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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Lashes Out Wildly After Pelosi Again Gets Under His Skin; Interview With Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) On Trump-Pelosi Feud; WikiLeaks Founder Hit With New Charges; Trump Melts Down To Reporters, Describes Pelosi As "Crazy," And Dubbed Himself As "Extremely Stable Genius;" Millions Bracing For More Severe Weather After Killer Tornado. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 23, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But there are still some health concerns, even though it's reopened. Earlier we saw a staff member leave the facility, wearing a protective surgical mask. And Jake, Customs and Border Protection officials tell me they're operating at least 500 people over capacity.
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Our coverage on CNN continues right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: under his skin. President Trump goes on a tirade as he tries to respond to the latest barbs from Nancy Pelosi. After crudely insulting the House Speaker, he calls on the staff to publicly vouch for his behavior.
As Pelosi clearly gets under his skin once again, does she now own the president?
New charges: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is charged with 17 new counts under the Espionage Act, accused of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing national defense information.
Can prosecutors make these charges stick?
Striking a deal: the president's lawyers will get another chance to fight the subpoena for records from the president's accounting firm after striking a deal with the House Oversight Committee for a rapid appeals process. Federal judges will hear the case in July.
And take shelter: that's the warning heard across much of the country as tornadoes carve their way across the Midwest and thunderstorms pose new threats in the East.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing President Trump's buttons once again. And he's once again taking the bait. After the Speaker today said she is concerned for the president's well-being and that his family or staff should stage an intervention, the president just responded with an extended tirade, saying Pelosi is a mess and calling her, I'm quoting now, the president of the United States calling her "crazy Nancy" and just called his own staffers on camera so they could say that he was calm and cool during his meeting yesterday with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
The Speaker says the president's walkout from that meeting was a stunt and that the White House is, quote, "crying out for impeachment" but the Democrats will hold back. Indeed, by getting under the president's skin and provoking these fresh outbursts from the president, the Speaker may be diverting an impeachment push by dozens of her members.
I'll speak with Congressman Ro Khanna of the Oversight and Armed Services Committees and our correspondents and analysts, they'll have full coverage of the day's top stories.
First let's go straight to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the president clearly just let the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, get under his skin again. And we just witnessed another truly extraordinary tirade.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: She is under his skin big time, Wolf. The president is continuing his war of words with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she suggested that Mr. Trump's aides and family stage an intervention, as she called it.
And then in a wild exchange with reporters just a short while ago, the president described Pelosi as, quote, "crazy," as you said and he dubbed himself a, quote, "extremely stable genius" in front of the cameras.
The president also put his own top aides on the spot to talk about how stable he really is.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Trading barbs with his chief Democratic nemesis, President Trump took a swipe at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying she can't comprehend the U.S. trade deal with Mexico and Canada now pending before Congress.
TRUMP: She's a mess. Look, let's face it. She doesn't understand it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president then got even more personal, relitigating his confrontation one day earlier with Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, complete with schoolyard nicknames. TRUMP: I was extremely calm. I was probably even more so in that room. So I walked into the cabinet room. You had the group, Cryin' Chuck, Crazy Nancy. I tell you what, I've been watching her and I have been watching her for a long period of time. She's not the same person. She's lost it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The verbal tussling comes one day after the president lashed out in the Rose Garden, a performance Democrats derided as another Trump temper tantrum.
TRUMP: I don't do cover-ups.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Pelosi appears to have gotten under Mr. Trump's skin, referring to the two I's, impeachment...
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: There's no question, the White House is just crying out for impeachment.
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- and intervention, a new Pelosi trigger word.
PELOSI: I pray for the president the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the better of the country.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president turned to his own aides to back him up. One after one, top officials were called on by the president to reassure the public Mr. Trump was calm in it his meeting with Democrats.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: You were very calm.
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Kellyanne said you were very calm.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Very calm and straight forward and clear.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president said he's not goading Pelosi into impeaching him.
TRUMP: I don't think anybody wants to be impeached.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House is accusing Democrats of being more interested in investigation than legislation.
SANDERS: I think it's a complete lie that Democrats and Congress think they can do two things at once. So far we haven't seen them do anything. Nancy Pelosi has had the majority in the House for months and has yet to accomplish a single thing. They haven't gotten -- they literally haven't gotten anything done since she's taken over.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But that's not true. The House has so far passed dozens of bills, including legislation aimed at gun control and climate change. And just today, lawmakers announced a multibillion dollar disaster relief package that should make its way through both the House and Senate and be signed by Mr. Trump in the coming days.
ACOSTA: And as for his fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker just responded with a tweet in the last several minutes. We can put that up on screen.
She says, "When the 'extremely stable genius' starts acting more presidential, I'll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues."
Wolf, a source close to the White House, just a short while ago, told me that the president appears to be appears settling on a new strategy for dealing with these House Democratic investigations, the president, according to the source, appears to be saying to the House Speaker at this point, put up or shut up on impeachment. That according to that source.
But, Wolf, despite those assurances from top White House officials about how calm the president is, things are very uncalm (sic) over here at the White House this evening -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly was an extraordinary exchange he had with those reporters. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our CNN Political Director, David Chalian.
Another extraordinary moment, a public rant by the president.
What do you think?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you are the president of the United States of America. So your voice carries the most weight in politics. And you have to call up your staff, who work for you, to serve as validators of your behavior because you want your version of events told so they robotically one by one are there in some kind of forced fashion to back up your story?
We have left the world of normal so far behind here, Wolf, it is so clear that he is overmatched politically by Nancy Pelosi right now. And I think the president understands it. I think that's why we're seeing him act out in this way.
She -- her remarks today, when she questioned who is in charge over there, is something that she asks herself. I mean, that is not something that Donald Trump is happy to hear. That's why you get that kind of behavior in the Roosevelt Room. This is not an evenly matched political fight right now.
BLITZER: Until today, he never had, you know, an adjective to describe the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Today he labeled her "Crazy Nancy." That is the first time he's done that. He says that with a lot of other Democrats. But that's the first time we heard him specifically go after her and, at one point, he said "She's lost." She's not the same. CHALIAN: Yes, I don't know what he's basing that on. I mean, I think what he is doing -- and I don't know if the president gets this or not -- he's being an unwitting co-conspirator in Nancy Pelosi's effort to unify her caucus.
Think about how this week started. There was this growing minority of members in the Democratic caucus, wanting to go to impeachment proceedings sooner rather than later. Nancy Pelosi doesn't want that. That but that voice was getting a little louder. And she had to deal with that.
Well guess who helped her deal with that?
Donald Trump. By behaving the way he's behaving, she goes back to her caucus and they immediately rally and unify around her in this fight because she emerges the victor. He is helping Nancy Pelosi's standing among her fellow Democrats.
BLITZER: And he's clearly not budging from the position he took yesterday following that three- or four-minute meeting he had with the Democratic leadership, that there's not going to be any negotiation on anything substantive until they end the investigation.
CHALIAN: It is an unthinkable thing that you can't do both at the same time. I just -- that makes no sense. So when Sarah Sanders is saying today, the Democrats can't do two things at once, well, that's clearly not the case. They are passing laws and also investigating the president and exercising their oversight responsibility.
You can and many past administrations have seen both the White House and the Congress work on dual tracks, even with the oversight role of Congress being employed. Donald Trump is wrong when he said you can't do two --
BLITZER: -- 1998, Bill Clinton was under impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives. And then Speaker Newt Gingrich would rail against him during the day. At night, he would go to the White House and they'd work out a balanced budget deal and other significant legislation --
CHALIAN: It's nonsensical.
BLITZER: Yes, they can do two things at the same time, if they want to. Thanks very much, David Chalian, for that.
Joining us now, Democratic congressman Ro Khanna of California. He is a member of both the Oversight and the Armed Services Committees.
Congressman, thank so much for joining us.
REP. RO KHANNA (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks, Wolf, for having me on. I agree with everything David just said.
BLITZER: All right. Well, I'll let him know. I think he is still listening. Let's begin with your reaction to what we just heard from the
president of the United States. He is calling the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, crazy. He's saying she's lost it.
What was your reaction when you heard that?
KHANNA: My reaction is Nancy Pelosi is the only politician in this country who has gone toe to toe with Donald Trump and won. And the reason she is so effective is she doesn't get in the mud with him. But she expresses --
KHANNA: -- the same disappointment she has as a mother of five kids. She says, look this is just silly. It's sad what he's doing. It's sad for the country. And Trump really doesn't know how to handle her. And that's why I think he's lashing out.
BLITZER: Is there any remaining hope, Congressman, for Democrats to pass legislation with this president?
KHANNA: There is. We're always going to try. Unlike Mitch McConnell, who that said he wanted Barack Obama to be a one-term president and was unwilling to do anything, we're willing to pass legislation on infrastructure and reach a compromise with the White House on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, on having universal broadband.
We've already passed a number of bills in the House. And we still would be happy to work with the president. It's he who is saying that he doesn't want to do anything.
BLITZER: At least 35 Democrats, one Republican, they've publicly called for either beginning impeachment proceedings against the president or said he has committed impeachable offenses. Yesterday was 29. Now it's up to 35, probably more.
Where do you stand?
KHANNA: I support the Speaker and the leadership. I think we need to have all our committees investigate, get the facts out and also focus on the legislative agenda. I was in a meeting yesterday morning. And I'll tell you, the vast majority of the caucus is behind the Speaker and the leadership. Whip Clyburn said if there was a secret ballot, the majority would vote for the Speaker's approach and I think he's right.
BLITZER: You sit on the Oversight Committee; your chairman, Elijah Cummings, says he's, quote, "getting there" on the issue of impeachment.
Do you think the president's attempts to resist oversight are making impeachment more likely?
KHANNA: I think he's making it more likely that more House members are going to feel that way. The irony is the one person that he should be most gracious toward or most cooperative toward is Speaker Pelosi.
Speaker Pelosi is trying to be methodical and every time he snubs the Judiciary Committee or the Oversight Committee, he is really forcing the hands of Congress to escalate the conflict. If he were more transparent, if he cooperated, I believe actually it would be in his interest to avoid impeachment.
BLITZER: The Mueller report contains hundreds of pages of information documenting the president's behavior.
What more do you need to see before you make a decision on whether the House of Representatives should formally begin impeachment proceedings?
KHANNA: Well, Wolf, there is no doubt in my mind that the president committed misconduct or that there were serious misconduct in terms of violations of the law. The question, though, impeachment is a political question. And what the Speaker has said and what I believe is you have to have the American public with you.
You can't do something that the majority of the country doesn't believe in. So I think we have to make the public case. We have to have Mueller testify and McGahn testify and then see whether the public is convinced.
BLITZER: How do you respond to those of your Democratic colleagues, some of the critics out there, who say you're putting politics over principle?
KHANNA: I don't think it's putting politics in an electoral sense. There is a principle of not ripping this country apart. There is a principle of finding a way to heal this nation and if you're doing something that doesn't have the support of the majority of Americans, then that is doing further damage to a body politic that is already polarized.
That's why our founders wanted this judgment to be made in Congress. And we are aggressively investigating. We're willing to have people come and make the case. And Watergate, as you know, it took almost a year and a half. And I believe that the American people may get there.
But it would be irresponsible in my view to act before we made that case to the American people.
BLITZER: Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks as usual for joining us.
KHANNA: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're following more breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been hit with a string of new charges under the U.S. Espionage Act. Let's bring in our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez.
Evan, how serious is this move by the Justice Department?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN` JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This is a big deal, Wolf. This is the first time that certainly any of you could remember the Justice Department bringing charges like this under the Espionage Act. It's specifically -- these are 17 new charges against Julian Assange that accuse him of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing national defense information.
This is information that was classified. Again, this was in concert with Chelsea Manning. This is the information that was essentially -- Julian Assange was encouraging Chelsea Manning to go into the Defense Department computers in order to obtain this information according to the Justice Department.
They believe that this makes Julian Assange not just a publisher, not just a journalist but a criminal. And so it's a big deal, though, that this is a charge that they decided to bring under the Espionage Act because, again, he's awaiting extradition from the -- from Britain, from the United Kingdom.
This could make it more complicated for them to send him here to face these charges. Julian Assange, as you know, has described this as a political case. And so this is now probably going to add --
PEREZ: -- to that information he's trying to present there, to make the case he should not be sent to the United States to face these charges.
BLITZER: It's a dramatic step by the Justice Department.
Does it set the stage for other major steps involving Russia, involvement in the U.S. elections, charges that could be brought against other individuals?
PEREZ: Well, it's possible that there is other information here that, again, this is a case that they're still pursuing, as you know. Chelsea Manning is under a new subpoena. And she's fighting the subpoena in the Eastern District of Virginia.
So he don't know what else the Justice Department and the FBI has with relation to what WikiLeaks was up to, whether or not there was anything that had to do with the Russian hacking.
By the way, WikiLeaks has now tweeted in reaction to this, saying, quote, "This is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the First Amendment."
Obviously this is something, Wolf, that the previous administration, under the Obama administration, struggled with because of the differences.
How do you tell the difference between WikiLeaks and "The New York Times" or CNN or any other news organization that obtains information that may be classified, that may be secret but which has a public interest?
So that's the big question here is, does this make it more difficult for journalists to do their job?
I think that's the big question everyone is asking at this hour.
By the way, the Justice Department says that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange is now being charged because their publisher, they're saying, that this is a pure case of someone who was encouraging someone to break the law.
BLITZER: Evan Perez, thank you very much for that update.
There's more breaking news. President Trump lashes out as he tries to answer the latest jabs from Nancy Pelosi. He calls the House Speaker names and he calls himself once again a "stable genius."
And President Trump rips his former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, calling him "dumb" Tillerson says Russia's Vladimir Putin out-prepared the president at a meeting.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news including President Trump lobbying insults at the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, clearly irritated by her latest remarks about the president. Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts.
Jamie Gangel, Nancy Pelosi clearly got under the president's skin. Listen to what she said earlier today.
PELOSI: I can only think that he wasn't up to the task of figuring out the difficult choices of how to cover the cost of the important infrastructure legislation. He was not prepared. And so he used some excuse to go out the door.
Who is in charge here?
Because you agree and then, all of a sudden, something changes.
What goes on there?
Who is in charge?
I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.
Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence, I don't know. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I hope he can, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That didn't take very long for the president to respond. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Crazy Nancy. I tell you what, I've been watching her. And I have been watching her for a long period of time. She's not the same person. She's lost it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: They used to have a fairly respectful, decent relationship. What happened?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nancy Pelosi conducted a master class today in how to get under Donald Trump's skin. She pushed his buttons over and over and over again. And I think what we saw here was a meltdown, a venting, a therapy session, over and over again. He wanted to prove he had been calm. He goes around the room to staff, calling on them as witnesses to how calm he was.
But there is one phrase he used over and over again that I think speaks to this. He kept saying, I thought it was over. He cannot stand that the investigations are continuing. And what Nancy Pelosi is doing, with or without impeachment, is it's not over.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. I mean, I tell my kids this. Smart people don't need to tell you how smart they are. Athletic people don't need to tell you how athletic they are. Calm people don't need to go around a room and make sure the people who work for them say that they're calm, right?
It should be demonstrated, whether it's on the athletic field or in the classroom or whatever, when you do that, as Donald Trump does or say things like, "I'm an extremely stable genius, everyone knows that, I have a great temperament," I mean it does not take a psychology degree to see he is overcompensating to some degree.
He's always been, since he's been in the public eye, which is 30, 40 years now, he's always sensitive about his intelligence, how smart he, where he went to school. He does not like -- between that and his physical appearance, hand size, those are the things that we know are buttons for him and she did push them.
BLITZER: What do you think, Bianna?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, his money, too. Don't forget that. Warren Buffett doesn't walk around talking about how rich he is. And, yet this president has been doing that for decades. Look, if you talk about the Speaker and her position, it's been stable for -- to use the word stable --
[17:25:00] GOLODRYGA: -- it hasn't changed since she was -- since the midterms, since she was once again elected Speaker. She has said from day one that she is not looking to impeach this president. She said so just a few weeks ago, when she said that's not the best way to remove him, that at least with a Republican controlled Senate, you're not going to have President Trump removed through impeachment.
She said, in fact, what you need to have is a resounding victory in 2020, one which he cannot contest. What is interesting, what has changed is that, remember at the time when her speakership was on the line, President Trump went out of his way to endorse her as Speaker and the narrative being that he was -- he hoped and he understood that she was not going to be pushing for impeachment.
Now it seems that he is using this as sort of a goading mechanism.
But she has stayed the same. He's obviously feeling a lot more pressure now.
BLITZER: And I'm sure he's upset that these two federal courts in New York and in Washington have ruled against him in favor of House Democrats.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And that's because the president pushed the buttons of the judiciary by challenging separation of powers. Because up until now, you have had this chicken game going on between the Congress and the president about who is going to veer off course first.
And the judiciary stepped in to say, actually, Congress not only has legislative authority and power of oversight as envisioned by the Founding Farmers (sic) to say, if I can actually -- if I can remove you, I can investigate you and pursuant in that as part of it.
And actually, as the idea of, Mr. President, they don't have to prove to you legislative intent. That solidifies in the minds of the button (ph) of the judiciary was pushed to say, if you're going to challenge the co-equal branch theme, be prepared to actually have the wrath of the courts.
BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There is a lot more developing as we speak. We'll take a quick break and we'll be right back.
[17:31:19] BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and analysts.
And, Bianna, even as Nancy Pelosi is clearly getting under the President's skin, she's also pushing back some of her Democratic colleagues who want this impeachment process to begin.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, she's also protecting more moderate constituents as well, a part of her caucus who were elected during the midterms on policy issues, whether it be health care, whether it be the economy overall. So she's got to vouch for them as well and make sure that they are voted once again into office. It's going to be a tough race for them, so it's a balancing act for her.
But as we mentioned earlier, her position has never been, at least outwardly, to focus on impeachment. It's been to focus on policy. And it seems to be, as we now note, to be really pressing at the President's buttons.
CILLIZZA: And, Wolf, just politically speaking, that's a savvy strategy.
Look at any poll that asks people, what's your -- what do you think the most important issue facing the country is? It might be health care, it might be immigration, education. Impeachment is not anywhere near there. Nancy Pelosi knows that.
She has what worked in 2018. They tried to ignore, largely, Donald Trump when it came to ads. They spent all of their money on T.V. ads on health care. The Republicans in the House repealed the Affordable Care Act. They want to take away this, that, and the other thing. And it worked.
She said on the day of the election this was a health care election, and we won on health care. She is right. It's important to differentiate what members of her caucus want from what actually we know motivates voters to vote. And she's -- it's a hard line to walk, but I think she's on the right side of it, politically speaking.
GANGEL: Politically, and here's the thing. On a day like today when Donald Trump responded the way he did, she won. She can go back to her caucus and say, O.K., guys, let's keep going, just --
CILLIZZA: It's working.
GANGEL: It is working.
CILLIZZA: Right, right.
GANGEL: And they can be talking about impeachment, and she can stick with her position. And he is going --
BLITZER: And the Democrats are winning in court. Do they need a formal impeachment process, Laura, in order to have a better legal argument to obtain documents and testimony from the administration?
COATES: Not according to Judge Mehta who actually said that because the founding fathers, not farmers, envisioned that there was a clear check and balance system on the President of the United States, they can investigate even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry for that very reason. Because they want to be able to have the power to have oversight without having the extreme, which is the impeachment process.
And remember, one other thing that's so important to think about here is, what is one way to diffuse this mentality of a pitchfork mob against the President in a witch-hunt? To have contemplative strategies that have the entire process go on. The more that Nancy Pelosi uses the entire process -- of going to the
courts, of issuing subpoenas, of looking for compliance to do so, and using the last resort, impeachment -- the more they seem like it's not a mob, it's not a witch-hunt. And it undermines the President's 2-1/2 year argument.
BLITZER: The President didn't only attack Nancy Pelosi today. Rex Tillerson, his former Secretary of State who appeared behind closed doors for several hours before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke at length. There was one report that he suggested the President wasn't as well prepared for his conversation with Putin as Putin was.
Today, the President tweeted, Rex Tillerson, a man who is dumb as a rock and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State made up a story -- he got fired -- that I was out prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany. I don't think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing.
[17:34:51] GANGEL: I have one question. Who hired Rex Tillerson? How is it that all of the best people -- they're always the best people -- turn out to be lousy or liars?
And I went back and looked at a tweet from December 13, 2016. Donald Trump -- I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson.
BLITZER: Bianna, what do you --
GOLODRYGA: And --
BLITZER: Go ahead, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, I recall distinctly, coming out of that meeting in Germany, the President tweeting and announcing the great deal that he and Vladimir Putin had come up with, and that is a joint cyber commission which, quickly, was dismissed, obviously.
But if that's his idea of a great meeting, you know, that's troublesome. And you can look to any of his predecessors whose top Russian advisers would have told you, have written about, have discussed -- you could've called me to know -- what Vladimir Putin does in these situations.
He, A, keeps people waiting for many hours, and then he comes in with his long list of grievances and his version of history and how many times that he believes Russia was betrayed by friends, allies, foes alike.
So this was an embarrassing incident and embarrassing that we should note that a former Secretary of State had to say something like this before closed doors. And also, you know, a security threat to -- not to say the least.
CILLIZZA: And Rex Tillerson, remember, to Jamie's point, this is not just some guy. If you think back to December of 2016, Donald Trump painted Rex Tillerson as -- remember, it was maybe Mitt Romney, maybe it's going to be Bob Corker, then it was Rex Tillerson.
He was painted as the crown jewel of the Donald Trump cabinet because he was the only guy who could convince someone of the stature and business aptitude of Rex Tillerson to come into the cabinet.
It was -- that was 819 days ago. Now, all of a sudden, he's dumb as a rock and was ill equipped and ill prepared. Well, maybe you should've thought about that then. Sorry, Jamie.
GANGEL: And just quickly, Rex Tillerson is not alone. We have heard from John Kelly, General Mattis, Gary Cohn -- it goes on and on -- you know, dozens of people who've left the administration.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There is more news we're following. Millions of Americans now facing very severe weather tonight. We're going to get the latest on the tornadoes, the flooding ravaging parts of the Midwest and leaving at least three people dead.
Plus, the U.S. files serious and controversial new charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.
[17:41:54] BLITZER: Breaking news. Millions of people in the Midwest are bracing for more severe weather, including tornadoes and flooding, as cleanup continues in one Missouri town ravaged by a twister packing 160 mile-an-hour winds.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Tulsa, Oklahoma for us. He's got the latest. Omar, we saw, what, at least 29 tornadoes yesterday and today?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And one of the biggest factors on top of the tornadoes is, of course, the flooding that came with the drenching rain and these rivers cresting, as well.
The city of Tulsa, specifically, is bracing for more flooding on top of the water they have already seen. In fact, a few hours ago, the city began sounding these flood sirens up and down the Arkansas River on a localized basis, basically serving as a warning for residents to seek higher ground. And in their words -- I'm quoting here -- this is a dangerous situation.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): A night of violent storms and tornadoes that tore through the Midwest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a tornado right there, Jenny (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where?
JIMENEZ (voice-over): Missouri hit hard, devastation scattered across the state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were storms everywhere last night. JIMENEZ (voice-over): From Golden City to its capital, Jefferson
City, one tornado on the ground for miles threw debris thousands of feet in the air.
KAYLEIGH DE ROSA, TORNADO SURVIVOR, MISSOURI: It sounded exactly how you pictured it. It's kind of like a train. You don't expect it. Like, it just came within seconds. We barely made it to the bathroom.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): The state waking up to battered communities. At least three people were killed and dozens injured across Missouri.
MARY RODGERS, TORNADO SURVIVOR, MISSOURI: It's terrible. It's destroyed. It's not home anymore. It's not.
I don't know. I really don't know how to describe it. It's just depressing. It's severely depressing.
MAYOR CARRIE TERGIN, JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI: We were already prepared somewhat, but we were not prepared for this.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): Rescue crews are searching the damage. And neighbors are pitching in to help in the aftermath.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We found Cheesy! We're trying to get him out.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): This man helping to rescue a neighbor's trapped cat. Jefferson City's Mayor reiterating that the devastation could have been worse.
TERGIN: We're very, very thankful that it happened at night when most people were likely, you know, at home, and they heard the outdoor warning sirens and they took heed of the warnings.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): And Missouri just one state in a region hard hit, not only by 171 reported tornadoes in a matter of days but also by high-level flooding in recent weeks.
GOV. MIKE PARSON (R), MISSOURI: We're still in flood stages all over our state. We still have water coming out from the north up there. We're concerned about that.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): Homes in Oklahoma also under water, residents evacuated ahead of the rising water. Some who thought they could ride out cresting rivers, rescued. Officials preparing in case a threatened dam in Tulsa fails.
GOV. KEVIN STITT (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, the biggest concern is more rain. I mean, there are some more rain in the forecast for north Tulsa.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): Two barges broke free along the Arkansas River, crashing into another dam and sinking soon after. The chaos and destruction still ongoing as residents wait to see what will be left of their homes and communities.
(END VIDEOTAPE) [17:45:01] JIMENEZ: And while it hasn't happened yet, officials here
say they are preparing for a level of flooding they haven't seen in more than 30 years -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Omar, thanks very much. CNN's Omar Jimenez reporting from Tulsa.
There is more breaking news. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweaking President Trump, clearly getting under his skin, prompting the President to lash out at her.
[17:50:01] BLITZER: Our breaking news. President Trump lashes out after another series of barbs by Nancy Pelosi. If anyone knows how to push President Trump's buttons, it's the House Speaker.
Brian Todd is here for us. Brian, today wasn't the first time Pelosi has clearly irritated the President.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at all, Wolf. This has been escalating for about six months now. One of the developments, which was different today, was Trump coming up with a nickname for Pelosi, Crazy Nancy. It's likely not to faze the House Speaker who seems to thrive in this very public battle.
TODD (voice-over): She just may be the only person in Washington who has figured out how to get under Donald Trump's skin.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I pray for the President of the United States.
TODD (voice-over): In just 24 hours, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has goaded the President.
PELOSI: We believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.
TODD (voice-over): She has emasculated him.
PELOSI: Maybe it was lack of confidence on his part that he really couldn't come match the greatness of the challenge that we have.
TODD (voice-over): And she has suggested he needs help from those around him.
PELOSI: I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.
TODD (voice-over): All of which led to an angry outburst in the Rose Garden.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then I have Nancy Pelosi go out and say that the President of the United States engaged in cover-up. I don't do cover-ups.
TODD (voice-over): Followed by a tirade at an event with farmers today.
TRUMP: She is a mess. She's lost it.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": I think of those cartoon characters with steam coming out of their ears. He does get very mad when someone gets the best of him.
TODD (voice-over): Trump's biographers and those who have known and covered him for years say Pelosi has found a way to knock the President off balance like no one else has.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Pelosi, for some reason, gets under his skin. She seems to know how to. She does not need anything from him. And when one does not need something from him, he doesn't really feel like he has any leverage over them.
TODD (voice-over): In fact, three times in about six months, crucial high-profile meetings between President Trump, Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have crashed and burned in spectacular fashion after Pelosi got the best of him.
In December, as the government shutdown loomed, Trump suggested to reporters that Pelosi was weak but left the door open for her to strike back.
TRUMP: You know, Nancy is in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now, and I understand that.
PELOSI: Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.
TODD (voice-over): Then in January, Trump stormed out of the White House situation room when Pelosi refused to fund his border wall.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER OF THE SENATE: We saw a temper tantrum.
TODD (voice-over): Part of the reason Pelosi seems to get the best of the President, observers say, is because she speaks to Trump and about him like a stern mother.
BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: That's probably driving him crazy, but that's exactly what she's doing. She's treating him like a child.
TODD (voice-over): From this mocking clap at the state of the union to her mocking him today about whether he can handle his job.
PELOSI: I said one time, who is in charge here?
TODD (voice-over): Pelosi's own children say she is sharp, relentless, and effective.
ALEXANDRA PELOSI, DAUGHTER OF NANCY PELOSI: She'll cut your head off, and you won't even know you're bleeding.
TODD (voice-over): Trump's biographer say there is another dynamic at play too, the fact that Pelosi has as much real power as any woman he's ever squared off against.
D'ANTONIO: He is, I think, very confused by strong women who won't do what he says. In his lifetime, he's been really attended by women who are intelligent, who are strong, who are capable, but they put all of those talents into his service.
TODD (voice-over): Trump has gotten the better of just about every political adversary he has faced until now.
D'ANTONIO: I'm sure he is barking at his aides and trying to figure out how to undercut her, how to exact his revenge.
TODD (voice-over): So does Nancy Pelosi have an Achilles' heel? Analysts say one card President Trump can play is to stoke the pressure Pelosi is under from the far left element in her own party.
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: What he can do is really take action that makes that caucus want to push her. If she feels like she is being pushed from the left, she may have to move forward on something like impeachment.
TODD: Now, Nancy Pelosi does not want to initiate impeachment proceedings, but political experts say the timing of her latest battle with Trump could also work well for her in that regard.
Now, experts say Pelosi can tell Democrats that what she is doing right now with President Trump, besting him in legislative fights and beating him in public perception, is working just as well as impeachment ever could to damage the President politically -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thank you, Brian.
Coming up, breaking news. The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is charged with 17 new counts under the Espionage Act, accused of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing national defense information.
[17:54:50] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. The Speaker strikes back. After Nancy Pelosi suggests the President needs an intervention, Mr. Trump is responding to that with another rambling rant, slamming Pelosi and calling on his aides to publicly defend his temperament.
[18:00:00] Indicted again. The U.S. files new charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, accusing him of illegally obtaining classified information and putting lives at risk.