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THE SITUATION ROOM
Terror in Afghanistan; James Comey Set to Testify; Will Trump Blow Up Climate Change Agreement?; Trump Reportedly Giving Cellphone Number to World Leaders; Man with Assault Rifle, Handgun Arrested at Trump Hotel. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 31, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Deal or denial? President Trump says he will make a decision very soon about the Paris climate agreement, as sources say he is expected to withdraw from the accord. Tonight, Mr. Trump is already facing backlash, accused of undermining the fight against global warming.
And new reign of terror. U.S. citizens are among the casualties of a huge new suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan, as President Trump decides whether to commit more U.S. troops to America's longest war.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the fired FBI Director James Comey going public.
CNN has learned that Comey is ready to confirm the bombshell accusation that President Trump urged him to end his investigation of the ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. A source revealing that Comey plans to testify in open session in the Senate as early as next week.
Also breaking, the House Intelligence Committee issuing its first subpoenas in the Russian probe, including subpoenas for Michael Flynn and for Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. congressional investigators ramping up their efforts to get information from both men after they initially resisted requests.
Tonight, the White House says from now on it will refer all questions about the Russia investigation to the president's new outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, this just hours after Mr. Trump fired off a tweet renewing his claim that the probe is nothing more than a witch-hunt.
We're also awaiting a controversial announcement by the president. He says his decision on the Paris climate agreement is coming very soon. Sources tell CNN he is expected to withdraw from the accord, breaking with other countries taking action against global warming.
We are covering all of that, much more with our guests, including Jake Sullivan, former top adviser to Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. And our correspondents and specialists, they are also standing by.
First, let's go to CNN's Jessica Schneider with more on James Comey's plans to testify.
Jessica, we're told the fired FBI director is eager to talk publicly about his confrontations with the president.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.
We know that James Comey wants to get his story out there publicly. And it looks like it could happen as soon as next week. The details of his testimony are still being determined, but sources say that fired FBI Director Comey will publicly recount his run-ins with the president.
All this while the House Intelligence Committee just announced it has issued new subpoenas to two key Trump confidants.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): James Comey is expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about any possible pressure he felt from President Trump to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Flynn's ties to Russia.
Sources tell CNN Comey documented his February 14 meeting with President Trump, detailing the president's plea this way: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope can you let this go."
The president was on the attack Wednesday morning, referring to the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan a witch- hunt. Comey has spoken with special counsel Robert Mueller to work out the parameters of his testimony, and Comey will likely sit down with Mueller afterwards.
This all comes as congressional investigators are widening the scope of people they have reached out to, at least nine Trump associates so far. President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, after resisting requests from House and Senate Intelligence, says he will cooperate if Congress issues him a subpoena, saying he has nothing to hide.
The House Intelligence Committee has asked for documents from former White House communications official Boris Epshteyn, who is working with his attorney to cooperate. And a source says Michael Flynn will hand over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, with the first batch of business and personal records expected by June 6.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His testimony postponed indefinitely at the request of Democrats.
SCHNEIDER: And this snippet on FOX News about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page seemingly grabbed the president's attention. He tweeted 30 minutes after it aired: "So now it is reported that the Democrats, who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia, don't want him to testify."
Carter Page tells CNN his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was tentatively scheduled for next week, but has been pushed back a week.
QUESTION: A quick question: What do you really speak to Jared Kushner about in New York when you met him in December?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment.
SCHNEIDER: And the Russian bank chairman with close ties to President Vladimir Putin not answering questions about his December meeting with Jared Kushner. Kushner's push to create secret communication with Russia also drawing scrutiny from investigators.
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: We're trying to figure out exactly why for him in particular was the reason to have back channels. One thing to have national security back channels, another thing for other individuals in the White House. So, that's a very reasonable question, and we are going to look to try to get clear answers.
SCHNEIDER: And the House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas today, four related to the Russia probe and three related to the issue of unmasking or the unveiling of Americans in intelligence reports.
Now, those subpoenas were issued to former CIA John Brennan, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power. Unmasking, of course, is an issue both President Trump and the Republicans have railed against repeatedly -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we will see what happens. Thanks very much for that, Jessica Schneider reporting.
We are also following breaking news on the president's imminent decision on the Paris climate agreement. Sources now telling CNN he is expected to withdraw from the accord designed to combat global warming.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Athena Jones.
Athena, this would be another move bit president to roll back the Obama agenda if he goes ahead and pulls out of the climate deal.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Absolutely.
President Obama called the Paris deal the best chance we have to save the planet. This decision would certainly be at odds with that idea. And, look, President Trump's legislative agenda may be stalled at the moment, including his effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, but he is determined to take whatever steps he can on his own to fulfill his campaign promises.
We saw him do that when he pulled U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, when he approved the Keystone XL pipeline. But this move, going against the advice of European leaders, the pope, even his daughter, could have even more wide-ranging consequences for America's relationships around the world.
JONES (voice-over): For President Trump, pulling out of the landmark Paris climate accord would be another campaign promise kept and a signal to the nearly 200 countries that joined the accord that they should take his America-first mantra seriously.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of the United States' tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.
JONES: While the president is promising an official announcement soon...
TRUMP: You are going to find out very soon.
JONES: ... two senior officials tell CNN the decision has already been made, though they caution the precise mechanism for withdraw hasn't been determined and plans could still change until Trump makes his decision public.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is the ultimate decider. And when he has a decision to make, he will let you know.
JONES: The expected move already prompting harsh criticism from opponents like House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who called it a stunning abdication of American leadership, a grave threat to our planet's future and a threat to national security. Even some fellow Republicans are questioning the message it sends to the rest of the world.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It means that the leader of the Republican Party is in a different spot than the rest of the world. It would be taken as a statement that climate change is not a problem, not real. That would be bad for the party, bad for the country.
JONES: In fact, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dodged the question Tuesday on whether the president believes humans contribute to climate change.
SPICER: I honestly haven't asked him that.
JONES: Other Republicans are applauding the plan and playing down its impact on global relations.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: The United States has great relationships throughout Europe and it's going to have those relationships with or without this agreement. JONES: The decision would also be a victory for the nationalist wing
of the White House, led by chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Meanwhile, the president's daughter and top adviser Ivanka Trump has been pushing her father to stay in the accord, as have prominent figures like former Vice President Al Gore, Tesla founder Elon Musk, and a long list of companies.
The president, who met Tuesday with Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator who favors withdraw, met today with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who believes America should remain in the deal, a day of meetings that followed a confusing midnight tweet from the president, saying only: "Despite the constant negative press covfefe."
Trump, who sources tell CNN, has been feeling angry, lonely and withdrawn in recent days, later deleted the tweet.
SPICER: The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.
JONES: So, that was a curious answer from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer there about what most of us took to be a typo on Twitter.
That answer raising more questions. Meanwhile, when it comes to the Russia investigations, Spicer was clear. He gave a clearer answer on that, referring all future questions on that matter to outside counsel Marc Kasowitz. And one more thing about that briefing with Spicer, it was audio-only. No cameras allowed. And it lasted just 12 minutes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very strange, indeed.
All right, Athena, thanks very much.
Joining us now, Jake Sullivan, a foreign policy expert, a former top adviser to Hillary Clinton's campaign, also to former Vice President Joe Biden.
Jake, thanks very much for joining us.
JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: So, assuming he testifies, Comey, as early as next week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, how important is this upcoming testimony?
SULLIVAN: I think it's really important.
It's a chance to hear straight from the horse's mouth what the president did or didn't do to obstruct this investigation. And if the sources are right that he basically told Jim Comey to lay off Mike Flynn or otherwise to stall or stop the investigation, that's a huge problem for Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Why is that a huge problem if he says, yes, the president encouraged me to drop any investigation of his then former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn?
SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, the president of the United States should not be interfering in any way in an ongoing FBI investigation, any ongoing investigation.
Second, he certainly shouldn't be interfering in one that involves his administration and possibly him personally. And, third, he certainly, certainly shouldn't be saying, hey, by the way, if you just could go easy on my guys, that would be great.
This is the kind of thing that happens in corrupt local politics. It's not something that should be happening out of the Oval Office.
BLITZER: Does it reach the level of obstruction of justice?
SULLIVAN: Look, I'm not qualified as a lawyer to answer that question, even though I have a law degree. I will leave that to the lawyers.
But I will say this. When you tell the FBI director to lay off, to get out, to stop, and then, when he doesn't, you fire him, common sense suggests it sounds a whole lot like obstruction of justice.
BLITZER: If it is a case of he said vs. he said, let's say Comey says, yes, the president did urge me to drop any investigation and the president denies that, if Comey shows up with his contemporaneous notes, and he was apparently a very active note taker, could release notes during the course of that testimony or would the special counsel, Robert Mueller, say, you know what, hold back on that?
SULLIVAN: In the end, that's going to be between Robert Mueller and Jim Comey. And I understand that they are working out the parameters of Comey's testimony so that it doesn't interfere in any way with the special prosecutor's probe.
But whether or not he releases the notes, we know already from now two years on the campaign trail and four months in office that Donald Trump is prepared repeatedly to make flat misstatements, to tell lies. We have no such history with Jim Comey, whatever other challenges he may have.
So I think the American people in a he said/he said are going to find Jim Comey a lot more credible.
BLITZER: Although you saw the president's tweet this morning suggesting that Comey and the former CIA Director John Brennan were making misleading or false statements during testimony before Congress.
That's a very serious charge. Under oath, you lie to Congress, that's a crime.
SULLIVAN: It's a very serious charge coming from somebody who leads an administration that has repeatedly been proven to make false statements when it comes to this Russia inquiry.
They have said they never talked to Russians in the first place. And that's been proven wrong. They have said, several of them, we have never met with the Russian ambassador. That has been proven wrong.
Donald Trump himself has made statements which have been proven wrong. So, I think this tweet is going to end up being just one more example of where the administration and the president himself are making misstatements when it comes to the Russia inquiry.
BLITZER: The president's son-in-law, top adviser, Jared Kushner, he is under some scrutiny right now for supposedly attempting to set up a secret communication channel with the Russians using Russian equipment at the Russian Embassy in Washington.
And you have seen all of the reports. The White House says, you know what, they call these diplomatic back channels. Nothing wrong with that. People do that, a standard part of diplomacy. How do you see it?
SULLIVAN: Back channels are a standard part of diplomacy. In fact, I was involved in a back channel with the Iranians at the outset of the Iranian nuclear deal.
What is unusual about this case and quite disturbing is that reportedly what Jared Kushner asked to do was use Russian equipment and Russian facilities to hide his communications from anyone else, including the current government, the current administration.
That's where this goes way off course from what a standard back channel...
BLITZER: So when you were involved in that back channel with the Iranians, the country the United States regards as state sponsor of terror, it was working through the government of Oman. You went to Oman to meet secretly with Iranian officials, correct?
BLITZER: Did the U.S. government, did the U.S. intelligence community, law enforcement community, were they aware of what you were doing?
SULLIVAN: We traveled on planes supplied by the U.S. government. We reported back to the most senior levels of the U.S. government. And we were personally directed to do what we did by the president of the United States.
That is a far cry from Jared Kushner as a private citizen asking to go into a Russian facility and use a Russian means of communication to talk to the Russians about policies when he is trying to keep the U.S. administration in the dark.
That raises real questions. What was he trying to talk to them about? What was the point of all of that? And I think we need answers to those questions.
BLITZER: Well, diplomatic -- those communication channels, by the way, they were discussed apparently, but never implemented.
But when you wanted to confer with Iranians, you went through the Omanis and you told them and they would pass along the message? Is that how it worked?
And we would talk to the Omanis on U.S. government equipment, not on Omani equipment or Iranian equipment. And we certainly would never go to an Iranian facility to carry out this kind of cloak-and-dagger conversations.
And, by the way, we could give you a very straightforward answer for why we had that back channel. It was to secure a nuclear deal with Iran without firing a single shot.
What we haven't heard from Jared Kushner is, what the heck was he doing trying to set up this back channel? What were they trying to get out of it?
BLITZER: Supposedly it was designed to reduce the Russian support for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, which sounds like a good cause.
SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, the Pentagon had open channels with the Russians to talk to them about this. The State Department had open channels with the Russians to talk about this. And the White House did as well.
So, it seems to me that that explanation is pretty flimsy, because if that's what they wanted to do, they had plenty of channels to go through to be able to do it.
BLITZER: They changed their stories a few times on this as well.
BLITZER: I want you to listen to your former boss Hillary Clinton speaking out today about this entire Russia investigation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: So, the Russians, in my opinion, and based on intel and counterintel people I talk to, could not have known how to best weaponize that information unless they had been guided. And here's...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guided by Americans?
CLINTON: Guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.
We are getting more information about all of the contacts between Trump campaign officials and Trump associates with Russians before, during and after the election. So, I hope that we will get enough information to be able to answer that question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you're leaning Trump?
CLINTON: Yes. Yes. I'm leaning Trump. I think it's pretty hard not to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so she is walking almost right up to the line of accusing the president of the United States of colluding with the Russians.
SULLIVAN: Well, what she is actually saying is that we need to get to the bottom of this.
Here is what we know. We know from the intelligence community that Russia engaged in a bold and multifaceted information warfare campaign designed to undermine our election. We know that. That's been shown by the intelligence community in a report they released in January.
We know also that they were releasing DNC e-mails and they were releasing John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman's e-mails, and we know that they were also spreading all kinds of news, both fake news and stories that have since proven to be false.
So I think what Secretary Clinton is asking is, could they have done all of that, executed that entire operation without some help from Americans who understand the American political process?
Her view is that they couldn't. Whether or not that involved Trump associates or the Trump campaign, that's what these investigations are about.
BLITZER: All right, Jake, stand by. There is more information coming in.
We are also now getting confirmation that a dozen or so Americans have been injured in a major terror attack. We will update you on that when we come back.
BLITZER: We're back with Jake Sullivan, a former foreign policy, national security adviser to both then Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
Jake, I want you to stand by for a moment.
We're getting some new information right now on that huge suicide bomb attack. At least 90 people have been killed in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, and hundreds of people, including at least 11 U.S. citizens, have been injured, many of them very seriously.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following the story for us.
Barbara, what are you hearing? What's the latest?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, given this terrible attack in Kabul, there are new questions about what is next for Afghanistan and the U.S. military troops that are there?
STARR (voice-over): The moment the suicide attack struck at the heart of Kabul, sirens and security forces piercing the morning rush hour.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I saw bodies lying everywhere, damaged cars and dust.
STARR: Killing at least 90 and wounding 400.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Everywhere was full of black smoke. And I saw many burned cars around.
STARR: A water tanker truck filled with explosives detonated by a suicide bomber at an Afghan police checkpoint near just outside the security zone where embassies are located, including the American Embassy.
Up to 11 citizens assigned to the embassy were hurt. U.S. officials say they were contractors. Nine Afghans working alongside providing security for the U.S. were killed.
General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander, surrounded by heavy security a short time later at the blast site. The blast leaving a hole 20-feet-deep and more than 40-feet-wide, a U.S. official who saw it told CNN.
The devastating attack comes as President Trump is deciding whether to send up to 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to supplement 8,400 already there. The troops would largely be advisers helping local forces. More airstrikes could also be ordered to help push back recent gains by the Taliban.
SAID TAYEB JAWAD, AFGHAN AMBASSADOR TO U.K.: We would like to have more international troops, U.S., U.K., NATO and other countries, to stay with our troops for a little longer to stay and train and assist us effectively, so we can deal with this threat.
STARR: But this attack is believed to be at the hands of another terror group known as the Haqqani Network. It underscores the nearly 16-year challenge for the U.S. NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL
AFFAIRS: The big question is, do we have to go back into the streets of the cities to help the Afghan government control them?
STARR: One point everyone agrees on, Afghan security forces still need help.
BURNS: They are plagued with poor leadership. They are plagued with lack of pay. And they are plagued with a lot of AWOLs. People are leaving the army. So, they are still challenged with putting an effective fighting force together.
STARR: And, Wolf, the price tag for all of this so far, over $650 billion spent on America's longest war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr reporting for us at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
Let's go back to Jake Sullivan, the former national security adviser to both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
So, what options does the president right now realistically have? There are about 8,000 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan. There's talk that he might want to send another 5,000 or more. Would that really make much of a difference?
SULLIVAN: The commanders on the ground are suggesting that adding a few thousand more trainers, advisers, and assisters can help the Afghan national security forces, especially their special forces, take the fight to the terrorists.
My question is, is this a slippery slope to something more? And I think we have to be very careful about that. We have to make sure that we don't get back into the business of taking and holding territory in Afghanistan. That's the Afghans' job. We can support them, but we can't get back out onto the front lines of this war.
BLITZER: But if the U.S. has supported them for 16 years already, since 9/11, they haven't been able to get the job done, what makes anyone think that another 5,000 troops is going to make much of a difference?
SULLIVAN: Well, it's not going to make a difference in eradicating the country of violence or terrorism. But it could make a difference in terms of making sure that the basic population centers are more secure than they have been or would be and that the country doesn't just absolutely fall apart.
The one thing we need to avoid is a complete collapse in Afghanistan where ISIS and al Qaeda and other groups can use it as a safe haven to plot terrorist attacks against the United States. If a sustainable number of U.S. troops can help accomplish that, even if there's ongoing violence, I think we can keep the troops there for some period of time.
BLITZER: Another major decision the president is about to make, whether to stay in or withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Looks like he is going to say the U.S. is getting out. You're shaking your head. What would be the consequences if he said that?
SULLIVAN: Well, look, first of all, just to understand, this is an agreement that the United States led the world in producing; 195 countries all came together and pledged to do their part to combat climate change.
In addition, the United States got for the first time countries like China and India to agree to do their part, not to sit on the sidelines while we did it all. Now Trump is saying, we're out, the U.S. is out.
When did we become that country? When did we become the country that lets China and Europe and others take the lead against a threat to our planet and our way our life? That's not the America that I know. It's not the America of Ronald Reagan. It's not the America of Harry Truman. And I think we need to step up and lead on this, because if we step back, others are going to fill the void.
BLITZER: And you think that if the U.S. were to withdraw and become the third nation not participating, after, what, Syria, Nicaragua, they are not part of this accord, if the U.S. became the third country out of nearly 200, what would be the ramifications for U.S. standing around the world?
SULLIVAN: Well, number one, I think the Chinese, the Europeans and others would step in, and the United States would lose the capacity to influence and shape events elsewhere. That would come at a cost to our security.
Number two, I think we would start losing the race for renewable energy. Right now, there is going to be a country that emerges out of this who is leading in solar, and wind and biofuels. That should be the United States of America. We should be the ones benefiting from those jobs and that growth, not the Japanese or the Germans or the Japanese or others.
And if we pull out of this agreement and follow the course Trump is proposing, that's what is going to happen.
BLITZER: Let me ask you a political question on one of your other former bosses, the former Vice President Joe Biden.
He is just announcing in an e-mail, America has always thought big, that's the subject, a new PAC, a political action committee, that he is establishing calling American possibilities. He has a Web site. "If that's what you believe," he goes on to say, "and you ready to help elect folks who believe that and support groups and causes that embody that spirit, then I'm asking you to join me today."
This kind of move creates the speculation he is thinking of running for president in 2020. What do you think?
SULLIVAN: Well, I will leave it to him to answer the question whether or not he is running.
But it is not a surprise to me that Joe Biden has decided to step up and put his shoulder to the wheel to help get Democrats elected to Congress, to help support causes he believes in. Of course Joe Biden is going to be back in the arena doing that. And that's a good thing. It's a good thing for Democrats. It's a good thing for the country.
BLITZER: But you think he still has that taste, that desire to be president of the United States?
SULLIVAN: Look, I can't answer...
BLITZER: You know him.
SULLIVAN: And I would obviously defer to him on the question of actually running for president.
But I know he still has the taste for getting out there every day and fighting for the things he believes in. We have seen that already in the last four months. And I'm glad that he is standing up a PAC to be able to put even more muscle behind it.
BLITZER: Jake Sullivan, thanks, as usual, for coming in.
SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: We'll let you know what he decides what to do. Although you probably will know before we do.
Just ahead, we're learning more about the first subpoenas issued by the House Intelligence Committee in its Russia investigation.
And a man -- this is very disturbing -- a man armed with an assault rifle, a handgun, arrested at the Trump International Hotel right here in Washington, only blocks from the White House. Tonight, police say a potential disaster was averted.
[18:35:19] BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation clearly heating up. The panel has just issued its first subpoenas.
Let's get some more with our specialists and our analysts, and Gloria Borger, among those being subpoenaed during this investigation, the president's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as well as his personal lawyer, long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen.
You had a chance to speak with Michael Cohen. Is he going to comply?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he is. I mean, I actually spoke with him last night before the subpoena was issued, because there was -- he had issued a statement saying that the request from the committee was way too broad. And when I called him last night, he said to me, "Look, I have not
been subpoenaed." Now he has. "But if I am subpoenaed to testify, I will comply and gladly, as I have nothing to hide." And then he went on to say, "There is no shred of evidence that implicates me." So that should make for some interesting testimony.
We know he's the president's personal attorney for Trump Organization. He's not a part of the government. But he is somebody very close to Donald Trump and has worked for him for over a decade.
BLITZER: So he isn't going to cite attorney-client privilege?
BORGER: Well, he'll probably cite attorney-client privilege for a lot of questions that -- that are going to be asked of him. But perhaps they're going to ask him a lot of questions that don't involve the president.
BLITZER: The other big story that we're watching, Jeffrey Toobin, in the Russian investigation, the fired FBI director, we've now confirmed he will testify in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee as early as next week. He's had a conversation or two, we're told, with the new special counsel, Robert Mueller, who's heading this whole Russia investigation. They're old friends. They know each other well. They've discussed the parameters of what he can say, what he can't say. What are you anticipating?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it will certainly be very dramatic testimony. And Director Comey can -- can describe his conversations with President Trump about the president's discomfort with the investigation, his desire to shut it down.
The interesting question will be, will Comey's notes be made public? Contemporaneous notes are obviously very important evidence about who's telling the truth in an event. So that's something we will very much want to see.
The other thing is, Republicans will be able to ask Director Comey, "Look, if you thought what -- what the president was doing was so improper, why didn't you go to others and complain? Why didn't you go to the attorney general?" That -- that whole line of questioning will be important for Comey to address in terms of everybody evaluating his overall credibility.
BLITZER: But you remember what the president tweeted at one point. He put the word "tapes" in quotes. Comey, he suggested, could be embarrassed if there are tapes of that -- we don't know if there are tapes in the Oval Office or wherever the president was. But if there are, who knows if those will be released, right?
TOOBIN: Well, certainly, the committees have plenty of notice that the president has raised this possibility. And the committee members have said they are checking out whether any tapes of these conversations exist. If they exist, they will certainly be subpoenaed both by the congressional committees and by Special Counsel Mueller's investigation. BLITZER: Yes. There's no evidence that those tapes -- he put the
word "tapes" in quotes. I don't know exactly what he was referring to, but we'll all learn sooner rather than later, I assume.
What about the testimony next week, if it happens, Comey? That could be, obviously, must-watch TV. But could have enormous ramifications for the White House.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that will be what will be so interesting to watch. Everybody is going to be tuning in to see what Comey has to say. Maybe most importantly, the president.
And we know from past history that this president is typically irked by what Comey has to say. And he's called him a show-boater and kind of essentially said that he is a bit of a drama queen or king, or whatever you want -- whatever phrase you want to use.
So that will be interesting to see. What does Donald Trump say in response to Comey's testimony? What is the White House narrative in response to what Comey has to say?
It will also just be a test of the communications shop. They're supposed to be getting that in order. We saw from Spicer today saying that he's going to refer questions about the Russia investigation to Donald Trump's lawyer. Is that something that Donald Trump is going to be able to maintain that kind of silence and kind of towing the line in terms of the White House strategy?
BORGER: You know, I think they're going to ask him, "Did you see this as undue pressure on you? Did you see this as obstruction of justice?"
And I think, from talking to an ally and a friend of Comey's, I think what he might actually say is that he thought that the president was misbehaving, essentially. And that he could school him about the appropriate ways to interact with your own FBI director, particularly when he's investigating your administration. And that he may not have seen it as obstruction at that point until he got fired.
[18:40:21] BLITZER: You know, it's potentially got a lot of problems. It keeps the investigation on and on. And especially in public, John Kirby. This has got enormous potential impact.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. This story is not going anywhere. And now Spicer has got the ultimate excuse. "Hey, you've got to talk to the president's lawyer." I'm not a hundred percent positive, but I'm betting that the lawyer is not talking much either.
So the press is going to have nowhere to go but these hearings and testimony. They're not going to get answers from the White House. So this story is just going to continue to fester.
And can I just say, you'd have to do violence to the English language to call Jim Comey a show-boat. I mean, he has been nothing but straight-laced. And I think everybody's going to be very much interested in what he has to say, actually.
TOOBIN: I actually disagree.
BORGER: Yes, I disagree.
TOOBIN: That Jim Comey is not a show-boat. Jim Comey...
BORGER: I do, too.
TOOBIN: ... has shown a great thirst for the limelight for a public official during his career. His -- his performance in terms of the Hillary Clinton investigation, you know, violating Justice Department protocols protocols to call attention to himself and to the investigation.
You know, I think the president may be onto something in the accusation that Jim Comey is a show-boat. Doesn't mean he's a liar. That's a very different accusation.
TOOBIN: But show-boat, I think there's something to that.
BLITZER: In the president's tweet this morning, he raised the notion that perhaps Comey and John Brennan, the former CIA director, they're both providing false or misleading testimony before Congress. And Jeffrey Toobin, that would be a crime under oath.
TOOBIN: It certainly would be. And it's a pretty amazing accusation from the president of the United States when you consider he's the boss of the Justice Department, which can prosecute people for making false statements.
This is just an example of how we have normalized Donald Trump's behavior. That the idea that the president of the United States is accusing people testifying before Congress of crimes would have been thought outrageous, had any president done it previously. But now it's just sort of business as usual for this president.
BORGER: But this is why the congressional investigation is so important. Because Mueller has to go and do his job and take years doing it. And he's got to decide if he prosecutes anybody, who he prosecutes. It's a criminal investigation.
The congressional investigation is about getting the truth out to the American people in any way that you can, and I think that the congressional committees have an important job to do here; and let the American public judge whether Brennan is lying under oath, as Donald Trump might believe he is.
BLITZER: All right. We've got a lot more to assess. We'll take another quick break. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:47:43] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.
Let's get more with our specialists and analysts.
And, Jeffrey Toobin, apparently, the president has been handing out his cell phone number to various world leaders out there urging them to call on them directly if they want to. Does that raise some serious questions from your vantage point?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, assuming that it is the, just his private cell phone, there is obviously a very important security issue there. You know, we spent months and looking at Hillary Clinton's use of unclassified e-mail for classified business, talking to foreign leaders, is the very definition of classified activities. In addition, the State Department traditionally has vetted and prepared presidents for all phone calls with foreign heads of state.
And you know, it's the president's privilege to ignore that. But there is a reason why every other president has done it.
BLITZER: There is a serious problem potentially, right?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Sure. I mean, look, in addition to the security issue, there's an archival matter here. I mean, when he has conversations with foreign leaders, it's part of the official record. There should be note takers. There should -- if not a transcript of it. And you need to have some accountability over what the other individual said, so that if there is a dispute later on, you've got a record of it. So, it's an important archive too.
BLITZER: Speaking about important archives, let's talk about a tweet he tweeted, Gloria, last night around midnight or so. The president tweeted this, we will put it up on the screen there. You see it: Despite the constant negative press, covfefe or covfefe.
KIRBY: They trying to say that is violence against English.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Is there a comma?
BLITZER: It was up for five hours, around 5:00 a.m. this morning. They deleted it. The president said in a separate tweet, you know, you figure out what I was referring to. It is a little strange, isn't it?
BORGER: Well, it is. First of all, at midnight, he stops mid- sentence. I mean, you know, you have this picture in your mind of an exhausted president tweeting until he falls asleep, right? And doesn't finish what he meant to say.
BLITZER: He made coverage despite negative press coverage. BORGER: But there is another clause despite the press coverage,
comma, what? So, we know what he is thinking about. He is thinking of the press coverage. He is alone there in the White House. He is tweeting before he goes
to bed. He is watching cable news. Maybe something happened that annoyed him, and then he gets up in the morning and goes oops, I didn't finish my tweet.
[18:50:06] BLITZER: Or someone mentioned to him what were you tweeting? Yes.
BORGER: What was that about?
And then the White House, instead of, you know, Trump tried to make a joke about it. And they're pulling our leg. Sean Spicer tried to say, well, there are some people who know what this means, tried to pull our leg.
Why not just make a joke and say the president had a double covfefe this morning or something and leave it at that? But it does leave you a window into his evening hours.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And very different from what we have come to expect from most presidents at that hour, either sleeping or looking at briefing books. But this is the portrait of this president that we have come to expect and recognize.
He is on Twitter. He is alone. He is railing against the press. And he is consumed with his own sort of victimization, even at 12:00 at night.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, what did you think? You're smiling.
TOOBIN: Because it's funny.
TOOBIN: I don't know. I mean, I just -- you know, I'm as baffled as anyone else. Again, I don't understand why they didn't just say well, it was typo, end of story. Instead, it turns into this whole big thing.
HENDERSON: Mistakes, right? They can't admit that he is making mistakes, that he is possibly tired because we, of course, know that this president is sort of obsessed with stamina and victim and vigor and masculinity. So, this idea of he is a 70-year-old man who's falling asleep --
HENDERSON: -- tweeting.
KIRBY: I mean, he made a joke of it.
BLITZER: We have a new word, covfefe, whatever that means.
BORGER: Whatever you want it to be.
BLITZER: Let's talk about something very serious. Tomorrow is the deadline. Every six months an American president has to either sign a waiver or move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It's been law of the land since the mid-1990s. Every president every six months since then, whether it was Bill Clinton or George W. Bush or Barack Obama signed that waiver for national security interests, not move the embassy from Tel Aviv.
I -- like a lot of other reporters -- asked Donald Trump during the campaign if he was going to move the embassy. Listen to this exchange we had during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Will you recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is yes, I would.
BLITZER: When? How quickly?
TRUMP: Fairly quickly. I mean, it's a process, but fairly quickly. I mean, the fact is I would like to see it moved, and I would like to see it in Jerusalem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, apparently, he is not going to move it. He is going to sign that waiver and delay it, at least for now. You think that's a good idea.
BLITZER: You support him on that?
KIRBY: Absolutely. In the not moving it, yes, I do.
This is campaigning versus governing, and now, he has come back from the region and from discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, and one can hope -- certainly I hope -- from that discussion, he has learned how difficult this will be and how detrimental it will be to the peace process moving forward.
Good luck getting it started if that's your first move is trying to move at least part of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And oh, by the way, there could be real risk to Americans traveling in Israel whether on vacation or people working there if you start to do this move, because there could very well be a violent reaction in the region.
BLITZER: What does it say to you that he is willing to back away from that campaign pledge?
BORGER: Well, he isn't the first president who has backed away from that kind of commitment once they get hit with reality and what it would mean in terms of the peace process. So, you know, I give him credit for backing away from it. I mean, he was -- you know, he was very clear to you in that interview. He couldn't have been clearer in fact, but, you know, other people have prevailed upon him that this would not be the right thing to do to do.
BLITZER: One thing to campaign and the other thing to be the president of the United States.
HENDERSON: This is, I think, an indication of that.
BLITZER: All right. There is more news unfolding as we speak. A heavily armed man arrested at the Trump International Hotel here in Washington, D.C. We're learning new details about what he was up to.
[18:58:27] BLITZER: We're learning new details tonight about the arrest of an armed man at the Trump International Hotel right here in Washington, D.C.
Our justice reporter Laura Jarrett is joining us. She's got the latest.
Laura, I understand a tipster told the authorities this man may have been targeting the president?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Wolf. The suspect is 43-year-old Brian Moles, a former Navy medic who police say traveled from Pennsylvania to D.C. today armed with two guns, 90 rounds of ammunition. But authorities were able to catch him just after 1:00 a.m. at the Trump International Hotel this morning, all thanks to a tipster who warned police about his plans.
According to a source in law enforcement, Moles allegedly stated in cellphone messages to this tipster that he wanted to get close to Trump, and, quote, wanted to be like Timothy McVeigh, a chilling reference to the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber. U.S. Secret Service says Moles posed no threat to the president, and D.C. police caution us that their investigation is still in the early stages. But source tell us that Moles has told police that he suffered from post- traumatic stress. He is expected to appear in court later this week, Wolf.
BLITZER: One of the weapons was an AR-15, right?
BLITZER: That's obviously a worrisome development indeed.
Laura, thank you very much for that report. We'll stay on top of this development.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.