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Interview With California Congressman Darrell Issa; U.S. Military Footprint Expanding?; Trump Refuses to Release Tax Returns; Will Ryan Support Trump?; Clinton Looking to November Despite Latest Sanders Win; Romney: 'Disqualifying' for Trump to Withhold Tax Returns; 90+ Killed in ISIS Wave of Terror; U.S. Waging Growing Number of "Small Wars". Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 11, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Republican rift, the party struggling tonight to unite behind Trump. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, facing growing pressure from within to endorse the billionaire businessman. Will their meeting do anything to move the GOP closer to unity?

Wave of terror. ISIS claiming responsibility for a series of bombings that have killed more than 90 people, the terrorists taking advantage of a security vacuum to wage multiple deadly attacks today. What's their next target?

And America's secret wars, the Pentagon deploying special forces to take on ISIS and al Qaeda in small operations around the globe. The U.S. military footprint now rapidly expanding. Is this the future of American warfare?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We are following breaking news, the exploding controversy over Donald Trump and his refusal to release tax returns right now. Tonight, one of the sharpest critics, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is calling Trump's decision disqualifying.

In a Facebook post, Romney goes on to say, and I am quoting him now, "There's only one logical explanation for Trump's refusal to release his returns. There's a bombshell in them."

But Trump just tweeted he will release his returns when IRS audits of them are complete. Trump's tax controversy comes on the eve of his very important meeting with the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who now facing growing pressure from within to endorse Trump, something Ryan said he's not yet ready to do.

All eyes will be on the Republican Party headquarters tomorrow when Trump sits down with Ryan and the party chairman, Reince Priebus.

We are also following a very deadly wave of ISIS terror today, multiple bombings in Baghdad that have killed more than 90 people. The single deadliest strike, a car bomb that killed at least 64 people in a market, the Sunni terrorist targeting Shiites and taking advantage of a security vacuum that's opened in Iraq amid political turmoil.

We are covering all of that, much more this hour with our guests, including Republican Congressman and Donald Trump supporter Darrell Issa, and our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with Donald Trump and his taxes.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, has the very latest.

Sara, this is becoming a big issue in the Trump campaign right now. What's the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, it is hard to see it just going away. Hillary Clinton seized on this today, pointing out she has really released decades of tax returns.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump's campaign still seems to be dodging the question of why, even if his current returns are under audit, he doesn't release taxes from previous years. What is clear is Donald Trump appears to be poised to rewrite the political playbook on yet another issue.


MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump bucking tradition once again, refusing to release his tax returns which he says are still under audit.

Trump tells the Associated Press: "There's nothing to learn from them."

And he took to Twitter to add: "I told AP that my taxes are under routine audit and I would release my tax returns when audit is complete, not after election."

But Trump would be the first nominee since 1976 to keep all his tax info under wraps. The returns shed light on a candidate's effective tax rate, charitable giving and investment income, all issues that have tripped up politicians in the past.

Earlier this year, Trump suggested it was only a matter of months before he'd release his returns.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I have one of the world's most complicated tax returns. It's a massive return. And -- but I will get it done as soon as I can.

MURRAY: Now the billionaire businessman isn't budging. His latest reason, claiming he can't release them because they're under audit. TRUMP: I will absolutely give my return, but I'm being audited now

for two or three years, so I can't do it until the audit is finished, obviously.

While I'm under audit, I'm not going to release my tax returns. No lawyer would let you do that.

MURRAY: It's an excuse some tax experts balked at, saying releasing the returns wasn't likely to cause additional problems.

But other experts said it may make sense as a legal strategy to keep his taxes under wraps. As for the IRS, it says individuals are free to release their own tax information. Richard Nixon did just that, releasing his returns while he was under audit in the 1970s.

Now Hillary Clinton is seizing on Trump's reluctance to release his returns.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you run for president, especially when you become the nominee, that is kind of expected. My husband and I have released 33 years of tax returns. We have got eight years on our Web site right now. So you have got to ask yourself, why doesn't he want to release them?

MURRAY: Trump's resistance is a sharp about-face after he criticized 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney for failing to release his tax returns sooner.


TRUMP: I think that Mitt was hurt really very badly by this whole thing with the income tax returns. I believe that he should have either said I'm giving them April 1 or I'm giving them soon.

MURRAY: This year, the tables have turned, and it's Romney questioning what Trump is hiding.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns.

MURRAY: Even taking to Facebook today to write: "It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters."

While Trump may never win over Romney, he is still looking to patch up things with Paul Ryan tomorrow on Capitol Hill. Even though the House speaker says he is not quite ready to endorse Trump, he insists he's still pushing for party unity.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What we're trying to do is be as constructive as possible, but have a real unification. We just finished probably one of the most grueling primaries in modern history. It's going to take some work, and that's the kind of work we're dedicated to doing.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MURRAY: Now, Donald Trump has taken an unconventional approach to

pretty much everything in this campaign. And here's another thing to add to the list. He also told the Associated Press that he thought President Obama's focus on data during his campaign was overrated. He says his secret to success in November will be focused much more on Trump's personality and less on analytics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray in New York for us, thank you.

Let's get some more on the breaking news right now with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, Mitt Romney says there's no reason why Trump can't release tax returns right now. What are you hearing?


And Donald Trump is obviously trying to send the message that there's no controversy over his tax returns, and that they will be released as soon as he is no longer being audited. The question is whether that will happen before the November election. Trump is now saying yes, and the Trump campaign is not showing any signs of panic over this.

One Trump aide told me earlier today they believe the public has absorbed the real estate's business dealings good and bad. But the last GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, as you mentioned, Wolf, is saying not so fast.

Another sign of this unprecedented public animosity between these two GOP leaders, Romney posted that blistering Facebook message we are all talking about, saying Trump has run out of excuses.

Here's another chunk. We will put that up on screen, saying: "Mr. Trump says he is being audited. So? There is nothing that prevents releasing tax returns that are being audited. Further, he could release returns for the years immediately prior to the years under audit. There's only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns. There's a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it is a bombshell of unusual size."

Now, Romney's warning to Trump comes just one day before the presumptive nominee is scheduled to sit down face to face with House Speaker Paul Ryan. We know that. But there are also a slew of other leaders lined up in the House and Senate in separate meetings across the Capitol.

We now know Ryan just met with pro-Trump House members earlier this afternoon. And, Wolf, I'm talking to sources up on Capitol Hill. It is clear just how important these meetings are for Trump tomorrow. I am told that many lawmakers are now waiting to see how these meetings pan out tomorrow before they come out and publicly endorse Donald Trump.

As one aide told me just a few moments ago, members are all over the place on this, and breaking from decades of campaign tradition, refusing to release tax returns wouldn't be helpful at this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California. He's a Donald Trump supporter, is one right now. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Did you go to that meeting that Jim Acosta was just talking about?

ISSA: No, I don't. I didn't go to it. But I see Speaker Ryan regularly.

And I know him to be a man that intends to and will endorse the nominee and help bring us together. I was on the phone with Donald Trump just a few minutes ago, and he told me: "I won as a rebel. Now it is time to bring us together, and be a unifier."

So, I know that he has exactly the same intention for tomorrow's meeting.

BLITZER: How does he plan on doing that? What was his strategy, what did he tell you?

ISSA: Well, we didn't talk strategy. We did talk some of the current events.

But I think one of the advantages that Speaker Ryan have and Donald Trump have is these are two good people with independent followings. And those followings sometimes overlap, they sometimes don't. With Donald Trump, he has been able to say follow me or get out of my way.

With Paul Ryan, he has had to say help me get to 218, even though you don't agree on anything. They're coming from two different standpoints, but they both are unifiers. They want to get it done. Candidly, some of these distractions, you're going to keep reporting on, but let's think about it.

Mitt Romney in 2012, in January, he released a teaser. He was already the presumptive nominee. A teaser of what he was going to release. He didn't release his 2011 tax returns until September before the election.

So it is not unreasonable for Donald Trump to take a little time, perhaps wait until after the California and the other final primaries, let's just say most of them, to do it, but he is right about one thing. I have been audited. [18:10:05]

The same people that are working on this audit, perhaps dozens of people, are the same people who would have to cull the documents before releasing them. So, there is a lot of lot of truth that you only have so much bandwidth, even if you're Donald Trump.

BLITZER: But he could release IRS returns from previous years that are no longer being audited.

ISSA: Well, it is not a question of the papers being audited, because you're right. There's no question you could look at the older papers.

But, remember, before you just throw them out there, there's personal identifiable information. There are things that get redacted. And all of that would have to be done.

BLITZER: In this phone conversation you had with Donald Trump, did you discuss whether or not he is going to release his tax returns?

ISSA: He intends to. And...

BLITZER: What exactly did he say, do you remember?

ISSA: Well, he just said, "I intend to, but I have to get past this."

I think the nuances, though, as a businessman, as someone who knows Donald Trump and knows Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan can do his tax return on the back of an envelope, because we know where his income is.

When you look at all these companies, it is much more complex, and the team of auditors that you trust are the ones that are working with the IRS. They're also the others.

So, do I expect that he can create bandwidth maybe get those older ones? Yes. But I have got to tell you, right now, "Mother Jones" is still complaining that Mitt Romney hasn't released everything from 2012. You can never satisfy everyone.

And tomorrow's meeting between the speaker and the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, is about them coming together on policies for a common good, one in which Donald Trump has made it clear he intends on helping raise money to retain a Republican Senate and House so he can get things done.

BLITZER: You think he should release the tax returns. Right? You would support that?

ISSA: I think he should and I think he will.

Wolf, there's no law. There is a tradition. And I think it is important that we all know that the press loves this because it is cannon fodder.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: It's not just the press. Look at Mitt Romney. He was the Republican nominee. He says it is disqualifying for a modern nominee not to release tax returns. He goes one step further.

ISSA: Mitt right now needs to get over the fact that in fact somebody he didn't pick won.

I was a Marco Rubio person. I was on the campaign trail for four months. Donald Trump is a good man. He wasn't my first choice. Mitt Romney is in the same boat. We need to unify. And I think we're coming together and it is important that we all come together.

We have come together over more controversial candidates in the past, including Gerald Ford and actually including H.W. Bush after the largest tax increase in American history.

BLITZER: Romney, who is really outspoken on this, in that statement he released, he says: "While not a likely circumstance," he said "the potential for hidden inappropriate associations with foreign entities, criminal organizations, or other unsavory groups is simply too great a risk to ignore for someone who is seeking to become commander in chief."

ISSA: Is he talking about Hillary Clinton's foundation?

BLITZER: No, he is talking about Donald Trump.


ISSA: It sounds like the Clinton Foundation to me.

BLITZER: This is the Republican presidential nominee of four years ago raising the possibility, while not a likely circumstance, of associations with criminal organizations? Those are pretty strong words.

ISSA: Well, again...

BLITZER: That's not the media. That's Mitt Romney.

ISSA: Mitt Romney is more or less a constituent of mine. He has both family and he's frequently in San Diego.

He is a good man. And I think we all knew even though he lost the election he is a good man, but he does need to start looking at the positive side, which is the direction that Donald Trump and 23 or 24 Cabinet officers will take America vs. the direction that the alternative would be.

And once he focuses on that, he will realize that we have much more in common. And that's what tomorrow's meeting between Ryan and Trump is all about. It is about planning a strategy for unity of a Republican Party that's going to take America in a better direction.

BLITZER: You have clearly come around, you support Donald Trump, you want him to be the next president of the United States. You used to support Marco Rubio. You were active on the campaign trail, and you were dismissive of Trump at that time.

Want to play a little clip, because like a lot of Republicans, the words are coming back right now.

ISSA: Sure. Of course.

BLITZER: Listen to this.


ISSA: There's an awful lot about Donald Trump that when you look at it, you start saying, well, wait a second here, is he even a Republican?

Do his actual initiatives support the Republican side or, in fact, the Democratic side? And I will just give you one and it's an important one. He went out of his way to bash George W. Bush and to make an issue over, we shouldn't be here, we shouldn't be there. Well, you know what? The next president of the United States is going to inherit all the strengths and weaknesses, mistakes and successes of his two predecessors.

And the fact is, we are engaged around the world in a fight against ISIS. We are engaged in trying to get the Muslim world to reject extremism, both Shia and Sunni.

And Donald Trump wants to just say, well, we're just going to build a wall on that one too. That's not going to work when we actually start narrowing to two or three people, having a real discussion with Donald Trump about whether he has a plan or he just has a bully pulpit. And I mean bully.



BLITZER: All right, you're smiling.

You remember those words pretty vividly. What has changed between then and now about your assessment of Donald Trump?

ISSA: Perhaps it is a little bit like George H.W. Bush and voodoo economics before he was the vice president.

The fact is that Donald Trump is not, if you will, an expert on foreign affairs. He's not expert on military operations. He's a businessman. Now that he has won the nomination, he is going to have to build both a team of advisers that are going to help him a lot on this.

And he is going to have to look at both past military and current experts to build a team. And I expect that like he has built other businesses -- I don't he ever was a bricklayer, but his buildings got built. So, yes, I would have preferred somebody or some two people with a lot of experience in foreign policy, because I think, Wolf, I think we both know we are living in one of the most dangerous times in our history.

Having said that, my job is now not to support the nominee. My job is to make this administration work. And that means supporting a whole team that Donald Trump has to put together.

BLITZER: Do you now believe he is a Republican?

ISSA: I have always said he is a Republican. He is not your easy-to- understand conventional Republican. He's not from this wing or that wing.

BLITZER: Because in that statement, that clip we just played, you raised the question, wait a second, is he even a Republican? You asked that question yourself.

ISSA: Well, perhaps I was just sour grapes. Hillary Clinton went to his wedding. I didn't.

He has been a businessman. He has donated generously to Democrats to help him. He makes no bones about it. He is transitioning from being a businessman, as I did 15, 16 years ago. It is a transition. And I'll tell you, it is going to be a quick one. He is going to have to do it during the campaign and in those few months after election before he is sworn in, and it is tough.

But I think when you look at somebody who has been smart and successful in everything from running beauty contests to building casinos and high-rise hotels to, in fact, reality TV, he has shown himself to be somebody that learns.

BLITZER: Congressman, we have much more to discuss. I want you to stand by, if you can.

I also want to get into the issue. He made a big issue of self- funding his campaign so far, but guess what? No longer. He is about to start raising a lot of money. He wants to raise maybe a billion dollars to get elected president of the United States. Much more with Darrell Issa right after this.



BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, the former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney slamming this year's presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, and his refusal to release his taxes, at least so far.

Romney calls Trump' stance disqualifying, speculates there must be "a bombshell in Trump's returns." Trump has just responded, saying he will release his returns as soon as an IRS audit is complete.

We are back with the Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California. He's a Trump supporter. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

He seems to have changed his mind about self-funding political campaigns. He used to -- until now, he was self-funding his effort to get the Republican nomination, but no longer. Listen to this.


TRUMP: By the way, I am self-funding my campaign, so I don't care. I don't care. I'm doing what's good for you. I am self-funding my campaign. In other words, I'm not bought by the special interests and the lobbyists that have these guys totally in their pocket.

I am self-funding. I am putting up my own money, OK? Is that smart? I don't know. I always say I never get enough credit for that.


BLITZER: All right, no longer. Now he says he's going to go out and raise money, maybe a billion dollars together with the Republican Party to fund his effort to become the next president of the United States. Is there a flip here, a flip-flop, contradiction?

ISSA: Well, there is a businessman who put up more than $10 million of his own money just to get the thing started, who flew around in his own jet, in his own helicopter, his own expense.

I think Donald Trump has lived up to a contribution greater than any of us and probably anyone watching has ever given to any candidate.

BLITZER: Well, Michael Bloomberg, when he was running for mayor of New York, he spent like $100 million of his own money to fund his campaign.

ISSA: But poor Michael spent it three times. Each time, he spent vast amounts of money. And I appreciate that.

BLITZER: He could afford it. He is a multibillionaire, too.

ISSA: But as a mayor, he was running for one job. As a president of the United States, he's bringing a team on board, obviously a president and a vice president, but he's going to be helping to make sure that the House and Senate win reelection.

And some of those races only cost $1 million, $2 million, $3 million. But when you have got 435 House seats and 100 Senate seats, or a third of those up, 34, you have got an awful lot of very expensive ones. And when Donald Trump says he is going to raise money, he is going to raise money for the team, for the RNC, for the Senatorial Committee, for the House.

BLITZER: But also for his own campaign to become president of the United States.

ISSA: No question.

BLITZER: He is not going to self-fund anymore. ISSA: Well, I think you're going to see -- and I can't judge for

sure, but I think you're going to see Donald Trump continuing to throw money in to move himself around, to take care of, if you will, his campaign.

But as you set up these offices, there's no office -- and I have spent a lot of years doing this -- there's no office that elects a president. There's a regional office, let's say in a county like Orange County, in my district, and that is going to be set up. And that will be a victory team.

It will have RNC, but it will also have House and Senate races in there. That team operation is where money will be raised, and there are thousands of them around the country. And helping the volunteers who volunteer to help all of the Republican Party, that's the team effort that's unity.


BLITZER: Because I'm wondering if Donald Trump is actually going to go to fund-raisers to raise money for himself and for other Republicans, because, obviously, until now, he has refused to do that.

He has given a lot of money when he was a private businessman, we know, to Democrats, Republicans, all sorts of candidates.

I want you to listen to the vice president, Joe Biden. Here's what he said today about Donald Trump.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand what it means to compete in a heated election contest, but, but by insulting our partners throughout the hemisphere, by tarring all immigrants with a xenophobic brush, some leaders are actively undermining our security and our prosperity.


BLITZER: You know who he was referring to. You're a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. You speak to world leaders all the time.

ISSA: Yes.

BLITZER: Is the vice president right?

ISSA: Well, Joe Biden is a friend of mine. I have worked with him. I trust him on many, many things.

But when he makes a statement on politics, he has an obligation to point out things that could be better in the worst possible way for Republicans and maybe gloss over the other side. This president has been divisive with our foreign leaders. He has insulted both our friends in Israel and Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And so there have been foreign policy faux pas that are huge by the

president of the United States. So, I think we can all point that out. The fact is, Donald Trump never claimed to be an expert on foreign policy. He's an expert on business. And he will have to put together a team, including a secretary of state and others, and I believe he will.

So, I am aspirational that he will get better, which is something that we hoped for, for President Obama, and he went in the wrong direction.

BLITZER: If he invites you to join that team, will you?

ISSA: I think every Republican -- or at least virtually every Republican -- will in fact do everything we can to support this president, including joining the team.

I don't have any question that we're excited about being able to take the world another direction, one of peace and prosperity.

BLITZER: Congressman Darrell Issa, thanks very much for coming in.

ISSA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, they have huge differences on policy. Can Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, though, reconcile them, and move the GOP closer to unity in their big meeting tomorrow?

Plus, we have the latest on the latest ISIS wave of terror that has now left on this one day more than 90 people dead.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking political news. Mitt Romney saying tonight Donald Trump should be disqualified for not releasing his tax returns right now, and speculating they may contain what Romney calls a bombshell. Trump says he will release his returns as soon as an IRS audit is complete.

[18:32:28] Let's dig deeper right now with Real Clear Politics national political reporter Rebecca Berg; our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; our political commentator, Kevin Madden; and CNN political director David Chalian.

David, pretty stunning to read the statement that Mitt Romney posted on Donald Trump today. Didn't -- wasn't that your immediate reaction?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, listen, it wasn't all that surprising that he feels this way because he has said this before, and it hearkens back to what he said when he gave that speech in Utah, where he just tried to eviscerate Donald Trump unsuccessfully, obviously.

But I do -- I do think, Wolf, that what you have here for Donald Trump, why this is a tricky issue. I'm not sure voters are actually going to vote in the fall on whether or not Donald Trump released his tax returns. But I do think it's a two-pronged issue for him. One, he's selling

his business and financial acumen as credentials. That is -- that is one of the calling cards that Donald Trump brings. So to not be open and show what you put together I think raises questions in people's minds.

Two, you give Hillary Clinton the opportunity to push back on what is one of her greatest vulnerabilities that Republicans are asking all the time about her: What is she afraid to show? Why does she play by a different set of rules, or why do the Clintons play by a different set of rules?

That's a frame that is around Hillary Clinton that all of a sudden, she can now push that back on the Republican nominee in a way that may mitigate some of that uncomfortableness for her.

BLITZER: You know there are tax lawyers, and I'm sure Donald Trump has some of the best tax lawyers out there, who say, "You know what? Don't release your tax returns while this audit is on-going. That potentially could be" -- lawyers, as you well know, are very cautious.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They are. But remember, Donald Trump has the power to release those tomorrow. There is no legal impediment. There is no...

BLITZER: He says the lawyers say it could undermine the audit that's on-going with the IRS.

TOOBIN: First of all, that makes no sense. Second, it is just not -- that is private lawyers' advice to him. Those aren't government lawyers. That's not an IRS obligation. The IRS has made perfectly clear that Donald Trump or anyone else is completely free to release anything about his own taxes at his own discretion.

So the idea of hiding behind his lawyers is ridiculous. And remember, we're also talking about other years' tax returns which, as far as anyone can tell now, I think there are no audits there. So he could clearly release those, as well. He just chooses not to.

BLITZER: She really went after him today, Hillary Clinton, on this issue. But remember, Bernie Sanders, he released one year of his taxes. His wife, Jane Sanders, told me the other day -- and she prepares all their taxes -- they're not going to release any additional years of tax returns until Hillary Clinton releases the transcripts of her speeches before Wall Street groups.

[18:35:18] I assume Donald Trump started using that argument: "I'll release tax returns when Hillary Clinton releases the transcripts of the speeches."

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: He could start using that argument. Maybe you just gave him a good idea, Wolf. I wouldn't be surprised if he does.

Certainly, Donald Trump has other ways that he can point out Hillary Clinton as not having been transparent, but as David said, it undermines his argument, makes him look a little bit hypocritical.

And don't forget, Donald Trump has kind of portrayed himself in the past as a paragon of transparency, trying to hold President Obama to account by forcing him to release his birth certificate in 2011, encouraging the president to release his report cards from college.

I mean, if he's asking that of President Obama, which many people found to be pretty ridiculous, not releasing something that, for the past 30 years, presidential nominees have released.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is one of the rare moments in the campaign, you include both primaries, where Donald Trump is on the defense and Hillary Clinton is on the offense. That's what this -- just for the moment, is changing the atmospherics of the campaign in a way that Donald Trump is not very used to.

BLITZER: You have unique perspective. You worked for him four years ago. You tried to get him elected president of the United States. Do you understand why he's now front and center on this issue?

MADDEN: Look, let me take a step back as a Romney operative, and just look at it clinically. Mitt Romney is a very complicated messenger on this. I don't see this as a very -- very clean hit by Mitt Romney. And also -- it also doesn't really -- it's hard to find out what his motives are. We're through the primary.

BLITZER: What are his motives?

MADDEN: I think a lot of it is a bit of, you know, the fact that he thinks Donald Trump is a bad nominee for the party, and he wants to continue to point that out.

I think one of the big problems he will have, Jeffrey, for a lot of Republicans, even those that don't support Donald Trump, the sum of this is that it provides aid and comfort for the opposition, which is the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

So it's not very clear what the strategic objective of this campaign is and what the end game is, other than making Donald Trump, force him to answer questions that Donald -- that Mitt Romney himself was forced to answer during the -- during the...

CHALIAN: It's a personal issue. Right?

MADDEN: It's a little bit personal. You probably have a better assessment.

TOOBIN: Well, and also, the loathing for Donald Trump that comes through in that statement. I mean, it's almost unfair to Trump, in mentioning criminal activity. I mean, there is no evidence that these tax returns include criminal activity.

BLITZER: Says "While not a likely circumstance, the potential for hidden inappropriate associations with foreign entities, criminal organizations or other unsavory groups is simply too great a risk to endure for someone who is seeking to become commander in chief." That's a pretty stark statement.

TOOBIN: Exactly. That's not "He should release them." That's a real knife in the back.

BLITZER: Well, you remember, on this issue, there's no love lost between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. Donald Trump has hit him pretty hard over these many months, saying, you know, he was a loser. He should have won the election four years ago. He had the election, couldn't close the deal. He's hit him pretty hard, too.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about that. It is still perplexing as to why Mitt Romney wants to play the role of Harry Reid in the election. This is the kind of thing Harry Reid was doing to Mitt Romney, just sort of raising speculation without any real information.

BERG: Don't forget that Mitt Romney in his speech earlier this election cycle -- and I'm paraphrasing here, but he said that Donald Trump is playing the American voters for fools. I think part of this is Mitt Romney wants to expose Donald Trump for what Mitt Romney sees him as. And this is a part of that.

TOOBIN: The problem is, at that point, there were, at least theoretically, possibly other Republican candidates who might get the nomination. Now that's gone and he's trashing him in a way...

MADDEN: He was goading other candidates into doing what they were going to do, which is provide more scrutiny on some of what -- Donald Trump's lack of transparency.

BLITZER: What's going to happen tomorrow when Donald Trump and Paul Ryan get together with Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

CHALIAN: I think it's in both principles' interest for this meeting to go well. And both Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are going to want to emerge with a, quote unquote, victory here.

I don't envision Paul Ryan walking out with a big Trump sticker on his lapel and carrying a flag and ready to endorse kind of thing, but I do think they're going to come -- I think it's in their interests. Both of them want to come to a common understanding of how they're going to proceed with this relationship going forward.

No doubt Donald Trump wants to get Paul Ryan's support eventually, but I don't think that is something that has to come tomorrow. What I think that they're going to look for is "How do we work together? How do you, Paul Ryan, not undermine me as I'm going through this campaign by withholding your support? And how can I give comfort to you and your members that I am -- I am the standard bearer that they can get behind in this party?" That's' going to be the...

BLITZER: Can they do that?

[18:40:04] MADDEN: Well, look, I think Paul Ryan is cognizant that healing is a process, not an event, and that one meeting is not going to solve a lot of the rifts that have taken place over -- over the course of the primary. So I think this is just one step in that process.

TOOBIN: One question that I have, is does Donald Trump really want a rapprochement? I mean, he -- his brand is that he's against the establishment. He thinks all these Washington people are losers. He could have reached out to Paul Ryan earlier, but he hasn't.

CHALIAN: And he's in a different phase -- he's in a different phase of the campaign now.

TOOBIN: I mean, we'll see. I'm not sure.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We have more to discuss, including the latest on what's going on in the Democratic side in the race for the White House. Much more right after this.


[18:45:35] BLITZER: Hillary Clinton increasingly looking to a November faceoff with Donald trump, despite the fact that Bernie Sanders remains in the race and won the latest Democratic primary.

Senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is joining us from New Jersey right now.

Jeff, Sanders says he's not going anywhere. What's the latest?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he says he's staying in this race until the end, and there's good reason to believe him. He is softening his attacks ever so slightly on Hillary Clinton, but still making the argument that he believes he's the most electable Democrat. Hillary Clinton, of course, is all but ignoring Bernie Sanders as she shifts her focus to Donald trump.

But there are eight more states that vote on the Democratic side, including here in New Jersey.


CLINTON: Thank you, New Jersey!

ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is moonlighting, still campaigning for the Democratic primary.

CLINTON: I believe if we do what we need to do in the next few weeks, we will have a big victory on June 7th that will take us all the way to the White House.

ZELENY: Even as she desperately tries concentrating on the battle ahead.

CLINTON: It's pretty clear at this point that we're going to have a real difference in the general election.

ZELENY: She's focusing more and more on Donald Trump.

But Bernie Sanders remains a distraction. His West Virginia victory on Tuesday promises to keep the Democratic race alive.

Today in New Jersey, it was all about the general election.

CLINTON: I have to tell you how concerned I am with what I hear Trump saying. I have said that he is a loose cannon.

ZELENY: From policy to personal attacks.

CLINTON: I am not going to respond to the insults and the attacks coming from Donald Trump in this campaign.

ZELENY: But her Democratic rival is still on stage, winning one contest after another. He's talking Trump, too.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at virtually every poll taken over the last month or six weeks, national polls, state polls, Bernie Sanders is the strongest Democratic candidate to defeat Donald Trump.

ZELENY: Sanders big 15-point win in West Virginia, earning him only seven more delegates than Clinton. The commanding victory does little to change Clinton's muscular lead in delegates overall.

But Clinton is steadily moving left, following Sanders and what voters like about him.

The latest shift comes on health care, saying this week, people over 50 should be able to buy into Medicare plans.

CLINTON: I also am in favor of what's called the public option, so that people can buy into, you know, Medicare above a certain age.

ZELENY: From trade to immigration to the minimum wage, Clinton is aligning with more liberal positions, setting up a political test for the fall election.

Vice President Joe Biden who stayed out of the fray since deciding not to run last year offered his strongest endorsements of Clinton yet on ABC.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel confident that Hillary will be the nominee, and I feel confident she'll be the next president.


ZELENY: But the vice president tempered that endorsement somewhat by saying he believes he would have been the best president, but he said it was simply not the time for him to run with the death of his son.

Now, the vice president is behind Hillary Clinton, the president almost is. The question is, Wolf, when will the rest of the Democrats in the states get behind her, and will she win any of these states? She lost the last two. The Clinton campaign would certainly like to end this with a win, but she still has a lead in pledge delegates, Wolf. So, mathematically speaking, this nomination is essentially hers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jeff, thank you. Jeff Zeleny reporting.

Just ahead: car bombs, suicide attacks. We are learning details of a wave of ISIS terror that killed almost 100 people today.

Plus, secret wars. Expanding America's military footprint. What awaits the country's next commander-in-chief?


[18:54:01] BLITZER: We're following today, a wave of ISIS terror. Multiple bombings in the Iraqi capital that have now left more than 90 people dead.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is working the story for us.

Sort of underlying, Jim, the insecurity, the horrible situation that has developed inside Baghdad.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. And I spoke to a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad today who said this is an attempt by ISIS to prove that it is still viable, noting in his words that ISIS has lost every battlefield engagement with Iraqi forces for months. That is accurate, but the violence it is still able to unleash inside the very well-protected Iraqi capital was devastating and alarming.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was the bloodiest single day in Baghdad in months. Here, the smoke still rising, moments after a suicide attack on a checkpoint killed 12.

Earlier, the deadliest strike of the day, more than 60 killed at a busy market in a Shiite neighborhood.

[18:55:02] Blood soaking the pavement, cars reduced to smoldering (INAUDIBLE). ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the bloodshed.

The attacks sparked renewed anger from Iraqis already deeply distrustful of their government. Today's violence coming days after angry crowds stormed government headquarters inside the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone, protesting corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Many people were killed and you can see blood everywhere. There were poor people who were here to earn a living. Why did this happen? Can this corrupt government tell us why? The people are dying because of this government.

SCIUTTO: Today, the White House blamed the ongoing political struggle in the deeply divided Iraqi government for undermining Iraqi efforts to fight ISIS.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The United States' government has been of the strongly held view that the Iraqi government is more likely to be successful in securing the country if they can succeed in uniting that country to face down the threat. That's what Prime Minister Abadi has tried to do.

SCIUTTO: The attacks come as the terror group has suffered devastating losses on the battlefield. U.S. coalition and Iraqi security forces have driven ISIS out of more than 40 percent of its territory, including once important power centers in Ramadi and Hit. The result, says the U.S. military, is a ISIS less capable of large- scale operations on the battlefield.

MAJ. GEN. GARY VOLESKY, U.S. ARMY: Much smaller groups really attempting to -- in my mind -- stay relevant and to put pressure really to try to fix the Iraqi security forces from continuing to move.


SCIUTTO: In terms of terrorism, however, still demonstrating enormous capability. I'm told Iraqi security forces have not asked the U.S. for help, responding today's attacks but they are focused on one particular danger. ISIS focusing these attacks on Shia neighborhoods, continuing attempt to spark the kind of Shia-Sunni violence we saw bring Iraq to the brink of civil war several years ago, Wolf. And that is it still a risk particularly with the divided Iraqi government that Iraq faces today.

BLITZER: It's a horrendous situation, by all accounts. All right. Thanks very much, Jim.

The war against ISIS and al Qaeda has the United States quietly expanding its military footprint in a series of small wars being waged by special operations forces.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us.

Barbara, these small wars, as they're called, they're playing out in multiple countries.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Across the globe, Wolf, President Obama very much relying on special operations forces. But will the next president of the United States do the same?


STARR (voice-over): The raging civil war in Yemen gave the al-Qaeda affiliate there the ability to move in and take over this southern port city of Mukalla, giving the most dangerous al Qaeda group in the region a new place to dig in.

In response, the Pentagon sent in a small number of U.S. troops to advise and assist Saudi and Emirati forces trying to eliminate the al Qaeda threat.

From the Middle East, to Africa and beyond, the Obama administration is now involved in multiple small wars, fighting ISIS and al Qaeda by using Special Operations Forces. Though their numbers are small, using the best-trained troops in the U.S. military is a massive commitment.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're helping participants to strengthen their security forces from Africa to Afghanistan.

STARR: Wars that are likely to outlast Obama's presidency.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The next president is going to get a whole bunch of small wars in his or her basket.

STARR: In Libya, there are an estimated 6,000 ISIS fighters and no central government to fight them.

OBAMA: We're going to continue to us, the full range of our tools to roll ISIL back from Libya.

STARR: The Pentagon planning how and when to move in. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says a top priority --

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: To further develop the intelligence we would need to support operations in Libya.

STARR: In Somalia, 50 U.S. troops at remote locations, advising and assisting Somali and African forces in the fight against the local al Qaeda group known as al Shabaab and in West Africa, U.S. troops also trying to prevent ISIS and al Qaeda from gaining toeholds there.

The risks are huge, as the recent death of Navy SEAL Charles Keating shows just advising and assisting can turn into combat in seconds. Keating killed when other Navy SEALs came under fire in northern Iraq.

No one suggesting that any of these small wars are going to subside by inauguration day in the United States, a challenge for the next president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly.

All right, Barbara, thanks very much. Barbara Starr reporting for us.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.