Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); Trump Reportedly Spending 60 Percent of Working Hours in 'Executive Time'; Democrats Call on Virginia Governor to Resign. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 4, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's company reportedly was denied a loan by the German banking giant Deutsche Bank during the 2016 presidential campaign. What are the bank's ties to Russia, and why did it turn down the Trump Organization?
Unscheduled. A new report says the president spends about 60 percent of each day in unscheduled and mostly unmonitored downtime that the White House calls executive time. How much of it is spent tweeting, watching TV and talking on the phone?
And arming the enemy? U.S. weapons falling into enemy hands. Guns, armored vehicles, and even missiles now in the possession of Iran and a militia to terrorists. It's a CNN exclusive.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: new details emerging involving the political drama that's rocking Virginia.
A source tells CNN that Governor Ralph Northam is begging his cabinet for time to clear his name in the scandal over a racist photo that appears on his medical school yearbook page. Northam is facing increasingly strong calls to resign, but the source says Northam believes that stepping down now would brand him as -- quote -- "a racist for life."
We will talk about the breaking news and more with Senator Ben Cardin of the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's get some more on the breaking news.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is joining us from Richmond, Virginia, right now.
Ryan, your source tells you that Northam's colleagues, they are truly struggling tonight.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly how he put it, Wolf. He said the entire cabinet struggling with this decision to stay or leave the Northam administration.
And we should be clear, basically, the only bastion of support that the governor has left are those that he appointed, the people that work under his charge. And we're told today after a very contentious cabinet meeting and a meeting with his staff, none of the cabinet members have plans at least in the immediate future to resign.
This after the governor begged them for more time, telling them that he does not want to resign, and then be thought of as a racist for life.
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: Well, it's not me.
NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, Virginia's governor remains in office, clinging to a very thin shred of power. As protesters took to his office to demand a resignation, Ralph Northam was inside, huddled with his cabinet officials and top aides.
Inside the room, Northam was emotional, as he made a plea for more time and space to make the case that he's not one of the two people in this racist photo that appeared under his name in his medical school yearbook.
Complicating the controversy, the man who would replace Northam is facing problems of his own. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax forced to call an impromptu conference to respond to reports of a woman accusing him of sexual assault at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a claim Fairfax vehemently denied.
LT. GOV. JUSTIN FAIRFAX (D), VIRGINIA: That did not happen. There was no inappropriate contact whatsoever. This was not only from left field. It was from planet Mars, because it didn't happen.
NOBLES: It's a claim "The Washington Post" investigated before Fairfax's inauguration. The paper decided not to run the story at the time.
Today, though, "The Post" writing -- quote -- "'The Washington Post' in phone calls to people who knew Fairfax from college, law school and through political circles found no similar complaints of sexual misconduct against him. Without that or the ability to corroborate the woman's account, in part because she had not told anyone what had happened, 'The Washington Post' did not run a story."
Northam's attempt to overcome the criticism from the release of the pictures was highlighted by a dramatic and often uncomfortable weekend press conference, where the governor made the argument that he knew he wasn't in the photo because he didn't remember taking it. But he specifically remembered another time where he did don blackface to appear as Michael Jackson at a dance contest.
R. NORTHAM: I dressed up in a -- what's his name -- he could sing -- Michael Jackson. Excuse me. That's why I have Pam with me. I had the shoes. I had a glove. And I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put under my -- or on my cheeks.
And the reason I used a very little bit is because I don't know if anybody's ever tried that, but you cannot get shoe polish off.
NOBLES: And then resisted the temptation to moonwalk during the heated presser.
QUESTION: Are you still able to moonwalk?
PAM NORTHAM, WIFE OF RALPH NORTHAM: Inappropriate circumstances.
R. NORTHAM: My wife says inappropriate circumstances.
NOBLES: Northam has struggled to explain his role in the production of the yearbook, which was published in 1984 and contains several other racist and objectionable photos, including other classmates in blackface.
The press conference did not win him any new support, instead leading many to renew their calls for him to step down. And despite his calls for resignation from every corner of Virginia's government, Northam is still signaling he has no plans to resign. And it seems that decision will be his alone to make, as the state's Republican speaker, Kirk Cox, made it clear impeachment was not on the table.
KIRK COX (R), VIRGINIA STATEHOUSE SPEAKER: Obviously, on impeachment, that's a very high standard. And so I think that's why we have called for the resignation. We hope that's what the governor does. I think that would obviously be less pain for everyone.
NOBLES: And there is no doubt that these new allegations against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax complicate the picture here in Richmond tonight.
We do know that Fairfax is vehemently denying these claims and plans to not back down in any way, shape or form. Now, today, during an impromptu press gaggle, Fairfax alluded to the fact that he thought the timing of this information coming out was a little suspect, given the fact that he could be on the precipice of becoming Virginia's next governor.
Now, he didn't say where he thought those accusations were coming from, but we did ask the governor's office tonight if they had anything to do with this new information coming out about Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and a spokesperson for the governor telling us our Dan Merica that they emphatically had nothing to do with the new information regarding the lieutenant governor, but, Wolf, a lot of uncertainty here in Capitol Square in Richmond as Virginia waits to see the fate of their governor.
BLITZER: Ryan, we will stay in very close touch with you. Thank you very much for that report. There's more breaking news we're following.
President Trump has just nominated acting Interior Secretary and former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt to replace Ryan Zinke, who left the administration facing multiple ethics investigations.
Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.
Jim, we're just, what, over 24 hours away now from the president's State of the Union address.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And he's been getting ready. The president spent another day behind closed doors as he gears up for tomorrow's State of the Union address.
He did make one big announcement, as you said, in selecting the acting interior secretary and former oil lobbyist, David Bernhardt, to take on that job permanently. But the president's schedule has become part of the news lately, with the White House pushing back on a report that he's spending too much time in something called executive time.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Looking to get the administration back on track after a costly government shutdown, aides say President Trump will try something different in Tuesday's State of the Union speech, appeal for bipartisanship.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: This president is going to call for an end to the politics of resistance, retribution, and call for more comity, C-O-M-I-T-Y.
ACOSTA: The president is telling reporters he simply can't understand why Democrats would want to impeach him, given the job he's done.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way they can win, because they can't win the election, is to bring out the artificial way of impeachment. And the problem is, you can't impeach somebody for doing the best job of any president in the history of our country for the first two years.
ACOSTA: But a new CNN poll finds Mr. Trump's approval at a cringe- worthy 40 percent, as the public is adamantly against the idea of the president declaring a national emergency to build his border wall.
By contrast, it's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who bested Mr. Trump in their showdown, whose numbers are on the rise, above where they were before the shutdown. Don't tell the president that one.
TRUMP: I think that she was very rigid, which I would expect, but I think she's very bad for our country.
ACOSTA: With Democrats feeling emboldened, there's another battle looming over whether the president would authorize the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's findings in the Russia investigation. MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": Would you make the Mueller
report public because you say there's nothing in there?
TRUMP: It's totally up to the attorney general. Totally up to the attorney general.
BRENNAN: What do you want them to do?
TRUMP: Even the Mueller report said it had nothing to do with the campaign.
ACOSTA: That's a strange response, as the Mueller report hasn't even been released.
The president has plenty of time to study up on the issue. The news site Axios found the president has spent about 60 percent of his scheduled time in what's called executive time, the unstructured and largely unmonitored part of his day that is used for tweeting, watching TV and talking to advisers on the phone.
In response to that stunning leak of closely guarded information, the White House said: "While the president spends much of his average day in scheduled meetings, event and calls, there is time to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive president in modern history."
CONWAY: Whoever leaked it doesn't know what he's doing during that block of time. So, that's pretty obvious. I'm told 388 people have access to the broader schedule, but very few have access to the other schedule.
ACOSTA: But Democrats are pouncing, wondering what happened to Mr. Trump's boasts about his stamina.
TRUMP: She doesn't have the look. She doesn't have the stamina. I said she doesn't have the stamina. And I don't believe she does have the stamina.
ACOSTA: One decision the president has made in recent days has been to tap White House doctor Ronny Jackson as his chief medical adviser, even though allegations that the physician has been abusive toward colleagues are under investigation at the Pentagon.
But the president likes the doctor, who praised Mr. Trump's health last year.
DR. RONNY JACKSON, PRESIDENTIAL PHYSICIAN: He has incredibly good genes, and it's just the way God made him.
ACOSTA: As for the president's move to offer the job of interior secretary to the current acting secretary in that job, Mr. Trump, as we know, has a number of officials in acting roles these days, from his attorney general to his defense secretary to his White House chief of staff.
And we will see several of those acting officials when they have the State of the Union speech tomorrow night. It won't be executive time when the president heads up to Capitol Hill tomorrow evening, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly won't. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Wolf, it's always a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Let me start with a question of accountability, after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam admitted to dressing up in blackface. Do you believe he needs to resign?
CARDIN: I do.
I listened to his explanation on Saturday. It's just not believable. He seems to just be tone-deaf to the issues. He cannot effectively govern. He needs to leave.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about some other issues.
There are only 11 days left, as you know, to reach a deal on border security. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, says he doesn't know how this will end. But he says he's optimistic. Do you believe there's any compromise that Democrats can offer the president that the president will eventually sign into law?
CARDIN: Wolf, if the president would leave the conference committee alone, let them do their work, I am very confident that they will reach a compromise on border security.
We have been able to do that during the normal budget cycle, and appropriations cycle. We have reached agreements on border security. We can reach agreement. The problem is the president interferes and keep changing the goalposts, making it difficult for us to reach an agreement.
So, yes, I am confident we can reach an agreement on border security that will satisfy what we need on our southern border.
BLITZER: Satisfy the House and the Senate bicameral, bipartisan, but do you think the president, if it doesn't have specifically some major sums for a border wall, and he says you got to use the word wall right now, if it doesn't have that, what happens?
CARDIN: Wolf, it's hard for me to predict what the president of the United States is going to do.
He's brought us together at times where we can reach a bipartisan agreement, only to see him blow it up before we could complete the talks. That was, by the way, on immigration issues. It was on other issues. So I'm not going to predict what the president can do.
I know my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats. I'm working with Republican and Democratic members. I am confident that, left alone by the president, we can reach an agreement. We're an independent branch of government. And I think we can reach an agreement by such large numbers that the president will be part of our solution.
BLITZER: Not only independent, but co-equal branch of government.
"The Washington Post," as you know, Senator, is reporting that the Senate majority leader warned President Trump that if he declares a national emergency, the Senate might pass a resolution disapproving of that decision.
What are your Republican colleagues telling you about this?
CARDIN: I hear from both my Democratic and Republican colleagues that this is a ridiculous way for the president to act. This is not a national emergency.
There's no authority by Congress to act in this direction. This would be a total abuse of executive power. He would have to take money from other projects that are needed. This is not now the president should behave. He should respond to the fact that it's up to the Congress to appropriate funds, not the president of the United States.
BLITZER: But other presidents have used executive powers, declaring national emergencies. President Obama declared 13 separate national emergencies. Doesn't President Trump have those same authorities?
CARDIN: He certainly has the authority to declare a national emergency, but where's the emergency?
This is a problem that he created. There's certainly not on the border a crisis that requires him to divert funds from otherwise authorized projects. So there's no question the president has executive authority to do this. He normally does this in conjunction, with consultation with Congress.
And there is a way that Congress can reverse what the president has done. So the way this president's claiming to use his authority, he's going to find objections from Congress, and I think he will find legal challenges.
BLITZER: But you realize that you would need, what, a two-thirds majority in the Senate to override a presidential veto if you were to pass this so-called resolution of disapproval, if he were to declare a national emergency.
You think there are 67 senators who would go ahead and pass that kind of resolution? CARDIN: I'm confident that there are over 67 senators who disagree
with the president using that authority. That may not translate to 67 votes to override a presidential veto.
Remember, there's also the courts. So I am confident that my colleagues think this is wrong. I think it's wrong. And I believe the courts would uphold the authority of Congress over the president in this regard.
BLITZER: Well, we know it would eventually wind up in the courts and maybe even in the Supreme Court.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
CARDIN: Wolf, it's good to be with you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.
There's more breaking news we're following, new information just coming in about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
We have details when we come back.
BLITZER: There's breaking news in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. His sentencing has now been set for March 13.
Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, is working the story for us.
Sara, Mueller's team claims that Manafort actually breached the cooperation deal. How's that going to affect the sentencing?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, what it means right now is, it's pushing the sentencing back a little bit. It's now set for March 13.
This will be the first time that Manafort -- Manafort faces any sentencing. It will be for conspiracy and for witness tampering.
But, right now, it's up to the judge to determine whether Manafort really did violate his plea agreement. And that's, of course, going to determine how much time, you know, he may get for these charges. He was supposed to be cooperating.
And, normally, in a situation like that, if you cooperate, the government recommends you get a shorter sentence than you would otherwise. But it's unclear how he will fare in this case.
And, remember, this is just the first time he's going to be sentenced. He's also waiting for a sentencing date in Virginia, where he was convicted on these eight counts of financial crimes. BLITZER: And we have also now learned, thanks to "The New York
Times," that Trump was denied a loan, the Trump Organization, was denied a loan during the 2016 campaign by Deutsche Bank.
And according to "The Times," the bank decided to turn down the loan. Do we know why they turned down the loan? And do we know where the Trump Organization turned for money during the course of the campaign? They clearly needed a loan.
MURRAY: They apparently needed a loan, as "The New York Times" reports.
And our Kara Scannell confirmed that one of the reasons the bank turned down this loan was, they thought, wow, what an awkward position we're going to be in if he's the president, and he defaults on this loan. Are we not going to just not collect this debt, or are we then in a position where we're going to seize assets from the president of the United States?
And they decided it was too risky of a proposition. Now, according to the Trump Organization, they told "The New York Times" that they financed this themselves. But Deutsche Bank is a bank they have gone to over and over again for financing in the past, after Trump developed all these issues with other lenders because of his history of bankruptcies.
It's unclear where he may have gotten additional funding, if he did, from outside sources. Remember, he doesn't release his tax returns. We know very little about the Trump Organization finances, Wolf.
BLITZER: Because we know that a lot of American banks didn't want to lend the Trump Organization money because of what you point out, the history there.
So, he turned to Deutsche Bank for those loans. What about the connection, if any, between Deutsche Bank and the Russians? Because that's clearly at the heart of the Mueller investigation.
MURRAY: Well, this is raising concern from Democratic lawmakers who want to know more about the Trump Organization's interactions with Deutsche Bank.
And you saw some of them out there saying, Deutsche Bank has this history that we don't necessarily trust with the Russians. And that's because Deutsche Bank was fined hundreds of millions of dollars essentially because regulators said, you had your Russian clients running a money laundering scheme right underneath your nose, and you didn't take the regulatory, the compliant steps to detect it, it take care of it.
And so that's part of the reason that Democratic lawmakers have said, we want to take a deeper dive into this.
BLITZER: I'm sure they are, especially now that, in the House, they're the majority in the House of Representatives.
BLITZER: Sara, good reporting. Thank you very much.
There's more breaking news we're following. Virginia's embattled governor said to be -- said to fear be branded a racist for life if he were to resign. Is he putting his image over what's best for his state?
And new details emerging right now on a new report on just how much time President Trump spends tweeting, watching TV, on the phone. We will have details.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, the Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, resisting calls to resign over a racist photo that appears on his medical school yearbook page, and asking his cabinet for time to clear his name.
Let's dig deeper into all of this with our correspondents and our analysts.
And, Gloria, he says he's afraid, apparently, according to his aides, if he were to resign right now, he'd be -- quote -- "a racist for life."
Is he, some people are suggesting, more concerned about his own personal reputation, or what's good for the Commonwealth of Virginia?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, it's a little late for that, given those photographs.
And, again, he says now that he's not sure he's in the photographs, but he did blacken his face when he did the Michael Jackson imitation. I think he is thinking of himself. And I think people clearly like him in the Democratic Party. Republicans don't want to impeach him.
I think that he's trying to convince people to hang with him. But, in a way -- and this is sort of odd -- that it was his behavior at his press conference that was so troubling to people, that United States Senators Kaine and Warner, who did -- and Scott -- who didn't come out for him to resign before the press conference, after the press conference, said, you know, you have to leave, because there was a sense -- and I don't know if you guys felt that way -- that he didn't get how serious this moment was, not only for himself, but for the state of Virginia.
BLITZER: He seems, David, to have made it worse for himself almost with every step he took.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: He did, right. Let's acknowledge that he says now that he wasn't in that photo. But,
on Friday night, he came out first and apologized for being in that photo, and then the series of events that Gloria just described played out.
At a minimum, take the racial aspect of this aside for a second. It's political malpractice. Once he apologized, he put all of his potential Democratic allies in a complete box. Governor McAuliffe, Vice President Biden, the Virginia Democrats all reacted to this first statement, and then they had to do a 180 -- or try to do a 180 -- on Saturday after the presser.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, what do you think?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think he just can't stay in office, because he has no supporters, I mean, no supporters.
And that is just an untenable position. Now, he may think that's unfair. He may think all these politicians are turning on him unjustly, but part of being a politician is having people who support you.
TOOBIN: And there's no one who's doing that.
And so I don't see this any other way but with his resignation.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Eventually.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: What about Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think Gloria makes a good point. I think that we've seen in the history of politics in this country that American people can be pretty forgiving for some things if the person does offer a sincere, genuine apology where they seem contrite and ashamed of their actions. I do not think we saw that on Saturday during that press conference. There were a lot of missteps, especially when he was asked if he could still do the moonwalk, when he pointed to the fact he blackened his face to go on stage as Michael Jackson, noting not only that he did that but he won the competition, which raised eyebrows.
But then he looked at the stage to gauge how much space there was and if he could do the move. And his wife had to step in and tell him that the circumstances were inappropriate. I think you saw him laughing some as when we couldn't remember Michael Jackson's name, things like that. And I think that is really indicative of how people feel. They don't feel he's handled this responsibly, not only saying he was in the photo and then now saying he's so confident he wasn't in the photo, I think that's raised a lot of questions.
But I do think it all goes back to whether or not he can be a leader for them. And I think this paired with the controversy that had already happened over the comments he made about abortion and the days before this photo surfaced, I think it raises so many questions about him. And I think it is becoming untenable because there are so many people who are calling for him to step down.
BLITZER: And it's taking place just as the President is getting ready tomorrow night to deliver his State of the Union Address. Take a look at these numbers in our new CNN poll. You have another government shutdown if no wall funding is there. Would you support or oppose that or the 39% say they would support another government shutdown if no wall funding, 57% opposed. Should President Trump declare an emergency, a national emergency, to build a wall? Only 31% say yes, 66%, no. And as you know, if there's no deal in Congress, he says that's what he's going to do.
BORGER: Yes. And if you look deeper into those numbers, what you see is that independent voters who during the election were overwhelmingly for Trump, independent voters are about 60%-plus against declaring a national emergency.
I also think there are people inside the white house and, Mitch McConnell, who are telling Donald Trump not so easy because the House can vote a resolution of disapproval, which must be taken up in the senate, and then the Senators have to go on the record about whether they approve of this national emergency. And don't forget, we've already had half a dozen of them who deserted the President, so not so fast.
COLLINS: So here's the thing with that. We've seen that these numbers - also if you look at the ones that are republicans, they are for the President, declaring a National Emergency if he doesn't get the money or having another government shutdown if this committee doesn't reach a deal.
I've been talking with White House officials not about the latest calls that we've heard from republicans, warning the President against declaring a national emergency, since those just surfaced today, but in the days before when we knew already that if he declared a national emergency, it would almost certainly face a legal battle.
And we talked to these White House officials, what is your response going to be when it ends up in the courts shortly after he does so? They said that's fine. Because even if that is a court battle they have over the next two years, that's a political win for them because they can argue the President has done what he can, he tried to give Congress the time to find a way to fund this border wall. He tried to do what he could to use executive powers to fund it. And right now, we're in a legal battle.
But what they are concerned about is getting a political win for the President here. So keep that in mind as you focus on what the White House has --
BLITZER: Jeffrey, I know you want to weigh in.
TOOBIN: But look at the polls. They are exactly the same as every question we ask about Donald Trump, and have for the past two years, it's about 35% to 40% in favor of the President and about 55% to 60% against the President. Every question including about this, and the President obviously is comfortable with defining his presidency to please that 35% to 40% of the people.
BORGER: Right. And --
TOOBIN: And if that means declaring a national emergency, so be it. He'll be happy to do it.
BORGER: Well, 70%-plus of republicans support him on this, and that's what he cares about. That's what he cares about.
BLITZER: He cares about that base.
BLITZER: So far, it's worked out nicely for him. Everybody, stick around. We got a lot more right after this.
[18:38:53] BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and analysts. And, Jeffrey, Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign, chairman now, we're told, will be sentenced on March 13th conspiracy, witness tampering. He pleaded guilty. He was supposed to be cooperating with Mueller and his team. They say he wasn't cooperating. He was lying. What do you think is going to happen?
TOOBIN: Wolf, I was in court the last time Manafort was in court. And I was shocked at his appearance. He has deteriorated so much since he's been in prison. He's walking with a cane. He looks disoriented. And he's 70 years old and he is looking at a potential ten-plus-year sentence. I mean, the stakes for Paul Manafort are so enormous. He blew up his cooperation. I mean, he is in a desperate, desperate situation. He tried to cooperate. I think his fate is in very deep trouble.
BLITZER: Remind us, why has he been in solitary confinement all these months for these allegations? He was obviously convicted on several counts.
TOOBIN: Well, the reason he's in jail at all is that Judge Jackson, who is the judge in Washington, said he had violated the terms of bail by contacting witnesses and other ways.
So she locked him up even before his trial. He's in solitary confinement as far as I understand it because they want to keep him separate from the other prisoners because he's so high profile.
But, you know, prison is bad, and even the best prisons are bad and he looks terrible.
TOOBIN: It has taken an enormous toll on him.
BLITZER: And she has to determine whether, in fact, he did lie as a part of this plea deal.
All right. Kaitlan, let's talk a little bit about this Axios report which says, the President spends half his day in what the White House describes as executive time. Tell our viewers what that is.
COLLINS: Yeah, which we knew the President spent so much time. But what's stunning about this Axios report is that someone in the administration and a couple hundred people get this schedule sent out to them, I believe the night before, essentially detailing what the President is going to do the next day, not exactly the same thing that they released to the reporters publicly. But what this shows is someone feels so strongly about how the President is spending his time that they leaked every day this schedule for dozens of days to a reporter outside the White House, essentially detailing what the President does.
Now, our reporting has shown that during this executive time, essentially the President gets up in the morning as you know from his Twitter feed, he's Tweeting. But he reads through all the newspapers, The Washington Post, The New York Times. He's watching television. Sometimes what played out the night before. Sometimes he's watching it live as you can tell from what he's Tweeting.
There's also a time when he's calling staffers. He is calling his Chief of Staff, other aides inside the White House. Sometimes they go over to the residence themselves to meet with the President before he comes to the oval office around noon then back when he's in the residence after the work day is over, around 6:00 or so, that's when he starts calling lawmakers. Those Rand Pauls, the Lindsey Grahams, those types he keeps in constant touch with. That's how we've seen from our reporting that how he spends his executive time.
BLITZER: Every President has their own little style.
BORGER: They do. And a lot of them, most of them, use their executive time for thinking, for reading, policy papers, for considering what, perhaps, was just told to them about intelligence, for questioning people. Instead, it seems to me, and every president is entitled to that kind of downtime and needs the time to think, I think this is a time for the president to kind of catch up on what the media is saying about him.
It's not what we would normally think of as sort of presidential time that's carved out so a President can actually think about policy. This is about watching Fox News or CNN or whatever it is and calling some friends. But it is very different from anything we've known. And it is stunning, as Kaitlan was saying, that somebody in that White House is so disloyal to this President that they would release this and give it to a journalist.
BLITZER: And his aides say, David, wherever he is, whether in the Oval Office, whether he's in the residence, whether he's on air force one, there's always a TV and it's always on.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. And to Gloria's point, when you're a president, like most presidents, who is focused on pushing an agenda, you have some commitment to certain core issues that made you a politician in the first place, you're spending that time briefing yourself. When your core position is self-aggrandizement, as is the book on President Trump, you've got to spend all that time looking at your notices and TV.
TOOBIN: Can we talk about the emperor's new clothes here a little bit? I mean, he doesn't read anything.
TOOBIN: I mean, he doesn't read anything.
BORGER: No, he reads the New York Post or the Daily News or whatever it is.
TOOBIN: No, I mean, like, briefing papers.
BLITZER: All right. We've got to run. Everybody stick around. There's new news, including an exclusive, millions of dollars worth of weapons made in America, but winding up in enemy hands. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
[18:48:32] BLITZER: This week, some in Congress are renewing their efforts to pass a War Powers resolution in an attempt to end military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Our senior international correspondent has been investigating what's happening to that military support, including millions of dollars in military equipment.
Nima, you're just back from Yemen. Tell our viewers what you saw.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We went to Yemen to follow the trail of that U.S. weaponry and the devastation it's leaving behind.
Take a look at this, Wolf.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Shells of millions of dollars worth of abandoned American armored vehicles littered the road.
Welcome to Yemen, where weaponry made in America is sold, stolen, and abandoned and making its way into the wrong hands.
We're here to follow the trail of those weapons and the chaos they've left behind. Our journey starts at the Hodeidah front lines where a cease-fire was recently signed. Climbing up a defensive berm for a better look, the Houthi position, we're told, is only around 200 to 300 meters away.
(on camera): There's movement there on the horizon. Did you hear that? Scotty, get down.
There, another shot, that's coming from over there. They want to take us to the actual position. They want to show us the cease-fire violations.
OK. All right.
[18:50:03] So they're now firing on us. You can hear it. I can hear some -- I can hear a mortar that's incoming. It's getting heavier and we're told we have to leave, even as we're driving away, even now, you can hear that it's getting much, much heavier.
(voice-over): The influx of weaponry is prolonging the conflict. On our way back from the front line, we spot what we've come in search of.
(on camera): It's absolutely incredible. We're driving past, and it's like a graveyard of American military hardware. And this is not under the control of coalition forces. This is in the command to have militias.
(voice-over): Which is expressly forbidden by the arm sales agreement with the U.S. On the outside of these mine-resistant armored vehicles, MRAPs, there are even stickers proudly proclaiming them as property of Alwiyat al Amalqa, a militia allied to the coalition.
We zero in on the serial numbers tracing them back to U.S. manufacturer, Navistar, the largest provider of armored vehicles for the U.S. Army.
We're told to stop filming, but were able to find another vehicle. This one even has the export sticker, from Beaumont, Texas, to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
As we arrive back in town, we pass yet another militia-held MRAP. Everywhere we look, it seems, it's made in the USA.
Yemen is split between warring factions. U.S.-backed and Saudi-led in the country's south, Iranian-backed Houthi militias in the north. We can't cross the front lines to go north, but the MRAPs have, captured by Iran's allies, the Houthis.
To the backdrop of chants of "Death to America," this U.S. MRAP was broadcast on a Houthi-backed channel with Mohammad Ali al-Houthi, the deputy leader sitting behind the wheel.
CNN was able to obtain the serial number from one of the Houthi-held MRAPs and verify that it was part of a $2.5 billion 2014 U.S. sale to the UAE, a coalition partner.
So why does it matter? Because these very MRAPs and others like them have already, we're told, phone call into the hands of Iranian intelligence. In an audio interview with a member of a secret Houthi unit, the
Preventative Security Force, CNN was told some U.S. military technology has already been transferred to Iran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Iranian intelligence are assessing U.S. military technology very closely. There isn't a single American weapon that they don't try to find out its details, what it's made of, how it works.
ELBAGIR: Advanced improvised explosive devices with Iranian components are now mass produced by Houthi forces, on a scale only previously achieved by ISIS. And the U.S.'s first line of defense against IEDs, the MRAP, has been compromised.
The Houthi leadership denied to CNN the existence of the Preventative Security Force. CNN has also reached out to Iran for comment, but received no response.
Regardless, at the very least, these high-profile captures of American hardware make them safer and harder to fight.
Our next stop is the mountain city of Taizz, where we're told an al Qaeda-linked militia is in possession of American weaponry. In these images obtained by CNN, you see the Abu Abbas militia founded by an al-Qaeda founder, Abu al-Abbas, currently on the U.S. terror list, proudly patrolling the streets of Taizz in U.S. MRAPs.
If that wasn't unsettling enough, Taizz, we learned, is also awash with weaponry. Arms markets are illegal in Yemen, but that hasn't stopped them from operating.
Using undercover cameras, we are able to film arm sellers hidden amid women's clothing shops.
He doesn't today, but we're told we can put in a special order for an American assault rifle. Sellers like these are driving a black market for high-tech American weapons, sustaining conflict. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
CNN was told by coalition sources that a deadlier U.S. weapon system, the tow missile, was air dropped in 2015 by Saudi Arabia to Yemeni fighters, an air drop that was proudly proclaimed across Saudi-backed media channels.
So where were they used and by whom? We try to find out.
(on camera): Yes, can you hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm trying to lose the other guys. OK, that will do, yes?
ELBAGIR: OK. We've been told that we can't go ahead with the interviews that we have pre-planned. This local government is under the aegis of the coalition and they are completely blocking any of our access or any of our ability to do any work. (voice-over): The intimidation continued throughout that day and into
the night. Ultimately, we're chased out of town. But we still want to find out what happened to the tows.
So, we asked the U.S. Department of Defense whether they knew what happened to the U.S. anti-tank missiles. They say that despite Saudi TV coverage, they weren't even aware of the claim that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia used tow anti-tank missiles in Yemen in October 2015. After CNN presented its findings to the DOD, it says it has now launched an investigation.
The Saudi-led coalition has not responded to calls for comment, but a senior UAE official denied to CNN that they were in violation of the arms sales agreement, saying: The Giants Brigade are part of Yemeni forces that fight the Houthis on the ground and are under our direct supervision.
The U.S. DOD statement to CNN added, they did not authorize any transfer of MRAPs or any military hardware from Saudi Arabia or the UAE to third parties.
So far, we've focused on the weapons fueling the war here. But the seemingly endless conflict they sustain has also sparked a man-made catastrophe.
Just a short distance from the front lines, the human toll comes into full view.
(on camera): This is Bashal (ph) and she is so malnourished that she can't actually walk. Her mother has to carry her everywhere. There are 200 cases of malnutrition like Bashal just in this one village.
(voice-over): The local clinic had to shut down, so when word that the doctor is here gets around, parents come out into the street to meet her.
Rula (ph) is 14 months old, but looks far smaller. After the doctor finishes her checkup, her father takes us deeper into the village to meet other families.
(on camera): This is Rihab (ph). She's 2 years old and she is so severely malnourished that her chest has begun to cave in, but incredibly, this is actually Rihab after she started getting better. The doctor said that they've been able to get her to keep some of the nutrition in and they're actually helpful now.
(voice-over): That hope, though, depends on peace. And what we've seen here doesn't give much hope of a lasting one. How easy it is to get your hands on high tech U.S. weapons. How a swamp of uneasy alliances has led to sensitive U.S. weaponry ended up in both Iranian and al Qaeda-linked hands, how America's allies are making Americans less safe.
Wherever and with whomever the weapons end up, the war goes on. And ultimately, it's the people here who, as ever, bear the brunt.
ELBAGIR: U.S. weapons manufacturer Navistar didn't respond to our request for comment. The Department of Defense -- sorry, a Defense Official has now acknowledged to CNN exclusively that there is an investigation into coalition violations -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nima, the president, President Trump, says it's the U.S. national interests to continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, but you found evidence to the contrary. Explain.
ELBAGIR: We found evidence that Iranian intelligence has had access to U.S. MRAPs and they have been specifically probing them for vulnerabilities. Now, given that most U.S. soldier deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are caused by improvised explosive devices, the military contacts that we have spoken to in the U.S. are incredibly concerned by Iran having access to the building blocks to how America protects not just its soldiers but its diplomats, its civilian contractors in difficult climates. It is incredibly, incredibly scary to them, they say, that Iran has that intelligence.
BLITZER: Nima Elbagir doing very courageous, excellent, world-class reporting, as she always does for us.
Nima, thank you. Thank you so much for that report.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.