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Trump Slams Dems For House Investigation; White House May Assert Executive Privilege On Documents; Democrats Call For Criminal Investigation Into Kushner's Clearance; Cohen Lawyer Approached Trump Attorneys About Pardon After Raid; Interview With Rep. Steve Cohen (D) Tennessee About Hiring Of Counsel With Experience Fighting Russian Organized Crime; Trump Organization Insurance Broker Subpoenaed In Wake Of Cohen Claim Trump's Business Inflated Value Of Assets, Top General Warns Of Growing Military Threat From Russia; Report Reveals North Korean Hacking Activity Continued During Trump's Summit With Kim Jong-un. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 5, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues. Thanks for watching.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now: breaking news. White House pushback. The president stops at Democrats' demands for documents and complains the Democrats are taking a wrecking ball to his life.

The White House plans to push back against congressional investigators. But lawmakers are already calling for a criminal probe on the Jared Kushner security clearance.

Cohen returns: the president's former fixer Michael Cohen will head back to Capitol Hill for more closed door testimony just as the House Intelligence Committee brings on board a former U.S. prosecutor with a background in combating Russian organized crime.

Deterring Russia: a top U.S. general warns about the growing military threat from Russia.

Is the U.S. keeping up with Russia's aggressive moves to modernize its military?

And North Korean attacks: Kim Jong-un's hackers have been going after American business and infrastructure targets even during the president's summit with the North Korean dictator.

What can the U.S. do about it?

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

(MUSIC PLAYING) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news: the president just gave Democrats their answer on their request for documents from dozens of people in Trump world, calling the sweeping House Judiciary probe a witch hunt and a hoax.

CNN learned they will push back on the document demands and that the president may assert executive privilege. The House Oversight Committee chairman says the White House has rejected a separate request for information on security clearances and lawmakers are now calling for a criminal investigation into Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner's clearance.

And on the eve of more testimony from Trump fixer Michael Cohen, the House Intelligence Committee hires a formal federal prosecutor with experience fighting Russian organized crime. I'll speak with Congressman Steve Cohen of the Judiciary Committee and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the days top stories.

Let's begin with our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the White House is being bombarded with requests from congressional investigators but the response seems to be at least for now to stonewall and push back.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The battle lines are being drawn. The White House is digging in its heels over these new investigations launched by House Democrats and allegations of corruption across Trump world.

Asked about the avalanche of probes coming his way, President Trump is clinging to a new catchphrase, complaining he is the victim of "presidential harassment."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Faced with one of the most far-reaching congressional investigations in years, President Trump doesn't sound like he is in the mood to cooperate.

TRUMP: There was no collusion. It was a hoax. There was no anything.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump blasted away at this week's House Judiciary Committee request for documents from 81 individuals and organizations connected to the president. It is part of a larger probe into allegations of Trump world corruption.

TRUMP: Basically they've started a campaign. And the people understand it. When they look at it, they just say presidential harassment. It is too bad because I would rather see them do legislation.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Aides to the president have told CNN they may exert executive privilege to block any documents from Democrats, hinting that the White House will be digging in its heels the president accused the Obama administration of obstructing Republican probes.

TRUMP: Many get one letter of the requests made. Many requests were made.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Democratic investigations are providing the president with new ammunition for his Twitter feed as Mr. Trump called the House Judiciary probe " a big fat fishing expedition desperately in search of a crime."

Democrats aren't buying it.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD.), MEMBER, JUDICIARY AND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEES: The people who spent more than two years on the Benghazi investigation or Hillary Clinton's emails are -- make very bizarre champions for the idea that we've gone too far when all we've done is send out document requests.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A new Quinnipiac poll finds nearly two-thirds of registered voters believe Trump committed crimes before becoming president, a view shared by 89 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and more than a third of Republicans.

Asked who do you trust more, 50 percent said the president's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen; only 35 percent said the president. But only 35 percent said it's time to impeach.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you all.

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president did not respond to questions about reports he had ordered White House staff to grant security clearance to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, despite concerns from the international community.

House Oversight chairman Elijah Cummings released a statement, demanding the administration's cooperation in the matter, saying, "The White House security clearance system is broken and it needs both congressional oversight and legislative reform."

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ACOSTA (voice-over): Cummings released a letter from the White House counsel complaining, "We will not concede the executive's constitutional prerogatives or allow the committee to jeopardize the individual privacy rights of current and former executive branch employees."

Democrats say they won't take no for an answer.

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: This leaves all sorts of red flags. And we need to find out why they believe that he is not a government security clearance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: As for the security clearance questions, the White House official complained that House Democrats on the Oversight Committee are making unreasonable demands for information knowing full well that the president will refuse to comply.

So that is going back and forth. But at the same time, the president has another investigation to worry about this evening as New York State insurance regulators say they plan to look into what Mr. Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen testified last week when he told lawmakers that the Trump Organization had been inflating the value of its assets to insurance companies.

So Wolf, everywhere you look, it seems the president faces new serious legal questions.

BLITZER: Every aspect of his life. Jim Acosta, thank you very, very much.

Let's go live to Capitol Hill. Our Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly is on the scene for us.

Phil, is this the first sign that the White House will refuse to cooperate with these various congressional probes?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no question this is an escalation. Obviously the battle lines between Democrats in the House and the White House have been drawn now for weeks.

Now the Democrats are in the majority but the response from White House counsel Pat Cipolin about the House Oversight Committee's efforts to get documents related to security clearances made clear one, quote, "they're unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive."

The White House arguing because there was no legislative intent tied to the request that there were no grounds for the White House to comply.

Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the committee, responding in a statement that, quote, "The White House's argument defies the constitutional separation of powers, decades of precedent before this committee and just plain common sense."

The reality right now is this is what you're going to see repeatedly in the days, weeks and months ahead as both sides batten down the hatches for a fight that is expected to continue throughout the next two years.

Chairman Cummings making clear he has not solidified what his next steps are going to be. He plans to meet with the committee but everybody expects at some point in the near future, a subpoena is not only an option but almost a certainty. On the flip side, Lindsay Graham, a close ally of the president, met

with the president today. He told reporters they spoke briefly about these investigations. Graham's advice to the president, listen to your lawyers.

That is the expectation going forward but it's very clear the president's lawyers, the White House counsel's office shows no signs of giving any ground to Democrats, at least at this early stage of these investigations.

BLITZER: The House Intelligence Committee is expanding its staff, including hiring a former federal prosecutor who went after the Russian mob with a great deal of success.

What does this signal about the committee's efforts to ramp up its own Russia probe?

MATTINGLY: House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff has made no secret he plans to reopen and really dig in on his own Russia investigation now that he is the chairman of the committee. And now he is adding the firepower to do just that.

The committee announced several staff hires, including one in particularly, as you noted, Daniel Goldman. He was a former assistant U.S. attorney at the Southern District of New York for more than 10 years. The Russian mob was one of the issues that he was working on.

He has experience in money laundering issues as well. As you know as well as anybody, these committees and the work they are able to do is driven almost importantly by staff. The type of staff you bring on, this is a high-powered staff member will be leading those investigations, will be leading the work of the committee into its Russia oversight in the weeks and months ahead.

Something to keep a very close eye on as the committee ramps up and also something to keep in mind when you pull back what the White House is dealing with. You have the House Intelligence Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, House Oversight Committee, House Financial Services Committee. Committee after committee after committee, run by House Democrats, now digging in and hiring staff and making moves to go after the White House on pretty much every front you can think of, just underscoring this new reality.

We've been predicting it was coming over the past couple of months and it's now here.

BLITZER: We are showing video of Daniel Goldman, the former federal prosecutor, when he appeared as a guest on CNN last year. There he is right there. We'll be presumably hearing a lot more from him now that he's picking up this job with the House Intelligence Committee.

Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

The new hires on the House Intelligence Committee, they come as the president's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, returns to testify before the committee tomorrow. Let's bring in our senior Justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Cohen's attorney spoke with the president's lawyers about the possibility of granting him a pardon?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. "The Journal" story recounts what will happen behind the scenes apparently. Michael Cohen's lawyers had conversations with the president's lawyers about the possibility of receiving a pardon. This was during a time the two of them, Cohen and Trump, were in a joint defense agreement. So they were sharing information.

Essentially they had a common cause --

[17:10:00]

PEREZ: -- right, to defend each other?

But here is Michael Cohen at the hearing last week in which he discussed the pardon issue. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I have never asked for nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump."

PEREZ: The question is, Wolf, that I think people close to the president are raising is, did Michael Cohen tell the truth there?

He is saying he never sought or requested a pardon. Technology it appears his lawyer had those conversations. So perhaps Michael himself did not have them. But you can bet this is something they'll dig into.

Still worth pointing out what the Democrats are trying to do is figure out whether there is a pattern of obstruction by the president, whether there is a way to talk about the pardon as a way to keep Michael Cohen toeing the line, lying to Congress and lying to investigators.

BLITZER: I'm sure these House committees will be interested in investigating that as well.

Meanwhile, Roger Stone seems to be in further trouble right now because of what he posted on Instagram and the federal judge overseeing his case, she is a tough lady.

PEREZ: She really is. And she is not amused. She says that the new problem is that there's a re-release of a book by Roger Stone. And it has some new comments from him. And one of them is that Mueller -- the Mueller investigation and Mueller himself is quote-unquote "crooked."

She says that this is not in line. The judge says this is not in line with the gag order. Amy Berman Jackson is not amused. She is looking right now -- she wants more information from Roger Stone as to exactly how the circumstances came to be that this book has been released, what are the interactions with the publisher?

She wants to make sure she understands this. She could rescind his bail; she could send him to jail for contempt of court. There are a lot of things she could do. Obviously she seems to be trying to give Roger some rope here to sort of make sure he has enough room to do what he has to do, which is defend himself.

But he's not allowed to talk about the case. She did say that she had the feeling or she suspected that what Roger was doing was essentially using the release of this book and flouting the gag order as a way to sell more copies of the book, essentially getting more publicity for his cause.

BLITZER: She has been pretty patient so far. But a lot of people anticipate if he doesn't shut up, this could change. He could end up going to jail as he awaits the trial.

PEREZ: Exactly. And I think that's what Roger Stone is trying to avoid. But this judge is telling him, look, you're very, very close to the line right now.

BLITZER: All right, Evan, thank you very much. We'll stay on top of that part of the story as well.

Joining us now Democratic congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. As you heard, the White House is indicating they are not in any mood to cooperate with your investigation.

Why haven't you issued subpoenas?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: First we made a request. They've got two weeks to comply and then after that, if people haven't complied, we will issue subpoenas. And that will happen.

But first, I think following compliance is the best way to operate.

BLITZER: If you do issue subpoenas, they will fight those subpoenas in court. That could drag on and on and on.

Or isn't that right?

S. COHEN: It will but I think the public will see that the resistance to being transparent and open is more Trump having something to hide, like his taxes. They were hidden. Like the fact that the meeting at Trump Tower, that he said he didn't have anything to do with helping his son with the note but he did, he wrote it.

Trump lies all of the time. He denies all the time. He stonewalls all the time. Basically if that 245-pound armchair Roy Cohn as President of the United States.

BLITZER: Republicans say this incredibly long list of people and entities, 81, to be precise, that your committee wants information from is proof that the Democrats are simply fishing for any embarrassing information rather than conducting serious oversight.

What's your response to that allegation?

S. COHEN: There's never been more questionable conduct by a presidential campaign, a presidential inaugural committee, a presidential administration and his cabinet than this Trump team. This is a house of cards.

They have more areas that have been questioned by the New York state attorney general, Ms. James; the Southern District; by Mr. Mueller; by the prosecutors in Maryland and Virginia, concerning emoluments.

It is a plethora of opportunities for the House to look into because they have violated so many areas of the rule of law and decorum in our society.

We were elected in large numbers to oversight and oversight of this administration, provide oversight, which is something that has been missing for two years. And we'll do what the voters wanted and that's going to get into all these allegations and all these fact situations and bring it out to the public's attention of just what this administration has been up to.

[17:15:00]

BLITZER: A lot of information is already in the hands of federal prosecutors, as you know.

Do you view this investigation, that you and your committee are now launching, as a backstop in the event the special counsel's report is suppressed in some way and not made public?

S. COHEN: I think that's part of it. If the attorney general Barr does not allow much or pertinent parts of the Mueller report to be released to the public -- and the public paid for that. And even the Trump team has said they think it should make it public.

Jim Jordan has said it should be made public. Everybody seems to agree. I doubt they will join with us in actions to get it released. But the public paid for that and the public has a right to see it.

And, yes, we are pursuing these areas to have our own investigations. But if the Mueller report has that information, we might not need as much information as we've sought because it might just be right there, given to us by Robert Mueller, who I have to say, Ty Cobb, the president's last attorney, one of his attorneys, said Robert Mueller is an American hero.

I was really pleased to see that because Ty Cobb showed he's an American who put America beyond politics and felt like he was representing the presidency and not the president.

And more people need to realize that, that the presidency is different than the president and you don't have to go into a battle against a patriotic American who was honored in Vietnam and has had a life of government service and it's been serviced. And Ty Cobb reflected that he showed that the bar has some honorable

members and somehow Donald Trump hired one but he is gone.

BLITZER: Is conducting this probe by your committee, the House Judiciary Committee, the first step toward opening a formal impeachment investigation?

I ask the question because if there is an impeachment investigation it is your committee, the Judiciary Committee, that would be required to do so.

S. COHEN: Well, it indeed would. And it is one of our responsibilities. We have to stand up to the Constitution. I'm the chair of the subcommittee on Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties. Our job is to stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law. Stand up for the things that made this country special and different.

So yes, we need to look at all of the findings of fact. Chairman Nadler said that he believed Trump had engaged in obstruction of justice. I think it is clear he has obstructed justice. And I'm sure he has violated the emoluments clause. I'm confident that will be shown in the courts in Maryland and in D.C. as well, the federal courts.

And there are kind of other issues concerning abuse and abuse of the press and abuse of judges. It's amazing what has gone on. And it is our job to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. So we'll have hearings; if the evidence comes in such degree that the public's mood and the Republicans' mood change where we can be successful with impeachment, then impeachment could come.

But it's not going to come until the Republicans stop acting like acolytes and start acting like bishops and knights and stand up for the country and not for their leader, who may have committed -- and I believe has committed innumerable improper and illegal acts.

BLITZER: According to a brand new poll released today by Quinnipiac, only 35 percent believe of voters believe Congress should begin the impeachment process.

Is that a warning sign to Democrats?

S. COHEN: I think that's why Speaker Pelosi and other leaders in the party think that we shouldn't do impeachment yet because the public is not behind it. And it can only be done if it's politically salable to two-thirds of the Senate who are in charge of the facts.

But some of those people -- I don't know what percentage -- probably think we shouldn't vote down impeachment because they don't want to see Mike Pence become president. So that's a group that you have to take into consideration, too.

BLITZER: Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks so much for joining us.

S. COHEN: You're welcome, Wolf. BLITZER: Up next, breaking news: bombarded by requests from congressional investigators, the White House is giving every indication it will push back against the Democrats' sweeping inquiries.

Plus the House Intelligence Committee gets ready for more testimony from former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and hires a former U.S. prosecutor experienced in fighting Russian organized crime.

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BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including new pushback from President Trump in the face of widening congressional investigations of his administration and his businesses. We'll ask our experts and analysts about where we are heading as a result of all of this.

Gloria Borger, yesterday the president says, in his words, he will cooperate all the time with everybody. Today he sounded a very, very different note.

Is this a sign the White House is going to resist?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You saw a letter coming from White House counsel Pat Cipollone to Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight Committee, saying we are not giving you everything you want. There is clearly going to be discussions. Cipollone said what you're asking for isn't legitimate. It doesn't serve any legislative purpose and they are going back and forth about any agreement that they can possibly reach.

So it is clear to me that the White House is not just going to lie down and say, oh, sure; you'll get everything you ask for. Don't forget there are lots of committees and lots of duplications. So that has to be straightened out on the Democrats' side as well.

BLITZER: Laura, what tools does the White House right now to resist the fight back?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the least persuasive tool they have is to say that the scope of your investigation is just too wide, that we don't appreciate the breadth of it.

The most persuasive one would be the executive privilege, to say there is every right for the president of the United States to have very candid conversations with people who are part of his cabinet, people who advise him.

[17:25:00]

COATES: We want to encourage that in all respects.

If you try to remove that privilege through the investigation of documents, you have a different problem on your hands. The problem is that privilege only will attach to certain communications between certain officials during the pending or during the tenure of the president.

A lot of these investigations deal with the inaugural committee, the Trump Organization. No privilege there. The idea of the candidacy, no privilege there as well. So there has to be careful about the ways in the way they try to maneuver and use that tool. But it should be successful in some respects.

BORGER: And let me just clarify what Cipollone was talking about. He was talking about Cummings' investigation into security clearances for top White House advisers. And his point was, you want to see their entire record.

COATES: Right.

BORGER: Well, you're not entitled to do that.

For what purpose?

BLITZER: Speaking of that, Phil, the White House is resisting fighting this House Oversight Committee in an investigation by Elijah Cummings among others to get all of the documents involving security clearances especially for Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser.

How is that going to work?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Oh, good luck. The law in Washington, D.C., with 800,000 lawyers here is a lame excuse. Because the Democrats will say, well, we have a different interpretation of law and then you're off to the races.

Let me give you a couple of angles how this works.

How about if you just ask the former chief of staff, John Kelly, to come down and say, I don't want you to mention any names but did you ever file any memos related to security clearances in the White House?

That would be an interesting question. I would also like to say to the Intel Committee, don't talk about anybody's file. I would like to know, since you're involved in clearing personnel for security clearances, have you filed any objections to senior personnel over the past year?

This one isn't over. And in Washington, when you try to hide behind the law, you'll lose. That's the last resort for fools, I think.

BLITZER: Here is what the chairman of the committee, Bianna, the House Oversight Committee chairman, Elijah Cummings, said in a statement. "There is a key difference between a president who exercises his

authority under the Constitution and a president who overrules career experts and his top advisers to benefit his family members and then conceals his actions from the American people."

What do you think?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think this outcome shouldn't be that big of a surprise to anybody on either side. The White House was anticipated to respond with some pushback, as they did. You'll likely probably see subpoenas coming from the committee now.

And the one area where Democrats need to tread lightly is not to appear as if they are overstepping. Remember, what the president's been doing ever since the midterm elections, saying they are going to attack me. This is a witch hunt.

Now he is saying that he is -- this is presidential abuse and harassment. So going forward, from the public's perspective, if in fact the Democrats are saying, our job is to hold the president accountable, they also have to answer to the fact that we have a Mueller investigation going on. We have the Southern District of New York investigation going on as well.

So a lot of this was to be expected. But the big concern for both sides should be now how this is going to be viewed and played out in the public. As we've seen over the past few days, the president's approval ratings have in fact gone up a bit.

BLITZER: A bit indeed.

All right, guys. Everybody stick around. Much more on breaking news right after this.

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[17:32:54] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts and our experts as we follow another breaking story. New York State regulators have now subpoenaed the Trump organizations and insurance broker comes only days after the President's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, claimed before Congress that Donald Trump's business inflated the value of its assets.

Laura Coates, you're a legal expert. This looks like it's going to be a serious investigation. They can offer a recommendation to begin criminal proceedings. They themselves, the New York State regulators, can't do that themselves.

COATES: Well, this is really a direct relation to what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asks, asking the questions of is there some evidence that suggests that the President of the United States has inflated his assets in some way for the benefit either to - for his golf course, be it Buffalo Bill's comment that Michael Cohen he talked about, to purchase them, or the idea of what he was trying to do for insurance basis.

She then laid out a road map. And Michael Cohen supported that and gave her information about who would have the information and where they can find it. So, really, that road map was not just for Congress to do more legislative oversight functions. It provided a direct road map to people there.

Now, again, it's very clear and it's very important. They themselves cannot bring criminal charges. The recommendations that they were referred to a criminal prosecuting entity would carry a great deal of weight could actually have the information there and subpoena is important.

BLITZER: Because at one point, the President said there would be a red line. Don't go after my family or my business. They're going after everybody right now.

MUDD: Yes. I think there's a couple of couple of interesting aspects here. I mean, look at how many times the President has actually supported Michael Cohen. I can remember one, when there are raids on his office, his house and his hotel room. I think that's because the President, and it relates to this investigation, wasn't worried about Michael Cohen. Well, he was. But, I mean, he was worried at least as much about the documents they would find about things like the insurance fraud that Cohen discussed in public.

So, I mean, if you look at the President's words, he is telling me he is worried about this. I think the regulators have also had to be looking at the testimony. Let's flip it. Let's say they saw Cohen on camera say, yes, there's insurance fraud. And then they say, well, we kind of decided not to investigate. What would you say, they almost have to do this.

BORGER: They do.

[17:35:00]

MUDD: They do.

BORGER: And it doesn't mean that they have any proof of anything. But what they've heard is Michael Cohen testifying before Congress, and he is a person who is assumed to have a certain knowledge about these things. We don't know how much exactly. And maybe they will want to talk to Mr. Weisselberg, who's name came up only about 150 times during the hearing. But they didn't have any choise. I mean it was raised publicly in a Congressional hearing with Michael Cohen testifying under oath.

BLITZER: And Weisselberg is Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization.

Bianna, it looks like a new normal for the President, all of these investigations going after every aspect of his life.

GOLODRYGA: You took the words out of my mouth, I mean, a new normal. Look how far we have come. And the fact that this huge debate over the President releasing his taxes or the fact that the American public has not seen his taxes, which was a normal standard procedure for any candidate who was running for president. Any candidate would have released taxes early on and we would have not seen a big debate at this point two years into an administration. But like everything else in this administration, and thus far, things have deviated from what normal used to be.

BLITZER: You know, Bianna, look at this Quinnipiac University poll question. In general, who do you believe more? President Trump 35 percent. Michael Cohen 50 percent. More Americans believe Michael Cohen's testimony than they believe in the President.

GOLODRYGA: Well, look, it appears the republicans didn't do any favors for the President either. And think about everything that Michael Cohen said during that testimony. The republicans were there to do one thing, and that was to discredit. They didn't follow up on any of the claims and allegations that he made.

They didn't protect the President in that sense either. It was all for the basis of discrediting Michael Cohen, who obviously was not the perfect witness. He has admitted to lying in the past but he was also someone who, at this point, really has nothing left to lose. He is paying the ultimate price and going to prison in a few months.

And, obviously, there are reports even today from the Wall Street Journal suggesting that his lawyer had been in touch with the President's lawyer about potential pardon. Now, if you want to be precise, Michael Cohen was asked about this.

He said he himself had not been in touch about a pardon. But, once again, this just goes back to the republican's main goal, and that was to discredit him. But having done that, you see what the poll says. And it looks like more Americans believe Michael Cohen.

BLITZER: Look at these other poll numbers, Gloria, in this Quinnipiac University poll. Do you think Trump committed any crimes before he was president? 64 percent said, yes, 24 percent said, no. Do you think that Trump committed any crimes while he has been president? 45 percent say, yes, 43 percent say no. And look at this. Do you think Congress should begin the process to impeach Trump? 35 percent say, yes, 59 percent say, no.

BORGER: Well, part of that may be due to complete exhaustion over all of this. But I think what the public is telling you pretty clearly is that if you're going to do anything about Trump and you don't like Donald Trump, vote him out of office. We don't want to go through this. We are not interested in impeachment. They may change their mind. And this is one of the reasons.

And Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it over the weekend, if Democrats are going to start impeachment proceedings, they need to have the American public with them. And this shows that, right now, the American public is not with them.

So they are going to have to do education, if that's what they intend to do. But it also tells you why democratic leadership is really reluctant to start impeachment because the public really doesn't want it right now.

BLITZER: At least not now.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stick around. There is more news.

A troubling new warning about the growing military threat posed by Vladimir Putin's Russia. Is the U.S. Military keeping up?

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[17:40:00]

[17:43:17] BLITZER: Today on Capitol Hill, a top U.S. general sounded the alarm about whether the United States is keeping with Russia's very aggressive push to modernize its military. Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what's being done to counter this threat?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the top commander in Europe did sound that warning today, Wolf, that he is not getting what he needs from this administration, from this Pentagon, to punch back against Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: The top U.S. commander in Europe warning his troops do not have a credible deterrent against Russian aggression.

GEN. CURTIS SCAPARROTTI, NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER EUROPE: I would tell you in response to your question I'm not comfortable with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe.

STARR: General Curtis Scaparrotti's calm tone underscoring the serious military gaps he sees against the Moscow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the shortfalls as you see it?

SCAPARROTTI: Sure. I have shortfalls in our land component and in our maritime component as well, both of those, in particular, when you look at both the building capability and the modernization of the Russian forces that we face there. And then finally of concern is my intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capacity, given that increasing and growing threat of Russia.

STARR: Russia is working on new ballistic missiles, nuclear-tipped weapons and even so-called killer drones.

And now with both sides ready to leave INF nuclear weapons treaty, the General's comments comes at an extraordinarily sensitive time.

Just 24 hours earlier in Vienna, General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with his counterpart, Russian Chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov. [17:45:03]

A U.S. military spokesman said one topic the two men discussed? The international security situation in Europe.

Gerasimov has been a front line advocate for Moscow's use of cyber information warfare and propaganda to achieve military objectives. Pentagon policy is supposed to be protecting Eastern Europe from these assaults by Russia and others.

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The public is not aware of the evolving threat. I'm referring to Russia, I'm referring to China, I'm referring to the evolving situation we see with our infrastructure, cyber security, and space.

STARR (voice-over): But for Scaparrotti, it's results, not words, he is looking for especially in the face of Russian cyber attacks.

GEN. CURTIS SCAPARROTTI, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES EUROPEAN COMMAND: We are facing Russia who is very agile in this and good at it, and so we really can't rest. We've got a lot to do yet in cyber.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And Scaparrotti says, at least as a starting point, he wants more U.S. troops rotating in and out of Europe, and he needs at least two more Navy warships, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you very much. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Coming up, new revelations about the ongoing threat from North Korea's brazen cyber attacks. A new report says Kim Jong-un's hackers didn't even stop during their leader's summit meeting with President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:08] BLITZER: Just days after U.S. officials said Kim Jong-un's regime has stepped up attacks on financial institutions, a neighbor cyber security firm reports that North Korean hackers have tried to infiltrate dozens of critical businesses here in the United States as well as in other countries.

Brian Todd has been digging into this for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have new information tonight on just how aggressive Kim Jong-un's army of hackers has been recently. We're told they've been mounting dangerous cyber attacks targeting the U.S., even while Kim was continuing his diplomatic overtures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): As President Trump was shaking North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's hand in Vietnam last month, experts say Kim's regime was actively trying to pick America's pockets. A new report out this week says Kim's army of hackers was continuing its campaign targeting American businesses, even as he was telling the world he wanted peace.

MARCUS NOLAND, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF STUDIES, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: Hacking the United States during the summit speaks to both his brazenness and his desperation.

TODD (voice-over): Cyber detectives at the security firm McAfee are saying North Korean hackers have tried to infiltrate nearly 80 government-related organizations including nuclear, defense, energy, and financial companies. But they're also going after American infrastructure. Why?

JASON HEALEY, SENIOR RESEARCH SCHOLAR FOR THE SCHOOL FOR INTERNATIONAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: It could be that they want to use it for coercion. The same reason that the Russians and the Chinese have been getting into the electrical grids and dams and other places, to try and hold that over our heads.

TODD (voice-over): U.S. officials tell CNN there's been a recent surge in North Korean hacking operations targeting banks as well. Basically, high-tech robberies.

JOHN DEMERS, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY DIVISION: They just need money. I mean, they need hard currency. That's a good way to get it.

TODD (voice-over): Sanctions leveled by the U.S. and its allies have crippled Kim's economy in recent years, and experts say his hackers have been racing to try to make up the shortfall.

In 2016, North Korean hackers infiltrated Bangladesh's Central Bank according to the FBI, attempting to steal $1 billion held at the New York Federal Reserve. They were caught in the act but not before getting away with $81 million.

North Korea is now believed to have some of the most sophisticated hacking cells in the world.

HEALEY: The North Koreans have gotten much better than we would have expected over the last five years. Probably through just a lot of patience, a lot of attention and skills.

TODD (voice-over): Kim is believed to command an army of several thousand hackers, most of them from North Korea's top intelligence agency. The best of them work for an elite unit called Bureau 121, which is believed to have hacked Sony Pictures in 2014.

Analysts say the regime uses the money from cyber heists to fund its nuclear and missile programs. But also to help Kim fight off potential plotters.

NOLAND: You can think of the government in North Korea as basically a mafia family with Kim Jong-un at the top, and he needs money to give all his lieutenants some walking around money, some gifts, to buy their political loyalty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: How can the U.S. and its allies combat these North Korean hackers? Analysts say the U.S. launches its own cyber operations against North Korea. More openly, the Justice Department has indicted North Korean hackers even though there's little chance of really bringing them to justice.

For its part, North Korea denies any involvement in hacking operations. One North Korean official recently calling those accusations, quote, fabrications, slander, designed to undermine the regime, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're also hearing, Brian, that China is playing a role in North Korean hacking operations. Is that right?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. Analysts say a lot of the North Korean hacking operations occur physically outside North Korea. We're told that several North Korean hackers actually operate inside China and that China, at the very least, turns a blind eye toward them.

The Chinese have, of course, consistently denied conducting any hacking operations of their own or being complicit in any other state- sponsored hacking.

BLITZER: It's a real threat all around. Brian Todd, reporting for us, thank you.

Coming up, breaking news. President Trump slams Democrats' demands for documents. But as the White House plans to push back against congressional investigators, some lawmakers are already calling for a criminal probe into the security clearance for Jared Kushner.

[17:55:13] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Drawing battle lines. As the President slams broad new investigations by House Democrats, the first showdown is now underway with the White House refusing to turn over information about Jared Kushner's top-secret security clearance. We're learning more about the Trump team's resistance.

[17:59:55] Stoned again. A federal judge may be fed up with Roger Stone tonight after the indicted Trump ally appears to have repeated a past mistake, potentially violating his gag order.