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Trump Lashes Out at Third-Party Threat; Trump to Give Details of Donations to Veterans' Groups; California Showdown Looms for Clinton & Sanders; U.S. Special Ops Aiding Anti-ISIS Offensives; U.S. Allies on Alert for North Korean Launch. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 30, 2016 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:02] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jim Sciutto. I turn you over to Pamela Brown. She is in THE SITUATION ROOM.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, third party threat. A leading conservative says an impressive independent candidate will take on Donald Trump. Trump calls that critic a dummy and warns that a spoiler candidate could hand Democrats a victory.

Trump's tirades. Trump calls a judge hearing a fraud case against him a Mexican and tells the Rolling Thunder bikers that undocumented immigrants are treated better than military veterans. Is it time for the presumptive GOP nominee to change his behavior? I'll ask a Trump senior advisor.

And new ISIS strategy. U.S. allies launch multiple attacks against ISIS, and American forces are playing a key role. But what role is Iran playing? Could lead to bloody conflicts in the region?

And un-abated. Japan and South Korea going on alert to head off a possible North Korean missile launch. Could Kim Jong-un soon have a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the United States?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Pamela Brown. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Just days after locking up the Republican nomination, Donald Trump is still on the offensive, attacking critics or those he suspects may cause problems for him. But now Trump may be facing a real threat, and he's lashing out once again.

A prominent conservative, "Weekly Standard" editor William Kristol, is hinting that a, quote, "impressive independent candidate" will enter the race. Kristol says that candidate will have a strong team and a real chance.

Trump is calling Kristol a dummy and a loser and warns that Republicans better rally behind his own candidacy or face defeat.

And U.S. allies are putting their militaries on alert in advance of what's looking like another North Korean missile test. There is growing concern that Kim Jong-un is getting closer to a weapon that could reach the U.S. itself. And his regime is trying to score propaganda points by showcasing the sons of an American defector.

I'll speak with senior Trump advisor Tana Goertz. And our correspondents, analysts and guests have full coverage of today's top stories.

Donald Trump may be feeling the heat to account for cash he pledged to raise for veterans. And he's going after those he feels are putting him under pressure, including supporters of a third-party challenge.

We begin with CNN's Phil Mattingly. So Phil, it seems as though Trump is really lashing out lately.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little bit, Pam. Look at it this way. Four months ago, Donald Trump decided to skip a Republican debate and instead host what he said would be a fund-raiser for veterans. Six million dollars. That's how much Trump said and his team raised for various veterans' organizations.

But here we are, on Memorial Day, four months later, and still, a big question as to how much was raised and which groups actually got the money. That, according to Trump, changes tomorrow, right behind me at Trump Tower.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Donald Trump pledging he will finally reveal the specifics of cash he pledged to raise and personally donate to U.S. veterans organizations.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of the groups that have gotten the money will be announced on Tuesday. We're having a big press conference, and it's going to be great.

MATTINGLY: The full accounting of the $6 million Trump claims he raised in January when he skipped the FOX News debate just before the Iowa caucuses expected to be provided tomorrow at a New York press conference, just one day after Memorial Day.

TRUMP: We just raised almost $6 million for the vets, because I didn't do a television show.

MATTINGLY: Since that event questions about how much money was actually raised have followed him on the campaign trail. Trump, on Sunday, vowing to do right by veterans' groups.

TRUMP: We have to take care of our vets. In many cases, illegal immigrants are taking much care -- really, are taken much better care, by this country, taken care of than our veterans.

MATTINGLY: And taking a swipe at his likely general election opponent Hillary Clinton and the Veterans Affairs Department in the process.

TRUMP: Hillary is -- she doesn't know anything about jobs. She thinks the V.A. is doing good.

MATTINGLY: Even as the New York billionaire sounded disappointed by the crowd size.

TRUMP: I thought this would be, like, Dr. Martin Luther king, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument, right? Unfortunately, they don't know how long to come in.

MATTINGLY: This as Republicans still opposed to Trump continue to push for a possible third-party challenge. Conservative commentator Bill Kristol teasing on Sunday that a, quote, "impressive independent candidate is on the way with a strong team and a real chance."

Trump firing back in a string of tweets calling Kristol a, quote, "dummy," an "embarrassed loser," calling on the GOP to buck any third- party effort saying the party, quote, "has to be smart and strong if it wants to win in November."

[17:05:05] Trump's pushback coming as another challenge emerged: the Libertarian ticket, featuring two former Republican governors, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. Johnson pledging to take on Trump directly.

GARY JOHNSON (L), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Taking him on on wanting to build a fence across the border. That's nuts. Taking him on when he says that Mexicans are murderers and rapists when in -- I mean, it's incendiary.

MATTINGLY: That as Trump and his team publicly target the ethnicity of a judge overseeing a fraud case against the now-defunct Trump University, a judge who was born in Indiana.

TRUMP: But I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He's a hater. So what happens is the judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that's fine.

MATTINGLY: As they seek to play down the very real rivalries and tensions that have beset their own campaign, as it struggled to pivot for the general election.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: This is media hype. This team is very cohesive. It's small; it's lean; it's efficient. And it's going to come right at Hillary Clinton for this presidency come November.


MATTINGLY: And Pam, it certainly is a lean team. Donald Trump's campaign, at least according to the last federal election filings, 70 people. Hillary Clinton's, more than 700. It's yet another way the campaign is really bucking tradition as to how campaigns are run. It's something that makes a lot of Republican operatives nervous. But yet, it's one that the Trump campaign cites, as you just heard there, as another reason why not only they are different but they will be successful in the fall -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. We'll have to wait and see. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for that.

And let's bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. So Dana, how serious is Bill Kristol about this?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Very serious. He has been serious for months in trying to figure out how the people who simply will not tolerate a Donald Trump nominee at the top or somebody like him at the top of the ticket, how they can find an alternative.

Going from being very serious to actually finding a candidate and doing it properly is the -- they're very different things. For example, what they have to do is find somebody who is palatable to people. And not just palatable but maybe recognizable.

Now Kristol has said before it doesn't have to be somebody with huge name I.D. But still, to get somebody -- for somebody to get attention who is not a Clinton or a Trump would be very, very difficult.

They have, I'm told by people familiar with their process, they have been doing polling. They have been looking at data. They've been talking to big money people, which is also a very, very important part of this, to be able to fund a process where they'd have to get people on the ballot. They'd have to, you know, fund a campaign. These are huge, huge hurdles to get over.

Again, he is insisting by Twitter in this very mysterious tweet that he put out today that they're close to finding somebody. We'll see who that is. Because we haven't been able to find them.

BROWN: Well, and one of the big hurdles for them is that many potential candidates have ruled themselves out rather than in for running a third-party candidacy.

BASH: The No. 1 person who a lot of the "never Trump" forces have been hoping to recruit is Mitt Romney, who of course, was the nominee for the Republicans last time around. He has said no, he doesn't want to do that before. I've talked to a couple of sources close to him today who say he still doesn't want to do it. One actually said, "No, no, no. I promise you. No."

BROWN: He made the point clear.

BASH: And another interesting potential candidate was Adam Kinzinger. He is a very well-respected, very young congressman from Illinois, a Republican. He is -- has been in the Air Force, at least in the Reserves.

He, a source familiar with his thinking, was interested in considering it, quote, "literally to save the union," because both Trump and Clinton, I'm told, scare him. But he also doesn't see how this effort actually comes to fruition, how there's actually a path to getting on all the ballots in all the states and so on and so forth.

And then there's a Ben Sasse, who's a "never Trumper," a respected senator from Nebraska who's also said no. Again, sources close to him continue to say he is not going to do it.

There are other people out there -- retired military, retired Republican senators. You know, we just don't know if somebody has finally been convinced by, again, finance people, by political people, you name it, the way Bill Kristol suggested today.

BROWN: Right. Because the way he suggested it made it sound like there's actually someone who's willing to do it. But we don't really know that yet, right?

BASH: No. We got him talking about it on a holiday.

BROWN: Absolutely. We sure did.

All right. Thanks so much, Dana Bash. We do appreciate it.

And joining me now, Trump campaign senior advisor, Tana Goertz. Great to see you, Tana.

So I want to just, on the heels of what we were just talking about with Dana, talk about the fact that Donald Trump has been calling "Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol a, quote, "embarrassed loser" after he promised an independent conservative candidate will soon announce a run for president.

[17:10:09] Trump has boasted about knocking out candidates in the primary. Why does he sound so concerned about a third-party challenger, Tana?

TANA GOERTZ, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: Well, first off, Pamela, I'd like to thank you for having me here today on Memorial Day, a day where we honor and celebrate all of our brave men and women who have served this country. So thank you for that.

And the answer to your question about Bill, Mr. Trump, more or less his philosophy is that Bill has all the answers, he should run for president of the United States.

BROWN: OK. So CNN's Dana Bash, as we were just talking about, was reporting that Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger considered a third-party run to stop Trump.

Do you think that Trump can bridge these ongoing concerns about his candidacy? Clearly, there are still people in the Republican Party who are he hesitant to coalesce around him.

GOERTZ: They will coalesce around him. Of course they will. He is the nominee. He will -- he's going to win this thing. So of course the party is going to get behind Mr. Trump. And many have. I just saw recently -- and we were at our state convention here in Iowa, and people who would have thought they would never come aboard have completely come full circle and are supporting Mr. Trump.

Because at the end of the day, they want Donald Trump in the White House, and they do not want a Hillary Clinton in the White House. So they will do whatever it takes, and they will rally behind Mr. Trump. Just you wait and see.

BROWN: But is he making that more difficult, Tana, by going after people like Bill Kristol, Governor Susana Martinez, Mitt Romney and so many in the party that he'll need to win in November? GOERTZ: No, he is not making things difficult. He is just reacting

to them. They are attacking him, and he's a counter puncher, as we all know. If you don't want to be attacked, don't attack Donald Trump.

His supporters, the American people that go out and vote for him, they love his strength. They love the fact that Mr. Trump will not just lay down and take it. That's what we need. We need strength in our government. We need a strong president of the United States. And that's why so many million people have gone out to vote for Donald Trump already.

BROWN: OK, so I want to talk to you about what went on in Washington, D.C., yesterday. Donald Trump speaking at Rolling Thunder at this event for veterans and prisoners of war. But less than a year ago, Donald Trump had this to say about former prisoners of war. John McCain. Trump said about the senator, quote, "He's not a war hero. He was -- he was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."

Has Donald Trump changed his stance on this?

GOERTZ: Absolutely. Mr. Trump respects and admires anyone who has served our country, including Mr. McCain. Absolutely. He respects -- he respects all soldiers. Anyone, any veteran.


GOERTZ: That is why he is doing so much for the veterans' organizations. I've been with him since day one. He raised almost $6 million, and I've been a part of that. I've personally handed over hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations like 22 Kill, who are bringing awareness to the fact that 22 veterans are committing suicide every day. Before Donald Trump, none of us knew anything about the serious cases and serious issues that our veterans are facing.

BROWN: Well, I think a lot of us knew about those serious -- a lot of us knew about those serious issues.

But before we get to the donations and the nearly $6 million, I want to follow up on the fact that Donald Trump said this about John McCain. It is Memorial Day. Should he apologize to Senator McCain? You're a senior advisor. Would you tell him to go ahead and apologize? There have been all these calls from even McCain himself.

GOERTZ: Mr. Trump has mentioned Senator McCain in his tweets before. He has said he respects his service. He admires him. He has -- he has taken care of this. This was back in June or July, I can't recall, of last summer. We're almost a year later.

Let's talk about the great things that Mr. Trump has done for our veterans. I mean, what -- who else -- name another person who has done as much for the veterans of the United States of America than Mr. Trump has. And he's not even yet in office.

BROWN: Well, no doubt about it, he has done good things for the veterans. We want to talk about that right after the break...


BROWN: ... and all the donations that he raised. We're going to talk about which foundations they're going to go to. Tana Goertz, stick around. We will continue this discussion right after this break.


[17:18:45] BROWN: And we're back with Tana Goertz, a Trump campaign senior advisor.

And so we were just talking about, Tana, the fact that tomorrow Donald Trump is expected to announce what happened with the money that he raised back in January at that veterans' charity event. A big question among people is why did it take him almost four months to do this?

GOERTZ: Well, you know, Pamela, it takes between six weeks to six months to properly vet these organizations that came to us. When we realized -- when they realized that Mr. Trump wasn't going to do a FOX debate and that we were going to be raising money for veterans' organizations. There are many organizations out there that are worthy of the money. But we wanted to make sure that they were properly vetted and the homework was done. And we've done the work, and now there are great organizations that have been on the other end receiving this wonderful money, and they are so thrilled.

And I've talked with lots of the organizations that said, "We were closing our doors before Mr. Trump came along. We were turning veterans away. Veterans were going home and committing suicide." None of this could have ever been possible without Mr. Trump.

BROWN: And you're saying that basically, it's taking so long because of the vetting. But it was only just last week that Trump personally donated $1 million to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. That's a group he's donated to in the past. He was even honored at a foundation's gala last year. Obviously, the foundation had already been vetted and was -- one that he had a relationship with.

GOERTZ: Right.

BROWN: So what was the hold up there with the million dollars going there?

GOERTZ: I mean, the hold-up is a million dollars is a lot of money. Mr. Trump said that night -- I can't recall what it was, but I know it was before February the 1st. It was in January...

BROWN: But he didn't pay up until "The Washington Post" came out on social media and really, seemingly, held his feet to the fire, reaching out to veterans' groups, saying, "Have you received this money from Trump?" It turns out shortly after that, Trump donates this million dollars to this foundation that he's been a part of for longer than the last few months, showing that he didn't have to vet this foundation before donating to it. GOERTZ: Right. Pamela, that -- that organization was not vetted, but

Mr. Trump's $1 million was in the veterans' fund that evening. After he left Des Moines, Iowa, that $1 million that Mr. Trump gave to the veterans for the United States of America, that money was already allocated, and it was in the pot waiting to be distributed. So it's not like Mr. Trump went, "Oh, now I think I'll write that check." No, he was always writing the check, and the money was always there. It was being distributed.

And like I said, I can't wait for tomorrow. We'll finally put this all to rest, and people can actually be saying, "Wow! He did this! He's got" -- I mean, I don't care if it was $500,000. Once again, show me the candidate. What has Hillary Clinton done for our veterans of the United States of America? Nothing.

So we should be saying, "Way to go, Mr. Trump! You" -- I don't care if it was $500,000. It's $6 million, or very close to that, that he is giving to veterans of the United States of America that make our lives easier. Where I can say, "I'm free," and I didn't have to serve our country. They did it for us.

BROWN: Can you give us an idea of the precise amount that -- that is being donated and some of the charities, the foundations that is on the receiving end of this money?

GOERTZ: I do not know the exact number. That would be the accountants and the attorneys. But I know, like I was mentioning early, the 22 Kill organization, where they bring awareness to the fact that 22 veterans a day commit suicide because of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

We also have given money to Patriots for Pets, an organization what -- that allows veterans to have pets that direct them around their home. Also, organizations that build add-ons to veterans' homes that are disabled. Veteran wheelchairs. I know a gentleman from Iowa that Mr. Trump has personally helped rebuild his home so that he can get around in his wheelchair.

The organizations are all fantastic, and they're all deserving. And none of this would have done without the help of Donald J. Trump, the man that will be our next president of the United States.

BROWN: All right. And we will find out tomorrow the details of the money donated at the press conference. Of course, we will be following that here on CNN.

Tana Goertz, thank you very much for coming on the show. We do appreciate it.

GOERTZ: Thank you! Thank you.

BROWN: And coming up on this Monday, the chances of a three-way race for the White House and Hillary Clinton's troubles locking up her party's nomination.

Also, new worries that North Korea's erratic dictator may be trying to put the final touches on a missile that can strike his enemies.


[17:27:37] BROWN: Well, Donald Trump is lashing out at a prominent conservative who's promising to reveal the name of a credible independent candidate. Is a three-way race for the White House really possible?

Let's bring in our CNN experts: CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp; our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; CNN political director David Chalian; and our political commentator, former South Carolina state lawmaker Bakari Sellers.

Dana, I want to go to you first, because you have this new reporting out about this possibility of a third-party candidate. We've been hearing Donald Trump really go after Bill Kristol for even suggesting this is going to happen. How serious is this? Is this really a possibility?

BASH: It's only a possibility if Bill Kristol can really find the candidate, which has eluded him and the other people in the "never Trump" -- now calling themselves "never Trump, never Clinton" camp.

So the answer is we'll know when we see it, basically.

But, look, we also know that it's not just Trump who maybe uses more colorful language than other Republicans but also genuinely, the Republican Party chair and others who are maybe not thrilled with Trump think that the idea is a very, very bad one, because they do believe, no matter who they find, it will splinter the party and hand the keys to the White House to Hillary Clinton.

BROWN: Another scenario, David, could be if the third-party candidate comes in the race, no one gets the majority, then it would go to the House of Representatives. Could that be part of the strategy here?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I do think at this point -- I don't even think the Kristol effort is about getting an individual to 270 electoral votes. I mean, at this point, I really think it is clear just because of how late in the game we are, that he's trying to find someone who can play in a couple of key battleground states to the point of success and keep everyone below 270.

And you're right. That would go to the House, obviously. Right now, there are more state delegations controlled by Republicans than there are by Democrats. And that is one way that people are talking about this.

But again, let's go back to Dana's point here before we go too far down this road. Nobody has emerged yet. So we have been hearing this -- this "never Trump," now "never Trump, never Clinton" movement inside the Republican Party for two months now. And nobody is stepping up.

And so I think that, at a certain point, if you don't have a vehicle for this, it seems to me, in looking at this election and observing it and reporting on it for the last year, having a strategist with some funding and some polling is like the last thing the voters have said that they wanted this year. Somebody trying to figure out a way to produce something. It's just not what the voters have wanted

[17:30:07] BROWN: Have you gotten a call?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. But let me just say on this, I mean, it also serves -- it serves another purpose. In addition to giving voters like me someone they can support, it also looking forward imagines a world in which Democrats and other voters say, "Well, you guys, you conservatives, you nominated Trump. You elected Trump."

And people like Bill Kristol can say, "No, no, no, we didn't. We actually nominated so and so." So it's about sort of preserving the integrity of the conservative movement and the Republican Party going forward.

And so while getting nominated, getting elected seems impossible, there's more at stake here. There's more of a personal vested interest in finding someone else.

BROWN: And if no one does step forward to be the third-party candidate, there's a Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, who's a former governor. How much of a threat is he to Donald Trump, S.E.?

CUPP: It's an interesting -- I mean, if the idea is to appeal to Democrats who don't like Hillary Clinton and Republicans who don't like Donald Trump, this is not the ticket.

If you've heard of Gary Johnson, you've heard of him for being -- wanting to legalize weed. Bill Weld, his running mate, sounds a lot more like a Democrat than a Republican. He's very liberal on guns and abortions. So I'm not sure who he's appealing to. I'm just not sure this is solving a problem that either side really has in missing a candidate.

BROWN: But we have seen situations where the third candidate -- third-party candidate has really impacted the race. Should Hillary Clinton be concerned at all, Bakari?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think so. I think if you look at a Gary Johnson running for president of the United States as a third party, as a Libertarian, I'm not sure what person would jump over, let's say, a Bernie Sanders supporter would jump over Hillary Clinton to get to Gary Johnson. I just don't see that happening.

If you have someone like a John Kasich, for example, who runs as a third party, a very credible figure, who has some shrewd competent consultants like John Weaver and others, maybe jumping out there in Ohio. We have to remember that he only won one state in his primary, which was Ohio.

The fact of the matter remains that the Republican Party has a very, very small window to get to 270. Democrats start with an advantage. We start with about 242 electoral votes, simply because of demographics. And the more Donald Trump talks, the more this looks like this may be an electoral landslide, regardless of who runs as a third party.

BROWN: What do you think, Dana?

BASH: I think that -- I think he's right in some ways. But the other thing is, the question we don't know the answer to yet is how many people out there are saying, "I don't want either of them. And I'm looking for another box to check"? And if they might say, "Well, I you know, want government out of my business and, you know, I maybe want to legalize pot" or whatever it is. Or just another -- like a protest vote.

CHALIAN: Or just a likable candidate.

BROWN: Like happened with Ross Perot and Al Gore [SIC] several years ago.

BASH: The Libertarian box might be one that they'd check. Maybe it's a write-in. Maybe it's this phantom person that Bill Kristol is coming up with, you know. You never know.

Or there might be, you know, enough Republicans who cross over and say, "I'm just going to go for Hillary Clinton, because I don't want to throw away my vote." And, by the way, there might be some former Bernie Sanders supporters.

BROWN: There's that factor, as well.

BROWN: Who don't want to throw away their vote, and they can't stand Hillary Clinton.

BROWN: There's a lot at play here. So who would it hurt more, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton with the Libertarian candidate?

CHALIAN: I kind of agree, S.E., that I think it's not so clear. I think -- I think Gary Johnson and Bill Weld could probably pull a few from each side without major impact.

But, again, of we're in a close race, as we've seen before, in a key state, even not a major impact can be an impact.

But here's -- here's what I think we've got to remember. Right now where we are in this race, Donald Trump has been able to largely consolidate Republicans right now. I know not the Bill Kristols of the world. Not the S.E. Cupps of the world, but he has largely been able to consolidate his party. It's actually why he's so competitive with Hillary Clinton right now.

SELLERS: If I may...

CHALIAN: Hillary Clinton has this ongoing Democratic fight.

BROWN: All right. Bakari, jump in. SELLERS: If I may, I think that Donald Trump is hoping to just turn

up the number of white voters in this country. And we realize that he's just trying to drive up that number. And that -- those voters simply aren't there anymore.

The reason why Gary Johnson would not get to play is simply because of the fact that Gary Johnson does nothing to expand the electorate. What we've seen through 2008 and 2012 is that the electorate, in order to get to 270, goes through voters of color in this country. And unless you have someone -- and John Kasich actually proved that he could do that in Ohio. But unless you can have someone who can actually do that, then it's all null and void.

CUPP: Well -- well...

SELLERS: You're not going into Arizona; you're not going into Florida.

CUPP: Bakari -- Bakari...

SELLERS: You're not going into Pennsylvania to win these states.

CUPP: Bakari, Gary Johnson was the governor of the state with the most Hispanics in the country, New Mexico. So he might have some.

SELLERS: I don't...

CUPP: The problem for Gary Johnson is that, at the Libertarian National Convention, he was booed by Libertarians for suggesting...

SELLERS: That's a problem.

CUPP: ... that the government should require at least basic competency to drive a car. This is the problem. He's just not getting all the way (ph).

[17:35:01] BROWN: All right. Let's end on the smiles. We're going to take a quick break, and then we'll be back with our political panel right after this. Stick around.


BROWN: We're just over a week away from the multi-week showdown that should decide the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Both Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders had their eyes on next Tuesday's big prize, California. I want to bring back our political experts to discuss.

So David Chalian, Sanders -- Senator -- Senator Sanders clearly crisscrossing California. He seems to think he really has a shot of winning the state, or at least he's giving off that perception that he thinks he can. And at the same time, you hear Dianne Feinstein, the senator, saying that his campaign is all but over. Does he show any signs of bowing out any time soon?

[17:40:15] CHALIAN: Well, no. Listen, he's got a week to go here. He is working the ground very hard in California. You talked to California political professionals in the Democratic Party there.

He is -- he is doing more than most statewide candidates have done there. I mean, he really is working it. Polls show that it's close. But here's what would be really surprising, if Bernie Sanders was able to pull out a win in California.

In 2008, the electorate was 52 percent white. It will be a minority white electorate this time around in the California Democratic primary. He'll have nearly 35 percent, if not more, Latinos. This means, if he wins in California, he's making inroads into groups that he has not been able to make inroads and doing it at the end of the process. That is a warning sign for Hillary Clinton. Again, not a warning sign about the nomination, but a warning sign about how she's going to emerge from this end of the process where Bernie Sanders was racking up some victories.

BROWN: And do you sense any concern from the Clinton camp? We saw the day she released a schedule. She's going to spend some more time there in California campaigning.

BASH: Spending time there, put some ads up. Look, they don't want an embarrassing loss. Just like David said, would it matter big picture, long-term for what she's trying to do here, which is get the nomination? Probably not. Almost definitely not, mathematically.

But if she ends up losing California, she would be limping towards the nomination. It's just -- that's just the bottom line. California is the biggest, bluest state, and it should be something that she should be able to use to consolidate the base, not, you know, fight Bernie Sanders until the very end.

BROWN: How much does California matter, Bakari?

SELLERS: Well, I mean, California matters. I mean, Hillary Clinton has been fighting, you know, every single state, every single vote.

But I have to remind Dana and David, I guess, back to 2008 when Barack Obama lost nine out of the last 12 primaries, and he limped to two terms in the White House.

So I don't think it's as devastating as people attempt to make it out to be. But I do think that Bernie Sanders has shown the inability to expand his base. If he's able to win next Tuesday in California, he will have shown that he can expand that base, and he'll be even more of an asset on the campaign trail moving forward. As you have a Bernie Sanders, a Joe and Jill Biden, a Barack and Michelle Obama, and a Bill Hillary Clinton fighting for the White House. So I think Bernie Sanders is going to be an asset.

I look forward to June 7, because what people don't talk about is, as New Jersey comes in, Hillary Clinton will be the first female nominee of a major party in the history of this country. So I'm excited about that. I'm excited to talk to my daughter about that.

BROWN: All right. Thank you to our politic panel. We do appreciate your perspective. And coming up, new details about how U.S. Special Operations Forces

are helping with a new multi-front battle against ISIS.

And we're also keeping an eye on the rising tensions among North Korea's neighbors and the suspicions that Kim Jong-un has ordered another missile test.


[17:47:23] BROWN: Iraqi forces have entered the ISIS held city of Fallujah. And ISIS is also under attack in northern Iraq and inside Syria. The U.S. military is playing a key role in these offensives.

Let's go live to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

So, Barbara, what's the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, as Iraqi forces with U.S. backing make their move on Fallujah, this is a remarkable turn of events. But it also appears that there is a bit of a new strategy in the works here.


STARR (voice-over): ISIS under heavy pressure on multiple battlefronts in Iraq and Syria. U.S. Special Operations forces helping local troops inching closer to the front lines.

The Iraqi military announcing it's beginning the battle to clear Fallujah, attempting to take back the strategically important city just 40 miles west of Baghdad.

ISIS tunnels already discovered nearby, a sign of the tough fight to come. The U.S. providing air strikes and watching the Iraqi forces closely.

COL. STEVE WARREN, SPOKESMAN, ANTI-ISIS COALITION IN IRAQ: We're seeing everything from Iraqi Security forces, the regular army, to the police to even their elite counterterrorist service, all participating in this action.

STARR: Less discussed but also involved in the Fallujah fight, Iran and the Shia militias it backs joining the fight to knock ISIS from the city, raising concerns as they move against the heavily Sunni populated area it could all lead to more sectarian violence.

STARR: To the north, a Kurdish offensive under way around Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, an attempt to squeeze ISIS and force it to fight in multiple locations.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: We do recognize the value of simultaneity when we go against this enemy right here. And when we present them with multiple dilemmas then we generally see more success with them.

STARR: And across the border U.S. Special Forces are accompanying and advising Syrian rebel forces fighting on the doorstep of ISIS' self- declared capital in Raqqa.

During a recent visit to Iraq and Syria, General Joe Votel said he's always looking at what more the U.S. can offer.

VOTEL: As the conditions continue to change, as we continue to move into new phases of the overall operation, we'll continue to reevaluate that and where we identify the need for additional capabilities we'll ask for them.

STARR: U.S. Special Forces on full display in Tampa, Florida, over the weekend during an exercise drill that showed why these elite forces are now constantly called to action.


[17:50:05] STARR: Military officials do point to some measures of success. Loss of territory by ISIS, for example. They've lost an estimated 20 percent of what they once had inside Syria. But after traveling with General Votel in Iraq and Syria last week, I can tell you there is still a lot of caution, a lot of very careful planning going on. No one at this point considers ISIS down and out -- Pamela.

BROWN: Barbara Starr, thank you so much for that reporting.

Now meantime, South Korea is in alert mode ahead of what's seen as a likely North Korea missile test. And there is growing concern tonight that Kim Jong-un's regime is getting closer to having a weapon that can reach the U.S.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into that. So what are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, tonight U.S. and South Korean officials are telling us, they are watching Kim Jong-un's military very closely. A ballistic missile test could be in the works. U.S. officials are worried that every time Kim tests a long-range missile, he gets closer to posing a major imminent threat to America.


TODD (voice-over): North Korea's erratic young dictator showing new signs tonight of once again trying to perfect a missile that can strike his enemies. The South Korean military says it's now so concerned about a possible launch, it is in a, quote, "full readiness posture." A U.S. military official tells CNN the Pentagon is also closely monitoring the Korean Peninsula, coordinating with its allies, and calling on Kim Jong-un to refrain from provocation.

But experts say Kim appears obsessed with the idea of expanding his fire power and the influence it would bring him on the world stage. South Korean media reports say he now may test his intermediate range Musudan missile which could strike as far as Guam or the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

Experts are concerned there's also a growing chance that North Korea will soon start testing its longer-range intercontinental KN-14 missile, a far greater threat to the U.S. and its allies.

RICHARD FISHER, INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGY CENTER: It may have new fuels that give it far greater energy and range. And with that range, the KN-14 can possibly reach Washington, D.C.

TODD: Even more concerning, several U.S. officials have told CNN they believe North Korea probably has a miniaturized nuclear warhead which could fit on to those missiles. Experts say right now the only thing standing in Kim's way is the quality of his technology.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: They haven't proved they can launch a missile that could reach the United States in more than, you know, one out of many cases. And the re-entry vehicle is going to have to survive. And as far as we know, they haven't tested the re-entry vehicle and actually fight.

TODD: Meantime tonight, Kim's regime is launching a, quote, "200-day campaign of loyalty," it says to boost agricultural production in the countryside. Analysts say that likely means forced labor, indoctrination. One possible example of that type of indoctrination experts say this new anti-American propaganda featuring Americans.

This interview in Korean features brothers Ted and James Dresnok ranting against the U.S. They are part American but were born in North Korea after their American father defected to Pyongyang in 1962.

TED DRESNOK, SON OF AMERICAN DEFECTOR (Through Translator): I want to advise the U.S. to drop its hostile policy against North Korea. They've done enough wrong. And now it's time to wake them up from their delusions.

TODD: One of the brothers is reportedly even a captain in the North Korean army. Analysts say the brothers are simply being used by Kim for propaganda.

BALBINA HWANG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: To send a message to North Korean people themselves that oh, look, these Caucasians, these Americans, these barbarians that we have been taught since we were little to fear and are the enemy can actually, with the proper education, understand our glory and understand our system.


TODD: Now it's not clear if the Dresnok brothers were forced to make those comments or if they really believe in what they're saying or maybe some combination of both. U.S. intelligence officials not weighing in on this tonight, Pamela.

BROWN: And what more can you tell us, Brian, about these brothers and their parents?

TODD: It's a fascinating story, Pamela. The Dresnok's father James was a GI who defected across the DMC in 1962. He is reported to be in his 70s and in bad health, but still in North Korea. Their mother, analysts say, was a Romanian and she was a victim, they say, of North Korea's notorious system of abductions. She is said by defectors to have died in the 1990s. Now analysts say both of these brothers likely would have received heavy indoctrination and gotten intense monitoring since they were about in their early teen years.

BROWN: Brian Todd, thank you so much for that reporting.

And coming up on this Monday, a leading conservative hints at a third party threat to Donald Trump saying an impressive independent candidate will jump in. Trump calls that critic a dummy and warns that a spoiler candidate could give Democrats a victory.



BROWN: Happening now. Mystery candidate, a leading conservative says the never Trump movement has found someone to take on Trump with an independent bid for the White House. But is time running out for a third party campaign?

Big enchilada. Bernie Sanders battling Hillary Clinton for California and its huge delegate prize, suggesting it's a must-win for him but still vowing to fight all the way to the convention. Now he says it's Clinton's job to unite the party if she's the nominee. We'll talk about that with a top California Democrat.

And explosive gas lines. Deadly blast from aging, leaking pipes claiming dozens of lives over the last decade. The threat and crisis level in cities across the country. Where might disasters strike next?