tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN January 24, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
we have some wonderful parting gifts for our contest t contestants here. thank you for that message to america. i appreciate it. be sure to follow us. that's it for "the lead." turning it over to "the situation room." happening now, breaking news. talking to mueller. the cnn learns that mike pompeo talked to the special counsel's team in the russia probe. and robert mueller will soon interview steve bannon. loyalty test. the white house isn't denying reports that the president tried to ask the top fbi official who he voted for. was it a loyalty test or a getting aquainted time? >> and starting all over again on immigration.
can they reach a deal? and growing storm costly the special counsel look into the reported hush money payment to porn star stormy daniels following her alleged sexual relationship with donald trump? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." robert mueller's team has interviewed mike pompeo and will soon interview the chief strategist steve bannon about the firings of michael flynn and fbi director james comey as the russia investigation closes in on the oval office. our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage.
this took place last year. the focus. questions were told by one source it is on the president's conversations with him to make a public statement that the president was not under investigation for collusion. we're also learning that when other witnesses were interviewed, that again and again the subject comes but that the firings of james comey and michael flynn, clear evidence that the special counsel is looking into the possibility, at least, of obstruction of justice by the president. >> tonight cnn is learning the special counsel wants to question the president's former chief straft steve bannon about the firings of national security adviser michael flynn and fbi director jim comey. bannon's interview is expected by the end of the month according to two people with the investigation. the questioning is the latest in a string of high profile interviews expected to volks on the president's potential
interference in the russia probe. further evidence that mueller is investigating possible obstruction of justice. bannon is expected to be asked about pressure exerted on jeff sessions over the fbi investigation into russian interference in the election. sessions who was involved in the firing was likely questioned last week about the president's role according to a source close to sessions. now mueller and the president's lawyers are expressing his own testimony. >> what did you think when you were going to fire comey? what did you think when you were asking for loyalty? what did you think when you called him into the first responder's meeting over? was all of this an effort to buy loyalty, intimidate, and when you didn't get your outcome, fire him? >> new questions about the president's interference with
law enforcement have been raised by a "washington post" report that mr. trump asked then acting fbi director andrew mccabe who he voted for in the 2016 election. and criticized mccabe's wife's affiliation with the democratic party. he reportedly responded that he did not vote. the head of the republican national committee dismissed the question as part of simply getting to know one another. >> he is not going around saying did you vote for me. he kept people on who i know, i'll sure he thinks didn't support him. this is a president who is just getting to know people and that's part of the conversations. >> but diane feinstein sees a much bigger issue. >> the whole misconception that the president has of the fbi, and that is that it is his agency. that the corrector, the number two, should serve him.
the director is not the president's director. >> now, new information of another potential cooperating witness for the special counsel. the deputy campaign chairman with gates has ald ad white collar attorney tom green to his defense team signaling that gates approached his not guilty plea could be hins the scenes. a well known washington defense lawyer was seen at special counsel robert mueller's office twice last week. >> today white house press secretary sarah sanders was pressed on what the president means exactly when he denies there was any collusion with russia during the election. and it is interesting that she defined it very narrowly. she said i think he's stating for himself and anything that he would be part of or know about or have sanctioned. it would have only been what he might have ordered doesn't make any statement about what his campaign aides, advisers, other
members of the campaign might have done. very interestingly narrow definition of the president's no collusion denial there. >> all right. there's some important news about the missing fbi text messages that republicans, even the president, have seized on to suggest some sort of wrongdoing. what are you learning? >> that's right. part of overall assault, so to speak, on the fbi coming from the president and his allies in the last 24 hours. the president tweeting, what happened to the 50,000 text messages, implying some conspiracy to hide them. the fbi said today that thousands of fbi cell phones are missing text messages from that period of time. about one in ten fbi phones. and this was a technical glitch involving specifically samsung phones. you might say somewhat undermining the president's situation that there was some kind of plot or conspiracy specifically to hide those messages between two filibuster employees that have drawn so much attention. >> the president has tweeted, where are the 50,000 text
messages. blaming samsung. there is an answer to the president's questions. let's dig deeper. >> we are expecting, our sources tell to us focus on steve bannon's time at the white house and how the events under folded around the president's decision to fire michael flynn who was the former national security adviser who remember was fired after it became known he spoke to the russian ambassador about sanctions and then lied to a number of officials about it. mueller will be interested in how he wanted it. part of the reason it is so interesting is because these are not events that bannon would talk about when he went in front of the house intelligence
committee. he said executive privilege prevented him. the white house prevented him from talking about anything that went on during transition. >> they're preparing for a different tactic when they go to meet with mueller. >> could steve bannon's on the record interviews for the controversial book, fewer and fury be fact orred in? >> legal experts say absolutely. that's because the comments were bombastic. it caught the eye of mueller's team but investigators on capitol hill for a closed door hearing. they won't care, mueller's team about, what steve bannon's opinions are about some comments he made in the book that he has acknowledged are hyperbole. according to sources. they will care whether he has facts to back up some of the more stunning or alarming assertions and whether he has any knowledge of the president's mindset. the president's thinking when he was making some key decisions. like for instance, firing james
comey. >> a good report. thank you very much. joining me, a member of both the judiciary and foreign affairs committees. congressman, thank you for joining us. >> my pleasure. >> i want to get to our top story first. what should the special counsel robert mueller ask steve bannon during the upcoming interview? it could happen within days. >> well, i think it is clear that the special counsel has interviewed a number of people. in the president's inner circle that have first hand knowledge of what the president did and said and what was in the president's mind when he fired james comey that michael flynn. i think that this special counsel is likely to ask mr. bannon about the president's conversations about, what the president said or did. and i think it is clear the special counsel is focused in on the reason that the president fired the director of the fbi and you look at the actions he's
taken. to ill teed or undermine the investigation. >> according to this news, michael flynn didn't tell anyone else at the white house about his interview with fbi agents in the west wing while he was he the national security adviser. do you think steve bannon could help shed some light on the time line of flynn's firing including what the president knew wlr, whe knew it? >> no question about it. i think it is an important development. michael flynn was working the white house at the time and i think mr. bannon will have a lot to shed on this issue as well. no question about it. >> robert mueller's team is interested in meeting with the president himself during the coming weeks. sources telling cnn that mueller is focussing in on the firing of james comey.
does that tell you about anything about the direction of this investigation right now? >> well, i think it tells us what we've known for some time now. that the special counsel is focused on the potential obstruction of justice by the president of the united states. what we don't know is what the other half of the investigation about collusion between the trump campaign and the russians. so we don't know whether that's concluded or ongoing. clearly this part of the investigation is focused on whether or not the president attempted to impede or slow down or in any way interfere he improperly with an investigation. there's a lot of evidence that's the case. the president's own admission that he asked the fbi director to let this flynn thing go. that he asked jim comey to be loyal to him and then he fired him in connection with the russia thing. there is a lot of evidence that would suggest it but it is clearly the focus of the ongoing
inquiry by the special counsel. >> should robert mueller ask the froze appear before a federal grand jury without his attorneys president? >> i think robert mueller will do what is necessary to conclude the investigation in a fair and impartial way. i think we should have a lot of confidence in his professionalism and integrity. if he feels the president's testimony is important. he can say, if i were to answer this question truthfully, could i potentially incriminate myself in some wrongdoing. if he invokes that, he could not testify. but. >> i remember when bill clinton testified before a federal grand jury via video link from the
white house during ken starr investigation including the monica lewinsky scandal. let me get your reaction on a conversation between president and the then acting fbi director andrew mccabe. shortly after james comey's firing last year. the president asked mccabe who he voted for in the 2016 election. does that worry you? >> deeply. look, the notion that some of your guests, that this was just a casual conversation. and people do it in small talk. let's not forget the context. the fbi director comey had just been fired in part because of the russia thing and because he didn't swear loyalty to the president. it is in that context that mr. mckab is summoned to the white house and asked this question. completely inappropriate. another remind per this president, the oath is to serve
the people of the country and the constitution. not to serve the person of the president of the united states. it is another example of not understanding the fbi, the department of justice, do not work for the individual donald trump. they boriwork for the american people and the constitution. and the notion that the vote of a particular individual would be an appropriate question to ask someone, particularly as you try to test his loyalty. it is really disturbing. it violates a very basic norm and i think it was very disturbing to everyone. >> there's a controversy surrounding a memo that was authored about surveillance during the obama administration. for now that memo remains classified. some republicans are already using its contents to target the overall russia investigation. does that memo have any credibility from your perspective?
>> i have not read it but i will say, this is devin nunes who had visited the white house and was trying to cover it. as a result of that, had to recuse himself from leading this investigation. and this is another effort to rally around the president. this is devin nunes' summary or opinion about contents which everyone who has read it has characterized it as grossly misleading lt it caused the democrats to do their own memo to set the record straight. i think it is part of a larger effort, sadly, of our republican colleagues. they are doing everything they can on undermine this very important investigation. the men and wrem professionals.
they risk their lives fighting terrorism all over the country and the world. they do extraordinary work. and they deserve our respect and our gratitude. it is 57 disappointing to see the undermining integrity of an extraordinary organization like the fbi. should the source material be declassified as well if it can help provide context? >> well, i think adam schiff, the ranking member of the tense committee said the same thing. i think it is important to get the truth and we have to do night way that doesn't compromise sources and doesn't compromise the important work of our intelligence agencies. it is very important that we set the record straight.
and if they can be released, to show how misleading and inappropriate this memo is. that it draws couldn't cloogss that are not fair in an effort to really smear the fbi and smear law enforcement in a way to undermine this investigation. i think we ought to do it. we have to be conscious wlrgs it is done, it needs to be done in a way that protects the important work of our intelligence community. >> what they call sources and methods to make sure the u.s. intelligence gathering capabilities are not undermined. always a very sensety issue. thank you for joining us. >> i think he's looking for two categories of information. one with the first hand knowledge information he learned while he was serving in the administration about things he saw first hand with his own eyes and ears. conversations he had that would
lead someone to believe there was nefarious conductor wrongdoing. the other category of information is second hand knowledge. things that happened before he started with the campaign. and the administration. remember that now infamous meeting with the russian adoption lawyer. predated steve bannon's tenure. what did he hear about it? did anyone talk to him about it? was there any basis for the statement that there is no way that donald trump jr. did not walk those people up to his father's office a few floors up from that meeting in trump tower? the beginning of those with things will be what mueller is looking for. >> do you think steve bannon can give us some light, better appreciation of the firing of michael flynn? specifically the fact flynn, according to nbc news, didn't tell anyone in the white house, only days into the new administration that he had been questioned by the fbi? >> right. this is a pretty convenient account that's coming out of the white house. if donald trump knew that
michael flynn was going to be interviewed by the fbi, that raises the question drgs the president instruct flynn to lie? if he learned about it only afterwards, that raises questions drgs he suspect michael flynn had lied to the fbi and thus known that michael flynn might have committed a crime when that he had conversation with jim comey? so he didn't know about the interview in advance but he didn't expect wrongdoing until after comey was fired. that's a pretty convenient fact pattern. steve bannon might know. this goes to the question, does he have firsthand knowledge? certainly he's not the only person who knows. michael flynn probably knows. >> why do you say probably? >> we don't know the specifics, the name of his cooperation agreement special prosecutor mueller and we don't know for sure what he knows. we don't want to get ahead of the facts and say michael flynn 100% knows. it seems more likely than not. the other person who most
assuredly knows is don mcgann. certainly they're keeping in mind that i'm not the only person who will give this story and i'd better have it straight. >> well, he's already been interviewed about the special counsel and michael flynn, to remind our viewers, he's already pled guilty to perjury and the assumption has always been torsion get a reduced sentence for himself and avoid charges, he is fully cooperating and presumably, mueller and his team already know his explanation why he was fired. >> there's a story about michael flynn came out that he was only fired because he lied to the vice president. and the question is, is that the truth? was he fired because of what he
said, that he was subject to blackmail? who knew? when did they know about this? why did it takes 18 days between when don mcgahn met and flynn getting fired? was it just about the lying to mike pence? did they know for? did the president know about his conversations with the russians? did the president direct his conversations with kis lack, et cetera. so i think what they're getting from flynn is his interpretation of what was known and then presumably, if they get to question the president, when they get on questions the president, no matter what the format, they're going to want to know from him about flynn and why he fired flynn.
>> were they trying to keep it quiet and not fire him? >> and you have the recent tweets, too. where the president's lawyer it kyle out of the white house itself. >> there's, it could be a very, very significant development. paul manafort, the former campaign chairman, he's been charged. he's pled not guilty. there's now some indication that's maybe he's changing his mind. may flip. may plead guilty. may cooperate in the homes of getting a reduced sentence. he has a lot of information to shed as well. he was deeply involved. not the just during the campaign but the transition as well. kislyak was there during the transition. he was on the inaugural
committee as well and he was always somebody to watch. he appeared to be most vulnerable. he couldn't afford the legal bills. coming out of his arrest and his plea. so from the president's standpoint frrgs the administration standpoint, he has potentially seen a more, and witnessed more than even his colleagues. he stayed on. when it comes the this white collar attorney who is known to make deals with prosecutors, he is somebody to watch. because from the get-go, he was financially vulnerable and when someone is financially vulnerable, you know they are much more willing to negotiate with prosecutors. >> he has a lot of information to share as well. more breaking news. a powerful republican senator argues that a secret society within the fbi is working
against president trump. is there any basis to that claim? and could the special counsel look into the reported hush money payment to porn star stormy daniels following her alleged sexual relationship with donald trump? touch is how we communicate with those we love, but when your psoriasis is bad, does it ever get in the way? embrace the chance of 100% clear skin with taltz. taltz is proven to help people with moderate to severe psoriasis achieve completely clear skin. with taltz, up to 90% of patients had a significant improvement of their psoriasis plaques. in fact, 4 out of 10 even achieved completely clear skin. don't use if you're allergic to taltz. before starting, you should be checked for tuberculosis. taltz may increase risk of infections and lower your ability to fight them.
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members as well. the chairman, richard burr, his staff requested access from den nunes. alleging misconduct by the justice department in how it obtained surveillance warrants during the campaign season to look into trump associates, namely the trump associates carter page. it turns out they were denied access despite the request. it shows the level of effort to ensure it does not go to anyone but house members. quun of the few members of congress, him not being able to review the memo makes it,
assures that he won't be able to give an analysis of whether or not this memo is accurate or not. now, we know the house intelligence committee may vote to release it and send it to the president who will make the ultimate decision about whether or not to object to the release. that could happen in a matter of days. democrats are moving on their own front. and the house intelligence committee, the top democrat is saying this. in a statement about their new memo. they stay majority steeks selectively and misleadingly characterize classified information in an effort to protect the president at any cost. they say it has been necessary to draft our own memorandum setting out the relevant facts. so the members of the house are not left with an erroneous impression. and this is all leading to some members including chuck grassley
saying, the underlying intelligence so the full public knows what happens. not just the memos themselves. >> meanwhile, some republicans are suggesting that there's some sort of secret anti-trump couldn't spearcy within the fbi. this is related to the text messages between peter strzok they are talk about a secret society on the day after trump's election. they say there's a secret society according to trey gowdy. another republican was also characterized this exchange was ron johnson. a senate homeland security cheryl. and he made these remarks about a secret society and said he was backed up by an informant that he spoke to behind closed doors. and i asked him about the concerns that he may be peddling
in some conspiracy theories. this is what he said. >> what do you say that this is a prominent united states senator, talking about secret societies? >> that's not my word. that's lisa page and peter stocks are. not my words. that's theirs. i've heard that. the managers, high level officials, the fbi that were meeting together offsite. >> you don't know about what. >> no, i don't. >> so he didn't know exactly what they were meeting about. he said he wants to continue to dig further into exactly what they were doing offsight. he said because of the text messages, because it was something nefarious to undermine trump but the top democratic committee, claire mccass cal, he said she has not spoken to the
informant and she has her own questions. it seems more partisan infight go could intensify. >> we have a lot to unpack. we have to take a quick break. we'll be right back. so, that goal you've been saving for, you can do it. we can do this. at fidelity, our online planning tools are clear and straightforward so you can plan for retirement while saving for the things you want to do today. -whoo! ♪ ♪ i can do more to lower my a1c. because my body can still make its own insulin. and i take trulicity once a week to activate my body to release it, like it's supposed to. trulicity is not insulin. it comes in a once-weekly, truly easy-to-use pen. the pen where you don't have to see or handle a needle. and it works 24/7. trulicity is a once-weekly injectable medicine to improve blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes when used with diet and exercise. it should not be the first medicine to treat diabetes,
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stories. access to a confidential memo over abuses of surveillance laws during the 2016 presidential campaign. let's get back to our political and legal specialists. why would the house intelligence committee chairman devin nunes who prepared this four-page memo, she is sharing with it other members of the house, refuse to share with it members of the committee and refuse to share it with either the fbi or the justice department. >> we're just talking aboutett over the break. that he doesn't want his intelligence to be questioned. only a handful of people have ever seen the information that it is based on. so if you were to release it to the public, let alone to the type of congress members, you're saying please. i'm offering this up for debate and whether it is truthful, whether it is enough for me to have this counter attack to the
otherwise solid fbi investigation that no one knows what's going on. he doesn't want to be challenged or questioned. he wants it in his back pocket in the event he may have to use it. >> unusual that the house intelligence committee and nunes' team oh there, they don't trust what the fbi or the senate intelligence committee to appreciate what they've done. this is not a memo of the majority of republicans. it is be devin nunes alone. it is not clear the other republicans on his own committee endorsed the findings so you have to ask yourself. if you were a congressman who had found evidence of surveillance abuses that you were really concerned about, what measures would you take?
those would include informing the chair and ranking of the senate intelligence committee. >> and he is deeply irritating adam schiff and the democrats. >> that goes without saying. >> he released, he says he's toward release his own memo countering the memo. if the nunes memo is released. >> they have a war going on for quite some time. which is why the committee has dug itself kind of into a hole where people aren't taking it as seriously as they are the senate committee. and one thing that susan was talking about during break, is that if nunes said to burr, here's my memo. burr as chairman of that committee in the senate has access to the same level of intelligence that nunes has access to, a lot of the other
committee members don't have access to. so presumably he would be in a great position to rebut it if he wants to. and i think that's probably one of the reasons that nunes doesn't want to hand it over to him. it could be critiques by fellow republicans which would then muddy the waters even more. adam schiff can muddy the waters but burr would be the one they would take the most seriously. innuendo can be very persuasive. and to have it lording over the others, over the fbi investigation is his goal. if he has to have that tested, it goes poof into the air and all he's left with is having to wait for the fbi investigation.
>> we're pretty up on this. imagine the average american hearing about the investigations and the committees. at the end of the day, it knocks credibility from both investigations. from the senate and the house and it must be very frustrating for burr who by the way, was a surrogate for donald trump. really campaigned with him but really has tried to strike an independent tone here and tried to be as nonpartisan as possible in this investigation. remember, we got word that the president over the summer, last summer, had suggested to him to wrap this investigation as quickly as possible. that really irritated burr. and so i think to continue this sort of infighting amongst democrats and republicans is really stressful for him as far as whatever they'll come up with. and their ultimate investigation will lead them and puts more pressure on mueller who may be the only one who can come out with some sort of impartial, one would hope, conclusion to this
investigation. >> the game is to disdread mueller investigation before it kom comes out with anything. to discredit the fbi, the people who are trying to get to the bottom of all of this. and i think that you muddy the waters before mueller does anything. and therefore, you're prepared in case mueller says, in fact, that the president did something wrong. or that the people this his campaign did something wrong. or that there was obstruction. so you know, it is like a pre but theal in politics. you get out there and you say, no matter what happens, you just can't trust him. >> which is odd. if that's the case and mueller presumably comes out with nothing, then it is not credible there. >> you can spin that in a way that we think it is a logical fallacy to say he can never be entrusted and the results will always be wrong.
if the results are what you want to have happen, you've undermined your own argument. >> what do you think of the suggestion that some republicans are putting out there that there's a secret society within the fbi whose mission is to bring down president trump. >> this appears to be referencing some text messages that were exchanged between an fbi agent and employee. i don't think you would communicate about it on a government issued device. that would be bizarre. i think what we're seeing is a spaghetti on the wall approach. this isn't necessarily laying the read that cat to fire mueller. it is about discredit go anything it would put out from the outset. what we're seeing is any possible scandal. anything from this memo to the
secret society. throwing it out there. seeing what sticks. and we're really in a perpetual cycle here. >> and it is short sighted, saying they will be sound in years to come. ask the people of turkey and russia, what happens when a dictator undermine what's is supposed to be independent organizations. you keep talking about the questioning of the fbi and fbi agents. and people within the fbi and whether or not they're partisan. do you this enough and you'll have people really question their integrity going forward. >> stand by. there's more news we're following. could the alleged hush money payment to a porn star during donald trump's presidential campaign, could it be taken up by robert mueller? ...down-alternative pillows... ...and of course, price.
she's made one high profile appearance at a strip club and we're told the porn star is booked for several more. but after reports of a six figure payment she allegedly got to keep silent about an alleged sexual relationship with donald trump, serious questions are being raised tonight about whether the payment could be investigated by the special counsel. >> the thing about the investigations by special counsels is that they always find things that are surprising to everyone including themselves. >> the left leaning watchdog group common cause is calling for the federal election commission and justice department to investigate whether the $130,000 daniels reportedly got from trump layer michael cohn was an illegal contribution. but could robert mueller expand his probe into possible collusion with russia to include
the alleged daniels payment? >> if he starts to find monetary transactions in 2016 involving some of the same circle of people. >> could that theoretically be a reason? >> it could. he could say this is part of a pattern, this is the way they do things when they engage in suspicious activities because as part of a pattern, i think it has bearing on my investigations. >> saul wisenburg was part of ken starr's team that expand in the probe of bill and hillary's collections into a land deal and the monica lewinsky affair. what about mueller's mandate in the daniels' case? >> this charter covers specific coverage of russian collusion and anything that direct ly arises from this investigation. this didn't arise from his investigation. >> mueller's team told cnn it would not comment on the prospects of expanding on the payment to daniels. skeptics of the idea of her becoming a legal problem for
president trump point to the previous case of john edwards, prosecuted in 2012 for a similar claim of hush money. two donors supplied almost $2 million for his mistress and a baby. he was charge d with accepting illegal campaign contribution, but the hung jury did notd convict him. >> the jury basically said these transactions and payments were personal. that motivation in large part was to hide things from mrs. edwards. the senator's wife. it had nothing to do with the campaign and we don't think that senator edwards committed a crime. >> legal experts say if there's any federal investigation into the reported payment of daniels, tracking the source of that money will be crucial. we have pressed trump's attorney repeatedly about where that money came from. he has not answers the question. on the prospect of the payment to daniels being investigated to mueller or any federal entity,
cohn sent us a one word text today. baseless. >> what are you hearing about the chances of the federal election commission will investigate the payment as common cause that organization is calling for. >> that it's a long shot, wolf. the commission is divided along partisan lines. it takes at least four board members to agree to investigate and because of the partisan divide, because of how the edwards case break broek down, legal experts say it's not likely they're going to investigate the case. >> thanks very much, brian todd reporting. coming up, there's breaking news. cnn learn iing the special counl will soon interview steve bannon about the president's firings of the national security add virvi michael flynn and james comey. is president trump next in line for questioning?
this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." we're following major breaking news right now. quickly want to go to our senior white house correspondent, pamela brown. she's at the white house. tell our viewers what you're learning. >> well, president trump had an impromptu meeting with reporters
before he leave ifs for davos and made several headlines starting with immigration. he says he would be okay with potentially legal citizenship for the dreamers. the 800,000 or so people who were brought to the u.s. at a young age from various countries that are here in the united states. there's been a big question what's going to happen with them and the president said here at the white house that he would be open to giving them permanent citizenship in ten to 12 years. we're told the plan that's going to be unrolled next week is to give them a legal status in the meantime and in ten to 12 years, if they behave, we're told they would be given permanent citizenship. that is new. we have not heard that directly from the president before that that is something he's considering. he also talked about funding for the wall. he said that he believes he will get $25 billion to build the wall that