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Russia Probe Hangs Over Trump's High-Stakes Asia Trip; Trump, Sessions Deny Knowing About Russia Contacts; Sources: Kushner Turns Over Documents to Special Counsel; Trump "Disappointed" Justice Department Isn't Investigating Dems; Latest Weinstein Allegation Could Lead To Arrest; North Korea Accuses U.S. Of Practicing Nuclear Sneak Attack. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 3, 2017 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: -- 9 a.m. and again at noon. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Have a great weekend.

[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, distract and attack. President Trump attacks the Justice Department, the FBI and the U.S. military in an epic tweet storm as he departs on a 12-day trip to Asia.

As the Russia probe advances with its first indictments and raises new questions about the Trump campaign's possible collusion, is the president working overtime to distract?

"I don't remember much." President Trump says he can't remember much about a campaign meeting where his foreign policy adviser suggested he meet with Russia's Vladimir Putin. A week after claiming he was one of the great memories of all time, is President Trump choosing to forget?

The only one. Asked if he's worried about the State Department having too many unfilled senior positions, the president insists in a new interview that he doesn't need all those people saying -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I'm the only one that matters."

And nuclear tensions. American bombers stage a show of force ahead of the president's visit to the Korean Peninsula. North Korea calls it a surprise nuclear strike drill. Could Kim Jong-un respond with a nuclear or missile test while the president is in the region?

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

President Trump sets off on a crucial 12-day trip to Asia, a five- nation swing that comes amid growing concerns and growing rhetoric about a possible war with nuclear-armed North Korea.

But hanging over the president's high-stakes tips, the investigation into Russia's election meddling and ties to his campaign. Before leaving today, the president said he doesn't remember much about a March 2016 campaign meeting with foreign policy advisers, including George Papadopoulos, who's pleaded guilty to lying about Russia ties and is now cooperating with the FBI. But court documents show that at that meeting, Papadopoulos said his

connections could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another participant says candidate Trump did not rule out a Putin meeting. With Attorney General Sessions also having an apparent bout of amnesia on the subject of Russia, the campaign. And indicted former campaign chairman Paul Manafort now facing a tentative trial date this spring, the president may be trying to distract from his mounting troubles by going on the attack.

And in a barrage of tweets and comments, he denied any collusion, calling the investigation a disgrace. And he attacked his own Justice Department and the FBI, asking why aren't they going after Hillary Clinton?

I'll speak with Congressman Eric Swalwell of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're standing by with full coverage.

As the president sets out on his critical Asia trip, he's heading first to Honolulu. CNN's Ryan Nobles is already there.

Ryan, the president seems to be focused today more on the Russia investigation than he is on Asia.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does seem that way, Wolf, and the president is scheduled to touch down here in Hawaii in about two hours. This is the first leg of the longest trip of his presidency and the longest trip by any president to the Asia-Pacific region since the George H.W. Bush region.

And despite what his Twitter feed is telling us today, it also offers the president an opportunity to escape from some of the controversies he's dealing with in Washington.


NOBLES (voice-over): President Trump took off from Washington today for the longest trip of his presidency. And quickly got right back to tweeting. Writing, "Bernie Sanders supporters have every right to be apoplectic of the complete theft of the Dem primary by Crooked Hillary."

Then, "I always felt I would be running and winning against Bernie Sanders, not Crooked H, without cheating. I was right."

Trump did tweet about his Asia trip but then returned to attacking the media for not focusing enough on the Democrats in 2016. Before taking off, Mr. Trump promising the trip will be productive.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be enlisting the help of a lot of people and countries. We'll see what happens, but I think we're going to have a very successful trip. There's a lot of good will. NOBLES: But his efforts abroad continue to be overshadowed by issues

at home. The special counsel investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia has now netted a plea deal and two arrests, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

And the president, who as late as last week bragged about his impressive memory...

TRUMP: One of the great memories of all time.

NOBLES: ... claims he does not remember a meeting with former adviser George Papadopoulos, who recently pled guilty to lying to the FBI as part of the special counsel probe.

TRUMP: I don't remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting. It took place a long time -- I don't remember much about it.

NOBLES: The president quickly changed the subject.

TRUMP: There was no collusion. There was no nothing. It's a disgrace, frankly, that they continue.

You ought to look at Hillary Clinton, and you ought to look at the new book that was just put out by Donna Brazile, where she basically bought the DNC and she stole the election from Bernie. So that's what you ought to take a look at.

NOBLES: And he told reporters that he wishes he had more control over the Justice Department, which is overseeing the special counsel investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia.

TRUMP: You know, the saddest thing is that because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing, and I'm very frustrated by it.

I look what's happening with the Justice Department. Well, why aren't they going after Hillary Clinton with her e-mails?

NOBLES: And as the president makes his way to Asia with so much in front of him, he made it clear he sees himself as the one in charge.

TRUMP: Let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I'm the only one that matters.


NOBLES: And this is a working layover for the president. Shortly after he lands, he'll receive a briefing from his Pacific Command, and then later this evening he will tour the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor. He'll spend the night here in Honolulu, and then he'll be wheels up for Tokyo tomorrow morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thank you. Ryan Nobles on the scene for us in Honolulu.

Suddenly this week, the Russia investigation has produced real results: a pair of indictments, a bombshell guilty plea and now witness accounts suggesting that candidate Donald Trump was well aware of his campaign's Russia ties.

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider. We're seeing some amnesia from the president; from the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as well.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Wolf. President Trump reiterated his refrain that he doesn't recall when he was asked about the March 2016 meeting where George Papadopoulos proposed that then-candidate Trump meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president saying today, "I don't remember that much about that meeting."

And we've yet to see Attorney General Jeff Sessions address the issue since he was at the meeting, too, and now Democrats are accusing Jeff Sessions of everything from problems telling the truth to perjury.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the president remains defiant amid mounting evidence that he knew about his campaign advisers' connections to Russia.

TRUMP: There was no collusion. There was no nothing.

SCHNEIDER: In February of this year, he pleaded total ignorance.

(on camera): Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

TRUMP: Well, I told you, General Flynn obviously was dealing. So that's one person, but he was dealing, as he should have been.

SCHNEIDER: During the election?

TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of.

SCHNEIDER: So you're not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?

TRUMP: Look -- look, how many times do I have to answer this question?

SCHNEIDER: Can you just say yes or no on it?

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does. Now, Manafort has totally denied it.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates remain under House arrest. The indictment against them was unsealed Monday for money laundering and failing to register as foreign agents. Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which stem from their work as lobbyists for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party and was not explicitly related to their work during the campaign.

And now Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also coming under increasing fire for answers he gave at several congressional hearings over the past year.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You don't believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians, is that what you're saying?

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not, and I'm not aware of anyone else that did. And I don't believe it happened.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think it's not that he has a problem with the truth. I think it's easier to say that he's perjured himself at least three time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bit of background...

SCHNEIDER: The accusations from Democrats come after revelations from former campaign foreign policy advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Carter Page telling CNN that he told congressional investigators he mentioned to Sessions a trip he planned to take to Russia at the height of the campaign.

And in a March 2016 meeting where Papadopoulos sat in between then- candidate Trump and Jeff Sessions, court documents show Papadopoulos told the group he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.

Campaign adviser J.D. Gordon, sitting next to Papadopoulos, tells CNN Donald Trump heard him out, but then-Senator Sessions, who is a top campaign surrogate, shot down the idea of a meeting with Putin, a source tells CNN.

GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: The next president will have to fashion a strategy in keeping with America's traditions.

SCHNEIDER: This is video of Papadopoulos speaking at an event unrelated to the campaign in 2016. President Trump has downplayed his role, calling him a low-level volunteer and a liar.

But Papadopoulos' disclosures to the FBI as part of his guilty plea for lying about his contacts with Russians during the campaign are already affecting the administration.

TRUMP: ... and a terrific guy.

SCHNEIDER: Sam Clovis was the president's pick for chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture, but he withdrew after court documents revealed e-mails between Papadopoulos and a campaign supervisor whom the "Washington Post" identified as Clovis. [17:10:02] The court papers show Papadopoulos contacted Clovis, who

was then the campaign co-chair, about a potential trip to Russia to meet with Russian officials. Clovis wrote, "I would encourage you to make the trip if feasible."

In a statement sent to the president, Clovis said he was withdrawing from the USDA post because he didn't want to be a distraction, writing, "The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position."


SCHNEIDER: And we've learned tonight that the trial in the Paul Manafort and Rick Gates case, it won't happen until May 2018 at the earliest. That's because of the judge's schedule.

Prosecutors say it will take at least three weeks for them to lay out their case. That will push the case into the summer, keeping Russia in the spotlight as the midterm congressional races heat up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you. Jessica Schneider reporting.

Joining us now, a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me back, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So you just heard President Trump in February, this past February, deny any Russia connections at all with his campaign staff, but based on everything you've learned, was President Trump's answer in February honest?

SWALWELL: No. No. And all of his answers on Russia have been dishonest. At first this started with "I've never done business in Russia, never sought to do business in Russia, didn't know anybody in Russia." And now it's, "Well, we tried to do the Trump Tower. Of course, you'd want to do that. We sought to receive the dirt on Hillary. Of course, that's what you do in politics. And, you know, it didn't amount to collusion."

But I think, you know, the goal line keeps moving on this; and that's because of press reporting and, you know, an aggressive congressional investigation.

BLITZER: One of his advisers during the campaign, Carter Page, he testified before your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, yesterday. He told the attorney general -- he said he told the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, about his trip to Russia back in -- during the 2016 presidential campaign. Sessions doesn't seem to remember any of this.

Do you believe that some of your Democratic colleagues on the committee believe that Sessions is committing perjury? SWALWELL: Well, I think we should bring Sessions in and interview

him, and I also believe the House Judiciary Committee should do that, as well. He has clearly not been forthcoming about his contacts with Russia.

But when I step back. it's not just Jeff Sessions, Wolf. There is now a pattern here when you read the Papadopoulos guilty stipulation, of facts that people from Donald Trump to Don Jr. to Peter Smith, who was acting on Michael Flynn's behalf, to Cambridge Analytica reaching out to Julian Assange, were all seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton. We now, I think, have shown a deep, deep eagerness and willingness to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians.

BLITZER: Just before leaving the White House this morning, before boarding Marine One, he had a little Q&A with reporters. I want you to listen carefully. The audio may not be great with the question. I'll read the question. This is what the president was asked specifically: "Would you fire Jeff Sessions if the Justice Department doesn't take action against Hillary Clinton?"

So listen to the question and listen to the president's answer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you fire Jeff Sessions if the Justice Department doesn't take action against Hillary Clinton?

TRUMP: I don't know. I'm really not involved with the Justice Department. I'd like to let it run itself, but, honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things. And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.


BLITZER: Were you surprised that the president of the United States is asked specifically, would you fire Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, if the Justice Department doesn't take action against Hillary Clinton? The president responds, "I don't know."

SWALWELL: Well, he's already shown that he is involved with the Justice Department. He fired the director of the FBI, who was investigating his campaign.

And now as far as Jeff Sessions, I believe that Jeff Sessions can no longer serve as attorney general. I think he's lost the credibility that the top law enforcement officer should have. But it doesn't work the way the president wants, which is that you sic your Justice Department lawyers on your political enemies.

BLITZER: You want the attorney general to resign?

SWALWELL: Yes. Yes, I think -- I think he needs to have the confidence of the president, regardless of who the president is. And also he's the top law enforcement officer. His name is at the top, you know, of every indictment, you know, that you know, is read to a jury in America. And if he has a credibility issue, that's not good for the United States.

BLITZER: Bob Corker, the Republican senator from Tennessee, who's been critical of the president, just issued a statement about what the president's been saying about the Justice Department and the FBI.

Listen to what Corker says. Remember, he's a Republican. "Like me, most Americans hope that our justice system is independent and free of political interference. President Trump's pressuring of the Justice Department and FBI to pursue cases against his adversaries and calling for punishment before trials take place are totally inappropriate and not only undermine our justice system but erode the American people's confidence in our institutions."

Your reaction?

[17:15:07] SWALWELL: I agree. And it's not just having the Justice Department go after his enemies. He also sought to have the Justice Department protect his friends. As Director Comey testified, the president asked him if he could essentially make the case against Michael Flynn go away.

BLITZER: The president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, we now know -- we reported this -- that he has provided documents to the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Do you believe that Kushner himself could be in some sort of legal jeopardy?

SWALWELL: I believe that there are a lot of questions around what role Jared Kushner played in the firing of James Comey, but also what role he played in trying to seek dirt on Hillary Clinton.

We know that he was in the June 9 meeting. He's given, I think, a very questionable public statement about his role in that meeting, and we are interviewing witnesses, Wolf, around his participation in that meeting. I hope that we can report to the American people and that Bob Mueller will ultimately find out what he did.

BLITZER: I want to get you to explain something that happened on Sunday. You tweeted on Sunday, the night before the indictments actually were announced against Manafort and Gates, you retweeted a "Washington Post" story about how the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said he thinks Putin pays Trump, and you added, quote, "just bumping this back to the top."

Manafort, of course, has been charged with money laundering. Are you hinting that there is some sort of bombshell in the works right now that could involve the president's own finances?

SWALWELL: What I'm hinting at is that last year Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy were joking; and it has now been reported out, and a transcript has been provided that Putin -- that Donald Trump is on Putin's payroll. And I, you know, tweeted that out just to show that our Republican leadership knew before Donald Trump was elected that there were questions about Donald Trump's involvement with Russia and, to this date, they have done nothing in Congress to investigate that. They have looked the other way.

Paul Ryan has allowed our chairman, Devin Nunes, who recused himself in the investigation, to continue to be disruptive. And also, Wolf, I have sought with other Republicans to have an independent investigation, just as we did after September 11th, and that has gone nowhere. I think they knew and continue to do nothing about these questionable ties.

BLITZER: But are you suspicious that there might be some bombshell in the president's own finances?

SWALWELL: I think that we need to see the president's tax returns, which he will not show us and that Paul Ryan has continually prevented from coming up to a vote to show us his tax returns.

So again, that's, I think, just to show that Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy knew. They expressed concern that Trump was on Putin's payroll. And today, they still do nothing about it.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, you don't have any evidence of that?

SWALWELL: There's a lot of evidence that he was in contact with Russians. He sought to do deals in Russia and that Russia has invested in him. And we know, not disputed, Russia interfered in our campaign.

BLITZER: All right. Let me leave it on that. But there's other news we need to cover. I want you to stand by if you can, Congressman. We've got to take a quick break. We're resuming our special coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Our top story, President Trump, he's due to land shortly in Honolulu as he embarks on a very important 12-day Asia trip, but that trip is certainly being clouded by developments in the Russia investigation.

We're back with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of the House Intelligence Committee.

Last night as you know, the president's Twitter account went down for 11 minutes. A lot of people were joking about it. You were joking. You put out a tweet, "Trump's Twitter went down, yay or nyet." Very cute. A lot of people voting yay. A lot of people voting "nyet."

But this is potentially a very serious national security issue if somebody can simply delete his account or, in his name, put out information that may be totally false. It could cause panic.

SWALWELL: Yes, and hopefully Twitter, you know, addresses this. I think there are a lot of people who had 11 minutes, you know, of relief when it was down, but it is the president of the United States. He has acknowledged that his Twitter is an official statement, and so, you know, that's a security issue that needs to be addressed.

BLITZER: Is Twitter doing enough? I ask the question because Silicon Valley's in your district, right?

SWALWELL: Yes. In our backyard.

BLITZER: So you deal with all those tech companies. Is Twitter doing enough? Are the other tech companies doing enough to make sure there aren't national security threats that arise? All of these guys were appearing before Congress this week.

We had a hearing this week with Twitter, Google and Facebook and a couple of things came out of that, Wolf. One, I asked, "Can you assure us that you know the full extent that the Russians used your platforms to interfere in the election?" And each of them said no. They're still undertaking that examination. So I don't think we can say today fully what the Russians did.

Two, I said, "Do you agree that, now that we know they will weaponize social media, do you agree that you have a duty to report to the FBI if you see interference occurring?" And they agreed.

But also, Wolf, something that was so surprising was that Russia not only interfered in our campaigns, they actually made money off of it. They posted 1,100 videos on YouTube for about 40 hours of content, and under an ad-sharing program that they had with Google, they received money on return for the ads that Google was able to run on those interference posts. It's just insult to injury, I guess.

BLITZER: Yes. Millions and millions of Americans were watching those videos and watching all the ads and seeing so much that was going on. A very disturbing development indeed. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Eric Swalwell of California.

[17:25:03] Coming up, President Trump slams his own Justice Department for not going after his political foes. That's just earned him a stinging rebuke from a Republican senator.

And a police source says the first criminal charges may be coming in the investigation of sexual assault allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: President Trump will be arriving in Hawaii in a little more than an hour or so from now; his first stop as he heads off on a 12-day trip to Asia. The president spoke with reporters just before leaving the White House and has been weighing in via Twitter on the week's most controversial political news. Let's bring in our specialist to discuss. And Jeffrey Toobin, I want to play for you what the president said just before leaving Washington, his disappointment with his own Justice Department for not focusing in, for not investigating the Democrats. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm really not involved with the Justice Department. I'd like to let it run itself, but, honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things. And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.


BLITZER: And, Jeffrey, he also tweeted this. I'll read it. "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department and the FBI isn't looking into all of the dishonesty going on with crooked Hillary and the Dems. New Donna B. (Donna Brazile) book says, she paid for and stole the Democratic primary. What about the deleted e-mails? Uranium, Podesta, the server, plus, people are angry. At some point, the Justice Department and the FBI must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it. Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats led by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, who rigged the primaries. Let's go FBI and Justice Department." Pocahontas, he says, is Senator Elizabeth Warren. Is the president testing the independence of the American judicial system right now?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, think everybody understands when a new president comes in the office, he has the right to change policies -- because that's why we have elections. But what he doesn't have a right to is change the norms, the rules that govern all presidents. Ever since Richard Nixon used the Justice Department and the IRS to target his political enemies, there have been rules in effect that say: The Justice Department is off limits in terms of individual investigations.

What the president is doing here is so completely contrary to the last several decades, Democrats and Republicans alike. The rules that presidents have followed. And it really is a sinister, sinister development. Notwithstanding the president saying, you know, he's not really telling the Justice Department what to do. Of course, he's telling the Justice Department what to do. And it's precisely what he's not supposed to be doing.

BLITZER: Not just the Justice Department, but the FBI as well. And one of the -- he was also asked in that little informal Q&A, he said would you fire Jeff Sessions if the Justice Department doesn't take action against Hillary Clinton? And his initial response, the president, "I don't know." How much trouble is the attorney general in right now and what would happen if the president were to fire him?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, he's been in trouble for months. I mean, he almost fired him a couple of months ago. His job has been hanging by a thread. What would happen is that the Republican Party, as it has throughout Donald Trump's presidency, with one or two exceptions who are not running for re-election, they'd say, well, that's his right to fire him and they'd confirm his successor? I mean, I think that's very likely what would happen if he fires Jeff Sessions.

BLITZER: Let me get Nia to weigh in as well. If he were to do that, there would be an uproar.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I'm not sure there would be. I mean, I think, you would think that Republicans might raise some red flags about this and it would trigger a constitutional crisis and all of those sorts of phrases, but I think Jeffrey is right. So far, we've seen Republicans essentially go to bat for this president, be in his corner, defend him by and large. So, we will see. I mean, you did have -- when he was thinking about firing Jeff Sessions, you did have people in the White House, particularly conservatives, right?

And Jeff Sessions' conservative allies saying it wouldn't be a good look for him to fire Jeff Sessions, because of Jeff Sessions' standing among conservatives. But, you know, I mean, he obviously hasn't liked this attorney general. Hasn't liked the fact that he has recused himself from the Russia investigation. So, it's anybody's guess as to what this president would do and what the reaction would be.

BLITZER: It's not exactly a vote of confidence the president is expressing in his own attorney general when he says I don't know if he would fire the attorney general if he didn't take action against Hillary Clinton. But, Brianna, what is the president's strategy right now?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think he sees some low-hanging fruit so why not grab it? He's had this terrible week when it comes to Russia. It would be political malpractice if he wasn't focusing, I think, when it comes to the Democrats, now he calls for the FBI to get involved, that's obviously going very far -- although, not unusual for the president.

And the reason this was such a bad week for the White House and for President Trump is this official line coming from White House where they say, look, this has nothing to do with the campaign. I mean, that's just not true. We'd look at what George Papadopoulos said, this recommendation for then Donald Trump to meet with Vladimir Putin turns out it was rebuffed this idea by who? Jeff Sessions.

[17:35:18] Carter Page, this week, a Foreign Policy Adviser to the campaign, testified that he told Jeff Sessions he was going to Russia. So now, you have Jeff Sessions clearly not being forthcoming when he spoke to Congress multiple times in the past about what he knew, about these Russia connections and that's really bad for the White House.

And this line with Donna Brazile's book has just been handed to the president on a silver platter. So, why wouldn't he do this? You know, Donna Brazile and her allegations are really just playing right into this thing that he has said all along, that the primaries were rigged. So, why wouldn't he take advantage of it?

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, it doesn't help him, right? I mean, he doesn't help him get out of hot water with Bob Mueller. It doesn't impact that investigation at all. But, yes, I mean, it's sort of -- you heard him talk about this incessantly during the campaign. And so, he's speaking out --

KEILAR: Trying to draw an equivalency.


BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Can I just draw a distinction here? I think it is entirely appropriate for the president to take advantage of what Donna Brazile said and sow discord among Democrats -- and that's what politicians do and there is certainly nothing wrong with it. What's different is when he threatens to put his opponents in jail.


TOOBIN: That's what he's doing. That is something that happens in authoritarian countries, not in democracies like the United States.

KEILAR: And, and --

TOOBIN: And we shouldn't just normalize it and say, well, you know, he's threatening to sic the FBI on his political opponents. I mean, is that the United States? I mean, we really need to --

KEILAR: No, that is --

TOOBIN: -- you know, to talk about distinctions here.

KEILAR: That is a key point. And you'll remember during that debate when Donald Trump said something to that effect about what he would want to do with Hillary Clinton and it was a huge uproar over that, and then after he was elected, he backpaddled on that, didn't he? And here he is right --

BLITZER: Right after the election.

KEILAR: -- you know, it should not be normalized. That is absolutely --

HENDERSON: I think what will be interesting to watch is the House and the Senate, particularly conservatives in the House, so they sort of pick up some of these talking points? Do they sort of pick up and try to launch investigations in terms of Hillary Clinton, uranium, any of these issues? And we've seen some of that happen already and I imagine we'll start to see more of it.

BLITZER: Well, who's supposed to hold the president accountable, Jeffrey, when he says these things about the Justice Department or the FBI or the U.S. Military Justice System for that matter? Senator Corker, the Republican from Tennessee, right now he seems like the only lone Republican voice who came out with a very strong statement saying the president should not be talking like this.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, I think -- you know, the news media has a responsibility to call attention to how different this is from other -- how other presidents behave. Members of Congress are going to have to live with this for the rest of their careers, about how they reacted to this complete departure from the norms of presidential behavior. But, you know, it's not our job to tell Congress what to do, but, you know, the fact is we have a president who is threatening to put his political opponents in jail, and that is just not something that has happened historically in the United States.

BLITZER: Because you make a good point that during the campaign, at his rallies, we would often hear the chant: "lock her up, lock her up."


BLITZER: But right after the election he said, you know what, it's time to move on.

HENDERSON: Yes. And sort of they've heard enough. I think he was talking about the Clintons and he wanted to move on from that. Some conservatives, particularly, you know, from the far-right upset that he was sort of backing off of that. So, here he is again. This is his go-to, you know, kind of move when it comes to Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, standby.

TOOBIN: By the way, can we just -- can we just point out that calling Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas, is racist and appalling?

HENDERSON: And horrible.

TOOBIN: And just not something that should be part of American political discourse?

BLITZER: He's been doing that for a long time and he's not going to stop anytime soon. Everybody stand by. There is more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:39:11] A New York police source says the latest sexual assault allegations against movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, could lead to charges and his arrest. We have details when we come back.


BLITZER: We're getting breaking news from New York where a police source now says the first criminal charges may be coming in the investigation of sexual assault allegations against the movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein. Let's go straight to our National Correspondent Brynn Gingras. Brynn, what are you learning?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, over the past month, the NYPD special victim's unit fielded dozens of calls from women making accusations against Harvey Weinstein. They've traveled as far as Canada to investigate, but then a report came in last week from actress Paz de la Huerta. And that was a game-changer according to my source close to the investigation. Now, the reason for that, her account fits within the statute of limitations and she has evidence of a detailed account of really what happened to her, according to my source.

Now, I spoke to de la Huerta last night on the phone. She told me Weinstein raped her on two separate occasions in her New York City apartment in late 2010. She said, after the first time, she froze, she even had a nervous breakdown. After the second alleged sexual assault, she said, she told him no in every way imaginable. Now, de la Huerta told me she finally came forward to authorities because of the support from all of these other alleged victims we've been hearing about. Weinstein's lawyers maintain rape allegations against the movie mogul are false.

[17:45:12] Now, Wolf, where does this case stand right now? According to my NYPD source, it's in the hands of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Their office told us it's investigating. Police say, though, right now, they're building their case.


ROBERT BOYCE, CHIEF OF DETECTIVES, NYPD: In order to go arrest Mr. Weinstein, we would need an arrest warrant. So, that requires a court order. So, we want to get our evidence first before we go out and do something like that.


GINGRAS: And actually, de la Huerta me, she has been helping investigators collect evidence, including evidence from people she previously told about the instance to help corroborate her story. I asked de la Huerta what she'd like to see happen to Weinstein.


PAS DE LA HUERTA, AMERICAN ACTRESS: He's done it to many other women. And, you know, he's gotten away way with it for too many years. It would be nice to imagine that justice exists.


GINGRAS: Now, in the meantime, the NYPD is still investigating other allegations as well. Earlier this week, I reported that they have one other open case against Weinstein. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brynn Gingras reporting for us. All right. We'll stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much.

Coming up, North Korea accuses the United States of practicing for a nuclear sneak attack. As President Trump heads to the Korean Peninsula, tensions rarely have been higher. So, what could next week's visit bring?


[17:51:18] BLITZER: North Korea's lashing out at the United States and South Korea. It's angry because U.S. B-1 Bombers and other fighter jets flew off the Korean Peninsula this week. The Pentagon insists it was just a long-planned military exercise. Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. Brian, the president will be in South Korea next week. Tensions have rarely been higher. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they were in this battle in a

long time, but, of course, it's bringing more anxiety now because President Trump is about to touch down in Asia. He'll be right near Kim Jong-un's turf. And tonight, military and intelligence officials are bracing for a possible provocation from Kim while the president is there.


TODD: American B-1 Bombers along with South Korean and Japanese fighter jets fly near the Korean Peninsula. These are the weapons that experts say would play key roles in any strikes on North Korea. These maneuvers bring a swift brush back from Kim Jong-un's regime.

The dictator's news agency saying, "the gangster-like U.S. imperialist are staging a surprise nuclear strike drill targeting North Korea." It comes as President Trump heads towards Kim's turf, embarking on a multi-nation trip to Asia. Where analysts say, one country, one major security threat will likely consume his meetings with other leaders.

TRUMP: We'll be talking about, obviously, North Korea.

TODD: Tonight, military commands and intelligence agencies from Washington to Pyongyang are jittery because of so many potential provocations coming so close to the president's trip.

LAURA ROSENBERGER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NSC FOR CHINA AND KOREA Tensions are definitely at one of the higher points that we have seen.

TODD: According to South Korean lawmakers, brief by that country's intelligence agency, another North Korean missile test could be imminent because they've sighted movement of vehicles around a missile research facility in Pyongyang. Kim's regime has launched 22 missile tests this year. Recently threatened the U.S. territory of Guam; conducted one of the largest hydrogen bomb tests in modern history, and threatened another. A U.S. official tells CNN, North Korea's working on an advanced version of the KN20, a long-range missile that could reach the U.S. with a nuclear warhead. A key question tonight: will Kim test Trump while the president is next door?

ROSENBERGER: I think there's a good possibility that we could see some kind of either missile launch or nuclear test while Trump is there. In a way that allows Kim to remain the focus of attention, to show that he's not intimidated.

TODD: Tensions are at a boil also because the two men have fired personal broadsides at each other recently.

TRUMP: Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself.

TODD: Kim responded by calling Trump mentally deranged. A high-level North Korean defector told us when Kim is insulted personally, he feels his hand is forced.

THAE YONG-HO, FORMER DEPUTY AMBASSADOR, NORTH KOREA U.K. EMBASSY: Kim Jong-un has to respond because he wants to continue to be shown or depicted as the supreme leader and gold of North Korean society.


TODD: Asked if President Trump was going to tone down his language on Kim while he's in Asia, National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, said, "The president will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously." But McMaster said, what's really inflammatory is the way North Korea is threatening the world and said there would be a grave danger if Kim Jong-un regime did not understand the president's resolve. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian, of course, this comes as North Korea keeps accelerating its nuclear and missile program. What's the latest assessment you're hearing from U.S. officials on Kim Jong-un's ability to strike the continental United States?

TODD: Wolf, U.S. officials believe that sometime next year, Kim's regime could be able to put a miniaturized nuclear warhead on long- range missile capable of hitting the U.S. That may require more testing (INAUDIBLE), but once he does, that, Wolf, the security's equation here is going to change drastically.

[17:55:09] BLITZER: Yes, it certainly will. All right. Brian, thanks very much for that report.

Coming up, after boasting about his memory, President Trump develops a sudden case of amnesia when asked about a campaign meeting where his foreign policy advisor suggested he meets with Russia's Vladimir Putin.


TRUMP: No hesitation. One of the great memories of all time. I don't remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting that took place a long time. I don't remember much about it.



[18:00:00] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, lashing out. President Trump in the air and on the attack as he heads towards Asia, with lots of baggage from the Russia investigation. Did this any way to start a trip with huge implications for America's security.