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THE SITUATION ROOM
H.R. McMaster Under Fire; FBI Tracked Fake News on Election Day; Russia Probe Expanding; President Trump Begins 17-Day Vacation; Trump Supporters Attacking His National Security Adviser; Ex-Aide to Testify Against Israeli PM in Corruption Charges. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 4, 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 HOST: The president's national security adviser under attack from the right as he clashes with top administration officials, including Mr. Trump. Will General H.R. McMaster's critics force him out?
And you're hired. The president is eager to brag about a new report confirming one million jobs have been created since he took office. Is he living up to his promises on the economy, even as other big pieces of his agenda are in peril?
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.
Breaking tonight, we are learning about a controversial trip to London by Republicans seeking to track down the author of an infamous dossier of allegations involving President Trump and Russia.
A source confirming that GOP staffers for the House Intelligence Committee made the trip, hoping to meet with the former British intelligence agent behind the dossier. They never spoke to him, but we are told Democrats who were kept in the dark about the trip, they are now fuming.
Also tonight, President Trump is at his golf club in New Jersey, leaving Washington, where a federal grand jury has issued new subpoenas in the Russia investigation. CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller is seeking documents and testimony from people involved in that 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer that included Mr. Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, this as CNN has new information about the real-time tracking of suspected Russian disinformation on Election Day.
We are told the FBI extensively monitored social media as votes were being cast, tracking false news stories aimed at spreading negative information about Hillary Clinton.
Also tonight, the Trump administration isn't ruling out the possibility of prosecuting journalists as part of its widening crackdown on leaks. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the number of investigations into leaks of classified information has tripled and four people already have been charged.
I will talk about all those stories and more with Jake Sullivan, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, and our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
BLITZER: First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, these new subpoenas hanging over the Trump team now as the president begins what the White House calls a working vacation.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Even though he repeatedly barbed Barack Obama for taking time off, President Trump is at his country club in New Jersey for a two-week vacation. But the White House is not getting a break when it comes to the Russia investigation, the probe the president still considers a hoax. That's a message he is taking straight to his political base.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you considering firing Robert Mueller?
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump escaped Washington for his golf club in New Jersey without taking questions on the Russia investigation, a probe that is ramping up just as he's taking time off.
But at a political rally in West Virginia, hours after it was learned special counsel Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas related to the probe, the president turned to his base to have his back.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That's all it is.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA: The president's latest offense, while toned down in its attacks on the news media, omitted some key facts.
TRUMP: Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign. There never were. We didn't win because of Russia. We won because of you. That I can tell you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: Are there any Russians here tonight, any Russians?
ACOSTA: The president did not mention that his eldest son, son-in- law, and former campaign manager held a meeting with a Russian lawyer and four others after receiving an e-mail promising opposition research on Hillary Clinton last year.
The latest White House message on Russia comes as new Chief of Staff John Kelly is bringing discipline to the West Wing, controlling access to the Oval Office and perhaps to the president himself, a much more structured environment that will be critical as top officials appear to be dreading the potential for Mueller's investigation to drag on indefinitely.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: He's had some endeavors that have been fishing expeditions. They are a very broadly cast net.
ACOSTA: And top Trump administration officials are calling attention to the leaks from the intelligence community that are fueling the investigation.
DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Understand this. If you improperly disclose classified information, we will find you. We will investigate you. We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law, and you will not be happy with the result.
ACOSTA: As for the president's vacation, the downtime he will enjoy in New Jersey represents something of a reversal for Mr. Trump, who repeatedly blasted Barack Obama for taking time off, tweeting: "Congress should get back to Washington, but Barack Obama doesn't want to interrupt his vacation in Martha's Vineyard."
TRUMP: I promise you, I will not be taking very long vacations, if I take them at all. There's no time for vacations.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: We're not going to be big -- we're not going to be big on vacations.
ACOSTA: Now, just one example of the discipline Chief of Staff John Kelly is bringing to the White House is through the phone calls received by the president.
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Kelly has been on the line during his conversations with the president since the chief of staff came on board, Wolf. So, John Kelly is not just controlling who is coming into the Oval Office, walking into the Oval Office. He is controlling who is talk calling and talking to the president, staying on the line while they're on the phone with the president.
That is control, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
All right, Jim Acosta, thank you.
Now to CNN's new reporting today on the Russia investigation and the real-time work of the FBI to track suspected disinformation being spread by Moscow on Election Day.
We are joined by CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown and our CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.
Shimon, you are learning that some FBI analysts actually spent Election Day scrolling through Facebook. Tell our viewers why.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
And the concentration here was on fake news. The counterintelligence analysts and investigators were huddled in a room at FBI headquarters here in Washington, D.C., on Election Day, monitoring social media.
And what they could see was streams of fake news, negative stories being posted about Hillary Clinton, some having to do with her health, according to multiple sources. They were able to identify suspected Russian links to the accounts that appeared to be pushing the fake stories.
And, Wolf, in some of these instances, the investigators were able to see the conversations start to shift, negative conversations about Hillary Clinton as a result of this fake news.
Pamela, was the FBI team actually coordinating with the White House on this Election Day monitoring?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There certainly was coordination between the FBI, Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In fact, those agencies were holding phone calls every three hours, we are told, with the team at the Situation Room in the White House to discuss any possible problems. And while there were some minor issues that popped up across the country from Alaska to Georgia, there were no major incidents or disruptions of the actual vote.
The FBI has declined to comment on that, Wolf.
BLITZER: Shimon, is this new ground for the FBI to actually go ahead and monitor the news that Americans are reading?
PROKUPECZ: Well, in this kind of situation, it certainly is, and it's something they're not, you know, comfortable. They find it uncomfortable territory for them, given the First Amendment's free speech protections, even for fake news stories.
And the one law enforcement official we spoke with said -- quote -- "We were right on the edge of constitutional legality," the official said. "We were monitoring the news."
But, nonetheless, this is still part of the counterintelligence investigation the FBI has been conducting into Russian meddling in the election, because there is a need to understand the effect of this kind of fake news campaign on the election and also, Wolf, whether or not anyone in the Trump campaign was involved in this sort of -- in this campaign, in this dissemination of fake news. BLITZER: Very interesting.
Pamela, how much -- I think we do know that much of this fake news was certainly designed to spread false negative information, damaging information about Hillary Clinton. So, when Donald Trump won on election night, what was the reaction among these officials who were doing the monitoring?
BROWN: You know, we have been told, our team has been told that the reaction was mixed.
On one hand, officials were relieved and they exchanged congratulations because there were no major problems in terms of tampering with the vote. But one official in the Obama White House, we are told, had an opposite reaction as these celebrations were ongoing.
This official apparently said, as we were told, are you kidding? What they did worked, meaning what the Russians did worked in terms of the disinformation campaign.
And this official believed that the government's response to the election during the campaign was really a failure of imagination. Now, of course, Wolf, we will never know how much that disinformation campaign and other tactics the Russians used, according to the intelligence community, actually impacted the end result.
BLITZER: And, Shimon, very quickly, the FBI concluded that most of these fabricated stories, this negative news about Hillary Clinton actually originated in Russia?
PROKUPECZ: In these instances, yes, Wolf, they were able to do some work and they were able to conclude, at least they suspect, that this did come from entities, from places associated with Russia. It didn't necessarily come straight out of Russia.
There are other countries which are known to do this, but this is where the Russians work. This is other places where some of this information could come from. So, it's not necessarily from Russia, but it could be from a different country, you know, folks working for the Russian government that are doing this.
BLITZER: Shimon Prokupecz, Pamela Brown, guys, excellent reporting for us. Thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Jake Sullivan is joining us, former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, also a former adviser to the former Vice President Joe Biden.
React to this new information that we're learning -- I don't know if you knew about this in advance -- that the FBI was actually monitoring this Russian fake news, trying to damage Hillary Clinton on Election Day.
JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I have two immediate reactions.
The first is that this is consistent with what American intelligence agencies told us in a comprehensive report in January. They said the Russians mounted a sophisticated, multifaceted information warfare campaign designed to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, and that that was directed from the highest levels of the Kremlin.
And this is just more evidence that, in fact, that finding, that conclusion is backed up by real solid evidence that the FBI was seeing on the day of. They also said that the Russians have learned from this and they're likely to do it again.
So,whatever you think about the 2016 election, this remains an ongoing threat to American democracy. And Democrats and Republicans should be focused on stopping it in the future.
The other reaction I had, though, was listening to Donald Trump last night say this whole Russia thing is a hoax and a fabrication. Well, what the FBI was finding on Election Day before the result of the election was known is a pretty damning rebuttal to that claim by Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Let me play a little of what he said at that 2020 reelection campaign rally in West Virginia last night. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That's all it is.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: It just makes them feel better when they have nothing else to talk about. What the prosecutor should be looking at are Hillary Clinton's 33,000 deleted e-mails.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And then the crowd started chanting, "Lock her up, lock her up," a familiar sound that we used to hear during the campaign.
Now, you seem to be smiling a bit.
SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, the FBI did investigate Hillary Clinton's e-mails. As we know, they investigated them extensively, and ultimately concluded that no reasonable prosecutor would bring any case. And Donald Trump knows that full well.
This Is an attempt by him to obfuscate and misdirect. And everything else he said in that statement, about it being a fabrication and a hoax, has been proven wrong time and time again.
As to whether or not it makes me feel better, having worked on the Hillary campaign, knowing this about Russia, it doesn't make me feel better. It makes me feel alarmed that a hostile foreign power was able to mount an operation against our democracy and that they are sitting there and planning to do it again.
That is something we should be worried about, and our commander in chief is turning a blind eye to that. That's why, overwhelmingly, Democrats and Republicans voted to tie his hands on Russia sanctions, because they could not trust the president on Russia.
BLITZER: But do you believe the fake news operation that we just reported on, that the Russians were engaged in, spreading out fake news, especially in battleground states -- that's what the FBI concluded -- that it actually changed votes and had an impact, a direct electoral impact in the presidential contest?
SULLIVAN: Let me start by saying I think that we have to take responsibility for the election defeat. I personally worked on the campaign. I take responsibility for my own mistakes.
But I think any reasonable person would have to say that a sophisticated operation to spread negative information, like negative advertising or fake news, is going to have some impact. And when the race is so close, fewer than 80,000 votes spread across three states, it is not at all clear to me that it didn't have a decisive impact.
It may have had a decisive impact in the outcome of this race. That doesn't mean it's the only factor. There are many other factors. But to try to downplay its significance, I think, will only make us less vigilant in the future. And we should be focused on this like a laser beam.
BLITZER: So you think that that negative news that the Russians put out there could have affected, what, 70,000 votes in those three states?
SULLIVAN: It could have. It could not have. I can't answer that.
What I can tell you is, the idea that it had no impact at all, that the massive spreading of negative information could have no impact at all, well, that would suggest that the hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars spent on negative advertising in political campaigns over generations have had no impact.
No serious person who has worked on a campaign would suggest that. So, I do think it had an impact, and not a trivial one.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about Robert Mueller, the special counsel. As you know, he's now convened a grand jury here in Washington, already issuing subpoenas for financial records, other documents involving the Trump Organization, seeing if there is any connection with the Russians.
What does that say to you? SULLIVAN: Well, Trump likes to say that he's not invested in Russia.
But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Russia is invested and has been for many years in Donald Trump.
And I think it is a perfectly legitimate question for Mueller to ask. Did those investments have an impact in the 2016 election? Meanwhile, many Trump associates have extensive financial ties to Russia and the Kremlin-backed cronies.
And it's legitimate for Mueller to ask, did that have an impact on the 2016 election? Ultimately, this isn't that complicated. It really is investigation 101. Bob Mueller is following the money, and he wants to see where it leads.
BLITZER: But you think that these grand jury -- the convening of the grand jury, the subpoenas that have already been put forward, what does that say to you as to how fast all of this seems to be moving?
SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, the FBI has been investigating this since last July. Let's not forget that. Director Comey didn't reveal that, the way he revealed the Hillary Clinton investigation, but it has now been more than a year since they have been looking.
BLITZER: Comey said he started that investigation in July of last year.
BLITZER: We are now entering year two of this investigation.
SULLIVAN: So, when Mueller came onto the case, he already was being presented with a substantial amount of information that had been produced by the investigation in the preceding months.
I have to say, I'm not surprised that there is a grand jury investigation. This is regular process and regular order. I have faith in the American system of justice. If there was a crime committed here, if there was the type of malfeasance that someone suggested, they will get to the bottom of it.
BLITZER: Jake Sullivan, I want you to stand by. There is much more news coming in.
When we come back, we will be getting new information about the right- wing attacks on the president's national security adviser. Is he the target right now of a new smear campaign?
BLITZER: We're back with Jake Sullivan, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and to Joe Biden. We're talking about the Russia investigation, the new grand jury subpoenas.
Jake, I need you to stand by. We are learning right now more about the escalating attacks on the
president's national security adviser by some right-wing media outlets.
I want to go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, the knives, at least in part, are out for General H.R. McMaster.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They are out very much indeed, Wolf.
The sense that we have is General McMaster's job is safe, but that may be just for now.
STARR (voice-over): Tonight, an extraordinary media campaign coming from the right wing against President Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, conservative media outlets such as Breitbart and The Daily Caller hitting McMaster over policy disputes.
CNN has learned it's almost open warfare between McMaster and Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist and former Breitbart executive, according to administration officials, all dating back to fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is this battle, and I think that it does come down to a difference of opinion between McMaster and Bannon and the view I think that McMaster has been clearing out Mike Flynn, the former security adviser, Mike Flynn-ites. That is a problem that Bannon allies see as going directly to the heart of Trump's own agenda.
STARR: McMaster has fired five top NSC officials tied to Flynn, causing some fury.
McMaster had been at odds with President Trump on some national security issues, such as more troops for Afghanistan, and had been undercut by Bannon. And he has been under fire for taking the routine step of extending former NSC Adviser Susan Rice's security clearance. Some conservatives accuse Rice of mishandling classified information involving Trump campaign associates.
A senior administration official says McMaster wrote letters to all past national security advisers extending their clearances. Now political media across the spectrum are running stories within hours of each other suggesting McMaster could be pushed out.
And fringe right-wing personality Mike Cernovich is soliciting tips on the national security adviser on McMasterLeaks.com, using imagery of McMaster being controlled by a puppet, a cartoon the Anti-Defamation League calls anti-Semitic.
A national security staffer who worked for George W. Bush says it's unconscionable. MICHAEL ALLEN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: I think
there is an extraordinary amount of backstabbing going on.
STARR: With retired General John Kelly as chief of staff, there may be a willingness to allow McMaster latitude to run the NSC. Whether McMaster stays on the job may depend on Kelly's influence on the president. One current administration official tells CNN Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis are pressing for West Wing stability.
ALLEN: I think General Kelly is going to protect H.R. McMaster, because I think this is part of what he is trying to do, and that's guarantee that we have a cohesive, crisp decision-making process. And that's what the White House needs right now, because it's been a rough ride for the last six months.
STARR: And General McMaster may indeed be that voice of stability in the West Wing, but only if he can ride out this political firestorm -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a big firestorm right now.
Barbara Starr, thanks very much.
We're back with Jake Sullivan.
You worked with the inner circles of the White House. What do you make of this infighting that is going on?
SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, Barbara used the word unconscionable, quoting somebody talking about the attacks on General McMaster.
And, certainly, some of the false things that are being said about him, like he's anti-Israel, are unconscionable. More broadly, this is a man who has devoted his life to defending our country, who has sacrificed his life in the service of our country, and he deserves better than this.
But the bigger picture here is that we're watching one more iteration of the White House game of thrones, and the problem is it can make for fun sort of political commentary and everybody can watch it unfold on Twitter and on Politico and so forth, but we're talking about real national security issues here.
We cannot have this kind of instability at the top of our National Security Council. So, the people around McMaster, General Kelly, et cetera, they have got to get this under control.
BLITZER: Do you think General Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps four-star general, that he can bring that kind of discipline and order, you're suggesting?
SULLIVAN: I think he can probably bring more discipline and order at the staff level. I don't think he can control Donald Trump and Donald Trump's intemperance.
But I do think he has the capacity to bring some more order to the overall process there. I hope he does that. And I hope he does it in a way that does ensure the kind of stability and the kind of decision- making process the American people deserve, because this is their national security at stake.
BLITZER: Jake Sullivan, thanks for coming in.
SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on President Trump's efforts to discredit the Russia investigation, even as a grand jury issues new subpoenas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:46:36] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts and our specialists as President Trump supporters are openly and fiercely attacking the president's national security advisor, General H.R. McMaster.
Phil Mudd, what do you make of this campaign against the president's national security? He's a three-star general. He's still on active duty.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. But remember, this campaign, people are going to interpret this to mean the long knives are out for General McMaster. I would look at this 180 degrees different. The reason the knives are out people who support individuals like General Flynn or others, Steve Bannon, in the White House are concerned that the revolution they wanted to bring, the swamp draining is going to happen.
Let me tell them something. It's not happening. Actually, the swamp creatures are being removed. (INAUDIBLE) the Situation Room, Bannon will be gone within 12 months.
You look at what the president is doing. Bring stability by bringing on a four-star general. Get rid of Anthony Scaramucci. Too much disruption. National security team, a congressman at the CIA, an Exxon CEO at the State Department, a general at the Defense Department, and of course, the change in the chief of staff with the four-star and General Kelly who is designed actually to bring stability.
Meanwhile, one more point, Wolf. The national security advisor recently has ousted many people who are seen as part of this Bannon revolution from the National Security Council. Watch this space, there will be a fight. I'm going to predict that Bannon loses this one.
BLITZER: Interesting. Do you think General Kelly, the new White House chief of staff -- you know retired four-star Marine Corps general, can bring that kind of discipline to the White House?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, he certainly has the skill sets and the leadership experience to do it and it looks like, if you look at the press reports this week and the moderate stability this week that he's having an impact. The question, Wolf, is how long will the president continue to invest in him and empower him and give him that authority and responsibility to do that going forward?
He's focusing where he needs to, which is on the staff, on process, on access to the Oval Office, and on the flow of information. Again, it really just -- we need to kind of wait and see how long he's going to continue to do that. I hope for a very long time.
Just a point on what -- piggyback on Phil. I think regardless of the reasons, I'm not at all disputing Phil's analysis of this. I think he's right.
But what's happening to General McMaster is abhorrent. It is absolutely inexcusable. I mean, you can take issue with his decisions and how he's staffing the NSC if you want, but to do this behind his back through leaks to the media --
BLITZER: You've heard this speculation, these reports that they're going to kick him out and send him over to Afghanistan?
KIRBY: Yes, I've heard the reports. I have no idea how true that is. He's a very smart guy. He's a good leader himself. He's got great experience, great leadership, great wisdom to lend to the effort. And to do this backbiting thing behind him with the press, that's just -- that's juvenile.
BLITZER: Susan, you worked as a lawyer in the intelligence community, at the National Security Agency. All this infighting that we're seeing, does it have an impact on intelligence collection, on national security?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: Well, certainly, it's not a good thing to have the core national security team be sort of distracted by what's essentially sort of petty backbiting. There is also an issue that seems like the president can't get his own national security team on the same page. He himself sort of changes from hour to hour, if not day to day.
But what we're seeing with President Trump is really, it's much larger set of issues. We're supposed to have this concept of the unitary executive. The president is at the top and everyone else is his arms and fingers. And that helps the system move really well, the agile and responsive to our national security. We have a constitutional system that set up to check one another, not for the executive branch to be at war with itself.
[18:50:01] And that seems to be what's happening now.
BLITZER: Yes, they've got to bring some order and discipline to this national security operation.
You know, very good numbers today, Rebecca, for the president. The jobs numbers were released 209,000 jobs created last month. Unemployment rate fell down to 4.3 percent. That's the lowest in 16 years. A million jobs created over the past six months since the president took office.
He's very excited about this. He tweeted earlier today: excellent jobs numbers just released and I have only just begun. Many jobs- stifling regulations continue to fall. Movement back to USA.
So, what do you think of the messaging here?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is the focus of Donald Trump's presidency and has been the focus since he became a candidate for president. He wanted to bring jobs back to America. He wanted to be a jobs president and make the country better for business.
And so, any time that he can harp on those points and focus on that theme, especially in a positive way, highlighting positive numbers, that's going to be a good thing for Donald Trump. And, you know, it's worth nothing that if he's talking about jobs, he's not talking about Russia, he's not talking about health care stalling in Congress, and he's certainly not talking about some of the chaos that we've seen within his administration.
So, this is the kind of thing we would expect a president to be doing and talking about and I think it is something Donald Trump supporters would probably like to see a lot more of in the coming months.
BLITZER: Yes. But you would have thought, Rebecca, that as he leaves for this two-week plus vacation when presidents leave Washington for vacations, they almost always have a final news conference before they leave the White House. You would have thought on a day like today with these excellent job numbers, the economic numbers, the stock market record high, over 22,000, you would have thought he would have wanted to highlight that and have a news conference, open up with a statement touting that economic record. He didn't.
BERG: You would have thought so, Wolf. Only the president knows the answer. Maybe he was eager to get off on vacation and get to New Jersey and his golf club.
But we have also seen some very adversarial moments in some of these press conferences. It is worth noting that President Trump has done a number of one-on-one interviews or at least one news outlet with him in the Oval Office. He sat down "The Wall Street Journal," with "The New York Times". So he's still interacting with the press.
But it seems that oftentimes, these press conferences where it is sort of a free for all or more so a one-on-one interview tend to be adversarial. And he tends to get a little bit more off message and not feel as comfortable. Maybe that's part of the calculation for them, or it could just be that he wasn't in the mood.
BLITZER: Maybe he'll do a news conference up in New Jersey where he's going to be spending most of his vacation time up there.
Just ahead, a critical development in two corruption cases involving a key U.S. ally. So, what's next for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?
[18:57:23] BLITZER: Tonight, a pivotal U.S. ally is trying to down play a serious legal jeopardy he's now facing. Police confirming that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a suspect in two corruption cases and now, Netanyahu's former chief of staff is actually set to testify against him.
Brian Todd is following the story for us.
Brian, tell us more about these developments.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we can tell you that the investigations into Benjamin Netanyahu are tightening around him tonight. He is under serious pressure. Netanyahu's former chief of staff, Ari Harow, born in Los Angeles, has turned on Netanyahu and will cooperate with investigators in two cases against the prime minister.
As part of the deal, Harow agreed to plead guilty to fraud and breach of trust in a separate case. Harow's testimony, according to observers, could be a real bombshell against Netanyahu, because of the inside knowledge that Harow has.
Netanyahu is already in a lot of trouble tonight. He's been questioned as a suspect in two cases which involve bribery, fraud and breach of trust tied to him. One case involves allegations concerning inappropriate acceptance of gifts from businessmen.
In the other case, Netanyahu is alleged to have conspired with a newspaper owner to have negative coverage of him toned down. In exchange for that Netanyahu is accused of promising that newspaper owner that the circulation of a rival paper would be reduced.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing. A spokesman for Netanyahu's family describes this all as a witch hunt designed to drive him from office.
But Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only one from his family under investigation. Authorities are investigating Netanyahu's wife Sara over her alleged use of government money for personal expenses.
Wolf, the pressure on this family tonight only growing.
BLITZER: Yes, these are dramatic developments indeed, Brian. This case -- there have been other cases involving a top former
Israeli leader really illustrates that Israeli prosecutors, Israeli police, they don't mess around. Tell us about that.
TODD: Right, Wolf. Now, just last month, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was released from prison after serving 16 months on corruption charges. He was convicted of taking cash from an American businessman and of getting bribes related to a controversial housing project while he was the mayor of Jerusalem.
And last December, former Israeli President Moshe Katsav was released from prison. Katsav served five years for multiple counts of rape and sexual harassment. Those cases involved accusations from three different women -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll continue to watch all these developments. Brian Todd, thanks very much.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.