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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  March 21, 2019 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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insecure app. after the president raled about hillary clinton's e-mails, is his administration now doing the same thing? refusing to comply. white house officials say they won't give house democrats information about mr. trump's private conversations with vladimir putin. why are they insisting on secrecy? holding pattern. the trump team is on alert right now, awaiting robert mueller's report. we're learning about how the president's legal and political teams are getting ready. tweeting recognition. president trump overturns a u.s. policy on twitter, saying it's time for the united states to recognize israeli sovereignty over the golan heights. was it a gift to his prime minister pal who is in a very, very tough re-election fight? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you are in "the situation room."
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this is cnn breaking news. >> breaking news this hour. the white house braces for the mueller report to drop. there's a new escalation in the battle between the trump team and house democrats who are investigating the president. tonight, the administration is rejecting a request for documents on mr. trump's private communications with russian president vladimir putin. lawyers for jared kushner and ivanka trump are disputing new claims by the house oversight committee chairman. elijah cummings says some senior white house officials have used personal e-mail to conduct official government business. he accuses kushner of communicating with foreign leaders through a private messaging app. this as the president is upending a u.s. policy announcing it's time to recognize israeli sovereignty over the golan heights. the president says he wouldn't know if that helps benjamin
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netanyahu's reelection. it's in less than three weeks. i will get reaction from an on thissy anthony brown. our correspondents and analysts are standing by. first, jim acosta. the administration is doing battle with house democrats as anticipation for the mueller report hangs over washington. >> reporter: that's right. white house officials like the rest of washington are on the edge of their seats waiting for this report to drop. while those expectations are building, democrats are complaining the white house is stonewalling their investigations into the president's personal conversations with russia's vladimir putin as well as another probe into trump family members jared kushner and ivanka trump. the democrats on capitol hill want to know whatsapp? as the white house is awaiting mueller's report, the president is clearly gearing up for battle for the 2020 election, firing up the conservative base.
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>> you have a president who is also fighting for you. i'm with you all the way. >> reporter: tonight, the president is facing new accusations of stonewalling. house democrats complain the white house is blocking their efforts to seek information about mr. trump's conversations with russia's vladimir putin. democratic leaders released this letter from the white house counsel stating, while we respectfully seek to accommodate appropriate oversight requests, we are unaware of any president supporting such sweeping requests. house democrats are seeking any documents that could reveal why the president seemed so eager to accept putin's denial of russian interfere answer. >> >> i will tell you that, president putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. >> reporter: the attorney for the president's daughter and
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son-in-law that kushner has been using whawhatsapp. that's what trump slammed hillary clinton for doing. >> i hope you are able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. >> reporter: as for the mueller report, the president is urging its release. >> let it come out. let people see it. that's up to the attorney general. we have a very good attorney general. he is a very highly respected man. we will see what happens. >> reporter: one reason why growing optimism inside trump world where advisers believe it will conclude the president did not commit any crimes. this clears the deck for us. there's a fresh sign the president is working to shore up his support heading into the 2020 campaign. he lends a hand to a key political ally. the president announced the u.s. will recognize israel's control over the golan heights, an area
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hotly contested for decades, tweeting after 52 years, it's time for the united states to fully recognize israel's sovereignty over the golan heights. >> president trump has just made history. i called him. i thanked him on behalf of the people of israel. >> reporter: the move is a gift to benjamin netanyahu, a supporter who is facing re-election next month. the president denied did he it for political reasons. >> no. i wouldn't even know about that. i wouldn't even know about that. i have no idea. i hear he is doing okay. >> reporter: the president is facing pushback on his comments he approved the funeral for john mccain. >> i gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president i had to approve. i don't care about this. i didn't get thank you. that's okay. >> reporter: the national cathedral released a statement saying, only a state funeral for a former president involving consultation with government officials.
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no funeral at the cathedral requires the approval of the president or any other government official. getting back to the investigations on capitol hill, an attorney for ivanka and jared said they were not accurate. the prospect that the president's own family members were conducting government business over private communications raises questions about whether the trump family learned any lessons from the 2016 campaign when they hammered hillary clinton over her e-mail use. as for mueller investigation, when that wraps up with the mueller report, i talked to administration officials earlier this afternoon who said they expect some kind of heads up as to the timing of the release of the report but not the content. they expect bob mueller to play this by the book. >> thanks very much, jim acosta. let's talk more about the newest sources of conflict between the white house and the house democrats, including oversight committee chairman's concern
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over use of a private messaging app. what are you learning about kushner's use of the whatsapp app for communicating with foreign leaders? >> reporter: this information goes back to a meeting back in december between chairman cummings and jared and ivanka's lawyer. in that meet, chairman cummings learned and he was told not only about jared and ivanka's use, he says, of personal accounts to conduct government business, but also specifically about jared kushner's use, cummings says that he was told in the meet, of the private messaging service, whatsapp to communicate with foreign leaders. there's pushback in that.
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certainly, many more questions about what exactly was exchanged -- for potential classified information to be revealed. >> amidst this, the white house is rezejecting a request for communication between president trump and putin. what are you learning about that? >> reporter: a request for top three democrats of the powerful committees on capitol hill. they are asking for information over trump's conversations with vladimir putin. making it clear they will not give the request of the documents they want. they believe the courts have long established communications with foreign leaders are protected and confidential. the white house statement saying, ccording to the white house counsel, the president must be free to engage in discussions with foreign leaders without fear those will be disclosed and used for partisan political purposes. foreign leaders must be assured of this as well.
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all of this activity today, not only this but chairman cummings back and forth, underscores how democrats up here on capitol hill are flexing their oversight muscles and this tug-of-war over information continues. >> thank you. just about everything that's going on here in washington right now is under a cloud of anticipation for robert mueller's final report. two years in the making. the president's legal and political teams are busy fine tuning their game plans for this truly historic moment when the report is handed over to the new attorney general bill barr. let's bring in pamela brown and shimon prokupecz. when the report is finally done and we anticipate that to be very, very soon, how do you expect all of this to unfold? >> certainly, the end of a big chapter. it will usher in a new chapter. that will be any fallout over the report and disclosures of the report that robert mueller is handing to the attorney general barr. we think any day that will
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happen. a couple of things will likely happen. first of all, the big question is will the white house have an opportunity to weigh in on whatever the attorney general will give to congress before? our reporting is the white house expects to look at what he is going to hand to congress it assert executive privilege if need be. that's something the democrats are crying foul on, saying that they do not want the president to be able to shield information from the public in an investigation about limbself. you will see a political battle over that. the democrats have already said they are willing to subpoena to see the full report. >> what are the unanswered questions? >> the biggest question is going to be the collusion question. what did the president know? when did he know it? who in the campaign was telling him things? i think they have pretty much established, the special counsel, there was collusion with folks on the campaign in
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terms of people like paul manafort and his conversations with russians, people working for the russian government. the big question is, what did the president know? when did he know it? will that be answered in this report? the other big thing is the entire obstruction issue. we have heard almost nothing from the special counsel's office in terms of that. what did they find? did they find that the president tried to obstruct justice by firing james comey? did they find that he perhaps was trying to end the flynn investigation when he asked james comey to drop it? those are the key questions in this report that i think everyone wants answered. the other thing i want to make a point of is this idea the president -- andrew mccabe, the deputy director of the fbi at the time, making accusations that trump is working for the russian government, maybe an asset of some kind of the russian government, does that get answered? that was a big accusation from the deputy director. does that get answered in all of this? i don't know. that certainly is a big question
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i think that's on everyone's mind. >> huge question. thanks very much. let's get more on all of this. congressman anthony brown is joining us. he serves on the armed services and ethics committees. thanks for joining us. i want to get your reaction to the breaking news. your colleague, the house oversight committee chairman elijah cummings says jared kushner use ad a private messaig app to communicate with officials. does that raise legitimate security -- national security concerns for you? >> absolutely. this is outrageous. it not only violates the presidential records act, which is just intended to capture official communications, but given mr. kushner's background where he had his security clearance application denied by then chief of staff john kelly, only to be overridden by his father-in-law, the president, it
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certainly raises national security concerns. wolf, we go to great lengths to secure our public servers, our public e-mails, military and civilian, the white house, members of congress, so we can protect against cyberattacks and hacking. when you are using whatsapp and private platforms and you are in charge of communications with israel, with saudi arabia, with russia, this raises tremendous national security concerns. i think my good friend elijah cummings and his committee has ever right to see the communications and to inquire about the use and hopefully the discontinued use of that practice. >> as you know, the democratic chairman of three really important house committees, they have requested documents pertaining to president trump's communications with russia's president putin. the white house has refused that request. do you think it's important for lawmakers to see those
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documents? the white house says congress should not be able to see them. the president has the right for confidentiality in his conversations with foreign leaders. >> wolf, the white house is relying on what they say is precedent. these are unprecedented times where you have the president of the united states in a very cozy relationship with the leader of our chief adversary, russia. vladimir putin who is a known former kgb operative. here you have a situation where our intelligence community tells the president with ample supporting documents in evidence that russia meddled in our elections, but he takes the world of vladimir putin after a one-hour meeting. certainly, we have an obligation to see the contents of that communication, if nothing else, a summary to understand why is it that presidenttrump continues to side with russia at
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the extend of our elections, at the expense of our allies, at the expense of our presence in syria. we should have access to that. we should be demanding to see those documents. >> here is what the white house counsel wrote back. quote, while we respectfully seek to accommodate appropriate oversight requests, we are unaware of any precedent supporting such sweeping request. they have consistently recognized that the conduct of foreign affairs is a matter that the constitution assigns exclusively to the president. what's your reaction to that? >> i won't say exclusively. there are provisions in the c constitution that grant to congress authority and power when it comes to foreign relations. this is an unprecedented moment in american history where our president is in a relationship with the president of russia, our chief adversary.
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for us to simply defer to the administration i this would be doing what i have seen for the last two years in congress, which is really abandoning our oversight responsibilities. >> let me get your reaction to the president's announcement on twitter today that the united states will recognize israeli sovereignty over the golan heights region on the border with syria. that decision has upended decades of american foreign policy. did the president make the right call? >> first of all, the manner in which he did it, i don't know if it's just a tweet to support the re-election of prime minister netanyahu or whether he is actually establishing a new direction in american policy. i think it's wrong. for decades american policy and
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also u.n. resolution has been calling for the withdrawal of israel from those lands that were occupied as a result of force. i have been to the golan heights. i understand the strategic importance of that high ground, which overlooks much of israel. but that cannot be done by tweet. it's gotta be a policy decision that involves our allies, that involves congress. what i would rather see in terms of ultimately what happens with the golan heights is that is part of a larger conversation of negotiating middle east peace. the way the president did it, the manner in which he did it was highly inappropriate. >> congressman anthony brown, thanks for joining us. >> thanks. just ahead, we will turn back to breaking news on jared kushner and new concerns that he used an insecure messaging app to contact foreign leaders. was national security put at
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risk? what will democrats do now that the white house has refused to turn over information about the president's conversations with vladimir putin? get 2 medium, every day at marco's, 1-topping pizzas for just $6.99 each. because it takes two... to make a great everyday value. every store. every day. the italian way. hello primo. you might or joints.hing for your heart... but do you take something for your brain. with an ingredient originally discovered in jellyfish, prevagen has been shown in clinical trials to improve short-term memory. prevagen. healthier brain. better life.
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let me get your thoughts. you used to be a lawyer at the national security agency. doesn't get more secure than that. is there a national security concern if jared kushner communicates with foreign leaders over whatsapp? >> of course. whatsapp is not a secure communication channel. the united states government spends hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars every single year, some of the finest mathematicians in the entire world focused on providing secure communications for government officials. jared kushner has decided he wants to use an app you can download for free on your phone. the bigger security concern here isn't just what foreign intelligence services might be looking at, certainly they're all trying to get these messages. but the communications he is having. the u.s. government is all on the same team. they have to communicate with one another. the military has to talk to the state department, has to talk to the pentagon. they need to be able to be on the same page. wheneverfreelancing,
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that puts our government at a disadvantage. now we have foreign adversaries in some cases who know more about u.s. policy than we do. it raises the question about whether or not jared kushner might be taken advantage of. we have seen foreign intelligence services reportedly think he is ripe for manipulation. he is naive and inexperienced, has a high level of access and has complex business relationships, which he has not fully divested from. this is the perfect storm of a grave national security threat. >> serious. >> does anybody remember the 2016 campaign? wasn't there some issue there about e-mails and e-mail security? i assume the news media and the republicans in congress will take this issue as seriously as we spent days, weeks, months talking about hillary clinton's e-mails.
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it just shows how that issue was basically just a joke. an attempt to use -- just to get hillary. it had -- >> could there be serious legal jeopardy, legal problems for these white house officials who were communicating official government business over private e-mail accounts or over whatsapp? >> i doubt it. unless there was an actual disclosure of classified information, i don't think there would be a criminal matter. these things are not usually handled at a criminal level. although, we had months of criminal investigation of hillary clinton, of course. >> what do you think, joey? >> i would agree. the fact is that you can't be hypocritical about these things. what is good for the goose is good for the gander. it leads to the issue and the conclusion that it was simply political in nature. the fact is, as susan says, when you have information and that information is sensitive, it doesn't even have to be classified.
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it could be information that's sensitive enough. that's why we have protocols, that's why we have procedures in place so that it's not used. you don't use whatsapp. you don't use texting. you don't use e-mail. you use secure servers. >> pamela, you have new reporting on requests from house democrats, committee chairman, regarding communications between president trump and president putin of russia. >> that's right. once again, the white house is rejecting a request from democrats on capitol hill. this time pertaining to documents about communications between president trump and vladimir putin. the white house released a letter today to three dp democ on the hill saying courts have established that communications between presidents of the united states and foreign leaders should be protected and kept confidential. what you see playing out here is this larger strategy from the white house to make it difficult to impede these democratic-led investigations on capitol hill into what they view, the white house views as an aggressive investigation into the
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president. and proper efforts to obtain protected presidential communications and conversations. as one white house official i spoke to said, yes, there's a strategy. but we have to make sure in the letters that the legal reasoning could stand up in court. if it gets there, democrats on the hill say this is about stonewalling. >> i think the white house is actually on safe legal ground on this narrow issue of communications between the two presidents. that really is at the core of foreign policy, which is largely delegated to the executive branch. i can't imagine any court ordering the disclosure of information relating to president to president communication. >> let me read the response from white house counsel. we will get everybody's reaction. white we respectfully seek to accommodate oversight requests, we are unaware of any precedent supporting such sweeping requests.
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both parties have recognized that the conduct of foreign affairs is a matter that the constitution assigns exclusively to the president. >> i agree with jeffrey that they probably couldn't get this communication between the president and a foreign head of state. that said, it's false that the constitution exclusively assigns all foreign affairs to the president. congress has authority. they can pass their own sanctions. the argument that they are offering is not just this really astoundingly broad assertion of executive power, but also saying congress doesn't have the right to conduct oversight in this. even if these core conversations might be protected, this is the white house i think asserting an argument that is constitutionally unsupportable. >> narrow legal grounds, i agree with jeffrey. the white house has a point. but for this white house to argue they have this exclusive realm in foreign power, after just last week trying to take
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away a power of the article one branch of government related to the wall, the power of the purse, smacks of hypocrisy at best. i think they are sort of treading on thin ice here pursue san's arg susan's argument. >> you make an important point. congress has roles and responsibilities in foreign policy, especially the power of the purse. >> anyone heard of the power to declare war? there's no more foreign authority that's more vested in a branch of government than that. on the issue of the mrez having exclusive authority, that's too much of an overstatement. on the issue of this being a sweeping request, i think that's an overstatement as well. the fact is, it's not sweeping. it's very narrow. it's specific to the issue of what these communications are. again, it's an issue that they are looking at in terms of
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reviewing and overseeing. we talk about eiran contra. should we forget about it and congress say arms for hostages, it doesn't matter. it's within the province of the president. even the issue of fast and furious, is it related to arizona and tracking guns to mexico. did congress abdicate its responsibility? no. there's an oversight authority and ability to be had here. i think it's a major overstatement to suggest that this is what the president does, leave us alone, it's presidential harassment. that's not true. >> jeffrey, let me get your reaction to an op-ed in "the new york times" by the former fbi director james comey. he says this among other things. quote, i hope that mr. trump is not impeached and removed from office before the end of his team. i don't mean that congres shouldn't move ahead with the process of impeachment governed by our constitution if congress thinks the provable facts are there. i just hope it doesn't. what's your analysis?
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you read the article. >> i frankly find that puzzling. i'm not sure what he is saying there. i think he is saying, as he said before, that the political process should go forward, that donald trump should be voted out of office by all the people, not just by congress. what he is hoping for, perhaps other people on the panel can enlighten you, because i found that part of the piece mysterious. >> i think there's two major points. one is that he calls for -- this is his words -- the return to the apolitical administration. too many people on both sides of the aisle see institutions like the fbi -- he is an fbi institution institutionalist, as a tool of partisan warfare and it should come back to being seen as a law enforcement organization. it's just a general warning to all of us. the point of the mueller report is to get to the facts of this, not to find that the president is necessarily culpable or less
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culpab culpable, but to know what happened. >> i was going to say on the impeachment part, my understanding was he was making the case, if the president is impeached, a certain part of the population would look at that and it would divide the country. my understanding was that was the argument he was trying to make. what was interesting in terms of mueller, he said i want this to be an example how justice should work. he said, i don't care what the result is. i don't buy that. >> fair enough. >> clearly, he has been arguing -- he has been making this argument consistently since he has written his book that impeachment would let the american people off the hook. >> go ahead, joey. >> the point of the matter is that if there are issues that are worthy of impeachment, it should be pursued. we have a political process. we have voters that go out and they will vote. that will happen in 2020. if there are issues worthy of impeachment, that's what should be done. perhaps it's premature. we're all waiting for the mueller report. it's not here yet. perhaps there are things that shed light.
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in addition to the mueller report, we have something called the southern district which is also doing and dealing with issues that are investigatory outside of the direct scope of what mueller is doing but could be impeachment. >> pamela, how is the white house bracing for the release of this mueller report? we anticipate it could happen at any time. >> yeah. i can tell you white house officials are on high alert. they are reading the tea leaves like we are. they are preparing, laying the groundwork. the special counsel has held meetings outlining different responses to different outcomes, whether some of the information that comes out or leaks is exculpatory or damaging. they want to have a response ready to go in the face of that. they're ready and waiting like we are. >> you know what they're going to say. they're going to say the whole thing is old news, no news here. we could all write their response in advance. >> in fairness, this is a bit of
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a win for the white house. it appears that they have gotten through this entire investigation without the president sitting down with robert mueller. that is viewed as a victory. to jeff's point, they are probably going to seize on what the president has already said. this say witch hunt, there were no charges on conspiracy or obstruction. the president was right. >> unless there's a shoe that is yet to drop. >> one of the things -- the report will answer is the question of whether or not mueller wanted to subpoena the president and someone in the justice department overruled him. that could lead to a whole new sort of scandal. >> which has to be disclosed. >> i want to play the -- the president was asked in an interview about his comments slamming the late senator john mccain. listen to this. >> senator john mccain is dead. why are you doing this? >> it's not a good portion of my time. it's a small portion. if you realize about three daze
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a days out, it came out his main person gave the fake news dossier. it was a fake. it was a fraud. it was paid for by hillary clinton and the democrats. they gave it to john mccain who gave it to the fbi for evil purposes. he voted against repeal and replace. >> he is dead. he can't punch back. >> people ask me the question. i didn't bring this up. you brought it up. >> you talked about it this week. >> you asked me the question. when i went out yesterday to the scrum, they asked me the question. when they ask me the question, i answered question. you bring it up. i don't bring it up. i'm not a fan. >> he did bring it up for five minutes during his speech in ohio yesterday at that tank factory. >> he is dancing on the late senator's grave. if he has issues with senator mccain's policy positions on any
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issue, it's fair game. this is a different order. the second thing to the point about what senator mccain did or didn't give to the fbi, what else would a sitting u.s. senator do with sensitive information other than hand it over to the nation's top domestic law enforcement agency? that's logical. let them, if there's an apolitical administration of justice, take it from there. >> stick around. there's more we need to discussion, including this. a disputed encounter between russian fighter jets and an american b-52 bomber. a double blow for farmers as flooding follows president trump's tariffs. it turns out, they want me to start next month. she can stay with you to finish her senior year. things will be tight but, we can make this work. ♪ now... grandpa, what about your dream car? this is my dream now.
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simple. easy. awesome. xfinity, the future of awesome. tonight, the pentagon is denying russia's claim its fighter jets chased away an american b-52 bomber over the baltic sea. fred pleitgen is joining us live with details. the u.s. military says there was what it calls a routine interaction between the planes much russia is painting it as something more serious. >> reporter: we see russian tv going after the united states. they're calling this an escalation and provocation. the u.s. says it's a necessary deterre deterrent. russia lashing out at the u.s. after claiming russian jets
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intercepted a nuclear capable b-52 bomber. a kremlin spokesman saying america is risking an escalation. >> translator: such actions do not lead to strengthening security and stability. on the contrary, this adds more tension. we regret such actions of washington. >> reporter: russia claims it scrambled interceptor jets. russian state tv claiming the warplanes chased the b-52 away. the u.s. air forces denies that saying the b-52 had a routine interaction while conducting operations over the baltic sea. the pilots were operating in conformive wi ivity with intern law. the russian aircraft did not chase the b-52 away.
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the u.s. has deployed six of the b-52s to the european theater, a move meant to send resurgent mo. the russian air force recently flying their own supersonic tu-23 bombers over the black sea. white trump and putin say they want to improve u.s./russian relations, moscow accusing the u.s. of risking a nuclear war. russia's deputy minister saying the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is decreasing due to a newly adopted strategy in the united states which blurs the line between national conflict and war with the use of nuclear weapons. the u.s. for its part says russia has long been violating nuclear non-proliferation treaties. moscow needs to tone down its rhetoric and its posture.
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moscow not toning don't his rhetoric. putin praising nuclear capable weapons. as we have seen, the u.s. air force not backing down. >> serious situation. fred flig fred pleitgen in moscow. thank you. farmers are reeling. first the impact of president trump's tariffs which sent crop prices plunging. now many of the farmers are facing flooding. vanessa, you have been talki ii to farmers. what are they saying? >> reporter: behind me is just some of the flooded farmland here in iowa. we are standing about 6 1/2 miles from where the missouri river line should be, according to the iowa democrat partment o agriculture. 100,000 acres have been flooded. most farmers we have spoken to can't get to their farms to
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assess the damage. some think they won't even have a crop to plant this year. it came fast. it hasn't stopped. the missouri river flooded to record levels across midwestern states, taking with it homes, crops and livestock. leaving farmers with hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. as you stand here and you look at this flooding, what are the emotions that come to you? >> there's a lot of pain and uncertainty of your future. >> reporter: this on top of new tariffs which have lowered prices on crops and livestock, implemented by a president many farmers here support. dustin is a fifth generation soy and corn farmer in iowa. he hasn't been able to get to his 2,000 acre farm since sunday. how much of your land would you say is underwater right now? >> 95%. >> reporter: what is the damage you are looking at?
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>> it's over a million dollars. >> reporter: over a million dollars lost? >> yeah. >> reporter: the nebraska department of agriculture estimates losses up to $1 billion. here in iowa, preliminary damage is estimated at $150 million. according to their department of agriculture, it's expected to rise dramatically. >> these are the people out here that feed america. without these people, america is going to suffer. the whole economy is going to suffer. >> boy, is it a mess. >> reporter: standing on the edge of his family farm, jeff's corn fields are now lakes. >> that's more money straight out of my pocket. i need to be able to farm this ground. i need to do my job. we're passionate about what we do. >> reporter: just across the street is leo's sixth generation farm. what should we be seeing? >> a farm field like the crop harvested last fall. >> reporter: what does this mean for your season? >> we don't know yet.
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it's definitely a deep concern. the thing about this flood is it's affecting two years. a lot of these bins are holding our 2018 crop. we haven't got delivered to town yesterday or sold. >> reporter: according to the american farm bureau, farm bankruptcies were up almost 20% in 2018. the highest level in more than ten years. it's something midwest farmers have been forced to consider. >> it's always a possibility with everybody. sell everything you own to pay what you owe and you have nothing. >> reporter: key to their survival is aid. president trump approved disaster relief for nebraska. he is hoping he will do the same for iowa. >> i don't think they will forget us. i think he knows how important that agriculture and grain farming, cattle farmer, raising hogs, it is to our country.
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give him a chance to do it and go from there. if it works, it works. if it doesn't, i guess we will have to see about making a change. >> reporter: all of the farmers that we have spoken to say they need federal assistance. they are hoping that the president will declare this area a disaster zone so they can get some of the federal funding. it's not over yet. the farmers are expecting more flooding as the snow in the north melts and heads down the river this way. >> really serious situation. thanks for that report. more breaking news next. president trump bucks decades of u.s. foreign policy with a major middle east announcement. (ding) hey, who are you? oh, hey jeff, i'm a car thief... what?! i'm here to steal your car because, well, that's my job. what? what?? what?! (laughing) what?? what?! what?!
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breaking news tonight, president trump up ending decades of u.s. policy to tweet, announcing the united states will recognize israel sovereignty over the occupied golan heights. orin, this is major victory for prime minister netanyahu just ahead of a critical election. >> reporter: it is. ever since 1967 when israel captured the golan heights from syria it is considered occupied territory by the u.s. and international community.
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now this a major political shift f for benjamin netanyahu. it was the proverbial elephant if the room. netanyahu has had a tough week in the election, and this is almost certain to give him a boost, and it could be just a start. in just a couple of days netanyahu will head to washington for aapec, and essentially a campaign stop for netanyahu and we'll see if trump gives netanyahu any other big political victories here. so this is certain to give netanyahu a boost as most of the headlines up until today have been focusing on it the criminal investigations netanyahu faces. trump just changed all of that. he's almost certain to give netanyahu that boost. one more point i'll make here is some of those smaller right wing and center right parties considering netanyahu's aopponent in the elections will
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see this as a political victory for netanyahu and think twice about supporting anyone other than netanyahu and that is thanks to president trump. >> thanks very much. let's get some more on the breaking news. dennis ross is joining us. he's worked on middle east issues for administrations for decades. most recently special assistant to president obama. dennis, thanks very much for coming in. what's your reaction? >> well, my reaction is this is actually going to complicate the ability of jared kushner and david freeman to present their peace plan. what this does is put leaders who are not calling for anything to be done with the golan heights, who basically look at the american president and golan heights and think it's okay, they're now put in a position they have to make a statement, they have to react to it. and it makes it much harder for them to respond to the trump
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administration. i feel a kind of irony here. >> so usee this as a blunder by the president? >> well, i certainly don't see it as working in the service of what he has been talking about. this actually undercuts being able to move ahead on that. >> did the president give away a significant bargaining chip with this announcement today? >> i think it gave up some interesting leverage but leverage by way iran. and the irony is he should have said there's no way israel should have to be thinking about moving off to dgolan heights. that would have been had the benefit of justifying where israel is and on the other would have created a fissure between
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assad and the iranians. now basically we've played into their hands. >> does this escalate the risk of military action, military confrontation in the region? >> not in the near term, but i do think we are seeing a collision course unfold. the iran yz are trying to create in syria what they had in lebanon. i do think we're headed on a course that is going to produce a collision at some point. >> and the timing is so significant. 2 1/2 weeks or so before the upcoming israeli election. it certainly looks like the president is interfering in israeli politics and wants to elvent the incumbent president netanyahu. >> there's no doubt if you look at this decision it's hard to interpret it as anything but in political terms.
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there was no pressing need to make this decision now. with arab leaders basically looking at israel and not prepared to say anything about this, you're creating an issue for them that wasn't there before. >> how unusual in terms of american history, and you've served in several administrations over the past few decades, the president of the united states so close to an israeli election to effectively interfere and also invite president netanyahu to blare house across the street from the white house only days before an election? >> to be fair it's not unusual. president clinton clearly nat aftermath of the assassination, he absolutely tilted towards paris who was running at that time against netanyahu. so it's not unusual to see american presidents take a position and in a sense
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intervene. i will say this, sometimes it actually produces a backlash. sometimes it looks like america is trying to determine what the israeli election ought to produce. so i don't know that it's a given necessarily that even though i think this will provide a short-term boost for prime minister netanyahu. i'm not certain that it won't in the end also create some backlash as well. >> what do you think of the way the president made this announcement today with a tweet? >> well, he also made it a tweet -- he tweeted when he said we were getting out of syria. there's a lot of problems with tweets but frequently the tweets seem to prize everybody who works for him. >> do you think there was any consultation with allies in the region or with members of congress? >> i'm quite certain there was not. it's very clear to me most of the arabs were taken by surprise. every time you surprise an ally the more they become kwinlsed they can't rely upon you. and the nice thing about having
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allies when you need them they're usually there. >> dennis ross, thank vaerz much for coming in. and to our viewers thanks very much for watching. follow me on twitter and instagram at wolf blitzer. eren burnett out front starts right now. out front next, the white house bracing for the mueller report. will it be the end of trump's legal nightmare or just the beginning? fire for using personal accounts, untraceable ones, for official work. what was on his whatsapp messages to the grown prince of saudi arabia? was it classified? are her swing state voters buying what aoc is selling? the white house on high alert bracing for mueller's report to drop. white house special counsel emt flood and his team ready to


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