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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL); American Lung Association Warns "Do Not Use E-Cigarettes" After Sixth Vaping-Related Death In U.S.; John Bolton Out As National Security Adviser; New Statement From NOAA Assistant Administrator Criticizes Defense Of Trump, Contradiction Of Forecasters As Political; Netanyahu Says Israel Will Annex Much Of West Bank If Re-Elected, Suggesting He'll Have Trump's Support. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 10, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Now that Bolton is out, how will that be implemented?
Declining approval. CNN's exclusive new poll shows the president's job rating has dipped, as 60 percent of Americans now say he doesn't deserve to be reelected. Is he losing his best arguments for a second term?
Seeing Putin's desk. Sources tell CNN that a spy extracted by the U.S. from Russia had access to the Kremlin leader and opportunities to see what he was working on. Stand by for more of our exclusive reporting.
And dying from vaping? U.S. health officials are warning about the health risks of using the popular alternative to cigarettes after a sixth vaping-related death. Should you or someone you love stop vaping now?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the abrupt and bitter exit of National Security Adviser John Bolton.
President Trump announcing in a tweet that Bolton was fired, citing his strong disagreements with many of his proposals. Bolton says he resigned. After months of conflict, sources say the president and Bolton got into a heated argument overnight about Mr. Trump's canceled plan to host Taliban leaders at Camp David.
Bolton reportedly opposed the idea.
Also breaking, CNN's exclusive new poll find six out of 10 Americans now say President Trump does not deserve to be reelected. His approval rating has ticked down to only 39 percent. And more than half of those surveyed say he's doing a bad job keeping his campaign promises.
I will get reaction from Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. He's on the Intelligence and Oversight committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, whether Bolton was fired or resigned, he's gone from an administration that one source is likening to a snake pit.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And President Trump is searching for a new national security adviser this evening after he abruptly announced John Bolton had been fired in that tweet earlier today. The president gave Bolton the boot after the two men had clashed over key foreign policy decision areas, including Mr. Trump's scrapped plan to invite the Taliban to Camp David for peace talks.
I'm told the president was upset that Bolton had tried to create the impression that Vice President Mike Pence was opposed to that Camp David idea as well. But as one Trump administration official told us earlier today, the president's national security team is not a mess.
ACOSTA (voice-over): For now former National Security Adviser John Bolton, it was an unceremonious firing by tweet.
Standing outside the West Wing just hours before he was scheduled to join Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to answer questions from reporters, Bolton was suddenly gone, with his former administration rivals...
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm never surprised.
ACOSTA: ... all smiles.
POMPEO: The president is entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment. This is a staff person who works directly for the president of the United States. And he should have people that he trusts and values and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy.
ACOSTA: The White House insists Bolton was fired, with the president announcing in a tweet: "I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the administration. And, therefore, I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for a service. I will be naming a new national security adviser next week."
But Bolton essentially tweeted that's not true, claiming: "I offered to resign last night, and President Trump said, 'Let's talk about it tomorrow.'" Despite the fact that Mr. Trump has now gone through three national security advisers, administration officials say there's no insecurity when it comes to the president's foreign policy team.
(on camera): Is this national security team a mess?
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Absolutely not. That's the most ridiculous question I have ever heard of.
Let me just say the national security team, which is what you asked, consists of the national security adviser, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, myself, the chief of staff, and many others.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Sources tell CNN Bolton had clashed with the president over a number of critical issues, including Mr. Trump's scrapped plan to invite leaders of the Taliban to Camp David just days before September 11.
The president and Vice President Mike Pence believed Bolton's team was leaking stories that top administration officials were questioning the idea of a Taliban meeting.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think the view that there's some public discussions about Bolton being on the other side of meeting with the Taliban probably was a bridge too far. I don't know what happened there.
ACOSTA: A foreign policy hawk, Bolton also disliked the idea of sitting down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Aides say Bolton's contrasting views and outspoken style had irritated the president for months.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has strong views on things, but that's OK. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing, isn't it?
ACOSTA: Bolton also found himself at odds with Pompeo, who's much more willing to tout the president's foreign policy views.
POMPEO: I know everyone's talked about this for an awfully long time. There were definitely places that Ambassador and I -- Bolton and I had different views.
ACOSTA: With Bolton out of the way, the administration is sounding much more open to the idea of Mr. Trump sitting down with Iran's president at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.
MNUCHIN: The president has made clear he is happy to take a meeting with no preconditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.
ACOSTA: And the former National Security Adviser John Bolton did say in that tweet that he resigned yesterday evening or offered his letter of resignation yesterday evening.
But we can put this up on screen. This is the letter of resignation offered up by the White House today from John Bolton. It is dated September 10. That's today.
It says: "I hereby resign, effective immediately, as assistant to the president for national security affairs. Thank you for having afforded me this opportunity to serve our country."
Wolf, National Security Adviser John Bolton was outspoken on a number of issues. He clashed with the president on just about everything under the sun. But that resignation letter right there might be the shortest statement ever issued by John Bolton since he's been here in Washington -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I take it there's already emerging some sort of list of potential successors. What are you hearing?
ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf.
There's a whole range of names being considered right now. Pete Hoekstra is one of the names that has been mentioned. I just talked to a source close to the White House who floated that name out just a short while ago. He has also been under consideration for director of national intelligence.
Wolf, it's interesting to note the president has to fill that position as well as we speak. So the president has been dealing with this for some time now, as he's gone through national security adviser after national security adviser after national security adviser, and then acting secretaries of defense over at the Pentagon.
This national security team has very much been in a state of flux ever since Donald Trump was sworn into office as president. And despite what you heard the secretary of the treasury say earlier this afternoon at this briefing, that his national security team is not a mess, there are a lot of disagreements in this town as to that assessment.
There are people in this city obviously on both sides of the aisle who feel from time to time this president's national security team has been a big mess -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on John Bolton's abrupt exit.
We're joined now by our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, along with retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, our military and diplomatic analyst who was a State Department spokesman under President Obama.
Well, Jim Sciutto, let me ask you.
The immediate impact of this sudden, very tense, very bitter departure, what's it going to mean? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the key
thing is that you had a voice here who differed with the president on a handful of the nation's most severe national security challenges, one on Iran in an interesting way, right, because Bolton came in as a fellow hawk with Trump, more forward-leaning.
It seemed that he had a difference with the president when the president pulled back, for instance, from retaliating against Iran when it shot down a U.S. drone. They had a difference there. They had a difference on North Korea as well.
John Bolton, and not the only one, but John Bolton one of the leading skeptics of President Trump's continued outreach to North Korea without netting any material gains from that outreach to this point in terms of reversing North Korea's nuclear program.
On issues like that, when you remove a voice like John Bolton, and you presume that President Trump will look for someone who is in lockstep with him on those issues, you get to another -- you get closer to a situation where there are fewer people around this president who contradict him or offer him contradictory or cautionary advice even on some of these key national security challenges.
Remember, we used to talk about all the folks in the room, like a Jim Mattis and others. Many of those folks one by one have now disappeared from that room.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, John Kirby, because there have now been three national security advisers. The president's got to hire a fourth right now.
In this administration, that happens to be a pretty tricky job right now.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, it is.
I mean, Colin Powell once famously described it as being judge, traffic cop, truant officer, arbitrator, fireman, chaplain, psychiatrist, and the occasional hit man.
And that's -- so it's a tough job in any administration. But I can't imagine how much more difficult it is to do it when the boss himself, the president, wants to be all those things as well and take away any influence you might have.
And that's my big concern is, whoever comes next hopefully will have -- somebody who will have the access and the influence to tee up the right options and help the president make the most contextual decisions going forward.
BLITZER: You know, Jim, the White House suspected, I'm sure the president suspected that Bolton was responsible for a whole bunch of leaks to the news media, including his opposition to the president inviting the Taliban leadership to Camp David.
SCIUTTO: The president apparently did not like it being public knowledge that some of his advisers were challenging him on this decision.
And that seems fitting with the pattern with this president, that he wants folks to be in line with him, and not to contradict him, and perhaps feels embarrassed in some ways when it comes out that some of his advisers are not in lockstep with him on those positions.
Structurally, there's another concern here, that Bolton, when he came in as the national security adviser, you would expect him to do, brought in a lot of his own people to be at the senior ranks of the National Security Council.
With Bolton gone, do those people go as well? And will you, as a result, hollow out the National Security Council infrastructure, depending, of course, on who replaces him? But that's a concern, because the NSC, yes, it serves the president, but it is an institution, an operation that often has holdovers from previous administrations.
It's meant to keep some sort of semblance of order and consistency. And if that is hollowed out, that will have broader consequences for U.S. national security policy.
BLITZER: You know, we're also told, John, that Bolton was reluctant to go on television and strongly defend some of the president's national security policies because he strongly disagreed with those policies, and that the president was irritated sometimes when he saw him on TV. He didn't think he was doing a great job.
KIRBY: Yes, I mean, look, part of the job -- and national security advisers typically don't like to go on television. They like to be behind the scenes.
But, sometimes, you have to do that. And an issue like this, Wolf, that -- this significant, this Afghanistan policy and the peace talks, for him not to want to go, that's a significant sign that not only was he reluctant to be out in front, but that maybe he had reached a level of policy difference with the president that it was time to move on.
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. Jim Kirby -- John Kirby, thank you,
Jim, we're going to be getting back to you in just a moment. You have some exclusive new reporting that you want to share with our viewers. We will get back to you very soon.
But joining us right now, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. He is a Democrat. He serves on both the Intelligence and Oversight committees.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Hey, thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: So what does John Bolton's ouster mean for U.S. national security? KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, obviously, John Bolton and his views were
But I think the real problem here is the president's foreign policy or national security or whatever you want to call the strategy there, which is nonexistent. At this point, the president seems to cozy up to our adversaries and pushes away our allies.
And there isn't really much of a coherence to his vision on how we should be conducting foreign policy or national security strategy. So I think there's not going to be much job security in the future for any national security adviser in that particular situation.
BLITZER: Do you worry about the constant turnover inside the president's national security team?
We started with Michael Flynn, who's now about to go to jail, then H.R. McMaster, and now Mr. Bolton. And we don't know who's next.
Whoever is next is going to have to come in and actually, hopefully, knock some common sense into the Trump administration with regard to foreign policy and national security, because, right now, there's no coherence, there's no vision.
And when there's none of those things, it's hard to execute and deliver anything for the American people.
BLITZER: What would you like to see from the president's next, his fourth national security adviser?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I'm hoping for someone who can actually build our alliances again.
We have some very significant security challenges around the world, including with regard to Russia and China. And we should be very firm with regard to our adversaries.
And, right now, we are doing the opposite. So that's what I'm -- I'm hoping that the next person can move us in the direction of a foreign policy that both Democratic and Republican administrations have consistently pursued and that actually yielded results in the past.
BLITZER: You sit on the House Intelligence Committee.
Let's talk a little bit about some new reporting from our Jim Sciutto. According to multiple senior officials who have served in the Trump administration, the president has repeatedly expressed opposition to using covert foreign sources to gather intelligence for the United States.
What kind of impact would foregoing covert foreign sources have on U.S. national security?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, gosh, I can't comment on that specific reporting.
But what I can say is, there's just an ongoing concern with regard to the president and his relationship to the intelligence community, his handling of classified intelligence, and, quite frankly, his relations with the Russians.
This came up over and over again in the Mueller hearing about a month ago. That's why I think that we should continue with the investigation to assess the counterintelligence risks of the president's ties to Russia.
BLITZER: All right, you also serve on the Oversight Committee.
CNN has learned that the inspector general over at the Commerce Department is now looking into that unsigned statement put out by NOAA backing up President Trump's faulty Hurricane Dorian forecast.
BLITZER: Is this something your committee should also take a look at?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I'm going to follow the lead of Chairman Cummings. I'm sure that he's extremely concerned about this.
And if he decides to call hearings, I think we would be extremely supportive.
I would just make two points. One, I think that there's just going to be stormy weather for any truth-teller at NOAA or, for that matter, at any agency within the purview of someone like Wilbur Ross.
And then, secondly, I just think that Wilbur Ross is yet again pursuing a political agenda for the president, rather than the business of the American people. He did this with regard to trying to insert the citizenship question on the census, and then making up pretexts for why he did it.
And now we see his performance with regard to NOAA. This is extremely troublesome.
BLITZER: You think he should resign?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think his time is up.
And I do think that we have to investigate what exactly has been going on at the Commerce Department. The census is about to start early next year. And we can't have someone like Wilbur Ross or anybody who's politically motivated in conducting the census, when so much depends on it.
BLITZER: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to have a lot more on President
Trump's concerns about using intelligence from covert foreign operatives.
Also, we're learning new details about a spy extracted from Russia and the access he had to Vladimir Putin.
Stand by for CNN's exclusive reporting.
BLITZER: Tonight, new details on a story first reported on CNN about a secret U.S. mission to extract a spy from Russia, sources revealing the extent of the spy's access to Vladimir Putin.
Let's go back to our Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, you have more exclusive reporting for us tonight on how President Trump views spies like the one pulled out of Russia.
SCIUTTO: Well, here's the thing.
U.S. intelligence agencies depend on spies placed in foreign countries, particularly in hostile countries, to gather intelligence on what these countries are up to, and particularly if they mean to do harm to the U.S.
But the president -- and this is based on multiple Trump officials who've been in the room with President Trump when he's dismissed the idea of using such information, which has enormous consequences for U.S. intelligence gathering.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Sources tell CNN that President Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to using intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies, a crucial tool for U.S. intelligence against its adversaries.
Since being elected, the president has repeatedly attacked the U.S. intelligence community.
TRUMP: The intelligence agencies have run amok.
SCIUTTO: Sources say the president's concerns about using foreign operatives is that using them can damage his personal relationships with foreign leaders.
The president's views have at times spilled out publicly, including his response to a report the CIA recruited North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's half brother as an asset.
TRUMP: I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother. And I would tell him that would not happen under my -- under my auspices. That's for sure.
SCIUTTO: The president has also expressed doubts about the credibility of the information foreign informants provide, because he -- quote -- "believes they're people who are selling out their country."
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Generally speaking, I will say human intelligence is extremely important and in many cases more important than even electronic intelligence in all areas.
SCIUTTO: Both the CIA and the White House declined to comment for this story.
The revelation about Trump's views comes as CNN is learning new details about a covert source who helped the U.S. spy on Russia's President Vladimir Putin. That spy was extracted from Russia by U.S. intelligence in 2017 amid concerns about the informant being exposed and in part because of concerns about how the president and his administration handle intelligence.
The spy was considered the highest-level source for the U.S. inside the Kremlin, high up in Russia's national security infrastructure, according to a source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.
Sources tell CNN the spy had access to Russian President Putin and could even provide images of presidential documents. Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director in 2017, pushing back.
POMPEO: The reporting there is factually wrong.
SCIUTTO: To be clear, Pompeo declined to comment to CNN before the story was first published, and today did not specify what he was alleging was incorrect in CNN's reporting, which relied on multiple administration officials with direct knowledge of the extraction.
In a statement, the CIA says -- quote -- "CNN's narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false."
SCIUTTO: Of course, CNN never said anything along those lines in its story.
And the timing of this decision is indicative. It was after a May 2017 Oval Office meeting in which President Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with senior Russian officials, the foreign minister at the time, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the U.S. -- the Russian ambassador to the U.S. at the time, Sergey Kislyak.
It was after that meeting that a call went out, Secretary Pompeo speaking to other Trump administration officials, saying that too much information was coming out about the source, the decision made at that moment to remove him from Russia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Excellent reporting. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much for that.
Just ahead: The president thought John Bolton was a leaker. Did that do him in?
And we will break down CNN's exclusive new poll and why most Americans don't think the president deserves a second term.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on new turnover in the president's often changing national security team. Tonight, John Bolton is out as Mr. Trump's national security adviser after many policy and personality conflicts.
Let's bring in our analysts to discuss. David Swerdlick, the president, he tweeted he fired him because his, quote, services are no longer needed. Bolton a few minutes later insisted he resigned. What is this public display of animosity between the president and his now gone national security adviser suggest?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it suggests that it was always a bad idea to have, on the one hand, Ambassador Bolton, a guy who many people in Washington say he never met a one he didn't like, where the president who has a foreign policy that's neither can be described as hawkish nor dovish, it's not a Reaganite conservative U.N. foreign policy, it's not a Taft-Paleo conservative U.N. foreign policy. It's a mishmash of sort of big talk and chaos. This was always going to happen, I think, Wolf. It just happened today with a childish exchange of tweets.
BLITZER: You served, Samantha, on the National Security Council team during the Obama administration. You suggest that Bolton simply wasn't doing the core responsibilities he was supposed to achieve.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's right, Wolf. I was senior adviser to one national security adviser. And I can tell you, John Bolton was national security adviser in name only. He didn't perform some of the core functions of the job, the basic functions. For starters, he didn't run these key interagency meetings.
I had a vitamin D deficiency when I left the White House because we spent so much time in the situation room with no windows, no sunlight. His national security adviser was meeting with the cabinet, soliciting their views and making recommendations to the president. We know more about Bolton's personal views on issues than we know about actual meetings that he ran.
And, secondly, John Bolton, as national security adviser, had to have the ear of the president. He was put to pasture in Mongolia when President Trump met with Kim Jong-un. He was shut out of Oval Office meetings with North Korean officials. He clearly was not the person the president went to for national security advice.
BLITZER: The president over this many months, as you know, Rebecca, has been rather blunt in talking about his disagreements with Bolton. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I have John Bolton and I have other people that are a little more dovish than him. And, ultimately, I make the decision.
He has strong views on things, but that's okay. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing.
I have John Bolton, who I would definitely say is a hawk, and I have other people that are on the other side of the equation. And, ultimately, I make the decision, so it doesn't matter.
He takes it generally a tough posture, but I have other people that don't take that posture. But the only one that matters is me.
John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. It's up to him, he'd take on the whole world at one time, okay? But that doesn't matter because I want both sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it's clear that the president saw their difference of opinion on substance, Wolf. He was clear-eyed about the divide there was between John Bolton and himself. But it's clear here that he didn't care about that. What mattered more to the president in this equation is the issue trust and the issue of loyalty.
One of the things that the White House pointed to in conversations with CNN following the president's decision today was that they believed John Bolton was leaking to the press, that he was telling his side of the story in the press, and then, of course, this question of loyalty to the president.
This was not someone who was just going to say yes to whatever the president wanted. John Bolton is very strong-willed, hard headed. that obviously didn't mix with President Trump's style either.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Isn't the real issue -- the cast of characters has changed. But isn't the real issue that the foreign policy is failing everywhere? In North Korea, Kim Jong-un is shooting off missiles all the time.
In Iran, where we had a treaty in place to stop nuclear weapons development, weapons development has started again. Our NATO allies can't stand us anymore because all we ever do is harass them about their defense spending. I mean, that seems to me what matters.
Who's occupying what office? That's a fascinating inside Washington story. But American foreign policy is in shambles and that seems to me the more important aspect of this.
VINOGRAD: Well, it does matter who's filling at least two key jobs. One is the president. He has to be willing to use the interagency process. And two, if you have a national security adviser that just isn't holding meetings, Jeffrey, that just isn't meeting with the secretary of state, secretary of defense and faithfully representing [18:35:00] their honest views to the president, those two factors are part of why we are where we are today.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, I want to play a little clip back in 2018 when the then defense secretary, Jim Mattis, met with Bolton. He was overheard saying this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thank you for coming and it's good to finally meet you. I've heard that you're actually the devil incarnate and I wanted to meet you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I've you're actually the devil incarnate and I wanted to meet you. Jeffrey, what do you think about that?
TOOBIN: Well, Bolton had the reputation for decades as the personification of the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party. Very-- a big supporter of the disastrous Iraq war, always wanted to confront North Korea, always wanted to confront Iran, which was different from the way Donald Trump campaigned.
So you know the question from the very beginning has been why did the president hire this guy? I mean, they just don't agree on things. So it was just preordained that the whole thing was going to fall apart.
BLITZER: Let me switch gears. Rebecca, let me let you weigh in. We have this letter that CNN has obtained from the assistant administrator of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reviewing all the disputes that occurred during the hurricane the other day, when the president was warning threats to Alabama, and then, locally, in Birmingham, Alabama, they said no threat to Alabama. Listen to a chunk of this letter.
As I'm sure you also know, there was a complex issue involving the president commenting on the path of hurricane. The National Weather Service forecasters corrected any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way as they should.
There followed last Friday an unsigned press release from NOAA that inappropriately and incorrectly contradicted the National Weather Service forecaster. My understanding is that this intervention to contradict the forecaster was not based on science but on external factors, including reputation and appearance and simply put, political. That's a really stark statement from the acting chief scientist over there.
BUCK: Absolutely. Admirable to set the record straight and at great political risk because it's been made clear by the president that this is an issue he cares deeply about. He takes it very personally. It's an issue of personal pride for him.
But NOAA has a responsibility to forecast the weather for the safety of the American people and preparedness of the American people. And the president undermined that mission. It's good the agency is taking responsibility.
BLITZER: David, what do you think?
SWERDLICK: Yes. It's so surprising these days. We're not used to it to have some senior official in the administration take a stand on principle in a public way like that that Administrator McLean's statement stands out for that alone. No matter which side you're on on this issue, it's clear that he wants to be counted as someone who is standing with people in his agency and with science, as he said, and not the politics.
BLITZER: Craig McLean, the acting administrator. He deserves a lot of credit, Jeffrey, for having the guts to tell his colleagues, you know what, just keep doing your job.
TOOBIN: And, you know, I'm a federal -- former federal employee. And what I love to see is someone standing up and saying most of the people who work for the federal government are trying to do the right thing. They are trying, in this case, to protect people from dangerous weather. That's their job. That's what they were doing. And the corrupt and incompetent people in the Trump administration have been trying to over -- to thwart them, and that was a disgrace.
BLITZER: Let's see if he survives this.
All right, everybody stand by. There's a lot more news we're following, including a powerful new warning about the dangers of e- cigarettes after another vaping-related death.
BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight. The American Lung Association has just issued a new warning declaring e-cigarettes are not safe and should not be used, this after six vaping related death here in the United States was confirmed. CNN's Tom Foreman is looking into this for us.
Tom, health officials, they're sounding alarm, the alarm about all of this.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, worry about the health effects of this is really erupting everywhere, amid reports of people getting seriously ill and even dying soon after using e-cigarettes. And this idea promoted by many that this is a safer alternative to smoking is under enormous scrutiny.
DR. DAVID PERSSE, HOUSTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT: It needs to be thought of as an injury to the lungs caused by something in the vaping and it is very severe.
FOREMAN: In Houston, doctors are sounding the alarm as three people are hospitalized after using e-cigarettes. In New York, the Bloomberg Charity is giving 160 million to fight what's being called an epidemic of vaping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids are dying. People are dying now and getting addicted, the timeline is yesterday, not tomorrow.
FOREMAN: And in Washington, the first lady herself has tweeted, I am deeply concerned.
Why is the worry exploding now?
In just the past few days, the Centers for Disease Control reported a huge jump in the number of people developing mysterious lung illnesses after vaping, to over 450. At least a half dozen are believed to have died.
The American Medical Association has now come out urging people to avoid the use of all e-cigarette products. And the Food and Drug Administration has warned Juul Labs, the leading manufacturer, about misleading advertising and statements especially to school kids where vaping is growing exponentially.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Did the presenter called Juul, quote/unquote, totally safe more than once?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
FOREMAN: Juul says that school outreach program was ended in 2018 and the company will fully cooperate with probes into their marketing and products.
JAMES MONSEES, JUUL LABS: We never wanted any non-nicotine user and certainly nobody underage to ever use Juul products.
FOREMAN: But that's not enough for the governor of New York who is launching a state investigation complete with subpoenas.
MAYOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: This is a frightening public health phenomenon.
FOREMAN: Even as reports of more serious problems keep rolling in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Passed out, would not wake up. Fifteen, 16 years old, you don't want to start doing that.
FOREMAN: It is not clear how or even if vaping is definitively causing these illnesses and deaths or if perhaps some additive is to blame, but the anecdotal evidence is mounting so rapidly, many health officials clearly want the to slam the brakes on this runaway industry until investigators have time to figure out if there really is a link -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Really good advice. Better be safe than very, very sorry. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.
Just ahead, criminal charges are filed against a top FEMA official involved in Puerto Rico's troubled recovery operation after Hurricane Maria.
BLITZER: Tonight, tensions in Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a controversial 11th hour campaign promise. He was rushed off the stage in an Israeli port city as sirens warn of incoming rocket fire and it happened soon after he announced his plan to annex disputed territory in the West Bank if he wins re-election next week. He suggested President Trump will support the move.
CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us live from Jerusalem right now.
Oren, this is yet the latest example of Netanyahu's turning to President Trump as a political ally.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf, and the White House seems to have given tacit approval to Prime Minister Netanyahu's plan, but nothing like the ringing endorsement we saw in April before the last elections.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Tonight, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising to expand the boundaries of Israel if he wins re-election next week. He announced a stunning plan to annex parts of the contested territory of the West Bank.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Today, I am announcing my intention to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea.
LIEBERMANN: It's a sweeping plan and critics say a play to his base that comes with strings attached.
NETANYAHU: I will not do anything without getting a clear mandate from the public, and so, the citizens of Israel, I ask you for a clear mandate to do this.
LIEBERMANN: The 69-year-old Israeli leader has made promises of annexation before, but never like this. Pulling out a map, he showed specific areas in the West Bank he would make official Israeli territory, areas he says are crucial to national security and are held by occupied territory by most of the international community.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Should have taken place many decades ago.
LIEBERMANN: Facing a tough reelection bid here, Netanyahu has staked his future on his close ties to U.S. President Donald Trump. Today's announcement was no different. The Israeli prime minister connected his annexation plan directly to Trump's soon to be released plan for Mideast peace.
NETANYAHU: The most important question facing us in this election is who will negotiate with President Trump? Who will recruit him to our side?
LIEBERMANN: A Trump administration official tells CNN that says there is no change in U.S. policy at this time, but adds that Netanyahu's announcement doesn't get in the way of the peace plan. Two weeks before Netanyahu's last election in April, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, a political gift to his friend Netanyahu.
Trump also put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terror list and he had the secretary of state visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Tonight, Arab politicians in Israel and Palestinian leaders are slamming Netanyahu's new plan, accusing him of working to liquidate the Palestinian issue and eliminating the possibility of a two-state solution and peace.
Netanyahu says Trump's peace plan is coming soon, telling Israelis he should be the one to handle negotiations, but only if he wins the election.
LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu's announcement was big news here, but only for about an hour. The resignation or the firing of John Bolton quickly took over the news because he was considered such a close ally of Netanyahu's, especially when it comes to Iran. And that is a blow to Netanyahu especially on a night where he was looking for positive headlines, at least for himself -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Oren, thanks very much. Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem.
Much more news right after this.
BLITZER: Tonight, one of the top officials to respond to Puerto Rico's hurricane disaster back in 2017 is charged with bribery and fraud. Prosecutors say she allegedly took gifts in favors from a contractor on the island that secured nearly $2 million in work to repair Puerto Rico's electrical grid. She's also accused of steering recovery work toward that company, Cobra Acquisitions.
The former president of Cobra, as well as a second FEMA official who left the organization in 2018, were also charged.
Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.