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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Indiana Congressman Andre Carson; Anti-Muslim White Supremacist Kills Two in Portland; Trump Transition Sought Secret Communications With Russia?; North Korea Test-Fires Third Missile in Nearly Three Weeks; U.S. May Expand Laptop Ban to All International Flights. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 29, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: under scrutiny. President Trump insists he has total confidence in his son-in-law and senior adviser, as Jared Kushner's alleged efforts to create a secret line of communication with Russia are right now in the red-hot spotlight.
Also tonight, the Trump team on defense over Kushner's role.
On their own. Germany's Angela Merkel is warning that Europe can't completely depend on the U.S. after summit talks with President Trump that raised the anxiety levels of American allies, this as the president bills his trip a great success.
Anti-Muslim attack. The president now condemning the deadly stabbings on board a train in Oregon, urging prayers for two victims who stood up to hate, Islamic groups urging Mr. Trump to denounce a climate of bigotry they say he helped create.
And laptop ban. The homeland security chief warns the U.S. may dramatically expand limits on electronic devises in airport cabins, citing numerous threats. New questions tonight about when that might happen and why.
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, as the commander in chief marks Memorial Day, his White House is on damage control over the newest bombshell in the Russia investigation. Sources say Mr. Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tried to set up a secret back channel for communication with the the Russians during the transition.
Some former U.S. intelligence officials are raising big red flags about such a move, suggesting it's disturbing and unprecedented. But the president insists he has total confidence in Kushner.
New fallout tonight for Mr. Trump's overseas trip and his exchanges with crucial U.S. allies. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, now warning that Europe can't completely rely on the United States and must fight for its own future. On this long and busy holiday weekend at U.S. airports, a dramatic new
security measure may be in the works. The homeland security secretary, John Kelly, says he might expand the ban on laptops in airplane cabins to cover all international flights entering or leaving the country.
And President Trump now is condemning the deadly stabbings on a train in Portland, Oregon, after being urged to speak out against the apparent hate crime that happened three days ago.
The suspect is accused of attacking three men who intervened when he allegedly yelled slurs at the two young women, including one who wearing a hijab. This hour, I will talk with a Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Andre Carson.
And our correspondents and specialists, they are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, with more on Jared Kushner and the Russia investigation.
Jim, Kushner is under even more intense scrutiny tonight.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and, once again, for previously unknown contacts with Russia, this one during the transition when Kushner was still a private citizen and Barack Obama was still president.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the subject of intense scrutiny after a source tells CNN that he requested back-channel communication with the Kremlin.
This happened last December when Kushner met with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the transition. Now some Democrats are challenging Kushner's role in the White House.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I do think there ought to be a review of his security clearance to find out whether he was truthful, whether he was candid. If not, then there's no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance.
SCIUTTO: According to "The Washington Post," Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak told his superiors that Kushner wanted to use Russian diplomatic facilities for an off-the-record communications system to evade U.S. intelligence monitoring, a move that even Kislyak thought was risky.
Sources tell CNN that Kushner sought the secure channel for him and now former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to discuss military operations in Syria and other matters with Russian military officials.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the man now leading the investigation into whether Trump's campaign associates colluded with Russia, spoke at his granddaughter's commencement today, where he urged students never to sacrifice their integrity. ROBERT MUELLER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL COUNSEL: If you are not
honest, your reputation will suffer, and once lost, a good reputation can never, ever be regained.
SCIUTTO: His first public speech since his appointment, but over the weekend others in the intelligence community raised the alarm. Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden called Kushner's attempted back channel unprecedented.
MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is off the map, Michael. I know of no other experience like this in our history.
SCIUTTO: Former DNI James Clapper raised similar concerns.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: My dashboard warning light was clearly on, and I think that was the case with all of us in the intelligence community.
SCIUTTO: Homeland Security Secretary Retired General John Kelly, however, called such clandestine communications perfectly normal.
JOHN KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It's both normal in my opinion and acceptable. Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that may be not particularly friendly to us, is a good thing.
SCIUTTO: For Jared Kushner, new contacts with Russia keep surfacing. In addition to the December meeting with Kislyak, Reuters reports that Kushner had several previously undisclosed communications with the Russian ambassador, including two phone calls prior to the election last November.
In response, Kushner's lawyer tells CNN -- quote -- "Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described."
SCIUTTO: There is another investigation deadline tomorrow.
Michael Flynn must answer a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee for financial records requested by the committee last week. Earlier, you may remember he refused the request to give testimony, citing his Fifth Amendment rights.
And, Wolf, it is not certain that he will respond positively, but that is the deadline tomorrow.
BLITZER: Yes, we will see what happens.
Jim Sciutto reporting for us, thank you.
Now to President Trump marking first Memorial Day as commander in chief at a time of widening controversy and crisis for his administration.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. He's got the very latest for us.
Jeff, a rather somber day for the president.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was the first time the president was visiting Arlington National Cemetery since taking office. He was paying tribute to the fallen and telling stories of Gold Star families and unknown soldiers.
But amid the swirl of controversy here over the Russia investigation, it was also another reminder that there is another major decision weighing on the president. That's whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump paying respects today at Arlington National Cemetery, on his first Memorial Day as commander in chief, the president honoring heroes from wars gone by.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We pay tribute to those brave souls who raced into gunfire, roared into battle and ran into hell to face down evil.
ZELENY: And hailing those fighting in conflicts still being waged today.
TRUMP: Today, a new generation of American patriots are fighting to win the battle against terrorism.
ZELENY: With the sound of "Taps" echoing across the sacred grounds of Arlington, the president and his top military commanders looking on, a poignant reminder of a decision he's facing, whether to accept their recommendation to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The president making an impromptu stop at Section 60, the final resting place for Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He visited the grave of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly's son killed seven years ago in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.
The Afghanistan decision and a growing lives items on the president's agenda have been overshadowed and in some cases complicated by the internal chaos at the White House.
Jared Kushner, the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, is under fire for trying to establish a secret channel of communications with Russian officials during the transition. He's willing to discuss the matter with the FBI and Congress, officials tell CNN, but the scrutiny is threatening to upend his first-among-equals status in the West Wing.
Trying to move beyond the crisis, the president is still weighing a reshuffling of his staff, although aides tell CNN nothing is imminent, the president making clear his annoyance in a storm of weekend tweets. "It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House
are fabricated lies made up by the fake news media." He added this: "The fake news media works hard at disparaging and demeaning my use of social media because they don't want America to hear the real story."
After returning from his first international trip, the White House hoped the president's time abroad would change the subject.
TRUMP: I think we hit a home run no matter where we are.
ZELENY: But, tonight, his meetings with world leaders also being seen in a harsher light, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel bluntly saying the U.S. is no longer a reliable partner.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The times where we could completely count on others, they are over to a certain extent. I have experienced this in the last few days, and that is why I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.
ZELENY: Now, the role that the U.S. is playing in the world, Wolf, is certainly being closely watched here.
Now, the Russia investigation is playing into all of that.
As for staff changes, it is no secret at all the president is not happy with some of his aides. Quite frankly, some of his aides are not happy with him either.
But with Congress out of town this week, there is so much on the White House agenda, climate change decision coming up, that Afghanistan decision, as we mentioned, as well as a new FBI director.
Wolf, but all of that, as well as the agenda of this president, on the back burner to this ongoing Russia investigation that is still weighing heavy on the West Wing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the campaign scheduled a campaign rally for later in the week, decided this is not the right time to go out and do one of those rallies.
All right, thanks very much, Jeff Zeleny reporting.
Let's some get more of this.
Congressman Andre Carson is joining us. He's a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, you have special insight.
How did these revelations about Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn affect the investigation being conducted by your Intelligence Committee and by others, for that matter, in Congress?
CARSON: Well, I will say this. It raises additional concerns. It raises concerns about how much coordination was taking place.
And Russia very skilled at manipulating individuals globally for their ultimate gain, and I think that Russia is -- has been genius at manipulating people and taking advantage of their naivete to further their objectives.
BLITZER: So, do you think that Jared Kushner and General Flynn were naive?
CARSON: I'm not at liberty to speak on those matters at this time, Wolf.
But I will say that it is very troubling, very concerning the close relationship that both Kushner and Flynn have had with the Russians.
BLITZER: All right. I just want to be precise, and obviously we don't want to you release any classified information, but I'm sort of intrigued. Are you suggesting there is information you have right now about all of this that you can't necessarily share?
CARSON: I'm not at liberty to comment, sir.
BLITZER: Even comment on that?
CARSON: No, sir.
BLITZER: All right. So, I will assume the answer is yes.
But let me move on. Now that Robert Mueller has taken control of this overall investigation, you know, he was appointed the special counsel. He's a former FBI director.
Some lawmakers, some of your colleagues have complained that congressional investigations will be stifled in the process because of his supposed criminal investigation. Do you share that concern?
CARSON: Both investigations will take place independently.
Robert Mueller has a great reputation, having served under both President Bush and President Obama. He is very respected within the bureau. And the congressional investigations have gotten us to this point. And I think those investigations will continue.
BLITZER: But will they be slowed down or stifled because he doesn't want those investigations in the House and the Senate to interfere with his investigation?
CARSON: I think Robert Mueller will conduct his own investigation, honestly, from scratch. It won't impede the congressional investigations that are taking place right now.
And I think that this multipronged approach is actually healthy for our country and to really keep our democracy alive.
BLITZER: Do you expect the fired FBI Director James Comey to still testify in public? He suggested he wants to consult with the new special counsel.
CARSON: We will see.
Director Comey has a great reputation as well within the bureau. And I think that he is someone who is very disciplined. He's someone of -- many believe, of high integrity.
And I think that any contribution that he can make to further this investigation will be most beneficial.
BLITZER: But you have no assurances that he will still go ahead and testify in open session in the coming days, as he earlier had expressed the readiness to do?
CARSON: Sure. That remains to be seen. I'm hopeful to hear. I'm excited about hearing what he has to say.
BLITZER: I think all of us are excited to hear about what he has to say.
BLITZER: As you also know, the former CIA Director John Brennan, he expressed concern last week that some Americans may have been led down what he described as a treasonous path by Russian spies, either knowingly or even unknowingly.
Do you believe Jared Kushner may have been a target of Russian intelligence services?
CARSON: Well, it wouldn't surprise me.
I think Director Brennan -- and I actually attended that hearing. Director Brennan has decades of service in the CIA. So he would know best. Personally, I come from Indiana Department of Homeland Security, was a police officer with the State Excise Police.
I understand how criminals work on a local, state and national level. And if you look at the global perspective, I think Russia has been a leader in terms of counterintelligence and espionage.
BLITZER: Should Kushner have his security clearances suspended?
CARSON: I think his clearance should be under review as we speak. I think the actions that were taken were inappropriate, were questionable.
And I think it calls for us to really review his security clearance to ultimately determine whether or not it should be revoked.
BLITZER: Some have suggested that the Russian ambassador here in Washington, Sergey Kislyak, could have been exaggerating Kushner and Flynn's requests or even purposefully sending out disinformation, knowing the U.S. might be listening in, wanting to create some chaos, if you will.
Do you take that possibility seriously?
CARSON: In the game of spies, distractions, lies, diversions are regular order.
So, it is difficult to say at this point. But it is the order of the day in this game of spying and counterintelligence.
BLITZER: Do you believe Kushner was simply unaware of how risky, how unusual this request was, if in fact he did make that kind of request for a back channel using Russian Embassy communications equipment to deal with the Kremlin?
CARSON: It's difficult to say, if he even cared. Again, the Russians have brought a lot to our world history, but, most importantly, they, second to the United States of America, have been pretty good at this spy game, and baiting people into their ultimately web of deception. I think the fact that...
BLITZER: Stand by, Congressman. Yes, go ahead, finish your thought first.
CARSON: I think the fact there has been obvious interference by the Russian government in our electoral process raises questions about why even Mr. Kushner would even participate in even seeking a back channel to the Russian government. Very questionable.
BLITZER: Yes, it was not just Kushner. Remember, it was General Flynn, who was the top national security adviser to the president- elect as well.
CARSON: Without question.
BLITZER: A man with enormous intelligence experience, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. So he didn't come in from the real estate business. He came in from the intelligence community into this entire process.
BLITZER: A lot of experience there.
All right, stand by, Congressman Carson. We have more to discuss. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, tough new words for Vladimir Putin from the new president of France, who is calling out the Russian leader to his face.
We're back with Congressman Andre Carson. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, he met with Vladimir Putin today in a news conference while standing next to Putin. And Macron called state-run Russian media outlets -- quote -- "organs of influence and propaganda."
Would you like to see similarly tough language from President Trump?
CARSON: It would be helpful. It would be refreshing. I don't think that President Trump is to the point where he is willing to condemn Russian media, when it is obvious that a lot of Russian outlets have utilized influence campaigns to their benefit.
And it is certainly their prerogative. But I would like to see a firmer President Trump as it relates to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.
BLITZER: Senator McCain, John McCain, says Putin is an even bigger threat to the United States than ISIS. Do you share that assessment?
CARSON: I think the senator has a very astute critique that is not to let ISIS off of the hook.
But I think, in a broader perspective, he may be on to something. He may be on to something. I still think that we need to target ISIS for the threat that she is, but, in a very real sense, I think Russia's threat is much more subtle. It is much more deliberate.
It doesn't mask itself in the language of religion as such. But it is much more insidious in a different kind of way.
BLITZER: I want to get your reaction to a very disturbing story we have been following.
As you know, two men in Portland, Oregon, were killed Friday night. A third man was very seriously injured while defending a pair of young women from a man yelling anti-Muslim hate speech.
Listen to what one of those young women said in describing the incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESTINEE MANGUM, VICTIM: He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us that we shouldn't be here and to get out of his country.
Me and my friend, we're going to get off the MAX. And then we turned around while they were fighting, and he just started stabbing people. And it was just blood everywhere. And we just -- we started running for our lives.
Thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me, because they didn't even know me.
And they lost their life because of me and my friend and the way we looked. And I just want to say thank you to them and their family, that I appreciate them, because, without them, we probably would be dead right now. (END VIDEO CLIP)
Congressman, you're one of, what, two Muslim members of the United States Congress. What's your reaction to this truly horrible incident?
CARSON: You know, I salute, my hearts and prayers go out to the families of those who died defending those Muslims.
And they are true American heroes. And I pray for their families and those who were victimized. Mental health issues in this country are still very taboo, very real. Bigotry is very fear. Islamophobia is very real.
And I think that we have to commend Americans, whenever they stand up against Islamophobia, homophobia, religious bigotry, any kind of phobia, and do the right thing. Unfortunately, they had to die to protect people.
But, in a broader sense, I think we have to dig deeper into notions of whose country this really is. A lot of people who assert that have invested in a destructive and false mythology that does not further anyone's effort.
I think it just exacerbates the flames of racism, bigotry and religious discrimination.
BLITZER: Well said.
CARSON: Kudos to those folks who stood up.
BLITZER: Our deepest, deepest condolences to their families. Those young men were very, very courageous. They did the right thing. Unfortunately, it ended in a horrible, horrible situation.
And there you see the three men who came to these two women's defense.
Congressman Andre Carson, thanks so much for joining us.
CARSON: What an honor. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, our specialists getting ready to weigh in on the possibility of a secret back channel to Russia and the gravity of the allegations against Jared Kushner.
And, as North Korea taunts the U.S. and its allies with yet another missile test, a new warning that an all-out war with Kim Jong-un's regime would be catastrophic.
BLITZER: Tonight, growing questions about whether Jared Kushner is a liability for President Trump as he faces heightened scrutiny in the Russian investigation. So what could be the consequences if Mr. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser did, in fact, try to create a secret line of communication with the Kremlin?
[18:31:22] Let's discuss with our correspondents, analysts and specialists. And John Kirby, as you know, "The Washington Post" reported that he met with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Michael Flynn was also in that meeting, and the desire was to set up this very strange secret communication channel through the Russian embassy in Washington directly to the Kremlin. How strange would that be?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC & MILITARY ANALYST: Well, we have to remember, we don't know if it's true, and we need to caveat that. But if it's true, it's extraordinary. I mean, it either shows an epic level of ignorance and naivete about how the Russians conduct espionage activities, or a Machiavellian suspicion of incredible proportion about their concerns about the Obama administration. Or maybe it's both. I don't know. But if it's true, it's very troubling.
BLITZER: But it's -- but you would think that someone like Michael Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, not a business guy, a real-estate guy from New York City, a young guy with no government experience, you would think that, if he was in on all of this, and he was, that he would understand exactly what you just said.
KIRBY: Absolutely. There's hardly -- no one is smarter on intelligence that I work with and know personally than General Flynn. And I would assume that if he -- if this is true, that that would be a remarkable, as well, for him to go along with that.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Pamela. The administration is downplaying the report, but the former CIA director, Michael Hayden, described this as "off the map." How does this whole story fit into the entire Russia investigation?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly something that investigators want to learn more about. It raises questions, and investigators will want to know the circumstances surrounding these communications that Jared Kushner had with Ambassador Kislyak and whether there were more communications.
But also the why. If this is, in fact, true, why would Jared Kushner want secret communication with Russia, to Russia? Of course, those close to him have said -- told my colleague Jeff Zeleny it was to learn more about Russia's involvement in Syria. But certainly, investigators want to learn more about this.
And it also gets into the bigger narrative about Ambassador Kislyak, and investigators knew he was trying to sort of worm his way into the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, cultivating relationships with people close to to Trump, including Michael Flynn, and clearly was carrying on these communications with Jared Kushner, as well.
BLITZER: You saw the tweets, you know, David. President Trump describing this as -- you know, all of these Russia-related issues as fake news. He says this: "It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the fake news media."
So is the president simply going, trying to go on the offense; or is this a defensive maneuver on his part, simply blame what he calls the fake news media?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, whether it's offense or defense, I don't think it's very effective for them at this point. They're wearing out this idea of fake news, because that's been the response of the president and his acolytes toward all manner of stories without, in many cases, ever trying to actually knock down the stories or deny them.
There, he says that these stories are lies, generally, but doesn't specify what part of the reporting is said to be a lie.
The other thing, I just think that it's not effective for the president to continue to sort of tweet out after the fact, rather than trying to get their story out in front about why they're taking these meetings with the Russians, for instance. There is an explanation. Like Admiral Kirby said, we don't know what it is yet, but they've not offered that explanation.
BLITZER: You know, Ron Brownstein, we heard the homeland security secretary, retired General Kelly, take issue with the leaks of the classified information. He said the leaks that have been coming out to "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," to CNN, to others, he said, "Those leaks are darn close to treason." His words.
But we also heard from the former CIA director, John Brennan, say that -- and I'm quoting him now -- "Individuals who go along on a treasonous path do not even realize they're on that path."
So how do you square these two definitions of treason? Those who leak the information and sometimes those, the leaks show that those individuals are in a potentially treasonous path, knowingly or unknowingly?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first -- first, Wolf, historically, you get leaks of the kind of volume that we have seen when you have officials inside the government. In this case, the intelligence law enforcement communities, who simply don't have faith that the -- that the administration will, you know, fully support the law or the investigation. I mean, clearly, that was the driving force, I think, from the -- from the outset. It's worth noting that the meeting with Ambassador Kislyak in which
this was discussed, allegedly discussed, originally was left off the disclosures from Jared Kushner. So that adds another kind of element to this.
And I'd make a third point, which I think the president's tweets are very revealing. Because they are indicative of a broader strategy, I think, in which he still believes, a la the campaign, that his only necessity is essentially to talk to his base, to reinforce his base with these arguments of fake news, which are not, as David said, at all remotely effective, I think, with voters beyond the base, who polls have shown have very clear concerns and are very supportive of an independent investigation. He is still making very little effort to be president of the whole country; is still comfortable, I think, speaking to what was his 46 percent in the election, and if you look at the job approval ratings, are somewhat below that now.
BLITZER: You know, Pamela, you think that the former, the fired FBI director, James Comey, will still testify in open session in the coming days? There's a question mark on that. He's probably got the answers to a lot of the questions we've been raising.
BROWN: Yes. And he likely will not be providing those answers, if in fact, he does testify.
I can tell that you Robert Mueller, who is now overseeing the special probe, will not want Comey testifying at all, because he's considered now a witness in this investigation, particularly when it comes to the obstruction of justice aspect of it.
But if there is something worked out, that they talk about it and some things are worked out, I can tell you, there will be some parameters there, and Comey will certainly be restricted in what he can say.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's see if he testifies. He was going to. But now that could change. We should know fairly soon.
Everybody stand by. Just ahead, has President Trump weakened the west as the German chancellor is now claiming? We're going to talk about America's very nervous allies, right after the break.
[18:42:20] BLITZER: We're back with our specialists as we're getting a blunt new account of the impression President Trump made on America's most crucial allies.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, warning that Europe can't completely rely on the United States any more. Strong words, John Kirby, from -- she doesn't simply, you know, throw out words casually. She's pretty precise.
KIRBY: Very measured. Very deliberate. I think it's an extraordinary statement. And her foreign minister came out later and said, you know, verbatim that U.S. policies are against those of the European Union. I haven't heard that kind of rhetoric in a long, long time.
Look, Europe is our strongest trading partner, our largest investor, and through NATO, provides a force multiplier for operations around the world and have actually increased our national security here at home. So it's extraordinary to me that our strongest ally on the continent, Germany, would feel that way.
BLITZER: Yes, I remember in Brussels, at the end of NATO summit, she had a little speech in which she said, "This is not a time to build walls. It's a time to tear down walls." That was a specific reference.
BLITZER: At the president's recommendation for a wall along the U.S.- Mexico border. She's a blunt lady, as we all know.
Ron Brownstein, the new president of France, Emmanuel Macron, he called the state-run Russian Today and Sputnik news organizations "organs of influence and propaganda" while standing right next to Vladimir Putin today. Is it unusual to see a French president stand up to Putin in that way? Not necessarily see a U.S. president stand up to Putin in that way?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, the contrast is striking, if understandable in the sense that Macron was also the victim of what appeared to be a Russian-generated hack at the end of his campaign.
But I think, even more striking is the words that Macron used in an interview to describe President Trump, where he compared him to Putin and Erdogan in Turkey in the sense that he argued they all believed that power is all that matters in international relations.
And when you combine that with what we heard from Angela Merkel and her foreign minister and today from the leader of the opposition party in Germany, I think what you're seeing, Wolf, is the European leaders feel emboldened to defend the ideal of an international order built on rules and transnational cooperation on big problems like climate, against what they see as the more insular, nationalist, even nativist vision of President Trump.
And the fact is that since Trump's election, the nationalist tide has been receding in Europe. I mean, the Trump-like candidates lost in Austria in the Netherlands. Of course, in France. And it faded in the polls in Germany.
I think the dynamic is being set up where you will see both Merkel and Macron, I think, increasingly define, in alternative visions to Trump's, about how the nations of the world should interact.
BLITZER: This is a real serious issue with this U.S. relationships with these close NATO allies.
SWERDLICK: Absolutely, Wolf. I mean, in addition to everything Ron and Admiral Kirby said, I would just add, it's worth repeating every time, these are not hypothetical alliances. They fought with us in Afghanistan for years, even though there weren't always agreements exactly on policy.
The fact there is this between other NATO countries and us right now is, you know, it's disturbing.
BLITZER: And in the heart of all of this, Pamela, is the Russia meddling in the U.S. presidential election investigation that seems to be going on and on and on with no end in sight.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is. And now, in a sense, it sort of hit the reset button in a sense because Robert Mueller is now overseeing the special probe as of just recently. And so, he's got to get in there and get his feet wet, and learn what's going on. Read documents, talk it agents. He's already gotten the ball rolling with that. In fact, he's been to the FBI. He's been briefed on James Comey's memos that he wrote after talking to President Trump.
But he has his work cut out for him. And just finally building alone to be able to look at classified information is a challenge in and of itself. So, all of these things he's been working on, he took a quick break today to speak at his granddaughter's high school graduation where he focused on the importance of integrity and honesty and you can imagine, we all know Robert Mueller, how he is, he's going to continue to roll of his sleeves, and keep his head down and try to do this as quickly as he can.
BLITZER: Let me ask Ron Brownstein. Where do you think this is all heading?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think we have a multiple investigations now. I mean, one thing about (AUDIO GAP) Pamela said, he is a dogged investigator. It's unclear whether he will give us beyond answering the question of whether crimes were committed and people should be indicted, whether he will give us a complete report at the end of his investigation and in this sense I think the work of a Senate intelligence committee is still important.
But I would just had that whatever was going on behind the curtain, all of these questions about Russian meddling in elections, I think we shouldn't overlook what happened directly in front of the curtain over the last several days in Europe where you had a breach opening between the U.S. and its top European allies in a way that we have not seen in a long time and also accords with one of the top foreign policy goals of Vladimir Putin which was to uproot the alliance from both ends.
So, in that sense, whatever Russia did or did not do in the 2016 election, we are seeing policy unfold in a way that is probably bringing more of a smile to Putin right now than it is to Merkel.
BLITZER: You know, and tomorrow is the deadline for the fired national security adviser General Flynn to submit documents to Congress. You know, he doesn't want to testify. He is pleading the Fifth. You think he's going to meet that deadline tomorrow?
SWERDLICK: At this point, I would be surprised, Wolf. I don't have that reporting, but I mean, this is going to center around now General Flynn and Jared Kushner and the fact that they were both at this meeting, apparently, according to our reporting with Ambassador Kislyak and I think more is going to unwind out of that as we get more details.
BLITZER: You know General Flynn, what do you think?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I couldn't agree more. I think David is right. I think we'll have to see where this ends and where it goes.
BLITZER: Yes, it's going to be intriguing week, I think. We're getting ready for it.
All right, guys. Everybody stand by.
Just ahead: North Korea's newest missile launch. They're too close for comfort for an U.S. ally.
And will laptops soon be banned from all international flights in and out of the United States? New hints from the head of the Homeland Security Department.
[18:52:44] BLITZER: New tonight: North Korea's Kim Jong-un pressing President Trump's buttons again by launching another provocative and dangerous missile test. This as Mr. Trump's defense secretary warns a full scale war with North Korea would be catastrophic.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, update our viewers on the latest.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight U.S. officials are telling me it may be time to stop calling these missile tests and call them what they are. North Korea firing off missiles in hopes of some day soon being able to attack the United States.
STARR (voice-over): North Korea fired its third ballistic missile in a little over two weeks. This time it travelled about 250 miles, splashing down off the coast of Japan near where ships and aircraft operate.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for concrete action.
SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTE (through translator): We can never tolerate that North Korea continued provocation, ignoring the repeated warning by the international community.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: North Korea is an increasingly grave national security threat to the United States because of its growing missile and nuclear capabilities combined with the aggressive approach of its leader, Kim Jong-un.
STARR: Every launch, nine so far this year, U.S. officials say is helping North Korea get closer to its ultimate goal.
COATS: Kim is attempting to prove that he has the capability to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon.
STARR: Tuesday, the Pentagon is scheduled to test fire a system like this, the first upgraded version of its interceptor missile to demonstrate it can shoot down an incoming ballistic missile. The program so far has had mixed success. For now, the Trump administration is hoping China can convince Kim Jong-un to back off. President Trump tweeting, North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor China by shooting off yet another ballistic missile. But China is trying hard.
If it comes to war, Defense Secretary James Mattis warns it would be the worst fighting in most people's lifetimes.
[18:55:00] JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capitol of South Korea. It would be a catastrophic war if this turns into combat.
STARR: A key question for China: Would Trump order military action?
GRAHAM ALLISON, DIRECTOR, BELFER CENTER FOR SCIENCE & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Well, it's a fascinating question, I think -- I know a number of people who work closely with Trump. And I know certainly people who work with Xi. And I don't know if any of them know the answer. I'm not sure if Trump knows the answer.
STARR: And one of the big questions tonight, what if North Korea were simply to declare it had a missile that could attack the U.S., would the U.S. even know if that claim is true or not? Wolf?
BLITZER: It's a good point. Barbara Starr reporting for us from the Pentagon, thank you.
And now to the rising fears that terrorists are plotting to blow up planes with bombs hidden in electronic devices. The head of the Homeland Security Department signaling a dramatic new expansion in security may be coming.
Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is joining us with the very latest.
Rene, what are you learning?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, we reported a bit on the plans to expand this ban to Europe. But now, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says it may even expand to the United States, impacting millions of U.S. travelers. The U.S. government thinks this may be necessary, because intelligence suggests terrorists want to use electronics to conceal and detonate explosives.
MARSH (voice-over): Sophisticated threat towards commercial aviation is fueling new proposed restrictions on what electronic passengers can take into the cabin of aircraft.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says terror groups are obsessed with blowing up commercial passenger planes, preferably a U.S. carrier bound for the United States.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Are you going to ban laptops from the cabin on all international flights both into and out of the U.S.?
JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I might.
MARSH: Kelly first told CNN on Friday why he thinks expanding the laptop ban is necessary.
(on camera): Some of the stakeholders who you've met with say that you've hinted this ban could even happen right here on U.S. soil. Is that true or did they misread you?
KELLY: No, they didn't misread me. I would tell you that the threats against passenger aviation worldwide are constant.
MARSH (voice-over): A U.S. based ban would restrict electronics larger than a cell phone in the cabin, those includes iPads, e-readers and laptops. It would be the most extreme step taken to protect aviation from a terror attack since September 11th.
This weekend, Kelly said chilling intelligence is pushing him to expand the ban.
KELLY: There's a real threat. Numerous threats against aviation, that's -- that's really the thing they're obsessed with.
MARSH: The laptop ban is currently in place at 10 airports in eight Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. All electronics larger than a cell phone have to be in checked luggage on those flights.
In the meantime, another new security measure is now in place at 10 U.S. airports. Electronics larger than a cell phone must be taken out of carry one luggage to be screened separately. Kelly says that too will likely expand nationwide.
KELLY: The TSA people looking at those bags can't see exactly what's in the bags. So, now, because they're stuffed so full.
MARSH: While Kelly makes clear, more new restrictions and new screening measures are on the way, he's less clear on when those would happen.
MARSH: Despite the dire warnings from Secretary Kelly, deliberations on the expansion of this ban has spanned several weeks. One U.S. official tells me that the lengthy deliberation is partly due to Kelly's desire to consider the full impact of this ban. The airline industry says that it drives $1.5 trillion in economic activity in the United States. So, of course, looking at how this ban could impact that, Wolf, as well as another source saying that they are looking at the science behind this whole thing. What does it mean to have all these batteries in the belly of the plan?
BLITZER: You could tell just from his body language how worried the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly is right now.
Good reporting. Thanks very much for that, Rene Marsh.
Finally tonight, some good news, our SITUATION ROOM family continues to grow. Our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty and her husband Alexis, they've welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Roosevelt Jolie (ph). We're told she was named in honor of Rose Park, where her parents first met and were married. Roosevelt is a healthy eight pounds one ounce. Her mom was doing well.
We're also excited and happy for them. We sent them our best wishes. Good news indeed.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for joining us on this special Memorial Day.