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The Situation Room

Flynn Still Working With Mueller?; Interview With New York Congressman Gregory Meeks; Comedian Successfully Prank Phone Calls President Trump on Air Force One; Trump Will Raise Issue of Election Meddling During Putin Summit; Trump to Announce Supreme Court Pick on July 9; Officials: Accused Gunman Wanted to Hurt and Kill As Many Possible. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 29, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: What secrets might he be spilling?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following a lot of breaking news this hour from President Trump.

He has been talking to reporters aboard Air Force One about his search for a new Supreme Court justice. He says he is considering two women for the high court as he works to choose a nominee in what may be record time, this as the White House is now admitting that the president took a prank phone call in a truly shocking security breach.

There's a lot to discuss with our correspondents, analysts, and guests.

First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.


BLITZER: Jim, walk us through all of these new comments, starting with the Supreme Court pick. What can you tell us?

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf.

A lot of big breaking news coming from the president as he talked to reporters on Air Force One within the last hour about his upcoming pick for the Supreme Court. This happened just in the last several minutes, Wolf, the president telling reporters on Air Force on his way up to New Jersey for the weekend that he plans to interview one or two candidates for the Supreme Court over the weekend in New Jersey, and that he will announce his pick, Wolf, he will announce his pick, he president says, on Monday, July 9.

So, not this coming Monday, but the Monday after the Fourth of July week. The president also said he has got his choices for the Supreme Court narrowed down to five, but that he will probably interview six or seven people overall. So, he is going to have to work quickly through all those people to make that July 9 deadline.

He also name-dropped one of the possible contenders. That's Utah's Republican Senator Mike Lee, who is known as a very big constitutional conservative, also, by the way, somebody who is adamantly opposed to Roe vs. Wade.

The president saying of Mike Lee, he said he would like the job. "Usually, they don't say that." That's a quote, according to the pool report coming off of Air Force One.

I can tell you, Wolf, though, that I have talked to a spokesman for Senator Mike Lee, who said, as of this point, the president has not talked to him, or the senator has not talked to the president about that vacancy on the Supreme Court that's going to be left by Justice Kennedy when he steps down.

But, Wolf, obviously, some very big breaking news that the president plans to announce this pick for the Supreme Court here in just a week- and-a-half -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The president aboard Air Force One in a conversation with reporters, he also spoke about his upcoming summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin, the summit in Helsinki in July 16.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: What did he say?

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf.

He will be sitting down with Vladimir Putin on July 16, as you said, in Helsinki, Finland. Reporters were asking about that on Air Force One. The president said he plans to talk to Vladimir Putin about Ukraine, Syria and, get this, Wolf, election security.

He told reporters -- and this is according to the pool report coming off of Air Force One -- "We don't want anyone tampering with elections."

That's a quote coming from the pool reporters on Air Force One. And he said -- and this was another dig, as he often does, to the previous, President Barack Obama, "We might be talking about some of the things President Obama lost."

That is a quote coming from the president, in that, when asked about the subject of Crimea, obviously, that part of Ukraine that the Russians seized during the Obama administration, President Trump apparently told reporters, "President Obama allowed that to happen."

And so, obviously, there are going to be some comments here that are going to infuriate Democrats, but the president saying, Wolf, that he is going to bring up election security, meddling in the election with Vladimir Putin when this summit happens in a couple of weeks on July 16.

BLITZER: The president also changed his tune today on his rhetoric involving the news media, the press. What can you tell us about that?

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf.

One day after the mass shooting at "The Capital Gazette" in Annapolis, the president, of course, earlier today did dial down his rhetoric and said that reporters should be able to do their jobs without any fear of violence.

Here is what the president said earlier today in the East Room of the White House talking about what happened in Annapolis. Here's what he had to say.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.


ACOSTA: Now, of course, Wolf, that's a major dialing down of the rhetoric from the president when it comes to the media. He has repeatedly called the press the enemy of the people and fake news and so on.

I tried at one point at the end of this event to ask the president about that. And here is what he -- here is what happened. He did not respond to the question.


ACOSTA: Mr. President, will you stop calling us the enemy of the people, sir? Will you stop calling the press the enemy of the people, sir?



ACOSTA: Now, Wolf, the other thing we should point out, on Air Force, the president was asked about some of this.

We don't have the direct quote in terms of the question that was asked. But he was asked about some of his rhetoric aimed at the press. And he said -- quote -- this is according to the pool report -- "I have a lot respect for the press. Some of the greatest people I know are reporters."

So, again, it appears the president is trying to dial down some of the rhetoric on the news media. We will see how long it lasts.

BLITZER: And, finally, Jim, somebody prank-called the president of the United States aboard Air Force One. How can that happen?

ACOSTA: Wolf, it is really baffling.

Earlier this week, apparently, the comedian John Melendez, also known as Stuttering John from "The Howard Stern Show," and he has a podcast now, but according to Stuttering John -- and apparently now it's been confirmed over here at the White House -- he was able to get through to the president on Air Force One earlier this week.

I believe we have a little bit of that audio we can play just to show you how he was able to dial up the president, and then aides put John Melendez through to the president. John Melendez was posing as New Jersey's Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, talking about immigration and so on.

Here is a bit of that exchange.


TRUMP: I have a good relationship with the party. You have a good relationship with the party. And I think we can do a real immigration bill. We have to have security at the border. We have to have it.

Look, you got 60 percent of the country, they have got to have security at the border. And that's a good issue for the Democrats, too, Bob. It's not like it's good for you or good for me. It's good for both of us.

I'm tried of -- you know, of the problem.

JOHN MELENDEZ, COMEDIAN: No, I understand that, but no -- but I am Hispanic, so I have to -- I have to -- I'm sure you understand. I have to look into my people as well. You understand.

TRUMP: I agree.


ACOSTA: Now, Wolf, we should point out, Senator Bob Menendez has released a statement about this exchange that happened not between himself and the president, but Stuttering John and the president.

And there's some of that we can show to you. This is the statement from Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat from New Jersey.

We can tell you that he basically looks forward to having a real conversation, he said, with the president. He said that the president needs to get on the same page with Democrats and Republicans when it comes to this issue of immigration.

And, Wolf, one other thing we should point out. The White House hasn't really put out a statement on this. But a White House official did talk to one of our producers, Elizabeth Landers, who said about this phone call, this prank phone call that went to Air Force One: "The president wants to be accessible to members and likes engaging them and wants them to have the opportunity to connect." This official going on to say -- it's pretty remarkable -- this official going on to say: "The downside of that is sometimes the channels are open too widely and mistakes like this happen."

Wolf, very interesting that somebody here at the White House would admit to a mistake happening with respect to security happening on Air Force One. This is a very stunning security breach. Somebody posing as a senator or a head of state should not be able to call Air Force One and talk to the president of the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the security ramifications could be enormous if this continues, this were to happen.

Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's get some more now on this prank phone call to the president of the United States.

CNN spoke to the man who posed as Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

Our Sara Ganim is joining us right now.

Sara, you had a chance to speak with the comedian. What did he tell you?

SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the greatest prank that he never thought he would be able to pull off, Wolf.

This is a well-known prankster in the comedy world. His name, John Melendez, with an L. But the crazy thing is that he knows Donald Trump from his days on the Howard Stern radio show, where Donald Trump was often a guest.

Melendez told me he has talked to Donald Trump probably more than 20 types. He even dined with him and Melania back in 2010. And he said they probably haven't spoken in about six or eight years. But he was shocked when the president didn't recognize that it was his voice on the call, clearly, a guy with a Long Island accent, and not the senator from New Jersey.

Take a listen.


MELENDEZ: It's amazes me, since he's talked to me well over 20 times, that he did not recognize that it's Stuttering John, a guy who has he listened to on the Stern show for years.

I have the worst Long Island accent known to man. And how he cannot know that that is not a real senator is beyond me. It's -- it's unbelievable.


GANIM: Melendez told me that the roughly four-minute phone call was relatively easy to set up, Wolf. He says that he called the White House switchboard, a number he got

from Google. He took on a fake English accent, pretended to be the senator's assistant. And the next thing he knew, Jared Kushner was on the phone asking him what topic he would like to discuss with the president.


Then, minutes later, Donald Trump himself called his cell phone from Air Force One.


MELENDEZ: I got on the phone with Trump.

And Trump is just like: "Bob, I want to congratulate you."

I didn't even know that Senator Menendez was in any legal problems. And, really, if they would have just screened me and asked me what party affiliation Senator Menendez had or what state he represented, I would have been stumped, because I have -- I have no idea anything about Senator Menendez.


GANIM: Melendez did provide CNN with the numbers that called his cell phone. And CNN did confirm that they are the same numbers that are for the White House switchboard and from Air Force One -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We are going to have a lot more on this story, because the security ramifications could be very, very significant.

Sara Ganim, thank you very much.

There's other breaking news we're following, news involving Rod Rosenstein, the embattled deputy attorney general who oversees the entire Russia investigation.

"The New York Times" is out with a new report tonight saying that Rosenstein felt he was being used by the Trump White House to rationalize the firing of James Comey as FBI director.

Let's go to our political correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara, tell us more about this new report on Rosenstein. Give us some context.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, essentially, "The New York Times" story says the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has expressed to people at the time that when the president decided to fire James Comey and went out there and held up the memo Rod Rosenstein wrote as justification, that Rosenstein left this experience with a sour taste in his mouth.

He was angry, he was frustrated, he was concerned about his reputation, not because he wrote that memo. In public, he has gone out there. He had defended the memo. He told Congress last year "I wrote it, I believe it, I stand by it" in terms of justification for firing Comey.

But remember all of the explanations President Trump has given since then. Even immediately in the wake of firing Comey, he said so much to muddy the water. He brought up the prospect that it was the Russia investigation that was the real reason for him getting rid of the FBI director.

And this has certainly led Rosenstein to wonder whether this could damage his reputation, according to "The New York Times." And we know that Rosenstein continues to have a pretty rough go of it. He was in front of the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week.

Here is part of an exchange he had with one of those members.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Jordan, I am the deputy attorney general of the United States, OK? I'm not the person doing the redacting. I am responsible for responding to your concerns, as I have.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: You're the boss, Mr. Rosenstein.

ROSENSTEIN: That's correct. And my job is to make sure that we respond to your concerns. We have, sir.

JORDAN: I think the House of Representatives is going to say otherwise.

ROSENSTEIN: But your use of this to attack me personally--


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Point of order, Mr. Chairman. May the witness be permitted to answer the question?


JORDAN: It's not personal.

ROSENSTEIN: Thank you for making clear it's not personal, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: Well, I didn't -- I'm saying the Department of Justice--

ROSENSTEIN: You should believe me because I'm telling the truth and I'm under oath.


MURRAY: So, you see this rare hint of public frustration from the deputy attorney general, someone who has, for the most part, been very calm about this situation when he has appeared in public.

But there's no doubt -- and this squares with our reporting at the time and since then -- that this has been a frustrating experience for Rod Rosenstein to become kind of this regular punching bag for the Trump administration and other Republicans.

BLITZER: In a related development, Robert Mueller's special counsel team, as you know, Sara, is asking to delay the sentencing of Michael Flynn for at least another 60 days. Flynn has already pled guilty. According to a court filing, all of this unfolding today.

So, what does that mean?

MURRAY: Well, that's right.

And, you know, Michael Flynn, of course, was the president's former national security adviser who was fired from the White House for lying. He did plead guilty to lying to the FBI.

And, essentially, what this filing means is the government still believes that Flynn is cooperating and providing useful information. They are saying they are not ready to have him out there to have him be sentenced.

They want another two months. And it does give you an indication that he is still providing information. And it could also mean that he is providing useful information that could become public or could at least come out in dribs and drabs in the next couple of months.

There's going to be this period before they go silent leading up to these midterm elections. And that's when we are looking to see potentially more developments in the Mueller investigation. We know this thing isn't slowing down. They continue to bring in witnesses. They continue to put people before the grand jury.

And it's always possible that we could be seeing new charges, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point.

All right, Sara, thank you very much, Sara Murray reporting.

Let's bring in our analysts to discuss all of this. There's certainly a lot to discusses.

Abby Phillip, you are one of our White House reporters.

He gave us some new information aboard Air Force One in his Q&A session with reporters just a little while ago about choosing the replacement for the now retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Some are suggesting this talk -- he says now a week from Monday he will make his announcement -- sort of reminds people of a reality show.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and that's actually kind of the way that he handled it the last time around. People may not remember this, but he had two finalists the last time

he was picking a Supreme Court justice. And there were rumors that he was going to have both of them come to Washington in order to unveil the person who ended up being the winner in this case, Neil Gorsuch.

So, it wouldn't surprise me that the president is willing to kind of have a big unveiling for this moment.

I was a little surprised to see that he acknowledged the July 9 date. But it only makes sense, because clearly he wants this off his plate before he goes into that big NATO meeting and the even bigger Putin meeting.

And the president is getting -- hitting the ground running, potentially interviewing people as early as this weekend.

BLITZER: Yes, he has got a few candidates in mind. We will see what he decides.

He also said, Ryan Lizza, aboard Air Force One that he is not even going to ask these finalists what their position is on Roe vs. Wade, abortion rights for women, although we went back, October 19, 2016, during the final presidential debate before the election.

He did have this exchange. Listen.


QUESTION: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?

TRUMP: Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justice on, that's really what's going to be -- that will happen. And that'll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this: It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.


BLITZER: So, what do you make of that?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that was back when he was running for president.

And he didn't know that the sort of official -- what you are supposed to do as a Republican candidate is say there's no litmus test, that you will appoint judges who will interpret the Constitution and not make law. Right?

There's a series of sort of cliches that you are supposed to stand by. And he was Trump, of course, in that campaign. He didn't say that. He said the truth. He is going to -- he is a Republican president. He is going to appoint conservatives who will indeed overturn Roe v. Wade.

Now he has had a little bit more advice. He sort of sanded some of off the rough edges. And he is now backing away from that. I think what he said during the campaign is accurate.

BLITZER: But he's going to need Republican senators like Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins of Maine, both of whom support Roe v. Wade.

LIZZA: And you never are -- look, you never are going to get one of the judges in front of the Senate saying, yes, I'm going to overturn Roe v. Wade, right?

What they are going to say is, they will respect precedent, right, which is what Roberts and Gorsuch said. And there's going -- it's going to be very hard, I think, for Collins and Murkowski to be firm and confident about what they would actually do when they get that -- when they get a case like that before them.

BLITZER: Samantha Vinograd, on Russia, the president laid out his agenda aboard Air Force One just now with Vladimir Putin. He blamed President Obama once again -- he has done this before -- for Russia's occupation of Crimea in Ukraine.

He said, "We don't want anyone tampering with elections," suggesting he maybe believes the Russians did after all tamper in the U.S. presidential election.

But he seemed to suggest the opposite in that tweet yesterday. He is not convinced Russia did so. This is going to be a historic meeting with Putin.


But what else is new when it comes to President Trump making himself a patsy for Putin? He is being manipulated by Putin while he's here in Washington. He's blaming his predecessors for Russia's annexation of a sovereign nation.

So, imagine what is going to happen when he actually gets in the room in Helsinki and is face to face with a man, Vladimir Putin, who is a skilled manipulator and skilled negotiator.

And I am also concerned about the amount of time in between the NATO meeting and the meeting with Putin. The president has a whole weekend, I think in fact four days, in between those two meetings when he is going to be left to his own devices and he's probably going to disregard what his NATO allies told him about Russia's interference.

BLITZER: Could be tense with the NATO allies, maybe less tense with Putin.

Something we saw with the G7, very tense in Canada. Went off to Singapore to meet with Kim Jong-un, seemed very, very different, that exchange as well.

We will see what happens in Helsinki.

Shimon, the president also aboard Air Force One said -- and I'm quoting him now -- it will all work with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

But should he be worried about the late developments involving Manafort, who is now sitting in jail awaiting trial, Michael Flynn, who has already pled guilty, the president's former national security adviser, who is still cooperating with Mueller?


I think it signals that this is not ending any time soon. When the prosecutors, the government, is done with a cooperator, when they're ready, no longer need that person, they are ready to sentence.

And we got indications today from the special counsel that that's -- they are not in a place where they are ready to sentence Michael Flynn. So, therefore, his cooperation is continuing.

So, certainly, that is still ongoing. We will see what happens with Paul Manafort. There's a lot of speculation surrounding, what is he going to do?

There's some people who think that the government is continuing to put pressure on him to see if he will cooperate. And then there could be others who are cooperating.


And I think, as Sara Murray pointed out earlier, there are people that are continuing to go before the grand jury, that the investigation is still ongoing. is still ongoing. We have absolutely no idea why that is. The only people that know are the investigators and the special counsel.

So, by that account, the president wants this to end quickly. He thinks that the special counsel should move on. He has not agreed to the interview yet, the president. So, if he gets subpoenaed, that's going to bring in a whole new situation.

I think what this all signals is that this is not ending as quickly perhaps as the president would like.

BLITZER: And the pressure on Manafort is intense. He is sitting in jail.


BLITZER: And that's pretty intense in and of itself.

What do you make, Ryan, of the report now in "The New York Times" that Rod Rosenstein feels he was manipulated by the president and the White House in the firing of Comey?

LIZZA: Well, this week, we have finally seen Rosenstein out publicly expressing this frustration about the vice he has been in since the beginning. Right? So, we saw it in that clip which you played before up in front of the

House committee doing battle with the House Republicans. And now I don't think it's any coincidence that, all of a sudden, people around Rosenstein are saying, and you know what? Also, he didn't like the fact that he was -- this private memo he sent to the president was used to fire Comey. He felt that put him in a very, very uncomfortable position.

I think we're seeing a clear split between Rosenstein and White House. And it's become public now in a way that it hadn't previously.

BLITZER: On another issue, Abby, and we had this report earlier, this prank phone call to the president of the United States aboard Air Force One. A comedian calls in pretending to be Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

And there's a tape recording of the conversation and a whole bunch of issues. The president congratulating Menendez for winning his case. He was being tried up in New Jersey.

It's pretty extraordinary that a comedian gets to speak with the president pretending to be a United States senator. It he would be funny if there weren't enormous security ramifications, because there wasn't anything sinister. But there could be some bad guys who want to speak to the president and foster a lot of problems.

PHILLIP: Of course. It's astonishing. It's astonishing that something like this could happen in any White House.

But it points to so many problems with this White House, the first of them being that the president's phone is basically wide open. We know that he calls a lot of people. But a lot of people call him. And, clearly, they're getting through. But also there are people in his inner circle who can't identify a sitting U.S. senator on the phone before they patch them into the president on Air Force One.

This White House is very lucky that that point about Menendez's prosecution being -- was the biggest gaffe that came out of this phone call. It was otherwise pretty mild. The president didn't really give any of his cards away. But it could have been so much worse for them.

And I just -- there's so much chaos in this White House, and clearly not enough attention to security. And people are not skilled enough to understand who is who and what kind of processes should be in place for things like this.

BLITZER: It's very awkward, Sam, because this comedian, John Melendez, Stuttering John, as he used to be known on "The Howard Stern Show," he got through to the president. He spoke with our reporter Sara Ganim.

And before he spoke with the president, he spoke with Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, to set the stage for the president from Air Force One calling him back. Listen to this. This is John Melendez.


MELENDEZ: I get a call from Air Force One. And it's Jared Kushner. And I know it's Jared. I'm a political news junky. I actually do watch CNN all the time. And I know Jared's voice. And it was definitely him.

And he said to me -- and I'm going in and out of my English accent.

I'm like -- I answer the phone, "Hey, hello."

And then I go, "Oh, yes, hello. Yes, hello. How you doing, Jared?"

And then he says, "Well, I can get the president out of a meeting now or I could have him call you back in a few minutes."

I said, "Oh, no, please have him call me back," because I knew I had to call my friend in New York to record it.

He said: "No problem. We will call you back."

Now I'm getting nervous. Now I'm like, this can't be happening. And sure enough, 20 minutes later, I get a call. It's from -- again, I answer with my bad Long Island accent. "Oh, hello."

And then they -- and I go, "Oh, yes, hello, this is Sean Moore. Let me get the senator on the phone."

And I call my friend in New York. And then I got on phone with Trump. And Trump is just like, "Bob, I want to congratulate you."


LIZZA: Why would--

VINOGRAD: It sounds like an "SNL" episode, right? I mean--


BLITZER: You used to work at the White House in the National Security Council during the Obama administration.


BLITZER: Give us your perspective on this.

VINOGRAD: I have been on the receiving end of calls into Air Force One when the president is flying.

There are a million hoops that people have to go through to just get patched through to Air Force. And it sounds like the White House team actually do did their job.


PROKUPECZ: That's right.

VINOGRAD: They spoke with Menendez's team.

The issue here is Jared Kushner.


VINOGRAD: Jared Kushner went around the process. He went around the staff. And he made a recommendation to the president.

And ask yourself, if he couldn't take a hot second to do background work to figure out if this guy was for real, how much prep work is he doing on his portfolios like Middle East peace or any issue that he is working on? It would have taken 30 seconds to figure out that this guy was a fake.

LIZZA: Why would Bob Menendez, New Jersey senator, have an assistant with an English accent and an L.A. area code?

It's the most absurd thing.


LIZZA: And -- God, any of you guys listen to Howard Stern growing up?

I mean, to think, back then, if you knew that Stuttering John and Donald Trump were going to be having this conversation in the year 2018, kind of--


BLITZER: But you remember -- and you used to listen to Howard Stern.

LIZZA: I did.

BLITZER: Maybe you still do.

Trump in those days was a regular guest.

LIZZA: Trump -- and everyone remembers Stuttering John and Trump and that little round table with Howard Stern.

The fact that one day one would be president and the other would be prank-calling him, I don't think anyone would have believed it.


PROKUPECZ: If there was any role -- Bob Menendez and Jared Kushner share an attorney, right? Abbe Lowell.

LIZZA: Interesting. I didn't know that.

PROKUPECZ: So, they both have the same attorney. So, I wonder if that may have played a role into. Probably -- who knows? But I wonder--


VINOGRAD: But just back-check it.

LIZZA: And a little bit of news that did come out of that is Trump didn't think that the investigation into Bob Menendez -- unless he was just being nice -- he didn't think it was a very big deal. Right?

He said, congratulations. You were -- I forget if it ended in either an acquittal or a hung jury.

PROKUPECZ: It was a hung jury.

LIZZA: Hung jury?


LIZZA: He basically said, you kind of got railroaded there. I'm glad it's all over.

PHILLIP: People were so worried about the president's cell phone, which is pretty much a wide open book.

I don't think anyone thought that Air Force One would be a place where you would have to be worried that the president would get unsolicited calls from random people.

PROKUPECZ: I think the White House staff, it does seem that they did their job. This was a call that was placed to the switchboard. And then whatever--

PHILLIP: Routed to Air Force One.

PROKUPECZ: And then routed, and then -- so it seems that they did their job.

It's the people aboard Air Force One and Jared Kushner who decided to engage him and decided to patch him through to the president.

BLITZER: One thing I think I remember -- and I don't know if you were working at the White House, Sam, in those days during the first year of the Obama administration -- when a fake couple showed up for a state dinner--

VINOGRAD: Exactly.

BLITZER: -- and actually got through Secret Service and got into the dinner, even though they weren't there. That raised a lot of security considerations as well.

VINOGRAD: It did, but -- and we addressed them. There was a review and Secret Service figured out how to prevent that from happening.

And I hope, based upon the fact that the White House actually said today they made a mistake, that the same thing will happen. Maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump will give up his personal cell phone.

LIZZA: And like so many other things, that was one of the biggest scandals of the year, when those-- (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The Salahis. They were a real couple, but they managed to get through into the East Wing of the White House and got into this state dinner.

LIZZA: Huge, huge deal, security review after. Let's be honest, we won't be talking about this 24 hours from now.

PHILLIP: Yes. This is just another Friday afternoon in the Trump White House.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stick around. There's a lot more we need to discuss.

But, right now, I want to bring in Congressman Gregory Meeks. He's a Democrat. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: It's good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's get through several issues while I have you.

The president says he won't ask his potential Supreme Court nominees their stance on Roe vs. Wade. Do you believe him?

MEEKS: No, I think that he probably knows where they stand already.

That's why he said he is going to go by a list that he has already had. Had they not -- had they had a position of where they could -- possibly would support Roe v. Wade, they would have never made the list.

I believe that, early on, he made a deal with some of the ultra conservatives that, forgive me for whatever I do personally or whatever I did personally, but I will appoint your conservative judges.

That deal has been cut. And I think that, to make his list, he knows what their positions are already.

BLITZER: How likely, Congressman, do you think it is that Roe vs. Wade could be overturned with a new justice on the bench of the Supreme Court?

MEEKS: Well, I'm hoping, again, that the senators have a significant role in this.

And I'm hoping that Senator Collins and Murkowski sticks by their guns. And that then will change some of the paradigm of which I think the Trump administration is depending upon.

So, you need a majority. We know -- I believe that the Democrats senators will not vote for this person. And so if -- you just need one or two Republican senators. And I'm hoping they see through this game and they will stick by their positions.

And then that will then change and upset the president and the commitments that he has made, and maybe we should do like the Republicans did. Maybe nothing should happen until after the November elections, so we know what the Senate looks like.

BLITZER: Yes, but you got to worry, though, from your perspective, Congressman, there may be one or two or three or maybe four Democratic senators who are up for reelection in states that were overwhelmingly won by Donald Trump who might be worried about getting themselves reelected, and they may vote to confirm as well, as they did for Neil Gorsuch.

Let me move on and get your thoughts on some foreign policy issues while I have you.

The president gave us some new details about what's on his agenda for the upcoming summit in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin.


Among other things, he blamed President Obama for Russia's annexation of Crimea and Ukraine. He said he doesn't want anyone tampering in the U.S. elections. He said that aboard Air Force One just now, just a day after he cast doubt again on Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

How concerning are all these comments to you ahead of this historic summit with Putin?

MEEKS: It's very concerning, Wolf. No. 1, I don't know how historic this is, because it seems as though we have a reality TV show. So we've gone to North Korea. Now we're going to have one with Putin. Two individuals who are authoritarian. And he seems to be disregarding those real democracies and allies that we have in Europe, in Canada.

So it seems to me, as it seems all along, that he is more comfortable about individuals who do not believe in democracy, as our allies to the west has been. And so I'm very concerned about that.

We saw clearly, he is more concerned with making a picture look like he's paling around with someone, but it's dangerous. We saw the last time when the Russians came and visited the White House, where he gave away classified information.

So I'm very concerned with this president meeting with individuals who clearly is not in accord with the western world and has not indicated that they are ready to form a more democratic society.

BLITZER: You think the president can get anything from that meeting with Putin?

MEEKS: No. I think -- what I'm worried about is just the opposite. I'm worried about what Putin is going to get from the president. It seems clear -- if you look at the North Korean meeting, the North

Koreans got more out of the president than we got from the North Koreans. We still don't know what we -- we didn't get anything. We know what they got. You know, they got removal of the war games, et cetera. What did we get? Nothing.

And now we're not hearing anything about North Korea. We're moving on to dealing with Putin.

So I am very concerned not about what the president -- because I don't think he's going to get much. But how much is he going to give Putin?

BLITZER: On another issue, Congressman, while I have you, the president just commented on the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, saying it will all work out. Those are his words. But "The New York Times" is now reporting that Rosenstein felt angry and manipulated by the White House over his role in the firing of the FBI director, James Comey. What's your reaction to that?

MEEKS: Well, you know what? I would think so. I think that a lot of individuals that have been associated with this president and his administration and beforehand have all worried about their reputation and being used by this president.

That's why I think that during the campaign, you saw many Republicans, not me, but many Republicans including Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz, call him a con man. That's what con men do. They take individuals, they use them for their benefit, and then they let them waste away.

And so if I was the deputy attorney general, I would be concerned about my reputation also. But I would stay focused on what my job is. And I think that he -- Mr. Rosenstein will, Mr. Mueller will. And I think we should let those investigations go. Don't allow the smokescreen that the president would like to put up or that what con men put up. Let's get to the facts. Once we see what those results are, then we know how to move as a country.

BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts on another story we've been following. As you know the president of the United States getting prank called by a comedian pretending to be Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

What does it tell you this comedian was able to get through White House staffers, have a conversation with the president of the United States aboard Air Force One? What does that say to you?

MEEKS: Well, that they need a complete security review. It should not be that easy to get to the president of the United States. I mean, generally, from what I've just heard on your panel, for example, if you can look at an area code and know whether that should belong to a senator or not. There's a way that you can check that very easily. And that should have been done here.

Now, the one thing that I will say, though, that I hope that the president does something for real, he should be -- he should be calling Bob Menendez and other Democrats so that we can resolve this very real issue of getting children back to their parents and making sure that we are not having these separations at the borderline that's taking place that's really immoral and inhumane.

BLITZER: Has he called you?

MEEKS: No, he has not called me. And I don't know of any other Democrat that he has called. So I'm hoping that he does. Maybe -- I hope he listens to someone. Because we really need to address this issue in a bipartisan manner.

We had a bipartisan bill that, you know, Wolf, that was two votes shy of having a discharge position so that we could get it on the floor to vote for it. We couldn't do that.

[18:35:05] We know that, in the past, the Senate has come up with a bipartisan bill. But it's been the Republicans on the House side that has blocked an overwhelming bipartisan bill on immigration. We need to get this done for the benefit of the American people and stop playing with it. And I think that Democrats and Republicans want to move.

And in these bills, I would add, Wolf, we're talking about reasonable border control. So no one -- don't believe the hype of what he said that all Democrats want all the free flow, et cetera. We want legal immigration. We don't want to end legal immigration. And we want people to be able to go through a process for asylum. And I think that's what's being taken place -- needs to take place.

I visited a site today. And I'll say this. And that site, I noticed every child there, they told me, had a birth certificate. That tells me that their parents was coming, not to cross illegally, but to go through the process to show and ask for asylum because of what they were running from. Every one of these kids, every one of these parents have a story. And we're not talking about that.

BLITZER: Congressman Gregory Meeks, thanks so much for joining us.

MEEKS: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get back to the panel right now.

You know, Abby, this whole notion that we're going to know a week from Monday who the president is selecting to be his nominee for the Supreme Court, the seat left vacant now by Justice -- Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, the president saying, it's going to happen. He's got his candidates. He pretty much -- all of them have been vetted, presumably, for the past year or so, if not even longer. They've been recommended by some conservative think tanks.

I think he knows pretty much where they all stand.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, all of them have been vetted for the most part. Some of them have been interviewed. He did say he's considering two women on that list, which actually kind of narrows it quite a bit, because there were only about a handful on the list to begin with. So it's clear that -- that he's -- I think the first iteration of the

short list that he had was actually very heavily male. So if you're looking at two out of five women, that's pretty important.

And it probably speaks to the fact that he's looking at -- at people like Murkowski and Collins, who are concerned about Roe, concerned about abortion. And maybe looking to throw a bone to them or at least give the appearance of that at the onset of this process.

But you know, this president is -- he is inexperienced in politics. But he also has a very raw political instinct. And I think he understands that this time around, he has to get the right balance to get the votes that he needs and not have any surprises with the two moderate Republicans.

BLITZER: Let me read to you some quotes from the president aboard Air Force One just a little, Ryan, when he was asked, "Would you be looking for somebody" -- this is the question -- "who would overturn Roe v. Wade?" Granting abortion rights for women in the United States.

He says, "Well, you know, it's a great group of intellectual talent. But they are generally conservative. I'm not going to ask them that question, by the way. That's not a question that I'm going to be asking. But it is a group of very highly talented, very brilliant, mostly conservative judges."

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, let's be honest. We know that the groups -- the interest groups that have helped Trump put together this list of nominees during the campaign, we know a couple things.

They hated Anthony Kennedy. Why did they hate Anthony Kennedy? For one reason. He is what was the obstacle to keeping -- to turning -- overturning Roe v. Wade. We know Trump during the campaign, on the record, said that, if he had the chance to appoint enough justices, Roe v. Wade would be overturned." So there's a little bit of a game now in him backing away from that rhetorically.

It does show -- the fact that they are coming out with this pick so soon shows how ready they were. They had the list, and they've obviously vetted these. But on the Democratic side, they've also had this list. So you have a lot of Democratic interest groups who have gone through these names, doing opposition research. They're going to be prepared, as well.

PHILLIP: And one -- one of the groups that did vet this list, the Susan B. Anthony List, big pro-life group, I talked to them over the last year or so. They are comfortable with all of the people on this list. Which means they don't think any of these people are going to stray from the party line on this very crucial issue for evangelicals.

BLITZER: Samantha, we got some audiotape of the president, part of his exchange that he had with reporters aboard Air Force One, speaking about his upcoming summit with Vladimir Putin. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES; We're going to talk about Ukraine. We're going to be talking about Syria. We'll be talking about elections. And we don't want anybody tampering with elections. We'll be talking about world events. We'll be talking about peace. Maybe we talk about saving billions of dollars on weapons. Or maybe we don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean? What does that mean?

TRUMP: Where we are building a force the likes of which nobody has ever seen before. I got it approved, $700 million plus 760 next year. And perhaps the world can deescalate, between China, Russia and ourselves being the three primaries. Maybe the world can somewhat deescalate. That would not be a bad thing.

[18:40:17] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you talking about --

TRUMP: But I think having a relationship with China, Russia and everybody else is a good thing, not a bad thing.


BLITZER: Samantha, what do you think?

VINOGRAD: This is definitely a different Trump than we've seen previously. I mean, he kind of covered the gamut of potential agenda items that he could talk about with Vladimir Putin.

But the fact of the matter is, I tune out on all these issues until we address the Russian elephant in the room, which is they're still attacking our country. And President Trump has not successfully been able to stop that. Neither was President Obama.

But until we stop this ongoing attack, we can't assume that the president is going to enter any of these negotiations with Vladimir Putin on equal footing, including on things like our military and conventional weapons when Donald -- when Vladimir Putin continues to show superiority in the digital space, in cyber hacking and more.

BLITZER: Yes. He suggested, as you just heard, Ryan, the three primaries, he called them, meaning the three super power global primaries, Russia, China and the United States. Didn't include the NATO allies in that little conversation.

LIZZA: Right. And look, imagine if Barack Obama had said, "You know, that Russian meddling in the election, they say it didn't happen." Right?

So Russia has this offensive weapon they are using right now. They used it in 2016. And Trump just sweeps it away. He sweeps away the annexation of Crimea. And then he says, "Oh, maybe we can get a big -- a big deal on, you know, de-escalation of tensions and weapons."

Well, if you're Vladimir Putin, you're thinking, "Wow, I'm using this new modern weapon. I'm annexing a country. And the American president doesn't care. And now he wants to come to me groveling over a deal."

I mean, imagine what Republicans would say if Obama made that case. They would say he's weak, he's letting Putin push the United States around, he's going into a summit, you know, with his head in the sand.

BLITZER: I want to bring in our own Elise Labott, our global affairs correspondent, who's been working her sources, tracking all these late-breaking developments.

Elise, I know you're getting some new information. What are you hearing?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I mean, we've been talking to European diplomats about this summit. And there are some real concerns. And not necessarily so much about the fact that President Trump is meeting with President Putin. They say it's really important and a good idea for the president to have a relationship with Russia.

You'll remember that French President Macron just visited Saint Petersburg. And he is trying to strike up a relationship with Vladimir Putin, as is Angela Merkel tries to maintain a good relationship.

What they are concerned about, about this leadup to the NATO summit which will take place right before President Trump's summit with President Putin. And i's promising to be very animated, in the words of one European official. They're very concerned that this is kind of going to be a reprise of last year's summit, or the G-7 meeting, where President Trump is saying -- you know, lecturing these diplomats, lecturing world leaders, that the narrative is that these Europeans are fleecing America, whether it's on NATO and not paying their fair share of the defense burden, or they're fleecing America on trade.

And so what they're concerned about is that the optics of having this very tense meeting with the Europeans, with NATO, and then he goes on to have a very chummy meeting with Vladimir Putin, and that will only help to kind of damage the unity of the alliance. And that's exactly what Vladimir Putin wants to do. It has always been his goal, is to divide NATO. And they feel that President Trump is really playing into his hands.

BLITZER: Your well-placed source talks about Europeans, Elise, having what the source describes as a special place in, quote, "Trump hell." What does that mean?

LABOTT: That's right. Well, this follows comments from -- that President Trump made to G-7 leaders. And this was about trade. And he said that -- he was saying NATO is worse than NAFTA.

And you can see that they fear he's conflating his disdain for Europe, his concern that America is not getting the same fair treatment on trade deals, and they're being taken advantage of, with concern about NATO and that it's costing too much money. And that he sees these alliances in solely economic terms. So what this top European official said was that there is this special

kind of Trump hell in which NATO is as bad as NAFTA, and the E.U. is worse than China.

And there's a real concern, Wolf, that President Trump is trying to divide the Europeans, not just on NATO but the E.U. You'll remember that he said to President Macron when they met that he suggested he should leave the E.U., and he would give France a favorable trade deal, a more favorable trade deal.


And if you remember that picture of the G7 leaders standing tough against President Trump, President Macron had told Angela Merkel and the others about what he said. And so, you know, there's a lot of concern about him trying to divide the Europeans.

BLITZER: Good reporting, Elise. Thank you very much. Elise Labott reporting.

Samantha, there are some who now see potential for this entire alliance, the NATO alliance of the past 60 years, 70 years or so, being upended even as we speak.

VINOGRAD: They do. And there are various members who are really acting out. We don't talk a lot about Turkey, but President Erdogan has actually bought Russian weapons from Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: Turkey is a NATO ally.

VINOGRAD: Turkey is a NATO ally. Turkey, under U.S. law, should be subject to U.S. sanctions. They haven't kicked in yet. But we see Turkey turning towards Russia. Vladimir Putin is certainly manipulating that.

But to Elise Labott's point, we do have NATO members like Macron, like Merkel, like Theresa May who have an ongoing relationship with Vladimir Putin but aren't afraid to say, stop meddling in our elections, or else there will be consequences.

BLITZER: The president has complained for years and years that the NATO allies are not paying what they should be paying for defense. He says they've got to pay at least 2 percent of their GDP, some of them like Germany pay -- devote only maybe 1 percent.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, it is economic as Elise just said. But I think it's also a part of how the president sees the world in black and white. You are either strong or you're weak.

And in his mind, the Europeans are weak. They are not paying enough for defense. They are not doing their fair share in this relationship. And he thinks that that's not good enough.

He -- I think he is getting increasingly agitated with each of his relationships. Even with Macron, who he has had a relatively decent relationship with, that relationship has deteriorated. It deteriorated with Merkel. It is deteriorating with May.

The president is feeling more isolated and it's going to be -- when gets to NATO, it's going to be a true test of their ability to hold on to him, because he is feeling very much like breaking away.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around.

There's more news we're following. We're going to tell you what we're learning just now about the accused gunman in that deadly newsroom shooting. Police describing a vendetta against the newspaper and his systematic plan to gun down journalists.


[18:51:57] BLITZER: We're getting some chilling new details tonight about the deadly attack on a newspaper in Maryland. Authorities now say the accused gunman barricaded the door, hoping to hurt and kill as many people as possible.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now live from Annapolis.

Brian, you were on the scene when this story was breaking yesterday. We've received a lot of new information since then. Update our viewers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have, Wolf, information from police, from prosecutors and from witnesses, information that put together, give us a portrayal of a suspect who had a lot of grievances against the newspaper and who authorities say methodically planned this massacre.


TODD (voice-over): Jarrod Ramos stormed the Annapolis office building, authorities say, armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades and opened fire. The 38-year-old Maryland man appearing in court today, facing five counts of first degree murder.

Prosecutors say he executed a plan in the newspaper's offices so people could not escape as he began systematically hunting and killing.

WES ADAMS, ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: There were two entrances to the offices in which this attack occurred. The rear door was barricaded. Mr. Ramos then as I told a judge entered the front door and worked his way through the office where he was shooting victims as he walked through the office.

TODD: Phil Davis, a crime reporter for the "Gazette" says Ramos fired through a newsroom window.

PHIL DAVIS, CRIME REPORTER, CAPITAL GAZETTE: At some point when I was listening to him reload, are we all going to die?

TODD: Police arrived on the scene in minutes. The suspect was found hiding under a desk. POLICE: He's inside the Gazette office, the main office where all the

under control. We got --

TODD: Ramos had a long-running feud with the paper, dating back to 2011 when "Gazette" published a story about Ramos' online harassment of a former female high school classmate. Ramos sent the woman messages, asking for help, calling her vulgar names and telling her to kill herself, according to "Gazette" article.

Her attorney tells CNN she eventually left Maryland, hoping for a safer life away from Ramos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was so scared and this was day after day after day of twittering, just tweets all over the place. Naming her, me, everyone else, that she finally just left. This was malevolence.

He had an issue with this woman. I don't know what it was. But he did everything he could to destroy her life. And he succeeded.

TODD: According to court records, Ramos filed a defamation complaint in 2012 against the paper that was ultimately dismissed. Tom Marquardt was the editor and publisher of the "Capital Gazette" at the time. He says that Ramos threatened him and the writer of the story.

TOM MARQUARDT, FORMER EDITOR/PUBLISHER, CAPITAL GAZETTE: We have gotten threats in the past, but this one was particularly alarming because it was attached to a name. In previous complaints, oftentimes, it came across anonymously. And some comments he's making online were a bit off center.

TODD: Despite those threats, the paper chose not to file a restraining order against Ramos, believing that it would only inflame him, but they still warned their staff.

[18:55:03] MARQUARDT: We were alarmed enough to at least contact police, ask them to look into it and alarmed enough to post his photo at our front desk in case he would come in the door. I had alerted my staff to call 911 if anybody resembling him came into the room.

TODD: Tonight, the victims of this local paper are being remembered.

Wendi Winters was an editor and community reporter. She was a 65- year-old mother of four. "The Gazette" describes her as a prolific writer was beloved by the community she covered closely for years.

Thirty-four-year-old sales assistant Rebecca Smith was a new hire to the paper who loved spending time with her family.

Editorial page editor Gerald Fishman was known for bringing a quirky and clever voice to the paper. He was a quite, endearing figure in a newsroom full of characters.

John McNamara known as "Mac" was a staff writer who worked his dream job, sports reporting. He is remembered for his wit and being a loyal friend.

Assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, a mentor to all, who celebrated his 33 wedding anniversary last week, his brother is the author Carl Hiaasen

CARL HIAASEN, VICTIM'S BROTHER: He was killed while he was doing what he loved to do, which is to put out a newspaper for the people of Annapolis. He was proud of those reporters. The other editors and what he would want me to say is everything they do is for the readers, put news and facts in the hands of their readers.


TODD: Given the idea of just the trail of fear that the suspect has left behind. The attorney for the woman who was harassed by Jarrod Ramos told us today that he spoke to his client today, and that even though Jarrod Ramos is behind bars, he and his client are still scared. Jarrod Ramos is held without bond tonight because the judge and the prosecutor say he is, quote, an overwhelming danger to the community -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Brian, there's new information tonight that police discussed a possible threat from Ramos to the newspaper some five years ago. Tell us about that.

TODD: That's right, Wolf. We've gotten some documents released by the Anne Arundel County police today. 2013 police report detailing threatening online statements that Jarrod Ramos made to the paper at the time. According to these documents released by the police, the officer who investigated those threats told employees of the newspaper at the time, he did not view Ramos as a threat to employees, because Ramos had never attempted to enter the building and has never sent direct threatening correspondents to employees. But they were aware of his menace back in 2013.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting from Annapolis, thank you very much. Let's turn back to breaking news this hour. And the president's Supreme Court search.

We are joined by CNN's Chris Cuomo. He's the anchor of "CUOMO PRIME TIME".

Chris, the president is giving us some hints about how he is choosing his nominee to replace the associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. What do you make of this?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Well, he seems to be following the same pattern he did the last time, taking counsel from those around him. This is clearly not an area of expertise to a particular curiosity for the president. He has been telling people that he has this great list, that includes women.

But I think the most pressing detail that we understand at this point is the speed with which he wants to get this done. It's clear that he believes momentum is now, and that the longer that this goes, the more chance there is for trouble. And I think that that's probably the exigency right now, as much as who is when, and getting it done quickly.

BLITZER: What about this prank phone call that the president took aboard Air Force One from a comedian, someone a lot of us used to hear on the Howard Stern Show? There are security ramifications from this, Chris.

CUOMO: There are. I don't understand how it happened, how Stuttering John got through to Air Force One, let alone got the president to believe that he was Senator Bob Menendez, and then the call itself was so bizarre. By the way, part of the insight that we understand about how the president's thinking about picking the judge is because of what he said in phone call. And it was such a -- I don't know if people have heard it, but they should listen to it.

Bob Menendez, of course, New Jersey Democrat, was in trial and was somewhat of a controversial figure certainly for the Republican Party. And to hear the president start off the call by congratulating Menendez in what seems to be a nod to him beating the case and he even says, we're all proud of you and, you know, we're glad you made it through would seem like an unfair situation. Just bizarre to hear the president talk that way to somebody who was facing that kind of legal trouble.

And, you know, I don't know how it happen, Wolf. I just -- I don't get. I've seen all this stuff online but I don't know what's true.

BLITZER: Yes, they've got to figure this out and make sure it doesn't happen again. Nothing sinister, just prank this time, but if a bad person domestic, or an international figure gets through to the president and the president beliefs what he's hearing, that could be serious.

The Chris Cuomo show, "CUOMO PRIME TIME" tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, two hours tonight. We'll be watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.