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THE SITUATION ROOM
Senate Investigators Digging into Trump Financial Ties; White House Implies Obama to Blame for Otto Warmbier's Death; Interview With California Congressman Eric Swalwell; Awaiting First Results In House Race Testing Trump's Agenda; Dashcam Video of Deadly Police Shooting Released; Sources: New Activity Detected at North Korean Nuclear Test Site. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 20, 2017 - 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: We're standing by for the first results in a special election that's widely seen as a test of the president's popularity. Can Democrats flip a House seat in Georgia that's been held by Republicans for decades?
Written in secret. Senate GOP leaders say they are on the verge of releasing details on their health care bill that's been cloaked in secrecy. Tonight, the White House admits that even the president may be in the dark about the legislation.
And aggressive maneuvers. An armed Russian jet buzzes a U.S. reconnaissance plane, as Moscow threatens to shoot down American aircraft in certain areas. One official warning that the U.S. and Russia are getting closer to an open and dangerous conflict.
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: Breaking news tonight, Senate investigators are digging deeper into potential financial ties between the Trump team and Russia, including the president's own business dealings with Russian interests.
Members of the Intelligence Committee say data from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Unit is being transmitted to the Senate as the Russia investigation keeps expanding.
Tonight, more reason to doubt President Trump's hints of a possible White House taping system. The Office of Management and Budget responding to a request by CNN says it found no records that any taping devices had been installed in the White House. Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying again that Mr. Trump may finally reveal this week if there are any recordings of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey.
Also breaking, voters in Georgia now in the final hour of casting ballots in the most expensive House race in history widely seen as a referendum on President Trump and his policies. We are standing by for the first results in the run-off election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.
And the Pentagon is sending a warning to the Kremlin tonight about its dangerous maneuvers after a Russian warplane flew within five feet of an American spy plane over the Baltic Sea. Tensions also are escalating in the skies over Syria, where Russia is threatening to target U.S. military jets and the U.S. shot down a third aircraft aiding the Russian-backed Syrian regime.
This hour, I will talk to Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.
And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's go to our correspondent, Jessica Schneider.
Jessica, special counsel Robert Mueller, he is on Capitol Hill as we speak.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
Mueller is meeting right now with key members of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Conaway, who is leading the Russia probe, and Adam Schiff, the committee's ranking Democrat.
Mueller will also be briefing leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow and all of this is part of an effort to make sure these multiple investigations aren't overlapping or undermining each other as the White House continues to deflect key questions.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, White House spokesman Sean Spicer still won't say if tapes of the president's conversations with former FBI Director James Comey exist. But he continues to promise the president himself will answer the question.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And the president has said that he will make an announcement on this. I expect it this week, and so when he's ready to make that announcement, we will let you know.
SCHNEIDER: The House Intelligence Committee has demanded any tapes by Friday. And the Senate Intelligence Committee is pledging to follow the money as part of its probe. Committee members just got word they will get access to data from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Unit as part of their investigation into possible collusion or financial ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: I have long felt that the follow the money questions are right at the heart of our work in terms of telling the American people what has happened with our democratic institutions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Flynn. SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, Michael Flynn is facing even more fire from Congress. A pair of top House Democrats now digging into whether Flynn may have misled officials by omitting a trip to the Middle East from his security clearance form, where he worked to secure an energy deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2015.
House Democrats are demanding documents from Flynn about that trip and another one in October 2015, which he disclosed, but left out significant details. Senate Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse in an interview with Wolf speculated Flynn's silence so far means there could be a deal in the works.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: All the signals are suggesting that he's already cooperating with the FBI and may have been for some time.
SCHNEIDER: It's a possibility fired FBI Director James Comey alluded to during his testimony June 8.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Would closing out the Flynn investigation have impeded the overall Russian investigation?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: No, unlikely, except to the extent -- there is always a possibility if you have a criminal case against someone and you bring it and squeeze them, you flip them, and they give you information about something else.
SCHNEIDER: But law enforcement sources have not indicated if Flynn is cooperating or not. House investigators don't know precisely when Flynn traveled to the Middle East, but they cite a discrepancy between this June 10, 2015, testimony he gave to the Foreign Relations Committee...
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I just came from a trip, fairly extensive trip to the Middle East, and this was one of the big issues that came up.
SCHNEIDER: ... and the fact that he listed an August 2015 start date on the financial disclosure form he submitted after he was fired as national security adviser.
Flynn's attorney declined to comment.
Reuters is reporting the FBI is also looking at Flynn's business partner, Bijan Kian, in its inquiry of whether payments from foreign clients to Flynn's consulting company were lawful. Kian played a central role in Flynn's contract with a company controlled by a Turkish businessman that Flynn initially failed to disclose.
It's not clear whether Kian is a target of the criminal investigation or if federal agents are just trying to build a better understanding of how Flynn's company operated.
QUESTION: What do you want to get out of Bob Mueller tomorrow when you meet?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Oh, I'm not going to go into it.
SCHNEIDER: Special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to meet with senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and others on the Hill this week to make sure there are no conflicts between his investigation and their own probes.
SCHNEIDER: And while questions continue to linger as to whether there are recordings of the conversation between James Comey and President Trump inside the White House, CNN today received a response from the administration's Office of Management and Budget saying it has no records of any installation or production of any recording devices inside the White House.
CNN has previously reached out to other agencies, all of whom so far say they have no records either. But, of course, we are still waiting on official word from the White House, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, Sean Spicer says it could happen this week. We will get the final answer whether or not there are those recordings. Jessica Schneider, thanks very, very much.
We saw the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, brief reporters on camera today, something he hasn't done in more than a week.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, Spicer was asked about the president's views on Russia's election meddling during the presidential campaign last year. And we didn't really get a satisfactory answer.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he was asked about that. And that is something that Republicans and Democrats and the entire U.S. intelligence community here in Washington agree on, that Russia did interfere in the election.
We have heard it time and time again in those hearings on Capitol Hill. We didn't hear it today in the White House Briefing Room. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing. Obviously, we have been dealing with a lot of other issues. I would be glad to touch base.
QUESTION: Generally speaking, this conversation about Russian interference in our elections, there's 16 intelligence agencies that say that they did. The former FBI director said that, without a doubt, the Russians...
(CROSSTALK) SPICER: I understand. I have seen the reports.
QUESTION: Does the president share those views?
SPICER: I have not sat down and asked him about his specific reaction to them, so I would be glad to touch base and get back to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So it's this reluctance over and over some seven months after the election that has confounded Republicans, sort of given ammunition to Democrats and really kept this investigation alive, in a sense that the president is one of the few people, Wolf, here in Washington who has not often agreed with the fact that Russia did interfere in the election.
BLITZER: Yes, pretty amazing, when you think about it.
The president also posted a late tweet today about China's efforts involving North Korea. Tell us about that.
ZELENY: Wolf, he did indeed. Of course, this is in response to the very sad story of the University of Virginia student who died yesterday and the president talked about this earlier in the Oval Office.
He seemed to imply that the Obama administration had some blame here because the student was in the -- under captivity by the North Koreans for some 17 months or so. But he sent out a tweet shortly after the briefing. It said this.
He said: "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried."
Now, Wolf, it's unclear exactly what the president means by this. He was hoping that President Xi would with relations with North Korea and the regime there, but that didn't happen here. It is unclear if he's stating a new policy here or simply saying that this one-off didn't work. But it certainly raised a lot of eyebrows talking about this and about President Xi.
BLITZER: He was also -- Spicer was also asked about the Senate version of the Republican health care bill, which remains secret.
ZELENY: He was indeed, Wolf. And this is something that the White House wants to get done, of course. They want to get some type of win on the boards here.
But this is one of the most secret things in all of Washington. Republicans have complained about this bill being written in secrecy. Spicer was asked today if the president knows what's in the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I don't know that. That's I know that there was some chatter today. I know the president has been on the phone extensively with the leader and with key senators, so I don't know if he's seen the legislation or not. But I know that they've been working extremely hard, and the president has been giving his input and has ideas, feedback to them.
And he's very excited about where this thing is headed.
QUESTION: Do you know if anyone on the staff has seen a draft of the bill?
SPICER: I don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, Wolf, this is something frankly that the White House is just not simply directly involved in.
They have agreed to allow Senate Republicans and top Senate Republicans to sort of work this out. But time is running short here. But Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republican leaders still say they can have a vote before that July 4 recess, Wolf. But again, that has to happen before the end of next week, and it has to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. That, too, has not yet happened -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, they have got to move quickly on this. All right, Jeff, thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny over at the White House.
Let's turn back to the breaking news in the Russia investigation.
We are joined by Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's a Democrat on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me back, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right.
So, CNN has learned that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, he's meeting with the leaders of your House Intelligence Committee, I believe, right now. What can you tell us about that?
SWALWELL: Yes, well, Wolf, I can't go into any specifics on when meetings are occurring.
I can tell you that we want to make sure that the FBI, through the special counsel cooperation, is able to make progress again on this investigation. We want to make sure that if there are resources that they need to conduct this investigation that they can do so.
And we want to just have an understanding of what the timeline is. We don't want to interfere in any way. We want to make sure that they are able to report back to the American people whether any U.S. persons worked with Russia or whether that did not occur. BLITZER: Yes, he's been involved in -- Mueller -- in a criminal
investigation. You guys are looking at oversight in the House and Senate.
The ranking member of your Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, he wants your committee to look into possible obstruction of justice. Has your committee come to a final agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller on this? Are you going to pursue that?
SWALWELL: We should pursue that. I support ranking member Schiff's belief in that. You know, the obstruction of justice concerns stem out of the Russia investigation from the president's own mouth. And so I will leave it at that, Wolf. I hope we can find consensus with the Republicans, because, as you mentioned, our task now is to report to the American people how this attack occurred, whether any U.S. persons were involved, and then make reforms, so that we never find ourselves in a position like this again.
BLITZER: Lessons learned from all of this, as you say, to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The Treasury Department is providing documents from its Financial Crimes Unit to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Will your House committee be requesting those same documents?
SWALWELL: Wolf, first, I think this just shows why we should have had a joint Senate-House intelligence investigation to avoid redundancies, and you certainly have seen those. That's something that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan opposed.
We want to review all relevant documents, talk to all relevant witnesses and do it swiftly, because, as I said, Wolf, it's not just Russia who we are afraid of could do this again. Other countries with similar capabilities will see this as an opportunity, but understanding what the financial relationships were as this attack took place will be very, very illuminative for us.
BLITZER: Your hearing, as you know, has set Friday, this coming Friday, as the deadline for the White House to provide any recordings it may have of President Trump's conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.
Have you received any response at all from the White House counsel, Don McGahn, or anyone else at the White House on this request?
SWALWELL: I'm not aware of them responding to us.
And, you know, that was kind of the easy way to approach this, hoping that they would want to cooperate because it was the president who suggested that they exist. If that does not happen, then one other option we have would be to subpoena the records. And I hope that that's the action we take if the White House is not going to cooperate with that request.
BLITZER: Do you believe those recordings exist? SWALWELL: Wolf, you know, honestly, there's two bad outcomes. Either
the president lied about recordings being in place just to intimidate James Comey, who came forward and testified anyway, not knowing himself, or he secretly recorded the FBI director without his knowledge.
I don't think either of them make the president look well.
BLITZER: So, you're also trying to get by Friday the Comey memos on Comey's conversations with the president. I assume you're going to get those, right? And, if you are, what are the most important elements you need to review?
SWALWELL: Yes, we hope we also get those.
Again, Wolf, we don't want to get in the way of what Robert Mueller is doing. So, if they are going to report back that that would impede their investigation, then I don't want us to get in the way of that.
What I hope they tell us is just whether they were contemporaneous, meaning, did James Comey record these as he had different concerns, maybe also inform us as to other people he talked to.
So, if you have what his state of mind was, you could corroborate what he suggested happened. And then also, you know, what was the president's conduct that was so concerning to him, from making the Flynn investigation go away, to wanting to shut down the Russia investigation, and also intent of the president?
If it's true that the president asked people to leave the room, that shows what the president was doing, contrary to Paul Ryan and others who have said, well, he's new at this, he doesn't necessarily know. When you clear a room, you know what you're doing.
BLITZER: But was that first memo that he wrote following that first meeting, you know, when he went into his car and he started writing up details that he could remember, presumably because he didn't necessarily believe the president, is that the one you want to see the most?
SWALWELL: We want to see all of them.
But that was really the -- that's chapter one, I guess, in the memos, and that probably would give us a good sense of where this, you know, went for the director and then how he viewed the president thereafter. But, yes, I think all of them would be helpful for our investigation.
BLITZER: And they're not classified, right? He said they weren't classified. So, I don't understand, why wouldn't they be made available to you?
SWALWELL: They should be made available to us. And I don't believe they're classified, from what I have heard. But, again, if special counsel Mueller says that for other reasons that they would affect his investigation, then that's something that we should consider, not -- we don't have to accept it, but I think we should at least show the respect of considering it, if that is a reason given.
BLITZER: Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, he's a member of the Judiciary Committee, believes General Flynn, Michael Flynn, who was fired as the president's national security adviser, is now cooperating with the FBI.
Based on what you have seen, Congressman, do you agree?
SWALWELL: I don't know, Wolf. I can't say. Certainly, just as a former prosecutor, I can tell you that when you have cooperative witnesses whose testimony can otherwise be corroborated, that always helps you go farther in your investigation. But I can't speak to General Flynn's cooperation.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Congressman. There's more we need to discuss.
And we will right after this quick break.
BLITZER: We're back with Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. The panel's leader set to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller. He's up on Capitol Hill even as we speak right now.
Congressman, I want you to stand by, because there's other important news we're following, including some serious tensions that are escalating between the United States and Russia in the skies over Europe and the Middle East, a Russian fighter jet buzzing an American spy plane. It's but the latest in a series of threatening moves.
I want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the defending the safety of U.S. troops, of course, now is the top priority, but the Pentagon also making clear it does not want these matters to escalate.
STARR (voice-over): Tensions are high as Russian aircraft continued their bombing over Syria 24 hours after Moscow threatened to shoot down any U.S. planes flying in certain areas, all U.S. aircraft over Syria now taking measures to protect themselves from Russian planes and missiles and Syrian regime forces.
COL. RYAN DILLON, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE SPOKESMAN: We go through very deliberate and calculated adjustments when threats are raised, and we want to make sure that our air crews and our ground crews are operating safely, and that we take into account all possible threats. STARR: In the latest sudden combat encounter, a U.S. F-15 shot down
an Iranian-made drone threatening U.S. troops in Southern Syria just days after the U.S. also shot down a Syrian fighter jet and another drone, all in self-defense, according to the Pentagon.
A key question now, after three shoot-downs, can Russia even control Syrian regime and Iranian-backed militias increasingly challenging the U.S. presence that is fighting ISIS?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The Russians think that this is one of the biggest violations of their campaign to shore up the Assad regime, and the reason that they are so worried about this is because they want to at all costs protect their sphere of influence in Syria. And they see Assad as their only way to protect that sphere of influence.
STARR: But some Democrats say a new war may be brewing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a dangerous escalation. I think that we are getting closer and closer to open conflict with Iran and Russia.
STARR: Russia also says it shut down the communications line with the U.S. military over Syria. The two sides still quietly do talk, this as the Russians are still engaging U.S. aircraft over the Baltic in dangerous intercepts, an armed Russian SU-27 erratically flying within five feet of an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft.
These unsafe incidents are not new. In 2016, a Russian fighter jet buzzed the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook. Vladimir Putin has defended their provocative actions, telling Oliver Stone:
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What was the Donald Cook doing so close to our land? Who was trying to provoke whom? And we are determined to protect our territory.
STARR: Defense Secretary James Mattis' view has not changed since he took office. He recently told Congress he has few expectations about military cooperation with the Russians -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
I want to get back to Congressman Eric Swalwell.
Congressman, do you believe these incidents with Russia will encourage President Trump to take the threat posed by Putin more seriously?
SWALWELL: We need him to.
And two thoughts, Wolf. First, whether it was bad judgment or collusion, time will tell. But the president through his campaign and this administration has drawn us awfully close to Russia. And you have to ask, what have we gotten out of it? We know what
Russia has gotten. They have gotten the president to reduce the role of NATO. He's given them national security secrets in the Oval Office. But Russia is threatening our armed forces and the people who serve our country.
The other thought, Wolf, is, it looks like we are at war in Syria. But this would be a war that would be without the authorization of Congress. And it's time that Congress votes on, what is the timeline, what is the troop commitment, and what is the terrain that is covered?
BLITZER: Today, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, wouldn't answer whether President Trump actually believes that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
What do you think the president -- why do you think the president still has doubts about this, even though the entire U.S. intelligence and law enforcement community says they did?
SWALWELL: It can't be because he has not seen the evidence. We know that he's been briefed on the evidence. The evidence is overwhelming.
And so I will let people draw their own conclusions about why he doesn't accept it. But what worries me the most, Wolf, is the cost of the chaos of Russia's interference is that it's prevented Congress from acting on behalf of people's jobs, their health care and their kids, and also Russia is going to do an even better job in 2018 if we don't have a White House that accepts that we were attacked and wants to protect future elections.
BLITZER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks so much for joining us.
SWALWELL: My pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, there's more news we're following, the closing moments and the first results in the election that may tell us a lot about President Trump's influence in the battle for Congress.
And the Trump administration under new pressure to punish North Korea at least in some way after the death of former captive Otto Warmbier. So, what could, what should be done?
BLITZER: We're only about 30 minutes away from polls closing in the most expensive House race in U.S. history. The Democratic and Republican candidates, they're in a very close contest in what's traditionally been a very solid Republican district. The election is seen by many as a referendum on President Trump.
Let's dig deeper with our experts and analysts. Gloria Borger, as you know, Sean Spicer was trying to downplay the significance of this race tonight during his White House press briefing. What do you make of that? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because it's a referendum on Donald Trump and if Donald Trump -- if they lose that race, he doesn't want it to be seen to reflect badly on the president. If they win, however, I guarantee you that he'll be singing a different song about that.
But, you know, obviously this is a race that they should win and they should win easily. Tom Price who Karen Handel wants to replace, won with 62 percent of the vote in his district. It has historically been a Republican district.
It is precisely the kind of race that they shouldn't have any trouble with and it's also the kind of race that the Democrats need to win if they are going to make any headway in taking control of the House.
BLITZER: But Hillary Clinton lost that district to Donald Trump by only what, a point and a half, or something like that. So it was very, very close.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, but Mitt Romney won it against Barack Obama in 2012 by some 23 points.
BLITZER: That wasn't close.
CHALIAN: It wasn't so close. So, there is something about Donald Trump --
CHALIAN: -- in this district that is creating an opportunity for the Democrats, which is why it very much is a referendum on Donald Trump, even though I know the Democrat Jon Ossoff in the race doesn't want to have it be that necessarily.
BLITZER: Because Spicer, David, also said that special elections generally don't foretell the outcome of races down the road. Is he right?
CHALIAN: Well, it does have a mixed history. It's not a sure fire way to tell us what's going to happen a year and a half from now in November 2018. That being said, they are sometimes a harbinger of things to come. I mean, we saw in '94 special elections did give us a little hint.
We saw the Scott Brown special election in 2009, 2010, the beginning of 2010 of what was to come in 2010. So, it's not as if they tell us nothing, but what they tell us is the current political environment in which the Democrat Republican parties are going to have to battle out the midterm election.
So, it impacts organizing enthusiasm, candidate recruitment, fund- raising, and all those things which does have real impact.
BLITZER: That's why $50 million has been spent in this race alone. What are you going to be looking for, David Swerdlick? DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So if Democrats can win the seat whether it's close or a bigger margin, they'll at least get the fever to break. They've lost the Kansas special, the Montana special. They were supposed to lose those races, but they need to put a win up on the board.
If they can win this, they can at least point to one seat they picked off and then go from there.
[18:35:02]But there is a danger for Democrats in over reading it even if they win in the sense that this is a seat that sort of is tailor- made for them in terms of the demographics to pick off an otherwise Republican district.
Republicans have proven so far that they can't govern. Democrats cannot prove they can win. So, they don't want to read too much into anything that happens tonight.
BORGER: And health care, it's going to have an impact on this health care debate that we are heading into in the next week and a half, maybe, and it is because health care became a huge issue in this district. Jon Ossoff didn't hug Donald Trump, but he -- I mean, Karen Handel did hug Donald Trump on health care.
BLITZER: The repeal and replace.
BORGER: And he has been talking about, not Donald Trump per se, but about health care. And I think that if you're a Democrat and you look at this, you're going to say, well, it might embolden me. If you're a Republican, you know, if he wins you're going to say, wait a minute, maybe we shouldn't move so quickly on an unpopular health care reform.
BLITZER: It was pretty surprising, at least to me, I don't know about you, David, when Sean Spicer said today he didn't know, he wasn't sure whether the president himself has seen the Republican Senate health care bill's language.
CHALIAN: Yes, it was odd to hear the press secretary say that, no doubt. Clearly, they are trying to keep this up on Capitol Hill as much as possible in terms of the sausage making, getting the policy hammered out. This is Mitch McConnell's rodeo. They have put their trust in him to get this done.
So, I think that's what Sean Spicer was trying to do. Rhetorically there, we also know that Donald Trump is not steeped in the details of the policy and there's no doubt that that's the case this time around, too.
But to Gloria's point, if indeed the Republican wins tonight and holds onto that district, that is going to calm nerves among Republicans that have been out there that Trump may be real danger, or that the policies are so bad. Not only health care, but tax reform.
I think that if indeed the Republicans can hold on, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan can go back to their conferences and say, guys, stick with us on this agenda. There's not proving to be a huge political price --
BLITZER: And David, you've been watching this closely. The other day, the president met with Senate Republicans. The House version which he praised was mean, in his word, and he says the Senate version needs more heart right now. What is he talking about?
SWERDLICK: In the year 2000, 17 years ago, the president wrote a book "The America We Deserve," and in it he made a case on universal coverage saying, on most issues, I'm a conservative. On this issue, I'm a liberal. He wants to be seen as benevolent on this. He likes to be a strong man, but a benevolent strong man and I think that's what you hear when he says that doesn't exactly match up with what the Ryan or Republican House agenda is or many centrists.
BLITZER: Even a lot of Republicans are now saying where is the bill? We'd like to see the bill. Senator McCain has complained about it. They haven't seen anything yet.
BORGER: Well, the leaders are assure Republicans they are going to see it soon and it is going to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office soon. So, you'll know what it costs, but they are condensing the amount of time to pass this legislation. And to the hard point, that means money.
If you're going to have a bill with heart, one would presume it means you're going to spend more money on, say, something like Medicaid, which under the House version would be severely cutback to the states.
And so if you're a House member and you voted for that bill without enough heart, how are you feeling as the president does this to you? And says, well, we need a bill with more heart. What do you say to your constituents? Oops.
CHALIAN: You know what more heart means? Better numbers for the bill. That's what it means also --
BORGER: Right, yes.
CHALIAN: He's keenly aware of how unpopular the American health care act is as the House passed it and so that is also what he means when he say inject a little heart.
BLITZER: Do you think he's actually looking at polls?
CHALIAN: I do.
BLITZER: Very surprised. Very quickly, Robert Mueller, the special counsel just wrapped up his meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, the leadership, were you surprised today that Sean Spicer at the briefing said he never discussed with the president whether the president believes Russia actually meddled in the presidential election?
SWERDLICK: I'm not surprised that he said it, but I'm surprised that they aren't having these conversations, Wolf. This goes to the heart of everything that has sort of rolled out since Election Day, the transition, inauguration through the first six months of President Trump's term.
The idea of what's going on between members of his circle and their contacts with Russia, whether or not it rises to the level of criminality. The idea that this isn't a topic front and center, you know, in their internal discussions is surprising.
BLITZER: Not once, but twice he said he never had that conversation with the president, doesn't know how the president feels about that.
All right, guys, stand by. There is more breaking news ahead. Ominous signs of North Korea's underground nuclear test site. We're learning new details.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We have some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
Dramatic and graphic new videos just released of the controversial police shooting of Philando Castile. You may remember, his girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of the deadly confrontation last July in this Facebook live video that was seen around the world.
[18:45:06] And just last week, a Minnesota jury found the police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, not guilty in Castile's death.
CNN has now been given access to the police dashcam video jurors saw. It shows the police stopping Castile's car, the conversation they have, and the shooting. We want to warn you, the video is graphic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFFICER JERONIMO YANEZ: The reason I pulled you over, your brake lights are out. So, you only have one active brake light. The passenger. The third brake light on top, this one back here is going to be out.
Do you have a license and insurance?
PHILANDO CASTILE: Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.
YANEZ: OK, don't reach for it, though. Don't pull it out. Don't pull it out.
YANEZ: Don't pull it out! Don't pull it out!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our political commentator David Swerdlick of "The Washington Post", he is back with us, along with CNN legal analyst, criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos.
Danny, jurors saw the video, but this is the first time the public is seeing it. What do you think this shows about the police officer's reaction, his training?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The jurors saw a lot there. Police officers are trained that every car stop is a potentially dangerous situation and they're also trained that any furtive movement, any possession of a weapon can within a second turn into a deadly encounter. And you see that there.
You know, the modern view of deadly force is to shoot, reassess the threat, shoot, reassess the threat. So, I think what you see in this video is a number of shots in quick succession which raises the question whether or not the officer was shooting and reevaluating continuously whether there was a continued threat, because that's what police are taught to do. They are not trained to shoot to wound. They are trained to shoot to stop the threat.
BLITZER: The jury, David, as you know, acquitted the police officer. What does that say to you about the video which clearly had an impact? The earlier video we all saw, what does that say to you about the criminal justice system?
SWERDLICK: Well, I think that jurors frequently are sympathetic to police, Wolf. And, police, let's be clear, have a difficult and dangerous job to do.
My brother-in-law is a police officer. We talk about this all the time. And what we've come to sort of discuss is this idea that it's incumbent upon citizens to comply with police, but it's also incumbent upon police to use their training to try and bring a situation to a deescalated situation rather than a an escalated situation.
I don't know all the evidence that the jury saw. When you look at that video, though, it seems like it was escalating.
In terms of the broader justice system, Wolf, it does -- you know, it's another instance where people feel like they wonder in their minds, if Philando Castile wasn't African-American, could this have come out differently? We just don't know.
BLITZER: Yes, the jury, they did see both videos. The Facebook live video from inside plus this video, the dashcam video.
Danny, Castile -- the police officer, he told the driver in a calm tone -- actually Castile told the police officer in a calm tone, as you heard, that he did have a firearm. As you know, a lot of people in the country, they are licensed to carry a gun. What are they supposed to do in a situation like this?
CEVALLOS: It does raise the question of how does a citizen advise an officer that he has a lawfully possessed firearm? Because you hear the tone in the voice as you said, it was calm. The police officer doesn't say freeze, he doesn't warn his brother officer who you can see in the video across from the car. Instead, he puts his hand on his firearm and within seconds pulls and shoots multiple -- fires multiple shots.
It really raises the question as -- on a broader scale how we are going to address lawful gun ownership and lawful possession in a motor vehicle when you're stopped for a motor vehicle violation. We have to look towards the future and how we're going to deal with these kinds of encounters.
BLITZER: I guess what you could have done with hindsight, the police officer could have said, you know, once he said he has a gun, raise your hands and come out of the car, and simply like that, and then they could have reviewed the driver's license, the insurance forms, and all of that.
BLITZER: This was -- this was a horrible incident obviously.
SWERDLICK: Right. It's a tragic situation. And, again, you go back to this idea of what is going through the police officer's mind. Is he predisposed for whatever reason up to and including race to react a certain way.
[18:50:04] But, Wolf, here's the challenge, right? If you're a gun owner who has the legal right to carry a gun, which my understanding is that Philando Castile did in this situation, what else are you supposed to do other than notify the officer at a traffic stop, I have a firearm?
BLITZER: Were you surprised that the police officer was acquitted, that it was a unanimous decision by the jury?
CEVALLOS: I was surprised. You know, the juries I think struggle with the definition of culpable negligence which in Minnesota requires that the officer actually knew he was doing something reckless and that endangered this citizen. So, they may have struggled with that issue. But it certainly had to be a close call because this was a very quick use of deadly force.
And it really requires us to re-examine what kind of training to give law enforcement. I know we already give them a lot as it is. But -- I mean, at this point we need to ask, you know, in a citizen-police encounter, at what point should we be training officers that every encounter so quickly can become so deadly? Because I think that's what you see here as a result of that sort of hyper vigilant training.
CEVALLOS: Of course, the other side of that is we do not want to put officers in any danger.
BLITZER: Yes, absolutely not.
All right, guys. Thanks very, very much.
Just ahead, growing pressure on the Trump administration to take action against North Korea over the death of an American student. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[18:55:52] BLITZER: There's more breaking news tonight. Two U.S. officials now tell CNN that American spy satellites have detected new activity in North Korea's underground nuclear test site for the first time in several weeks.
That comes amid growing anger over the death of an American college student who was held by North Korea for 17 months before being released last week with severe brain damage.
Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is with us for the latest.
The president is reacting to the death of Otto Warmbier.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And lawmakers are accusing Kim Jong-un of murdering Otto Warmbier. President Trump has said Otto's death has only strengthened his resolve to deal with the brutal regime in North Korea, but his options are limited, which is why he is stepping up the pressure on China to act.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a total disgrace what happened to Otto.
LABOTT (voice-over): Tonight, pressure is building on the White House and China after the death of Otto Warmbier.
TRUMP: That should never, ever be allowed to happen. And frankly if he were brought home sooner, I think the result would have been a lot different.
LABOTT: On the eve of talks between Washington and Beijing, the president pointed the finger at China for not reining in North Korea, tweeting: While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried.
The 22-year-old student seen here at his high school graduation --
OTTO WARMBIER, AMERICAN STUDENT: This is our season finale, this is the end of one great show.
LABOTT: -- was sentenced to hard labor for allegedly pulling down a propaganda banner in a North Korean hotel. And lawmakers are calling his death a wake-up call for action.
Senator Marco Rubio tweeting: Otto Warmbier should never have been in jail for tearing down a stupid banner and he most certainly should not have been murdered for it.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What do you think about someone who comes back totally incomprehensible and with significant brain damage, what would you describe that?
LABOTT: Senator John McCain called it murder, plain and simple. But couldn't say how the U.S. should respond.
MCCAIN: We're the most powerful nation on Earth. We have lots of options.
LABOTT: With North Korean weapons pointed at South Korea and Japan, senior U.S. officials say the cost of military retaliation is too high. They fear for the safety of three Americans still being held by North Korea.
Businessman Kim Dong Chul and professors Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song. And they hope North Korea's decision to release Warmbier, the result of direct talks, could pave the way for more dialogue.
Just last month, President Trump offered to sit down with Kim in an interview with Bloomberg News.
TRUMP: If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely -- I would be honored to do it.
SPICER: The context in which he said that was, if the conditions -- if the right conditions presented themselves. Clearly, we're moving further away, not closer to those conditions being intact. So, I would not suggest we're moving any closer.
LABOTT: The tour company that brought Otto Warmbier to North Korea now says it will stop trips to the country and the State Department is looking at ways to prevent Americans from traveling there and putting themselves at risk, like an executive order or visa restriction.
HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Do not go to North Korea. We can't get to you there. We have to rely on Sweden and you know what can happen.
LABOTT: Now, the Hamilton County's coroner's office in Ohio says it has received Otto Warmbier's remains. But according to the family's wishes, an autopsy will not be performed on the body. After conducting an external exam, reviewing his medical exams and conferring with doctors at the hospital where he died on Monday, the coroner has not reached any conclusions yet about the cause of his death. But investigators will continue their review of his medical records and other interviews before reporting its findings, Wolf.
BLITZER: And they now have to decide whether to pass legislation to take action to prevent Americans from going to North Korea and making it illegal. That's not an easy decision to make, I think.
LABOTT: Well, the Congress is the only one that could pass legislation banning that, and that's why the State Department is looking at some kind of executive order or restricting travel.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens on that very sad story, indeed.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.