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THE SITUATION ROOM

Tropical Storm Dorian Nears Puerto Rico; Trump Privately Clashed With G7 Leaders Over Reinviting Putin; Interview With Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) On Trump's Misleading Disaster Relief Statistics; Deutsche Bank Has Trump-Related Tax Returns; Sources: Trump Had Bitter Disagreements With World Leaders Over His Push To Readmit Russia To G7; Trump Asks "Will It Ever End?", Cites Misleading Federal Aid Amount As Storm Heads Toward Puerto Rico; Putin Courting Turkey With Weapons And Warplanes As Turkish Ties With Washington Deteriorate; Trump Downplays New Concerns Over North Korean Missiles, Plays Up First Lady's Relationship With Kim Jong-un. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 27, 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]

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kind of gives you a whole different respect for these young ladies, doesn't it? Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed it does. Martin Savidge for us in Wisconsin today. Martin, thank you.

Thanks all of you for joining us today on THE LEAD. Follow me @EricaRHill and tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: tracking Dorian. The new forecast is showing Tropical Storm Dorian could become a hurricane as it hits Puerto Rico tomorrow.

Could the storm continue on toward Florida with millions in its path?

"Will it ever end?"

President Trump tweets about the approaching storm, seemingly complaining about the possibility of having to support Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States, as he exaggerates the amount of federal aid approved for the island.

Getting Trump's taxes: without giving names of major bank addresses, a congressional subpoena indicates it has Trump-related tax returns.

Could the president's tax returns end up in the hands of House Democrats?

And sweet deal: Russia's president visits a key U.S. ally and NATO member, sharing ice cream and laughing as he sells missiles and tries to sell fighter jets to Turkey. Is that friendship putting the alliance at risk?

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

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

BLITZER: Breaking news: the new forecast is just in for Tropical Storm Dorian. It could become a hurricane as it moves closer to Puerto Rico. Dorian is expected to batter the island late tomorrow and could threaten Florida as a hurricane.

Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which killed some 3,000 people back in 2017.

President Trump today tweeted, "Will it ever end?" as he cited the misleading amount of federal aid for Puerto Rico.

Also breaking, in a court ruling, Deutsche Bank indicates it has Trump-related tax returns. It won't name them but that could mean those returns, possibly including the president's, could be delivered under subpoena to House Democrats.

I'll speak with Congressman Ruben Gallego and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's go first straight to our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray in the CNN Weather Center.

Jennifer, tell us first of all about the new forecast just in for Dorian.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The new forecast just came in a few moments ago, Wolf. And the changes are -- the changes basically saying that Puerto Rico could have more of a direct hit from this storm. Previously thinking it would be a little bit farther to the west, it looks like we could get more of a direct hit with Puerto Rico.

Winds of 50 miles per hour right now. Gusts of 65. Still a little room for strengthening before it makes that impact with Puerto Rico. Conditions will continue to deteriorate throughout the day tomorrow, especially into the afternoon as this gets closer and expected to make landfall on Puerto Rico by the time we get -- get into tomorrow evening.

We have hurricane watches in place around Puerto Rico and Hispaniola and it will be interesting to see the interaction with Puerto Rico as we get into tomorrow. It will have earlier landfall, previously thinking around 8:00 pm, now it is being pushed up to around 2:00 pm.

So, of course, now is the time to prepare for the Puerto Rican residents, so 65-mile-per-hour winds, landfall. At 74 would be a hurricane. So still a little bit of strengthening possible and once this is on the north side of Puerto Rico, depending on what happens to it with that land interaction, it is going to enter some warm waters around the Bahamas. It is also going to have a little less wind shear. So we could see

even more strengthening by the time it makes it to the southeast U.S. coast later in the weekend.

Of course being a holiday weekend, a lot of people heading to the coast. And so this is going to be one to watch. The cone is very wide. This is the cone of uncertainty. So all interests across Florida and even the entire southeast United States need to be on the lookout with this storm as well as the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of the models are hinting it will enter the Gulf of Mexico and that is well into next week. But you could never be too prepared for storms like this, Wolf. Of course we'll continue to monitor it for the next several days.

BLITZER: So it could hit anywhere from Miami all the way up to Jacksonville, is that what we're seeing?

GRAY: Well, the cone of uncertainty shows where -- the center of the storm could be anywhere from the Florida Keys up through portions of Georgia. But this is several, several days out so there is a lot of wiggle room with this cone. I wouldn't look at one particular area by any means. We have to look at a wide range across the southeast U.S.

[17:05:00]

BLITZER: We'll know more tomorrow and the next day. Jennifer, we'll stay in close touch with you.

Now going to our correspondent Omar Jimenez on the scene for us in Puerto Rico.

Omar, the island clearly is in a state of emergency already.

What kind of preparations are underway?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): People are making as many preparations as they can, Wolf. We're in the town of Ponce, which is about 70 miles driving southwest of San Juan and some people still have not recovered from the effects of Hurricane Maria almost two years ago when it hit the island.

And these are some of the conditions people are looking at. Now this home in particular was completely destroyed when Maria made landfall and they did not have enough money to rebuild.

And believe it or not people still live here and now retreat back into the portion over my shoulder, that is where they've been pushed back into. And what I am walking on right now is essentially a tightrope. This is the foundation of the home. If I go to my right, I would fall through. If I went to my left, I would fall through.

And the owners here say they were given money by FEMA in the aftermath of the storm but it wasn't enough. They say it was around $9,000 to repair this, which, as you could see, it was much more of a rebuilding effort is what it needed to have. We have reached out to FEMA about this particular case but we have yet to hear back. In regards to preparations overall, we spoke to the mayor and they are concerned about a few things.

One, in regards to rainfall, that's because there is a mountainous region north of the city and while they do have certain measures in place to control some of the water flow, if those measures are overwhelmed or not maintained properly during the course of the Dorian event, that water could slip through and create a disaster for the town below.

But as the mayor here told me, it is 78 mayors across the island of Puerto Rico. And even in the end, if aid is needed from both federal partners and beyond, they say in the beginning it is going to come down to them and to first responders to make sure people here are safe, no matter how Dorian ends up hitting the island.

BLITZER: Omar, thanks very much. Omar Jimenez on the scene in Puerto Rico.

President Trump seems to be tracking the storm as he goes off track with a misleading claim about disaster relief for Puerto Rico. Let's go live to our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, so what is the president saying?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president is getting some of the numbers wrong when he's talking about past storms. But now he's actually facing a literal storm while still dealing with the pushback and the blowback he's getting from the trip to France, a trip that the president returned from last night.

Even though we're learning new details now about a dinner that happened during the trip, where the president had some sharp clashes with other world leaders over a contentious suggestion he made about Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): Tonight President Trump is back at the White House after leaving world leaders at the G7 summit, reeling from diplomatic whiplash.

Behind closed doors, he's now bracing for a different kind of storm, this time a tropical one, tweeting, "Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end?"

Trump falsely claiming Congress approved $92 billion in disaster aid after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico two years ago. Congress approved roughly $40 billion in aid but Puerto Rico has received only a fraction of that. And the budget office estimates it could receive close to $90 billion over the next two decades.

This as the president is facing blowback over a demand he made while in France.

TRUMP: I think it would be better to have Russia inside the tent than outside the tent.

COLLINS (voice-over): Sources telling CNN tonight that, during a dinner at the summit, Trump pushed for Russia to be invited back to the G7. And other leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel and British prime minister Boris Johnson, pushed back, arguing Russia is only more anti-democratic since being expelled in 2014 for illegally annexing Crimea.

Privately Trump blamed his predecessor, as he later did publicly.

TRUMP: It was a President Obama -- I'm not blaming him but a lot of bad things happened with President Putin and President Obama.

COLLINS (voice-over): Today a group of top Democratic senators also warning the president that under no circumstance should President Putin be invited to participate in the G7 until the Russian government shows its willingness to behave responsibly both domestically and abroad.

The lawmakers highlighting Russian interference in the U.S. election, the nerve agent attack on foreign soil and continued illegal occupation of territory that is not theirs.

Trump is also facing pushback for the mixed messages he is sending in his ongoing trade war with China.

TRUMP: The way I negotiate, it has done very well for me over the years.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president said he's confident his tactics will work. But some farmers are losing patience. According to the American Farm Bureau --

[17:10:00]

COLLINS (voice-over): -- farm bankruptcy filings were up 13 percent this year. And loan delinquency rates are on the rise.

In the meantime, after the G7 summit renewed hopes of U.S. talks with Iran ...

TRUMP: If the circumstances were correct, were right, I would certainly agree to that.

COLLINS (voice-over): -- Iranian President Rouhani now says he won't sit down with Trump unless Washington lifts all economic sanctions against Iran.

TRUMP: Each country can have their own villa or their own bungalow.

COLLINS (voice-over): And after pitching his golf property in Miami for the location of the next G7 summit, tonight Trump is tweeting, "No bedbugs at Doral. The radical left Democrats, upon hearing that the perfectly located Doral National Miami was under consideration for the next G7, spread that false and nasty rumor. Not nice." The rumor may not be nice but it is also not new. A guest sued the

club in 2016 after claiming he was bitten multiple times by bedbugs while staying in the Jack Nicklaus Villa, alleging in court documents that he woke up with welts, lumps and marks over much of his face, neck, arms and torso after sleeping at the president's property.

The Trump Organization denied the allegation and settled the case in 2017 after Trump took office.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now Wolf, back to the clashes at the G7, we're being told the president made the argument that Russia should be invited so then other countries could confront Vladimir Putin in person.

Other leaders pushed back saying, no, it would give him too much legitimacy to be there. We're told the French president had to get involved to -- in order to keep the dinner from getting too heated, something that the next day the prime minister from Britain, Boris Johnson, praised him over, saying it was well played -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, thank you. Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

More breaking news: in a new court filing, Deutsche Bank indicates it has Trump-related tax returns. They won't say whose but those returns could end up in the hands of House Democrats, who subpoenaed those documents. Our congressional reporter Lauren Fox is joining us.

So what is the bank telling the court?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today was that deadline for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to tell the court whether or not they have Trump tax returns pertinent to a subpoena that the House Democrats made this spring.

What we learned today was Capital One does not have tax returns that would be pertinent to that subpoena. But Deutsche Bank said they do have tax returns related to the subpoena. However, they will not say publicly whose tax returns they have.

It could be President Trump, it could be members of his family, it could be businesses and entities related to the Trump Organization. It is still unclear at this point what precisely they have. The information is under seal at this point.

Whose tax return information they have, it is unclear whether a judge will order them to publicly disclose it. At this point, Deutsche Bank is arguing that they do not want to have to publicly disclose that information because of privacy concerns with past and future customers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Lauren Fox, thanks for that update.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a member of the Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thank you for joining us. Let me begin with breaking

news.

Are you confident that lawmakers will be able eventually to obtain President Trump's tax returns from Deutsche Bank?

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Look, I hope so. What we're seeing is a history of everybody that is involved in the Trump Organization, whether it is family or corporations, whether it is banks, that they are all stonewalling and the question is why are they stonewalling?

What are they trying to hide? And hopefully we do get our way but we have a Secretary of the Treasury not abiding by the law and hopefully we have a Supreme Court that will abide by the law.

But this is a problematic question, what is the Trump administration and Trump corporation trying to hide?

BLITZER: Let's see what happens on that front. Let's get to Tropical Storm Dorian, which could become a hurricane. Forecasters now saying the storm is tracking toward Puerto Rico, could hit Puerto Rico tomorrow. Could even become a hurricane before it makes landfall.

Are you worried that Puerto Rico isn't prepared for yet another storm?

GALLEGO: I am worried. Look, the people of Puerto Rico are very resilient. They have been preparing since the last hurricane. And more importantly, I want the president to be prepared. I want FEMA to be prepared. I want NORTHCOM (ph) to be prepared.

And I want the president to succeed this time. I want to see Puerto Rico secure and I want us to have whatever lifelines need to be sent to the island and hopefully this is a good story that comes out about how well the Trump administration did for Puerto Rico and not the debacle that occurred two years ago.

BLITZER: President Trump once again today cited a misleading dollar amount when he tweeted about aid to Puerto Rico earlier today.

Are you confident that the president --

[17:15:00]

BLITZER: -- will sign another emergency aid bill to Puerto Rico if necessary?

GALLEGO: I think the president really has no choice. He may not want to sign emergency aid bill but we are going to make sure, especially Democratic-led caucus, House caucus, that we are going to roll that money in.

So whenever there is other funding bills or whether there is other relief bills, we're going to make sure that Puerto Rico is not left behind. We've already left Puerto Rico behind for too many years and we've treated them as a colony. And we need to start treating them like first class citizens they are. And the president has no choice in that matter.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the fallout from President Trump's trip to the G7 summit in France, where he privately pressured other global leaders to reinstate Russia. Today a group of Democratic senators, as you just heard, wrote a letter to the president, expressing their strong opposition to the idea.

How do you see it?

GALLEGO: Look, it is shameful. This is just another embarrassment on the world stage when you have the president of France actually defending the U.S. interest better than the president of the United States.

This country, Russia, has been consistently interfering in our elections and still have not stopped. They're bad-willed actors, poisoning citizens in other countries, invading other sovereign countries.

We cannot allow them to be treated as if they're some normal state. They're a pariah state and should be treated as such.

And the president is not really fulfilling his role as a leader of the free world by trying to encourage the acceptance of this type of thuggish kind of foreign policy that Putin has.

BLITZER: What would Russia need to do, what would Putin need to do in order to earn a spot back in the G7 and let the G7 once again become the G8?

GALLEGO: There are many things but, number one, stop interfering in democratic elections in the United States and around the world.

Number two, start withdrawing your troops from Crimea and stop engaging in the type of activities and type of warfare in the Ukraine and other parts of the world.

Start allowing your U.S. citizens -- I'm sorry -- Russian citizens to have some modicum of freedom of speech. These are small little steps in addition to many other things that could go a long way to bringing Russia into the forefront as a modern country that is accepted on the world stage.

BLITZER: Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

GALLEGO: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Up next, sources say the president's push to let Russia back into the G7 led to some rather sharp and bitter disagreements as the president dined with his counterparts.

And a major bank addresses a congressional subpoena and indicates it has Trump-related tax returns.

Could the president's tax returns end up in the hands of House Democrats? (MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories this hour, including Deutsche Bank indicating to a federal judge that it does have tax returns related to President Trump that have been subpoenaed by House Democrats.

Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and analysts.

And Joey Jackson, help us make some sense out of all of this.

How likely is it that something is going to emerge that House Democrats will eventually get these tax returns?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, that is the open question. So we understand that there is a process. And, of course, the issue turns on whether or not it is a political fishing expedition or whether or not Congress has a legitimate legislative oversight purpose in getting the tax returns.

Of course we know that at this point it is at the Second Circuit.

What does that mean?

It means that the process entails that you first go to a district court judge. Now a district court judge, we know, did not block the congressional subpoenas. As a result of that and as we would expect, the administration appealed.

That appeal takes you from the district court, which is the first layer, to the appellate court, Second Circuit, that is the second layer. And what the appellate court has said to date is, listen, this is what I want you to do.

Be responsive to me, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, as to whether or not you have such returns.

We understand that Deutsche Bank potentially does. Now the second inquiry is, if you have those tax returns and there is some particular reason why they should not be disclosed, you will disclose them to us in unredacted form -- that is the court.

And to the extent that you believe there are confidentiality and other issues, then you will give them to the committee in redacted form. So we're still a ways away.

Why?

Because no matter what the Second Circuit decides, there's that other court, the Supreme Court, that could weigh in. By way of review, the legislature -- the U.S. Congress -- believes they have a legitimate reason and purpose.

What is the president doing?

Is he engaging in his tax returns with foreign adversaries?

Who is he dealing with?

Is he a fraud or not a fraud?

We have a legitimate legislative purpose. And the administration says, bah, humbug, this is about politics. Second Circuit has said we'll see. And so no matter what the Second Circuit does, it could end up in the Supreme Court. And so no so fast is my answer --

[17:25:00]

JACKSON: -- to your question. If they are provided, that is the documents, they would be in redacted form, blacked out. A lot of things we wouldn't see and ultimately it will be up to the court to determine whether there will be a full release of the president's tax returns and whether Congress could indeed carry out the functions it has, which is to oversee and have oversight responsibilities over the executive branch.

BLITZER: Yes, this could clearly take a while.

Abby Phillip, remind us why this has become such a huge flashpoint between the president and Democrats.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, for starters, President Trump has been trying to protect his tax returns since he was a candidate. He became the first major party candidate, going all the way to his party's nomination, in recent history that hasn't voluntarily released his tax returns.

Part of that could be because the president does not want the public to know, for example, how much he is worth, how much his businesses are worth. So if Deutsche Bank has the documents, they would have not only the president's tax returns but also potentially the tax returns of his children, the tax returns related to his businesses, to the Trump charity.

And Deutsche Bank has done business with the president for a long time. So there is a lot of reasons why President Trump is protecting this.

But one of the things that was revealed when his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified earlier this year, was that Cohen implied that the president might be hiding the value of his properties because he told -- for example, for insurance purposes, the value of the properties for one reason and then, for tax purposes, the value of his properties for other reasons.

Democrats are doing this kind of investigation as a form of impeachment lite. And I think the way the White House views it and the way the president views it is, that if they give an inch, Democrats will dig, dig, dig until they find something to use against the president in some kind of impeachment proceeding.

BLITZER: Ryan Lizza, as you know, Democrats have been promising for a long time that they would get their hands on the Trump tax returns. They've had control of the House of Representatives now for nearly eight months and there is no guarantee they're even going to succeed.

What is at stake here?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What is at stake is transparency. Since Nixon, all presidents have voluntarily disclosed that information. And Democrats in the House are in a slightly tricky position because one of the routes toward getting the tax returns is the Ways and Means Committee, using this law from the 1920s that is essentially there to -- for Ways and Means -- for lawmakers to use to legislate.

So they have to have a legislative purpose if they want the tax returns or at least -- actually, let me back up. They don't have to have a legislative purpose to get the tax returns but to justify it to the public, that is what they've been trying to say.

They want to look into the laws about changing the law about whether a president should be required to disclose this in the future. So there are people on the Left who want Trump's tax returns either because they think there is something explosive in there or for partisan purposes.

But some Democrats in the House, who are trying to get this information, don't want to be seen as being partisan. Anyway, it is going to be wrapped up in the courts for a long time.

BLITZER: It certainly will be. Everybody stand by. There is more breaking news we're following. We'll resume our coverage right after this.

[17:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with our experts and our analysts.

And, Samantha Vinograd, let's talk a little bit about some of the other important news that's unfolding right now. We're learning that President Trump privately clashed with other world leaders at the G7 Summit over the weekend in France over his call to readmit Russia into the G7. Do you have any reason to seriously consider the President's idea?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I haven't checked since SIT. ROOM started, but unless Russia uninvaded Ukraine, it's seems very unlikely to me that other G7 leaders would go along with the President's decision.

Russia was kicked out of the then-G8 because they invaded and annexed Crimea as well as engaging in other destabilizing activities in eastern Ukraine, and that behavior hasn't stopped. Now, Donald Trump is not a fan of respecting boundaries, but his peers within the G7 view Russia's activities as dangerous and don't want to reward that destabilizing behavior.

The larger issue is not just what Donald Trump did privately, however. I went to the G8. There are a lot of private disagreements that are handled behind closed doors. The bigger issue is that Donald Trump said all of this before he even arrived at the G7. He said it publicly, and he showed public fissures with the people that are supposed to be working with him to promote a message of stability on security and economic issues.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a very important point indeed.

You know, Abby, on another sensitive issue, the President, as you know, has been tweeting today about Puerto Rico as a powerful new storm threatens to strike as soon as tomorrow. This is what the President tweeted.

He said, wow, yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end? Congress approved $92 billion for Puerto Rico last year, an all-time record of its kind for, quote, anywhere.

That number, as you know, Abby, that's misleading for many reasons, but the President often cites that $92 billion figure when talking about Puerto Rico. Is he signaling he may not be willing to provide more aid, if necessary, to the American citizens on Puerto Rico?

[17:35:01] PHILLIP: It does very much raise that question. I mean, I have to think back to when, you know, President Obama handed off the reigns to President Trump. And you have to imagine that -- that in those conversations, the fact that there are natural disasters that a president has to deal with is one of the things that you -- that he would have been told going into this job.

You don't get to control that part of the job. It doesn't ever stop. Mother Nature doesn't ever stop. There are going to be hurricanes and tornados. And President Trump seems to be, in some ways, implying that the Puerto Rican people are bringing this upon themselves or that they are the source of some kind of headache for him by maybe, potentially in the future, requiring more disaster relief funds, but that's just a part of the job.

And you're right, Wolf, the number that the President used in that tweet is not accurate. It's an estimate, a guess, about what they might need in the future. Only $20 million has even been allocated up as of right now for that island that was basically devastated by multiple hurricanes in a row. So these are people in desperate need.

These are American citizens, and President Trump seems to continue to be unwilling or hesitant to help them in their time of need. And a lot of that has to do with his political disputes with people on the island -- political leaders on that island.

BLITZER: That's an important point as well. Ryan, how do you interpret this tweet on the issue of Puerto Rico from the President?

LIZZA: I mean, he doesn't talk about Puerto Rico as if it's part of the United States. And, you know, call me cynical, but I think the President sees Puerto

Rico, where Spanish is a dominant language and it's a -- you know, it's not a -- it's not a state, as somehow foreign, somehow not American. It's not the first time he's treated, you know, the -- Puerto Rico as something other than part of the United States. And I, frankly, don't think he -- I'd be surprised if he knew that Puerto Rico was a part of the United States before he became president.

What's a little surprising, although I guess we shouldn't be shocked, is that this far into his presidency, he still treats it that way, that he still does not see himself as president of everyone that lives in the United States and all of its -- all its territories but likes to play different parts of the country off of each other.

So I think it's a really troubling and sad tweet. I know it's easy to get inured to some of the Trump -- outrageous stuff that Trump he tweets, but I think this one is really, really, you know, on the -- one of the -- one of the worst things he does is treat Puerto Ricans as if they are not Americans when they are.

BLITZER: Samantha, what do you think?

VINOGRAD: I think -- I agree with my colleagues. And I'll also point out a point that we've become so used to, but these are official policy statements by the President of the United States. When I worked under Obama and under Bush, you cleared numbers before you put them in an official policy statement.

And the President is being so casual about an impending natural disaster. He doesn't understand the science, of course, and he's just throwing numbers around and reinventing history almost as often as he makes it.

So, yes, he has treated Puerto Rico not as part of the United States. Yes, he has not responded well to the actual disaster management needs on the ground, but he also is just tweeting off the cuff about anything that comes into his mind. And frankly, many member -- many people that still support him don't call him out on this stuff, and this fake news about what he has or hasn't done continues to percolate.

BLITZER: Let me get Joey's thoughts. What do you think, Joey?

JACKSON: You know, I have to tell you, Wolf, I am just hopeful that, moving forward, in the event that something does -- you know, it's significant, the hurricane that hits Puerto Rico -- that the response is massive, that the response is helpful to the people. And if it's anything like Maria, I think they're in for something.

But I am concerned about the President. I am concerned about his prior statements as it relates to Puerto Rico. However, again, I remain hopeful that if something occurs, that he could put that aside and be helpful to the people of Puerto Rico. They certainly will need it.

BLITZER: They certainly will. All right, guys, everybody stick around. There's more news we're following, how Russian President Vladimir Putin is now trying to peel away a key U.S. NATO ally.

[17:39:17] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Russian President Vladimir Putin is courting a key U.S. NATO ally with weapons and warplanes. CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Fred Pleitgen has the very latest from Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Tonight, Vladimir Putin putting on a full-court press, trying to poach a key U.S. ally and a member of NATO. Showing off his newest jets to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): We talked about cooperation on the SU-35 and even on the new SU-57. We have many opportunities. We have demonstrated new weapons systems, and I think a lot has interested our Turkish partners, not only in terms of purchase but also in terms of joint production.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Putin is trying to lure Erdogan with would-be sweet deals on Russian gear.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): Our visit has allowed us to see firsthand the level the Russian Federation has reached in aviation and aerospace.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But it comes as U.S./Turkish relations are deteriorating after Erdogan bought Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles, the second batch arriving in Turkey today. Turkey's move caused the U.S. to stop sales of the F-35 stealth fighter to the Turks, fearing Russia's missile system could infiltrate the F-35's top-secret technology.

[17:45:12] The tension between the U.S. and Turkey seemed to be a laughing matter for Putin as he showed off his own new stealth fighter.

PUTIN (through translator): And it's for sale? You can buy it.

(LAUGHTER)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Instead of taking a tough stance and possibly sanctioning Turkey for acquiring Russian military gear, President Trump falsely blaming the Obama administration for the entire impasse.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He wanted to buy the Patriot missile; President Obama's group said no. He kept wanting to buy it; they kept saying no, no, no. Couldn't buy it. Now, he needed it for defense. He needed it. So he then went to Russia and he bought the S-400.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Meantime, other U.S. allies, like India and Saudi Arabia, have also ordered Russian anti-aircraft weapons to Vladimir Putin's pleasure and the U.S.' dismay. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, you know, Wolf, having been on the ground there today, it almost felt as though it was an ally of Russia rather than an ally of NATO that was visiting Moscow today. And certainly, if you look at the fact that very soon, or fairly soon, Turkey and Russia could be producing fighter jets, stealth fighter jets, together -- that's Turkey, together with a NATO ally -- certainly a troubling development for the U.S. And one right now, Wolf, that the Trump administration really doesn't seem to have an answer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A very serious development indeed. All right, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us. Thank you.

Coming up, North Korea launches 10 missiles in a month. Why is President Trump downplaying this threat?

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[17:51:28] BLITZER: As North Korea's recent missile launches draw fresh concern from a U.S. ally, President Trump is playing down Kim Jong-un's missile activity while playing up the first lady's nonexistent relationship with the dictator. Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is real concern tonight among veteran diplomats that President Trump is giving indications that he's a bit delusional about his relationship with Kim Jong-un. They're worried that Kim has already played the President, tricking him into accepting North Korea's recent missile tests.

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TODD (voice-over): The torrent of North Korean short-range missile tests, 10 launches over just one month, tonight, are finally taking a toll. According to Reuters, Japan's Defense Minister now says his government believes Kim Jong-un's missiles and warheads are designed to penetrate Japan's ballistic missile shield.

THOMAS KARAKO, DIRECTOR OF THE MISSILE DEFENSE PROJECT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: These are the kinds of things that give North Korea a bit more of a complication to Japan's defense job.

TODD (voice-over): A U.S. official tells CNN the U.S.' assessment is that North Korea is working on missiles that have new maneuvering capabilities, but Japan and the U.S. have the ability to deal with them. Both countries have destroyers in the Sea of Japan which have interceptor missiles designed to shoot down some of North Korea's missiles and warheads.

Analysts say Japan also plans to deploy two new land-based missile sites that could shoot down North Korean rockets, but they say the North Koreans are working on a missile which could possibly evade some current defenses. KARAKO: It flies low and it's maneuvering all the way, which means

it's going back and forth. It's hard to predict exactly where it's going to go. That's the kind of thing designed to fly around or under our missile defenses.

TODD (voice-over): But while the North Koreans keep perfecting these first-strike capable missiles, President Trump keeps downplaying the threat as he did at the G7, Monday.

TRUMP: I'm not happy about it but, again, he's not in violation of an agreement.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say the launches may not be in violation of any agreement Trump and Kim made personally, but they do violate U.N. resolutions. Those international rules weren't the only thing the President confused about his relationship with Kim Jong-un while at the summit. He said his wife knew the dictator, too.

TRUMP: The first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong-un. And I think she'd agree with me, he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential.

TODD (voice-over): But that's not true. There's no evidence that Melanie Trump has ever met or spoken with Kim Jong-un.

DANA MILBANK, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: He says to himself, wouldn't it be nice if my wife could validate this, so, therefore, he just says it as if it were true. And I -- he almost seems to believe it as he's saying it.

TODD (voice-over): Late Monday, the White House spun the President's remark by saying that Mr. Trump confides details of their relationship with Melania, and, quote, while the first lady hasn't met him, the President feels like she has gotten to know him too.

It's that disconnect which concerns veteran diplomats tonight as they worry that President Trump is thinking more about what he hopes Kim will do and not enough about what they say are the dictator's true intentions.

EVANS REVERE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: Indeed, he does not intend to denuclearize. So one of the central dangers is the danger of what I called self-delusion, that the President may convince himself that something is happening that is not really happening.

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TODD: The delusion is also part of what, observers say, leads to a dismissiveness on the part of the President as he plays down those short-range missile tests by the North Koreans. A dismissiveness that really is dangerous, analysts say, because it has basically encouraged Kim Jong-un to keep perfecting those first-strike capable weapons that can now threaten South Korea and U.S. forces there. He's tested a lot of those weapons over the past month, Wolf.

[17:55:03] BLITZER: He certainly has. All right, Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you.

Coming up, the breaking news. Tropical Storm Dorian could become a hurricane as it hits Puerto Rico tomorrow.

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