tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN November 20, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
written answers to questions. we may never know. president trump sides with the saudi crown prince over u.s. intelligence in the murder of the journalist jamal khashoggi, citing u.s. financial interests. why is he letting the prince get away with murder? you've got irony. president trump defends his daughter ivanka's newly-revealed use of personal e-mail for white house business despite excoriating hillary clinton for the same thing. the president claims it is different. but how? and mudslide danger. an approaching storm threatens to trigger mudslides and flash floods in parts of california ravaged by wildfires. are thousands of displaced people about to face a disaster of a different kind? 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 multiple breaking stories including explosive "new york times" report just out that says president trump wanted to order the u.s. justice department to prosecute former fib director james comey and hillary clinton. also, the president's lawyers say they've now turned over his answers to written questions from robert mueller -- from robert mueller to the special counsel's team. i will talk about all of the breaking news with congressman jerry connelly. our corner, analysts and specialists are standing by. first, let's get the very latest from our justice reporter laura jarrett. she is over at the justice department for more on this truly stunning "new york times" report. so, laura, first of all, what are we learning? >> reporter: well, wolf, this remarkable new report really sheds light on just the extreme lengths that the president would go to try to go after and investigate and prosecute his political rivals, james comey and hillary clinton. according to this report from "the new york times", the
president had conversations with his-then white house counsel, don mcgahn, last spring, asking him whether he had the authority to order the justice department to look into investigating clinton and comey. mcgahn rebuffed him and went as far as having his own white house counsel draft up a memo explaining the reasons why such an order would be detrimental and could possibly result in impeachment, wolf. now, according to this report, it is unclear exactly what the president thought that comey and clinton had done wrong, although we've seen him tweet about it at length, calling them corrupt, calling them various names. he called on then-attorney general to prosecute both comey and clinton on a variety of occasions, but we haven't seen any reporting that the justice department actually followed through on those except in a certain limited sense, wolf. we have reported in the past that prosecutors in arkansas had been investigating the clinton foundation for public corruption issues, pay-to-play issues. we've also reported a federal
prosecutor out in utah is looking into issues surrounding the clinton foundation's ties to a russian nuclear agency as well as fisa abuses. we've heard a lot about those and the connections that the fbi has tried to get in terms of surveillance on carter page, and we also know finally that the justice department inspector general is looking into comey's handling of his classified memos, wolf. >> what was the reaction from the then-white house counsel, don mcgahn, when the president said he wanted to order the justice department to launch a full-scale prosecution of hillary clinton and james comey? >> reporter: according to this reporting, wolf, mcgahn essentially said it was not a good idea. he rebuffed him. he drafted up this memo. according to the report, it wasn't clear whether the president had actually read the memo as we heard from maggie haberman in the last hour. she believes that the president actually did understand the risks here, did understand that impeachment was a possibility, and so he did not follow through
on it, wolf. >> susan hennessy is with us as well. one of our legal analysts. how inappropriate would it be for the president to issue such an order to the justice department? >> i mean i think inappropriate sort of dramatically understates it. it would be a violation of some of the core principles of the department of justice. this type of -- preventing doj from becoming politicized is why only particular offices in the white house are allowed to communicate with the department of justice. more to the point, there are attorney general guidelines that say when federal investigators are allowed to investigate, what is called a properly predicated investigation. if there's not a proper predicate, and actual reason prosecutors should continue to investigate a case, it is a real really grotesque civil liberties violation to proceed. the notion that the president would order them to take the action, it is impossible to overstate how big an aberration it is.
>> mueller must be learning so much from mcgahn. they spent as much as maybe 30 hours together, don mcgahn answering the special counsel's questions. >> well, so it is possible that don mcgahn's cooperation will be one of the most significant things here. we don't necessarily know what he's going to say, but we do know don mcgahn has been central to a lot of the issues that mueller is concerned about, particularly as it relates to this obstruction of justice. whenever donald trump previously asked don mcgahn to pressure jeff sessions to unrecuse from the russia investigation, that reportedly is an area in which the special counsel is interested in. don mcgahn is in the position to know a great deal of information and to provide it to mueller. >> he certainly is. sara murray is with us as well. the trump team, they've now submitted to the special counsel the written answers to the written questions involving what was called collusion. >> that's right. interestingly, not on the obstruction of justice issue. the president's team has made it very clear they were not going to answer any questions on the obstruction point, but instead they did turn in their answers. president trump said today that
he finished writing them on monday. his lawyers confirmed they turn them over to the special counsel, and these have to deal with russia-related questions. they have to deal with the russia collusion question and rudy giuliani, one of the president's lawyers, put out a statement and said it has been our position from the outset that much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry. this remains our position today. the president has, nonetheless, provided unprecedented cooperation. and then it goes on to sort of layout some of the cooperation. wolf, in some senses that's true. we have heard past prosecutors say that they would love to have, you know, the white house counsel in cooperating, providing 30 hours of interviews, but in other cases that's not true. i mean the president made it very clear this week he is not willing to sit down for an interview, and we have obviously seen presidents in the past be willing to do that. >> you know, it is interesting because, laura, you are getting some more information about the acting attorney general, matthew whitaker, where he fits into all
of this. >> reporter: yeah, and that's been the big question, wolf, since he came on board earlier this month, exactly how he would handle all of these issues given his relationship with the white house. and we're getting some new reporting from my colleague, pamela brown, and the issue here is that on multiple issues, according to a source familiar with the matter, the president raised the issue of the clinton investigation and how it was progressing, not only with the acting attorney general, matt whitaker who was then the chief of staff for jeff sessions, but also with the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. we do not know exactly what rosenstein's response to this issue was, but we do know that at least when it came to whitaker, he came prepared with answers and was trying, at least according to the source, to appease the president in some way. this source did not feel as though he had crossed some sort of red line in these conversations, but the fact that they even happened is stunning, frankly, wolf. >> yeah, so i want to be precise. the president in addition to raising this issue of wanting to
prosecute, launch a prosecution of hillary clinton and james comey, raising the issue with don mcgahn, his white house counsel at the time, he also raised the issue with rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general and the then-chief of staff to the attorney general, jeff sessions, matthew whitaker? >> reporter: yes, our understanding is that he was pressuring -- i should not say pressuring, but rather checking in with them on the status and what was happening with the clinton investigation and what update he could receive on that. as we've mentioned a couple of times, wolf, john huber is this prosecutor out in utah who has been looking into certain issues surrounding clinton and there are also prosecutors down in arkansas looking into the clinton foundation. and so according to this source who is familiar with these conversations, wolf, that the president was very much interested in talking to both rosenstein and whitaker about these issues. >> as you point out susan, is that the president should stay away from telling law enforcement what to do. >> it is a great example how important it is for people to abide by the rules and support
the rule of law in these critical positions. it is don mcgahn refusing to execute this order that prevents it from happening. i think that highlights how incredibly problematic it is to have somebody like matt whitaker, somebody who made public statement suggesting hostility to the mueller investigation, who has not taken steps to recuse himself consistent with doj guidelines, that's a red flag that whenever we have a president with these impulses, he wants to violate these rules, he wants to violate the basic principles of the rule of law, he is removing the very individuals who over the past two years have been in a position and had sort of the fortitude to push back against him. >> wolf, i think it all gets to the idea that president trump believes the government works for him, that the government is now there to serve him because he is the president of the united states. so all of these people should do whatever he wants them to do on any given day. he sort of abdicates himself from the traditional responsibility we see from presidents, what we would expect from the leader of our government that they would say, the government is here to work for the american people, we are
going to open an investigation if and when it is warranted. trump doesn't see it like that. it is all about his enemies and the people who are loyal to him, and he has continued to view the world that way since he has been in the white house. >> it is interesting, also the other explosive ingredient in this "new york times" article, susan, is that the president is deeply disappointed in christopher wray, the fbi director whom he nominated to be the fbi director, suggesting that his refusal to be more aggressive in investigating hillary clinton suggests that the fbi director is weak. >> so, look, it is obviously incredibly frustrating to the president any time he comes up against a justice department or fbi official who is willing to abide by the rules. one of the predicaments he is in with respect to now director wray is he probably can't get away with firing an fbi director twice. so i do think that the president is cognizant of that fact, cognizant of the notion he was forced in or pressured into an establishment choice, and he has regretted that ever since. that's why i think it is going to be incredibly important to
watch who exactly he is considering nominating to fill the attorney general position. >> it sends a message when an article like this comes out, laura, and the president is suggesting christopher wray, the fbi director, is weak because he's not more aggressive in launching a investigation and prosecution of hillary clinton. it sends a message to thousands and thousands of fbi personnel out there simply trying to do their job. >> yeah, of course. at least so far, an unfounded investigation. there's been no evidence, at least propounded these far, that there's any there there, and yet the president's only gripe with wray according to this article is that he has not done enough to prosecute clinton. it has shades of how his only gripe with jeff sessions was the fact that he had recused himself from the russia investigation. of course, the commonality there is what serves the president's ends as opposed the ends of justice, wolf. >> sara, what happens if mueller is not satisfied with the written responses that the president and his legal team have now submitted to him? >> well, wolf, i think that's
what everyone is waiting to see. i mean, look, it is certainly possible that the special counsel would want to move forward with subpoenaing the president and want to have him in front of him to answer more questions for an interview. the question, of course, is whether matt whitaker, the man that donald trump has now handpicked to be in charge of the justice department, would be willing to sign off on that. you can bet even if, you know, in some universe matt whitaker did sign off on this, there will be a legal battle. rudy giuliani has made it very clear if there was any kind of subpoena they would fight that tooth and nail, and so, you know, it sets you up for a protracted fight. the question is whether the special counsel will be happy with these answers or whether they even need them. as you pointed out, we have a lot of interviews, a lot of time with don mcgahn, a lot of interviews with other people serving in the white house with these key moments. so they may have enough from those interviews to make whatever case they want to make. >> let's not forget, don mcgahn was the white house counsel, not the president's personal attorney. he works for the american people. everybody stand by. there's a lot more news we are
following. i want to go to our chief white house correspondent, jim acosta, who is standing by. jim, first of all, any reaction to "the new york times" bombshell report? >> reporter: as a matter of fact, wolf, the president just landed in florida for his thanksgiving trip down there and he was shouted a question. we can show you some of the video as he is arriving there in florida a few moments after this arrival footage was shot. he was asked a question of -- a rt roar shout-- reporter shoute question whether or not he ordered the department of justice to investigate hillary clinton. he did not answer the question. this is all breaking after the president talked to reporters earlier today. in the last several moments a reporter asked the president a question, as to whether or not he ordered the department of justice to investigate hillary clinton. that is a prospect, he raised that on the campaign trail, it is something he has talked about frequently over the years, how he would like to see hillary clinton investigated for all sorts of things. he was asked that question and did not answer it. he talked to reporters about other issues earlier today and
he sent a very strong signal he stands with saudi arabia despite the kingdom's apparent role in the killing of journalist jamal khashoggi. the president seems to be dismissing a cia assessment that the saudi crown prince ordered khashoggi's murder. when i asked the president whether he is allowing the saudis to get away with murder, he told me earlier today his decision is based on his policy of america first. just moments before a ceremonial pardoning of the thanksgiving turkey at the white house -- >> i will be issuing both peas and carrots a presidential pardon. >> reporter: he delivered a chilling message on the killing of saudi journalist jamal khashoggi. in a statement that began with "america first" the president seemed to dismiss a cia assessment that found that the prince ordered the killing. it could well be that he had knowledge of the killing, maybe he did, maybe he didn't. leaving for thanksgiving, he
defended his decision to side with the saudis. are you leading the saudis get away with murdering a journalist? >> this is about america first. they're paying us $400 billion plus to purchase and invest in our country. that's probably the biggest amount ever paid to the united states. >> reporter: don't you believe the cia? >> they didn't make a determination. it is just like i said, i think it was very -- maybe he did, maybe he didn't. they did not make that assessment. the cia has looked at it. they've studied it a lot. they have nothing definitive. >> reporter: in a statement the president also appeared to buy into a saudi spear of khashoggi, adding representatives of saudi arabia say that jamal khashoggi was an enemy of the state and member of the muslim brotherhood. khashoggi's family has blasted those claims as ridiculous. secretary of state mike pompeo backed up the president's statement. >> this is a long, historic commitment and one that is absolutely vital to america's national security. it is a mean, nasty world out there. >> reporter: but not all republicans are on board.
>> i'm concerned about our standing in the world and what it says about the united states. >> reporter: the president's willingness to believe saudi denials is consistent with his posture towards other undemocratic countries like russia and its meddling in the 2016 election. >> maybe it was. it could be russia but it could be china, it could be other people. it also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay. >> reporter: the president's explosive statement comes less than a day after his daughter, ivanka trump, came under scrutiny for her use of private e-mails to do government business. >> it is hypocrite cal and looks bad and i'm sure the media will have a field day with it today. >> i tell you what, for what she's done they should lock her up. >> reporter: hypocrite cal because it is a reminder that her father savaged hillary clinton for her private e-mail use. >> if i win, i am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many
lies, so much deception. >> reporter: a source close to ivanka brushed off the story in a statement saying, this is a 14-month old story. there was nothing there then and there is nothing there now. the president insists his daughter did nothing wrong. >> they weren't deleted, like hillary clinton who deleted 33 -- she wasn't hiring -- she wasn't doing anything to hide her e-mails. there was no deletion, there was no nothing. what it is is a false story. >> reporter: now, as for ivanka trump's e-mail use, a source close to the white house and the trump family says the president's daughter obviously knows better as she watched the 2016 campaign like the rest of us. as this source put it, ivanka deserves to get hit over the issue. as for khashoggi, the president keeps defending his decision with claims that the saudis are spending a fortune on u.s. weapons, but only a fraction of those gains have materialized at this point. the president said he will not destroy the u.s. economy over khashoggi, but a lot of lawmakers in his own party say there's plenty he could do about
khashoggi without damaging the economy. >> jim accost tau reportia repo the white house north lawn. jerry connolly of virginia is a member of the government oversight committee as well as the foreign affairs committee. thank you for coming in. what is your reaction to the bombshell "new york times" report that the president wanted to order the justice department to launch a prosecution of hillary clinton and james comey? >> i think it is prima facie evidence of abuse of power. no president gets to use the department of justice and the fbi like it is personal fiefdom, and we don't wreak vengeance or political opponents and adversaries, especially after an election you won. get over it. but that takes us down a terrible road. it is one that ought to be unacceptable to both republicans and democrats. >> is that something that your committee will be looking into you think? >> absolutely. and i would expect the judiciary committee would us look at it.
he's now getting into territory that's very dangerous, something we've tried to avoid, but this kind of abuse of power is exactly what got richard nixon into trouble. >> well, he was thinking of doing this. his white house counsel, don mcgahn, said don't do it because that could lead potentially to impeachment. so he apparently didn't formally order the justice department to launch a prosecution. what does that say? >> we can be grateful for don mcgahn apparently, at least in that respect. but we have to remember that this comes in the context of firing the fbi director because he didn't do what he wanted him to do on the russia thing and firing his attorney general because he recused himself on the russia thing and threatening so many others and he's packing the courts with his republican enablers in the u.s. senate so that he can get better kinds of judicial rulings. >> the article also says the president is now deeply disappointed in the fbi director, christopher wray, whom
he appointed because he isn't tough enough, aggressive enough, and he has seen, according to "the new york times", as weak. >> yeah, it is a pattern with donald trump. it is in blatant violation of any respect for rule of law. america is a country that respects rule of law, not the whims of whoever happens to occupy the oval office. the fbi post, the director of the fbi, is not the, you know, personal servant of the president of the united states. he serves the whole country. >> if the president were to do what he thought of doing, ordering the justice department to launch prosecutions of his political critics, his political enemies like hillary clinton or james comey, do you believe that would be an impeachable offense? >> yes, i believe that would be crossing a line. >> and you would launch formal impeachment hearings in the judiciary committee in the house of representatives? >> that would push members of congress who voted no on impeachment resolutions like myself over the line, absolutely because we have to up hold the
rule of law and the constitution of the united states. >> there is now an acting attorney general, matt whitaker, matthew whitaker, who previously has said as a private citizen he thinks there should be an investigation, a prosecution of hillary clinton. he is now the acting attorney general. what does it say to you? >> it says to me that donald trump didn't get what he wanted out of the previous attorney general -- >> jeff sessions. >> -- and has groomed this individual to basically be much more receptive to his whims and his wishes. that's a very dangerous situation for the country. >> i want to ask you about jamal khashoggi, the saudi journalist. i believe he was a resident of your district in northern virginia, he was a columnist for "the washington post". you saw the lengthy statement that the president released today saying, you know what, maybe he did, maybe he didn't, talking about the crown prince of saudi arabia, order the murder of this journalist, but what is more important is that the u.s. needs to maintain a
strong relationship with saudi arabia. >> i think that's one of the most amoral statements any president of the united states has ever uttered. a man was murdered in cold blood, premeditated. our intelligence community says it was with the knowledge, if not the architecture of the crown prince of saudi arabia, and essentially on the day our president pardons two turkeys before thanksgiving effectively pardons the crown prince of saudi arabia for murdering an american resident. >> his argument, the president's argument in this statement, this formal statement that he released, it would harm american interests if there was any deterioration in the u.s./saudi relationship. it would eventually help russia and china who would pick up those sales. >> well, if america loses its soul and its moral standing in the world, that's an enormous loss, too. far more important in the end of the day than whatever dollar
amounts we might lose in selling weapons to a corrupt kingdom. >> and you believe that the cia assessment that they put out that the crown prince of saudi arabia personally ordered the murder of this journalist? >> we know a lot. we know the 15 individuals who perpetrated this murder were associated with the prince. we know the two planes that flew them in were under auspices of his office personally. we know from intercepts he helped direct his brother who was ambassador to, in fact, provide false assurances to khashoggi so that he could go to the embassy, the consulate and not have anything to worry about. that was a setup. that was directed by the crown prince personally. our own cia says so. you can't let that go by. that's not all right. >> and the initial assessment of the cia that it has this conclusion with a high degree of confidence. >> absolutely that's right. >> thanks very much, congressman connolly. thanks for coming in. there's more news we are
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♪ breaking news tonight, "the new york times" reporting that president trump wanted to order the u.s. justice department to prosecute the former fbi director james comey and hillary clinton, but he was warned by his then-white house counsel, don mcgahn, that that potentially could lead to impeachment. let's get some more on all of this with our analysts and our commentators. david swerdlick, what do you make of the fact that cnn is now learning that the president
apparently raised this issue, not just with don mcgahn but with others as well including the acting attorney general, matt whitaker? >> well, it suggests to me that the president, one, sort of can't let go of some of the fights that took place in the 2016 election, particularly with secretary clinton about her e-mails, some other issues, and then it goes back to early in his presidency dismissing or firing fbi director jim comey on a pretext that was different in a memo, different in a letter and different in that infamous now lester holt interview. it does strike me as something of an abuse of power, even though the president has ultimate authority over the department of justice, which is why if you look at "the new york times" reporting it is almost certain that the white house counsel, don mcgahn, recommended that he not go down that road. >> it was seen, jackie, potentially by don mcgahn as abuse of power and could lead to impeachment. >> well, right. it seems like the former white house counsel was trying to save the president from his worst
impulses, but, as we know, the president casts a wide net with who he was talking to and apparently he was talking to folks that were firing him up, pushing him to want to pursue comey and hillary clinton. and, you know, the white house counsel was doing his best to serve his client. >> and the article also says, susan, that the president is deeply disappointed in the fbi director, christopher wray, whom he now sees as weak because he wasn't assertive enough in launching an investigation of hillary clinton. >> yes, i think we should understand these other investigations are about throwing sand in the eyes. he is actually concerned about the excessive focus on the russia investigation, the obstruction investigation and he wants to distract using these other investigations. this is abuse, plain and simple. secretary clinton was investigated and cleared by the department of justice. jim comey was investigated in an extensive inspector general's report released to the public. there was no finding of criminal
wrong doing. for the president to attempt to essentially use the apparatus of the state to go after his enemies, and that really is what he is doing, you know, the job of the justice department is to do justice, not to be the president's personal goon squad. you know, two years into his presidency, the sort of excuse that he just doesn't understand this stuff, he doesn't know the protocol, he is not a politician, that just isn't acceptable. it is just not accurate anymore. he knows what he is doing. >> and we know the president now also discussed it with whitaker, now the acting attorney general, but he was then the chief of staff to then-attorney general jeff sessions. >> i think every piece of information we hear about matt whitaker becomes more problematic and more concerning. the santa cruz advertise departmeadvertise -- the justice department is an incredibly institution, and this is an illustration of the way it can be abused if you don't have the right actors at the top. they're not just focused on hillary clinton and jim comey. they have a whole department to
execute as well. this kind of distraction and this kind of unqualified individual at the helm, it is really an incredibly troubling situation. >> how do you think, phil mudd, officials at the justice department will react to all of this? >> believe it or not, wolf, it is 48 hours before thanksgiving day and i'm giving thanks. it is a rare moment, run the videotape, where i'm thankful. look, the president squeezed the former attorney general jeff sessions to step away from the sessions' recusal on russia. sessions stood up with a backbone and said, mr. president, no. the president pressed the former fbi director james comey before comey was fired, please step away from the flynn investigation, the investigation into the former national security adviser, general flynn. the former fbi director said no. the president is now apparently pressing this -- or has pressed this fbi director to begin some investigations, and this fbi director would appropriately say no. wolf, my message is regardless of whether you are republican or democrat, when the president
tries to overstep his bound, give thanks. the system repeatedly said no, we're not going to do it. >> josh campbell, you are a former fbi supervisory special agent. you worked with comey for part of your career. how do you think folks at the fbi are reacting to all of this? >> so there are 130 some odd federal agencies in the united states government, independent agencies. there is exactly one agency that the president is fixated on, is obsessed on, and that is the department of justice, and the fbi i will throw in there as well. i think it is because he knows it is the only agency in government that can potentially harm him personally and also be used as potential bludgeon to go after his political enemies. i suspect, and i know this having served in the fbi, it was long a topic of conversation, this violation of norm, that independence between justice and the white house. it was a conversation then, it is a topic of conversation now. i continue to talk to my former colleagues and the reaction has been the same. that is when donald trump,
president trump served in the trump organization, he was the king. whatever he said went and whether you worked at whatever level inside the organization, when he told you to do something, you did it or you resigned. he didn't have that same power coming over into the government. i think that's a lesson that he continues to learn, but, again, with that i think the upshot that he thought was that he would be able to use these instruments of power to jail his political enemies. unfortunately for him, it appears he is just getting another scandal laid out for the whole world to see, wolf. >> everybody stick around. there's a lot more. we are following the breaking news. the president's lawyers say his answers to robert mueller's questions are in the special counsel's hands. we have new information. stick around. we will be right back. it was a no-brainer. i switched to geico and saved hundreds. that's a win. but it's not the only reason i switched. the geico app makes it easy to manage my policy. i can pay my bill, add a new driver, or even file a claim. woo, hey now! that's a win-win.
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♪ we're following more breaking news in the special counsel robert mueller's russia investigation. jackie, we just learned that the president's lawyers have finally submitted the written answers to the written questions to robert mueller's team. where do you see things heading? >> so -- well, the president hopes this is the beginning of the end of the mueller investigation, but we don't know that to be the case yet because these -- these questions just deal with before he was president. we don't know if mueller is going to push the issue and demand that he be interviewed about obstruction of justice questions. >> because rudy giuliani told "the washington post", susan, that the answers are complete and detailed but there's, quote, nothing there that i haven't read in a newspaper. what does that tell you? >> first of all, i would say that we've seen in the newspaper is already pretty bad for the
president. we actually have a videotape of the president standing up and saying, russia, if you're listening. i don't know how strong of a defense that ultimately is. there are still obviously open questions based on media reports. did donald trump know about this trump tower meeting in advance and is he willing to say he didn't know about it in advance under oath? so i think whether or not these are new issues or not, the president answering under oath could be game changing. >> what do you think? >> yeah, i mean i think it is going to be about whether or not his answers, the president's answers match up with other information that the special counsel's team already have. i agree with susan that the summer of 2016 trump tower meeting is probably very central to this. both the meeting and what the president knew about it, if he did know anything about it, and what he did or didn't know about the initial white house response to that meeting. >> how do you see this working out, josh? >> so rudy giuliani put out that statement and said that, you know, there have been some -- you know, millions of pages turned over, millions of dollars spent, and it is now time to, you know, bring this thing to a
close. the step that he left out was the fbi agents and prosecutors actually reviewing the written responses that were sent over from the white house in order to determine their veracity, determine how much candor is actually, you know, in there, and then compare it with other witness statements that they have. that's not to say that agents won't want to go back to the house after talking to the people and say, hey, you told us this, what about this, what about that. i think it is pie in the sky to think, okay, we handed over the questions, we're done, let's bring it to a close. there are several key steps left for investigators before they're ready to stamp it closed. >> whenever he is ready, phil mudd, to release his report, it has to go through the new acting attorney general, assuming it is any time soon, and matthew whitaker -- i see a smile on your face. >> iwell, it sort of does. what happens when the acting attorney general gets it and the congress of the united states says, we want to see a version of the report? how does the acting attorney general say no? you may think the buck stops with somebody appointed by president trump, i don't think so.
i think this game is far from over, wolf. far from over. >> because the democrats, jackie, they will be in charge of the house of representatives. >> oh, yeah. they're not going to let anything be hidden. it is a question of when vision is first, not if a lot of these issues will be investigated. so, right. exactly. i agree with phil. >> david, do you think the president appreciates, understands fully the enormity of what that means for him and his administration, that the democrats will have complete oversight in the house of representatives? >> wolf, i'm starting to think in a way he does. his behavior and comportment last week with all of these, you know, mistakes and missteps and angry rhetoric on camera suggests to me he may be feeling pressure. i think going back to something susan said before the break is true is that, you know, there was a case to be made a year or two ago that the president didn't understand that everybody in the government didn't work for him. i think by now he knows it. he wants it to be one way, but it is the other way. >> everybody stick around. there's much more. we are following more breaking news.
president trump now siding with the saudi crown prince over the cia in the murder of the journalist jamal khashoggi. big australia is back, and your favorites are even bigger. with the big, juicy 18oz center-cut sirloin. the ultimate great barrier combo. and the new three-cheese steak dip. hurry in! food this big is only here for a limited time. and the new three-cheese steak dip. you may be learning about, medicare and supplemental insurance. medicare is great, but it doesn't cover everything ...only about 80% of your part b medicare costs. a medicare supplement insurance plan may help cover some of the rest. learn how an aarp medicare supplement insurance plan, insured by unitedhealthcare insurance company might be the right choice for you. a free decision guide is a great place to start. call today to request yours. so what makes an aarp medicare supplement plan unique? these are the only medicare supplement plans endorsed by aarp because they meet aarp's high standards of quality and service. you're also getting the great features
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cia investigation that showed the crown prince personally ordered the slaying. he has a list of reasons that he doesn't want to undermine saudi relations and hold them accountable but first and foremost he sees saudi arabia as a counter balance to iran. >> that's right. they hold them at the middle of the center piece of iran strategy. there was nothing new in the statement other than what he said about jamal khashoggi being a part of the muslim brotherhood. that could have been written by the saudis as a matter of fact. the other thing i will say about this is i don't believe it was just about absolving the crown prince from accountability here, although there is a part of that and that's egregious enough, it is about absolving donald trump. he knows the congress will take action and will enact new measures they will be able to get into legislation over his objection to hold the crown prince and saudi arabia accountable. >> phil mudd, listen to what the president said about holding the crown prince accountable and whether he was involved in ordering the murder.
listen to this. >> they didn't make a determination. it is just like i said, i think it was maybe he did, maybe he didn't. they did not make that assessment. the cia has looked at it, they've studied it a lot. they have nothing definitive. the fact is maybe he did, maybe he didn't. >> the cia has a high degree of confidence that the crown prince did order the murder. >> let's be clear. what the president said was utter nonsense. the cia got burned on iraq wmd with their level of confidence that saddam hussein had wmd. they stepped back and said we're going to have a high confidence judgment, as this in case, we better be careful when we use those words high confidence. do you think they said, maybe he did, maybe he didn't? they said with high confidence, in a cia cautious about making these judgments, we are looking at stuff well beyond the audio tape from the turks on the killing. they are looking at other intel and saying, mr. president, we
made judgment and our judgment is with high confidence that the crown prince knew and authorized this. the president is misleading us. that's not true. >> susan, you used to work in the government, the national security agency. when you read >> no, there isn't. phil's absolutely right. when the intelligence agency says, high confidence, that means absolutely positive. this is trump's strategy of exploiting implausible deniability. we all know he doesn't actually believe this but what he views this is as not an issue of central american values but an uncomfortable press conference that he has to get through and i think that is really something that's incredibly stunning and it is an insult to the men and women of the intelligence community who do good and important work to have the president of the united states essentially say, i don't care what you come up with, if it doesn't serve my interests, my narrative, i'm just going to ignore it. >> i'm convinced he did this, he issued this statement to get ahead of it. any leaks about the briefing that he gets from the cia and to
make sure he was able to control this narrative. that's why he did this. >> you used to write for the "washington post." you write for the "washington post." bob corker who's retiring, the senate republican, wrote this. i never thought i'd see the day a white house would moonlight as a public relations firm for the crown prince of saudi arabia. >> that's a strong statement that from an outgoing senator but he makes a point, the white house is saying exactly what the saudis would want to. about this america first business the president talked about, this isn't even an america first approach in trump's own definition. by getting out of the iran deal, by giving the arms deal to the saudis and giving them carte blanche in yemen, he's given them everything they want already. he has no leverage over the crown prince to rein him in now. >> do you think there will be enough republicans to go ahead and force the president to take some action? >> we'll have to see what the appetite is but you can corker is leaving.
mitt romney just issued a statement, he's incoming senator from utah. he took a strong position against the saudis and said this isn't -- this isn't in line with american values. so we'll see what part he plays coming in. >> phil, what message did the president's statement today send out to the rest of the world? >> i think when you look at the president, roughly 22 months in office, a message is pretty simple. when you look at america first, it's not only money, it's values. well, we told everybody in this -- on this planet, including when he praised the north korean leader is you can choose to kill your opponents if we have a national interest in supporting you, we will ignore your killing of opponents in turkey and egypt and the philippines and we'll become your friend. that's the message consistently, not just with saudi arabia. >> everybody stick around. there's more news we're following, including the news out of california, the fire victims facing another possible disaster, flash floods and mud slides. your insurance rates skyrocket after a scratch so small
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first breaking news, a new threat to the thousands of people displaced by the historic wild fire burning right now in northern california. cnn's nick watt is in the town of paradise when was all but destroyed by the flames. nick, how is the area, now the area's in danger, what, of flash floods? is that the latest? >> reporter: absolutely. and listen, wolf, since we spoke just 24 hours ago, the number of -- the official tally of
homes destroyed has jumped by about 1,000. we're now at 12,637 and that number is jumping as search teams come into neighborhoods like this, which you can see on this high shot that we have, this used to be a senior community. there is absolutely nothing left here. and we know the search team was here today by the date painted on this driveway, 11 clsh 20. now, when they come into neighborhoods like this, they will often go first to homes with a car in the driveway because that's a sign that maybe somebody didn't make it out alive, and as you just said, wolf, now we're waiting for the sting in the tail. tonight, this deadly, destructive blaze now 70% contained but these people, many who have already lost everything, not out of danger. torrential rain is coming. a flash flood watch in effect from tomorrow afternoon through thanksgiving into friday morning. and this tent city in the chico
walmart parking lot is in a flood zone. >> what we really want people to do as the rain approaches and the weather starts to shift is get inside. >> reporter: there is plenty of space in evacuation shelters. >> we're going to be here as long as we need to be here. we could be in the sheltering business through christmas zp. >> reporter: some are scared to go. >> the norovirus going around, i'm scared because we already got that once. >> reporter: more than 100 have been hospitalized by the bug. others moved to isolation blocks within the shelters. many evacuees plan to ride out the rains out here in the open. >> we're getting tarps and stuff like that. it's been rough, but we're making due. >> reporter: down in los angeles and ventura counties where the woolsey fire burned, authorities warning of mudslides and hill slides and potential debris flow as rains approach. free sandbags now available from fire stations.
some people will likely be evacuated from their homes once again. there is also concern up here at the camp fire site that rains could hamper the search for the dead, even wash away human remains or make them indistinguishable from the mud. >> that was nick watt reporting for us from california. thanks very much for watching. "erin burnett outfront" starts "erin burnett outfront" starts right now. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com breaking news, president trump wanted the justice department to prosecute hillary clinton and james comey, what stopped him. a warning that could lead to impeachment. plus, is trump letting the saudi crown prince get away with murder? the ohio governor, john kasich, weighs in. and he killed osama bin laden, now he's responding to president trump's criticism. rob neil is "outfront." let's go "outfront". and good evening. "outfront" this evening, presidential payback. the president of the united states telling