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THE SITUATION ROOM
Massive Counterterror Preps Ahead of July 4th; Pentagon: 10,000 Iraqis Trained to Fight ISIS;. U.S./Cuba Re-Establishing Ties, Reopening Embassies; Interview with White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes; Massive Counterterror Preps Ahead of July 4th; U.S., Cuba Reestablishing Ties, Reopening Embassies; Feds Investigating Airlines Over High Ticket Prices; Macy's Dumps Donald Trump. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 1, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news -- show of force, New York City police, they say they're now launching one of the most complex security operations ever, amid fears of a lone terrorist attack in the coming days. There is heightened security in cities across the United States.
How will it impact your July 4th holiday?
U.S. base security concerns -- Pentagon officials also speaking out today about the terror threat against U.S. forces here at home, as well as abroad. But they say they're making progress against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We'll talk about the terror threat with the White House deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes.
Donald dumped -- the outspoken presidential candidate proving too toxic, first for two television networks. Now a major national department store chain is cutting ties. We're standing by for a new interview. Trump -- he's talking to CNN.
U.S. airlines investigated -- the Justice Department subpoenas some of the country's largest carriers over concerns about high ticket prices.
Are the airlines engaging in price fixing?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Massive counterterror precautions now being put in place in America's largest city. Officials in New York, they say they're constructing what they call the most complex security operation in city history in response to urgent warnings of possible terror attacks over the July 4th holiday.
Similar counterterror efforts are underway right now in cities across the country, as federal officials are raising the alarm over the threat of so-called lone terrorists.
We're covering all angles this hour with our guests, including the White House deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, along with our correspondents and our experts.
Let's begin, though, with our justice reporter, Evan Perez -- Evan, what are you finding out about these extraordinary counterterror precautions underway right now in New York City?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this Fourth of July
Weekend, police are promising tighter security and more surveillance. And New York City is expecting big crowds to watch the fireworks and enjoy the Independence Day celebrations over the long weekend. But police there say they'll be keeping close tabs on surveillance cameras around the city, particularly in Lower Manhattan. And they'll be monitoring social media accounts of suspected ISIS supporters. In the past, terrorists have posted clues about coming attacks on social media.
The concern, Wolf, is that someone among the hundreds of ISIS supporters in the U.S. will heed calls to carry out an attack as the group has asked.
John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner, told reporters today that the city is setting up its most extensive security plan in years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEP. COMMISSIONER JOHN MILLER, NEW YORK POLICE: This may be, potentially, the most complex counterterrorism overlay for this event ever. Again, that is not driven by any information or particular threat, as much as it's driven by the unfolding world events. I think you saw a couple of days ago, we had what happened to be three coordinated attacks overseas, in France, Kuwait and in Tunisia.
So given the world situation, we wanted to put those layers of protection behind the regular patrol piece.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: And, Wolf, you know, critics -- there are some critics out there who are questioning whether law enforcement is overstating the threat, because terror warnings are common ahead of major holidays. But law enforcement officials say that they're taking this threat seriously and they -- you know, they want the public to go out and celebrate this weekend. But they hope that by making these warnings public, people will be more vigilant -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And they're really going out of their way to express this kind of concern. Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security...
BLITZER: -- on his own, he initiates this concern last Friday. In a statement, James Comey, the FBI director, they sent out a directive to state, federal and local law enforcement all over the country, just watch what's going on.
Now, John Miller, he's a serious guy in New York City, worried about counterterrorism. He is saying, what, this is the most complex operation they've undertaken in years?
PEREZ: That's right. And, you know, what they're watching for is some of these ISIS supporters out there who, they are not exactly sure who they are. You know, they know a bunch of them that they're watching. The people who they don't know about is what they're concerned about, Wolf, because, you know, if they know of a specific plot, they can stop that. And what they're clear about is that they don't know of any specific plot per se that's en route, you know to be carried out in the United States.
But, you know, what they don't know is what worries them.
BLITZER: Yes. And I know John Miller and James Comey...
BLITZER: -- and Joe Johns, they would not be putting out these kinds of statements...
BLITZER: -- if they weren't personally very concerned.
PEREZ: It's certainly more serious than any past years.
BLITZER: Yes. This clearly is keeping them up at night.
BLITZER: All right, Evan, thanks very much.
While fear of ISIS sympathizer is growing, here inside the United States, the Pentagon says its strategy to fight terrorist forces on their own turf is moving forward.
Let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
He's working this part of the story over at the Pentagon.
You were there for the important briefing today -- tell our viewers, Jim, what you heard.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, Wolf. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, claiming progress on the ground against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, saying, for instance, today the first 500 Sunni tribesmen have been trained by U.S. forces in Western Iraq; 8,500 Iraqi security forces for the 2,000 Iraqi counterterror forces; this, despite, you know, really woeful action on the other side of the border in Syria, with fewer than 100 rebels trained there, and, at the same time, following some losses on the ground in Iraq.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Sunni tribesmen in Western Iraq trained and armed by the U.S., ready, says the Pentagon, to take on ISIS. These are some of the first 500 graduates of a new U.S. training program at Taqaddum Airbase in Western Iraq, the first of several forward training sites or lily pads planned for around the country.
Coupled with more than 10,000 Iraqi security forces, the Pentagon announced it has trained, today, Defense secretary Ashton Carter defended the strategy.
(on camera): What evidence do you have that the train and equip strategy is working in Iraq or Syria?
And do you have alternative plans in place to take back territory rather than just hold ground while you're waiting for it to work?
ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The important thing there is that the only way to have a lasting defeat of ISIL is to have someone who can govern and secure territory once ISIL is defeated. That has to be a local force on the ground.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Still, in Syria, the administration's $500 million program to train 3,000 to 5,000 rebels per year over three years, to date, has only trained fewer than 100 rebels.
And in many of the signature battles in Iraq, only stalemate. Ramadi, under ISIS control for six weeks with no immediate ground action by Iraqi forces to reclaim it. Taji, home to a key oil refinery, still contested.
Now, with ISIS carrying out bolder and deadlier attacks abroad in Tunisia, in Egypt and Kuwait, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey acknowledged today that the fight now extends well beyond Iraq and Syria.
(on camera): Are there plans in place or under consideration to expand coalition military action beyond Iraq and Syria to respond to those threats?
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We're trying to build the framework, the scaffolding to address this problem trans- regionally in an enduring way so it actually -- that their defeat lasts.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): At home, ISIS poses its own threat to, among others, U.S. forces, on alert now for attacks timed to the July 4th holiday weekend.
CARTER: Are we concerned about that?
Absolutely, we're concerned about it. (END VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: Well, the Defense secretary commenting, as well, on the two other major policy moves underway by the administration, both in Cuba and Iran. on Cuba, the Defense secretary saying there is, in his words, "no
anticipation," no plan to close the Guantanamo Bay military base there, also the site, of course, of the GITMO detention facility for terror suspects.
And on Iran, the Defense secretary saying, in his words, that there continued to be military tools to carry out military action against Iran if those negotiations to end its nuclear program fail -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So getting back to the heightened security alert at U.S. military bases throughout the United States, when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs says he's concerned and when the secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, says he's concerned, what specific steps -- any visible steps, if you go to a military base around the United States will we see going into in July 4th holiday weekend?
SCIUTTO: The fact is, Wolf, many of these steps have been in place for a number of weeks now at bases around the country, things like they are checking the license plates and IDs of everybody coming in, things that they had done before, but they're doing it more so now. They have more eyes on the entrances to these bases than they had in the past. And it's something that they, you know, they, in effect, don't ratchet down by any means, as you get -- as approach another date.
But the fact is, the military has already been on such a heightened level, difficult to rise beyond that as you get up to this holiday weekend.
BLITZER: A good point.
All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
We're also following dramatic new developments involving the United States and Cuba. With an exchange of letters, President Obama and the Cuban president, Raul Castro, they have formally reestablished diplomatic ties between their countries, with both now poised to reopen their embassies after more than half a century.
Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is here with more details.
An historic, very dramatic day today.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. It's hard to underestimate the enormity of this moment.
After 54 years, the animosity between the U.S. and Cuba, dating back to President Eisenhower. Since President Obama announced a change in policy toward Cuba in December, the U.S. and Cuba have had tough negotiations about what this new -- what this new relationship would look like.
Today's move really one of the tenets of President Obama's foreign policy, that he campaigned on, to engage with U.S. enemies. And it reflects the fact that the embargo against Cuba, this decades-long boycott of the country just off our shores, not working. It wasn't changing the nature of the Castro regime. And the president said today it was time for a change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Time and again, America has demonstrated that part of our leadership in the world is our capacity to change. It's what inspires the world to reach for something better. A year ago, it might have been seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana. This is what change looks like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: And the president said this move is not just symbolic. The hope, this new relationship will promote American values. The U.S. wants to work with civil society on issues like human rights and economic prosperity to improve the life of Cubans on the island -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I know the secretary of State is going to be going to Havana to reopen that embassy personally. And at some point, presumably, the president of the United States, before he leaves office, would like to visit Cuba, as well.
Elise, thanks very much.
Let's talk about all of this and more with the White House deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes.
Ben, thanks very much for joining us.
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Know know you played a very significant role behind the scenes in this breakthrough in U.S.-Cuban relations. I want to get to that in a few moments.
But let's talk about this heightened level of concern going into the upcoming July 4th holiday weekend.
Give us some perspective, because all of a sudden, we're hearing the secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI director, people at the Pentagon -- John Miller in New York City is in charge of counterterrorism -- they're raising alarm bells.
How worried should our viewers be right now? RHODES: Well, Wolf, the fact of the matter is, whenever we head into a major holiday like July 4th, we always take additional security precautions. We want to make sure that our local law enforcement and homeland security agencies are ready for whatever contingencies there might be.
As you've heard, this is not related to a specific plot or a threat. The fact of the matter is, in addition, I think to that focus on securing an American holiday, we see different types of attacks and tactics that ISIL is using in different parts of the world and we want to be ready for those types of tactics. We've seen them, again, try to engage in these acts of violence in different obviously cities and it's appropriate, of course, that our law enforcement community take steps to prevent those types of actions.
BLITZER: So you say these are all prudent measures, because obviously, when viewers out there hear about all this, they get nervous. They wonder, should they go out to Fourth of July celebrations, fireworks, barbecues?
Should they go -- go to the parades or should they just hunker down?
RHODES: Absolutely, Wolf. People should go out and enjoy the holiday here.
Look, I've been here for several years where we have had very specific threat information, very specific plots that we needed to disrupt, including in New York City, where we've had to work with local law enforcement, to apprehend al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.
That's not what the situation is here. The situation here, again, is taking extra precautions because of the combination of you have the holiday and you have an organization, ISIL, that is seeking to inspire these types of acts of violence in different parts of the world.
That demands vigilance. But I think, again, we have great confidence in our law enforcement and homeland security community to deal with this threat.
BLITZER: Yes. We do, too.
Is ISIS capable of actually carrying out a complex, large scale terror attack or are you worried about these lone individuals who are inspired by social media, if you will, to go out and commit some sort of act against what's called a soft target?
RHODES: Well, Wolf, you know, I think, certainly, we are focused on this threat that is emerging, where individuals are inspired. They may not even be in direct touch with ISIL or be directed by them. They may just be seeking to carry out acts of violence, as we've seen in different parts of the world.
The fact of the matter is, when you look at other Al Qaeda affiliates, like AQAP in Yemen, you see much more complex and sophisticated plotting that we've been able to work to disrupt over the years.
Here, I think the threat really does emanate from individuals who may be inspired to conduct acts of violence. ISIL does have aspirations, again, to launch attacks beyond its territory. But I think what we've really seen is this focus on making sure that they're not these radicalized individuals carrying out acts of violence.
BLITZER: And specifically, are there ISIS cells here in the United States?
RHODES: Nothing like, again, what we've seen in the past, where you had very structured terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and affiliates, that worked over a long period of time to try to establish cells in different parts of the Western world.
What you see with ISIL, again, is them drawing foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria, principally, and other areas of the Middle East where they're focused.
[17:15:11] With respect to the Western world, we've seen them try to inspire people to carry out these acts of violence. That's why efforts to work with our partners to confront the ISIL ideology are very important to efforts to secure the United States and our partners, in addition to keeping the military pressure on them in Iraq and Syria.
BLITZER: Prudent measures, better to be safe than sorry. All right, Ben. Stand by. I want to get this historic day, U.S.-Cuban relations. We have a lot more to discuss, much more with President Obama's deputy national security adviser, when we come back.
[17:20:15] BLITZER: Breaking now, historic new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Cuba, the leaders of both countries announcing plans to reestablish ties and reopen embassies in each other's capitals. President Obama and the Cuban president, Raul Castro, exchanged letters, agreeing to formally resume diplomatic relations after 54 years.
We're back with the White House deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, who played a very critical behind-the-scenes role in facilitating this new chapter in the U.S.-Cuba relationship.
Briefly tell our viewers what you did, Ben.
RHODES: Well, Wolf, starting in the spring of 2013, we initiated a series of secret negotiations with Cuba. Many, many dozens of hours sitting down with the Cubans, focusing first on the issue of prisoners, and getting the release of Alan Gross, an intelligence asset, from Cuba in exchange for some three Cubans that they were interested in, but beyond that, we broadened the discussions to get at this relationship and how we could move on a path to normalization. We saw the release of a number of Cuban political prisoners, and that led as to the president's announcement in December with the Vatican's support that we were going to pursue this new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations.
BLITZER: And that's what is clearly happening right now. You still need congressional approval to end the trade embargo against Cuba, to get a U.S. ambassador confirmed, to get funding for the reopening of the U.S. embassy. You have the votes in the Senate and the House?
RHODES: Well, first of all, we can open an embassy. We will open an embassy. So we notified Congress, but it does not take action by Congress for us to transition that facility into a U.S. embassy, which will allow our diplomats to get out in the country and engage the Cuban people more broadly.
With respect to the embargo, look, wolf, two years ago nobody could have imagined that we'd be standing here today talking about a U.S. flag going up over an embassy in Havana.
I think the ground is changing underneath us with respect to the embargo. The American people know it doesn't work. The Cuban people reject it. The American business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, traditional supporters of the Republican Party in Congress very much want to see it lifted.
So I am confident that over time, as we move forward, we can chip away at that embargo so more Americans can travel to Cuba, and more American businesses can do business in Cuba.
BLITZER: I know the secretary of state, John Kerry, plans on being in Havana when an American flag goes up when the U.S. embassy is reopened later in July.
Does President Obama want to visit Cuba while he's still in office?
RHODES: Well, Wolf, I think it's something he'd be very interested in doing. We'll want to make sure that the conditions are right. We want to see that this is moving forward and progressing.
The opening of embassies will be a very dramatic and powerful moment. It will allow us to engage the Cuban people more broadly. The pope coming to Cuba and then the United States in the fall, given the role he's played, will be quite dramatic and important, but we'll assess whether or not the conditions are progressing in Cuba and in our relationship and see whether it makes sense for the president to go down. It's certainly something I think he'd be interested in.
BLITZER: I'm sure he would. I'm sure it's on his bucket list, as they say. Is it still the president's hope to shut down the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba before he leaves office?
RHODES: Absolutely, Wolf. We are very committed to closing Gitmo. We've been steadily transferring prisoners out of Gitmo, consistent with their national security requirements. Even after we close that prison, there's a separate question again of the facility. We have not discussed shutting down the Guantanamo naval base. The Cuban government, of course, objects to it.
We've made very clear we're going to have differences with the Cuban government going forward, as we do in all relationships. We'll have difference with their human rights record. We'll press those issues with our new embassy. I'm sure that they'll be raising the Guantanamo Naval Base with us going forward, as well.
BLITZER: Let's talk for a moment, while I still have you, about this fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. effort to train moderate Syrians. For example, to fight ISIS inside Syria. Apparently, that's not going very well. Fewer than 100 have actually completed training. Others who have completed training have simply abandoned their effort. What's going on?
RHODES: Well, Wolf, there are a number of things going on. First of all, we've had an ongoing relationship where we've provided different types of assistance to the opposition. Then this specific training program, we want to make sure that we are vetting the people that we're training so that, again, these are people who share our commitment to a future of Syria that rejects ISIL.
I think it's very important that we be judicious in who we train. At the same time, let's not forget that we have provided support, including air dropping weapons and materiel to the Syrian Kurds, who have been fighting against ISIL in the north. They've had great success. They defended the city of Kobani, and they've pushed ISIL back along that border.
So there are many different partners that were seeking to train, and equip and support inside of Syria. Again there's been a mixed set of results as to how different groups have performed on the battlefield, and have circled through our training programs, but we're going to stay committed, because we've seen that when there is a fighting force on the ground, they can work in coordination with our airpower. They can push ISIL back.
[17:25:04] BLITZER: One final question on the Iran nuclear negotiations. The secretary of state is in Vienna right now. The Iranians, will they have to agree to everything you agreed at Lausanne, that final document you released, all of those inspections, all of that specific details in order to reach an agreement?
RHODES: Yes. Wolf, there's a lot of speculation about what our negotiating positions are. The fact of the matter is, we had a framework in Lausanne. The president has been very clear about what his bottom lines are. This deal has to cut off Iran's pathway to a weapon. And there must be the necessary inspections and transparency to verify that agreement.
If we can't reach those bottom lines, there won't be a deal. If we can, that would be good for our security, and that would be good for the security of the world.
BLITZER: Ben Rhodes is the deputy national security adviser to the president. Ben, thanks very much for joining us.
RHODES: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And congratulations. I know you worked hard on that Cuban -- the opening of the diplomatic relations with Cuba. Clearly, you guys succeeded on that front. Appreciate it very much.
RHODES: Thanks, Wolf. I'm very happy today.
BLITZER: I'm sure you are.
Coming up, major U.S. airlines investigated for possible price fixing. Are they secretly working together to make sure you pay more for your tickets?
Plus Macy's now dumping Donald Trump. We have details of the latest high-profile split from the presidential candidate. We're standing by for a new interview with Donald Trump, this hour.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, unprecedented security precautions going into place right now in New York City to prevent terror attacks over the July 4th holiday. A top police official now calling the city's preparation -- I'm quoting John Miller now, the head of counterterrorism in New York -- quote, "potentially the most complex counterterrorism overlay ever for a Fourth of July."
[17:31:09] Let's bring in our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes; our CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen; and our counter-terrorism analyst, the former CIA counterterrorism official, Philip Mudd. Guys, to all three of you, thanks as usual.
You worked, Phil Mudd, for the CIA for many years. You also worked for the FBI. Take us a little bit behind the scenes. What's happening over there?
PHIL MUDD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Boy, we used to deal with this stuff every time we had a major holiday. January 1, Christmas day, the 9/11 anniversary.
A couple things that have changed. The first is volume. You've got to sit there and say, "Back when we were facing al Qaeda, you were asking is there a secret cell here, two or three guys in New York City, who are sent from Pakistan?"
Now you're selling -- you're saying ISIS is buying at a bulk discount. They've got thousands of people who might be watching your Twitter feed. How do we follow that across America? You can't follow that many people.
So the second and final thing I'd say is, guys, this is talking around the situation room at the White House. If there's an event, no finger pointing, because we've got so much data on these people. Any time you have an event, somebody's going to step back and say he was up on your radar two years ago. You should have followed him.
BLITZER: We know Al Qaeda, they try to do these major, complex, very coordinated terror attacks like blowing up a plane, for example. ISIS has more limited goals, much more restricted, right? PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They're trying to
inspire people in the west. And the kinds of attacks we've seen in the west have been not that successful. I mean, unfortunately, they have killed people, but relatively small numbers in Ottawa, in Australia. In Garland, Texas, the perpetrators were killed. There were no other casualties.
So their aim is to do, you know, it's death by 1,000 cuts: do a lot of attacks, small attacks, and kind of wear the west down.
BLITZER: But I'm hearing, Tom, is that these ISIS social media types who are sending all these messages, they're now a little bit more sophisticated, and they're encrypting their messages, so it's much more difficult, for example, for the FBI or others to monitor what's going on. You've heard that, I'm sure, as well.
FUENTES: Sure. When they put out the messages, Wolf, to all the ships at sea. Attack, kill. Do it now. Do it any way you can.
BLITZER: That's a public message.
FUENTES: That's kind of a public message, but then when somebody actually wants to go to Syria, then they can get on various applications and communicate in an encrypted manner.
But as far as the attacks go, the complex al Qaeda type, bin Laden type attacks require command and control, international communications, international financing, a lot of logistics involved in that, and overseeing it, involved in that.
Bin Laden couldn't run those anymore by courier when he was holed up in Pakistan. But these kinds of attacks, where you just put this out to tens of thousands of people sitting at home on the Internet, going to jihadi web sites, there's no control, because they don't have to communicate back. All they have to do is order a hunting knife online and cut somebody's head off.
BLITZER: But if they do want to communicate, Phil, they do have -- at least some of these people have these new encrypted techniques.
MUDD: This is very tough to get into. We called it back in the business when I was at the agency and the FBI "going black." That is, the ability to do point-to-point encryption between a terrorist, let's say, in Syria and somebody in Washington or New York, is increasing, because the terrorists are obviously reading stuff, like the Snowden revelations.
But the over-the-counter stuff they can get, it's available to anybody who wants to use the Internet is pretty darn good. So that's -- it's very difficult to follow.
BLITZER: Some have already suggested this is a propaganda win for them, even if nothing happens, because we're talking about it right now, and U.S. officials are raising their security concerns.
BERGEN: Well, of course it is, if terrorism is terrorizing people, then it's succeeding. And even the threat of terrorism, if people say, "Hey, I'm going to cancel my vacation," which they should not do, by the way. They should just go about doing their normal business. That's a form of victory.
BLITZER: And the fact that it's occurring during the holy month of Ramadan right now, that -- and if ISIS says to these young people, go out there and do it now, because you'll even be more doubly rewarded in heaven if you go ahead and kill yourself.
BERGEN: Well, and I think that's a very important point. Ramadan doesn't end after the July 4th weekend. It continues for several days thereafter.
BLITZER: So be vigilant.
BERGEN: So the window is still a problem for a while.
BLITZER: All right, guys. We're going to continue to watch what's going on. We'll stay on top of this story. Don't go too far away.
Coming up, other news we're following. Federal investigators now demanding answers from the major U.S. airlines. Are they breaking the law to keep your ticket prices high?
And we're also following big news in the race for the president of the United States. Donald Trump's blunt talk has him in trouble with Macy's. All of a sudden. We're standing by to hear what Trump has to say about that.
[18:40:13] BLITZER: Now a new federal probe of sky-high prices for airline tickets. Investigators are looking into whether major airline companies are actually breaking the law. Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, has the latest information. Rene, what is the Department of Justice investigating?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, we now know, Wolf, from the Department of Justice that they sent subpoenas to several major airlines as part of their investigation into, and I'm quoting them, "possible unlawful coordination."
Now, this isn't just price fixing. DOJ is looking into whether the airlines worked together essentially to manipulate the capacity of an aircraft or, you know, in layman's terms, limit the availability of seats. And that would in turn make ticket prices much higher for the consumer.
Of course, this all got started when Senator Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to the Department of Justice, asking them to look into this. Of course, the concern: you have four major airlines controlling more than 80 percent of the market. So a little uneasiness among some lawmakers, thinking that they may be taking advantage of that.
BLITZER: What are these airlines saying? Have they responded to the allegations? MARSH: We've reached out to several. So far we've heard back from
the United Airlines as well as American. They do acknowledge they received this letter from the Department of Justice, and they say that they are looking forward to working with them as they move forward with the investigation. You're looking at the statement from United there. Still waiting to hear back from a few others.
BLITZER: So it is possible that passengers here in the United States are paying more than they really should be paying because of these allegations?
MARSH: That's exactly what they're looking into. That is the possibility here. I mean, you're talking about four major airlines that saved $3.4 billion on fuel, and tickets prices didn't go down. So if that's the case, there will be a lot of angry consumers out there.
BLITZER: All right. Anxious to see what happening in this investigation. Rene, thank you.
Coming up, Macy's -- Macy's dumping Donald Trump because of his comments about illegal immigration. We'll have Donald Trump's reaction. That's next.
[17:46:34] BLITZER: Donald Trump just got fired again. But even though Macy's is now dumping him, an exclusive new CNN poll shows many Republican voters out there are very interested in hiring Trump to be president of the United States.
CNN's Athena Jones is joining us now. She's got all the new developments.
What's the latest, Athena?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. A lot of remarkable developments here, Wolf. I got to tell you, one of Trump's big selling points, he says, is that he's rich, he's successful, he's beholden to no one, not donors or not lobbyists, and so he isn't afraid to say what he thinks. He believes he's right on this illegal immigration issue and he's surging in the polls despite or maybe because of his controversial remarks.
JONES (voice-over): More bad news on is the business front for Donald Trump today. After facing pressure to dump Trump, Macy's announcing it's ending its partnership with the billionaire businessman.