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Newspaper Gunman Blocked Door to Trap Victims; Trump Responds to Annapolis Shooting; Trump Considering Two Women for Supreme Court; NYT: Rosenstein Felt Used By White House In Comey Firing; Trump Says Considering Two Women For Supreme Court Will Announce Pick July 9; In Shocking Security Breach White House Admits Trump Took Call From Comedian Posing As Trump Will Raise Issue Of Election Meddling During Putin Summit; Boy And Mother Reunite After A Month-Long Separation. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 29, 2018 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Deadly warnings. New details of the Maryland newspaper shooting, including the suspect's previous threats, his history of stalking, and his chilling attempt to trap his victims.

Feeling used. A new report says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein felt the White House took advantage of him in the firing of former FBI director James Comey, allegedly leaving Rosenstein shaken and overwhelmed.

Trump punk'd. A comedian pretending to be a U.S. senator apparently gets a phone call through to the president on Air Force One, fooling him and his top aides. How did the entire Trump team fall for it? And what does it say about presidential security?

Plus, Manafort wants out. The indicted former Trump campaign chairman asks to be released from jail while he awaits trial. And tonight we're learning that the FBI found out about his secret storage unit from reporters.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Very disturbing new details of the shooting at a Maryland newspaper that left five people dead. Tonight, we're learning more about the gunman, his previous threats, and the chilling steps authorities say he took in an effort to kill as many people as possible.

We'll talk about that and more with Congressman Gerry Connolly of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And our correspondents, specialists, and analysts and guests, they're are all standing by.

First, let's go straight to CNN's Brian Todd. He's over at the scene in Annapolis. Brian, this now appears to have been a very methodically planned

killing spree.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, everything we're getting tonight from police, from prosecutors, and from witnesses does suggest methodical planning, including cutting off a potential escape route for the victims. These were horrifying calculations, authorities say, by a man who had held a longstanding grudge against the newspaper.


TODD (voice-over): Jarrod Ramos stormed the Annapolis office building, authorities say, armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades and opened fire. The 38-year-old Maryland man appearing in court today, facing five counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he executed a plan in the newspaper's offices so people could not escape as he began systematically hunting and killing.

WES ADAMS, ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: There were two entrances to the offices in which this occurred. The rear door was barricaded. Mr. Ramos then, as I told the judge, entered into the front door and worked through his way the office where he was shooting victims as he walked through the office.

TODD: Phil Davis, a crime reporter for the "Gazette," says Ramos fired through a newsroom window.

PHIL DAVIS, CRIME REPORTER, "CAPITAL GAZETTE" (via phone): At some point when I was listening to him reload, it's -- it's, you know, "Are we all going to die?"

TODD: Police arrived on the scene in minutes. The suspect was found hiding under a desk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's inside the "Gazette" office, the main office where all the victims are.

TODD: Ramos had a long-running feud with the paper, dating back to 2011 when the "Gazette" published a story about Ramos's online harassment of a former female high school classmate. Ramos sent the woman messages asking for help, calling her vulgar names and telling her to kill herself, according to the "Gazette" article. Her attorney tells CNN she eventually left Maryland, hoping for a safer life away from Ramos.

BRENNAN MCCARTHY, ATTORNEY FOR WOMAN HARASSED BY SHOOTER: She was so scared, and this was day after day after day of Twitter -- Twittering, just tweets all over the place. Naming her and me and everyone else, that she finally just left. This was malevolence.

He had an issue with this woman. I don't know what it was, but he did everything he could to destroy her life. And he succeeded.

TODD: According to court records, Ramos filed a defamation complaint in 2012 against the paper that was ultimately dismissed. Tom Marquardt was the editor and publisher of "The Capital Gazette" at the time. He says that Ramos threatened him and the writer of the story.

TOM MARQUARDT, FORMER EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE CAPITAL GAZETTE": We have gotten threats in the past, but this one was particularly alarming because it was attached to a name. And in previous complaints, oftentimes, they came across anonymously. And some of the comments he was making online were a bit off-center.

TODD: Despite those threats, the paper chose not to file a restraining order against Ramos, believing that it would only inflame him, but they still warned their staff.

MARQUARDT: We were alarmed enough to at least contact police and ask them to look into it. And alarmed enough to post his photo at our front desk in case he would come in the door. I had alerted my staff to call 911 if -- if anybody resembling him came into the room.

[17:05:08] TODD: Tonight the victims of this local paper are being remembered. Wendi Winters was an editor and community reporter. She was a 65-year-old mother of four. The "Gazette" describes her as a prolific writer who was beloved by the community she covered closely for years.

Thirty-four-year-old sales assistant Rebecca Smith was a new hire to the paper, who loved spending time with her family.

Editorial page editor Gerald Fischman was known for bringing a quirky and clever voice to the paper. He was a quiet, endearing figure in a newsroom full of characters.

John McNamara, known as Mac, was a staff writer who worked his dream job, sports reporting. He's remembered for his razor wit and being a loyal friend.

Assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, a mentor to all, who celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary last week. His brother is the author Carl Hiaasen.

CARL HIAASEN, BROTHER OF ROB HIAASEN (via phone): He was killed while he was doing what he loved to do, which is to put out this newspaper for the people of Annapolis. He was so proud of those -- those reporters and the other editors. And what he would want me to say is everything they do is for the readers. Put news and facts in the hands of their readers.


TODD: Now to give an -- now to give an idea of the trail of fear left behind by the suspect, the attorney for the woman who Ramos allegedly harassed, we spoke to him today and he told us that, even though Ramos is behind bars, he and his client spoke today, and they agreed they're still scared by this entire situation.

Jarrod Ramos is being held without bond tonight, the judge and the prosecutor saying that he is an overwhelming danger to the community -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Brian, I understand there's new information you're getting tonight on the shooter's employment history?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. CNN has obtained court documents showing that Ramos was terminated from his job as an I.T. help desk contractor with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He ws terminated from that job in 2014 for security suitability concerns. There's no specificity of exactly what those concerns were, but according to those court documents, there were e-mails circulated saying that he should not be allowed back on the premises.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting from Annapolis for us. Brian, thank you.

The president, meanwhile, he's speaking out about the newspaper shooting, calling the killing of those five journalists "horrific" and "horrible." Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, for the very latest.

Jim, what else is the president saying?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump changed his tone on the media today, at least for the moment, saying journalists should not be subjected to violent attacks after the mass shooting in Annapolis. That is a major shift for the president, who has repeatedly called the press the enemy of the people, despite concerns from journalists that his rhetoric creates a dangerous climate.


ACOSTA (voice-over): For a president who routinely demonizes the media, it was a significant moment. One day after the mass shooting at the "Capital Gazette" newspaper in Annapolis.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.

ACOSTA: But as the president left the room, he would not specify whether this is only a pause in his battle against the press.

(on camera): Mr. President, will you stop calling us the enemy of the people, sir?

(voice-over): Even White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is rarely rendered speechless, declined to answer the question from CNN's Abby Phillip.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is it time for the president to stop calling journalists the enemy of the people?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: The president -- thank you very much. Thank you.

TRUMP: Look at all those fake newsers back there. Look at all them. That's a lot. ACOSTA: It's a critical question for the White House as the president

has repeatedly labelled the press the enemy of the people, from early on in his administration --

TRUMP: A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people.

ACOSTA: -- to just this week.

TRUMP: You know, the enemy. The enemy of the people, I call them.

ACOSTA: As we found at his rally on Monday, his supporters are often swept up in the moment.


ACOSTA: There are seemingly endless examples of the president's preference for extreme rhetoric. From a tweet showing him body slamming a CNN reporter to his remarks during the campaign.

TRUMP: Like to punch him in the face. I'll tell you.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump has boasted there are no consequences for his actions.

TRUMP: I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's, like, incredible.

ACOSTA: Investigators have found no link between the gunman's actions in Annapolis and any of the rhetoric coming out of Washington. Still, Trump supporter Sean Hannity quickly blamed Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I've been saying now for days that something horrible is going to happen because of the rhetoric. Really, Maxine? You want people to create -- "Call your friends, get in their faces."

ACOSTA: The renewed questions about the president's rhetoric comes as Mr. Trump appears to be searching for a replacement for chief of staff John Kelly. Sources tell CNN the president recently touched on the subject with budget director Mick Mulvaney over dinner this week.

[17:10:14] The president may have other staffing concerns to consider after aides patched through an apparent prank call to Air Force One earlier this week. That caller pretended to be New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who was recently cleared of corruption charges in federal court.

TRUMP: Congratulations. Great job. You went through a tough, tough situation. And I don't think a very fair situation. But congratulations.

JOHN "STUTTERING JOHN" MELENDEZ, COMEDIAN: Obviously, my constituents are giving me a lot of biz about this immigration thing. TRUMP: Let me just tell you, I want to be able to take care of the

situation. I'd like to do the larger solution, and I think we can do a real immigration bill.


ACOSTA: Now CNN has learned staffers for Menendez say they were contacted by the White House yesterday asking about the call, apparently unaware that it was a prank. The White House is not commenting, as far as we know in the last hour or so, about how all of this developed.

But Senator Menendez has released a statement saying, "As someone who has spent my entire career" -- this is the senator here -- "trying to convince Republicans to join me in reforming our nation's broken immigration system, I welcome any opportunity to have a real conversation with the president on how to uphold the American values that have guided our family-based immigration policy for the last century."

And, Wolf, we should point out, that that call is also something that is sparking a statement just now from the White House. Actually, I should point out we're getting a statement just now from the White House on all of this. This is from a White House official. Apparently this person did not want to be named.

And the quote goes this way, Wolf: "The president wants to be accessible to members and likes engaging them and wants them to have the opportunity to connect. The downside of that is that sometimes the channels are open too widely, and mistakes like this happen."

So Wolf, a very interesting comment here from a White House official just in the last several minutes. They don't acknowledge mistakes over here very often at the White House. But they're apparently acknowledging one in that a prank phone call -- or a comedian was able to talk to the president on Air Force One. It raises all kinds of security concerns. If somebody can pretend to be a senator or a head of state and call the president on Air Force One, that's obviously something they can't let happen.

BLITZER: Yes. This is a huge, huge embarrassment, but it's much more than that, Jim. As you correctly point out, it's a security problem that someone, a comedian, could pretend to be a United States senator and get a call with the president from Air Force One. They've got to fix this. I don't know what they're going to do, but clearly, this was a major, major blunder with enormous security ramifications.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta over at the White House. Thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of the breaking news. Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Let me get your quick reaction, the White House now effectively confirming that a comedian got through to the president, pretending to be a United States senator, and had a lengthy conversation with the president. It's not only awkward, but it's very, very worrisome from a security perspective.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: You know, I flew on Air Force One with President Obama to Germany a few years ago, and you know, their security systems are supposed to be pretty -- pretty tight. There's a whole protocol for making phone calls and receiving phone calls.

So I'm shocked this was able to get through. And it really does raise questions about, well, what kind of filter, security filter do we have on Air Force One, presumably the most secure set of communications in the world?

BLITZER: Yes. And not just Air Force One. What if the president is in the Oval Office and another comedian or someone else with sinister motives -- this guy just apparently wanted to be funny and cute -- but if someone with sinister motives pretends to be you and gets through to the president.

CONNOLLY: Absolutely. And the kind of foreign mischief that could be caused, the kinds of disruptions that that could lead to is a very chilling thing to contemplate.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe that -- in this day and age that the president and his senior aides were tricked into something like this, because it does open the door to a lot of security nightmares.

CONNOLLY: You know, your story also talked about the possibility of a new chief of staff. The current chief of staff tried to crack down on the president's taking phone calls and making phone calls.

BLITZER: John Kelly.

CONNOLLY: For this very reason. And the fact that that's now been made much laxer, and Kelly is no longer really on that job, I think shows the risk of this president being so much on the phone and carelessly.

BLITZER: Yes. Hold on for one moment. I want to go quickly back to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, are you getting more information? What -- you're now being told the president has actually spoken aboard Air Force One?

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And this happens, as you know, from time to time. The president will go back and talk to reporters briefly. Apparently, he did this on the way up to New Jersey, where he is going to be spending the weekend with his family.

[17:15:08] He did tell reporters on Air Force One, I guess within the last several minutes, that he will announce his pick for the Supreme Court on Monday, July 9. So just a week from this coming Monday after the Fourth of July week, he's going to announce his picker for the Supreme Court Monday, July 9. The told reporters that he has it narrowed down to five candidates,

including two women. That is obviously significant. He was asked about the prospect of Roe v. Wade being overturned and whether or not he would try to select a nominee who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. That obviously, makes it possible for abortion to be legal in this country in many circumstances. The president said he is not going to ask them that question, meaning he's not going to ask the candidates that question.

As for some of the candidates that have been floated out there, he was asked about Senator Mike Lee from Utah. That is somebody who would obviously be a darling for conservatives, the conservative movement. He's also seen as being very conservative on the issue of Roe v. Wade.

The president saying of Mike Lee, "He said he'd like the job. Usually, they don't say that." That is a quote from the president, "He said he'd like the job." The president suggesting there -- and obviously we can't verify this -- but he's suggesting there that he has talked to Mike Lee about this and that Mike Lee has said that he would like the job. You know, we can't confirm that. We can only go off the president's comments here and what he told reporters.

And he just landed a few moments ago in Morristown, New Jersey, Wolf. But obviously, those are two very big -- or three or four, I should say, very big nuggets of information coming from the president about the Supreme Court pick, which he plans to announce, he says, on July 9. Far sooner -- a lot sooner than what Democrats were hoping for.

They were trying to make the comparison and saying, well, we have mid- term elections coming up this fall. How can you go and make a Supreme Court pick when we're in the thick of an election season? Of course, there harkening back to what happened with Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick, in February, I believe, of his last year in office.

Many Democrats wanted Merrick Garland to get confirmed. Mitch McConnell and the Republicans blocked that, did not allow that to happen. They were able to get Neil Gorsuch through the court as a result of that.

So pretty remarkable, Wolf. The president, not even two years into office, but he may have a chance -- looks like he's going to have a chance and will likely succeed in putting two Supreme Court justices on the high court, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We showed -- while you were showing the video, the president and the first lady and their son, Barron, arriving there in Morristown, New Jersey. They're going to taking Marine One from Air Force One over to the president's country club and golf course in New Jersey. They're going to be spending the July Fourth holidays there, I take it for the next several days.

Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Congressman Gerry Connolly, Democrat of Virginia, is still with us.

What's your reaction to the president now announcing a week from Monday he will name his nominee for the United States Supreme Court?

CONNOLLY: Well, as a Democrat with progressive values, it's a horror -- a horror that the Republicans who denied President Obama his right to nominate someone to the court, not even having a hearing on the grounds that, in your last year of office you're a lame duck, you shouldn't do that. Ironically, Anthony Kennedy was appointed in Ronald Reagan's last year in office.

And now because of that, we're going to get an ideological choice. I don't care what the president or the White House says. They have vetted candidates through the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation to ensure that whoever they nominate will be reliable in trying to overturn Roe v. Wade.

BLITZER: Well, what about Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two Republican senators who strongly support abortion rights for women?

CONNOLLY: I certainly hope that they'll actually have their voices heard. Sadly, as we've seen just recently in the House, relying on Republican moderates to have intestinal fortitude about an issue that matters is a very dangerous bet.

BLITZER: There may be some Democratic senators who are up for re- election in states that Donald Trump won overwhelmingly in the presidential election who may go ahead and vote to confirm.

CONNOLLY: I think this vote is different than Neil Gorsuch. That was replacing Antonin Scalia, so there was no ideological shift in voting that way. But this is different. This is dispositive. This will turn the court, maybe for the next 20 or 25 years.

BLITZER: But do you really believe that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, which is settled law? The chief justice, John Roberts, he has said it's settled law for a long time, including during his own confirmation hearings?

CONNOLLY: In the last week we've seen Justice Roberts, who said that, overturn settled law with respect to unions, with respect to abortion rights, actually. And so I don't count on the words coming out of Republican-appointed justices and, certainly, people who will make the judgment on who else goes on the court. Those are not reassuring words to me.

[17:20:10] BLITZER: Let me get your quick reaction to the president. He struck a very different tone today about the news media in expressing his deep sorrow for what happened yesterday in Annapolis, Maryland. Five journalists from the "Capital Gazette" newspaper were murdered, as you well know.

But over these past many months -- and you heard it in Jim Acosta's piece -- the president has been very, very tough in hammering away at what he calls the fake news media.

CONNOLLY: This president plays with fire when it comes to demonizing people and foils and institutions. He has deliberately demonized the press and journalists. To call them the enemy of the people is a remarkable statement from the head of our government, and it puts every journalist at risk.

Now, he didn't do what happened yesterday in Annapolis, but he's certainly helped create a climate that allowed some unstable people to believe they're OK as a target.

BLITZER: We don't know if this shooter in Annapolis was influenced. We don't have any evidence that he was influenced by the president's words.

CONNOLLY: Nor am I saying that. But he has created a climate where, frankly, it's fair game to go after the press. And where does that end? And that's what I worry about. That sooner or later, it leads to this kind of tragedy.

BLITZER: You're on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Quickly, on the president's upcoming summit, in Helsinki, Finland, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, it follows a few days earlier, the summit with the NATO allies in Brussels.

There's concern -- as you know, the Europeans are deeply concerned, the European allies, he'll be tough on them but much nicer to Putin. Are you among those that are concerned about that?

CONNOLLY: I am. I have never understood this odd infatuation and bromance that President Trump has for Vladimir Putin. He's expressed explicit admiration for him as an authoritarian figure. It's got to unsettle our democratic allies, and it's got to unsettle a lot of Americans.

And it's not like Putin is an actor. He's interfering with our elections. He's illegally annexed Crimea. He's still fighting in Eastern Ukraine. He occupies parts of Georgia. He's operating against our interests in the Middle East, especially in Syria right now. This is not a friend and ally, nor should he be treated as such.

BLITZER: The national security adviser to the president, John Bolton, he says that the president will raise the issue with Putin of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

But yesterday the president tweeted this. Let me put it up on the screen. "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our election. Where is the DNC server? And why didn't Shady James Comey and the now-disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn't Hillary-Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption."

He often expresses what seems to be doubt what his intelligence community -- his intelligence community, the intelligence leadership during the Obama administration, all concluded that Russia did interfere with the intention of helping him.

CONNOLLY: Without doubt. And so I think his tweet needs to be turned on itself. Why are you an apologist for Russian interference in our election? Why are you the chief apologist in our government for this dictatorial thug, Vladimir Putin?

BLITZER: What's the answer?

CONNOLLY: I think -- I think he's got something to worry about with respect to Russian intelligence.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

CONNOLLY: Well, you know, we have this dossier that Christopher Steele put together that made certain allegations about what the Russians had on President Trump. And it may either be financial or personal, but I think that's what's motivating Mr. Trump's dread fear of what might come out in the Mueller investigation.

BLITZER: Jerry Connolly, Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. "The New York Times" is reporting that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, felt used by the White House in the firing of the former FBI director James Comey. "The New York Times" quoting sources who describe Rosenstein as shaken and overwhelmed.

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, who's working the story for us.

So Evan, what's the latest you're hearing on Rosenstein?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think it's fairly accurate to say that Rod Rosenstein is under tremendous pressure, not only overseeing this investigation, but obviously, he's the man who wrote the memo that the president, at least at the beginning, used to explain the firing of James Comey, the FBI director.

Of course, the problem with the firing of Comey became a little bit more complicated, because the president then went on television, went on Twitter and in other forums, saying that he was really firing Comey because of his concerns about the Russia investigation.

[17:25:00] And so I think it is accurate to say that Rod Rosenstein has told friends that he felt used. He was certainly angry about the way the firing was carried out.

We've heard him testify on -- in Congress in the weeks after this -- after the firing. I believe we have one of the quotes he said to members of Congress. He said, "I wrote it, I believe it, I stand by it." He's talking about the memo in which he outlined all the different ways that James Comey had violated the norms of the Justice Department. And of course, everything Rod Rosenstein said has been backed up by the recent inspector general report, Wolf.

BLITZER: Even, you know -- even more news that we're getting. We've learned that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is seeking to delay the sentencing of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, by at least another 60 days. So Evan, what does that tell us? PEREZ: Wolf, it tells us the special counsel has other pieces of this

investigation that it is trying to complete. The special counsel believes that, obviously -- that sentencing Mike Flynn at this point would interfere with that work that's still being done.

Look, I think Mike Flynn has been a very, very valuable witness to Robert Mueller and his investigators. And this tells us that that cooperation is continuing. And I think what it means is that we can expect a few more shoes to drop from Robert -- from the special counsel this summer before the period where they have to go quiet before the election and before the mid-term elections are upon us.

BLITZER: And then there was also a hearing, as you know, today -- you were there -- on Paul Manafort's case, the former Trump campaign chairman. What did the hearing reveal?

PEREZ: Well, there was a big revelation in the way the FBI and the prosecutors who are handling this case, they say that they learned some valuable information from meeting with reporters from the Associated Press.

Now this hearing today, Wolf, was really an attempt by Paul Manafort's lawyers to suppress certain evidence. Remember, he's going on trial in less than a month in the Eastern District of Virginia and Alexandria, Virginia. And so they were trying to get evidence suppressed.

But one of the things that came out in some testimony from an FBI agent, they said that in April of 2017, they met with a group of Associated Press investigative reporters, and those reporters actually revealed to them that Paul Manafort owned a storage facility where he was storing important business records.

It turns out a lot of those business records are now being used by the special counsel against Paul Manafort, showing all of his business ties with Russian oligarchs, with the corrupt former government in Ukraine.

So a lot of revelations, apparently, came from this very important meeting they had with the Associated Press. We should mention that the Associated Press has denied previously that they gave -- that their reporters gave any information to the prosecutors.

Today they issued a statement saying that, in passing, during this meeting, their reports mentioned or asked prosecutors if they knew about the -- Manafort's storage facility, and that's the essence of what information they gave.

It looks like, Wolf, the judge is not ready yet to remove all of this evidence. I think he wants some time before he makes a ruling on this.

BLITZER: Evan, thank you very much. Evan Perez reporting for us.

Let's bring in our analysts. And Phil Mudd, let's start with Rod Rosenstein. This new report you just heard about at "The New York Times" saying he felt shaken and used by the White House, rationalizing the president's firing of the FBI director, James Comey, last year and pinning it, at least in part, on him. Your analysis?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This is pretty straightforward. This is ringing true to me. When you get in this town, especially at the level he's at, that is the sub-cabinet level, it is one fight in the administration. Everybody gets everybody's back, because you're getting attacked by Wolf Blitzer. You're getting attacked by "The Washington Post." You're getting attacked by the Congress. You're getting attacked by social media.

So when you're in the administration, the president appoints you. You're starting to get attacked. Everybody says, "I've got your back."

What has the president said? "Paul Manafort, I don't have your back. He was the campaign manager, but he was a bit player."

What do we say about Rex Tillerson. Rex, in social media -- this is the president -- "Rex, you're the secretary of state, but don't waste your time negotiating with the North Koreans."

What the president is saying and what we're seeing play out in this case is, "Despite the fact that I talk about loyalty, I'm going to throw you under the bus if I need you."

And this is Rosenstein saying, "I grew up in a world that say you're supposed to -- you're supposed to have my back." He didn't.

BLITZER: Well, Shawn Turner, you remember that, in that letter that Rosenstein wrote critiquing James Comey's performance as FBI director, involving the whole Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, during his testimony before Congress -- I went back and checked -- this was last spring -- Rosenstein told lawmakers, quote, "I wrote it, I believe it, I stand by it."

So how does that square with what is now being reported, that he felt really used by the White House?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, and I think that's part of the problem that Rosenstein's going to have going forward. I mean, those comments are completely inconsistent with his vehement defense of his role in writing this letter.


You know, I have a real hard time with some aspects of what we learned in this story. You know, Rod Rosenstein is a career law enforcement official. He's a career investigator. I have a hard time believing that someone who's often described as one of the smartest guys in the room did not have the ability to see that his words or this letter might be used this way. You know, I agree with Phil, there's this idea that if I write this letter and if I can lay out my thoughts here, that, you know, you're going to protect me, you're going to have my back. But I think in this environment, he should've had a little bit of an ability to say: you know, I need to be a little more cautious here. So, this is completely inconsistent with what he said and I think that if he didn't have a credibility problem before, certainly the outward view is that he's going to have one now.

BLITZER: Let's talk about his announcement on Air Force One right now, Kaitlan -- Kaitlan Collins our White House Reporter is with us, in which the president says he plans to announce his nominee for the United States Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy, speech -- seat on Monday, July 9th. He said, I've got it narrowed down to about five -- as far as Roe versus Wade abortion rights for women, he says, I'm not going to ask them that question. He said Senator Mike Lee of Utah -- he said he liked the job. Usually, they don't say that. He said, we have great people, highly talented and brilliant and mostly conservative judges. So, it sounds like he's narrowed it down pretty much to two or three or four people.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He does. And we were -- this is moving really fast. It was just two days ago that Kennedy announced he was going to retire. A bombshell announcement that has really ruptured Washington over the last few days with Democrats and Republicans going at each other. But the president there telling reporters he's narrowed it down to five people -- two women are on the list. He noted a lot of people thought they could go with a woman in order to blunt some of the criticism about overturning Roe versus Wade, if that came before the court.

I just counted through the list the White House published of 25 judges, 25 conservative judges -- they're all conservative we should note, last fall and six of them on that list were women. So now, they've narrowed it down to two women -- five total. The president said he's going to interview one or two while he's in Bedminster, New Jersey, at his golf club over the weekend. He did confirm CNN reporting that he does plan on picking someone by July 9th, which is quickly. That's in less than two weeks. But of course, that is fast tracking with that White House timeline. They're really going into overdrive here. We saw the president meet with those key senators just last night and in hopes of wooing them over so they can get this person confirmed. So, we're really seeing them move rather quickly on all of this.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: And ultimately this is about meeting the timeline that Mitch McConnell and the Senate have set out to get this done prior to election day, and part of that is, of course, to get this vacancy filled as soon as possible for, you know, legal reasons. So, the court can continue to function. But part of this obviously is political. They want to get those Democrats on the record on this.

BLITZER: Hold on one second because I want to just press you guys on this. The president aboard Air Force One said on Roe versus Wade -- he just said this on Air Force One: "I'm not going to ask them," meaning the candidates, "that question, where they stand on Roe V. Wade." Listen to what he did say in the final days just before the election on October 19th and the presidential debate 2016.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe V. Wade.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that's really what's going to be -- that will happen. And that will happen automatically in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this, it will go back to the states and the states will then make a determination.


BLITZER: All right. So, now the president is saying in contrast to what he said then: I'm not even going to ask these candidates where they stand.

COLLINS: That is going to be shocking to a lot of the president's supporters because a lot of the reason the president got elected was because of that Supreme Court vacancy, and conservatives knew that if they got Donald Trump in there, he could likely elect a -- or nominate a conservative. They knew Hillary Clinton would not do so. And so, that is why they picked Trump to be the president of the United States. And now, he's saying, I'm not even to ask these potential nominees what they think about Roe V. Wade. Of course, we know they do go through a confirmation hearing but they often don't answer questions where they stand on something like that because they say it could be something that could come before the court during their time on the bench.

So, certainly, a very interesting statement from the president there saying he's not going to ask him about that. That doesn't necessarily mean we won't know where they stand with some of them having a track record of making past public statements we could know what they feel about it. But it's quite interesting that during this vetting process, he's not going to ask about what people see could be the landmark decision they make.

BLITZER: You know, Rebecca, all of these perspective Supreme Court nominees, they've been thoroughly vetted by some very conservative groups out there who presumably did ask and presumably didn't know where these individuals, men and women, stand on Roe V. Wade.

BERG: That's right, Wolf. The president during the campaign essentially took his original Supreme Court list wholesale from conservative groups who had looked at these potential picks, looked at their records and recommended them. And none of those recommendations would've been made if those conservative groups thought for example the judges would want to preserve something like Roe V. Wade. And so, it's a pretty safe bet where most of the judges would stand. And I think some people would actually take comfort in the president not asking about this issue in particular because you don't want an explicit Litmus test for the judges. You want to choose them based on how they will approach decisions.

BLITZER: Let's talk to Phil Mudd to the prank phone call on Air Force One, a comedian calls him, pretending to be Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey. And the president is on the phone with this comedian. Let me play a little clip of that conversation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[17:35:43] TRUMP: You know, I have a good relationship with the party. You have a good relationship with the party and I think we could do a real immigration bill. We have to have security at the border. We have to have it. I mean, look you got 50 percent of the country -- they've got to have security at the border. And that's a good for the Democrats, Bob. It's not like it's good for you, or for me. It's good for both of us.


TRUMP: You know, of the problems.

MELENDEZ: No, I understand but I -- no, but I am -- I am Hispanic, so I have to -- you know, I have to -- I'm sure you understand. I have to look into my people as well, you understand.

TRUMP: I agree.


BLITZER: John Melendez, he's a comedian, he's often on the "Howard Stern Show"; a Stuttering John as he's called. He gets a conversation with the president of the United States. Now, we could laugh, funny, cute, but this has serious security ramifications.

MUDD: I didn't think it was very funny. I mean, look, we're talking about this as a security issue. We know from day one when the president usually transitions with security devices and somebody said you can't have your iPhone any more, you can't have your Blackberry anymore. The president said, I don't like to be shackled by any White House protocol and I certainly want to be told -- don't want to be told to carry around some clunky communications device or to follow some clunky protocol to pick up the phone and call somebody.

I looked at this and my first question wasn't whether security was breached, it's whether the president was practicing security protocols within his team to ensure this doesn't happen. By the way, one other comment: can we stop referring to this guy as a comedian. This guy is a bottom feeder who makes his life out of humiliating other people. It's not funny and I think it's offensive, so I suggest -- well any way, go ahead.

COLLINS: But also, this guy, like, I don't know what he knows or what he could quiz the president on, but what if he had asked about something about national security or something that he would only know about? And you know, they're on what they believe as a secure line while the president is on Air Force One and he could have easily talked about something like that. I mean, the risk for this are quite large. I think it is treated with a lot of humor because of how unbelievable the president would be connected to someone just randomly through a switchboard and then that it happened, but it does have national security.

BLITZER: Shawn, you used to work for the director of National Intelligence, how do you see it?

TURNER: Well, you know, it also speaks to -- you know, I was talking to some former colleagues about this and under the Obama administration, one of the frustrations that a lot of people had were -- was the fact there are so many processes in place. There was so much security around absolutely everything that happened, and sometimes people felt like that security was a bit onerous. What you have in the Obama administration is you have a lot less pushback on those security measures because the Obama administration, you have people thought this all day were necessary. In this administration, people have actually championed the fact that some that has been loosened up. But there is a risk when you loosen up some of those -- some of those restrictions.

And I think in this case, what concerns me more about this call is not so much the fact that the caller got through, but the fact that the called got through on Air Force One. Did the president called back from Air Force One? There are significant number of different protocols with regard to calling that aircraft and calls from that aircraft than there are if you're calling a landline. So, from that perspective, yes, it does concern me but I think that what we'll see going forward, is we'll see the White House tighten up some of those procedures. I think it's very unlikely that something like this will happen again.

BLITZER: And we just heard, Kaitlin, aboard that little Q&A that the president had on Air Force One on the flight from Washington up to New Jersey, where he's going to be spending the July 4th holiday. He did say he would raise the issue of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election with President Putin when they meet in Helsinki, Finland on July 16th.

COLLINS: Which is quite surprising see as just the other day he president tweeted citing Vladimir Putin's denials that Russia meddled in the election. And now, he's telling reporters, they asked what he was going to discuss during that meeting in Helsinki, that first formal sit down between the two of them. And he said, they would discuss Syria, which we knew, because the White House has discussed that. They also said they were, he was going to discuss election meddling because he said he doesn't anyone tampering in our election. That's surprising and one of the strongest statements we've heard from President Trump on this so far is someone who has constantly said we don't know if it was Russia, we don't know who it is, disagreeing and contradicting with his intelligence chiefs an even this week, his FBI director who said, yes, Russia did meddle in the election. He also said they're going to discuss Crimea.

Of course, Russia -- Crimea. The president -- there were some reporting this week that he said maybe they should have Crimea because they speak Russian any way. And then also, a few weeks ago, when the president was going to Canada for the G7 summit, he said he believed that Russia should be included in a summit like that. Of course, it used to be the G8 until Russia was kicked out of it because they did go into Crimea and they should not have -- violating international law. So, it's interesting now that he's saying he's going to bring that up with them when just a few weeks ago he was saying he didn't essentially seem to be a big enough deal to him that they should be kicked out of a summit with world leaders.

[17:40:37] BLITZER: Yes, Rebecca, you also said that he wants the world to de-escalate. They say, they didn't see a problem having good relations with Russia or China for that matter.

BERG: Right. But what is the incentive for Russia and China right now when they are essentially going around the United States trying to make end roads in Europe and Africa, and all these other spheres, especially because this is a moment, as a result of President Trump and the way he's been operating, when there's so much uncertainty around the globe about the United States, about our relations with other countries. And Russia and China are taking advantage of that. And so, it will be interesting to see if the president has a plan to actually address they're rising influence at our expense.

TURNER: And I can't emphasize enough just how important it is -- the last time the president asked Vladimir Putin about this, he said, I asked him about it, he said he didn't do it and he implied that he believed that. That sent shock waves through the intelligence community. If the president comes back again after asking Putin about this, and doubles down on that, now that we have even more evidence that Russia meddled in our election.

That has a significant impact on the men and women who do intelligence. So, the fact that he's going to ask about this, I think it's great, but I think that he people around the president, his national security team, should really, you know, get inside his head and make sure that whatever he says about this is something that does not -- do what it did last time and really harm the intelligence community.

BLITZER: And it wasn't just James Clapper or John Brennan who led the U.S. intelligence community during the Obama administration, it's the current intelligence chief, all named by President Trump, including Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence; Mike Pompeo, who was the CIA Director, now the Secretary of State, and others. They agreed with the predecessors.

MUDD: Watch this game. For those of us in Washington, this is almost like NFL football in terms of enjoyment. Shawn is exactly right. I think the president walks in and this word raise this -- he's going to raise with Putin. He raises it, and Putin said: I didn't do it, and the president says, OK, I did my job. That puts pressure in the coming months leading up to midterms on people like the CIA director, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and maybe even some of the White House staff to say: if we see meddling in the election, the president isn't on board but we have got to talk to the American people about what we see the Russians doing. Does that cause a gap between the president's advisers and the president? My bet would be yes.

BLITZER: Here's what I don't understand -- Kaitlan, you're over there at the White House, you're a correspondent, so you know the inside story on this. At 8:00 a.m. Eastern, yesterday morning, there was a joint statement released by the White House and the Kremlin, announcing the summit between Presidents Trump and Putin in Helsinki on July 16th. A half hour earlier, before that joint statement is released, the president tweets this -- I'll put it up on the screen again: "Russia continues to say, they had nothing to do with meddling in our election," then he goes on to blast James Comey and Hillary Clinton and fake FBI agents and all of that." So, the timing raised all sorts of questions in my mind. Walk us through that.

COLLINS: It did. And that came after the days before that when we were trying to report out when this meeting was going to happen, if it was actually going to happen. The Kremlin kept announcing things before the White House was announcing things, and then the White House would have to go back and confirm what they had said. The Kremlin announced: hey, on this date, we're going to announce at 8:00 a.m., the time and the place of this meeting.

And then, the White House would say, a few hours later, yes, we are. So, then we get to the day of, the president tweets this -- essentially setting the stage, he couldn't really set the stage any better for Russian President Vladimir Putin. That's exactly what he wants to hear before he sits up this meeting with Trump. And it raises questions of what the president would get out of the meeting with Vladimir Putin. Is it going to be another situation like we saw on Singapore where he sits down and there's all of this pomp and circumstance with Kim Jong-un.

And then, we don't really have anything concrete and we walk away from it, and what are we going to do with Syria? Is it going to be something that pleases Assad? So, there are so many things he could confront Vladimir Putin about, and it doesn't seem like he is in that kind of a mindset to confront him. And going back to election interference, he said he's going to raise it but we know when the president raised it before he sided his denials and said you could only ask so many times. So, it raises the questions, why is he going to ask again. This is coming in a crucial time in the middle of the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the election, and just months ahead of the midterms where our intelligence chief have said, Russia will try to meddle again.

[17:45:01] BERG: And certainly, in light of that tweet, in light of what we know about President Trump, I would urge some caution and skepticism when he said he will raise this issue. Because we never know what President Trump is going to do day-to-day. Tomorrow, he could say the exact opposite.

BLITZER: And your definition of raising the issue, there are various ways to raise the issue and the president could do it softly or very, very harshly if he wants to. You know, it reminds me that there was the summit -- the G7 summit in Canada, the president left angry the G7 allies, not very happy. He went off to Singapore and met with Kim Jong-un and looked like a great summit, and then he was having the complete denuclearization of North Korea and all of that. Now, he's going to be meeting in Brussels, Phil, with the NATO allies.

He doesn't like the fact that a lot of those NATO allies don't devote two percent of their GDP to defense. Some of them like Germany, one percent -- barely one percent, and he's been raising that issue in interviews with me going back, at least, one decade, maybe two decades. Very angry about that. That meeting with the NATO allies in Brussels could be rather harsh and it could contrast with what potentially could be a very positive meeting with Putin.

MUDD: It's also going to be harsh, I suspect, behind the scenes, potentially if they discuss immigration. There's conversations in Europe right now, successful sort of conversation on -- conversations on immigration within the European, where they're cooperating on immigration matters. I could see the president saying -- and he said this before about people like Angela Merkel in public. Why do you let all these the people in your country? So, I think there's going to be tremendous amount of friction and Europeans are going to read things like that tweet that he put out on Putin and say let me get this straight, we were with you over the past 50 years in the NATO alliance, and a guy screws up your election except he helps you win, potentially. And you favored him and hammer us in public. How does this work? It doesn't.

BLITZER: Stick around guys. There's more breaking news we're following. Once again, I want to update our viewers on this potential meeting that are now scheduled meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin. I want to go to our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen. Fred, you just heard that the president, President Trump, will bring up election meddling by the Russians during the summit with President Putin in Helsinki. What are the Russians saying?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Russia certainly, Wolf, are very much gearing up for the summit as well. They came out earlier today and said they are expecting robust discussion on very interesting and important topics, and one of the really interesting things, Wolf, is that we actually asked the Russians earlier today. What would they do if President Trump did bring up election meddling? Here's what they had to say.


PLEITGEN: As the Kremlin and the White House gear up for the Helsinki summit just days away, Moscow seemingly trying to brush off the topic of Russia meddling in the 2016 election even before the two leaders meet. The Kremlin spokesperson responding to a CNN question on a media call.

DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESMAN (through translator): If the U.S. president raises this issue, the Russian president absolutely will be ready to repeat once again that Russia had nothing to do with it and could not have anything to do with this thing that is surrounded by so many insinuations.

PLEITGEN: While some American allies are concerned, President Trump could threaten the entire American-led post World War II order, Russian state-run media is hailing President Trump after he attack the E.U. at a rally in North Dakota.

TRUMP: The European Union, of course, was set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank, right. And you know what, we can't let that happen. PLEITGEN: Appoint repeated on Russian T.V.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, you will find yourself in a stupid situation. They were friends with America, came up and pushed through anti-Russian sanctions together. Now, they're falling out with Americans. They have no idea what to do. Sanctions hit the Europeans back, the migrants, it is a mess everywhere.

PLEITGEN: All this as the E.U. is actually supporting American policies. Voting today to extend sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Even President Trump's attacks against CNN and other media organizations get positive mentions on Russia T.V. since he doesn't criticize them.

VLADIMIR SOLOVEV, HOST, ROSSIYA 1 T.V. (through translator): CNN and New York Times and Washington post have all made it to the list of media which the crown jewel of the Democratic world, Donald Trump, called fake news. He never said R.T. is fake news, he never said Sputnik is fake news. You are fake news. You are fake news.

PLEITGEN: The Russians say, they expect robust discussions between Vladimir Putin and President Trump. And America's closest allies will be closely watching, hoping the rift between them and the U.S. won't get even bigger.


PLEITGEN: And describing all of it in a word, Wolf, it really seems that the Russians are quite bullish before this summit with the President Trump. Also, very interesting to hear that President Trump is saying he thinks the world is ready to deescalate. There could be positive results. Vladimir Putin's spokesman was asked that, and he said the Russians have always said, they want better relations with the United States and are willing to go as far as the United States and President Trump are willing to go, Wolf.

[17:50:08] BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in (INAUDIBLE) Square for us tonight. Fred, thank you very much. There's other news we're following. New developments in the fight over illegal immigration and the separation of families at an airport near Washington today. A 7- year-old boy from El Salvador was finally reunited with his mother. They had been separated for a month. The U.S. Justice Department is now asking for permission to detain children for longer than 20 days, despite our recent federal court order. CNN's Nick Valencia has been with federal agents as they apprehend families along the U.S.-Mexico border. Nick, tell us what you saw.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was an intense sequence of events that our camera witnessed. It gives us a raw and candid look in a day in the life of a border patrol agent, and what might migrants from Central American say they're willing to put themselves through to keep from being murdered in their homeland.


VALENCIA: Through the tree brush, Border Patrol Agent Robert Rodriguez spots what he says are three smugglers preparing to launch a raft filled with migrants.

ROBERT RODRIGUEZ, BORDER PATROL AGENT: He says, they're filming us, he says.

VALENCIA: Along with Agent Rodriguez, we follow the raft downstream. It's there we see this: six central American migrants, some of those who are on the raft, one of them traveling with his father is just 3- years-old. What are you looking for here?


He's asking for asylum. Strangers would show up to his house. They would ask for money. And they would threaten him in front of his child. Kept threatening to kill him. And they would even --


He said, they wouldn't kill the 3-year-old. You know, there's people here that are very much against illegal immigration. They don't want people like you in the United States. What do you say to them?


He says, those people don't know what I've been through. They don't know what I go through nightly. They don't know what it's like to fear death.

This mother and her 13-year-old were also in the group. Holding back tears, she says she never wanted to leave Honduras. If it wasn't for MS-13, her son says, they would have never left.

Why are you crying?


He said he didn't want to leave Honduras. That's why he is crying. He's really sorry for putting his mom in this position. She said, of course, I would never let my son be captured there. She's saying even though she -- if zero-tolerance was in place, she would still cross. That's how much fear they have.

From here, the group will be taken to a processing center joining hundreds of others just like them. Even still, they're the lucky ones, had they crossed just last week, the parents and children would have assuredly been torn apart by the U.S. government.


VALENCIA: It is worth noting that with the exception of those two unaccompanied minors in that group whose faces that we blurred, those migrants did agree to go on camera. As I mentioned in that report, they will be taken to a processing center and depending on their criminal background, they may or may not be separated from their children.

BLITZER: Such a heartbreaking story. What's the latest? You're getting some more information on the family, the family reunifications process, what are you hearing?

VALENCIA: Well, HHS is now not giving us an update at number on those reunifications. So, as we understand it, Wolf, it's still at least 2,000 children that are without their mother and their father. We are expecting demonstrations to continue through the weekend. It's something that we saw in Washington, D.C. as well as here in the Rio Grande Valley. And new reporting as well tonight from Tal Kopan, my colleague in D.C., as well as Laura Jarrett, that the Trump administration is considering further restrictions on asylum rights for those that have been convicted of crossing illegally into the United States. The problem with that is that rule could conflict with international obligations. Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure there will be a lot of challenges to that. Nick Valencia, a long the border for us. Nick, thank you very, very much.

[17:54:06] There's more breaking news we're following. The president just spoke aboard Air Force One saying, he is considering now five candidates for the United States Supreme Court, including two women. We're standing by for the audio from that conversation. The question and answer session the president had with reporters aboard Air Force One. Also, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein described as shaken and feeling used by President Trump in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. We have new details. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Trump's supreme choice. The president is speaking out tonight about his plans for nominating a high court justice, revealing that women are on his short list as well as his timetable for action. Stand by for all the new comments by the president.

Security breach. In a truly shocking incident aboard Air Force One, the White House admits President Trump took a prank call from a comedian posing as the United States senator. How did aides to the president fail to figure out they were being duped?

Used by Trump. That's how the president's deputy attorney general felt about his role in the firing of James Comey, according to a just released report. How angry is Rod Rosenstein now as he faces attacks by fellow Republicans over the Russia investigation?

[17:59:55] And Flynn still cooperating. The special council delays sentencing for the president's former National Security advisor, a sign that Michael Flynn still is providing information to Robert Mueller. What secrets might he be spilling?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in the SITUATION ROOM.