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Washington Post: Trump Slams Immigrants from '****hole Countries'; Trump Claims 'Very Good Relationship' with Kim Jong-un. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 11, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


TAPPER: I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be on Seth Myers tonight if you stay up late. Thanks so much.

[17:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. "Good relationship." President Trump drops a new bombshell, telling "The Wall Street Journal" he probably has a, quote, "very good relationship" with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. That comes just a week after he taunted Kim Jong-un about his nuclear button.

And breaking right now, another bombshell remark from the president slamming immigrants, certain immigrants.

Causing chaos. President Trump spreads chaos in Washington after tweeting his opposition to a key intelligence act that his administration supports. After urgent consultations, the president sent out another contradictory tweet. The White House sees no cause for confusion.

Encouraging silence. Multiple sources now say President Trump's allies are strongly urging him not to talk to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, saying he could risk his presidency.

Meantime, the top House Intelligence Democrat says he wants to interview the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump.

And "a long way to go." A Republican senator announces a bipartisan immigration deal covering the young DREAMers, but the White House says there's a long way to go. And a key Democrat says President Trump personally rejected the compromise.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, in a stunning new interview, President Trump claims he has a very good relationship with North Korea's Kim Jong-un who he's previously called "Little Rocket Man" and taunted him over his nuclear button. Speaking to the "Wall Street Journal" today, the president wouldn't say if he's actually spoken to the North Korean leader.

Also, President Trump sows confusion and chaos with a pair of early- morning tweets, but the White House tonight is shrugging it all off. First the president broke completely with his own administration's policy by attacking key intelligence legislation, suggesting it has been used for surveillance against his campaign. That set off a mad scramble up on Capitol Hill.

Then, after intervention by the House speaker, Paul Ryan, the president sent out another tweet supporting the Foreign Intelligence surveillance Act, or FISA. The House then voted to renew the act. The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, says -- I'm quoting her now -- "We don't see any contradiction.

But there's more confusion tonight over an agreement on immigration. Republican Senator Jeff Flake says a bipartisan group has reached a deal covering the so-called DREAMers, the young immigrants brought to the United States as children. But the White House says there's no agreement with one official saying, quote, "There's a long way to go." Democratic Senator Dick Durbin says President Trump personally rejected the bipartisan deal.

And CNN is now learning from multiple sources that President Trump's allies are warning him not to talk to the Russia probe's special counsel, Robert Mueller, fearing he could put himself and his presidency in jeopardy if he does so.

I'll speak with Senator Ben Cardin. He's the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're all standing by with full coverage.

Let's start with that stunning new interview. President Trump claims a very good relationship with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. That's the nuclear armed foe he's called, among many other words, "Little Rocket Man." And now there's an incredible report in "The Washington Post" about a very, very incendiary comment the president reportedly said to lawmakers today.

First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, bring us up to date on all the breaking news.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of whiplash over here at the White House today and, of course, much of it caused by the president himself, according to participants in a meeting who were with the president earlier today here at the White House, talking about this issue of immigration, trying to solve this issue of what to do with the 700,000 DREAMers that are still here in the country.

Apparently, the president made some extremely offensive remarks about other countries like Haiti and African countries -- countries in Africa, sending migrants to the United States. We can put this up on screen and explain this to you.

During this exchange that the president had with a group of lawmakers, meeting with him over at the White House, remember, this was behind closed doors. This was not on the White House schedule. The president said, "Why are we having all these people from" -- and I apologize for using this word here, but this is a quote from the president -- "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump said -- this is in "The Washington Post," according to these people who were in the meeting -- referring to African countries and Haiti.

[17:05:05] He then suggested that the United States go about bringing in people from other countries. He said "should, instead, bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met with yesterday."

Wolf, obviously this is going to just, I think, rock and send shockwaves across much of the world as this immigration debate rages on here in Washington. Apparently, behind closed doors with a group of lawmakers, bipartisan lawmakers, by the way. Lindsey Graham was apparently at this meeting, senator from South Carolina, Dick Durbin, the senator from Illinois who has been very focused on this DREAMer issue. A number of other lawmakers were also in this meeting.

Again, this was behind closed doors. This was not on the president's schedule. This was unlike that remarkable meeting that we saw with the White House a couple of days ago, in which the president was right there behind closed doors -- excuse me, in front of the cameras, I should say, meeting with lawmakers and talking about just trying to figure out a way to protect those DREAMers from deportation. This meeting behind closed doored in which the president referred to countries like Haiti and countries in Africa as a "shithole."

That is not the kind of language that you would expect to, you know, come out of president of the United States; and it's obviously going to cause a lot of damage to this immigration debate, as there are many, many people concerned whether or not White House and members of Congress actually can come together to some kind of deal to protect those DREAMers from deportation.

We should note, Wolf, in reference to those countries like Haiti and so on, it's a slightly different matter than the DREAMer issue. In recent months, when it comes to Haiti, when it comes to El Salvador, the Trump administration has been removing the temporary protection status for migrants coming from various countries. People have been coming from Haiti as a result of natural disasters in that country over the last several years and also from El Salvador. The administration removed that TPS, that temporary protection status, from those countries. And that came up in the context of this conversation that was going on behind closed doors here at the White House, and apparently, according to "The Washington Post," that is when the president made that remark.

And so, obviously, you know, that kind of language is just going to cause damage over here at the White House to -- with an issue that has already been one that has been very difficult for this president.

We should also note, Wolf, we have gone back to the White House. We have asked the White House whether or not the president actually made these remarks. They have not commented. They have not gotten back to us at this point, yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Really stunning indeed, and "The Wall Street Journal" interview stunning, as well, in which the president of the United States says he probably has a good relationship with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. What is the president talking about in this interview?

ACOSTA: It is hard to figure out, Wolf. Again, the president causing more confusion here, this time in an interview with "The Wall Street Journal." He said during this interview -- and it's difficult to ascertain exactly what the president means here -- but we can put this up on screen, the president talking about the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.

He says, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un," the president told "The Wall Street Journal." "I have relationships with people I think you people are surprised." He went on to say, "I don't want to comment on it" when asked whether he had actually spoken with Kim Jong-un. "I don't to want comment on it. I'm not saying I have or have not. I just don't want to comment."

Wolf, obviously, this is going to be an ongoing question next time the president is in front of the cameras or the White House press secretary is in front of the cameras. They are going to be asked whether or not he's actually spoken with Kim Jong-un, because that is something that we have just not been made aware of at this point. We just don't know whether the president has had those kinds of conversations.

Of course, for months and months and months, he has been ratcheting up the rhetoric with North Korea, referring to Kim Jong-un as "Little Rocket Man" and so on. But according to this interview in "The Wall Street Journal," the president is making it clear that he -- he seems to have some kind of relationship with Kim Jong-un. And it is just a mystery at this point as to what the president means by that.

BLITZER: Yes. Definitely need some clarification on that. Jim Acosta, I know you're working your sources. We'll get back to you.

I want to bring in our political and legal specialist to discuss all of this. And Chris Cillizza, let me start with you. This "Washington Post" story, how the president of the United States uses that word -- I won't say it -- to describe these immigrants from countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries. And then he suggests -- then he met with the prime minister of Norway yesterday -- in contrast to those countries, he wants more immigrants from countries like Norway.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. I mean, it doesn't take a lot of line-connecting to suggest what folks from El Salvador look like versus what folks from Norway look like. One are white. One are not white. It seems that's quite clear what the president is suggesting here.

[17:10:09] And I would remind people who roll their eyes at this report: "The New York Times" reported months ago that Trump, when informed about who was coming into the country, made comments about people in Haiti, saying that -- I'll read directly, because I don't want to screw it up, they, quote, "all have AIDS," he grumbled again, according to "The New York Times." And when he was asked about Nigeria, he said -- immigrants who come from Nigeria, he said they would never, quote, "go back to their huts," end quote, in Africa. So this is -- and again, this is not -- these are not tabloid

reporting. This is "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." Right? I mean, this is -- whatever you think of them, these are major, big media organizations. I worked for "The Washington Post." I know how stories like this get vetted. This is not just something they just do to get some eyeballs.

This seems like a trend. This is not a one-off with this president and his views, expressed in private. You -- how can you not be concerned that the most powerful person in the country holds views like this?

BLITZER: In this, Jim Sciutto, in this -- in these words that he told these bipartisan members of Congress, senators and House members earlier today, they were meeting on immigration: "Why are we having all of these people from" -- you get the point -- "S-hole countries or bleep-hole countries come here?" And he was referring to people from African countries and Haiti. It's going to cause a huge uproar.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: And it should, frankly. To Chris's point, this is not out of character. It's very in-character with the way President Trump has, both before his election and since his election, characterized people of color. People from other countries.

Remember, that famous speech about Mexico send -- they're sending us their drug dealers, their rapists, et cetera. Just yesterday in that cabinet meeting that he allowed the cameras into, he made a comment about the visa lottery, as well. And saying that countries intentionally send their bad people. Again...

CILLIZZA: Not true.

SCIUTTO: Which is just -- as if there's some grand prize, it's not true. I spent years overseas. The people who use the visa lottery, by and large, are folks just looking for a chance to get to the U.S. They're working people. They're family members. They're people who are looking for a shot. There's no grand conspiracy here from these countries to send nasty bad hombres, one might say, to the country using those programs.

The other thing I would say is beyond the fact that it is clearly prejudicial, it is based on just utter ignorance, right? I'm sorry. Visit Nigeria today. Every -- it's a modern country. Right? I mean, it's a modern, vibrant country with business people and educated people doing a lot of great business. The same to be said for Haiti. Same to be said for these countries. They're not the U.S., no, but they're very different from the way the president characterizes them.

BLITZER: We're getting some response from the White House. I want to go back to Jim Acosta over at the White House. I take it they have a statement, reacting to "The Washington Post" story?

ACOSTA: They have, Wolf. They put out a statement reacting to "The Washington Post" story. This is from Raj Shah (ph), who is the principle deputy press secretary over here. We can put this up on screen. It's a lengthy statement.

It says, "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people. The president will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery program and chain migration -- two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country. Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy, and assimilate into our great nation. He will always reject temporary, weak, and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hard-working Americans and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway."

Wolf, as you can tell from that statement, there's no denial as to what the president said. They're not denying that the president said this, in this statement, and so, we're just going to have to press the White House further on this.

But just to echo what you were just saying there a few moments ago with your panel, the president has said repeatedly that this visa lottery program sends over the worst of the worst, that they draw names out of a hat or a bowl and so on. Obviously, that is not true. That is false. He's mischaracterizing that program.

But as Jim Sciutto was saying with the president talking about immigrants coming from Mexico being rapists and criminals, and now this comment, the president referring to Haiti and countries in Africa as being -- and I noticed Wolf, you hesitated to use that word, I hesitate to use it myself, as an "s-hole" or "shithole" is what -- the word that "The Washington Post" is quoting the president saying.

I think, Wolf, what we have to come to grips with, and I almost have to think back to the day when we were at Trump Tower when the president was commenting on Charlottesville and he was saying that there were very fine people on both sides, saying that they're very fine people among the white supremacists and the Nazis, is that the president of the United States just seems to have a problem here, Wolf, in this area.

[17:15:06] And we can tiptoe around it. We can dance around it and not really put our finger on it. But the president seems to harbor racist feelings about people of color from other parts of the world.

And it's just a terrible thing to have come out of your mouth as a White House correspondent, or as a journalist. But if these comments are accurate, Wolf, I think it just is going to cause more damage, more grave damage to this presidency, because it cuts to the very core of who he is.

You just shouldn't be referring to countries like that around the world in this manner. The United States, as we've been talking about many, many times over the last several months, we bring in people from all -- all parts of the world. And obviously, there are good, wonderful people who come from Haiti and from Africa and so on. But at this point, Wolf, it does not appear that the White House is directly responding to what the president apparently said quoted by "The Washington Post."

BLITZER: A lengthy statement that clearly did not deny that he used that word...

ACOSTA: No.

BLITZER: ... in describing these immigrants from countries like Haiti and El Salvador and African countries.

All right Jim, thanks very much.

Jackie Kucinich, I want to get your reaction. Let me read the first two sentences of this bombshell "Washington Post" report. And then we'll discuss.

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday -- that's today -- in the Oval Office, when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

Quote, "'Why are we having all these people from blank-hole countries come here?' Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met yesterday."

Now this is going to cause a lot, a lot of concern out there.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So the fact that he uses that language in talking about those countries is disturbing and disappointing. The -- but I think the most -- the worst part of this is we're seeing it reflected in White House policy. That's real. That's not just words.

We're seeing these programs ended. We're seeing him trying to keep people out of this country. And whether it's based on his personal, his personal feelings about them, we're seeing it reflected and really affect people's lives, which brings it way beyond these unfortunate words.

BLITZER: You know, and if this were not enough, there's a bombshell interview in "The Wall Street Journal" that's just been published, as well. Michael Bender is with us. You were there. You did that interview with the president. You were in the Oval Office for the interview.

MICHAEL BENDER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Uh-huh.

BLITZER: And I'll read what the president of the United States said about the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un: "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. I have relationships with people I think you people are surprised." You must have been stunned when you heard the president, who used to

refer to Kim Jong-un as "Little Rocket Man" and a whole lot worse than that as saying I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong- un.

BENDER: Yes, say what you want about President Trump, he's very, he's very good at reading a room, and he read the room very accurately when he described himself as probably having a good relationship with Kim Jong-un. That was a word that he suggested.

I wouldn't have even thought to ask him about a relationship with the North Korean leader. He was talking about -- the context there was he was talking about his relationships with world leaders. As he normally does, was trumpeting his relationship with President Xi in China. He was trumpeting his relationship with Abe in Japan, and then just offhandedly mentioned, suggested a relationship with Kim Jong-un, as well. We immediately followed up, clarified if there is a relationship there, if they've actually talked, and he demurred.

BLITZER: Let me read the quote from your article in "The Wall Street Journal." You were there. You were among "The Wall Street Journal" reporters who interviewed the president.

Asked if he had spoken with Kim Jong-un, the president replied, quote, "I don't to want comment on it. I'm not saying I have or haven't. I just don't want to comment." Which leaves open the possibility that, yes, they have spoken.

BENDER: Right, which would be an absolutely stunning development. North Korea and the United States have not had an official diplomatic channel in a very long time.

There have been -- in our story online right now, we do provide some back story here in that there have been unofficial talks between the two countries going on for a while. Certainly nothing that has risen to the level that would include President Trump and Kim Jong-un for a number of reasons. Like you mentioned, just the sort of combative tweets and comments that Trump has made about the North Korean leader.

[17:20:05] But whether or not they've talked -- and I don't know the answer to that -- Jim Acosta mentioned that this is going to be an open question for the White House now. We realize that coming out of the interview, you know, talked to the communications staff at the White House saying you're going to get more questions about this, and they provided no -- no back story or...

BLITZER: Over the weekend at Camp David at that news conference he had, he was asked about would he be willing to talk to Kim Jong-un on the phone? He said absolutely, yes, he would be willing, but there was no indication that they had spoken.

And in your article, you point out, he's referred to Kim Jong-un as a maniac, a bad dude, short and fat, repeatedly calls him "Little Rocket Man."

BENDER: Yes. BLITZER: Kim Jong-un calls the president mentally deranged, a U.S. dotard with fire. And then all of the sudden, according to to the president of the United States, they have a very good relationship.

BENDER: Probably have a very good relationship. And we mentioned those tweets to him, and he acknowledged it and said, and said kind of "This is what I do." You know, you could come with -- he said, "I can come up with a list of 20 people I've done this to. You could come up with 30 more, and it's, and eventually we'd become friends. So maybe that's what's happening here."

I do think that the broader story here is -- is what is absolutely true is Trump signaling his openness to diplomatic relations here, which is -- which is a pretty big story.

BLITZER: All right. I want to bring Jeffrey Toobin into this conversation, as well. And first your reaction, Jeffrey, to what the president of the United States said about Kim Jong-un: "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un."

And then what he said about immigrants from countries like Haiti, African countries, that these are -- you get the point. You know what he said.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I can -- Kim Jong-un, the whole thing just beats the hell out of me. I have no idea what it -- what it means or doesn't mean. So I can move on quickly to the other comment, which I think is actually highly significant. Because it just shows that, you know, the president has racist views.

I mean, you know, how long do we have to dance around that issue? I mean, you know, whether it's, you know, rapists coming from Mexico, whether it's saying the first president of the -- African-American president of the United States was not born in the United States, I mean, he has racist views.

And the worst thing is, that's part of his appeal. We talk about that as if, "Oh, this is so terrible." You know what? It's a feature, not a bug. There are a lot of people who like this. I mean, when are we going acknowledge that this is not -- that it's like it's not some mistake that he has to take back? This is who he is. And this is, in part, why he won. That, frankly to me, more troubling than the underlying problem.

KUCINICH: Yes. To Jeffrey's point, voters knew what they were getting. Right? His first speech ever was the one Jim referenced that had to do with what he said about Mexicans. He said things like this, maybe not to this level, in the past. So this shouldn't really be all surprise, but it doesn't make it any less troubling.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR: NFL players, Lonzo Ball, I mean, there's so -- the Charlottesville thing that Jim mentioned. I mean, to Jeff's point, you can't really look at the breadth of Donald Trump from June 2015 to Donald Trump today, given what he has said, and draw any conclusion other than he has views that we would have to describe as racist views. You can't say, "Why are we getting all these people from these crappy

countries" -- hope my children aren't watching -- "and not more from Norway?" What other possible conclusion could any reasonable person think? What could he be driving at there? What is the fundamental difference between people from Norway and people from El Salvador or Haiti? I mean, there's no other thing that you could -- I'd be interested to hear a defense of it not based on race, because I don't know where you would go.

BLITZER: And this is going to have an enormous impact around the world, Jim, and you've covered a lot of these countries.

SCIUTTO: And it should. Shouldn't it?

BLITZER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: This is -- what is the American message to the world? Everybody's sitting around this table. We're the product of immigrants. The only question is it's one, two, or three generations back. Many of us, you know, various different backgrounds. I mean, that's the nature of America.

And you know, words have impact. They do. I speak not just to foreigners in these countries, but foreign diplomats in these countries. And it goes to America's message, America's identity, and respect for America and the leader of America. Words have impact.

And these, again, as Chris has said, as Jackie, we've been saying here, and Jeff, these are not taken in isolation, right? This is a pattern over months and years from this president. And that's -- it's hard to say it's anything but damaging.

[17:25:00] BLITZER: Michael, you're -- you met with the president of the United States today.

BENDER: Yes.

BLITZER: You were in the Oval Office.

BENDER: Yes.

BLITZER: You had a 45-minute interview. Take us inside the Oval Office. What was he like today?

BENDER: Well, he was relaxed. He was -- you know, he was calm. There's a little bit of -- we talked -- we covered sort of the the world on issues. So we didn't get down into the -- into a lot of the details on immigration. We did bring it up.

And not to confuse the issue or defend these comments in "The Washington Post," but he spent a lot of time talking about his interests in finding some solution for DACA. And his quote to us that was that he was doing it from the standpoint of heart. He's doing it from the standpoint of common sense, that he wanted to -- that he wanted to inject more jobs into the country. It's a complex issue, and he has a lot of complex and contradictory

views on this, but this sort of language is more reflective of things we've heard -- we heard from Jeb Bush on the campaign trail and his description of immigration reform, rather than, you know, a racist- infused, you know, commentary that we've heard in other places in the Republican Party.

So there is some complexity here. Not exactly sure how to sort it out, but, you know, he was -- he was urging his own party to have flexibility and heart on DACA.

CILLIZZA: Just context -- Mike's exactly right, but context matters. This is not the first time he's even -- he's made a number of comments that are, if not walking the line of racist, over the line. But he made comments that the "New York Times" reported, that the White House denied at the time about Haitians, about Africans, in this exact same context.

So it is clearly not a one-off that he just -- well, he was angry or that Mike says no, but he was angry, he was frustrated. This is a belief that he possesses.

And let's not lose sight of the fact that the White House released a rather extensive statement that you read, Wolf, that doesn't deny in any way, shape, or form that he said it, which means, breaking news, he said it.

BLITZER: By the way, CNN has now confirmed from our own sources that at this meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers this afternoon at the White House, he did, in fact, describe these immigrants from those countries -- Haiti, African countries, El Salvador -- as blank-hole countries.

CILLIZZA: So just stop for a second and think, sit with that. The president of the United States described people trying to come here from places like Haiti and El Salvador and others...

BLITZER: And African countries...

CILLIZZA: And African countries as coming from s-hole countries. The president of the United States, who is the elected leader of all of us, said that.

SCIUTTO: What's interesting is the first line of the White House, in addition to not denying those comments...

CILLIZZA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: ... it basically levels a justification to some degree. And I'm just -- I'm just paraphrasing, but the president stands up for...

BLITZER: This line of the White House statement: "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries."

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BLITZER: "But President Trump will always fight for the American people."

SCIUTTO: So in effect, he's accusing the politicians who witnessed this and were alarmed by it as fighting for foreign countries by being upset that the president described those countries as s-hole countries. So that's less than a non -- it's more than a non-denial, rather; it seems to be a defense.

BLITZER: As if -- if you have a story like this, a lead in "The Washington Post," that's a bombshell, and the White House issues a statement not denying it, they're confirming, for all practical purposes, Jeffrey Toobin. They're confirming it.

TOOBIN: Yes, I mean, I don't think there's any doubt that he said it. And, you know, the non -- the fact that they didn't deny it.

But also it's in character. I mean, that's the thing. It was not -- I mean, like so much that has happened in the past year, it's shocking, but not surprising. You know, I mean, it's shocking that he would actually use those -- you know, use that word, but it's not, -- I mean, does that seem out of character? Not at all.

And this is, and people -- there are a lot of people who like it. I mean, you know, we're sitting here, you know, we all have the vapors, "Oh, it's so terrible, you know," just like when he said John McCain is a prisoner of war, we thought, "Oh, so terrible." I mean, you know what? A lot of people like the fact that he's racist.

And that's the thing that we need to acknowledge. That this part of his character is not something that is a gaffe that he will be punished for. He will be rewarded for it, like he was rewarded by being elected president of the United States.

KUCINICH: I don't think we have the vapors. I think it's definitely worth pointing out -- because what's the other alternative? Not talking about it? Not calling it out for what it is? I don't think that's the right decision either. So I don't think any of us are -- need smelling salts or fainting couches at this point, but this is a very serious matter, and it's worthy of discussion.

BLITZER: You know, it's -- I'm looking at the list. There were seven lawmakers at this meeting in the Oval Office with the president: Senator Durbin; Senator Perdue of Georgia; Representative Kevin McCarthy -- he's the majority leader in the House; Representative Goodlatte, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House; Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, I can only imagine what they -- how they reacted when they heard the President say that.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, it says Josh (INAUDIBLE), the Washington Post reporter reported this first says that they were taken aback which is probably the understatement of the century. Again, context though, Wolf, why were all of those people there? Because there was talk of a potential gang of six deal on immigration which Donald Trump, less than 48 hours ago, said in a 55-minute open public conversation, I'll sign it. Send it to me, I'll sign it. BLITZER: I'll take the heat.

CILLIZZA: He presented himself as this -- much more along lines. What Mike's talking about in his interview where Trump is saying, you know, we need to do this out of love and compassion. And yet, the comment comes in that context in a meeting in which it said this is the rough outlines of a deal, can we do this? I mean -- I mean, it's literally like -- it's -- good people can be rendered. I'm rarely rendered speechless, you can be rendered speechless by the President of the United States even though Jeff is right. It is not out of character that he would do so in this setting, is, to me, mind- boggling.

BLITZER: Jeffrey.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it just -- remember also, just to turn this conversation a little bit back towards policy, there are these 800,000 DREAMers, these kids who are -- or now, some are young adults, who have never known any other country but the United States, and their position remains in limbo. I mean, you know, we've had all, you know, all of this conversation and the President talks about love and the President talks about how, you know, he is sympathetic to them and several months ago he had this meeting with Pelosi and Schumer where it looked like there was going to be a deal. There is no deal. And at least as far as I can tell, there doesn't look like they're very close to a deal. So these 800,000 people and their families and the people who love them, they are still in tremendous limbo. And that's -- and that's a scary thought.

BLITZER: All right. Just quickly.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I was just (INAUDIBLE) wonder for Democrats who might be looking to sign on to a deal, do they want to sign on a deal with a president who just described the countries that they might -- they might want to be advocating for or relatives of those countries in these terms? It makes it difficult.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. We're following these two bombshell reports. The interview in the Wall Street Journal in which the President of the United States says he thinks he has probably has a very positive, very good relationship with Kim Jong-un of North Korea and how he described immigrants who want to come to the United States from certain s-hole countries. Much more, Senator Ben Cardin is standing by to talk democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. We'll get his reaction when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:37:15] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, two bombshell reports, one, CNN has now confirmed what the Washington Post was reporting during a meeting with legislators. Democrats and Republicans in the Oval Office earlier this afternoon. The President described immigrants who want to come to the United States from Haiti, El Salvador, African countries, the President said, quote, why do we want all of these people from, I won't use the word, s-hole countries coming here? A bombshell from the President of the United States.

Also, in a separate interview with the Wall Street Journal, the President of the United States said, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un," the North Korean leader. Ben Cardin, Senator Ben Cardin is with us, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

First of all, your reaction on this description for people who to want come to the United States from countries like Haiti, El Salvador, African countries to the United States, these are s-hole countries. I won't say the word. He did say, "Why can't there be more people who come to the United States from countries like Norway." He did meet with the Prime Minister of Norway yesterday.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Wolf, America's strength is in our values. We stand for how we represent to the global community, democratic principles, inclusion, et cetera. The President's comments damaged us greatly. It's now, I think, our responsibility to say that his comments do not represent America. We've got to stand up and say that we won't tolerate that type of characterization as to who we want here in America because that's not what we stand for as a country. The President's comments are very damaging to our reputation.

BLITZER: Were you stunned? Were' you -- give us your reaction. I can only imagine what your colleagues who were in the Oval office, seven lawmakers were there, how they reacted when they heard the President describe these immigrants from these countries the way he did.

CARDIN: Wolf, it's been now almost a year under President Trump. I can't say that anything that will stun me anymore because he does things that I never thought I would see come from the President of the United States, but this is extremely damaging. And it is a very, very hurtful and what was said in the earlier panel, the fact that there are Americans who support this type of comments is also one that we have to really examine closely.

BLITZER: Because the White House did issue a statement reacting to the Washington Post story which CNN has now confirmed, our White House Correspondent Abby Phillip has confirmed that from her sources, the President used those ugly words.

[17:39:43] A statement, lengthy statement from the White House said, "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries but President Trump will always fight for the American people. The President will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration. Two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country, like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation. He will always reject temporary, weak, and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hard-working Americans and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.

A lengthy statement, not denying that the President described these immigrants, these immigrants, the way he did. Hold on for one moment, our White House Reporter Kaitlan Collins is getting more reaction to the President's comments, the White House reaction. Kaitlan, what are you hearing from your sources?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, this comment has really dominated Washington since the Washington Post first reported about this just a short while ago. But inside the White House this comment is being received much differently by staffers because they actually believe that this isn't going to cause a problem with the President's base because they believe the comment that he made will actually resonate with his voters like in middle America and what not, instead of turning them off or alienating them in some kind of way, much like his attacks on those NFL players who protested by kneeling during the national anthem did.

So the White House isn't in a flurry about this as you saw in that statement, from the Deputy Press Secretary, Raj Shah, they did not deny that the President said that this and they actually, in a way, defended what he said. And the White House staffers, the people inside the White House, believe that this is not going to be a big problem for them.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Let me get Senator Cardin's reaction. They're not that worried because they think it won't hurt him with his base.

CARDIN: You know, the President says what he believes, and that's unfortunate. He appealed to a base that I have a hard time believing will really accept that type of conduct. He's talking about that in regards to immigration compromise that he created the problem when he said the six-month deadline on the DREAMers. We're now eight days away from a government shutdown. Republicans control both the House and the Senate, and the White House. These statements are going to drive us apart, and make it more difficult for us to come to an agreement. What is he -- what is the staff talking about? Appealing to a base? We got -- he's got to operate the government. He's going to come together with a plan to keep government open, and he's talking about appealing to his base on a racist comment?

BLITZER: The other bombshell, this interview in the Wall Street Journal, in which he stuns everyone by saying, quote, I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. I have relationships with people, I think you people, referring to the reporters who were interviewing him in the Oval Office, are surprised. He was asked if he's spoken with Kim Jong-un, he said I don't to want comment on it, I'm not saying I have or haven't, I just don't want to comment.

You're the top Democrat, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relation Committee, you've been briefed on all sorts of sensitive diplomatic overtures. Do you know if the President of the United States has spoken with Kim Jong-un?

CARDIN: I do not know whether he has spoken to Kim Jong-un. I'd be very surprised if in fact, he has. My best analysis is he has not. And his comments about having a very good relationship is hard to understand. We know that Kim Jong-un is a difficult individual, so this is just difficult -- I think it's -- President Trump just trying to tell the American people his style is accepted by everyone, and it's not accepted by world leaders.

BLITZER: At one point in the interview, you know, they came back and they said, you used to call him a maniac, little rocket man, he called you mentally derange, and all of the sudden you say, I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un, and he framed his comments this way, he said, you'll see that a lot with me. He said of his combative tweets, and then all of the sudden, somebody's my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You could give me 30. I'm a very flexible person. Have you seen that in the President that he can go from really slurring the North Korean leader to all of a sudden probably having a very good relationship him?

CARDIN: Yes, North Korea's a very dangerous situation, Wolf. Very dangerous. We're worried that you could have an escalation that is unintended or you could have a miscalculation and all the sudden bombs are dropping. We know the risk factors that are here. So, again, this is an extremely serious situation where the President of the United States must pay attention to ease the tension rather than accelerate it to make a statement like this which is really without credibility, does not add to the stability of our positions.

BLITZER: Senator Ben Cardin, thanks so much for coming in.

CARDIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a day it has been, it's not over with yet.

[17:44:59] Coming up, we'll have much more on the breaking news. CNN has now confirmed that President Trump in a crucial White House meeting characterized immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from a, quote, and I won't use the word, s-hole country. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:49:56] BLITZER: We have much more to come on the President's truly shocking comments about immigrants. Stand by for that. But there's more breaking news. The chaos and confusion caused by the President's tweets about a key piece of intelligence legislation.

Let's bring in our Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, the White House shrugging this off but it caused a lot of heartburn earlier in the day.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, the President of the United States contradicted his own administration's policy on the Foreign Surveillance Act and then minutes later, contradicted the contradiction and by the end of the day, the White House still claimed there was no reason to be confused.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO: For weeks, the Trump administration's support for renewing

the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA, has been 100 percent clear and consistent from the FBI Director --

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: We could not do what we do without the funding that you all help us secure, without the investigative tools and authorities that you granted us, including, as you noted, Mr. Chairman, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act --

SCIUTTO: From the Director of the CIA.

MIKE POMPEO, DIRECTOR, CIA: The Section 702 is an important component of American National Security. It allows us, the CIA, to observe communications from non-U.S. citizens, persons outside of the United States that's central to our mission.

SCIUTTO: And direct from the White House itself, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders releasing a statement just Wednesday, saying "The administration urges the House to preserve the useful role, FISA's Section 702 authority plays in protecting American lives."

Clear and consistent, that is, until this morning when Fox News Commentator, Former Judge Andrew Napolitano delivered this blistering critique of the law.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST, FOX NEWS: I'm scratching my head. I don't understand why Donald Trump is in favor of this. His woes began with unlawful foreign surveillance and unconstitutional domestic surveillance of him before he was the President of the United States. And now he wants to institutionalize this.

SCIUTTO: 46 minutes later, Trump tweeted his own blistering criticism, directly quoting a Fox News graphic. House votes on controversial FISA Act today. Here's that tweet: "House votes on controversial FISA Act today. This is the act that may have been used with the help of the discredited and phony dossier to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others." That tweet prompted a call to the President from House Speaker Paul Ryan and soon after came a swift clarification from the President which read, in part, this is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it. Get smart!" That language mirroring what Ryan would then say on the House floor, aggressively lobbying for renewal.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER, HOUSE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES: This is about foreign terrorists on foreign soil. That's what this is about. So, let's clear up some of the confusion here.

SCIUTTO: So, what happened? The President and Judge Napolitano appeared to be confused about what the House was actually voting on. For one, the portion of the Foreign Surveillance Act up for a vote today, Section 702 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before the bill is passed -- SCIUTTO: -- relates only to monitoring foreign nationals on foreign soil, not Americans, including any Trump campaign officials. The Justice Department and the FBI have denied that they surveilled Trump's own communications, but they did obtain a warrant to monitor Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort before joining the campaign for his business dealings in Ukraine. And after he left to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. They also obtained a warrant on Carter Page prior to his joining the campaign. Still, at the end of the day, the White House claimed that it all made sense.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't think that there was a conflict at all. The President fully supports the 702 and was happy to see that it passed the House today but he does have some overall concern with the FISA program more generally.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: To be clear, the warrants that were obtained against Manafort, Carter Page obtained under a different part of the FISA program Title 1. That, Wolf, not up for renewal, no vote on that today. And again, to obtain a warrant like that via the FISA courts, you have to make a justification that those -- there's evidence that those people might be acting as an agent for a foreign government. The criticism, and this is one you've heard from both Republicans and Democrats, is that the FISA court virtually approves all of those requests. It's a very high success rate for the government when it is seeking those warrants.

BLITZER: But there have been new numerous cases where a FISA surveillance program overseas has saved American lives.

SCIUTTO: Well, that's the other thing. In terms of -- and Paul Ryan mentioned that today, for instance, the ISIS -- one of the ISIS leaders was discovered through a FISA foreign gathering program. And, again, that's what his confusion was, it appears that the President fell victim to 702 foreigners in foreign land. You have another section of the bill which could conceivably, if you get a warrant, cover America.

[17:54:58] BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting for us, thank you very much. Coming up and much more on President Trump's truly shocking description of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and countries from Africa. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happenings now, breaking news, shocking slur, CNN confirms tonight President Trump slammed immigrants from Africa and Haiti as being from, quote, S-hole countries. New frustrations and fallout in the struggle to sway a bipartisan immigration deal. Talking to Kim?