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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  November 19, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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interview with the specia counsel robert mueller's team. he now says he won't do it after saying he would. not full disclosure. the justice department is refusing to release the public financial disclosures of acting attorney general matthew whitaker. tonight, three senators are suing, calling the appointment unconstitutional. and death and despair. the loss of lives and homes growing right now in california's worst fire disaster on record, and the flames are forecast to burn for 11 more days. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room". ♪ this is "cnn breaking news". we're following breaking news. the white house now backing down from a new threat to bar cnn's chief white house corresondent jim acosta. in response, cnn has dropped its
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lawsuit against the administration. the white house's sudden reversal followed cnn's request for another emergency hearing in federal court. the president is changing his stance on a sitdown interview with special counsel robert mueller. he is now saying he probably won't do it and he is launching new verbal attacks on a top u.s. military commander as well as top members of his own team. i will talk about that and more with congressman jim hines of the house intelligence committee and the former director of ethics water schwab. first, two reports tonight. our chief white house correspondent jim acosta is standing by with the president's latest comments on the special counsel investigation. let's begin the breaking news on cnn's dropping its lawsuit against the white house after the trump administration publicly backed down. let's go to our chief media correspondent brian stelter. brian, update our viewers on the very latest. >> this is a victory for cnn,
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wolf, but more importantly a victory for the free press. less than two weeks after that post midterms news conference when trump was desperate to change the subject and he kicked jim acosta out of the white house, the press pass has been restored, not just temporarily like it was on friday, but now permanently restored by the white house. this is clearly a capitulation of the lawsuit that cnn filed about a week ago. here is the statement from the network about this decision by the white house. quote, jim acosta -- today the white house fully restored jim acosta's press pass. as a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary. we look forward to continuing to cover the white house. in the fast few minutes, wolf, cnn and acosta's lawyers formally filed the paperwork necessary to end the lawsuit. that means it is dismissed, this is over. unless trump tries to kick another reporter out, this strange period in white house press corps history has ended. >> why did the white house back down? >> i think it is possible that the department of justice advised the white house to give in in this case because, frankly, the government did not have a strong case.
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that's what many outside lawyers believed would be the end of the lawsuit last week. many said to me cnn was likely to prevail and, of course, the judge sided with cnn in the first hearing. there would be other hearings in the weeks to come. cnn was going back asking for more earlier today. it seems the white house looked around, knew it had a weak case and decided to give in. >> at the same time the white house are releasing what they're describing as new guidelines for behavior by white house correspondents. tell us about that. >> yes. that's the open question here. we don't know what these, quote, unquote, rules will actually mean. they've been described in a letter to jim acosta, the new rules according to the white house is that you can only ask one question at a press conference and you can only ask a follow-up if the president lets you. you have to hand over the mike as soon as you're told to do that. that's what is described in the letter, but, wolf, the white house press corps has not agreed to these rules, nobody agreed to the rules. it is unclear whether these will be real and enforced or a fig
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leaf, some kind of cover by the white house because they know they lost in court. more broadly, of course, the president's attacks against the media continue, and that is the much bigger problem here. the president presents himself as the only arbiter of truth. he says you can't believe any real news, you can only believe what he says on twitter and at press conferences and in speeches. that is disturbing. that is poisonous, and that's a problem the press has to continue to reckon with, even though this was a very clear victory for "cnn today." >> cnn's brian stelter reporting for us. thanks very much. let's go to the white house, our chief white house correspondent, jim acosta, is there for us. jim, the president is lashing out. he says his team has wasted enough time on the robert mueller investigation. update our viewers. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. president trump is setting the stage for some bruising fights this week and beyond, sending the message he won't be sitting down with the special counsel, robert mueller, in the russia investigation, and he is starting a war of words over, of all things, something that most americans have cheered, the killing of osama bin laden.
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welcoming the national christmas tree to the white house, the president is warning special counsel robert mueller there is one gift you shouldn't count on, a sitdown interview with mr. trump in the russia investigation. >> i think -- >> no -- >> i think we have wasted enough time on this witch hunt, and the answer is probably we're finished. >> reporter: and the president is far from finished with fights he is picking on a number of fronts. he is battling with retired admiral mcraven who oversaw the mission to kill osama bin lauden. >> a hillary clinton backer and obama backer. >> he was a navy seal. >> wouldn't it have been nice if we got osama bin laden sooner than that? >> reporter: mcraven, who has been critical of the president's rhetoric, fired back with statement of his own saying, quote, i stand by my comment that the president's attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. the president's criticism of the
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bin laden raid runs counter to statements he made when he told "politico", i want to personally congratulate president obama and the men and women of the armed forces for a job well done. he openly criticized homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen. >> i want her to get tougher there, but i want to be extremely tough. >> reporter: and white house chief of staff john kelly. >> look, we get along well. there are certain things, i love what he does, and there are certain things that i don't like that he does. >> good afternoon. >> reporter: the president reserved his nastiest attack for house democrat adam schiff whose name he intentionally misspelled. contrast it with the president's softer touch with saudi arabia. no response to the report that the administration has the audio of the killing of jamal khashoggi, a murder that the cia says was ordered by the crown prince, mr. trump doesn't want to hear the tape.
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>> it is a suffering tape. there's no reason for me to hear it. we are going to spend money that's necessary. >> reporter: perhaps the strangest battle he has chosen to wage is over the cause of the wildfires in california. he said the president of finland told him his country rakes his forest. >> i was with the president of finland and he said, we have a much different -- we are a forest nation. he called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don't have any problem. >> reporter: but the finnish president said he could not recall any conversation with mr. trump about raking forests. the president won't give up the raking idea. >> that should have been raked out. >> what about the argue -- >> you wouldn't have the fires. >> reporter: now, the president is holding out the idea he could still sit down with mueller, but it appears for now the president's legal team will instead release the written answers to the special counsel's office in coming days. the question after that, of course, is whether mule per's team will keep pushing for the in-person interview. it is possible, wolf, this is
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the beginning or part of the negotiation when the president and his legal team turn over the written answers and whether or not the special counsel's office accepts those answers. that remains to be seen, wolf. >> cnn chief white house correspondent, jim acosta reporting tonight from the white house north lawn. thank you, jim, very much. let's get some more on the president's changing position on a face-to-face interview with the mueller team. our political correspondent sara murray is joining us right now. sara, the president indicated he wouldn't do a sitdown interview with the special counsel. the president previously said he would like to do a formal sitdown q & a with the special counsel. what changed his mind? >> that's right. he always said, i would love to sit down with the special counsel, but it is my lawyers, i have to wait to see what my lawyers say. maybe it is that his lawyers prevailed. they certainly did not want him to sit down face-to-face with mueller because they couldn't rely on him to tell the truth, to tell mueller the same story maybe other witnesses have heard. the other thing that's possible is, you know, maybe the president was playing us this whole time. maybe he never really wanted to
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sit down with the special counsel, and now that he has got to the place where, you know, a person he trusts is leading the justice department, he feels emboldened to be able to say, you know what, this isn't going to happen. >> if mueller and his team decide they need more than the written answers that the president says they will submit in the next few days, would he go forward, mueller, and actually subpoena the president and would the president have to comply with that subpoena? >> it is hard to say what would happen in that case. the special counsel could certainly try to subpoena the president. the question, of course, is whether matt whitaker who is now the acting attorney general would allow the special counsel to do that, would approve such a subpoena. if for some reason whitaker did agree to sign off on the subpoena, you can bet there's going to be a legal fight. we saw rudy giuliani talk about this in the past, that he hopes it doesn't come to that, and if it did they would fight it. there are a number of steps before it would be possible for the special counsel to successfully move forward with this. >> as you know, cnn has learned mueller's team is now seeking --
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wants more questions to be posed to a long-time associate, roger stone. roger stone being one of the president's long-time friend and allies. how significant is it that this individual will be interviewed once again by the special counsel? >> it is the latest in the twists and turns of the roger stone saga. they decided, mueller's team, they wanted to talk to him again. there were text messages between him and roger stone that he made show he was the back channel to wikileaks. there's questions whether the special counsel's team feels he wasn't accurate or forthcoming in previous interviews or as the lawyer puts it, he says it is just more witness prep. >> in a separate development right now but potentially related, the alleged russia spy may be getting ready to cooperate with the feds right now. that would be pretty significant if that happens.
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>> it would be significant. i think we don't know what exactly is happening behind the scenes. we know the lawyers for maria butina has asked for more time. they are trying to reach a resolution. a status hearing has been pushed back to mid-december. the question is, is it plea negotiating or is it a prisoner swap. could they be negotiating behind the scenes to trade her for an america being held in russia. we don't know yet, wolf. >> potentially significant developments unfolding in coming days and weeks. thanks for that report. let's get more on that. democratic congressman jim hines of connecticut is joining us. he is a member of the house intelligence committee. thank you for joining us. the president, as you heard, he says he didn't know anything about matthew whitaker's views on the mueller investigation before he appointed him the acting attorney general. is that plausible? >> no, it is not even close to plausible. there is no question in my mind that the whitaker thing, the
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timing, the individual, of course the timing was after the elections, immediately after the elections, in such a way as to distract from what actually happened in the elections. it didn't affect the elections, which i think he probably got advice on. of course, no. whitaker is probably the low water mark of who the president's people said the president could put in that position without getting laughed out of town. >> you've said that at the very least whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in the russia probe. what do you make of the lawsuit that today was filed by three democratic senators to challenge the constitutionality of his appointment? >> yeah, well, probably the wrong guy to ask, not even being a lawyer, but i will say that the constitution is pretty clear that principle officers of the united states will be senate confirmed. you know, so my guess is that they've got some merit to this suit. look, my republican friends should also remember, and i think that in the back of their
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mind they are beginning to remember that this president is setting some precedents that will be very uncomfortable the next time -- and it will happen -- there is a democratic president, whether it is not releasing the tax returns or just appointing a buddy of yours who will be convenient to you to be attorney general or not, deciding that you don't want to testify to the special counsel, all of these things are precedents that will come back to haunt a senator lindsey graham or any republican when they want to do oversight on a democratic president. >> the president defended whitaker by tweeting, and i will put it on the screen although i won't read one of the words in that tweet. it is so funny to see little adam -- he is referring to adam schiff, the expected house intelligence committee chairman -- talking about the fact that acting attorney general matt whitaker was not approved by the senate, but not mentioning the fact that bob mueller, who is highly conflicted, was not approved by
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the senate. i want to get your reaction, but first specifically to the vulgar way he describes your colleague adam schiff. >> well, wolf, what is there to say? this is a president who has called a woman that used to work for him a dog, that called another woman a horse face, and now he is using this terminology for my friend, adam schiff. you know, how are we to feel about a president who engages in behavior that we would punish in a seven-year-old boy? what more is there to say other than how did we get here and why do we put up with it. but, look, apart from that there's nothing in that tweet that is true, whether that matters today or not is an interesting question. but, of course, a special counsel is not a senate confirmable position, and bob mueller is not conflicted. there is zero evidence that bob mueller has a conflict. in fact, he is a republican. he probably is on anybody's top three list of most respected
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individuals in washington with impeccable sense of integrity. quite apart from what he called adam schiff, here he is besmirching the reputation of a decorated vietnam war combat hero and floating the notion he is somehow senate confirmable. none of that is true or right or the kind of behavior we should expect from the guy down the street, much less the president of the united states. >> we know it wasn't a misspelling either, it was deliberate, because that tweet is still posted, it hasn't been corrected or deleted. it is still there for everyone to see, and this from the president that want decorum in the white house. i want to get to your thoughts. 16 of your democratic colleagues have signed on to a letter against nancy pelosi to become speaker of the house. there are others who haven't signed the letter who also say they won't support her. you haven't made any commitments i understand either way. what do you think? is the momentum there swinging against her, swinging in favor
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of her? where do you stand? >> well, you know, we're heading into a messy early january because it would appear from that letter that this group has enough -- enough members to prevent nancy pelosi, who will get the majority of the caucus vote to be the speaker, from actually becoming the speaker on the floor. as i have urged some people that i know in that group to think about, then what. look, there's a whole conversation to be had about whether the democratic leadership, you know, is changing fast enough. you know, there are obviously younger members who are interested in positions that are not the top three positions. that's a very fair conversation to have, but i've been encouraging people i know on that letter to ask themselves, you know, then what is the plan. you know, no one has emerged to challenge nancy pelosi, which would be the right way to set up a leadership race, and do they
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imagine that if they prevent her as maybe they can from becoming speaker, whoever is behind nancy pelosi in that instance comes into a unified caucus. anyway, we'll see how this all plays out. there's a lot of time between now and the new year's when we're taking this vote. but it does seem to me that this is, i guess the right analogy is that it is a pretty ugly game of chicken that is being set up in a way that could damage something that i think needs to be really -- really supported, which is democratic unity. >> well, can i take what i just heard from you, congressman, to assume you will vote in favor of her to be the next speaker? >> well, wolf, the reason i haven't made any commitments at any level whatsoever is i'm chairman of the new democrat coalition, and the new democrat coalition is in the middle of a procee process of talking to all candidates for leadership positions to see what their visions are, what they will do and what commitments they will
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make to support and protect the most vulnerable members of our caucus, ones that perhaps we didn't imagine we would have in places like kansas, oklahoma and south carolina. unless we're done with that process, i will respect the integrity of that process and not make any public commitments. >> you know this, that the next house speaker will decide if congressman adam schiff should be the house intelligence committee chairman. do you support him for that role? >> you know, adam is a good friend and he has been absolutely superb as ranking member. of course, if that's what the democratic leader decides, i will be more than supportive of adam schiff. he has done a spectacular job. again, he is a very close friend and i know that he would be terrific in that role. you know, some day i would love to be considered for that role as well, but it is a secondary consideration, first of all, around who is the democratic leader. remember, that's one of the few committee chairs that is actually appointed directly by
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that leader and what that individual may decide to do down the road. >> the democratic party, as you know, is deeply divided about how aggressively to investigate president trump over the next two years. congressman maxine waters wants to follow what is called the money trail. you say the american people won't support what you call overtly political investigations. tell our viewers what you mean by that. >> yeah, well, let me quarrel with the premise here a little bit, wolf. the party is not deeply divided about how much we should investigate donald trump. look, we are all professionals. we all know we have a constitutional duty to do oversight, and we all know and the american people know that this president is just crying out for a congressional check and balance, so of course we're going to do that. look, as professionals we also understand that if an investigation is perceived as having no merit and being done just to -- just to score partisan or political points against the president that there is a line there, and that we
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should be careful about overstepping it. the ot point i would make is that i really believe we need to do two things. one, the constitution and this president demands oversight and probably some investigation around some things like his hotel, like the ee momoluments clause and i can list others. look, at the end of the day i regard the majority we have been given as a two-year audition. at the end of the audition we better have produced results that matter to people as they feel the anxiety around the kitchen table, around whether they will be able to retire, whether they have the money to educate their kids, what their wages may look like five years down the road. again, it is a balance. of course we're going to do oversight. the constitution demand it and this president certainly deserves it, but i think we all also realize we better actually produce results that make americans feel like we're paying attention to the anxieties they feel. finding that balance is going to be important for the caucus and certainly for the leaders of our
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caucus. >> it certainly will be. congressm congressman himes, thank you for joining us. two senators sue over the appointment of matthew whitaker, calling it unconstitutional. how about using that pen to sign up for new insurance instead? for drivers with accident forgiveness, liberty mutual won't raise their rates because of their first accident. switch and you could save $782 on home and auto insurance. call for a free quote today. liberty mutual insurance. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪
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ingenious space- neat nest™ by fasaving design. all designed to stack and protect the lids, and the pan surface. farberware neat nest™. stacked & intact™ three democratic senators have filed a federal lawsuit challenging president trump's appointment of the acting attorney general, matthew whitaker. our justice reporter, laura jarrett, is joining us right now. laura, what are these senators
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arguing in their lawsuit? >> well, wolf, today's lawsuit is just the latest in this escalating legal battle over the validity of whitaker's appointment. the basic argument is this. the constitution requires anyone who serves as a principle officer, meaning you report directly to the president, you can be fired by him, to be confirmed by the senate, just like the attorney general would be confirmed the senate the acting attorney general needs to be confirmed by the senate according to these senators and that clearly has not happened in whitaker's case. of course, on the other end of the spectrum the justice department argues his appointment is completely consistent with the constitution because he's only serving as acting attorney general on a temporary basis and the federal vacancies act, a completely different statute, says if you have been here 90 days as a senior official you can serve for 210 days, wolf. >> as you know, the justice department is not releasing whitaker's financial disclosure reports. why are critics sounding the
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alarm on this? >> yeah, so the issue here is that all political appointees when they come into the justice department or really any other federal agency, they're required under the ethics rules to submit their financial disclosures to try to hash out conflicts of interest within 30 days of coming to the department. then if somebody requests to see those forms, the agency is required to turn them over as well. now, in this case with whitaker, none of that has happened, yet whitaker came on board here at the justice department in october of 2012. so these ethics officials are raising the question, well, why haven't we seen them yet. we asked the justice department today for more information on this, including whether whitaker submitted them in the first place or whether they perhaps believe they have defense to why he doesn't need to do so. the department declined to comment, wolf. >> interesting. all right, laura, thank you. laura jarrett at the justice department. let's get more on all of this. former director of the office of government ethics, cnn
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contributor walter schwab is joining us. what is a reason for not releasing them? >> it is pretty incredible. they have printed, and pdf and e-mail it to you. there's no authority to redact it. it is incom prehencibprehensibl haven't released them. one possibility as laura jarrett raised is that he didn't file them as he was required to do. another is they've been hounding for over a year to correct errors and omissions and he hasn't prioritized ethics enough. another possibility is if he was under investigation they may have suspended review of his report pending the investigation. i suppose the only other possibility is that the ethics office just isn't doing its job, but that last one i don't find very likely because they have very good ethics officials at justice. >> we need an explanation. quickly, he was involved in a company shut down by the federal
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trade commission for scamming customers of millions and millions of dollars. so what sort of red flags might that reveal? >> well, one question people might have is whether he had any financial interest in those companies that he's retained. he also had a campaign, and there's a question as to whether or not it still owes him money or it owes him money. there's also possibilities that he has stocks or business relationships or former clients with people who he would have to recuse from during his service as acting attorney general. >> so what are the next steps in getting these documents? >> well, we've contacted members of congress's staff and asked them to weigh in. people have contacted the office of government ethics, and the director there has the legal authority under the ethics in government act to intervene and negotiate a solution. so far they haven't done that at oge, and i suppose the other is ultimately to sue if there were not a resolution. now, i'm optimistic they will turn the reports over, but we
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would like to have an explanation as to what is the cause of this mysterious delay. >> i agree. let's get an explanation. walter, thank you very much for coming in. >> thanks. just ahead, president trump says he will soon submit written answers to questions from the special counsel, robert mueller, but he makes it clear he doesn't plan to actually meet with mueller and his team, declaring -- and i'm quoting the president right now -- we're finished. more important than a good bedside manner. i don't know how to say this. it's okay, doc. give it to me straight. no, you don't understand, i don't know how to say this. i'm just a tv doctor. they also know you should get your annual check-up. it could save your life. schedule a check-up with your doctor, know your four health numbers, and start taking control of your health today. cigna. together, all the way.
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president trump is sending a signal to robert mueller, saying he probably won't do a sitdown interview with the special counsel's team after previously saying he would. let's get more with analysts and commentators. susan, the president says enough time has been wasted on this investigation, that's why he's not going to sit down and do q & a with the mueller team. listen to what he previously said about this. >> would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events? >> 100%. >> mr. president, do you feel like you would testify to special counsel robert mueller, sir? are you going to talk to mueller? >> i'm looking forward to it actually. >> i would love to speak. i would love to. nobody wants to speak more than me. >> is it up to the president to decide if he's going to do a sitdown interview with mueller? >> look, the president refuses to voluntarily sit down with mueller, then the question becomes whether or not robert mueller is willing to subpoena him, whether or not he wants and needs the answers to these interview questions in an
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interview format badly enough he is willing to litigate over it. there's some reason to believe that might be the case. reportedly, these written questions only relate to the issue of russia collusion. the issue of obstruction of justice is not addressed reportedly in the written questions. even if robert mueller is satisfied with the written ants, he might have this other area to explore, the obstruction issues. the legal questions there tend to relate to mental state, not what the president did but why he did it. that is the kind of information prosecutors need usually to sit down and interview. it is not headed to a trial like prosecution. either mueller gets them from trump directly or he doesn't get them at all. >> the president seems to think, david, with the submission of the written answers in the next few days presumably this will be basically the end of the mueller probe. is it right? >> well, wolf, it depends on what the meaning of end is, right. if it means the end of his participation in the investigation, submitting the answers to the questions, the written questions and maybe refusing to testify and maybe,
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to your point, maybe if mueller decides the better part of val or is to not subpoena the president, it is the end. it is not the end in the sense we can't predict when the special investigation will wrap up. more broadly speaking, even if it ends or if mueller submits a report to whitaker and whitaker doesn't submit it to congress, the house can subpoena anymore they want to ants questions about it. >> and the judiciary committee can do anything they want if they want to. >> indeed. >> phil mudd, we know the president is frustrated by his inability to control the mueller investigation. if the special counsel decides that the written answers are insufficient, he wants more including a sitdown interview with the president, how do you see that unfolding? >> well, i don't think it would slow down the investigation that much, believe it or not. let me give you a simple reason why. we've had many dozens of
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indictments in this investigation, we've had guilty pleas, we've had completed trials. even within the past year, the mueller team would have interviewed maybe people for thousands of hours. they've talked about looking at millions of documents. if there are people on the campaign, affiliated with the campaign, affiliated with the white house who were involved in one of the three charges we've seen involved in connections with the russians, involved in dirty money or involved in lying to federal agents during interviews, i don't see why an interview with the president would slow down further charges we might see this month or after christmas. >> you know, ron, in the midst of all of this cnn has learned that mueller's team is pursuing an interview with roger stone's associate randy credico. how significant do you think this is? >> the question of roger stone's alleged involvement with wikileaks and the cast of characters around it feels like the point around which the mule per's investigation overlaps with the bar scene in "star wars." we are talking about people on the fringe of the political
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world, kind of being brought in centrally to this. but underlying it is a genuine question, because certainly during the campaign, you know, roger stone signalled some of the releases that were coming. so the fact that the mueller team, and to phil's point, is going back at this yet again is just an indication of just how thorough they are. also, the likelihood that they know things obviously that we don't, but also that they know don't know. the protagonists - that clearly is one of the things i think is weighing very heavily on the president and his legal team as they craft their own answers. they're not sure what others have said about the incidents that they are describing themselves. >> it is amazing how secretive everything has been in the mueller investigation. we only know a tiny little bit presumably of what they know. susan, as you know, three democratic senators have gone to federal court. they've filed a formal lawsuit today suggesting that matthew whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general is
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unconstitutional. tell us about this case. >> what the senators are alleging is that whitaker's appointment is in violation of what is called the appointments clause. the constitution says that the senate gets to confirm these principal officers. whitaker, of course, has not been confirmed. this is not a legal technicality. it is a central part of the checks and balances of the constitution. ordinarily we have an order of succession at doj, a deputy attorney general who is confirmed, associate attorney general, all the wray down to te heads of the divisions. we have trump not going through the ordinary process, but actually circumventing it all together, reaching outside of the order of succession and putting a person in who never has been confirmed. what these senators are saying essentially is you are denying us our constitutional authority and ability to exercise, you know, our duty to provide advice and consent. >> everybody stand by. there's more news we are following, more breaking news. we will be right back.
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♪ we have some more breaking news coming into the situation. "the washington post" just now reporting that ivanka trump sent hundreds, hundreds of e-mails last year to white house aides, cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules. we are back with analysts and commentators. all of us are just going through this lengthy "washington post" article. rod, i know you are as well, but when you hear this, it sounds
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sort of familiar to what happened in the past. >> incredibly, right. you know, you can imagine quickly as you look through the article the defenders, the republicans on the hill will cite small differences, whether she used classified information, whether she had her own server. i am reminded of the words of the great political analyst of don henley of the eagles who said the lawyers dwell on the small details. the big point is after a campaign in which her father raised this issue relentlessly, and, you know, in fairness with the help of the news media that focused on it somewhat obsessively as well, the thought that you could in any way, whatever the narrow details, use in kind of system to conduct government business from the white house after that campaign is just stunning. i think it goes to the larger problem, one of the larger problems that the president has had, which is reflected in the election earlier this month, the idea he told that he was going to be a change in business as
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usual, he was going to drain the swamp. but whether it is the kind of people appointed to agencies or the lack of disclosure or the lack of disclosure of his tax returns, the swamp is looking pretty swampy two years into this president. >> phil mudd, spokesman for her attorney, abby lowell, issued a statement that said in part, while transitioning into government after she was given an official account but until the white house provided her the same guidance that they had given others who started before she did, ms. trump sometimes used her personal account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family. what is your reaction? >> show me the data, wolf. i have two questions, and i get really irritated when high-level government officials, including the daughter of the president, get to do stuff that i could never do in government without being disciplined. my two questions. one, we've raised already, that is does this violate federal ethics laws. the second question, particularly because ms. trump is married to somebody that has access to a lot of classified
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information, that's jared kushner, who, for example, is the focal point for the relationship with saudi arabia, do we trust mr. lowell, the attorney, for whether there's any information that could be considered classified in those e-mails? just because something doesn't say "secret" doesn't mean it is not classified. i want to see the data, wolf. >> that's a good point. susan, the spokesman for abi lowell said this, ms. trump did not create a private server in her house or office, no classified information was ever included, the account was never transferred, trump organization, no e-mails were ever deleted. they're trying to differentiate what happened during the hillary clinton e-mail scandal to this. >> small details. >> yeah, i mean, look, they're trying to hide the overwhelming or distract from the overwhelming hypocrisy here. we were told when ivanka trump and jared kushner joined the administration, an absolute aberration for the president's family to work in the west wing of the white house, that they would be treated like everybody else. what we have seen again and again and again has been violating ethics rules,
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financial disclosure rules, now federal records laws. what we have also seen is they're not held to any kind of account. so i think what we're seeing now is our worst fears coming true, which is that we have unaccountable, unconfirmed family members of the president of the united states with access to sensitive information, making important decisions in the west wing. >> it is all, david, very awkward for the president. all of us remember what he use -- still says about hillary clinton, lock her up, lock her up. he went after her because of her private e-mail, you know, her server and all of that for months and months and months, and now ivanka trump is reported to have used private e-mail while working at the white house. >> right. it is awkward not just because there are so many similarities between the controversy around secretary clinton's e-mails and this, even if some of the particulars are not exactly the same, even if some of the information is not top secret or classified, it is awkward because if you remember back to just a few days after election day 2016 when ivanka trump and other members of the family gave that interview to 60 minutes and
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her words to lesley stahl were, i'm just going to be a daughter, not part of this. when did that transition in her mind, in the president's mind take place where she was going to start sending these e-mails from a private e-mail to government officials? was it before or after a decision was made about what her role in government was going to be? >> and the story reports, "the washington post", ron, i will read this line for you, the discovery alarmed some advisers to president trump who feared his daughter's practices bore similarities to the personal e-mail use of hillary clinton, an issue he made a focus of during the 2006 campaign when he kept calling her crooked hillary. >> as they should. as we said, i mean, whatever the small differentiation in the small details, i mean, the headline, the overwhelming similarity here is doing the same thing that you condemned for months and months. you know, i thought during the whole furor over hillary clinton's e-mails, the one document that was the most, i thought, alarming about her behavior was the one from the
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inspector general and the state department who noted that people in both the security side and the record-keeping side of the state department raised legitimate questions that were essentially brushed away by her inner circle. i am certain that as this goes forward we're going to probably hear of similar questions being raised and in the executive branch more generally. to phil's point about whether we're seeing risk to classified information, but also just alluding and evading the basic record keeping responsibilities. and it guys to this larger question of the president promised a change in the way of doing business. he's done that in the way he talks about people in the government and around the world. whether they've cleaned up the he ever edge ikss of washington, most things have moved toward murkiness. >> ivanka trump used a personal e-mail account to send hundreds of e-mails about government business last year. everyone stick around.
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more breaking news coming into the situation room. president trump will soon be giving new authorities to the thousands of u.s. troops he
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ordered to the mexico border. >> what we expect is the president will grant new authorities to military forces on the borders, so they can engage in activities to protect customs and border patrol officials if they come under some sort of threat from my grants crossing the border. the key issue is, until now, if there was a situation where officials felt threatened by migrants, they cannot step in. because they cannot engage in those kinds of activities in the united states. u.s. troops don't do inside the nation's borders. these new authorities are emphasizing, will allow them for the first time to engage in protecting customs and border officials. this is a particular concern, perhaps on the california border near tijuana and san jacindro,
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where they have seen a number of migrants trying to cross the border. we're watching for that. at the same time, the next thing everyone is watching for when will some of these u.s. troops begin to return to their home bases. because the construction of their facilities is finished and is going to be the case that some of these troops likely will be able to go home. wolf? >> barbara starr at the pentagon, thank you very much. we have an update on another breaking story. we're awaiting the news conference about chicago police about this afternoon's shooting. the fire department reports at least four people were shot and are in critical condition. the suspect has been shot as well. the deadliest fire in california history is expected to burn for 11 more days and each night the numbers are worse. at least seven people are now confirmed dead in what's called the camp fire, and about 1,000 people are still unaccounted
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for. nick watt is over at the fema center in nearby chico. this disaster continues to unfold. >> listen. what i cannot get away from, is 11,700 homes destroyed. where we are in this fema center, which used to be an old abandoned department store. we have seen thousands of people coming through this morning. some of them relatives of the still missing, hoping that will help in identifying human remains. other people applying for low interest loans, other people here, the mexican console has a booth here, other getting their property deeds, marriage licenses. getting them reprinted. the hurt and the need here is great. >> the list of those unaccounted for. nearly 1,000 names long. the grim search goes on. >> the number of people who
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perish weighs heavy upon me. i chose not to speculate as to how high that number might be. >> a day of breathing this air is equivalent to smoking several cigarettes. and heavy rain now forecast fueling fears of mudslides like those we saw in monte cito, california, in january after wildfire then rain. amid the heartache, more heroes emerging, school bus driver, kevin mckay is one. >> we started getting fire on both sides of the bus. >> there were fires everywhere you look. >> he drove five hours through those flames, 22 kids and two teachers on board his smoke filled bus. >> kevin without even thinking about it, took his shirt off and tour it into little pieces so make filters for these kids to breathe. >> in southern california, the fire around malibu and c calabassas is now 94% contained.
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>> president trump visited california's fire zone saturday, pressing his much maligned belief that forest management, not climate change is the primary problem here. >> i was with the president of finland and he said, we have much different -- we're a forest nation. he called it a forest nation. they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. and they don't have any problem. >> history has told -- >> finland's president saying, he can't ever recall mentioning raking to the president. >> the camp fire has burned 11 days now, officials saying it's only halfway done. it will kburn another 11 days before its finally extinguished. >> now, there are about 5,000 firefighters still out there, just really damping down spot fires, the real challenge now wolf is trying to find somewhere for all these people to live.
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>> what a story. thanks very much, nick watt on the scene for us. thanks very much. >> to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. erin burnett out front starts right now. out front next, president trump charging the obama white house, should have killed osama bin laden much sooner, leon panetta is out front. ivanka trump sent hundreds of e-mails about government business using her personal e-mail account. did she break federal laws. one of the senators leading the charge is out front -- let's go out front. good evening, i'm erin burnett. president trump targeting the military, doubling down after slamming the four-star


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