tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN May 22, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
happening now, breaking news, taking the fifth. fired national security adviser michael flynn ready to invoke his constitutional right not to telephone in the russia investigation. this, as other key figures are handing over documents. we have new information tonight on the senate probe and the special council's criminal investigation. intelligence outburst. president trump issues a strange denial that actually appears to confirm that a recently shared classified israeli intelligence with the russians. how does that play with the israelis with mr. trump on their own turf. shifting u.s. policy. the president is using his historic trip to strengthen ties with saudi arabia and engage with iran. is he contradicting himself along the way. and provocative launch.
kim jong-un taunts the world with the second missile firing in a week. the north korean leader now claiming he could mass produce weapons capable of striking u.s. targets. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the situation room. the senate intelligence committee is considering holding michael flynn in contempt now that the fired national security adviser says he'll invoke his fifth amendment rights. we're told two former trump campaign figures, paul manafort and roger stone, they have turned over documents. also breaking, we're learning that ousted fbi director james comey will likely deliver his highly anticipated senate testimony the week of june 5th. the top democrat on the te
intelligence committee says the panel is working with special council robert mueller on how to proceed, as comey also is certain to be a key witness in mueller's investigation. stand by for new information on mueller's progress so far. also tonight, a surprising new comment by the president about reports he shared highly classified information from israel with top russian officials in the oval office. speaking in jerusalem, mr. trump denied mentioning israel during the conversation, but in the process he appeared to acknowledge that the classified information was, in fact, shared. it was an off message moment as he tries to keep the focus on diplomacy during his first overseas trip as president. we're also following kim jong-un's newest provocation, north korea firing its second ballistic missile in a week and reportedly ordering the new missiles to be quickly mass produced and deployed with the potential to strike u.s. military bases in the region. this hour i'll talk about
all of this with the key republican on both the house intelligence and homeland security committees. congressman peter kig is standing by live along with our correspondents and specialists. first, let's go to our global affairs correspondent, elise labben. michael flynn's decision to invoke the fifth amendment is a huge development, and there could be significant fallout. >> that's right, wolf. the top democrat on the senate intel committee, mark warner, tells cnn tonight senators are looking at next steps, including whether to hold michael flynn in contempt. flynn's lawyers say he fears any documents he provides would be used against him, pointing to what they see as a witch hunt fueled by members of congress leaking information and calling for his prosecution. >> reporter: tonight, citing an escalating public frenzy against him, former national security adviser michael flynn invoked his fifth amendment rights, refusing to comply with a subpoena from the senate intelligence committee for records concerning his
conversations with russia's ambassador to washington. in a letter to the committee, flynn's lawyers said he has, quote, more than a reasonable apprehension that any testimony he provides could be used against him. multiple members of congress have demanded that he be investigated and even prosecuted. a move then candidate trump said was evidence of guilt when used by hillary clinton's aides to avoid testifying over her use of a private e-mail server. >> you see the mob takes the fifth. if you're innocent, why are you taking the fifth amendment? >> reporter: a letter from the ranking democrat of the house oversight committee said flynn was not truthful to investigators about his trips to russia. sources tell cnn, russians officials in conversations picked up by u.s. intelligence bragged they could use flynn to influence trump. newly appointed special counsel former fbi director robert mueller looking at whether
president trump tried to get james comey to drop the investigation into potential wrongdoing by flynn. in february, cornering comey alone in the oval office, telling him, quote, i hope you can let this go, according to a comey memo. trump denies he made the request. >> no, no. next question. >> reporter: but has pointed to the russia investigation as a reason for firing comey. >> when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, i said, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made-up story. it's an excuse. >> reporter: according to the "new york times," the president called comey a, quote, nutjob, and said his firing would ease pressure on him regarding the russia investigation during a meeting with russian officials. the white house also said comey's firing could help end the investigation sooner. >> we want this to come to its conclusion. we want it to come to a conclusion with integrity and we think that by removing director comey we've taken steps to make that happen. >> reporter: republican senator
marco rubio who serves on the intelligence committee acknowledging the potential implications against the president but demanding more facts before drawing any conclusions. >> if any president tries to impede an investigation, it would be obviously a potential obstruction of justice that people have to make a decision on. any president. that said, we don't know if that's what's happened here. >> reporter: sources tell cnn former trump campaign chairman paul manafort has turned over documents to the senate intelligence committee. former campaign adviser, roger stone, has also complied with the committee's request and answered their questions. according to his attorney, the probes continue to widen, wolf. >> stand by as james comey prepares to testify before the senate intelligence committee. we're learning more about the memos about his conversations with the president and how they figure into the special council's investigation. our justice correspondent pamela brown has new information for us. you've been doing major reporting on this, you and the team. what are you learning?
>> reporter: we've learned that the new special council, probt mu robert mueller, has briefed on the memos that james comey kept to document his conversations with president trump. now, he has already visited fbi headquarters where he met with the counter intelligence agents who had been working on this case since last july, according to two people familiar with the matter. in one memo, comey wrote that trump asked him to end the fbi probe into former national security adviser michael flynn, according to a source. one source added that part of mueller's investigation is expected to focus on obstruction of justice and in that case comey would be a witness and muellleller would likely interv him. >> what will that affect comey's testimony on capitol hill? >> comey likely will be limited with what we can say now that the russia probe is in the hands of mueller. there's no way in the world
mueller wants his witness testifying, he wants to question him before anyone else does, but before that he'll have to go through tons of documents. that means there will likely be a lot of negotiating happening in these early stages of this investigation, particularly when it comes to the congressional inquiries on the same material. the source says mueller is likely going to want to talk to people involved in the house and senate investigations to make sure that he has the lead on everything involving this investigation and, wolf, today senator warner said that he hopes that mueller will talk with comey before he testifies. and just moments ago, congressman jason chaffetz, the chairman of the house oversight government reform committee tweeted this, he said, spoke with comey. he wants to speak with special counsel prior to public testimony hearing west postponed. >> pamela brown, thanks very much. alease, excellent reporting on your report. tonight the russia investigation is dogging the president during his first overseas visit as president. he blurted out a surprise remark
about reports that he shared classified information with russia officials. jim, the president met with a crucial ally, the israeli prime minister, but he seemed to have veered off script. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. the white house is trying to change the narrative back home by showing off these alliances that the president is building here in the middle east but the president found a way to step on his message today earlier today when he was trying to explain why he passed classified israeli intelligence over to top level russian officials. he offered up an explanation that simply didn't add up. >> reporter: president trump is discovering it's not so simple to bring the art of the deal to the holy land after suggesting middle east peace might be easy just weeks ago. the president acknowledged what his predecessors have known for decades, it's not. >> i've heard it's one of the toughest deals of all, but i have a feeling that we're going
to get there eventually. i hope. >> reporter: even as mr. trump continued this photo op by foreclosing the first sitting u.s. president to visit the western wall, he is doing damage control with his israeli hosts. the president appeared to confirm that he had recently shared classified israeli intelligence with top level russian officials with this misleading explanation. >> i never mentioned the word or the name israel. never mentioned it in that conversation. they're all saying i did. so you had another story wrong. never mentioned the word israel. >> reporter: the problem is those news reports never stated the president mentioned israel by name in that meeting with the russians. while some in the administration insist there's no need for apologies -- >> i don't know that there's anything to apologize for. >> reporter: others are conceding some reassurances may be helpful. >> we're trying to reassure all of our counterparts that what
they tell us is kept, trust and valued. >> reporter: the president and prime minister benjamin netanyahu are touting their ties with the iran nuclear deal. >> it was a terrible thing for the united states to enter that deal, and iran will never have a nuclear weapon, that i can tell you. >> reporter: still the president has yet to follow through on his campaign promise to tear up the nuclear agreement. >> i think that agreement is a disaster for this country, for israel, for the middle east. >> reporter: and that's not the only contradiction from this trip. contrast the president's rhetoric on islam from the campaign trail. >> i think islam hates us. >> reporter: with the softened language the president used in saudi arabia. >> there is still much work to be done. that means honestly confronting the crises of islamic extremism
and islamic terror of all kinds. >> reporter: the president slipped and said islamic terror instead of islamist terror the white house said because he is, quote, exhausted. top administration officials who danced the night away with the saudis are stepping around that comment. >> he's doing better than i am, and he's got a few years on me. >> reporter: the president is likely to find the negotiations are going to get tougher when he meets with the palestinian president in bethlehem tomorrow. the president will have his son-in-law and senior adviser jared kushner. reince priebus and chief strategist steve bannon are already back at the white house. >> jim acosta from jerusalem, thank you. let's get more on all of this from the leading republican on both the house intelligence and homeland security committees, congressman peter king of new york. thanks for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. >> how problematic is it, in
your eyes, that general flynn made false statements, apparently to investigators about his foreign trips? >> first of all, let me just say i'm not aware of any evidence at all involving any collusion with general flynn and the russians. that was the main investigation we've been talking about. i'm not aware of any allegations against general flynn there. as far as the statements, that's going to be up to general flynn to prove. i know that he did talk to the defense people before he went to russia. there have been some lobbying reports he filed, others he didn't. that's between him and them. as far as taking the fifth amendment, anyone in a criminal investigation virtually has to take the fifth amendment. i'm going to emphasize, as far as i know, none of this involves the campaign or any allegation of russian collusion. >> but if he lied to those giving him the kind of clearance he would need to be the president's national security adviser about the source of the
money he got from russia, russian television, and from turkey for example, half a million dollars, if he lied to pentagon officials and others about that, isn't that a problem? >> of course it is. i mean, that's going to be up to him if charges are brought against him. he'll have to defend himself. i don't know what happened in that situation. it's going to be up to general flynn. i do know that certain reports were filed. they may not have been the proper ones. maybe additional ones had to be filed but i want to emphasize, this as far as i know has nothing at all to do with the campaign, nothing to do with the investigation going on about collusion between the trump campaign and russia and i'm not aware of any evidence at all about that involving the campaign. >> you know the special counsel, bob computmute mueller who's a director is now engaged in a criminal investigation, not simply a counter intelligence investigation. i know you didn't want a special counsel to be appointed in the first place, but you have great confidence in mueller, don't
you? >> i do. wolf, i think there's a mistake here. some senators came out and said it's now a criminal investigation. what i was told at the house briefing by the deputy attorney general is that what this is doing is continuing what james comey had said had been begun, and that was a counter intelligence and any matters involving crime. so it was always -- it always involved a criminal investigation. so to me, i don't understand the point that some of the senators were trying to make. as far as i'm concerned, this is the same investigation that was going on before. now it's being done by bob mueller and i have great respect for him. my opposition to special counsel is philosophical. i go back, whether it's lawrence wals walsh, fitzgerald. we have had a number in new york. the fact that a special prosecutor in effect is accountable to no one. but you can't have a better one than bob mueller. >> comey use the the words it
was a counter intelligence investigation that was actually launched last july and i'm paraphrasing what he said, if any crimes were committed, they would come up with that as well. now apparently they've moved from counter intelligence to criminal. >> wolf, i disagree. i was at the briefing last week and we were told that it's the same investigation now as it was then. >> so it's still a counter intelligence investigation but they're investigating crimes. these are words obviously. >> that's what i'm saying. to me, if there's any crime committed, the person will be prosecuted for it, absolutely. >> comey used the word crimes as well when he testified about it. let me just update you on what our congressional reporter is just learning. senator burr who's the chairman of the senate intelligence committee now says immunity is off the table for michael flynn. is that the case for the house intelligence investigation as well? >> i can't speak for the chairman or the ranking member
but it would be very unusual to give him immunity while a criminal investigation is going on. that's where i think a lot of direction will be taken from bob mueller. again, if there is a criminal investigation, i don't see how any of the senate house kwh committees would consider giving immunity under those conditions. >> i want you to listen and watch what president trump thought about hillary clinton's staff taking the fifth, this when he was a candidate. listen to this. >> she has people taking the fifth amendment. four people plus the guy who illegally did the server. you know, he put in the illegal server. so they have five people taking the fifth amendment, like you see on the mob, right? you see the mob takes the fifth. in you're innocent, why are you taking the fifth amendment? >> quote the president, if general flynn is innocent, why is he taking the fifth amendment? >> listen, i disagree with president trump or no one who questions a person's right to take the fifth amendment.
if there's a criminal investigation going on against you, you have nothing to be gained by testifying without immunity or without asserting the fifth amendment. that has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. any lawyer would tell their client not to testify under those conditions. now, again, i, as a lawyer, fully understand that, you've never heard me being critical for someone taking the fifth amendme amendment, during the last presidential campaign. >> governor chris christie of new jersey, you know he was in charge of the trump transition almost until election day. i want you to listen to what he said today about general flynn. >> i think it's safe to say that general flynn and i didn't see eye to eye and that i didn't think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration. and i made that very clear to candidate trump and i made it very clear to president-elect trump. that was my opinion, my view.
>> what does that tell you about president trump ignoring these warnings, including from governor chris christie? >> again, that was governor christie's opinion. i don't know why he felt that way about general flynn. i saw general flynn testify a number of times in congress. he dealt with the house intelligence committee and i found him to be right on target. he was right about isis. he warned us about isis at a time when president obama was still saying that isis was the j.v. general flynn laid out exactly what isis was going to do so in those key issues general flynn was right. whatever happened since then is going to be in court. i guess the two of them didn't hit it off. if governor christie had anything specific to tell president-elect trump he should have. maybe the fact that he didn't get along with him is not enough reason to keep someone from getting a job. >> let's not forget before president trump fired michael flynn, president obama fired him as well as head of the intelligence agency. >> president obama was entirely
wrong because general flynn was right about isis. president obama was wrong. that was one of the most grievous mistakes we've made over the last five or six years, president obama underestimating isis and allowing them to get such a head start. it was general flynn who was warning us about that. >> it wasn't just that. it was issued, according to his associates, temperament, management style, those are the reasons that led to his firing at dia. >> on the key issue of isis, general flynn was right, president obama was terribly wrong and we're still paying the price for it. >> stand by, congressman. there are new dechblths unfolding as we speak. we'll take a quick break and be right back. the largest, most-reliable 4g lte network in america. it's basically made for places like this. honey, what if it was just us out here? right. so, i ordered you a car. thank you. you don't want to be out here at night 'cause of the, uh, coyotes. ok, thanks, bud. bye. be nice to have your car for some shelter. bye. when it really, really matters, you need the best network and the best unlimited.
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congressman, our justice correspondent, pamela brown, you heard her report that the new special council, former fbi director robert mueller has been briefed on the contents of at least some of the memos that the former fbi director, the fired fbi director, james comey kept to document all of his conversations with president trump. this according to two sources. are you familiar with any of those memoranda? >> i don't think anyone is except people in the media and now bob mueller. wolf, all i would say about this is bob mueller is now running the investigation but this investigation before was being run by career justice department prosecutors. if director comey had any memos that were relevant to the investigation, he should have turned them over back in february. he really felt there was any question of intimidation or interference or obstruction, then he had had, i believe, the legal obligation to turn them over to those who were leading the investigation at that time. again, that's going to be all up
to bob mueller to look at and investigate and see what they mean. >> how do you know, congressman, he didn't hand over those memoranda to others within the fbi? >> well, one reason i don't think he did is that when acting director mccabe who is the number two man in the fbi at the time, when he testified two weeks ago, he said that he was not aware of any attempt to interfere with the investigation by anybody. so if that's the case, i would assume that director comey would have told his deputy director that he felt he was being interfered with. so i'm basing it on that. if andy mccabe didn't know and he was the acting director and had access to all the files and before that had been the acting director and was close to jim comey, i would have thought -- >> sometimes they make those kinds of memoranda available to the inspector general as opposed to other officials as well. >> but this is a criminal investigation going on, wolf. if he thought any crime was committed, he had an obligation to turn it over to the attorneys
handling the case. >> we don't know who he turned over those to. will you subpoena them? i assume you want to see them? >> sure. for us to get a full picture -- >> this those memoranda written contemporaneously make the allegations that we've all heard, that's a serious indictment of the president. >> we don't know the full conversation. what were they talking about. i doubt they were talking about the russian investigation because if he had any information on general flynn, the president wouldn't even be talking to him about it. we don't know what it was about, if it was about the conversation with the russian ambassador. there have been accounts that those conversations were ambiguo ambiguous. he may have said it's ambiguous, it's not a crime. i don't know, i wasn't there. if he was trying to interfere with an investigation, director comey should have immediately turned them over to the attorneys handling the case or even resigned and dpgone public.
if you have a president interferin interfering, the director had an obligation to do something about it. >> the former fbi director comey, as you know he's going to be testifying publicly the week after memorial day, that following week. how far do you think that will go in setting the record straight? >> it will be difficult. i've regard for jim comey. i never had problems with jim comey at all. as far as i know we had a good relationship on the homeland security committee and the house intelligence committee. he could be somewhat restricted by bob mueller as to what he can say in public. often when director comey has been in public hearings, certainly with the intelligence committees, there's many questions he just can't answer because they were part of an investigation. so in this case, director mueller or -- excuse me, special counsel mueller, could well say that he does not want jim comey to testify about his conversations with the president if they are part of the investigation. >> peter king, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. appreciate it very much. >> much more on the breaking news. coming up, what are the
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fired national security adviser michael flynn. tonight a source tells cnn flynn made false statements to investigators about who funded his overseas trips, including a 2015 paid speaking engagement in moscow. this as flynn has told the senate intelligence committee that he's now invoking his fifth amendment rights. break down the argument that flynn's lawyers are making why he's going to invoke this fifth amendment right. >> remember back in march flynn's lawyer came forward and said, look, flynn has a story to tell here but he's only going to do it in exchange for immunity from prosecution to protect himself. tonight he's saying, look, you're not going to get the documents because by turning them over, it would show that he has them in his possession, that they're authentic, and that these things actually exist, so he's not going to turn them over because that would implicate his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. >> as we're speaking, gloria, we're just getting another
bombshell report in "the washington post." this story just posted, the headline trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against fbi collusion probe after comey revealed its existence. let me read the first couple sentences. this from the "washington post." president trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in march to help him push back against an fbi investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the russian government, according to current and former officials. the article continues, trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, daniel coats, and admiral michael s. rogers, the director of the national security agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election. according to the article, gloria, coats and rogers refused to comply with the president's request which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according
to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. another bombshell report. >> right. it's very much in line with what the president asked comey to do which was to end the investigation completely, according to comey's memos. so you have the president of the united states now going to three key people in his administration, assuming this report is accurate, and i have no reason to believe it isn't but let's assume it's accurate. that the president has gone to three top people in his administration saying push back against it or put an end to it. wolf, all of this is inappropriate at the very least, and i think this is the kind of thing that mueller is looking at. as pam brown reported earlier, mueller needs to look at these memos and now he needs to talk to rogers and to coats and find out exactly what transpired there because this looks very much like a president who's trying to get people to say things for him that may or may
not be true. >> end the article, the national security agency, and a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence declined to comment but the white house did offer this statement. let me read it to our viewers. the white house does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals. the president will continue to focus on his agenda that he was elected to pursue by the american people. ron brownstein, your reaction to this latest report in "the washington post"? >> as gloria said, it is very much a piece of what we have seen before and i think it kind of underscores what has been a consistent pattern of this presidency where president trump does not recognize the boundaries by law or custom on the arbitrary extent of presidential power. what he has asked, if this report is correct and as she said, we have no reason to believe it isn't. if in fact, he had asked them to
p prejudge the results of the investigation beforehand which is exactly what he was pressuring former director comey to do, it kind of underscores his unwillingness to accept the limits on a president's ability to interfere with or shade in any way an ongoing investigation, and it is these boundaries, i think, and the failure to respect these boundaries that move this from a story that has threatened people around the president to one that increasingly poses direct threats to him as well. >> is his best defense, i didn't know any better? maybe i shouldn't have done this but i didn't know any better? i don't think that's a very good defense. >> you're the lawyer here. you've done a lot of reporting on obstruction of justice. you know there are going to be now additional assertions by the president's critics that this points to obstruction of justice. >> it's one of those things that's not black and white and it's really -- the criminal standard is hard and it all goes to intent. now obviously, a prosecutor
could build a case using piece by piece, but the standard for congress is different. the standard for congress is anything that constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor and certainly obstruction of justice in the corruption sense is within their purview. >> the other thing that keeps popping in my head, he actually thought by firing comey that this would go away, that's what he told the russians. knowing now what this "washington post" report says, it makes it even more curious that he thought this would all go away with james comey's exit from the government. >> and it also, david, reaffirms what we've all known, especially those of us who have worked in wash baington for a long time, go after the fbi, you go after the cia, they're going to go after you. >> they're going to go after you, they have their own stake in this process, and regardless of the legal particulars, laura's right. it's a gray area in terms of
obstruction although you'll probably hear more calls for obstruction after this report by the post, but regardless of legal particulars, it suggests that president trump was looking at this situation as these senior figures in the government need to be loyal to him. they serve at his pleasure but the loyalty is to the united states and the constitution, not to the president. >> to that point, it is not only a question, i think, of people defending institutional turf or pushing back on independence. they are defending the integrity of a process. there is a reason there's a limit on the direct contact, for example, between the president and the director of the fbi in an ongoing investigation. i think what you are seeing is a president who, as i said, does not accept the norms on the limits of presidential power established either by law or custom, and all of the different institutions from the courts to the intelligence agencies to law enforcement that are pushing back to try to defend those norms in a very turbulent
environment. >> i think what you see is the president wants to shut it down. this is an incredible story here that not only did he go to his fbi director but he went to two other key people in his administration and said, do this. not this is wrong, he probably said there was no collusion, but this is about donald trump. this isn't about getting to the truth. this isn't about an investigation. this is about a president going to top people in his administration and saying, make it go away. that is completely inappropriate. if it's not obstruction i don't -- you know, and that's hard to prove, but this is a president. you can imagine his frustration here because he's asking person after person after person to deal with this for him, and to a person, they are saying no. >> david, the white house in that statement that is in the article not formally officially denying this report but there's another line that really jumps
out at me which potentially could be very explosive for the president. trump's conversation with admiral rogers, the head of the national security agency, was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior nsa official, according to officials. if there's contemporaneous evidence of the president seeking that from admiral rogers, the head of the national security agency which he thought was inappropriate which dan coats, the director of national intelligence thought was inappropriate, that would be very damning. >> yes, in a special counsel investigation, that writing would work similarly to whatever we find out from the comey memos, if they're written contemporaneously. i think when you look at what's gone on here, wolf, what you see again is a situation where president trump, like gore lori said, is trying to shut it down but it's generating more suspicion. >> if there's no collusion, at the end of the day, he has
succeeded in making this incrementally worse for himself and his administration by all of the things that he's spun up. >> this isn't the trump organization. this is the united states of america. when he was running the trump organization, he could turn to his people and say shut this down, i don't want this, i don't want that. he had no ability to realize that that's not the way the united states government works. >> and i think the fact that if this is correct, that admiral rogers as well as director comey felt the need to put down these contemporaneous notes of the conversations just underscores how far outside of the normal bounlds they felt they were operating. i think it's indicative, as gloria said, these are institutions with their own independent responsibilities to the public, to the constitution, to the rule of law, and they felt, i think, clearly in these cases that they were being kind of pushed beyond boundaries that they viewed as acceptable for a president to be directly
meddling in an investigation, particularly one concerning his own associates. >> laura, another quote in this article from a former senior intelligence official said this regarding the request to the dni, dan coats, the problem wasn't in so much asking them to issue statements. it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation. that's a big problem. >> obviously false statements are a problem in any context. i think we can all agree with that. certainly we haven't seen the contemporaneous notes, but certainly coats will be in front of mueller eventually asking these very questions, wolf. this bears on everything that the special counsel has been set up to do and really part of the reason he's there is to get to the bottom of this. >> who else did he have? >> it takes it away from it. he said with comey and trump and now you have a president trump said he said he said they said.
>> you know, david, this is only going to feed the appetite of the house committees investigating, the senate committees. they're going to want to see the contemporaneous notes. >> right, putting more pressure on both democrats and republicans to get to the bottom of this, lest their credibility is called into question by the public. the statement given to my colleague at the post was not a denial of the existence of this conversation or the memos, just an emphasis on the leaks and nonconfirmation but not a deny. >> let me read another line or two from the article. quote, a senior intelligence official said that trump's goal was to muddy the waters about the scope of the fbi probe at a time when democrats were ramping up their calls for the justice department to appoint a special counsel, a step announced last week. ron, go ahead and respond to that. >> i think as we said earlier, i think what was very clear from the outset here is that the president wanted fbi director
comey and now these other officials in effect to prejudge and to thus kind of defang the investigation before it had fully unfolded. in effect, asking people to say there is nothing here, even if you're not shutting down the investigation by pulling the plug. in effect, you are prejudging the outcome and kind of shaping the way that it unfolds, and that seemed deeply inappropriate when applied just to the fbi director and certainly now magnified here. as everyone else has said, it is not just the word of -- potentially now is not the word of one individual against the president but a series of officials arguing that in effect they faced the same kind -- almost exactly the same kind of pressure that director comey alleges in the memo that he faced. >> you know, this takes you back to the comey story about being asked to pledge his loyalty to donald trump because what donald trump was also asking from these two senior officials was loyalty
to him. do this for me. when they took the oath, they took an oath to be loyal to the united states, not to be loyal to donald trump. as i said before, this is not his company. this is his country. so it is very different, and just as comey wouldn't pledge loyalty to donald trump personally, i think in this story we're seeing there are public servants behaved as public servants. >> here's another line in the article. laura, i want you to respond to this. quote, can we ask him to shut down the investigation. are you able to assist in this matter, one official said of the line of questioning from the white house. >> that's stunning. the idea of shutting down an investigation, the idea of previewing or getting out ahead of your own justice department on active matters, it's just stunning. >> how did he not have any sense that this was wrong? >> it goes back to your point, gloria. >> that this was wrong. >> yeah, no.
i mean, he's -- president trump has never served in government before. like you said, this is not the trump organization. the trump organization wasn't even a large public company. >> but if you hadn't served in government before, would you do that? >> i would not. >> seems like he doesn't want to learn the rules. >> i want to bring in our pentagon correspondent, barbara starr. we have a military officer, admiral mike rogers, the head of the national security agency, the top secret intelligence-gathering operation based outside of washington, fort meade, maryland. all of a sudden you have a military officer being asked, according to this story in "the washington post," to dispute what's going on. >> absolutely, wolf. let me start by saying most reporters who cover the pentagon have known admiral rogers for a number of years. this is a very ethical, by-the-book military officer as all four stars are. you don't get to be of a three
or four star level without having some serious ethics let's say. so where are we on this? for the first time tonight this is the first indication that the president has reached into the military ranks. while admiral rogers heads the nsa and he's one of the key intelligence chiefs, make no mistake, he wears a navy uniform. he is a serving senior officer in the united states navy and a ve very critical job. he's subject to the military code of justice. he is subject to the code of conduct for military personnel. this is not a guy who's even going to think for a nanosecond about violating any of that, is not going to talk in public about classified information. but, if this "washington post" story is precise in its facts, the president has now reached into the ranks of serving military officers, and you can
bet every other four star out there tonight is looking at this and just wondering, common sense would dictate, wondering if the president some day will call them and ask them to do something that certainly would not be considered ethical a four-star would adhere to. no discussion of classified information. to discussion of investigations. and most importantly, the u.s. military is adamant about staying out of politics. they were very stressed at the highest levels during the presidential campaign because of what was occurring and all of the rhetoric and military language occurring during the campaign. they were absolutely adamant about staying out of politics. now, if that story is accurate, this is a story who for the first time is asking a senior military officer to get into the middle of a political fray.
by all accounts, admiral rogers said no. wolf? >> and dan coates, director of national intelligence said no, according to this report, as well. barbara, let me read to you and to our viewers another sentence from this article. jeffrey smith, a former general counsel of the cia, a man you and i know. he's quoted as saying this. trump's efforts to use the director of national an tell jens and the nsa director to refute comey's statement and to say there was no evidence of collusion echoes president richard nixon's, quote, unaccessful efforts to use the cia to shut down the fbi's investigation of the watergate break-in on national security grounds. that's a pretty explosive statement. >> well, let me just, you know, make -- absolutely, wolf, and let me make the common sense point here. what the president has potentially put at risk is decades, hundreds of years of
public confidence in the united states military. that the u.s. military does not act and in this country for a political agenda. that the u.s. military exists solely and only for the defense of this country. not for political agenda of politically elected officials, whether they're president of the united states or not. if you have a president, any president, start reaching into the ranks and asking serving officers to make public statements on behalf of what is a political agenda, this is not about national security of the united states. this is not about defense of the country. that takes this into very substantially different ground, i think it is fair to say, than we have ever seen before, wolf. >> and i'll read the white house statement that was released, gloria, i want to get your reaction. once again, this is the statement the white house gave "the washington post," the white house does not confirm or deny
unstance yalted claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals. the president will continue to focus on his agenda that he was elected to pursue by the american people. go ahead. >> well, you know, i mean, it's a denial, not about the specifics of the story, talking about the illegal leaks. but there is another paragraph in this story that i find really striking because it kind of spreads it out, and the story says, in addition to the request to coates and rogers, senior white house officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of interviewing directly with comey to encourage the fbi to drop its probe of michael flynn. >> yeah. >> and that, i mean, the story is so chock full of great reporting, but that is another problematic sentence right there. >> right. let me get ron brownstein on that. ron, go ahead. >> that is an escalation, even
from where we started. >> yeah. >> it is one thing to ask these intelligence officials to prejudge the result of the investigation, you know, move on, there's no problem here, it is a whole other level to say specifically that you are asking them to intervene with the fbi to encourage them to stop the investigation. and as jeffrey smith noted, that is exactly what was in the so-called smoking gun tape that led to richard nixon's resignation in 1974, when it was finally released. the idea that he would try to use the cia to pressure the fbi into dropping the watergate investigation. now, i'm not sayingthatweare there or that we have facts of that magnitude, but that is the scale that you're talking about. i mean, i think that is significantly more ominous or dangerous for the administration than even the original kind of conversation we were having about whether they were pressuring these officials to kind of give a vote of confidence and to prejudge the result of the invest game.
actually intervene is something else entirely. >> the argument could be made, this president had no experience up on capitol hill, he was a businessman, very successful businessman, developed all sorts of huge real estate projects, but he was dealing with the director of national intelligence, head of the national security agency, the fbi director, for that matter, if you believe all of these reports, as he would with others, other associates, you know, do me a favor, let's move on, forget about this. >> well, first, i think, you know, the history of president trump in the private sector was that, you know, he basically pushed the boundaries until someone could stop him. that was his kind of view of the law. his mentor was roy cone, who was as hard ball a lawyer as there ever was, and the top aide to joe mccarthy in the 1950s. that was the concern during the campaign, i think, for many of
those who worried about his approach to the presidency, if he would accept any boundaries of the limits of presidential power or would approach it the same way he did in the private sector. and yes, he doesn't know all the details of perhaps, you know, every statute, but i think, pretty much anybody who has lived 70 years on this earth would understand that it is inappropriate to try to enter fear in an jog goongoing investigation. i don't think you have to spend 40 years in because to kind of get that is not something that a president should be doing. >> and on the staff matter, ron, you know, the -- don't forget, back in february, that the story that came out about reince preibus going to comey and andy mccabe, the deputy, to sort of say, can you just put the kibosh story on this. that create e ed waves at the t.
he asked them to condemn the story publicly. not to stop the investigation, but to push against a "new york times" story. >> and while he's testing the limits of power, he is testing the patience of congress. i'm going to be on the hill tomorrow and it's going to be interesting to see, how much did the relief from the special counsel that you saw a little bit of last week has completely dissipated with this report. >> yeah, and legally, from the legal perspective, laura, this is potentially an enormous new development. >> well, as i said, i think you have to look at it as, this is one piece of the puzzle. and if this were just the only story, that would be one thing, but i think we start with the story of the president asking james comey whether he was under investigation, to hear him say it three times, and then we end with him in the oval office with two russian officials, telling him that the pressure has now been eased off. and a lot happened in those intervening weeks that i think builds into this story. so, it's not just one thing.
>> and the president is getting word of this bombsehell report while he's in jerusalem, it's late at night, he's sleeping -- i don't know if he is, at the king david hotel in jerusalem right now. but his aides certainly earlier in the day, they got wind and put out that statement. >> absolutely. as laura is saying, this is one more big bill will ow of smoke. if you zoom out a little bit, this is yet another situation where the agenda in this case, the trip overseas, is going to be overshadowed now, at least for the next day or so, by this news and taking the president further off what he was hoping was a reset on his foreign policy agenda. >> jackie, it's like one bombshell after another. wednesday, thursday, friday of last week and, what, it's only monday. >> it's certainly -- it's hard to keep up. but because it keeps building and because that timeline keeps being filled in, it is becoming harder and harder to defend, harder and harder to isolate one individual that's the problem individual that maybe is going
after the president. >> and you get this picture of a president who is feeling pushed up against the wall. completely preoccupied with this, obviously, with getting this off his plate, with getting this out of the way, asking his staff, according, you know, to "the washington post," asking top officials, asking the fbi director to pledge loyalty and shut it down, you get a sense of this president completely under siege, not trusting people who work for him and trying to get them, sometimes, to do his bidding. and it's -- it's a bad picture. >> stand by for a moment. we're also watching a story just now that's breaking over in britain, where police are responding to what they call a serious incident at the manchester arena. a concert was taking place at the arena tonight. here is what the greater manchester police posted on facebook, quote, emergency services are currently responding to reports of an explosion at manchester arena. there are a number of confirmed fatalities and others injured.
videos posted on social media show the chaos, show the confusion as people leave the arena. once again, manchester police in britain, they confirm that a number of confirmed fatal tills and others injured in what may have been an explosion. cnn will continue to follow this breaking story, as well as all the stories breaking involving the russia investigation. erin burnett "outfront" starts right now. next, breaking news. a stunning report alleging president trump asked two top intelligence officials to deny evidence of coordination between trump associates and russian officials. i'm going to talk to the reporter breaking this story. trump and raernl denying something he was never accused of. did he incriminate himself. and presidential putdown. did the president refuse to take melania's hand? we'll talk about that. up next