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Trump Defends Racist Attacks on Congresswomen; Interview with Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) on Trump's Tweets; Congresswomen Respond to Trump's Racist Attacks; Interview with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 15, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All four are U.S. citizens, three born in the United States. Their response coming up.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: "They can leave." President Trump is defending his racist tweets aimed at four Democratic congresswomen, now saying, if they're not happy here in the United States, they can leave.

We're standing by for a news conference from the four House members, all women of color.

Disavowing Trump: after keeping silent following the president's tweets, some Republicans are starting to speak out, condemning and disavowing the president's language. I'll speak with Republican congressman Will Hurd, who calls the tweets racist and xenophobic.

BidenCare: Democrat front-runner Joe Biden unveils his health care plan built on the existing ObamaCare program. He's proposing huge new subsidies to make the health care exchanges cheaper.

But is he ruling out Medicare for all?

And flying soldiers? A rifle toting man on a jet-powered flyboard soars above France's Bastille Day military parade.

Is this extraordinary technology the wave of the future?

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

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

BLITZER: Breaking news: we're awaiting a news conference by four Democratic members of Congress, all women of color, the targets of racist tweets by President Trump. That comes as President Trump is aggressively defending his comments.

A day after tweeting the congresswomen should, "quote, go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places" from which they came, the president today said, "If you hate our country you can leave."

All four are U.S. citizens; three were born here in the United States. Most Republicans have stayed silent about the president's comments. But some have started openly criticizing them.

White House Speaker -- the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I should say, is urging GOP lawmakers to join Democrats in a resolution condemning what she calls the president's disgusting attacks.

I'll speak with Republican congressman Will Hurd of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories. But let's begin with CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president not backing off at all on his truly stunning attack on these four U.S. congresswomen.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Trump is doubling down on his racist tweets, aimed at four Democratic women of color in Congress. The president is dumping more fuel on the firestorm he touched off by telling those members of Congress, if they aren't happy in this country, they can leave.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is defending his racist attacks on Twitter, telling reporters he's not concerned that his tweets, aimed at four Democratic women of color in Congress, may appeal to white nationalists.

TRUMP: It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me and all I'm saying -- they want to leave, they can leave. Now it doesn't say leave forever. It says leave.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Referring to congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, the president tweeted that they can go back to where they came from.

But three of them were born in the U.S. The fourth, Omar, came here as a child and became a citizen. There were no apologies from Mr. Trump as he took his incendiary rhetoric one step further, telling the women they can leave the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you hate our country, if you're not happy here, you can leave. And that is what I say all the time. That is what I said in a tweet, which I guess some people think is controversial.

A lot of people love it, by the way. A lot of people love it. But if you're not happy in the U.S., if you're complaining all the time, very simply, can you leave. You can leave right now. Come back if you want. Don't come back. It's OK, too. But if you're not happy, you can leave.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also fired back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted that the slogan "make America great again" has always been about making America white again.

TRUMP: Well, that is just a very racist statement, somebody that would say that. So Speaker Pelosi said make America white again, let me tell you, that is a very racist -- that is a very racist statement. I'm surprised she would say that.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president's race-baiting rhetoric has been a cornerstone of his rise in American politics, going back to his birther attacks on Barack Obama.

TRUMP: People are trying to figure out why isn't he giving his birth certificate. It's not a birth certificate.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That is racist: Obama was born in Hawaii.

Then there were his comments about immigrants crossing the Mexican border as he launched his campaign.

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That is racist, too. Then there was his equivocating --

[17:05:00]

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- over white nationalists and neo-Nazis spreading violence in Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest --

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. They didn't put themselves down as neo-Nazis. And you had some very bad people in that group but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats say it is all part of a pattern.

JULIAN CASTRO (D-TX), FORMER HUD SECRETARY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody knows that the president acts like a white supremacist, he is a racist, he's made that clear on so many different occasions.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Top administration officials are hardly eager to answer for the president's racist tweets.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: What I already said is I think the president clarified his comment. I understand what the president's comment is. I'm not concerned by the president's comment and, again, that is the last comment I'm going to make on this issue.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Yet the president still has plenty of allies inside the GOP backing him up.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country. They're anti-Semitic. They're anti-America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: White House officials are more than willing to defend the president in private. A senior White House official recently told me the president was not a racist but when asked if that comment could be stated on the record, the official declined.

In the meantime, the Trump administration is cracking down on Central American migrants who seek asylum here in the U.S. by approving a new rule that bars immigrants who pass through Mexico. That will dramatically limit the number of immigrants coming from Central America.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House.

Joining us now, Republican congressman Will Hurd of Texas, he's a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Wolf, always a pleasure.

BLITZER: And we're standing by for this news conference up on Capitol Hill, these four Democratic lawmakers, these Democratic congresswomen. They're about to make a statement. They've been, as you know, bitterly, personally attacked by the president of the United States.

Now you've condemned the president's comments as racist. But certainly, as we just saw in Jim Acosta's report, this isn't the first time he's made racist remarks.

Is the president of the United States a racist?

HURD: Well, Wolf, I learned about the Charlottesville comments preparing to talk to you about North Korea. He has obviously said racist things and I think this most recent issues, most recent tweets were racist. They're xenophobic as well and so that many racist things have been said.

And here is what is unfortunate. This is distracting from -- first off, this is unbecoming of a President of the United States. I think that is clear. Children should know you shouldn't talk this way.

As the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, I try to go to communities that don't necessarily identify with the Republican Party and try to bring conservative message. This makes this even harder.

And ultimately, instead of talking about the support of their policies, which I disagree with, I don't believe we should be getting rid of private health care, I don't think we should be supporting the Iran deal, I don't believe that socialism is a solution to any of our problems, instead, we're having a debate about where they are from and where they're not from.

And this ultimately takes away from an ability for us to get our messages out.

BLITZER: If the president keeps saying racist things and you believe he has been saying racist things for a while now, is he a racist?

HURD: Well, I think when you say racist things often, then, yes, you become a racist.

How many racist things do you have to say to actually be racist?

I don't know what that level is. What I do know is these statements, these tweets from the other day or I guess yesterday were indeed racist and xenophobic.

BLITZER: And as a result he's a racist?

HURD: Well, I think, it's -- again, how many times do you have to say racist things to become a racist?

He's saying racist things for sure.

BLITZER: Have your fellow Republicans been saying enough to distance themselves and to condemn these comments by the president?

HURD: I don't know how many people have spoken up. I know many have and I'm sure that will continue. So this is something we should always speak up against.

And, again, you don't want the entire party to be branded as supporting racist things. We shouldn't be misogynist and homophobic and this is important for us to speak up so that communities recognize and understand this is not reflective of the entire party or those of us that believe in conservative values.

BLITZER: Clearly some of your Republican colleagues are speaking out and condemning what the president has said. Just like you, maybe not as sharply as you but almost as sharply as you.

But the leadership of the Republican Party in the House and the Senate, they basically have been silent.

What do you say to them?

HURD: Well, I don't know why they've been silent. I'm sure they're going to have to speak of it. I don't know -- maybe they're traveling back here, I don't want to give excuses for them. But those are folks you will have to talk to yourself, Wolf.

But again I think it is in our -- the debates, we're getting ready to go into a tough election, we should be debating the issues. And that is where we're going to win and that is where we're going to grow our majority in the House -- [17:10:00]

HURD: -- rather than having a conversation about whether the leader of the free world is racist or not. That is why it is important for us to speak up and articulate that this is not reflective of the entire party.

BLITZER: When the president was making these awful comments at the White House today in front of a pretty large crowd, at various points, at sensitive points, he was actually applauded. He was applauded.

What do you say to Republicans who are applauding what the president is saying?

HURD: Well, I think this is a bigger fundamental issue that people -- that there are a lot of people that think this is OK and is comfortable with this. That's not what the United States of America is about.

And, again, I think our opportunity is we should be talking about things that bring us together and not things that divide us. I always say in Texas, if the Republican Party in Texas doesn't start looking like Texas, there is not going to be a Republican Party in Texas.

And I think that applies for the rest of the country. And we need to be reaching out to minority communities, to young folks, to women in suburbs with a college degree. And these kinds of incidents hurt us from being able to do that and that is going to have a long-term impact on the party and our ability to be successful when it comes election time.

BLITZER: You're a person of color.

Have you been told over the years why didn't you go back to where you came from?

HURD: I'm sure I've lost count. This is something that, unfortunately in 2019, we're still having to have this conversation and this debate. My father is 86 years old and he was a salesman back in the 1950s.

And he would go in to make a sale and people would call him all kinds of names and tell him to get out.

And I always say, what I love about my district, the 23rd District, they then elected his youngest son to be a member of Congress. And so I think the majority of Americans don't believe in this stuff, don't accept this -- these things and we should be focusing on that. And it requires us to step up and speak out when we need to.

BLITZER: Because your congressional district has the longest border with Mexico right there.

What are you hearing from your constituents?

HURD: I represent 29 counties, 820 miles of the border; 71 percent, a Latino district. The crisis we're dealing with along the border, these are the conversations we should be having rather than talking about whether or not where somebody is or isn't from because we're having a problem.

And we have to be addressing root causes, we need to be streamlining asylum laws. I know the administration came out today with a proposal.

But we need to make sure that Congress is involved in working on a way to streamline our immigration -- or our asylum laws so they are not taken advantage of, so people that need to apply for -- for asylum can.

And this is where the conversation should be because this is continuing to be a problem and it's going to be a problem throughout the summer and we should focus on solving these issues.

BLITZER: So what is your message for the president of the United States if he's watching us right now?

HURD: Lay the Twitter down. Lay the phone down. Stay off of Twitter a little while and talk about the things that unite us and go out to communities that we need to grow the party in.

That is what is going to lead us to success and what will make sure that we continue this experiment, we call it America, to keep it working.

We're at 3.6 percent unemployment, that is pretty good, in far West Texas it is 2 percent unemployment. There are good things happening in this country and we get -- when we talk about these other things we can't talk about that.

ISIS, how many conversations have we had about ISIS in the last year or two?

Not too much because they're on the run. There are other successes we should be touting and that independents and conservative Democrats would like to hear about because they're as concerned as where their party is going.

They don't think that we should be empowering government and we should be empowering people. They think -- they agree with us that the way to move people up the economic ladder is by focusing on free markets, not socialism.

These are the topics that we should be talking about because that is going to help us grow the party and that is going to help us make sure that we continue, that our brand stays fresh and we grow with young folks and minorities and women.

BLITZER: A lot of Republicans, though, agree with the president when it comes to the these kinds of comments that he's making.

HURD: Well, you know, I don't. I can only speak for myself. And I know a lot of Republicans that agree with me on this topic whether they're elected officials or folks living around this country. And so the Republican Party is bigger than just one individual and, again, we should be focusing on solving problems.

BLITZER: Is this a repeat of what the president said after Charlottesville, there are very fine people on both sides?

HURD: I think it is just as problematic, right. It --

[17:15:00]

HURD: -- again, it is taking away the ability to have conversations. Again, we should be focusing on the things that they believe in and not their background.

And that is where the debate should be. And one of the things I learned representing a 50-50 district, way more unites us than divides us. And we focus on those things that we agree upon, we're better off. And being able to disagree is the cornerstone of free speech and this is something we need to --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will formally introduce a resolution to condemn what the president said.

Will you vote for that resolution?

HURD: Again, we'll see what the actual resolution looks like. I've condemned the tweets already. We'll see what is included in any future legislation.

BLITZER: You speak not only as a member of Congress but a former CIA officer. So you bring a lot of experience into what government is all about. You've had a lot of public service.

Did you ever believe we'd come to a day when we hear the president say these kinds of things?

HURD: Well, Wolf, I thought I was coming on to talk to you about immigration and asylum and how we address root causes, right, not having to talk about whether the leader of the free world is a racist or not.

And ultimately this is not one of the areas I thought I would be talking about. But you know what, I represent a 23rd District and I've learned just to be honest and treat people with respect. And that is what I will continue to do.

BLITZER: Do you think you'll be able to vote for his re-election?

HURD: You know, I plan on voting for the Republican nominee. There is a long way to go between now and 18 months from now when that election is.

BLITZER: Thank you so much, Congressman, from coming in. Appreciate your very, very blunt and candid, extremely important words. Appreciate it very much.

HURD: Always a pleasure talking to you.

BLITZER: Will Hurd of Texas, member of the Intelligence Committee.

I want to quickly go to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is there.

Manu, we're standing by to hear from these four Democratic lawmakers who were personally and very bitterly attacked by the president.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're expected to have some strong words pushing back against the president's remarks. I did catch up with Rashida Tlaib, one of the four congresswomen who've been attacked by this president and she told me that she is concerned about this is a distraction that the president is trying to wage, trying to distract from what is happening on Capitol Hill.

She walked into an Oversight Committee hearing regarding one of the president's top aides, Kellyanne Conway. I tried to catch up with the other three congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and as well as Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, three freshmen Democrats.

They did not comment because they said they wanted to reserve what they would say until the press conference that we are waiting for. So expect strong remarks that differ greatly from what most Republicans on Capitol Hill are saying.

I got a chance to catch up with a number of Republicans, particularly House Republicans, just moments ago and a lot of them tend to side with the president, saying he's frustrated and they understand his concerns. Even if -- as I pointed out exactly what was said in these tweets, telling these women, American citizens, to go back home when their home is here in the United States, they still tend to defer to this president, saying he's simply frustrated at the inaction over immigration.

So you're seeing a significant split between the Democrats and Republicans but also a growing split between House Republicans and Senate Republicans, increasingly a number of Senate Republicans are pushing back against the president, raising some concerns. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, moments ago called his tweet racist.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The four congresswomen are walking up to the microphone.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): Well, first I want to say thank you to all of you for being here today. And I want to send a message of gratitude and thanks to the solidarity that we have received from every corner of our country.

From our colleagues to our neighbors, we are grateful for your solidarity and your encouragement and your support in the face of the most recent xenophobic, bigoted remarks from the occupant of our White House.

I will always refer to him as the occupant, as he is only occupying space. He does not embody the grace, the empathy, the compassion, the integrity that that office requires and that the American people deserve.

That being said, I encourage the American people and all of us in this room and beyond to not take the bait. This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern --

[17:20:00]

PRESSLEY: -- and consequence to the American people, that we were sent here with a decisive mandate from our constituents to work on, everything from reducing the cost of prescription drugs, to addressing our affordable housing crisis, to ensuring that the American people have more than health insurance but health care.

More recently, thanks to the partnership of chairman Elijah Cummings and the advocacy of myself and a coalition of advocates I've worked with for decades, we held the first hearing on childhood trauma.

And in sitting in that hearing, as we heard about the many manifestations and iterations of childhood trauma in the wake of the public health crisis and epidemic that is gun violence, in the wake of PTSD, in the awake of those battling substance abuse disorder and a host of other things, it was impossible not to think of the trauma that is being inflicted upon children every day at our border.

At the end of the day, if we improve the conditions of children in a cage, they are still in a cage. And we are viscerally, vigorously and fundamentally opposed to the criminalizing, the vilifying, the mass detention and deportation of migrant families, who are simply doing what is their legal human right and that is to seek asylum.

In the tradition of who we say we are as a country, a beacon of light and hope and of refuge, this is simply a disruption and a distraction from the callous, chaotic and corrupt culture of this administration all the way down.

We want to get back to the business of the American people and why we were sent here, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, addressing the public health crisis and epidemic that is gun violence, addressing the racial wealth gap and, yes, making sure that families stay together.

I also would like to just underscore the fact that, despite the occupant of the White House attempts to marginalize us and to silence us, please know that we are more than four people.

We ran on a mandate to advocate for and to represent those ignored, left out and left behind. Our squad is big. Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world. And that is the work that we want to get back to. And given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not be silenced.

And now I'll invite Representative Omar to offer a few words as well.

REP. ILHAN OMAR, (D-MN): Thank you, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.

This country was founded on the radical idea that we are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. And, yes, we have a long way before we fully live up to those values.

It is for this reason precisely that we have to take action when a president is openly violating the oath he took to the Constitution of the United States and the core values we aspire to.

As Martin Luther King said, "All we say to America is be true to what you say on paper."

I believe this is a pivotal moment in our country. The eyes of history is watching us. Right now, the president is carrying out mass deportation raids across this country in each one of our districts.

Right now the president is committing human rights abuses at the border, keeping children in cages and having human beings drinking out of toilets.

This president, who has been credibly accused of committing multiple crimes, including colluding with foreign government to interfere with our election, this is a president who has overseen the most corrupt administration in our history and pursued an agenda to allow millions of Americans to die from a lack of health care while he transfers millions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations.

This is a president who has said grab women by the pussy. This is a --

[17:25:00]

OMAR: -- president who has called black athletes "sons of bitches." This is a president who has called black -- people who come from black and brown countries "shitholes."

This is a president who has equated neo-Nazis with those who protest against them in Charlottesville. This is a president who has openly violated the very value our country aspires to uphold: equality under the law, religious liberty, equal protection and protection from persecution.

And to distract from that, he's launching a blatantly racist attack on four duly elected members of the United States of House of Representatives, all of whom are women of color.

This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms or it is happening on national TV and now it has reached the White House garden.

He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender orientation or immigration status because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together across all of our differences, the only way to prevent us confronting the problems our country is facing, whether it is health care, climate change, student debt or our endless wars.

This is his plan to pit us against one another. This is how he can continue to enrich his friends and distract us from the detrimental policies that his administration is pushing for.

So we can either continue to enable this president and report on the pile of garbage that comes out of his mouth or we can hold him accountable to his crimes. We can continue to turn a blind eye of the multiple crimes he's accused of.

We can stand while he violates these people's basic human rights and the responsibility -- the responsibility that his administration has for the deaths of children on our border or we can take action.

I have not made impeachment central to my election or my tenure. But since the day that I've gotten elected, I've said to people, it is not -- if he will be impeached but when?

So it is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery out of our Constitution. It is time for us to impeach this president. So now we're going to have congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Good afternoon, everyone. I'll try to keep things as brief, I guess, as I can. Who knows, when I get on a roll, right.

When I was a little girl, my father took me to the Reflecting Pool here. We were on a road trip from New York to Florida to visit family. And I've told this story before. But it was my first time ever visiting Washington, D.C., and it was my only time visiting Washington, D.C., for years, if not decades.

And he rested me on the side of the Reflecting Pool and had my toes dip in the water and he had me look at the Washington Monument, had me look at the Capitol, had me look at the entirety of the capital of our great country.

And he looked at everything and he pointed to all of it and he said, this belongs to all of us. This belongs to you and it belongs to me.

And so the first note that I want to tell children across this country is that, no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you. And it belongs to everyone. And today, that notion, that very notion was challenged. This weekend that very notion was challenged.

So I am not surprised when the president says that four sitting members of Congress should, quote,

[17:30:00] go back to their own country when he has authorized raids without warrants on thousands of families across this country. I am not surprised that he used -- uses the rhetoric that he does when he violates international human rights and takes thousands of children away from their families.

I am not surprised that he has turned our public education system on to the leadership of Betsy DeVos and to a cash cow to enrich himself and his friends. I am not surprised when he corrupts via the Secretary of Transportation.

I am not surprised at what he's doing, but I also know that we're focused on making it better. Because we don't leave the things that we love. And when we love this country, what that means is that we propose the solutions to fix it.

We love all people in this country, and that's why we believe health care is a human right. We -- we love all children in this country. And because we do, that's why we fight for education for all children through college.

And so we'll stay focused on our agenda, and we won't get caught slipping. Because all of this is a distraction. It's a distraction from what's most important and from our core values as American citizens.

And with that, I'll hand it over to Rashida Tlaib.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI), MAJORITY MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND REFORM: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you to my sisters in service. Thank you all so much for being here.

As we all know, the recent tweets and words from the President are simply a continuation of his racist and xenophobic playbook. We cannot allow these hateful actions by the President to distract us from the critical work to hold this administration accountable to the inhumane conditions at the border that is separating children from their loved ones and caging them up in illegal horrific conditions.

I represent the third poorest congressional district in this country, one that is made of working people who have been targeted by this administration. And their actions and words are hurting them today. I was elected to fight for them, fight for the 13th congressional district. They sent me here to Congress to fight back against the corporate assault and the corruption in our country.

This means supporting an impeachment inquiry of this president's and his actions by the administration and his appointees. Sadly, this is not the first nor will it be the last time we hear disgusting bigoted language from the President. We know this is who he is. And we know that he and his administration are constantly engaged in actions that harm residents and American people in our country.

Many members of Congress have called for his impeachment because of his utter disregard and disrespect of the United States constitution. And despite this, and other many attempts to distract us, I remain focused, we remain focused, on holding him accountable to the laws of this land and accountable to the American people. I urge House leadership, many of my colleagues, to take action to impeach this lawless president today.

And now we'll take two or three questions. Mary, you'll go first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks very much. The President, today, said that many people agree with him and support of these comments. I'm wondering if you can speak directly to those supporters of the President's and explain why these comments are so harmful and hurtful.

And on a personal note, if you can discuss the consequences and impacts a bit of these comments. Have you had to up your security? Are you receiving increased threats?

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA), MAJORITY MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND REFORM: I would just say that the experience that he offered is in contradiction to the experience that I have every day, including in the airport on my way here. There were many people who approached me and who said, I disagree with some of your policies, I'm an independent, I'm a Republican, but I think what he did was wrong. And he won't apologize, but I am going to apologize. So I have experienced nothing in the wake of those comments, again, but words of denouncing these xenophobic bigoted words.

But, again, this is a distraction, and we should not take the bait. We can't sit here and continue to recycle his hateful rhetoric, of which I cannot feign surprise, or inflated outrage because he is, if nothing else, predictable. What we are focused on are the hateful policies that are draconian and oppressive and life-threatening and family-separating that is being rolled out by this administration every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congresswoman Omar --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congresswoman Omar, in particular, but to all of you, can you respond to some of the President's specific claims, most notably that you're a communist and that you're pro-al Qaeda.

[17:35:09] REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN), HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS: You might have noticed how when he said go back to where you came from, there was an uproar through the -- through all of our communities. Because every single person who is Brown and Black at some point in their life in this country heard that.

PRESSLEY: That's right.

OMAR: Now, when he made the comment, I know that every single Muslim who has lived in this country and across the world has heard that comment. And so I will not dignify it with an answer because I know that every single Islamophobe, every single person who is hateful, who is driven by an ideology of othering as this president is, rejoices in us responding to that and us defending ourselves.

I do not expect every time there is a White supremacist who attacks or there is a White man who kills in a school or in a movie theater or in a mosque or in a synagogue, I don't expect my White community members to respond on whether they love that person or not. And so I think it is beyond time -- it's beyond time to ask Muslims to condemn terrorists. We are no longer going to allow the dignification of such ridiculous, ridiculous statements.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman, some of these comments --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman -- congresswoman --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of you have made comments that the President took issue with, that were controversial. Do you think that some of those comments made, if they were inflammatory, too, or controversial? That this situation would be different because he specifically directed some of the same comments back at the four of you.

OMAR: Do you want to take that?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Could -- can you repeat that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President took issue with some of the comments that some of you have made on a host of issues and turned them back around at the four of you. Had those comments not been made, whether they'd be controversial or not or you perceive them as being controversial, do you think that that would make this situation different? In other words, he wouldn't have the firepower to turn it back around.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No.

OMAR: No.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Sorry, go ahead.

OMAR: I will take this. And I think Alex has a great answer for this, so I'll let her finish it. Every single statement that we make is from a place of extreme love for every single person in this country. It is part of the mandate of why we ran for office and why we got elected.

Every single person wants to make sure that they have people in the halls of Congress that is fighting to make sure that they have health care, that they have an education that is suitable in the United States, that they have access to proper roads and bridges, that they have access to clean water and clean air. Every single person here in the United States knows that we are fighting every single day to create a more perfect union and to fight on their behalf.

Now, when people say if you say a negative thing about the policies in this country, you hate this country, to me, it sort of speaks to the hypocrisy -- and Alex and I were talking about this. When this president ran, and until today, he talked about everything that was wrong in this country and how he was going to make it great. And so for him to condemn us and to say we are un-American for wanting to work hard to make this country be the country we all deserve to live in? It's complete hypocrisy.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely. And I don't think it would have changed anything because, first of all, he made statements that were blatantly untrue. So whether he was citing comments or not citing comments, if he didn't have what he wanted to say, he would make it up. This president operates in complete bad faith. He does not operate in good faith. And so that's one thing. But second to the previous question as well, weak minds and leaders

challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy. This president does not know how to make the argument that Americans do not deserve health care. He does not know how to defend his policies, so what he does is attack us personally.

[17:40:04] And that is what this is all about. He can't look a child in the face and he can't look all Americans in the face and justify why this country is throwing them in cages. So instead, he tells us that I should go back to the great borough of the Bronx and make it better. And that's what I'm here to do.

(CROSSTALK)

TLAIB: Thank you all so much for being here. We really do appreciate it. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. So we just heard from these four Democratic congresswomen responding to the President of the United States who bitterly attacked all four of them over the past couple days. And let's get some analysis right away.

Very, very strong statements, you know, Abby. And you cover the White House. You, yourself, have been the target of some of the President's criticism. All of us remember a few months ago when he went after you. He said you ask a lot of stupid questions.

He went after April Ryan, one of our contributors. Also an African- American. You felt that personal wrath from the President yourself.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think that the President is no stranger to simply just attacking a lot of people. And a lot of people, at this point, have felt his personal comments directed at them.

I think, in this case, what's -- what you're seeing happening here with President Trump is that he made a comment that is clearly indefensible. He only -- the only way one would assume that those four women were not Americans or that they were not from here is because they don't look like they're not -- they're from here, according to President Trump.

And so, now, the conversation is shifting. President Trump is changing the conversation to making it about socialism, making it about terrorism, making it about Medicare for all, and that's not what any of this was about.

So what you saw, I think, in that press conference was actually a fair amount of restraint. I think you saw those four lawmakers trying to redirect the conversation back to what the original tweet implied, which was that they were not American for some reason. For whatever reason for President Trump.

The last point that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez made is very important. The President may have wanted to attack them on policies but he didn't, and now he's trying to redirect that conversation. But his first instinct is to go toward personal attacks, and that's why Republicans are having such a hard time defending these comments. Because they were not about policies at all.

BLITZER: And it's interesting, Ilhan Omar, the congresswoman from Minnesota, Gloria, she refused to respond to the specific attacks by the President, saying she was not going to even dignify those horrendous words.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And that's what Abby is saying, there was a -- there was a certain amount of restraint here, obviously. But during this press conference, the President just tweeted and made it very clear what this was always all about for him, which was a political play.

And he said -- this is in telling us what a great tactician he is. He said the Democrats are trying to distance themselves from the four progressives, but now they are forced to embrace them. That means they're endorsing socialism, hate of Israel and the USA. Not good for the Democrats.

And so this is where the President is coming from on this. I think AOC said it in an interesting way. She said it's not the policy. You know, he can't -- you know, he can't defend his policy, so he's attacking us personally.

And, yes, the Democrats are now unified with these four women, but he also stopped complete fratricide in the Democratic Party in the House, which was stopped dead in its tracts because everybody was in unison, responding to these racist comments.

And the context here is so important. This comes after the raids -- the round-ups this weekend. We still don't know how many there were or whether they were real or imagined, to be honest. The President hosted right-wing media last week over at the White House, and you had the whole citizenship question.

So put that all together, put this president's tweet there, and -- about these women, and then see what he's saying today, and you understand that he's playing base politics. And he thinks this works for him. And he thinks it's hilarious that the Democrats are now defending these women against charges of a racist president.

BLITZER: Yes. And he just tweeted, also, we will never be a socialist or a communist country. If you are not happy here, you can leave. It is your choice and your choice alone. This is about love for America. Certain people hate our country.

That's the accusation he's delivering against these four Democratic lawmakers.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, but, again, this is just distraction. It's trying to pretend as though what he was really going after was because they were -- they're socialist or they have some sort of policies. [17:44:59] That's not what he said. He said go back to the country

you came from. Because what this president offers is a vision that says that full American citizenship is for White people, and everybody else has some other lesser form of American citizenship. That's racist. There's no other term to describe that.

And I don't think the Democrats are going to be able to counter that message in the next election unless they can name it and speak about it clearly. And I think that we're seeing the congresswomen we saw today struggling, you know, to do that very thing.

You know, I do think, obviously, Donald Trump is currently the President and has sort of captured the Republican Party -- Trumpified (ph) the Republican Party. I do think we have to ask ourselves what the future of the Republican Party is. Is it really tweets like this, or is it a vision offered by people like Will Hurd who sat here earlier and denounced those comments while still adhering to traditional conservative values?

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more we need to discuss, but joining us now from Capitol Hill is one of the Democratic congresswomen who was personally attacked by the President, Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. She's a member of the Oversight Committee.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for taking a few moments and joining us.

TLAIB: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: I just want to get to some of the sensitive issues, and you can share your thoughts. Have you personally been receiving death threats as a result of what the President has been leveling?

TLAIB: We haven't received death threats, but I can tell you, overwhelmingly, so many people are actually calling -- American people from all across the country, calling and apologizing on behalf of the President.

So many of them are very saddened by what he has said. So many people really want the message to be out there that they belong, that they're loved, that we're all very much American. And, you know, that's what I'm hearing a lot.

And then, look, some people are calling, obviously, very hateful messages to myself, repeating word by word what the President tweeted out. It's very unfortunate. I mean, these are failed policies that he needs to focus on fixing this country rather than attacking us personally.

BLITZER: Are you concerned about your safety?

TLAIB: I'm always concerned about my safety, Wolf. Look, I'm a mother of two boys. I want to go home to them every single day if I can, and I do always worry about that. But my district, the 13th congressional district, didn't elect me to work and fight for them from a place of fear. So I won't allow, like my grandmother taught me, for any bully, even if it's the President of the United States, to silence me, to have me stop fighting on their behalf.

BLITZER: We just spoke to Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He's a Republican. He bitterly attacked, criticized, went after the President for issuing what he called these racist and xenophobic statements. But have you or any of your colleagues among the four of you received any direct communication from the leadership -- from the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives?

TLAIB: I can tell you a couple of members are just personally reaching out and just apologizing. It's very unfortunate that people -- other regular American people, including my colleagues, are apologizing on behalf of the President.

You know, this is a dangerous ideology, Wolf. This is a dangerous ideology that is seeping into policy-making, from caging up children at the border to even this whole debate around the census question, the citizenship question on the census.

All of this is all tied to this ideology of the President that is extremely dangerous and really impactful. I can tell you, every single day, all of his actions can be looked to as impeachable offenses because they completely, completely blatantly disregard the United States constitution.

BLITZER: Have you heard from Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader in the House?

TLAIB: No. And, look, as long as I'm hearing from my district, as long as they are telling me to stay strong, that they continue to tell me this is why we sent you there, is to push back against this hate- filled rhetoric, we -- you know, if you look about this, I got elected a year -- a couple of years after he -- he's been in office. This was very much a referendum.

This is a community that is predominantly non-Muslim, Wolf, and elected the -- one of the first of two Muslim American women. If that is not a referendum, if that is not a message that they're sending to the President that we all belong, that they don't support the Muslim ban, that they support a country that puts us all together but unites us all together to make us stronger, I don't know what does.

BLITZER: The whole nature of what's going on right now, did you ever anticipate you would be facing these kinds of questions, that you would be personally attacked the way you have been by the President of the United States?

TLAIB: Absolutely not. I mean, it's not -- you know, it's obviously expected with -- you know, from the 2016 campaigning. Even in the city of Detroit, I remember him coming down and me asking, very loudly, in a hall, have you ever read the United States constitution? Because he was supporting banning Muslims back then, talking about Mexicans being rapists. I mean, so many things that, I think, very much divide our community -- communities across this country and very much are very un-American.

Very unfortunately, he got elected president of the United States. But then, here comes the most diverse, the largest incoming class since Watergate, ironically, that is now leading the majority in the United States Congress. Again, if that is not a referendum in itself of the American people rising up and saying enough is enough, I don't know what is.

[17:50:08] But thank you so much, Wolf, for having me on the show, and I really do appreciate being able to at least let folks know -- especially that young girl that maybe looks like me that may have heard the President say this, I just want her to know that she belongs, that she is loved, and that she is very much seen and heard by myself and member -- many members of the United States Congress.

BLITZER: You're a child of immigrants here to the United States. I'm a child of immigrants here to the United States as well. And all of us can relate specifically to what's going on because I'm sure you've heard basically most of your life, go back to where you came from. Talk a little bit about that.

TLAIB: I mean, look, I can tell you that me being a child of Palestinian immigrants, you know, I spoke very much Arabic and English in my household. I love the fact that I have that background, that I'm rooted in being a child of immigrants.

Because so much of the lens that my mother had when she saw things in the United States, from all the beauty of it, she said, you know, we never had that in my country, but we have it here. That she only went up to eighth-grade education, but then she saw her daughter graduate from high school. And then she saw her daughter graduate from college and onto law school and become a United States congresswoman.

If that is not truly the spirit of what we have to be pushing forward from the leadership down, I don't know what is. That is something spectacular that I want my son. You know, when I tell him every day that he is loved, that all the things that he might be hearing in school or from certain kinds of outlets, that he knows that more people are like us. That they love each other, they believe in unity in our communities, and to be able to come from a place of love and respect for each other.

BLITZER: As you point out, you are the first of two Muslim women to serve in the United States Congress. Why do you think President Trump specifically chose to paint the two of you as disloyal? He just tweeted, by the way, a few moments ago, certain people hate our country.

TLAIB: No, I think he's the one who hates our country. Because I'm an American, just like anyone else, and I can tell you this is a failed presidency. And he knows it. 333

He has a failed border policy where, right now, there are children dying in our care. He has a failed policy on health care. To this day, we have people struggling to pay for insulin, can't have affordable access to health care, to prescription drugs. You have a failed system on our education crisis in our country.

This is a failed president. He's a lawless president. And that's what he wants to distract us from. He wants us unfocused.

And I'm going to tell you right now, we are so much zero -- even more zero focused than we ever have in saying, you know what, as we're doing this press conference, as he's tweeting out, we know, right now, there are ICE raids, agents knocking on people's doors without warrants.

This is the United States federal government coming into homes, to communities all across this country doing something that is very much illegal and very much unconstitutional.

BLITZER: What do you think of the fact that the President falsely tried to associate Congresswoman Omar to al-Qaeda. What do you make of that lie? We all heard it on television earlier today.

TLAIB: Because he's Islamophobic, Wolf. I mean, this is exactly his M.O. He has nothing else to deliver for the American people.

I can tell you, right now, I have the third poorest congressional district in the country. The corporate assaults on working families are very real. Their lives have not changed for the better under this president's leadership, under this president's rule very much.

So many of them are saying, he hasn't done enough on all of the issues that matter to them around their quality of life. Poverty among children has actually increased in our country. We see, right now, that schools are -- the education and special education in our country has not been fully funded. You know, all these things.

As I'm continuing coming between Detroit and the -- and Washington, D.C., I get text messages, e-mails from people at home telling me, please do something about the prescription drugs. Please do something about the health care crisis. And that's exactly what we're trying to do, to zero focus on that.

And that's what they want -- he wants us to do. He wants us -- to distract us from the fact that we are pushing forward on an agenda that, I think, really truly results in bettering the -- our country and very much bettering the lives of our American -- our American people.

BLITZER: The President was actually applauded by some of his supporters over at the White House today when he defended his remarks, his tweets from the weekend. Clearly, there are Americans out there who enthusiastically embrace his kind of racist rhetoric. What's your message to them?

TLAIB: No, I'm -- there's more of us than them. There's more love -- there's more love for unity, for respect for each other. There's a love that this is a nation of immigrants. There's a love that, yes, universal 3health care is a human right.

There is more support for an agenda as we push forward around economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice than there are around this hate rhetoric.

[17:55:08] BLITZER: Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck out there. And we will stay in close touch.

TLAIB: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Rashida Tlaib joining us. We're going to take a quick break. A lot more on all the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Racist rant. The Democratic congresswomen targeted by President Trump in a series of racist tweets fire back, blasting the President's remarks as xenophobic and bigoted. But 3tonight, Mr. Trump is defending his racially charged rants and lashing out with new ones.

Calling out Trump. While Democrats widely condemn the President's tweets, few of his fellow Republicans are calling him out, with some even defending his racially charged remarks which are drawing praise from White nationalists. How long can GOP lawmakers remain silent?

Restricting access. The Trump administration moves to dramatically limit Central American migrants' ability to claim asylum while the President praises the immigration raids he was threatening even though there's little sign they ever happened. Was it a scare tactic by the President?

And inside Assange's lair. Stunning new evidence including documents and surveillance video detailing how WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, worked with hackers and Russians to sway the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump. It's a CNN exclusive.

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

The breaking news tonight, the four Democratic congresswomen attacked personally by President Trump in a series of racist tweets are speaking out publicly. The lawmakers, all women of color, just held a news conference condemning the President's words and accusing him of advancing the agenda of White nationalists.

[18:00:00]