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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Eric Swalwell; Republican Civil War; JFK Files; A Nation Addicted; New Stealth Sub Could Give U.S. Edge Over North Korea. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 26, 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: Happening now, breaking news: investigations, infighting. Growing partisan tension is straining the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, with Democrats and Republicans increasingly at odds.
And now CNN has learned that two top Democrats tied to the Clinton campaign told congressional investigators they had no knowledge of payments for that dossier on the then candidate Donald Trump.
Crisis declaration. President Trump declares the opioid epidemic a national health emergency, and he gets personal, sharing the story of his brother's battle with addiction. The president now delivering on a campaign pledge, but why doesn't his order include desperately needed funds to fight opioid abuse?
Secret files. President Trump declassifies thousands of documents pertaining to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. With much of his murder still shrouded in mystery, will these files reveal new information about the death of JFK?
And stealth submarine. America's newest fast attack underwater weapon is almost ready to deploy to provide the U.S. with critical new abilities to possibly fight the threat from North Korea. Is this 8,000-ton multipurpose machine the new key to protecting America from rogue regimes?
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, key developments in a newly revealed branch of the Russia investigation. Sources are now telling CNN that Clinton campaign John Podesta and former Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz both denied to congressional investigators that they knew about arrangements to pay for opposition research on Donald Trump during the campaign.
That research led to the now infamous dossier alleging ties between Mr. Trump and Russia.
Also breaking, a public health emergency declared by President Trump to help combat the opioid crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of Americans die from overdoes. Mr. Trump is fulfilling a longtime promise which he often made while campaigning for president. His move stops short of calling the crisis a national emergency, which would have opened up additional funding, but health experts are still praising the president's move.
And we're also learning new details tonight about the U.S. Navy's newest submarine which potentially could play a critical role in fighting the growing threat posed by North Korea. The stealth attack sub can launch missiles, gather intelligence and deploy Navy SEALs and it could be ready to join the U.S. fleet by next year to combat the Kim Jong-un regime's own aggressive submarine program.
We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, Including Congressman Eric Swalwell of the House Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
Let's begin with the president's declaration of a national health emergency.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us with the very latest.
Jeff, the president's plan order will last just 90 days, but it can be renewed.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it can be renewed again and again.
But it is that 90-day time period that has some people asking whether simply declaring a national health emergency is enough to combat this problem here. Everyone is praising the president for finally putting this spotlight on this. The question is, why is there no money to go with it?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump declaring America's opioid crisis a public health emergency.
TRUMP: It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of drug addiction. Never been this way. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.
ZELENY: In the East Room of the White House today, the president and first lady Melania Trump joining together to address a drug epidemic ravaging the country.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: We are here today because of your courage. The opioid epidemic is affecting more than two million Americans nationwide and, sadly, the number continues to rise. ZELENY: The president's speech was a long-promised effort to deliver
on a campaign pledge, but the memorandum he signed today does not call for new money to combat the opioid fight.
D. TRUMP: Effective today, my administration is officially declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law.
ZELENY: By calling the crisis a public health emergency rather than a natural disaster, relief funds won't immediately be directed to the epidemic, as he suggested during these remarks in August.
D. TRUMP: It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.
ZELENY: The White House called it a distinction without a difference, and the president said he was committed to reining in the abuse of painkillers and heroin.
He said the government would work toward finding a nonaddictive painkiller to replace opioids and launch an advertising campaign to warn children to stay off drugs.
TAPPER: If we can teach young people and people generally not to start, it's really, really easy not to take them.
ZELENY: The president also grew reflective about his late brother Fred and his alcohol addiction.
D. TRUMP: I learned myself. I had a brother Fred. Great guy. Best- looking guy. Best personality. Much better than mine. But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me, don't drink. Don't drink. He was substantially older, and I listened to him and I respect it.
ZELENY: Kraig Moss, who lost his son to a heroin overdose, supports Trump's bid for the presidency on his promises to crack down on the epidemic. Today, he said the president's pledge fell short.
KRAIG MOSS, LOST SON TO HEROIN ABUSE: I commend the president and first lady for reaching out and addressing this issue and letting the struggling addicts of this country know that there's something going to be happening, but I certainly wish that he had spoken more about what he -- how he plans to attack the epidemic by not providing additional funding.
ZELENY: The president also renewed his call to build a wall on the border with Mexico to help block drugs from coming into the U.S..
D. TRUMP: An astonishing 90 percent of the heroin in America comes from south of the border, where we will be building a wall which will greatly help in this problem.
ZELENY: Meanwhile, today, the White House is looking ahead to trying to deliver on another campaign promise, cutting taxes. "Big news, the budget just passed," the president hailed on Twitter. The House passed a new budget today following the Senate last week, now paving the way for a full debate on tax reform.
ZELENY: Now, Wolf, the White House is also just saying moments ago in a conference call on a different subject here, we're getting some new information on the release of those secret JFK files that we have been waiting for all day.
The White House is not going to be releasing all of these documents. We're told that the president has decided to follow the recommendations of the FBI and the CIA to redact some of these files for a six-month review period. So they will be releasing some of these, some 2,800 pages or so, but perhaps not the most sensitive ones because there are concerns within the government at the FBI and the CIA that there are still top-secret information in these documents.
So we are learning the president will be issuing a memo shortly that is going to be lifting the veil on some documents, Wolf, but perhaps not the entire set of documents that we thought were going to be released today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Jeff, the breaking news that not all of the documents, even 53 years later, are going to be released. Yesterday, the president tweeted: "The long-anticipated release of the JFK files will take place tomorrow. So interesting."
So what happened between yesterday and today? Why did they decide all of a sudden not to release some of the more sensitive documents?
ZELENY: Wolf, there's been a fierce debate going on inside the government, indeed from the top levels of the FBI and CIA, asking the president at the White House to not release some of these top-secret classified documents that, as you said, have been classified for some 53 years or so.
So it looks like their argument prevailed on this president. Just a short time ago, a top administration official was explaining to reporters on a conference call that the president decided to decide in favor of their argument from the FBI and CIA to not release this at this time.
But it's -- everything is going under a 180-day review period. So some of the redacted information will be reviewed and perhaps will be released next year. So this is certainly not everything the president promised yesterday and indeed many of his supporters, like Roger Stone and others, were calling on the president to release everything.
But now we know that the president is actually listening to his advisers at the FBI and CIA to not release all of these documents, at least not right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Comes as a pretty big surprise. We were anticipating all of those documents were finally going to be released today.
Tom Foreman is with us as well.
Tom, you have been doing a lot of work in this area, a lot of research. Walk us through exactly what you are hearing right now.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeff has hit the nail on the head there.
Basically, the president is saying that he wants to give as much access as possible, but he's had these warnings from these various agencies, CIA and FBI primarily among them, as we're hearing from senior administration officials, that it could possibly do irreversible harm to national security to pour it all out there right now without these redactions.
Specifically, there seems to be concern over individuals who have worked with time -- as informants or unknown informants to the CIA or the FBI, law enforcement sources that may also be involved somehow and overall foreign relations, although you do have to ask, Wolf, when you talk about another several months here of review of this material, this has been planned for decades. Decades.
And now at the 11th hour, we're being told they need another 180 days to review. There's going to be a lot of scrutiny over that, no question.
BLITZER: Let me bring Phil Mudd into this as well. Phil used to work at the CIA. You worked at the FBI as well.
Why after all of these years would the CIA and the FBI seek this last- minute effort to try to prevent some of these documents from being released? What potentially -- what kind of information could be contained there?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, I'm going to bet this is about protecting people. It's not about whether there's some secret dimension of the plot that the American people don't understand.
It's people. Let me give you a couple of examples. Back after this assassination, you can guarantee that the FBI and CIA were talking to everybody they knew overseas in countries like Russia, Cuba, Mexico, about what happened and whether they had information in these foreign governments about the assassin.
Those conversations might have been with government officials and they might also have had with paid informants. Some of those informants are alive today. And I can bet that some of the concerns the CIA would have would be revealing identities of informants.
It's not that simple, though, Wolf. What if an informant is dead, but his spouse or family is still alive? What do you tell a child, we're going to reveal that your day was a spy for the CIA? And finally, information. What if there is information revealed to the U.S. government by, for example, someone in Latin America about Lee Harvey Oswald, and that information is so specific that that government can say I know decades ago who would have provided that to the Americans?
I think the debate, the bottom line, Wolf, is the debate is about protecting identities so the Americans keep the commitments they made to people who provided information in the 1960s.
BLITZER: That's understandable to protect and methods after all of these years, Phil.
But you know what they do when they release sensitive documents like that with names of individuals, they simply black out or redact the name and release the document. They have had decades to do that. Why not just do that, release the documents, but redact those sensitive names?
MUDD: A couple things. One makes sense and one doesn't.
The first, I just -- I mentioned a moment ago. It's not just about names. It's about whether there's information that could only have been provided by a couple of people in a foreign government, information so specific about, for example, knowledge of a foreign government of Lee Harvey Oswald's movement that the government can now 53 years later say I'm going to find out who did that and reveal that publicly.
Hugely embarrassing. The second piece is not comprehensible. And that is, you rightly point out this has been under discussion for many, many months. What I'm guessing is going on here is the White House and CIA and FBI have a difference of opinion. Only recently has that opinion boiled up to people like CIA Director Pompeo and they had to weigh in with a phone call to the White House saying, don't put this stuff out. I don't care what the president says. If you put it out, it's going to be highly embarrassing.
BLITZER: Yes, it's been 25 years they knew this date was coming up, the date of today that they had to release all of the documents. It's not as if they only had a week or two to think about it, and only yesterday the president said they would be released. Stand by a moment.
Tom Foreman, the conspiracy theories are going to multiply as a result of this last-second delay, aren't they?
FOREMAN: Oh, of course they are, Wolf.
Look at it. The reason this release was supposed to happen was because of Oliver Stone's film in 1991, which was a conspiracy theory film about this. And that created such an uproar, with people saying we have to know the truth here, that this rule was put into place said all of the information had to be released.
Now all of these years later it's once again not being released. Yes, the conspiracy theorists will go crazy over this, and in that sense they have a right to, because it does seem to defy logic that you can have so long to get ready and then suddenly, here we are, truly down to the final hours saying, oh, well, now we can't do it.
So, yes, they are going to go crazy about this. I'm not saying that they're justified, but I'm saying that it's definitely going to have that effect.
BLITZER: We're going to continue to follow this breaking news. The White House, the president of the United States, a last-minute decision not to release certain documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Much on that coming up.
But there's also other breaking news we're following right now. CNN has learned that two top Democrats with key roles in the presidential campaign both privately denied to congressional Russia investigators that they knew about payments for opposition research leading to that dossier on Donald Trump.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, who is working this story for us.
Manu, you're getting new details from your sources. Tell our viewers what you're learning.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
For the first time, we're learning that John Podesta, the former Clinton campaign chairman, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who ran the DNC met behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee and they were asked in separate interviews this fall whether or not the Clinton campaign and the DNC had any ties to that opposition research firm Fusion GPS which led to the production of that Trump Russia dossier of alleged connections between Trump officials and Russians.
And what they said is they had no knowledge of any ties between the Clinton camp and Fusion GPS, as well as no knowledge of the DNC and Fusion GPS. This really raises the stakes and it's the first time we're learning about them telling members of -- telling staff members of a key congressional committee, and they have to tell the truth when they speak to these members.
And members now want to learn more about this because it's now been revealed that the Clinton campaign and the DNC did in fact pay for at least part of this effort by Fusion GPS.
Now, this comes as, across the Capitol, Wolf, the House Intelligence Committee's chairman, Devin Nunes, has been going after Fusion GPS, issuing subpoenas and trying to get more information about their funding source and all of his activities are ruffling feathers on an investigation that has been stymied by partisan fighting.
RAJU (voice-over): Partisan tensions are growing on the House Intelligence Committee with key Republicans asserting it's almost time to bring the Russia investigation to a close.
But the top Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, contends that Republicans are rushing key witnesses through the panel and has said the inquiry needs to continue methodically, even if that means through next year. Republicans are pushing back.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I don't know what Adam is talking about.
RAJU: They say the panel has interviewed major witnesses, like the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, the campaign's digital director, Brad Parscale, and the longtime friend to the president Roger Stone. All denied any collusion with the Russians.
KING: And as far as I'm concerned, every question has been answered. Usually, the Democrats get exhausted at the end. These people come in for a two-hour interview. They are willing to stay for three, four, five hours. So I don't know what -- and so far, I can tell you not one bit of evidence has come out to show any type of collusion or cooperation whatsoever.
So if Adam just wants to carry this on forever, I think he's doing a disservice to the country and doing a disservice to the Congress.
RAJU: But Democrats say more information continues to emerge requiring further scrutiny, like President Trump son's meeting with Russian operatives after promised dirt on the Clinton campaign. He's yet to be interviewed by the committee.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: There's also, quite frankly, been a quality where Donald Trump or Donald Trump's people, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, others, have made blanket denials about behavior that then turn out to not be true.
So, because you don't have that element of trust, because you have got to apply scrutiny to every statement made by the campaign, by the president, just it slows things down.
RAJU: Another example, new revelations at the data analytics firm employed by the Trump campaign tried to access the hacked Clinton campaign e-mails from WikiLeaks, giving the panel another area to investigate.
Democrats argue that the GOP chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes, is sidetracking the probe. He just announced a new investigation into an Obama era uranium deal with the Russians, something that could put the spotlight back on the Clintons, this despite Nunes announcing in April he planned to step aside from leading the inquiry amid questions about his handling of classified intelligence.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: He had committed to stepping aside and recusing himself from the investigation, but has not done that, and so that is a real problem that we have to grapple with every day.
RAJU: Republicans say the Russia investigation has been exhausted and has yet to prove the Democrats' case that Russians colluded with Trump associates.
REP. THOMAS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: Once you start hearing the same thing over and over again, I think that that's when you can, with clear conscience, come to a conclusion and wrap it up.
RAJU (on camera): And do you think that is going to happen by the end of the year?
ROONEY: I hope so. Unless something new comes out that we need to keep diving into or take a different angle, I think that by the end of the year, it would be, you know, a good time.
RAJU: Now, Wolf, Devin Nunes has pushed back against the suggestion that he stepped aside or fully recused himself from this investigation.
He said that he had only really temporarily stepped aside, and in the meantime he's been going after not only Fusion GPS, but launching his own probes and pushing on the issue of unmasking classified intelligence reports and really leading to Democrats saying that he is sidetracking, undercutting this investigation, potentially even draining resources from this investigation at a key moment.
And Nunes himself pushes back on the assertions, says he has never said he was going to fully step aside. He said that he can come back in the investigation at any time, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of tension over there at the House Intelligence Committee.
Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thanks for that report.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California is joining us. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, thanks for having me back, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to go through a lot of these points.
Let me start, first of all, do you believe that Hillary Clinton, her campaign chair, John Podesta, the then chair of the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, that none of them knew that the campaign and the DNC were funding this opposition research that led to that controversial dossier?
SWALWELL: Wolf, I don't know what they knew, but I think it's important to understand who paid for the dossier. But I don't think that's as important as what's alleged, because if what's alleged is true, that Donald Trump and his team were working with the Russians to win the election, then it doesn't matter who paid for it. We now have a national security issue on our hands and with a president who could be compromised.
So I think it's important to get those questions out of the way, but I wish my colleagues and the majority were more concerned about corroborating or repudiating the serious allegations of the dossier.
BLITZER: Well, based on what you know of all of the serious allegations in that dossier, how much of it, from your perspective, has been corroborated?
SWALWELL: You what is amazing, Wolf, is it's actually information that has come outside the dossier that is more disturbing.
We have found an intent to work with the Russians. There's evidence of that. Our investigation is continuing. But you see the June 9 e- mail, subject, Clinton/Russian private, confidential. Russians are offering information on Hillary Clinton. Don Jr., Paul Manafort, Kushner, they all go.
Felix Sater, close to Putin, sends an e-mail to Michael Cohen, subject line, Putin/Trump. Sater says, we can engineer this so that our boy can win. We just need to get Putin and Trump together.
Roger Stone working with the Russians in the e-mails he's sending saying that John Podesta is about to spend his time in the barrel. You also have now just yesterday Julian Assange admitted that the Trump campaign contacted him because they wanted Hillary's hacked e- mails.
And, of course, Peter Smith, who was reaching out to the Russians saying he was working on behalf of Michael Flynn trying to get e- mails. Overwhelming evidence so far of an intent to work with the Russians. Still a lot of work to do.
BLITZER: Yes, because it was Cambridge Analytica that was retained by the Trump campaign that reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to try to get some of those Hillary Clinton e-mails, e-mails that she had on a private server while she was secretary of state.
SWALWELL: And we haven't heard from them yet. And I think they should come in.
BLITZER: So you're saying that there is hard evidence of collusion right now between the Trump campaign and the Russians? You heard all of those Republicans on your committee saying there's no evidence at all of any collusion.
SWALWELL: Evidence has to be tested and developed and compared to other witness accounts. But, right now, there is evidence that the Trump campaign, the family and the businesses wanted to work with the Russians. Can't draw any conclusions yet, but there is a lot of evidence just
outside of the dossier and outside of the classified information that we have reviewed.
BLITZER: Your Republican colleagues want to wrap it up by the end of this year. Is that realistic?
SWALWELL: I hope so. I would love to wrap it up, as long as we can do it comprehensively. Right now, we have witnesses who come in voluntarily. They set their own terms as to what questions they are going to answer. They get up and leave when they want to leave and they don't turn over the documents that we're asking for.
I don't think that's how you conduct an investigation. But I'm hopeful that they understand the seriousness of this and let's get it done as soon as possible before the next midterm election.
BLITZER: Who else do you want to hear from?
SWALWELL: I would like to hear from General Flynn, Paul Manafort.
BLITZER: Michael Flynn, who was the president's -- for a brief time, about a month, his national security adviser.
SWALWELL: Yes. Don Jr., Felix Sater, everyone was in the meeting.
And, of course, if it leads us to it, I don't think we should take having the president himself come in, because he's implicated in a lot of these communications.
BLITZER: You have called for an independent Russia investigation. Do you not have faith in your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Judiciary Committees, the special counsel, Robert Mueller?
They're all investigating all of this. Why do you also need an independent investigation?
SWALWELL: And I appreciate those investigations, and Democrats on the committee are working doggedly. However, I do think that we saw after the September 11 Commission, that when you take this outside of the Capitol, when you try and de-politicize it and you put a bipartisan panel of experts on it, you get to the truth faster.
And so I would like to see us do that. I'm afraid that this has become just too politicized. And my Republican colleagues have been too incurious. And I am inspired by the work that the 9/11 Commission did.
It didn't come into place until over a year after the attack. There's still time for us to do it. Elijah Cummings and I have, we wrote legislation to do that. Every Democrat is on board. Two Republicans are with us. We need more.
BLITZER: All right, stand by. There's more we need to discuss. We're following the breaking news.
We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: The breaking news, we're standing by for the release of some of the secret files on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
President Trump backtracked today on his promise to release all of the files. Today, not all of the files will be released. Some will not be released, waiting another six months or so for permission to release those documents, apparently in the face of opposition from both the CIA and the FBI. Much more on this breaking news story. That's coming up.
[18:30:21] In the meantime, we're back with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of the House Intelligence Committee.
I want to get your reaction to the testimony, the interview you did the other day with Michael Cohen, the president's friend, his long- time personal attorney. He apparently answered all the questions you asked. Did -- did he successfully debunk, from your perspective, the allegations against him in that secret and that not-so-secret dossier?
SWALWELL: He's a highly relevant witness, and I can't go into what he said but, Wolf, he's relevant because, first, the president said all along throughout the campaign and during the transition period, "I never had any dealings with the Russians, never tried to do business with the Russians." And then, of course, we learned through correspondence that Michael Cohen has that the president was trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign.
But I think most concerning and what, really, you know, illuminates why we're investigating this was correspondence that Michael Cohen had with Felix Sater. Felix Sater is very close to Vladimir Putin. And in the e-mails, he's telling Michael Cohen, "We can get Donald Trump and Putin together. We can engineer this, and we can make our boy president."
And so that shows that they're mixing business, because Felix Sater is involved in the Trump Tower deal, and politics in Moscow. Mixing business and politics and suggesting how Donald Trump and Putin could be...
BLITZER: Because Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told me the other day that he thought Cohen did answer all of the questions they asked him and that it may not even be necessary, potentially, to re-invite him in for more questioning.
SWALWELL: I can tell you, Wolf, he answered our questions, and I felt like, you know, it was a productive interview for us. I hope we don't have to bring him back. Again, we want to move this forward.
I'm mostly concerned that, if we don't resolve this before the next election, that the Russians will be able to, you know, use the discord and the disunity we're seeing in Congress so they can sharpen their knives and attack us again in the midterms.
BLITZER: So from your perspective, he's fully cooperating?
SWALWELL: He answered our questions, yes. And we -- you know, we're going to review his testimony against other witnesses and perhaps ask for more documents. But I -- you know, I felt like it was productive, and I disagreed with any account that it was contentious.
BLITZER: All right. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, he's the Republican. He's now, all of a sudden, very much involved in various aspects related/maybe unrelated. The uranium deal back in 2010, in which the Russians got access -- had access to U.S. uranium, that's a big issue. Hillary Clinton was part of the committee that signed off on it.
How contentious is it right now that Devin Nunes, who supposedly had removed himself from the Russia investigation, is now very much involved in various aspects of it?
SWALWELL: It's misguided energy on his part but, worse, it's disruptive. Ad by doing this, by taking us back in time to reopen investigations, all he does is, again, he reduces our ability to protect our democracy and tell the American people what the Russians did.
The American people are going to need an awareness of what type of information campaign the Russians had. The federal resources that we had that we could devote to the states, you know, we need to make reforms so that ballot boxes are secured. And all of that is threatened if we have this discord among our leaders.
Devin Nunes shouldn't be anywhere near the investigation. The only person in the world who could stop him is Paul Ryan. I wish Paul Ryan would say, "You're recused once and for all from the Russia investigation."
And Wolf, we do other non-Russia related stuff on the Intelligence Committee, if Devin Nunes wants to have credibility to do, he should just step aside. And I think he's jeopardizing his ability to work with us.
BLITZER: He's moving forward, and now this FBI informant who apparently was involved in that 2010 arrangement to let the Russians get access to U.S. uranium, he was -- he was barred from testifying. But all of a sudden, now he's allowed to appear before, I assume, your committee, right?
SWALWELL: That's what I've read in the press. And I'm open to looking at that and what the Russians did but again, Chairman Nunes is putting that ahead of our investigation, and the Russians haven't left. They're still, you know, here and our intelligence community has assessed that they're sharpening their knives, doing a "lessons learned" campaign from what they did last time. And I think we should all agree, we don't want to be in a mess like this again. We are in a mess of our democracy. BLITZER: And important development unfolding. Twitter now has banned
ads from Russia Today, the Russian TV network; Sputnik-owned accounts, another Russian network. Only happening now. Is it too late? Why now? Because I know you've looked closely into all of this.
SWALWELL: Because we know that Sputnik and RT are really working hand in hand with Russia's intelligence services. They were used by the Russians in the 2016 campaign to amplify fake news and run their narrative against Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.
[18:35:11] We have to be careful not to infringe upon free speech, but Russian intelligence services don't enjoy free speech in our country. We're going to have an open hearing, Wolf. We just announced it today. On November 1, we're bringing in Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms so we can talk about how they were weaponized and how we can just be more aware in the next...
BLITZER: I'm sure we'll have extensive coverage of that, as well. Eric Swalwell, thanks so much for joining us.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
BLITZER: Just ahead, there's more on the breaking news we're following right now. President Trump backtracking on his promise to release all of the secret files on President John F. Kennedy's assassination. They were all supposed to be released today, but guess what? Some are still being kept secret. We'll tell you why.
[18:40:40] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The White House all of a sudden says some records pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that were expected to be released today will stay secret, at least for another 180 days. The reason: national security agencies are recommending those records be redacted.
Let's dig deeper with our reporters and specialists. And Jeffrey Toobin, let me start with you. In 1992, they passed a law saying today all the documents have to be released. Yesterday the president tweets they will all be released today. All of a sudden, in the last few hours, they decide, you know what? They're not all going to be released. It's pretty extraordinary.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it's just extraordinary. I think it's shameful. You know, this is something the intelligence community has not years but decades to deal with. And, you know, this instinctive desire to keep things secret is so ingrained, that even relating to events in the early 1960s, the idea that they can't be released at this point is absurd. And I think it's really disappointing that -- that the agencies are behaving this way. They had plenty of time. They should have done it long ago.
BLITZER: A senior U.S. official, Phil Mudd -- you used to work at the CIA and the FBI -- tells our own Kevin Liptack (ph), one of our White House reporters, that this was a very, very messy process today. The White House didn't receive these final requests until sometime earlier in the day. The deadline had been set for decades. There was a lot of pressure on the president: "You've to change this. We can't do it."
And all of a sudden, even though he tweeted yesterday, "The long- anticipated release of JFK files will be take place tomorrow. So interesting."
Why -- if the CIA and the FBI knew today was the deadline, why are they waiting until only a few hours before the deadline to appeal to the president, "Don't do it"?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I can figure out why there's a problem here. Simply put, the White House -- and I've been in these situations -- comes in and says, "We want full transparency."
I can tell you what the CIA is saying: "Hey, if you identify somebody that we spoke with, even if it's 50-plus years ago; and they or their family is still alive, you're not only embarrassing them, you may put them at risk."
The question, appropriate question that you raised is what took so long?
MUDD: And I think what we have here is a policy process. The White House comes into -- into power less than a year ago. They sit down and start working on 67 different priorities. This isn't one of them.
When they finally get to this priority, the CIA says, "Hey, I understand you've got a deadline. We're going to take a lot of information out of those documents."
The White House looks at the documents and says, "No, we're not comfortable with this. You're not transparent." They fight, they fight, they fight. Finally, Mike Pompeo and somebody at the White House realizes they've got some -- very little time left. And they're saying, "Oh, no. We're not going to be ready. The staff didn't prepare this right."
BLITZER: It's a really major blunder...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is.
BLITZER: ... because they knew for decades that today was the day.
BORGER: I know. You know, it's ridiculous. It's kind of reminding me of Geraldo's vault, you know, where you kind of open it up. Al Capone, where is he?
And they now, in 180 days, the question is are they going to be able to get all this done? And are they going to be able to provide the kind of documents the president expected, in fact, that he was going to see? Or is there going to be a discussion that should have occurred a while ago about what the concerns are? I don't understand why this kind of last-minute request from
intelligence and law enforcement is coming, you know, in the -- in the 11th hour.
BLITZER: They are going to release today -- we're going to go through the 2,800 documents they will release today, presumably, no sensitivities as far as sources and methods, names of individuals. So they released that.
But it's pretty embarrassing that at the last minute like this -- let me get Mark Preston to weigh in -- they have to tell the world, "You know what? We're going to wait another 180 days at least to release the others."
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And let me look at this from a different angle, right?
This is something that should have been pro forma. It should have been easy. They should have known what was happening. They had a deadline. This is information that had been around for a long time.
But what I do think it shows, it shows a very inexperienced White House. And if they have bungled this thing with records that are so old, my question is, what else is going on on some of the major pressing issues right now that are facing the nation, whether it's our national security, whether it's talks about changing some of our big domestic priorities, from health care to tax reform? If they can't get this right, what's going on with these issues?
TOOBIN: You know, can I just say, you know, I'm prepared to blame the Trump administration and the Trump White House for everything. But this is not on the Trump -- this is not on Trump. This is not on the White House. This is on the intelligence agencies.
You know, they're the ones who is should release this. And they're the one who are coming up with what are very likely, I think, bogus explanations about why things can't be released. They're the ones who had the deadline long before Donald Trump even was hosting "The Apprentice". So, I mean, I just think it's their fault.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, they are slow walking this, obviously. And the question is why, right?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Time-out. Time-out. So if there's somebody who revealed information secretly 50 years ago, we should dime them out today over the U.S. government gave them an oath they wouldn't do that?
BORGER: No. But why didn't the White House tell them that sooner?
MUDD: I assume they did, and the White House said, we don't know how to deal with this, we think we can stop it and it turns out they couldn't.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: That's my issue now. And, Jeff, I understand what you're saying about how you're putting, resting the blame at the door step of he intelligence community. I understand that.
But still, this does go to the heart of how did the White House not understand this when you have the president himself tweeting, saying it's going to come out tomorrow. Was there some disconnect there? I mean, they should have dialed it back from a strategic --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This is the most awkward, I think, for the CIA, maybe the FBI that it was only today in a desperate move they came to the White House and said don't release these documents, very, very sensitive documents. We need more time to go through them. It wasn't a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, it was today they came with this last-minute appeal.
MUDD: Heck, I'm not embarrassed at all. I can tell you what happens is when you're working at this staff level, below the level, for example, of CIA Director Pompeo, you can tell the White House for six months, we ain't doing this. We can't reveal this page, we can't reveal this name, w can't reveal this fact, for example, because it will allow the Cubans or the Mexicans, the Russians to identify someone, and the White House keeps saying, no, no, you can't do that. We're going to release it.
And finally, the White House realizes the CIA isn't going to roll, Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, calls the White House and says, we're not rolling. I bet the White House knew this for a while, they thought the CIA would roll, the CIA said ain't happening.
BORGER: So, this could be a battle between Trump who wants this stuff released. I mean, he's -- you know, he's interested in this, as we know from the campaign, right? He's interested in this, so he wants it all released and the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies, whatever, are saying no and the president said yes. So --
MUDD: Or maybe didn't investigate the details.
BLITZER: Jeffrey wants to weigh in.
BLITZER: And once again, only yesterday, only yesterday, Jeffrey, the president tweeted the long-anticipated release of the JFK files will take place tomorrow. So interesting.
He didn't say most of the files would be released. He didn't say a lot of the files would be released. He said all of the files, finally, after 53 years, would be released.
TOOBIN: Obviously, someone was not communicating with the president very well or he wasn't listening to what people were telling him because he said it was going to happen today. It didn't happen today. I mean, that's all we know for sure.
BORGER: I'm sure he's not happy.
BLITZER: An awkward moment. You know, I want to get to something else before we run out of time.
The president had -- Gloria, you've done a lot of work on President Trump. You did an excellent a documentary, as we all know.
BORGER: Thank you.
BLITZER: But the president yesterday was boasting about how intelligent and smart he is. It's not the first time he's done this. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I did great.
Guarantee I have a vocabulary than all of them, certainly most of them. I know I have an IQ better than all of them.
I guarantee you my IQ is higher than these people. My uncle was one of the great professors at MIT. I mean, believe me, it's good genes. We believe in genes, right? We're allowed to say that.
I went to a better school than they did. I'm smarter than they are.
Look, I'm a smart guy. I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I was a really good student and all that stuff.
But I tell you what, if Putin likes me and if he thinks I'm a good, smart person, which -- I mean, I hope he believes that. I am -- actually, he's right, I am brilliant. You know that, right?
Putin says Trump is brilliant. I love that when he says I'm brilliant. But Putin said Trump is brilliant. He's the real leader, ba, ba, ba. Now, I don't know if he means it, if he doesn't mean it. I don't care. I like it, OK?
So I said, I think very intelligently.
I go to Wharton, I'm smart, you're smart.
And I keep hearing about global warming. They say, you don't understand. Let's do an IQ test.
I'm not a big e-mail person. You know why? I'm intelligent.
I'll match my IQ. I want to match my IQ with some of those guys, with all of them.
I went to an Ivy League school. I was a good student. I'm a very smart person.
Trust me, I'm like a smart person.
You know, people don't understand, I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I'm a very intelligent person.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: Gloria, you have spent a lot of time studying the president of the United States. What's up with this?
[18:50:01] BORGER: I don't know. I think he wants us to know he's a smart person because maybe he thinks we doubt that. And I think he talks about it a little bit too much. How many people do you guys know who talk about how smart they are all the time?
PRESTON: Anybody that talks about how smart they are means they're really not that smart. Let me just say, I know I'm not very smart. Certainly not at this table and Jeffrey on the wall.
MUDD: Simple response. If he's brilliant, I'm George Clooney.
Look, the deal here is not whether he's smart. I think he has brains to deal here. I think the real serious question is where he chooses to apply those brains. Is it to branding the Trump presidency or thinking about North Korea? I think we've seen that.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, you've been on this program for years and years. Tell the viewers where you went the college?
TOOBIN: What? I'm not doing that, Wolf.
TOOBIN: That's ridiculous. No, I mean, I'm not a lunatic. I'm not going to talk about -- you know, I mean, all I want are those clips in a time capsule so that people 50 years from now understand this man was actually president of the United States. And that's how he talks about himself.
I've never met anyone who talks like that. It's ridiculous. I mean, it's just so crazy. I mean, I -- any way, I'm sorry.
BLITZER: But we do know, Jeffrey --
TOOBIN: But I'm very smart.
BLITZER: -- you went to the finest schools, too, right?
TOOBIN: I went to very good schools.
BLITZER: Finest schools.
All right, guys. There's a lot more going on. There's more news we're following, including how the U.S. Navy's newest stealth attack submarine might help fight the growing threat from North Korea.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:56:12] BLITZER: New tonight, details of the U.S. Navy's newest submarine that could give the United States a critical edge when it comes to dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
So, Brian, this is a stealth submarine.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's one of its best capabilities, Wolf.
Tonight, we are getting new details on the new capabilities of this fast attack American submarine. The USS South Dakota. Now, if it's deployed near the Korean peninsula, it will have the capability to launch Tomahawk missiles at North Korea, to gather intelligence and even to deploy Navy SEALs.
In short, for Kim Jong-un, it's a dangerous new American weapon to worry about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May God bless her and all that sail in her.
TODD (voice-over): A 360-foot-long 8,000-ton underwater menace that could face off with Kim Jong-un. Behind all that scaffolding, America's newest fast attack submarine, the USS South Dakota. It's a Virginia class sub like this and it will be ready to enter the fleet by late next year with stealth capability.
CAPT. JERRY HENDRIX (RET.), FORMER NAVY SUBAMARINE HUNTER: It's one of newest and quietest ships that we have in the world today with regard to submarines.
TODD: If it deploys in the Pacific, analysts say, the South Dakota will likely at some point sail near the Korean peninsula to counter an ambitious submarine program being developed by Kim Jong-un.
LT. COL. TONY SHAFFER (RET.), FORMER U.S. MILITARY INTELLIGENCE OPERATIVE: The North Koreans have been trying to develop their own submarine capability, everything from sub-surface warfare to ballistic missile launchers. They tested it all. They're eventually going to get to the point where they can potentially launch intercontinental or some level of ballistic missile from a submarine that could be nuclear tipped.
TODD: Kim has already test-launched missiles from a submarine.
Recent satellite imagery from the monitoring service 38 North shows a North Korean ballistic missile sub undergoing what could be some important upgrades. CNN has learned the South Dakota, like others in the Virginia class, will be able to launch Tomahawk missiles, gather intelligence, and even deploy Navy SEALs.
SHAFFER: They could be deployed in a situation where we don't trust the other capabilities of intelligence gathering. We want to verify that or if we want to verify the North Koreans are telling us something, we want to necessarily have someone who could put eyes on the ground, eyes on target to verify that. Clearly, it's a highly dangerous mission.
TODD: In what would be a Cold War style cat and mouse game with North Korean submarines, experts say, the stealth capability of subs like the South Dakota could make the difference between life and death.
HENDRIX: Even the humans that live on board them are trained to be quiet, so that they put the least amount of noise into the water. We often joke, you know, with regard to these electric boats, when people ask us, well, how loud are they, and we always ask, well, how loud is your flashlight?
TODD: U.S. officials and outside experts say it's not just the North Korean's submarine threat that the U.S. now has to counter. They say China and Russia are rapidly improving the technology and lethality of their submarine fleets and they're getting more and more aggressive as we know, Wolf, the Russians in the Atlantic, but also in the Pacific theater.
BLITZER: And North Korea, as we know, Brian, not so long ago was very aggressive with one of its own subs, right?
TODD: That's right, Wolf. North Korea has fired a submarine weapon in anchor. Just seven years ago, a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo and sank this South Korean frigate, the Cheonan. Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed. Fast forward to now, and Kim Jong- un is now developing the capability to fire ballistic missiles from his submarines. That's how far they've come in just seven years.
BLITZER: Very significant developments indeed. Brian Todd on the story for us, appreciate it very much.
That's it for me. To all of our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.