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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Jr. Balking At Senate Subpoena; Interview With Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL); Trump Attacks FBI Director; China Strikes Back In Trade War; Trump Tweets, 'Never Been A Big Fan Of Ex-Counsel Don McGahn;' Dow Plunges 600-Plus Points As Trump Threatens New Retaliation Against China In Worsening Trade War; Tearful Felicity Huffman Pleads Guilty in College Admissions Scandal; Special Report On Anti-Jewish Violence In U.S. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 13, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Being bashed by his boss after Christopher Wray refused to agree that the Trump campaign was the victim of improper surveillance. Might Wray be fired, James Comey-style?

And guilty housewife. Actress Felicity Huffman formally admits to her role in the college admissions cheating scandals breaking down in court. Will the "Desperate Housewives" star be sent to prison?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the worst losses for U.S. stocks in months.

The Dow Jones industrials closing down a whopping 617 points, as worries about an escalating U.S.-China trade war weigh heavily on the markets.

Tonight, President Trump is threatening another round of retaliation after China raised tariffs on American goods, hitting back at new U.S. tariffs and defying warnings by Mr. Trump.

Also breaking, CNN has learned that Donald Trump Jr. is refusing to answer more questions about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the pursuit of a Trump Tower in Moscow, the president's son now clearly in a standoff over a new subpoena approved by the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

This hour, I will talk to a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as the Oversight Committee, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president spoke out about a multiple range of topics earlier in the day, including the trade war with China.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, a trade war with no end in sight at this point.

Even after the steep losses on Wall Street, President Trump said he's happy with how his trade war is playing out with China tonight. The president shrugged off China's retaliatory tariffs, even as some of his aides acknowledged over here at the White House there could be a lot of pain for American consumers.

And as the president praised Hungary's far right leader over here at the White House earlier in the day, he predicted better relations with Russia and lashed out at the Mueller investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With his trade war with China escalating, President Trump downplayed the impact of Beijing's decision to impose retaliatory tariffs 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: 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: The president tweeted a warning to Beijing, saying: "China should not retaliate. Will only get worse."

It's a fight his own advisers concede that 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: 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: Over the weekend, the president lashed out at his 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 Senator Lindsey Graham is advising Donald Trump Jr. to ignore a subpoena to testify for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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

ACOSTA: That's despite 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 impeachment, because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury.

ACOSTA: 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, if you look at some of the problems that they have in Europe that are tremendous, because they have done it a different way than the prime minister.

ACOSTA: 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 have done a good job. And you have kept your country safe.

[18:05:01]

ACOSTA: 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And speaking of undemocratic leaders, the president said he will be meeting with both China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit coming up next month.

As for Russia, the president predicted the U.S. will be getting along just fine with Moscow. But an interesting promise that the president made earlier today in the Oval Office, he promised not to use any stolen information from a foreign government in the upcoming 2020 campaign, something that the president claimed he did not do in 2016. But, Wolf, have to provide some context here. The president did

certainly welcome that kind of help during the 2016 campaign, when he invited the Russians to get their hands on Hillary Clinton's e-mails -- Wolf.

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

Let's get some more of the Trump administration's stonewalling of investigations by Congress. We have new information about Donald Trump Jr.'s refusal so far to return for questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

CNN's Kara Scannell working the story for us.

Kara, Trump Jr. faces a new subpoena. But there are some sensitive subjects he clearly is refusing to discuss.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

So we have learned that Donald Trump Jr. is specifically being -- wanting to be asked about that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer and the plans to potentially develop a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Now, what sources tell us is that Don Jr. had agreed to come before the committee on two separate occasions to answer these questions. But then he balked. And part of the reason why he balked, we're told, is because sources tell us that he didn't want to have a redo of the testimony he's already given.

He testified before the Senate Intel Committee in December of 2017 and two other committees, one in the House, one in the Senate. And the concern here is that they want to retread this ground. There's also a concern that this could be a potential perjury trap, because they're so focused on this.

And part of the reason why he balked was they were asking him to come in, and they wanted to have a follow-up on this. But when they got into the nitty-gritty of it, it became clear that they wanted to cover 12 topics, with no limitations on how long he would be testifying and who would be doing all the questioning, Wolf.

BLITZER: I understand one scenario you're hearing is that maybe he'd be willing to answer questions in writing, sort of the way his father did with the Mueller investigators?

SCANNELL: Yes, that's right.

So one issue on the table is that there is a possibility that his lawyers would be open to Don Jr. answering questions about the Trump Tower meeting and the plans to develop in Moscow.

But sources tell us that the committee has rejected that as a proposal. So they really still are at an impasse here on whether they can work out some terms where Don Jr. would return before the committee. BLITZER: So what is Republican Senator Richard Burr of North

Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which issued this subpoena, what is he prepared to do?

SCANNELL: I mean, he's in a real interesting position here.

As a Republican senator, he's being not supported by members of his own team. Other Republicans are out there saying that -- Lindsey Graham is saying that Don Jr. shouldn't even come in. So he's -- it's really a testament of how strong a -- how strong a stance is he going to take on this?

Now, the Senate Intelligence Committee has really prided itself on being a bipartisan committee, doing a bipartisan investigation in this. And he has the support of some there. But the question is, is he going to continue to push this? Will he try to compel Donald Trump Jr. to appear?

Or is this something that they're going to continue to negotiate? It doesn't seem like Donald Trump Jr. is going to come back to the Hill, though. So the ball is really in Burr's court. And the question is, what does he do now?

BLITZER: If he comes back, he could also plead the Fifth, right?

SCANNELL: That's right.

I mean, he could come back, plead the Fifth. I think his legal team wants to avoid sort of the dog-and-pony show of him having to come to Capitol Hill and go through that process. So there's really motivations on both sides to try to work something out.

But they are also pretty far apart at this moment if they want to revisit these issues, because the Mueller report also raised some discrepancies in Donald Trump's previous testimony. And that's where you have really seen some Democrats wanting him back on the Hill to answer questions about that.

And Republicans, and including those even in Donald Trump Jr.'s circle, don't think it's wise for him to come back because of the potential that he could get caught in a perjury trap.

BLITZER: Yes. If he pleads the Fifth, everybody will be playing the sound bites of his father saying, anybody who pleads the Fifth is guilty. Why would they plead the Fifth if they weren't guilty?

SCANNELL: Exactly.

BLITZER: There are plenty sound bites like that from Donald Trump over the years.

Thanks very much for that, Kara Scannell reporting.

Joining us now, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. He's a Democrat. He serves on both the House Intelligence and Oversight committees.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me start with this news on Donald Trump Jr. It's a risky move to subpoena the president's son. There's no doubt about that.

How aggressively can Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, pursue this? And what does it tell you that he's willing to have this fight?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: He can pursue it aggressively.

And I think that this -- this move is right one, because there were clear discrepancies in Don Trump's Jr.'s testimony with regard to what he told his father regarding the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.

[18:10:12]

And this is why it's important. From a counterintelligence perspective, if it turns out that he was lying about his discussions with his father about this particular meeting, and the Russians know that he's lying, that information in itself is called kompromat.

It's information that could be used to manipulate Don Trump Jr., the Trump Organization and, by extension, his -- potentially his father. So that's why it's so important for Senator Burr of the Senate Judiciary Committee...

BLITZER: Intelligence Committee.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I'm sorry -- the Intelligence Committee -- to pursue this, because this is part of his counterintelligence mission the committee.

BLITZER: Very interesting.

What precedent does it set, though, to have Senator Lindsey Graham, who's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, advising Donald Trump Jr. to ignore the subpoena from Richard Burr and the Intelligence Committee?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I assume this is advice. This advice is free advice. So it's so worth the price you pay for it.

I would not take that advice if I were time Don Trump Jr. Ignoring subpoenas is not a -- is not a prudent course of action. I think that, at this point, he should comply with the subpoena.

But it points to a bigger issue, Wolf, which I think you may have mentioned earlier, which is that Donald Trump, his father, is now obstructing not only Democrats in the House, but also Republicans in the Senate.

And so this is something where I think -- I'm hoping both Democrats and Republicans stand up for the will of the people to exercise oversight of their president.

BLITZER: A judge will weigh in tomorrow on the subpoena from your committee, Congressman, the House Oversight Committee...

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes.

BLITZER: ... for President Trump's accounting firm to hand over his financial records.

The president has sued to block that subpoena. How do you interpret the judge's decision to fast-track this hearing?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I thought Judge Mehta's decision to fast-track this hearing illustrates the importance of the subpoena, the underlying subpoena for the president's records.

I think that Donald Trump's attorneys thought that by intervening or suing the Mazars firm in court, they would somehow slow down the process and delay as long as possible their turning over the financial records of Donald Trump to the Oversight Committee.

I think what the judge's ruling illustrates is that I don't think that delay is necessarily going to be in the cards with regard to a lot of these subpoenas and the enforcement of their subpoenas.

BLITZER: The -- over the weekend, the president really went after the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, and the former White House counsel Don McGahn on Twitter.

If he is totally exonerated, as he often says, by the Mueller report, what do you think is behind these new attacks?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think -- I think he knows the truth, that he was not totally exonerated by the Mueller report.

And the fact that he tried to get Don McGahn to say that there was no obstruction, and the fact that Don McGahn refused to do so, and now to get Christopher Wray to say that somehow spying was done by the FBI on the Trump campaign, and that he is refusing to say that, illustrates that the facts can be stubborn, and the truth is the truth.

And I think that Donald Trump is having a hard time, obviously, accepting that. But that doesn't mean that everyone in his administration is going to follow his lead with regard to that approach.

BLITZER: The president is threatening more tariffs on China right now. How long can the president maintain his tough negotiating posture before the American people start to really feel the effects when they go shopping at Wal-Mart or other stores and see price increases on a lot of products?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: It's a good question. I don't know.

But this illustrates yet another problem that we have, which is that the -- that Mr. Trump is at war with everyone at this point. We have a trade war. We have -- we're inching toward war with Iran, which I think you mentioned earlier, and we don't have friends. That's the problem in these particular disputes.

We have significant concerns with Chinese trade practices, just as we do with Iran. They are both bad actors in these respective spheres. However, we need allies and friends to help enforce multilateral agreements, to make sure that the Chinese come to the table and do the right thing. Because we don't, we are paying the price.

Our consumers are going to pay the price. Farmers in Illinois are going to pay the price, among others. And, unfortunately, our allies are going to swoop in and get the business from the Chinese.

[18:15:07]

BLITZER: Speaking of Iran, the president issued, some would say, not a very vague a warning to Iran today, just after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with NATO allies in Europe, shared intelligence on the current threats the administration sees coming from Iran.

You're a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Have you been briefed on that intelligence, the so-called threats that we're hearing about?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I have. I can't comment specifically on them.

All I can say is that Iran is a bad actor in the Middle East. There's no doubt about it. However, we need allies and friends to get Iran to do the right thing ultimately.

When Mr. Pompeo wanted to convene a meeting of foreign ministers of our allied countries, he was rebuffed. And what's worse is that it's clear Iran is a bad actor, but some of our allies are almost viewing our activity and our behavior on equivalent terms with Iran.

That's a horrible situation. And so we need to figure out a way to avoid taking a maximalist approach to a war, which is what I fear the Trump administration is trying to do here.

And we have to bring our allies with us in a multilateral approach toward Iran ASAP.

BLITZER: As someone who's been briefed on the latest intelligence by the administration, do you know if these are legitimate threats, or if some of the more, let's say, hawkish members of the Trump administration are stoking these tensions?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Again, I can't comment on the specifics, Wolf.

However, let me say this. The Iranians have fomented all kinds of violence against us and our interests throughout the Middle East. And there doesn't seem to be an end to that. In fact, it appears that they are continuing to be aggressive on all fronts.

From our standpoint, however, we also need our allies and friends to be with us, if we want to step up sanctions, if we want to increase pressure, and make sure the Iranians at least adhere to their nuclear commitments, which they made, and to try to address the other issues that we're concerned about, whether it's ballistic missiles, or whether it's increased bad activity in Syria and so forth.

So, I'm just saying that, right now, we need our friends and allies to be with us. They're not. And that's a problem.

BLITZER: Very quickly, I know you can't get into specifics, but are U.S. military personnel, whether in Iraq or elsewhere in the region, now being threatened by Iranians or Iranian proxies?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: They have always been under threat.

And I think after we -- I think that you saw that we designated the Iranian Guard, the Revolutionary Guard, as a terrorist organization. I think they came back and designated -- I thought I saw in one published report -- all of our troops in the Middle East as terrorists and belonging to a terrorist organization, which is a big problem in itself.

And so we have to obviously protect our troops, make sure we stay strong. And -- but we need -- we need a united front with our friends and allies now more than ever.

BLITZER: The U.S. still has 5,000 troops in Iraq, 7,000 contractors as well.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thanks so much for joining us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead: Is Donald Trump Jr. worried that Congress will catch him in a lie? We're going to talk about that, why he's trying to dodge a new Senate subpoena.

And we will also take you inside actress Felicity Huffman's emotional guilty plea in the college admissions cheating scandal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:35]

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories this hour, including the subpoena standoff between Donald Trump Jr. and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sources tell CNN Trump Jr. is balking at answering more questions about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the Trump Tower Moscow project.

Let's dig deeper with our experts and our analysts.

Gloria Borger, Donald Trump Jr. worried about potentially being caught in a lie by Congress?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that's probably a part of it. Obviously, Congress, particularly a Republican chairman, would not be

calling him back unless they believed that -- he believed there were certain discrepancies or potential discrepancies between what Jr. testified to before the committee vs. what was in the Mueller report.

And we all know that, in the Mueller report, particularly given Michael Cohen's testimony, there's the question about whether Don Jr. told his father about this Trump Tower meeting. Michael Cohen says he believes he did, but didn't have any proof of it.

And Don Jr. also told the committee that he was peripherally involved in the Trump Tower project in Moscow, whereas Cohen said that he briefed Don Jr. and Ivanka about 10 times on it.

So, if I had to guess, I would be -- I would think those are a couple of the issues that the committee wanted to go back at him on.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, you heard our Kara Scannell say there is one option. Maybe he would answer written questions that were posed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. You think that's enough for Chairman Burr?

[18:25:05]

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It might be.

Chairman Burr is not someone who likes to pick fights with the president of the United States. And that may be a face-saving compromise for all concerned.

But let's just talk about the law. I mean, the law is not that, well, I spoke to you once, I don't have to speak to you again.

It is routine for people to be subpoenaed repeatedly to the grand jury or any other proceeding. So, the idea that, because he spoke once, he somehow has immunity from being called back, that's simply not true.

Now, this is a political situation more than it is a legal one. And Burr in particular is going to have to navigate his duties as chairman -- and he did agree to the subpoena -- but how much he wants to poke at the president and his son.

That's really what -- the stage we're at now, and perhaps written questions will be a compromise he can live with.

BLITZER: It's interesting that Senator Lindsey Graham, Susan, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had this advice for Donald Trump Jr. yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: If I were Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer, I would tell him, you don't need to go back into this environment anymore. You have been there for hours and hours and hours, and nothing being alleged here changes the outcome of the Mueller investigation.

I would call it a day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Pretty incredible statement from the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. It is pretty remarkable. This is Lindsey Graham suggesting that the president's son shouldn't comply with a subpoena issued by his own body of Congress, by actually one of his Republican colleagues.

Now, Senator Graham knows that there's a pretty big difference between sitting down for a couple hours with staff vs. actually facing members' questioning, which is -- which is the issue here.

It's also notable that they're sort of like extending deference to the president son, as though he's an executive branch officer, negotiating over whether or not he's going to provide written inquiries. That's the kind of thing we would ordinarily expect the two branches of government to be negotiating amongst themselves.

Donald Trump Jr. is just a private citizen. It's also notable that Lindsey Graham is talking about the Senate -- the SSCI, the Senate Intelligence investigation, as if it's just a subsidiary of the Mueller investigation.

That's not the case. Congress investigates as a separate investigation for separate purposes. So, it's entirely possible that the committee would look at what was described in the report, including the conclusions that Donald Trump Jr. couldn't be charged, and say, maybe this wasn't criminal conduct, but it should be. And we're the body that actually is supposed to be passing laws.

They also have really important equities in making sure that people don't lie to Congress, they don't lie to their committees.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: And, by the way...

BLITZER: Yes.

TOOBIN: And, by the way, Donald Trump Jr. refused to talk to the Mueller investigation.

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

TOOBIN: So the idea that he's -- like, well, he's dealt with the Mueller investigation, he just gave him the back of his -- back of his hand.

Now, what's unclear in the Mueller report is whether Donald Trump Jr. took the Fifth or on what grounds he refused to participate.

But Lindsey Graham's a real lawyer. He was an Air Force prosecutor for many years. He has to know that what he just said was legally ridiculous. I mean, you don't have a right just to ignore a subpoena because you don't like it.

But that's the environment we're in.

BORGER: Well, and he was singing a different tune during the Clinton impeachment, as we all recall.

So this is a different point of view for him because he's in a different place right now.

BLITZER: On another sensitive issue, Sabrina, the White House is also fighting the subpoena for the former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify.

Over the weekend, the president tweeted -- and I'm quoting now -- "Lawyer Don McGahn had a much better chance of being fired than Mueller. Never a big fan."

What do you make of that?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this came after reports that the president wanted McGahn last month, around the release of the Mueller report, to issue a public statement asserting that he did not believe the president obstructed justice.

And McGahn, through an attorney, declined that request from the White House, one, because Attorney General William Barr had already made the same conclusion in that infamous letter in March, and, two, because they felt it was inappropriate for McGahn, as a witness, to make a statement that is really designed to spin the findings of the Mueller report.

I think, when you look at the attacks from the president, as well as his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on McGahn, it's a tactic they have gone to time and again, where, when someone is perceived to have turned on the president, then they try to undermine that person's credibility.

And I think the White House looked at McGahn, being a very central figure in the report, really the key person who in many ways blocked the president from actually being able to obstruct justice, certainly declined to fire Robert Mueller, that that is sort of the tactic that they're now resorting to, which is to say, at least, that this is not someone who's credible, even though we have no reason to believe that McGahn did anything but tell investigators the truth.

BORGER: Because he takes notes. Because he takes notes.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: He's a lawyer. He's a real lawyer who take notes.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Lawyers should never take notes.

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey. TOOBIN: Well, just today, Wolf, the Supreme Court, by a vote of five to four, overturned the President that is nearly as old as Roe V. Wade. And Stephen Breyer in his dissent said, you know, look what's coming. And I think it was quite clear that this was a message that Roe V. Wade is going to be overturned.

Don McGahn was the architect of getting Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. One of Donald Trump's most enormous successes is particular for his supporters. He is now -- you know, Don McGahn is now out of the book of life for Donald Trump. But remember, McGahn was the architect of perhaps his most lasting triumph.

BLITZER: He makes a good point, Susan.

HENNESSEY: I think that is an important point. I think it's also a point that Don McGahn has gotten a lot of what he wanted out of this administration. He didn't be go in as a Trump loyalist. He didn't come out as Trump loyalist.

And so the big question now is whether or not Don McGahn is actually going to fight this fight. He's going to be like Harriet Miers during the Bush administration, refusing to testify, forcing the House to try and compel his testimony through subpoenas or if he's going to say, look, at the end of the day if Congress subpoenas me, I'm not going to spend the rest of the next year of my life trying to fight for this president who's insulting me on Twitter. I'm going to go in. I'm going to tell my story and be done.

BORGER: Well, and the President's Tweet is accurate because the President says, never a big fan. He was never a big fan of Don McGahn's, ever, ever, ever, even after Don McGahn got him those two Supreme Court justices. And so I think McGahn has to have a little discussion with himself, as Susan says, about what he's willing to sacrifice.

BLITZER: He's even a smaller fan now that, McGahn, on a couple occasions, he was asked by the White House to say that the President never obstructed justice. He refused to say that as well.

Much more on all the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:00]

BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight. Wall Street sharply rattled by President Trump's escalating trade war with China. The Dow plunged more than 600 points after Beijing imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. Gloria, the President now is threatening even more tariffs against China. Does it look like he's digging in his heels that this is going to be a long, drawn out trade war?

BORGER: Well, you never know with Donald Trump. It's hard to predict what he's going to do. For example, if you remember family separation policy, he was for it until he decided to stop it, funding the Special Olympics, declining to fund the Special Olympics. And then he got a lot of blow back, and then he decided he wanted to fund it. So who knows what's going to happen with China policy.

He does have trade negotiators. He doesn't seem to have a real understanding of the impact this would have on anyone other than farmers whom he promised a $15 billion subsidy today given the fact that this would affect them negatively and he knows they are a great deal of his support in the middle of the country.

But it's very hard to say, Wolf, what's going to happen here. We understand and we know. We're talking about the decline in the Dow over 600 points today, that might affect him a little bit. But when he was asked about that today, he did not directly answer that question about the stock market. He'd probably blame Jerome Powell or something.

BLITZER: Do you think he understand, Sabrina, that average families out there are going to have to spend a lot more money on various products when they go to their big supermarkets and elsewhere to buy stuff for their kids?

SIDDIQUI: Well, this is the challenge with the President. He very explicitly campaigned on a much more protectionist trade agenda which he said was designed to benefit the American worker. But the people who are hurting because of the tariffs that he's imposed, not just on China but also on Canada and other allies in Europe are actually having an adverse effect on the American worker, the agricultural and manufacturing industries, key constituencies of the President, we should add, as well as, of course, the U.S. consumer.

Now, I think the question is whether or not this is going to escalate into a global trade war and there's not a lot of appetite among members of Congress for that even though there is more bipartisan support for holding Beijing accountable for unfair trade practices. I think if this does escalate and there's a great negative impact on the U.S. economy, you might see members of Congress get more involved.

And we do know that last year, they were looking at limiting the President's authority on trade. So we'll see if they revisit that as well.

HENNESSEY: Well, let's keep in mind, this is the President who likes to say trade wars are good and easy to win. This administration has weighted (ph) but operated in kind of a reality free zone where they say whatever they want, and the base just goes along.

This is an example in which reality is going to come down like a ton of bricks that ultimately Mexico is not paying for that wall and China is not paying for these tariffs. The American consumer is. And that's going to hurt not just the American public, in general, but it's going to hurt in places like Iowa and Wisconsin, important places like Ohio and Michigan, that are all critical to the President's 2020 strategy.

BLITZER: And most of the economists, Jeffrey, you probably took Economics 101, I did, they see this as a hidden tax that American consumers are going to have to pay.

TOOBIN: They do. But the Republican Party used to be the party of free trade and this is just such a perfect example of how Donald Trump, it is now his party. You hadn't heard a peep of protests from the republicans who used to embrace free trade and hate tariffs.

[18:40:00]

But the world is different now and it's Donald Trump's party. And as the President likes to say, we'll see what happens.

BORGER: And when was the last time we heard republicans screaming about the budget deficit also, right, Jeffrey? I mean, this was the party of no red ink.

BLITZER: It's gone up $2 trillion. All right, stand by. There's more breaking news we're following here in The Situation Room.

The actress, Felicity Huffman, breaks down in tears as she enters her plea in the college admission scandal.

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[18:45:06] BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. An emotional court appearance just a little while ago by the actress Felicity Huffman, one of the most high profile figures caught up in the college admissions scandal.

Our National Correspondent, Erica Hill has details for us.

So, Erica, what happened?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, she actually broke down in tears in court. Prosecutors are recommending she spend 4 months behind bars and pay a $20 million fine, though she won't be sentenced until September.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): Felicity Huffman gripping her brother's hand as she enters Boston's federal court house, where the actress pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to a fake charity to boost her daughter's SAT score, telling the judge through tears, she didn't know the scam's master mind William Rick Singer was paying others to doctor the test. But, quote, everything else they said I did I did.

The criminal complaint includes emails and phone calls with Huffman and the scam's mastermind, William Rick Singer, outlining plans for her daughter to take the test at a specific location with an administrator singer had bribed. Her score jumped nearly 400 points from an earlier test she took.

In a statement last month, the actress expressing regret: I am ashamed at the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and especially I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.

Her approach, a sharp contrast to fellow actress Lori Loughlin who along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded not guilty to charges of mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy. The couple is accused of paying half a million dollars to get their daughters into USC as recruits for the crew team despite neither participating in the sport.

Loughlin who's been friendly with photographers and fans since the scandal broke is reportedly very concerned about the damage to her reputation. Dropped by the Hallmark Channel days after the scandal broke, her daughter, Olivia Jade, a freshman at USC, lost endorsement deals with Sephora and HP.

OLIVIA JADE GIANNULLI, SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER: I have two major projects coming out.

HILL: Earlier this month, two high level crisis management execs told CNN they were approached by the couple for help improving their image. One telling CNN it's, quote, killing Loughlin that her squeaky clean reputation has done a total 180.

Neither took the couple on as clients.

MELISSA MURRAY, PROFESSOR AT LAW, NYU: The fact that she's been focused on her career will not look well for the judge. They want to see defendants who are really focused, who understand the gravity of what this all means.

HILL: Loughlin's publicist tells CNN there is no crisis PR team being brought in.

Of the 33 parents charged in Operation Varsity Blues, more than a dozen have agreed to plead guilty, including Devin Sloane, also in court today. The L.A. businessman allegedly paid Singer $250,000 to get his son into USC as a water polo recruit though he didn't play the sport.

USC fired head coach Jovan Vavic after news that the scandal broke. He has pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: CNN also identifying today two students who received target letters from U.S. attorney in Massachusetts. One was sent to the daughter of Augustin Huneeus. He's a Napa vineyard owner who's charged in the initial complaint and set to plead guilty next week. His daughter hasn't been charged.

Yusi Zhao also receiving a letter. Zhao's mother admitted to paying Singer's foundation $6.5 million after her daughter was admitted to Stanford. Neither she nor her daughter, Wolf, have been charged.

BLITZER: Erica Hill reporting for us, Erica, thanks very much.

And, by the way, stay with CNN for more on the presidential race as well. The former Vice President Joe Biden making his first 2020 campaign trip to New Hampshire. Looking at live pictures of him addressing a crowd in Manchester.

We'll be right back.

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[18:53:53] BLITZER: Tonight, we begin a CNN series on the explosion of anti-Jewish violence in this country. We saw it just weeks ago in the deadly attack on Poway, California, and just months ago in the slaughter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. A new report shows assaults against Jewish people more than doubled here in the United States last year.

Our National Correspondent, Sara Sidner is joining us.

Sara, you're exploring the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. Tell our viewers what you've learned.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really dire, Wolf. I mean, experts who track hate point to a potential reason for the explosion in the number of violence and violent acts against Jews. They say there's an alarmist (ph) and misguided message being sent out by white supremacists who are saying it's time to act now to save the white race, and they are doing so with deadly violence even against synagogues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): An orthodox Jew beaten in the streets of Brooklyn, another sucker punched in New York. In Los Angeles, a driver targets a Jewish man with his car, screaming F-ing Jews. And exactly six months apart, shooters attacking American synagogues during services with the intent to kill Jews.

[18:55:07] Pittsburgh last October, 11 lives lost in a worst act of anti-Semitic violence in American history. Poway in April killing one worshipper.

The direct threat against American Jews as victims of vandalism, assault and even murder is at alarming levels.

GEORGE SELIM, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: We're talking some of the highest numbers of incidents that we've ever seen. It's really kind of unfolded itself in a very ugly way.

SIDNER: For a third year in a row, the Anti-Defamation League says anti-Semitic incidents in America rose to near historic highs. Each of the 1,879 dots a physical manifestation of hate in 2018.

SELIM: The threat of today is one we haven't seen in this country in recent memory.

SIDNER: George Selim overseas the ADL center for extremism. He has also spent more than a decade working to fight extremism and radicalization at the Department of Homeland Security. The growing deadly threat he says is homegrown and overwhelmingly far right and white.

SELIM: There's this concept within white supremacist circles of accelerationism. That means that individuals feel the white race is in danger and they need to act now.

SIDNER: The evidence of the growing threat is plain to see. Synagogues now pockmarked with bullet holes.

RABBI YISROEL GOLDSTEIN, POWAY CHABAD: I was centimeters away from death. I still feel the power of the bullets flying.

SIDNER: Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein came to Poway, California, in the 1980s with a dream to build a safe oasis for the Jewish community. But his sense of security was shattered in seconds.

(on camera): At what point did you see a gunman walk into your synagogue?

GOLDSTEIN: It's so hard to go back. It's unimaginable. Right there in 10 feet away from me, 16 feet away from me, standing there, his feet spread apart in the aiming position right at me.

SIDNER (voice-over): The first blast marking the door and wall, hit and killed congregant Lori Kaye who was there to pray for her recently deceased mother, and then the rabbi was hit.

GOLDSTEIN: My granddaughter (INAUDIBLE), she says, grandfather you're bleeding.

SIDNER (on camera): You didn't even know you were hit.

GOLDSTEIN: I didn't even know I was hit. I looked at her face and she was traumatized, just 4-1/2 years old. These are pictures you see from black and whites during the Holocaust, during the pogroms, Kristallnacht, that's when you see those images, not 2019 in the United States of America.

SIDNER (voice-over): Eight-year-old Noya Dahan and her uncle were also injured during the shooting at the synagogue.

NOYA DAHAN, WOUNDED AT POWAY CHABAD: He was aiming at all the kids. He was aiming where the kids were. It was terrifying, scary.

SIDNER: The 19-year-old white male suspect wrote of killing Jews in an open letter before the attack.

I feel no remorse. I only wish I'd killed more.

He said his inspiration came from the slaughter of 15 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the massacre of 11 Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, both of which, police say, were perpetrated by white supremacists.

Poway's mayor says this was not representative of the city he loves.

KIM GARNIER, POWAY RESIDENT: There's swastikas spray painted at our schools. Just last Hanukkah, a family had swastikas spray painted on their house.

SIDNER: Life-long resident Kim Garnier says the attack didn't surprise her one bit.

(on camera): How do you see Poway?

GARNIER: When I hear this isn't Poway, that's a slap in the face to people who have experienced the bigotry, the hatred, the racism, the anti-Semitism. There's another element, and to ignore it is so disrespectful to those who have experienced it.

SIDNER (voice-over): According to the ADL, all but four states saw incidents of anti-Semitism last year, down slightly from 2017 where all 50 states had incidents for the first time ever, the most deadly at the hands of far right wing extremists.

SELIM: Let me be very clear on this. White supremacy and white nationalism is a real and persistent threat. Law enforcement at the federal, state and local level need to take this threat much more seriously.

SIDNER: If it isn't, he says, the deadly trend will continue.

GOLDSTEIN: You're never safe again, you don't feel safe again. If this can happen to us, it can (ph) be anywhere and everywhere.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Now, the FBI association has urged Congress and the White House to help with this threat by changing the U.S. Code to include domestic terrorism regardless of target or weapon. Right now, that does not exist -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pretty awful situation. Sara Sidner, thanks for that report. I know you got two more reports coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM to continue to follow-up on this explosion of anti- Semitism. Sara, thanks very much for that report.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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