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Growing Fears That Dems' Feud Could Hurt Convention; Trump Slammed for Saying He'd Talk to North Korean Leader; Trump Names Possible Supreme Court Picks; Tensions Among Democrats Boiling Over; Unsafe Intercept by Chinese Jets. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 18, 2016 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, battle lines. Tempers are flaring as Bernie Sanders says he's in the race all the way. And after his supporters erupt at a Democratic state gathering, there are fears that the party's national convention could slide into chaos. Why some Democrats worry about a scenario like the riots of 1968 in Chicago.

[17:00:52] Supreme picks. Donald Trump is looking far ahead. He's just taken the unusual step of releasing a list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Will those names make his conservative critics happy?

And Donald and the dictator. Donald Trump says he would have no problem talking with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Will that change after today's foreign policy session with Henry Kissinger?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tensions among Democrats are at a fever pitch right now as Bernie Sanders says he's in the race until the last ballot is cast. He split primary wins with Hillary Clinton. In fact, he almost took both Kentucky and Oregon last night, but the delegate math puts Clinton even closer to the presidential nomination.

And frustration among Sanders's supporters is boiling after. At the Nevada state convention this weekend, they shouted down pro-Clinton speakers, and the state party chair received death threats. Now there's a growing fear among Democratic Party leaders that the same kind of chaos could wreck the party's national convention in Philadelphia in July.

As the Democrats try to avoid a party split, Republicans are trying to get over theirs. The presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, is already looking far ahead, releasing a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court picks.

But there's new controversy. Even as Trump tries to develop some foreign policy credentials by talking with the GOP's elder statesman, Henry Kissinger, Trump is taking heat for saying he would talk directly with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. I'll speak about all of this and more with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff.

And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of today's top stories. As the primary campaign hits the home stretch and Hillary Clinton pulls ahead, Bernie Sanders and his supporters aren't conceding anything.

We begin with our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne, some Democrats worry about a very, very damaging split. What's the latest?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bernie Sanders, he's holding a rally in San Jose, California. He was introduced by a supporter who called Hillary Clinton "calculating, smooth and slick." So as Clinton edges closer to the nomination, some 80-plus delegates away, it is the Democratic Party, not the Republican one, that has become increasingly worried it may not be able to unite the voters behind one candidate.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Before we will have the opportunity to defeat Donald Trump, we're going to have to defeat Secretary Clinton.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Tension now boiling over within the Democratic Party, as Sanders supporters lash out in frustration over a system they view as rigged.

SANDERS: I say to the leadership on the Democratic Party, open the doors. Let the people in.

MALVEAUX: The Nevada Democratic convention turned ugly on Saturday after the party announced last-minute rule changes which would award more delegates to front-runner Hillary Clinton. The state chair received a stream of death threats after Sanders supporters posted her address and phone number on social media. And California senator Barbara Boxer said she feared for her safety.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I was on the stage, and people were six feet away from me. And if I didn't have a lot of security, I don't know what would have happened.

MALVEAUX: Sanders issued a formal statement, saying, "I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals."

But for many, it does not suffice. Boxer, who's a Clinton supporter, and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called for Sanders to personally condemn the violence.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: This is not acceptable behavior. And the Sanders campaign and Senator Sanders himself should not only outright condemn that specific conduct, but they also need to take steps to prevent it.

MALVEAUX: California senator and another Clinton supporter, Dianne Feinstein, warns the party upheaval could lead to the riots Democrats saw at their national convention in Chicago.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It worries me a great deal. You know, I don't want to go back to the '68 convention, because I worry about what it does to the electorate as a whole. And he should, too.

[17:05:07] MALVEAUX: But the White House is downplaying concerns about potential violence.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: At this point, no, I don't share those concerns. Obviously, there will be a need for Democrats to come together in the general election. And the president will be making that case.

MALVEAUX: The Sanders campaign is now crying foul.

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN: He categorically condemns any kind of threats that went on, absolutely unacceptable. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, we can have a long conversation just about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and how she's been throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning.

MALVEAUX: Wasserman Schultz shoots back, saying she's shaking her head.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: My response to that is #SMH. If we're going to talk about throwing -- that comment about throwing shade.


MALVEAUX: Clinton insiders tell me they believe Sanders should make the first move to try to reunite Democrats, including preparing supporters to rally for Clinton, just as we saw her do for Barack Obama in 2008, Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you.

I want to go to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's out on the campaign trail in California right now.

Jeff, what are you hearing from inside the Sanders campaign?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie Sanders finished addressing a rally here just a short minutes ago. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters here. But they heard an entirely different tune than he delivered last night at that big speech in Los Angeles when he went after Hillary Clinton, went after the Democratic Party. He had one rival in mind today, and his name was Donald Trump.


SANDERS: There are many people who are concerned that Donald Trump may become president of the United States. That will not happen. It will not happen, because in every national and state poll that I have seen, we are running way, way ahead of Donald Trump. But more importantly, I know that the American people will reject the very basic tenets of what Trump stands for.


ZELENY: So Wolf, it's clear today that Bernie Sanders is dialing back his rhetoric. Some of his advisers are still out there, you know, criticizing the Democratic National Committee and its chairwoman.

But Bernie Sanders, who has spoken to some senators on the phone -- Senator Harry Reid, Senator Barbara Boxer and others -- he -- it's clear that he is trying to rein this in a little bit, at least for today. He did not mention Hillary Clinton at all during his speech.

Wolf, that's the first time he's done that in as many months as I can remember here. So this may be just a momentary shift. He has a rally tonight in San Francisco. But for today at least, Wolf, it was Donald Trump on his mind, and that was all -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's very interesting, because last night in that big speech in California, he did make it clear that he's trying to aggressively defeat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. A very different nuance today. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Congressman, thank very much for joining us.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It's my pleasure.

BLITZER: Senator Dianne Feinstein, your colleague from California, says she's worried about Senator Sanders taking this fight all the way to the Democratic convention in July in Philadelphia. She even -- you heard her compare it to the 1968 convention in Chicago, where there was a lot of violence. Do you share that same concern?

SCHIFF: What happened in Nevada was it was very concerning to everyone and the fact that the state party chair would get death threats is just appalling. But this is a very, very small minority of people who are supporting Senator Sanders.

So I'm confident we won't have these problems at the national convention, and I think what we will have going forward and going for us is a great unifying force; and that force is Donald Trump.

So I'm confident that we will be unified going into the convention. It will be important to maintain the enthusiasm and energy and commitment of all of those Sanders supporters, but I'm confident we'll be able to do that.

BLITZER: Senator Sanders says he's staying in the race until the last vote is counted. That would be June 14 in the District of Columbia a week after the June 7 primary in California. Do you agree he should stay in, or is this already a distraction for a Democratic unity?

SCHIFF: I think it's fine if he stays in, and it's ultimately his decision to make. I think in particular -- and I was very gratified to see him go after Donald Trump today -- if he focuses his fire on Donald Trump, as indeed Secretary Clinton has been doing, I think that is good for the party. I think it is a unifying factor for the party.

And there's no reason for him not to stay in, not to continue to propagate his message, which is an important one for the party. But I am very pleased to see him turning his attention to Donald Trump. BLITZER: As you know, there's a real fight, some are calling it a war going on between the Democratic National Committee chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Senator Sanders and his campaign. First of all, do you have confidence in Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

[17:10:16] SCHIFF: I do. And I think, look, this is a no-win situation for the chair of the national party when you have two strong candidates who out there mobilizing great numbers of people who feel passionately about their candidate. That's a real challenge, because whoever ends up on the losing end of that contest, it's going to be difficult to satisfy.

So I think she has done a good job. I think it's been a very hard job. I don't envy it. And I think the reality is, we play by the rules. The rules were known in advance, we stick to them. And -- and at the end of the day, we're all going to rally around our candidate, because Donald Trump cannot be allowed to become president of the United States. That would be a reckless thing for the country.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told me earlier today she did speak with Senator Sanders about 10 days ago, but she hasn't spoken to him since this big crisis developed since what happened in Nevada over the weekend. Dianne Feinstein spoke with him. Harry Reid from Nevada, the Democratic leader in the Senate, spoke with him.

Do you think it's appropriate? Should she be talking to him right now to try to cool down the temperature, to convince him to tell his supporters out there to calm down?

SCHIFF: I think she's certainly trying. You know, whether she's in the best position as the best messenger to do that, I think, actually, people like Senator Boxer, who I know reached out and is very close to Senator Sanders, she may be in the very best position to encourage the senator to focus his fire on Donald Trump, to get his supporters rallying around and to defeat Donald Trump. And that may be part of the reason we saw a bit of a different message from Senator Sanders today.

So I think Senator Boxer and others are getting the message across, and I think that's very laudable.

BLITZER: Do -- does all the infighting help Donald Trump? Are Democrats leaving themselves vulnerable right now as the bitterness, the tension continues?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, the fighting within our ranks is certainly a great advantage to Donald Trump. It takes attention away from a lot of the divisive and reckless statements that he's making and focuses problems within the Democratic Party.

But I really think these are going to be short-lived. We're coming to the end of the primary process. And nothing is going to motivate Democratic voters and Democratic supporters like the prospect that Donald Trump could become president of the United States. That is going to be a unifying force second to none. So I'm confident we will come together. It's going to be really

important to mobilize all of these Democratic supporters. And I think that's exactly what we're going to do.

BLITZER: But you've heard of the concern from some Democrats. They worry that some of these very passionate, ardent Bernie Sanders supporters, they dislike Hillary Clinton so much, in a general election, if she's the nominee of the Democratic Party, they could vote for Trump as opposed to her. Are you concerned about that?

SCHIFF: I don't think any of the Sanders supporters are going to vote for Donald Trump. I just can't imagine how they would do that in a million years.

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you for a second, Congressman. The exit polls in West Virginia showed that about 30 percent of the Democrats who voted, who voted for Donald -- who voted for Bernie Sanders said in a general election, they plan on voting for Donald Trump.

SCHIFF: Well, some people may feel that way now. I still cannot believe, though, that those same people are going to go to the polls in November and pull the switch for Donald Trump. It's just, to me, unthinkable, particularly if they really accept the message of Senator Sanders, and they want to do something about income inequality.

And they want to do something about the great disparity and wealth in America. Electing a billionaire who doesn't really give much of a concern about working people or the poor is the exact wrong way to go. So I just can't imagine that happening, even though people who are passionate about Senator Sanders might express those sentiments today.

BLITZER: The vice president, Joe Biden, just said a while ago he's going to have to be more aggressive right now in speaking out about this current tension. I assume you agree that's a good idea?

SCHIFF: I do. I think he is a well-respected voice in the party. I think he can be very helpful in terms of bringing us together. So I would certainly encourage him to do exactly that.

BLITZER: Where does President Obama fit in to all of this? Does he also need to step in?

SCHIFF: Well, and he will, and it will be very important that he does. I think he wants to wait until the primary process is complete. But I think he will articulate the centrality of carrying on, frankly, the legacy that he has produced, as well as just how dangerous it will be for the United States to elect someone like Donald Trump. This is not an experiment in reality TV. This is running the most powerful country in the world and has the leadership role that no other country can step into.

And I think he'll be able to really bring together a lot of the Bernie Sanders supporters with the Hillary Clinton supporters, and I think he's going to provide that effort. BLITZER: Congressman Schiff, we have more to discuss, including

Donald Trump assertion now that, if he were president, he'd be willing to talk directly with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. Much more coming up. The ranking member, the ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're joined by Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's the ranking Democrat, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

[17:20:06] Congressman, Donald Trump says he'd have direct talks with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, if he were president. You say Trump's comments, in your words, threaten to turn American leadership on its head. You're the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee. What evidence is there that if the -- there was a direct dialogue between an American president and the North Korean dictator, that could be dangerous to U.S. interests?

SCHIFF: Look, what the North Korean dictator wants is he wants world acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power. That has been vehemently opposed by the United States, as well as the rest of the world.

By saying he'd be happy to sit down with Kim Jong-un by effectively praising the man for executing his own uncle, you are telling him that his nuclear program, the ballistic missile firings and testings, none of that is an impediment to having a good relationship with the United States. That very much turns U.S. policy on its head. I think it's a dangerous encouragement of the North Korean nuclear program and exactly the wrong direction. So I put that up there in the category of great statesmanship like Dennis Rodman.

BLITZER: Well, you remember in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama, he made it clear that the U.S., if he were president, should talk to enemies of the United States. And over these past eight years, 7 1/2 years, there has been a dialogue with Iran, improved U.S./Iranian relations; obviously, the dramatic change in the U.S./Cuban relations. So what's so different about Donald Trump saying he'd be willing to have a dialogue with Kim Jong-un?

SCHIFF: Well, if you look at the president's actions, none of those meetings that the president has had with foreign leaders, let alone with adversaries, have gone without a lot of preparation and often with preconditions.

And in fact, the president never met with the North Korean dictator and for good reason, because it would reward exactly the kind of dangerous and provocative behavior and nuclear behavior, at that, that we are trying to discourage and turn back.

So if you look at the president's actions, none of those meetings, most of them didn't take place. Those that did, took place in the setting where there was an expectation of what the outcome of those talks would be. BLITZER: The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, says

cyber hackers possibly working for foreign governments are now trying to infiltrate both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns. What are their intentions? Do you believe U.S. officials have a serious clue about what these alleged foreign government hacking operations may be trying to achieve?

SCHIFF: Well, I think certainly, what they're trying to get at is to determine what are the intentions of these two candidates or more than two candidates? What kind of commander in chief would they be? What kind of thoughts do they have in terms of relations with these other countries? I'm sure they are interested to know whether, for example, some of these statements that you hear about meeting the North Korean dictator are, in fact, a reflection of what the candidate really thinks or whether there's internal deliberations about why this might be politically wise to say even if it's not something they intend to follow through.

So there is value to be gained by foreign states in knowing sort of the private conversations of people running for president of the United States. There's also, you know, I think, people hacking in for political motivations. It's not just, I think, state actors that would be interested in hacking into these -- these accounts or getting into the private communications or just causing mischief to the websites or other campaign operations.

So I think we're going to have to be on guard for this. I think the campaigns are certainly on notice, and this will be a continuing challenge.

BLITZER: And let's not forget, right after the conventions, both of the presidential candidates will start receiving daily intelligence briefings from the CIA. That's part of the routine that goes forward until the election.

All right. Thank you very much, Congressman, for joining us.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Adam Schiff of California.

Coming up, the Republican side of the presidential race, Donald Trump reaching out to Republican conservatives and directly meeting with Henry Kissinger. But he's also generating some new controversies. We'll update you on that.


[17:28:34] BLITZER: As tension builds between the Clinton and Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, Donald Trump is trying very aggressively to bring the Republican Party together. A little -- little bit ago, he wrapped up a meeting with the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, in New York, but Trump also is generating some new controversies.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is keeping track of all of it for us.

Dana, just a little while ago, Trump tried to reassure nervous conservatives by releasing a list of people he potentially named to the U.S. Supreme Court. Tell us more about this.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Republican candidates always promise to pick conservative justices. In the past, they've appointed judicial advisory committees to prove their conservative bone fides to the grassroots, but publicly releasing a list of names appears unprecedented, one of many firsts that's come with the Donald Trump candidacy.


BASH (voice-over): A list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices, an unprecedented move that speaks volumes about how much Donald Trump knows he still needs to convince some GOP skeptics he's one of them.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot of people are very worried that if I got in -- that if I got in, I would put in the wrong judge, and I'm going to put in the right judges. OK? I'm going to put in great conservative judges.

BASH: CNN was told that, during Trump's private meeting with House Republican leaders, Speaker Paul Ryan pressed him on the importance of naming a true conservative to replace Antonin Scalia. And Trump responded with a promise to release a list soon, even inviting House Republicans to submit suggestions.

[17:30:07] The immediate reaction from GOP activists to the 11 names Trump released today was positive. Chief council for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network saying, "This list ought to be encouraging to anyone who prioritizes the rule of law, and I congratulate Mr. Trump on making a very significant policy statement about his desire to prioritize the future of the Supreme Court."

Shoring up his own base is only one of many missions for the presumptive GOP nominee. Damage control with female voters is another.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: He was promoting women in development and construction.

BASH: In normal times, a candidate's daughter going on TV to say this would only be responding to a five-alarm political fire.

I. TRUMP: I'm not in every interaction my father has, but he's not a groper. It's not who he is. And I've known my father, obviously, my whole life, and he has total respect for women.

BASH: Donald Trump did overcome attacks during the GOP primaries using his past statements about women. But the general election is different, and team Trump isn't taking anything for granted, especially with Clinton forces already running this ad.

D. TRUMP (via phone): You like girls that are 5'1", they come up to you you-know-where?

I. TRUMP: When I think about myself as a feminist, it's important that women are treated equally. And he treats women and men equally.

BASH: But perhaps the biggest piece of evidence of Trump's transformation into a more traditional candidate is his move to join forces with the Republican Party and pledge to help raise money for the party. It's something every presidential nominee does, but Trump appealed to primary voters by being different, not beholden to donors.

D. TRUMP: I don't want their money. I don't need their money. They have no control.


BASH: And Trump did say today he has no intention of paying himself back about $50 million he says he loaned his campaign to pay for his primary run. Still going to fund-raisers, helping Republicans appeal to big donors. The money is going to be a big change.

And Wolf, today Trump did go see former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, an icon for Republicans on foreign policy. He famously, of course, went to China to help President Nixon open relations there. In the past, Kissinger has talked about how unprecedented it is for someone to be president with no experience in government -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Last week in Washington, he met with former secretary of state James Baker, as well.

Dana, stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, the senior editor of "The Atlantic"; also, our politics executive editor, Mark Preston; and our political commentator, Bakari Sellers, a former member of the South Carolina state House of Representatives and a Hillary Clinton supporter.

Mark, let's take a look at the list of Trump's potential picks for the U.S. Supreme Court. What stands out to you?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, a couple things. One, the fact that we actually have a list and that he has made it public at this point in the campaign, which just goes to show you how unconventional Donald Trump is as a candidate and how he really does need to shore up conservative support.

But if you look at that list just overall, not pointing out anyone specifically, they are all conservative, and they're all fairly young. And what we've seen from the reaction from conservative organizations, judicial organizations, they seem pretty happy with Donald Trump's picks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure a lot of conservatives may have been Ted Cruz supporters who were concerned about Donald Trump on this specific issue, which could have a long-term impact, may have been reassured by that list. Bakari, what's your take?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think some of the things that you see and one of the things that sticks out first and foremost is that this list is comprised of jurists that are extremely conservative. You look at some of the justices or jurists that he put on the list, and it makes Democrats fear Donald Trump even more. It makes us think about overturning Roe v. Wade. It makes us think that we won't be able to take those steps in overturning Citizens United. So I think that it will prove to energize the base.

And you also see one thing about the list that sticks out in that it lacks diversity. You would think that someone who has the unfavorables with minority voters, both African-Americans and Hispanics, would make some overtures in a list like this, even if he had no thoughts of choosing them, but he didn't. So I don't know if that's naivety or what on his part, but I do think it was an opportunity to make inroads, and he just simply did not.

BLITZER: Ron, let's move on and talk a little bit about Donald Trump's latest financial disclosure that he released yesterday to the Federal Election Commission. He says he has a net worth now in excess of $10 billion. If you had all this money, why wouldn't he continue to self-fund? Why does he have to change his approach right now and start raising a lot of money if he's actually worth $10 billion?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's an interesting question. You know, the issue has been not only what his net worth is but what his liquid assets are and how much money he can actually lay his hands on. On one of his innumerable TV interviews a couple weeks ago, he said that he could self-fund, but he would have to sell a couple of buildings to do so, which you know, seemed to validate those who would question how much cash he actually could put his hands on in the near term.

It's not unreasonable for Donald Trump to raise money through the party. It is a departure, obviously, from what he's been saying. General election could cost as much as a billion dollars in the modern -- in the modern media system. So it's not unreasonable, but I think it does go to show -- it does kind of validate some of those people who raised the question all along of whether he had as much cash that he could easily get his hands on as it would seem from his overall net worth, whatever that may ultimately be.

BLITZER: Yes. He did announce last night a joint fundraising operation with the Republican National Committee to raise potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, not just for the presidential campaign but for, also, other Republican candidates for the House, Senate, governor and elsewhere.

Dana, let's go back to the -- Donald Trump's daughter's latest interview, strongly defending her father. What do you make of these comments?

BASH: Well, as I've said in the piece, under normal circumstances -- and I'm not even sure we should even say that phrase anymore, because there's nothing normal. This is kind of the new normal of politics, I think, with Donald Trump in the race. But having a woman come on television to say, "My father is not a groper" would be a response to a potential career-ending candidacy-ending moment in the candidate's campaign. Obviously, that is not where -- where we are right now.

But they clearly do see that running in the general election, needing to appeal to women when he, at this point, nationally, has a very unfavorable rating with the general electorate -- women, that is -- that needs to be changed. And it needs to be corrected.

And, more importantly, because they see that the super PAC ad is coming out earlier than they had planned in the Clinton world to try to pin Trump down as anti-woman, they need to try to also get out early in the Trump camp, I mean.

And, look, Ivanka Trump is a -- if you were to create on paper the perfect spokesperson to do damage control for a candidate on women, having a successful, articulate woman who happens to be the candidate's daughter do what she did, I mean, you can't ask for more than that.

BLITZER: Yes. She's a very impressive woman indeed.

Stand by. Everyone, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll take a look at the Democrats, their party. Some of the rivalries, some of the tensions between the Bernie Clinton [SIC] -- Bernie Sanders supporters, the Hillary Clinton supporters seem to be boiling over right now. We'll update you on that when we come back.


[17:42:20] BLITZER: The campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is heading toward a big finish, potentially on June 7. That's when California holds its primary.

It also appears to be heading for a messy finish as tensions boil over between the party establishment and Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters.

We're back with our political experts. Bakari, Senator Sanders doesn't necessarily sound like he's backing down any time soon. I want you to listen to what he had to say at that big rally in California last night.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But before -- before we will have the opportunity to defeat Donald Trump, we're going to have to defeat Secretary Clinton.


BLITZER: All right. He very much sounds like he's still in the game. He believes he has a chance of winning. And he's encouraging his supporters, clearly, to believe he has a chance of winning. Some say that's problematic. Why?

SELLERS: I don't necessarily see it as being problematic. In fact, I take a different tack. I think that, if any Hillary Clinton supporter that is championing Bernie Sanders to get out of the race today is being somewhat hypocritical. The fact is, Hillary Clinton stayed in the race until June 7 in 2008, till the last ballots were counted. Bernie Sanders has every right to do so.

I think many people's concern, though, is the tone and tenor. What we saw in Nevada recently is unacceptable. And I believe that -- I believe that Bernie Sanders has an amazing opportunity right now to stand up and be a leader during this moment. I think he missed that opportunity in this speech, but I'm encouraging him, and I'm encouraged that that is something he will do.

BLITZER: Yes, there seemed to be a different tone in his speech today, as opposed to last night. Today focusing in almost exclusively on Trump, not necessarily on Hillary Clinton as he did last night. He focused in on both last night.

Ron Brownstein, you tweeted, saying if Donald Trump had justified his supporters' violence, Senator Sanders did in his statement. This is what you tweeted: "How would groups backing Sanders respond?" Explain what you meant.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I thought the Sanders -- the statement that the Sanders campaign released yesterday was astonishingly irresponsible. You know, they went for two paragraphs explaining why their supporters should feel outraged. Then in a perfunctory manner, they say, "Of course it goes without saying that we oppose violence or intimidation." And then they had another two paragraphs about why their supporters should feel outraged.

There may be rules that Bernie Sanders doesn't like, but the rules have been what the rules are. Maybe there weren't enough debates in prime time, but the fact is that he has advanced farther than almost anybody expected. Yet still, Hillary Clinton has won 55 percent of the total vote. She leads him by almost 3 million in actual votes cast. She has won almost all the big diverse states. If you look at the exit polls, they split white voters evenly. And she has won almost three-quarters of nonwhite voters, who are critical in the Democratic Party.

[17:45:08] He has run a good race but he is trailing and on the brink of defeat and to essentially not condemn the kind of intimidation and unruly behavior that they saw in Nevada unequivocally without justifying it, without a lot of rhetoric before and after about why his supporters would feel outraged, I think is the kind of thing that people on the left would have unquestionably condemned if it had emerged from the mouth of Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Dana, how might Republicans take advantage of this Democratic infighting?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're already seeing Donald Trump in tweets, on the stump overtly appealing to Bernie Sanders supporters saying, you know, the Democratic Party is treating you poorly and treating him poorly, if he doesn't make it or when he doesn't make it, you know, come on over and support me, understanding that what the two of them share very much, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, is the idea that they have, you know, sort of harnessed this anger out there.

Clearly the two of them have incredibly different prescriptions for how to fix the things that anger voters but, you know, but that is what is similar. Now, you know, it is uncle if any of those voters will come over. Maybe the most likely benefit if there is one and it's still a long time before election day, is that, you know, the people who are going out to those rallies are so aggravated that they don't get out and vote for Hillary Clinton.

But you know what, we've seen these kinds of situations before and the energy ends up coming back, for the most part, for the nominee even after things are very tense.

BLITZER: I want everybody to stand by because we're getting some there's breaking news.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: All right, there's breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We've just learned that two Chinese jets have attempted to intercept a U.S. Air Force aircraft over the South China Sea.

Here's what I want to do. I want to take a quick break. We're getting more information. We'll update you on the breaking news in just a moment.


[17:51:37] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: All right, there's breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM now. Another U.S. military aircraft has had a close encounter in international air space. This time the Pentagon says Chinese fighter jets carried out what they call an unsafe intercept.

Brian Todd is tracking this development for us.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're getting this just in from the Pentagon from a U.S. Defense official telling CNN that at least two Chinese J-11 tactical aircraft, those are fighter jets, that they carried out what's called an unsafe intercept of a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea. This occurred on Tuesday according to the Defense official. At one point these two Chinese jets, according to this official came within 50 feet of the American aircraft.

Again, this occurring over the South China Sea near those disputed islands that China has been constructing air strips on and landing military planes on. That they're hotly disputed between China and other nations in that region. Also the U.S. does not consider them legitimate Chinese territory, Wolf.

But again, we're being told two Chinese fighter jets, J-11s, came fairly unsafe distance away from a U.S. reconnaissance plane, within 50 feet of it, on Tuesday over the South China Sea.

My colleague Jim Sciutto points out for some context this isn't the first time this has happened, but the Chinese usually resort to warnings for American reconnaissance jets over the radio. They usually don't fly this close. This is a relatively rare occurrence and we're told by this U.S. official that Americans are protesting this through diplomatic and military channels.

BLITZER: Very disturbing development. Brian, thank you.

Coming up, Donald Trump says he would have no problem talking with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Will that change after today's foreign policy session with Henry Kissinger?

And tensions are boiling over among Democrats. And some worry the party's convention could slide into chaos. Are the battle lines already drawn?


BLITZER: Happening now, Democrats divided. Bernie Sanders and party leaders are pouring more fuel on a feud that may complicate their fight against Donald Trump in the fall. Tonight a new warning the frustrated Sanders supporters could cause convention chaos like the Democrats on 1968 at the convention in Chicago.

Not a groper. Ivanka Trump depends her father and dismisses a new report about his father's past treatment of women. Will that help the presumptive Republican nominee ease his problem with female voters.

New tension with China. After a dangerous incident at sea the U.S. now says China has intercepted a warplane in an unsafe way. We're following the breaking news.

And secret war. A CNN exclusive.