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Russia Probe Expands: 20 White House Staffers Interviewed; GOP Forced to Drop Its 'Secret Society' Conspiracy Theory; Trump Supports Path to Citizenship for 1.8 Million Immigrants. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 25, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hill staffers aren't going on any kind of vacation this weekend.
[17:00:05] TAPPER: Thanks, one and all. That's all for "THE LEAD." Sending you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Expanding investigation. As President Trump meets with world leaders in Switzerland, the special counsel is digging deeper into the White House, giving White House lawyers a range of topics he wants to question the president about. Is the president still eager to go under oath?
Conspiracy crumbles. After promoting a conspiracy about missing FBI text messages and a secret society within the FBI, Republican lawmakers are left empty-handed when the texts are found, and the secret society is revealed to be a joke.
Stormy's smile. Porn star Stormy Daniels, reportedly paid to keep quiet about an alleged sexual relationship with Donald Trump, is now speaking out with a smile. What's she revealing?
And heading south. After keeping a low profile in recent weeks, the first lady, Melania Trump, makes an unannounced trip south to Florida. Why did she suddenly skip out on her husband's trip to Switzerland?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, we're getting new details about the huge scale of the Russian evacuation as it penetrates deep into the White House, while President Trump's lawyer tries to walk back the president's stunning declared readiness to talk under oath with the special counsel.
I'll speak with a senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. And our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage.
But let's begin with our political correspondent, Sara Murray.
Sara, what are you learning? SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president's
lawyers are looking to send the message that they are cooperating with the special counsel as well as Russia probes in Congress, releasing an outline of all the ways in which they believe they've been transparent and highlighting the fact that dozens of officials and former campaign aides have made themselves available for interviews.
MURRAY (voice-over): The Mueller investigation spreading deeper into the White House than previously known. More than 20 White House staffers have voluntarily talked to the special counsel, including communications director hope Hicks and former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, as well as 28 more connected to President Trump's campaign. The president, in an impromptu conversation with reporters Wednesday night, says he's willing to talk next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking forward to it, actually. I would love to do it. You know, again, it's -- I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to do it.
MURRAY: Mueller's team has made it clear, they're seeking a sit-down interview with the president, and sources they say have provided Trump's lawyers with a range of topics he wants to talk about, part of the ongoing negotiations for an interview. The president suggested that interview could happen soon.
TRUMP: I guess they're talking about two or three weeks, but I would love to do it.
MURRAY: On Mueller's agenda? Learning more about Trump's alleged request that former FBI Director James Comey drop the investigation into former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
On top of that, Trump's reaction to Comey's May 2017 testimony on Capitol Hill, which reportedly angered the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... nothing but the truth, so help you God.
MURRAY: Investigators are also looking to learn more about the president's outreach to intelligence chiefs about the Russia investigation.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Are you prepared to say that you have never been felt -- you've never been asked by the president or the White House to influence an ongoing investigation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm not prepared to answer your question today.
MURRAY: The topic suggests an interview with Trump could focus on whether the president's actions amount to obstruction of justice.
TRUMP: There's no collusion. Now they're saying, "Oh, well, did he fight back?" If you fight back, you say --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir...
TRUMP: You fight back, John. You fight back, "Oh, it's obstruction."
MURRAY: But as Trump's legal team works to clean up some of the president's comments...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?
TRUMP: I would do it under oath, yes. Absolutely.
MURRAY: Sources say the president's lawyers could push for written responses to Mueller's questions instead of a sit-down. White House special counsel Ty Cobbs, saying last week the president wants to talk to Mueller, but they're proceeding with caution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any fear of a perjury trial?
TY COBB, WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: No, but I think it'd be -- I think it would be foolish to proceed without considering that possibility.
MURRAY: A source telling CNN the president's attorneys will likely argue to Mueller's team that there's no case against Trump.
TRUMP: I can tell you, there's no collusion. I couldn't have cared less about Russians having to do with my campaign.
MURRAY: Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley announcing today he wants to release the transcript of his committee's closed-door interview with Donald Trump Jr., joining Democrats on the committee who want to make it public.
The interview centered on the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between a Russian lawyer, Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
[17:05:04] SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: I think there's a couple people still want to go through the transcript yet, and then I think there has to be experts go through it. That would be if there needs to be anything to be redacted, and then the next step is let the public have access to it.
MURRAY: Now, despite the president's comments to reporters today, there's still no firm commitment from his lawyers that he is going to sit down with the special counsel. Clearly, they still have some reservations about making the president so readily available -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly do. All right. Thanks very much. Good report. Sara Murray reporting for us.
I have more breaking news right now as the Republican conspiracy theory about missing FBI text messages and an FBI secret society suddenly falls apart.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. He's up on Capitol Hill. So what's the latest, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, conservative Republicans this week will have jumped all over one of these text messages from these two FBI agents, texts that have been turned over to Congress, and one text message from one of them referred to a secret society that they wanted to form after the elections.
Now, we are learning more about that secret society text after these Republicans suggested it's part of, potentially, some sort of conspiracy or plot within the FBI to discredit the Trump presidency, to discredit the Trump campaign during the campaign season.
Well, according to the text message that I'll read to you now, it says this: "Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should be the first meeting of the secret society."
Well, we have learned exactly what they meant by "secret society," according to sources who are telling CNN that the reference to the calendars was reference to Peter Strzok, one of the agents who had written the text, suggests talking about a gag gift about -- from the -- that he had given to people who were involved in the Russia investigation, a gag gift about Vladimir Putin calendars.
In addition to this, it was just an attempt at humor, according to the sources familiar with this exchange.
Now, earlier this week, Republicans including Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who's the chairman of the powerful Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, seized on the words "secret society" and raising serious concerns within the FBI. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: A secret society? We have -- we have an informant that's talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off-site.
I have heard, from somebody who has talked to our committee, that there's a group of individuals in the FBI that was -- that were holding secret off-site meetings.
I've heard from an individual that there were FBI agents or management at FBI holding meetings off-site.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now yesterday, when I asked him, "What about those meetings off-site? Do you know what they were talking about?" he acknowledged he did not know what they were talking about off-site, but they wanted to investigate it further. Well, Wolf, in the aftermath of the revelations of what exactly this text says in the full context, I asked Senator Johnson earlier today about whether or not this was just a joke; it was possible it was just a joke. And he seemed to backtrack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: This text message seems to be a comment about secret society was in jest. Do you agree that it appears to be it was in jest?
JOHNSON: It's a real possibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, the ranking Democrat on that committee, Claire McCaskill, has not spoken to this informant that Ron Johnson apparently spoke with, but she's asking him in a letter today, Wolf, to provide information that he is basing his assertion off of.
No word back from Ron Johnson. And when I asked him further today about whether or not he should apologize for these comments that he made earlier this week, he said, "We'll see what the new texts reveal," and that's in reference to the inspector general announcing earlier today that they had found those five months of missing text messages, and they plan to give those to Congress soon, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting. Manu, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, says he'll release the transcript of the testimony by Donald Trump Jr. involving that Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016
RAJU: Yes. A surprise announcement by Chuck Grassley. This coming after Democrats on the committee had urged Grassley to provide that transcript of Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff from last September, give that to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, but instead, Grassley's taking another step, saying that he will release it publicly.
Now, also in addition to that, he is saying that he's done with the interviews of all the people who were involved in the Trump Tower meeting, including Jared Kushner, who apparently, he said was spooked for the -- Diane Feinstein's release of a separate transcript, and does not want to come and meet with this committee. So Jared Kushner will not meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, lots of developments. Thanks very much.
Joining us now, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's good to be with you, Wolf. BLITZER: So after President Trump said he'd speak with the special
counsel under oath, said he was anxious to do so, maybe within the next two or three weeks, his lawyer quickly walked that back, saying the president had been, quote, "speaking hurriedly." What should -- what would stop President Trump, if he wants to speak under oath?
SCHIFF: Well, nothing would stop him. Ultimately, I think he's going to have to speak with the special counsel.
It's clear that the president wants to give the impression that he's cooperating, that he has nothing to hide, but his attorneys evidently know better in the sense that they're very worried about what could happen with him testifying before Bob Mueller. This president, obviously, who has a propensity for making statements in public that prove to be patently false, and there's a much higher consequence to that when you're speaking to the FBI or the special counsel.
But if the president wishes to do so, and probably even if the president doesn't wish to do so, it will be necessary for him to speak directly to the special counsel.
BLITZER: And not do it in written form, questions and answers in writing, but to actually appear before the special counsel, right?
SCHIFF: Yes. I would never accept as a special counsel a written response from the president. You get the lawyers' answer that way, and you don't get the opportunity to ask follow-up questions in real time. It's much less conducive of producing the truth. It's much easier to hide the facts if you get to put them in very lawyerly- crafted writing.
BLITZER: The president also says that, if he fights back against the special counsel, it will be seen as obstruction. Does that comment concern you?
SCHIFF: It does concern me. I think this is part of an organized spin by the White House of the: "Let's just portray obstruction as fighting back. That's sort of our M.O., is fighting back, and so that's a credible thing we can put out there. Maybe we can sell that."
But, no, it's not fighting back if you're asking the head of the FBI, basically, to drop a criminal case against someone from your organization, your national security adviser. It's not fighting back if you ask your attorney general not to rescue himself over the advice of ethics lawyers at the Justice Department. And any number of other potential steps that do go to the issue of obstruction of justice.
So there is a real difference between speaking out and taking steps that are meant to interfere with the pursuit of the truth.
BLITZER: So far, more than 20 Trump administration staffers, officials have been interviewed by the special counsel. President Trump said his interview with Robert Mueller could take place within the next two or three weeks. Are we getting closer and closer to the end of this investigation? SCHIFF: I think if these reports are accurate, that the special
counsel is in negotiations about an interview with the president, then he is further along than we expected, because you would anticipate that an interview with a key figure like the president is going to take place towards the latter part of the investigation, not the early or even middle part of the investigation.
I do want to push back, though, on this presentation they're trying to make today, which is they're fully cooperating, and they've made all these people available.
The reality is, we saw just as recently as a week ago when we had Steve Bannon before the House intelligence committee, the White House instruct him not to assert privilege, but refuse to answer a whole series of questions. That's not cooperation. That's hiding the ball. And they can't have it both ways.
BLITZER: Well, Steve Bannon will answer all the questions, we're told, once he appears before the special counsel, and that's going to take place fairly soon, right?
SCHIFF: Yes. He's going to have to. And I think the White House recognizes that the position that they can just tell him not to answer questions without invoking any privilege, and even the privilege wouldn't apply to most of these questions, is unsustainable. It will never fly before the special counsel.
Now, the reason they think they can get away with this with the Congress is that the Congress is run by their allies, in particular, our committee by Devin Nunes. So I think they feel that the committee will take whatever the White House marching instructions are. That would, obviously, be a -- a reneging on the commitment of our committee to follow the facts wherever they lead.
BLITZER: The Senate Judiciary Committee is going to release the transcript publicly of its interview with Donald Trump Jr. How important is his account to Americans' better understanding of this entire Russia probe investigation?
SCHIFF: Well, of course, you know, I think you have to take what Donald Trump Jr. says with a very large grain of salt. And you also have to look at what he's unwilling to say, and what he -- what questions he's unwilling to answer.
In our interview with Donald Trump Jr., he refused to answer questions about his conversations with his father when they were fabricating that statement, when the president was on the plane, about the Russian meeting when they put out the false statement that this was about adoptions. So in that instance, he claimed some nonexistent attorney- client privilege, as if he or his father were an attorney, and the other were a client.
So I think you have to take both what he said with a grain of salt, and you also have to pay attention to what he refused to say.
BLITZER: And he's not an attorney, so it would be hard to claim attorney-client privilege.
Let's turn to the questions now being raised about the integrity of the FBI. You heard all those questions raised by a whole bunch of Republicans, conservative news media outlets.
The Justice Department now has been able to recover those missing text messages from those two FBI agents being investigated for possible bias. It also seems that that text message that mentioned a, quote, "secret society," that entire thing is now seen as having been simply a joke. So what does that tell you?
SCHIFF: Well, it tells you that the Republicans, many of them, are all too desperate to distract attention from the Russian probe and try to put the government on trial. This has been the strategy for quite some time now.
And even when they have no basis to do it, it doesn't stop them from making the most scandalous accusations against these professionals at the FBI. And, of course, we confront that in our committee all the time. The spin memo that Chairman Nunes put out, one of the more interesting revelations about that this week, is the Department of Justice revealed that the chairman, Nunes, never even read the underlying materials that are referred to in that memo.
This after making such a fuss about this conspiracy going on in the FBI. The chairman, himself, never bothered to take the time to read the underlying materials.
So it's more of the same. It's a grave disservice to these hard- working people who are working to protect our country, but it is also done simply in the service of the White House.
BLITZER: You're working, or you've completed a memo to counter that Republican memo, alleging misconduct over at the FBI, the memo you were just talking about. What are the big takeaways from your perspective?
SCHIFF: Well, and I know this is very confusing course of events for the public, but in summary, Chairman Nunes produced a very distorted memo that he voted to release to members of the House that would bias their impression of what the FBI was doing, and he did that, not having read the underlying materials, and voted down a motion I made to both allow his own members to read the materials and to allow the FBI and Department of Justice to tell us what the security and other risks of release of this information would be.
But nonetheless, released to the House. We produced a memo that we hope that the chairman will allow to be read by House members also, so they can see the truth.
But now they're going beyond this and seeking to declassify and provide to the public this spin memo of theirs, even though it runs the risk of exposing sources and methods, something the Department of Justice this week called extraordinary reckless. And that's exactly what it would be. And it would mean the politicization of the classification process to protect the White House, even when the Tea Party leaders pushing for this admitted that he discussed this with the president and was sure the president was going to concur, because he thought the spin memo was so good for the president.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks so much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're getting more breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The White House just revealed President Trump supports a pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million immigrants, including the hundreds of thousands of DREAMers. We have new details, new information coming in.
And reportedly paid to keep quiet about an alleged sexual relationship with Donald Trump, the porn star, Stormy Daniels, is now speaking out with a smile. What's she revealing?
[17:23:00] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories as the president meets with world leaders at the World Economic Forum -- the Global Economic Forum in Switzerland. The White House has just revealed a major development in the immigration talks back here in Washington.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's traveling with the president in Davos, Switzerland, right now.
So what's the latest, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a very significant development for the White House. It has just unveiled its immigration framework for a compromise over this very pretentious issue.
In the last few minutes, they've been briefing reporters and also House Republican staffers up on Capitol Hill, essentially laying out the bullet points of what the president is going to be proposing.
They're talking about a path to citizenship -- the president talked about this yesterday -- a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented people, including those so-called undocumented DREAMers.
In exchange for that, the White House wants $25 billion for that wall on the border, along with other items on the White House immigration wish list.
And this comes as the president is here in Davos talking trade, talking his America-first economic policy message, but many here in Davos are worried about his leadership on the world stage.
ACOSTA: How's the conference going?
(voice-over): Mixing and mingling among the global elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Trump is trying to win over a skeptical international community.
TRUMP: I think the message is we want great prosperity, and we want great peace. And I think that really is the message.
ACOSTA: But just as he does back home, the president is making waves, defending his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, hinting it could open next year, insisting that issue is settled.
TRUMP: We took Jerusalem off the table. So we don't have to talk about it anymore.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump even threatened to pull U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinians if they don't sit down with the Israelis to talk peace.
TRUMP: We give them hundreds of millions dollars in aid and support in tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands. That money is on the table, and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.
[17:25:06] ACOSTA: In response, the Palestinian Authority's president, Mahmoud Abbas, fired back in a statement: "If Jerusalem is off the table, then America is off the table, as well."
TRUMP: Sitting around this table are some of the greatest business leaders in the world, some of the greatest companies in the world.
ACOSTA: The president is breaking bread with the rich and powerful in Davos to tout his economic policies, despite sending much of the 2016 campaign slamming global trade deals as damaging to American workers.
TRUMP: We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism. Under a Trump administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of a foreign country.
ACOSTA: But the president wouldn't bite when asked how his tough trade talk is selling with the elites in Davos.
(ON CAMERA): Mr. President, how can you be America first while you're rubbing elbows with all these big wigs, sir?
(VOICE-OVER): The president is also steering clear of the conservative outrage over his ever-changing views on immigration. Amnesty Don is the headline at the hard-right Breitbart website...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, Breitbart called you Amnesty Don. Is that accurate?
ACOSTA: ... after Mr. Trump sounded open to granting citizenship to the undocumented immigrants known as the DREAMers.
TRUMP: If they do a great job, I think it's a nice thing to have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many years? TRUMP: We're looking at 10 or 12.
ACOSTA: But the president is busy mending fences in Davos, especially with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
TRUMP: We had a great discussion. We're on the same wavelength in, I think, every respect. The prime minister and myself have had a really great relationship, although some people don't necessarily believe that, but I can tell you, it's good.
ACOSTA: May had criticized the president for his retweeting of anti- Muslim videos posted by a far-right group in Britain. The prime minister did not share enthusiasm about the relationship.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As you said, we had a great discussion today, and we continue to have a really special relationship between the U.K. and the United States.
ACOSTA: Here in Davos, President Trump is finding he's the odd man out on a slew of issues, such as when the French president appeared to needle his American counterpart for being a climate change skeptic.
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: When you look outside, especially coming and arriving in this building, it's -- I mean, it could be hard to believe in global warming. Obviously, and importantly, you didn't invite anybody skeptical with global warming this year.
ACOSTA: Now, the president is wrapping up this trip to Davos with a speech on economic policies tomorrow. He'll also sit down with the president of Rwanda, more fence mending after he referred to African nations with a vulgar slur earlier this month.
But Wolf, getting back to this immigration deal that the White House is going to be laying out on Monday from what we understand, they've already put some of the details out up to Capitol Hill earlier today.
I talked to some immigration activists just in the last several minutes. They are slamming this deal. One activist referred to it as dead on arrival. Another called it a legislative burning cross. Wolf, the immigration community is not happy with this deal coming out of the White House.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this coming up, so stand by for that. Jim Acosta, reporting for us from Davos.
Also coming up, the porn star who reportedly was paid to keep quiet about a decade-old affair with Donald Trump, now speaking out in a new interview.
[17:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following breaking news in special counsel, Robert Mueller's investigation. President Trump's lawyers today revealed 20 administration staffers, 28 people from or affiliated with the Trump campaign, have spoken with investigators for this special counsel and with Congress. So much higher number than previously known. Let's bring in our specialists to assess.
Gloria Borger, you've been doing a lot of excellent reporting on this. First of all, is the President on the same page as far as appearing before the Mueller investigation as his lawyers?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to know, Wolf. I think if he were to poll all of his lawyers, the majority of them would say, "We don't want the President to testify face-to-face with Mueller." They also know this is something they might not be able to avoid. It may be a little bit of a good-cop-bad-cop situation where the President putting out there, you know, "I'm willing to do it. I'm eager to sit down upon the advice of my lawyers." And then, the counsel would say to him, "You can't do it," and eventually, the President could say, you know, "I wanted to, but my lawyers would not let me."
This information that I received this morning from Trump's lawyers is very interesting because what they are trying to do is make the case, as I've been told, that nobody could dream of obstruction against the President since he's made so much of this available to the special counsel. There has never been cooperation like this. You have thousands and thousands of pages of documents, witnesses that they have made available, e-mails that they've made available. They have someone in the White House who has been -- who's been managing all of this, and so their sense is that the President, if he had anything to hide, he wouldn't be cooperating the way that he is. And I think this is one way that they are publicly trying to talk to the Mueller team about the question of obstruction.
[17:35:05] BLITZER: And, you know, Laura, the -- Laura Coates is with us as well -- the President weighed in on this whole issue of obstruction. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Robert Mueller would be fair to you in this larger investigation?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to find out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you -- are you concern about --
TRUMP: We're going to find out, because here's what we'll say, and everybody says, "No collusion." There's no collusion. Now, they're saying, "Oh, well, did he fight back?" If you fight back --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir --
TRUMP: -- you say obstruction. You fight back, John, you fight back. Oh, it's obstruction. So, here's the thing, I hope so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I know the president is a counterpuncher. He always fights back, but how is this special counsel going to look at that statement?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hopefully, with bewilderment, and probably call him "Rocky Balboa" and say, actually, obstruction of justice is not just about fighting back. It's about doing more than that. It's not about using the press or your own means to say, "I'm innocent. I have done nothing wrong." It's a very different thing if you're fight dirty. And if you're trying to hit below the belt of the Justice Department by trying to take out the people who are investigating you, trying to undermine the investigation, trying to ensure that the investigation stops before they uncover what it is they're actually looking for, whatever that may be. Fighting back is a colloquial term he's trying to use to appeal to people saying, hey, he is just trying to what every common person would do if the -- it's like against him. But the key to this is he has a shifting timeline of things. He'd like to say that he's fighting back now that the reports are out. But the fighting back that Mueller's looking at dates back to when, perhaps, he fired Comey. At that point, he wasn't firing -- he wasn't fighting back. He was trying to fire and stop justice, perhaps.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna, the "Washington Post", as you saw, was reporting that Mueller's team uses very, very detailed accounts of events, sometimes down to the minute. They have an enormous amount of information. They catch witnesses very often, apparently, off-guard, revealing certain e-mails, documents, that the witnesses had no idea that the special counsel's team even had. How risky is that situation for someone like the President who is going to start answering questions?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the President who, by the way, said he couldn't remember if he asked McCabe who he voted for, right? I mean, it all comes down to discipline for this president. And I think that's why his lawyers are really concerned. From what we understand, that impromptu conversation and interview with reporters yesterday was not planned, right? General Kelly was not expecting the President to come in. So, they weren't expecting the President to address this issue. So, what they are constantly having to do is play catch-up and clean-up. So, of course, his lawyers are doing what they are supposed to do, and now, they are cleaning up what the President, sort of, walk into yesterday. But the President, you know, when it comes to interviews, when it comes to answering some of these questions, he speaks his mind, and sometimes to an extent that many in his administration and many within his party don't even know how to understand, and they are very nervous about it. So, when it comes to what's going to happen in this interview, with the prosecutor who is specialized in these types of interviews, I think there's good reason for a lot of those around the President, including his attorneys, to be very nervous.
BLITZER: Yes. Chris Cillizza, the President said maybe the next two or three weeks the interview could take place. Is the Mueller investigation nearing an end?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: I mean, I don't -- Donald Trump's timetable, I'm not sure is reflective of the reality. My guess is his lawyers are probably telling him it's not going to be eight months from now. But remember, I mean, we know his lawyers including (INAUDIBLE) said end of the year or, you know, that it was all going to be wrapped up. So, I'm not sure they know. I think Mueller has played the timeline relatively close to the best. I do think what Donald Trump is trying to do. Gloria touched on this. He is trying to do two things, which are -- don't always work together. One, they are trying to present this, "Hey, we're totally open to everything, man. It's cool. We'll talk to him, whatever, we give him all the documents." And at the same time, he's trying to raise questions throughout the fluidity of the investigation, the FBI, see what the broader in case the Mueller investigation concludes something that is not good for Donald Trump.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. There's a major breaking news coming out of the White House on the DREAMers, a new pitch from the administration. We'll be right back.
[17:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're back with our specialists. We're following the breaking news, and Chris Cillizza, major breaking news. The White House now suggesting not 690,000 or 700,000 DREAMers might be eligible for a pathway to citizenship, but 1.8 million undocumented immigrants.
CILLIZZA: Because we now have, Wolf, the White House's attempt to solve the (INAUDIBLE) that has been immigration policy. 1.8 million people would be given a chance of a pathway to citizenship. This is DACA-plus in some ways. It's both people who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and people who are eligible, but didn't apply. So, this is a broader pool. The ask for that is $25 billion in wall funding. This is, in some ways, a very traditional compromise. Democrats, you get something you want, and you have to give up something you very much don't want, which is $25 billion for the wall. I'm fascinated to see how it will land because it will make neither liberals nor conservatives happy, which usually is a recipe for potential success.
[17:44:55] BORGER: I mean, and I could see it being something that the Senate could pass, but my real question is, what could get through the House? Because you have Paul Ryan with his conservative bloc. Perhaps, if it has the President's premature, but he has already called, you know, "Amnesty Dan" by Breitbart, et cetera -- "Amnesty Don" --
CILLIZZA: Dan, Don.
BORGER: -- by Breitbart. And so, you know, the question is whether there's going to be a real conservative backlash, and that whether, in the end, the President, himself, will remain on this plan.
BLITZER: What do you think, Bianna?
GOLODRYGA: Well, of course, to Gloria's point, what are Democrats on the other side going to be saying?
BORGER: Yes. GOLODRYGA: Because this fight now goes from just -- one about a border wall and in DREAMers, to now, curtailing visas that are issued and also chain migration. So, you're going to have many Democrats saying no deal. This was about a border wall and DREAMers, not these other issues.
BLITZER: Well, it's going to be a big fight. And we're going to see formally, the White House is going to release all these plans on Monday, but a lot of it is already out right now. We'll see the reaction from all sides.
Coming up, there's more breaking news. We're getting new comments right now from the porn star who's cashing in after a report that she was paid to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Donald Trump.
BLITZER: The porn star, Stormy Daniels, who's reportedly paid to keep quiet about an alleged sexual relationship with Donald Trump, is now speaking out. Let's go to Brian Todd. He's got details. Brian, what's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Stormy Daniels has just spoken to the entertainment show "Inside Edition." She talked about the media crush surrounding her about her concerns for her security. But what her interviewer and many of us were anticipating was whether she would discuss the alleged affair with Donald Trump.
[17:50:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you make any comment?
TODD: She's been chased by reporters, teased audiences at a strip club. Now, on "Inside Edition," the porn star Stormy Daniels does her first interview since the "Wall Street Journal" reported that shortly before the election in 2016, she was paid $130,000 by one of Donald Trump's lawyers to stay quiet about an alleged affair.
JIM MORET, INSIDE EDITION CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Did you have a sexual relationship with Donald Trump? Did you have any relationship with Donald Trump?
STORMY DANIELS, PORN STAR: Well, I think it's common, you know, by looking at photos that I've met him.
MORET: There were reports you've been paid $130,000 to be quiet. Have you been paid to keep quiet? Have you signed a nondisclosure agreement? I'm taking this that you can't say anything, is that accurate? I'm taking that as a yes.
RICHARD LEVICK, CRISIS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST: She is dancing very, very close to the law, and then, she's playing coy when asked the key questions: what did you do, did you accept payment. I think what she's really doing is a race to "sue me." "If you want to sue me, sue me." But then, you go back into court and all this evidence becomes public. TODD: Her silence on those critical questions is far different from what she said in her 2011 interview, not published until last week. She told In-Touch Magazine she had a sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006 at a resort in Nevada, and that Trump was, quote, smitten with her. The Trump lawyer Michael Cohen denies any affair took place. And has never responded to our question of whether he ever paid $130,000 in hush money to Daniels. Cohen did forward a statement from Daniels denying any affair or any hush money. The White House has dismissed the story as old allegations, but avoided addressing the substance of the claim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the president, he's really limited on what he can do. Any time he talks about it, it only shines a spotlight on it, the more he's forced to talk about it, the more attractive it is for him.
TODD: After the Access Hollywood tape came out, in which is heard bragging about gropping women. He quickly posted a video statement addressing it.
TRUMP: I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.
TODD: But as Donald Trump, himself, has said, he has loyal supporters and can survive scandals that would sink others.
TRUMP: I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's, like, incredible.
TODD: As for Daniels, she says when the scandal broke, she had to hide out in a hotel room for two days before slipping out to fly home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been worried for your safety? Has anyone threatened you?
DANIELS: Yes, I have been threatened.
TODD: Asked if she is ready for the scandal to go away?
DANIELS: Do you have a magic wand? Because I don't.
TODD: Neither the President nor the first lady have talked about the allegations since the story broke. Donald Trump is now in Davos, Switzerland, while Melania Trump who was originally slated to travel there with him, instead made a surprise visit to West Palm Beach today. Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, told us today he would not comment on the Stormy-Daniels interview with "Inside Edition," when I asked Cohen, why he and the president have not spoken out publicly about the reported affair, Cohen referred back to the statement denying that the affair occurred. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, did Stormy Daniels get paid for her interview with Inside Edition?
TODD: We asked a staff at Inside Edition about that today, Wolf, they said they would not comment. What we can tell you is that Stormy Daniels is making a lot of money appearing at strip clubs across the country. One club in Las Vegas that has just booked her, says, they're $75,000 a night.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report. Coming up in our next hour, CNN sits down, by the way, with a friend of Stormy Daniels who is also now speaking out. That's coming up. We're also following the breaking news, new details on the huge scale of the Russia investigation. It moves into the White House. We're learning now, millions of documents, dozens of people have been interviewed, millions of documents have been made available, while President Trump's lawyer tries to walk back, has declared readiness to talk under oath with the special counsel.
Plus, tonight, the White House plays let's make a deal, offering democrats and immigration plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants. Will Republicans fight it? Plus, why did the first lady make an unscheduled trip to Florida today after skipping out of a chance to accompany her husband to Switzerland? We'll have more on that. Stay with us.
[17:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. West Wing questioned; as President Trump insists, he's eager to take with the special counsel. We're learning that the Russia investigation is reaching farther and wider into his White House. How close is Robert Mueller to locking in a deal to interview the witness and chief?
Conspiracy Collapses, sinister GOP theories about FBI texts are undermined by facts. New information tonight about missing messages and a secret society that was just a joke.
Cashing in, Stormy Daniels books at other strip club gig, as the porn star responds to questions about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.
This hour, a friend of Daniels also speaking out, sharing sensational details with CNN. And Lady Be Gone, after skipping overseas trip with her husband, Melania Trump suddenly picks up and takes of for Florida. Was she sending a message to the president? 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.