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THE SITUATION ROOM

Two Dead in UCLA Campus Shooting; Ex-Employees Call Trump University a 'Scheme'; Clinton: Trump 'Trying to Scam America'; Defending His Legacy, Obama Wades into 2016 Race; U.S. Special Ops Backing Push Against ISIS in Syria; Flight 804 Black Box Signals Detected?. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 1, 2016 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @JakeTapper. Tweet the show, @TheLeadCNN. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. City on edge. A campus shooting puts part of a major American city on lockdown as police carry out a building-to-building security sweep. Tonight, two people are dead as the investigation gets underway.

Preying on the elderly. Court documents bring fresh scrutiny to Trump University, which former employees say was a fraudulent scheme designed to separate the elderly and uneducated from their money. Donald Trump shrugs off the lawsuit, but Hillary Clinton says Trump is using the same approach to, quote, "scam America."

Legacy election. President Obama goes to the American heartland to tout the economic turnaround. Sources say he's eager to make more trips once the Democrats have a nominee to get people fired up over the election and defend his own legacy.

And faint signals. Pings detected from the depths of the Mediterranean are giving new hope to searchers as they boxes from EgyptAir Flight 804. But how much time do they have left?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. Shootings put a campus on lockdown and the city of Los Angeles on alert for hours today as thousands of terrified students ran for safety or sheltered in place. Police swarmed the UCLA campus, going from building to building, looking for possible suspects. Two people are dead. And investigation is underway. We'll have the latest details.

In politics, Donald Trump may have the nomination locked up, but he's still facing a bumpy road on the way to the convention and the November election. Court documents and a lawsuit against this former Trump University revealed damaging allegations from former employees, who called the real-estate program fraudulent and say it used dishonest tactics to prey on the elderly and uneducated. Hillary Clinton is piling on, saying Trump is now, quote, "trying to

scam America." Trump shrugs off the court case and has attacked the judge as unfair.

The latest national polls show he's running neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton right now, but Trump may have a new challenger on the right. A conservative lawyer and war veteran is being recruited by Trump opponents to play a spoiler role.

I'll speak with the Republican congressman. Peter King. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all of the day's top stories.

Let's get straight to the breaking news. Two people are dead in a shooting which threw the UCLA campus into lockdown and threw a big scare into the city of Los Angeles.

Brian Todd is with us. Brian, so what happened? What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the LAPD is leading the investigation into the shooting. Agents from the FBI and the ATF are also on the scene. A weapon has been found.

For a couple of hours, the entire UCLA campus, with more than 40,000 students on the grounds, was paralyzed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, investigators are still piecing together just what happened in this building on the campus of UCLA. Police say shortly after 10 this morning, they responded to 911 calls from witnesses reporting gunshots in Building Four of the UCLA engineering facility.

As police responded in force, the campus was put on lockdown, shutting down streets and paralyzing parts of Los Angeles. Inside, terrified students barricaded doors, hiding from what they were told could be an active shooter.

TEDDI MATTOX, STUDENT (via phone): People were crying. People were, like, nervous. Every ten minutes we heard that there's another shooter at another location, and sometimes it sounds like it's moving closer to us.

TODD: Another student said she was hiding under a table in the library with about 50 others.

AMBER, STUDENT (via phone): Currently, you know, we have all the lights off. Our windows are blocked. We had a crowbar on the door.

TODD: As city and campus police, along with the FBI, began searching the scene, sources say they found two bodies but were not clear if there was still a suspect on the loose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our tactical teams are going in with SWAT. TODD: As helicopters hovered above, heavily-armed SWAT officers

surrounded buildings, moving in formation down allies, eventually sweeping into buildings across campus, all captured on security cameras. Hours later, police say they no longer believed anyone was at large but continued to clear buildings, canceling classes for the rest of the day.

CHIEF CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES POLICE: There's no evidence to support an outstanding suspect at this point but we are, out of an abundance of caution, going to continue our search.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The police are now saying they believe this was a murder- suicide. No word yet on the identity of the shooter or of the victim, or of the motive for this incident. Police would also not answer whether a suicide note was found -- Wolf.

BLITZER: No threat to the campus at this point, right?

TODD: No threat to the campus. No suspects are at large. We just heard the police chief say the campus has since been reopened now -- Wolf.

[17:05:04] BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd reporting, thank you.

Let's get to politics right now. Donald Trump would seem to have his hands full. Stunning court documents are shedding new light on the former Trump University, which ex-employees are calling a fraudulent scheme.

The Clinton campaign is jumping into the fray, even as a conservative considers jumping into the presidential contest as a third-party candidate.

Let's go live to CNN's Phil Mattingly. Phil, what's the latest?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he could have settled this lawsuit related to Trump University and put this whole issue behind him, but he wanted to win. He said this case has no merit, so he's willing to fight. Hillary Clinton disagrees, and now she's attacking.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump and his employees took advantage of vulnerable Americans, encouraging them to max out their credit cards, empty their retirement savings, destroy their financial futures, all while making promises they knew were false from the beginning.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton blasting Donald Trump, sensing an opening. New documents outlining aggressive and alleged predatory tactics from the employees of now-defunct Trump University.

CLINTON: This is just more evidence that Donald Trump himself is a fraud. He is trying to scam America the way he scammed all of those people at Trump U.

MATTINGLY: Clinton's attacks, part of a day-long assault on the issue, one Trump dismissed as without merit. He leveled attacks at the impartiality and ethnicity of the judge overseeing the case.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll win the Trump University, because I could settle that case. I could have settled it. I just chose not to.

MATTINGLY: All as the presumptive GOP nominee heads back onto the campaign trail, with stops scheduled in California.

TRUMP: I am going to make a heavy, heavy, heavy play. I actually think we're going to win California.

We're going to make a big thing.

MATTINGLY: Continuing to stick close to the likely Democratic nominee in another national poll.

TRUMP: Our polling has come out, and the polls are doing very well. We are pretty much even and in some cases ahead of Hillary.

MATTINGLY: Trump continuing to cite the positive poll numbers as a driving force behind a once fractured party that is getting behind its nominee.

TRUMP: The Republican Party is really well-unified. We have people that you would have never thought possible are now saying, "I support Trump."

MATTINGLY: But not everyone is on board. The long-sought conservative alternative to Trump now emerging: David French, an Iraq War veteran, constitutional lawyer and conservative writer who has advocated for just such a candidate now on the verge of becoming one himself, according to GOP sources.

Trump aides and top GOP officials dismissing the idea, arguing it would effectively hand the White House to Clinton, and even ardent third-party supporters now questioning the merits. Prominent conservative Eric Erickson writing, quote, "More and more I wonder if, for the good of the conservative movement, we should watch Trump fall on his own sword instead of providing him a conservative scapegoat."

Trump also planning his first foreign trip as the presumptive GOP nominee, scheduling a June 24 stop in the U.K. for the official opening of one of his hotel and golf course properties. A stop at a country whose leader, Prime Minister David Cameron, has sparred with Trump, and just one day after a critical vote on whether to remain in the European Union.

Trump finds himself at odds with Cameron, telling "The Hollywood Reporter," after some coaxing, the U.K. should leave the E.U.

In that same interview, Trump saying Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, brother of Chicago mayor and Obama's former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, offered to take charge at the Republican convention or, perhaps, according to Trump, they'd work together on a movie, underscoring one thing Trump has repeatedly said: the July convention in Cleveland will definitely have a showbiz feel.

TRUMP: We have an incredible area in Cleveland. We look forward to it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And Wolf, over the course of Donald Trump's campaign, he's repeatedly pointed to companies like Carrier or Nabisco that have moved jobs or moved offices to Mexico. Well, now that has happened to Donald Trump. Trump learning today that the PGA has decided to move his tournament, that had been based in Doral to Mexico, because they were not able to secure enough sponsor dollars.

Trump put out a statement saying this embodies the very reason he's running for president, saying the PGA chose money over American jobs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly in New York for us. Phil, thanks very much.

Some of the sharpest allegations of fraud against Trump University are made by former employees. Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin has been going over the documents that have now been released. How damaging, Drew, is all of this?

[17:10:08] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the words of the actual Trump University employees seem to corroborate what the three lawsuits against Trump University are alleging: that it was all a scheme to defraud gullible people out of thousands and thousands of dollars.

It all comes from these newly-released declarations, which are part of a California class action lawsuit. And a Trump University sales manager sums up his view of the school, saying this: "It preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money." This man is named Ronald Shnackenberg, who according to his LinkedIn profile, was a top-ranked sales manager at Trump University from October 2006 to 2007.

He says he quit in 2007, because "I believe that Trump University was engaging in misleading, fraudulent and dishonest conduct." Shnackenberg said he was pressured into trying to sell a $35,000 program to a couple that he didn't think could afford it.

Wolf [SIC] says another salesperson eventually did make that sale, and his response: "I was disgusted."

Corrine Summer, a sales event manager for six months at the school, said instructors used high-pressure sales techniques no matter the financial situation of the students. Here's what she writes, Wolf, "I recall that some consumers had showed up who were homeless and could not afford the seminars. She writes that, "Yet, I overheard Trump University representatives telling them, 'It's OK, just max out your credit card'." You heard Hillary Clinton repeat that today on the stand.

Trump's defense so far, the declarations are going to be disputed in court, he says. And like his attorney told us back in January, the people actually suing are a disgruntled minority of students, most of whom loved the seminars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN GARTEN, TRUMP GENERAL COUNSEL: Well, I think you have to look at the context of this entire program. There were well over 10,000 -- there were well over 10,000 people who participated in the course, whether through free or paid. There's at least 10,000 people who paid.

So you can go and pick three or four affidavits from people or maybe 20 affidavits or maybe 30 affidavits, it's still a minuscule amount. Now, I have in my bag, and I'm happy to read for you, all the people who loved the course and sent me affidavits saying it was the best thing, that it was a great investment and the best thing that they had ever participated in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Wolf, to emphasize that point, this afternoon the Trump organization also directed us to a YouTube video, showing what they claimed were former Trump University students who thought the course was terrific -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Drew Griffin, working his sources for us. Thank you.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. Given all these latest documents of Trump University; his -- Donald Trump's comments yesterday; his continued attacks on the Republican governor of new Mexico, Susana Martinez; comments about the federal judge in one of the Trump University cases, about some of your fellow Republicans, bottom line, do you still stand in support of Donald Trump?

REP. PETER KING (R), Yes, I do. I'm supporting him as nominee of the party. I think his ideas are probably more in line with Republican views.

And as far as Trump University, I'm not Donald Trump's lawyer. I don't know the details of the case, but I did practice law for a while. What you're hearing now is the plaintiff's case, because it's the case against Donald Trump. Again, there could be thousands of employees who disagree with him. They could be -- you know, defense case experts put forward.

And one thing I learned is, you don't judge anything by an opening statement; and that's all this is.

So again, I'm not the lawyer. I'm not the judge. But I would just say that I would really don't put much stock in when you just hear one side of the case.

It's -- so really, that -- again, I'd be much more concerned if I were Hillary Clinton about the inspector general's report, who did hear all sides of the case and came out against her. This is only the opening round of Donald Trump's case, and usually, he's got pretty good lawyers. Usually, in that case, if you think the case if fair, then you settle it early on. And the fact that, you know, they're not settling means that they believe that the case against him is somewhat weak. But again, I don't want to prejudge this.

BLITZER: Put on your legal hat. You're a former prosecutor, if you will. Are you comfortable with what Donald Trump said about the federal judge in one of these cases, that he was a hater, that he's a Mexican even though he was born in Indiana?

KING: No, I generally wouldn't comment on judges. I don't think judges should be totally off limits. But again, if you are involved in litigation you shouldn't be saying too much about the judge. There are judge who is are biased. I don't know what the situation is here and I'd be reluctant to say anything if I were involved in the case.

BLITZER: But if you felt the judge was unfair, wouldn't you ask the judge to recuse himself, legally? Wouldn't you go through that process? He has not asked the judge to recuse himself.

[17:15:00] KING: Well, if I was the lawyer of the case, but again, Donald Trump is Donald Trump. And he is speaking as a citizen. And he does have a right to speak. Now they may try to bring some sanctions against him for doing that.

But basically, the judge is the judge (UNINTELLIGIBLE). As a lawyer I wouldn't do it. But again, the person in the case thinks he's not getting a fair case, and they will make remarks about the judge. So again, it's not the way it's usually done, but Donald Trump usually does things his way.

BLITZER: What about his attacks on the Republican governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, who's the head of the Republican Governors' Association, a Latina, a woman? Are you comfortable with the attacks he's leveled against her?

KING: No, I wouldn't do that. She is a respected governor. And, you know, she's in the same party. She is the type of Republican, type of American that we want on our side. She is obviously a female. She is Hispanic. And, more important than all of that, she is an elected governor and, by all accounts, I think she has a 67 percent approval rating.

So, no, I -- that's -- if there's any advice I would give to Donald Trump, I would say to, you know, stop attacking Governor Martinez, because she is, again, she is a respected person in the party and rightly so.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee four years ago, said -- he made the decision to oppose Trump this time, because, in his words -- and I'm quoting him now -- he said, "He wanted my grandkids -- I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn't ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world."

You're comfortable with Donald Trump as the leader of the free world?

KING: Well, again, it comes down to a choice between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I think most Republicans would support Donald Trump.

And again, on key issues like defense and supporting the police, I do stand with Donald Trump. I always say, as you know, Wolf, on your show I've been critical of him on certain respects in the past. But, you know, this is a two-party system. And to me, you have to make a choice. And it's either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. As a Republican, as an American, I'm supporting Donald Trump.

I'm not one of these anti-Hillary people, but I do believe it's better to have someone like Donald Trump as president. Is it the ideal choice? No. But except for myself, I don't know anybody who's ideal.

BLITZER: All right. Peter King, I want you to stand by. We have more to assess. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:21:51] BLITZER: We're back with Republican Congressman Peter King.

Congressman, you said that there's a crisis in your party. Here's the question: Who needs to step in and fix it?

KING: I think it's important that Paul Ryan get -- work out an agreement with Donald Trump. I think Paul Ryan is the -- probably the key person right now and I think also senior people in the party should sit down with Donald Trump.

Listen, he won the primary. He's the nominee. I think it's also important that he realizes there are some issues, that there are differences with him on (ph). I think we should be able to work that out.

But I would say right now it's up to Paul Ryan, and I -- Paul is a good friend. I think he is trying -- he wants to make this work. He wants to be able to endorse Donald Trump. I think by Paul and Donald Trump sitting down more in the future we can get that resolved and get it done before the convention.

Speaker Ryan has still not endorsed Donald Trump, as you know.

You also know Bill Kristol, the editor of "The Weekly Standard." Could there be enough money behind a third-party conservative candidate? The name David French has all of a sudden emerged. Is that at all realistic? Is that at all productive for a third-party conservative to emerge to challenge both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, assuming she's the Democratic nominee?

KING: I have great respect for him but agree with him on this. David French, I don't know him at all, but I do know his qualifications. He's obviously -- he's a well-qualified guy. He's a very gifted lawyer. He was an Iraq War veteran.

But no, he has no name identification, no money. He's starting now. And also as a third-party candidate, we are basically a two-party system. And all that would do is siphon off votes from the Republican candidate and to elect the Democrat, Hillary Clinton. And I don't think Bill Kristol wants that to be his legacy.

Also, listen, I would have been on Bill Kristol's side going through the primaries. He and I come from, I would say, the same wing of the party. But we lost. Donald Trump won. That's the reality. And if you're in a party, you should abide by the guy who wins it, unless it's so outside the bounds. Donald Trump is not. Again, I think that you have to work with him. It's our obligation to make this work.

BLITZER: Let's get back, one final question where we started. Trump University right now, the allegations against Donald Trump and this Trump University, all these court cases, there are three in the works right now. How worried are you that this could potentially undermine or hurt Donald Trump's candidacy?

KING: Listen, you know, Donald Trump's in the arena right now. He needs to be ready for that. I think he'll be able to handle it. Listen, if I -- we're talking about lawsuits against Donald Trump? On the other hand, you're talking about Hillary Clinton with the inspector general report, where you're talking about the Clinton Foundation, all of those issues that are out there of the two. I would rather be on Donald Trump's side as far as who wins those arguments in a debate.

BLITZER: Peter King is the congressman from New York. Thanks very much for joining us.

KING: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, our political experts, they're standing by to weigh in on how much political damage the revolutions [SIC] about Trump University potential could cause Trump's campaign.

[17:25:00] And later, the important new developments in the search for the missing EgyptAir jet. Are searchers now getting closer to discovering an important clue to the mystery of why it crashed?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton says the latest revelations about Trump University prove that Donald Trump himself, she says, is a fraud.

With me in THE SITUATION ROOM, Real Clear politics and national political reporter Rebecca Berg; CNN political director David Chalian; our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein -- he's a senior editor for "The Atlantic" -- and our CNN Politics executive editor, Mark Preston.

David, Hillary Clinton is really trying to take advantage of these allegations involving Donald Trump. Listen to what Hillary Clinton said at a rally today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[17:30:05] CLINTON: This is just more evidence that Donald Trump himself is a fraud. He is trying to scam America the way he scammed all those people at Trump U. It's important that we recognize what he has done because that's usually a pretty good indicator of what he will do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How powerful is this message right now she's delivering for her campaign, especially given the unfavorable trustworthy numbers she herself has to deal with?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, she's trying to do things at once right there, right? She's trying to remind voters that Donald Trump is an unacceptable choice, from her perspective, because he's a scam artist, so negative character frame on him.

And then she's trying to appeal to the voters who really want to turn out in her behalf by saying, and not only is he a scam artist, but he's trying to screw you over, is her sort of appeal here.

So he doesn't have it out for the middle class, middle American, hardworking guy or gal, and he's a total fraud and is an unacceptable choice. She's trying to do the negative frame and appeal that she's the champion of the folks that his policies are harming. That's the argument she's trying to make.

BLITZER: Rebecca, how does he defend himself with these allegations, very serious allegations, powerful allegations by former employees of Trump University?

REBECCA BERG, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, we're already seeing him start to defend himself, Wolf, with this video his campaign put out today, featuring some of the witnesses the defense is calling in the case, former Trump University students that say they have had a positive experience with the program and actually found it worth the money and enjoyable.

And so that's what we're going to see from the Trump campaign, a defense of the program, of his involvement in the program, telling people that this was not a scam; it was something that was actually worthwhile and not just him trying to make money.

But it will be difficult for him to close that circle, because this trial is ongoing throughout the election. He's not set to testify until the end of November in this case, and so there isn't going to be any resolution. And so it's really going to be a war of words, one side versus the other.

BLITZER: That war will be intense. There's no doubt about that.

Ron, the most recent CNN poll of polls shows Hillary Clinton leading Trump by an average of only 2 points nationally among voters out there. Why has her lead slipped so dramatically over these past few months?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The short answer, I think, is that the extraordinarily high negatives that she has absorbed during this primary process have essentially canceled out Trump's own historically high negatives and left us with something very much like a generic Republican-Democratic divide, and in a very closely divided country, this is what you get.

The Democratic hope that the Republican coalition would simply fracture over Trump, and large pieces of it would be available to Clinton, has not born out yet. It may -- who know what happens with this third-party bid, but what we're seeing is a consolidation of Republican voters around Trump.

And there are only really two exceptions, Wolf, I think, in this kind of generic picture. One is that Trump is underperforming among college-educated whites, particularly college-educated white women, in a way that could ultimately be very problematic for him. And conversely, Hillary Clinton, if you look at those polls, consistently in most -- almost all of them, has been underperforming among younger voters relative to Obama in '08 and '12. Younger voters have given her trouble all the way through. I think right now, those are the biggest red flags on the polling board for each side.

BLITZER: And I want to get to Mark Preston in a moment, but David Chalian, you just saw this new poll out in California. This is a NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll in California among Democratic primary voters, Hillary Clinton 49 percent, Bernie Sanders 47 percent, mighty close.

CHALIAN: Mighty close indeed. As you know, this is why she upended her schedule and getting out to California earlier than anticipated. Tomorrow through next Monday, Bill Clinton announced today he's going to be campaigning across the state tomorrow through Monday, as well. They're really going to try to stave off this effort.

What's really interesting in that poll is the problem of young voter appeal is apparent that Ron was just talking about. We've been seeing it all nomination season long. There's a real age disparity here in that poll, and that's what's helping -- young voters are helping Bernie Sanders stay in the game right now.

BLITZER: And Mark Preston, President Obama, he's in Indiana today, touting his economic record over these past seven and a half years, encouraging voters to pick Democrats in November. Assuming that Hillary Clinton is the nominee, how do you envision Hillary Clinton using the president out there on the campaign trail?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, Wolf, we know this: that Barack Obama is itching to get out on the campaign trail. He could be very helpful to Hillary Clinton.

One, he can help raise money. This is going to be a very expensive campaign. Barack Obama, even though the left is angry at him, he still can raise a lot of money. He also can help with younger voters. This has been a big problem for Hillary Clinton, as Bernie Sanders has been able to capture the hearts and minds of younger voters. He also can help the overall turnout, boosting the number of African-Americans who will come out for Hillary Clinton.

But let me just extrapolate a little bit beyond that and add some other names. Vice President Joe Biden could go on the campaign trail for her and help her out in the Rust Belt states. You could see her eventual vice-presidential nominee on the campaign trail. You could see Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail for her and two more wildcards. You could see, perhaps, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on the campaign trail, as well. So if you have that many powerful surrogates, adding in Bill Clinton, as well, that's a pretty good team to have out there campaigning for you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. I'm sure she'd doing it.

Ron, you want to just -- very quickly?

BROWNSTEIN: Just real quick, no matter what President Obama does, or how much he campaigns or doesn't, he is on the ballot with her. If you look at 1988 with Ronald Reagan and 2000 with Bill Clinton, 2008 with George W. Bush, there is a very strong correlation between how voters assess the job performance of the outgoing president and whether or not they vote for the candidate from his party to succeed him. So Obama is on the ballot. The most important thing he can do for Hillary Clinton, his approval rating is rising, and that significantly increases her odds.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everyone stand by. There's a lot more to assess. Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back.

All right, guys.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:50] BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the Democratic presidential race. With less than a week to go until the California primary, look at this: a new poll shows a very tight race between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders in California. Clinton's two-point lead is within the poll's sampling error.

Also breaking, President Obama going out of his way this afternoon to defend his legacy and help make sure a Democrat succeeds him in the White House.

Let's bring in CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. She's here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM today.

He's making it clear that he really wants to wade into this presidential contest.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We really saw a taste of vintage Obama, the campaigner, today.

You know, the president has largely had to sit on the sidelines of this campaign, in the absence of a formal Democratic nominee. But today, he showed that he's ready and waiting, not only to take on Donald Trump but to defend his own legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): With an eye on protecting his legacy, President Obama is ready to get more involved in the 2016 fray.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we get cynical and just vote our fears, or if we don't vote at all, we won't build on the progress that we started.

SERFATY: The president today making a symbolic return to Elkhart, Indiana...

OBAMA: What's your name?

SERFATY: ... the site of his very first trip after taking office...

OBAMA: Folks here in Elkhart and all across America need help right now. They can't afford to keep waiting for folks in Washington to get this done.

SERFATY: ... taking stock of the economic progress not just in Elkhart but across the country.

OBAMA: America's economy is not just better than it was eight years ago. It is the strongest, most durable economy in the world.

SERFATY: Nearly five months from election day, a White House source tells CNN the president is chomping at the bit to hit the campaign trail, ready to explode on the scene once Democrats have a nominee.

He'll do so with approval ratings above 50 percent and an economic record to tout. Over his two-terms in office, the unemployment rate has dropped to 5 percent, and the economy has added private-sector jobs for 74 consecutive months.

The biggest beneficiary of all of this may very well be Hillary Clinton, who has made preserving the president's legacy a key part of her pitch to Democratic voters.

CLINTON: I'm really proud to stand with President Obama, and I am proud to stand with the progress he's made.

SERFATY: While President Obama is already bringing the heat against Donald Trump.

OBAMA: A lot of the proposals that he's made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude.

SERFATY: He so far has held off on making any official endorsement in the Democratic primary fight, which at times has tested his neutrality, praising Clinton at one point as someone with more experience than any non-vice president who has run for the White House.

OBAMA: She's extraordinarily experienced and wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out.

SERFATY: Even joking at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner that a Clinton victory in November is inevitable.

OBAMA: Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot, and it's anyone's guess who she will be.

SERFATY: The Clinton campaign is not shying away from its embrace of the Obama factor.

ROBBY MOOK, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think the president is going to back the nominee very quickly. The president is one of the most important surrogates.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And it is very likely we'll see a lot of President Obama out on the campaign trail once there is a Democratic nominee. A White House source tells CNN that it is driving the president crazy, Wolf, not to be out there yet. So it seems like he's just ready and waiting...

BLITZER: I'm sure he is, and we'll see. I'm sure he will be very, very active. Very good report, Sunlen. Thank you very much.

Coming up, faint signals have searchers zeroing in right now on what they hope will be at least one of the missing black boxes from the EgyptAir crash. Are we any closer to finding out why that plane went down?

And we're also getting new information on the U.S. Role right now in the ongoing battle against ISIS.

[17:45:00]

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now the United States and its allies are stepping up the fight against ISIS. Militia groups backed by U.S. special ops have launched the push on the ground inside Syria.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is with me right now.

What are you hearing, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the effects of U.S. forces on the ground in Syria being felt very quickly. We've seen them very close to the ISIS capital of Raqqa along with Kurdish forces there and now with Syrian and Kurdish forces along the border with Turkey, arguably an equally important target, the main entry point for fighters into Syria for ISIS.

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SCIUTTO (voice-over): These are U.S. backed Syrian forces taking on ISIS in a critical new offensive. The target, the area that of Manbij, ISIS' critical supply route to get arms and fighters into Syria and terrorists into Europe.

[17:50:10] COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Once you cut off the supply line that ISIS has, you then make it very hard for ISIS to sustain its recruitment efforts, its current force levels, and its ability to carry out attacks.

SCIUTTO: Some 4,000 Kurdish and Arab forces are joining the fight, backed by U.S. special forces. The offensive is part of a larger strategy to isolate the terror group in preparation for retaking ISIS' capital in Raqqa.

U.S. special forces, seen here in rare video, are now embedded with Kurdish forces on Raqqa's doorstep.

LEIGHTON: The special forces that are working with Kurdish and Free Syrian Army and the similar organizations are basically teaching them how to stand and fight as well as providing them with the tactical wherewithal and how to actually prosecute these kinds of counter insurgency campaigns.

SCIUTTO: ISIS is under attack in Iraq as well, where Iraqi forces are in the midst of a massive assault to re-take the city of Fallujah just west to the capital of Baghdad. The forces are potentially precarious combination of Iraqi military units, Shiite militias, U.S. air power and Iranian forces. With reports that the commander of Iran's Quds forces is on the ground near the front lines.

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SCIUTTO: With this new operation along Syria's border with Turkey, one coalition partner extremely uncomfortable with it, and that is Turkey.

Wolf, as you know, Turkey considers these Kurdish fighters terrorist organization tied to the PKK, terrorist organization inside of Turkey. Part of the deal with this offensive is that as soon as ISIS forces are cleared from this key border crossing, those Kurdish forces will leave that area. It's hard to see how that happens quickly. It creates a huge sensitivity with America's allies.

BLITZER: Yes. And with this Iranian leader, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq right now, that's another serious issue that the U.S. has to obscure --

SCIUTTO: Strange bedfellows. Yes.

BLITZER: It certainly is. All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Faint signals from the depth of the Mediterranean are giving new hope right now to searchers desperately hunting for the black boxes from that downed EgyptAir flight.

Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has been looking into all of this. Rene, dramatic developments. What's the latest?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a critical break in the search for EgyptAir Flight 804. Investigators have confirmed they detected signals from the plane's black boxes. This potentially brings them one step closer to unraveling exactly what caused the crash.

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MARSH (voice-over): Distinct sounds coming from the floor of the Mediterranean Sea could lead investigators to the first substantial clues to what happened to EgyptAir Flight 804. So far searchers have only retrieved scattered aircraft debris and human remains, not the main body of the plane. But a French naval ship with three underwater listening devices detected sounds investigators say belonged to the cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder of the Airbus 320.

That is a sample of what signals from black boxes sound like. Inside those boxes investigators hope to find answers to what brought down the plane.

SARAH MCCOMB, NTSB: So these are the four different channels from a cockpit voice recorder. First officer's mic and one from a -- potentially if there's a third crew member. And then we also have the cockpit area microphone.

MARSH: Sarah McComb runs the recorder lab at the NTSB. The agency is not a part of the investigation but is world renowned from its expertise in analyzing black boxes. This is the room where investigators listen to cockpit voice recorder audio.

MCCOMB: We certainly try to identify anybody who is speaking within the cockpit and whether or not that's another crew member from the back of the airplane who possibly comes in. And we all try and document any other sounds that the group can identify as part of normal cockpit operations.

MARSH: Other sounds like a potential explosion.

MCCOMB: And listen to the recordings and then with the group around the table be able to start typing as the group agrees on what they're hearing and factually type the transcript of the recording.

MARSH: That's one piece of the puzzle, the other is the data recorder which will detail the plane's altitude, speed, and how its systems were working. Together, the information is a huge part of the puzzle. EgyptAir Flight 804 from Paris to Cairo was at 37,000 feet when it lost contact above the Mediterranean early May 19th. Shortly before the aircraft was scheduled to exit Greek air space and enter Egyptian air space.

It is still unknown whether a bomb or a catastrophic mechanical failure caused the plane to crash, killing all 66 people on board.

[17:55:05] To date, no terror group has claimed responsibility for bringing the plane down.

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MARSH: And when the black boxes are retrieved, they'll be brought to Egypt. It is not sure if Egypt will ask another country for help in reading them out but the French aviation accident investigators say a specialized ship will be sent to the search zone next week with equipment to retrieve the black boxes.

And Wolf, once they have them, it just takes a matter of days for them to download the information.

BLITZER: All right, Rene. Thank you.

Coming up, court papers bring fresh scrutiny to Trump University which former staffers say was a fraudulent scheme to prey on the elderly and uneducated. Donald Trump shrugs off the lawsuit but Hillary Clinton says Trump is using the same approach to, quote, "scam America."

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