tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN September 6, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT
you can follow me on facebook and twitter. you can tweet the show at the lead. the coverage continues with wolf blitzer in the situation room. thanks for watching. happening now, state of denia denials. top officials in the trump administration deny having anything to do with the anonymous "new york times" op-ed highly critical of president trump. will the public declarations dampen the fury. senator rand paul normally rails against government intrusion but he says anyone with a security clearance working at the white house should undergo a lie detector test to figure out who wrote the inflammatory op-ed. document dump. partisan -- democrats make a show of releasing documents they say were kept from the public while grilling brett kavanagh about views on presidential
power and the landmark roe v wade abortion ruling. and back to being breauxsbr president trump and kim jong-un exchange fresh compliments as the north korean dictator figured out how to get what he wants from the president. you in the situation room. this is cnn breaking news. >> one after another, top administration officials, cabinet secretaries, agency heads and vice president pence are denying responsibility for that truly shocking essay in the "new york times" in which an anonymous insider writes about resistance within the trump administration working to block president trump's worst impulses. a white house official says the denials are being printed and shown directly to the president who has angrily suggested the writer is guilty of treason.
i'll speak with senator lehy and our correspondents are standing by with full coverage. let's begin with jim acosta in billings, montana where the president is due to speak at a rally. the white house and the trump administration as a whole, they are shell shocked over the anonymous bombshell in the "new york times." >> reporter: they really are. we will see if the president weighs in on all of this at a rally later on this evening. he did not talk about it on his way out of the white house on his way to the rally, but the white house has been struggling to contain the fallout from this anonymous op-ed all day long from a person claiming to be a top administration official slamming the president. cabinet secretaries have been coming out with statements saying don't look at me. trump world has gone -- it's
become a washington who done it as in the history of the senior administration official who anonymously wrote a scathing op-ed in the "new york times" claiming to be a part of the internal resistance. so far more than a dozen top officials a who's who from the vice president to cabinet secretaries released statements to say not it. >> i think it is a disgrace. the anonymous editorial represents a new low in american journalism. i think the "new york times" should be ashamed. i think who wrote this editorial should be ashamed. >> reporter: the daughter of u.s. ambassador to russia said it wasn't her father. >> my dad works for the administration. >> did you write it? >> i did not write it. my dad did not write it as far as i know. >> reporter: a frustrated press secretary sarah huckabee sanders tweeted a statement calling for speculation to quote stop as she
lashed out at the "new york times" posting the paper's phone number. house minority leader nancy pelosi joked it could be a character from clue. >> the vice president was my first thought. i guess by process of elimination we will come down to the butler. >> reporter: officialinis insid the administration have been reading the op-ed for clues writing the president's appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting misguided impulses. pence was denying he wrote the op-ed and uses the road lodestar. >> vigilance and resolve will be our lodestar. >> the president is clearly furious over anonymous using the episode to bash the media. >> when you tell me about an
anonymous source within the administration, probably who is failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons and the "new york times" is failing. if i weren't here i believe the "new york times" probably wouldn't exist. >> as for solving the mystery of anonymous the white house has one big problem. there is a lengthy list of potential suspects. >> the same senior administration official can be many of people. there are thousands of political appointees and hundreds of folks who qualify under the title alone. >> reporter: one administration official told me the white house wanted a coordinated response but did not get one as cabinet secretaries were releasing their statements throughout the day. it didn't seem organized as one administration official describes it and after the white house was flat footed when they were trying to respond to the book. i should point out we are standing outside the venue where the president will be speaking. you can see the neon sign. it does not rival the sign that
is flashing the words who is anonymous over the white house this evening. >> good point. jim acosta, thank you very much. the white house clearly is reeling from the revelations in the book including his account of top aides swiping documents from the president's desk in the oval office, documents that they believe could pose a danger to u.s. national security. our special correspondent is with us. you have a copy of that letter that woodward describes a letter that was taken off the desk in order to make sure the president wouldn't sign it. >> this is a copy of the letter. it is in the book. yesterday president trump said it is a phony. the book starts with a very
dramatic scene where he goes into the oval office and sees the draft letter. the letter if signed would terminate the u.s. trade deal with south korea and the fallout could endanger national security. i will read you just a part of the letter. it is all on cnn.com the people can go see. this gives you a sense of the problem. it's from president trump to the president of south korea. it says the united states korea free trade agreement in its current form is not in the overall best interest of the united states economy thus in accordance with the agreement the united states here by provides notice that it wishes to terminate the agreement. it goes on from there.
but the concern was if that agreement was terminated, critical national security things, we have an installation that lets us detect a launch of missiles from north korea in seven seconds. if this went away that could go away. >> gary cohen decided to remove the letter. the president is trying to discredit the book by saying it is a bunch of lies. woodward's reaction has been solid. >> he stands by all the reporting in the book.
also, i think it is important to note his track record. the people who have been making denials are all people who either work for the president now and therefore they have skin in the game, they want to keep their jobs or their lawyers who have lawyer/client confidentiality. he recorded hundreds of hours of interviews and his method of doing these kinds of things when he has sensitive quotes, he is known to get multiple sources on them. >> it comes out on tuesday and people read those 400 plus pages, page after page with incredible details in all sorts of intrigue going on inside the white house. good reporting. thank you very much. the confirmation hearing for u.s. supreme court brett kavanagh has been breaking down with democrats making a show of releasing documents that they
claim have been kept from the public. judge kavanagh's stance on the roe v wade abortion ruling and position on presidential power. let's go to our correspondent. a lot of fireworks today. >> no question about it. democrats have fumed for weeks about a process that they said is opaque and doesn't allow the american people to see the full extent of brett kavanagh's record. along with it, several of the documents that previously have been confidential. how and when the documents came out appears to be open to interpretation. tonight a dramatic moment of democratic revolt that may not have been that dramatic at all. >> this is about the closest i will probably ever have in my life to an i am spart ks moment. >> outraged to lack of public access to thousands of documents related to brett kavanagh. >> by what authority could he possibly be denying to the
american people information about a man who is seeking a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land? >> democrats making a very public show saying they would break senate rules and release the documents on their own. >> i understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the senate. i openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that e-mail right now. >> republicans calling the move a political stunt to interfere with kavanagh's nomination and making clear the documents in question had actually already been cleared for release and calling out those across the aisle. >> running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the senate. >> reporter: the newly released documents once deemed confidential include this e-mail in which kavanagh discusses abortion writing i'm not sure all legal scholars refer to roe as the settled law of the land
since the court can always overrule precedent. democrats saying it called into question kavanagh's view of whether the abortion law could be overturned, an issue that could turn key votes against him. kavanagh on thursday denied that was the case. >> in that draft letter it was referring to the views of legal scholars. >> reporter: and returned to a familiar refrain, roe versus wade was precedent and could go no further. late wednesday night senator harris pressed kavanagh about whether he had discussed special counsel's robert mueller's investigation. >> have you ever discussed special counsel mueller or his investigation with anyone? >> well, it's in the news every day. >> have you discussed it with anyone? >> with other judges, i know. >> have you discussed mueller or his investigation with anyone at
the law firm founded by president trump's personal lawyer? be sure about your answer. >> reporter: asked today kavanagh clearly denied the allegation. >> i don't recall any conversations of that kind. i haven't had any inappropriate conversations about that investigation with anyone. >> reporter: today harris who hasn't produced evidence of any such interaction explained her questioning. >> i have good reason to believe there was a conversation. i asked him a clear question and he couldn't give a clear answer. >> and a key issue that has been returned to repeatedly is executive power. democrats say brett kavanagh has an expansive view of the issue on one area he did start to weigh in saying when asked if the court prohibits something fraum
from the president that is the final word in the system. >> thank you very much. joining us now, democratic senator of vermont, a key member of the senate judiciary committee. i want to take a quick break. we have lots to discuss. stand by. we'll start our interview right after this. here we go. discover. i like your card, but i'm absolutely not paying an annual fee. discover has no annual fees. really? yeah. we just don't believe in them. oh nice. you would not believe how long i've been rehearsing that. no annual fee on any card. only from discover. with a range of suv's perfect for any adventure, you can be in your element, in any element. ♪ experience amazing at your lexus dealer. and i don't add up the years. but what i do count on is boost®. delicious boost® high protein nuritional drink now has 33% more protein, along with 26 essential vitamins and minerals
our top story, cabinet secretaries are denying authorship of a stinging op-ed in which an anonymous insider writes of resistance of the president within his administration. democrats give the president's u.s. supreme court nominee the third degree while clashing with rules and release of documents. we are back with patrick leahy.
i know you have serious thoughts on the kavanagh hearings. let's get to the anonymous op-ed from a senior trump administration official. based on your reading of this op-ed as well as details emerging from the new bob woodward book do you believe the president of the united states is unfit for office? >> wolf, i believe that this is a flashing red light. i have been here with aid administrations, republicans and democrats. we have never seen anything like this. we have never seen this kind of concern. you know and i know that many in his administration will tell you how concerned they are. the president will change positions on everything from nuclear disarmorment to n.a.t.o. to the economy and take the position on early morning and have a change by mid morning.
it also points out something else that congress is not doing its job of oversight. with the other presidents, no matter who was in charge of the congress, we did oversight. the republicans will tell you privately they know that there are serious problems in the white house. they won't call a hearing, won't do oversight and won't investigate what is going on. as a result, apparently somebody highly placed in the administration felt so. they had to write that op-ed. >> is he unfit for office? >> if you went by that you have serious questions of fitininess i would like to see us ask the question. the american public deserves to have the congress asking questions and the republican controlled congress has been afraid to. >> we saw an unusual spectacle today. all of the individuals, senior
officials, cabinet members in the trump administration who thought it was important to issue a denial that they wrote that article in the "new york times." you can see all of the faces up there. do you believe, senator, that this anonymous official should come forward publically? >> i will leave that up to them. you might ask some of the officials if they agree with what was written, probably a lot of them would agree. >> do you believe members of the cabinet should consider using the 25th amendment to the constitution to try to oust the president? >> that is an extreme measure. what i would like to see them do, start speaking up, state what is happening and then for the republican-controlled congress to finally do what it is supposed to do and what all other congresss have done, have real hearings, find out exactly
what is going on. i'm not going to speculate based on what somebody has written anonymously. i would like to hear sworn testimony before the congress and ask people, if these things are accurate and happening, this country has some very, very serious concerns. >> let's turn to the hearings on president trump's supreme court nominee, brett kavanagh. democrats made a big show releasing documents that they claim the republican majority was hiding from the american public. but chairman chuck grassley clarified that saying those documents had already been released overnight and the democratic senators knew about that. so was all of this simply a stunt? >> so much of judge kavanagh's documents have been held back. no nominee in history has had so much stuff kept secret, all of it being done by an operative at
the white house who has represented everybody from steve bannon and on. there is no credibility. i asked questions this morning on a number of things involving the republican who stole things from democrats' files. that had been kept confidential. we had it marked unconfidential at 3:00 this morning. everything we are seeing here, the tens of thousands of files that are being kept hiding, this is an example of trying to cover something up. if there is nothing there, why try to cover it up? i was a prosecutor. if somebody tried to keep so much stuff secret i would be nothing but suspicious.
>> do you believe that the judge was lying to you? >> yes. he didn't tell the truth back years ago when he said he had no connection with miranda. he was asked that question by both republicans and democrats years ago and he said he had nothing to do with it. now it turns out yes he did. >> senator, thank you for joining us. >> thank you. coming up, one by one top administration officials denying responsibility for the "new york times" op-ed slamming the president. will their public statements do anything to reduce the president's fury? and senator rand paul often rails against government intrusion. why does he want white house staffers to take lie detector tests? stay with us. you're in the situation room. we called usaa. and they greeted me as they always do. sergeant baker, how are you? they took care of everything a to z. having insurance is something everyone needs,
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. at this hour president trump is heading to a political rally in montana leaving behind a white house staff struggling to contain the fallout from bob woodward's upcoming book and the scathing op-ed by an anonymous trump administration official. let's talk about all of this can correspondents and analysts. the white house clearly is struggling. how damaging is this? >> it's a hard question to answer because the reality is
that unless there is something that is monumental that gives an anecdote that is really game changing that really could lead to the 25th amendment impeachment, things that are kind of hard for people to wrap their minds around in general, this is likely going to fall. people who want to listen to the president hear the buzz words that they are hearing from him and the vice president and top aides, the "new york times," media that they are not loyal and everybody else who is already predisposed to understanding that this is the chaotic nature of the white house will be as worried if not more worried than before. the question is will we find out who this person is? and will this person be forced in any way shape or form to come
forward? not so much about the identity but actually to find out, to put more meat on the bone that they put on the "new york times." >> i'm with dana 100% that if you are for donald trump you will dismiss all of this. that said, i do think you start to not for that population but for the broader population you do start to see kind of the accumulation of this repeated presentation that this is a person who is not only out of its depth. in the woodward book and in the "new york times" op-ed there is a lot in both. the driving sentiment is the senior staff believe that the president of the united states is not up to the job. him not being up to the job makes him dangerous.
does that change the amount of people that goes to the montana rally? no. i believe it has some effect on him and the people who work for him and the people who are not ardently opposed or for him. >> there is no doubt there was shock from the letter. i don't think there was as much shock from what was said in the letter as opposed to the letter being written by an anonymous source inside the white house who is close to the president. had this been a year ago i think you would have seen shock from the content of the letter and shock from the person who wrote it. i think at this point we have become so numb to a lot of the descriptions about the president's mental well being and the decision making and how others in the white house are sort of behind his back, changing a lot of the policies or trying to avoid things that could be even worse. what this does on a global scale and what this does for our standing internationally and how other countries and other leaders view trust and
confidence in this president and his inner circle and who other leaders speak with and who other heads of state and other people who speak for the president, are they speaking for the president or about him behind his back? >> they also had the bizarre dance where they had to run around and get statements from officials. >> pictures of all senior officials, members of the cabinet, senior officials issued statements saying it wasn't me. in 1974 the senior official at the fbi issued a statement saying he was a deep threat. >> if they hadn't come out today and haven't said anything then you wonder is the president looking at me like why didn't i come out? he is printing out the statements so he can read them and bask in the glow.
so he causes this bizarre dance even though it may be that the person who didn't says they didn't do it. >> none of this is normal. none of this happens in previous administrations. minus one, obviously. even in that case you didn't have 30 people, top officials in an administration coming forward pledging loyalty to the president saying it wasn't me. so yes we can have people come forward and say it wasn't them. the question is do we trust them? what happens to trust within the white house itself? >> the president specifically looking to see who hasn't yet issued a statement of denial. that's a very sensitive issue. >> of course, it is. beyond that and you asked me what this means for the president and the white house. in the short term the question that people around this town and around the country who are running house races and senate races particularly house races are asking what does it mean for those. we are just a little over 60
days away from the mid term elections. the president as we have reported is -- and all that that means in terms of the ability to investigate when the democrats, if the democrats have the majority and what it means for his agenda more broadly. and i talked with so many republicans as i'm sure all of you have, as well, who are focussed on some of those swing districts particularly in the suburbs where this kind of reminder of the chaos is the worst thing for these candidates. >> very quickly on that image of all of those senior officials who issued public denials directly or through spokesperson, i didn't see john kelly. >> to laura's point, some of this is box checking which is sort of no i didn't do it. it is kind of weird given that it is. >> the president's tweet that john kelly told him it wasn't him -- >> i don't know that.
we know about john kelly saying the stuff about him in the woodward book is not accurate. >> exactly. it all happened in 24 hours. i think that is of note given that everyone else. don mcgahn walked by the cameras and didn't say anything. that is not necessarily an admission of guilt. when we walked back he made sure he said it isn't me. you can dismiss this as box checking. we know this is a president who cares about this. >> a high level official regardless because the "new york times" wouldn't have -- >> they wouldn't have gone through the angst if it was just an unknown official. >> this is not an under secretary of the under secretary. the "new york times" is not okaying something like this anonymously that alleges not a coup but an organized campaign to keep donald trump from
himself. >> john kelly issued a statement denying that he called the president an idiot in the bob woodward. as far as we know he hasn't issued any statement in the after math of this op-ed in the "new york times." let's see what happens. we will keep our eyes on president trump's montana trip as well as the white house hunt for the writer of the anonymous up-ed in the "new york times." . little things can be a big deal. that's why there's otezla. otezla is not a cream. it's a pill that treats moderate to severe plaque psoriasis differently. with otezla, 75% clearer skin is achievable. don't use if you're allergic to otezla . it may cause severe diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. otezla is associated with... ...an increased risk of depression. tell your doctor if you have a history of depression or suicidal thoughts,... ...or if these feelings develop. some people taking otezla reported weight loss. your doctor should monitor your weight and may stop treatment. upper respiratory tract infection and headache may occur. tell your doctor about your medicines
and analysts. you think we will find out sooner rather than later who wrote the article? >> it goes back to our conversation about the "new york times" really having to focus on this person being high up enough to know that if they do, if they are outed either voluntarily or by somebody else that they can say this is why we protected their name. >> the suspension by some former trump officials was that that's ultimately what this person wants to do and be, consider themselves and be seen as a hero to the anti-trump world and to people who are worried about
what he is doing to the institutions of government, never mind the white house and international relations. so if that theory holds then you would think that we are going to learn the person's identity because you can't be a hero without knowing who you are. >> what do you think about the suggestion to the white house, anybody who has security clearances should submit to a lie detector test? >> first of all, lie detectors are not even genuinely ad missable in court. i don't know what he is talking about there. even more importantly, how demoralizing for the people who work there day in and day out or others to have to be submitted to that kind of a test. to me it suggests how far have things fallen to the -- >> it's unbelievable. >> it doesn't show anything. >> we talk a ton about what will this mean to people out in the
country. it's kind of largely confirming what you think. i think it is important to note what does it mean both to the president, how he reacts? he doesn't tend to react well. he is in a corner. he can't trust anyone. what does it mean if you are a staffer? it already can't have been a fun place to be a staffer. you see the president of the united states running down the attorney general, clashing with the department of homeland security secretary over and over again. so i think it was already difficult. now i think you have a person in the president who is naturally d distrustful and paranoid paired in a distrustful environment. who knows how that mix turns out? he does tend to be impulsive. we all struggle at times to react well under pressure.
he is quite clearly under pressure. we haven't talked about the fact that bob mueller's investigation is ongoing. >> go back to the argument that the bars are so high. you have a number of republicans who have been outspoken about this president, ben sass and bob corker saying this is what we knew this president and this white house to be. none of this is really that shocking. i think if we had read this a year ago we would be talking more about the content because everything we have seen so far we have seen analyzed and play out. we haven't seen somebody close to the president say this on the record. >> bob's book is a confirmation of what we know from someone who is a very trusted chronicler of white houses. it is not we thought he was running a tight ship and he is not. we knew what is in there. >> anybody who reads this article in the "new york times" has to conclude the author is a
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sony pictures. the announcement comes at the same time that president trump and kim jong-un are saying very nice things about each other. brian, what sparked this latest exchange of compliments? >> kim jong-un told a south korean fiofficial he has unwavering trust in president trump. that brought a glowing response from trump. but many are concerned that kim could be exploiting him. donald trump and kim jong-un tonight showing a swaggering confidence in their partnership. south korean officials reporting that kim has unwavering trust in president trump, but he wants to denuclearize before trump's first term ends. >> the reality is north korea still has upwards of 60 nuclear
weapons. donald trump's policy is not pay -- >> denuclearization talks may fall apart. recent satellite pictures show kim's regime has done no dismantling of a key launch facility. >> the president's recently been accused of being delusional about north korea. bob woodward writes that trump has seen the nuclear standoff with north korea as being, quote, all about leader versus leader, man versus man. according to woodward trump has asked why the u.s. has to pay for a large troop contingent in south korea.
comes the same day as the justice department indicted a hacker allegedly working for kim's spy agencies for the devastating cyber attack on sony pictures. >> if you're wondering if costs will be imposed on you, you have prosecutors and fbi agents say we're coming after you, you're not going to take that seriously. >> could this be what that anonymous top trump administration official wrote about in the "new york times." the official says on one hand president trump shows an affinity for dictators like kim jong-un. while at the same time other administration officials work to hold those dictators accountable. a two-track presidency the author writes, which analysts say is dangerous. >> i think today's tweet by donald trump shows that it's
working. if you're kim jong-un, you're just going to keep ongoing. >> how specifically could america's adversaries or allies exploit that two-track presidency? analysts say a dictator like kim jong-un could compliment president trump to get what they want or get inside his head in other ways like how egyptian president al-sisi once did. the egyptian president told trump he was worried about the russia investigation and asked trump, are you going to be around, which according to woodward really rattled the president. >> why incite t-- indict the soy hacker if they're never going to be able to apprehend them. >> our analyst josh campbell who assisted in the sony hack investigation for the fbi says the united states can still limit the ability of that hammer
to travel, communicate and move his money around. >> interesting, brian. thank you very much. coming up, top administration officials, cabinet secretaries, even the vice president mike pence all denying authorship of the anonymous "new york times" op ed slamming president trump. why bother mastering something? why test a hybrid engine for over six million miles? why hand-tune an audio system? why include the most advanced active safety system in its class, standard? because when you want to create an entirely new feeling, the difference between excellence and mastery, is all the difference in the world. introducing the all-new lexus es. every curve. every innovation. every feeling. a product of mastery. experience amazing at your lexus dealer. and i don't add up the years. but what i do count on is boost®.
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reassurance that they did not write an anonymous op ed in the "new york times." west wing turmoil. it's even more chaotic in the white house tonight as mr. trump demands to know the identity of the administration's insider who's portraying him as amoral, reckless and dangerous. tonight the president is on the road and raging. kavanaugh confusion. the supreme court nominee is hit the cryptic questions about conversations he may have had about the russia investigation. what was democratic senator and possible presidential hopeful kamala harris trying to get at? we could hear from her again this hour. and within a stone's throw. two associates of trump ally roger stone are about to face robert mueller's grand jury. is it a sign that stone may be indicted soon? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer.