threat. Instead, they were going after his entire Russia investigation and that's a problem.

BAKER: That's a big problem. So I think, for example, Republicans should be worried about this because if there are questions about the security of an election and the results and they win, well, they're going to have a cloud over them, so they should be worried about that.

Secondly, they should not assume that the Russians are always going to be supporting President Trump and his allies. The Russians just want disruption, disorder and chaos. And however they can achieve that, they will. And they may take a different view about President Trump at the last moment or at any point.

BLITZER: The President, his National Security officials, the intelligence community, people he's appointed like Pompeo and Dan Coats among others, they keep saying this is a huge threat. But we rarely hear that from the President himself. He either ignores it, he doesn't talk about it, why is that?

MURRAY: Well, because he believes that if you acknowledge the fact that Russia tried to interfere in our election then that delegitimizes his victory. It means you got helped to become president. But if you look it the way the President has acted alongside this report, I mean, one of its top recommendations is we need to create effective deterrence, which means we need to send a signal to countries that are trying to meddle in our election that we're not going to stand for this and also we're going to retaliate in ways that are painful and that are costly to you.

And we've seen other members as you've pointed out of the administration talking about things like that, but we have not heard it from the President. And that is sort of stunning when you think about the fact that we are so far along into his presidency, and he still can't put aside his own personal grievance about this issue and his own personal feelings to say, we need to do something that's better for the country going forward.

BLITZER: Sara Murray, Jim Baker, thanks very much. A very, very important issue. Let's continue the conversation with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a key member of both the Judiciary and intelligence committees.

I know you've got to vote momentarily. But let me get your thoughts on your committee. The House Intelligence Committee conducting its own investigation into Russia's ongoing activities. What are the biggest vulnerabilities, Congressman, right now in America's electoral infrastructure?

[19:15:07] REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening, Wolf. The biggest vulnerability is the President. He is the leader of our country and it doesn't matter how hard the FBI agents and the NSA and CIA work. If they don't have leadership at the top and they don't have a commander in chief directing them and giving them the resources they need, all the best resources will not prevent another attack.

And I see these threats every day on the House Intelligence Committee. Russia is determined to continue to do this and I fear that we are more vulnerable than we were in 2016 because Russia and other countries will see the United States is open for business when it comes to interference.

BLITZER: Well, do you worry that the Russians have developed the capability to actually change vote counts in the United States?

SWALWELL: Yes.

BLITZER: So what does Congress need to do to tackle this problem? Is there a particular program or department that needs we're funding for example?

SWALWELL: Yes. Yesterday, Bob Mueller gave us a call to action. I thought it was very hair-raising when he said that this cannot be the new normal and that as we were convening there with him that the Russians were attacking us in that very moment, that was his word. So unity is the best antidote to what the Russians are doing.

But you don't see that from the President. You don't see that on Capitol Hill. Wolf, I've tried to not just investigate but also to legislate. I've written legislation to require every campaign to tell the FBI if they're offered dirt by a foreign agent. I've written legislation to require social media companies to tell the FBI if foreign adversaries are using their platform.

So there's a lot that we can do that is not partisan and as you pointed out earlier, it may not be the Republicans who benefit next time, so it's in all of our interests to find unity.

BLITZER: From what you've read, do the Senate Intelligence Committee's conclusions differ from those, your committee, the House Intelligence Committee reached?

SWALWELL: Their report came out today, Wolf, and we had a couple of Intelligence Committee meetings today. So I've not had a chance to fully review it. But I do accept the facts that the men and women who are working at the intelligence communities, they understand the risk, and I talked to them often. But again it has to come from the top and that starts with the President directly confronting the man who ordered the attack against America and telling Vladimir Putin, "We will not stand for this."

But instead as I pointed out yesterday from January 2017 to March 2019, the pendency of the Trump inauguration to the end of the Mueller report, Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin six times, had 10 telephone calls and exchanged four letters. And when he was asked to meet with the person investigating Putin's attack, he met with them zero. That's the problem.

BLITZER: Because this isn't about Facebook ads or stuff like that. This is actually about a cyber attack that could dramatically change the view, the democracy here in the United States change totals in an election.

SWALWELL: Wolf, I fear that we cannot weather another attack like this. We can survive one attack and if we learn from it we'll be better off in future elections. We can't handle another attack from Russia and even worse we can't handle a two or three-front war if other countries with similar capabilities see a chance to get in on U.S. elections.

BLITZER: Well, do other hostile countries, let's say, like North Korea or Iran have the similar capability, let's say, China, for that matter?

SWALWELL: Yes, Wolf. There are many other countries with similar capabilities and I can't see how they would see anything other than green lights, considering the way that this President has welcomed Russia's attack and even said recently to George Stephanopoulos, if he was offered dirt again, he would do exactly the same thing. That's the problem.

Republicans and Democrats, this has to be a call to unity. We have to answer to Special Counsel's call that we unite around this challenge.

BLITZER: I know you got to run, but very quickly, let's talk about Mueller's testimony yesterday. The debate over impeachment. You currently support beginning an impeachment inquiry. I'm curious what you're hearing from your colleagues. Is Mueller's testimony moving lawmakers toward your position in favor of beginning an impeachment process?

SWALWELL: Yes. I've spoken privately with some of them and I expect more calls in the next few days, Wolf. I don't expect fewer people to say they don't want impeachment. I don't think people who've already made the call are going to come forward and say after hearing yesterday what the Special Counsel said, "Take me off that letter."

Plainly, when this sinks in for people, they will see that Russia attacked us. They had a preference for Donald Trump. The Trump campaign welcomed it and planned around it. And when the police investigated it, the President and his team went to great lengths to cover it up. That should concern all of us and the only way to stop this from happening again is to hold a lawless president accountable.

BLITZER: I know you got to vote, so go ahead and vote, Congressman Eric Swalwell.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Thanks and pleasure joining us.

SWALWELL: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, President Trump taking a victory lap after Mueller's testimony as Democrats remain deeply divided over impeachment. Also, how did President Trump ended up by standing in front of the fake presidential seal showing a two-headed eagle clutching a set of golf clubs?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:24:54] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, even though new report from the Senate Intelligence Committee is sounding an alarm about election security, President Trump is crowing about the Robert Mueller hearings and House Democrats are talking impeachment. Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Pamela Brown. Now, Pamela, what's the latest?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight sources tell me President Trump is still in good spirit today following Robert Mueller's testimony and that he's feeling vindication as Democrats grapple with what to do next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN(voice-over): Tonight, the White House is claiming victory after former special counsel Robert Mueller's high stakes testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I thought yesterday was supposed to be this unbelievable movie better than the book and Bob Mueller was going to pave the golden road, the yellow brick road toward impeachment. Clearly, that didn't happen. It's not happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN(voice-over): The Trump campaign thrilled with the outcome and using the moment to urge surrogates on a conference call to underscore the President's message that Democrats will now suffer in 2020. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats lost so big today. Their party is in shambles right now.

CONWAY: They can't get over the 2016 election. They haven't a clue how to beat him in 2020. That's pretty obvious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN(voice-over): Democrats for their part now plotting their next move and whether impeachment proceedings are still on the table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Today was a watershed day in telling the facts to the American people. With those facts, we can proceed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN(voice-over): But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw cold water on the idea but at least for now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: The fact that why I'd like it to be a strong case is because it's based on the facts, the facts and the law. That's what matters, not politics, not partisanship, just patriotism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN(voice-over): Pelosi privately told her caucus to do what's best for them, but push back on the notion from some members that not pursuing impeachment is a violation of their constitutional duties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: But it's not about me, it's about our caucus, it's about our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN(voice-over): And tonight, another battle brewing over immigration after a California judge halted President Trump's third country asylum ban, just hours after another judge said it could go forward pending lawsuits. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham slammed the judge's ruling as quote the tyranny of a dysfunctional system.

This as CNN has learned an exclusive new documents that hundreds of red flags were raised internally within the Trump administration about how families were being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, some months before the controversial zero tolerance policy was announced.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: So the question tonight is whether President Trump will change

his tune on Russian election interference in the wake of these dire warnings. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President spoke today she wouldn't answer questions of whether the White House would support legislation that would boost election security. She said she would need to see what was in the bill that compels campaigns to report to the FBI if a foreign country offers assistance. Of course, Republicans blocked two election security bills just in the last couple of days, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're right. Pamela Brown at the White House. Thanks very much. Let's get some insight from our political and national security experts. And Shawn Turner, let me get your thoughts on this lengthy report from the Senate Intelligence Committee warning that the Russians, they were very active in 2016, but potentially they could be a lot more destructive in 2020, including potentially changing vote tallies.

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Absolutely, Wolf. And look, this report echoes what I think intelligence officials, including DHS and the FBI have been sounding the alarm about for quite some time. And it's really quite simple that our election process is and has and will continue to be under attack in the cyberspace.

There are two things in this report that I think are really key for people to pay attention to. The report points out that the objective of the Russians in cyberspace may have been to simply undermine our election. And it's important to people to understand that what that means is that even though we saw the Russians attempt to get into state level elections, systems and probe around those systems, and even when they got in, we didn't see the Russians actually do anything.

But we know that they were noisy and we know that they wanted us to know that they were there. And what that should tell people is that they wanted the American people to know they were there. So they wanted to undermine the election system.

The other thing about this report that really jumped out at me is it's a little bit lopsided and how it talks about the cooperation between government and the states. The government certainly did have some shortcomings with regard to notifying the states, but we also have to remember that there were several states that were not real happy when the government came knocking to talk about what was happening in these electoral systems, so we need to make sure that cooperation is there.

So I know a much overdue report but very good for the American people to see it.

BLITZER: A very important report, indeed. Dana, some of Robert Mueller's most compelling testimony yesterday dealt with this Russian threat.

[17:29:52] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. That was what he was most animated about, what he wanted to talk about the most because it is a threat and it is something that we've known about for four years now.

The fact that this report talks not just about bots and fake news -- real fake news, not the kind that the President talks about -- and the kind of meddling we saw in social media but actually, as you said, changing votes, I mean, that should make every single American want -- get make -- make them physically sick because that is the ultimate, ultimate messing with American democracy. And the fact that we know it and it's written on paper in a bipartisan way and if it's not dealt with and American voting systems aren't protected, shame on us.

BLITZER: Do you get the impression that despite this report, despite Mueller's warnings, people in Congress aren't taking this threat seriously?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it depends who you're talking about, Wolf. I mean, yesterday, there were a few bills that were brought over to the United States Senate concerning election security, and they were blocked. Completely and totally blocked, you know.

BLITZER: By Republican senators.

BORGER: By Republicans, you know. One was about funding -- more funding to the states for election security. Another one was sort of establishing that it is completely illegal to take information or money from foreign actors during a campaign. I mean, these are kind of basic things. And for some reason, the Republicans say, you know, wait a minute, this is a state issue, and these things need to be completely bipartisan, and, by the way, we've protected our elections already, so we don't need to do this.

And yet, Mueller was screaming -- well, we he wasn't screaming, but he was animated, let me put it that way. He was animated about this yesterday. And the American people, as Dana is saying, should be up in arms that Congress, which is duly elected, is not doing more about this issue.

BLITZER: Do you think, in part, the Republican attitude to block votes on this very sensitive issue is a reflection of the President's own, at least, public indifference to the Russian threat?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Let me be brief, yes.

BORGER: Next.

CILLIZZA: Right. From the top, who is the biggest, most high-profile person in our government, Democrat or Republican, who has voiced repeated skepticism in the face of unanimous decisions and announcements by the Intelligence Committee, under oath testimony by intelligence officials, that Russia interfered in our election to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump.

I mean, it sends a chilling message. We've known this even before this report, even before these warnings. It sends a chilling message when the guy at the -- or woman at the top doesn't take it seriously.

BASH: Can I --

CILLIZZA: It's very hard to get over people in the other administration to take it seriously.

BASH: -- just add one thing to what you both said, particularly Gloria, about Republicans. What Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said the reason why he wasn't going to take it up and block it is because it was partisan. And that he feels that the Congress has already done enough with past bills to deal with election security. So, it is doubly on him now if it goes wrong. I mean, he has completely exposed himself by not doing this.

BLITZER: Yes.

BASH: Now, are there partisan aspects to the bill that the House passed? Maybe, but that's why you have a compromise. You look at that and you figure out where you can -- you would -- you can work it out. They did it on a, you know, multitrillion-dollar spending bill; they can do it on something to protect American democracy.

CILLIZZA: And if Donald Trump put out a tweet tomorrow that said we do need to protect our elections, let's pass a bill, the Republican view would change like --

BORGER: And what about when he says the election was rigged?

CILLIZZA: Yes, exactly. In that --

BORGER: What do they do then?

CILLIZZA: In that sense --

BLITZER: Yes.

CILLIZZA: I mean, the fact that he's so skeptical sends the exact opposite.

BLITZER: Let me get Shawn to weigh in. Because, Shawn, you used to work for the Director of National Intelligence.

TURNER: Yes.

BLITZER: So, when you have a president who has either been silent or pooh-poohs this entire threat, whereas the national security community, the intelligence community, they think it's a real threat. Some of them are even saying we might have to go back to paper ballots down the road if this threat escalates. What does that mean?

TURNER: Well, look, I can tell you, Wolf, that there is a state of disbelief in the national security space over the fact that we are not hearing from the very top that this is the number one priority of the President. And it absolutely should be. Look, you know, there's discussion in the intelligence community about whether or not we have the right authorities to be able to protect our election infrastructure and whether or not there needs to be more done by some of the federal agencies. And those questions aren't being answered. This absolutely must be the top priority of the President because we

have to understand that it's not just Russia that's looking at what's happening here. Russia really feels as though they had a win because a lot of the world believes that they had an impact on who the leader of the free world is. We know that other countries are looking very closely at this. So, the national security infrastructure people in the national security space are really concerned about this, and they're waiting and need to hear from the President on this issue.

[17:35:00] BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: But the President has said, you know, if there were an offer --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BORGER: -- yes, why wouldn't I look at it? So, the President, in a way, Shawn, has already spoken, right?

BLITZER: Yes.

TURNER: Yes, with the absolute wrong message.

BLITZER: Or has remained silent in the face of --

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: -- in the face of all these threats.

TURNER: Yes.

BLITZER: You know, on the Mueller testimony yesterday, it went on for several hours. Going into the testimony, I think there were like 93 Democrats who wanted to begin impeachment proceedings. I think there are 94 right now, not necessarily a huge change.

BASH: Absolutely. And, look, 94 looks like a very big number, and it is, except when you consider the fact that it's not even half of the Democratic caucus and when you consider the fact that if it got to the point where they'd have to take a vote, it's not 218, which is what you need. That's a big deal.

And that is why, as we reported yesterday right after the hearings were over, Nancy Pelosi met with her caucus to try to calm them down, those 90-something, and also let them know that there is, at least, some plan in place for how to go forward -- to go forward in the courts; to continue to pursue lawsuits; to get information from the grand jury; to get Don McGahn, the White House Counsel, and others to come testify; and then they're going to make the decision.

BLITZER: So, at this point, you know, Gloria, what else could possibly move Democrats in the House of Representatives towards impeachment?

BORGER: Well, I think some of the things Dana is talking about. I mean, if you get Don McGahn up there, I think that -- BASH: Yes, that could be a game-changer.

BLITZER: The former White House Counsel.

BORGER: I mean, I know we talked maybe Mueller was a game-changer, but Don McGahn could be the -- it's a cliche at this point, the John Dean of this story because he is in the -- you know, he was in the White House, and he was a key witness for Bob Mueller. Hearing from Bob Mueller is one thing; hearing from Don McGahn would be another. But that's a whole legal issue, and the courts don't move very quickly.

So, I do think that's one thing that could convince more Democrats. And then again, the President is so unpredictable that there could be something that comes out of the sky that we just don't know about.

CILLIZZA: I was just listening to Eric Swalwell earlier, and you asked, were you surprised more Democrats didn't come out? And he said, well, Wolf, everyone who's already said that they're in favor of impeaching Donald Trump, no one is going to back off of that because of the hearing. It's like, well, yes, but to Dana's point, there's 94, and there's 235 House Democrats.

I mean, that -- the point wasn't, hey, guys, let's maintain everybody who's already called for his impeachment. The point was we need to grow, whether it's in Congress or, more broadly, in public sentiment, grow this group. And that didn't happen. And I'm with Gloria, short of McGahn, which is going to be fought tooth and nail legally, it's hard to see.

BLITZER: Letting him testify.

CILLIZZA: To bring this --

BLITZER: Because, right now, the White House says, you know --

CILLIZZA: Well, they're fighting it.

BLITZER: -- he's the former White House Counsel.

CILLIZZA: The executive privilege.

BLITZER: Right, he can't testify. This could go on for a while. All right, guys, thanks very much.

There's more breaking news we're following. A more aggressive Joe Biden. With less than a week to go before the Democratic debates right here on CNN, Biden and his rivals, they are trading sharper and sharper jabs.

[17:38:12] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As we count down to next CNN Democratic Presidential Debates, former Vice President Joe Biden has stopped ignoring his rivals' jabs and started to hit back. Let's go to CNN's Arlette Saenz. Arlette, tell us more about the former Vice President's shift in tone.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, Joe Biden has really adopted this more aggressive direct approach in engaging with his Democratic rivals. One adviser telling me that after the last debate, Biden decided that he needed to fight back a little bit harder and that he's not going to take attacks on him and his record sitting down.

And you're seeing this all play out right now in a few instances, one of those being between Joe Biden and Cory Booker, who has been very critical of the former Vice President on criminal justice issues and has also criticized his current criminal justice plan, calling the former Vice President the mass -- the architect of mass incarceration. And Biden fired back, taking a shot at Cory Booker's own record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at the mayor's record in Newark, one of the provisions that I wrote in the Crime Bill, a pattern and practice of misbehavior, his police department was stopping and frisking people, mostly African-American men. I'm happy to debate with anybody the effects of the things I did as a United States senator, as I did as a vice president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Now, Biden has also been hearing directly from voters urging him to take a stronger tone in the upcoming debate. And last night, he was asked about that at a fund-raiser, and Biden said he is not going to be as polite this time around, referencing that moment between himself and Kamala Harris when it came to busing, Wolf.

BLITZER: Arlette, what else are you learning about what Biden will be doing leading up to next week's debate?

SAENZ: Well, Biden says he is going to be sitting down with his top advisers and staff in the days leading up to the debate. I'm told he'll also be running through some mock debates, but the Biden campaign is bracing for the other Democratic candidates on that stage to take aim at the former Vice President and try to make their own debate moment.

[17:45:04] And what one campaign official told me a short while ago was everyone is looking for their T-shirt moment, and Joe Biden thinks this is bigger than selling T-shirts. That being a reference to the busing exchange with Kamala Harris at the last debate when her campaign had T-shirts ready after that exchange, a preview of the fireworks that could be coming next week, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Arlette Saenz reporting for us. Thanks very much.

And be sure to tune in next Tuesday and Wednesday nights for the CNN Democratic Presidential Debates, 10 candidates each night, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Coming up, what message is Kim Jong-un now trying to send with his

latest missile launching?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:17] BLITZER: Kim Jong-un has been demanding attention lately, and he's now sent another signal that he's not happy firing off a pair of missiles. Brian Todd has been looking into this for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we're told that Kim Jong-un is sending unmistakable signals to the President. The dictator not only wants attention; he wants another meeting with Donald Trump and soon, these latest missile firings signaling North Korea could be ready to go back to the days of fire and fury.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): North Korea's young tyrant, unrelenting tonight in his quest to become a nuclear power. In what South Korean officials are calling a clear threat, Kim Jong-un's regime launched two short- range missiles overnight from one of the dictator's favorite spots, a site near his opulent summer getaway at Wonsan where Kim is known for playing with jet skis and speedboats in between overseeing his military arsenal.

South Korean officials say it appears one of the missiles flew 265 miles, the other 428 miles. But experts say these missiles probably have a longer range, which could be lethal to U.S. forces and their allies.

ADAM MOUNT, SENIOR FELLOW AND DIRECTOR OF THE DEFENSE POSTURE PROJECT, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: It puts in range not only forces in South Korea and civilians there but also targets in Japan as well. But they can also modify their ballistic trajectory to arrive faster to target and possibly avoid missile defenses as they do.

TODD (voice-over): A U.S. defense official tells CNN the missiles appear to resemble two short-range rockets the North Koreans fired in May, which left smoke trails picked up by satellite photos. These new missile tests came just a couple of days after Kim Jong-un posed for pictures by what appeared to be a North Korean nuclear-capable submarine being built and just hours after President Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, left the region.

The launches also come just as the U.S. and South Korea ramp up for joint military exercises next month. Analysts say none of this is coincidence, and the missiles are a message from Kim to Trump.

EVANS REVERE, FORMER ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF STATE: If the United States does not stand down from the exercises, a request North Korea has made recently, then North Korea is prepared to go its own way. And this is an example of what North Korea can do.

TODD (voice-over): The Kim regime has always detested and protested joint military exercises between American and South Korean troops, a reflection, experts say, of Kim's paranoia.

MOUNT: They see them as a rehearsal for war, for invasion, for a potential decapitation of Kim Jong-un.

TODD (voice-over): It appears tonight the promise of Panmunjom less than a month ago when Trump and Kim met at the DMZ has dissipated and that Kim's signaling to the President he's not happy with the stalled nuclear talks. Tonight, veteran diplomats are saying Trump himself could have emboldened Kim to launch those missiles. When the North Koreans fired off short-range missiles in May, the President said he wasn't bothered by it even though it violated U.N. resolutions.

REVERE: The American President undercut and contradicted his own national security adviser when he said that he didn't regard those tests as a violation. They may have regarded this as having given them carte blanche to proceed with additional tests.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And we just got word from the North Korean news agency that Kim Jong-un personally supervised those latest short-range missile launches. Analysts say this is almost certainly not the last provocation Kim is going to engage in in the coming weeks. They say he's likely going to make a show of either testing missiles, maybe smaller conventional weapons.

He'll issue bellicose statements all to show that he is tough and to pressure Donald Trump into meeting with him. Of course, it's going to be a test, Wolf, for the President and his team maybe not to overreact to all this.

BLITZER: And there are other signs, Brian, being picked up, I take it, that North Korea is bracing for a long standoff with the U.S.?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. "The New York Times" reporting tonight that humanitarian workers and defectors have come out of North Korea saying, recently, that the regime has recently cut down on its food rations for North Korean citizens. That scene is a sign that Kim's regime is telling its people they've got to brace for a long standoff, telling them international sanctions are not going to be lifted any time soon.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks very much.

Coming up, the Senate Intelligence Committee says the government did not do enough to warn about Russia's attack on the 2016 election. And the FBI Director says to look for more election cyberattacks in 2020, echoing Robert Mueller's warning that the Russians are still at it.

Also, 16 U.S. Marines arrested on very disturbing charges including drug offenses and human smuggling.

[17:54:48] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Russia is relentless. The FBI Director warns of cyber enemies targeting the 2020 U.S. election and trying to undermine voter confidence. That alert echoed in a disturbing new report from the Senate Intelligence Committee. Amid all of this, why did Senate Republicans block an election security bill?

Impeachment split. Democrats weigh their next moves following Robert Mueller's testimony with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized by some in her own party for moving too slowly. Tonight, new details of what she's privately telling her caucus about impeachment.

[18:00:04]