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The Situation Room

Biden And Trump Trade Attacks In Escalating Fight Over Immigration; Pentagon Says, Expect Gaza Aid Pier To Be Operational Again This Week; Moment Of Reckoning, Boeing CEO Grilled With Victims' Families Watching; Kim Gives Putin A Hug And The Red-Carpet Treatment As He Arrives In North Korea; Dr. Fauci: It Was "Painful" To Correct Trump On COVID. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 18, 2024 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Next week, of course, nine days from now, it's the CNN presidential debate, President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump.


I'll moderate with my colleague, Dana Bash. That's next Thursday, June 27th, on CNN and streaming on MAX.

Until tomorrow, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, and on the TikTok @jaketapper, you can follow the show on X, @theleadcnn. If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to all two hours of the show whence you get your podcast.

The mews continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, an escalating campaign battle over immigration, as President Biden orders new protections for some undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens and slams Donald Trump for fueling fears of immigrants. Stand by to hear how Trump is hitting back tonight.

Also this hour, an extraordinary scene in North Korea, as Kim Jong-un embraces Vladimir Putin and gives him the red carpet treatment. The U.S. watching warily as these adversaries of the west are cozying up and increasing their military cooperation.

At a moment of reckoning, that's what one senator is calling a tense hearing about growing worries for the over the safety of Boeing jets. We're going to tell you how the testimony of Boeing's CEO played with lawmakers and with relatives of crash victims who were there in the room.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We begin with President Biden's new move to shield some undocumented immigrants from deportation, its impact on families, and the heated politics surrounding it all. Steve Contorno is standing by at a Trump rally in Wisconsin. But, first, let's go to CNN's Kayla Tausche. She's over at the White House.

Kayla, what does this do for immigrants? And what is the president hoping it does politically?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, beginning later this summer, hundreds of thousands of spouses of citizens and undocumented children can start applying for legal residence in the U.S. Previously, they would have had to do so from outside the U.S., and in some cases, stay outside the U.S. for up to ten years. But after today's executive action by President Biden, those individuals can stay in the country during that application process as long as those couples have been married for at least ten years, and they were married before yesterday. Here's what President Biden said this afternoon.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: These couples have been raising families, sending their kids to church and school, paying taxes, contributing to our country, living in the United States, all this time with a fear and uncertainty. We can fix that. And that's what I'm going to do today.


TAUSCHE: Politically, the White House under pressure from advocacy groups frustrated with an attempted crackdown at the border and stricter asylum rules as of just a few weeks ago, and the campaign also trying to pit today's move against the policy of former President Donald Trump, whom Biden will be facing on a debate stage in just a week. A statement out today from Biden campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, says families belong together.

Now, with 550,000 people impacted by today's move, it's the most sweeping executive action since DACA, which, in 2012, allowed some 832,000 young people whose immigrant parents brought them here to live and work freely in the U.S. But like DACA, this is also expected to face legal challenges. But the Biden camp believes that because these individuals were eligible for green cards already that they should be able to prevail.

But there's been one question, Wolf, that the White House has faced repeatedly today amid months-long standoff in Congress on this issue and an election just months away is why did the president choose to do this now, and the White House would only say because immigration is broken. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kayla Tausche at the White House, thank you very much. I want to go to Steve Contorno right now. He's on the -- watching on the campaign trail, Trump, in Wisconsin. Steve you're covering this rally in Racine. How is Trump responding to President Biden's new action on immigration?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Well, he just finished up behind me, Wolf, and he, no surprise, he was very critical of this new action from President Biden. He referred to it as, quote, mass amnesty. He said it is illegal to do this without Congress' approval. Take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I'm re-elected, Joe Biden's illegal amnesty plan will be ripped up and thrown out on the very first day that we're back in office, because he's just using that group, trying to use all of these people that are pouring into our country to vote.



CONTORNO: Now, I should point out that it is illegal in the U.S. to vote if you are a non-citizen. And there is little evidence that non- citizens are voting en masse in the United States. But Donald Trump has made immigration central to his campaign against President Joe Biden. It's an issue he talked about a lot here in Racine. This is a part of the state that he is spending quite a bit of time in. It's his second time here in six weeks. Obviously, it's a critical part of a key battleground. And it's why the Republican Party has chosen to have the convention nearby in Milwaukee.

Trump, although, of course, is coming into this event, having called this city, quote, horrible, behind closed doors with House Republicans last week. He addressed that this today. Listen to what he told this crowd.


TRUMP: I love Milwaukee. I was the one that picked Milwaukee. Lying people that they say, oh, he doesn't like Milwaukee. I love Milwaukee. I said, you got to fix the crime. We all know that you got to make sure the election is honest.


CONTORNO: We expect Trump to be here quite a bit in the coming months. And, of course, we're just less than a month away now from the convention in Milwaukee. Wolf?

BLITZER: Steve Contorno in Racine, Wisconsin for us. Steve, thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentators Karen Finney and Kristen Soltis Anderson. Karen, Trump is clearly trying to clean up his remarks. He called Milwaukee in that closed door meeting with Republicans a horrible city. Now he's saying he loves Milwaukee. Do you think this is going to have an impact? Democrats have launched billboards all over the city pointing out what he said behind closed doors.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. And as you know, Milwaukee is a critical part of the electorate in Wisconsin. You have to win that area to win the state. So, he knows that was a big mistake. I'm sure his folks have told him, you know, we have no chance. Because, remember, Wisconsin was another state that was very close. It was close in 2016. It was close again in 2020.

So, yes, he's trying to clean it up, but, you know, the problem, the thing he keeps forgetting is that, you know, there's videotape of these things. And I think Democrats are going to be more than happy to keep reminding him about what he actually said.

BLITZER: I haven't seen the videotape yet, because it was in a closed meeting.

FINNEY: You're right, you're right.

BLITZER: So there may be no videotape, but there are a bunch of people who were in that room who heard him say it.

FINNEY: Yes, yes.

BLITZER: And that's significant. Kristen, Trump wrote this on his Truth Social account about this whole controversy. Let me read it to you and our viewers. The Democrats are making up stories that I said Milwaukee is a horrible city. This is false, a complete lie. Who would say such a thing with that important state in the balance? Which, obviously, that's a good question, who would say such a thing with Wisconsin, the key battleground state?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It looks like maybe who would say such a thing is Donald Trump. Look, if I was advising him -- I would not have made put that in the proposed talking points. At the same time, I think it's completely likely that this will be just item 999 on the pile of almost a thousand things that Donald Trump has said, that we go, oh my goodness, isn't this horrible? Isn't this going to cost him the election? And it doesn't.

Right now, he's still doing quite well in polls and competitive battleground states. And frankly, by saying, look, I'm going to be the one who's tougher on an issue like crime, of course, that was one of his explanations for the comment was, hey, I was just saying that the crime there was bad. It is true that voters don't think that crime is being handled well, and they tend to think that Donald Trump would be better on that issue.

BLITZER: It's interesting, you know, we're hearing that Trump is also now slamming Biden's new protections for some undocumented immigrants here in the United States, spouses, children. The Biden campaign says this about the action, and I'm quoting now from the Biden campaign. Families belong together. It's that simple. It's also a powerful, stark reminder of Donald Trump's unforgivable legacy of ripping crying children away from their parents when he put in place his family separation policy.

So, what do you think about this move from the Democrats?

FINNEY: Yes. Look, I think President Biden, this is actually what he told us he was going to do. Remember when he announced the actions at the border, he said that there would be some additional announcements coming that would speak to how we have to have a humane approach. And part of that approach, the president believes, is you keep families together. And so this was, you know, part -- but I also want to go to the bigger picture here, right? So, this is going to help about 500,000 families. But let's also remember the reason the president is doing it this way is because Republicans walked away from bipartisan, some of the toughest legislation that we've ever seen. So, now the president has to go it alone. And the president also introduced legislation on immigration reform the first day in office.

So, we're in this moment because Republicans have refused to come to the table. So, I think, you know, yes, it's an election year, but it's also a problem that needs to be solved.

BLITZER: Kristen, what do you think?

ANDERSON: Look, I think the action itself, the idea of saying the spouses of somebody who has been here for a long time, they've been married for this -- I'm sure that if I put that in a poll today, it would test very well, even among Republicans.


But the problem that Joe Biden is facing is that when people think about immigration policy, this is not the first thing they're going to be thinking about. They're going to be thinking about record high border crossings at the southern border. They're going to be thinking about the sorts of images of the disarray that we've seen.

And, frankly, that's why in all the numbers I've seen, when you ask voters, do you trust Joe Biden to handle the issue of immigration, his numbers have gotten worse and worse throughout his presidency.

FINNEY: Although I would just mention, Wolf, to that point, they also mentioned today in their statements that actually numbers are going down per the president's recent announcement. So, I think we're going to see that continue over the coming months.

BLITZER: Because it was only a couple weeks or so ago when Biden announced asylum restrictions along the border with Mexico. And in a new CBS/YouGov poll, 62 percent, 62 percent of Americans say they support deporting all undocumented immigrants living in the United States. When you look at these poll results, is President Biden out of touch with the American people?

FINNEY: No. Look, a couple of things. Number one, we know in polling that when you ask people, the other thing they say is, but they wanted to do, you know, humane immigration. At the same time -- I grew up in California. And to me, this is so ridiculous because, let's be honest, if we did a mass deportation of all immigrants, who's going to cut your lawn? Who's going to babysit your children? Who's going to work in the kitchens in our restaurants? Who's going to pick the grapes for the wine that you drink? And as our own reporting has shown here at CNN, it would increase costs with this mass deportation idea. BLITZER: Immigrants are so important to our country. Kristen, do you think this is going to be a huge part of the debate next week between Trump and Biden?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. In fact, I think even if it's not directly asked about, I imagine Donald Trump will want to go there because he likes talking about this issue so much. Precisely because of, you know, poll numbers like the one we just talked about. I agree with Karen. I don't think that actually six in ten Americans really understanding what it would take to actually deport every undocumented immigrant who would want to do so. But it is striking how the sort of tone around this issue has shifted so much over the last decade. It used to be the focus was on, Republicans are so mean on this issue, Democrats are the best here. It has really flipped into Republicans' camp.

BLITZER: Kristen Soltis Anderson, Karen Finney, to both of you, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, my one-on-one interview with actor and activist Jane Fonda, her decision to campaign for a presidential candidate for the first time, and how she thinks President Biden should reach out to anti-war activists.

Plus, the first images of what Ukraine is calling a, quote, lonely bromance, Kim Jong-un welcoming Vladimir Putin to North Korea, as the two leaders get ready for a new round of military cooperation with the world watching.



BLITZER: The Biden campaign is increasingly turning to Hollywood A- listers to raise money and court voters, including the legendary, Jane Fonda. She joined First Lady Jill Biden just last week at an event to rally support among seniors in Nevada.

The actor and activist, Jane Fonda, is joining us now in The Situation Room. Jane, thanks so much for joining us. In your long career of activism, you tell me this is really the first time you've actively, actively campaigned for a presidential candidate. So, here's the question, why now and why Biden?

JANE FONDA, ACTRESS AND ACTIVIST: I would have probably done it earlier, but nobody asked. And why now? The elections in November are as existential, really. Who wins in November is going to determine whether we have a livable future. It's as simple as that. And there's a very stark choice. It's not that I'm 100 percent happy with President Biden but he's someone that we can work with, that American people can work with.

If we can prove to him there's a problem, which is what happened recently when people from Texas and Louisiana went to Washington to tell him that they were getting sick and dying because of the presence of gas terminals and oil refineries poisoning their communities, he created a pause. Not sexy, not front page news, but it's really important. That's the kind of man he is. If you show him the problem, if you touch his heart, he will act accordingly.

And so because I think that this election is so important, it's existential, I decided that I was going to throw in with the campaign.

BLITZER: So, let me follow up, Jane. Is your support for President Biden more about supporting him or stopping Donald Trump?

FONDA: It's a little of both. You know, I've known Joe Biden for a long time, and I was so happy to meet his wife, Jill, and work with her in Reno. We launched the Seniors for Biden-Harris. And it was so much fun and it was so wonderful. I had never met her before. And there's a lot about President Biden that I really admire and respect and like.

I'm primarily a climate activist. And, you know, I guess the best way that I can describe what will happen if the orange man is elected, as we know, because we read in the papers recently, he invited all the CEOs of the big oil companies to meet with him at Mar-a-Lago. And he basically said, if you give me a billion dollars, I will cut all the climate regulations that you don't like, clean air, clean water, all, all these kind of things that really protect the American people.


And that's why I really want to elect Joe Biden because we're running out of time. I have grandchildren. I won't be around to see the worst of it, but we have to confront the climate crisis and we have to do it fast.

BLITZER: At that event you were just referring to, Jane, that Seniors for Biden-Harris event that you attended, the first lady said her husband, quote, isn't one of the most effective presidents of our lives in spite of his age, but because of it, her words. The president's age and fitness is a key issue in this campaign. It keeps coming up. Why do you think voters should see it as an asset for the president?

FONDA: Well, I'm older than he is and I'm all for age. I can tell you that you do get wiser and you do learn things. You learn from your mistakes. And I have seen him up close and personal and he's fine. You know, he's perfectly suited to be president of the United States. I don't know because of, or in spite of the age, he's just fine. And, you know, he's someone we can work with, and that's what we need. We don't need a demagogue.

BLITZER: Over the years, I know, Jane, you've been an outspoken anti war activist for many, many years, going back to the Vietnam War, a lot of us remember that. We've seen demonstrations over Israel's war in Gaza. We've seen those demonstrations at college campuses across the United States. How should President Biden try to reach out to voters, especially young people who are upset over his handling of this conflict?

FONDA: I understand the anguish, I feel it myself, the anguish to see the deaths, children dying. It's a terrible thing to watch. It's a very complicated situation. I can't pretend that I understand it very well. I happened -- I've been to Israel six times since the 1980s and I love Israel. It was under very different leadership when I went over there. I miss the Israel that I fell in love with in the 1980s, frankly.

It's complicated in terms of international diplomacy and all of that. And I think that President Biden is trying to protect Israel, be loyal to Israel, and at the same time demand a ceasefire, demand that the bombing stopped, that the children stopped being killed. I think he's doing both. But I understand the anguish of the protesters. I can't say that I know what he should do differently because I don't understand the situation well enough.

BLITZER: Jane Fonda, we always appreciate speaking with you. Go ahead.

FONDA: Well, just one other thing. If the orange man wins next November, it's going to be much worse for Palestinians, I can say that.

BLITZER: Jane Fonda, thank you so much for joining us.

FONDA: It's good to see you again.

BLITZER: And coming up, the big move paving the way for one of the biggest sales ever of U.S. weapons to Israel. We'll discuss with a key member of the Armed Services Committee, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.



BLITZER: Tonight, the Pentagon says it expects a floating pier designed to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza will be operational again sometime this week. That's what the Pentagon says. The U.S. military dismantled the pier for a second time just a few days ago because of rough seas.

Our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Lieberman is in the region for us, has more on the pier's problems, as civilians await desperately needed food, water and medical supplies.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the waters off southern Israel, these U.S. Army vessels wait for work. They are part of the operation for the U.S. built temporary pier to Gaza. But the pier is here, some 30 miles from the war-torn strip, in the Israeli port city of Ashdod, tucked behind this power plant. From these satellite images, you can see it sheltering at the port, unable, once again, to operate in heavy seas.

The pier began with a major promise from President Joe Biden.

BIDEN: I'm directing the U.S. military to lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean. A temporary pier will enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day. LIEBERMANN: Two months after the State of the Union, the pier, known as JLOTS, did begin delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza. USAID said this nautical option would one day be able to feed half a million people a month, as critical supplies on the ground stalled at checkpoints, and airdrops could only do so much.

But a week after it began operations in May, the pier broke in heavy seas. Repairs took more than a week. And the small army vessels that are part of the system also needed work, after four of them ran aground in high waves and winds. The Pentagon said a rare weather pattern knocked the $230 million pier out of commission.

SABRINA SINGH, DEPUTY PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What happened was something that was quite unprecedented. It was the high sea states and then that storm that that changed direction and created an untenable environment for JLOTS to operate in.


LIEBERMANN: The last time the pier was used operationally was the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Since then, it has repeatedly struggled at exercises with rough weather. The pier was back up and running again on June 8th, but soon hit another snag when there was no one to handle aid coming off the pier.


LIEBERMANN: An Israeli rescue mission, which freed four hostages and killed scores of Palestinians, forced the World Food Programme to pause its distribution effort and re evaluate the safety of the area.

MCCAIN: So we've stepped back just for the moment to make sure that we're in, in, on safe terms and on safe ground.

LIEBERMANN: Aid still came off the pier, but it didn't get to the people who needed it. Without the U.N.'s World Food Programme to lead distribution, it's unclear how viable the pier is in the future.

SINGH: The good news is, is that it's on the beach, so it's a step closer to getting to the people who need it most. But I just don't have an update on when that will be further distributed.

LIEBERMANN: But even the latest effort didn't last long. The pier, which can only handle three-foot seas was knocked out of commission once again, moved back to Ashdod out of an abundance of caution to wait for calmer seas.


LIEBERMANN (on camera): Now, the Pentagon says it should be up and running by the end of the week. So in the next couple of days here, we'll certainly keep an eye on that. But the U.S. can break down and set up this pier as many times as it needs to or when heavy seas come in. The real critical component here is the World Food Programme, because they run the distribution of all the aid that comes off the pier. And if they're not willing to carry out that part of the role, then aid will simply sit there in Gaza and not get distributed until the people who need it.

Wolf, without the World Food Programme, it's not clear that this mission can even be completed, and that will force the U.S. to look back to the other options, to the airdrops that they're still doing occasionally, as well as to the land crossings that are all too often not operational.

BLITZER: It's all so sad. Oren Lieberman of Tel Aviv for us, thank you very, very much.

And joining me now, Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to get first to this story we've just been reporting, this U.S. pier off the coast of Gaza has suffered setback after setback and has only delivered a tiny fraction of aid to the Palestinians. Is it time to call this a failed mission?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): I mean, look, I don't think people understand just how complicated this is. It sounds simple when you say it, but obviously you heard that it's just more complicated than we would have liked. I don't know if we're ready to give it up. I'm going to leave that to the military, but we need more humanitarian aid to be in Gaza. And the pier was already a stop gap measure to try and get additional aid in since overland routes weren't being used the way you know, that I would like them to be used. So, we got to figure out a way to get that aid in the pier. If it's not the pier, we need more overland to get things into Gaza.

BLITZER: We'll see if they can get that together and make that pier work. What message, Congresswoman, does it send for the U.S. to green light right now one of the largest ever weapons packages to Israel, about $18 billion from some 50 F-15 fighter jets, at the same time that Israel, according to U.S. officials, is not completely heeding President Biden's push to let in more aid and to reduce civilian casualties?

SLOTKIN: Yes. Well, obviously, there's a lot of swirl around weapons right now. We never like to have these conversations in public allies, always prefer to have them in private. But I think it's important that some of the biggest parts of the sales are things that aren't going to be delivered for three or four years. It's just going to take an unbelievable amount of time. It's not a today issue. And I think that's why my guess is the foreign affairs committee approved it, so the understanding from what's in it.

But, of course, we've been in the same situation for months now, where there's been sort of shots across the bow related to weapons. You know, Bibi was talking about it today. It's not how we'd prefer to do business with an ally.

BLITZER: I want to get to another sensitive issue while I have you, Congresswoman. President Biden today has taken some dramatic new action creating a pathway eventually to citizenship for about 500,000 undocumented spouses here in the United States and about 50,000 children. Republicans say that this move will simply incentivize illegal immigration. First of all, do you support this move by the president today?

SLOTKIN: Well, look, I mean, I think everyone knows that the southern border, our immigration system is not working. I don't think that takes a genius to understand. No one is proud of what's happening at the southern border. No one feels like as a nation of immigrants, we have an immigration policy that's working. So, I think today's action was sort of more like, you know, another kind of small little piece of the story when what we really need is for reasonable Democrats and reasonable Republicans to get in a room and actually negotiate something comprehensive, something that not just addresses a spouse here or whatever, but our farmer who are in desperate need of vetted legal labor, our businesses.


I mean, we've got a ton of openings for legal vetted labor.

So, I just think that it's more of the same. And we had a deal that we were working on. We had a deal that we were negotiating. Mr. Trump didn't want that deal because he likes it as an election issue. But the truth is a comprehensive immigration plan is the only way to really do this and have it stick.

So, today's action, that's not how I would go about doing these little salami slices. We need a comprehensive package.

BLITZER: Yes, that's so important in the wake of you know yet another mass shooting in your home state of Michigan, Congresswoman, Senate Republicans blocked an effort to pass legislation banning what are called bump stocks. What steps do you support right now to address the issue of gun violence in America?

SLOTKIN: Well, look, I think you know, in Michigan, I represented Oxford, Michigan, where we had a high school shooting, Michigan State University, where we had a shooting on campus, and then I used to represent Rochester Hills, where we just had ten wounded at a splash pad this. The number one killer of children in America is gun violence, in our communities, by suicide, in our schools, by accident. And so I just think a reasonable country goes after the number one killer of children and it should be a non-partisan thing.

What we did in Michigan was start on those areas of common agreement. We passed legislation on safe storage. You have someone under 18 living in the house, you got to store it. And if not, you're going to be charged if they commit a crime with that weapon. We prosecuted successfully the mother and father of the Oxford High School shooting because they basically gave the child a gun. So, it's accountability and the gun owners, I know, of course, understand that.

It's red flag laws, if someone is having a mental illness breakdown, you should be able to go to a court and get a document that allows you to take those weapons away temporarily. And then universal background checks. I don't even know why we're not talking about this anymore. If you go to a gun show, or you're buying a gun on the Internet, you got to go through a background check, just like if you go to one of our big box stores.

So, those to me, we passed here in Michigan, we're a big Second Amendment state. That isn't easy. We did it with bipartisan support. And that's what we should be doing at the federal level, like a reasonable country that cares about our kids.

BLITZER: It's such an important issue. Representative Elissa Slotkin, thanks so much for joining us.

SLOTKIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill today, the head of Boeing acknowledging shortcomings and apologizing, as the company faces new allegations of skirting safety protocols.



BLITZER: Breaking news up on Capitol Hill, the CEO of Boeing grilled by senators about multiple safety lapses and close calls that put airline passengers at risk.

CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean has more.


DAVE CALHOUN, CEO, BOEING: I'm here in the spirit of transparency.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the head of Boeing says he is responsible for the company's repeat failures spanning years. It is the major admission from a relentless blasting by senators, the first public hearing since January's dramatic door plug blowout brought Boeing quality control into question.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): This hearing is a moment of reckoning.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): You don't recognize the Boeing that has airplanes falling out of the sky?

MUNTEAN: Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun walked into a hearing room at capacity with critics. In the audience, families of those killed in the two 737 MAX 8 crashes held signs saying the company has blood on its hands.

CALHOUN: I would like to apologize on behalf of all of our Boeing associates spread throughout.

MUNTEAN: It is the newest acknowledgement by Boeing of its faults, from the certification of its planes to problems on factory floors.

BLUMENTHAL: These are chilling allegations. MUNTEAN: The bombshell here from committee chair Richard Blumenthal, a new whistleblower account that Boeing hid substandard parts from the FAA and still put them on airplanes. Blumenthal says the worker spoke up, but was told to shut up.

BLUMENTHAL: How many of your employees have been fired for retaliating against whistleblowers?

CALHOUN: Senator, I don't have that number on the tip of my tongue, but I know it happens.

MUNTEAN: The account in this hearing makes more than a dozen Boeing whistleblowers to speak to the committee. Here, senators from both parties pressed Calhoun on quality control. He outlined an overhaul plan.

CALHOUN: Our culture is far from perfect but we are taking action and we are making progress.

MUNTEAN: Though his promises did little to settle critics.

HAWLEY: Why haven't you resigned?

CALHOUN: Senator, I'm sticking this through. I'm proud of having taken the job. I'm proud of our safety record. And I am very proud of our Boeing people.

HAWLEY: You're proud of this safety record?

CALHOUN: I am proud of every action we have taken.

MUNTEAN: Calhoun is staying on as Boeing CEO until the end of the year. Samya Stumo was killed in the 2019 7 37 MAX 8 crash here. Her mother said she has no faith in a Boeing turnaround.

NADIA MILLERON, DAUGHTER KILLED IN BOEING PLANE CRASH: When they get pressed for time and they need to produce a lot of planes quickly. They throw all of their safety rubrics out the window.


MUNTEAN (on camera): Here is what is next for Boeing. A decision from the Justice Department about whether or not the company will face criminal charges for the fatal 737 MAX 8 crashes. Senator Blumenthal is a former federal prosecutor and here he left no doubt about where he stands. He says he wants to see accountability and families do too. Wolf?

BLITZER: Pete Muntean up on Capitol Hill, thank you. Coming up, two U.S. adversaries becoming closer today, the latest on Vladimir Putin's arrival in North Korea and his plans for partnership with Kim Jong-un.


[18:49:15] BLITZER: Right now, two of the West's most dangerous adversaries are out there on the same turf and strengthening their alliance. Russia's Vladimir Putin is in North Korea for talks with Kim Jong-un.

CNN's Brian Todd is on the story for us.

Brian, Kim pulled out all the stops to personally welcome Putin.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly did, Wolf.

Vladimir Putin touched down in Pyongyang just a short time ago. There was pageantry that only the North Koreans could pull off, but also signs of a growing partnership that's very worrisome to the U.S.


TODD (voice-over): At the Pyongyang airport, flowers are at the ready as the Russian president's plane taxis to stop. The red carpet is rolled out. Kim Jong-un strolls up confidently to greet his VIP guest he takes a few more strides toward the plane and patiently waits.


Finally, Vladimir Putin descends the red staircase and the two strong men embrace. Putin, greeting the dictator who's 31 years younger. They exchanged pleasantries and laughs through a translator. Putin receives his bouquet. Kim shows Putin to his limo. A large escort of motorcycle security personnel trail the motorcade in a V formation.

They travelled past large Russian banners and portraits of Putin lining the avenues.

The limos pull to a stop at the guest house. Putin exits and Kim seems eager to show him around. The smiling North Korean host escorts Putin through an ornate lobby. The pageantry for this overnight arrival, just part of what's being observed by intelligence agencies from East Asia to Eastern Europe.

JILL DOUGHERTY, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: This is a very serious trip. This cooperation between North Korea and Russia is unprecedented.

TODD: Cooperation that U.S. officials minced no words in describing.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: North Korea is providing significant munitions to Russia and other and other weapons for use in Ukraine.

TODD: Munitions that U.S. and South Korean officials say include ballistic missiles, rocket launchers, and millions of artillery rounds that have already been used to devastating effect on the battlefields of Ukraine. Analysts expect that lethal pipeline to continue following this meeting.

ALEXANDER GABUEV, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE RUSSIA EURASIA CENTER: Unfortunately, we got as see very soon all of these items in the battlefield in Ukraine and in missiles that are pounding civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

TODD: It's unclear exactly what Kim is getting in return for sending Putin those weapons, but experts say it is clear what Kim wants.

DOUGHERTY: That is perhaps the scariest thing of all, because what they want is really high-tech, high technology, which they can use for satellites, which they can use for nuclear submarines and which they can use for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

TODD: Russian and North Korean officials have repeatedly denied that they're trading arms and technology. One analyst says, for both of these autocrats, the messaging from Pyongyang is important and somewhat deceptive.

COL. DAVID MAXWELL (RET.), VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR ASIA PACIFIC STRATEGY: They want to project strength. They want to really show fear in the Western democracies because they ball all suffer from one major weakness. And that's internal instability, and particularly Kim Jong- un is suffering from his failed promises to the Korean people in the North, that nuclear weapons would bring peace and prosperity. And that has not done so.


TODD (on camera): While it's limited what the U.S. and its allies can do to stop or interrupt the military cooperation between Putin and Kim, analyst David Maxwell believes what they can do is a better job of public messaging on this, to hit home more than they have, Wolf, the idea that Putin and Kim are very, very weak in reality.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, good report, Brian. Thank you very much.

And we'll be right back.



BLITZER: Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci is speaking out to CNN about the challenges he faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including his dealings with then-President Donald Trump.

Dr. Fauci spoke at length with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who's joining us right now.

Sanjay, let me play a little bit of your major interview. Listen to this.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPENT: You talked about this interesting press briefing that you did. This is in March of 2020 and you had to correct the record even if the president was talking. How challenging is that? DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I said to myself, I have a responsibility to preserve my own personal integrity and a responsibility to the American public. So when I walked up to the podium, I said, here it goes, Dr. Fauci, the president just said that hydroxychloroquine is, you know, the end-all.

The answer is no, and the evidence that you're talking about, John, is anecdotal evidence.

That was painful me to have to do that, but there was no doubt that I had to do it. I mean, it wasn't like -- well, maybe you should, maybe you shouldn't. There was no doubt that I had to do it.


GUPTA (voice-over): He thought President Trump would be angry but listen to what happened behind the scenes.

FAUCI: But then he called me in his office once when he wanted to that asked me another question and he was on looking at three different televisions and he says, my God, these ratings are amazing. They're better than cable, they're better than -- they're better than network.

The president, it's no -- it's no secret. I'm not divulging a secret about the president. He was very, very fixated on image and ratings. And he thought that -- the amount of attention that was given to the press briefings was really terrific and his comment was, wow, do you see those ratings.

And my feeling wasn't ratings. We're in the middle of a pandemic. What are -- why are we talking about ratings?


BLITZER: And, Sanjay, what more did Dr. Fauci tell you in this interview.

GUPTA: Well, we -- you know, talked a lot about his overall career, as you know, Wolf. He worked for seven presidents, 54 years in public service. A lot of this sort of revolved around HIV/AIDS. I mean, he was -- that changed his life, changed a lot of people's lives, obviously.

But July of 1981, when they first started to get evidence that there was this new virus that was being transmitted, that's where he decided to spend a lot of his life. And we talked a lot about what happened during COVID, and a lot of people got to know Dr. Fauci during COVID, including the antagonistic parts, people really going after him.

A lot of that happened during HIV/AIDS as well, Wolf. You may remember, I mean, they were burning effigies of Dr. Fauci at that time. But he says he sort of referred to that time period as good trouble, meaning the activists were trying to get things done, whereas now, he thinks it's just people trying to create trouble for no good reason. So, he really drew a distinction.

Wolf, again, seven presidents, he got the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. I've interviewed him several times over the last 20 years. Zika, Ebola, Anthrax, H1N1, HIV/AIDS, and obviously, COVID. It's kind of a remarkable career and we did this interview in his house, Wolf, in Washington, he's lived in that house since 1977.

So he's been very stable and public health and in his community as well.

BLITZER: He's written about this wonderful new memoir that he's just released.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.

And to hear even more of Sanjay's interview with Dr. Fauci, go listen to "Chasing Life", Sanjay's podcast.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.