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Assessing The Attack On Saudi Oil Refineries; President Trump's Tax Records Subpoenaed; Impeachment Calls On A Growing Number Of Democratic White House Against Brett Kavanaugh; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D- HI) Is Interviewed About The Attack On Saudi Arabia's Oil, The New Subpoena For President Trump's Tax Returns, And Impeachment Calls On Brett Kavanaugh; Trump: Certainly Looking Like Iran Is Behind Saudi Drone Attack; Union Workers On Strike Against General Motors; Trump: I Don't Think We're Ready For North Korea Visit. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 16, 2019 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thanks so much for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Assessing the attack. President Trump said it looks like Iran was behind the attack on a Saudi oil facility as the U.S. tells at least one ally it has intelligence pointing to Iran. Will there be a military response.

Tax records subpoenaed. CNN has learned that prosecutors in New York have demanded eight years' worth of President Trump's tax returns as part of the investigation into hush money payments. What will the president's financial records reveal?

Impeachment calls. A growing number of Democratic White House hopefuls now say Justice Brett Kavanaugh should be removed from the U.S. Supreme Court amid new allegations of misconduct when he was in college. Were earlier investigations mishandled?

And not the right time. The president tamps down suggestions he's been invited to North Korea saying he isn't ready for a visit yet. Can low- level talks between the two countries get nuclear negotiations back on track? I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in The Situation Room.

We're following breaking news. On that attack on a Saudi oil facility that's disrupting the global oil supply and sending prices soaring. Just a short time ago President Trump again implicated Iran and said he's not looking for a military conflict, but he wouldn't rule out armed retaliation.

Also breaking, CNN has learned that the New York district attorney has subpoenaed eight years of President Trump tax returns as part of the investigation into hush money payments. We'll talk about all of the breaking news and much more with Senator Mazie Hirono of the judiciary and armed services committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, she is on the scene for us in New Mexico right now. Kaitlan, amid this rising tension with Iran, President Trump getting

ready to hold a rally where you are in Mexico tonight.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. And just before he left the White House to head this way, the president would not rule out a military response to those strikes on those Saudi oil facilities, instead leaving that open as an option and when he was just leaving the White House before boarding Marine One, he was asked if he thought a lethal response would be an appropriate one in this situation and, Wolf, the president said he would.


COLLINS: Tonight President Trump is warning he's prepared to take military action as the U.S. builds the case Iran was behind strikes on crucial Saudi oil facilities.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That was a very large attack and it could be met with an attack many, many times larger.

COLLINS: After saying the U.S. was locked and loaded, depending on verification, the White House is placing the blame on Iran. While offering no public evidence.

TRUMP: We pretty much already know. Certainly it would look to most like it was Iran.

COLLINS: Aides are cautioning that his tweet doesn't necessarily mean there will be a military response.

TRUMP: With all of that being said, we certainly would like to avoid it.

COLLINS: The weekend attack cut the kingdom's oil production in half, sending crude prices spiking and leading Trump to authorize the release of U.S. Oil Reserves if needed. Though he later said we don't need Middle Eastern oil and gas and in fact have very few tankers there. The attacks and accusations have thrown a potential meeting between Trump and Iran's president into question.

TRUMP: I have no meetings scheduled.

COLLINS: Both leaders will be in New York next week for the United Nations Summit, but Trump is now backpedaling and blaming the media for reporting he was willing to meet without conditions.

TRUMP: There were always conditions. That is why the press misreported it.

COLLINS: Even though he said so on camera twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No preconditions?

TRUMP: Not as far as I'm concerned. No preconditions.

No preconditions. No, if they want to meet, I'll meet. COLLINS: His Secretary of State and Treasury Secretary echoed him

last week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is prepared to meet with no preconditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is happy to take a meeting with to preconditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.

COLLINS: Tonight Trump is also calling on the Justice Department to rescue Brett Kavanaugh after a new book details sexual misconduct allegations against the Supreme Court justice. Allegations Kavanaugh has previously denied.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINATED AS UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed.

COLLINS: The book lays out one additional allegation, but the woman at the certainty of it declined to be interviewed and friends say she they doesn't recall the incident, but 2020 Democrats are calling for him to be impeached.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Someone should investigate that. Because the fact that something has not been proven, it doesn't mean it didn't occur, right?


COLLINS: Trump is also calling on General Motors and the United Automobile Workers Union to make a deal.

TRUMP: I would like to see it work out, but I don't want General Motors building plants in China and Mexico. This is before my watch. And I don't think they'll be doing that.

COLLINS: After nearly 50,000 General Motors employees went from the assembly line to the picket line today. Shutting down 33 plants in nine states as they call for increased wages and reopened plants.


COLLINS: Wolf, when the president was leaving the White House he was also asked why the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has explicitly said that Iran was behind those attacks when the president himself has declined to go that far. He said they're still figuring out details, but Wolf, we should also note, the president did say he is going to send Pompeo and other officials to Saudi Arabia. He just didn't say when that trip is going to happen.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins in New Mexico for us. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on that attack on that Saudi oil facility. Our CNN International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson, is in Saudi capital of Riyadh for us right now.

Nic, how is the Saudi Kingdom responding to this attack? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're

investigating. And right now their coalition, their top military spokesperson here has said that they have determined that these were Iranian weapon systems used. They've also said that they'd been able to determine these weapons were not fired from Yemen, which is what the Houthi rebels had claimed over the weekend.

They say that they are continuing to investigate the precise location, where the weapon systems were fired from and interestingly what they say they are going to do is invite U.N. and other international experts to join this investigation. They're also making it very clear that by saying that they have the capacity and resolve to defend their land and saying as well that they will take appropriate response determined by what they discover through this investigation.

They're making it very clear that there is going to be some kind of response. What it is isn't clear. What is clear, however, is that they want to internationalize this response by bringing other countries into the investigation and therefore ramped up their claims and their efforts to essentially stop Iran because that is who fundamentally they believe is behind these attacks.

Accusing them of it being their weapons systems. They've stopped short of going that far on saying it, but fundamentally they want to bring Iran to heel and it does seem that they are trying to use statesmanship and diplomacy at the moment to achieve that rather than an immediate quick military response, Wolf.

BLITZER: Robertson, in Riyadh for us. We'll stay very close touch with you.

And there's more breaking news we're following right now. CNN has learned that the New York district attorney has subpoenaed eight years of President Trump's tax returns from his long-time accounting firm and the Trump organization. CNN's Kara Scannell is working the story for us. So, Kara, so what's behind this new effort to obtain the president's tax returns?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, this is an investigation by the New York County District Attorney's Office and they're looking into whether there were any state laws that were broken as part of the hush money payments that Trump and the Trump organization had made to silence these two women.

So the latest development in this investigation is that the D.A.'s office has subpoenaed Mazars, that's Trump and Trump organization's long-time accountant seeking tax returns both federal and state going back to 2011. Now this follows the prosecutors having interviewed Michael Cohen just a few weeks ago at the prison in Otisville, New York.

So this investigation now looking into whether any state laws were violated, specifically if the Trump organization had filed false business records and noting how it had reimbursed Michael Cohen. Prosecutors there apparently thinking that having some insight into how Donald Trump and the Trump organization treated this on their tax returns would help aid in that investigation.

It is unclear if Mazars will comply with the subpoena and how the Trump organization will respond. Currently a lawyer for them tells us that they are evaluating the new development here that we've learned today, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Kara, President Trump, at least, so far has fended off multiple attempts to make his tax returns public. Could this new subpoena in a criminal investigation in New York lead to a different result?

SCANNELL: Well, I think that's the big question here, Wolf. Will Donald Trump and his lawyers and the Trump organization move to quash the subpoena which is in a criminal context. The other subpoenas that have been sent by the House Democrats seeking Donald Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One and also a subpoena to Mazars accounting firm, you know, are playing out in court.

But a criminal investigation is somewhat different than what the House Democrats are looking into. There are different rules around that. The big question here is does Trump seek to quash this and then how will this play out in court, Wolf?


BLITZER: Lots of questions. All right, Kara, thank you very much.

Some of the Democratic presidential candidates are now calling for the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to be impeached following a new allegation of misconduct and questions about how the previous investigation was handled. Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju, he is up on Capitol Hill for us.

Manu, how are lawmakers reacting to this new information and allegations that way back when he was in college there was some sort of improper activity, sexual activity?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Republicans are roundly dismissing what they are calling an uncorroborated frenzy unsubstantiated report that initially came out of the New York Times over the weekend. Democrats say this is another example that this investigation that occurred last year during the confirmation proceedings was not fully vetted.

Not looked into completely by the FBI and the new letter that we saw today from Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat who sits on that committee had sent a letter to the FBI saying that he had spoken to an individual who had more information about one of the alleges incidents and he urge the FBI to look into it. He copied the Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on that letter, but it is unclear whether the FBI dug into that fully or even talked to that individual.

Coons himself indicated we're told that he did not get a response back from the FBI other than the fact they had received that letter, but nevertheless, questions raised today about whether Democrats and Republicans had enough information and whether they stand by their votes that ultimately led to that party line confirmation right before the midterm elections. Just moments ago, Wolf, I talked to Joe Manchin, who is the only Democratic Senator who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh and he indicated that he does not regret his vote.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I based my vote on the facts I had in front of me. And I went through them thoroughly, and everything available to me and the facts basically didn't show any type of -- between them as far as being together at any time. So I said if the FBI reports that I had at the time to make my decision on would have been revealed to the public.

I think it would have showed there was no interaction between them. And I made my vote based on that. Now there is other allegations, I haven't seen any more facts come forward. So I'll wait and see whoever is going to do -- if they'll do an investigation or if there is more facts that are coming forward or whatever, I'll do the same as I did before.


RAJU: And I asked him whether or not he -- what he thinks about these Democratic candidates saying that Kavanaugh should be impeached and Manchin told me, well, it is an election year, Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu Raju, up on Capitol Hill, thank you. Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, she is a member of both the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Certainly.

BLITZER: Let's begin with the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure. First of all, have you been briefed on this attack?

HIRONO: Not by the administration. About apparently the decision is that Iran did it, although, you know, I'm glad that Saudi Arabia is seeking an international group of countries to weigh in. Unlike what the president first said that he was locked and loaded ready to go depending on what Saudi Arabia recommends that we do. Which is a crazy way of handling foreign relations.

But be that as it may, I think we need to be very careful because the Middle East is wrought with peril and a lot of opportunities to miscalculate events and under normal circumstances, Wolf, you would think that the United States could play a role in tamping down the -- tamping down the -- what is going on there and the heightened tensions, but that's not the kind of role we apparently are being looked to play.

BLITZER: Do you think the evidence at least what you've seen so far points toward Iranian involvement, that that evidence is conclusive?

HIRONO: I don't know that the evidence is conclusive. Especially as Saudi Arabia -- would like to have further investigations. So, I think that's what needs to happen. Because as I mentioned, Wolf, the Middle East is an area fraught with peril and we can't afford any miscalculations. And so apparently the president has walked back his locked and loaded comments by saying that he doesn't want to go to war with anybody. Well, yes, that would be good, because if he you would go to war, he have to get congressional authorization to do that.

BLITZER: Let's move on to this new subpoena for President Trump's tax returns. Lawmakers as you know, in the House Ways and Means Committee, they haven't been able to obtain the tax returns, but now prosecutors in New York are demanding the documents from President Trump's long time accounting firm as well as the Trump organization. Do you think that effort will be successful?

HIRONO: I have little doubt that the Trump administration will fight that as well. That effort to follow the money, which will probably result in a lot of information coming out, but the New York D.A. has his -- I don't know if it is a woman or man.


But they need to investigate whether or not any state laws were violated by these hush money payments. So they will do their best to put their best foot forward to investigate what is going on with the Trump organization.

BLITZER: Let's turn to the latest allegations of misconduct involving the Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Did the FBI, do you believe the FBI did -- did the FBI mishandle the investigation into Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings?

HIRONO: It was not just me, but others have called their investigation a sham. Because -- not because of the FBI's limiting their investigation, but because they were told by the White House and by Senate Republican leadership as to how many people they could talk to. So I think that it is clear that the investigation was incomplete and a sham as I frame it.

Because with Debbie Ramirez, she named -- her attorneys disclosed some 25 people who could potentially have corroborated her allegations about what Brett Kavanaugh did and as you may know, Wolf, I ask every nominee whether or not as an adult they've engaged in sexual assault or sexual harassment of any kind and Kavanaugh said no. So, if the investigation had been complete and these 25 people who potentially could have corroborated Debbie Ramirez's allegation then that means that Brett Kavanaugh lied to Congress. And that is serious business.

BLITZER: But "The New York Times" is quoting from the book, saying, she doesn't have any recollection -- personal recollection.

HIRONO: No, that is not -- that is not with regard to Debbie Ramirez. That is regarding another person who is alleged to have experienced this kind of behavior. Debbie Ramirez is a totally different person with a different allegation about his sexual misconduct.

BLITZER: Well do you believe --

HIRONO: And then the bottom line is whether he lied to Congress.

BLITZER: All right. Well do you believe that like several of the Democratic presidential candidates are now saying that Kavanaugh should be impeached?

HIRONO: I'm saying that the House Judiciary Committee should begin an impeachment inquiry which is a prelude to any decision that they would make regarding impeachment.

BLITZER: Senator Hirono, as usual, thanks for joining us.

HIRONO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, we'll have more on the breaking news, President Trump said it is certainly looking like Iran is behind the drone attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities.

And later the president downplays the chances of making a visit to North Korea, but he won't say if Kim Jong-un has extended an invitation.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. President Trump saying it is certainly looking like Iran is behind the weekend drone attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities. He isn't ruling out U.S. military action. Although he said he doesn't want war.

Let's bring in our political and national security analysts to discuss. Shawn Turner, the president said it is looking like Iran is responsible. He's offered no evidence, hard evidence yet, but he said you could anticipate getting some of that hard evidence in the coming days.

You're the former Director of communication for U.S. National Intelligence, help us make some sense out of what is going on right now, because this is a very, very sensitive, delicate and potentially extremely dangerous moment.

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, Wolf, you're absolutely right. And look, I don't know that there is any particular rhyme or reason behind the president's messaging here, but I do think that the president recognizes that he is at risk of being boxed in here.

Look, on the one hand if it is the case that Iran is responsible for these attacks and there is a lot of reasons to think at this point that that might be the case, the president recognizes that he is going to be, you know, kind of a -- up against the wall to respond. And he knows he's going to have trouble putting together a coalition of partners to respond, but also he understands that there might not be an appetite for the kind of response that at least his rhetoric is indicated. There might not be an appetite for that on the part of the American

people. If on the other hand, it's found that Iran is not responsible, well, there has been a lot of rhetoric already from Mike Pompeo and the president himself when he talked about being locked and loaded that all of a sudden, it is completely going to go away and going to suggest that the administration was not on top of this.

So he knows that he may be locked into a corner there, but the one thing that we could all count on, Wolf, is look, if it is the case that Iran was responsible, the intelligence community will be able to determine that with a high degree of confidence at some point in the near future, if they have not already done that and once they do that, you know, the intelligence community is going to provide that information to the president and he is going to have to make a choice as to what he wants to do here.

BLITZER: You know, Susan Hennessey, you used to work at the national security agency. President in the past has sometimes, you know, expressed doubts about what the U.S. Intelligence Community is telling him. How does that affect his credibility internationally going forward in a potential crisis like this?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, everything that the administration has done up to now has effectively compromised their credibility. This is a very, very serious accusation, it's the kind of accusation that in prior administrations, if they made this accusation, we would likely expect to see military -- a military response.

So this really is serious. That said, whenever you have the president weighing in on Twitter, half of the time, we don't even know if he's tweeting because he's got an intelligence briefing or because he's receiving it from Fox News.


This is a situation in which the United States is not going necessary to be able to show how it's making this conclusions that classified, really, really sensitive underlying intelligence. It's going to be a murky situation. The Iranians are typically would use proxy actors in this sort of situation and that makes things like attributions really, really difficult. It makes credibility really important, that people believe you whenever you say we've reached this conclusion.

But the problem is, it is not just the president who lost all credibility with our allies and adversaries, but also actors like, Mike Pompeo, who is also coming out and saying, we've established with a high degree of credibility, requesting the rest of the world sort of looking at them and saying, well, we are going to need other people to weigh in, because we don't know what exactly happened and we don't know whether to believe you.

BLITZER: You know, it is interesting, Bianna, if you saw the president's Q&A with the reporters in the Oval Office earlier, he said something I had not heard an American president say flatly along the lines that he said, if the U.S. does have to engage in military action against Iran, let's say, the Saudis would reimburse the U.S. financially for any military action. Have you ever heard a president say something that bluntly in effect suggesting the U.S. might become mercenaries in a situation like this, the U.S. would go to war, but would be paid for it by another country.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I have not heard this, Wolf And it conjures up memories of officials from the Bush administration suggesting that the Iraq war would pay for itself, 4,000 U.S. servicemen lives and billions of dollars later look where that turned out.

Look, this is a situation where we don't know what the end result will be. Iran is not going to go down without a fight and you have many people suggesting that this would have never transpired had the U.S. not gotten out of the JCPOA. You would have had global support from other signatories, Iran was by all intents and purposes conforming and going along with the JCPOA.

And so now you find yourself in a situation where the president is up against a wall possibly having to go in and protect the Saudis, how are you going to explain that to U.S. officials here and our allies around the world and it comes down to a question of reliability and trust and you got a situation where the president seems to have been tweeting, his officials had said one thing before, our allies like the British have question of the actions and statements that the U.S. government has made with regard to Iran. So, we really find ourselves in a situation where many are asking whether or not this could have been avoided, had we not gotten out of the JCPOA.

BLITZER: I want to fact check, Chris Cillizza, as one of the president tweet today, because it has cause -- pretty much of an uproar, he wrote this and I will put it up on the screen, the fake news is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran. Quote, no conditions. That is an incorrect statement as usual, but I want you to listen to the president in his own words.


TRUMP: I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have preconditions for that meeting?

TRUMP: No preconditions. No. If they want to meet, I'll meet.

You want to talk good, otherwise you could have a bad economy for the next three years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No preconditions?

TRUMP: Not as far as I'm concerned. No preconditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has made clear, he is happy to take a meeting with no preconditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has made very clear, he is prepared to meet with no preconditions.


BLITZER: So why is he now walking back as earlier statements and the statements of his Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury that he would be willing to meet with President Rouhani of Iran with no preconditions?

CILLIZZA: Short answer because he reflexively goes against whatever the media is reporting no matter how factual. Longer answer, because he views every day of his presidency as though he is programming a reality television show of which the day before and the day after have no real tie. He erases the chalkboard every night, figuratively and just writes anew.

So what he or his administration said the day before, a week before or a month, or a year before has no relevance and I think it speaks to Susan's point about credibility and what can be trusted. Well, if you are Iran or any other actors in the region and you see Steve Mnuchin and Mike Pompeo, five days ago saying no preconditions and you have those clips of Donald Trump and then you have this tweet today, where are you to fall -- which is the real version of American policy. This is one of the many problems of Donald Trump's approach to governance and the fact that he tweets his foreign policy is via Twitter.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There is a lot more we need to discuss. We will right after this.


BLITZER: And we're back with our analysts, our national security experts.

Shawn Turner, the President tweeted that the United States is, quote, locked and loaded, sparking fears of a potential war with Iran. The Vice President's Chief of Staff, Marc Short, later said it's a broad term, does not necessarily mean military action. What does it mean?


TURNER: Wolf, look, let me clear this up for everyone. You know, I spent more than 20 years in the Marine Corps, and, look, the term locked and loaded, I can assure you, is the language of war. Particularly when the President of the United States uses that language in response to a military-style attack on another country, and he says we're locked and loaded.

He's not suggesting that we are -- that all options are on the table or that we're still looking into it. He is suggesting that we are ready to take military action. And for anyone on the President's team to suggest that it is anything less is just simply disingenuous.

This is -- you know, this is the kind of language the President uses often. Unfortunately, you know, because he uses this kind of over- the-top language, I think we can -- we can rest assured, at least immediately, that we don't have to see him take action on what he said.

But this is definitely the language of war, and I think when -- in a situation like this, it's dangerous. The President really needs to pull back and think about what he says before he says things like this.

BLITZER: That's an important point. You know, Bianna, Saudi sources are telling CNN that it will take weeks now to restore oil production in Saudi Arabia following what they clearly say was an unprecedented attack on Saudi sovereignty, Saudi sovereign soil. Give us some context here of the enormity of what's going on.

GOLODRYGA: So this attack knocked out about five percent of the world's oil reserves and supply, Wolf. So from a perspective of looking at this one incident alone, it's not that big of a deal, why oil prices have been at historic lows, which has benefited the U.S. economy and consumers in general.

And also, you've seen over-supply, if you want to describe it that way, around the world. So there is enough oil to withstand this knock. You've seen OPEC, you've seen Russia even with some preconditions suggest that they would step in if need be.

That's why you saw the President tweet that he is ready to tap into the strategic petroleum reserves because, for him, he knows what this signifies. This signifies, in fact, if we do continue to see oil prices go up as we saw today, that this could really hurt the economy.

And this could hurt his chances of re-election. This is something that consumers feel more than they even know, following the news. They feel it when they go to the -- to fill up their cars at the gas station and see an increase in gas prices.

So for right now, the President is fortunate that he has seen gas prices at a record low historically over the past decades, and he hasn't had any huge impact from natural disasters, what have you, that previous presidents have.

The question is, going forward, given the geopolitical uncertainty that we're seeing not only in the Middle East but around the world, at what point will we continue to see oil prices from a trader's perspective, just because there's so much uncertainty and volatility, continue to rise?

At what point can we expect, perhaps, Iran or one of its proxies to continue another assault like we saw? Who is to say what happened over the weekend is a one and done kind of attack? So that's the big question but, for now, the U.S. and the world supply can withstand this hit.

BLITZER: Susan, whoever launched this attack against these Saudi oil facilities engaged in an act of war against Saudi Arabia, right?

HENNESSEY: Certainly. This is absolutely an act of war. Whether it was a drone or a missile, we still aren't yet clear what happened. That's why it's incredibly important to understand who is behind it and to be rock solid on that intelligence before taking any action response and to really shepherd support.

And this is a substantial escalation of tension at a time in which we want to see strong diplomacy, strong national security process. Keep in mind, we do not have a permanent national security adviser in the White House. All we have is sort of Mike Pompeo, really a -- overtly political actor who appears to be sort of influencing Donald Trump at this time.

So it really is an incredibly sensitive moment, one in which, you know, we would want to see sort of the -- as much calm as possible. And instead, we have the President tweeting, you know, sort of these off-handed things like locked and loaded, clearly not really thinking about the potential ramifications.

CILLIZZA: And just very quickly on locked and loaded, if you watch Donald Trump in the photo spray that we played, he tried to walk that back to, well, we're not in any sort of rush. This is the yo-yoing nature of what he says. And again, what -- if you are a foreign power, what version of Donald Trump's rhetoric do you believe?

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around, there is more we need to follow including other news. Nearly 50,000 union workers across nine states go on strike against General Motors. President Trump says many of those workers supported him. Will he take their side now?

And later, has Kim Jong-un invited President Trump to visit North Korea?



BLITZER: At White House this afternoon, President Trump said he's sad to see the strike against General Motors, and he's hoping it will be a quick one. The United Auto Workers' union says 48,000 people are off the job, the largest strike targeting any U.S. business since the strike against G.M. back in 2007.

Let's bring in CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich. She's joining us live. Vanessa, what's the latest on what are being described as these very tense negotiations?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Hi, Wolf. Well, new tonight, we are learning the scope of this strike. We are hearing that G.M. workers are striking at 55 facilities now across 19 states in this country. As you mentioned, 50,000 workers around the country walking off the job at midnight of this morning.

Just on the road here, we know that contract negotiations are underway between UAW and G.M. They're being categorized by a source close to those negotiations as very tense.


Everybody weighing in on this now, the President, the 2020 candidates. And also, just a short time ago, the Lieutenant Governor stopping by to walk in solidarity with these workers. We caught up with him. Here is what he had to say.


LT. GOV. GARLIN GILCHRIST II (D), MICHIGAN: I think the U.S. auto industry has seen a lot of challenges, just like U.S. manufacturing broadly. And so, we need to prepare for the future. But it is none of these workers fault, the fact that the industry is in decline.

People are ready and hungry. They're working hard every single day. They're working hard while they're out here, standing up and fighting for their rights. So I think the industry, yes, has had challenges, but the industry has the opportunity to evolve and reinvent itself. And this workforce is prepared to do it.


YURKEVICH: The Lieutenant Governor there also calling on G.M. to come to that bargaining table. But these workers you see behind me just really want basic things, Wolf. They want better health insurance, higher starting wages, and also job security.

Wolf, this plant behind me is scheduled to go out of commission in 2020. They are wondering what's going to happen to their jobs. They're asking in these contract negotiations for them to get a new vehicle here in order to get some work done next year. This is putting these people behind me on edge and making them very uncertain about their future, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Vanessa, thank you. Vanessa Yurkevich is on the scene for us. We'll stay in close touch with you.

Coming up, there's more breaking news from President Trump's question- and-answer session with reporters. He says he isn't ready yet for a visit to North Korea.



BLITZER: There is more breaking news tonight. President refusing to say whether Kim Jong-un had invited him to visit North Korea, adding, and I'm quoting the President now, I don't think we're ready for it.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's working this story for us. Brian, it's not clear when or even if the two leaders will meet again.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It is not clear, and experts say time could be running out for a third summit between the two men. But experts do agree with the President that a visit by him to the North Korean capital is simply a bad idea at the moment.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I enjoyed being with you. TODD (voice-over): President Trump has seemingly never been able to

resist Kim Jong-un's charms. But today, the President indicated he might have to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Chairman Kim invite you to go to North Korea --

TRUMP: I don't want to comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to go to North Korea?

TRUMP: Probably not. I don't think it's ready. I don't think we're ready for that. I would do it sometime, at some time at a later future. And depending on what happens, I'm sure he'll love coming to the United States.

TODD (voice-over): The question seemingly prompted by a report in a South Korean newspaper saying Kim had invited Trump to come to Pyongyang. CNN has not independently verified the report. Trump has said he would invite Kim to Washington during an impromptu meeting at the DMZ.

TRUMP: I would invite him right now to the White House. Absolutely.

TODD (voice-over): But a sitting American president traveling to the secretive, hermetic North Korean capital would be unprecedented. A truly historic moment. Still, some veteran diplomats agree with the President, that it's a bad idea right now.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Kim would consider this a great victory, a great coup to have Donald Trump in Pyongyang. The President should not do it.

The President appears interested in this kind of summits that give him a lot of publicity, but they undercut his authority and his credibility. They make the United States, frankly, look weak on the global stage.

TODD (voice-over): Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have traveled to North Korea to secure the release of Americans held captive there, but they went as former presidents.

Analysts say Kim Jong-un, his father, and grandfather, have always wanted to have a sitting American president come to see them on their turf. And they're worried about the optics if President Trump ever does accept Kim's invitation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to imagine that President Trump could resist the opportunity to sort of take the drive through the city with adoring children waving at his motorcade or even to show up to a state dinner, you know, at which the North Koreans would fete him with food that's not available to the ordinary North Korean citizen. So I think the propaganda windfall for North Korea could be quite large.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Analysts praise President Trump for trying the diplomatic route

and for meeting with Kim three times in an effort to get him to get rid of his nuclear weapons. But a meeting in Pyongyang with no progress having been made in nuclear talks so far, they say, would give Kim's regime a legitimacy it has not earned and might make the North Koreans believe they could give nothing back in return, Wolf.

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

There's more breaking news coming up next. President Trump points to Iran, saying it certainly looks like that country is behind the devastating attack on a Saudi oil facility. So what evidence does U.S. intelligence have?



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Blaming Iran? President Trump moves closer to publicly accusing Iran of being behind the attack on Saudi oil facilities. Is he preparing for a military response or even all-out war?

Seeking Trump's taxes. New York prosecutors just issued a subpoena for eight years of the President's tax returns. Will they get their hands on information Democrats have been clamoring to see?

FBI letter. As new reporting about Justice Brett Kavanaugh prompts demands for his impeachment, we're now learning about key information flagged for investigators before his confirmation. Was it ignored?