tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN April 3, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
happening now, breaking news. senate standoff. neil gorsuch's nomination is headed to a historic vote. what kind of fallout might there with when the nuclear option is triggered? behind closed doors, house and senate intelligence committees are meeting behind closed doors. i'll talk to senator mark warner about new controversy surrounding the probe and the alleged unmasking
of trump campaign associates. terror underground. passengers panic as a deadly attack on a russian subway train unfolds. is isis to blame and does the
terrorist group have its sights on president trump? and high stakes. president trump kicks off a critical week of global diplomacy, unleashing a new threat aimed at north korea and china. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the situation room. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. breaking news this hour, the united states senate now barreling toward an epic showdown that could change the rules for confirming high court justices forever. the
gorsuch nomination getting the green light from the judiciary committee today even as democrats secured enough votes to launch a filibuster on friday. republicans now amping up their plans to respond by triggering the so-called nuclear option
that would lower the number of votes needed to confirm gorsuch and future u.s. supreme court nominees. also tonight, president trump vowing to support egypt's hard line leader and work with him in the fight against terrorism. plump welcoming president fattah el sisi to the white house, something president obama pointedly did not do. and breaking news, members of the house intelligence committee are gathering this evening after weeks of partisan division and gridlock and controversy surrounding the chairman devin nunes. we're standing by for updates on what happened in that meeting. we're also going to get new information this hour about the senate intelligence committee investigation after new witness interviews were conducted behind closed doors. i'll speak live with the top democrat on the senate intelligence committee, the vice chairman, mark warner. there you see him, he's standing by to join us live along with our correspondence and analysts
as we cover all the news that's breaking right now. up first, our cnn congressional respondent sunlen serfaty with more on the gorsuch nomination. sunlen, it looks as though republicans will have to trigger what's called the nuclear option to get gorsuch confirmed. >> reporter: that's absolutely right, wolf, because democrats today have secured enough support to be able to filibuster neil gorsuch's nomination, which dares republicans to do what they have been threatening to do all along and invoke that nuclear option, essentially changing the senate rules to allow gorsuch to go through on a simple majority vote. right now it looks like republican are making good on that threat. >> judge gorsuch's answers were so diluted with ambiguity, one could not see where he stood. >> reporter: partisan battle lines are now fully drawn. >> the colleagues on the other
side who are willing to vote against the nominee for the united states supreme court, for the first time in history conduct a filibuster, i think that's unworthy of the senate. >> reporter: the senate is headed toward a high stakes showdown over president trump's supreme court nominee, neil gorsuch. >> the democrats are setting a very dangerous precedent. >> reporter: today democrats locked in enough support to essentially filibuster neil gorsuch when he faces the full senate later this week. >> i will be voting against cloture unless we are able as a body to sit down and find a way to avoid the nuclear option. >> reporter: senator coons' vote makes it possible for democrats to launch a filibuster. >> it's an amazing theater we've creaked, to correct this pretechs for a partisan filibuster. this is not going to be successful. >> reporter: meaning republicans
will have to make good on their promise to invoke the so-called nuclear option to it gorsuch through. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell not mincing words about what he intends to do when gorsuch faces the full senate. >> what i can tell you is that neil gorsuch will be confirmed this week. >> reporter: the nuclear option will change senate rules so that a supreme the score nominee will only need 51 votes to get through, rather than the 60 established under long standing senate rule. >> this will be very bad. judges will become more ideological because you don't have to reach across the ice to aisle to get one vote any longer. it's so unnecessary. >> reporter: today gorsuch's nomination advanced on a part line vote out of the senate judiciary committee, the last step before reaching the senate floor, giving democrats an opportunity to sound off on the
process. >> this nomination is not the usual nomination. it comes in a different way. and it has proceeded in a way of excessive spending of dark money that in the time i have been on this committee, i have never seen before. >> reporter: and the nominee. >> and i'm disappointed that judge gorsuch wasn't forthcoming with his answers. >> reporter: with republicans crying foul. >> if they're going to oppose neil gorsuch to the supreme court of the usnited states, thy will never support a nominee of this president. >> reporter: tomorrow at some point senate majority leader mitch mcconnell will move to end the floor debate on gorsuch. that sets up a key procedural vote that will happen at some point on thursday. we expect that the filibuster will not be defeated. that means that senate majority leader mitch mcconnell will start to trigger the nuclear option. that sets up, wolf, a potential final confirmation vote for neil
gorsuch at some point on friday. again, under these new rules, if it follows this procedure, he will need a simple maintaining vote, 51, to get through. >> sunlen serfaty on capitol hill, thanks. president trump is beginning a busy week with world leaders that will test him like never before. in his talk with egypt's leader, the president suggested a shift in policy. he's now emphasizing the joint commitment to fighting terror with egypt while staying silent at least in public about egypt's alleged human rights abuses. he sent his son-in-law to iraq, also raising eyebrows. senior adviser jared kushner meeting with the iraqi prime minister, something mr. trump's secretary of state has not done yet. let's bring in senior white house correspondent jim acosta. jim, the president is meeting with the egyptian leader, all a warm-up for the main event later in the week. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. that main event is china. president trump made a pledge to
voters in places like the midwest that he would get tough on china as a way to boost jobs here at home. and the president has continued to talk tough on china heading to this critical meeting at mar-a-lago later this week with chinese president xi jinping. it's worth pointing out, as a candidate president trump said china would be designated a currency manipulator on day one of his administration. that still has not happened. but in an interview with "the financial times" over the weekend, the president slammed china once again, saying when you talk about currency manipulation and devaluations, they are world champions, talking about china. the past administration hasn't had and many administrations, i don't want to say only obama, this has gone on for many years, they haven't had a clue. but president trump says, i do. now, critics of the president on this issue worry that mr. trump will start a trade war with china and that will actually hurt u.s. jobs here at home. here is what the president had to say about china during the
campaign. more of that very tough rhetoric. here is what he had to say. >> we can't continue to allow china to rape our country, and that's what they're doing. it's the greatest theft in the history of the world. >> reporter: we should point out last week the president did order a review of trade policies, including the u.s. relationship with china. but one reason the president may not be willing to act as forcefully as he once promised is that the u.s. has long relied on china to apply pressure on north korea over its renegade nuclear program. but the president did signal in that interview with the financial times that he may be willing to depart from that policy as well, saying it's an approach that did not work for presidents bush and obama. so this will be a very high stakes situation. these discussions will be extremely high stakes, wolf, when the president and the chinese leader xi jinping meet later this week down at mar-a-lago. >> very important indeed. jim acosta, thanks very much. we're standing by for a live, important interview with the
vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee, senator mark warner. stand by, senator, we're getting new information about the investigation of russia and its contacts with the trump camp. the house and senate intelligence committees are holding new sessions as controversy intensifies over the alleged unmasking of trump campaign associates whose conversations were caught up during routine surveillance. let's bring in our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto. what's the latest on this very sensitive issue? >> big picture, we're in a place now where intelligence is routinely politicized. we're seeing this throughout the russian investigation. and you have competing allegations here. i've spoken with former senior intelligence officials at the highest levels who served both republican and democratic administrations. and they've told me, one, unmasking is not leaking. if a senior national security official asks for the identification of an american name that comes up in a conversation with a foreign
intelligence official that's been intercepted by u.s. intelligence agencies, they can ask for that to be unmasked, but that information is not shared publicly. it's shared with that official. two, it's legal. there's a process that's been in place since 9/11. and three, the intelligence agencies have to approve that request. i'm told, again, by senior intelligence officials who have served both republicans and democrats that the nsa has to give this approval, they're very conservative about when and where they do it, they need a reason to do it. so publicbashback with intellig officials who have dealt with these kinds of questions and served in both democratic and republican administrations, that unmasking itself is some sort of crime or misuse of classified information. of course there are still questions about how that information is used, and that's something we continue to look into. but this is happening as you have continuing investigations on the hill, senate intelligence committee investigations of russia connections, as well as
house intelligence committee investigations of russia connections to the trump campaign. but right now, severe questions, even coming from republicans, as to whether that house investigation can truly be bipartisan going forward. tonight, members of the house intelligence committee meet to try to find a way forward in the committee's russia investigation. even gop senator john mccain says any hope of a bipartisan effort under the committee's republican chairman devin nunes is now lost. >> if we're really going to get to the bottom of of these things, it's got to be done in a bipartisan fashion. as far as i can tell, congressman nunes killed that. >> reporter: the top democrat on that committee, adam schiff, examined intercepted communications which reference trump campaign officials, a week after his republican
counterfirst viewed them and claimed they showed surveillance of trump advisers. >> how does the white house know these were the same materials shown to the chairman if the white house wasn't aware what the chairman was being shown? these materials were produced in the ordinary course of business. the question for the white house and for mr. spicer is, the ordinary course of whose business? because if these were produced either for or by the white house, then why all the subterfuge? >> reporter: that is raising questions among senate republicans as well. >> i think the whole episode is bizarre. if he did in fact receive intel from white house staffers, to then go brief the president, is a bit odd. why can't they just show the president what they've got? that whole episode was kind of stran strange. >> reporter: meanwhile, new revelations about dismissed national security adviser michael flynn. white house disclosures show flynn failed to report thousands of dollars in speaking fees from
russian companies before joining the administration. flynn has requested immunity to testify in the house investigation but the intelligence committee is so far no interested. president trump backed flynn's request in a tweet. congressman adam schiff told cnn's "state of the union" that move has a clear political purpose. >> the president is pretty transparent in his tweets. i think he wanted to get across a message that he's not afraid of what general flynn has to say and basically daring the congress to give him immunity, and if we make a judgment that no, we shouldn't give him immunity, the president can say we don't want his story to come out. i think it was a strategic move by the president and a transparent one. >> i've reached out to susan rice regarding these allegations that she ordered the unmasking of trump campaign officials, and so far we have no comment. senator mark warner is the vice chairman of the senate
intelligence committee. thanks for joining us. >> it's tough to keep up with all these stories. >> you're well-briefed on these, i'm sure you can do it. unmasking of those surveilled, is that covered by your intelligence committee investigation? >> as your prior correspondent jim sciutto said, there is a procedure and a process that in the normal course of intel, an intel official can ask for the unmasking of a main. i don't know whether that happened or didn't happen because the papers that chairman nunes looked at, we in the senate still have not seen. chairman burr and i, trying to do this in a bipartisan fashion, we said to the white house, no, we're not going to come down there to look at the papers, you should produce those, because we know how to handle intelligence papers sensitively, or we'll get them from the nsa or wherever
they initiated. i think they're coming to our offices tonight. >> if they showed them to the house intelligence committee, i'm sure they'll be happy to share them with you and the chairman. but is there a risk, in the so-called unmasking process, that it could be politicized? >> of course. you've always got to be careful with unmasking. but again, there is also an absolute procedure that if someone is trying to find intel and it says mark warner talks to wolf blitzer, and wolf blitzer is under some level of investigation, and an intel person says, we ought to figure out who that guy talking to wolf was, there is an appropriate procedure to unmask another name, in this if it was mark warner. again, i don't want to comment on hearsay at this point. we've tried to do this without chasing whatever happens to be
the story du jour. we're trying to do this in a bipartisan process. at the end of the day we all need to step back, take a breath, and realize this is about russians interfering massively in our election, this time to help one candidate, mr. trump, next time it could help somebody on the other side. and we all ought to be concerned about it as policymakers and as americans. >> i want to get to that in a moment. but just one final question on this part, have you seen any evidence at all that president obama's national security adviser susan rice did anything wrong, illegal, emperi improper unmasking the names of individuals? >> i have not seen that. again, i haven't seen all the documents, but at this point, absolutely not. as i think lindsey graham said, i just don't understand this whole story of the house chair going and looking at classified
information, then going back and briefing the president. if there was something that the white house had, why not share it with all four of the ranking members, democrat and republican, on both sides? i can tell you all the members of the senate intel committee, democrat and republican alike, still don't know what mr. nunes has been talking about. >> your committee began interviewing individuals today as part of the investigation into what is suspected, potentially some collusion between trump campaign associates and russia. can you tell us who you are interviewing at this stage, what sort of information you are seeking? >> wolf, what we're doing right now, we're still on the foundation. there was a january 6th report that the entire intelligence community contributed to, that said russians tried to interfere, they hacked one party and released selective information, they paid internet trolls that created bots that then basically flooded the zone
with false information that helped shape the narrative in certain states that were key in the election. and we want to look at the people who put that report together and say to those analysts, tell me, you had to reach a 95% confidence level, let's say, on that piece of information, tell us -- maybe you only had a 60 or 70% confidence level, what he wanted up on the cutting room floor. this is going to be early conversations between our staff and some of the staff who put together these analyses. i don't expect there to be any kind of smoking guns, big explosions coming out of these early interviews. but the more facts we collect, by the time it comes to interview informasome of the bi names, we want to be able to ask some of the big questions. >> why do you think michael flynn is seeking immunity as part of this investigation? >> we have had general flynn get
fired because he was -- didn't tell about certain conversations we had with the russians. we've heard reports, again, recently, i don't know these factually, but it's been reported a lot in the news that he was also paid by the turkish government. and now we hear other reports of other payments from russians. we need to find out whether those facts are correct or not before we question him. but obviously it raises a lot of smoke. >> i assume your committee, senator, will weigh in with the justice department before making a decision on whether or not to grant flynn immunity for prosecution. >> it's way too early for us to be talking about immunity to anyone. we've got to get our questions, do our research. and i know people want to get to the bottom of this. trust me, i am a very impatient person myself. i want us to be further along. but it's better that we do it right, that we do it thoroughly, and that we do it bipartisanly,
rather than somehow race to the cameras about each story that comes up what seems to be almost every day. >> the senate intelligence committee is working in a bipartisan fashion as opposed to the house intelligence committee which has serious problems. senator, i want to take a quick break and resume right after this. courtyard, the official hotel of the nfl, and i got together to remind you that no one's the same without the game... like @sirloinking who writes, "just came home with $85 worth of groceries with names like, goats beard, pawpaw and that vile weed kale. what happened?" well, a lack of football is what happened. breathe. soon, you'll be enjoying a big 'ol brat at a tailgate and kale smoothies will be but a memory. next time you order kale, try using a silent "k". tastes so much better.
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the use of the filibuster of neil gorsuch, that you won't vote for his confirmation. how did you come to that decision? >> let's acknowledge neither political party comes to this process with entirely clean hands. i mean, the democrats changed some of the rules in 2013, and then in 2016 you had an unprecedented effort where the senate republicans wouldn't even consider the appointment of merritt garland, who would have had much broader bipartisan support. i have to tell you, judge gorsuch has got impressive intellectual credentials. but i was really disappointed with his testimony ain his private meeting with me, where he wouldn't reveal any feelings about any prior cases, going back to the just to rowe versus
wade and protects a woman's right to choose. at the end of the day he was so evasive. i was disappointed that the president seemed to only choose from a prearranged list of judges that had been in effect put out by a series of very conservative groups, and then those groups have spent literally tens of thousands of dollars. that's not been the process that's taken place in the past, where i believe even with judge garland, i believe at least president obama called a couple of republicans to get some suggestions on the front end. i'm disappointed we're at this point. i've got to stay an optimist. maybe there is some way for avoiding this so-called nuclear option. but yes, i've decided to vote -- agree to continue the filibuster. and if it's overturned, to vote against judge gorsuch. >> but you know the senate majority leader, mitch mcconnell, has vowed judge
gorsuch will be confirmed by the end of the week one way or the other. how concerned are you that he will invoke the nuclear option requiring just a simple majority vote? and that changes the rules for all future u.s. supreme court nominees as well. >> i'm very concerned. and i think we were talking earlier about our investigations in the senate being bipartisan into the russia challenge. a very different approach in the house. the house is incredibly more partisan, regardless of who is in control. and i am afraid that a place that we still struggle for a little bit of bipartisanship, if we convert back to rule of the majority only on things like judges, that we could end up with, again, even more extreme judges, regardless of who is in control. there may be some -- i know there have been some efforts to put together something that might still end up resulting in gorsuch being approved but preserving the rules. but i'm not sure, having been
most of my time on the russian investigation, i'm not sure those efforts are going to bear fruit. >> if the nuclear option is used right now, senator, doesn't that fundamentally weaken the senate for both parties down the road, given what the democrats and harry reid did in 2013, for lower federal judges, and now what is about to be done for u.s. supreme court justices? >> yes. that's why i said, wolf, that neither party comes to this issue with exactly clean hands. the democrats changed the rules after the republicans on lower court judges had filibustered more lower court judges during obama's tenure than in all the prior history of the country put together. and then there was this question about merritt garland, not even giving him a hearing last year. you're right, if we drive over this cliff, the power of both
parties will be diminished. >> you think nudge neil gorsuch is so unqualified for the u.s. supreme court, you're willing to blow up a couple of hundred years of tradition in the united states senate? >> wolf, what i'm saying is, if you can't get 60 votes on a senator, what you should do is not change the rules. you should change the candidate. and i'm sure there would be other judges that president trump could put forward that i would be supportive of. i just am a little surprised and disappointed that we've got a judge here that i do think has outside the mainstream views, and rather than saying okay, let me try to put somebody up that could get 60 votes, the same way that the judges that president obama put up gained more than 60 votes, instead we'll have the
majority leader change the rules. i think it's disappointing. it may inure to the republicans' benefits in the short term, but as we know in politics, times will change, the democrats will get in control, and they'll using the same tool. i know there are some people still talking so i'll try to keep a little bit of optimism for a couple of more days. >> i spoke to one of your colleagues, senator coons, he's also hoping there can be some resolution, although increasingly it looks unlikely. senator warner, thanks for joining us. >> thank you so much, wolf. just ahead, as congressional investigators meet behind closed doors, the white house complains the probe into russia's campaign meddling is veering in a troubling direction. and why did president trump send his son-in-law to iraq instead of his secretary of state? ue by having better values? at blue apron, we work directly with more than a hundred family farms. so instead of spending on costly middlemen and supermarkets, we can invest in the things that matter most:
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we're following the breaking news on the president's supreme court pick. democrats poised to filibuster neil gorsuch's nomination, republicans ready to trigger what's called the nuclear option to stop them. let's bring in our analyst, who told me earlier he's still hoping for some miracle to emerge to avoid the nuclear option. we heard something from senator warner as well. is it too late? >> yes. miracles can happen. but not in the senate. not over this. and, you know, i think there's going to be a filibuster.
and i think at some point mitch mcconnell is going to keep his word. he has said gorsuch will be approved by the end of the week. the way he's going to do that is by executing the nuclear option, which would mean he would only need a majority vote. and, you know, i don't think there's any way around that. and, you know, my question is, once you unleash it now and you say, okay, we don't need -- you can't filibuster a supreme court nominee, all you would need is a majority, how long does it take for that slippery slope to go down to legislation, say you only need a majority, and then the senate turns into the house of representatives, which no one would say was a role model for the way to get things done. >> because harry reid triggered the nuclear option in 2013 about lower federal judges, their confirmation. the democrats supported it then. now the republicans are threatening to do something further. gloria is afraid it could continue for all sorts of legislation that would change the nature of the u.s. senate
and make it more like the house of representatives, where everything is a simple majority. is the opposition that democrats show to neil gorsuch, rebecca, is it genuine, or is it revenge for the way merrick garland was treated in the final year of the obama presidency? >> if you take them at their word, wolf, it's genuine. senator warner just said gorsuch was too extreme, he didn't answer questions to the satisfaction of democrats. okay, that's fair enough, we can take democrats at their word there. but part of this is definitely about merrick garland. and part of this is about politics. democrats need to show their opposing donald trump. they need to show their activist base that they will do everything they can. this is the only tool left in their toolbox on the supreme court nomination. and of course it's not much of a tool at all, because mitch mcconnell and republicans will override it. but it really is about politics for them and showing that they're putting up a fight.
>> david, if there is another opening in the next four years of the trump presidency, the next supreme court nominee that he picks could even be more conservative, and he or she would only need a simple majority. >> that's right. and wolf, i don't take the democratic senator at their word. this is completely about politics in my view. i think the ramifications are predictable and maybe not as bad as everybody says. partisanship is broken in washington already, so i don't think this breaks it that much further. yes, you are right, gloria, this will go down a slippery slope towards getting rid of the filibuster for all legislation. but i think that's just the political moment we're in now, that we're heading toward. >> let me switch to another subject. phil mudd is with us. president trump and his supporters have been trying to find some way to back up his tweets from several weeks ago that trump tower was wiretapped by former president obama. i want to read to you a couple of the most recent tweets from
the president, president trump. such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by "fox and friends" spied on before nomination the real story a little bit later. he tweeted, fox news sources, there was surveillance of people close to trump, this is unprecedented. is unmasking what president trump is making it out to be, that it was surveillance, inappropriate surveillance of him and his campaign? >> the most disturbing part of this, wolf, is the president of the united states is looking to fox news to understand how government works. and he's revealing through tweets that as the chief executive in government, he does not understand the national security process. let me make this easy. let's switch the tables. the national security adviser under president trump receives information that is masked. let's create a scenario. that information suggests that former obama administration officials are undercutting the president, president trump, in conversations with russian
officials. if you're president trump's national security adviser, you have one option in that circumstance. that is to say, i need to know who those former officials are who are undercutting us. that's an unmasking process that happens all the time in washington. i don't think it was any different under obama. officials are seeing information that suggested that trump individuals were undermining president obama, and they said, i need to know who these people are. it happens all the time. what we're learning is that the president of the united states is misunderstanding or simply not asking questions about how his own government operates. >> gloria, you've been reporting on this unmasking, what have you learned? >> it goes along with what phil was just saying. i was talking to a former senior intelligence official who said, look, nobody here would be targeting the trump people or surveilling the trump people. what you do if you want to get something unmasked, it means you're trying to find out exactly what it is you are
reading. you're trying to understand what you are reading. so you need to know the context of what you are reading. and wonderful, it's not -- the process is not as if you pull off a post-it note and uncover the name of somebody. this has to go through a number of people, professional career intelligence officials, who will ask you why you need to know this, why they should grant it. and there's a whole legal process you have to go through. once that's unmasked, the number of people who actually see it, i was told, is maybe a dozen or two. so it's not as if this has been widely disseminated. it is a process, and you do it because you need to try and understand what you are looking at. >> but rebecca, you know that the president's supporters think this is really confirmation of what he was tweeting weeks ago for all practical purposes. >> right. that's exactly it. phil i think is giving him the benefit of the doubt here, saying that president trump
misunderstands this issue. it could be that he understands it perfectly well and is using this issue to help shape the debate around the russia investigation and everything else. and to move it more in a direction that is favorable to him that makes him look like the victim as opposed to the perpetrator here. so it's an open question, really. >> president obama's national security adviser susan rice, all of a sudden her name has been involved by these individuals, these reports suggesting she was unmasking these names. that's going to gave a lot of fuel to the controversy. >> it will gaveive a lot of fue particularly because susan rice's name is known to folks because of the benghazi investigation. ultimately the question is whether what she did was illegal, which right now there is no evidence that it was illegal. the irony for republicans or the white house is if president trump had not done that four-tweet tweet storm four
weeks ago, they could have had a big reveal with this information now, but now it falls short of the mark. >> stand by, guys, there's more news unfolding. how much global power does the president's son-in-law have right now? a closer look at his surprise visit to iraq and his expanding influence. your path to retirement may not always be clear. but at t. rowe price, we can help guide your retirement savings. so wherever your retirement journey takes you, we can help you reach your goals. call us or your advisor t. rowe price. invest with confidence. ♪ ♪
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tonight president trump's son-in-law jared kushner is at the center of another high profile diplomatic mission, meeting with the iraqi prime minister in baghdad. kushner's rapidly expanding role as a senior adviser to the president is raising questions about who is in charge of carrying out the trump administration's global policy. our senior diplomatic correspondent michelle kosinski joins us live from the state department. michelle, the president clearly has put a lot of trust in his son-in-law. but others aren't necessarily as confident. >> reporter: wolf, would that everyone could have this kind of relationship with their in-laws. kushner has gone from son-in-law to close adviser to his go-to guy on you name it. this is a guy with no experience who has been tasked with spurring american innovation and orchestrating mid-east peace among other things. this has more than raised eyebrows around the world, even caused confusion among foreign diplomats, wondering who they're
supposed to be talking to, and why. more than a seat at the table. trump's son-in-law and senior adviser jared kushner seems to be at the head of nearly every table at the white house, from streamlining the government to solving peace in the middle east. president trump told one newspaper, tonight kushner is in iraq invited by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to see the situation firsthand and get an update on the fight against isis prompting this bewildered tweet. kushner in iraq before the national security national security advisor or secretary of state. totally normal. it's not just iraq. kushner has been designated the point person on a list of issues including trade deals and meeting with china and updating the government's technology infrastructure and tackling the opioid crisis. >> he's very good at politics.
>> reporter: he's held important meetings with foreign leaders even when secretary of state rex tillerson was noticeably absent. the white house was asked how he can do this. >> there's a lot of relationships that jared's made over time with leaders, mexico being one of them, that are going to continue to have conversations with him. it doesn't mean it's done without coordination with the state department. quite the opposite. >> reporter: it's taking time for the state department to up to speed still understaffed at the senior level. so has jared kushner who has won confidence by projecting confidence even when he doesn't have the experience or knowledge, the de facto secretary of state. to many it has appeared that way and appearances effect influence to the point that some diplomats like the chinese ambassador have been dealing directly with him and it's worked with middle
eastern delegations like the saudis. kushner was at table to get the u.s. and mexico together at the table. some european ambassadors have expressed outrage that a son-in-law has been given a big role. >> the larger question is up until now we haven't seen a lot of regular order in this administration when it comes to making foreign policy. it's supposed to be centered around the security council. that doesn't seem to be happening. >> reporter: tonight, as kushner works in iraq and prepares for the meeting with the chinese president on thursday, the man with zero diplomatic, government or foreign policy experience may now be the most high profile member of the administration doing just that. why and how are the lingering questions. outside the white house and around the world. >> talking to a senior republican member of congress who is familiar with this web of
influences around the white house, i asked that question. is kushner essentially functioning as secretary of state. he said no, because tillerson meets with the president so often. he believes tillerson has the president's respect, has his ear and he's aligned himself with mattis and they are working on plans to deal with things like russia and isis. that is not the same kind of access or relationship that kushner has, but this member of congress says because kushner out of necessity has to go out and find information, find advice and he has to listen, among those who are most influential to him on some of these issues are tillerson and mattis. wolf. >> thank you. just ahead, an explosion rips through a subway train as president putin visits the russian city of st. petersburg.
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terrorists are to blame for the bloody bombing on a metro train in st. petersburg. an explosion ripped through the train as it traveled through stations killing ten people and wounding more. a second device was found and disarmed. what's the latest on the ground, paula? is it known who is responsible? >> reporter: not yet, wolf. the problem is we're working on 12 hours after this happened authorities are scouring through a lot of the surveillance video they have from both subway stations to have a look, but the problem is in terms of trying to
identify these suspects, it is clear the authorities don't know which direction to go in. having said that, you know how russia is prosecuting that war in syria. they're looking at whether or not this is isis related. they have their own problem here as you know with those who have gone to syria to fight. that is a problem. in the past, they have not said anything at this time. about a mile from here vladimir putin laid his own flowers to commemorate the victims, but this is a city very much in shock. >> was it a coincidence that the russian president was in st. petersburg today? >> reporter: well, it is a coincidence. of course, this is his hometown. he was here for a political summit. he was supposed to be here for a few hours? lawmakers saying could this have been a coincidence. they believe terrorists targeted this city because they knew that vladimir putin was here. >> paula, thanks very much.
a really horrendous terror attack there today, but it could have been worse if that second bomb had gone off and had not been disarmed. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room". "outfront" starts now. president trump using fox news to create a smoke screen diverting attention from the russia attention. president obama top security adviser weighs in on russia's interference in the election. should have obama done more. she is my guest tonight. a troubling crime trend this evening. what does it have to do with president trump? let's go out front. trump's russia dodge, the president trying to change the subject tonight. he doesn't want the focus on his team's contact with russia, instead he's focusing