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Jen Psaki Talks State Department Admission of Doctoring Briefing Footage; Florida Governor to Sit Down with Trump on Monday; Fight to Take Back Fallujah from ISIS Intensifies. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired June 3, 2016 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] JEN PSAKI, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: But then there was this -- when you were the State Department spokeswoman, subsequent exchange with James Rosen of FOX when he asked why Victoria Nuland had lied about those direct bilateral negotiations. I'll play the clip again. Listen to this.


JAMES ROSEN, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Is it a policy of the State Department where the preservation of secrecy of secret negotiations is concerned to lie in order to achieve that goal?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR & FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress.


BLITZER: The accusation against you, Jen -- and I want to give you a chance to respond -- that you were defending that earlier lie from Victoria Nuland.

PSAKI: I think you could speak to Tori or anyone else about she knew or didn't know about the negotiations. I don't have that information. But what I was doing that day and the weeks prior was providing information about the back channel, about the negotiations from the years past. I do believe, as I said during that exchange, there are certainly times where negotiations and important diplomatic discussions require not briefing the public on what's happening. Not because we don't want to have that conversation with you, Wolf, but because that means all parties are weighing in and it becomes a public debate instead of a private negotiation, that, as you know from covering these type of negotiations for years, is often need in order to make progress.

BLITZER: The point being though that it's one thing not to release all of the information you need for national security reasons or diplomacy or whatever. It's another thing to actually lie to the media and the American public as a result of that. Is it ever justified? This is my final question because I know you got to run. Is it ever justified for a U.S. government spokesperson to lie to the American people?

PSAKI: I think that's a fundamental value that I have always followed is not to and providing as much information as you possibly can, including being an advocate for when you can provide more, which is exactly what I did in the case briefing on the Iran back channel.

BLITZER: Jen Psaki is the White House communications director.

Jen, thank you very much for joining us.

PSAKI: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be here.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party and the GOP governor of a key swing state, you can bet they'll have a lot to talk about when they meet on Monday. Standing by live, the Florida governor, Rick Scott. I'll ask him what's on the agenda when he sits down on Monday with Donald Trump.


[13:36:42] BLITZER: The Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott will be at Trump Tower in New York City on Monday to meet with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. The reason? A strategy session to try to win Scott's home state of Florida in November.

Let's ask the man himself. Governor Rick Scott, joining us now from Naples, Florida.

Governor, thank you very much for joining us.

Since March, you've been a supporter of Donald Trump's race for the White House. Talk about the meeting on Monday. Who initiated the meeting? What's the purpose?

RICK SCOTT, (R), GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I called Donald. I talked to him quite a bit. And I said, I want you to win Florida. I predict he'll win Florida. We'll talk about how we won in 2010 and 2014. In 2010, I was not the establishment candidate and we won, and I want to tell him what it takes to win. Romney did win the state. And I believe Donald Trump can win big if he focuses on the state and does the right things.

BLITZER: A lot of people as you know, governor, speculating this is a potential audition for you to be his vice presidential running mate. What, if anything, can you tell us about that?

SCOTT: I'm going to pass on that. I'll have two years left when Donald gets elected president. I want to finally have a federal partner that is going to focus on jobs. We add almost 1.1 million jobs. If I had someone in the White House that cared about jobs, just think of what I could accomplish my last two years.

BLITZER: If he asked you to submit your personal documents, income tax returns, and go through some interviews to potentially get on that short list, would you say yes?

SCOTT: I'll say no. I like this job. I worked hard to get this job. I love the 20 million people in my state and 100 million tourists. I'll do my best the last two years to make sure this is the number-one place in the world for jobs, education, and public safety.

BLITZER: That's a flat no. You have no interest? You don't, under any circumstances, want to be his running mate?

SCOTT: No. I predict Donald will have a big win, but I want to finish my job here as governor and do all the things we can to make the state people can live to get a great job and a great education.

BLITZER: I'll take that as a hard no.

Governor, let's talk about a subject close to your heart, my heart, the Zika Virus. I know you want more federal aid. You need more money. How serious of a problem is this right now? We get ready for the summer season. Mosquitoes in Florida. How worried are you about this?

SCOTT: Think about it, Congress goes on recess, on vacation. Zika is not going on vacation. We have 165 cases. We're blessed with that, but work hard to make sure we do our job. But the federal government supposed to be a part of a natural disaster. That's what this could be. We need the federal government to show up. I wrote a letter to President Obama this week. We have 30 counties with mosquitoes, saying we need help with insecticides, training, protective gear, we need help with more additional personnel, because when this, if this happens in our state, we're going to be prepared. Our state's known for being prepared for disasters. Hurricane season has started. It's going to warm up and we'll have more mosquitoes but we'll be prepared, but the federal government should do their job.

[13:39:57] BLITZER: But you know, both houses of Congress are controlled, or the majority are Republicans, and many seem not interested in providing the funds that you say you need. What do you say to your fellow Republicans?

SCOTT: First, it's a disappointment that Congress went on vacation before they did this. But the funds and can do these things. We also asked, said by June 15th, we need to work how we will work with FEMA if we have mosquito-borne illnesses. But the president has the funds. They could provide funds for all the things we ask. We were very detailed in our request. Our Department of Health is doing well, they're doing their job, our county health departments, but this could be a national issue and they should show up.

BLITZER: Governor Rick Scott of Florida. Good luck to you and the Floridians. I know it's a source of deep concern down there. We'll stay on top of this story. We'll stay in touch with you. Thank you.

SCOTT: Bye, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the flight for Fallujah intensifying right now. An update on the battle to retake the strategic city not far from Baghdad. We go live to Iraq when we return.


[13:45:24] BLITZER: The battle for Fallujah in Iraq is intensifying right now. Coalition war planes conducted air strikes over the southern part of the city. They're targeting ISIS command centers, tunnel networks. The Iraqi intelligence agency is reporting that dozens of militants have been killed.

For more, let's go to senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, in Baghdad right now.

Ben, tell us more about the air strikes. What are you learning about the state of this assault on Fallujah?

BED WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a specific air strike that the Iraqi intelligence was referring to. That was a coalition air strike on what they describe as an ISIS command center in southeastern Fallujah. Now, they say that in the process that several dozen ISIS fighters were killed. Significantly, they say, they believe there was a meeting that was going on in the command center at the time, and that running the meeting may have been the so-called commander of ISIS forces in Fallujah itself. So that could be a serious blow to ISIS in the town.

At this point, Wolf, the city is completely surrounded by the Iraqi army. We know we spoke to representative from UNICEF this morning that said over the last five days, around 900 civilians have been able to flee the city in all sorts of ways, and there's one part of the river, the Euphrates River, where people cross upside down bed frames, surrounded or tied to entire inner tubes. So they get out however way they can. But that process came under fire from ISIS. So the escape from Fallujah is no small task at this point as this battle rages on -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Certainly does, and perhaps as many as 50,000 civilians trapped inside, 20,000 children, for that matter, and all of them potentially in danger.

Ben, you be careful over there and we'll stay in close touch with you.

Just ahead, from the refugee crisis in Europe to the bloodiest battles in Iraq, CNN's Arwa Damon has seen global conflicts up close, and one of the courageous journalists. And she's here in Washington with me. We'll talk about the turmoil in the region right after this.


[13:51:33] BLITZER: CNN senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, has covered conflicts around the world, from the fierce fighting in Iraq, ISIS and the Iraqi National Army that's ongoing right now, to the bloody civil war in Syria currently ongoing, as well, Europe's refugee crisis, she has seen it all.

Arwa's here in Washington, joining us now live.

Arwa, thank you very much for joining us.


BLITZER: ISIS, right now, is it winning or losing? You have been to Syria, Iraq. Update our viewers.

DAMON: Here's the problem, Wolf, when we talk about the status of the fight against ISIS, is we can't define it in term of winning or losing. It is a battle against an ideology. Yes, the U.S. likes to spit out a lot of statistics like 60 percent of territory is lost, X- amount of people killed and air strikes carried out. Here's the problem. The previous incarnations of ISIS throughout the course of the last 10-plus years have all been declared as defeated at one time but it managed to morph and emerge as something more powerful. So whilst on the one hand, you can look at the numbers and say maybe ISIS is being defeated, the army is not the problem. The army of ISIS is not the problem. We're facing on a global scale is the battle against ideology and that we are actually losing.

BLITZER: The battle for Fallujah right now, about 50,000 civilians trapped inside, most are them are Sunnis. The concern is, if the Iraqi military, largely Shia, backed by Shiite militia, backed by the Revolutionary Guard, the head of the revolutionary guard supposedly on the scene, if they win, what happens next?

DAMON: That's one of the most critical points for Iraq moving forward because Fallujah's very much looked at as something of blueprint for the then-advance into Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. Most critical thing to happen at that point of time is for various different Shia militias, Shia fighting units not to then go in and arbitrarily and killing the Sunni population.

The other thing the Iraqi government needs to be careful about is how civilian lives are lost in this impossible battle for Fallujah, because ISIS isn't letting people out. They're struggling, as we heard Ben's reporting right there, and the Iraqi army if they end up killing too many Sunnis, that's going to reflect poorly on them and perpetuate the notion that the Shia-dominated Iraqi government doesn't care about the population, the Sunni population.

BLITZER: You have spent a lot of time in Syria, you're based right now door next to Turkey. Maybe 300,000, 400,000 Syrians have been killed over the past four years of the so-called civil war. Millions have been made homeless. Any end in sight?

DAMON: It's very hard to see one. I do so fundamentally want to be wrong about that. But it's very hard to see one in the next 10 years or so because the problems are so intractable. It is not just about winning various different battles. We are talking about seismic change happening across an entire region. At the end of all this, Wolf, borders are probably going to be different. Populations are going to be different. And it's not just going to have an impact on the Middle East. The impact of this so-called crisis extends well beyond it. This is going to not just frame the Middle East, per se, but it also has the potential to frame how we are as a global community and how we interact with one another on a greater level.

BLITZER: Arwa, thanks very much for that update. Welcome to Washington.

DAMON: Thank you. [13:55:04] BLITZER: I know you're heading back to the region


Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, deadly floodwaters are rising in Paris. Take a look at live pictures there. The water level is nearing 20 feet, the highest in more than 30 years. Both the Louvre as well as the famous museum are scrambling to save priceless works of arts. The Louvre houses works of art like Leonardo de Vinci's Mona Lisa as well as one of Michelangelo's sculptures. Right now, staff are working around the clock to move more than 150,000 artifacts. The museum could be closed through Tuesday.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."

In the meantime, the news continues right after a quick break.