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THE SITUATION ROOM
Bill Cosby to Stand Trial; Interview With Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; Trump's Tactics; Trump Attacks Clintons Using Old, Unproven Allegations; Conflicting Reports on Plane's Final Moments; North Korea Disses Trump "Propaganda, Nonsense". Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 24, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Trump's tactics. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee is going to new lengths to try to hurt Hillary Clinton by going after her husband and his past. Tonight, the Clinton-Trump battle is giving the nation flashbacks.
Messy convention. Bernie Sanders is warning there will be fallout when the Democrats gather in Philadelphia. I will ask one of his top supporters in Congress about that remark and whether the Clinton camp should be worried.
Vanished. There are now conflicting reports about the final moments of EgyptAir Flight 804. Did the plane swerve before it disappeared? Was there an explosion? We will tell you what we're learning tonight.
And primary threat. America's top diplomat is now warning about the danger posed by North Korea's dictator and his nuclear arsenal, this as Kim Jong-un weighs in on the possibility of talking with Donald Trump.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton are preparing to make dueling appearances in New Mexico as Trump escalates his attacks on the former president, dredging up past scandals and debunked conspiracy theories.
Voters are getting an early and ugly taste of Trump's expected general election battle with Hillary Clinton. Also tonight, Clinton is launching a new line of attack against Donald Trump. She's citing his past comments about the housing market and suggesting he rooted for it to crash so he could make a profit, this as Bernie Sanders offers new proof that he's wagging his fight against Hillary Clinton to the bitter end.
Sanders has been granted his request for a re-canvass of the Kentucky primary vote that Clinton won by a very slim margin.
Also tonight, we're following new developments in the EgyptAir search and investigation. An official at the morgue that is analyzing fragments of victims' remains tells CNN it's too early to say whether there was an explosion on the plane. And a top Egyptian official is denying earlier reports that the jet swerved and lost altitude before it disappeared over the Mediterranean.
I will talk about that and much more of the presidential race with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She's standing by live. She's a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter.
And our correspondents, analysts, and guests, they are also standing by as we cover the day's top stories.
Let's begin with our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, you have been taking a very close look at Trump's attacks on the Clintons.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And we these are all from the 1990s, allegations you're familiar with, as someone who covered Bill Clinton's administration. But in the '90s, there was barely an Internet, much less social media, which Trump is aggressively using right now to revive controversies from the Clintons' past.
BASH (voice-over): It is political guerrilla warfare.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton's husband abused women more than any man that we know of in the history of politics, right?
BASH: A source familiar with Donald Trump's campaign strategy tells CNN that Trump dredging up tawdry, unproven allegations about Bill Clinton's past is not based on data or focus groups from his new pollster or his new partner, the Republican National Committee.
TRUMP: She's married to a man who hurt many women.
BASH: Instead, CNN is told, this is vintage Trump, going with his gut, and shooting from the hip, seething after seeing attacks about his own past statements about women, like this ad from a pro-Clinton super PAC.
TRUMP: Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat ass? Absolutely.
MICHAEL COHEN, SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: She attacked Mr. Trump as being a sexist, misogynist, and that's inaccurate. Donald Trump is not any of those things.
BASH: A challenge for Trump in attacking Bill Clinton as anti-woman, and tagging Hillary as an enabler, his own past statements of support, like in 1998 in the midst of Bill Clinton's scandal with Monica Lewinsky.
TRUMP: Can you imagine how controversial I would be? You think about him with the women. How about me with the women?
BASH: Even 10 years later in 2008.
TRUMP: Look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant. And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense.
BASH: Here's how a longtime Trump confident explained his 180.
COHEN: He was a private citizen who was friendly with the Clintons, and he was trying to protect a friend, all right? Now it's a different game.
BASH: And then there are conspiracy theories, like the false charge that Bill Clinton's White House council, Vince Foster, was murdered, despite multiple investigations ruling it a suicide.
Trump told "The Washington Post," Foster's death was -- quote -- "very fishy," but said, "I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don't do that because I don't think it's fair."
Even that feeds the 2016 campaign conversation, which Bill Clinton himself clearly saw coming, saying this just last week :
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You think the stuff they said about her is bad? They accused me of murder. I mean, our memories are short. It's what they do.
BASH: As for Hillary Clinton, so far, she's letting others do the responding, which the first female House speaker told CNN is the way to go.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Hillary is doing exactly the right thing. Don't stoop to that level, really.
BASH: Some sources close to Clinton are urging her not to take what they call Trump's bait.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's exactly what he's fishing for, and I'm not going to be responding.
BASH: A veteran Clinton supporter told me today that if she engages, she will simply be agreeing to turn the campaign into an insult-fest, but other Democrats I speak with worry that Hillary Clinton isn't showing her human side here, that maybe if she explained how she reacted in private, how most people would, that she was furious and angry at her husband, things could be a little bit different.
But, Wolf, as for Trump sources, they told me today that the kind of voter that they think this all could resonate the most with are younger voters, especially women, sowing seeds of doubt about Hillary Clinton, especially again with people who did not live through this.
BLITZER: Dana Bash, thanks very much for that report.
Tonight, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both campaigning in California in advance of the primary on June 7. Many Democrats are reading between the lines of Sanders' new warning that the party's convention in Philadelphia in July could get in his word messy.
Sunlen Serfaty is in California for us covering the Democrats.
Sanders is making it harder, Sunlen, for Clinton to focus on Donald Trump right now because there's a serious exchange going on between them.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
We have seen really Hillary Clinton unable to fully pivot towards a general election because she's still having to deal with Bernie Sanders and his campaign, who today -- who officially requested a re- canvass of the Kentucky primary results, where they lost last week but only 1,900 votes.
All this really underscoring how the Sanders campaign right now is pursuing each and every avenue to gain traction.
SERFATY (voice-over): Bernie Sanders firing off a fresh warning.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's going to be messy.
SERFATY: Telling the Associated Press that he thinks the Democratic Convention could get messy if party leaders do not adopt a more progressive agenda.
SANDERS: So what? Democracy is messy. Every day of my life is messy, but if you want everything to be quiet and orderly and allow just things to proceed without vigorous debate, that's not what democracy is about.
SERFATY: But Sanders making it clear that he condemns any and all forms of violence.
SANDERS: The media often takes words out of context. The context of that was that democracy is messy, that people will have vigorous debate on the issues.
SERFATY: As Hillary Clinton attempts to unite Democrats for the general election, Sanders is remaining defiant, vowing to carry on to the convention.
SANDERS: If I do not win the nomination, I'm going to fight as hard as I can to win it, because I believe, as I said a moment ago, I'm a stronger candidate against Trump than Secretary Clinton is. SERFATY: Clinton, though, already has her sights laser-focused on the
general election, deciding she will not debate Bernie Sanders again, the Clinton campaign saying her time right now is best spent campaigning and meeting directly with voters across California and preparing for a general election campaign, Sanders responding with a stinging rebuke.
SANDERS: I think it is a little bit insulting to the people of California, our largest state, that she is not prepared to have a discussion with me about how she will help the Californians address the major crises that we face.
SERFATY: Clinton is focusing her fire on Donald Trump.
CLINTON: He has experience in bankruptcy. I don't know if that's one of the qualifications for running for president, but I kind of doubt it. He's bankrupted companies.
SERFATY: Her campaign is unleashing a full-force strategy against the presumptive GOP nominee, hitting his business record.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know, you can make a lot of money.
SERFATY: And highlighting his past comments on the collapse of the housing market.
CLINTON: He actually said he was hoping for the crash that caused hardworking families in California and across America to lose their homes, all because he thought he could take advantage of it to make some money for himself.
SERFATY: And Donald Trump has fired right back to that charge from Hillary Clinton today, saying -- quote -- "I'm a businessman, and I have made a lot of money in down markets, in some cases, as much as I have made when markets are good. Frankly, this is the kind of thinking our country needs, understanding how to get a good result out of a very bad and sad situation."
Wolf, all this is just a very small preview of a big argument the Clinton campaign intends to bring against Donald Trump -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it's just starting, and it's going to get even more heated. No doubt about that.
Sunlen, thanks very much.
And joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, one of Senator Sanders' most prominent supporters, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: He's being criticized for using the word messy, that the convention, the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia could get messy.
I suspect he'd like to take that word back, if he could. You heard his explanation.
GABBARD: Yes, I haven't spoken to Bernie about his use of that word, but I don't think that he would take it back, because what's he's talking about is a lively conversation.
He's talking about a lively dialogue and really the platform that his campaign has created for people all across this country to talk about the issues that are important to them. And I know that that's what he is committed to doing as he goes and continues with the remaining states and the convention.
BLITZER: But, remember, the violence that we saw in Nevada that occurred, there was a fear at that time that if it escalates there could be violence, as there was in 1968 at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, in Philadelphia in July.
So the word messy had some sort of context there that raised fears of that, even though he's now backing away from it.
Well, I think there -- I was not at the Nevada convention, so I can't speak from firsthand experience. There were different accounts. Those who I have talked to who were there said a chair was picked up and put down. People were lively.
BLITZER: We're showing some of that right now.
GABBARD: But when you're talking about violence, you're talking about physical violence.
And I'm not aware of that occurring at all at the Nevada convention. And Bernie's denounced any kind of violence from anyone.
BLITZER: But there were threats, threats of death.
GABBARD: Which were wrong, absolutely wrong.
BLITZER: Against the chair of the Democratic Party there.
GABBARD: Absolutely wrong.
BLITZER: She received hundreds of phone calls threatening her, her family. That was pretty ugly.
GABBARD: Unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable, regardless of who came -- who they came from or who they were directed at. That is unacceptable behavior.
But I know what Bernie is talking about. And the reason why he's continuing on in this campaign is because of these vital issues that are so important to people all across the country, issues like income inequality, stopping these interventionist regime change wars, breaking up the big banks, and actually looking forward, and this path towards peace and prosperity for our country, and making sure the American people have the opportunity to make sure their voices are heard on these issues that they care about.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the DNC.
You're a former vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. You resigned in order to endorse Bernie Sanders. Now Bernie Sanders has endorsed the opponent running in a Democratic primary against Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, basically suggesting he has no confidence in the leadership of the Democratic Party. Was that smart?
GABBARD: Oh, I think Bernie's endorsed a few different candidates who are running for Congress, as well in state offices, state legislatures, people who reflect the values and the issues that he has raised in his campaign and that so many people have stood up against. And if you look at the candidate...
BLITZER: He really antagonized the leadership of the Democratic National Committee in a sensitive moment. Would you go that far? Have you endorsed Debbie Wasserman Schultz's opponent?
GABBARD: I have not made that endorsement.
I think what Bernie has talked about is raising these issues. And I know her opponent has also raised the very same issues that Bernie is raising.
BLITZER: You have worked with Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I don't know how well you know the opponent who is challenging her.
GABBARD: Haven't met him yet.
BLITZER: But you're staying neutral in that, or you think she should be reelected?
GABBARD: I'm staying neutral in that.
BLITZER: You're not going to get involved in that at all?
At what point, at what point does he have to concede? Let's say after California, after New Jersey on June 7, she has more pledged delegates -- forget about the superdelegates -- more pledged delegates. Does he continue the fight all the way to Philadelphia, or does he say, you know what, enough is enough, I'm going to do now what Hillary Clinton did in June back of 2008, when she realized that then Senator Barack Obama was going to be the nominee?
GABBARD: I can't speak for Bernie, but from all that I have heard from him, I think that he plans to remain committed to his word that he will carry not just his voice -- this has never been about Bernie Sanders -- it's about carrying the voices of so many people who have been energized, who are getting involved with politics for the first time, and who really care deeply about these issues to make sure that there are real substantive changes being made not just at the convention.
This is bigger than a party platform that no one really follows. There's not been any presidential candidate that's actually followed the party platform on either side. This is about making sure that real changes are brought about on these very critical issues that affect us here at home, as well as around the world.
BLITZER: So, you don't anticipate some sort of concession, that he would concede the nomination after California?
GABBARD: Not that I know of.
BLITZER: Irrespective of what happens, he's going to continue.
BLITZER: but the problem is, you worry about this could help Donald Trump in the long run if the Democrats aren't united.
GABBARD: I know what I'm worried about and I know what Bernie is worried about is, how do we help the American people? And by continuing to push these issues to the forefront of the conversation, both for people running for president, as well as the media and the American people, then we're on a good path.
BLITZER: All right. Congresswoman, we have more to discuss. I want you to stick around.
We're going to talk about some national security issues, what's going on in Iraq right now as well. You're an Iraq War veteran.
Much more with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard right after this.
BLITZER: Tonight, the Iraqi army is pressing ahead with its long- awaited fight to try to retake Fallujah from ISIS. It's been 2.5 years under ISIS control.
The United Nations is raising concerns about the safety of some 10,000 families who are still trapped in Fallujah, where Americans spilled blood battling insurgents for more than a decade -- more than a decade ago.
We're back with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She's an Iraq War veteran, a members of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.
It's pretty painful. You served in Iraq. You saw what was going on. To see what's going on in Fallujah right now, do you have confidence the Iraqi military can get the job done in Fallujah?
GABBARD: Well, it definitely is moving in the right direction. It is looking like they're beginning to show some very early signs of success.
I think that the Obama administration, Secretary Carter, they're actually taking seriously and taking the fight to ISIS by using our special forces in a very smart and tactical way, as well working with the Kurds, the Sunni tribal leaders, the Iraqi security forces, to be able to go and take back this territory from ISIS.
BLITZER: Do you have a problem that the Iraqi military is also using Iranian-backed Shiite militia in this operation?
GABBARD: The problem there with the Shia militia is, they have been shown in the past to oppress and persecute the Sunni people in Iraq.
And this is what has created the oxygen for ISIS to come in, in the first place, because they have shown that their sectarian persecution is persisting. As this goes on, we have got to make sure that the Sunni tribes, these Sunni leaders are able to govern and secure their own territory, why I have called for a three-state solution there in Iraq, so that we can take away this oxygen from ISIS and al Qaeda.
BLITZER: You would like to see a partition of Iraq into a Shiite area, a Sunni area, and a Kurdish area?
BLITZER: That was a position that the vice president took many years ago.
BLITZER: This is very personal for you, an Iraq War veteran, right now.
What should the U.S. role -- we know the U.S. is involved in airstrikes. There are advisers. There are about 5,000 U.S. troops inside Iraq right now. But should the U.S. get more directly involved on the ground to liberate a city like Fallujah, but then there's a much bigger operation to go into Mosul?
No, I think the strategy that the administration is using is the right one with very limited targeted use of special forces on the ground to go after ISIS and al Qaeda, working with local forces on the ground, like I just mentioned, the Sunnis, the Kurds, the Iraqi security forces.
But I think it's important overall, whether you're looking at Iraq or you're talking at Syria, in this fight against ISIS and al Qaeda and these other jihadist groups, it doesn't matter -- you could go in and kill all of the fighters there in Fallujah right now and Mosul right now, but unless the United States addresses this issue of Saudi Arabia and Turkey and their fueling -- and directly and indirectly fueling terrorist organizations, as well as this spread of this Wahhabism in schools and mosques all around the world -- we're going to continue to see this indoctrination and this creation of new terrorists who will then go and join these types of groups.
BLITZER: These anti-Bashar al-Assad elements are being trained by the U.S. and Syria as well.
As you know, there are U.S. special operations forces training them. They're planning some sort of move on Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria, right now. Would you support an escalated U.S. military involvement?
GABBARD: Well, first, you said the U.S. is training forces in Syria against Assad.
I have been a vocal critic of that. I think that is a war that we should not be engaged in. We should not be trying to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad, because this actually helps ISIS, helps al Qaeda, al-Nusra and these other jihadist groups to achieve their objective of taking over all of Syria, to speak of the fact that it's worsening the refugee crisis.
It's increasing human suffering and chaos in Syria. What we should be doing is having our special forces continue their work with the Kurds, with these Syrian Arabs to be able to go in and take places like Raqqa back from ISIS and al Qaeda and focus all of our resources and energy on that fight.
BLITZER: Because most of these rebels, they hate ISIS, but they hate the Bashar al-Assad regime even more, as you know.
GABBARD: That may be true for some, but the reality is that al-Nusra and al Qaeda have integrated themselves so deeply within the Syrian community simply because the United States has not been targeting al Qaeda.
For some reason, we have only been targeting ISIS in Syria, taking our eye off the ball of the enemy that attacked us on 9/11.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Gabbard, thanks very much for coming in.
GABBARD: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
Just ahead, will Donald Trump's dive into Bill Clinton's past affect Hillary Clinton's future? We will talk about the possible impact of her fight to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination. Plus, our aviation experts, they are poring new and conflicting
reports right now about the final moments of EgyptAir Flight 804. We will get the very latest on whether terror or technical problems seem more likely.
And a dramatic new turn in the Bill Cosby scandal. He's now been ordered to stand trial.
BLITZER: Tonight it's back to the future in the presidential race, with Donald Trump dredging up some old lines of attack against Bill and Hillary Clinton.
[18:30:24] Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is back with us along with our CNN political director, David Chalian; our CNN Politics executive editor, Mark Preston; and our CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, who's also a senior editor at "The Atlantic."
Dana, the fact that Donald Trump is reviving these old accusations, 25 years -- 20 and 25-year-old accusations -- against Bill Clinton, does he expect that's going to bring him support out there, new supporters who are going to come to him because of this?
BASH: I think, certainly, his hope is that people who are kind of on the edge about whether to support Hillary Clinton will say, "No, I'm not going to do it."
But truthfully, this -- my understanding is that this whole thing started with him just kind of being Donald Trump, being really, really upset about the fact that the Clinton super PACs were immediately running ads against him, using his own words about women.
And he said, "Wait a minute. You know, you want to talk about women, OK, let's go there on women." And as he did so many times in the primaries and as he likes to say, he hit back ten times harder than he was hit in the first place.
He also was hit by a super PAC, and you know, Trump is going directly after Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton in their personal lives.
But, you know, whether or not this is actually going to help, you know, we'll see. It could help with the millennials, people who didn't know from this, didn't live through this. That is what Clinton sources -- excuse me, Trump sources say that they hope. But it started out with Trump just being angry.
BLITZER: Two weeks from today the California primary. So what could be the impact of all of this on Secretary Clinton's efforts to finally see Bernie Sanders go away, for all practical purposes?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: I don't think it's going to have any impact, certainly not in the primary.
BLITZER: Trump attacking Hillary Clinton, does that weaken her against Bernie Sanders, let's say, in California? PRESTON: I don't think so. I mean, I think it potentially might
weaken her heading into a general election, although I'm skeptical about that, as well.
But I think heading into California, the fact is that the Clinton campaign is very resolute of just focusing on Donald Trump, focusing on the issues and allowing Bernie Sanders to do what Bernie Sanders says he's going to do, and then they just want to move on. So I don't think it is going to hurt her in California, let alone would it even matter if it did hurt her.
BLITZER: Did the fact that, you know, years ago, including in interviews with me, Donald Trump said the impeachment of Bill Clinton was nonsense and not important, and what was important if you want to impeach somebody, impeach George W. Bush for leading the U.S. into the war in Iraq.
But bow he's flipped on all of that. Do you think that has an impact in this contest, that he's gone from one side to the other side?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Listen, both things can't be true, Wolf. You can't call it nonsense and then say that it's really important to the character of the former president's wife, who's now running for president.
And I think your interview with Katrina proved that both things can't be true. You pressed her, and she didn't have an answer for how that could be.
It doesn't hold water to say he did -- he had one thought as a private citizen and so it's totally justified to have a thought as, now, a candidate for president.
And Donald Trump is going to need to square this in some way, because the narrative that you're building against your opponent, if you really want it to stick, it needs to feed into everything you're communicating, both your positive message, as well as the negative frame that you're building. This is why Obama was successful against Mitt Romney. They built that negative frame, but it infused everything.
Here, if this is the avenue Donald Trump wants to go down, he has to connect it to what he's offering to the American people, I think, for it to be truly a successful line of attack.
BLITZER: And Ron, you heard Hillary Clinton say repeatedly she's not going to go down in the gutter and respond in kind to these allegations from Donald Trump, but is that a smart strategy, if you will, to sort of say, "I'm just going to focus on policy and the issues"?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think a lot of this, from Trump's end, is about controlling the campaign dialogue. You know, the Republican primary, we went through an entire primary, and I don't think any of us sitting here could tell you the detailed difference between the tax plan of Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. Which historically, those kind of things are what Republican primaries turned on.
He controlled the dialogue. He made the Republican primary about a serial set of personal attacks, insults, invective back and forth, and really had the entire debate on his terrain.
I don't think Hillary Clinton wants to debate to be on a series of personal insults back and forth. I think she wants to kind of focus on a series of contrasts that play to the Democratic coalition and the strength that it's had in winning five of the past six presidential elections.
To the extent that Donald Trump is able to get this -- to be kind of back and forth about their kind of personal failings and personal weaknesses, I think that that part would be a mistake for Hillary Clinton. It certainly didn't work out for the other Republicans, who were never able to best him on that terrain.
BASH: And that's...
[17:35:10] BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
BASH: And that's why she's not doing that right now. That why she explicitly said to Chris Cuomo last week that she's not going to -- he's fishing, and she's not going to take the bait.
You know, some people think maybe she should have at least one moment that is a little bit more human. I mean, she understandably says, and I think she really does have a very thick skin when it comes to all of this, because she went through so much.
But, you know, other Democrats are saying, well, maybe she should be a little bit more human, and then maybe that would put a rest -- put it to rest.
But one thing I want to add to what you were saying about -- you know, what he said -- what he's saying now, versus what he said to you, Wolf, and others back in 2007 and 2008, which is when he was defending the Clintons. Michael Cohen, one of his longtime confidants, told Chris Cuomo this morning, "Well, back then he was a friend and he was defending them as a friend, and now it's different. It's politics."
And the one thing I would say is, if I'm watching that, and I'm a Donald Trump supporter and like him because he's different, that makes me think he's just like everybody else. Just like a regular politician.
BLITZER: That's what Katrina Pierson just said here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well.
BASH: Exactly. Exactly.
BLITZER: A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign.
Guys, stand by. I just want to alert all our viewers out there, please join us later tonight, our political team, for a CNN election special on the intensifying general election battle, the primary fight that's still unfolding. Our special coverage -- I'll be back -- 10 p.m. Eastern later tonight.
Just ahead, conflicting reports deepening the mystery surrounding the crash of that EgyptAir plane. What really happened during its final moments?
Also North Korea now responding to Donald Trump's willingness to meet with Kim Jong-un, to talk with Kim Jong-un. It's not the reply that Trump was probably expecting.
And major new developments in the sex assault case against the comedian, Bill Cosby. He's now facing a trial.
[18:41:46] BLITZER: The mystery surrounding the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 is growing tonight. There are now conflicting reports about what happened in the final moments before it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, killing all 66 people on board.
Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is joining us with the latest.
Rene, crews have recovered some remains and debris, but they're still searching for the plane's black boxes.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. They've recovered a small fraction of the human remains, and even that evidence is sparking dueling theories in this investigation.
Conflicting reports, not only about the plane's final moments, whether -- but also whether there was an explosion that brought this plane down.
Also tonight, CNN has learned Flight 804 passed its inspection before takeoff, and no technical problems were found.
MARSH (voice-over): Tonight as search-and-rescue crews pull more human remains and debris from the Mediterranean Sea, there are conflicting reports about whether there was an explosion on board. Some news agencies have reported the small size of the body parts recovered indicate an explosion took place, but airline officials tell CNN that's just speculation.
AHMED ADEL, VICE CHAIRMAN, EGYPTAIR: These speculation and theories most of the time come out very, very early, and it's done through the sudden shock phase when everyone is very anxious.
MARSH: Some experts agree.
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's been described that none of the pieces of body, of human remains were bigger than the size of a human hand. You cannot tell from that.
MARSH: Egyptian officials are working to match DNA samples from the victims' families with the remains recovered. Another major question: did EgyptAir Flight 804 make a dramatic swerve
in its final moments? Greece's defense minister says the aircraft served 90 degrees left and then 360 degrees before plunging dramatically. But Egypt's air navigation services refutes that, saying the plane did not swerve or lose altitude before it disappeared from radar.
GOELZ: In terms of Greece, their radar was likely at the outer limits of its effectiveness. My guess is the Egyptians have more than one radar track on this plane.
MARSH: Meantime, the clock is ticking for investigators to find the plane's black boxes. The batteries are expected to expire in a matter of weeks. The two recorders could hold a treasure trove of information that would explain exactly what happened and how the pilots responded.
MARSH: The victims' families say they do not trust Egyptian authorities to investigate the crash, in part because of the way they handled the bombing of the Russian jet liner that took off from Sharm El-Sheikh. The fear is that they will put their national interests before the accident investigation, but Egypt is promising, Wolf, full transparency.
BLITZER: Let's hope. Thanks very much. Rene Marsh reporting.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us, the former pilot and aviation consultant, Alistair Rosenschein, also joining us, former FBI assistant director, our senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, our CNN contributor David Gallo of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University and former NTSB managing director, our CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz.
[18:45:03] Alastair, why is there a discrepancy between Greek and Egyptian authorities on the final, critically important radar movements of this flight?
ALASTAIR ROSENSCHEIN, FORMER PILOT AND AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it's -- well, it's possible that the aircraft was at the extreme range of the Egyptian radar, maybe less so for the Greek radar. I mean, the Greeks had been in contact with the aircraft and the aircraft entered the flight information region for Egypt. So, that might explain part of it.
The other thing is the aircraft can only disappear on radar when it has descended because simply any metal object will reflect back. There, of course, is a transponder so there are electronic returns as well, although that might have been cut off and we don't know quite what happened, whether it was mechanical or an explosion. But either of which could make the electronic system fail.
BLITZER: You know, there's a lot of debris that seems to be collected. What can the debris tell us about what happened? TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, the first thing it will tell us, Wolf, is depending on the size of the debris field is it's spread out over hundreds of miles like Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that would indicate the plane did explode in midair. If it's in a more confined area on the ocean surface, it could be more like Air France 447 when it crashed in one piece into the Atlantic and then the impact broke it up.
Also depending on the piece of debris, it can say where you have compression damage to the metal, was it compressed when it hit the ocean? Did it come apart in midair? So, the debris can tell a lot.
From what we've seen of the small pieces, it may not be enough yet to tell us anything.
BLITZER: They haven't found the fuselage. That would be critical.
FUENTES: That would be.
BLITZER: You know, David, how long will it take for forensic experts to test the debris, the human remains for any traces of explosives.
DAVID GALLO, LAMONT DOHERTY EARTH OBSERVATORY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I'm sure they're at work doing that already, Wolf. At least I hope so. But I think they're probably going to keep collecting and hopefully find larger pieces. We've already heard, they've got some very small bits to work with. So, they really do need to find larger chunks of that aircraft.
BLITZER: They certainly do.
And, Peter, if this was terrorism, an act of terror, why hasn't any group claimed responsibility? At least the silence on this part of the story, it's clearly potentially significant.
PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: That's the question isn't it. That throws the whole theory of terrorism into a big question mark because there has been no claim of responsibility and on something this broadly covered this devastating a group should have claimed.
BLITZER: Alastair, the French authorities, they're trying to learn if there's any possible security flaws at the Charles de Gaulle airport. That's where the EgyptAir flight originated on route to Cairo, are there lessons to be learned for international protocols right now?
In other words, how do you strengthen security to make sure that bad people don't get access to a plane like this shall we say even on the ground?
ROSENSCHEIN: From what I understand from previous incidents is it's more a question of using intelligence services rather than just using metal detect ors. If you look at different airports, different airport security, for example in Israel, before you even enter the airport environment, you're already questioned, maybe pulled aside, the operatives -- the security operatives are highly trained, and there are several levels of security. Nobody can get anywhere near an airport terminal until that you have been through several of these layers.
It may be impractical to do something like at a major airport like Charles de Gaulle, but perhaps that ought to be the way of the future. But we must also recognize this aircraft had been doing a W pattern, flying to different destinations in Africa before it went to Paris. So, if we are talking about a bomb on board, that could have been loaded at any one of these other destinations and of there's always the weakest link and Charles de Gaulle is probably not the weakest link in this case.
BLITZER: Yes, earlier stops for this plane were in Eritrea, in Tunisia, as well as Cairo, and, of course, Paris.
David, let's say the black boxes, the flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder are at the bottom of the Mediterranean right now, 10,000 feet, are they going to find those two boxes?
GALLO: They are certainly findable, Wolf. You know, they need the right tools. Essentially, they need to mount a full-scale deep ocean exploration program, and that means the right tools, the right team, and the right game plan to be able to look effectively for those pieces for those black boxes.
BLITZER: Do they have those tools available to them over there? Because the clock is, what, day six. There's usually a 30-day battery on those boxes.
GALLO: Yes, I'm feeling frustrated, but mostly because I don't know for sure what's there. I hear there's a French robot on the way and a Greek submarine that's there, but I don't know one of those vehicles, which ones those are.
[18:50:01] BLITZER: What are you hearing, Peter?
GOELZ: My understanding is the same as David, but as he said with the right equipment, they'll find the boxes and I think they'll find them relatively quickly.
BLITZER: This is one of those, similar to this one, a flight data recorder like this as we point out, it's really orange.
The Egyptians will get first crack at this, right? Will U.S., the NTSB, our experts on the data that's included there, will they get access to it?
GOELZ: Well, my guess is Egyptians will call on the French as they have in the past to download the data. Whether the U.S. gets access at that point is really up to the Egyptians and I would guess unless if there was a problem, they might call on us. If not, I don't think we're going to see it.
BLITZER: And I assume, Tom, investigators are still looking at the 66 passengers, people on that plane, the crew members, the security members, the passengers on that plane, and everyone else who may have had access on the ground to that plane.
FUENTES: The French authorities work very quickly would have provided them not just passengers and crew, but baggage handlers, any wide variety of identified people with access to that aircraft, so the FBI could go through its files and see if any of them come up on one of the list here in the U.S.
The Egyptians are the same thing. The FBI has a large office in Cairo, work closely with Egyptians and they maybe using the FBI for background checks on individuals. I doubt if any of them are ever going to be called to work on the actual investigation on the ocean or interviewing people in those countries.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.
Just ahead, Bill Cosby now facing a trial on felony sex assault charges. Tonight, his lawyer is slamming the judge's decision.
Also, why North Korea is now dissing Donald Trump accusing him of, quote, "propaganda and nonsense."
[18:56:18] BLITZER: A Pennsylvania judge has cleared the way for Bill Cosby to stand trial on felony charges. The 78-year-old comedian is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. She's one of more than 50 woman who alleged sexual misconduct by Cosby. His lawyer blasted the decision to allow the case to go to trial, saying there's no evidence Cosby did anything wrong.
Cosby was arraigned in December. He's free on $1 million bail. He faces sentence of up to 30 years if he's convicted on all three charges.
North Korea shooting down the idea of talks between the dictator Kim Jong-un and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who raised eyebrows by raising the facility of a face to face meeting.
Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is here with us.
Elise, Trump drew a lot of criticism for saying he would meet with Kim Jong-un. There's new developments.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There are, Wolf. New warning tonight from America's top diplomat who says Kim's growing nuclear arsenal is the world's number one threat. Donald Trump says he's ready to talk to the reclusive North Korean leader to try and curb that threat. But Kim is rejecting to offer as not serious and nothing more than a campaign ploy.
LABOTT (voice-over): Tonight in Asia, Secretary of State John Kerry warning about the dangers of Kim Jong-un's growing nuclear arsenal. JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The primary threat of the entire
region is North Korea, Kim Jong un and the proliferation activities of the DPRK. That's the primary thing. It's actually perhaps the lead threat globally.
LABOTT: This just a week after presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump told "Reuters" he's ready to be the first sitting American president to sit down with the reclusive North Korean leader to try and stop his nuclear program.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would speak to him. I would have no problem speaking to him.
LABOTT: Now North Korea is responding, the country's envoy flatly rejecting the suggestion, calling it nonsense and propaganda.
Trump himself called Kim a maniac after his fourth nuclear test in January, but warned such a violent dictator must be taken seriously.
TRUMP: He wiped out the uncle, he wiped this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn't play games and we can't play games with him.
LABOTT: A confident Kim was just bragging about his regime's nuclear progress at the country's first workers party Congress in 36 years. His ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva who attended the event, said his boss would decide whether to meet with Trump if he is elected, but called his offer to talk insincere, part of the campaign bluster.
Bill Richardson, a former ambassador to U.N., and veteran negotiator with North Korea, favors talks but he calls Trump's idea naive.
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER NEGOTIATOR WITH NORTH KOREA: You can't just shot and say, like Donald Trump, let's meet, let's talk. That's not going to work. That's not diplomacy. That's reality TV.
LABOTT: In the meantime, North Korean workers are fearing Kim's reach, even in neighboring China, where his regime runs several restaurants. South Korea says several workers pled their jobs to seek asylum in a third undisclosed country, this after 13 North Koreans defected from a restaurant in China earlier this year, in a daring act of defiance.
LABOTT: And a senior policy adviser to the Trump campaign tells us, as president, Donald Trump's foreign policy would be more disciplined than Hillary Clinton's, bringing North Korea into line for the position of strength, using U.S. economic leverage with China and this aide pointed to a failed agreement under Clinton's husband, President Bill Clinton, that he said helped give birth to the North Korean nuclear threat. It's pretty clear that President Clinton's foreign policy is fair game to the Trump campaign in this election.
BLITZER: A serious issue that they should debate, obviously.
Elise, thanks very much for that report. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Please be sure to
join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.