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Judge Rules Against Johnson & Johnson in Opioid Case; G7 Summit Fallout; Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Puerto Rico Braces for Possible Hurricane as Tropical Storm Dorian Gains Strength; Justice Ginsburg Looks Strong During Her First Public Appearance Since Latest Cancer Revelation. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Alternate reality show. President Trump tries to put an upbeat spin on the G7 summit that collides with the facts. He's now returning to Washington more isolated from U.S. allies, after dodging, distracting, and misleading on an array of important issues.

Russian doll. Mr. Trump keeps putting Vladimir Putin on a pedestal, urging the G7 to let the Kremlin boss back into the fold. But Putin is playing it cool, as he taunts the U.S. with nuclear-capable weapons.

And storm warning. Dorian is gaining strength and could become a hurricane as it barrels towards the Caribbean. Tonight, many residents of Puerto Rico, still reeling from hurricane disasters, are fearing the worst.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: A judge in Oklahoma just ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million, holding the company accountable for its significant role in the opioid epidemic in that state. More on the landmark ruling coming up.

Also ahead, President Trump is right now heading back to the United States from the G7 summit in France, leaving a trail of discord and confusion behind him. The president capping a tense weekend of talks with another apparent attempt to mislead, claiming there was tremendous unity at the summit, when there clearly was not.

U.S. allies got whiplash from Mr. Trump's many contradictions on his trade war with China, whether he'd meet with Iran's president and much, much more.

I will get reaction from Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a member of both the Armed Services and Judiciary committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. First, though, let's go to CNN's Alexandra Field. She's in Norman,

Oklahoma, for us.

Alexandra, tell us more about this landmark ruling against Johnson & Johnson.


It is an historic ruling, of course, Oklahoma being the first state to take to trial a pharmaceutical company alleging that company fueled the opioid crisis, a crisis that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives in the last two decades.

The impact of this ruling could be far-reaching, but it is also being felt right here at home in Oklahoma. One man who testified during the trial who lost his son to an opioid overdose says the ruling brings long-sought accountability.

It also means that Johnson & Johnson will have to pay the state some $572 million, which will go towards treatment programs for opioid addiction and also prevention programs. And it upholds the state's argument that Johnson & Johnson, through misleading marketing, created a public nuisance that cost the state billions of dollars and claimed thousands of lives.

The judge agreed to that, talking about how the epidemic has ravaged this state. But Johnson & Johnson, for its part, says it will appeal. It stands by the drugs and their use for treating pain. It says these are necessary drugs.

The company says they have followed state and federal laws and that there are a number of grounds through which they can -- or on which they can appeal. They also say that they're being made a scapegoat.

But, Wolf, this is a ruling that will be carefully looked at, because there are dozens of states across the country trying to advance similar suits. And in the fall, several thousand claims will be rolled into one federal trial, all of the participants in that case claiming that pharmaceutical companies have fueled the opioid crisis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Alexandra, thanks very much.

Let's get to President Trump right now. He's heading right now back to Washington, leaving U.S. allies dazed and confused.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is near the G7 summit site in France for us right now.

Jim, the president seems even more isolated from America's most crucial global partners.


Throughout this G7 summit, the president and his team offered conflicting and false statements on a whole range of topics, from Russia to China to climate change, and he is isolated and alone on this world stage. The president was not leading at this G7. He was misleading.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The G7 proved to be a slippery summit for President Trump. After days of rattling world markets in his trade war with China, the president made conflicting claims that officials in Beijing were reaching out to his administration to ease tensions.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I very much appreciate the fact that they came out last night, very late last night, and they said, they want to make a deal. They want it to be under calm circumstances.

ACOSTA: The president started the day claiming his team had received reassuring calls from Chinese officials, but China all but said Mr. Trump was exaggerating.

TRUMP: We have gotten two calls and very, very good calls, very productive calls. They mean business. They want to be able to make a deal.

ACOSTA: Later in the day, the president didn't want to talk about whether the calls had occurred.

TRUMP: I don't want to talk about calls. We have had calls. We have had calls at the highest levels. But I don't want to talk about that.


ACOSTA: At a news conference, President Trump pointed to his treasury secretary.

TRUMP: Secretary Mnuchin is here.

ACOSTA: Who would only say that both sides are talking.

QUESTION: But there were phone calls, sir? Mr. President, there were calls?

TRUMP: Numerous calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Communications that went back and forth.

ACOSTA: That followed confusion created by the president over the weekend, when he seemed to say he was having second thoughts about his trade war.

QUESTION: Mr. President, any second thoughts on escalating the trade war with China?

TRUMP: Yes, sure. Why not?

ACOSTA: A comment the White House later walked back.

(on camera): It sounds as though you're trying to clean up what the president said this morning.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: We're not cleaning -- we're not cleaning anything up.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On whether Vladimir Putin would be invited to the next summit, the president gave a misleading answer about why Russia was kicked out of the G8, dancing around the fact that it was punishment for Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

TRUMP: President Obama was not happy that this happened, because it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him. And he wanted Russia to be out of the -- what was called the G8. And that was his determination. He was outsmarted by Putin.

ACOSTA: But that's not true. And Mr. Trump got testy when he was called out for it.

TRUMP: I know you like President Obama, but it was annexed during President Obama's term.

ACOSTA: The president was evasive on whether he would meet with Iran's president, too.

TRUMP: He's a great negotiator, but he -- I think he's going to want to meet. I think Iran wants to get this situation straightened out.

ACOSTA: In perhaps the most lasting image from this summit, Mr. Trump was missing in action on climate change, skipping a meeting devoted to the global challenge.

The White House claimed the president was absent because he had meetings with leaders from Germany and India, but that's also not true. Those leaders were at the climate meeting. Asked about his past skepticism of climate change, something he's called a Chinese hoax, Mr. Trump bragged about the U.S. energy industry.

TRUMP: And I'm not going to lose that wealth, I'm not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills, which, frankly, aren't working too well. I'm not going to lose it. And I'm an environmentalist. A lot of people don't understand that.

ACOSTA: The president flat-out refused to say whether he believed that climate change is happening as he left.

QUESTION: Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe in climate change?


ACOSTA: And there was one other falsehood from the president that the White House had to deal with, and that was when the president said during that news conference that the first lady has met with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.

But that's not true. The first lady has never met Kim Jong-un. And the White House was forced to release a statement clarifying the record -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta in France for us, thank you very much.

While President Trump has been talking up Russia's possible return to the G7, Vladimir Putin has been launching nuclear-capable missiles and adding to fears about a new arms race.

Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is joining us live from Moscow right now.

Fred, Putin was sending a clear message to the United States.


And it was quite remarkable to hear President Trump talk so much today about the G7 summit about how he wants Russia back at that venue and wants to invite Vladimir Putin to the next summit in the U.S. Don't expect a thank you from the Russians, though.

Right now, what we're seeing from the Kremlin is, they're letting their army do the talking. Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, Vladimir Putin is making good on his promise to strike back at the U.S., test-firing nuclear-capable missiles from a submarine near NATO's borders.

Vladimir Putin's spokesman confirming Moscow intends to further beef up its forces, after America pulled out of the INF Treaty with Russia and test-fired their own missile.

DMITRY PESKOV, SPOKESMAN FOR VLADIMIR PUTIN (through translator): You have surely heard the president's instructions. They have been given. In general, there has been quite intensive activity lately, both for military development and for our troops' maintenance in the proper state.

PLEITGEN: In a span of about 48 hours, Russia has conducted a flurry of military drills, fighter jets launching air-to-air missiles flying out of occupied Crimea, the army practicing the so-called stealth deployment of medium-range nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, and practicing anti-ballistic missile defense in the Far East.

All this as President Trump at the G7 summit in France voiced his desire to invite Russia to the next meeting to the group of leading industrial nations in the U.S. next year.

French President Emmanuel Macron, however, acknowledging no consensus was reached with other leaders on the issue. President Trump showing concern for Putin's feelings.

TRUMP: You know, he's a proud person. Would I invite him? I would certainly invite him. Whether or not he could come, psychologically, I think that's a tough thing for him to do. You have a G8. Now it's a G7, and you invite the person that was thrown out, really by President Obama, and really because he got outsmarted.

PLEITGEN: But, tonight, the Kremlin is not even acknowledging it wants back into the G7, Vladimir Putin's top diplomat almost mocking President Trump's advances.


SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We have nothing to do with it. We haven't asked anybody for anything. We found out about this from public statements of certain Western colleagues. We haven't requested anything on this issue and are not going to. Life goes on.

PLEITGEN: Meantime, as President Trump's efforts at diplomacy sputter, the military escalation continues. Today, Russia also announced it will soon re-arm old Soviet era bases on the Black Sea with new missiles.


PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, the Kremlin also making clear that that flurry of military activity that we have seen is not going to be a one-off. They say expect more drills in the future.

Of course, the Russians also saying that they're working on new and what they call invincible weapons to further challenge America -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us -- Fred, thanks very much.

Joining us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat. He serves on both the Armed Services and Judiciary committees.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me get your immediate reaction this report we just heard. Are we starting to see the start of an arms race?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): We're certainly seeing Vladimir Putin taking advantage of weakness that has been demonstrated by President Trump.

His efforts to curry favor with Vladimir Putin are simply emboldening the Russians to continue their buildup of armed forces. They violated the INF. They're building more submarines. They are seeking to rival us militarily and diplomatically and divide us.

And the big winner of the G7, in fact, maybe was Vladimir Putin, because all of these reversals and walk-backs and dodges not only sowed discord among our allies. They are so many pirouettes, it's almost as if Donald Trump was auditioning for the Bolshoi Ballet.

And Vladimir Putin has become his best friend. But, militarily, diplomatically, economically, that counts for nothing to Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: The president is clearly very much open to inviting Putin to the summit here in the United States next year.

Do you think he would follow through with that kind of invitation without the formal approval of the other G7 members?

BLUMENTHAL: Predicting what Donald Trump may do is pretty hazardous. It will be in the United States.

Donald Trump wants to do it at the Doral, his own property, which would benefit him economically and financially, to the tune of possibly millions of dollars. Self-enrichment is a constant theme.

And Vladimir Putin, as the star of that show, might be an additional attraction. But the point is that the majority of G7 members voted Putin and Russia out. Inviting Russia without their approval, our allies' approval, would be a catastrophe.

BLITZER: How do you come up with millions of dollars that potentially they would make if the G7 were held at the Doral Country Club down in Florida?

BLUMENTHAL: The Doral Country Club is owned by the Trump Organization. Donald Trump is the owner of that organization and the direct beneficiary.

And the expenditure of a lot of dollars, possibly in the millions, as a result of their having to stay there with security, with their aides, and accompanied staff would possibly be in the millions of dollars.

But one way or the other, it would be an enormous financial boost to the Doral, already has been in Trump touting it as one of the best sites to have that kind of meeting. And it is and would be potentially a direct violation of the Emoluments Clause, the chief anti-corruption clause of the United States Constitution.

And we might well make it part of our lawsuit against the president, which is currently pending in court.

BLITZER: Let's get to China.

The president first admitted that he had some second thoughts about the trade war. Then the White House said he actually wanted higher tariffs on China. Now the president sounds optimistic about striking a deal. Do you see an actual strategy here unfolding?

BLUMENTHAL: There is no strategy, Wolf.

And that is the really deep defect in our current policy or lack of policy. I have spent the last couple of weeks going to businesses in the state of Connecticut, just this morning, one of the global companies here with transactions and business around the world.

And they are deeply concerned about the apparent lack of strategy, the confusion and chaos, the whiplash in our policy, first calling Xi an enemy, now he's a great friend. They're back at the negotiating table, but who knows where it will go.

And they have to make decisions about future investment. Many of them are inclined to support Donald Trump because of his apparent success in economic policy, but, right now, there is increasing chaos and confusion in that policy, especially in the trade war with China.


And as one of them told me, trade wars are not easy to win, whatever Donald Trump thinks.

BLITZER: Your Republican colleague Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of your Judiciary Committee, he says the country just has to, in his words, accept the pain that comes with standing up to China.

How do you respond to that?

BLUMENTHAL: He's right, there's pain, because these tariffs are, in fact, a tax on our consumers and our businesses.

But what's lacking, in fact, is a strategy. Pain without a strategy is unproductive and wasteful and a deep disservice to our country. So I would think that businesses and leaders of our economy, as well as consumers, will be increasingly unhappy with that pain.

BLITZER: The president says there's a good chance he will meet with the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

But President Trump has met personally with Kim Jong-un three times, as you know, and nothing much seems to have come of that, at least not yet. Would anything be different, do you believe, with Iran?

BLUMENTHAL: Certainly, I would hope so, because diplomacy is always preferable to fighting and military use of force.

And if there is a prospect for some kind of successful negotiations, we should welcome it. The chances of success, given the history of this administration, whether it's in North Korea or the Mideast or elsewhere, seems pretty dim.

But diplomacy and talks is always preferable to fighting and the threat of arms.

BLITZER: What does it say to you that the president skipped the G7 session on climate change? The other six leaders were there. There was an empty chair where he was supposed to sit.

BLUMENTHAL: The power of television in the visual was so graphically demonstrated by that picture.

You know, a picture is worth 1,000 words. The empty chair at a climate change meeting, when literally the planet is burning in Brazil, when climate change is uppermost in the minds of many, many Americans, who truly believe that it is caused by man and has to be addressed by all of us, that kind of abdication and absence of leadership is a profound disservice to our nation and our national security.

Because, as our military leaders will tell you, and I know from my experience on the Armed Services Committee, climate change and global warming are a national security threat to the United States. That empty chair speaks volumes about the absence of leadership.

BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, she's drawing big crowds and more support in a new poll. What do Elizabeth Warren's gains mean for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders?

And we're also tracking the hurricane threat right now from a strengthening tropical storm. Will Dorian bring new misery to hurricane-battered Puerto Rico?



BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump see heading home from the G7 summit in France, where he had raised questions about attending.

His performance in France was filled with conflict and contradictions.

Let's bring in our analysts.

And, David Swerdlick, let me play some clips of what the president had to say on some really pressing issues.


TRUMP: I can confirm that the first lady loved your French wine.


TRUMP: The first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong-un. With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings. We call them bungalows.

Each country can have their own villa.

President Putin outsmarted President Obama. Would I invite him? I would certainly invite him.

You're talking about global economic instability?


TRUMP: I don't consider it instability.

Sorry. It's the way I negotiate. I'm an environmentalist. A lot of people don't understand that. I'm

not going to lose that wealth. I'm not going to lose it on -- on dreams, on windmills, which, frankly, aren't working too well.

I think Iran wants to get this situation straightened out. Now, is that based on fact or based on gut? That's based on gut. We're going to see how it all turns out. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. I say it all the time about everything. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn't.


BLITZER: We should clarify, the White House later pointed out that Melania Trump had never actually met with Kim Jong-un, despite what the president had earlier said.

What did you make of his presentation at this G7 summit?


First, I like California wine better than French line, so I disagree with the president there. Second, that set of clips that you played was just sort of a random sampling of the president doing what he does well, which is just spitballing, throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.

But it adds up to him not having a coherent vision for how he's leading the world with the rest of the world's top leaders.

But, specifically in -- at the G7 was his comments about blaming President Obama for Crimea being annexed by Russia. And I thought that was really an abdication of leadership.

Presidents blame their predecessors for stuff. President Obama did it too, including on the economy. But this was a city situation where, yes, President Trump inherited a problem. But, no, it was not a problem of President Obama's creation.


Russia annexed Crimea. President Obama had the choice of arming the Ukrainians, not doing anything, or doing what he did, which was getting European leaders together, those same leaders that were in the room, and sanctioning the Russians. That's what he did.

President Trump never addressed why he said that Vladimir Putin outsmarted President Obama. It was tacky, and it was inaccurate.

BLITZER: Yes, but he's really going after President Obama on multiple occasions, at least in recent weeks.

You heard, Susan, the president say he's open to inviting Putin to the next G7 summit, which will be held in the United States and will be really only a few weeks away from the 2020 presidential election. What would the potential implications of that be?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the potential implications are quite large, and none of them are good for the U.S.

As David alluded to, the reason why the Russians were kicked out of the then G8, now G7, is because they invaded another country. They annexed territory by force. This is unacceptable behavior. It's behavior that requires and demands a really, really forceful response.

And this combination of sanctions and expulsion was the international response to that activity. For Trump to now sort of be openly musing letting them back in is one way of saying he doesn't think the Russians should be punished, he doesn't think it was a big deal what they did in Crimea, by the way, a position he's had since the 2016 election, all throughout.

And so it's going to embolden Putin moving forward. It's also sort of part of just the trend of absolute baffling behavior by Trump toward Putin. Why would you give this away in exchange for nothing? Now, that doesn't mean that there isn't some set of circumstances in which allowing Russia back into the G8 would make sense, major concessions, things like leaving Ukraine, the ongoing occupation.

But this was Trump basically giving this away, putting this out on the world stage, just kind of a sweetheart gift to Putin. And you just have to ask why this person, who bills himself as this great negotiator, is giving this stuff away right and left in a way that just does not serve any discernible American interest.

SWERDLICK: Yes, spoiler alert, he's not a great negotiator.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Ooh, can I answer that question?

BLITZER: Yes, you can, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Susan asked a question. She said, why is he always so nice to Vladimir Putin? Maybe it's because Vladimir Putin helped him win the 2016 election.

You know, remember the Mueller report way back in March? This is a real thing that happened. And the idea that somehow the president is unaware or ungrateful or uninvolved in the gift that Vladimir Putin gave him to defeat Hillary Clinton, why isn't that enough as an explanation of why he is endlessly solicitous of Vladimir Putin?

BLITZER: Did you get, Rachael, some clarity on where the U.S. is heading with Putin right now, and specifically inviting Putin to come to the next G7 and once again rebranding it as the G8?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, clearly, Trump was shooting from the hip here, right? I think it's too early to say if the White House is really serious about this.

A lot of aides behind the scenes questioning what the heck is going on, right? But what we can say from this is that Trump clearly feels like these investigations that have sort of haunted him for his first two years of his presidency, that they have cleared, and that he doesn't need to worry about them anymore. That's one of the reasons why he's up there saying, oh, I'm going to

bring Russia. This politically might not be good for me, but I'm going to talk about bringing Russia to the U.S. when I host the G7.

And not only that, in this press conference, he was giving -- you know, he was looking at his own business and talking about bringing the G7 to his own company in Miami, one of his own resorts. And that is 100 percent against the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from taking money from foreigners.

BLITZER: Well, let me get Toobin in on this. He's our legal expert.

We hear the words Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. You heard the president make an extended pitch why the Doral Country Club and Resort down near Miami would be the best place to hold the G7 summit a year from now. What do you think?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, the president has been grifting off of the presidency from the day he took office.

I mean, think about all of the thousands of dollars that are spent at Trump Tower in New York, at the resort in New Jersey, at Mar-a-Lago, all of which he owns. And the federal government, all the service agents, all the press that go down there have to spend money at his resorts.

So his attempt to bring a much bigger convention, in effect, to his struggling Doral resort is of a piece with how he's handled the presidency.

It is characteristic that we don't really know the scope of the Emoluments Clause. The Emoluments Clause was put in by the framers because they didn't want the original American elected officials to be tempted by the money from old Europe in the 18th century.

I mean, there has never been a president where this has been a problem before.


There are now lawsuits working their way through the courts, but this is just a demonstration of how unprecedented this grifting that the president has been doing since January of 2017 is just like now standard operating procedure.

BLITZER: Susan, you're our legal analyst also.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Look, the original sin of this administration was the president's failure to divest from his personal business. Ever since he made that decision and the American public decided to let him get away that, Congress decided to let him get away with this astonishing thing, President Trump has been using the powers of his office to line his own pocketbooks and that of his family and his cronies.

And it is not in line (ph) to basic American values, not to mention the constitution.

BLITZER: you heard the president say the presidency is costing him somewhere between $3 or $5 billion that he would have made if he had not been president of the -- that's -- all right.

Everybody stick around. A lot more we're following. Jeffrey Toobin has got some thoughts on all of this. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're back with our analysts. And, Rachael, let me put up this new Monmouth University poll for our viewers. There you see it right there. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, they're all at the top. It's an interesting poll, but it's got a pretty wide margin of error, 5.7 percent. And it's clearly in conflict with the CNN poll last week, which had Biden at 29 percent, Sanders, 15, Elizabeth Warren, at 14 percent. So what do you make of this?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, it's early in the race, right? Polls will change. And as we knew from 2016, sometimes they can be wrong. But if you take this at face value, it's clear, a couple of things. Number one, Joe Biden is no longer your frontrunner if this poll is correct. And he has been the frontrunner this whole time, sort of pitching himself as the candidate who could beat Trump, most likely to beat Trump, this electability argument.

Now, over time, we have seen in polling that although a lot of Democrats want to prioritize somebody who can beat Trump and that they're certain can beat trump over, say, their positions on Medicare for all, that number of people sort of emphasizing that electability has gone down. And perhaps you're seeing that in this poll.

The other thing that stands out to me is Warren. I mean, she's a hot commodity right now. Her trajectory has been straight up. She's perhaps the only person in this race who has just continued to grow and grow and grow. And we've seen that not just in this poll, but all around, she has really a standout.

BLITZER: And David Swerdlick, take a look at -- I will show you some video some of the rally that she's attending. Look at this. It's a pretty big crowd. There are thousands of people that have gathered for her, and that's a marked contrast to so many of the other Democratic candidates very often get maybe few hundred.

SWERDLICK: Right. As Rachael said, it's early in the race, things will shift. Whether Senator Warren is up now, it might not be that she's up later. But she's clearly built steady momentum. And I think that explains the differences in those polls. The CNN poll and the Monmouth poll are very reputable polls. I think what accounts for the difference and why you should sometimes do averages is that you see someone like Senator Warren slowly rising in all of these polls, even though this is the first one that shows her tied with Vice President Biden and Senator Sanders. I will note, Wolf, that if you look at the cross tabs of this new poll, the thing that's consistent from the other poll is that she's still behind Sanders and Biden with non-white voters. She's actually got a lead among white voters, but with non-white voters, she's still trying to build some momentum.

TOOBIN: Can I disagree with David a little bit? You know, come on, that 298 sample, that's a rinky dink poll. I mean, I -- sorry, I mean, Monmouth has often done good work, but I think that poll itself is kind of a joke.

However, I don't think the Elizabeth Warren crowds are a joke at all. If you look at the last three presidents elected, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, very different people in every respect. But when they ran for president, especially the first time, they had tremendous enthusiasm and big crowds. Big crowds matter. And the fact that warren is getting them and other candidates are not, I think that really does tell you something.

SWERDLICK: Yes, no, I think that's right, Jeffrey. I mean, I tend to agree with you, you would like a bigger sample. In this case, the crowds matter, but I think part of that is because Senator Warren has been able to build steadily behind some of these other candidates. She hasn't had to take all the fire of being a frontrunner, which has helped her. We'll see if she continues to build or whether it changes with the next polls.

BLITZER: Jeffrey makes a good point about this poll. Let's see what the other polls coming up, we'll get a better sense.

Everybody stick around. There's much more news we're following, including a hurricane threat from tropical storm Dorian. Is it on track to hit Puerto Rico?

And the FBI reveals a surge in tips after the El Paso and Dayton massacres. Are Americans more willing to turn in their friends or their relatives to prevent another mass shooting?



BLITZER: Tonight, there appears to be new vigilance on the part of the public about forwarding potential mass shootings and domestic terror attacks. Let's bring in CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, the FBI says more people are calling in tips since the El Paso and Dayton massacres.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. In fact, in the week following those back-to-back mass shootings, there were 16,000 more tips than usual. And while the FBI says the numbers do fluctuate, this sudden spike seems to show that people are paying attention and alerting authorities when something seems troubling.


SCHNEIDER: Tonight, the FBI is reporting a 72 percent uptick in tips called into its National Threat Operation Center in wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The first full week of August following the attacks, 38,000 calls came into the FBI, compared with an average call volume of 22,000 per week.

[18:45:03] The FBI cautions that not all tips turn into full-fledged investigations or arrests, but the FBI welcomes the call volume, encouraging the public to remain vigilant and report any and all suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.

JIN KIM, FORMER FBI AGENT: People are finally paying attention in understanding that report any one of these events can happen 24/7/365, and anyone in this country, unfortunately, can be affected by one.

SCHNEIDER: And while the FBI isn't linking any of the shootings to the uptick, CNN found that more than two dozen people have been arrested since August 4th for making threats or stockpiling weapons.

Twenty-year-old James Patrick Reardon threatened to carry out a shooting inside an Ohio Jewish community center and posted about his plans on Instagram, according to the police. A local officer was shown the Instagram post and Reardon was quickly arrested. He has pleaded not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defendant is 22 years old.

SCHNEIDER: In Connecticut, Brandon Wagshol was arrested after an anonymous call to the FBI tip line revealed he was allegedly trying to purchase large-capacity magazines from out of state. Police say he also posted on Facebook about his interest in carrying out a mass shooting.

And in Florida --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any weapons we need to know about?

SCHNEIDER: Twenty-five-year-old Trystan Scott Wix was arrested in a parking lot after his ex-girlfriend alerted police that he had sent her several texts, allegedly threatening a mass shooting.

Experts say the arrests show the power of people paying attention.

KIM: What we need to do as part of a human effort is have a reporting system and know that it's OK, and actually, it's required for us to move the needle on this.


SCHNEIDER: Now, most of the tips that come into the FBI, they're filtered through the National Threat Operation Center. That's in West Virginia. And once they come in, they're assessed and analyzed, and depending on the threat, they could be passed on to local law enforcement. So, Wolf, it is possible that many of these increased tips that came

in that first full week of August, they may have been passed on or really prompted some of those arrests that we saw that seemed like a spike in those arrests in the last few weeks of August.

BLITZER: Yes. As they say, you see something, you say something. That's good advice for a lot of people out there.


BLITZER: Jessica, thanks for that report.

Just ahead, we're going to get a new forecast on Tropical Storm Dorian and whether it's on track to be a hurricane that could bring more damage, more misery to Puerto Rico.

And we'll also hear directly from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just days after we learned she was treated for pancreatic cancer.


[18:52:12] :BLITZER: Tonight, Tropical Storm Dorian is gaining strength as it heads towards the Caribbean islands, threatening to become the second hurricane of the season. Residents of Puerto Rico are especially on edge right now, as the island is still suffering from the Hurricane Maria disaster.

Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in the CNN severe weather center.

Jennifer, what's the latest forecast for Dorian?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, it could become a hurricane as early as tomorrow and it could become a category one as it makes its brush by Puerto Rico, right now, with winds of 60 miles per hour, with gusts of 70, moving to the west-northwest at 14 miles per hour.

Now, it will impact the Windward Islands as we go through tonight. We do have tropical storm watches and warnings in place. We even have the tropical storm watches in place for Puerto Rico.

And as this continues to push to the west, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens when it makes that interaction with Hispaniola. We have very tall mountain peaks there. A lot of times, it can tear up these storms.

And so on the other side of that, we'll have to see how well it can regain its strength and how strong it will be once it makes that interaction with the United States. But by Puerto Rico, could be a category 1 with 80-mile-per-hour winds and then all of south Florida inside that cone of uncertainty by the time we get to the middle part of the weekend. Spaghetti models all in agreement, pretty much, on where exactly it's going to go.

The question is, just how strong is it going to be? It is going to have a little bit of wind shear as well as that interaction with Hispaniola. So, we aren't quite sure exactly how strong it's going to be. Could be tropical storm to category 1 by the time it makes that

landfall, some time -- somewhere in the southeast United States, most likely south Florida.

So there is the rainfall for Puerto Rico, and then as it spreads to the north, continuing to watch it. But like we always talk about, this cone of uncertainty, you've got to look at both sides of it, not just that center track. So, anywhere in the southeast United States should be on the look out.

What to expect with Puerto Rico. Conditions will deteriorate midweek, heavy rain and gusty winds -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you. Jennifer, thank you very much for that update, potentially a very, very serious problem.

Just ahead, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears strong, making a speech just days after the Supreme Court announced she had recently been treated for pancreatic cancer.


[18:59:05] BLITZER: Just three days ago, the Supreme Court announced that she had recently undergone treatment for pancreatic cancer, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears strong today when she accepted an honorary degree from the University at Buffalo, my alma mater. She briefly referenced her health problems. She also referenced her status as a judicial rock star.


JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT: It was beyond my wildest imagination that I would one day become the Notorious RBG.


I am now 86 years old, yet people of all ages want to take their picture with me. Amazing.


BLITZER: Friday's announcement said her tumor was treated definitively and there was no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body. We wish her only, only the best.

Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.