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Interview With Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy; Democratic Division; China Tension; Trump Unveils List of Potential Supreme Court Picks; Trump: 'No Problem' Speaking to Kim Jong-un; Inside the Most Dangerous ISIS Stronghold. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 18, 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: 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 takes us inside America's efforts to spy on ISIS in the most dangerous stronghold on Europe's doorstep.
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 are following a breaking news story this hour. CNN has just learned that China has carried out what's being described as an unsafe intercept of United States military aircraft in international airspace over the South China Sea. Stand by for more on this breaking news.
Also tonight, the battle lines are hardening between Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party establishment, Sanders rallying his supporters in California just a little while ago, defying new pressure to quit the race after the June 7 primaries, the tensions exploding after frustrated Sanders supporters disrupted a party convention in Nevada over the weekend.
The DNC chair and other top Democrats now publicly venting fears of chaos at the party's convention in Philadelphia this summer. The Sanders camp says accusations that they're inciting violence are nonsense, all of this as Hillary Clinton gets closer to clinching the nomination after narrowly winning in Kentucky, but losing to Sanders in Oregon overnight.
While her party spars, Donald Trump is attempting to look more presidential, releasing a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees and meeting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
I will talk to a top Democrat about his party's divide. Senator Chris Murphy is standing by live, along with our correspondents and analysts. They're all covering the news that is breaking right now.
First, let's go to our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. He is covering Bernie Sanders' swing through California.
Jeff, what's the latest? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bernie
Sanders made clear he intends to fight for every vote in the nine remaining Democratic contests. But as he spoke at a rally here just a short time ago under this blistering California sun, he toned down his rhetoric for now at least against Hillary Clinton.
But he made clear he and his supporters are still fighting the establishment.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are in until the last ballot is cast.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, the question for Bernie Sanders is what happens after those ballots are cast.
SANDERS: The Democratic Party is going to have to make a very, very profound and important decision.
ZELENY: He is frustrated at the Democratic Party, and the feeling is mutual.
SANDERS: It can do the right thing, and open its doors, and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: A split decision in Tuesday's primaries, Sanders winning Oregon, but narrowly losing Kentucky to Hillary Clinton. and Democrats, anxious to join forces and take on Donald Trump, suddenly seem more divided than ever.
SANDERS: Now, some people say that we have got a steep hill to climb to do that, and that is absolutely true.
ZELENY: This is why. Clinton is only 88 delegates away from clinching the nomination. Sanders needs nearly 10 times as many delegates and superdelegates, more than are on the table in nine remaining contests, but that hasn't stopped Sanders from going hard after Clinton.
SANDERS: Before we will have the opportunity to defeat Donald Trump, we're going to have to defeat Secretary Clinton.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: At a rally today in San Jose, Sanders only had one rival in mind, Trump. He made no mention of Clinton.
SANDERS: There are many people who are concerned that Donald Trump may become president of the United States.
SANDERS: That will not happen.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: The tensions are spilling over across the Democratic Party, the chaotic scene at the Nevada state convention last weekend still reverberating.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein telling CNN's Manu Raju today she worries about violence at the party's convention this summer in Philadelphia.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It worries me great deal. 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.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much.
ZELENY: She and other Clinton supporters increasingly calling out Sanders for not controlling his supporters. The Sanders campaign believes they have been mistreated by the Democratic establishment, particularly party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We could have a long conversation just about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and how she's been throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning.
ZELENY: Wasserman Schultz trying to put a good face on it today with Wolf Blitzer, making clear the party needs Sanders' army in the general election.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: I agree Bernie Sanders should stay in this race. That's what I have said all along -- until the last vote is counted.
ZELENY: But many of those Sanders supporters say they just aren't sure the party will come together.
(on camera): You think Hillary Clinton can unite the Democratic Party if...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think so, honestly.
ZELENY: Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know a lot of people would -- even if she gets the candidacy, would refuse to vote for her because they do not believe in anything that she stands for, that she's two-faced, a liar, and they would rather vote for someone else or do a write-in ballot. They say Bernie or bust.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY: So the question is whether Bernie Sanders can influence any of these supporters here in the months before the convention, and of course the general election.
There's good reason to believe that he can and he's willing to do so, but he still believes he is being mistreated by the Democratic National Committee.
Now, one person who is not exercised about any of this all, I'm told, is President Obama. He had a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee just a short time ago. This was not a central focus of that. His aides remember all too well the 2008 contest, when it was Hillary Clinton supporters at this very moment who were still fighting the Obama campaign -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thanks very much, Jeff Zeleny reporting for us.
Tonight, Donald Trump is trying to shore up his image as a potential commander in chief. He met with a Republican icon in the world of foreign policy just hours after opening the door to potential conversations with a very dangerous dictator.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is covering the Trump campaign for us.
Jim, Trump just met with former the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. What do we know? How did that go?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Donald Trump is off the campaign trail, but keeping busy trying to look presidential, releasing his list of Supreme Court picks to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia and meeting, as you said, with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
They were talking foreign policy. We haven't gotten a long readout of what took place during the meeting, but, as you know, Wolf, Kissinger is widely respected in Republican circles. But he's also criticized some of Trump's views of the world.
And Trump just rolled out a new proposal on North Korea.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It was a trial balloon that shot up like a ballistic missile, as Donald Trump fired off the idea of talking with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in what would be dramatic departure from U.S. foreign policy.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would speak to him. I would have no problem speaking to him. At the same time, I would put a lot of pressure on China.
QUESTION: But you say you would talk to Kim?
TRUMP: The one -- I would -- sure, I would speak to him. I have no problem with speaking to him.
ACOSTA: Clinton campaign chair John Podesta mocked Trump with this tweet, asking whether the job of secretary of state would go to former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who infamously traveled to North Korea for some one-on-one time with the communist dictator.
Trump sized up the North Korean leader at a rally back in January.
TRUMP: If you look at North Korea, this guy, I mean, he's like a maniac, OK, and you got to give him credit. How many young guys, he was like 26 or 25 when his father died, take over these tough generals?
ACOSTA: Trump had a chance to discuss his views on the world in a meeting behind closed doors with Republican Party elder and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Trump's critics say he could use some pointers.
BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Henry Kissinger has a very tall order. It's like trying to tame a bucking bronco, but Kissinger is a very respected figure and I hope he knocks some sense into Donald Trump.
ACOSTA: Last December, Kissinger took issue with Trump's proposal for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I would urge him not to make such a blanket exclusion, and I would only hope -- be more comfortable -- more comfortable with another nominee.
ACOSTA: Trump also raised eyebrows this week when he asked by "The New York Times" about the most dangerous place he has visited in the world. Trump joked Brooklyn, then added seriously, "There are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland or Ferguson, the crime numbers are worse."
With Trump on the verge of winning the nomination, he is spending much of his time in the office, gearing up for the general election, announcing a new fund-raising arrangement with the RNC this week. His campaign is also hitting back at news stories he doesn't like, such as the article in "The New York Times" on his treatment of women. His daughter Ivanka is defending her father.
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: Look, I'm not in every interaction my father has, but he's not a groper. It's not who he is. And I have known my father obviously my whole life. And he has total respect for women.
ACOSTA: Now, as for that list of Supreme Court picks, Trump is already getting some positive feedback from GOP senators up on Capitol Hill.
Charles Grassley called Trump's list impressive, while Cornyn, who had criticized -- John Cornyn, who had criticized Trump last week, Wolf, he said the picks were reassuring. So, Trump is on his way to calming some of his GOP critics, some of his conservative critics, but not all of them. He's got a ways to go -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta in New York for us, thank you.
Let's get back to the Democrats, the divisions within the Democratic Party right now.
Joining us, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's a Hillary Clinton supporter.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Sure.
BLITZER: Your colleague Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, also a Democrat, said she thinks Sanders should drop out of the race after the voting concludes in California on June 7. She's worried about the impact on the party.
Do you agree that Sanders should drop out after June 7?
MURPHY: I think Bernie said that once the voting is concluded and we have a clear nominee, which we will at that point -- we will, frankly, before then -- that he will step aside and support the nominee.
I don't worry as much as Dianne about violence at the Democratic Convention, because I am confident that Bernie Sanders is going to say loud and clear when these primaries are over that the party should unite behind Hillary Clinton and that his supporters shouldn't just support her, but they should go out and work hard for her.
So, I know that is sort of hard to imagine right now, when you're still in the middle of the fight before the contest has been decided, but as you mentioned in one of your segments, back in 2008, it was equally as implausible that Hillary Clinton supporters would end up supporting and working for Barack Obama when we were at this moment in that primary.
We're going to get to that point again here, and Bernie is going to have a lot to do with that.
BLITZER: But, in 2008, Senator, do you remember death threats against the Democratic Party chair, as occurred over the weekend in Nevada, or violence erupting at some sort of Democratic convention, state convention along the lines of what we saw in Nevada?
I know that there were disagreements, there was acrimony, that was fighting between the Hillary Clinton campaign and then Senator Barack Obama campaign. But do you remember anything like this?
MURPHY: So, this was an exceptional incident this weekend, and I got chills when I listened to my colleague, Barbara Boxer, talk about the fact that she was fearing for her safety at this event. Barbara is a pretty tough cookie. And if she feared for her safety,
then there was something going horribly wrong there. But I do take consolation in the fact that, again, as you noted, Senator Sanders took a different tone today at his rally. And I trust that he is going to take steps in the coming days to make sure that he gives absolutely no signals to his supporters that that kind of conduct is acceptable.
And I'm hoping that you're not going to see a repeat or a trend line of that kind of behavior moving forward.
BLITZER: The Bernie Sanders campaign said they think the Democratic National Committee party chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has been in their words working against Bernie Sanders from the get-go. Do you have confidence in her, in what she's doing at the DNC?
MURPHY: One hundred percent confidence.
I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that whether or not the Sanders campaign likes this, Senator Clinton, Secretary Clinton has gotten three million more votes than he has. Set superdelegates aside, she's well out ahead in the delegate lead. She's going to be the nominee by every possible count that you can have.
And so I understand that when you're in second place, you often feel aggrieved by the process, but the voters have spoken, and they're going to continue to speak here, and in the end I think everybody is going to get on the same page.
BLITZER: Do you think the president should step in and do more to try to ease the crisis right now within the Democratic Party? Should he get personally involved?
MURPHY: No, I don't think this is a crisis. I think you're at a critical moment in the campaign right where Bernie is coming to terms with the fact that Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee and coming to terms with the fact that he is going to support her, and his supporters will come along with him.
But it is not a crisis. The Republican contest, the Democratic contest all go through these moments where it feels incredibly divisive until it isn't. And let me tell you this. Donald Trump is going to do a wonderful job of uniting Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters together.
I think Hillary will do a good job bringing in Bernie's supporters, but Donald Trump is going to be unifying factor for Democrats as well.
BLITZER: You probably noticed he is weighing in all the Democratic infighting right now, tweeting -- he tweeted this.
He said: "Bernie Sanders is being treated very badly by the Democrats. The system is rigged against him. Many of his disenfranchised fans are for me."
Could you see a lot of those Bernie Sanders supporters who really are angry at Hillary Clinton right now eventually voting for Donald Trump?
MURPHY: Yes, you know, Donald Trump has a lot of ridiculous fantasies. This is at the top of that list.
The fact of the matter is, is that any of Bernie Sanders' supporters should just look at Donald Trump's tax plan. Donald Trump's tax plan is an absolute disaster for the working class. It would just essentially continue this policy of feeding the rich while stealing from everyone else.
Bernie Sanders' supporters are going to support Hillary Clinton. I just don't see that there is going to be any crossover here.
BLITZER: Trump says he wants to reduce taxes for everyone, including the middle class, working class, as you call it. Wouldn't they presumably like that, even if he wants to reduce taxes for the wealthy?
MURPHY: Yes, that's not what his plan does.
And the fact of the matter is everything that Donald Trump has spoken about would be an absolute disaster for the people that are showing up at Bernie's rallies. So, I saw 14,000 people in New Haven. It was one of the most incredible, most diverse crowds that I have ever seen. I really celebrate what Bernie has brought to this election.
But that kind of diversity that has been displayed by the Sanders coalition is under attack by the Trump campaign. And so I know, in the heat of the battle, you might get some audio of Sanders supporters saying that they can't support Clinton, but that's not how these primaries play out, and Bernie Sanders is going to make sure that doesn't happen.
Bernie Sanders is going to call for his supporters to rally around Hillary Clinton. That's going to happen.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, Senator. We have more to discuss. You're a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I want to get your reaction to Donald Trump's assertion that he would be happy to talk directly with Kim Jong-un, the dictator in North Korea.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We are back with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. We're following the breaking news, what the Pentagon is describing as an unsafe intercept of a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft by Chinese jets in the South China Sea. Senator, I know you're on the Foreign Relations Committee. You're
probably just getting some new information about this. At least two Chinese J-11 tactical aircraft carried out what the Pentagon says was this unsafe intercept, getting within 50 feet, 50 feet of an American aircraft, EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft in the South China Sea. What does this say to you?
MURPHY: Well, I am just getting information about this, so I can't opine on this exact incident.
But what we know is that there has been a developing trend line of increasingly aggressive action by the Chinese in and around the South China Sea and the East China Sea. As you know, they're building up these manmade islands, which are in contravention of international law. They have made claims that they have certain territorial rights around those islands that would again be in violation of international law.
So, this is potentially part of a disturbing trend line, as the Chinese try to push their military envelope into greater parts of the seas surrounding their mainland. So I think we have to watch this carefully.
The good news is, is that President Obama and the Chinese premier have been able to have a dialogue. We have been able to work together to try to resolve many of these differences. And I hope that we will do that on this case as well.
BLITZER: What worries me, Senator -- I am sure it worries you as well -- there seems to be a pattern developing of Chinese doing this now to U.S. aircraft; 50 feet, that is dangerously close. Russian aircraft have been doing the same thing against U.S. military ships, U.S. military aircraft.
It seems to be a taunting, if you will, by both China and Russia against the United States. Do you see a disturbing pattern there?
MURPHY: Well, I certainly do see a disturbing pattern, but it is also important that we don't overreact.
In fact, what the Chinese and the Russians are trying to do is provoke us into some kind of action that will feed into their domestic narratives both in China and in Russia. Their regimes are dependent on this idea that the United States is at war with the people of China and the people of Russia.
And so I think we have to take these seriously, but we also have to be careful not to overreact. Now, let me state that we have also taken some important steps as well. We have rejected the claims of the Chinese that we can't sail our ships within a certain amount of space from these manmade islands.
We have sailed our ships into the area that they claim to be their sea-based territory, and so we have also taken some strong steps to protect our interests in and around Chinese waters as well.
BLITZER: That's a good point.
You're on the Foreign Relations Committee. When you heard Donald Trump say he would have no problem speaking directly with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, as he said in that interview with the Reuters News Agency yesterday, what did you think? Because I remember President Obama, then Senator Obama, eight years ago, when he was running for president, saying he would be ready to meet with enemies, leaders of North Korea, other countries, if you will, if he were elected.
MURPHY: Well, I think Donald Trump is just making this up as he goes along.
People categorize his foreign policy as risky, but that connotes that there's some potential upside. It is not risky. It is just dangerous, the way in which he talks. And what worries me about the way that he talks about the North Korean leader is this reverence for the guy's murderous tendencies, right?
He almost suggests that he looks up to the guy's ability to kill his relatives in order to consolidate power. Now, the reality is, is that you can talk to your enemies, but you have to have your friends at your side when you do that.
President Obama did strike an historic agreement with Iran, but he did it in coordination with our European allies. Within 24 hours of saying that he is going to talk to this radical and unstable North Korean leader, Donald Trump is also saying that he doesn't think he is really going to have an alliance with Great Britain, our most sacred and important ally.
And so it just -- it goes without saying that you can't cut a deal with your enemy if you don't have your friends by your side. Hopefully, Henry Kissinger, as much as I don't agree with him on much of his foreign policy philosophy, is setting Donald Trump straight on some of these basic ideas today.
BLITZER: He also met last week with former Secretary of State James Baker in Washington.
Before I let you go, Senator, your name has been floated as a potential vice presidential pick for Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination. "USA Today" floated your name, the newspaper. If she asked you to be her running mate, would you say yes?
MURPHY: I think pretty much every United States senator has been floated at some point as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, so I don't take that as any special recognition. It is certainly nothing I am thinking about right now.
BLITZER: So, is that a yes or a no?
MURPHY: It is just not on my mind right now.
BLITZER: I will leave it at that.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
MURPHY: All right, thanks a lot, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, what North Korean experts are now saying about the possibility of face-to-face talks between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump if he becomes president. Is it bold? Is it dangerous? We'll update you.
BLITZER: Tonight Donald Trump is appealing to his party's conservative wing by unveiling a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees. Five of the 11 judges Trump named previously had been floated by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Trump says the organization did help him compile his list of would-be Supreme Court justices.
[18:31:11] Let's bring in our senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin; along with chief political analyst Gloria Borger; Rebecca Berg, national political reporter for Real Clear Politics; and CNN political reporter Sara Murray.
Jeffrey, you're an expert on the Supreme Court. Are these potential Supreme Court picks an olive branch to the conservative wing of the party? Tell us about that.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You bet. This is a dream team for social conservatives. These are accomplished, serious, experienced judges, all of whom would, it seems very likely, bring a socially conservative agenda, overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states once again to ban abortion; do not recognize gay and transgender rights. This is a list that easily could have been produced by a President Ted Cruz, and I think that's the point.
BLITZER: Gloria, how can releasing a list of potential Supreme Court nominees help Donald Trump unify the party, especially, let's say, bring Speaker Paul Ryan on board, other Republicans to formally endorse him?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it's a really smart move for him, Wolf. Because as we all know from covering this campaign, conservatives have a lot of questions about him. Somebody like Ted Cruz, whom Jeffrey just mentioned, spent the entire year saying that Trump was not conservative, as did other Republicans.
In handing over this list, part of which was produced by conservative think tanks, he can say to Republicans, "You know, I'm on the same page as you are." Remember Trump had that kind of mess up on the question of who should be punished for having an abortion and, you know, social issues clearly are not something that have been at his forefront. So this way he can say, "These are my folks and these are your folks, too." And I think it's very, very important to conservatives who believe that's what this election is about. BLITZER: Sara, you've been looking at this list of 11 potential
Supreme Court picks. You've been looking at the names. Not necessarily all of them Trump allies, right?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Wolf. Not necessarily. In fact, one of them has a history of tweeting things, essentially mocking Donald Trump.
But I think this really gets to Gloria's point, which is the other -- the other signal this list sends is that Donald Trump is ready to take outside advice, that the No. 1 rule when it comes to something as important as appointing a Supreme Court justice will not just be "Do you love Donald Trump, have you been loyal to him, are you willing to do his bidding?" That he's willing to look beyond that, to look at what experts are saying, conservative experts are saying, and choose based on that.
Now of course, if you're a Democrat, if you are more moderate, you might have problems with people on this list. But I think the signal he's sending to conservatives is "I can take outside advice from experts, and I am prepared to do that on important decisions like choosing a Supreme Court justice."
BLITZER: Jeffrey, you say this list is a conservative dream team, if you will. What does it tell you about the kind of staff Trump has been -- has brought together to advise him on these kinds of sensitive issues?
TOOBIN: Well, certainly, it says that he is very much in the mainstream of the contemporary Republican Party on these legal issues. And as we've all been saying, there is nothing more important, especially to the base of the Republican Party, than the Supreme Court, especially when now there is this 4-4 split, four Democratic appointees, four Republican appointees following the death of Antonin Scalia.
This isn't just any vacancy on the Supreme Court. This is a vacancy that will determine the balance of power on the court.
And if Donald Trump wins, the conservatives can be reassured -- moderates can be nervous, but conservatives can be reassured -- that these judges will be like Justice Scalia, like Justice Alito, like Justice Thomas, and that's precisely what they want.
[18:35:07] BLITZER: And could have an impact long beyond four years or eight years. They could have an impact for 20 or 30 years, if not longer, depending on their age.
Rebecca, on the Democratic side, there's a bunch of other problems involving unity. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, as you heard, she thinks Sanders should drop out of the race after the voting concludes in California on June 7. She's worried about the impact on the party. I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The '68 convention in Chicago, that was a lot of violence at that Democratic convention at that time.
REBECCA BERG, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Sure.
BLITZER: So what about what she's saying? How much damage do you think, potentially, the Democratic Party could endure?
BERG: Well, certainly, Dianne Feinstein is a supporter of Hillary Clinton and not only a supporter but a very, very close personal friend from their time in the Senate. So we need to look at her remarks through that context and through that frame.
But of course, Democrats are worried if Bernie Sanders is going to go to the convention and cause a ruckus that could distract from the real goal for them, which is, of course, beating Donald Trump and getting the White House for Hillary Clinton, who is of course, the presumptive nominee.
But at this stage, there really is evidence I'm seeing that Democrats are, for the most part, giving Bernie Sanders space to run the race to the end. You saw Joe Biden come out and say that he deserves the room to run. You've seen President Obama really pull back from any sort of involvement in this race.
If the party were really very concerned that this is going to go on to the convention, you would see these party -- elder party figures stepping up and urging Bernie Sanders to exit the race, but they're not doing that yet. And I think that's because they truly believe that he will make what they consider the right decision and drop out after the race ends on June 7.
We'll have to see if that actually comes to pass. But so far, they are optimistic that that will happen and that this will proceed, really, as Democratic races have proceeded in the past. In 2008, a very contentious primary. Democrats unified ultimately without any sort of problem.
BLITZER: Guys, stand by, because we're getting some new reaction out of Donald Trump suggesting he'd be ready to open a dialogue with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. I want everyone to stand by. We'll assess that and a whole lot more right after this.
[18:42:12] BLITZER: Donald Trump is offering what at least some see as a disturbing clue about how he'd deal with North Korea if he were president of the United States. It's a sharp departure from the current U.S. policy toward that country and its dictator, Kim Jong-un. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
So Brian, Trump says he'd handle North Korea, potentially, very differently. Update our viewers.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. First, Donald Trump says he could get along with Vladimir Putin. Now he's basically saying he can do better than the current administration on North Korea if he could just meet with Kim Jong-un face to face. It's got Trump under fire yet again.
Tonight we've spoken to former U.S. national security officials and people who have negotiated with the North Koreans, who are warning Donald Trump of the political dangers involved in a meeting with the North Korean leader.
TODD (voice-over): Donald Trump proposes doing something no other sitting American president ever has: a direct face-to-face meeting with the leader of North Korea. On the question of talking to Kim Jong-un, Trump tells Reuters.
DONALD TRUMP (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would -- I would speak to him. I have no problem with speaking to him.
TODD: Bill Richardson, former ambassador to the U.N. and a veteran negotiator with the North Koreans, says Trump is being naive.
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. NEGOTIATOR WITH NORTH KOREA: You can't just shoot and say, like Donald Trump, "Let's meet. Let's talk." That's not going to work. That's not diplomacy. That's reality TV.
TODD: Experts say a Trump face-to-face with Kim would send the wrong message, that it would look like a reward for Kim's aggressive, violent behavior. Human rights advocates would be outraged, given Kim's prison gulags and his executions of several North Koreans. In January, Trump himself called Kim a maniac, but said he needs to be taken seriously.
TRUMP: He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn't play games, and we can't play games with him.
TODD: President Obama negotiated with human rights violators like Iran and with Cuba. Why not North Korea? Analysts say if a President Trump met with Kim Jong-un, he'd get played. Just by showing up, he'd give the North Koreans a recognition no nation wants them to have.
VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: They would like to sit down with the United States face to face as two nuclear weapon states. And so an American president going there while they have their nuclear -- while they have their nuclear weapons would essentially be playing right into their hands.
TODD: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton met with North Korean leaders but after they were president. But since he took power nearly five years ago, Kim Jong-un has never met with any other world leader. The highest profile American he's met with?
DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA STAR (singing): Happy birthday to you.
TODD: Former NBA star Dennis Rodman.
How would a Trump-Kim meeting play out? Richardson says Trump should prepare for a bizarre style of negotiating.
RICHARDSON: They don't believe in the give and take. They don't believe in quid pro quos.
[18:45:01] They think their side is right, and they just think that they'll give you enough time so that you finally agree with their point of view.
TODD: Now, why does Trump say he would speak to Kim Jong-un and specifically how would Trump deal with this isolated, violent young dictator? We pressed the Trump campaign and they would not give specifics.
White House officials would not comment to us on Trump's idea to meet with Kim. When we called North Korea's mission to the U.N. for a response, they hung up on us -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, there are serious concerns about Kim Jong-un's personality at the same time which play into all this. What are the experts telling you?
TODD: That's right, Wolf. He is said to be very uneven. Experts telling he is seen as much more irrational than his father, Kim Jong- il, was, or his grandfather was. He is also very young. He is said to be under significant pressure internally to show his strength to the elites inside North Korea.
So, a face-to-face meeting with Donald Trump is going to have to deal with all of that with the young Kim Jong-un.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thanks very much.
Let's get back to our panel, also joining us, our CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
Elise, how big of a shift would this be, a U.S. president sitting, meeting and talking with Kim Jong-un. What do you think? Do you ever see this happening?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I can't see it happening, Wolf. As Brian said, no U.S. leader has ever met with the North Korean leader, although former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did go to get U.S. detainees in North Korean captivity out of jail.
And I think that no one really knows anything about Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il, who they did met with, was far, seen as far more rational. No one really knows what this leader is about and no leader in fact anywhere around the world has met with him and he's shown no interest, Wolf, in meeting. So, I think it would be a real seismic shift in U.S. foreign policy, I can't see it happening.
BLITZER: Gloria, Trump did at one point praise Dennis Rodman for going to North Korea, calling it smart back in 2013 and a year later, Trump tweeted, "Dennis Rodman was either drunk or on drugs, delusional when he said I wanted to go to North Korea with him. Glad I fired him on Apprentice!"
Talk a little bit about this latest development.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I agree with Elise, I think it is unlikely to happen and you know, we all recall that President Obama, then candidate Obama had a policy he called constructive engagement, which a lot of Democrats, including Hillary Clinton objected to at the time saying that he would meet with leaders like leaders of Iran, potentially North Korea that we hadn't met with before.
One thing I point out about North Korea, though, is that once candidate Obama became President Obama, that never happened. Maybe he got the intelligence briefings that he hadn't gotten before, maybe he took a look at their negotiating record, maybe he saw the new leader here who is very erratic, very difficult to deal with, but as engaged as President Obama has been with lots of nations that have not been engaged with before, he hasn't gone near North Korea and there's a good reason for it.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: But I do think, Gloria, it gives you a sense of how Donald Trump kind of sees these foreign policy issues and sees running government in the same way he thinks of running his business. His view in business is I'm just going to get these guys in a room, I'm going to negotiate with them, we're going to talk about our issues and we're going to see if we can strike a deal.
And I think what we've seen is when Donald Trump makes these statements publicly, whether you talk about foreign policy, whether we're talking about the economy, he's sort of running into the limits of how you can operate government the same way that you would operate a business. It's different.
LABOTT: It is much different. Presidential power, Wolf, is much different. When you're meeting with a world leader, you don't give that away up front. U.S. leaders, presidential summit is the most important card you have to play. And you only play it once negotiations are going on and you think that you have something that you can get a deliverable.
The worst thing for a U.S. president would be to sit down with the North Korean leader and not get anything, and that's what the North Koreans are masters of doing.
BORGER: And you don't want to legitimize him and legitimize his nuclear status. And, you know, if you travel to his turf, you do that to a certain degree and if you invite him here, that might even be worse, right? Because what you're doing with a meeting with the president of the United States is giving him the status that actually he craves right now, and you don't want to do that either.
BLITZER: All right. Rebecca, you wrote a very interesting piece about Donald Trump's to-do list, if you will, releasing more foreign policy details, U.S. Supreme Court potential nominees, making financial disclosures, part of his plan to unite the party.
What's behind all of this?
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, certainly he is making some progress on that to do list, Wolf. And with his list of Supreme Court -- potential Supreme Court nominees today, with some more detailed foreign policy proposals, although this North Korea one was a little off beat, shall we say, he is certainly making progress. He struck a fund-raising agreement with Republican National Committee this week, which is a huge step in the right direction for Donald Trump, if he wants to unite the party. And that's exactly what the goal is for him.
So, in the weeks he has before the convention, in Cleveland, he needs to bring Republicans together in a way that he hasn't been able to do so far, and reassure in particular the conservative wing of the party that he has the right intentions here, and that he would be a good steward of their policies and their beliefs. And, you know, the Supreme Court thing today, proposed nominees to the Supreme Court, is a major step in that direction, Wolf.
He actually -- I saw it reported just minutes ago by a reporter for national review that Donald Trump approached "National Review", which ran a cover, as you recall, a Never Trump magazine cover, and he actually asked for their input on his Supreme Court picks. So, he's really extending an olive branch to the conservative wing of the party in a way that he hasn't and that's exactly to unify the party before the convention.
BLITZER: He's reaching out to the establishment, Henry Kissinger today -- last week, he met with former secretary of state, James Baker. He's doing what I guess he's supposed to do in a moment like this, trying to unify the Republicans in advance of the convention.
All right, guys, thanks very much.
Just ahead, an up-close exclusive look at the war against ISIS in one of the terrorist's most dangerous strongholds. We'll share it with you when we come back.
[18:56:07] BLITZER: Now, a CNN exclusive. An up-close look at the war against ISIS in its most dangerous stronghold, Libya.
Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh takes us there.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the eye in the sky for America's quietest war on ISIS in Libya, a specially adapted spy plane.
(on camera): These flights part of a growing effort by U.S. intelligence agencies to learn as much as they can about ISIS in what many consider to be its most dangerous stronghold, so close to Europe.
(voice-over): Buried in the rock of the remote Sicilian island of Pantelleria, it's run by a handful of Americans. They fly over North Africa's coast, aviation records show. Likely hovering up electronic chatter, video from above the failed state, a tenth of whose coastline ISIS now control. And down here, is where it matters, isolated road between the Libyan city of Misrata and the ISIS stronghold of Sirte.
Each (ph) day is all bad news. ISIS using a suicide bomber to help them advance (INAUDIBLE). Fighters tell us that Americans are also on the ground here.
(on camera): Along this road reinforcements pouring down and one witness said they saw what looked like four armored SUVs containing Western-looking soldiers.
(voice-over): They're nervous about what we see. One Libyan official later revealed that a dozen U.S. troops operate out of a nearby air base, the Pentagon confirming U.S. troops are, quote, "meeting with Libyans", but wouldn't give details.
This man saying, he managed to save his family, as ISIS moved into their hometown. This was the scene they left behind. These chaotic militias are all that stand between ISIS and one of Libya's biggest cities.
Hours later, ISIS sent another suicide bomber in an armored car. And through Misrata, it's a state of emergency, flooding it with casualties. Scenes they thought they've seen the last of once they defeated Gadhafi are back again. Over 100 injured, and 9 dead.
On a scale, a hospital can barely cope with. Relatives kept out, can only peer through the glass.
(on camera): The most severely wounded being brought out now a steady stream of casualties. Quite unlike anything the city is used to, along with that sense of ISIS never really having been so close or so threatening.
Funerals now too common, they say. This for Abdullah Fortea (ph) killed in suicide bombings, leaving his wife pregnant with their third child. "The martyr, the friend of God," they chant.
After five years of war, it barely jars other routines, weddings go on nearby. America is for now here as little as it can be and ISIS are winning. The wait for outside help measured in sons lost.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Misrata.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Nick, for that report. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.