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"Whether To Recommend"; Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) Maryland Interviewed About Impeachment; Bothered By Biden?; No Hatchet To Bury; Kim's New Threat; Dems Take Big Step Toward Possible Impeachment by Suing for Secret Grand Jury Info from Mueller Report; Trump Lashes Out at Fox News Poll Showing Him Losing to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders; Biden Previews Aggressive Approach Ahead of CNN Debates While Harries Says She Will Be Polite; North Korea Boasts of Missile Firings as Trump Downplays Threat. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.

Whether to recommend. Democrats are already calling it an impeachment investigation as the House Judiciary Committee goes to court to obtain secret grand jury information from the Mueller report saying the material is needed to determine, quote, "whether to recommend articles of impeachment."

Bothered by Biden? President Trump slams Fox News for a poll that shows him losing to Joe Biden. The president tweeting, "no way." And just moments ago, the president called reporters in for an impromptu rant lashing out at Biden and the impeachment investigation and Robert Mueller.

No hatchet to bury. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with rookie Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but despite their public criticism of each other, Pelosi says there is no hatchet to bury. Does AOC feel the same way?

And Kim's new threat. After firing off a pair of advanced new missiles, North Korea is now boasting about the launches showing Kim Jong-un personally supervising the launches while issuing an ominous new threat.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Breaking news. House Democrats are making a big move toward impeachment. The Judiciary Committee today has asked a federal court to order the release of secret grand jury material from the Mueller report. Chairman Jerry Nadler says the House is the only institution that could hold President Trump accountable and needs the grand jury information to determine whether to go ahead with impeachment. Some committee members are already calling this an impeachment investigation. With 100 House Democrats now publicly supporting such an inquiry, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's not trying to run out the clock on impeachment. But says the House will proceed when it has what it needs. Not one day sooner. The House is shrugging off the impeachment hints. A top aide says the president is in very good spirits.

I'll speak with Congressman Jamie Raskin of the Judiciary Committee and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top story.

But first, let's go straight to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is standing by. Manu, some huge developments there today, take us through it.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. After weeks of Democratic in-fighting over whether to open a formal impeachment inquiry, now Democrats are saying they are essentially in one. This afternoon was cited in a new court filing today that they need key information to determine whether to vote on articles of impeachment. And tonight, a committee official says, we have just taken in the most formal and official way we can. We have just given notice that we are actively considering articles of impeachment.


RAJU (voice-over): Tonight, a major step forward for House Democrats. As they decide whether to impeach President Donald Trump.

In a new lawsuit, the House Judiciary Committee told a federal judge today, it needs secret grand jury information gathered by Robert Mueller because articles of impeachment are under consideration as part of its investigation. Although no file determination has been made. After weeks of intense Democratic debate about next steps to fight the president, today Chairman Jerry Nadler and members of his committee said their probe is essentially the same as a formal impeachment inquiry.

RAJU (on camera): So you're saying there is no difference between what you are doing now and an impeachment inquiry, correct?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: In effect. This is an impeachment investigation.

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We're now crossing a threshold with the filing --

RAJU (voice-over): Nadler told reporters the only difference is that his committee investigation is broader than an impeachment inquiry. But acknowledged the end result could be the same.

NADLER: We are going to see what remedies we could recommend including the possibility of articles of impeachment. We are not limited to that. But it's very much a possibility as a result of what we're doing.

RAJU: The development comes amid a growing Democratic divide over how to move forward in the aftermath of Mueller's appearance before the House in which he testified about alleged crimes committed by the president but failed to deliver the commanding performance that many Democrats were hoping for. After the hearing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi renewed her push to fight the White House in court. But in what allies see as a shift, she is sounding open to the possibility of impeachment.

RAJU (on camera): Some of your Democratic colleagues believe you're simply trying to run out the clock on impeachment. Are you trying to run out the clock?

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: No, I'm not trying to run out the clock. Let's get sophisticated about this, OK. OK.

[17:05:00] RAJU: But how long do you think the court fights will take?

PELOSI: We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed. Not one day sooner.

Their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage, so I'm willing to take whatever heat there is there to say when - the decision will be made in a timely fashion. This isn't endless.

RAJU (voice-over): Democrats have voiced concerns that the window is closing on launching an impeachment proceeding.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: I would certainly like to see us move more expeditiously.

RAJU: The House Judiciary Committee says today it also may file a lawsuit as soon as next week to try and force former White House Counsel Don McGahn to cooperate with its probe into potential obstruction of justice. After President Trump instructed McGahn not to comply with the subpoena. For weeks, sources say Nadler has privately argued to Pelosi their hand in court would be strengthened if they launched a formal impeachment probe. But publicly he stood by her side.

RAJU (on camera): Could there be a point, though, Mr. Chairman, where you break from the speaker and you announce publicly your support for impeachment?

NADLER: We may decide to recommend articles of impeachment at some point. We may not. That remains to be seen. And there is no point in speculating on whether the speaker or anybody else will agree with our decision at that point.


RAJU: Now, even though the speakers has not formally embraced moving forward on impeachment proceeding one thing she's not been saying in the last several days is that it is essentially fruitless to move forward in the House because it is controlled by Democrats but Republicans control the Senate and convicting the president by two- thirds majority in the Senate is highly unlikely. That is a message she had been making for weeks. But she has sort of essentially dropped that in recent days. And, Wolf, I'm told that new language in the lawsuit saying articles of impeachment are under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee, the speaker signed off on that language. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Manu, dramatic developments, thanks very much.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown is on the scene for us. Pamela, how is all of the new impeachment talk playing over there at the White House?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight the White House is brushing off Democratic leaders' latest suggestion that impeachment is not off the table. I spoke to a senior White House official who told me President Trump is in good spirits today and no longer thinks impeachment is a real possibility. And the president isn't holding back going after the Democrats, slamming them just moments ago and calling them clowns.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're doing everything they can with the impeachment nonsense. We had no obstruction, you had no collusion. Obstruction is sort of interesting.

They've interviewed 500 people. They've interviewed lawyers. They've interviewed everybody that they wanted to interview, people that had -- I could have kept back by using presidential privilege. I could have kept back everybody. They didn't have to interview anybody. I gave them total -- and then they say obstruction.

These people are clowns. The Democrats are clowns. They're being laughed at all over the world.

And I watched this morning, I watched Nancy Pelosi trying to get through that with the performance that Robert Mueller put on where -- I don't think he ever read the agreement or the document and the document said no collusion. They don't even talk about that. So there was no crime. They said, well there was no crime but he obstructed. How do you obstruct if there is no crime. But actually it was worse than that because it was a phony crime that they put on. The crime is what they put on. But I watched Mueller for two and a half years, we've watched this and that is the best they have. And it is a disgrace.


BROWN: Another topic the president wanted to focus on in the Oval is the economy. And he slammed the Federal Reserve once again for the slowed economic growth this quarter, talking about the GDP numbers, saying they're not as good as they could be. The president not taking any blame for that but some critics as you know, Wolf, say the slowed growth is connected to the president's trade wars.

In fact, in the Oval today, the president talked about perhaps imposing a tax on French wine in response to France imposing a digital tax on American tech companies. The president went on to say he always preferred American wine over French wine even though he doesn't drink. He said he likes the way American wine looks. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Pamela thanks very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, he's a member of the Judiciary and Oversight committees. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.


BLITZER: So, as you know, Democrats are going after the grand jury material from the Mueller report. That is obviously still secret. The filing today says in part, and let me read the direct quote, "The Judiciary Committee is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment." You also called this probe an impeachment investigation. You said that today. Is that any different at all from a formal impeachment inquiry?

[17:10:03] RASKIN: Well none of those terms, whether it is impeachment inquiry, impeachment probe, impeachment investigation, even articles of impeachment, none of those appear in the Constitution or in federal statute or in the rules of the House of Representatives. So you can define it as you please. Undoubtedly we're collecting overwhelming evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors committed by the president of the United States including the 10 episodes of obstruction of justice that were outlined by Special Counsel Mueller as well as the enthusiastic embrace of Donald Trump and his campaign of foreign interference in our campaign. And that just sets the table for, I think, a broader investigation which could, indeed, lead to impeachment articles being drawn up.

BLITZER: So the current investigation is not necessarily, correct me if I'm wrong, going to lead to a formal roll call of vote in the House Judiciary Committee as far as articles of impeachment. You need another separate investigation before you have that kind of vote?

RASKIN: Well, no. I was just suggesting that there are a lot more things we need to look at. For example, the naked and repeated and continuing violations of the foreign emoluments clause and the domestic emoluments clause. The president has collected millions of dollars from at least 24 different foreign governments, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and so on through the Trump hotels, through the golf courses, through the Trump office towers. It is in direct violation of the Constitution which says that none of us in federal government can collect presents emoluments, which means payments, offices or titles of any kind, whatever, says the Constitution, without the consent of Congress and the president has never come to Congress.

Now he made a voluntary payment of $350,000 to the U.S. Treasury representing what he described as the profits from foreign governments. But of course the Constitution doesn't ban the collection of profits from foreign governments. It bans the collection of any payments whatsoever. And without coming to Congress and he's never come to us.

So that just sets the table for our investigation into what I think is the heart of the matter which is the president has converted the government of the United States into a money-making operation for himself, for his friends and family and for his business and that is not acceptable and that is something that at least this member really wants to be looking at as we move forward in our investigation of misconduct at the White House.

BLITZER: So let's be very precise because you used these words today, you said, quote, "I think we are in an impeachment investigation." Will this investigation lead to votes on going ahead with articles of impeachment against the president?

RASKIN: Well, I think that remains to be seen. It depends on what is the fruit of the investigation. That is, what do we discover? But I think based on what we've already seen from the Mueller report, there is certainly enough to draw up articles of impeachment relating to obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. Those happened to be the exact same three articles that were drawn up against Richard Nixon.

BLITZER: What if the courts deny your request for this grand jury material - the secret material? Would that be a significant setback?

RASKIN: Well, you know in prior independent counsel and special counsel investigations Congress has gotten access to all of the underlying grand jury materials and the materials underlying special counsel and independent counsel reports. There is no reason it should be denied to us. One of the reasons it should be given to - given to us is that our fact-finding powers are at they're zenith. Their height when we are considering impeachment as one possible remedy to address presidential misconduct. This is an enumerated power of Congress. It appears four different times in the Constitution and high crimes and misdemeanor against Congress and the people of the United States is a very grave and serious matter.

BLITZER: You're filing today and let me read the words once again, your committee filing says this, quote, "The Judiciary Committee is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment." Did you include those words in this filing to this federal judge in order to give you more ammunition in trying to get this grand jury material?

RASKIN: Well, I assume that they're included by the chairman because they're true. This is what we're doing. And it certainly will give us maximum deference and discretion from the court because we are the law-making branch of government. We have not just the power of oversight which is ancillary to our legislative function but we have a very specific power of impeachment because what were the founders of the Constitution afraid of? They were afraid of a president who decided to act like a king and to trample the rule of law and to act as though he were above the law and we just - we can't have it. And that is you know a Constitutional oath that I have sworn to uphold the Constitution. And so, we can't run away from that.

[17:15:08] This president is acting contemptuously towards Congress, the representatives of the people and in defiance of lawful congressional orders for information for documents and for testimony. He's invented a whole now claim of executive privilege. He thinks anyone he's ever come in contact with doesn't have to testify before Congress. It is just an outrageous affront to the powers of Congress. And so, we're not going to allow him to get away with that kind of defiance.

BLITZER: As you know, some of your party are very worried about dragging this into next year. Should Democrats set a deadline, Congressman, for deciding on impeachment?

RASKIN: Well, you know, I agree that we need to move quickly as to potential high crimes and misdemeanors. We want to be very focused in our deliberations. We want to be methodical. We want to be fair. But we want to get at the truth of all of these things. And you know we have excellent presidential candidates out there. And we continue to make progress on the real policy purposes that we arrived here for.

We had a great hearing today in the Oversight Committee about prescription drug prices and we have every confidence to move forward and hopefully the Republicans will join us in moving forward on prescription drug reform. We passed a $15 minimum wage hike to go into effect over the next few years. So we are moving forward even at the same time that we are doing all due diligence with respect to our oversight responsibilities.

BLITZER: Some of your pro-impeachment Democratic colleagues like Ted Lieu, for example, of California who was here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us, say they will go along with whatever the Speaker Nancy Pelosi decides but the Chairman Jerry Nadler isn't ruling out opening an impeachment inquiry without her blessing. How do you see it?

RASKIN: Well, you know, I've thought from the beginning that impeachment - you know the wisdom of the founders reveals itself every single day. They made it a legal question by defining it as high crimes and misdemeanors like treason and bribery and obstruction of justice has been assimilated to that top category through practice of Congress. But it's also a political question in the sense that it is been reposed in Congress rather than in the courts.

So I think that Speaker Pelosi rightfully has her eye on making sure that we're moving our legislative agenda through Congress and trying to work with the obstructionists in the Senate as much as we can. And we hope that they will start taking up our bills for consideration. And she's got her eyes on public opinion. And she often quotes President Lincoln who says public sentiment is everything and it is.

And so this is a dynamic process in which the leadership in Congress are trying to talk about what we've discovered, share it with the people, hear back from our constituents even as we move forward on all of our, you know, different policy fronts.

BLITZER: Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland thanks so much for joining us.

RASKIN: I was delighted to be with you, Wolf. Any time.

BLITZER: All right. Up next, President Trump shows irritation with polls showing him trailing Joe Biden. Is he worried about 2020?

And did Democrats in the House tell a judge they're conducting an impeachment investigation in order to get Mueller's secret evidence? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:23:07] BLITZER: Following breaking news up on Capitol Hill where House Judiciary Democrats have taken a major step forward toward possible articles of impeachment against the president. Just now in the Oval Office, the president called it all a disgrace.

Let's bring in our political and legal experts to discuss. Joey Jackson, the filing for Mueller's secret grand jury material specifically says and let me read it precisely, quote, "The Judiciary Committee is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment."

So Joey, do Democrats clearly think this is going to help their case and get the secret documents?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it will. I mean they have to make the requisite showing in order to get it. So let's back up. Grand jury material is historically and inherently secret. It's not supposed to be exposed to the public. In the event you are making or moving the court to release it, you have to provide information as to why it should be and what would be one such basis. If it is preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding, those are the magic words.

And so, what the House are essentially saying is, there could be nothing more compelling, nothing more important than when you are looking and investigating the president of the United States and trying to make the ultimate determination as to whether he should be impeached. Clearly, grand jury minutes and all of the facts underlying the grand jury minutes would provide the information they need.

And so, what they're doing, Wolf, is they are analogizing this. They're seeing whether it is similar to the case of Nixon where there was such an exception and where it was released. And if they could make that showing, then the grand jury material will be theirs to do with what they will which is to investigate this president and potentially draw up articles of impeachment.

BLITZER: But, Joey, at the same time, Democrats are reluctant to say they've launched a formal impeachment inquiry. So, are they saying one thing to the American public and another thing to a federal judge?

JACKSON: Potentially. I mean, look, you know Is it a tax increase or is it a revenue enhancement?

[17:25:02] You know form over substance. The fact is, it's call it what you will. Perhaps it is not yet - an impeachment investigation, it is preliminary to an impeachment investigation. So they're splitting hairs. The fact is, is that if you give us what we need we can make a more informed judgment as to whether we should pursue impeachment. Whether you want to call that a formal inquiry, a preliminary investigation, clearly the path is to impeachment if they make the showing to the judge, that material will be released. That is the open question.

BLITZER: Sara Murray, the Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler acknowledged that this, in his words, "in effect is an impeachment inquiry."

Is this the most aggressive move yet by the House of Representatives to launch this kind of investigation?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONENT: I mean, I guess it is and that they are all out there saying the words impeachment without being worried about it at this point. But it is not in effect an impeachment inquiry. You either have an impeachment proceeding or you don't. And this definitely seems like a way for them to straddle both sides of it and to say we're still investigating this. We're going to make our base happy by not saying that we're going to drop this but hopefully we don't get so far out that we anger everyone around us and get pummeled in 2020 because we've taken this too far.

BLITZER: Why are they reluctant, Jerry Nadler and company, to make it official?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think, one, the public opinion hasn't changed. They want public opinion to be much more in favor of impeachment than it is right now. If you look at the opinion polls, public is not there yet and obviously, you need Republicans to come on board and certainly the Republicans aren't there yet. But they - you know in Watergate and when the impeachment hearings started there, this will start with a bang. You knew they were in them and with the Monica Lewinsky case, when Bill Clinton, you knew you were in them. You had the star report and impeachment proceedings were sort of you know very obvious.

The Democrats are sort of like backing into this.

MURRAY: Right.

LIZZA: You know they're doing like impeachment-y things -- impeachment-like things. But without being able to say, you know we're gaveling the impeachment hearings to order. But I think I would go a little bit further than Sara and say, you know this is as close to them declaring an impeachment hearing as we've heard so far.

BLITZER: Let me get April to weigh in. What do you think, April?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: You know, the Democrats, particularly Jerry Nadler, he wants to make sure that public opinion is with them. They want to make sure that they have all the i's dotted and all the t's crossed that's why this grand jury material is important. Hopefully, the court will swing their way.

And also, to have Don McGahn testify which could be damning for the president of the United States. They want all of this before they say, yes, we're going to start articles of impeachment if it does go down that road but at this moment it looks like it could. You know you've got them saying that the president lied. They're saying obstruction of justice. Those 10 episodes that Robert Mueller's report showed of obstruction of justice.

So they want to make sure before this process begins that they have the public opinion and they show the evidence. Because right now the public opinion is not with them, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not with them. So they're trying to make sure they have it altogether.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. We're going to have a lot more on all the breaking news right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with our political and legal experts. Joey Jackson, get -- let's get back to this grand jury material that the House Judiciary Committee wants. It's typically kept secret. This legal effort that's underway right now, is it likely to succeed?

JACKSON: I really think so. I mean, look, here is the point. The point is that why do you keep grand jury material secret in the first place? Are you worrying about witnesses absconding, are you trying to protect the integrity of the proceeding, et cetera? In this case, where you have a Congress that is looking at impeaching the President of the United States, what more compelling reason could there be? If the law says that if you can release that grand jury material preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding, what more do you need?

And so, whether the House calls it a preliminary investigation, whether they call it preliminary to an impeachment proceeding, no matter what they call it, it points in the direction of looking at removing a president. If you're going to do that, should you not have the underlying facts that you need in order to make an appropriate, a wise, and a lawful decision? And I think if they're able to sell that to a judge, as they did in the Watergate era, that material will be released to them, and they will be able to make a more informed judgment about whether to move forward against this president.

BLITZER: You know, Sara, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, insists she's not trying to run out the clock when it comes to impeachment. Do you buy that?

MURRAY: I'm a little bit more skeptical of that argument. I mean, they, obviously, are not moving forward as aggressively as they could be, judging by their, you know, sort of one foot in, one foot out about these impeachment/not impeachment proceedings. And I don't think that she's convinced that this is the right move forward. You know, even if they do manage to get more people on board in the House, they're going to take it over to a Republican Senate. It's not going to go anywhere. She is extremely aware of that.

And they have an election coming up. And again, Nancy Pelosi does not want to go into 2020 looking like they've overplayed their hand if they feel like there is a chance that they can just beat Donald Trump at the ballot box.

BLITZER: Realistically, you know, Ryan, is someone in the Democratic leadership going to need to put a deadline on this before the political process gets, you know, crazy with the --

LIZZA: I think -- BLITZER: -- with the election.

[17:34:56] LIZZA: Yes, look, I think Sara is right about this. If Nancy Pelosi believed that the material in the Mueller report constitutes impeachable offenses, there's really nothing more she needs to wait for, right? He'd laid it -- it's a 500-page report. He laid it out very clearly. You either believe that the obstruction of justice portion of that report is impeachable or you don't.

And this -- you know, and I understand the issue of public opinion, but there is this kind of chicken and egg situation with public opinion. Like, go out there if you believe your case is so strong and make the case, and you might change public opinion. But everything that Nancy Pelosi signals is that she just -- she doesn't believe that this is the best way forward. She's open to it but that she is not behind this.

BLITZER: April, do you think Democrats would be comfortable having formal impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives during an election year?

RYAN: Well, Wolf, that's a very tricky situation. You know, right now, we're seeing polls that are showing that Joe Biden actually would beat President Trump for the Oval Office if the election were to happen now. But if you look back about a month ago, all the Democrats were beating Donald Trump if the election were happening a month ago. Now, it's only Joe Biden. This is a very slippery, slippery slope.

You know, I remember back when you and I covered the White House at the time when Bill Clinton went through impeachment hearings, Bill Clinton wound up being a martyr. That's something Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to do because that could translate into numbers at the polls showing up, not just the electoral college giving him a win but also possibly the popular vote. So, she's trying to really -- Nancy Pelosi is trying to make sure that doesn't happen. But this is a very slippery slope that they're trying to navigate right now.

BLITZER: You know, Sara, speaking of polls, the President, apparently anxious about his re-election prospects after a Fox News poll -- and there it is -- showing him trailing Joe Biden at least right now by 10 points, Bernie Sanders by six, essentially tied with the two other top Democrats, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, so the President tweeted this.

Fox News is at it again. So different from what they used to be during the 2016 primaries and before -- proud warriors. Now, new Fox Polls, which have always been terrible to me, they had me losing big to Crooked Hillary, have me down to Sleepy Joe.

What -- you're smiling. What's your analysis?

MURRAY: I -- because I'm having these 2016 flashbacks to when Donald Trump was constantly complaining about how the polls were rigged and the polls were so unfair, and, you know, he won anyway. It's still very early. The polls are a snapshot in time. And by the way, the polls that they're doing at Fox News are real

polls. They're showing where the American electorate is. And if Donald Trump has a problem with that, then his problem with -- is with voters. It's not with the people who on air at Fox News. I still think, you know, as far as the programming over at Fox goes, he's got those people in his corner as it is.

RYAN: That's true.

MURRAY: He's got to go out and take his message to the American public if he wants to move those numbers.

LIZZA: And think about what he's saying there. He's basically saying, Fox, please rig the polls for me.

MURRAY: Right, exactly.

LIZZA: No, don't do that.

BLITZER: And he says they were proud warriors at one point.

LIZZA: That's hard to beat.


BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. There is a lot more news we're following. The top Democratic presidential candidates, including Joe Biden, signal more aggressive strategies for next week's CNN debates.


BLITZER: As we countdown to next week's Democratic debates here on CNN, the leading candidates are refining their strategies and rolling out policy proposals. Let's go to our senior national correspondent Kyung Lah. Kyung, so what are the candidates doing to prepare?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first thing they're doing is being less visible. They're dialing back, at least Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this weekend. Dialing back their public appearances as they begin that debate prep. It's something that they've been doing, but they're getting heavy into it this weekend, so we're going to see quite a bit less of them as they start working with aides on that.

What we've already heard, though, from Joe Biden is that throughout the week, he has taken a more aggressive posture. He had told reporters earlier that he felt he was too polite in debate one and that he was going to change that. He's certainly fighting back against Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. And today here in Indianapolis, Kamala Harris was asked by a reporter, do you plan on being polite in this upcoming debate? And she snapped back, I was raised to be polite.

And, Wolf, they're also rolling out some platforms. We heard Kamala Harris today roll out a program that she wants to fund -- that heavily funds historically Black colleges and universities. Pete Buttigieg looking to boost the gig economy by allowing those workers to unionize -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung, Joe Biden clearly saw his numbers dip after that first debate. Has he recovered?

LAH: If you look at the Fox poll that we have been talking about today, there really isn't that much of a change. If you look at what happened to Biden in June, according to this poll, versus today -- now, this is pre and post-debate -- Biden almost unchanged. If you look, he's in the 30s there and then everyone below him. You have Bernie Sanders at 15, Elizabeth Warren at 12, Kamala Harris at 10. They are in the double-digits, everyone below them, but you can see what kind of a lead Joe Biden has when you look at this poll, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. All right, Kyung, thanks very much. Kyung Lah reporting for us.

And be sure to watch next Tuesday and Wednesday nights for the CNN Democratic Presidential Debates, 10 candidates each night. Starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

There's more breaking news coming up, President Trump just now reacting to North Korea's most recent missile launches. Is he worried?


BLITZER: After launching a pair of advanced missiles, North Korea is now boasting about the firings and issuing a very blunt warning. Brian Todd has been looking into that for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, Kim Jong-un's regime is warning South Korea about its acquisition of fighter planes from the U.S. and is, again, slamming the joint U.S./South Korean military exercises coming up. The dictator is getting more agitated, and observers are looking to see if he's going to ramp up his missile tests.


[17:50:09] TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Kim Jong-un isn't just flexing his missiles; he's showing them off. In new propaganda photos released by North Korea, the young dictator is seen watching and celebrating the launch of two short-range missiles, observing the launch from a bank of televisions and through binoculars. U.S. and South Korean officials tell CNN, the pictures appear to show a new type of weapon deployed by North Korea.

The dictator, according to his government, personally supervised the launches, which they say were meant to send a, quote, solemn warning to the South Korean military warmongers. A warning, experts say, which comes as negotiations over Kim's nuclear program have stalled.

MICHAEL FUCHS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: Kim Jong-un is telling President Moon and President Trump that the pressure is going to stay on you, and it's going to potentially mount the longer these negotiations do not deliver.

TODD (voice-over): The photos and the new threat, experts say, are classic Kim, designed to show a command presence. But they also reveal a dictator rattled by the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea.

A statement released, shortly before the photos, rails against the U.S. and South Korea for their joint military exercises planned for next month, calling them suicidal. Along with what North Korea calls the introduction of ultramodern weapons by South Korea. That's likely a reference to South Korea's recent purchase of F-35A fighter jets from the U.S. This is a stealth plane that can often go undetected by radar, which experts say strikes at a particular fear of Kim Jong- un's.

FRANK AUM, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR FOR NORTH KOREA, OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: North Korea believes that it will allow South Korea to conduct decapitation operations that take out the North Korean leadership and can do so covertly without giving North Korea a chance to conduct a retaliatory second strike.

TODD (voice-over): While experts say North Korea's latest missile launches are concerning, they didn't seem to faze President Trump who downplayed Kim's show of force.

TRUMP: They're short-range missiles, and my relationship is very good with Chairman Kim. And we'll see what happens, but they are short- range missiles and many people have those missiles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't sound so spun up about it?

TRUMP: Nope, not at all.

TODD (on camera): Should President Trump have downplayed the launches the way he did?

FUCHS: President Trump, absolutely, should have not downplayed the recent launches the way that he did. The United States and international community do respond firmly to any provocation that North Korea made -- makes, especially those that are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

TODD (voice-over): These missiles were launched from the North Korean coastal city of Wonsan, the dictator's summer playground where he has a sprawling complex of vacation villas which he sometimes converts to missile launch observation posts.

In her new biography of Kim, journalist Anna Fifield writes that, once, Kim didn't even have to leave the comfort of his beachfront residence. His rocket scientists simply rolled a missile on a mobile launcher to a spot across from the house, and Kim sat at a desk at the window, smiling broadly as he watched it blast off. A setup that's earned the admiration of Kim's favorite negotiating partner in the past.

TRUMP: They have great beaches. You see that whenever they're exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, boy, look, at that view. What -- wouldn't that make a great condo?


TODD: Many analysts believe Kim Jong-un's been getting more emboldened to issue these threats because President Trump has been so deferential to him, but many are wondering tonight how long this back and forth can play out. Kim has given an ultimatum to advance nuclear talks by the end of this year or bust, and President Trump, of course, is soon going to have his re-election campaign in full swing where he may have to appear like he's getting tougher on North Korea -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I understand you're also picking up some other motives for North Korea to send this latest message, the warning to South Korea, right?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. Experts say, with this latest message sent today and many others they've sent recently, North Korea is actually trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its ally, South Korea. Kim Jong-un does want to come between President Trump and President Moon so that he can get the U.S. to withdraw troops from South Korea and end the umbrella of protection that the U.S. provides to South Korea. That is a long-term goal of Kim Jong-un's.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you.

Coming up, breaking news. Some Democrats are already calling it an impeachment investigation as the House Judiciary Committee files suit to obtain secret grand jury material from the Mueller report, saying it's needed to determine, quote, whether to recommend articles of impeachment.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Crossing a threshold. In a significant step for an impeachment, House Democrats go to court seeking grand jury material from the Mueller report, saying they need it to decide whether to impeach President Trump.

Poll frustration. President Trump vents his frustration with a Fox News poll showing him losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden. Tonight, he's lashing out at his favorite media outlet, saying there's no way the numbers can be right.

[17:59:56] Making up. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sits down behind closed doors with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after weeks of public sparring between party leaders and more progressive lawmakers. Have they healed their rift?