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Whistleblower Says White House Overturned about 25 Security Clearance Denials; Democrats to Authorize Subpoena Full Mueller Report; Interview with Rep. Jim Banks (R-IND.), Armed Services Committee, on Security Clearances; Second Woman Complains about Biden; The Democratic Apology Trail; Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) Maryland: Whistleblower Says White House Overturned About 25 Security Clearance Denials, Feds: Software Fix For Grounded Boeing Jets Delayed For Weeks; Second Suspect Due to Go Free in Nerve Agent Assassination of Kim Jong-un's Half-Brother. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 1, 2019 - 17:00   ET



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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, subpoena fight: House Democrats plan to issue a subpoena after a White House whistleblower says 2 dozen denials of security clearances were overturned by senior Trump officials.

And Democrats will also authorize a subpoena to obtain the full Mueller report. How Republicans are fighting back.

Not a bluff: a top White House official says the president isn't bluffing about closing the border with Mexico as early as this week. But others at the White House say it's anyone's guess if the president will follow through, warning of dire consequences if he does.

Second accusation: a second woman alleges that former Vice President Joe Biden touched her inappropriately, complaining that he rubbed noses at a fundraiser a decade ago.

Former female staffers are coming to Biden's defense after an ex- political candidate earlier complained she was bothered by what she described as inappropriate touching.

And delayed for weeks: Boeing 737 MAX airliners will remain grounded for a while longer. The FAA says Boeing's software upgrade will be delayed for weeks to allow time for additional work and a rigorous safety review.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(MUSIC PLAYING) BLITZER: Breaking news right now. A second woman comes forward, alleging that former Vice President Joe Biden touched her inappropriately, rubbing noses at a 2009 fundraiser. That comes as female supporters are stepping up their efforts to defend Biden's record.

Also tonight, a White House whistleblower has told congressional investigators that senior officials pushed through security clearances for some 2 dozen people who were initially rejected for reasons such as potential conflicts of interest and foreign influence.

A source says the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner are on that list. House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings says he'll issue a subpoena to find out why those concerns were overruled.

And House Judiciary Democrats, they will authorize a subpoena, they say, this week to obtain the full unscrubbed Mueller report along with underlying evidence. I'll speak with Republican congressman Jim banks of the Armed Services Committee.

And our correspondents and analysts, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories. Let's begin with our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, he is up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, Democrats say the White House says the whistleblower came through as a last resort.

What are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this woman, Tricia Newbold, has worked for the White House in different administrations for the past 18 years. Now as part of the personal security office in the White House, she is alleging in a private interview to House and Republican and Democratic staff on the Oversight Committee that, since 2018, 25 individuals had their security clearances denied, only to be overruled by the White House.

Now we are learning that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were on that list of 25 individuals. Newbold alleges to the committee that these individuals had their security clearances denied because of foreign influence, potential conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, even drug use.

She alleges that lackluster safeguards are in place for security clearances and people had gotten interim security clearances who should not have gotten access to any classified data whatsoever.

Now Elijah Cummings plans to subpoena an individual, Carl Kline, who served as a personal security director at the White House, who was overseeing this effort and who overruled this whistleblower on a number of occasions.

But tonight, Wolf, Republicans are pushing back. They say that this White House official, her concerns are overblown. They call her an employee who was just not happy with her workplace environment. But nevertheless, Democrats plan to push forward subpoenas and plan to

continue this as part of their investigation as the security clearance process -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's one fight. The other major fight playing out right now involves Democrats who say they will authorize a subpoena in an attempt to access the unredacted, nearly 400-page report from the special counsel, Robert Mueller. They want all the underlying information, as well.

What are you hearing?

RAJU: Yes, ratcheting up the fight with the Justice Department, House Judiciary Committee Democrats plan to authorize a subpoena later this week for the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence.

Their concern with Bill Barr, what the attorney general said in a Friday letter, that he would redact a number of areas of information, including grand jury information, including information, what Barr considers peripheral third parties, people who are not indicted but who may get their reputation --


RAJU: -- impugned by their name being included in this report. Now, Wolf, just moments ago, I had a chance to talk to Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, who defended the Democrats' approach.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We should get the entire report. And if the attorney general has any concern about grand jury material, he should seek the court's permission to disclose that. That's what's been done in the past.

This needs to be made public, all of it. We're going to make sure that this doesn't get buried, so that the American people can form their own conclusions.


RAJU: Now he also suggested that perhaps they will even take this up to the Supreme Court. He said there will be a leadership call to decide how far to take this but he said this is a fight worth having.

At the same time, Wolf, the House Judiciary Committee does plan to issue subpoenas later this week to five former White House officials, as part of their efforts to get the Mueller report. Those five former officials include Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus, Don McGahn, Steve Bannon, Annie Donaldson, people who worked in the White House.

What the Democrats are contending is that those individuals can no longer claim executive privilege about their communications with the White House because of the way they interacted with the special counsel. They say essentially that privilege has been waived and they want

records pertaining to their interaction with the special counsel. So all of this escalating what could be a major fight with the Justice Department. It could lead to court battles.

Today we still don't know how the Justice Department will respond. But Republicans are saying why ratchet this up now when the Justice Department has promised to give as much transparency as possible and provide this report by mid-April.

But it's safe to say that Democrats are not buying what the Justice Department is saying and are willing to issue subpoenas later this week.

BLITZER: Yes, two big fights and they're about to escalate. Manu Raju, thank you very much.

The Trump administration is focusing also right now on the southern border with Mexico and the president's threats to close it. The Homeland Security secretary today is stepping up a surge of officers to deal with an influx of migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico.

And a source says the White House is considering appointing a border or immigration czar. Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, is the president serious about shutting down the entire border with Mexico?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, White House officials I've been speaking with today say it's anyone's guess what the president will do with this latest threat to close the border with Mexico.

One administration official I spoke with today said such a move would be catastrophic. And, Wolf, tonight, administration officials involved in carrying out the policies are closing watching the president's tweets as cues as to what he might do.


BROWN (voice-over): President Trump tonight not backing away from threats to close the U.S. border with Mexico as soon as this week, tweeting, "We have a major National Emergency at our Border. GET IT DONE NOW."

Administration officials warn that the ultimatum he launched last week..

TRUMP: We'll keep it closed for a long time. I'm not playing games.

BROWN (voice-over): -- is serious.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: It's certainly isn't a bluff. You can take the president seriously and here is why. You're giving those metrics but he's looking at is that 4,000 migrants apprehended in one day recently. We're on track this month for close to 100,000. We have never seen a surge like this.

BROWN (voice-over): Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney telling ABC News that something dramatic would need to happen to change the president's mind.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We need the people from the ports of entry to go out and patrol in the desert where we don't have any wall. We hate to say we told you so but we told you so. We need border security. And we're going to do the best we can with what we have.

BROWN (voice-over): The threats follow the highest month of undocumented migrant crossings in 11 years, according to Customs and Border Protection. Still, acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan said, as of late Monday morning, the Pentagon had not yet been asked to support closing the boater.

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's a very dynamic and fluid situation. I'll be having conversations with secretary of state today and, most likely, Secretary Nielsen.

BROWN (voice-over): Aides also defending the president's decision to discontinue aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for not doing more to help stem the flow of migrants.

MULVANEY: We need the Northern Triangle countries to do more about not allowing their people into Mexico. They could help us. We need them to do that. If not, it makes very little sense for us to continue to send them aid.

BROWN (voice-over): President Trump also keeping up pressure on House Democrats to end their investigations into Russia meddling, now that special counsel Robert Mueller declined to recommend criminal charges against the president, tweeting, quote, "No matter what information is given to the crazed Democrats from the no-collusion Mueller report, it will never be good enough. Behind closed doors, the Dems are laughing."

MULVANEY: We really do think enough is enough. And it's time to move on to other things.

BROWN (voice-over): Acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, defending Trump after Democratic congressman Adam Schiff said Trump campaign associates' interactions with Russians were unethical.

MULVANEY: I think --


MULVANEY: -- the voters are going to decide about the ethics and morality of the people they vote for on either side.

People liked Bill Clinton, even though they may not think he was that ethical. That's not the job of the House Intelligence Committee. It's not the job of the House Judiciary Committee. It's not the job of the House Oversight Committee. They're supposed to review the functioning of government. Voters make decisions about the candidates.


BROWN: And we have learned that the White House is considering appointing a border czar to oversee the immigration efforts. Now this has been something that's been entertained by White House officials, administration officials over the past year.

But it's more recently been under can consideration as the situation at the border has worsened in the administration's view -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Pamela Brown at the White House.

Joining us now, Republican congressman Jim Banks of Indiana. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's get your reaction to this top story we've been covering.

Does it worry you that the White House apparently routinely pushed through security clearances despite objections from intelligence and national security professionals?

REP. JIM BANKS (R-IND.), MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Wolf, good to be with you. At the end of the day, these are White House personnel decisions. Every president before President Trump has had the same privileges that he has to designate at the end of the day who can and should receive a security clearance on his staff.

So I defer to the president of the United States, who was elected to this position on who he determines needs those clearances and I defer to that process.

BLITZER: There's this professional whistleblower who came before the House committee, says that some serious issues were, according to this whistleblower, totally ignored by the White House.

Among some of these issues, disqualifying issues for normal security clearances, foreign influence, conflicts of interest, issues concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, criminal conduct.

Even if the president does have -- and he certainly does have the constitutional authority to give security clearances to anyone he wants -- is it a good idea for the White House to override these serious concerns from these intelligence and national security professionals?

BANKS: Well, the buck -- Wolf, the buck stops with the president. And if the president made that decision, then the people can judge whether or not he granted those security clearances to the right people. At the end of the day, it's his prerogative. Every president before

him has done the same. The chairman of the Oversight Committee will bring in these players to question them.

And if that chairman wants to spend valuable time in his committee to dig into security clearances in White House, then that's his decision to do so. We'll see what that -- what that hearing brings to light. I'm sure that we'll learn a lot more at that point.

BLITZER: But you agree, it's part of a congressional oversight responsibility to look into these kinds of matters, to make sure that the right thing was done.

If you want to give someone top secret security clearances and that person has a background, where that individual potentially could be compromised, either personally or by a foreign government, that's potentially a very serious problem.

BANKS: There's no question about it. It's important who receives a security clearance, especially at that high level.

And you're right, the oversight function of the House Oversight Committee has that jurisdiction and the chairman is determined that he wants to spend his valuable time digging into these issues. He can do that. And we'll learn a lot more after that committee hearing commences and digs into those issues.

But once again, just to be clear, these are White House personnel decisions that every president has had that same prerogative before. And this president has exercised it the same.

BLITZER: I suspect if Hillary Clinton has been elected president and she were overriding what career professionals were saying about giving out security clearances, Republicans wouldn't be happy about that, either.

But let's move on and talk about another sensitive issue involving the Mueller report. Democrats are pushing for the full Mueller report to be released by Wednesday. The House Judiciary Committee is planning to subpoena Mueller's findings as well as subpoenas for five senior White House staffers.

You were one of 420 lawmakers who voted unanimously last month to make sure the full Mueller report is released.

Do you support this effort by the Judiciary Committee?

BANKS: Look, Wolf, I've said all along, let's make this public, completely transparent. Republicans want that as well. But the fact that Democrats can't take a two-week break from their mission to overturn the election in 2016 and wait for attorney general Barr to go through the process to make this report completely transparent says a lot more about the state of the Democrat Party today than anything else.

I think we can afford to wait a couple of weeks to the point that the attorney general goes through, whether it's the grand jury testimony or some of the classified parts of it, to go through that legal process, to make it -- to make it unclassified and available to the public.

I think we can afford to wait. But the Democrats aren't willing to do that and that says a more about the disarray of their party than anything else.


BLITZER: Let's get your thoughts, Congressman, about the president's threat -- and it's a serious threat to completely shut down the U.S. border with Mexico as early as this week. He's getting pushback not only from a bunch of Democrats but also from some fellow Republicans.

I want you to listen to the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas.


REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TEXAS), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: You seal the border, you're going to cut off significant trade and it will have a significant impact on the economy.

And I think the president made that statement out of frustration and I don't think he's going to actually, you know, completely shut off the border.


BLITZER: How do you see it, Congressman?

BANKS: Well, you heard Kellyanne Conway say a little bit ago that the president is not bluffing. And I take him at his word as well. But there's no question about it. Whether it's Ranking Member McCaul or the president of the United States himself, nobody wants to shut down the border. That's not the point, Wolf. But the president has made it very clear that his priority is to address the crisis at the border.

This week you had Secretary Jeh Johnson, the Obama administration's Department of Homeland Security secretary, say himself that there is a crisis at the border. It needs to be addressed and this president is serious about doing that.

BLITZER: He said it was a humanitarian crisis, in his words. You're on the Armed Services Committee.

Is it logistically possible, though, for the United States military to deploy thousands if not tens of thousands of troops to shut down the entire border with Mexico?

BANKS: Well, logistically possible?

Of course it is with the United States military --

BLITZER: This week?


BLITZER: Are they ready to move in thousands of troops, to completely shut down the border?

Because the president says this week, it could happen.

BANKS: Yes, at this point, Wolf, this is all hypothetical.

What does the president mean by shutting down the border?

None of us know at this point. But what we do know is that the president is absolutely 100 percent serious about addressing the crisis at the border. There's no question about it. He's not bluffing about what it's going to take to do that.

He doesn't want to shut down the border, neither does any other Republican that I know of in the Capitol or at the White House and his administration. But the president is serious about addressing a true crisis, a record-breaking level of illegals who are crossing the border. Something has to be done and this president is serious about doing it.

BLITZER: Yes, he's serious. He also says he's ready to shut down that border unless Mexico takes direct action, the countries from Central America take direct action to prevent all of those thousands of migrants trying cross into the United States to seek political asylum.

Congressman Jim Banks, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

BANKS: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Up next, female supporters step up efforts to defend Joe Biden's record as a second woman alleges he touched her inappropriately.

Is this the latest stop on a political apology tour for Democratic candidates?

And Boeing 737 MAX 8 airliners will remain grounded a while longer. The FAA says the software upgrade will be delayed for weeks to allow time for additional work and a, quote, "rigorous safety review."





BLITZER: Tonight, supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden are ramping up efforts to defend his record but a second woman has now come forward to complain she was bothered by his inappropriate physical contact. That's the way she described it. Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is joining us right now.

Jeff, it's moving quickly. The story, what are you hearing?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Wolf. This is not surprising. The Biden aides were expecting potentially more people to come forward but there was a new report in the "Hartford Courant" this afternoon where a former Democratic staffer in Congress, she's also making a similar report, saying that about 10 years or so ago, she recalls a similar incident where she was at a fundraiser with Joe Biden and he acted inappropriately, in her view.

Nothing sexual, nothing like that but she felt uncomfortable in that moment. But of course, this is coming on the heels of that Nevada lawmaker over the weekend. She had this to say about that encounter five years ago.


LUCY FLORES, BIDEN ACCUSER: Very unexpectedly and out of nowhere, I feel Joe Biden put his hands on my shoulders, get up very close to me from behind, lean in, smell my hair and then plant a slow kiss on the top of my head.

It was shocking, because you don't expect that kind of intimate behavior. You don't expect that kind of intimacy from someone so powerful and someone who you just have no relationship whatsoever to touch you and to feel you and to be so close to you in that way.


ZELENY: So the former vice president, of course, saying that he does never recall having any type of encounter like that. He said, if it was, you know, in her view, he said, she should certainly have her story be told but he did not intend to act inappropriately here.

So, Wolf, this is something that's coursing through the campaign, even as the vice president, former vice president, is deciding whether to jump in.

I did talk to several of his advisers, saying this is not going to change his plans at all. But one thing is clear, he is going to have to adapt to these new allegations still coming in.

BLITZER: In the bigger 2020 contest right now, among the various Democrats, how problematic is it, if it is problematic, that we see so many of them now apologizing for various things?

ZELENY: It certainly is a sign of -- particularly of those candidates who have been in the public eye for so long. Joe Biden, of course, has the longest record of service. He's trying to improve and modernize and make right some of the wrongs of his past, you know, from apologizing for a legislation, that at the time, like the crime bill and other matters, he was very much the mainstream of his party but now saying it was not the right thing to do. So we are seeing a lot of apologies and do-overs but we should also

point out several staffers, former staffers, of the former vice president are coming to his defense.

Elizabeth Alexander --


ZELENY: -- who was a longtime staffer of his, she had an op-ed in "USA Today." Let's read a little bit of what she said.

She said, "Don't get me wrong. No one is perfect. There's no legislative record that's perfect. But Joe Biden thrives on personal connections. He emotes and he empathizes like no other. And when he reaches out to you, man or woman, he's reaching out to touch your heart. If that's a failing, I'll take it."

So certainly many people coming to his aid. I was at a gathering of Democratic presidential candidates here in Washington talking to a lot of voters. Some say they are concerned and want to hear more but the resounding thing, they said, we want to find a candidate who can defeat the president. And no one I talked to ruled Joe Biden out of that mix.

BLITZER: He's supposed to make his decision very soon, right?

ZELENY: Some time this month, we believe.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. Jeff Zeleny reporting.

Coming up, more on the latest night between the Trump White House and congressional Democrats.

Will the courts have to get involved?

And later, will the president follow through on his threat to close the entire border with Mexico?



[17:30:38] WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Tonight, the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee is threatening to subpoena to the White House over a whistleblower's claim that at least 25 people got security clearances despite being ruled ineligible after security background checks. The source tells CNN Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the President's son-in-law and daughter, are among those who got clearances after they initially were denied those clearances.

Let's bring in our political and legal experts. And, Laura Jarrett, you're over there at the Justice Department for us. Are there any limits at all on what the President can do to provide top secret security clearances to anyone he wants?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Wolf, the President has broad and complete discretion in this area. He is the supreme classification authority. There's nothing in the law to stop him from handing out classification to anyone he wants, his daughter, his son- in-law, anyone he wants. And so it's really a question of norms. And it's not whether he can do this, but whether he should do this.

And, you know, you have to stop and think about the fact that the whistleblower here worked at the White House for 18 years. She's been there from both democrat and republican administrations. And this was the time that she thought she had to raise her hand and sound the alarm. And so it's really going to be now a question for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, what do they do with this information.

BLITZER: Yes, she testified before House and Senate Republican staffers on this very sensitive issue. Susan Hennessey used to work over at the National Security Agency. You understand top secret security clearances. Apparently, the whistleblower in this particular case laid out some very serious concerns that they had involving these 25 individuals, including improper foreign influence, conflicts of interest, issues concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, criminal conduct. So what national security concerns are at stake right now if the President of the United States says, you know what, this person is getting top secret clearance?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Well, the concern is that somebody with ongoing access to classified information poses some kind of threat either because there's some sort of conflict that makes you think that they might be able to be compromised or because they have demonstrated poor judgment in the past.

Now, there's a process, to access classified information is a privilege, not a right. The process is designed to screen out anybody who's even a possible threat, even if they aren't necessarily -- you know, even if somebody might not actually pose this threat. You know, every now and then, you do see higher level of officials coming in and overruling a decision in one degree or another. With that said, 25 people really is an indication of a pretty much total breakdown that does sort of portend something more disturbing.

Now, the President's supporters after it was revealed that he had overruled career officials and actually his own administration officials in insisting that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump be given clearances, they come out to defend the President saying, well, the President has a constitution right to do this. That true, but with that right comes a responsibility. And so this is an area in which the President ultimately is responsible for allowing potential security threats, ongoing access to the nation's most sensitive secrets.

BLITZER: You got -- I assume you got top secret security clearances when you were at the NSA. It takes a long time to get those clearances. They go all the way back in your background.

HENNESSEY: It does. It takes a very, very long time. There's a -- we at the NSA, actually, we have to go through a polygraph process. You have to submit to complete and total disclosure. And that's out of the recognition that understanding access to this information is a privilege. You have to disclose as much as possible. You also are expected to divest or recuse yourself from any potential conflicts of interest from the outside, obviously, especially when it comes to the Presidents own family members, that's a concern right up front.

BLITZER: How unusual is this pattern that we've now seen emerged?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Very completely unusual. And just the size of it is what is incredibly unusual about this. And let me point one thing out here, which is that a lot of people who are serving in the White House have not served in government before. So they have never been vetted for these kinds of jobs before. Sometimes you go into the White House, you've had another job in government and you understand the process.

Most of these people, including the President of the United States, had never served in government before. And when Jared Kushner first put in his SF-86 form, which is the security clearance form, he left the part blank that asked him about meetings with foreign officials. He had to revise that three or four times, Wolf.


And so we know that these people didn't know how to fill out the form, didn't understand the importance of the form. And in the end, as we have reported, the President himself overruled on Jared and Ivanka and we don't know how many others.

BLITZER: The President, Chris, has fertile ground too, even though the President could do whatever he wants as far as granting security clearances. The democrats clearly have some fertile ground as part of their oversight investigation. So looking into all of this, how do you expect republicans to challenge that?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, they'll do exactly what we've heard, which is what you just said. Well, he has -- no one is alleging that he has done something illegal here. He has the right to do so, as Laura said. I think this gets to something I talk about a lot as it relates to the Trump administration. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should do something. And those are two different things.

It was an echo of Mick Mulvaney's interview over the weekend, the White House Chief of Staff, in which he says, well, we're not -- it's not important whether it's ethical or not, that's up to the voters to decide. Well, I would argue it is sort of important if the President and the people close to him act ethically because they are the leader that we -- in the case of Trump, the leader that we elect in this country.

So this will be a fight like many other fights. Our colleague, Lauren Fox, had a really good piece that I recommend to people, which predicts my answer here, republicans will line up behind Donald Trump because they always do, he gives them access, they feel like he has an ear listening to them in ways like past presidents haven't, and he remains very popular within the Republican Party. So they're not breaking from him on this. I think the most you'll ever see is what we saw the Senate approving that resolution of disapproval on the wall, and that was on national security being declared on the wall. That was a minor break. I don't know if you'll see anything major.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, let me get your thoughts on the whole Biden uproar that has now developed because he was supposedly inappropriately touching these women.

BORGER: I think that -- and those of us who have known Joe Biden for years, I think it's a generational issue for Joe Biden. Obviously, this woman has every right to come forward. These two woman have every right to come forward. Joe Biden acts this way with men and with women. He's a very touchy-feely kind of guy, but he's starting his campaign now at the age of 76 having to apologize not only for this. I mean, he said he didn't feel like he had done anything wrong, but if she felt that way, he wants to listen to her, but also about how did he run the Anita Hill hearings, for example. So it puts him in kind of a bind and it shines a spotlight, I think, on his age, and how he has to adapt or not adapt to the whole MeToo world in which we now live.

And, you know, those people who have known Biden for years, say, this is just Joe. Well, it is just Joe, but it can't be if he really wants to be President of the United States.

CILLIZZA: Yes, I echo everything, Gloria, said. The one thing I'll add is that it is remark -- two things have changed for Joe Biden from 2018 until now. One is the fact that, culturally, we are in a very different place, where stuff is like, oh, that's just Joe. I mean, he was -- this sort of behavior people knew about in 2008 when he ran for President. And it really didn't become much an issue. So that's one that changed. The other, and part of the reason this didn't become a big issue, is no one thought he was going to win in 2008.

Everyone saw him running, oh, Joe Biden's running again, but it was really Obama and Clinton and Edwards. Well, now, he's ostensibly the frontrunner according to the polling. You get a very different level of scrutiny and the bar is simply higher, and I think he's running into that.

BORGER: And let me just say something about Biden. You see him being touchy-feely when he's comforting people. I mean, he's very well known for offering comfort to people in terrible moments in their lives, as he did with the McCain family, when they were about to lose -- when they were about to lose the senator. So, you know, there's a lot of sides to this with Biden but this is who he is.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's more breaking news we're following coming in right now. Some new information about those Boeing jets that are grounded worldwide because of two recent crashes, it looks like a potential fix will be delayed.



[17:43:48] BLITZER: There is breaking news involving the Boeing Airliners involved in two recent crashes that killed 346 people. Late this afternoon, federal regulators announced the potential software fix for the flight control problem suspected of causing both crashes. They announced that that result will be delayed for weeks now. The planes will remain grounded.

Our Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin is following the crash investigations. Drew, this significant delay sounds like more bad news for Boeing.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Initially, at least, it is bad news. But people we've been talking to say they are glad Boeing appears to be taking its time. The FAA saying that the fix, and I might point out, wolf, the fix that we were told by Boeing would be in the FAA's hands last week is now weeks away, even from getting to the regulators who are going to take a look at it.

Boeing just gave us their response to this news saying they are taking a thorough and methodical approach to the development and testing of the update to ensure we take the time to get it right. That is welcome news for aviation safety specialists. It's not going to be welcome news for the airlines across the world which have their 737 Max grounded and were hoping that there would be a quicker solution that Boeing could come up with to get these planes back up and flying.


As you say, weeks away from getting the software delivered to the FAA, and then the FAA is promising a very thorough review before anything happens with this plane.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And that's what we want, a very, very thorough review before these planes start flying again. We're also waiting, Drew, as you know, for the preliminary report from Ethiopian officials. What's the latest from the investigators there?

GRIFFIN: We were actually expecting that preliminary report on that crash to come out, well, over the weekend. Then it was going to be today. Now, we are told -- our sources in Ethiopia are saying it's not going to be happening until tomorrow -- pushed until tomorrow.

We don't exactly know the reasons why. We are just waiting for that preliminary report, which could indicate which problems that Boeing and the world may be focusing on in this one plane crash.

BLITZER: Yes, lots at stake, obviously. Drew Griffin, thank you very much.

Coming up, a surprising new twist in the murder of Kim Jong-un's older brother. It looks like one of the women accused of smearing his face with a deadly nerve agent will soon go free.


[17:50:53] BLITZER: Kim Jong-un may have just gotten away with murder, namely the 2017 nerve agent attack on his half-brother in the middle of Malaysia's international airport. The second of two women charged with carrying out the attack is due to go free.

Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. So, Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for two years, this woman and her alleged accomplice claimed that they were dupes in a North Korean assassination plot. And, today, the court essentially said it agrees with them.

So, tonight, it appears everyone involved in the plan to carry out a cold-blooded murder in broad daylight using a banned weapon of mass destruction is going to be free.


TODD (voice-over): A murder in broad daylight in a crowded airport, stunning for its brazenness. Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea's vicious, young dictator is smeared in the face with V.X., the world's deadliest nerve agent. Two women are seen on surveillance footage carrying out the assault from two sides. King Jong-nam dies within an hour at the Kuala Lumpur Airport.

Tonight, one of the women charged with his 2017 murder is set to walk free. Thirty-year-old Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam, who had faced death by hanging, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, and her lawyer says she'll be released from prison in about a month.

Her alleged accomplice, an Indonesian national named Siti Aisyah, was released last month after her charges were dropped.

ERIC O'NEILL, NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGIST, CARBON BLACK: It's a good chance that they were dupes. And the idea behind that is that he used people who, when they're caught, can't really explain much that leads back to intelligence.

TODD (voice-over): Both women claimed they were tricked into thinking they were pulling a stunt for a reality T.V. show. An Indonesian official said one of them, Siti Aisyah, was paid about $90.

Four men, alleged to have been North Korean agents, were seen on surveillance footage that day at the Kuala Lumpur Airport. South Korean intelligence said they were part of two North Korean assassination teams who recruited the young women and trained them separately for the attack.

HISYAM TEH POH TEIK, ATTORNEY FOR DOAN THI HUONG: We emphasize that they must be brought to justice.

TODD (voice-over): But that's not likely. The four men are believed to have been shuttled back to North Korea just after the hit.

South Korean and Malaysian authorities accuse Kim Jong-un of ordering the murder. The Kim regime has consistently denied it. Analysts say Kim may have seen his older half-brother as a threat.

BRUCE KLINGNER, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: There was some discussion that, you know, China may see Kim Jong-nam as a better alternative than Kim Jong-un. And it's not that he was under Chinese protection when he was living in Macau, so when he was in Malaysia, perhaps he was more vulnerable. But China was not going to try to overthrow Kim Jong-un.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, a key question -- will the dictator ever be brought to account for cold-blooded murder in another country using a banned chemical weapon which could have also killed innocent bystanders?

LINDSEY FORD, DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL-SECURITY AFFAIRS, ASIA SOCIETY POLICY INSTITUTE: The only real thing you can do is actually put more diplomatic pressure on the regime. And the problem here is we're now in a moment where the diplomatic pressure is coming off of North Korea. So, essentially, North Korea's plan worked, and they walk away with no real consequences from the entire thing.


TODD: Analysts say because he appears to have gotten away with this hit, Kim Jong-un may well feel emboldened to order similar audacious attacks on his enemies elsewhere. Experts say dissidents and defectors could be in danger from similar attacks in places like Asia, in Europe, possibly even here in the United States, although they say that might be a risk for Kim Jong-un, given his new relationship with Donald Trump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. If North Korean agents, Brian, who carried out the plot inside Malaysia had been caught, what would have happened to them?

TODD: Wolf, they likely never would have faced justice because they probably would have killed themselves as soon as they were apprehended. We're told that North Korean agents who carry out assassination plots overseas often carry cyanide pills with them with strict instructions to swallow them and kill themselves if they're caught. That did happen with one North Korean agent who helped blow up an airliner in 1987.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.

[17:54:50] Coming up, House Democrats plan a subpoena after a White House whistleblower says two dozen denials of security clearances were overturned by senior Trump officials. And Democrats will also issue a subpoena to obtain the full -- the full -- Mueller report.


BLITZER: Happening now. Subpoena showdown. House Democrats are teeing up new battles with the Trump White House over the Mueller report and a whistleblower's new warning about the handling of security clearances. Is the Trump team overlooking potential threats to America's security?

Border emergency? President Trump is ramping up his threat to close the entire southern border with Mexico this week. Tonight, White House officials say it's anyone's guess as to whether the President will make good on the ultimatum.

[18:00:01] Apology tour. As Joe Biden denies inappropriate behavior, a second woman is coming forward to complain about an encounter with the former Vice President.