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Markets Plunge As China Retaliates Against U.S. Tariff Hikes; Trump Defends Refusal To Cooperate With Congressional Probes; Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) On White House's War With Congress; Trump Slams FBI Director Wray For "Protecting The Same Gang That Tried To Overthrow The President"; Huffman Breaks Down In Tears Following Guilty Plea; Kellyanne Conway's Husband Blasts Trump. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 13, 2019 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The former president says his main concern right now is that turkey season ends this week and he has not reached his limit.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news. Market meltdown. The Dow drops 617 points and other indices also plummet after China says it's raising tariffs in response to an earlier move by President Trump.

The president is threatening a further escalation of the trade war, which could badly hurt U.S. consumers, manufacturers and farmers.

Trump Jr. balks. The president's oldest son is digging in his heels against answering more questions from lawmakers. That could set up a clash with senators, who have subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to talk about that controversial 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the Trump business dealings in Moscow.

Desperate plea: "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman breaks down in tears as she enters a guilty plea in the college admissions cheating scandal.

Will she face prison time?

And by George: A Twitter rant by President Trump sparked a Twitter tirade in response as conservative lawyer George Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, calls the president, and I'm quoting him now, "a malignant narcissist who should be removed from office."

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

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

BLITZER: Breaking news: President Trump is threatening new moves against China in a sharply escalating trade war. U.S. stock markets went into freefall today. The Dow dropped 617 points while the S&P 500 closed down nearly 2.5 percent and the NASDAQ fell nearly 3 percent.

The plunge came after China raised tariffs on U.S. goods, retaliating for an earlier move by the president. President Trump insists Americans will benefit from tariffs, even though consumers, manufacturers and merchants, they will be paying much more for a wide range of Chinese imports, and U.S. farmers especially will be hurt by China's move. The president just announced he'll meet next month with China's President Xi.

I'll speak with Senator Richard Blumenthal of the Judiciary and Armed Services Committee. And our correspondents and analysts, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's go straight to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, stock markets are way down. Prices are about to go way up for a lot of Americans but the president seems satisfied with the trade war.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Even after the steep losses on Wall Street, President Trump said he's happy with how his trade war is playing out with China. The president shrugged off China's retaliatory tariffs, even some of his aides acknowledge that there could be big pain for American consumers, as the president praised Hungary's far-right leader over here at the White House.

Earlier today, he predicted better relations with Russia and he lashed out at the Mueller investigation.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With his trade war with China escalating, President Trump downplayed the impact of Beijing's decision to impose retaliatory prices on U.S. goods that triggered big losses on Wall Street.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a very positive step. I love the position we're in. There can be some retaliation but it can't be very, very substantial by comparison.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In a sign of how the trade battle could hit the U.S. heartland, the president said his administration will be seeking to provide assistance to American farmers, who are hammered by China's tariffs.

TRUMP: And out of the billions of dollars that we're taking in, a small portion of that will be going to our farmers, because China will be retaliating, probably, to a certain extent against our farmers. ACOSTA (voice-over): The president tweeted a warning to Beijing, saying, China should not retaliate, will only get worse. It's a fight his own advisers concede could be costly.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Yes, to some extent, yes, I don't disagree with that. Again, both sides, both sides will suffer on this.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is also defending his administration's decision so far to refuse to cooperate with a range of investigations, launched by congressional Democrats.

TRUMP: I can tell you that there has never been anybody so transparent as the Trump administration.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Over the weekend, the president lashed out at own FBI director, Christopher Wray, after he declined to echo attorney general William Barr's concerns that the Trump campaign was the victim of improper surveillance.

Mr. Trump quoted a conservative activist on Twitter, saying the FBI has no leadership. The director is protecting the same gang that tried to overthrow the president through an illegal coup.

Mr. Trump also laid into former White House Counsel Don McGahn after he refused to state publicly that the president did not commit obstruction of justice, tweeting, "Actually, lawyer Don McGahn had a much better chance of being fired than Mueller. Never a big fan." South Carolina Lindsey Graham is advising Donald Trump Jr. to ignore a subpoena to testify from the Senate


ACOSTA (voice-over): -- Intelligence Committee.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If I were Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer, I would tell them, you don't need to go back into this environment anymore. I would call it a day.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That's despite's Graham's comments during Bill Clinton's impeachment saga.

GRAHAM: The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject to impeachment because he took from the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress and he became the judge and jury.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president raised eyebrows when he praised Hungary's far right leader, Viktor Orban, as he welcomed the prime minister to the Oval Office.

TRUMP: People have a lot of respect for this prime minister. You look at some of the problems that they have in Europe that are tremendous, because they've done it a different way than the prime minister. ACOSTA (voice-over): It was another example of Mr. Trump embracing a foreign leader who has bashed immigrants and eroded democratic freedoms.

TRUMP: Respected all over Europe, probably, like me, a little bit controversial but that's OK. That's OK. You've done a good job. And you've kept your country safe.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president used the occasion to issue another warning to Iran.

TRUMP: I'm hearing little stories about Iran. If they do anything, they will suffer greatly.


ACOSTA: The president said he'll be meeting with China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit next month. As for Russia, the president predicted the U.S. would be getting along with Moscow and he promised not to use any stolen information from a foreign government in the upcoming 2020 campaign.

That's interesting because, Wolf, the president also said he didn't do it in 2016 but we should also point out, he certainly welcomed it during the 2016 campaign when he invited the Russians to get their hands on Hillary Clinton's emails -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta at the White House.

There's more breaking news now, as we're learning why Donald Trump Jr. is balking at answering more questions from senators, despite a subpoena from the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. CNN's Manu Raju joins us.

Manu, what is Donald Trump Jr. refusing to talk about?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He's resisting answering more questions about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the pursuit of a Trump Tower Moscow project in the run-up to the 2016 campaign.

The panel wants to clear up discrepancies that may have occurred in the aftermath of the Mueller report. The Mueller report said that Donald Trump Jr. apparently had told a meeting of top campaign officials and family members that he had a lead about dirt about The Clinton Foundation.

This despite him -- this happened before his meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, according to the report. This despite what he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that he'd only told Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner about that meeting.

Separately, also, according to the Mueller report, he may have known more about the pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow project, which cites testimony from Michael Cohen, saying that he was briefed on multiple occasions about the project. But he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, separately, that he had

only peripheral knowledge about that project.

Now the chairman of that committee, Richard Burr, signed off on a subpoena after Donald Trump Jr. had backed off coming to the committee on two separate occasions. He had previously agreed, we are told, to come back -- to come back after his initial testimony in December 2017.

But after voluntarily agreeing, he backed away, prompting that subpoena and prompting backlash from Republicans. Donald Trump Jr.'s legal team has resisted the format of the interview that they wanted to have, which is why they have not agreed to come forward.

They don't want to answer those questions and they don't want to subject him to what some Republicans call a potential perjury trap, which is why they're in a situation right now, where the subpoena is looming over Donald Trump Jr. and, at the moment, he's fighting it -- Wolf.

Certainly is, thank you, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Joining us now, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of both the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees.

Thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, Senator.


BLITZER: Let's talk about Donald Trump Jr.'s subpoena fight.

How should the Senate Intelligence Committee handle his refusal to come and talk to members of the committee about that Trump Tower meeting, for example, in New York?

What should the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Republican chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina, do?

BLUMENTHAL: There is absolutely no excuse, no legal basis for Donald Trump Jr. to resist this lawful subpoena.

BLITZER: If he does, though, what can they do?

BLUMENTHAL: They can issue a subpoena and they can enforce it through a contempt citation in the courts. Remember, Wolf, he has no executive privilege. He's a private citizen. He has no lawyer-client privilege with the president of the United States. He is the son of the president but there is no son of the president privilege.

He can claim the Fifth Amendment but he is required to come before the committee and claim it himself. And the kinds of resistance we're seeing here is nothing more than putting himself above the law.

BLITZER: It's pretty extraordinary, because the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and you're on the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Lindsey Graham, he's a Republican, as well. He's suggesting that -- [17:10:00]

BLITZER: -- Donald Trump Jr. simply ignore the subpoena from the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee.

If witnesses, though, do ignore these kinds of subpoenas, as Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of your committee, the Judiciary Committee, is suggesting, what else should Congress do?

BLUMENTHAL: I disagree with Chairman Lindsey Graham. I was in the Judiciary Committee when Donald Trump Jr. came to the committee. And I believe his answers, seemingly, were misleading and deceptive on exactly the points the Senate Intelligence Committee now wants to question him: the Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents, the negotiations on the Moscow Trump Tower, the welcoming of dirt on Hillary Clinton, his messaging with WikiLeaks on the hacked Russian emails.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has a responsibility to protect our nation against continuing Russian attacks.

BLITZER: Do you think Senator Lindsey Graham understands, knows, has been briefed by his Republican colleagues, including Senator Burr, about why they want Donald Trump Jr. to come, what specific intelligence-related information they have, that's resulted in this extraordinary move to subpoena the son of the president of the United States?

BLUMENTHAL: Whether he has that information or not, suggesting that Donald Trump Jr. is above the law strikes me as unfounded and contrary to the positions that he took on Richard Nixon and on Bill Clinton and others, where he has argued that the law applies to everyone. And that's the ruling of the United States Supreme Court.

BLITZER: If Donald Trump Jr. listens to Senator Graham, what will this do to the credibility of Senate subpoenas going forward?

BLUMENTHAL: Fortunately, the Senate Intelligence Committee is acting on a bipartisan basis. It's a glimmer of hope that we're going to see some bipartisan effort to protect our nation against these continuing Russian attacks.

And Christopher Wray has warned, as has the entire intelligence community, the Russians are doing it again. They were successful in 2016 beyond their wildest dreams, as Jim Comey said the other night on the CNN town hall.

And they're doing it again right now in Europe and around the world. So my hope is that we will have a bipartisan urging to Donald Trump Jr., that he come forward and now tell the truth.

BLITZER: You're suggesting that he didn't tell the truth the first time he appeared before the committee under oath?

BLUMENTHAL: I am strongly suggesting that his answers were seemingly misleading and deceptive. There are serious questions about his truthfulness before the committee. He now has an opportunity to clear up the record.

BLITZER: Well, should he be charged with perjury under oath, testimony that's not true, before a Senate committee?

That's a crime.

BLUMENTHAL: He has an opportunity now, as he should use it, to clarify the record, make sure that his answers are completely truthful, based on what we have found since then. And, clearly, the Mueller report shows that the Trump campaign happily accepted, indeed, welcomed assistance from the Russians.

BLITZER: What do you make of the president now going after the FBI director, Christopher Wray, who he appointed to lead the FBI?

The president tweeting, quote, from a supporter of his, "The FBI has no leadership. The director is protecting the same gang that tried to overthrow the president through an illegal coup."

BLUMENTHAL: The president apparently is, again, lashing out, because he dislikes Christopher Wray's answer to the question about spying on his campaign, contradicting his attorney general, who implied that there was spying on the Trump campaign.

In fact, that claim is totally belied by the details in the Mueller report about how the investigation by the FBI got started, with reports, credible reports, from the Australian ambassador about hacked emails.

But here is really my main concern. You know, every day, professionals in the FBI go to work. They interview witnesses, they try to protect our nation against the Russian attacks, against other kinds of counterintelligence issues. They do testimony in court.

Their credibility is undermined. Their ability to do their job is undercut by these kinds of attacks.

BLITZER: Let me ask you about this trade war with China.

Now how worried are you that, if it continues to explode, as it has been, that it could undermine the economic growth, the economy that we've seen pretty impressive numbers, recently?

BLUMENTHAL: I am deeply concerned. The president is betting the farm but he's betting somebody else's farm. And that happens to be his M.O., throughout his financial career, where he's bet with other people's money. Now he is saying, trade wars are good and easy to win.

They're easy to get into, very hard to get out of. And I see no strategy, absolutely --


BLUMENTHAL: -- no clarity and no direction in what the end game here is. And that view is reflected in the stock market today. The plummeting stock market reflects uncertainty. And there are

issues where creating uncertainty may be a strategy. But when you're dealing with the economy, what the business world wants is more certainty.

BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks for coming in.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Lots going on. Up next, more breaking news. "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman breaks down in tears as he enters a plea of guilty in the college admissions cheating scandal.

Will she end up in prison?





BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. CNN has learned that the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., is balking at answering more questions about his 2016 meeting with the Russians in his pursuit of a Trump Tower building project in Moscow. He's been subpoenaed by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee.

Let's bring in our experts to talk about the standoff.

So what do you think, Phil Mudd?

How should the Senate Intelligence Committee handle this kind of situation?

It seems like a major balking by him, to deal with the subpoena.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure, but I think they're going to get stiffed. Look, both sides have a problem here. The Democrats have got to slow their roll.

They went into this with the attorney general saying, why don't you come talk to a bunch of lawyers?

That was a mistake, instead of saying, why don't you come talk to the committee.

And Barr, the attorney general, said, how about no?

The Democrats are throwing subpoenas at everybody. The Republicans, for their part, are doing something -- it's not the first time this has happened in American politics -- doing something with subpoenas, which is saying, it's like, you might be saying to the high school principal, sorry, I'm not showing up in the principal's office.

What are you going to do at that point?

I think the problem here is, you can have a legal process. I don't think it's going to work. The Democrats have to figure out which bullets they want to fire and eventually the Republicans are going to have to show up. We need like a five-minute third-grade time-out. That's what we've got in politics.

BLITZER: It's pretty amazing. I remember a time when the Senate was a pretty collegial body. The fact that the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, is telling Donald Trump Jr., ignore what the Senate Intelligence Committee is doing.

The Senate Intelligence Committee led by his Republican colleague, Richard Burr of North Carolina.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's shocking to think that somebody might actually say, listen, ignore my own colleagues about an issue that actually makes our power more powerful and shows the American people, we are truly three co-equal branches of government, ignore it.

There is a third branch of the government, the judiciary. But to have to always invoke them every single time there's a fight, shows you there's a chicken game going on not only between Democrats in the executive branch but Republicans now.

And so you have this fight that's brewing that should never be. And frankly, they should be able to issue a subpoena and have it respected. That's not just a matter of a gentlemen's handshake agreement. That's a way that our Constitution is supposed to work in terms of separation of powers. And the fact that they're not doing is surprising.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What Phil said is so important, that -- and we have to remember the difference in what we're talking about here -- that it is a Republican Senate chair who wants Don Jr. to come back.

And that is so different from where we're seeing the Republicans and how we're seeing them act on the House side, where they're in the minority, and they're balking at everything that the Democrats, who are now in charge, are asking of and for this White House.

The fact that you have Richard Burr, who, he is retiring, so the political shackles are off of him. But still, I've covered him for a long time. The fact that he sees that it is important enough to threaten a subpoena, to get Don Junior, the president's own son, back before him, should have everybody stop a second and say, there has to be something that he truly is interested in, because he's not -- he's not the kind of player who would go this far, unless it was something that it was important and something that he saw, that all of us --


BLITZER: And he's the chairman --

BASH: -- and he's a fellow Republican.

BLITZER: -- and he's the chairman of the intelligence -- he's a member of the Gang of Eight, the most exclusive group that gets access to the most sensitive, classified information.

Lindsey Graham is not a member of the Gang of Eight but Richard Burr is. You would think he would show respect to his Republican colleagues.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, to pick up Dana's point, Richard Burr is not John McCain, Joe Liebermann back in the day, someone who regularly bucks the party. This is -- you know, he's a sort of down the line, rank and file Republican.

The fact that you see not just Lindsey Graham, which is striking enough, but Rand Paul, Thom Tillis, in his own state, coming out and saying, well, this feels like a bridge too far, it speaks to the fear of being on the wrong side of Donald Trump if you're a Republican- elect official. Thom Tillis comes out and says what he says regarding Burr and Donald Trump Jr. because Thom Tillis is up for re-election in 2020 and Thom Tillis is concerned about a Republican primary, is concerned about the president coming out and not supporting him.

So the takeover of Republican Party, we talk about it all the time but I don't think we can talk about it enough, is the idea that Richard Burr would be attacked by the likes of Thom Tillis or Lindsey Graham. Rand Paul is sort of a free radical, always. It would just never happen.


BASH: And just by way of a little bit more context, Robert Mueller gave a little bit of a back of the hand to Burr in his report. So it's not as if Richard Burr is working in lockstep with Robert Mueller or, at least, you know, in general, it's not as if you know, in general, it's not as if they're, you know, bosom buddies. They definitely have had differences.


JARRETT: -- the American people, by the way, the fact that the Mueller report has concluded means that the special counsel probe is done. The legislative branch always had a parallel function. They only took a second seat because they had the risk of imprisonment on the side of Mueller's team.

People did not want to testify in front of him. They had it looming over their heads. They were always supposed to engage in a counterespionage and a -- to figure out who was interfering with our elections.

The fact that the Mueller report was done didn't mean that their job was done; they have to keep going. And to have the thumb nosed at them continuously shows that they don't know and realize that.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. We'll have a lot more on all the breaking news, right after this.


[17:30:34] BLITZER: We're back with our political, legal, and national security experts.

Chris Cillizza, I want you to listen to Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, back in 1998 during the Bill Clinton impeachment process, making this statement. Listen to this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject to impeachment. Because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury.


BLITZER: And now he's recommending that Donald Trump, Jr. ignore the subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee led by Republican Chairman Richard Burr.

CILLIZZA: Oh, I mean, Lindsey Graham has learned one thing from his newfound ally, Donald Trump, situational ethics is perfectly fine in politics. Because that's what's happening here.

What's the difference between that clip and today? Other than 21 years, the difference is Bill Clinton was president then, a Democrat, and Donald Trump is president now, a Republican, who Lindsey Graham has allied himself with.

There's a number of issues where Lindsey Graham has just, frankly, changed positions. Most notably, his attitude about Donald Trump. He famously/infamously called Donald Trump a kook, doesn't know what he's doing, lead the country down the wrong road -- this was when he was running for president in 2016.

Now, suddenly, he is one of the President's staunchest allies. So we shouldn't be surprised by this, but it is a little bit on the appalling side.

BLITZER: You know, Phil Mudd, put on your hat as someone who used to work over at the FBI. The President going after the current FBI Director, Christopher Wray, who himself appointed to the FBI.

The President tweeting this weekend, quoting one of his supporters. The FBI has no leadership. The Director is protecting the same gang that tried to overthrow the President through an illegal coup.

What's your reaction and what do you think the reaction is of the men and women over at the FBI when they hear the President attack the current director like this?

MUDD: Well, the reputation, as far as I can tell, talking to some friends of the current director of the FBI, is pretty positive. He's sort of Mueller like. Very close to the vest, very careful about what he says, pretty clear in meetings, but doesn't talk a lot.

I think he's had the right attitude going into office. You put your head above the trench and you risk getting exposed with the President of the United States.

But let me make one simple point. When I transferred over across the Potomac River from the CIA to the FBI, if you tell FBI agents, when you conduct an investigation, you're spying, that's going to be a short meeting. What the FBI agents interpret spying as being is that's what the dirty guys at the CIA do.

And they also don't tell us what their real names are. We go to a court of law -- we don't violate the law -- to a court of law to investigate an American citizen when we have credible information of wrongdoing.

I'm sure there are a lot of FBI agents who support the President. That's fine. But to suggest that the FBI is systemically engaged in spying is like telling the Department of Defense, when you go to war, you're murdering people. That -- you can't win at the FBI with that.

And I'll close by saying Wray didn't have an option but to dispute what the Attorney General said. He had to say what he said. We don't spy, we investigate.

BLITZER: It's a very important point. Laura, let me get your reaction.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, look at the org chart of the executive branch of government. The FBI is under it.

And so you look at the idea of the President of the United States and the Department of Justice, I mean, he has all of the people who are under him trying to enforce the laws. Well, part of the whole policy about it and the people who are so instrumental is the FBI.

And time and time again, he has undermined the intelligence community. He's undermined the FBI. And he believes that they are personally out to get him as sort of a -- the quintessential ax to grind.

But the President has to understand that simply because the FBI may not be in line with his exact policies or what he would like to say about his own private narrative does not mean that it's worth undermining the integrity of the FBI.

In the long run, it's detrimental. It hurts the communities and those who need the FBI and their relations with the police, law enforcement, and the President of the United States.

BASH: And he put Chris Wray.


CILLIZZA: Yes. BASH: He was the one who appointed Christopher Wray. So it's even

deeper for the President who fundamentally has not made the jump from private life to public life in that just because you appoint somebody and they are in place, confirmed by the United States Senate, as the FBI Director is a 10-year period, doesn't mean that they are loyal to you, the person.

It means that they are loyal to the job, to the oath of office, to the idea of being the FBI Director. And so that obviously rubbed him the wrong way, that Chris Wray didn't sort of supplicate himself to the idea that he is Donald Trump's person the way the Attorney General did a few days before.

[17:35:05] BLITZER: Do you think we're seeing the beginning of the end of Christopher Wray over at the FBI? Because it's happened a few times as you know. The President names someone, doesn't like what they're doing --


BLITZER: -- and pretty soon they're gone.

CILLIZZA: I don't predict what Donald Trump will do next because, six months ago, if you asked me -- or the day that the stories came out about Rod Rosenstein invoking the possibility of the 25th Amendment and saying, I'd wear a wire, I would've bet my mortgage and my kids' 529 accounts on Rod Rosenstein not surviving that week. Last week, there he was, saying goodbye with Bill Barr putting his arm around him.

So I think it's hard because he is -- he, Donald Trump, is so changeable. I mean, remember, Dana mentioned the Attorney General, he makes me think of Jeff Sessions. Donald Trump bullied no one more than Jeff Sessions, and -- but Jeff Sessions lasted all the way until the end of --

BASH: The difference is --

CILLIZZA: -- the 2018 election.

BASH: That's true. The difference is that he fired an FBI Director once.


BASH: And everything that we're talking about is kind of the ramifications of what that did. So he does have that somewhat recent memory of touching the hot stove and getting burned.

BLITZER: Yes, he certainly does. All right, guys, stick around. There's more breaking news. "Desperate Housewives" actress Felicity Huffman breaks down in tears after pleading guilty in the college admissions cheating scandal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:40:58] BLITZER: Some breaking news this afternoon. The actress

Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty to charges related to the nationwide scandal involving parents who paid bribes and authorized cheating to help their children get into top colleges.

Our National Correspondent, Brynn Gingras is outside the courthouse in Boston. Brynn, tell us more.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, Felicity Huffman walked into court holding the hand of her brother. She made an emotional plea to the same judge who will sentence her later this year.

And she actually teared up as she told the judge, admitting that she did everything the prosecutors said -- she was accused of doing. And she also reminded that judge that her daughter knew nothing about her actions.


GINGRAS (voice-over): Tonight, Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman admitting to her part in the largest college admissions scam in U.S. history.

The Oscar-nominated actress sobbed in court today as she pled guilty to a federal conspiracy to commit fraud charge for paying a fake foundation $15,000 to get her daughter into college.

In court, Huffman said she had no knowledge about the payments confessed mastermind Rick Singer made as part of the cheating scam but then said, quote, everything else they said I did, I did.

In court documents, prosecutors detailed evidence of e-mails and recorded phone conversations between Huffman and Singer, the two making a deal for a proctor to correct Huffman's oldest daughter's SAT answers, boosting her score.

The government also said they had proof the payment came from Huffman's account. Huffman wrote in a statement last month, my daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions. And in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public, I will carry for the rest of my life.

In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors recommended to the judge that Huffman get four months in prison, and she is spared additional charges. It's possible she may receive no time at all depending on the judge's decision at sentencing.

It's a much different path than actress Lori Loughlin who was also implicated in the scam but, instead, facing 40 years behind bars after she refused to plead guilty to the initial charge.

LORI LOUGHLIN, ACTRESS: Becky is still happily married to Jesse.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The actress most known for her role as Aunt Becky on "Full House" maintains she did nothing wrong. A source tells CNN she feels like she did what any other parent would do for their kids.

OLIVIA JADE GIANNULLI, DAUGHTER OF LORI LOUGHLIN: I don't really care about school as you guys all know.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters admitted to USC as crew recruits though neither joined the team.

A source tells CNN that Loughlin is now searching for a crisis management team to help improve her image after the public backlash of this case. Loughlin's publicist denies that. The couple is among more than a dozen parents pleading not guilty in the case that has a global reach.

YUSI ZHAO, STUDENT, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: This year, I'm admitted to Stanford.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The parents of this girl allegedly paid $6.5 million to facilitate her admission into Stanford. They denied knowing anything about the fraud and have not been charged.

Authorities have yet to make more arrests in the case, but a source tells CNN more may be coming and may include students who, authorities believe, knowingly participated in the scam.

A source says so-called target letters have been sent to three students, informing them they're the subject of the ongoing investigation. As of earlier this month, Loughlin's daughters did not receive a letter, says the source.


GINGRAS: And Huffman will be back here in Boston for her sentencing in September -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brynn Gingras, in Boston for us, thank you very much.

Coming up, one of President Trump's harshest critics, whose wife just happens to be one of the President's closest advisers, is sounding off again big time. Stand by for details.


BLITZER: Maybe it was the rainy weekend here in Washington, but President Trump spent his time firing off dozens of tweets and dozens more retweets to his 60 million followers.

One of the President's rants sparked a Twitter tirade from conservative lawyer George Conway, the husband of top Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway.

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

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, something about the President's tweet over the weekend blasting the Russia investigation really set George Conway off.

[17:50:01] Tonight, Conway's blistering attack is being talked about all over this town, and many are wondering just how and when this feud is going to escalate.


GEORGE CONWAY, HUSBAND OF KELLYANNE CONWAY: Good morning. I hope everybody --

TODD (voice-over): He just may be the biggest thorn in Donald Trump's side, or at least his Twitter feed. George Conway, conservative legal scholar and husband of Trump's top aide, Kellyanne Conway, you might say has become the lid to Trump's ego.

On Sunday, he was back at it, calling the President a narcissist after Mr. Trump, again, blasted the Russia investigation, tweeting, quote, think of it, I was under a sick and unlawful investigation concerning what has become known as the Russian hoax.

Trump's tweetstorm led to a nine-part tweet-nator (ph) of sorts from Conway. Playing off of Trump's opening line, Conway responded, think of it, the Russia investigation was a legitimate investigation. It was in the best interests of the nation. But because you are a malignant narcissist, a person with both narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders, you couldn't view it that way.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: George Conway has taken it upon himself to be in the spotlight. As the husband of the counselor to the President, he knows that he can make his case to the public, and it will get more attention than your garden-variety lawyer.

TODD (voice-over): But George Conway wasn't finished. He tweeted to the President, you took multiple steps to obstruct and repeatedly lied about the investigation from the outset. You put your own perceptions of your self-interest above the national interests which you seem unable to comprehend or respect. It is an offense for which you should pay with your office, a clear reference to impeachment.

But why would the husband of a Trump confidante, a staunch conservative and high profile lawyer, go out on a limb and call for the President to be removed from office? Those who know George Conway say it's a matter of principle.

CARRIE CORDERO, ROBERT M. GATES SENIOR FELLOW AND GENERAL COUNSEL, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: I think that he is, first of all, being intellectually honest about what he is seeing in the President's conduct and in addition to the information that was contained in the Mueller report. I think he is trying to lead by example by saying this is something that conservatives should be speaking out about.

TODD (voice-over): Conway has not been shy about speaking out. He recently helped establish Checks and Balances, a group of conservative lawyers who publicly question the President's adherence to the law. And he's been a blistering critic of Trump's since the President took office, delivering his best-known broadside on the Yahoo! Podcast, "Skullduggery."

CONWAY: You know, it's like the administration is like a shit show in a dumpster fire.

TODD (voice-over): Despite his contempt for the President, those close to him say George Conway wants people to know it's not about his marriage but about his morals.

Conway has been careful to keep his spouse away from his snubs. The President, however, has not.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know him. He is a whack job, there's no question about it, but I really don't know him. He -- I think he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, analysts say George Conway can expect to come under further attack from the President and his allies.

STODDARD: I think George Conway can take it, and I don't think that the Conways are about to get divorced. I think that they have made their peace with their difference of opinion.


TODD: Political observers are convinced we've certainly not heard the last of George Conway on all of this. Where does he want to take it? George Conway did not respond to our request for comment.

Analysts believe he probably wants to light a fire under the Democrats in Congress to move more decisively against the President. And they say he probably wants to influence voters in 2020.

Neither Kellyanne Conway nor anyone else at the White House has commented on George Conway's latest tweet over the weekend -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting, Brian. Despite the efforts of Kellyanne Conway and George Conway to keep their political differences behind closed doors, a little of this has spilled out in public, hasn't it?

TODD: It has occasionally spilled out, Wolf. Now, back in March, George Conway told the "Washington Post" that he sent some tweets questioning the President's mental health, quote, so I don't end up screaming at her about it. That was his quote.

The "Post" also reported that Kellyanne Conway herself had told people at a party that she and Trump both think that her husband is jealous of her.

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

Coming up, the breaking news. The Dow drops 617 points and other indices also plunged after China says it's raising tariffs in response to an earlier move by President Trump.

The President is threatening a further escalation of the trade war. How badly will it hurt U.S. consumers, manufacturers, and farmers?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Free fall. Stock prices nosedived as investors pay a price for the President's trade war with China. Tonight, Mr. Trump is trying to downplay the impacts of tit- for-tat tariffs while acknowledging a portion of his political base could be hit very hard.

Refusing to answer. CNN has learned why Donald Trump, Jr. is trying so hard to dodge a new subpoena by a Republican-led Senate committee. We're going to tell you what topics the President's son does not want to answer.

[17:59:58] Wray ban. Mr. Trump's handpicked FBI Director is being bashed by his boss after Christopher Wray refused to agree that the Trump campaign was the victim of improper surveillance.