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Interview With Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA); Surveillance Reports: Assange Received Deliveries at Key Moments in 2016 Race; Jet- Powered "Flyboard" Soars Above Bastille Day Parade. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 15, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Democrats are slamming the president's words, along with some Republican lawmakers. But most in the president's party are staying silent, while a few are actually defending his incendiary remarks.
We will talk about the breaking news with Congressman Gerry Connolly of the Oversight Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
We have our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's over at the White House.
But, first, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.
Phil, you were just at this news conference moments ago, as these congresswoman used words like disgusting, bigoted, xenophobic in describing the president's attack on them. Update our viewers.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it was a dramatic moment.
All four congresswomen targeted by President Trump appearing together , laying out their perceived American experiences, how they have operated inside this country, despite what the president tweeted, and making clear they will not be deterred, saying they came to Congress with a mandate. They are duly elected by their representative, by their constituents to come to Congress to pursue that mandate.
And they are not changing direction anytime soon. But, Wolf, it also was made clear by all four congresswomen, but especially Ilhan Omar, the congresswoman from Minnesota, who was targeted by name by President Trump, how they truly feel about the man who resides in the Oval Office.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, all four members, including Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, said that they had an agenda to pursue.
They talked about border policies. They talked about health care. And Congresswoman Pressley said they did not want to take the bait. But as you could tell from Congresswoman Omar, they very clearly wanted to lay out their feelings about the president, feelings that they certainly aren't hedging on or holding back in any way after the tweets and the double down and triple down from the president over the course of the last 24 hours.
BLITZER: You have been up on Capitol Hill, Phil, all day.
What about the Republicans? Or they joining the president or are they pushing back?
MATTINGLY: Yes, what's been interesting, Wolf, is, after almost a day, a full day of silence from Republicans, as Republicans have started to return to Capitol Hill, started to return to Congress from their weekend back at home, the statements coming in saying that they found the president's remarks objectionable, some congresspeople saying they found them racist, have started to grow.
Now it's not the entire Republican Party. There are certain members who are defending the president still at this point in time. But more and more, you're seeing Republican senators especially, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Toomey, Rob Portman, senators who don't necessarily weigh in on issues like this or individual tweets, saying they found the remarks divisive, problematic, saying they should be retracted in some way.
Congress -- or Senator Lisa Murkowski tweeting out: "There is no excuse for the president's spiteful comments. They were absolutely unacceptable. And this needs to stop."
So you're seeing that from rank and file. I will tell you what you're not seeing at this point in time, Wolf, Republican leaders. So far, they have not said anything at all, either a statement. Some have walked around cameras to avoid talking to reporters.
I spoke to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier today. He said he will address this at his weekly press conference tomorrow, but, for now, no comments to make -- Wolf. BLITZER: The -- you heard these women say the president is attacking them, but he can't really look at their face. That's why he's going the way he's doing it, with these statements and these tweets.
MATTINGLY: Yes, Wolf, I want to go ahead and toss directly to that sound from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, a little bit of humor there at the end, the issue being that when the president tweeted that the progressive congresswomen should go back to their homes, three of the members that he was talking about, three of the members who were standing right behind me on the stage, are from America, were born in America, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts.
The one who is not, who came over as a refugee from war-torn Somalia, is Ilhan Omar. All of the congresswomen making clear that they took the statements very personally, that they found the idea that they should go back somewhere as a very hurtful, racist remark that was made by the president, but also all four taking the time to speak to people, constituents and others, minorities -- minorities that might hurt -- hear the comments and be hurt by them, talking about their individual experiences as well.
The interesting thing about this entire back and forth -- and, obviously, it doesn't show any signs of ebbing any time soon -- is that these congresswomen came with a mandate, came with big votes, came with major followings.
And Congresswoman Pressley made an interesting point, which is, it's not just four members of Congress. They feel like they have the support -- Pressley specifically recounted walking through the airport when she was coming back to Capitol Hill, having people come up to her, say they supported her, Republicans come up, say they apologize to her.
It's very clear these four members of Congress are very confident in their standing, confident in their positions here on Capitol Hill. But it's also very clear, this is a fight, this is a back a forth that is certainly going to continue, or at least at this point in time shows no sings of stopping any time soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, because I know you're getting more reaction, Phil, so don't go too far away.
All of this certainly started with President Trump's series of racist tweets, and he certainly is not backing down at all.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, he's still tweeting about these four congresswomen.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
President Trump has been tweeting over the last hour. He's been putting out some of the same racially loaded and misleading rhetoric that he's been using over the last 24 hours.
But, Wolf, the president could not stop the Squad during that press conference. The president also is doubling down on his racist tweets aimed at fortunately Democratic women of color in Congress. The president is dumping more fuel on the firestorm he touched off by telling people, if these members of Congress aren't happy in this country, they can leave.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is defending his racist attacks, telling reporters he's not concerned that his tweets aimed at four Democratic women of color in Congress may appeal to white nationalists.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: Referring to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley, the president's tweeted that they 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.
TRUMP: If you hate our country, if you're not happy here, you can leave. And that's what I say all the time. That's 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, you can 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: 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: That's just a very racist statement, somebody that would say
that. So Speaker Pelosi said make America white again. Let me tell you, that's a very racist -- that's a very racist statement. I'm surprised she would say that.
ACOSTA: 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: That's racist. Obama was born in Hawaii.
Then there were his comments about immigrants crossing the Mexican border as he launched his campaign.
TRUMP: They bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.
ACOSTA: That's racist too.
And then there was his equivocating over white nationalists and neo- Nazis spreading violence in Charlottesville.
(on camera): Neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville -- they showed up in Charlottesville to protest...
TRUMP: Excuse me. They didn't put themselves down as Neo -- 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's all part of a pattern.
JULIAN CASTRO (D), 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: Top administration officials are hardly eager to answer for the president's racist tweets.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: What I have 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 comments. And, again, that's the last comment I'm going to make on this issue.
ACOSTA: 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: And as the president continues to defend his racist tweets, 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.
Wolf, that will dramatically limit the number of migrants coming to the U.S. from Central America -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia is joining us. He's a member of both the Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Good to be with you.
BLITZER: You're heard Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez say the president is making these personal attacks because he doesn't know how to defend his own policies.
First of all, what did you make of that news conference by these four lawmakers?
CONNOLLY: I thought it was very civil, controlled.
Given the venom behind the president's attacks, I thought they showed great grace under fire. And I think they're to be admired for that.
BLITZER: You say the president -- and I'm quoting you now -- "descended again into rank racism."
Do you think he sees a political benefit from his words?
CONNOLLY: I guess so, Wolf.
I mean, I think, at the beginning of the hour, your report showed that white nationalists had, in fact, embraced and endorsed Trump's remarks about my four colleagues. That ought to tell you everything.
And, as your report just now showed, it's not that these words are in isolation. This is in a long context that politically began with that ride down the escalator in Trump Tower.
And it's shameful. It's deliberate. It's by design. And I would also argue this week, Wolf, it's designed to distract us from what's happening at the border.
They had a really disastrous week in terms of press coverage of what's going on, on the border, including the vice president's visit. And I think, in some ways, this is designed to get us off that subject, and talk about something else.
BLITZER: The president, he actually received applause at the White House earlier in the day when he doubled down, tripled down elaborating on his attack over the weekend.
What would you say to the president's supporters?
CONNOLLY: I would say that we can disagree about issues, but, as Americans, we fought too hard to come this far, to be embracing racism. That's got to be on the boundary. That's got to be the limit.
And I'm glad some of my Republican colleagues have started to speak out about it, but all too few.
You let this go, and there's no end to the rhetoric and, frankly, the incitement that this can cause. And I'm very concerned about that.
BLITZER: The president called out these four women. He said they were an American. At one point, he just tweeted a little while ago, "Certain people hate our country."
He singled out Congressman Ilhan Omar, who is one of the first of two Muslim women elected in Congress in the House of Representatives. She wears a hijab.
Is he putting these women in danger with these attacks?
CONNOLLY: Absolutely, and, frankly, as I said, I think inciting not only endangerment to these four individuals, but, frankly, adding to a climate of violence, potentially.
I can tell you, the hate mail and the hate calls coming in are growing in intensity and viciousness, certainly to these four women, but, frankly, to many of us because -- when we speak out and dare to criticize a Trump policy.
And so this kind of rhetoric is designed to really up the heat, up the volume. And the consequences, don't worry too much about it.
BLITZER: We did hear from Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He condemned what the president was saying, called those words racist.
But few of your Republican colleagues have similarly condemned what the president is saying, and especially the Republican leadership in the House. They have been silent. Why is that?
CONNOLLY: They're enablers, Wolf. I mean, there's nothing new in that, unfortunately.
There is no outrage too far, there's nothing he seems to be able to say or do that is going to trigger a moral response. And, at some point people who used to say, right is right and wrong is wrong and moral relativism can't be accepted in our ethics discussions sure have shown an awful lot of relativism in looking at this president.
They can't bring themselves to say, this is wrong, and I'm calling him out for it.
And when you lack that kind of moral clarity or courage, I think you just encourage more of the same.
BLITZER: As you know, the House of Representatives is going to vote on a resolution specifically condemning President Trump's remarks.
You expect any Republican members of the House to join in -- to join you and the Democrats in this vote?
CONNOLLY: I would expect a handful will join us.
But I wouldn't look for a huge number, because, frankly, they're into rationalization, enabling and excuses for this president, because they're afraid. They're afraid of the backlash in their own political base. They're afraid of him.
BLITZER: The attack on these freshman Democrats seemed to have stemmed from their focus on conditions in border facilities, something you spoke out against emotionally last week.
I want to show our viewers a portion of you speaking at this hearing. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONNOLLY: You can talk all you want about whether the poor border control is overwhelmed. That makes no excuse for how we are treating children.
If there's one basic value that ought to unite us as Democrats and Republicans, as Americans, it is how we treat children, their children, our children. It doesn't matter. That's a fundamental value.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Have you seen anything since then to make you believe that conditions are going to improve?
CONNOLLY: Not yet.
There's been no commitment, Wolf, at least to us on our committee, that things will get better.
Vice President Pence went down there, and apparently saw and heard no evil, while he was talking about fairly humane conditions, and the kids -- asking children, are they treating you all right, and being glad that they answered in Spanish yes.
We had dramatic testimony on the same day quite the contrary, in terms of non-hygienic conditions, frankly, conditions that would -- if you were in child protective care in any city in America, I think, would be called child abuse and child neglect, at best. So I think there has to be a sense of outrage about how we're treating
fellow human beings, especially children at that border. As I said -- and you just showed the clip -- but is there nothing that unites us as Americans, if not our commitment to our own children and any child in our care?
BLITZER: Congressman Gerry Connolly, thanks so much for joining us.
CONNOLLY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to dig deeper right now. We have got our experts and our analysts here.
And, David Chalian, you're our political director.
The president is telling these four American women to go back to where they came from these Democratic lawmakers in the House.
I want you to listen to how they responded today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAR: 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's happening winning on national TV, and now it's reached the White House garden.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: This country belongs to you. And it belongs to everyone.
And, today, that notion, that very notion was challenged.
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): We're 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, David, what did you make of this news conference?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, let's back up a second before the news conference, Wolf, because I think sometimes we have a very difficult task in front of us, which is, I'm not sure that television news can capture this moment, right?
So what we do is, we're presenting another side and a tip for tat. And that's not what this is, right? There is not another side. The president of the United States of America put out a racist statement that is un-American and is wrong. There's nothing partisan about it. There are not two sides to it.
It is -- it just is. That is what is.
And so anything that we sort of now discuss in response to that, immediately, just because so many people view news developments through this notion of, this happened, and now this response, and what -- and I'm happy to talk about political implications in all of this, but we have to separate out, first and foremost, the president put out a racist statement.
It is un-American, and it is wrong, period. OK?
Now, what I what I found very interesting about the press conference with the four congresswomen is that they, as Ayanna Pressley said, were urging folks not to take the bait, right?
They were urging themselves trying to not take the bait, but, again, in a very difficult position, because the president is pretty masterful at manipulating the public conversation.
He has the biggest megaphone, obviously. But what you heard there was a plea from them, and in their effort to try, and keep this moment of attention them, this moment where all the microphones are turned on them, and to turn it back to policy, which is not at all what the president did.
He wasn't talking about policy yesterday. And he was making a personal attack. And they were trying for the most part to try and use this moment of attention to turn it back to policy and what's happening with children at the border.
Perhaps that will happen and there will be more conversation that way. I give them credit for trying that. But I think we have to acknowledge the reality that we're in, which is that people are so used to just viewing this through partisan lenses. And that's not what this moment is.
BLITZER: That's a very important point you make.
And, Sabrina Siddiqui, I just spoke, as you saw, with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. She specifically said the president was being Islamophobic in going after her and Congresswoman Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to the House of Representatives.
Clearly, he doesn't see any downside in going after these women.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is a president who campaigned on banning all Muslims from entering the United States.
He falsely claimed as a candidate that Muslims were celebrating on the roofs of New Jersey on 9/11. He flirted with the idea of a Muslim registry. And since taking office, he has sought to restrict immigration from Muslim-majority countries. He has used his Twitter account to share anti-Muslim propaganda and conspiracy theories. And now, since January, since the arrival of Ilhan Omar and Rashida
Tlaib, he has repeatedly attacked the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.
And it's not just that he has demonstrated through both his rhetoric and his policies that he very clearly has an animus toward Muslims, but he also is willing to fan the flames of Islamophobia for political gain. And it is dangerous. It risks incitement.
And it sends a very troubling message to Muslims, both across the United States and around the world.
BLITZER: Certainly does.
Jackie, what does it tell you that, at least until now, only a few Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, for that matter as well, have actually come out and condemned the president's remarks as racist?
JACKIE ALEMANY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, well, I actually just spoke with former Congressman Mark Sanford prior to getting on the set with you.
And he told me that this silence is corrosive, but obviously not unexpected, because all of the people who had previously spoken out against the president are -- have either passed away, lost their seats, or resigned from office, or turned into an independent and left the party.
But I would be really remiss to -- outside of sort of the racial animus here and some of the unfortunate knot-twisting that you see a lot of Republicans doing in order to save face and protect their seat and their political stature in the party of Trump, is, this is also, just in general, a really complicated issue at play for Nancy Pelosi and for the debate going on in Democrats -- amongst Democrats right now.
And so I think this conversation is going to stretch on, and people are going to continue to ask Republicans if they condemn the president's tweets here.
But I know that Democrats who were watching this press conference and simultaneously saw the president tweet out that this -- that the party galvanizing behind this quartet of minority congresswomen means that Nancy Pelosi supports socialism, that is, they believe, one of the truest things that Trump has tweeted out, that there was a political calculus here, and Republicans understand that political calculus.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, a lot of people are suggesting what the president has said now over the past day or two represents a new low.
But when you look at the president's history, as Jim Acosta just did, the president claiming Barack Obama wasn't born here in the United States, his comments about Charlottesville, this clearly isn't a one- off.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: No, it's not a one-off. And a couple points here, Wolf.
Yes, it's not a new low, in the sense that President Trump for years and years flirted with running for president. It wasn't until he latched onto a racist conspiracy, birtherism, that his political rise was fueled, like rocket fuel, and he finally had an issue that he latched on to that got him his initial base of support.
So, in that sense, this goes way back. It goes back even further in the president's history. You can talk about Charlottesville as well. I still think, though, this is a new in this sense.
For those who can remember the movie "Do the Right Thing," there's that famous scene where John Turturro's character ends his monologue with, "Go the F back to Africa."
That was all that was missing from those tweets from the president yesterday.
So this is still jarring. It's still shocking. It's still disgraceful. And I do think, in that sense, it is new.
BLITZER: Let me ask you, and Sabrina as well, personally, when you heard the way the president went after these women of color, and he said, go back -- if you don't like it here, if you're a communist, go back to the country you came from -- both of you were born here in the United States, obviously.
BLITZER: But what was your reaction personally?
SWERDLICK: So, look, I have heard all day and seen on Twitter and talked to people, and I'm sure you have had the same experience, as people of color, as journalists of color, people have been sharing stories about how people who are not born in this country have been told as children on the schoolyard, go back where you came from.
As an African-American, you hear taunts. I have been called the N- word. It doesn't happen frequently. But I remember that as a kid on the soccer field, as it turned out.
But you get to a point in life where you think, look, we haven't solved racism in our society. You do not expect -- well, you expect it from President Trump, but you do not expect it from a president of the United States in general.
But here we are, Wolf, in a situation where you could, I guess -- and people are not going to like it that I say this -- I guess you could still debate whether, in his heart, President Trump is a racist, but there is no debate -- and I couldn't frame it better than what David said -- there's no debate that what he's done over the past 24 hours was express racist sentiments.
BLITZER: Sabrina, you're a Muslim woman here in the United States. So you obviously are reacting as well.
Look, I think that almost every person of color knows what it's like to be told to go back to where you came from. And there's no other interpretation of that but as someone saying that, because of the color of your skin, because of the way that you look, that there's something inherently foreign about you, that you cannot actually be from the United States of America.
And so if anyone says it, of course it's indefensible. The fact it's coming from the president of the United States is just a sign of the time that we're in, in this particular moment.
And it's also worth mentioning, even for those immigrants who come to this country seeking opportunities, seeking a better future, to tell them to go back to where they came from is against the spirit of this country.
And that's particularly why the silence is deafening from those who have refused to condemn what the president has had to say.
And to David's point, this -- there is no equivocating here. This isn't a moment where there are two sides. What the president said was wrong. And it has serious ramifications for people across this country.
BLITZER: What worries me a lot, I'm sure worries you and worries everybody, that all four of them are now facing increased threats.
And their security clearly has to be beefed up. The two Muslim women, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, they have been getting threats for a long time.
And it's very disheartening that you hear these kinds of words from the president of the United States which can generate this kind of threat.
CHALIAN: Yes. No, I think that's one of the major concerns. I have no doubt about that.
And that's got to be a concern for Speaker Pelosi as well. These are members of her caucus, Wolf.
So there's, as you said, words from the president of the United States that are fundamentally at odds with the American experiment. Like, that is what it -- like, this is so at odds with who Americans are, what we are as a country, how the vision of the country was formed.
And to hear it from the leader of the country is what is so wrong about this moment.
But, as Jackie noted as well, clearly, politics are at play here, that we -- we're not idiots about that. We can see what the president is doing here. It just -- it used to be, to some degree -- Teddy Kennedy, Hillary
Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, these would be the liberal boogeymen and women that the Republicans would put on the front page of everything, and use that as, you are going to go to this totally left-wing, liberal place if you vote for Democrats.
Look at this -- these scary people that want to do terrible things to the country. Democrats do it too. They use right-wing extremists to gin up support among -- and say, don't vote for Republicans.
What the president is doing here, by injecting race into this as well, he's removing the policy argument. I mean, we all cover Washington. The debate over the vision of the country from a policy point of view, that -- that's what we cover day in and day out.
But what the president has done here, by taking these four women of color, he's injecting race and religion into the fear-mongering that has nothing to do with policy whatsoever. It is just trying to divide the country, from white America to those that look other than white America.
And that is just unbelievably damaging to the fabric of the country.
SWERDLICK: And as -- and as Jackie said, I think the president's supporters see this as him playing four-dimensional chess by trying to get the members of the squad to come out in that press conference and not do what they did, which was give a reasoned proportional response, if you will, but he wants an overreaction by the democrats so that he can then say, see, this is your choices, me or these unhinged leftists.
BLITZER: You know, Jackie, why do you think it's taking the republicans so long to respond to what the President said.
ALEMANY: That is a great question. I do know that just -- I touched base with a bunch of Senate aides throughout the day today trying to gauge whether or not their bosses were going to come out with a statement and what exactly will they say. Will they be critical of the President?
And there are a number of senators who are still deliberating just how critical they're going to be. I mean, Joni Ernst just came out with her statement actually calling -- saying that the President's statement was racist just an hour ago.
And, you know, there obviously is no rush for republicans to be the first to criticize President Trump. So, you know, there's also that. Mitch McConnell's statement is coming tomorrow.
But I also think what the President has managed to steer the conversation away from that these congresswomen, I think, really successfully did in this press conference is steered the conversation away from impeachment, which has been the basis of this rift in the Democratic Party. And a few sources told me that throughout the day today, the number of calls that democratic offices have received asking where members stand on whether or not they want to impeach the President has upticked.
BLITZER: And, Sabrina, I spoke to Republican Congressman, Will Hurd of Texas, in the last hour. He was one of the first republicans to come out and condemn the President's words as racist and xenophobic. I want you to listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): 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.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Will Hurd is one of the few republicans to really forcefully condemn the President's Tweets. And most republicans have been silent. You've had a number of them kind of couched their criticism in saying, well, these particular women, they're socialists. Lindsey Graham, for example, has said that the President should aim higher. But before he said that, he also said that these congresswomen hate America, hate this country.
So a lot of republicans are actually, in some ways, echoing some of what the President has said. And, look, we talked about how this is not a one-off. And republicans have stood by this president. First, they stood by him as a candidate, even when he launched his campaign, saying that Mexicans were rapists and killers, even when he made all those anti-Muslim statements that I laid out earlier. They've stood by him after Charlottesville. That was one moment where they really, really came out against his rhetoric.
But the reality is hasn't -- the President hasn't actually faced any consequences. And that's what enables his behavior to continue.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You mentioned the campaign. It's a campaign he won.
SIDDIQUI: It's a campaign he won.
CHALIAN: So this is not -- for him, this is a proven strategy of success. This is how he got to the Oval Office. So in his mind, this is a really smart political play. I mean, I know that sounds crazy to hear but that is the lesson he has taken away from the 2016 campaign. And that's why I think we're seeing it employed right now.
SWERDLICK: And the best poll of that is the republicans who have been silent. If the republicans who have been silent thought this was politically bad for them, they would condemn it. But they haven't because they think it's advantageous, because they want the same voters that Trump has.
BLITZER: David, this must be tearing apart a lot of this -- not just supporters but his aides in the White House, for example, who know these are racist comments and they hate them.
CHALIAN: And we know that -- I don't think there are many aides that say, oh, this is going exactly according to plan, this is exactly where we wanted the President to be today. But I think a lot of the aides of the President, both in the campaign and in the White House, Wolf, have become accustomed to these kinds of moments when the President creates all of this noise and chaos and they've learned how to move through it in a way that doesn't completely derail them from their mission of trying to get him re-elected even if this is not how they would design and say, Mr. President, I want you go out and --
BLITZER: It must make them, Jackie, feel so uncomfortable.
ALEMANY: Yes. But, I mean, just look at Charlottesville, for example. Who resigned after the President's comments about both -- you know, both sides? No one. Gary Cohen resigned after the fact about terrorists.
I think that this is the -- what's been described to me as the devil's bargain that republicans have made with this president. They're getting their Supreme Court nominations. They are getting, you know, their deregulatory efforts. And in exchange, they have to accept the President's race baiting.
BLITZER: Everybody stand by because there's a lot more news we're covering.
Also a CNN exclusive, stunning new evidence of how the founder of WikiLeaks worked behind the scenes to influence the 2016 election in President Trump's favor. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Now, a CNN exclusive, stunning new evidence on how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange worked behind the scenes from his asylum sanctuary to influence the 2016 election in President Trump's favor.
Our Senior National Correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is here with details. Alex, some of this evidence is documented in Special Counsel Mueller's report on Russian election interference.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And now, to pair with the Mueller report, we have this extraordinary new trove of material which includes, visitor logs, photos and videos among many other documents.
Now, it was obtained exclusively by our colleagues at CNN Espanol, and it is incredibly revealing about how Julian Assange operated as WikiLeaks moved to publish documents that were hacked by the Russians during the 2016 election, all from the confines of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he lived seven years until he went too far.
MARQUARDT: In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Ecuador's Embassy in London turned into command post for WikiLeaks, at its helm, the website's founder, Julian Assange, who is living there in political asylum.
In stunning new detail, hundreds of security reports, videos and photos obtained exclusively by CNN and verified by an Ecuadorian intelligence official described how Assange released stolen democratic emails directly from the embassy and who he met with, world-class hackers and Russians tied to the Kremlin.
The explosive material when lined up with the timeline in the Mueller report paints a striking picture of how Assange orchestrated the game- changing document dumps from just a few rooms in the embassy.
The exclusively obtained surveillance reports show that the WikiLeaks founder, who had been given asylum in 2012, wielded enormous power in the building, rivaling even the ambassadors, with whom he would regularly clash. As these exclusive security photos show, he even got physical with the embassy guards.
The documents described how Assange demanded and got high speed internet, phones, even a special guest list that allowed certain visitors to not show identification or be searched. Even as it hosted him, Ecuador hired three different security companies to carry out surveillance of Assange, including Spain-based U.S. Global, which compiled the reports obtained by CNN.
The never before seen cache of documents says Assange installed his own recording devices and used sound machines so he couldn't be listened to, all of which may have played a role in his election interference.
Assange has denied working for the Kremlin or receiving the stolen emails from Russia. WikiLeaks did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: He is temperamentally unfit to hold an office.
MARQUARDT: It was June of 2016, Trump and Hillary Clinton were the de facto nominees. It was looking like it was a bitter election.
DONALD TRUMP. U.S. PRESIDENT: Hillary Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and even theft.
MARQUARDT: That month, according to the Mueller report, WikiLeaks communicated secretly with unidentified online personas who turned out to be Russian hackers. Meanwhile, the number of visits paid to Assange at the embassy dramatically picked up.
The reports exclusively obtained by CNN show one frequent visitor was this man, Andy Muller-Maguhn, a hacker whom the Special Counsel wrote may have assisted with the transfer of these stolen documents to WikiLeaks. ANDY MULLER-MAGUHN, GERMAN HACKER: If you look at the internet from a perspective of people in power --
MARQUARDT: Muller-Maguhn had appeared on Assange's short-lived show on R.T., the Russian T.V. network that gets its marching orders from the Kremlin. The security log showed that R.T.'s London Bureau Chief, Nikolay Bogachihin, also visited that month twice. And during one visit that lasted only five minutes, he gave Assange a USB drive.
Bogachihin defended his visits to Assange, telling CNN, R.T. has produced multiple programming featuring Mr. Assange. Within that process, everything that is intrinsically involved in the production of content took place.
Muller-Maguhn declined to comment to CNN, but told The Washington Post he never had the hacked materials before they were released.
But U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded R.T. actively collaborated with WikiLeaks, playing a significant role in Russia's efforts to help Trump win, which R.T. denies.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Russian hackers have breached the computer network of the Democratic National Committee.
MARQUARDT: June 14th, 2016, Democratic National Committee announced it had been hacked and accused Russia of being responsible. Trump dismissed allegations of Russian involvement, instead suggesting the DNC hacked itself.
Five days later, according to the exclusive documents, Assange got new equipment for data transmission. The embassy security attache even helped install it.
On July 6, WikiLeaks reached out to the Russian hackers who used the names Guccifer 2.0 and D.C. Leaks. Those are covers, the Mueller report says, for Russian military intelligence. The Democratic National Convention is approaching, WikiLeaks warned the Russians, and Clinton will solidify Bernie Sanders supporters behind her..
[18:45:02] Eight days later, the group received encrypted files, according to the Mueller report with the name "big archive".
That same day, Assange met again for four hours with Muller Maguhn, one of at least a dozen times they met at the embassy before the election, according to the security reports.
On the day the Republican National Convention kicks off, security photos show a man in a mask and sunglasses arriving at the embassy. A guard left his post and collected a package. The documents suggest this was an arranged meeting.
It's unclear whether that was related to a message sent the same day, July 18th, when the WikiLeaks told the Russian hackers, according to the Mueller report, that they received the files and would release them this week. Four days later, WikiLeaks released a trove of stolen files and all hell breaks loose. More than 20,000 emails from the DNC, showing the preference of top officials for Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
When the Democratic Convention opened, it was consumed by chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody settle down, please.
MARQUARDT: The DNC chair had to step down. And Trump pounced.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.
MARQUARDT: As the election entered its final weeks, Russia, according to Mueller, offered more files. You won't be disappointed, the hackers wrote.
After receiving several files from the Russian hackers in the immediate days prior, WikiLeaks started posting 50,000 emails stolen from Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, revealing infighting and bickering.
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: If this was about transparency, they'd put them all out. So, they're dribbling them out.
MARQUARDT: Mueller's team suspects that transfer took place on September 19th, the same day Assange met again with hacker Andrew Muller-Maguhn, according to teh security reports.
In the last month before the election, WikiLeaks released batch after batch of Podesta email.
TRUMP: This just came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.
Transcripts of Clinton's paid speeches to Wall Street, staffers criticizing her terrible instincts.
TRUMP: WikiLeaks. This WikiLeaks is unbelievable.
MARQUARDT: The U.S. government decided to get involved, according to a U.S. official and documents obtained by CNN, warning Ecuador, stop Assange or there will be consequences.
Just three weeks before the election, Ecuador cut Assange off, no more phones, Internet, or guests.
Shortly after, the embassy relented on guest restrictions. And at 1:00 a.m. on October 19th, security materials obtained by CNN show two WikiLeaks staffers showed up and took away about 100 hard drives. Security guards wanted to examine the hard drives but they couldn't. The WikiLeaks personnel were on that special list of people not to be searched.
One of the Ecuadorian ambassadors who worked at the embassy During Assange's stay told CNN he was never pressured by his government to give Assange special treatment but this past April, Assange's world came crashing down. The asylum, his lifeblood was taken way by Ecuador's new president,
citing his participation in U.S. election meddling. British police carried him out of the embassy. And the U.S. Justice Department unsealed secret charges, but not for anything related to the election. Instead, it was for soliciting and publishing classified Pentagon materials in 2010.
Assange maintains his innocence. Right on cue, Russia came to Assange's defense, top officials accusing the U.S. of violating his rights, saying the hand of democracy squeezes the throat of freedom.
MARQUARDT: Assange has now spent the past three months in British detention. He's currently in prison outside of London.
Now, fight for U.S. to extradite him is likely to be long, grueling and complicated. His extradition hearing is set for next February, in 2020. He has been indicted by American prosecutors, including 17 charges of violating the Espionage Act and he could face life in prison -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Why did the Ecuadorian leadership eventually turn against Assange, kick him out of the embassy and allow the British to detain him?
MARQUARDT: Well, it was largely because of who was in charge of Ecuador. There's a new president that essentially caved to U.S. pressure. In May of 2017, Lenin Moreno was elected. And what he said was the final straw, was that Assange violated the norm of not intervening in internal affairs of other states, which is clearly what he had done in the U.S. That paved the way for Assange's asylum to be revoked and allowing the British police to go in and get him.
BLITZER: Very excellent reporting, Alex. Thank you very much, Alex Marquardt, with that exclusive report.
And stay with CNN. We're going to have much more on all the breaking news. Four Democratic congresswomen respond to President Trump's racist attacks.
Also ahead, an airborne soldier above France's Bastille Day military parade. Is this the future of warfare?
[18:55:02] BLITZER: As France celebrated Bastille Day with a military parade this weekend, what looked like a jet-powered surf board soared overhead.
Brian Todd has been looking into that extraordinary device.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is the talk of Paris and Washington tonight. This device is called the Flyboard Air. And French military officials tell CNN they are testing it out to see if it can be used in combat.
The video of this is stunning and the possibilities tantalizing.
TODD (voice-over): It was both a stunning stunt and a sneak peek at military hardware of the future. At the Bastille Day parade in Paris, a man wearing a helmet and carrying a rifle zoomed over the crowd in a flying platform. He hovered and zoomed back and forth, even earning a nod from President Emmanuel Macron before exiting at surprising speed. This is called a Flyboard Air invented by a French entrepreneur, Franky Zapata, a former jet ski racer.
FRANKY ZAPATA, FLYBOARD AIR INVENTOR: It's a jet-powered board with four jet engines that I control with my finger. It's cool technology.
TODD: Zapata and his sponsors made this promotional video in 2016 as he broke the record for longest hoverboard flight about a mile and a half. Outracing jet skis on the water, Zapata flew about 100 feet above them.
But tonight, a French military official tells CNN the flyboard isn't a gimmick. The French government has spent about a million dollars to test it out to see if it can give French soldiers a technological edge. According to its inventor, the Flyboard can fly at speeds of around 90 miles an hour.
But can it really be used on the battlefield?
ANDREW HUNTER, EXPERT ON MILITARY TECHNOLOGY, CSIS: If you are talking about a direct combat situation, I think you would be vulnerable on a platform like this.
TODD: Military hardware expert Andrew Hunter who once dealt with advanced technologies at the Pentagon says in addition to not being able to fire a machine gun with one hand while driving with the other, a combat soldier could be compromised if he tried to attack the enemy on a flyboard.
HUNTER: It's unarmored so I think any kind of direct fire on the operator here could be potentially fatal. It's also not clear that you would want to fly this at night. You would run the risk of running into power lines whenever you're flying. You have an issue with power lines. They are hard to see.
TODD: And while it may seem like movie magic, Hunter also says no one should write off the flyboard when it comes to military use. He says commanders could use them to gather quick intelligence on the battlefield. They can be used to get past objects like buildings, bodies of water or more deadly obstacles.
HUNTER: If you're operating in what you thought could be a minefield, being able to be above the ground, but still close enough to the ground to influence what is going on could be very useful.
TODD: It's not the first time people have tested personally propelled technology. When the Segway came out in the early 2000s, it was hyped by its inventor as a culture-changing mode of transportation for the masses. It wasn't and was instead mocked.
But Hunter says jokes aside, dozens of American police departments have figured out ways to use Segways to patrol areas they would normally cover on foot at low costs and one day police or the military could find uses for the flyboard that haven't been considered.
HUNTER: You've got to let users experiment with technology in order to identify its many uses. For something like this where there is no direct technology that it is replacing, it's simply hard to envision the applications until people start to use it.
TODD: So, could these so-called vertical lift technology devices like a flyboard eventually surpass the Segway and ever be used by civilians? Experts say it's possible since more cities are creating more so-called carless streets, pedestrian-only thoroughfares. People can use the devices to get around those venues more quickly. But that would, of course, involve training people en masse how to use those devices and that would not be so practical at all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Brian, is the U.S. military looking at using potentially at least this device?
TODD: There are indications they might be, Wolf. The inventor Franky Zapata said two years ago that he was working with the U.S. military on using the Flyboard Air for combat applications. We did press the Pentagon on that. We have not been able to get comment from them.
You know, if it's used by the military ever, it would be a spectacular site.
BLITZER: Certainly would be. Little risky, though, I would say. I'm not ready to jump on board at least not yet.
Brian Todd, thank you very much for that report.
Finally tonight, we have some terrific, wonderful breaking baby news. Look at this. Our justice correspondent Laura Jarrett and her husband Tony Balkissoon are now the proud parents of, here he is, James Anthony Balkissoon. He was born yesterday weighing seven pounds, seven ounces. He's 21 inches tall.
Of course, all of us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, all of us at CNN, all of our viewers are sending our warmest congratulations, best wishes, to this new family.
Look how adorable. Look at cute he is.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.