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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer; Trump Change; President Obama Defends Iranian Nuclear Deal; Interview With U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Aired 18- 19:00p ET

Aired July 15, 2015 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He is laying out his case, scolding critics and bristling at a reporter. But did he change anyone's mind?

Nuclear fallout. Opponents are sounding the alarm, claiming the deal wouldn't stop Iran from building an atomic bomb. I will get dueling takes from the president's national security adviser and the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

ISIS interrogation, a rare glimpse of an American terror suspect under questioning. What did the son of a police captain reveal about his alleged attack plot or his contacts with ISIS?

And Trump change. The billionaire presidential candidate, Republican presidential candidate discloses how much he is worth. And does his math add up?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, President Obama is offering a fierce defense of the Iran nuclear deal as the clock starts ticking for Congress to review the agreement. At a White House news conference, he fired back at sharp criticism from Republican opponents, as well as from some key U.S. allies, especially Israel.

The president insists the deal is the best means to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and he promises consequences if Iran cheats. He visibly fumed at a question about Americans being held captain in Iran, calling the suggestion that he is content with their fate nonsense.

I will talk with the president's national security adviser, Susan Rice. She is standing by, as is the Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. Also standing by, our correspondents and analysts and they're covering all of the news that is breaking right now.

First, let's go to senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, striking a defiant tone, President Obama dismissed all of the criticisms about his nuclear deal with Iran. That is not likely to quiet his detractors. Even some of the president's fellow Democrats are far from sold on this deal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Answering a chorus of critics, President Obama came out swinging, insisting his nuclear deal with Iran was never designed to solve every problem with Tehran.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior. It's not contingent on Iran suddenly operating like a liberal democracy. It solves one particular problem, which is making sure they don't have a bomb.

ACOSTA: The president brushed off the celebrations of the deal as a victory in Iran and even Syria.

OBAMA: It does not give me pause that Mr. Assad or others in Tehran may be trying to spin the deal in a way that they think is favorable to what their constituencies want to hear.

ACOSTA: And he hit back at opponents in Congress, demanding that they read the agreement.

OBAMA: And I think that if Congress does that, then in fact, based on the facts, the majority of Congress should approve of this deal.

But we live in Washington, and politics do intrude.

You'll hear some critics say, "Well, we could have negotiated a better deal." OK. What does that mean?

ACOSTA: The president bristled at one question of why Americans currently detained in Iran were not freed as part of the deal.

QUESTION: Can you tell the country, sir, why are you content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation and the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?

OBAMA: The notion that I'm content as I celebrate, with Americans citizens languishing in Iranian jails, Major, that's -- that's nonsense, and you should know better.

I have met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody's content.

ACOSTA: Mr. Obama also touted the agreement's complicated and controversial inspection process, dismissing doubts that Iran would get away with cheating.

OBAMA: Suddenly, some is missing on the back end, they got some 'splaining to do. This is not something you hide in a closet. This is not something you put on a dolly and kind of wheel off somewhere.

ACOSTA: For now, now the president seems to thrive on the unanswered questions, taking a few extra at his news conference.

QUESTION: None of us is holding out hope that they will change their behavior?

OBAMA: No, no. Look, I am always hopeful that behavior may change, for the sake of the Iranian people, as well as people in the region. But I am not banking on that to say that this deal is the right thing to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, beside the Iran deal, the president raised some eyebrows when he conceded he won't defeat ISIS or settle the Syrian civil war while in office.

And when pressed on whether he revoke the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Bill Cosby, the president said he did not have that authority -- Wolf.

[18:05:01]

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jim Acosta at the White House.

There's lots to discuss with the president's national security adviser, Ambassador Susan Rice.

She's joining us now live from the White House.

Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Good to be with you, Wolf, as always.

BLITZER: Let's clarify a few points as far as this -- this nuclear deal with Iran is concerned.

I take it that all of the IAEA inspection teams, all the inspectors who go in, will have to be from countries that have formal full diplomatic relations with Iran. As a result, no Americans will directly be involved in any on the ground inspections in Iran, is that right?

RICE: Wolf, yes, the IAEA, which is a highly respected international organization, will field an international team of inspectors. And those inspectors will, in all likelihood, come from IAEA member states, most of whom have diplomatic relations with Iran. We, of course, are a rare exception.

BLITZER: So no one...

RICE: The British have diplomatic relations...

BLITZER: -- so no Americans...

RICE: -- the French...

BLITZER: -- will be -- I just want to be precise on this. Sorry for interrupting.

No Americans will be on the ground in Iran actually inspecting?

RICE: No Americans will be part of the IAEA inspection teams.

BLITZER: Will Americans be outside of the IAEA inspection teams?

RICE: Well, there are Americans in Iran on a daily basis, Wolf, so I'm not -- I'm not sure exactly what you're asking.

BLITZER: I'm talking about American government officials or military officials who could be inspecting.

RICE: We -- there are not going to independent American inspectors separate from the IAEA. The IAEA will be doing inspections -- the inspections on behalf of the United States and the rest of the international community.

BLITZER: Because I know there are American tourists and Americans who go visit family members in Iran. I'm talking about U.S. government sent people, diplomats or others, to go in there and see what's going on.

I take it they will not be doing that?

RICE: I don't anticipate that, no.

BLITZER: Because the president today said he does not anticipate restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran any time soon.

RICE: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about the criticism that a lot of Republicans, and as well as some Democrats, are delivering since the deal was announced. There seems to be a lot of concern about this so-called 24-day period that the Iranians would have before any inspectors would come to suspected sites. They say 24 days is way too long, to which you say?

RICE: I say, Wolf, that's a misplaced concern. And let me explain why.

First of all, in this very strong deal, there will be 24-7 presence of both inspectors and cameras and surveillance at all of Iran's known nuclear facilities. Moreover, the entirety of the Iranian supply chain, from uranium mines and mills to centrifuge manufacturing facilities, will all be continuously monitored.

So what we're talking about is the rare case when we have a suspicious site or other suspicious entity that we or other members of the international community believe needs to be inspected. In that case, the IAEA will go to Iran and say we need to look at this. And if the Iranians say no, there will be a process for working out that access to the IAEA's satisfaction.

If that does not occur, then the United States, acting with its European partners, can together decide that that inspection must occur. And if it hasn't occurred by the end of 24 days, Iran will be in violation of the agreement and we would be in a position to go straight to the U.N. Security Council and automatically, unilaterally, by the United States, reimpose sanctions.

Now, you say 24 days is a long time. The fact of the matter is we are talking about a suspect facility which, as the president said, is not going to be something small and portable. We're talking about potentially something like an undeclared nuclear facility, a building or something on a military base. And in that case, we will be watching it as the U.S. government and other members of the international community continuously.

If we see something suspect, I can promise you, we're looking at it and we're looking at it 24-7.

And then, in addition, the kinds of materials that we would be worried about being hidden are radioactive. And with the sophisticated equipment that the IAEA and we and others now have, any radioactive material can be easily detected for a long, long period of time, far more than a month or even several months. That material remains detectable in many instances, up for -- up to years.

So we're not concerned that that length of time gives the Iranians the ability to hide nefarious nuclear activity.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about the money that Iran is about to get, assuming this deal works out, about $150 billion in sanctions relief. This is Iranian money that's been held up. It's been -- it's been tied up under the U.N. sanctions, the U.S. sanctions.

Once they start getting that money, are there any restrictions on how the Iranians can use that money?

Obviously, they could use it to build schools or highways, but they could use it to support international terrorism, right?

RICE: Well, let's back up and let's understand what this is about. Remember, the sanctions that we and the international community put in place were for one reason, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. That was the existential threat that we were all concerned about, the United States, Israel and the whole world. This deal will verifiably prevent that from happening.

[18:10:15]

The U.N. resolutions that set up this structure always envisioned that if an when Iran met its obligations and we could be confident that they were not engaged in illegal construction or preparations for a nuclear weapon, that all the sanctions would be lifted. That's what the -- that's what we all signed up to.

Now, the money you're referring to, we actually estimate is closer to $100 billion, not $150 billion, is Iranian money, as you said, that has been held in accounts, frozen in accounts around the world.

Our best judgment is, first of all, they're -- it's going to take them quite a while to access that money. And it will take -- they won't be able to get it all at once. They won't get any of it, not one dime of it, Wolf, unless and until they take the steps that they've committed to take to dismantle the bulk of their nuclear program.

So they have to take out two thirds of their centrifuges. They have to get rid of 98 percent of their uranium stockpile. They have to render inoperative their plutonium facility. They have to let the IAEA do the inspections and the interviews that are necessary to answer the questions that remain about Iran's past nuclear activities.

Among -- they have to let the IAEA in and establish this 24-7 monitoring that I described. All of those steps have to be taken. And then at that point, the sanctions will be suspended and Iran will begin to be able to access its frozen accounts around the world.

What do we think they'll spend that money on?

We think for the most part, they're going to need to spend it on the Iranian nuclear program and their economy, which has tanked. And Rouhani, the president, was really elected on the hope that he would bring economic relief...

BLITZER: All right...

RICE: -- to the Iranian people. But yes...

BLITZER: -- but I just want to be precise...

RICE: -- it is real. It is possible. And they, in fact, we should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.

But the goal here, Wolf, was never -- and it was not designed to prevent them from engaging in bad behavior in the region. They're doing that today.

The goal is to ensure that they don't have a nuclear weapon. And therefore...

BLITZER: All right...

RICE: -- when they are engaging in that bad behavior, that much more dangerous.

BLITZER: Now, I just want to be precise. So there's really -- once the money starts flowing in, it's their money, correctly, as I pointed out and as you pointed out, it's their money, what they could do with it whatever they want. If they want to give a billion dollars in weapons to Bashar al-Assad or a billion dollars to Houthi rebels in Yemen... RICE: No, they can't -- they can't do that, Wolf, because

they'll still be under an arms embargo that would prevent them from sending weapons anywhere.

BLITZER: Well, what if they're not sending weapons?

What if they're just sending money?

RICE: Well, they may be able to send money, yes.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about this deal. I know you think it will go through the Senate, it will go through the House. You'll be able to override a presidential veto...

RICE: By the way...

BLITZER: Yes?

RICE: -- by the way, Wolf, just to be clear...

BLITZER: Yes?

RICE: -- they're sending money now while they're under sanctions.

BLITZER: Yes, but...

RICE: There's nothing currently...

BLITZER: But the critics point out they're going to have...

RICE: -- that is preventing them from sending money.

BLITZER: -- they're going to have a lot more money as a -- if, in fact, the sanctions are lifted.

RICE: They will have more money...

(CROSSTALK)

RICE: -- once they have verifiably given up their nuclear weapons capacity and any ability to reconstitute it.

BLITZER: All right, I have one final question, because I know you've got to run, Ambassador Rice.

If the deal does fall apart, if the Congress, for whatever reason, Democrats join Republicans and vote against it, they don't override a presidential -- the president's veto is not overridden, what would that mean for the president's legacy?

RICE: Well, I think it's hardly important what it means to the president's legacy.

The question will be what does it mean for U.S. national security and for the security of Israel and our closest partners in the region? What will happen, Wolf, if Congress decides that they want to

reject this deal, a deal that was negotiated by the United States and our closest partners in Europe and around the world, one that is accepted by the entire international community as effectively preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, several things will happen.

First, Iran will be completely unconstrained and relieved of its obligations under this deal. And there will be nothing to prevent them from racing to a bomb if they so chose to do so.

Secondly, the sanctions regime, which we have so painstakingly put in place, which has brought Iran to the negotiating table and enabled this deal, will collapse, because the countries around the world that have adhered religiously to this regime and have lost resources as a result are going to say, what's the point?

We signed up for the sanctions regime to get them to the table. We got them to the table, they agreed to a good deal, and then the United States abrogated the deal.

So we're going to have an Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon unconstrained with no monitoring and no constituents. We'll no sanctions regime and the credibility of the United States, not this administration, because this will have died on a bipartisan basis, but the United States as the world leader, will be very, very badly damaged.

[18:15:07]

I think that would be a terrible outcome. And it's not in our interests, nor is it in Israel's interests or anybody else.

If this deal is going to fail, let it be because the Iranian government didn't implement its obligations. And if that's the case, we're in a strengthened position. We can maintain the sanctions regime and we will have the international community behind us for whatever else we may need to do.

But if we jettison a deal that is a good deal, that accomplishes everything we set out to accomplish, then it's on us. And Iran is unconstrained and the sanctions regime and international unity is destroyed. That makes no sense.

BLITZER: Ambassador Susan Rice, thanks so much for joining us.

RICE: Good to be with you, Wolf, as always.

BLITZER: Susan is -- yes, Susan Rice is the president's national security adviser.

We are going to will get reaction to what we just heard from the president's national security adviser. The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, he is live here. There you see him. He's in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will get his reaction to what we just heard from Susan Rice. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:30]

BLITZER: President Obama says there is good reason the Israelis are nervous about the threats from Iran. But he is vigorously pushing back at the criticism from Israel of this new nuclear deal. He's calling it the best option for peace.

Let's talk about the agreement, the president's news conference, what we just heard from the president's national security adviser.

Ron Dermer is Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.

RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: You heard the case the president made today in that long news conference. You heard what the president's national security adviser says. Yes, Israel has some legitimate reasons to be concerned, but this is the best way, they say, for the Iran nuclear program to be halted at least for 10 or 15 years.

DERMER: Well, that's not actually what they're saying.

What they're saying is, they blocked Iran's path to a nuclear weapon. And if that were true, that would be a deal that Israel could support. Our problem is that deal paves Iran's path to a nuclear weapon. It's true that Iran has accepted temporary constraints. The main restrictions that are being put in place will be removed in 10 years.

Virtually all the serious restrictions will be removed in 15 years. And so we think that, at best, at best, if Iran does not violate the deal -- and there is a lot of issues with inspectors and everything else that could in over the next 10 years -- at best, it temporary blocks -- temporarily would block Iran's path to the bomb.

But after 10 years, they're on a fast highway to nuclear weapons. And that has huge dangers for Israel, because Iran represents an existential threat to Israel. It also means, for our Arab neighbors, that they're seeing in 10 years, and little more than 10 years, that Iran is going to be poised to get a weapon.

Remember, the president of the United States said a couple months ago on NPR, he said the breakout time in year 13 or 14 would be close to zero. Those are not my words. Those are the president's word. And he's right.

(CROSSTALK)

DERMER: Wait.

The Arab states know that as well. That means they are going to race to get nuclear weapons of their own. And a good-faith effort by the president and his team to prevent one very dangerous regime from getting nuclear weapons could lead to the nuclearization of the Middle East.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, let's says in 10 or 15 years, the Iranians decide they are going to go ahead and build a nuclear weapon. Doesn't the United States, doesn't Israel still have that military option available to launch airstrikes and try to destroy Iranian nuclear capabilities?

That's an option that you have used in the past. Israel has used it against Syria, against Iraq. You would still have that option in 10 or 15 years. The U.S. certainly would have that option as well.

DERMER: Look, Iran in 10, 15 years will have a legal nuclear program, a massive enrichment capacity that would be fully legal.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It wouldn't necessarily be legal, because Iran is still a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bans them from building a nuclear bomb.

DERMER: Yes, from building a nuclear weapon.

But the NPT treaty is paper handcuffs. That's the last thing that you have. Iran will be a member of the NPT until it decides not to be a member of the NPT.

BLITZER: But they would be violating that if they went ahead and became a nuclear power.

DERMER: If the NPT was protection, Wolf, we don't need to do anything with Iran today, because Iran is a member of the NPT today.

The problem is today Iran has an illegal nuclear program and is facing a headwind of sanctions. In 10 years, Iran is going to have a fully legal program. It's going to have not only the sanctions relief they're going to got today, but a massive increase in its economic power. It's going to use that power to continue its regional aggression and all that terrorism.

And if the argument that is being made is, yes, Iran is doing all these other things, but we have locked down its nuclear program, we have removed this threat, period, then that would be one thing. But that is not what is happening. You have not resolved the nuclear issue; the nuclear issue is still a threat. At best, you may have delayed it. And that's why this is such a bad deal.

BLITZER: The president says if you have a better idea, he is anxious to hear it. He hasn't heard it from you yet.

DERMER: A better idea is exactly the policy -- and I heard the national security adviser, Ambassador Rice, said, why did we get into this? To prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. This deal does not pass that test. BLITZER: What's the alternative?

DERMER: The alternative is to continue with a credible military threat and crippling sanctions and to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, not just to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon for 10 years and hope for the best, that Iran will all of a sudden become a different country, but to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon today and tomorrow. This deal doesn't do it. That's why it is a very bad deal.

BLITZER: Because the argument is that over the past 10 years or so of sanctions, which have been very strict especially in more recent years, it hasn't stopped the Iranians from developing centrifuges, enriching uranium, doing what they have been doing over these past -- in fact, they have gone from a few hundred centrifuges to 19,000. They will be going down to 6,000 if this deal goes through.

DERMER: OK.

First of all, let's correct something. Iran stopped its nuclear program in 2003, when it faced a credible military threat. And there weren't any serious sanctions. There have not been serious sanctions on Iran for 10 years.

[18:25:05]

There have been sanctions at various degrees. But serious sanctions hit Iran in 2012. And in 18 months, Iran was desperate to remove them and they went to the negotiating table. And instead of increasing the pressure, which was our concern with the interim agreement, the pressure was reduced. That's why you have the deal you have today.

You have to continue the pressure on Iran. I think this agreement need to be rejected. And you have to keep a credible military threat, which the president says he is not going to let them get a nuclear weapon, so they're not going to break out. And you have to keep the pressure on Iran and to get to a deal that stops their nuclear weapons program, period, today and tomorrow.

BLITZER: I want you to respond to what we just heard from the president's national security adviser, Susan Rice. Let me play this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Once the money starts flowing in, it's their money, correctly, as I pointed out and as you pointed out, it's their money, what they could do with it whatever they want. If they want to give a billion dollars in weapons to Bashar al-Assad or a billion dollars to Houthi rebels in Yemen...

RICE: No, they can't -- they can't do that, Wolf, because they'll still be under an arms embargo that would prevent them from sending weapons anywhere.

BLITZER: Well, what if they're not sending weapons?

What if they're just sending money?

RICE: Well, they may be able to send money, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what's your reaction to that?

DERMER: Billions of dollars is a lot of money. I don't know what percent of that $100 billion or $150 billion they are going to use.

BLITZER: She says it's $100 billion.

DERMER: OK, $100 billion.

So, let's say they only use 20 percent, 30 percent; $20 billion to $30 billion can fund a lot of terrorism. I don't think they are going to use all that money to establish a G.I. Bill for returning members of the Revolutionary Guard.

They're not changing their behavior. Understand something. Four days ago, the president of Iran, Rouhani, chose to go to a rally where they were chanting death to America, death to Israel, burning American and Israel flags. That wasn't 40 years ago. It was four days ago.

Iran is telling you and the supreme leader of Iran is saying, we are going to continue doing exactly what we are doing. And it's true, they're funning a lot of this stuff today. But you are going to make the problem 50 times worse by allowing all this money to pour in. And that's just the sanctions relief.

We're not talking about the oil sales. We're not talking about all the investment that is going to flow into Iran. Iran is going to become a much richer and more dangerous country after this deal than it is day.

BLITZER: Ambassador Dermer, thanks very much for coming in.

DERMER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Ron Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Just ahead, how was the son of a Boston police captain influenced by ISIS to allegedly plot terror attacks targeting college students in Massachusetts? A just released interrogation video is giving us some rare insight.

And a CNN exclusive, new information about who shot down a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine and how they did it. We are going to tell you what our sources are now revealing about the connection to Russia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:32:26] BLITZER: Tonight, we're hearing an American terror

suspect at his own words describe how he was influenced by ISIS in his alleged plot to commit mass murder with homemade bombs. The Justice Department has released video of the interrogation of a Boston captain's son.

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is joining us now with details.

Pretty dramatic video, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Damning evidence here, Wolf. This video was played in open court in Massachusetts showing 24-year-old Alexander Ciccolo, the son of a Boston police captain who has a long history of mental illness, explain to federal authorities why she supports ISIS. This explanation coming after authorities arrested him on July 4th for allegedly wanting to blow up school cafeterias in the name of the terrorist group.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FBI: You know, ISIS this, ISIL that, all these things. What is your take on that? What do you feel about, you know, the group that calls themselves ISIS or ISIL?

(INAUDIBLE)

FBI: They're doing a good thing?

ALEXANDER CICCOLO: Yes. Yes, they are. They're doing a good thing.

FBI: And what part of what they're doing is good? What is their -- and again, this is education for us too -- so what is their ultimate goal? What are they doing? What's good?

CICCOLO: They're implementing the Sharia. Freeing people from oppression. Wherever they go, they're changing things. Finally, finally establishing Khilafah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: After that video was played, the judge ordered Ciccolo be held without bond. Authorities moved in to arrest him after he allegedly acquired four firearms. And federal authorities say they also found evidence inside his apartment, that he was constructing Molotov cocktails. He also allegedly had two machetes and a pressure cooker. Authorities say it was clear he was inspired by the Boston marathon bombings -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story this is.

All right. Pamela, thank you very much. I want to bring in our CNN justice reporter Evan Perez, our law

enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, and our CNN counterterrorism analyst, the former CIA counterterrorism official, Philip Mudd.

Phil, how does this happen?

[18:35:01] How does the son of a Boston police officer become an ISIS radical?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, I spent 15 years watching these cases. And the more cases you see, the more it confirms that there is no model. Rich people, poor people, converts, people who are native born into Islam, people who travel here from overseas, people who grow up here. I think what we are learning is you can't profile in the cases because you can't find a profile. There are a couple of characteristics you see here, though, I think are common, increasingly in this new age of lone wolf cases.

One is when I watched that video, I saw something I never would have seen with an al Qaeda prisoner. That is these people, like this guy, have very little knowledge what they're talking about. His explanation, his religious justification is so thin. You can cut through it with a pair of scissors. He doesn't know what he is talking about.

And the second and final, state of mental illness with a lot of the cases is substantial. More and more cases, you are seeing people who switched is turned on because their mental capacity is pretty limited. He is not only going before a judge, he's going to have to get evaluated by a psychiatrist to see if he is fit for trial.

BLITZER: Because he makes a good point, Phil -- Tom, because even in the court documents it says he has a history of some mental problems.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. He does. I think that's part of the reason they wanted to release this in video form just to show his explanation and what his thinking is, what he was intending to do, mentally ill or not. That this is what -- this individual is going to be capable of extreme violence by machete, by knife, by a gun, by a bomb. And he needed to be stopped.

And they also -- it's also a classic demonstration of the FBI's rapport building interview technique. Take their time. Let them explain it. Give him a chance. Ask him kind of direct, what questions, what do you mean by this? What are you believing? What are you thinking? And it's a classing of letting this guy explain how bad he is going to be.

BLITZER: And explain why the FBI decided to cover his face?

FUENTES: Well, I think that, you know, they might have had a legal reason to do that. I'm not sure, because he is not convicted yet. Maybe that's why. I don't know.

BLITZER: Yes. Maybe they didn't want to show his face for -- so that ISIS could use it for propaganda purposes either.

Evan, the -- this young guy, this 24-year-old Alex Ciccolo, he is the son of a Boston police captain. Tell us about his father.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, his father, Wolf, is a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department. You see his picture right there. And he is among those people who responded when the Boston bombing happened, the marathon bombing happen. So, the remarkable thing here is that the father is the one who grew concerned about his son. And actually called the FBI in to -- to turn him, turn him in essentially, and to start this case.

I just want to add one quick thing to the conversation about Ciccolo. If you notice, he is charged right now with a weapons charge. As you mention, he has a history, according to court papers, he has a history of mental illness. I think what you are seeing there is how in control of his own, of his mental faculties he seems to be, at least from the portrayal that you see in that video.

And keep in mind, Wolf, that until July of last year, generally, the FBI did not record these types of interrogation. And that was a rule change that the Justice Department passed under Eric Holder, the former attorney general. So, it's remarkable actually, and how unusual it is for us to be able to see a video like this, because in the past we never really got to see these.

And so, that's kind of remarkable about this particular case is that now we have seen what, what the FBI was able to get from him. And it also played a role into this judge's decision, despite the fact that he has mental illness to hold him under these charges, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil, it also shows how important the family members are in cooperating with law enforcement in a situation like this. He was actually, the FBI was alerted by this, by the father.

MUDD: Yes. But that, that, there is a reverse piece of that, Wolf, and that is, it gets back to the mental status of this individual. And most of these cases, the father can't alert because the individual being radicalized is smart enough, sensitive enough, even if he is 17, 18, this guy is 23, 24 to know, as soon as you start talking to somebody who might talk to law enforcement, you're in trouble.

So, to my mind, what the guy said during that interview, and the fact that his father knew enough to alert is not necessarily an indication of guilt. Somebody is going to use that to say, this guy wasn't smart enough to know he shouldn't be talking to law enforcement and he shouldn't be talking to his dad.

BLITZER: And, one quick point, Tom, why did it take a year to arrest this guy? They have been watching him for a year.

FUENTES: I think they wanted to let him have the opportunity to show that he was actually going to do the bad things.

One other point about the father, the father saved his life. Yes, he turned him in. But it must have been clear to the father this guy was going to go out do an attack, kill other people including himself.

[18:40:02] And that he saved other people's lives and his own son's life by cooperating and turning him in.

BLITZER: His son may be going to jail for a while.

FUENTES: In jail, but he will be alive.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Tom Fuentes, thanks very much. Evan Perez, Phil Mudd, guys, thanks to all of you.

Just ahead, casting blame for the downing of a passenger plane over Ukraine. We're learning now that the actual culprits aren't the only ones being held responsible. Stand by. We have exclusive new information.

And Donald Trump by the numbers. As he climbs in the polls, he says he is revealing just how rich he really is. Is there more to the financial statement though than meets the eye?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:03] BLITZER: Tonight, a CNN exclusive. Learning details who is responsible for the deadly downing of a Malaysian commercial airliner nearly a year ago. Sources are revealing findings from the investigation.

Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here. She's been digging into this story.

And you are getting exclusive new information, Rene. What are you learning?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Tonight, sources say Dutch investigators not only know the exact type of missile used to shoot down MH-17, they're also placing blame on the airline and laying out extremely detailed evidence that incriminates one rebel group.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, CNN has learned investigators of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 say evidence points to pro-Russian rebels as the culprit for bringing down the passenger plane.

A draft report by the lead crash investigators, the Dutch safety board, also indicates Malaysia Airlines did not do enough to keep the plane out of harm's way. According to two sources with knowledge of the investigation, the report pinpoints the exact type of missile used, a Russian Buk surface-to-air missile. The report also pinpoints where it was launched and who was in control of the territory where it came from.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: The Dutch safety board is very respected worldwide. They are methodical. They are not political in any way. And they have conducted this investigation in painstaking detail.

MARSH: The Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was at 30,000 feet over the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, when it went down. U.S. officials have said a radar system saw a surface-to-air missile turn on and track an aircraft right before MH-17 was shot out of the sky.

Sources say the report blames Malaysia Airlines for failing to avoid the conflict zone. U.S. airline carriers make decisions about where to avoid flying based on warnings other countries send to their pilots. Dutch investigators say Malaysia Airlines did not review other country's warnings and was unaware other airlines were avoiding the area.

GOELZ: It's sloppy. It's not good procedure. It's not -- it shows a certain lack of commitment to a culture of safety.

MARSH: Russian observers say the new details are a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's credibility. In the past, Putin has denied any responsibility for the crash of MH-17.

HEATHER CONLEY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: There its so much overwhelming evidence that, yes, the Kremlin can continue to deny that it doesn't have involvement, but it just does not stand to any test.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: Well, the final report is expected out this fall. We have reached out to Malaysia Airlines and Russian officials for reaction to our reporting, but have not received a response.

The crash investigation is separate from the ongoing criminal investigation, but, Wolf, it is worth remembering, some 298 people on board that plane all died.

BLITZER: Yes, very worth reporting. You got to learn lessons from that.

Thanks very much. Good reporting by you. Rene Marsh, thank you.

Just ahead, Senator Ted Cruz on Donald Trump's turf. The two Republican presidential candidates meeting today at Trump Tower in New York. What did they talk about? Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:53:11] BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump is exposing his bottom line. His presidential campaign announcing that the mogul-turned- presidential candidate has a net worth in excess of $10 billion. The Republican's income last year is listed at $362 million only last year.

The Federal Election Commission confirms that Trump has filed a financial disclosure statement, a requirement to participate in the upcoming presidential debate.

Let's bring in our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

They put out a press release right away. The actual documents, all the specifics that hasn't been released yet, right?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The Trump campaign says that they have filed it with the FEC. We have not seen that on their Web site.

But the press release was interesting, classic Donald Trump fashion. He said, "This report was not designed for a man of Mr. Trump's massive wealth." So, he's sort of attacking the FEC.

Of course, he is making a point that he is the wealthiest, the most robust financial picture of any candidate in the race. But we don't have much of a picture beyond that. I mean, just a month ago, he said he had $8.7 billion in a net worth. Now, he says over $10 billion.

So, we're not going to have a real sense of --

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: Exactly.

BLITZER: "Forbes" magazine, Dana, says he is worth $4 billion. So, there's obviously some discrepancy.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is. And as Jeff said, what we have is a press release that's a couple of pages. We don't have the actual financial disclosure form, which will give us details of how he adds up to over what he says is over $10 billion.

Just to add to what you were saying to the form. The reason why he says it's not designed for someone of his wealth is because the most that he can sign off on is to have holdings of more than $50 million. And is he going to do? Because he's got buildings that are $1.5 billion. I mean, it doesn't even fit him.

BLITZER: Yes. It's also interesting, the fact that he is doing this, filing these kinds of reports about his worth, that indicates he is in it.

[18:55:04] He is in this game.

BORGER: You know, he is totally in it. And he has such a different attitude toward his wealth than most candidates that we've known. You know, Mitt Romney had a difficult time talking about his wealth. After Hillary Clinton said they were dead broke, she had to say, not really, we're wealthier than most people.

Donald Trump, no apologies. His bumper sticker is, "I'm very rich", which means, I'm very successful, and that is why you should vote for me, because I will bring you success. So, it's completely different.

BASH: And one thing that I talked to him about yesterday when I met him at his winery, speaking of him being rich --

BLITZER: In Virginia.

BASH: -- in Virginia -- is the fact that 40 percent of Republican voters in a recent poll said they don't think he is serious, that he's just doing this for publicity. The point he made to me is, why would I do that if I'm going to put out my financials?

ZELENY: It's important to point out, though, it's impossible to fact check this. He is saying what these buildings are worth. He cannot say exactly -- it's impossible for us to say that any of this is actually true.

BLITZER: You know, I want to switch gears for a moment. At the presidential news conference today in the White House, the president was asked about possibly revoking the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Bill Cosby received years ago from President Bush.

Watch this. Here is the president's reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you give a woman or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that's rape.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, Gloria, he says he can't revoke it. There's no procedure for doing that. But he was very blunt.

BORGER: Well, first of all, he knew there wasn't a mechanism to do it, which leads me to believe that he had actually thought --

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: -- thought about it in advance. Secondly, I think this is sort of the newer version of Obama that we have been seeing over the last few months. I think this was an answer given by somebody who is the father of two daughters and who wanted to make this point personally.

And we have seen that from him in a lot of different ways over the last few months. And I think this is somebody who is speaking from the heart on this and saying, you know what, don't confuse this with anything else.

ZELENY: And the question here is, right before that clip, he said it's my practice to not comment on matters that are possibly under investigation or litigation. Then, he went on right to say this. We have not seen many real moments like that of his presidency in the East Room. He knows that effect of those words have on this. So, I thought it was quite significant today.

BLITZER: It was a dramatic moment, because most of the news conference was on the Iran nuclear deal. Then, April Ryan, a long time White House correspondent, asked about Bill Cosby. I suspect the president and his aides were not prepared, weren't thinking it was going to come up.

BASH: I don't know. I mean, I think these days there are -- I don't know if you would call this a pop culture issue. It's probably deeper than that, that come up. They probably did prepare.

I did think that the fact that he seemed to be very well-versed in what happened with Bill Cosby was very noteworthy.

BLITZER: Well, I'm sure he grew up watching all those shows, like all of us.

ZELENY: It has been a topic of discussion in the House. I mean, without question, it would be.

But this was given to Bill Cosby under George W. Bush, under President Bush. We have seen the video of it now. So, just so significant.

BORGER: And there are two senators, McCaskill and Gillibrand, who have said that he should actually -- that Cosby should give back the medal voluntarily. The president did not address that.

But, you know, again, he could have just stopped and said, there's no mechanism to do that. I will move on. I think he would have done that his first term, Obama. At the end of his term, I think he wanted to say more.

BLITZER: He's going to say whatever he wants at this point.

All right, guys. Thanks very much.

Finally, I'd like to pay tribute to a legendary journalist, a journalist who broke new ground for women in television news. Marlene Sanders has died. She was an award-winning correspondent for ABC News, CBS News and other news outlets. She was the first network news woman to report from Vietnam, among first during her long and impressive career.

Marlene Sanders is also the mother of a member of our SITUATION ROOM family, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff says his mom informed and inspired a generation. And he tells me he was lucky to have her as a mom.

Jeff, our thoughts, our prayers are with you and your family.

Marlene Sanders, 84 years old.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please go ahead, tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Always watch us live, but if you can't, DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.