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Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Fighting ISIS; Donald Trump Lashes Out; Documents Unsealed in Trump University Fraud Case; Clinton: Trump Doesn't Deserve Much Credit for Aid to Vets; Two U.S. Service Members Wounded in Iraq, Syria. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 31, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: lashing out. Donald Trump gives journalists information they have been asking for, then launches an all-out attack on the news media. Did he step on his own message about the millions of dollars he's raised for veterans?

Hurling insults. Trump also going after fellow Republicans, calling any conservatives who might run against him as an independent fools.

I will talk to a Republican congressman who considered an anti-Trump campaign to "save the union.

Trump shamed? Hillary Clinton tells CNN that the man she expects to face in the general election doesn't deserve credit for helping veterans. She's also responding to his new tirade against the news media.

And terror squeeze. The U.S.-led coalition is moving against ISIS on multiple fronts. Intense new battles are now being waged. Will this new strategy work?

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

Tonight, Trump is putting journalists on notice that news conferences in a Trump White House would be a slugfest. The presumptive Republican nominee ratcheted up his attacks on the news media earlier today, aiming insults at individual reporters and their character, calling one a sleaze, this as Trump answered questions about money he raised for veterans during an event back in January.

He released the new list of groups that received $5.6 million in donations, including $1 million from Trump's own pocket. Trump bristled at being subjected to media scrutiny, claiming reporters were lambasting him for doing something good.

Also tonight, new revelations about Trump University in documents released just a little while ago under a judge's order. Stand by for new information on the so-called playbooks used by the now defunct school that's the target of a lawsuit claiming students were victims of fraud. I will talk about the Republican campaign with Congressman Republican

Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who considered an individual presidential bid against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

And our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by as we cover the day's top stories.

Up first, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's over at Trump Tower in New York.

Jim, you were one of those journalists Trump took a jab at today.


Donald Trump held this news conference today to try to clear up some of the questions about some of the money he's raised for veterans groups, but he did not take any joy in doing so, accusing the news media of trying to gin up controversy to damage his campaign and he did so in his own vintage style.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It was supposed to be a day for Donald Trump to salute the nation's veterans and highlight the $5.6 million he's raised for their causes.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is my check for a million dollars.

ACOSTA: Trump ticked off the more than 40 groups he claims are receiving donations, some in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, from the Fisher House Foundation to the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

But clearly furious after months of questions about exactly where the money is going, Trump engaged in some verbal combat of his own, against a target he's attacked before.

TRUMP: You know my opinion of the media. It's very low.

ACOSTA: The news media.

TRUMP: Instead of being like, thank you very much, Mr. Trump, or Trump did a good job, everyone is saying who got it, who got it, who got it? And you make me look very bad.

ACOSTA: So, Trump took aim at the reporters asking the questions.

(on camera): To follow up on that, you keep calling us the dishonest press. It seems as though you're resistant to scrutiny, the kind of scrutiny that comes with running for president of the United States.


TRUMP: But you know what?


ACOSTA: You raise money for veterans.

TRUMP: Excuse me. I have watched you on television. You're a real beauty.

What I don't want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC -- he's a sleaze in my book.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Trump went on to say he never wanted any credit for helping veterans' causes.

TRUMP: But I didn't want to have credit for it. Now, actually, though, what I got was worse than credit, because they were questioning me.

ACOSTA: But it was Trump who launched his fund-raising drive as a major media event, rivaling a GOP debate in Iowa he was skipping.

TRUMP: We actually raised close to six, to be totally honest. But -- and I have to say, a lot more to come.

ACOSTA: Trump's fiery news conference was only the latest example of how the real estate tycoon treats people he doesn't like. Today, he was asked why he highlighted the Mexican heritage of the judge handling the alleged fraud case against Trump University.

TRUMP: Because I'm a man of principle and most of the people who took those courses have letters saying they thought it was great, essentially.

ACOSTA: He didn't answer the question. Then there's the disabled reporter he once mocked.

TRUMP: I don't know what I said.

ACOSTA: FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly.

TRUMP: You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.


ACOSTA: Or Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

TRUMP: I was being hit by Pocahontas. That's Pocahontas. Pocahontas, that's Elizabeth Warren.

ACOSTA: Critics charge it's the same kind of intolerance that gave birth to his call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and as Trump told reporters today, his combative style isn't about to change, even at White House news conferences.

TRUMP: It is going to like this, David, if the press writes false stories like they did with this. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Also today, Donald Trump wrote off the chances of a third- party candidate in the upcoming general election campaign.

And he also described the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, as a fringe candidate. And, Wolf, he even went off on Bill Kristol, the neoconservative in Washington who is trying to get a third-party candidacy going. He described Bill Kristol as a -- quote -- "fool." Kristol fired back on Twitter, describing Donald Trump as a roaring jackass. And that's a quote, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Donald Trump is warning that if a prominent conservative does run as an independent candidate, as Bill Kristol is claiming, it could cost the Republicans the White House.

Listen to what Trump had to say in his news conference today about the possibility of a challenger from the right.


TRUMP: I don't think anybody with a reputation would do it, because they'd look like fools.

But what you're doing to do is you lose the election for the Republicans, and, therefore, you lose the Supreme Court.


BLITZER: As anti-Trump conservatives desperately search for an alternative candidate, some prominent Republicans have taken a pass.

One of them is joining me right now. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger is joining us from his home state of Illinois.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

As you know, Congressman, sources close to you say you contemplated running literally to save the union because you find the idea of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton scary, but you decided against doing so. You don't think the infrastructure exists to get on the ballot.

Bill Kristol is promising the organization and the money. Would you reconsider and run as a third-party candidate?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: No. Look, I'm not running.

And I will tell you, I have realized my role, the best I can do is to do the best I can to try to keep the Republican Party looking like Republicans, a strong national defense, smaller, more effective government. And I think that's where my best role is.

So, yes, I'm not running for president. But I will tell you, I'm hoping, and my hope is in this process that Donald Trump starts to realize he's got to unify this party around Republican principles.

And, look, it's one thing to be fiery. Fiery is good. We want to see that in a presidential contender. It's another thing just to be personal. And I hope he reconsiders his tone in this and really begins to focus on what it takes to be president of the United States.

BLITZER: If he were to reconsider, would you consider supporting him?

KINZINGER: Look, I'm never a never Trump guy. What I have said is, I'm not there yet because, again, in my mind it's important to have somebody that is worthy of the job of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, people that can inspire people to something bigger, that reminds them they live in the greatest country in the world.

So, yes, if he begins to change his tone and ask like a president, I would love to support the Republican nominee. I'm a Republican. But, at the same time, I'm an American before I'm a Republican, and so I do have some concerns.

I'm definitely never Hillary, don't worry about that. I'm not going to support Hillary. But I hope I can get there with Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Who approached you about the possibility of running as a third-party candidate?

KINZINGER: Well, look, like I said, I'm not running, but there's -- it's a high bar for anybody who decides to.

It needs to be somebody if somebody decides to run that probably comes with some solid campaign infrastructure, that has the resources behind it. And, look, every day that goes by, that's getting less and less likely. So it looks like we're going to be down to Donald Trump, potentially Gary Johnson, Bernie Sanders or Hillary, whoever wins that fight.

And those are going to be the candidates you go from. And, again, my hope is to get there with Donald Trump.

BLITZER: But I'm just trying to get a sense, Congressman, how serious this overture to you about possibly running was? Who came to you and said, you know what, Congressman Kinzinger, this might be a good idea to get you into this campaign?

KINZINGER: Well, I won't get into any details of any conversations that did or didn't happen.

I can tell you I'm not running for president. I'm excited to continue to represent the 16th District of Illinois. And my goal now over the next five months is just to do the best I can to mirror the Republican platform, the Republican plank, and to talk about a strong defense and a strong America, an America that understands that the world needs us and we need the world.

And so that's where I'm going to spend the next five months and hopefully Donald Trump begins to reflect some of those values and I can get on board. BLITZER: What did you think of his performance today at that news

conference? He really went after, you saw, the news media.


KINZINGER: It was surprising.

Again, it's hard to tell if this is an act or if it's real. The fact is whoever is going to be president of the United States and whoever is going to run for it has to have very thick skin. And you're going to be criticized from all corners of the globe. And the second you accept the mantle of the president of the United States, you're going to have world leaders all over that criticize you, not to mention the media.

And the media needs to be critical of a president and a presidential candidate. That's their role. I was a little concerned by what seemed to be just a really kind of personal reaction to a very good deed that Donald Trump did. Giving over $5 million to veterans causes is a great thing. He should have taken that as an opportunity to celebrate. But there's a method to what he does, I guess.

It worked in the primary. We will see if it works in the general.

BLITZER: It's not just the news media. He's still railing against the governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, for not supporting him, not showing up that rally he did in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It's other Republicans as well. Do you think it's possible -- and I don't know if you have ever spoken to Donald Trump -- do you think it's possible he will evolve, change so that you could go forward and support him?

KINZINGER: I sure hope it's possible. I sure do.

And like I said, I'm a Republican. I never could have imagined having a hard time getting behind the Republican nominee. But attacking Governor Martinez, she's a fantastic governor, she's Latina, which is very important for our party to begin to reach out, to bring folks in, to be a party that welcomes folks.

And so, look, again, maybe this is an act. I hope it's an act, because I hope it's not that he doesn't take any kind of criticism this personally, because, again, it's going to be a really tough job should he win.

BLITZER: Yes. And it's not just Susana Martinez. It's that judge in that case that is overseeing the Trump University fraud allegations. He really went after that judge as well.

You're a veteran. You're a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you believe that what he's trying to do to help veterans is genuine or not so much?

KINZINGER: Yes, I'm going to say yes, because you never want to impugn bad motives. I think he loves the veterans. I think that's obvious. I'm in fact

here at a veterans hall in Rockford, Illinois. We're going to be doing a town hall to honor.

But at the end of the day, look, he gave over $5 million. That's a great thing. I do believe he has the veterans' best interests in mind. But this is the other issue. I don't really know a single politician that doesn't like the veterans.

These are heroes. These are people that were willing to put their lives on the line for the country. And this is where it's imperative on us in Washington when we deal with veterans-related issues to make sure that we're giving them all the resources they need. So, yes, I think he's legitimate in his appreciation for them.

BLITZER: As I said, you served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A question about what is going on in Iraq right now. Do you know anything about reports that Iranian Shiite militias by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are currently in effect leading the military offensive to destroy ISIS in Fallujah?

KINZINGER: Well, I don't know those details, but I can tell you if that's the case we sure need to do some diplomacy to make sure that this doesn't have a Shia front on a liberation of Fallujah.

The concern that would happen there is, if you have Shia Muslims enter basically predominantly Sunni territory, you can never tell what the abuses that these militias -- and, by the way, some of these are responsible for the death of Americans, it's important to note, too, and Iran during our time in Iraq.

You never know what they're doing to do in retribution. There's going to be a lot of political reconciliation that needs to happen. The liberation is the very first part of that, kicking ISIS out. But then it's figuring out how to give a voice to the minorities, figuring out how to give a voice those folks in government, so that like we had in 2011, when we left, we had a fairly inclusive government, a lot work still to be done, but it was fairly inclusive compared to what fell apart and dissipated right in front of ISIS on their attack a few years ago.

BLITZER: Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, not running for president of the United States, at least not this year. Still a young guy. He's got plenty of opportunities down the road. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

KINZINGER: You bet, Wolf. Thanks a lot.

Just ahead, I will speak to a veteran Republican operative, a fund- raiser who says he is coming around to supporting Donald Trump, but there's a catch. He says Trump needs to stop slashing and burning fellow Republicans.

And we will also tell you what we're learning from those so-called playbooks used by the now defunct Trump University. The documents have just been released. Is there any evidence of fraud?



BLITZER: Tonight, a top GOP fund-raiser is urging Donald Trump to stop what he calls the slash-and-burn attacks on fellow Republicans, warning that if Trump expects to get elected president, he needs to take the initiative to unify the party right now.

Fred Malek, the finance chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a veteran Republican political operative, he's here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Fred, thanks very much for coming on.


BLITZER: You wrote a very strong article in "The Washington Post" today.

Let me read a couple sentences from the article. You said you're coming around to supporting Donald Trump, but you have a warning, a pointed message for him.

"Trump left a post-primary trail of broken bones and shattered glass that does not heal quickly or easily. He demolished his opponents in belittling and often vulgar terms. It's Trump's job as the GOP's leader to unify, to bring people together, not divide them. People want to be with him, but there's still a lot of persuading to do."

Can he do that? Do you think he will do that? You're coming around, but you're not there yet.

MALEK: Well, I'm kind of there because he's the nominee of my party, so I'm going to support him.

But, yes, he can get there. But what he has got to do is, he's got to take two steps forward and then keep going forward, not take two steps forward and then three backward.


And I can't imagine why he would want to attack Susana Martinez. She's a national treasure. She's an American success story. Here's a woman who...

BLITZER: She didn't show up at his event in Albuquerque. She hasn't endorsed him. She's the governor of New Mexico, a Latina, the head of the Republican Governors Association.


BLITZER: So, he was angry at her. MALEK: But here's the thing, Wolf.

He has to realize that it's his job as the leader of the party today, as leader of our ticket, to bring people together. It's not up to other people to come and kiss his feet. He has got to bring people together. He has got to reach out. He has got to show leadership.

And the only way you do that, by making love, not war. You don't go to war with people. You bring them together.

BLITZER: He was asked specifically about your ideas in "The Washington Post." Let me play the clip of how he responded to a reporter's question about you.


TRUMP: I don't know Fred Malek. I can say this. The real story is how fast we're getting together.

Now, if I have a Republican that's not on my side, I'm not going -- why should I be particularly nice to that person? I'm not going to go after it like I would Hillary or crazy Bernie. But you know what? Why should I be nice to that person?


BLITZER: All right, what's the answer?

MALEK: Well, the answer is because politics is a game of addition, not subtraction.

And, Donald, in your business dealings, didn't you court people, didn't you bring people over to your side before you negotiated with them and made deals with them? Didn't you bring partners together? Didn't you -- even your adversaries who you were dealing with, didn't you build up their confidence? You didn't go out and insult them. You didn't get deals done that way.

You did it by looking them in the eye and talking to them in personal terms, getting to know them, getting them to know you, and sharing your beliefs.

BLITZER: He was pretty rough with the news media today, calling one journalist sleazy. He really went after the news media. And he was asked specifically, is this the way you're going to behave at a White House news conference, and he said yes.

MALEK: Look, here's the problem.

I don't think he goes into these news conference or into these speeches thinking that this is what he's going to do. I think what he does is go in with a general theme and he kind of gets carried away in this stuff.

You wouldn't possibly prepare to do something like that or to go after Susana Martinez or some of the other things he's done and have happened before. I think he needs to have more discipline. He's got to prepare better. And, frankly, he's got the people around him that can help him do that.

BLITZER: Like who?

MALEK: Well, Paul Manafort. I think Paul Manafort is a smart guy. He was my deputy when I ran the '88 convention for George H.W. Bush. Paul is a very savvy guy.

I would think people that like that are going to advise him exactly what I'm saying. But he has got to have the sense to listen and to show the discipline and leadership to bring people together.

BLITZER: But if you speak to some of Donald Trump's most ardent supporters who have been with him, they say, look, it's worked so far. He got rid of 16 Republican rivals, if you will, and it's brought him to this stage. He's just got to figure out how to continue it against let's say Hillary Clinton.

MALEK: Yes, but, Wolf, 5 percent of the electorate, 9 percent of eligible Republicans voted for him in these primaries. That's not a mandate.

The's an awful lot of people out there that needs to be convinced, that want to be convinced. All of us Republicans want to come home and support our nominee. What we need is somebody who is going to consistently reach out and show the leadership and show some humility once in a while.

BLITZER: But you don't think that's happened yet?

MALEK: I don't -- I think he's making some good steps, meeting with Paul Ryan, meeting with Corker.


BLITZER: So, why are you supporting him?

MALEK: Because I think the direction of the country has been badly flawed over the last eight years. And I would like to see a change in the direction of the country.

I think we can do it. If we elect him, he will put good people around him and I think the direction of the country can be changed. That's why I'm supporting him.

BLITZER: He says he doesn't even know you. Have you never met him before?

MALEK: Well, I have met him a couple of times. But I don't really know him.

BLITZER: Obviously, you didn't have much of an impact on him.


MALEK: No, I guess not.

BLITZER: Fred Malek, thanks very much for coming in.

MALEK: Nice to be with you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we're going to tell you what we're learning from those just released documents from Trump University. Is it evidence of some sort of the flaw there that's hanging over the presumptive Republican nominee? We will share the latest.

And Hillary Clinton now responding to Trump's new attacks on the news media and his promised that he will be just as combative with reporters if he's president. Hillary Clinton speaking out tonight to CNN.



BLITZER: Tonight, a new window into the fraud case against Trump University. Hundreds of pages of documents were released just a little while ago. They were unsealed by a judge who has been accused by Donald Trump of being a -- quote -- "hater and unfair."

Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, has been looking over those documents.

What are you learning, Drew?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the playbooks, as they're called, instructed Trump University employees on everything, from how to set up a room for a class to selling the program.

It shows what these lawsuits have been claiming, that this Trump University was less in the business of education and more in the business of making money, making a sale. And the target customer, they knew exactly who they wanted, Wolf, male head of household with a net worth of $200,000 a year.


GRIFFIN:(voice-over): The sales team playbook is a how-to guide on selling Trump University to potential clients and a big part of the script was dealing with tough questions, like, how much money will it cost?

"I'm glad you asked that question," the script tells the salesperson to say. "It takes money to make money. This is an invitation-only program. Most students who are invited into this program use established lines of credit like a credit card, utilizing the bank's money, OPM, other people's money, to handle their tuition.

[18:30:05] People with no credit cards or who have used up their limits, 'Do you have any other seed capital or savings set aside to further invest into your real-estate projects?" Another document instructs staffers to collect personalized

information that you can utilize during closing time. For example, the script says, "Are they a single parent of three children who need money for food?" Salespeople were told to use that personal information, tug on emotions of potential clients and close the deal, preferably with a credit card swipe for up to $35,000.

ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is thousands of people who were taken for millions of dollars.

GRIFFIN: New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is leading one of three lawsuits against Donald Trump and his Trump University. The lawsuits all basically say the same thing: that almost everything about Trump University was a lie, starting with the name.

TRUMP: Action is what Trump University is all about.

GRIFFIN: It wasn't a university. And its teachers didn't teach any Donald Trump secrets, according to New York's attorney general.

TRUMP: These are all people that are hand-picked by me.

GRIFFIN: And none of Trump University's experts who taught at the seminars were picked by Donald Trump.

Felicisimo Limon says he paid more than $26,000 for the real-estate course, but he says he got useless information and instructors constantly pressuring him to buy even more.

FELICISIMO LIMON, FORMER TRUMP UNIVERSITY STUDENT: What are you talking about, more money, and I'm not learning anything?

GRIFFIN (on camera): You didn't learn anything in that class?


GRIFFIN (voice-over): He is now one of many former students suing in class-action lawsuits against Trump University.

Trump has been complaining of unfair treatment by the various courts, including one of the cases in California, where he hit back at San Diego federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose ruling last week allowed for the release of the Trump University sales playbooks.

TRUMP: But I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel. And he is not doing the right thing. The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that's fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump.


GRIFFIN: Wolf, these lawsuits and the election are both boiling into one month, November. That's when the first trial is to take place and, obviously, that's when the election is going to happen. So as we move forward on both of these, Donald Trump says he'll continue campaigning and fighting these lawsuits in court.

BLITZER: Drew Griffin reporting for us. Drew, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar; our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political director, David Chalian; and CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza. He's the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine.

Brianna, this judge, who clearly Donald Trump doesn't like, he did give a favorable ruling earlier for Donald Trump when he said the trial wouldn't start until after the November election.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There was -- certainly. And so you could be seeing a president-elect Donald Trump possibly maybe called to testify. That would be an amazing thing.

But I think what we are seeing a calculation -- well, there a couple of things I find really interesting: this calculation that we've seen over and over again by Donald Trump that maybe he doesn't need Hispanic supporters; he's not going to try to pivot that way after we've seen him in the primary election.

There's a school of thought among Republicans that you really need to increase your Hispanic support. George Bush in 2004 had 44 percent. Mitt Romney had 27 percent; didn't win. And clearly, he is drawing a different map than that.

The other thing that I think is really interesting is maybe this is a preview of what a President Trump, how he would interact with the judiciary. The judiciary makes decisions, but the judiciary does not enforce decisions. And so there is certainly some discretion on the part of the executive branch. What would a Donald Trump do? I think we're getting a sense of that.

BLITZER: And at the news conference today, Gloria, we saw perhaps a preview of how Donald Trump as president, if he were elected president, would handle the news media in White House news conferences. He seemed to really enjoy going after the news media for raising questions about the money that he raised for veterans. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I will say that the press should be ashamed of themselves, and on behalf of the vets the press should be ashamed of themselves. They are calling me, and they are furious; because I sent people checks of a lot of money -- and I'm going to give you the names right now, which is what you want. And instead of being like, "Thank you very much, Mr. Trump" or "Trump did a good job," everyone is saying, "Who got it, who got it, who got it," and you make me look very bad.


BLITZER: So Gloria, what's his strategy in going after the news media? [18:35:01] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think

it's worked for him in the past. We saw it in the Republican primaries. It not only worked for Donald Trump, it worked for Ted Cruz. Attacking the media is a strategy that very often works.

But I think, Wolf, to go back to what Fred Malek was saying to you a little while ago in the show, I'm not so sure this is a concerted strategy. I think that Donald Trump was angry at the media. He didn't like this kind of scrutiny. He felt that he was being challenged when he shouldn't have been challenged, because after all, he was raising money for veterans. And I think what happens is he has an idea that he's mad about it, and then he has a stream of consciousness.

And I think what we heard today took on a life of its own, when he started using invective against reporters, et cetera. But I think we saw his anger. And what we really saw today was a Donald Trump who confidently said, "I'm not going to change. This is who I am."

And as Fred Malek was saying to you, Donald Trump needs to change. I think in his press conference today we got the answer. That's not happening.

BLITZER: Yes. At one point, David Chalian, he specifically said, Donald Trump said, "If I have a Republican that's not on my side, why should I be particularly nice to that person?" That's not what Fred Malek was advising. He said, "Be nice to these people; bring them in."

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right. You played that sound bite from Fred Malek, and he clearly had an entirely different approach.

Listen, I do think what Gloria is saying is something that we are going to be seeing for the weeks to come here, which is this commitment to what has worked. That is what Donald Trump clearly decided today when he went out there before the cameras, before the press. He is not going to adjust anything.

What is so interesting about that is that you know, electorally, that the primary process and the audience, the electorate for the nomination season, is different. It's just a totally different makeup than the general-election audience.

And although I do think the most successful presidential candidates are once like George W. Bush in 2000 or Barack Obama in 2008, who can drive a message from the beginning of their nomination contest all the way through the general election, that proves to be a successful strategy for folks. And yet this is about tone and tenor, and I think he -- Trump needs to be worried. It's one thing to stick with what works. It's another thing to not consider how you broaden your appeal.

BLITZER: Listen to what Trump, Ryan, said about Bill Kristol from "The Weekly Standard," who's looking for some third-party Republican to go out there and be an alternative to Trump and Hillary Clinton. Listen to this.


TRUMP: He looks like such a fool. I saw him on one show. He was practically crying, because he can't justify it.

Now he comes out with a tweet over the weekend, over Memorial Day weekend. It sounds like he's going to put somebody up. Even I thought it. I thought, "Oh, they're going to find some indie." Now he comes out with something saying he was almost -- almost kidding. OK? Let me tell you, these people are losers.


BLITZER: You think he would feel threatened by a third-party Republican, let's say, who did emerge in some of these states?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, let's look at the three things here. He's threatened by a third party. He's threatened by anyone who's putting his -- who wants to put a third-party candidate up, because he knows, obviously, it's only going to come -- the votes are going to come from the right.

This entire press conference was Donald Trump in a tirade. He's threatened by a judge in San Diego, who has given some transparency to what happened with Trump University. And he's feeling threatened by a press that, frankly, without the investigations that were done by CNN and "The Washington Post" and others asking questions about where the money went to veterans, I don't think Trump ever would have come clean about that.

And a lot of the checks that were written were written on the Monday that "The Washington Post" called the Trump campaign, asking about where did this money go?

So, you know, in one sense, the system is working, in that the media is scrutinizing and getting answers; and this judge in California is -- is opening up some things that Trump didn't want us to see. And anyone that threatens Trump he attacks.

And so to answer your question, yes, I do think -- I do think he feels threatened by a third-party candidate, because if they got on the ballot in enough states, that could tip the election to Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: Yes. It could certainly take votes away from the Republican nominee in favor, potentially, of Hillary Clinton.

All right, guys, Stand by. Much more coming up. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[18:44:03] BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is dismissing Donald Trump and his claim he raised millions of dollars for veterans. She spoke live to CNN's Jake Tapper just a little while ago and unleashed some sharp criticism of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is still with us. Brianna, Hillary Clinton has got one eye on Donald Trump, one eye on Bernie Sanders. A lot's going on right now.

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. So -- and she's keeping an eye on California, for sure, as well as New Jersey. The campaign feels pretty good about New Jersey.

California, they think that she's actually ahead of some of those public polls and what they show. They think it's not quite as close as that.

The Clinton campaign is emphasizing, though, that she doesn't need to win California or even New Jersey to be the nominee. The problem with that reasoning is that she needs to project strength going into the general election, and you don't really do that by losing.


KEILAR (voice-over): The end of the Democratic primary is in sight. And it runs through California where a whopping 475 pledged delegates are at stake as polls show Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders neck and neck.

[18:45:07] Clinton turning her attention to the general election telling CNN's Jake Tapper, Donald Trump would cause gridlock in Washington.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): He seems to believe or at least is demonstrating that insulting and attacks is his mode of operation and, you know, I just don't think that's going to cut it.

KEILAR: Clinton spent the day fundraising in New York after she walked in a Memorial Day parade in her hometown.

CLINTON: I love it. I love being here.

KEILAR: Sanders hit the trail in northern California today.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got an uphill fight but as I look around me I think we got a lot of fighters here who are not afraid to fight.

KEILAR: Clinton cancelled her plan campaign events for Thursday in New Jersey, where voters also cast ballots in a week, to move up her final push in California.

CLINTON: Wow, I am so happy to be here.

KEILAR: She won a big endorsement from California Governor Brown. But as polls show, voters struggle to trust Clinton even this prize brings back memories of old allegations.

This was Brown debating then-Governor Bill Clinton in 1992. JERRY BROWN (D), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is funneling money

to his wife's law firm for state business. That's number one.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I don't care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You're not worth being on the same platform with my wife.

BROWN: I tell you something, Mr. Clinton, don't try to escape it.

KEILAR: Sanders has spent days on end in California, even paying respect Monday night to the Golden State Warriors. As he trails Clinton significantly, he's hoping for a game seven style comeback like the Warriors pulled off to advance to the NBA Finals.

SANDERS: They turned it around. I think that is what our campaign is going to do as well. A very good omen for our campaign.

KEILAR: Still, Sanders may be hedging his bet. Asked Sunday about a Clinton/Sanders ticket, he did not dismiss the idea.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Would you take the call if Hillary Clinton asked you to be her running mate?

SANDERS: Well, right now, again, what I am -- here we are in California. I'm knocking my brains out to win the Democratic nomination.

TODD: Yes, you are.

SANDERS: That's where -- that's where I am right now. What happens afterwards, we will -- you know, we'll see.


KEILAR: Sanders has been saying should he not be the nominee Clinton needs to pick a liberal running mate not a moderate. He's trying to influence the ticket here and the party platform.

Hillary Clinton recently told CNN when she was asked about this Clinton/Sanders pairing, she said it's something down the road.

So it seems sort of unlikely, Wolf, that she's going to pick Bernie Sanders but she certainly doesn't want to upset his supporters.

BLITZER: Yes, if she wants to be president, she's going to need those supporters. He's got a lot of them out there, assuming she gets the nomination.

KEILAR: That's right.

BLITZER: Brianna, stand by.

Gloria, what do you make of Hillary Clinton cancelling her appearance in New Jersey so she can campaign in California, the primaries in New Jersey and California and other states a week from today? BORGER: Look, I agree with Brianna. I think she wants to finish

strong. While she's likely -- very likely to clench the nomination, I don't think she wants to be embarrassed. I think it would be embarrassing for her to lose California. Even though we all know the delegate math that Bernie Sanders would have to win overwhelming in all of these states to come close to her.

I think Sanders wants to get to kind of 50/50 parity in pledged delegates or as close to that as he possibly can, to have a lot of leverage going into the convention. But I think this is about showing that she's tough and she's strong and she can beat Donald Trump and she can easily beat Bernie Sanders in the state of California. So, she's spending more time there, spending some money there. She'd rather not being doing it obviously. She's got other places she'd like to use her money but she really has no choice, Wolf.

BLITZER: She's also, Brianna, really going after Trump on very last week the housing crisis, today on the veterans. She seems to have a new more assertive aggressive strategy going forward against Trump.

KEILAR: That's right. And she's targeting a number of groups, right? She's trying to reduce his support among women and certainly rile up I think on the issue of Muslims and sort of what he said as he tried to moderate. She's trying to make sure with these different groups she can shave off support.

That include vets. You know, you would expect a lot of vets to go more conservative. I was talking to a number of veterans this weekend, and a number of them were very upset by what Donald Trump had said to John McCain. A lot of them said, "I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton". I spoke with a number of them, but they said, "I don't think I can vote for Donald Trump either."

That is exactly I think where Hillary Clinton wants some of those bets to be, of course, all this is happening as she's dealing with her e- mail issue. An independent inspector general saying that she essentially did something wrong, that she was really a bad offender on this.

[18:50:05] So, it's one thing for her to go after Donald Trump, but she's also struggling herself right now. And so, some of the critiques get lost in that.

BLITZER: And, Ryan, listen to what she told Jake Tapper earlier today. Listen to this clip.


CLINTON (via telephone): She's attacking everybody, fellow Republicans, Democrats, I mean, the press. You just name it. He attacks everybody -- is a recipe for gridlock in Washington. And that's what we've got to break and get away with.


BLITZER: Sounds like a preview of what she's going to be pushing in the coming weeks and months.

LIZZA: Yes, I'm a little confused by that messaging. You probably can't get any more gridlock than now with Democratic president and a Republican Congress, if Hillary Clinton were president. Very likely you would also have a Republican House.

I mean, the prospect of gridlock is likely no matter who is president, unless they also control Congress. And so, I don't think the Clinton campaign just like all of Trump's, you know, 15, 16 rivals didn't ever figure out how to run against this guy. I don't think they figured it out either and messaging that Donald Trump would call as gridlock seems to me like number ten on the list of things you could use against him.

BLITZER: A week from today California, but also a week from today, your home state of New Jersey. What are you seeing unfolding there?

CHALIAN: Well, there was a new poll out today that looked at New York, and she's still doing well there over Bernie Sanders. But, listen, I would expect that between New Jersey and some of the other states that we're going to get on next Tuesday, before California's polls close, she could to potentially get over the top.

I don't think that negotiates the fact California is a big deal for her and although it's not a big deal towards the nomination, it's the button to this entire season. It's sort of the period at the end of the sentence and she -- it is a state that demographically, Hillary Clinton should win. And if she doesn't, it will raise questions about how she ended the season, even though she will cross the threshold and made history as the first female presidential nominee.

BLITZER: All good points. All right, guys. Stand by. We have more to assess, including some other news we're watching now.

Deadly airstrikes against ISIS. Are the terrorists using hundreds of families right now as human shields?


[18:56:41] BLITZER: We're getting word of American forces wounded, including the first U.S. service member believed to be injured in Syria.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working this story for us.

Barbara, you're getting more information. What are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was over the weekend, one U.S. military advisor was wounded in Syria, one in Iraq. It is definitely getting more dangerous for all of them as these battles intensify.


STARR (voice-over): Syria's youngest caught in the line of fire in Idlib. Rescue crews worked desperately. A small body pulled from the wreckage. At least 23 people were killed

in air strikes, one hitting near a hospital. The Russians deny they conducted the strikes.

Across Syria and Iraq, civilians caught in the middle as ISIS tries to defend its turf. In Falluja, the last major ISIS stronghold in Anbar province was to Baghdad, Iraqi forces pushing are pushing from the south and east, Iranian-backed militias from the north.

The U.N. says there are heavy civilian casualties as ISIS callously uses them for protection.

WILLIAM SPINDLER, UNHCR SPOKESMAN: There are also reports of several hundred families being used as human shields by ISIL in the center of Falluja.

STARR: Iraqi and militia forces not yet in the city center, there are thousands of booby traps and mines laid by ISIS.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If they are being used as human shields, as the U.N. reported, that means that they have absolutely no way out and there will be pawns in the struggle between ISIS and the Iraqi government, as well as the Shia militias, and it was going to be one of the worst scenes we can possibly imagine.

STARR: It's significant the Iraqis are staying to fight in Falluja, not running away as the battle intensifies.

COL. STEVE WARREN, ANTI-ISIS COALITION SPOKESMAN: We think that the state of play is much improved from a year ago. You know, a year ago here in Iraq, the barbarians were at the gate. Baghdad was actually threatened, and in theory, was in direct danger of being invaded by these animals we call ISIL. Now, we have driven them back.

STARR: But from top U.S. commander, continuing caution.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I'm being pragmatic in this. I think we will continue to work on more obstacles. We'll continue to see some setbacks. But I think we'll also see some continued progress.

STARR: And there is another complication, Wolf. There are now Shia, Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting around Falluja. Falluja, of course, mainly a Sunni area. There are concerns that at some point sectarian violence could break out there with those Iranian-backed militias in the mix.

And what about those two wounded U.S. military advisors. The Pentagon today said once again that they were not in what the Pentagon calls active combat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But they were still injured in combat operations, if you will. It sounds like combat to me, but, you know what? I'm sure they have their own definitions. Barbara, thank you very much for that.

Barbara reporting for us at the Pentagon. Remember, you can follow us on Twitter, tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet

the show @CNNsitroom. Please be sure to join us right here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.