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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Meeting With Ryan, Top Republicans Next Week; Trump Calls Graham "A Disgrace" Says "Not Surprised" By Bush; Representative Labrador: Trump Hasn't Proved To Me He's A Conservative; Jeb Bush: "I Will Not Vote For Trump Or Clinton"; Obama: Presidential Race "Not A Reality Show"; Interview with Bernie Sanders; Al Qaeda Group Strengthening Amid War on ISIS; Report: Images May Show North Korean Nuke Test Preps. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 6, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Breaking news, grand old implosion. Divisions in the Republican Party deepening tonight as more of its biggest names come out for and against Donald Trump.
The presumptive nominee now set to meet House Speaker Paul Ryan who says he can't endorse Trump right now. Did Trump unify the fractured party he now represents?
Burned up, Bernie Sanders fires off an angry letter to the head of the Democratic Party accusing two convention committee officials of actively supporting Hillary Clinton. Is the convention being tilted toward his rival? I'll ask. Senator Bernie Sanders joins me this hour.
Brutal attack. Dramatic drone video of an assault by terrorist forces in Syria, but it's not ISIS. It's an al Qaeda group that's sparking growing concern. Is it getting stronger while the world is focused on ISIS?
And Un-ambiguous. North Korea's Kim Jong-Un poised to assume even more power and a position as his country holds its biggest political event in decades. A more grandiose title for the supreme leader and party shake-up, all expected. Should more nuclear tests be expected as well?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking political news as the Republican Party struggled to come to terms with Donald Trump as its presumptive presidential nominee. Some top Republicans just can't do it.
Jeb Bush the latest just announcing on social media that he won't vote for Donald Trump or for likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Another former presidential candidate, Lindsey Graham also voicing disdain for Trump saying he lacks the temperament and the judgment to be commander-in-chief. Graham says he just won't vote.
Tonight Donald Trump is firing back. Trump will meet with his highest ranking Republican critic next week, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said in a CNN interview he can't support Donald Trump, at least not now. Ryan's office has announced that he, Trump and top Republicans will meet this coming Thursday.
We're also following ominous developments in North Korea right now where the biggest political event in decades is under way. The first gathering of the communist party elites in some 36 years. Kim Jong-Un is expected to use the even to shake up the leadership and take on even more grandiose titles.
Tonight, there's concern that will also mark the occasion with a new missile or even a new nuclear test. We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests including Congressman Raul Labrador and our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.
Let's begin with CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, the Republican Party's divisions over Donald Trump are clearly deepening.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: They are, indeed, Wolf. This big tent of the Republican Party is being tested like never before. Now on one hand you have Republicans that are holding their nose. On the other hand you have Republicans who are holding their support.
But a few moments ago, when Donald Trump addressed the crowd here in Omaha, it is very clear by the boos coming out from the crowd when he mentions Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush, it's clear whose side they're on.
ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump's victory lap is looking more like an obstacle course and that's just among Republicans.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I actually wish the primaries were not over. It's in fun this way. I want the primaries to keep going, but everybody's out. I'm the only one left. That's OK, right?
ZELENY: He's defeated his GOP rivals and won the hearts of millions of Republican voters, but the discord inside the party rages on. Senator Lindsey Graham tells CNN's Dana Bash he can't vote Trump.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't think he has the temperament or judgment to be commander-in-chief. I just can't go there with Donald.
ZELENY: This after House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN's Jake Tapper he can't endorse the presumptive nominee.
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now.
ZELENY: So far Trump is holding his famously sharp tongue. Perhaps taking a new stab at diplomacy.
TRUMP: You know, you're supposed to be coming together. Paul Ryan, I don't know what happened. I don't know.
ZELENY: Jeb Bush also weighing in writing today on Facebook, "In November, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But other Republicans are getting on board. Some grudgingly, some not.
BOBBY JINDAL (R), FORMER LOUISIANA GOVERNOE: I'm voting for Donald Trump because I don't think we can afford four more years of liberal incompetence.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: As I said many times, I support the nominee of the party.
ZELENY: Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he's always supported the Republican nominee and will do so this year too. President Obama and Democrats are watching it all with delight.
[18:05:04]BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think not just Republican officials but more importantly Republican voters are going to have to make a decision as to whether this is the guy who speaks for them and represents their values.
ZELENY: But Trump knows how to fire up any tepid Republicans.
TRUMP: Now it's between me and Crooked Hillary.
ZELENY: Today alone, taking his message to a red state, Nebraska, and a blue state, Oregon. But the welcome mat was not entirely warm. Graffiti in letters eight feet tall saying dump Trump were painted on this grain elevator in Omaha. It's been five extraordinary months since Trump landed in Omaha campaigning for the caucuses when party elders thought he would fade away.
TRUMP: I love Omaha. I love Nebraska.
ZELENY: Now it's his Republican Party and Trump is reveling in the moment. Even putting on a coal miner's hat Thursday night in West Virginia.
TRUMP: That is great. My hair look OK?
ZELENY: So all of these deepening divisions will come together next week when Donald Trump comes to Washington to Capitol Hill to meet with Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, as well as other top congressional leaders.
He'll also hold a private meeting with Speaker Ryan and Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC. But Wolf, it is increasingly clear that Donald Trump just doesn't care about this criticism. We know he feeds on crowds. And this crowd tonight in Omaha, you can see behind me here, he is shaking the final hands here. They are clearly with Donald Trump. So by next Thursday when this meeting comes in Washington, Wolf, he may be even more animated.
BLITZER: He probably will be. All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Trump as you just saw wrapped up that rally in Nebraska. He is now heading to Oregon for yet another rally later tonight.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the scene for us in Oregon. Jim, Oregon will hold its Republican primary a week from Tuesday. Even though Trump is already the presumptive nominee, but he still wants to visit all these states.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. He wants all these states and he wants all of that air time that these rallies tend to bring about for him. We should point out as Jeff was just saying, the divide inside the Republican Party over Donald Trump is growing.
But inside the Trump campaign, they are not expressing any worries, any concerns about what's unfolding right now, and while Donald Trump picked up the support of former vice President Cheney and something he mentioned at that rally in Nebraska.
Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham, as Jeff just said, they are saying they will not vote for Donald Trump and as we have heard from Donald Trump in the past, he has said once he beats rival, he doesn't pick on them any more in public.
But that event in Nebraska showed that things have changed somewhat when you form, when you become part of the never Trump Movement, Donald Trump comes after you and he did that. He seemed to be enjoying the spectacle just a few moments ago in Nebraska. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will not talk about Jeb Bush. I will not say -- I will not say he is low energy. I will not say it. I will not say it. And I won't talk about Lindsey Graham who had like one point -- you ever see this guy on television?
He is nasty. He gets out dealt at all levels of the campaign. He leaves a disgrace. He can't represent the people of South Carolina well. He goes on television -- I've never seen a guy on television knocking me all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now as for this rift with Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus has said at a political breakfast earlier today, Wolf, that when he talked to Donald Trump right after the speaker's comments, Donald Trump did not sound furious at all.
But Trump told the "Washington Post" earlier this afternoon that he and House Speaker Paul Ryan may end up going their separate ways after this meeting coming up next Thursday. I did talk to a Trump aide who said hang on just a second. He was much more optimistic about this saying that he feels Donald Trump and Paul Ryan will end up being just like old friends by the end of next week.
But Wolf, that is a very optimistic view and without the support of Paul Ryan, it is going to be very difficult for Donald Trump to hold this party together -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point, Jim Acosta in Oregon for us. Thank you. Let's get more on all of this. Joining us Republican Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REPRESENTATIVE RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: Great to be on your show, Wolf.
BLITZER: As a lot of our viewers will remember. You've been on our show before. You used to support Senator Ted Cruz, but you vowed to back the eventual Republican nominee. How can you reconcile your support for Donald Trump right now with a rather harsh criticism you've levelled against him in the past?
LABRADOR: You know, it's pretty simple. I think Donald Trump has earned my support. I will vote for him because he is a much better option than Hillary Clinton. However so far, he has not earned my endorsement and he has not earned my active participation in his campaign.
He might not want it and that's OK. But I think he needs to come out and talk it a few of us in Washington, D.C. He needs to understand that 60 percent of the people in the party did vote against him. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't vote for him.
[18:10:09]And I don't understand all these people that are out there on the never Trump band wagon. I think he did earn the support of the Republican Party by winning the nomination. But I think he needs to grow up a little bit.
Some of the comments that he makes are pretty immature. And I think he needs to learn how to bring people together. His job is to bring the Republican Party together. Sometimes that is hard after a very difficult fight, but I think it is his responsibility to come out and work with us.
BLITZER: Do you think the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, was wrong to withhold at least for now his endorsement, his support of Donald Trump?
LABRADOR: Absolutely. I think that the speaker of the House needs to reconsider what he's doing. I think that he really needs to consider maybe firing some of his advisors. I think that he's the leader of the party and he needs to figure out how we can work with the nominee from the party.
That doesn't mean that we are all go out there and do everything that Trump is asking us to do. In fact, I think this is a golden opportunity for the Republican Party. I'm going to look at this optimistically.
We, as Republicans, can actually start working as legislators and start realizing that maybe we can have that little bit of friction between the House, the Senate, and the presidency when we have somebody from our own party.
What you see both sides do is when a Republican is president, the Republicans put on the Republican jersey and allow that president to do too many things that go against a constitution.
And when the Democrats have a Democratic president like they do right now with Obama, they kind of ignore the things that Democratic president is doing that's outside of the constitution. Maybe now we will start looking at the prerogatives of the legislature and start being legislators and start acting like legislators.
BLITZER: Congressman, should the speaker lose the speakership if he does not wind up supporting, backing Donald Trump? Some of Trump supporters have made that suggestion.
LABRADOR: You know, I think both sides need to calm down. This has been a pretty divisive primary and it is time for all of us to come together. Time for Donald Trump to grow up and to start acting presidential.
It is time for Paul Ryan to start being the leader of the Republican Party and showing us that he can unify the party and I think they have an opportunity to do that next week. It is no time to start whether someone should lose their speakership or not.
BLITZER: Do you believe running with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket makes 2016 more difficult for you, for some of your Republican colleagues?
LABRADOR: I don't. I think Trump will bringing some new people to the party. I also think he needs to learn how to campaign a little bit better. The stuff that he is doing is energizing 40 percent of the Republican Party.
But he is not yet energizing the majority of the Republican Party and not yet energizing the majority of Americans. He needs to figure out how he can go from the 40 percent base to a majority of the American public. I think he can do it.
I think some of the things that he talks about are good. Others, as you know, Wolf, I have been against. But at least what he is doing is talking about Americans. He is talking about America first. He is talking about making America great.
Those are great slogans. Now let's figure out how he can do that without just attacking people and having childish tweets and childish statements about people out there.
BLITZER: You previously said, Congressman, that you don't believe Donald Trump is a conservative. Do you believe a hypothetical President Trump will sign some of the conservative legislation that you support, legislation that President Obama has vetoed?
LABRADOR: He has not proven to me yet that he is a conservative. I have not talked to Donald Trump. I'm willing to talk to him. I think there are two things that will happen to him soon that will tell us a lot about Donald Trump.
First, who is going to be his vice presidential nominee? If he picks somebody like Rick Perry, somebody who is a true conservative, who has governed as a conservative, I will be excited about a Donald Trump presidency.
The other thing he said he would come out with a list of people that would be potential Supreme Court nominees. If he picks people like Mike Lee, like Ted Cruz, like others to be on that list, that is something that will tell us about what kind of president he is going to be.
So I think he has yet to prove he is a conservative, but I think we can give him the time and opportunity to come to us and to talk to us. Because he has done a good job of talking about some of the issues that we're facing in America.
And he has done a good job talking to people that feel like they're left out of the system. Left out of the political system. And I think that is something that we as Republicans need to remember.
And that's why I was so disappointed with what Paul Ryan did because a lot of the people that are voting for Donald Trump, there's totally disaffected with what we're doing in Washington, D.C. and he almost kind of slapped him in the face when he said what he did.
[18:15:09]BLITZER: Congressman Labrador, thanks so much for joining us.
LABRADOR: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more on the growing divisions in the Republican Party over Donald Trump. What impact will they have on other GOP candidates?
Plus, my interview with Senator Bernie Sanders, does he believe the Democratic Party has stacked the cards against him?
BLITZER: We are following breaking political news. The former Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush saying tonight he will not vote for Donald Trump.
[18:20:05]That comes just hours after the former Republican hopeful Lindsey Graham said he won't vote for Donald Trump, won't vote at all in November for either Donald Trump for Hillary Clinton.
Let's get some more right now assuming Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. Let's get some more now. Joining us, our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, CNN political commentator, Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker, Ryan Lizza, and CNN political commentator and the host of CNN "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish, and CNN senior political analyst, the senior editor for the "Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.
Ron, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, two former Republican presidential candidates say they won't be supporting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for that matter in a general election. What does this signal about the state right now of the Republican Party?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. We are running out of adjectives, extraordinary, unprecedented. I mean, George Mini (ph) as the head of the AFL-CIO would not endorse George McGovern in 1972. But I'm hard press to find a more recent example that would, you know, go beyond what you just mentioned.
George bush 41, George Bush 43 said they are not going to endorse. At least three blue state governors in Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts has said they are not going to endorse. It is an extraordinary rupture in the party, but it really just continues what we have seen throughout.
Donald Trump's was a revolution from within. He mobilized particularly among the blue collar side of the party that had not previously picked the nominee. And he mobilized them around positions that face enormous resistance within the party.
One telling example. If you look at the exit polls that were conducted in all of the states, there were only two states where a majority of Republican voters supported his idea of deporting all 12 million undocumented immigrants.
Yet he won such overwhelming margins among those voters that until the very end, they provided a majority of his votes in almost every state and that is basically a passionate plurality, a nominated Donald Trump.
And you are seeing how much of the rest of the party is still hesitant about the course he would steer the party on.
BLITZER: Michael, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, said he isn't ready to endorse Donald Trump at least not now. Many Republican leaders, past presidents are actually planning on skipping the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. Should the GOP be worried?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR, "SMERCONISH": I think that Speaker Ryan has given Donald Trump an opportunity, right. Jeb Bush says I'm not voting for Donald Trump. Lindsey Graham says likewise. Bush 41, Bush 43 aren't even going to the convention. What can Donald Trump do with that? Nothing.
Here is Paul Ryan, though, on the other hand saying, look, I'm just not there yet. I might get there. It gives Donald Trump the opportunity to meet with him and to win him over, which I know he is not inclined to do because he looks at this as an affront. But my point is this, Wolf. There are many who are in the same position as Paul Ryan. Right now, the wound is just too raw and they're not interested in making amends with Trump.
But if Ryan can, perhaps they will look that model and say well OK. If the speaker was able to make it work with Donald Trump maybe I should take a second look.
BLITZER: You know, Brianna, some Trump supporters have said the speaker should not be the speaker if in the end he can't endorse the Republican presidential nominee. What needs to be done right now? Because you have spoken to a lot of folks out there to unite this party.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And there's really no easy answer to that question. I think in the near term, I don't know if Paul Ryan can unify the Republican Party. I don't know if Donald Trump can unify the Republican Party.
If there is one person who can, perhaps it is Hillary Clinton, right? I mean, when you think of all of these folks, what do they have in common? These supporters of say the Paul Ryan section of Republicans or the supporters of Donald Trump.
They don't like Hillary Clinton and maybe that's sort of the unifying thing. But at the same time that just glosses over I think some of the divisions. And a house divided cannot stand, right?
So I think, you know, we have seen this turbulence coming for some time for years in fact. From Tea Party summer to Republicans being primaried from the right. This is an existential crisis I think and I don't think there is a really clear to that question.
BLITZER: It's a big deal right now. The president of the United States, Ryan, President Obama, he weighed in today. He didn't mince any words at all. Making it clear that this is not the time for the commander-in-chief to have a reality show or to be a celebrity.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Every time that Barack Obama talks about the Republican primaries, he seems gleeful, half gleeful and half just shaking his head. I think his view is he's been dealing with the Republican Party that has been very difficult for him to deal with.
And I think there's a sense that he has seen this coming and in a sense from the White House that this is the logical conclusion of this sort of disruption or the rupture of the Republican Party.
On the Paul Ryan and some of the other Republicans who were coming out against Trump, I think there are two camps in it. On the one side, we have the Bushes who are just finished, right. They are sort of out of politics now.
They don't want to play in this election and will never endorse Trump. But the people who are actually still in politics and still have a future, I think it is slightly different calculation. [18:25:03]They are thinking how much can we change Donald Trump? How much by withdrawing our endorsement now can we affect him in the next six months and maybe we can get to a place where if he changes his policy on a few core issues then Paul Ryan and others saying no now will endorse him and you will have a more unified party in the fall.
KEILAR: And they will say he is a better alternative to Hillary Clinton. That's where they are trying to get, right?
BLITZER: Michael, let me get Michael Smerconish to weigh in. As you know, Senator Lindsey Graham, he said, he will focus his efforts on getting Republicans elected in the House and the Senate. He is not going to vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton for that matter.
How concerned are republicans about the down ticket voting if Trump is the presidential nominee, presumptive nominee as we all know.
SMERCONISH: I'll answer by giving you an illustration. On election day in Pennsylvania just two weeks ago, Pat Toomey voting for himself presumably because he is up for reelection had to have known from the polls that Donald Trump was about to win the commonwealth.
And yet what did he do, Wolf? He made sure that the media knew he was going in to cast a ballot for Ted Cruz. I think that shows you he wanted to be on record with general election voters in Pennsylvania as not having been for this guy when it mattered during the nomination process.
So I think they are terribly concerned. Many of them are contortionists now. Some of them are saying I will vote for him, but I'm not supporting him. I don't know how that works.
BLITZER: We just heard from that Raul Labrador at least for now. Ron Brownstein, how does it work?
BROWNSTEIN: It doesn't work in modern politics. One of the most important trends in our contemporary politics is the decline of split ticket voting. More people are voting the same way for president and for senator. The Senate races are being depersonalized in some way.
They are becoming more parliamentary about which part do you want in control. If you look now, there is an enormous correlation between the states that voted both times for President Obama.
Democrats have 80 percent of the Senate seats in those states. If you look at the states that voted both times against him, Republicans have 90 percent of the Senate seats in those states.
The challenge Republicans face is that you have this very polarizing nominee on the ballot in a year when they will be defending seven seats in states that voted both times for President Obama.
So that was going to be tough under any circumstances, places like Pennsylvania and Illinois and Wisconsin and New Hampshire and Ohio, Florida.
It is going to be especially tough with a nominee who could face particular difficulty in blue places, even if he can turn out a blue collar, improve among blue collar voters in some --
BLITZER: Ryan, what about John McCain, who is facing a tough re- election right now in Arizona?
LIZZA: Yes, well, McCain is one of the people who has said that he will support the Republican nominee. So he is not in the same place as Paul Ryan, which I think surprises a lot of people.
I think on foreign policy, let's be honest. John McCain is a lot closer to Hillary Clinton than he is to Donald Trump. They are both internationalists.
They both supported a more activist role in Syria. They both supported the Iraq war. Donald Trump is much more of an American firster, not quite an isolationist but not --
KEILAR: Hillary Clinton didn't insult his service.
BLITZER: As a POW.
LIZZA: You know, I think partisanship is really important and I don't think John -- and John McCain is in a very tough reelection. He is worried about Hispanics in Arizona coming out in high numbers for his Democratic opponent.
BLITZER: New efforts mobilizing Hispanics right now largely as the result of anger towards Donald Trump. That could be a factor.
LIZZA: So he could be a casualty of the Trump --
BLITZER: Guys, stand by. We are going to get much more. I just want to remind our viewers to tune in tomorrow morning. Michael Smerconish has a special show 9:00 a.m. Eastern, again 6 p.m. tomorrow only here on CNN. It's a very, very smart show. You'll want to catch it.
Just ahead, President Obama speaking out about Donald Trump with some very pointed remarks.
Plus, my interview with Senator Bernie Sanders. Will he continue to battle Hillary Clinton even if it weakens her for the general election? I'll ask him.
[18:33:34] BLITZER: President Obama weighing in on the Democratic race for the White House telling reporters and I'm quoting him now, "Let's let the process play out." But he also acknowledged that Hillary Clinton seems to have an insurmountable delegate lead while praising Bernie Sanders for raising important issues. Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar has more on the
latest developments. The president also had a chance to speak about Donald Trump.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, and he definitely took that chance, Wolf. You know, he is doing well with the American people if you look at the polls. And now, he's using that clout and the bully pulpit to assist Hillary Clinton.
KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is getting a little help from the commander-in-chief. As he took aim at Donald Trump from the White House today.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for t presidency of the United States.
KEILAR: Clinton is positioning herself as the best candidate to protect President Obama's accomplishments.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot let Barack Obama's legacy fall into Donald Trump's hands.
KEILAR: And since she is tied to the president, his standing in the polls could benefit her.
CLINTON: Thank you.
KEILAR: His approval holding in positive territory since February, 51 percent of Americans approving of the job he is doing with 46 percent disapproving.
Clinton is hoping to define Donald Trump early.
[18:35:02] CLINTON: We are a great country in part because we are a nation of immigrants.
KEILAR: Trying to protect her gains with Hispanic voters, Clinton tweeted out a compilation of Trump's remarks about undocumented immigrants.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're going to have a deportation force.
KEILAR: Seizing on his Cinco de Mayo tweet about how he loves Hispanics accompanied by a picture after Trump with a taco bowl.
Meanwhile, Clinton's e-mail controversy is still dogging her CNN has learned that the FBI has interviewed her top aides, including Huma Abedin. Their investigation is still ongoing, but so far, sources say investigators haven't found evidence to prove Clinton willfully violated the law.
And Bernie Sanders is still in the race, though it is now nearly impossible for him to win the Democratic nomination. He is taking it easier on Clinton from the stump and President Obama sidestepped the chance to call for Sanders to get out, saying, let the process play itself out.
But he also added this --
OBAMA: At some point there's going to be a conversation between Secretary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about how we move towards the convention.
KEILAR: Now the president had quite a bit to say on Donald Trump. He said there will be plenty of time to talk about his positions and that Donald Trump's records should be examined. He said it's important to take seriously the statements that he's made in the past.
You see him, Wolf, I think really trying to zero in on Democrats, trying to motivate them against Donald Trump which is something Hillary Clinton is doing as well.
BLITZER: And joining me now, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate.
Senator Sanders, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My pleasure.
BLITZER: Donald Trump locked up the presidential nomination. He is focusing in on a general election. Here is the question, are you willing to continue to fight Hillary Clinton even if it creates the real possibility that you're going to weaken her potentially in a general election?
SANDERS: Well, Wolf, I know what you really mean by that question, and that is, am I going to continue in the next nine primaries and caucuses to make sure that I can get every vote that I can? And by the way, we think we can win a good majority of those caucuses.
Do I think that every American in this country, including in the largest state of California, have a right to cast their vote for who they want to be the next president of the United States and what they want the agenda of the Democratic Party to be? Of course I do. We're going to be in this until the last ballot is cast.
BLITZER: So far, though, what, she has 3 million more votes than you've had in all the contests today, 300 more pledged delegates. And she also has 513 so-called super delegates to your 41 super delegates.
What are you going to say to the super delegates to try to get them to change their minds?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, Wolf, we have now won 18 states. And I think by the end of the process, you know, who can predict tomorrow, but I think we've got the shot to win at least half or maybe even a majority of the overall states, maybe 25 or more states.
Second of all, in terms of super delegates, this is what I will say -- many super delegates, some 450 of them declared for Hillary Clinton before I even got into the race, before the first ballot was cast. And if you look at national polls today, if you look at state polls, in almost every instance, Bernie Sanders is the stronger candidate against Donald Trump because not only do we get almost all the Democratic votes, we got a lot of the independent votes which is what you're going to need it win in November.
So I would say to those super delegates, look, what is most important is we defeat Donald Trump. I believe that I am the strongest candidate against him.
BLITZER: If she were to get the nomination, would you consider being her vice presidential running mate?
SANDERS: Well, right now, we are focused in the next five weeks of winning the Democratic nomination. If that does not happen, we're going to fight as hard as we can on the floor of the Democratic convention to make sure that we have a progressive platform that American people will support. And then after that, certainly, Secretary Clinton and I can sit down and talk and see where we good from there.
BLITZER: I guess an alternative question would be, if she came to you now or relatively soon approached you and offered you the vice presidential running mate slot, would you drop out?
SANDERS: I think that that is a hypothetical that will not happen and once again, there are nine states left. We think we have a good shot to winning West Virginia on Tuesday. Kentucky and Oregon the next week. And we think we can win in California.
So, we're going it fight for every remaining vote in the next nine states. That's where we're at right now.
BLITZER: Paul Begala, who you know, he's a CNN contributor. He advises a super PAC that supports Hillary Clinton.
[18:40:00] he wrote an op-ed piece where he said you should stay in the race. He said that. But also said you should focus all of your fire on Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton. Are you ready to focus entirely right now in coming weeks on Donald Trump?
SANDERS: Well, I like Paul very, very much. Very smart guy.
But I think what the American people want, what is good for American democracy, what is good for the Democratic Party, is a vigorous debate on the real issues facing the American people. At the end of the day, if you engage people in that debate, no matter who they end up voting for, likelihood is they will have a higher voter turnout in November and higher voter turnout in November works for Democrats, because when a lot of people come out, progressives and Democrats win, when people are demoralized and we have a low voter turnout as we did in 2014 that's when Republicans win. So, I will continue to run and issue the campaign. Will I be taken on
Donald Trump? Absolutely. Will I be discussing the very important differences of opinion that Secretary Clinton and I have? Yes, I will.
BLITZER: Donald Trump recently started using some of your own public critiques of Hillary Clinton regarding her judgment. He tweeted this. He said, "Crooked Hillary has zero leadership ability as Bernie Sanders says she has bad judgment, constantly playing the women's card. It is sad."
Does that worry you that Trump is using your words against Hillary Clinton?
SANDERS: Trump, I have never -- you read that tweet. That is nothing that I have ever said about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton and I disagree on many issues.
I think her judgment on the war on Iraq was bad. I think her judgment in trade policies where she supported, virtually every one of these disastrous trade policies was bad. I think the fact that she supports $12 minimum wage when clearly we need $15 an hour minimum wage, I think that's bad. I think her creating super PACs and raising money from Wall Street and other special interests, not a great idea.
But I've never used the phraseology that Trump is. Look, Trump is in his own world. Obviously he wants to do whatever he can to cause divisions within the Democratic process. But what he just put in his tweet is something that I have never said, never will say.
BLITZER: Well, you did say she had bad judgment. Right? Are you denying that?
SANDERS: That's right. Of course, she had bad judgment. Of course. She voted for the war in Iraq.
BLITZER: But you never spoke about --
SANDERS: That's bad judgment. No, that is nothing I ever talked about.
Clearly, women -- we are reaching out to women as strongly as we can. Donald Trump also says he will go after your supporters. He thinks your supporters will come to him because he says the Democrats are unfair to you, that the Democratic system is rigged against you.
Do you agree with him?
SANDERS: Well, I know that Donald Trump is staying up nights worrying about Bernie Sanders. I mean, I know this is just coming from his heart and I know that he doesn't have any ulterior motive in saying those kinds of things.
But let me just give Donald Trump some bad news. And that is, number one, if I am the Democratic nominee, I'm going to defeat him and defeat him by a very large margin. If I am not the Democratic nominee, I'm going to do everything that I can to see that he does not get into the White House.
BLITZER: You just wrote a letter to the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, expressing some of your concerns about the make-up of some of the Democratic convention committee. Let me read a couple lines from it.
This is what you wrote: "As it stands now, chairs of the rules committee and platform committee are active supporters of Secretary Clinton's campaign. But even more than that, they both are aggressive attack surrogates on the campaign trail. I do not, and millions supporting the campaign will not, have any confidence that any of them have they can conduct committee proceedings in an even-handed manner."
Are you suggesting the DNC is stacking the cards against you?
SANDERS: Of course. What can I say? You got to chairmen there who've been very vigorous in attacking me. But more importantly, of the 40 people that Wasserman Schultz has appointed to the major committees, we have three out of 40 despite the fact that as of today, we have 45 percent of the pledged delegates.
So, all that that letter says is, look, the American people are very suspicious of the establishment, the political establishment. Do not create a convention situation where our people do not get fair representation.
Now, right now, we're at 45 percent. I think by the time this process is over. Frankly, I hope to be at 50 percent, but if we're at 47, 48 percent, that's the kind of representation we want on the committees. That is not an unfair request. That is kind of a -- you know, realistic reasonable request. But if she is giving us three delegates out of 40, and have major chairman, who are going to actively and aggressively campaigning against me, that is not acceptable.
BLITZER: Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks so much for joining us.
SANDERS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we've got some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM: possible signs North Korea is preparing for a nuclear test.
[18:45:03] We just received a new look at disturbing new satellite images.
Plus, the dramatic drone video raising deep concerns about al Qaeda terrorist forces. Are they gaining strength?
BLITZER: A coordinated attack by terrorist forces on government troops in Syria, but it's not ISIS this time.
[18:50:03] It's a group affiliated with al Qaeda, and it may be getting stronger and more dangerous while the world is focused on ISIS.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working this story for us.
Barbara, there are multiple fronts in this war on terror.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The al Qaeda threat still very much out there, Wolf. Tonight, a small number of U.S. troops are actually back in the very troubled Middle Eastern nation of Yemen, helping provide intelligence support to forces fighting al Qaeda there. It is just the latest indicator that ISIS is far from the only threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're headed out. They're headed out, let's go!
STARR (voice-over): American voices heard on a video, showing the raging battle that killed Charles Keating, a Navy SEAL, in northern Iraq.
COL. STEVE WARREN, SPOKESMAN, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: This was a gun fight. And so there were bullets everywhere.
STARR: ISIS showing it still can mount lethal operations.
WARREN: We think there are at least 125 enemy fighters involved in this fairly complicated, complex attack. It was a big fight. One of the largest we have seen recently.
STARR: But ISIS hardly the only bad actors. In Syria, near the Turkish border, a devastating aerial assault on this displaced persons camp, a place that is supposed to be safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They are killers, Bashar al Assad, Iran and Russia, all are killers. See here? There are no young men here. All are women and children.
STARR: There is no claim of responsibility. Russia says the al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra, may have done it. The U.S. says it doesn't know who was behind the attack.
Al-Nusra meanwhile claims it shot this aerial video showing coordinated attacks against Syrian regime positions in Aleppo. Al- Nusra is not party to the cease-fire.
Growing concerns about the power of al-Nusra, as a terror presence, building strength while so much attention is placed on ISIS, competing for power against the regime.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Mounting person that ISIS' roll back in some parts of Syria, that Jabhat al-Nusra will step in to fill the void. This is a group with a very strong position in Idlib province.
STARR: All of this making it less likely the August deadline for political transition from Bashar al Assad to a new government will be met.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Opposition leaders are reluctant to come to the table with people who are at the same time authorizing military assaults against their constituents.
STARR: And tonight, Wolf, the U.S. has also beefed up security at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which is located in what is supposed to be the very secured Green Zone in Baghdad. There have been anti- government protests there, protesters last week broke through those Green Zone lines, and tonight, there are 25 additional marines at the embassy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The so-called "safe zone" in the Green Zone not so safe right now.
All right. Thanks very much, Barbara, for that report.
Just ahead, there's breaking news in North Korea's Kim Jong-un, preparing for another nuclear test, just as the biggest political event in decades is under way in Pyongyang.
[18:57:55] BLITZER: Breaking news: As North Korea holds its first Workers Party Congress in decades, there is growing concern that Kim Jong-un could celebrate with a nuclear test. A U.S. think tank 38 North says new satellite images show possible preparations for a nuclear test in the near future.
CNN's Will Ripley is in the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang. He's joining us now live.
Will, this activity mean a test could be imminent?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We just don't know right now, because they have been saying for weeks that there's been consistent activity in the North Korean nuclear site. But you can hear behind me, the marching bands and music blaring over loud speakers. There's a celebratory mood in Pyongyang, surrounding this congress.
And if there were a successful nuclear test, it would certainly be heralded as a major achievement the for Kim Jong-un, who has said that growing his nation's nuclear arsenal is just as big of a priority as improving the living standards of his people, who are suffering from food and electric shortages in many parts of the country, including at times here in the capital.
At this seventh Workers Party Congress, he's reshuffling the leadership to give himself a grandiose new title surrounded by a team that wants to support everything he wants to do.
Listen to his message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN DICTATOR (through translator): We made a great and heroic choice by miraculously achieving the successful test of a hydrogen bomb and satellite missile, as well as economic advancements through our hardworking industries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Kim Jong-un saying that more nuclear tests are likely to come, so whether it happens now or sometime later on, it seems to be the path that North Korea is headed on.
Also, you notice, Wolf, he's wearing a Western style suit and tie, similar to the way his grandfather used to dress -- a figure who is still revered in this country, 22 years after his death.
BLITZER: Yes, he is. We all noticed his suit and tie.
All right. Thanks very much, Will Ripley in Pyongyang, North Korea, for us. We'll stay in close touch with you.
To our viewers, remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead, tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us once again this coming -- next week in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Until then, happy Mother's Day to all of the wonderful mothers out there. I'm Wolf Blitzer.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.