tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN April 15, 2019 2:00pm-3:01pm PDT
>> if you don't win the nomination, are you going to run as an independent? >> no. no, i don't think so. but i could not support donald trump for the president. i'm not saying i would ever endorse a democrat in this race, but i could not support the president. >> governor bill weld, thank you so much for making your announcement right here. we appreciate it. our coverage on cnn continues right now. happening now, breaking news. notre dame destroyed. the 800-year-old notre dame cathedral, a symbol of paris, goes up in flames. its iconic spire has fallen. the roof has collapsed. and the rest of the structure is at grave risk as emergency crews try to evacuate precious artwork. still burning, the cathedral has been burning now for hours and an orange glow now lights up the sky over paris. thousands of shocked onlookers are gathered while firefighters try desperately to save what
remains of the landmark. we'll take you to the scene. mueller is coming. the justice department says the redacted version of the mueller report will be released to congress and the public on thursday. the president is sending out anxious tweets, as his legal team prepares for the worst and gets ready to push back. and blocking congress. despite a new demand by a powerful house committee, the white house is refusing to give up the president's tax returns and is rejecting other demands by democrats. who will win this battle? 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. >> breaking news. a truly catastrophic fire is raging at the 800-year-old notre dame cathedral in paris, an iconic landmark, a symbol of france, and an international treasure that attracts millions of visitors a year. the fire quickly engulfed the
roof, encased in construction scaffolding, and destroyed the spire, which toppled into the flames. thousands and thousands of onlookers, some of them crying, are staying into the night, as firefighters desperately try to save at least part of the cathedral. also tonight, the justice department says the redacted version of the mueller report will be released to congress and to the american public early thursday. and that has sent president trump into a twitter frenzy and his legal team into urgent damage control. i'll speak with congresswoman of the judiciary committee. and our correspondents and analysts, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories. let's begin with the devastating fire at the notre dame cathedral. our correspondents are standing by in paris, but we begin with our brian todd, who's got the very latest. brian? >> wolf, this is still a terrible scene. a desperate battle by firefighters at notre dame cathedral. they're working inside and outside the structure, trying to
keep the fire from spreading. the commander of the fire brigade now says they're worried about the tower collapsing. we have new information tonight on how this disaster unfolded. >> reporter: tonight, notre dame, one of the oldest and most iconic structures in paris is burning out of control. for people who'd flocked to the area near the centuries-old cathedral, the fire that broke out around 6:30 in the evening local time was obvious almost immediately. across the paris skyline, at first, the smoke could be seen billowing through the roof, then the flames. within moments, the roof of the more than 800-year-old cathedral was completely engulfed. crowds streamed into paris streets and squares, watching in shock. >> you run out of the bar and what i seen in front of me was terrific and horrible. the fire was so big that i could see actually the ashes on my jacket.
>> reporter: the flames rapidly grew upward, into the more than 150-year-old wooden spire, burning through the structure, until it began leaning and eventually collapsed into the main sanctuary. french official say more than 400 firefighters were deployed, some climbed up the building, even while it was burning, trying to save the iconic structure. [ singing ] >> reporter: in a dramatic scene, parisians sang hymns as their beloved cathedral burned just a few days before easter. it was not immediately known what caused the fire, and there's no official word on injuries. construction work was being done on the cathedral and it's been surrounded by scaffolding. >> these flames just grew and spread across the roof. and the spire -- it was terrible. >> reporter: now, the fire brigade commander says they are frantically trying to take out the most precious artwork that was inside the cathedral and that they are still at a critical juncture as to whether significant parts of the
building can be saved. one local resident captured this very well. he said, it's been there for so many years, and in a few minutes, half of it disappeared. his quote, paris without notre dame, madness. wolf? >> brian, do they have any idea where in the cathedral this fire started? >> the fire brigade commander, wolf, says the initial call to emergency services notified them of a fire in the attic of notre dame cathedral, so that may offer a clue. but the cause still not known right now. >> brian, i know you're working the story. we'll get back to you. but right now, i want to get some more on the latest developments in paris. our correspondent, melissa bell, she's near the cathedral now. she's been there for hours, watching it burn. melissa, we're learning that it's a crucial time in terms of saving the actual structure of the cathedral. what's the latest on the firefighting efforts? >> reporter: that's right. we're hearing in the next hour is going to be crucial, wolf, but also from france's junior interior ministry that it isn't even yet clear whether the cathedral can be saved, because
all those very dramatic images of those flames that reached right to the top of the towers at the front of the koorld haca have died down, inside, that fire continues to rage. and that has huge implications, of course, structurely. one of the questions is whether the bells might not collapse, which would then bring down the towers, those iconic towers on the facade of noetre dame that seems largely to have been spared. so many questions, as well, about what of the artwork inside, what of the relics inside, including the crown of thorns, believed to have been worn by jesus christ, as he went towards his crucifixion, brought from constantnopel by louis xiv. we know firefighters are inside the building, because we can see their torches shining out through the windows of the cathedral. but for the time being, this is a battle that is very much ongoing and this, in front of the eyes of the bewildered and
horrified parisians themselves who have gathered to sing hymns throughout the evening, early on, we had cinders falling on to our heads. that's now come to an end. the question is now whether part of this extraordinary monument, extraordinary gothic monument will, at this stage, be saved at all. wolf? >> and we hear the singing behind you, the hymns that are going on. and that's been going on for a while, presumably will continue. how far has the fire actually gone, melissa, as far as we know, inside the cathedral? how extensive is the damage? >> reporter: well, that is one of the big questions. very interesting, that idea that it might have begun in the attic. because the very first images of this tragedy that flooded social media just before 7:00 p.m. local time, wolf, were of smoke coming from the very top of the roof, billowing out from the roof. and the flames that quickly followed. and it did appear to be coming from the top of the structure. that very quickly spread. and it was, to the astonished
gasps of this crowd that the entire tragedy unfolded. and they sort of reacted in realtime, as that spire collapsed, shouting in horror, many of them crying, many of them holding on to each other, as they watched this gothic monument, a monument, not only, of course, that is important to catholics and to france, but the whole of humanity go up in flames. clearly, the damage inside will have been extensive. this was an intensive fire that took hold, remarkably quickly. it was very difficult for the firefighters to get there in time, because of the geography of notre dame, right in the historic heart of paris, and pat rush hour. that's when those flames began to consume the top part of the edifice. so very hard for them to get there. and an inability, we're hearing, from french authorities, to use any water from the air, because that would have damaged the structure irretrievably. they had to try to get inside the building to try to save as much of it as they could, wolf. >> yeah, so heartbreaking to watch all of this unfold over
these past few hours. melissa, french authorities, we understand, they obviously have opened up a full-scale investigation into the fire. what are officials saying there in paris, where you are, about the cause? >> reporter: for the time being, they're being very careful about speculating as to any cause. clearly, the timing of this is particularly tragic, coming up, as we are to easter sunday. a mass would have been celebrated, as it has every easter sunday, in notre dame. and that is on good friday, by the way, is the moment when that crown of thorns is exposed for worshippers to come and see. so a tragic timing to this catastrophe. many questions about what could have started it, how it could have spread so quickly. we have no information for the time being whether it was an accident or whether it was started deliberately. and authorities for the time being are avoiding speculation at all, wolf. >> is it possible for your photographer there, melissa, to show us the crowd?
because i know the singing of the hims continues outside the cathedral. i think our viewers would be interested in seeing the folks who have gathered there, to pay their respects. >> reporter: let's try and swing the camera around. we're going to swing the camera around to try and show the crowds behind you right now. they're singing just behind me, wolf. you can see, of course, there are thousands of people gathered around notre dame, many of them on the other side, of course, all around what you can see. and it is towards the back of the crowd that the crowds are singing. they've been singing there for the best part of the last two hours, wolf, singing catholic hymns, expressing their emotion, gathering, really, to be together, at a time of great sadness and emotion. emmanuel macron, the french president, who was here on the scene earlier, tweeted about it earlier on, saying this was an evening of tremendous emotion, not just for catholics, but for all of france. and that's really what we've
been hearing. i was speaking to a priest who had made his way here as quickly as he could, he told me earlier on. and he said he'd come here because this, notre dame, was his home. it was his house, it was where he'd been ordained, and his big question tonight was about those relics kept preciously inside notre dame. what has become of them for so many catholics around the world this evening, that will be the burning question, wolf. >> so powerful, so sad. melissa bell, thank you. we'll get back to you. our cnn reporter, hadas gold, is also in paris right now. hadas, there has been a lot of concern that the cathedral's towers could fall. what are you hearing? what's the latest? >> reporter: well, wolf, i'm on the other side of the cathedral right now, and i don't know if you can see, but there are still orange flames coming out of the roof in the back here. and you can see two cranes on either side, where firemen are trying to hose down those flames. we did just get a statement from the french secretary to the
interior minister, saying that both towers of the cathedral are safe, but they are still working to save the cathedral's works of art, and that's what a lot of people are very concerned about, are those precious works of art inside the cathedral themselves. it's not clear what will happen to them and what can be saved. obviously, the structure has been so horribly damaged. similar to where melissa is, i don't know if you can hear the singing behind the camera right now, they're singing a prayer about the rosary, and they have been, as though they are holding a vigil for the cathedral, they have been singing nonstop for the last two hours. there are thousands of people gathered around the river seine, and every now and again they start applauding, especially when a fire truck starts moving and they are applauding the work to try to save this cathedral. it's stunning to see the number of people here, but even more stunning is the quiet. it is very, very somber and very, very quiet. to have this many people out here and i feel as if i'm speaking very loudly right now, because everyone is in a quiet
reflection, clearly, people are hugging, praying, they're c crying. i spoke to an the owner of a wine shop and he said he will be drinking wine and toasting notre dame and toasting the city of paris. >> i want to show our viewers the very, very awful dramatic video of the spire collapsing. watch this. >> hadas, what are you learning about the safety of the people who were inside the cathedral at the time of this awful fire? >> so, wolf, the fire started towards the end of the day. we any firm information on
anybody that has been injured. we've seen some reports about a firefighter who may have been injured. this was luckily in way on a monday, not on a weekend. it is easter week when tens of thousands of people come almost daily to come to see the cathedrals. obviously one of the top tourist attractions in paris, getting millions of visitors a year. they will probably get hopefully some more information on what happened to the people inside. but because there was the fire seems to maybe have started in the attic, that may have given people time to get out in time. and we've been talking to people around, and they said it seems as though people may have got evacuated. the firefighters have been rushing in to try to save what they can of the structure and of course those precious works of art inside, but people here like i said, sathey're still feeling very strong about the city, very sad, but they're already talking about how they will rebuild notre dame. >> you mentioned the artwork, the catholic relics inside the cathedral.
what do we know, hadas, about all of these priceless treasures? have they survived? >> so that is the interior. a lot of them are sort of centering on this museum. i believe it's near the front of the cathedral. and so that might have given them some time, because if that fire did start in the attic, that might have given them some time to remove some of those pieces. it's not clear. there are hundreds of pieces in there that are so valuable. and it's not just the artwork inside, it's also the structure itself swb itself, is a piece of art, including all of the structuins outside are amazing. if you've ever been to notre dame, it's breathtaking. there's a lot of hope they can save some of those materials and obviously save the structure itself. the spire has already fallen, but they are hoping to get as many of those pieces of art out safely and hopefully get them restored once again, wolf. >> most of the roof has burned.
we see scaffolding outside. the structure still there, so precisely, what are you seeing and hearing about the structure? >> so, i'm looking behind me right now and it seems as though we can no longer see the bits of the fire coming out of the roof. so that does seem to be an improvement right now. they're still shooting water cannons on to it, but it looks like a different notre dame than what i saw just yesterday, when i was here. the outline is completely different. people are now applauding. i don't know -- now it seems as though the fire is at least -- there are fire trucks now moving away and everybody is obviously very happy. it seems as though most of the fire, at least from what we can see from the back of notre dame, has gone down. this is the first time, i have to say, in hours that we are not seeing fire just billowing out of here. the smoke was incredible. you could see it from blocks away. so to see it finally, finally go down to the point where we're
not seeing flames licking up out of the roof, that's a good moment of what has otherwise been an absolutely very, very sad day, wolf. >> i assume, hadas, the small of that smoke still permeates the air where you are. >> reporter: you could smell it the -- the moment i came out of -- they had closed down the metro station that's closest, the moment i came out of the next closest metro station, you could smell. it smells almost like a fragrant wood smell. and it is still permeating the area. and there was ash falling all over the place. melissa had talked about earlier how she was getting ash on her air and it's still -- you can still smell it all around here. but it is just an incredible scene. i have never seen anything like this. i've never seen this many people out all in one place and completely quiet, witnessing what is the very, very sad destruction of one of the most important monuments in paris. i was speaking to one person who said that paris without notre dame is not paris, wolf. >> good point.
hadas, i want you to stand by. melissa bell is on the other side of the notre dame cathedral. the crowds near you, we can hear them singing, melissa, and we just heard hadas tell us that maybe there's still some hope for the structure to survive or at least a piece of that structure to survive. what else are you seeing and hearing? >> well, those flames that had been brought under control, but were still really lighting up the center of the cathedral, we could see it through the windows of this front, this facade of notre dame, so famous for this famous facade. we could still see the orange of the fire burning brightly inside. that appears now to have died down somewhat. what we are seeing through those windows now are the flashlights of the firefighters who have clearly managed to make their way inside. and the question will be now that they're inside the structure, whether they manage to get that fire fully under control. we've been told a short while ago that this hour would be absolutely crucial.
and so they're in there trying to get the end of the fire under control in the heart of notre dame itself. also, to try and get an idea of how much damage has been done. but still, we're told, that the structural threat remains, because if those bells were to fall through, then there could be still some structural damage done to those towers. and there is still that threat that they might collapse. so still a very fluid situation, still a very dangerous situation. the crowds are still being kept back, well away by a police cordon that's been put up. and still, their numbers are not diminishing, because of the tremendous emotion, because of the need, really, to be here. there's not terribly much to see anymore now that those flames have been brought down under control, now that that orange glow seems to have subsided. from what we can see out here. but a need, as ever, on occasions like this to be together, to be surrounded, to understand what has happened. and to try to get to the bottom
of what the investigation is going to tell us about, how this terrible tragedy could have come about. wolf. >> and how the people of paris, the visitors, the residents, they've responded. we've heard them singing, they're praying, they're bringing -- they're singing these hymns. you know what, i just want to listen briefly to this hymn right now. ♪ ♪
♪ >> melissa, i want you to stand by. hadas is getting some more information. she's on the other side of the cathedral. she can also hear the folks over there singing these hymns. but what else are you learning, hadas? >> reporter: well, wolf, we are getting information about injuries. the french junior interior ministry says that one firefighter has been seriously injured. that's also according to the fire brigade commander. that is really stunning that one
injury after such an incredibly large fire. i mean, thankfully, there haven't been more injuries, that we're at least not hearing so far. it looks as though the fire may have started in the attic, and that may have helped give people time to get out of the cathedral. hopefully give time also to save some of those precious pieces of art that are in the cathedral, as well. but so far, we're hearing one firefighter has been seriously injured. we don't know the extent of those injuries right now, but the junior interior ministry also told reporters that the fire is now weaker, something we can see right now. we're no longer seeing the flames coming through the roof of the building, which we had been seeing for the past few hours. they say that they are now in a time of cooling, but both towers of the cathedral, both -- that very famous front facade, those two towers, do appear to be safe. and they are still working to try and save those precious pieces of art, wolf. >> let's hope they can. hadas, stand by. i'll get back to you.
but i want to bring in our chief international correspondent, clarissa ward right now. clarissa, tell us more about the significance of this holy cathedral, not just the catholics, but to people around the world. >> well, you know, wolf, when you hear those hymns and you look at these epic scenes of this extraordinary battle against this blaze consuming one of the most beloved edifices, really, in the world, the idea that 800 years of history could be going up in smoke and when you see those social media videos of the moment the spire collapsed, you could hear people in the crowd of onlookers gasp. there's a sense that this isn't just about a building made of stone. this is a building that has survived for hundreds of years, that has come to signify so much of france's culture and history of resilience.
it's been through incredibly painful and difficult times. it's been ransacked by the huguenots in the 1500s. it was desecrated during the french revolution. and yet, it has withstood that. it'susadecrusades, through the napoleonic wars, through two world wars. a what young american does not remember if they're fortunate enough to have traveled to paris the first time you stand there and you behold the extraordinary facade in front of you and you go into the cathedral and you see that beautiful unique rose window. and there's a sense, whether you are catholic, whether you are jewish, whether you are an athei atheist, whether you're a spiritual person at all, of the sort of majesty of the artistry, of the architecture. you feel humbled in the presence of this building. and i think that's probably why,
wolf, we have seen such strong reactions from people in spite of the fact that it does not appear this was a great human catastrophe in terms of loss of life, there is such a sense of grief as people watch this iconic and beautiful building reduced to less than its former glory. although, hopefully now with the news that the blaze is starting to be contained, that the structure is still in tact, perhaps it will be renovated once again to its former glory, wolf. >> we can only hope and pray. and we see the folks who have gathered there in the streets of paris around this cathedral, singing these religious hymns. they have been doing it, as you point out, for the past couple of hours, and presumably will continue to do so, even though it's approaching 11:30 p.m., getting close to midnight in paris right now. you know, clarissa. this devastating fire comes during this holy week leading up
to easter and that is going to have a huge, huge impact as well. >> absolutely, wolf. this week is the most important week in the christian calendar. and there are so many components to it. you have good friday, which is the day of the crucifixion of jesus christ. this is a day where christians tend to grieve, to feel sad. but sunday, easter sunday, is supposed to be a celebration. it's supposed to be a day of jubilation. it's about renewal, rebirth. and the mass that would be held every year in notre dame on easter sunday, was truly a sight to behold. and so i think that french leaders and the catholic church at large have a real moment now, a real void to try to fill, a real moment to try to provide an opportunity of solace to catholics around the world, who will be -- who will be grieving at what should be on easter sunday, something of a joyous time. it will be really interesting to see what they try to do, how
they try to sort of replace that sunday mass, that all-important easter sunday mass, and try to turn this into a moment of hopefulness. because in spite of everything we've seen, there is a message of hope also from this horrific fire. the fact that the structure is still in tact, the fact that only one firefighter has been seriously injured, but of course, there's the loss. those relics that you mentioned, the crown of thorns that jesus christ was believed to have warn, as he went towards his death on the cross. the parts of the true cross itself. this is a place that is steeped in symbolism, in ritual, that is deeply intertwined, not just with france's history, but with this ritual that christians and catholics across the world are participating in throughout this week, wolf. >> yeah. i want you to stand by, clarissa. melissa bell is now in the crowd, outside the cathedral,
where people have been singing these hymns. you know, melissa, tell us a little bit about the emotion that you're sensing, that you're seeing. >> reporter: the crowds really have been gathered here ever since this fire first broke out. and at first, what they were doing was watching almost in shock as this -- as these flames engulfed the structures and the tragedy unfolded. and over the course of the evening and as the night fell, the scenes turned to this. people gathered to sing the hymns of the catholic church, gathered in emotion, gathered not so much to watch the flames anymore, since they've now largely been extinguished, from what we can see out here, at any rate, we can no longer see the orange flames or the light of those flames burning from within. instead, for the last several hours now, it's been going on for the last two or three, these hymns have been being sung and now these prayers are being said. >> as catholics have gathered
this time, to speak of their faith, to gather around their faith, to consider from the point of view of their faith, what had happened here this evening. and as clarissa was just saying, so much is likely to have gone up in smoke tonight, inside notre dame, beyond the structure itself. of course, the relics, the artwork, those relics that were exposed on every good friday every year for the faithful to come and see that would have been exposed as we went into easter weekend. the question is tonight, is that crown of thorns even still in existence or was it also consumed by the flames? that is what so many of the catholics who have gathered here have been talking to us about tonight. that is their concern. that is why they've gathered here, creating a sort of vigil, even as they've watched the tragedy unfold. we've been speaking to priests and young catholics, as well, who have gathered, because it was about their faith. and that's what so many of the people here have been telling us, a huge sense of emotion here
amongst the faithful tonight who have gathered. it is now very late here in paris and you have a sense that this is a vigil that is really only just beginning. wolf? >> i'm sure it is. and you've spent a lot of time in paris. you've covered a lot of major developments, major stories in paris, including terrorist attacks. give us a sense of the reaction you're seeing now as compared to some of those other horrific moments. >> reporter: it is -- there have been, you're right, wolf, so many times of tremendous tragedy and raw emotion as paris has born the brunt of so many terrible tragedies over the last few years, many of them terrorist related. this time, we have no idea of knowing -- no way of knowing for the time being what is behind this particular fire, but then, that sense of people coming together very early on, as the police were trying to push people back behind the cordons, people were really trying to help them go about their work, saying, let them get on with it,
firefighter were applauded by it. so you have that sense of people coming together, brought together by a huge amount of emotion. tonight, with that very religious tinge, as well, as people watch a monument of catholicism. this was -- this is the cathedral that is the most visited monument in europe, not only by catholics, but from people, by people from every faith. but clearly, for the catholic church, this is one of the great monuments. tonight, it is those prayers and those hymns that have brought people out here to gather, to mourn, to begin to mourn what appears to be the loss of a good part of notre dame cathedral. >> millions and millions of people visit the notre dame cathedral every year. everybody who's been to paris and all of us have been to paris, you know, over these years, we remember that moment when we saw it for the first time and it stands out so
powerfully, indeed. stand by for a moment. i want to bring in patrick balkowski. the tell us about that moment you first realized what was going on? >> hi, so good evening. well, the first time i saw what's happening, i was with my friend, visiting me right now and we started smelling some, like, if something was burning. and we were sure something was going on in the kitchen, but then the bartender who came to the cafe, he said that apparently notre dame is on fire. and we were like, we didn't believe what's happening. so we were like, is it a joke? i mean, if it's a joke, it's not funny. so we just ran out of the cafe, which was just in front of the cathedral, and, well, we've seen that it's actually true, that notre dame was on fire. and so at the beginning, we've
seen a lot of smoke near the cathedral. and in the back -- not the front, just the back, the roof was burning. and so we were surrounded by tons and tons of people that were just looking. nobody was talking. nobody was laughing. nobody was smiling. nobody was doing anything. and there's still people just watching what's happening, what's happening with notre dame. and so he -- so i had a black jacket, so just imagine how big was the fire? so we could actually have the ashes of notre dame on our jacket, which was horrible. and then a few, like two ours later, i came back and now i'm
walking right now, and i see the fire is not there anymore. at least i cannot see it, but i still -- maybe you can see it, maybe you can hear it or not hear it. i'm surrounded by a lot of people, most of them are singing and praying, prayer song. it's one of the three or four monumental most important architectural buildings in paris. like notre dame, or the eiffel tower. so i think it's a part of france history. it's just burning and it was horrible. and the last time i went there before now, like an hour ago, i've seen in the last time of notre dame, the last tower, a lot of some flashlight, like a phone flashlight, and so
probably investigators or some firemen that were already helping to make it better, to make that fire stop. >> patrick, you live in paris, patryk, what's the emotional impact of seeing this kind of destruction happen to a cultural treasure like notre dame? >> yeah, i think that it's -- well, you know. it's a flat -- like, the post important thing to paris, the eiffel tower and see notre dame and i think that being here and seeing this, i would never expect that i'm going to see something like this. it's been ages since notre dame was there. and i knew that there was some work happening on notre dame this week. so i don't want to say that maybe it's because of that or --
no, i don't want to say it was an explosion or something, i don't know. i just see what happened. i just see the fire and i see people around me standing, crying, being saddened, all my friends texting me that they -- my friends from poland and my friends all over the world they met, they're like, what's happening in paris? why? and, you know, the first idea for all the people are like was it an explosion? was it an attack? and we know what happened to paris in the last years. but i think this time was just very, very, very unfortunate and we're all very, very, very saddened to know we've lost a part of paris that cannot be built again in the same way. >> so sad. patryk, when you got there, and you go there relatively early, how fast did that fire spread? >> well, i got, i got to notre dame, i cannot tell you right
now, what time was it, but i'm pretty sure it was just the time i posted the first video on my instagram, so you -- so the first time -- the first thing, i could see only the smoke, i didn't see the fire, so, and then -- 20 minutes later, i could see the fire, and every time -- we've seen something that, looked like an explosion, but it was not an explosion, it was just the parts of the roof that collapsed, and it looked from the roof, so all of that, there was something that seemed like the front, the facade of notre dame for us, we didn't see what was happening behind. so if it's the roof collapsed, it looked like an explosion. so it got like burn and burn again, like, it was the fire didn't stop. so it couldn't stop, because all the pieces were like falling down. they were getting burnt again and again and again. it was just horrible.
and the smoke. and i got messages and photos from people who live even outside of paris and they could still see the smoke from notre dame. and uh really don't know. i'm really in shock. for me, it's something -- something's -- i really don't know how to explain this, but it's like the history is like, for now win just see a building burning, but i know that the history revealed, you know? yeah. >> a truly horrible moment in the history of paris, france. patrick, thank you very much for your eyewitness account. we have a lot more on this breaking story. take a quick break. we'll be right back. so you're with the ups store? yes. in fact, we printed these right here.
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we're following the breaking news. a truly devastating fire at the 800-year-old notre dame cathedral in paris, one of the world's great landmarks. the spire has fallen, the roof has collapse, but officials say firefighters have saved at least parts of the iconic structure. president trump and other world leaders have voiced sympathy, but the president is also anxiously focusing in on this week's release of the mueller report, now due to be made public early thursday. let's go to our chief white house correspondent, jim acosta. jim, what's the latest? >> that's right, wolf. with the mueller report set to come out later this week, president trump appears to be feeling some added anxiety, as he's once again lashing out at the special counsel's office. the president, as usual, is serving up some other
distractions, making more threats of sending undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities. that's not exactly what he said in the past. ♪ proud to be an american >> reporter: traveling to minnesota to tout his tax cut, president trump appeared to have the 2020 campaign on his mind. >> we may have the best economy we've ever had. everything that we've done can be undone and bad, bad things can happen. >> reporter: but the president seems to have more immediate concerns, namely the trump administration's plan to release redacted version of special counsel robert mueller's findings to the public on thursday. even before all of the facts are in, mr. trump is alleging he's the victim, tweeting, they spied on my campaign. we will never forget. the president's personal lawyer, rudy giuliani, who's expected to release a rebuttal of the mueller report, piled on. >> i think it was the product of a -- you want to call it a political dirty trick or do you want to call it a crime? i don't know. criminal conspiracy. but in any event, i think that collusion will leave that question open. how did this come about?
>> the president also tweeted, mueller and attorney general william barr, based on mueller finds and great intelligence, have already ruled no collusion, no obstruction, investigate the investigators. but that's not true. mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction. barr did. mr. trump's attacks on mueller's team run counter to his comment last month, when he said the special counsel had acted honorably. the president is continuing to talk up the idea of sending undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities, tweeting, those illegal immigrants who can no longer be legally held, congress must fix the laws and loopholes, will be subject to homeland security, given to sanctuary cities and states. but in the past, the president has promised to deport the undocumented out of the country, not ship them around from city to sit. >> anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained, until they are removed out of our country and back to the country from which they came. >> reporter: the president is also coming under intense
criticism for slamming congresswoman ilhan omar, with a tweet that featured video of the minnesota democrat along with images from the 9/11 attack. in a statement, omar says, since the president's tweet friday evening, i have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life, many directly referencing or replying to the president's video. >> certainly, the president is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone. >> reporter: democrats say the president has gone too far. >> nothing she said is deserving of what's happening to her and what the president is doing to her. this is a reprehensible attack on her. it's trying to incite anti-islamic feelings. >> the president is also standing against democratic attempts to obtain his tax returns, as his legal team has told the treasury department in a letter that those documents should not be handed over. the white house says lawmakers wouldn't understand mr. trump's returns anyway, despite the fact that there are an estimated ten
accountants in congress. >> this is a dangerous, dangerous road, and frankly, chris, i don't think congress, particularly not this group of congressmen and women are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that i would assume that president trump's taxes will be. >> reporter: now, that issue aside, it's trees of mueller's findings that will have washington on the edge of its seat all week long. and an administration official insists the white house is not concerned about what those findings will disclose. but wolf, this official said there is an added curiosity around the west wing. and of course, that's how we all feel at this point. a curiosity about the unknown in terms of what will be coming out in those findings, wolf. >> we'll find out on thursday. jim acosta at the white house, thank you very much. joining us now, democratic congresswoman from washington state, a member of the judiciary committee. congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. and as we know, we expect the attorney general to deliver this redacted version of the mueller report to congress on thursday morning. the chairman of your committee,
jerry nadler, says he's ready to issue subpoenas for the full report. should chairman nadler immediately serve those subpoenas for the full report as soon as this redacted version is released? >> well, let's see exactly what we get, wolf. i mean, let's see what's redacted out of there. but there is no question that congress has the right and the obligation to get the full report. the only thing we have seen is a four-page letter from barr. and i'll tell you, watching the president's twitter account, i think he's just gotten briefed on the rest of the 400-page mueller report. and that's why he's upped all of his, you know, tweets that are trying to criticize mueller again, because he has been notified that there's a lot in there. i think we are consistently worried, deeply troubled, about the fact that barr made a very quick determination that there was nothing in the report, that we should really know or that there was nothing that should be pursued, when, in fact, robert mueller said in the report that
he could not exonerate the president on charges of obstruction of justice. so, we need to see the full report and everything that's under it. it's our obligation, our duty, and frankly, we have the legal right according to our attorneys based on precedent. >> democrats on multiple house committees are also demanding documents, congresswoman, from the trump administration, on the president's plan to place det n detained immigrants in sanctuary cities. what are you hoping to learn from those documents? >> well, you know, first of all, i'm just so proud of our mayor, mayor jenny durkin. she wrote an op-ed in "the washington post" near seattle saying, look, we welcome people to our city. that said, the president a absolutely out of line to waste taxpayer dollars on something that his own team has told him is illegal. so what we hope to get out of these documents is a very clear description. what was he told by his team, what did he try to do in
pushing -- he or stephen miller -- try to do in pushing his administration's officials to continue to do things that are illegal. that's what we see over and over again, wolf. is this president inciting violence, you know, asking -- defying congress over and over again, and then asking his own officials to own officials to break the law and then give him a pardon. that's outrageous. >> you represent parts of the city of seattle. it's a sanctuary city. would you be open to the president's proposal? >> look, i helped write and pass the law that allowed for everybody to be in seattle and not be asked about immigration status. this goes back a long way. we are a welcoming city here. because we know what frankly i think most americans know, which is immigrants are necessary in this country. they do our cities good. they have tremendous amounts to
contribute. but that is all besides the point. what the president is doing is saying i'm going to use taxpayer dollars to transfer people to drop them off to sanctuary cities. that his own people are telling him is not awful, it's a waste of taxpayer dollars and it is a continuation of his horrific anti-immigrant policies, just trying over and over again to vilify and demonize immigrants, many of whom are here as you know, and i've been on your program before, wolf, saying these are asylum seekers. the majority of the people coming to the border right now are families with small children. they are people seeking asylum, people fleeing violence and we the united states have such a responsibility to uphold our asylum obligations under international law but also to uphold our domestic laws. >> congresswoman, thank you so much. thank you so much for joining us. we will have you book soon for sure. i want to bring in our political and legal experts to discuss
what we just heard. this will be a very important week here in washington. do you think we'll get an answer why until and his team refused to completely reach a conclusion on whether or not the president obstructed justice? >> answer maybe too much, we will certainly get more of a light shown on what we already know from the barr letter, a close reading of bill barr's summary said there's evidence on both sides of the obstruction question. now we should presumably at least find out some of the evidence. you never know. i refer as it relates to redaction policy. theoretically we will find more than we know today. my beguess is if you believe there's obstruction there or if you make it known you want it pursued, if you're on the donald trump no obstruction, exoneration front, you will find evidence there because it's on both sides means we probably
won't get a definitive so 100% clear answer because if we did, bob mueller might have recommended a charge here or there. >> he tells cnn the president's legal team is updating its rebuttal report right now. what arguments do you think they're getting ready to make? >> they're going to update. they have already written it. this is someone who sees clear exoneration on that category. i think what he will rebut is the notion of their being a conundrum. they will not refute the collusion aspect of it but they will refute the idea there was a very close call to be made on obstruction. normally things made in public they will say are not obstruction at all. the head of the branch, if he's doing it, it cannot be obstruction. >> we know the former white house counsel over at the white house, don mcgahn, he was called in by mueller's team several times to do q & a, to answer
questions. how concerned should the white house be about what don mcgahn may have told mueller's team? >> potentially quite concerned. mcghan was originally involved in a lot of the events of what we know formed the obstruction of justice inquiry, including president trump directing him to have communications with jeff sessions, accusing him of unrecusing over the mueller investigation. and the legal strategy from the president's team was to waive privilege, encourage cooperation. it was only they realized the facts could in fact be quite negative for the president that they pulled back on that strategy. and even the news report the president's own legal team were really surprised and they did not themselves know what mcghan had said. >> what do you think, phil, about the timing of this release coming out thursday before a long holiday weekend? >> if you really want to bring a report and you don't want it on
"the situation room" friday, i would do it 6:00 friday. so the fact they do it thursday is they didn't find anything. the first half of the story is the document. the second half of the story after the white house releases a rebutsal is when robert mueller appears and said this is how to interpret the document. that's the gameday. >> it's interesting the leaders of the house intelligence committee, chairman adam schiff, ranking republican devin nunes, they sent a joint letter, a joint letter requesting counterintelligence materials from the investigation and a formal mueller brief. >> yeah, remarkable in that if you're familiar at all with congress, adam schiff and devin nunes don't agree on a bipartisan matter on almost anything, including sky color. interesting. they have different purposes for wanting as much of the background information. they want all background information as it relates to the mueller probe. nunes is in the trump camp
believing this investigation -- which the facts don't line up forbe -- that the investigation should never have started, it's illegal. and why mueller drew the conclusions we believe he did. but this is to phil's point i feel like the bar letter was the end -- an end but not the end. this will be the same thing on thursday. this is the end of a certain thing but it doesn't mean we're not going to have more talk and more analysis about what this all means and we're discovering more oversight going forward. >> schiff and nunes have been at odds the last several years. they don't like each other but now they're joining forces to get all of the counterintelligence information. >> chris is right, they're motivated by different diametrically opposite purposes to get that same underlying information. i think it gldemonstrates even when the mueller report is produced, there is going to be a large body of nonpublic information. that means this war of characterization of nonpublic information is going to continue with the two sides taking the
same documentation and taking very, very different reads and conclusions about what it indicates. coming up -- breaking news we're following. firefighters are trying to desperately to save parts of the 800-year-old notre dame cathedral in paris, engulfed in flames. the mueller report due for release thursday.
happening now, breaking news, devastating fire. notre dame cathedral in paris goes newspaper flames. how much will be left of one of the most famous landmarks in the world? watching in horror, huge crowds stood by helplessly as firefighte firefighters struggled to get to the burning cathedral. was the construction a factor in the game that caused so much destruction? game of unknowns. the justice department releases a timetable for release of a redacted version of the mueller report that's only adding to the suspense as all of the trump white house and all of
washington brace for potential bombshells. and twitter tiger, the president tweets praise for golfing legend tiger woods after his comeback win at the masters. mr. trump announcing he will use his power to reward his pal with a presidential medal of freedom. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer and you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> we're following breaking news on the devastating fire tearing through notre dame cathedral, one of the most iconic areas in paris and the entire world. the cathedral's spires collapsed in flames. tonight hundreds of firefighters are battling to save a building that stood for more than eight centuries. authorities now believe both of notre dame's towers are safe and the main structure has been preserved. back here in washington the countdown for the release of the