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THE SITUATION ROOM
Flynn Invoking Fifth Amendment in Russia Probe; Document Shows Flynn Made False Statements to Investigators; Interview with Sen. Chris Coons; Trump Apparently Admits Sharing Intel with Russians; Trump Emphasizes Iran Threat While Overseas; Leaks Detail Controversial Trump Budget Cuts. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 22, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now. Breaking news, refusing to testify. Fired national security adviser Michael Flynn is planning to plead the Fifth and will refuse to turn over records for the Senate Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, but two former Trump campaign officials are now cooperating with the probe. Will Flynn be held in contempt?
[17:00:19] Apparent admission. President Trump seems to confirm that he shared classified intelligence with Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting while accusing the news media of getting the story wrong. Has he damaged critical intelligence relationships?
Middle East mission. Shifting policies and changing rhetoric mark the president's trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel. He's softening his sharp campaign stance toward Islam and is yet to follow through on vows to tear up the Iran nuclear deal. Is his foreign policy in flux?
And cutting billions. CNN has learned that the president's forthcoming budget proposal takes a sharp ax to Medicaid, planning to reduce spending by $800 billion and steep cuts to Food Stamps, as well. Is the president going against his own campaign promises?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news, major new developments in the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia election meddling and ties to the Trump campaign. CNN has learned that former national security adviser Michael Flynn won't turn over records in response to a subpoena from the committee. Instead, Flynn will invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
At the same time, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign advisor Roger Stone have now turned over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Stone tells CNN's Gloria Borger he provided all documents consistent with the committee's request.
And the president appears toss have confirmed that he shared classified intelligence with Russian officials in the Oval Office. Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president denied ever naming Israel as the source of the intelligence and accused the news media of getting the story wrong, but the president himself was mistaken. No reports ever said the president mentioned Israel by name.
We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Senator Chris Coons. He's a member of both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. And our correspondents and specialists, they are also standing by. Let's begin with the breaking news about fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
CNN's Diane Gallagher is working the story for us.
Diane, the Senate Intelligence Committee probe is just one of the investigations looking at Flynn.
DIANA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. There are several inquiries into Michael Flynn right now on Capitol Hill, and that could be growing as, well as a federal grand jury that's issued subpoenas for associates of the former national security adviser.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): Sources say President Donald Trump's former national security adviser will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Flynn.
GALLAGHER: Refusing to comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee's subpoena for records of his communications with Russian officials, a source close to Flynn said it would be "highly imprudent for him not to exercise the Fifth Amendment rights since several members of Congress have called for Flynn's prosecution."
In a letter to the committee, Flynn's attorney wrote that the context of the subpoena, quote, "makes it clear that he has more than a reasonable apprehension that any testimony that he provides could be used against him.
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee tells CNN's Manu Raju he's disappointed.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: We have to find out whether we have the ability to either hold General Flynn in contempt or whether it's just Fifth Amendment. I've got to get the legal answer to that first.
GALLAGHER: But it's something then-candidate Trump blasted Clinton associates for doing in the past.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see, the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
GALLAGHER: A source told CNN Russian officials, picked up by U.S. surveillance, bragged they could use Flynn to influence Trump. Now Trump, in a private February 14 meeting, told now former FBI Director Comey, quote, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He's a good guy." That's according to a memo written by James Comey, sources say. The president has denied this.
TRUMP: No, next question.
GALLAGHER: Lawmakers in his own party beginning to question his actions.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: If any president tries to impede an investigation, any president, no matter who it is, by interfering with the FBI, yes, that would be problematic. That said, we don't know if that's what's happened here.
Trump invoked the investigation in Comey's dismissal letter and later admitted Russia was on his mind when he fired Comey.
TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story."
[17:05:08] GALLAGHER: During their controversial Oval Office meeting, Trump bragged to the Russian officials about firing Comey, who he called a nut job. The "New York Times" reported the president said, "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."
GALLAGHER: Now the man that everyone wants to hear from, James Comey, isn't going to be testifying until, we're told, at least a week after Memorial Day, but in the meantime, Wolf, we're going to be hearing from the former CIA director, John Brennan. He's going to testify before the House Senate -- the House Intel Committee tomorrow.
BLITZER: Very important information. Thanks very much. Diane Gallagher reporting for us.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, is standing by.
Manu, you're getting some new information about Michael Flynn. What are you learning?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Actually, the House Oversight Committee has obtained a report from investigators who conducted an investigation interviewing Michael Flynn after he filled out his security clearance form in 2016 and on -- in that -- in that report it says that Michael Flynn may have misled investigators about the sources of his foreign payments, whether or not the foreign trips, whether or not they were paid for by U.S. companies or whether or not they were paid for by foreign companies.
Now in this report, apparently, it says that Mr. Flynn did not say that these trips that he took, including the 2015 trip paid for by RT, the television network, was paid for by a Russian-backed entity. Instead, he said it was paid for by, quote, "U.S. companies." Now, this is according to a letter released by Elijah Cummings, who's the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, saying that the committee should move forward and get some more information from the White House, including subpoenas.
He's calling on the Republican chairman of the committee, Jason Chaffetz, to issue subpoenas to get more information from the White House about what General Flynn apparently told the White House about the sources of payments on these foreign trips and whether or not he misled the White House, as well, or whether or not he told the truth to the White House and they still went ahead and hired him despite, having these payments from Russian officials from foreign trips.
Now, Wolf, this comes also as we're learning about efforts by the Senate Intelligence Committee to interview other Trump associates, including Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, and Roger Stone, their campaign advisor. Both of them have turned over documents to the committee. It remains to be seen whether or not they satisfy the committee's -- the Senate Intelligence Committee's request. But at least they're getting some cooperation there, what they're not getting Michael Flynn at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: And what else are you hearing, Manu, about the fired FBI director, Jim Comey, who's supposedly agreed to testify in public shortly after Memorial Day?
RAJU: Yes. I talked to Mark Warner, who's the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who told me that they do plan to hear from him, not just -- not next week but the week after. That's the likely time that they're going to meet. And he also said that Mr. Comey is actually going to probably meet with Bob Mueller who was, of course, appointed last week as a special counsel in this Russia investigation to determine what he can and can't say in that public testimony. This is what Mark Warner is saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I think there will have to be a deconfliction, but I think it's really important for the American people to hear Jim Comey's side of the story after you've heard some of the really outrageous comments the president has made about him in terms of calling him names and doing that in front of the Russians, which is frankly just unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So Warner also said that both him and senator Richard Burr, who's the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, do plan to meet this week with Bob Mueller to try to figure out a way forward on their investigation and whether or not it conflicts in any way with the special counsel's investigation.
And one other point, Wolf. Mark Warner also making clear that he wants to see documents about that meeting that the president had with Russian officials in which he apparently shared highly-classified information. He says the White House should turn over records about that meeting, and I asked him, "Are you ready to subpoena for those records?" He said that he wants to confer with Richard Burr. He did not rule that out, Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill with the late-breaking developments. Thank you.
Let's get some more on what all of this means. Our senior legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin, is with us.
Jeff, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, they say they are willing to turn over documents, already have turned over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Michael Flynn's lawyers say he will refuse.
Just listen to what they say in a letter to the committee, and let me put it up on the screen: "The context in which the committee has called for general testimonial production of documents makes clear that he has more than a reasonable apprehension that any testimony he provides could be used against him. Multiple members of Congress have demand that he be investigated and even prosecuted. He is the target on nearly a daily basis of outrageous allegations, often attributed to anonymous sources in Congress or elsewhere in the United States government which, however, fanciful on their face and unsubstantiated by evidence, feed the escalating public frenzy against him."
[17:10:09] The letter adds, "Additionally, in the intervening time since the committee issued its subpoena, the Department of Justice has appointed a special counsel to investigate these and related matters. This environment creates a, quote, 'reasonable cause to apprehend danger,' giving rise to constitutional right not to testify."
So will that argument work, Jeffrey, or can Congress still hold him in contempt?
TOOBIN: I think Flynn's lawyers are on very solid ground here. You know, it doesn't take much to allow an assertion of a Fifth Amendment privilege. The courts have always been very deferential to individuals to allow them to take the Fifth.
Now, Congress has a remedy. Congress can get the documents. Congress can get his testimony, but they would have to give him immunity, which would, as a practical matter, make it impossible for him to be prosecuted. And that's where there's possible conflict between the criminal investigation by Robert Mueller and the congressional investigation. Immunity, at least at this early stage in the investigation, is almost certainly off the table; but down the line, that may be the only way -- that is the only way that Congress could get his testimony.
BLITZER: Well, under what circumstances -- and it's an extraordinary circumstance -- would they grant him immunity, and would the new special counsel, Robert Mueller have to agree to that?
TOOBIN: Well, he wouldn't have to agree. I mean, that's the thing. They have the unilateral power to do it. In the investigation I worked on, Lawrence Walsh, my boss, the independent counsel, didn't want Oliver North to get immunity. Congress gave him -- Congress gave him immunity anyway. We prosecuted him, and the conviction was thrown out. That's a problem no one wants to repeat, but it could -- it could happen.
Certainly, there will be some sort of coordination. I mean, at this early stage, no one seems to want to give Flynn immunity. No one knows the scope of the evidence.
But if Mueller at some point says, "Look, I am not going to prosecute him. There is no case to be made," then maybe Congress would give him immunity, or -- this would be a considerable amount of time down the line. If he were prosecuted and convicted, then Congress could give him immunity and force his testimony.
But all of those will take -- will take quite some time, and for the time being, I think Flynn is simply going to be well within his rights to take the Fifth, give no testimony, produce no documents.
BLITZER: Usually, they give the immunity to someone if they believe that immunity could lead to testimony to convict someone higher up, right?
TOOBIN: That's right. That's -- that's the theory, and sometimes there's what's called a proffer, where the individual or his lawyers tells the immunity-granting body, whether it's a prosecutor or a congressional committee, "Look, if you give us immunity, we will say the following," but that seems all of which is going to happen down the line. This is way too early in the investigation. No one on either side wants to compromise the possibility of a prosecution, so there's not going to be any immunity, and Congress is going to have to at least begin its investigation without Michael Flynn's testimony.
BLITZER: How closely will these various congressional investigations on the Senate side, the House side work together with the new special counsel to make sure they don't do anything that could undermine Mueller's investigation?
TOOBIN: Well, that's always a tense question in these sorts of -- in these sorts of investigations, because there are conflicting agendas. One side wants prosecution. The other side wants public disclosure.
At least for the time being, there will be -- at least some communication between the two, but it's almost always just a one-way street. Prosecutors don't tell Congress what they have, but Congress will tell the prosecutor why they really want to give immunity. So it's a difficult and delicate dance between the two, but certainly, at this very early stage, there won't be any controversy, because there is no way that Michael Flynn is going to get immunity at this very early date.
BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware is joining us. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee as well as the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: So we just heard from our own Manu Raju, reporting that General Flynn gave false statements to investigators. Does that explain his decision to invoke, potentially, the Fifth? COONS: Well, that may, Wolf. There's lots of other areas for which
General Flynn may face legal jeopardy. It's reported that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars from someone very close to the Turkish government and failed to appropriately register or disclose that.
It's also been reported that he received tens of thousands of dollars from Russia Today, and there are other allegations that he may have either falsified information or not been fully truthful with the Trump administration as they were doing background check work on him.
You know, frankly, of all the missteps of the Trump administration so far, the one I have the hardest time understanding is why General Flynn was allowed not just into the White House but into the situation room, and I think there are other ways that both congressional investigations and the special counsel-led FBI investigation can get access to documents or testimony that would be relevant in the event that General Flynn ultimately is prosecuted.
BLITZER: What do you make of the argument laid out by General Flynn's lawyers in that lengthy letter to Congress?
COONS: Well, I think have to respect the First Amendment [SIC] right against self-incrimination, and I suspect that his defense counsel, his lawyer is making an argument that, given the current environment, given the range of allegations of missteps or misbehavior by General Flynn, that he's at some real legal risk. So I think, frankly, any court would respect the argument that's being made by his counsel.
BLITZER: Yes, the Fifth Amendment, his right against self- incrimination. Should Flynn be held in contempt?
COONS: Well, I think I'll leave that to the relevant committees, but my hunch at this point, as Jeffrey Toobin just laid out, is that we're very early on. We need to have coordination between Bob Mueller, the new special counsel who's leading the FBI -- the FBI investigation, which is both counterintelligence and potentially criminal.
I don't think he should be held in contempt out of respect for the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but I think I'll leave the ultimate decision about that to the very capable bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation.
BLITZER: Would you support granting Flynn immunity in order to get him to talk?
COONS: That's a very delicate decision, and there, we'd have to weigh whether or not he may face prosecution or whether it would imperil the FBI investigation and whether he might say something that really is in the public interest.
As you heard from Jeffrey Toobin in the Iran-Contra investigation, there was a real distance or disconnect between what was done by the congressional investigating committee and the then independent counsel Lawrence Walsh. I mean, I think we have to coordinate between federal law enforcement, the FBI investigation and the ongoing congressional investigations to make sure we don't get cross-wise.
BLITZER: The former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, the former Trump advisor, Roger Stone, they both cooperated with the Senate Intelligence Committee requests for documents. How significant is that development?
COONS: I think that's quite significant, Wolf. It means that the Senate Intelligence Committee is moving forward, is cooperating and functioning well on a bipartisan basis, is issuing subpoenas and getting documents and testimony back in response to those requests. It means that the Senate Intelligence Committee has moved from the phase where they were reviewing documentary evidence to where they're going out and they're securing documentary evidence, and I think that's encouraging, because it means they're making real progress.
BLITZER: What are you hoping to hear from former FBI director James Comey in his public testimony after Memorial Day?
COONS: Well, Wolf, that's going to be a really critical testimony. I'm looking forward to hearing from the former FBI director why he believes he was fired and hearing his testimony directly about the meeting he allegedly had in the Oval Office with the president, where President Trump tried to press him both to pledge personal loyalty and to abandon the ongoing investigation against General Flynn.
If -- if that is supported by contemporaneous memo that the FBI director wrote to file as is reported in the press, if he testifies to that, that's really compelling, striking testimony about misdeeds by the president and his administration.
BLITZER: Senator, I'm going to have you stand by. There are other new developments coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll resume our conversation right after a quick break.
BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Senator Chris Coons. Senator, I want you to stand by. We have more breaking news. Just now, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a response to General Michael Flynn's invoking his Fifth Amendment rights in the Russian investigation probe.
The statement says, "The committee will vigorously pursue General Flynn's testimony and his production of documents." The White House has not weighed in as of tonight. The president is in Israel on his closely-watched first foreign trip as commander in chief.
I want to go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. He's joining us from Jerusalem right now.
Jeff, the president made his own news on his dealing -- dealings with the Russians. Update our viewers.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, indeed, Wolf. He was having a meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and they were talking about the intelligence issue that happened in the Oval Office about a week and a half or so ago.
And he said, look, Israel, I never mentioned the word "Israel," and, of course, no one said that the president did, indeed, mention that. But, Wolf, that confirmed that Russia is still on his mind.
It also confirmed one other thing we've been seeing here on the road the last three days or so, that the hallmark of the Trump Doctrine, at least so far, appears to be flexibility.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump awkwardly pushing back today against reports he shared Israeli intelligence about the Islamic state with Russian officials earlier this month in the Oval Office.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name "Israel," never mentioned it during that conversation.
ZELENY: The president veering off script after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Trump seems to think their session was over, but Benjamin Netanyahu draws him back for a longer handshake. Only then does the prime minister answer a question about the disclosure of classified intelligence.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The intelligence cooperation is terrific.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, guys.
ZELENY: As White House aides rush to clear the room, the president raises his hands to quiet the commotion, clearly wanting to address the elephant in the room with one of the most important U.S. allies.
TRUMP: Just so you understand, I never mentioned -- just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name "Israel," never mentioned it during that conversation. They're all saying I did, so you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word "Israel."
ZELENY: Arriving in Israel on the third day of the president's first trip abroad, a momentary break in the choreography, a subtle sign the Russian investigation back in Washington is on his mind.
His visit to the Western Wall a significant moment in his effort to jumpstart the stalled Middle East peace process.
TRUMP: I want to tell you also how much we appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East.
ZELENY: A warm reception for Trump, whose still-evolving foreign policy doctrine raising expectations in the Middle East. He outlined a major shift in the U.S. approach to the region Sunday in a speech to Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia.
TRUMP: This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion. People that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.
ZELENY: The sharpest departure from the Obama administration coming on Iran. The president seeking to rally behind Sunni Arab nations and Israel in their confrontation, still critical of the Iran nuclear agreement, yet still weighing whether to pull out.
TRUMP: But it was a terrible, terrible thing for the United States to enter that deal, and, believe me, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. That I can tell you.
ZELENY: In his presidential debut on the world stage, Mr. Trump also diverging from his own long-held views that led to a travel ban now blocked in the courts. After candidate Trump said this last year...
TRUMP: I think Islam hates us.
ZELENY: ... President Trump striking a far more conciliatory tone.
TRUMP: This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations.
ZELENY: While Mr. Trump long criticized President Obama for refusing to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism," he also avoided it before his Muslim audience, yet he verged off-script by saying this.
TRUMP: That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds. We must stop what they are doing to inspire, because they do nothing to inspire but kill.
ZELENY: The text of his speech did not include the words "Islamic terror.: A senior White House official later said he misspoke, because, "He's just an exhausted guy." That rationale likely would not have been acceptable to candidate Trump.
TRUMP: To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.
ZELENY: Now there's no question, Wolf, the president seems to clearly enjoy being out of the frenzy of Washington, away from all those questions about that investigation. He did, however, though, send back two key advisers, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, who are working in the White House now, trying to get a handle on this investigation.
The president, for his part, has more meetings here tomorrow and makes his way to the Vatican on Wednesday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff. Thank you. Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president in Jerusalem right now.
I want to bring back Senator Chris Coons.
Senator, that comment, next -- while he was standing next to the Israeli prime minister, did President Trump confirm the news reports that Israel was the source of that highly-classified intelligence information that was discussed in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador to the U.S.?
COONS: Well, Trump -- excuse me, well, Wolf, I really struggle here with how much I think President Trump just doesn't understand the harm that he's done by talking recklessly with the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office about highly-classified information.
The press reports of that conversation and what was inappropriate about it didn't allege that President Trump specifically cited the country that was the source of this intelligence. Instead, it was a combination of factors: the city in which the information was developed, other key factors about how we knew certain things about ISIS that are alleged to have led -- would lead any competent intelligence service, such as the Russians, to conclude the nation of origin.
[17:30:23] The larger point here, Wolf, is that it's important that we have a strong security and intelligence partnership with Israel. It's important that our president, Donald Trump, have a constructive visit to Israel. And my hope is that he will get better briefings and pay more attention to them and be better prepared for the meetings that he takes.
I still question why he hosted the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, given the very aggressive actions of Russia interfering in our 2016 election, invading and occupying a part of Ukraine, and being really in opposition to our key and vital allies across NATO.
BLITZER: As you know, Senator, the president is also trying to foster some unity between Israel and other Sunni Arab countries by emphasizing the threat from Iran. Do you support that approach?
COONS: I do think we need to hold Iran accountable for their reckless and aggressive behavior in the whole region. Their support for terrorism, their ballistic missile program, their human rights violations. So I would agree that it's important for us on a bipartisan basis to stand up to Iran's aggression.
But I did support the Iran nuclear deal. I think it has frozen Iran's nuclear program and given us unprecedented access to inspect Iran's nuclear program. I suspect you'll end up seeing President Trump demonstrate that the Trump Doctrine does include flexibility, because I think he will end up extending the Iran deal and working, hopefully, with Congress to try and find ways to contain Iran's aggression in non-nuclear fields, as well.
BLITZER: How far does President Trump's visit to Israel -- tomorrow he'll be in Bethlehem on the West Bank -- go in establishing a foundation for peace talks?
COONS: Well, we'll see how the visit to Bethlehem goes. I think it's important for President Trump to show that the importance -- that the American people, place on our unshakeable partner with Israel, has moved that forward in a good way. I'm frankly holding my breath this week to see whether or not President Trump can conduct himself in a constructive and positive way on the world stage. All of us as Americans have to hope that our president is successful.
His next stop with the Holy Father, with Pope Francis in Vatican City, is one that I'm looking forward to. Pope Francis has been an advocate for refugees, of course, and President Trump in his campaign and in his early actions as president has taken a position on welcoming refugees to the United States that is in direct opposition to the position that Pope Francis has urged all countries to take.
BLITZER: Senator Coons, thanks so much for joining us.
COONS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: More breaking news coming up. Major new developments to the Russian investigation including fired national security adviser Michael Flynn now invoking his Fifth Amendment rights in the Russia investigation.
[17:37:36] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and will neither testify nor turn over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Also, a source tells CNN two other former Trump associates, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, they have turned over documents requested by the Intelligence Committee investigators.
Let's bring in our own specialists. And Phil Mudd, I want to play for you some -- the words of the president as a candidate when he was complaining about Hillary Clinton associates taking the Fifth, pleading the Fifth. Listen to what he used to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Now the people who destroyed the e-mails are all pleading the Fifth Amendment in front of Congress today. Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, horrible. So there are five people taking the Fifth Amendment. Like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
The man that was given the Fifth, remember? Whatever happened to him? Where is he? What happened to him? Where did he go? He pled the Fifth. That's the end of him. Ay, yi, yi.
When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they're not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it's disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So now his former national security adviser, the man who worked closest with him on the most sensitive national security issues, is about to take the Fifth. PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, who do you believe
here? I think Americans should go onto the CNN website. I wish we had a Twitter feed here of CNN website, and vote. You vote for Comey or you vote for the president.
The president has said there's no story here. He said that publicly. Comey, the ousted FBI director, has said openly, in a rare admission for an FBI director, there's a case. There is a story. Not only is there a story, we've got this refusal to supply documents. We've also got the Flynn request for immunity.
So if there's no story out here and if the director of the FBI took the public step to say there is. And the subject at the center of this says, "I ain't talking, because I'm afraid to come clean," I can tell you who I'm voting with. Having served with the FBI, I'm voting with the FBI. There's not smoke here; there's fire.
[17:40:02] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Just to add to Phil's point, also we know for a fact that Flynn was -- came up in the conversation -- I mean, according to the Comey memo, that Flynn came up in the conversation between Comey and the president of the United States, and he asked him to drop and curb that investigation.
I mean, there's so much "there" there. I'm not to fire, but, my gosh, it's something that's producing a whole heck of a lot of smoke.
And Donald Trump is right in the channeling, I think, the public will. When you see someone plead the Fifth Amendment, you usually think, "Oh, probably guilty." Donald Trump knows that. That's why he sees that as a campaign issue.
The problem is, is going forward what do you do with Michael Flynn? He hired him to be his national security adviser. He was one of his closest allies in the campaign. He was his lead introducer during the campaign. This is not just a fly-by-night relationship where it's like, "Oh, hey why don't we join up powers." This is someone he trusted. You have to ask why.
BLITZER: Yes, Trump himself said repeatedly you've got nothing to hide and you're an honest guy, why do you have to take the Fifth? That's what Trump himself used to say.
CILLIZZA: And in a way, he's right. I mean, I think the -- if you ask the average person, we walk outside this building and ask the average person what does it mean when someone pleads the Fifth? They'll say, "Well, it means they're not talking, because they're probably guilty."
Now, I understand legally, people say, "Well, it's to protect" -- I understand all those things. But this is Donald Trump's problem. He invests in people who you never know about; and he does things and says things like that great reel you just played in which he totally contradicts himself.
BLITZER: Yes. And you know, it's interesting. In contrast to Flynn, Rebecca Berg, two other Trump associates, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, they are complying with requests for documents. They're making these documents available to Senate Intelligence Committee investigators. How significant is that?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as Senator Coons said, it says a lot in your interview just a few minutes ago. It says a lot about the committee and the fact that the committee is doing its work and making progress, and this is a good sign. But it also says a lot in contrast to Flynn, as Chris was saying, about how they feel about their position right now in terms of this investigation.
They would, if there was any doubt in their mind about whether these documents, in cooperating with the Intelligence Committee investigation, could potentially incriminate, they would plead the Fifth, as well. But they are not. And as far as we know, they're cooperating. We don't know if they supplied fully what the committee was asking for. The committee will have to review the documents and we'll see.
But if they did fully comply and if they are not pleading the Fifth in this case, that means they feel that they are not the target of this investigation, and Flynn feels potentially he is.
BLITZER: You know, John Kirby, the president, when he was standing with the prime minister of Israel in Jerusalem today, Benjamin Netanyahu, he said, "I never mentioned the word 'Israel,' the name 'Israel' during that meeting with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador." You're smiling already. No one reported...
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: I know where this is going.
BLITZER: ... that he actually told -- told the Russians that Israel was responsible for that intelligence, but it could have been surmised.
KIRBY: Yes, well, it's out now. I mean, he basically now has confirmed the stories that sensitive information and intelligence was shared with the Russians and that it was from a third nation. And then he alone is confirming the third nation, because nobody in the press did. Nobody in the intelligence community did. I mean, he's laid that out there.
But the big issue is doing it in the first place. This is sensitive compartmentalized information, the most sensitive that we get, specifically asked by the third nation not to share. So that's really still the problem. And I think it will cast some doubt on whether other nations, at least their intelligence agencies are going to be willing to be as forthcoming with us with sensitive intelligence.
CILLIZZA: Do you think that Israel is like -- Netanyahu and Israel's intelligence service alike, "Well, he said he didn't say it. That seems good for us"? You know, I mean, it's not -- what does he buy himself there?
KIRBY: Yes. CILLIZZA: You know? If they -- if it was them, then they know. I mean, him saying it doesn't...
BLITZER: And the damage...
CILLIZZA: There's no upside and the downside is exactly what the admiral is talking about.
KIRBY: And you can actually -- you can actually see a little discomfort on Netanyahu's face when that exchange happened.
BLITZER: He's saying, "Why is he bringing this up?"
KIRBY: Why now? Yes.
BLITZER: When you worked at the CIA you worked with foreign intelligence services in cooperation. I guess the fear now is maybe not the Israelis so much, although the Israeli intelligence services are probably not very happy about this, but other intelligence services will say, "You know what? Maybe there's certain information we shouldn't share with the United States."
MUDD: I think there's two pieces I'd be worried about. That would be secondary, that somebody says, as you're suggesting, "We can't give you this" or "Please don't give this to the president," which would be unprecedented.
What I worry about is in Langley CIA headquarters people saying, "We might pass the president intelligence, but let's be real cautious about giving him context and giving him the information about where it comes from, because he's shown that he's going to release it in public."
I mean, the irony here of the White House last week saying the real story here is leaks, and then the president of the United States leaking the source of the intelligence in public can't be lost.
KIRBY: Not to mention the fact that -- that real lives could have been put at risk here.
[17:45:00] I don't know the context of the intelligence, but the reason why stuff is compartmentalized is to protect sources and the methods. But the sources can be sometimes human sources, not just electronic sources, and so real lives here could have been placed at risk. And I think that's going to be weighing on intelligence agencies on their minds going forward.
BLITZER: Because the fear is that, let's say, the Israelis did have an asset in some area, let's say, in Syria.
KIRBY: Right. Right.
BLITZER: And the President mentioned the name of that area, if the Russians then shared that information, let's say, with Iranians who are deeply involved in supporting Bashar al Assad's regime or Hezbollah -- KIRBY: Right. Or Assad himself.
BLITZER: Yes. I mean, that's potentially --
KIRBY: It could very well --
BLITZER: It could undermine that source.
BLITZER: But you're not surprised that the Prime Minister of Israel is trying to downplay this and say U.S.-Israeli intelligence cooperation is great right now.
KIRBY: No. And just the look on Netanyahu's face today was, he just wants this to go away.
KIRBY: And he doesn't want it to stain what they really want to be a very positive visit.
CILLIZZA: Just one last thing. The question I keep coming back to, why is Trump with Lavrov and Kislyak in the Oval Office? Number one. Why is he sharing this -- I guess the theory is, well, we need to build a trust relationship with them, but it just doesn't make sense.
Phil and I were talking off camera. Tradition would suggest the Secretary of State meets with these folks, not the President. Why is he doing this? And then, why does he feel compelled with Benjamin Netanyahu? He really didn't have to take a question there, right? He stops, takes a question, and throws the --
BLITZER: He tries to quiet the audience.
MUDD: Yes. Yes.
CILLIZZA: -- throws the Israel thing out there, which then, of course, sets off the entire news cycle.
BERG: Although we sort of know the answer to these questions --
CILLIZZA: Yes, because he's Donald Trump.
BERG: -- based from the reporting that's out there. They were in this meeting because Putin asked --
MUDD: That's right.
BERG: -- that the President meet with them. And he shared this information, according to the reports of the conversation, because he was boasting about the great intelligence that he receives.
BLITZER: Yes. When Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, was in Moscow a few weeks earlier, he met with the Russian Foreign Minister, but he also had a private meeting with President Putin. And so Putin said I met with your Secretary of State. When my Foreign Minister is in Washington, you should meet with my Russian Foreign Minister as well.
KIRBY: The reciprocity.
KIRBY: Well, that's not the issue. The issue was the timing. It was the day after he fires the FBI Director.
MUDD: And then brags about it.
KIRBY: And then brags about that to Lavrov and then provides this sensitive information. So it's really the context around the meeting rather than the meeting itself.
BLITZER: That's a good point, too. All right. Everybody, stay with us. Don't go too far away. And an important note to our viewers. Be sure to stay with CNN for new developments in the Russia investigation. Tonight, you can see all of our reporting in one place, a special report, "WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS," with our own Pamela Brown and Jim Sciutto. It airs tonight, 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 Pacific. Only on CNN.
Coming up. We're also following new developments up on Capitol Hill where details are now leaking about President Trump's very controversial budget cuts.
[17:52:29] BLITZER: We have more breaking news from the Russia election meddling investigation. Just now, the House Oversight Committee Chairman, Jason Chaffetz, tweeted this, quote, "Spoke with Comey. He wants to speak with special counsel prior to public testimony. Hearing Wednesday postponed."
We're also watching other new development up on Capitol Hill where details of the Trump administration soon to be released budget cuts have now been leaked. Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty. She's up on Capitol Hill.
Sunlen, some of the proposed cuts are very, very controversial.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Wolf. Some potential big cuts to Medicaid. A senior administration official confirming to CNN that their budget outline, which will be released formally up here on Capitol Hill tomorrow, will include an $800 billion cut in Medicaid over the next 10 years. That's assuming that the Republican passed health care bill would potentially become law.
That likely not to sit well with many Republicans, especially Senate Republicans from Medicaid expansion states where some 11 million people have received coverage as part of the American Affordable Health Care Act. That proposal would also reduce federal funding for the entire Medicaid program which covers more than 70 million people.
And you'll recall on the campaign trail, candidate Trump, he promised that he would leave Medicaid untouched. And check out this tweet from only two years ago where he calls for no cuts to Social Security, no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid.
And certainly, Democrats are already seizing on this. Here's Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Medicaid helps 1.75 million veterans, one in 10. It provides services for Americans struggling with opioid addiction, a problem that affects so many. So if the reporting is accurate, these cuts to Medicaid which are in the President's budget carry a staggering human cost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: Now, keep in mind, this is only a blueprint released from the White House, a proposal that they would like to see happen. But at the end of the day, it is Congress that has the power of the purse here, so they will be the ones that will make any proposal eventually become law.
And OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, he'll be up here on Capitol Hill twice this week -- once on the House side, another time on the Senate side -- where he's likely to explain this proposal and certainly receive a lot of pushback from lawmakers up here, Wolf.
[17:54:59] BLITZER: Yes, from both sides, I assume, especially after the President promised during the campaign he would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. $800 billion proposed cut in Medicaid over 10 years, that is a huge, huge cut. But let's see what the Congress does. Sunlen, thanks very much for that report.
There's breaking news we're following. New information about the fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his plan to plead the fifth in the U.S. Senate's Russia investigation.
[17:59:51] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Taking the fifth. Fired national security adviser Michael Flynn ready to invoke his constitutional right not to testify in the Russia investigation. This as other key figures are handing over documents. We have new information tonight on the Senate probe and the Special Counsel's criminal investigation.