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Trump Immigration Plan Unveiled; Interview With Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX); Alabama Passes Country's Most Restrictive Anti-Abortion Law; Country Heading Toward Constitutional Crisis?. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The White House just revealed details of the president's new immigration reform plan aimed at unifying congressional Republicans on the divisive issue, but we're told key GOP senators are not impressed.

Ordered out. The United States orders some government workers to leave Iraq, citing -- and I'm quoting now -- an imminent threat from neighboring Iran. But U.S. allies are skeptical, questioning the Trump team's assessment and urging restraint.

And from the sky. A helicopter crashes into the Hudson River, terrifying crowds near the heart of Manhattan. Stand by for details on the accident and how the pilot survived.

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 a new level of stonewalling by the Trump administration.

Tonight, the White House is rejecting the House Judiciary Committee's demand for information in its sweeping probe of possible obstruction and abuse of power. Democratic Chairman Jerry Nadler says the president's team is claiming he's a king who's above the law.

Also breaking, senior White House officials just previewed the new immigration reform plan President Trump will unveil tomorrow, aimed at moving toward what's called a merit-based immigration system. CNN has learned key Republican senators are underwhelmed by the proposal, which does not address family separations at the border or the fate of young immigrants known as dreamers.

I will get reaction from Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro. He's on the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the more Democrats demand information, the more the Trump administration is simply saying, no.


The White House is stiff-arming demands from House Democrats and their probe into allegations sparked by the Russia investigation. The White House counsel is accusing Democrats of seeking a -- quote -- "do-over" after special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The president already has his hands full, by the way, as he plans to unveil a new immigration plan that some Republicans in Congress are already describing to us as over -- underwhelming.


ACOSTA (voice-over): As the president praised the nation's law enforcement community at the Capitol, his White House counsel all but told House Democrats to get lost in their investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice in the Russia probe.

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone said special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation should be enough, adding: "Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or pursue an unauthorized do-over of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice."

Nadler fired back to CNN.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): This is the White House claiming that the president is a king. This is the White House saying that the Justice Department says they can't hold the president accountable, because you can't indict a president, and now they're saying, neither can Congress.

So the president is totally unaccountable and above the law.

ACOSTA: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also sounded defiant when asked whether the IRS will ever hand over the president's long secret tax returns to lawmakers.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The Democrats are trying to weaponize the IRS. This is a very, very dangerous issue. And that's why we're taking this issue very seriously.

ACOSTA: Aides to the president say he's eager to cut deals with Congress, as Mr. Trump is expected to reveal his new immigration plan on Thursday. The president is set to call for a new merit system for legal immigrants coming into the U.S. that rewards the wealthier and well-educated, while building a wall on the border and creating a new process to expedite claims for asylum seekers.

But the plan at the moment does not address the fate of the millions of undocumented people in the U.S., including the young so-called dreamers in the DACA program, as well as the thousands of family separations carried out by the administration. The proposal is a renewed push for a merit-based system that White

House immigration hard-liner Stephen Miller promoted nearly two years ago.

(on camera): Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country, if you're telling them you have to speak English? Can't people learn how to speak English when they get here?

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, first of all, right now, it's a requirement that to be naturalized, you have to speak English.

So, the notion that speaking English wouldn't be a part of immigration systems would be actually very ahistorical -- 10 years, 20 years, 30 years from now, we want to have an immigration system that takes care of the people who are coming here and the people who are already living here by having standards.

ACOSTA (voice-over): GOP officials told CNN that Republican senators briefed on the proposal by the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were -- quote -- "underwhelmed" by the plan.

But the White House is anxious to hit the reset button on the issue, even as the president is previewing his plan with heated rhetoric.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To end deadly sanctuary cities, to stop the visa lottery program, where they take lottery systems, and a country will put you into a lottery, and then deposit you into the United States. I don't think most countries are giving us their finest.


ACOSTA: Now, the president is expected to roll out this immigration plan over here at the White House tomorrow.

Senior administration officials acknowledge this proposal maybe not really go anywhere, as it will certainly run into a wall of opposition among Democrats in Congress. As one official said, the White House is hoping to unite Republicans on immigration, even as some GOP lawmakers question the president's approach to the issue.

We should also point out, Wolf, as for those comments from GOP sources that Jared Kushner's presentation to Republicans was underwhelming yesterday up on Capitol Hill, a senior administration official told reporters that Kushner actually received some high-fives as he was leaving the room. That's according to senior administration officials over here at the White House.

We should also point out, on another front, Wolf, on Iran, this discussion that's been going on inside the Trump administration, the president posted a tweet this afternoon, a couple of tweets this afternoon to respond to news reports that there are hawks inside the Trump administration, like the national security adviser, John Bolton, pushing for some kind of military action against Iran.

The president tweeted this afternoon that there is no infighting whatsoever and that he's sure that Iran will want to talk soon. But, Wolf, there's a lot of concern up on Capitol Hill that there are forces inside the Trump administration attempting to push the president in the direction of military action against Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on the intensifying war between the Trump White House and House Democrats.

CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us from Capitol Hill.

Phil, how far is the Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, willing to go to get what he wants?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, in the latest escalation of tensions, both Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee chairman, and pretty much all Democrats firing back, making clear that the new 12-page letter that lays out a red line from the White House is simply not going to work.

They have objected to it. They have rejected it. And they have made clear they will continue with their investigations, they will continue with their document requests. They will not revise those document requests.

They will continue to invite administration officials and staff to Capitol Hill to testify. Jerry Nadler making clear they believe former White House general counsel Don McGahn will testify in front of the committee. So will special Robert Mueller.

And they are willing to pursue several different ideas if they are stonewalled in those efforts. Now, we already know that the attorney general has been held in contempt on the committee level. The full House has not voted yet, but Democrats are now considering the idea of packaging several potential contempt votes together for several different White House officials.

And Jerry Nadler also made clear he is open to considering even -- going even further, and that is pursuing the idea of inherent contempt. That's something in the House rules they could pursue that would allow them to either jail or fine officials.

Now, jailing officials seems a little bit out of the realm of possibility right now, but fining, according to Nadler, is something he is very much considering. When asked how big the fines would be, Jerry Nadler said, very large.

They're making very clear that despite this hard line from the White House, Wolf, Democrats not backing down any time soon in their myriad of probes up here in the Capitol.

BLITZER: You know, Phil, the attorney general, Bill Barr, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, they're hardly allies, but I understand there was a rather interesting moment between the two of them up on Capitol Hill today.

MATTINGLY: Yes, both found themselves in the same holding tent during the National Peace Officers Memorial here on Capitol Hill, an annual event.

Both were in attendance to pay their respects to officers that have fallen in the line of duty. And when they ran into one another in that holding tent, we're told from sources the attorney general joked with the speaker if she had any of her handcuffs in case she needed to arrest him, kind of following on that inherent contempt line.

Pelosi, we're told from a source, not missing a beat, smiled, and let him know that the sergeant-at-arms was in fact nearby if an arrest did need to be made.

Now, of course, they were just kidding around. And I would note, according to Capitol officials, there is no jail currently in the Capitol Building, but a bit of a lighthearted moment in what has otherwise been a very, very serious exchange and battle between the administration and House Democrats over the course of the last couple months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting.

All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He's a Democratic member of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's get to the White House counsel. He says that the demands by your colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee are -- quote -- "outside of the constitutional authority of the legislative branch of the U.S. government."

How do you respond to that?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes, that's not the case at all.

Congress has a right to conduct oversight and to investigate these matters. And what you have is an administration that's stonewalling in every single way that it can. And Jerry Nadler is right that the president is trying to act like a king, as though nobody can investigate anything that his administration does.

And, ultimately, the Congress is going to have to go to court, the House of Representatives is going to have to go to court, probably, to enforce these subpoenas.


BLITZER: Do you support the Judiciary Committee chairman, Nadler's threat to fine people for not complying with their subpoenas, even the attorney general, up to the attorney general, Bill Barr?

CASTRO: Well, yes, I think that it's important that we have been negotiating, trying to get them to come in and testify and so forth.

But if they absolutely refuse, when they know that they should be coming in, then, yes, I think they should be fined.

BLITZER: You're on the Intelligence Committee.

The chairman, Adam Schiff, has requested specific information from the Justice Department on the so-called counterintelligence portion of the Mueller investigation. The Intelligence Committee's interested in that. What does that effort -- where does that effort stand, as far as you know?

CASTRO: As far as I know -- I haven't heard anything since this morning, but I don't think the Department of Justice has responded.

This is another instance where they basically are trying to shut out Congress completely, and I think we're in the same situation, where a committee has asked for something that it has a right to see, and the executive branch has basically said, you're not going to see it. So I think we're going to end up in court.

BLITZER: Another battle unfolding there.

Meanwhile, we're getting the first details of Jared Kushner's immigration plan. They're selling this as a shift toward what they call merit-based immigration, with a focus on border security. But the plan does not address the DACA program.

Could this at least be, from your perspective, Congressman, a starting point for some bipartisan negotiations down the road?

CASTRO: Well, look, I think it's productive that the White House is actually taking a stab at coming up with something and presenting it to legislators. I do think that's a good thing.

But, by all accounts so far, even the Republican senators are not taking this proposal seriously. So it's hard to imagine that many of my colleagues, either Republicans or Democrats in the House, would take it seriously, if Mitch McConnell and his folks aren't taking it seriously to begin with.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction, while I have you, to the messaging we're hearing from the Trump administration on the threat from Iran.

In the last hour, I spoke with Senator Bob Menendez. He's the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's warning of what he calls another Iraq weapons of mass destruction moment, potentially. Do you share his fears?

CASTRO: Yes, I'm very concerned.

I'm concerned that the president and/or people in his administration are leading the United States toward war. And I'm concerned that somebody over there is either bending or interpreting the intelligence to take us closer to war with Iran.

I said about a week ago that I felt, based on everything that I have seen, that the administration was getting ready or laying the groundwork for two wars, potentially, one in Venezuela and the second one in Iran. And I still believe that now.

BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news, Congressman.

The governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, has just signed into law the abortion ban that was passed by the legislature in her state that banned -- that would ban abortion basically completely, with no exceptions for rape or incest. This was designed clearly to challenge Roe v. Wade.

Do you see it as a real possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court soon potentially could overturn Roe v. Wade?

CASTRO: Well, I think that it was a horrendous law that was passed in Alabama. It was 25 guys who ended up voting in support of this law.

And I think it's unconstitutional. And if the Supreme Court -- to answer your question, if the Supreme Court upholds precedent, as they should, then they will strike it down.

BLITZER: Here's what she tweeted, Kay Ivey, just moments ago: "Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. To the bill's many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians' deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God."

Do you want to respond to the governor?

CASTRO: Well, you know, I just -- I don't understand, Wolf, how somebody makes that statement that every life is precious, when these are the same people that are OK putting young kids in cages and separating babies from their mothers.

How is it that you believe that every life is precious, when you're OK with the president doing that?

BLITZER: Congressman Joaquin Castro, thanks so much for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the breaking news, the just-signed Alabama abortion law. How serious is the threat to Roe v. Wade tonight?



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, the standoff between the Trump administration and House Democrats clearly ratcheting up big time tonight. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler says the White House

is acting like the president of the United States is a king, after the White House counsel flatly rejected the panel's request for documents as part of its sweeping probe of the president.

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

David Swerdlick, the White House counsel said the Judiciary Committee's demands were outside the constitutional authority of the legislative branch.

That's a very aggressive stance.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: It's aggressive and it's a little bit preposterous, Wolf.

Look, we talk all the time about how under most circumstances you can't indict a sitting president. But it should be -- we should remind viewers all the time that's not a law. That is Office of Legal Counsel guidance.

But if everybody's following it -- and there are reasons to follow it -- and we know that you can't indict a sitting president, without reaching the question of whether President Trump has any criminal liability, and then also the executive branch says that Congress, the co-equal or some would say superior branch of government, also can't look into the president with its investigative or oversight powers, then you are, in fact, saying that the president is above the law.


The administration today put out a position that said, essentially, that because the executive is the law enforcement branch, that the president wasn't subject to this congressional oversight.

But if that's the case, then you're basically saying no branch of government can look into the president.

BLITZER: And listen, Sabrina Siddiqui, how the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, responded to this 12-page letter from the White House counsel.


NADLER: This is the White House claiming that the president is a king. This is the White House saying that the Justice Department says they can't hold the president accountable, because you can't indict a president, and now they're saying, neither can Congress.

So the president is totally unaccountable and above the law. No president, no person in the United States is above the law. This is preposterous.


BLITZER: And Nadler's also threatening what he calls very large fines for those who defy these subpoena requests.

But his options seem to be limited right now.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Democratic leaders are still contending with how exactly they should respond to the White House.

We did see, last week, Nadler's committee, Democrats on that committee in a partisan vote, vote to hold William Barr, the attorney general, in contempt of Congress. Now, Democratic leaders said they don't anticipate a full vote on the House floor on that resolution any time soon.

But what -- it was interesting. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, what he told reporters today was, they don't want to move on these contempt proceedings individually. They're looking at perhaps passing a package of contempt resolutions to hold not just the attorney general, but other Trump administration officials who are defying these subpoenas accountable.

In terms of other options, it's not entirely clear whether they might resort to legislative measures, for example, the power of the purse. They could kick off more of a standoff on appropriations and other issues and priorities of the Trump administration.

But I think, right now, they're still weighing their options. But they certainly are clear that they want to respond to what they say is an effort by the Trump administration to effectively say that Congress does not have oversight, when, in fact, of course, that's precisely what they ran on restoring in 2018.

BLITZER: Laura, how do you see this battle unfolding.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is really a test of the separation of powers doctrine, isn't it?

It's the idea of whether or not that sign that says break in case of emergencies, anything actually behind that glass, because it seems at this point, if Congress is allowing the executive branch to thumb their nose and say, you have to prove to me -- before you can exercise any legitimate oversight or accountability measures, you have to prove your legislative intent here, and I don't believe you when you tell me that it's for the purposes of oversight and checks and balances, that's a very difficult thing to grapple with, if you actually believe in separation of powers, which requires the judiciary to really weigh in here and say, look, this whole chicken game that's going on between these two particular people, we have to weigh in to restore this tripod of actual separation of powers.

If that's not there, then what is the democracy?

BLITZER: Is this, Ron Brownstein, a constitutional crisis right now?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, I certainly think we're heading there. And I think it's important to say that it's really not only the judiciary that is on the line here, because what we're asking -- what the administration is seeking in this remarkable letter today is kind of putting in writing that they intend to try to eviscerate the authority of Congress to perform oversight on the executive branch across a wide range of issues.

Of course, it's not just the Mueller report and related questions. It's the 2020 census. It's the security process in the White House, the security clearance process, where they are rejecting any kind of congressional oversight.

And the question should be not only why it is only one house of Congress and one party within one house of Congress that is standing up for the institutional authority of the body. This would be a lot tougher for the administration to take this position if Republicans in Congress were also defending the institutional authority they have exercised so vigorously under Obama and Clinton for Congress to oversee the executive branch.

But, because they are not, that is one reason why the Democratic options are really limited to the courts. It would be much tougher for Trump if the Senate and Republicans in both chambers were saying, no, this is too far.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by.

There's more we're following right now, the breaking news coming in from Alabama just now, where the governor just signed a new law outlawing almost all abortions.



BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following tonight.

Alabama's governor has just signed the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States into law, implementing a near total ban on abortion in that state.

Let's go to our national correspondent, Dianne Gallagher. She's in the capital, Montgomery, for us.

Dianne, this law is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, that's the not-so-secret objective here, really.

The bill's sponsors have essentially admitted that there is little to no chance this law is ever going to actually be enforced. The governor said as much in her statement just a few moments ago, that there's already something similar on the books here in Alabama that is -- quote -- "unenforceable" due to the result of the Roe v. Wade decision, and that this was written, according to the authors, as the most restrictive law, as a vehicle to get abortion back before the Supreme Court.


LINDA COLEMAN-MADISON (D), ALABAMA STATE SENATOR: You don't control this. You don't own this.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Democratic lawmakers outraged.


MADISON: You know there is no law in this country on the book that says what a man can or cannot do with his body.

GALLAGHER: And abortion rights advocates calling for a nationwide response today, the nation's most restrictive abortion law. All those in favor, republican men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life is precious. Life is a gift of our creator.

MADISON: Now you're in my womb. I want you out.

GALLAGHER: The law effectively bans abortion by making it a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life imprison for performing the procedure. The law does include very limited exceptions such as serious health risk to the mother. Democrats attempted to add an amendment to exempt victims of rape and incest, but that failed.

SEN. BOBBY SINGLETON (D-AL): She get raped and have to have that child based on an Alabama law just because we want to legislate morality.

GALLAGHER: This fight now potentially setting up a Supreme Court showdown. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have already said they plan to challenge this in court, which supporters of the law admit is kind of the point.

REP. TERRI COLLINS (R-AL): We'll never get our Heartbeat Bill to be constitutional until Roe V. Wade is decided and reversed. And so I think everybody understood that --

GALLAGHER: Alabama is one of 16 states to introduce or pass restrictive abortion legislation, sometimes called Heartbeat Bills this year. According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. For republicans, those numbers are flipped, with 59 percent saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): This is a plan by the Republican Party, make no mistake, to overturn Roe V. Wade.

GALLAGHER: 2020 democratic candidates quick to condemn the Alabama law on Twitter and the campaign trail, calling it dangerous and unconstitutional.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GALLAGHER: And I want to highlight a little bit more from this statement from Governor Kay Ivey that we're just sort of going through here. She acknowledges that a lot of people across this country, herself included, disagreed with the decision back in 1973, that Roe V. Wade decision. And she says, look, we have to respect the authority of the Supreme Court. But this is the key line here, Wolf. She says that the sponsors of this bill believe that it is time once again for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.

This is happening all across the country right now, Wolf. Alabama, again, one of 16 states with similar type bills, they wrote this specifically to see if they could get it in front of the Supreme Court. Even though it was signed into law today, Wolf, it does not technically go into effect until six months from today. But the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have already told us here at CNN that they plan to challenge this in court. Chances that it goes into effect before it gets into court are slim to none here.

BLITZER: Dianne Gallagher in Alabama for us. Dianne, thanks very much.

Let's bring back our experts, our legal analysts, political analysts. Laura Coates, where is this heading legally in terms of the courts?

COATES: Well, it's going to be heading if the Supreme Court would like to actually hear the case, it will head there, and that's a really big caveat here. Because, think about it, they actually have to have an appellate process, it will make its way through the courts before it's actually implemented at the lower levels of the circuit court levels to figure out if there will be a lower court to say that this is actually constitutional, which, frankly, as it's written right now, is not constitutional according to the Roe V. Wade precedent because that is a framework of trimesters. It relies on that old adage of your rights end where mine begin and the state cannot intrude on a woman's right to have that private conversation until the fetus is viable outside the womb. The courts have looked at this issue and thought the trimester framework works.

If you want to move it around to the fetal heartbeat or say that is an outright ban, that would be directly contrary to what the Supreme Court has said. So it could the lower courts and 11 circuits in other states say, listen, already know what the precedent is. We're not going to try to uproot that. And the Supreme Court may have an easy out and say, well, nothing to resolve here.

If, however, they want to resolve this question and revisit it, which Roberts may, as a chief justice, who's becoming more and more the centrist of everyone, may want to solidify what the court's position is, but I really doubt that, especially if there's a strategic motivation by the States of Alabama and others to make this a political question, the Supreme Court should be averse to actually resolving it.

BLITZER: You know, Sabrina, on Monday, the Supreme Court voted five to four to overrule, another -- nothing to do with abortion, 40-year precedent, leading the -- one of the justices, a liberal justice, Stephen Breyer, writing his dissent, and I'm quoting him now, today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next. And in the same paragraph, Breyer cited Casey v. Planned Parenthood of 1992, a ruling that upheld Roe v. Wade. That was a pretty dire warning from Justice Breyer.

SIDDIQUI: Yes. And I think the concern for democrats has been what will the impact be of President Trump having not one but two justices confirmed to the Supreme Court.


His first justice, Neil Gorsuch, once said that he wrote a book on precedent, that was what he said in his confirmation hearings, to try and alleviate concerns. And then he ruled inside with the conservative justices in overturning a 40-year precedent last year around labor unions. And now, we also have, of course, Justice Kavanaugh, who has said he respects the precedent of Roe V. Wade. But, again, as we just saw and had a reminder, precedents can easily be overturned.

So the big question is, what is the impact on the 2020 race, where you saw in 2016, republicans very heavily campaigned on this idea that we should elect Donald Trump because of the Supreme Court, because of the conservative priorities in the judiciary. I think now, you're going to see democrats turn around and make that a galvanizing issue for their base.

BLITZER: Well, Ron Brownstein, how do you see the political fallout heading into 2020?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, I mean, I think, you know, like many things in American life, this is really going to come down to the calculations of John Roberts who, on the one hand, has been willing to do five, four party line decisions on core political interests of the Republican Party, undermining the Voting Rights Act, undermining or driving a big hole in the campaign finance laws and Citizen United and probably on allowing the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the census.

On the other hand, he has shown some concern about the Supreme Court's image of independence and kind of try to pull back from that, most notably on the Affordable Care Act. We don't know where on this continuum an abortion case would fall if it does get to the court. But, look, this is the cultural realignment of American politics, culture not class is a key dividing line between the parties and this moves us further in that direction.


SWERDLICK: Yes, no. I think you have a situation where on both sides of the political aisle, there are going to be incentives to campaign on this issue or to raise this issue. Dianne pointed to that poll where 58 percent of Americans favor some sort of abortion rights. Again, it always depends on how you ask the question. Last year also, there was a poll by Gallup that showed that Americans are evenly split on the life versus choice issue. So you're going to have a situation where democrats, as Sabrina said, are going to think this is an issue to rally and there's going to be republicans who think the same thing.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stick around. There's more news we're following, including this helicopter crash in the waters just off New York City, dramatic video, new details coming in.

Plus, a nightmare 50 floors up, window washers spinning out of control in very powerful winds.



BLITZER: Tonight, non-emergency U.S. government employees in Iraq are under orders from the State Department to leave the country due to what the Trump administration says is, and I'm quoting now, an imminent threat from neighboring Iran.

Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, what are you picking up over there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're in the second week of this crisis, if you will, of an increased Iranian threat against U.S. troops in the region. The U.S., as you say, telling State Department employees, at least some of them, they have to go, Germany and the Netherlands suspending their training of Iraqi forces inside Iraq, rising sense among some members of the coalition that Iraq is just too dangerous to be in right now because of the Iranian threat.

But, look, Wolf, there is a lot of skepticism growing out there at the moment. The Trump administration continues to talk about the threat but not yet offer public evidence of the intelligence behind it all, what is leading to all of this. And remember, there are still those four tankers out there in the Persian Gulf that have holes blown in their hull, five to ten-foot holes, and everyone is still waiting for a conclusion about what might have caused that damage. So, concern on the seas, concern on land, but a lot of pressure growing on the Trump administration to come up with the intelligence and some kind of public format to show the world what exactly it's got. Wolf?

BLITZER: Why is the White House facing so much skepticism over these warnings, including from some key U.S. allies?

STARR: Look, democrats and republicans right now are pressuring the White House to come clean on what they have. This is a long-standing issue, Middle East intelligence, Wolf, you know better than anybody, very sensitive dating all the way back to the 2003 Bush administration invasion of Iraq over weapons of mass destruction. A lot of countries out there are skeptical, the British especially. They want to see what intelligence the U.S. has and a lot of Americans are concerned that the Trump administration somehow is making a march to war. The pentagon insists it is not looking for war, it is looking for Iran to ratchet down the tensions in the region. Wolf?

BLITZER: Tense situation unfolding. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

Just ahead, a terrifying helicopter crash into New York's Hudson River, the danger and the rescue.

And window washers trapped in high winds high above the ground, they're holding on for their life.


[18:49:12 BLITZER: Tonight, the United States is refusing to endorse a new global campaign against violent extremism online, claiming concerns about free speech. The call to action is a response to the live-streamed shootings at two New Zealand mosques.

CNN national correspondent Sara Sidner has been looking at the rise of anti-Jewish violence here in the United States.

Sara, part three of your series now focusing in on hate online.


We looked into the extent of the violent vitriol being spewed that social media sites and governments are grappling with now.

CNN looked at search data over a year's time with assistance of the advocacy group, Hope Not Hate, and what the numbers show is alarming. Anti-Semitism online rose after recent deadly attacks against Jews.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Total of eight down, one rescued at this time. We need armor.

[18:50:01] SIDNER (voice-over): The deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history last year shocked the world. It also triggered something shocking online.

More people in the U.S. conducted anti-Semitic Google searches the days following the attack than any other time in the preceding 12 months.

That is one of the alarming trends we found when CNN investigated what happens online after an attack based on hate.

There was also a spike in anti-Semitic searches following the latest synagogue shooting in Poway near San Diego. While the world mourn the loss of 11 juice shot to death while praying at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh by a suspect with white nationalist ideals users took to Google and searched for "Jews must die" and "kill Jews" and I hate Jews at a much higher rate than on average CNN found.

Chatter on cites like 4chan and 8chan for havens for anti-Semitism and bigotry revealed another trend, no sympathy for victims, hyper-focus on the shooter who's either depicted as a saint, "give him a medal", one post reads, or a failure because he didn't kill enough Jews

JOANNA MENDLESON, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: There seems to be a formula. We see white supremacist embracing the attack as one who has engaged in violence against the system.

SIDNER: Joanna Mendleson is a senior researcher for the Anti- Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

MENDLESON: What we have now are attacks that are not only designed to kill, but they're designed to be replicated online. They're designed with that in mind to be spread like wildfire, to spread their poison across the Internet and to inspire others.

SIDNER: It is working. The 19-year-old Poway synagogue shooting suspect and the 46-year-old suspect in the Pittsburgh killings both repeated poisonous rhetoric being spewed on an 8chan forum or GAB, which has become a bastion of bigotry.

The suspected gunman in Poway posted praise for 8chan just before the shooting, saying: I've only been lurking for a year and a half yet what I've learned here is priceless. It's been an honor.

8chan was also used by the suspect in the worst mass shootings of Muslims in New Zealand. The gunman linked to his manifesto and to Facebook where he livestreamed the massacre. The Poway suspect tried to copy his tactics but his livestream failed.

On its Twitter, 8chan claims they deleted the post 9 minutes after it was published. There are only screencaps available and no archive exist since the post was deleted so quickly. But other calls to violence remain.

In the latest congressional hearing on domestic terrorism, Republican House Member Mike Rogers asked the Department of Homeland Security about how to deal with GAB and 8chan.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-AL): Do you have any recommendations for what can be done to address the viral hate speech and incitement of violence on fringe sites like 8chan and GAB? And that's for any of you?

You all don't have any suggestions for us?

That's scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir -- sir, I would add that --

ROGERS: We can't make policy without good advisement.

SIDNER: George Selim says therein lies one of the problems. The other is funding to fight homegrown radicalization. Selim led the Countering Extremism Violence Task Force at the Department of Homeland Security. He worked under Presidents Bush, Obama, and for a few months, President Trump.

GEORGE SELIM, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: In the first seven months of this administration, there continued to be a decimation of their people, resources and prioritization placed on the federal government programs, specifically at DHS. They were aimed at addressing and intervening in the process of radicalization.

SIDNER: DHS says there are tens of millions of dollars in funding to fight domestic terrorism. For Selim's former office at DHS, though, funding numbers show the budget dropped from $21 million in 2017 to $2.3 million in 2019.

Ultimately, experts who investigate hate say the trend towards violence is being fueled online and more must be done to stop it.


SIDNER: Now, when it comes to the absolute hateful rhetoric on certain 4chan and 8chan forum, much of it, experts argue, falls under freedom of speech. The Supreme Court has ruled that hate speech is very much part of free speech. The question being asked again is, where is the line between the speech and inciting people to violence? Wolf?

BLITZER: Sara, thanks very much for these three-part series. Excellent, excellent reporting on a very important subject. Appreciate it very much.

Just ahead, horror on the Hudson River as a helicopter goes down. And fear in the air as window washers are rocked by high winds.


[18:59:22] BLITZER: We have dramatic video tonight. A charter helicopter that crashed into the Hudson River. It happened near the West 30th Street heliport where the pilot just refueled and picking up passengers when the helicopter went out of control. He was picked up by a passing boat and suffered only a hand injury. No one else was onboard.

Other frightening scene. The two window washers trapped in a metal basket spinning out of control in high winds 50 stories above Oklahoma City. The wind was so powerful, it slapped the basket into building multiple times, hard enough to break windows.

It took firefighters about 45 minutes to rescue the men who are checked out by paramedics and refused treatment. They are OK. It's just good news.

Thanks very much for watching. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.