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THE SITUATION ROOM

Mick Mulvaney's Fate Undetermined; Trump Says Republicans Need To Be "Tougher" on Impeachment, Dodges Questions About Mulvaney; Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) Is Interviewed About Trump's Decision Into Syria And The Ukraine Scandal; Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) Is Interviewed About His Comments On President Trump Comparing Him To Nazis And Others; U.S. Troops Seen Moving To Iraq; Israel's Netanyahu Gives Up Effort To Form New Government, Opening Path For Rival Benny Gantz; Trump Defends Doral G-7 Plan Despite Abandoning Plans To Host Summit There. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 21, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Lead, CNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, no mention of Mulvaney. President Trump ignores questions about his embattled Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney whose White House future is in question over his flip- flop on a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Is the president planning to replace him?

Get tougher. Mr. Trump rails against the impeachment inquiry calling Democrats vicious but united. And he calls on congressional Republicans to, quote, "get tougher and fight."

U.S. troops pelted. Furious Kurds hurl rotten vegetables at U.S. troops leaving northern Syria as President Trump defends his decision to withdraw downplaying the critical role Kurdish forces play in the fight against ISIS.

And Doral deal dead. The president makes a rare reversal amid Republican criticism of his plan to host the G7 summit at one of his Florida resorts but he uses a cabinet meeting to promote the property and call part of the Constitution phony.

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

President Trump speaking out in a cabinet meeting about multiple controversies dogging the White House. But he's not answering questions about his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney who's been trying unsuccessfully to clean up the controversy he sparked by saying there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine only to later walk that back.

The president did address the impeachment inquiry calling on Republicans to get tougher with the Democrats investigating his dealings with Ukraine. And he defended his plan to hold the next G7 summit at his own resort in Doral Florida, a plan he abandoned in a rare reversal prompted by GOP criticism. We'll talk about that and more with Congressman Ted Deutch of the

judiciary foreign affairs committee and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go straight to the White House. Our White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is on the scene for us.

Kaitlan, today the president seemed angry that Republicans weren't defending him fiercely enough.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, for the second day in a ray -- in a row the president's anger with his own party was on full display as he was urging them, telling them they need to get tougher on impeachment and essentially signaling he's going to need more public support while offering no public support from them while offering no public support of his own for his chief of staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don't need promotion. I don't need promotion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Under fire and in front of the cameras, President Trump was forced to defend himself on all fronts today. But there was one person he left out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody.

TRUMP: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Trump making no mention of his embattled chief of staff Mick Mulvaney during the 75 minutes reporters were in the room today. Mulvaney's job security is now in question after he backed off assertions that the White House sought a quid pro quo with Ukraine for military aid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That is what people are saying that I said, but I didn't say that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: CNN was first to report there were efforts underway by Jared Kushner and other top officials to oust Mulvaney. Before Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry, revealing he's been on thin ice for weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MULVANEY: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: His briefing room appearance undercut the president's defense for why he shouldn't be impeached. A stance Trump maintained today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The President of the United States should be allowed to run the country. Not have to focus on this kind of crop --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The president pushing an unsubstantiated theory about the whistleblower at the center of the scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Was there an informant? Maybe the informant was Schiff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Trump claiming without evidence that House intelligence chairman Adam Schiff was the whistleblower's informant, then moments later praising Democrats for sticking together in their push to investigate him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're vicious and they stick together. And the Republicans have to get tougher and fight --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Those comments coming amid some cracks in Republican support, cracks the president dismissed today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think I have great Republican support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Trump has tested the GOP's patience with his decision and then reversal to host the G7 summit with world leaders at his own hotel next summer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Doral was a very simple situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: In the face of intense criticism, Trump now says he'll pick a new location.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You don't think I get enough promotion. I get more promotion than any human being that ever lived.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Ethics lawyers said payments from visiting governments could violate the emoluments clause in the Constitution which forbids the president from accepting gifts or funding from foreign governments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You people with these phony emoluments law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:04:57]

COLLINS: The president did defend another move Republicans have criticized. His decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When I said we're bringing our soldiers back home, the place went crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Trump said he got high praise for the withdrawal during a rally in Dallas last week. But those U.S. forces aren't going home. Instead, moving into Iraq. The move has opened Trump up to criticism he's abandoning the coalition of Syrian Kurdish fighters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Today he downplayed the U.S. allies help in the fight against ISIS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm the one that did the capturing, I'm the one that knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Now, Wolf, as the president spoke there in the cabinet room today, he didn't mention Mick Mulvaney but we are told he got a show of support during a senior staff meeting at the White House this morning. Where there was a round of applause from aides who were in the room after Mulvaney acknowledged that it had been a tough week for him.

Whether or not the coverage can damage his standing with the president is something that still is to be determined at this point.

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

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now where Democrats have another slate of potentially key witnesses lined up this week in their impeachment inquiry. Our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is joining us. Sunlen, it starts tomorrow with the current American top diplomat in Ukraine.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Bill Taylor's appearance up here on Capitol Hill tomorrow really is the marquee event of the week. He is the top American diplomat in Ukraine, someone who came out of retirement early to take this job and he really has emerged as a central figure in all of this.

His name appeared in those text messages that were released by the committee, handed over to them by Kurt Volker in which he was texting with Volker and Gordon Sondland about saying it's crazy he says to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.

Now in addition to tomorrow's testimony by Bill Taylor, also the committee will hear from on Wednesday Laura Cooper. She's a Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine and Russia policy. So certainly, she will have some knowledge and will be questions about the withholding of military aid.

Now there had been previously a much morrow bust schedule this week. More depositions on the books but that has really been cut back significantly for one of the reasons being Thursday and Friday that day is now devoted, Wolf, to events honoring the late chairman Cummings. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Sunlen, thank you. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol hill, thank you. Let's go to Syria right now where there's visible outrage among Kurds as U.S. forces withdraw on President Trump's order leaving U.S. allied Kurdish forces open to attack by Turkey.

Our Senior International Correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh is in northeastern Syria for us tonight. Nick, we saw departing American troops pelted in one town. What's the latest?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the town we were in Qamishli, yes, convey leaving was pelted with potatoes and possibly rocks as well, startling scenes not too surprising though given the sense of betrayal felt by Syrian Kurds at this rapid American departure and change of position in just two weeks.

We saw ourselves in the dead of night as the convey of hundreds of vehicles leaving shook us awake. There was in fact a moment when one of the vehicles was stopped by locals angry shouting at it but this is a deeply symbolic moment for the United States pulling out.

But in the same time, as this large imagery of them departing, we learn that, in fact, 200 or so may end up staying here potentially protecting the oil fields in the south.

A little strategic value for those but it does allow them to be in the south of the country to continue the ISIS fight and reduce Iranian influence possibly too. But we're into a very perilous moment here.

The U.S. withdrawal coming exactly at the time where we announce 22 hours just under until the ceasefire ends here. That was brokered by the United States, it's ben patchy according to U.S. officials although the Trump administration line is it is still holding, it's doing its job its reduced violence to some degree but all eyes are on a meeting tomorrow in Sochi between Turkey and Russia's president to see if they could hammer out a deal here.

Remember, Russia is backing the Syrian regime who very quickly taken the place of the United States as the ally of the Syrian Kurds here now the United States has pulled out.

But wolf, I have to tell you it's been baffling to see these two weeks the U.S. is gone from the essential power broker here keeping the peace to now having moved its troops into Iraq to continue the ISIS fight. They're not going home. They're just having the same mission from a significantly worse tactical position leaving 200 or so in the south with much worse supply lines. Wolf.

BLITZER: Clearly the Kurds feel betrayed by the United States. Nick Paton Walsh in Syria for us. We'll get back to you. Thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida is joining us. He's a member of both the judiciary and the foreign affairs committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me get your reaction first to seeing these dramatic images of American troops in their armored vehicles retreating from Syria and the Kurds obviously demonstrating their disappointment, their anger and their frustration.

[17:10:03]

REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL): Well, it's awful to see, Wolf. They're -- they're disappointed and angry because we betrayed them. That's -- that's what you are seeing play out on the screen. And it's not just -- it is not just a question of what will happen to the Kurds and the risk that we put that they are now facing because of this terrible decision, it's also our own security.

It's the fact that we're now weaker. Wolf, it was reported just this afternoon that our special forces and the SDF and the Kurds were conducting as many as a dozen counterterrorism operations a day in Syria.

This decision by the president is a slap in the face to the Kurds and makes America weaker. It puts us at greater risk. Greater risk for ISIS coming back and attacking Syria, Iraq, Europe and ultimately, we have to now worry about future attacks in the United States.

BLITZER: It's a serious issue indeed. Let's turn to the other big news, Congressman. We're following President Trump, but he didn't take the opportunity today as you heard to comment on his acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney of course backtracked on his earlier admission that aid to Ukraine was conditioned on political investigations. So, what does that tell you?

DEUTCH: Well, he didn't make -- he didn't make mention of Mick Mulvaney because the chief of staff, his chief -- acting chief of staff went in front of the cameras and acknowledged that every -- on top of what we already knew, which is that the president put our national security at risk by withholding security -- vital security assistance for an ally in a hot war with Russian proxies in Ukraine.

And that he abused his power and betrayed his oath of office by seeking out the cooperation and the efforts of this foreign government, a foreign government to interfere in our elections for his political gain, also, Mulvaney acknowledged at the end of the week that there was a quid pro quo.

We don't even need the quid pro quo. But it just -- it just speaks to the depths of the corruption and the betrayal of his office and it's a little wonder that he wants to talk about it, there's nothing that can be said except that its further evidence of his abuse of power and putting our national security at risk for his own political benefit.

BLITZER: Your Republican colleagues they have taken President Trump's advice and they're going to try in the next hour or so to censure the House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff. There will be a vote we're told. Maybe a procedural vote. First of all, set the scene. Tell us what's going to happen and is this appropriate?

DEUTCH: Well, of course it's not appropriate. What would be appropriate would be for my Republican colleagues to do two things, Wolf. And it's, I think what everyone has a right to expect of them.

One, is to answer the question whether they think it's appropriate for the president of the United States to use his office to pressure a foreign government for political gain, to ask them to interfere in our elections. That's number one.

And second, perhaps to go to the White House and tell the president that if he really thought that he did nothing wrong, if he really thought that he had nothing to hide, then they would stop stonewalling Congress and try to prevent people from coming up here to speak with us. That's where their focus ought to be.

Fortunately, we have brave diplomats, brave patriotic Americans who understand that our national security and the Constitution is more important than protecting the president. They're defying the president's orders and Secretary Pompeo's orders

and they're coming here. But that's what the Republicans ought to be focused on. And unfortunately, they're looking for every way to do anything except defend ultimately stand up and defend the Constitution which is what their oath of office requires them.

BLITZER: The Republicans are citing Adam Schiff's decision to go ahead and have this parody of sorts embellishing on the president's conversation with the Ukrainian president, also at the same time not fully disclosing upfront that the whistleblower had come to his committee for certain advice on how to go forward with his complaints. Do they have a point?

DEUTCH: The reason -- the reason that they're talking about these issues, the reason they're trying to create an issue where it doesn't exist is because they don't want to talk about the transcript of the telephone call in which the president sought foreign help in to add to aid his political efforts to win the 2020 election.

They don't want to talk about the brave whistleblower who came forward and who now was able to put in front of all of the world the extent to which the president of the United States uses his office, risks our national security, and betrays his oath of office all to help him politically.

[17:14:54]

It's just another effort to refuse to focus on what the entire world knows is critical at this moment which is moving forward quickly with our impeachment inquiry into the president and determining the great lengths that he went to, to advance his political interests and put his office above everything else.

BLITZER: We'll see how that vote unfolds in the next hour or so. Congressman Ted Deutch, thanks so much for joining us.

DEUTCH: It's always good to be with you, Wolf. Thanks.

BLITZER: All right. Up next, Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to get his assessment on all of the breaking news as well as the state of the Democratic presidential contest. Will he qualify for next month's debate? Beto O'Rourke is here with me. We'll discuss.

[17:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: During a long and very defensive monologue in front of cameras today, President Trump said Republicans have to get tougher on impeachment but he avoided questions about whether he still has confidence in his acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Joining us now here on THE SITUATION ROOM, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke. A former U.S. congressman himself. Congressman, thanks so much for coming in. FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Mulvaney is denying his earlier admission that there was a quid pro quo to get the Ukrainian aid going in exchange for an investigation of the 2016 election. What do you make of all of this damage control that you see unfolding now?

O'ROURKE: You know, he told the truth the first time when he admitted that there had been a quid pro quo. Something that is evident in the reconstructed transcript of the phone call with President Zelensky on July 25th and then something that became obvious to the country when President Trump in broad daylight asked the Chinese to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. Perhaps in exchange for a more favorable trade deal or reduction in tariffs.

So, there is nothing about this criminality when he's committed in the open that makes it any less lawless. And it's almost as though the president is encouraging the House and the Senate to actually uphold the Constitution.

And he said he wants Republicans to get tough. What we want Republicans to get tough on is upholding the rule of law in America. Because we'll either set the precedent that some or above the rule of law, or that the rule of law still holds in this country.

That is the defining constitutional question of this moment and our time. And my hope is that Republicans in Congress can see above their own party, their own re-election and look to the future of this country. That's what we need.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And you support not only impeachment but conviction and removing the president from office. Is that correct?

O'ROURKE: It is pretty clear to me as it should be to anyone who's seen the reconstructed transcript, read the Mueller report, listen to the president in his own words and now heard his chief of staff admit in front of television cameras that there was a quid pro quo and then to add that this happens all the time in the Trump White House. That man is a danger to this country and must be removed from office.

BLITZER: Let's get to the sensitive issues of the day while I have you. There's new information just today released by Facebook that shows Russian trolls are already interfering in the 2020 election targeting Joe Biden, Senators Harris and Warren. What can each individual candidate do about that right now?

O'ROURKE: I think it's really important that we hold Facebook and Twitter and these social media platforms where people have become the products accountable for what they're doing. They are not utilities as we treat them like under U.S. law right now but more akin to publishers. They curate the content that we see and they're responsible for what comes across their pages.

So, I think it's really important that we hold them to that higher standard. No longer allow those Russian trolls to operate with impunity and also not allow our president to traffic in the kind of lies carried on Facebook.

Though CNN and other media outlets have decided not to air them because they contain lies and are not true, we need to hold those publishes who were online to that same standard.

BLITZER: Those are paid advertisements.

O'ROURKE: That's right.

BLITZER: And we decided not to air those advertisements.

The president weighed in on this latest controversy involving a theory put out by Hillary Clinton that Russians may be grooming another Democratic presidential candidate Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for a third-party run. I want you to listen to how President Trump today responded to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton, have you heard of her. She's the one accusing everybody of being a Russian agent. Anybody that is opposed to her is a Russian agent. So that is a scam that was pretty much put down. Tulsi, I don't know Tulsi but she's not a Russian agent. Anybody is a Russian or a Russian agent or a Russian asset.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now you've accused President Trump of being a Russian asset yourself. Do you have any evidence of that?

O'ROURKE: As a candidate in 2016, he asked on a stage for all of the public to see for Russia to find Hillary Clinton's e-mails. We know that Russia followed suit that very day, agents began to track down Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

We saw him as president on that stage in Helsinki, Finland next to Vladimir Putin defending the leader of Russia that it invaded and attacked our country instead of the intelligence community here in the United States.

We know that he lied to investigators, obstructed justice, pressured other witnesses to lie in the investigation to determine Russia's involvement and his administration's culpability in what happened to our democracy. And then we've seen him follow with President Zelensky of the Ukraine and now with China.

[17:25:01]

So, beyond the shadow of a doubt and for everyone to see clearly in black and white, this president has broken the law and he's taken the side of Russia instead of the United States.

BLITZER: But are you suggesting he's getting orders from Moscow?

O'ROURKE: I'm suggesting he's working in the interests of Russia and defying the interests of the United States from a country --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But maybe he believes -- maybe he believes he's working in his own self-interest but that doesn't make him an agent of Russia.

O'ROURKE: Well, I'll tell you. From his invitation to Russia, to become involved in this election, to his cover-up of what Russia did in this election to his defense of Vladimir Putin on that stage in Helsinki, Finland, it really seems very obvious to me that he's working in the best interest of that country against the best interest of this country and then there are some unanswered questions.

The transcript of what he said in a one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin where the evidence has been destroyed, the knowledge that he's placing some things on NSC servers that should not be there that keep it make it harder for us to learn the truth. And the fact that only through the Mueller report, the reporting from the press and whistleblowers within the White House do we really learn the truth of what's going on.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, you're not backing away from your accusation that he's a Russian asset.

O'ROURKE: I think he's working in the best interest of Russian, working counter to the interest of this country. We see it in what I just said, we see in what he just did in Syria which benefits not the United States, nor those service members which are being pelted by the Kurds that they're being forced to leave behind.

And as your correspondent in the field just said compromises their position and their supply lines to whose benefit, to Iran, to ISIS, to Assad, and to Russia.

BLITZER: All right. Very quickly, because you're also getting some heat right now and some criticism not just from Republicans but Democrats as well for your criticism of the president comparing him to Nazis and Goebbels and Hitler.

You said the other day in an interview with Al Sharpton, President Trump perhaps inspired by Goebbels and the propagandas of the Third Reich seem to employ this tactic that the bigger the lie the more obscene the injustice, the more dizzying the pace of this bizarre behavior the less likely we're able to do something about it.

Is that not going too far to make a comparison between the president of the United States and the Nazis?

O'ROURKE: Find me a better analogy of another leader of a western democracy describing all people of one religion as inherently defective or disqualified or dangerous. And that's what the president has done when it comes to Muslims, seeking to ban all Muslims from this country. Repeating the lie that Mexican immigrants pose a violent risk to this

country, calling them animals and predators and rapists and criminals, and asking four women of color elected by their constituents to Congress to go back to their home country, and having an almost Nuremburg-like rally where people are chanting send her back.

Or inviting the kind of violence based on the racism that he's inspired, where you have another crowd cheering when someone says shoot them when the president asked what do we do about these immigrants.

It doesn't just offend our sensibilities. it poses a violent risk to our fellow Americans. Twenty-two shot dead in El Paso, Texas by a gun inspired by the president of the United States and his --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But you understand the criticism when you make any comparisons to the Holocaust and the Nazis that -- that is simply, at least most people say that is unacceptable.

O'ROURKE: It's the comparison of last resort. And that's where we are. And I don't mean the last resort politically or the last resort in terms of defeating the president in November, but the last resort for this country that is descending into an open racism and intolerance and violence led by the president.

Now whether he said -- whether it's what he said about Muslims or immigrants or the way he treats women of color in this country, or the fact that he described Klansmen and neo-Nazis as very fine people, we can't fail to connect the dots and draw the conclusion about the danger that President Trump poses to this country.

BLITZER: Quick question. You haven't -- still haven't qualified for the next Democratic presidential debate in November. You still need to get 3 percent in at least four national or early state polls and so far, you've got one. Or 5 percent in two early state polls, you have none of those. What do you need to do to qualify for the next debate and if you don't qualify, what happens to you?

O'ROURKE: I feel very confident that we will qualify. Our supporters all over the country and every person in this campaign needs to do more to reach our fellow Americans, to help them see that this is the one campaign, the one candidate who is unafraid to call things what they are and to fight for each and every single American.

We've already passed the threshold on contributions for people that come to Beto O'Rourke.com. We just need to move up a point in most of these polls and I'm confident that our fellow Americans will answer those questions in our favor.

BLITZER: Will you stay in the race if you don't qualify for the next debate?

O'ROURKE: I'm planning on qualifying for that next debate.

BLITZER: What if you don't?

O'ROURKE: And I'll stay in that -- I'll stay in the race.

BLITZER: Any chance you might drop out and run for the Senate in Texas?

O'ROURKE: No.

BLITZER: No chance?

[17:30:00]

O'ROURKE: No chance.

BLITZER: OK.

O'ROURKE: I'm in this to win this.

BLITZER: Beto O'Rourke, thanks so much for coming in THE SITUATION ROOM.

O'ROURKE: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: I appreciate it very much. Thank you.

So, coming up, why is President Trump dodging questions about Mick Mulvaney? Is the Acting White House Chief of Staff on thin ice after last week's rather bizarre news conference?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:35:14]

BLITZER: At the White House today, President Trump railed against House Democrats, and Republicans have to get tougher and fight against his impeachment. Let's bring in our correspondents and analysts to discuss where all these things are heading right now.

Gloria, I want you to listen to what the President said. Cameras were in there, and reporters, for more than an hour, 70 minutes or so, as the President went on and on and on. Listen to what he said about the Democrats and his fellow Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think the Democrats fight dirty. I think they're lousy politicians. But two things they have -- they're vicious, and they stick together.

They don't have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don't have people like that. They stick together. You never see them break off.

The Republicans have to get tougher and fight. We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election which is coming up. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does it sound like the President has confidence in his Republicans --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Not so much.

BLITZER: -- fellow Republicans to defend him?

BORGER: Not so much. I mean, obviously, it's easy for him to pick on Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney has been out there saying that he's disturbed by what the President has done, and so Mitt Romney is clearly on his mind today.

But I think that he is beginning to see the cement crack a little bit among Republicans, and I think it worries him. And the message that Republicans were sending him, which is why he -- he decided that he wasn't going to hold the -- the G-7 Summit at the -- the G-8 -- G-7 --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: G-7.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: G-7.

BLITZER: G-7.

BORGER: -- G-7 Summit at the --

BLITZER: If Russia is in it, it will be the G-8.

BORGER: -- that's right, that's right -- at the Doral was because moderate Republicans were saying to him, look --

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: -- we're carrying so much water for you, don't dump some more on us. And so, he -- he backed off of that, which is a clear sign that he knows he has problems, and he is saying to them, you got to stick with me. The problem is they're loyal to him because they're -- they are afraid of him, but they are not personally loyal to Donald Trump.

BLITZER: There are, Sabrina, some cracks emerging among the Republicans. You've been doing a lot of reporting on this. What do you see? Are there going to be greater cracks?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think that there has been mounting frustration by Republicans over what they see as self-inflicted wounds on the part of the President.

I will say that the most -- the sharpest criticism stems not from the allegations at the center of this impeachment inquiry but, instead, from the President's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria. But all around, I think they see a series of actions that are becoming increasingly difficult for them to defend. Gloria pointed out the decision, although it was revoked, to host the

G Summon (ph) -- G-7 at his Doral resort in Florida. Republicans I spoke to, at least privately, couldn't really wrap their heads around why the President would potentially pave the way for a new front in terms of investigations against him and his administration at a time when he's already battling this impeachment inquiry.

And then you have a slew of witnesses who -- who've come forward on Capitol Hill, many of them career diplomats, and in many ways corroborated at least some of the allegations that were at the center of the whistleblower complaint with respect to the President's efforts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

I still think, though, the openness to see where the investigation leads on the part of some Republicans is a long ways away from them saying that his conduct is impeachable.

BORGER: That's distracting.

BASH: That's true, but you can't separate the -- the things that you just listed off. Syria, withdrawing troops, the Doral, whatever you want to call that, and of course --

BORGER: Fiasco?

BASH: Yes, fiasco, and of course, impeachment. I had a senior Republican say flatly to me that the -- the -- the anger, the frustration, the opposition that you saw last week in Syria was about Syria and his policy, but there was a lot of venting going on. They -- they found a place to channel their concern about the President in a place that was maybe safer politically to do so.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BASH: And it isn't clear how much that is going to spill over into impeachment. You're right, we don't see 20 Republicans standing up in the Senate right now, but there are enough Republicans in the Senate who say they don't know what they don't know and are being cautious. That -- that is raising alarms in the White House.

CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean --

BLITZER: Yes, I was going to say, the President spoke about a lot of issues, answered reporters' questions in that cabinet meeting today. The cameras were rolling. But at the end, when someone shouted a question about Mick Mulvaney, his Acting White House Chief of Staff, there was thunderous silence --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: -- from the President. How do you interpret that?

CILLIZZA: Well, I don't think there's a lot of ways to interpret it. Mick Mulvaney would have liked a vote of confidence. Although given this presidency and the way in which it operates, I'm not sure a vote of confidence saves you.

Look, I think Mick Mulvaney is in big trouble. It was odd when he came out last Thursday -- this is not a White House that does a lot of impromptu press conferences aside from the President -- essentially talking about emoluments. He wasn't talking about the quid pro quo.

No matter what he now says, we know what he did say. That performance can't have endeared him to the President, though it seems clear to me it was motivated by the President.

[17:40:05]

I -- Mick Mulvaney doesn't just say, hey, I'm going to have a press conference. Clearly, that came from the top down. So I would assume, just looking at past is prologue, that Mick Mulvaney's days are relatively numbered. Now, is it this week, is it next week, or something else intervening in that time? --

BASH: And if I --

CILLIZZA: Sure, it's always possible.

BASH: And if I could just add to that, the President, we know, is a voracious consumer of media and of -- of news.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BASH: T.V. news, especially. I was told, at the end of the weekend, yesterday, that the President -- it was raining here in Washington. There was no golfing to be had and he probably was consuming more news than he usually does.

That he was getting more and more agitated as he watched the clips again from Mulvaney on Thursday, as he watched Mulvaney try to clean it up with Chris Wallace yesterday, and the coverage about what a fiasco it was. That he was getting more and more frustrated about the performance of his Chief of Staff. Doesn't mean that he's on his way out right now, but he is on thin ice.

BORGER: Well, and our reporting from -- from last week was that Mulvaney was already in some -- some hot water before, that there were some efforts to sort of look for a replacement before that, and also that Mulvaney wasn't necessarily happy in his job as well.

BASH: Right.

BORGER: And when the President watches television now --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BORGER: Originally, he wasn't upset about Mulvaney. But then as he watched the reaction to it, and he's -- he's a viewer, he's a T.V. viewer --

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: He watched the reaction to it, and he got more and more agitated.

BLITZER: Like the --

CILLIZZA: And he is transactional.

BLITZER: Like the President --

CILLIZZA: He's -- he --

BLITZER: Unlike the President, I should say, I'm a voracious consumer of news as well.

BASH: Oh, you are.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BORGER: You are, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We're watching a lot of --

CILLIZZA: We all are, we all are.

BLITZER: We watch a lot of media, so we're all on the same page. All right, guys, stick around. There's more --

BASH: But you're not running the free world.

BLITZER: No. There's more news --

CILLIZZA: Yet.

BLITZER: -- we're following.

BORGER: Only THE SITUATION ROOM.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Stand by. After barking down on holding the G-7 Summit at his Florida golf resort, President Trump goes out of his way to praise the place. Will it help or hurt his brand?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:46:30]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news in Israel. After weeks of negotiations following last month's indecisive election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given up efforts to form a new governing coalition.

Let's go to Jerusalem right now. Our correspondent, Oren Liebermann, is following all these late-breaking developments. Tell us more, Oren. OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a major blow to

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but is certainly not the end of Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader in Israel's history. At least not yet.

But it is unprecedented, a second straight failure in an attempt to form a government. And for the first time in a decade, someone else will have a chance to form a government.

Someone else, if successful, will have a chance to lead Israel and call themselves the country's prime minister. And for the first time since 2009, Netanyahu does not have a firm grasp -- a firm grip of control on what's happening in Israeli politics.

On top of that, there are ongoing corruption investigations against Netanyahu in which there are potential indictments which could come down in the next few weeks as Netanyahu proclaims his innocence in all of those investigations. So his political and personal future remain uncertain.

Who will it be trying next? Well, it will be Netanyahu's rival in two straight elections, former IDF Chief of Staff and head of the Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz.

The problem, Gantz's path to a coalition, his path to the premiership is no more clear than Netanyahu's, which means, Wolf, that Israel may well be on a path to a third straight election in 12 months. And this was already unprecedented at the second election.

Israel's political deadlock, at least for now, looks set to remain, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens over there. Oren Liebermann on the scene for us. Thank you.

Coming up, will the President's surprising reversal on holding the G-7 Summit at his own resort help or hurt the Trump brand?

[17:48:18]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The White House is looking for a new site to host next year's G-7 Summit after President Trump backed off his controversial plan to have it at his own resort.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with details. Brian, the President still seems to think, though, it's a -- it's a very good idea.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf, he spent much of the media availability at his cabinet meeting today touting the Trump National Doral Resort. The President using this setback to do what he often does best, promote his brand.

But tonight, analysts say the Trump brand is in trouble and the Doral episode won't help in the long run. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Well, one little example --

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump defiant despite a surprising reversal, deciding over the weekend not to host next year's G-7 Summit at his Doral golf resort.

TRUMP: It would have been great, but the Democrats went crazy. Even though I would have done it free, save the country a lot of money.

Then they say, oh, but you'll get promotion. Who cares? You don't think I get enough promotion? I get more promotion than any human being that's ever lived.

TODD (voice-over): Trump's biographers say, despite his bravado, the Doral reversal has to sting for Donald Trump who is not used to admitting defeat or conceding to his adversaries even when he had to reverse himself in real estate deals.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": In this case, he succumbed to pressure in a unique fashion for him. When he says that the Democrats were in an uproar about this, it wasn't just the Democrats, it was Republicans as well. And remarkably, Donald Trump stepped back.

TODD (voice-over): Trump had been under enormous pressure for violating rules saying the President can't profit off government work or profit from foreign nationals who would have stayed at Doral. The President said that wouldn't have been a problem.

TRUMP: But I was willing to do this for free. And they would -- it would have been the greatest G-7 ever.

TODD (voice-over): But one Trump critic who is also an expert on government ethics still isn't giving Trump a pass for reversing course on Doral.

Critics point out foreign dignitaries are still flocking to Trump properties. More than 110 officials from nearly 60 foreign governments have been spotted at Trump hotels, golf courses, and other properties since 2017 according to "The New York Times" and a prominent watchdog group.

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: The concern is that they're there to influence the President or at least stay in good stead with him.

TODD (voice-over): Even in conceding the Doral defeat, the President was still promoting the resort.

TRUMP: It's a beautiful place. It's new. It's been totally rebuilt. It's -- everything is good. Got massive meeting rooms.

TODD (voice-over): Trump biographers say the Trump brand, especially Doral, might get a short-term boost with all the attention it's gotten in recent days. But they say the Trump brand overall is in some trouble.

Net operating income at the Doral resort plummeted between 2015 and 2017 according to "The Washington Post." Bloomberg has reported that the occupancy rate at Trump Tower in New York nosedived in recent years. And the brand could be in even more trouble going forward.

D'ANTONIO: I think that the damage long-term is going to be great. You know, you're thinking about having properties emblazoned with the name of a president who is likely to be impeached.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: President Trump has said Camp David is now a possibility for the G-7 Summit next year, but his Acting Chief of Staff is already bashing that location.

Mick Mulvaney is saying Camp David was, quote, way too small and a miserable place for that summit when it was held there in 2012. We'll see where it happens, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

Next, there's breaking news. Senator Mitt Romney now just spoke out again on the controversy swirling around the Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Stand by, we have details.

[17:55:07]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:00:01]

BLITZER: Happening now, stick together. President Trump complains his party isn't as united as the Democrats, suggesting he'll be impeached no matter what.