Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Ex-Aide Subpoenaed, Says He Won't Testify. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 5, 2018 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): It's happening now, breaking news: defying Robert Mueller. A former Trump campaign aide says he's been subpoenaed by the Security Council but won't testify before the grand jury.

Sam Nunberg says Mueller has enough on President Trump, adding, quote, "He doesn't need me."

Buying influence: the Mueller investigation appears to have expanded to include Middle Eastern countries allegedly trying to buy influence with the Trump campaign.

Stormy siege: a new report says President Trump's lawyer complained he had not been reimbursed for paying a porn star alleged to have had an affair with Donald Trump. "The Wall Street Journal" also reports the lawyer's bank flagged the payments to the Treasury Department as suspicious.

And talking to North Korea: a stunning turn of events in North Korea, where Kim Jong-un meets for the first time with a high-level delegation from South Korea, including top intelligence officials.

Could he talk to President Trump next?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news. BLITZER: Breaking news: and an absolutely jaw-dropping development. A former Trump campaign aide says he's been subpoenaed by the special counsel but will refuse to testify.

Sam Nunberg says he won't appear before the federal grand jury and asked if the special counsel Robert Mueller has something on the president.

He said Trump, quote, "may have very well done something during the election with the Russians," close quote. I'll speak with Congressman Joachim Castro of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.

And our correspondents and specialists are all standing by with full coverage. Let's get to the breaking news. A former Trump campaign aide said he's been subpoenaed by the special counsel but won't testify. Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, just moments ago, we spoke with Sam Nunberg and asked him where the special counsel's investigation is going. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Do you believe that the special counsel has something on Donald Trump?

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I suspect that they suspect something about him.

(CROSSTALK)

NUNBERG: The way they asked about his business dealings, the way they asked, if you had heard anything, even during while I was fired, it made me suspect that they suspect something about him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Pretty amazing stuff, when you think about it, Gloria. But you spoke with him.

What was your impression?

How serious are these allegations?

BORGER: Well, first of all, we should say that he was fired by Donald Trump, that he is no fan of the Trump campaign. But he still says there was no collusion because the campaign wasn't organized enough to have any collusion.

What really struck me was him saying I think they're interested in the Miss Universe pageant in 2013 and that Emin Agalarov (ph) tried to send hookers, as he put it, up to Donald Trump's room and that Trump refused them. And he said he was told this by Keith Shiller, who was Donald Trump's bodyguard.

And then he said they were interested in Trump Tower Moscow and generally Trump Tower. And the relationship between the Russians -- he was asked if there are people who speak Russian in Trump Tower. So his point is that, while he wasn't specific about what he thought Mueller had on Donald Trump, he does suspect they have something.

BLITZER: He certainly does.

How do you see it?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, it's consistent with what we're hearing and what Mueller's looking into and again, whether Mueller gets there is another question.

But what he's asking questions about, where he's investigating, we've heard this now from sources that Gloria and I spoke to last week. We've heard this from Steve Bannon, famously, of "Fire and Fury," his impression that Mueller is going down the money laundering path, that both people who have been interviewed by the special counsel, that includes Sam Nunberg and others who were in the administration believe that Mueller's focus is increasingly on business dealings.

And that's partly their supposition but it is also based on the kinds of questions, as Nunberg was just saying there, the kinds of questions they're being asked by the special counsel.

Again, that does not mean that they're reaching conclusions. But when you do a grand jury subpoena, you don't pull people before the grand jury just for the hell of it. If you're going down a line of inquiry, there has got to be some substance or evidence behind it that leads you down that path.

BORGER: And he's already talked to the FBI for 5.5 hours, as he pointed out.

So the question is, what is it that he said that made them want to call him back before a grand jury?

And of course he doesn't really know the answer to that. But he doesn't want to go through and hand over all these documents, which --

[17:05:00]

BORGER: -- by the way, everyone in the White House who currently works there has handed over.

SCIUTTO: The complaint he has about the great inconvenience of having to turn over e-mails, let's just remind folks. It's a legal subpoena from a legally appointed special counsel. This is what a subpoena is. It's a legal demand to hand over documents and information.

BLITZER: You got to obey the law. Otherwise you pay the price. Here's another clip from your amazing interview with Sam Nunberg, Gloria. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNBERG: I'm not going in. It's ridiculous. The idea that we were "The Manchurian Candidate"?

Gloria, we were a joke. Everybody was laughing at us.

The idea that we were colluding with the Russians?

Give me a break.

BORGER: Is that what you think the special counsel is getting at?

Or it sounds to me, from some of your other answers, it sounds like he's looking into more the financial side of Donald Trump's life.

NUNBERG: He may. I don't know what he's looking into. He may. He may. And you know what?

Trump may have very well done something during the election with the Russians. And to find it out if he did that. I don't know. If did he that, it is inexcusable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He believes, according to this interview with you, that Mueller suspects that Donald Trump may have been a Manchurian candidate. All of us of a certain age remember that film.

BORGER: Right, which means bought and paid for by the Russians. But he went out of his way to say that's not what he believes. But he believes from the questions he's hearing from the special counsel, that's what the special counsel believes. And we don't know that. We don't know that at all.

He was particularly outraged because of Roger Stone because he's very close with Roger Stone. He's also close with Steve Bannon. And he believes that they're really looking closely at Roger Stone's relationship with Julian Assange. And he is kind of outraged by that. But it still doesn't make any sense to me that he wouldn't really want to comply with them.

BLITZER: What does all this tell us about the Mueller probe right now?

SCIUTTO: Well, that it is going down very serious and consequential lines of inquiry. Again, whether he gets there is another question. But you have a special counsel asking about possible illegality of the president's business dealings, leading up to the election, perhaps during the time he was discussing the election. That was part of our story we reported last week.

And on the question of collusion., the president, his allies, they want that word to disappear into the ether. But while he said at some point during your interview he doesn't believe they colluded, at other points, he said to Jake Tapper that he believes that Carter Page colluded with the Russians. He said that he believes the special counsel believes that Roger Stone colluded. That based on communications between them.

And he did. The words made former Trump campaign aide, who is a witness to the special counsel, to say Trump may very well have done something with the Russians during the election. That's not coming from some left wing commentator. It's coming from a guy who worked for the Trump campaign and is now being interviewed and called before a grand jury.

BLITZER: But a guy who was later fired by the Trump campaign --

SCIUTTO: As have many people. But he has got to speak truthfully when he appears before the grand jury.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: That's absolutely right. Stand by. There's more. We're getting reaction from the White House. I quickly want to go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

What are they saying over there, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they seem blindsided by all of this at the briefing earlier today. You heard Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, sort of give the same line that they give every time when asked about the Mueller investigation, that they're cooperating with the special counsel's office.

But Wolf, I will tell you, I've been talking to sources inside and outside the White House this afternoon and particularly people who used to work with the Trump campaign, some of them are saying Sam Nunberg can't possible know what he's talking about here because he was fired by Donald Trump, fired by this campaign long before 2016.

But I did talk to one person who worked with the campaign and this person said, listen. Sam Nunberg -- and this was evident in Gloria's interview with Sam Nunberg -- he was very close with Roger Stone and Roger Stone remains a figure in this investigation, a person of interest in the Mueller investigation.

But needless to say, the White House is still grappling with this question. And earlier today, Sarah Sanders was asked about this during the briefing. She tried to point out that Sam Nunberg has not worked here at the White House. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As we've said many times before, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign. Anything further on what his actions are, he hasn't worked at the White House. So I certainly can't speak to him or the lack of knowledge that he clearly has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And so obviously here's Sarah Sanders, say that there's no collusion but obviously, Wolf -- and Gloria and Jim can speak to this as well -- there's not collusion that is of interest to the Mueller team --

[17:10:00]

ACOSTA: -- when it comes to this Russia investigation, they're very obviously bringing people back in. I talked to a source last week who has talked to the Mueller investigative team as well as the House and Senate Intelligence Committee teams on multiple occasions.

And what is clear, when you talk to people who have cooperated with this investigation, is that there are multiple sessions with these investigators. And Sam Nunberg saying he doesn't want to go back and talk to Mueller's team and cooperate and provide this kind of documentation is an indication that people who are of interest in this investigation are very concerned about going in and giving conflicting testimony, giving conflicting answers to this team.

And Wolf, I think that's why, when Sarah Sanders is asked about this at the briefing, you can add in any name when the question is asked. We basically get the same answer every time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, over at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get some more reaction. Joining us now, Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He's a key member of both the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Congressman, what's your reaction to this former Trump campaign adviser, Sam Nunberg, threatening to defy the special counsel like this?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TEXAS), MEMBER, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Well, that's actually a very stunning statement for a witness to say that he's just outright not going to comply with that subpoena.

And so if he continues with that line, then I suspect that he'll be held in contempt. And the special counsel will figure out a way to go get the information that they need from him.

BLITZER: Could he wind up in jail?

CASTRO: Sure. He certainly could. Yes.

BLITZER: Sam Nunberg also told our own Jake Tapper that President Trump talked about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York City with the Russians the week before.

Have you heard that before?

CASTRO: I had not. And this is somebody, Sam Nunberg, who has been on our radar. We would like a chance in the House Intelligence Committee, at least many of us, to hear from him and hear what he has to say about this whole thing. So I hope that the majority will help us make that happen.

BLITZER: He also says, Nunberg, that Carter Page, another former Trump national security adviser, was colluding with the Russians but that Page wasn't really, he says, a serious adviser on the Trump campaign.

What do you make of that?

CASTRO: Oh, Carter Page is a very interesting character. And he had very deep Russian connections. And he was working his way within the Trump campaign. So none of that would surprise me. But again, we would need to sit down and talk to Mr. Nunberg to get a full understanding of what he knows.

BLITZER: Sam Nunberg left the Trump campaign in late summer 2015. That's very early in the campaign.

So why do you believe the special counsel even wants to talk to him?

How useful is he really?

CASTRO: Well, I suspect that he was very involved at the launching of the campaign around that time. But also it sounds like he's close to people who were knee-deep in the campaign; Roger Stone, who has been a confidant of the president for decades, and Steve Bannon, who headed up Breitbart and then became campaign manager for Donald Trump.

So it is not only what he knows directly but what he heard, what these gentlemen may have told him and what he can share with the special counsel.

BLITZER: Let's get to some other key developments unfolding in the Russia probe. Today the president tweeted this -- and I'll put it up on the screen.

"Why did the Obama administration start an investigation into the Trump campaign with zero proof of wrongdoing long before the election in November?

Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate. Plus, Obama did nothing about Russian meddling."

How do you respond, Congressman, to those allegations in that tweet?

CASTRO: Well, I guess let me take the last part first. President Obama and the administration went to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and said we need to let the American people know what's going on.

And Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan said if do you that, we're going to say that you're putting your finger on the scale for Hillary Clinton. And ultimately the president and the administration backed down.

In hindsight, they probably should not have done that but it was a blockade, a political blockade by the majority leader and the Speaker that determined the outcome. So I'm confident that administration wanted to do more but they were blocked from doing that by the Republican leadership.

BLITZER: How do you know that, Congressman, that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan actually made that threat to the president?

CASTRO: To President Obama back then?

BLITZER: Yes.

CASTRO: Well, that's been widely reported, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know, but have you heard that specifically from those two Republican leaders in the House and Senate?

CASTRO: No, we haven't interviewed Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell.

BLITZER: Because that's a very serious allegation, as you know.

CASTRO: Absolutely. No, and that's my understanding. And if those two gentlemen contest that, then they should speak up.

[17:15:00]

BLITZER: We'll try to get their reaction because that is a serious allegation indeed. Quickly, on another sensitive issue that has now emerged, has your investigation come across any efforts from the United Arab Emirates or other countries in the region to influence the Trump administration?

CASTRO: We've had -- we -- I certainly have heard things that have concerned me but, unfortunately, it's nothing that I can talk about right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: What can you, if anything, what can you share with us on that?

CASTRO: Really not very much at all. But this is an administration that has been susceptible and vulnerable to influence from many nations around the world and many nations have tried.

BLITZER: Congressman Joaquin Castro, thanks so much for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, more on the breaking news as we dig deeper into the stunning refusal by a former Trump campaign aide to comply with a subpoena from the special counsel, daring Robert Mueller to arrest him.

And new reports shed light on the payment that President Trump's lawyer to a porn star allegedly involved in an affair with Donald Trump as a watchdog group suggests, federal elections laws may have been broken.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

BLITZER: Our breaking news, stunning perhaps, unprecedented comments from a former Trump campaign aide, who says he's been subpoenaed by the special counsel Robert Mueller but won't cooperate.

That former aide, Sam Nunberg, is daring Mueller to have him arrested. He also suggests that Mueller may have something on the president. Let's assess with our experts.

Phil Mudd, what do you make of this?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: After I stop laughing, there are a couple things on the substantive side. I don't care what he thinks. I don't care what he thinks they have on the president. I care what he knows.

If he was in there for what he says is 5.5 hours and they want to talk to him again, there are a couple questions they have. Either he knows more or he said something different than other witnesses and they want to trap him in a lie and say now you've got some problems.

You've got to talk to us. On the issue of not speaking, we used to call him Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob, Director Mueller, if he says he's not going to speak, that's basically raising a middle finger to the teacher in the courtroom. He will get some detention. That is, the director's going to go to a judge if Nunberg doesn't show up to the grand jury.

But a lot of time -- not a lot but some time between now and then. I think this guy might look in a mirror and say, whoa, hold on a second.

BLITZER: He may reconsider upon further thought.

Anne, I'll read you a couple of sentences what he says, Nunberg.

I think he may, referring to Mueller, he may have done -- that the president may have done something, "Trump may very well have done something during the election," and then he also said, "I'm not going to jail. He's not going to do anything," referring to Mueller.

How much legal jeopardy do you believe he's in?

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER N.J. ATTORNEY GENERAL: So it's a great question. So basically the grand jury has issued a subpoena for his testimony. And it's important to note that it's actually a grand jury subpoena. Robert Mueller's team will have issued it.

But it for the grand jury to receive evidence. If he doesn't comply with that, there are only a couple of ways this can go. First he could say, I have a Fifth Amendment right not to talk. I don't think there's any indication he is going to do that.

The second is he could go to a judge and say I want to quash the subpoena. I don't have relevant information, which, again, we all think is very unlikely or it's too difficult for me to comply with this; again, very unlikely.

At that point, the judge would essentially, I believe, order him to testify and to provide that information. If he refuses, the judge can hold him in contempt. That's a separate criminal charge and that means that he could go to jail or be fined if he refuses to provide evidence to the grand jury.

So it is a very serious matter. It's very unusual to see someone actually do it. And so I agree with Phil that I think we have got about four days until he is scheduled to be there. It is very likely that something may change before then.

BLITZER: Because he's got until Friday. Anne, you're our legal analyst, you're a former New Jersey attorney general. He's already answered questions from FBI investigators for 5.5 hours.

Doesn't that mean he's waived his Fifth Amendment privilege?

MILGRAM: So it would be very unusual for him to invoke at this point and to come in and say there's something -- there could be something else he hasn't told investigators. He could still come in and take the Fifth Amendment.

That being said, just to make sure that this is clear, it is not unusual for the FBI to go out and interview someone in person and then for the prosecutors to make a decision that it is important for the grand jury to actually see this witness and to have them testify.

So even though FBI has questioned him, it is not uncommon for them to want someone to be in the grand jury.

BLITZER: For whatever reason, they want him to appear before that grand jury. And Chris, let me play you another clip. This was part of Gloria's interview with Sam Nunberg. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNBERG: They think that Roger colluded with Julian Assange. I can tell you Roger did not collude with Julian Assange.

BORGER: Why do you think they want you in the grand jury?

NUNBERG: They want me to testify against Roger.

BORGER: They want to you testify against Roger?

(CROSSTALK)

NUNBERG: They want me to say that Roger was going around telling people he was colluding with Julian Assange. That's what they want.

BORGER: And that did not occur, according to you?

NUNBERG: No. It did not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNNPOLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is the talk that WikiLeaks, obviously Julian Assange, a lot of negative information about the Clinton campaign moved through there. And Roger Stone has, as Roger Stone does, has been very hard to pin down over time about contacts with Assange or with WikiLeaks more broadly.

But that interview -- I appreciate Phil's perspective from -- taking it seriously. But as a piece of theater --

[17:25:00]

CILLIZZA: I mean, what was he doing? I mean, I know that sounds dumb.

Who -- what lawyer could have possibly told you, hey, do you know what would be good?

If you're going to reject the subpoena from Mueller, you should go on television and call him an idiot. That will really endear him to you.

It just -- I do think there's a broader point here, Wolf, which is Carter Page, Sam Nunberg, we've seen others. The reality is these are people who would not have been involved in a presidential campaign of any sort, other than Donald Trump's, because no one of the A level, the B level, the C level or the D level wanted to associate with him even when he was winning.

That the result is you get things like this. You get people like Carter Page or Sam Nunberg, where they're talking in public and you're thinking you apparently are unaware, number one, of how the justice system works and, number two, of the legal peril, very real legal peril, that you're facing.

BLITZER: Because even the president, who has called this whole investigation a witch hunt and a hoax, he doesn't criticize Robert Mueller specifically. He avoids that. Everyone seems to avoid that except for this guy, Sam Nunberg.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Yes. And I think actually the correlation between Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone is very important because Roger Stone is not just his mentor but, as Chris said, he has had these contacts with Julian Assange. And WikiLeaks was ultimately the funnel through which you had those hacked e-mails of John Podesta as well as the DNC.

And Roger Stone is Donald Trump's longest serving political adviser. He did not have a formal role in the campaign but he has known Trump closely for decades. So what I think that this underscores, is that the special counsel is casting a very wide net.

Ultimately what we're seeing more and more indication of, is he's trying to decipher what if anything did Trump know during the campaign and when did he know it?

And that's where someone like Sam Nunberg and anyone fits in, who can offer phone logs, emails and other conversations that transpired between senior officials in the campaign, Trump and others potentially in Moscow.

CILLIZZA: And I think that's important because Phil made this point earlier. But we have a tendency to focus on the, "I think he may have something on Trump." Based on the rest of the interview, I'm not sure Sam Nunberg is the world's most credible source on that investigation.

But I do think it is important to note, that it is the other stuff out there. You know what I mean? It's the making the connections. It's -- because if Nunberg does have to eventually testify -- and he says the subpoena, he had to list all these people, all his friends, all those names, that's --

BLITZER: He also said that he believes that Mueller thinks that Donald Trump was a Manchurian candidate. We'll get to that and a lot more. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, SITUATION ROOM: On a day with stunning new developments in the Robert Mueller investigation, we are learning about another twist that may be leading the investigation to look overseas as well.

We're back with our experts. I'm going to get to that in a moment, Phil. But the scope of the questions that Sam Nunberg was asked, all the information you have, and they named all these officials from the Trump campaign, it suggests at least to me that Mueller is far from over in his investigation.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It does. But, I mean, you look at the likelihood that this individual has a tremendous amount of information, especially after the election, he looks like a bit player to me.

That said, when I saw the list and I saw the array of questions, one thing came to mind, for me, and that is follow the data. In the 21st century, when you get that list of e-mail, phone, text kinds of stuff, you start to get not only what people are saying, but what the network of contacts is, what we call meta data.

When you get dozens of people involved in that kind of data pool, even if they choose not to talk to the Mueller team or the grand jury, you can start to say who talked to whom, how often did they speak, when did somebody come into the circle. That kind of data is really instructive in an investigation.

BLITZER: That's a good point, Anne. I want you to weigh in as well because this investigation could go on and on and on.

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's very true. I mean, the way I see this, I think that there are probably a number of lines of the investigation, and this is, obviously, one of them.

It is not uncommon to basically - if somebody tells you about a meeting, you're going to ask for all the e-mails, all the phone logs, any data points that would basically corroborate that meeting.

And so, there are lot of reasons why they could be looking for this volume of information related to these folks, but it's part of the narrative. And again, it does tell a story even if folks don't have a lot to say.

You could be confirming that a meeting did take place even if someone wasn't in the room. You've got a phone log or an e-mail chain that connects them to having been invited or something like that. So, it all becomes part of the bigger picture. But I do agree that the investigation is far from over. BLITZER: And we have the grand jury subpoena, David, February 27, 2018. And it says to Sam Nunberg, we want all these people, everything you know about these individuals for the period of November 1, 2015 to the present, please provide all documents related to the following individuals - Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Donald J. Trump, Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, Steven Bannon.

And he says, I'm not doing that.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: What's interesting about is when I saw that and I saw his response, it reminded me like, you go to the doctor and, like, I'm feeling sluggish and the doctor says, oh, we need to take some blood. And you say, no, it's fine, I'm good.

[17:35:03] Actually, it's not an option. Like, Mueller isn't saying, hey, you know, if you feel up to it, why don't you go ahead and give us all your information. It's a request, right? That's what I wonder about. At some point, it's not like this will just go away.

Phil made this point, I don't think Bob Mueller is going to say, oh, well, he said no, so we're out of luck. I mean, it's going to keep going. And that's what I don't get with the Nunberg strategy. It's not as though Bob Mueller has exhausted all of his legal options to extract that data.

BLITZER: Several of these people, Nunberg says he never spoke to. So, that would be pretty easy to bring up his records as far as those concerned. But he does say specifically, he spoke all the time, speaks all the time to Roger Stone and Steve Bannon and he doesn't want to make all that information available.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN": I don't think that he's going to have a choice. I think as Chris and as Phil have pointed out, the special counsel is not going to cause one to appear a grand jury just to have a conversation.

It's because they think that there's information that he could provide or perhaps he has contradicted others in his own testimony.

I think, ultimately, though, this gets back to the president and the fact that it looks like the special counsel is increasingly trying to get a good sense of all of the people who are in Trump's orbit and what they knew, when they knew it and where did he factor into the equation.

I think also there was one more striking thing in the interview that hasn't been noticed. He also talked about how Trump did know about that infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. And so, that is also a stunning contradiction based on what the White House has said.

BLITZER: If they have that. Very quickly, before I let you go, Phil. "The New York Times" report that the Mueller investigation is expanding not only to look at the Russia connection, but other potential connections, including from the United Arab Emirates, of alleged influence peddling with the Trump campaign.

MUDD: Simple bottom line. I don't think Russia thinks Ukraine. This is about dirty money coming from overseas to people who have already shown, given the Ukraine indictments, that they're willing to take dirty money, in some cases, for influence.

So, UAE has a lot of money. They have a lot of interest in US policy. I think this looks to me like what happened to Manafort and Gates - dirty money.

BLITZER: Anne, what do you think?

MILGRAM: Yes, I agree. I think that's very like. I also think that it's obviously part of the conversation, is were people peddling influence, and so it's a reasonable area for the special counsel to look into.

BLITZER: Yes. There's a lot that they're looking into. And it looks like, instead of contracting, it's expanding by the day.

Guys, stick around. Coming up, there's more news. The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un meets for the first time with a high-level delegation from South Korea, including some top intelligence officials.

And then, as a watchdog group says, payments to a porn star by President Trump's lawyer may have broken federal election law. Did the actress Stormy Daniels almost go public shortly before the presidential election?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:30] BLITZER: A stunning turn of events in North Korea where Kim Jong-un has just held his first-ever talks with a high-level delegation from South Korea, including top intelligence officials.

CNN's Brian Todd is looking into all of this for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Stunning is the right word, Wolf. Kim Jong-un has never before met with any officials from outside his country. He didn't even meet with a Chinese delegation when they came to Pyongyang recently.

But his meetings today with two top South Korean security officials have leaders in Seoul and Washington eagerly awaiting intelligence reports on the North Korean dictator.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A critical and historic face-to-face in Pyongyang. For the first time in his six-plus years in power, Kim Jong-un meets in person with top ranking South Korean leaders.

South Korean officials tell CNN they carried a letter to Kim from South Korean President Moon Jae-in. An important moment, analysts say, because the young dictator has had such little exposure to outsiders.

BRUCE KLINGNER, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Up till now, the person with the most - the foreigner with the most face time would be Dennis Rodman.

TODD: And the two top officials South Korea sent to meet with Kim are seen as crucial choices. South Korea's spy chief Suh Hoon helped organize two previous summits between North and South Korean leaders and could be laying the groundwork for another one.

And South Korea's National Security Chief Chung Eui-yong has close ties with US officials. Analysts say he's got Trump National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on speed dial. Experts say the two South Koreans will be able to give Washington and Seoul much needed intelligence on the reclusive Kim.

KLINGNER: They'll want to see how adept he is at give and take, whether he's using notes, whether he's got a very strong command of a wide range of issues.

TODD: And they'll be able to assess Kim's physical health. He once disappeared from public view for more than a month and was later seen limping.

Just hours before the groundbreaking meeting in Pyongyang, President Trump told a dinner audience in Washington that the North Koreans want to talk to the US and said, "so would we, but you have to denuke."

The North Koreans say it's "preposterous" for the Trump team to insist that they move toward giving up their nuclear weapons before any talks can begin.

ALEXANDER VERSHBOW, FOMER US AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: And there may be a little bit of brinksmanship going on on both sides. The question is whether we can at least talk about the agenda for talks. Not begin any negotiations, but to talk about whether there's some package of subjects, including a peace agreement that would formally end the Korean War which is still just based on a temporary armistice, regional stabilization measures, and denuclearization.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, analysts are hoping that all these diplomatic back and forth yields some real results soon because the diplomatic window could be closing soon.

The U.S. and South Korea are scheduled to resume their joint military exercises right after the Paralympics end later in March, those military exercises which North Korea always views as very hostile.

And, Wolf, once those start, we could be back on -- you know, to talking about a possible conflict.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the North Koreans hate those exercises. Diplomacy is also key right now, Brian, because of North Korea's recent progress with their missile program. TODD: That's right, Wolf. A Trump administration official with

knowledge of the intelligence on this tells CNN that during the past few months, while all this diplomacy has been going on surrounding the Winter Olympics, North Korea has been making progress on improving the guidance of their missiles.

They've been perfecting it, Wolf, during this entire, you know, thaw in diplomacy here, so it's clear they're not going to ratchet back their missile or nuclear program.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thanks so much.

Coming up, new revelations about payments to a porn star by President Trump's lawyer amid reports that the actress, Stormy Daniels, almost went public shortly before the presidential election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:00] BLITZER: New tonight, a self-styled sex coach from Belarus is asking for asylum in the United States.

The woman, currently imprisoned in Thailand, claims to have detailed insider knowledge of Russian efforts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election and tells CNN she has the photos and audio to prove it.

Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, has more from Bangkok.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She describes herself as a seductress. A relentlessly self-promoting 21- year-old named Anastasia Vashukevich, with the social media stage name, Nastya Rybka, this Belarus-born woman claims to have evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

The question, is this a desperate ploy to get out of jail? Or as her friend claims, is this young woman truly in danger because she knows too much?

MARIA SKULBEDA, FRIEND OF ANASTASIA VASHUKEVICH: First, they are in danger. Second, they have the information. And third, we are afraid of their lives. Really afraid of their lives. We don't know what's going to happen.

WATSON (voice-over): For days, Vashukevich and several Russian friends have been held at this jail in the capital of Thailand where visitors are not allowed to bring cameras.

WATSON (on camera): I just came out of this detention center where I spoke with Anastasia Vashukevich. It was loud and hot and chaotic.

And talking through the bars, she says that she witnessed meetings between the Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, and at least three Americans who she refused to name. She claims they discussed plans to affect the U.S. elections, but she wouldn't give any further information because she fears she could be deported back to Russia.

WATSON (voice-over): Her claims might not hold much water if it wasn't for this -- photos published on her Instagram account of Vashukevich alongside Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska.

Deripaska, a one-time business partner of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. He has pleaded not guilty to charges related to money laundering and other alleged crimes discovered during the investigation into Russian meddling.

Vashukevich's posts showed Deripaska on board his private yacht, meeting Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Prikhodko. Two powerful Russian men, overheard in one video discussing U.S./Russian relations.

Vashukevich wrote about the meeting using altered names in this book. Deripaska denies meddling in the U.S. election and says Vashukevich was never his mistress. A spokesman writing, this is clearly an attempt by Anastasia Vashukevich to politicize the accusations of the Thai police.

And here is where the story gets really weird. Last month, Vashukevich was in Thailand with a Russian sex coach named Alexander Kirillov, running a weeklong sex-training course that teaches, among other things, tips for dating.

On the last day, Thai police burst into the hotel, arresting Vashukevich, Kirillov, and eight others for working without a permit.

Ukrainian-American Pavlo Yunko traveled from New York to attend the course.

PAVLO YUNKO, PARTICIPANT IN ALEXANDER KIRILLOV'S TRAINING COURSE: I was there to have just a good time.

WATSON (on camera): And then the police showed up?

YUNKO: And just the police showed up.

WATSON (voice-over): In days that followed, Yunko says he hand- delivered this letter from the sex teacher to the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, requesting asylum in exchange for recordings Vashukevich says she made of alleged Russian government crimes.

An embassy spokesperson says since Vashukevich is not a U.S. citizen, this is a matter for the Thai authorities.

Supporters now deliver food to their friends in jail where Vashukevich's offers to help U.S. investigators have apparently gone unheard. The jailed seductress and the sex teacher recognize, soon, they may be deported back to Mother Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:55:10] BLITZER: That report from CNN's Ivan Watson in Bangkok. More on that story coming up next hour. Also coming up, a former Trump campaign aide says he has been

subpoenaed by the Special Counsel but won't testify before the grand jury. Sam Nunberg says Robert Mueller has enough on President Trump, adding, he doesn't need me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:59:54] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Refusing to comply. A former Trump campaign aide vows to defy a subpoena from the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, but denies he is doing it to protect President Trump. So why is he saying Mueller probably has something on the President?