Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Hires Lawyer Who Claims FBI and DOJ Framed Trump. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 19, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Lawyering up. As he steps up attacks on the special counsel, President Trump lawyers up, hiring a former federal prosecutor who claims the president is being framed by the FBI and the Justice Department.
[17:00:22] Mueller's questions. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly sent the president a list of questions he wants to discuss in an interview. Given the president's actions and comments in recent days, did Mueller touch a nerve?
Using stolen data. A whistleblower alleges that a data firm hired by the Trump campaign harvested the information some of some 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.
And serial bomber. After a fourth bomb explodes in Austin, Texas, injuring two people, police confirm the fears of residents, saying the sophisticated device is likely the work of a serial bomber. Who's behind the attacks?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump goes on the offensive against the special counsel, hiring a former U.S. attorney who has alleged the president is being framed by the FBI and the Justice Department top officials there.
That comes after the president called out Robert Mueller by name for the first time. But amid sharp warnings from key Republicans. The White House insists the president is not planning to fire Mueller.
I'll speak with Congressman Joaquin Castro of the House Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with the president's sharper attacks on the Russia investigation. Up first, our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, what's the latest?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president is breaking from the advice from his lawyers and calling out Robert Mueller by name, notably. This change of posture comes after months of the president saying he believes Mueller would be fair to him, and it's raising questions about whether the president plans to push to fire the special counsel.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The good old U.S.A.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight an emboldened Donald Trump is taking a more aggressive stance towards Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators. As we've learned, the president is adding a new attorney to his legal team, Joe diGenova, who has pushed conspiracy theories about the FBI trying to prevent Trump from being president.
JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They tried to frame an incoming president with a false Russian conspiracy that never existed. And they knew it, and they plotted to ruin him as a candidate and then destroy him as president.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, does Robert Mueller still have your confidence? Mr. President.
BROWN: In a series of tweets over the weekend, the president signaled his strong desire for the Russia probe to come to an end. Tweeting this morning, "A total witch hunt with massive conflicts of interest."
So far, three Trump campaign associates have pleaded guilty, and Mueller's team indicted 13 Russians for election meddling, a move that prompted the administration to issue sanctions against them just last week.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I'm just puzzled by why the White House is -- is going so hard at this, other than they're very afraid of what might come out. I don't know how you can have any other conclusion.
BROWN: On Sunday for the first time, Trump attacked Mueller by name asking, "Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters and zero Republicans?
His question was rhetorical, as well as incorrect, as Mueller himself is a Republican, as is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the probe.
And this tweet on Saturday had many questioning if the president is setting the stage for Mueller's firing. "The Mueller probe should never have been started, in that there was no collusion and there was no crime."
That tweet caused White House attorney Ty Cobb to issue a statement once again saying, there are no plans to fire Mueller. Trump himself can't fire Mueller directly. He needs the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to do it, or Trump would need to replace his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, because of his earlier recusal from the Russia probe.
On Saturday, one of the president's attorneys released the statement attacking the investigation as manufactured and called on Rosenstein to end it: "I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation." But the president did get one firing he wanted. Deputy Director of
the FBI Andrew McCabe was firing by Sessions on Friday, just two days short of retiring with a full pension. Trump gleefully called the firing, quote, "a great day for democracy," a notion which received pushback from his own party.
FLAKE: The president said that it was a great day for democracy yesterday. I think it was a horrible day for democracy. To have firings like this happening at the top, from the president and the attorney general, does not speak well for what's going on.
[17:05:03] BROWN: McCabe's attorney coming to his client's defense, calling Trump's tweets childish, defamatory and disgusting, tweeting, "The tweets confirm that he has corrupted the entire process that led to Mr. McCabe's termination and has rendered it illegitimate."
BROWN: The president making another news flash today at an opioid prevention event in New Hampshire, suggesting that some high-level drug dealers be given the death penalty.
TRUMP: The ultimate penalty has to be the death penalty. Now maybe our country is not ready for that. It's possible. It's possible that our country is not ready for that, and I can understand it. Maybe. Although personally, I can't understand that.
BROWN: So the president will be coming back here to Washington with the Russia cloud continuing to hang over the White House. It is clear, Wolf, that the president has had a change of mood. When it comes to Robert Mueller. One source familiar with the matter says he has become increasingly agitated as he realizes that the Russia probe is nowhere near wrapping up soon. Despite the fact his personal attorneys have been telling him for months, Wolf, that it would be wrapping up soon. As you'll recall, it was last November, December it was supposed to wrap up. Now we're here in mid-March, and there's no indication that it's actually going to happen any time soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. All right, Pamela, thank you very much.
The president's harsh new attacks on the special counsel have drawn sharp warnings from some key Republican lawmakers. Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.
What are you hearing, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Republicans don't like the attacks that President Trump is now waging on the special counsel. A number of Republicans told me today that the president should back off, should cool it and should certainly not fire Robert Mueller, saying would it prompt a revolt from members of both parties.
But Wolf, Republicans by and large are opposing efforts to do anything legislatively to protect Robert Mueller except for one prominent Republican, Bob Corker, who said that legislation should be attached to the must-pass bill to keep the government open on Friday.
RAJU: The president launched all these attacks against Bob Mueller over the weekend. I wonder if you feel -- if you're OK with that?
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: No, I don't like that. And I noticed subsequently that they sent out a release from the White House saying they have no discussions and no intentions of terminating him. But it's not -- I think he needs to leave Mueller alone.
RAJU: Do you think that, A, there needs to be an effort in Congress to protect him legislatively? A bill to protect him from --
CORKER: I can't imagine. I can't possibly imagine why Senate leadership wouldn't place a protection in this omni that's coming through. That would be the perfect place for them to deal with it.
RAJU: How would Republicans react, do you think, if he fired Mueller?
CORKER: I think that it would be a total upheaval in the Senate.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I think the president ought to cool it a little bit. Because I think -- I think it doesn't help him.
Look, I like the president. He's a person of strong emotions, and he sometimes speaks out when he shouldn't.
And in the case of Bob Mueller, I like Bob Mueller. He's honest. He's a very good prosecutor. He's straightforward. And I think it's not going to indict the president. And I think the president should treat it that way.
It would be the stupidest thing the president could do is fire him. Yes, he could do that, but he's not going to do that and he shouldn't do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Wolf, Orrin Hatch also said that he does not support legislation to protect Robert Mueller. That's also being voiced by other top Republicans, as well, including Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Republican who's the majority whip. He said very clearly he does not think that they should attach any bill to protect the special counsel to this must-pass spending bill.
He thinks that Trump should not fire Mueller, to lay off those attacks but does not think it makes sense to do anything legislatively. So right now, Wolf, Republicans concerned about what the president is doing but not ready to take him on quite yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu. Thanks for that.
Joining us now, a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas.
Congressman, do you believe the president is setting the stage for Mueller's firing?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: I think it's quite likely that he is. I believe for a while that he could be setting the stage to arrange for Bob Mueller to be fired.
BLITZER: Because the president's lawyer at the White House said he's not even thinking about that, not discussing it, not contemplating it. You don't buy that?
CASTRO: I don't. If you look at what the president has said and tweeted, it's clear that he's become very agitated that the investigation is still open, that it's getting closer to him, that it's probably getting closer to his inner circle, and that it may bear fruit when it comes to prosecutions of people close to him.
BLITZER: But you heard some prominent Republicans pushing back on the president's rhetoric. We just heard Senator Orrin Hatch, for example, say firing Mueller would be the stupidest thing he could do. Senator Lindsey Graham, he said it would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.
[17:10:08] Are you assured -- are you reassured by what you're hearing from your Republican colleagues?
CASTRO: Well, I'm glad that the Republicans in the Senate that you quoted have essentially given the president what amounts to a brushback pitch to warn him about firing Bob Mueller, but the fact is, they need to go further and do what Senator Corker of Tennessee mentioned, which is to put some language of protection in the omnibus or in some stand-alone bill so that the president can't arrange for the firing of Bob Mueller.
BLITZER: Do you think that's going to happen? That bill is coming up by Friday. Do you think that will be included?
CASTRO: I guess if you ask me do I think the will is there in a Republican Senate and and a Republican House that so far has protected the president? No, I don't.
BLITZER: I want to get your reaction to this late development today, the latest addition to the president's legal team, Joe diGenova, a former U.S. attorney, is known for pushing theories about the FBI and the Department of Justice conspiring to frame the president, both before and after the election. What does that tell you, if anything, about the president's frame of mind?
CASTRO: That he seems to be buying into these conspiracy theories, or the idea that all of this has been set up just to go get him. And so to the extent that he's hiring folks that have kind of been on the fringe, it says a lot about his state of mind, that it's really in an unhealthy place. And as I mentioned, that -- for that reason and others, it makes me think that ultimately, he will arrange for the firing of Bob Mueller.
BLITZER: Yes, Joe diGenova told FOX News in January, "Make no mistake about it. A group of FBI/DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime."
According to "The New York Times," Congressman Mueller's team has sent the president -- the president's legal team a list of topics they want to discuss, they want to focus on, should there be an interview with the president. Does it look like the special counsel may have touched a nerve by sending over potential questions?
CASTRO: Well, absolutely. I think the president and his team probably read that list of questions, which I imagine is fairly exhaustive. And he decided that had there are answers in there that, if he gave, would probably get him in trouble or that he can't be completely candid and may get caught lying to the special counsel. So for whatever reason, after he received those, he seems to have gone -- become unhinged.
BLITZER: I want to read to you a tweet. John Brennan, the former CIA director, he served from January 2015 till January of 2017, he tweeted over the weekend this. "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. America will triumph over you."
Presumably John Brennan -- he was CIA director throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. My sense is, he knows a lot of what was going on that the American public hasn't yet learned. What do you think he's referring to in that very strong statement, predicting that the president will go -- will be a disgraced demagogue in the dust bin of history?
CASTRO: You know, when I read that, I was astounded by the remarkable words of a former CIA director to make that statement about a sitting president of the United States. And I can only imagine that part of it, at least, is based on classified information that he's been able to see about what may have happened in the 2016 election.
But for a former CIA director to take that strong a position says a lot about where this presidency has gone and where we are as a country.
BLITZER: Well, you've seen classified information. You're a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Have you seen anything would back those strong words up?
CASTRO: Well, as I said to you several months ago now, in fact, almost a year ago, I told you that I thought people would end up going to jail based on what I had seen. I told you a few months ago also that I think more people will end up going to jail. What I can't tell you is exactly how close that will get to the president of the United States.
BLITZER: Congressman Joaquin Castro, thanks for joining us.
CASTRO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, a whistleblower alleges that a data firm hired by the Trump campaign harvested the information of some 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.
And a fourth bomb explodes in Austin, Texas, wounding two people. Police say a skilled bomb maker is behind the attacks. But what's the motive?
[17:18:52] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. President Trump continuing his Twitter attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and expanding his legal team to include an attorney who's argued some members of the FBI and the Justice Department are trying to frame the president.
Let's bring in our political and legal experts. And Gloria, for the first time this weekend, the president directly attacked Robert Mueller by name. Not a retweet, an actual tweet. Let me read a couple sentences. "The Mueller probe should never have been started, in that there was no collusion, there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities in a fake dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC and improperly used in FISA court for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT" -- all caps. "Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats and Crooked Hillary supporters and zero Republicans. Another Dem recently added. Does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is no collusion."
How significant is this rhetorical shift?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's very important. I think what we see going on from our -- from our reporting is that the president, so long as he believed that the investigation was nearing an end and he was on good behavior, as I was told by one source, and wasn't tweeting about Mueller.
[17:20:10] When he saw over the weekend, or before the weekend, that the Trump Organization had been subpoenaed and he felt that -- and he saw some of the questions coming in from the special counsel -- I should say questions/topics coming in from the special counsel to his attorneys, he got very agitated and continues to be agitated, our sources are telling us, because now he believes that this isn't going to end any time soon.
And so what he's trying to do is what he wanted to do from day one, which is discredit Mueller, discredit the FBI, discredit the investigation, because he knows that he could wind up with a political problem on his hands as well as a legal one.
BLITZER: Anne Milgram, do you see any legal significance in the president's Twitter attacks, directly naming the special counsel, Robert Mueller?
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY: Well, it's definitely the first time we've seen the president name the special counsel directly. And I think, along the lines of what Gloria has just said, there's an effort here to try to reframe this conversation and to frame the entire investigation as illegitimate, as not based on law and fact. And so to the extent that the president is trying to do that, he may
very well be setting this up to refuse the interview by the special counsel. That conversation has been going on for a very long time now, and to the extent that he argues this is a witch hunt, he may come back and say, "I'm not going to sit down with you."
BLITZER: Do you think, Chris, this is a legitimate consideration being given by the president to whether or not to fire Mueller? Or is it simply trying to discredit Mueller, as Gloria suggests, in case there's some eventual conclusions by the special counsel that are poison to him?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, it's not an either/or. I think he can do what he has been doing prior without naming Mueller, which is to say "no collusion," "witch hunt, "hoax." He's used all these words; he just hasn't used "Mueller." Now we're moving into a stage where he's making clear what he's talking about.
He can do that and still leave his mind unmade to this point about whether or not to fire Bob Mueller.
The thing that I always say to people who say, "He'll never do it. It would be political suicide. Just listen to what Lindsey Graham or Orrin Hatch or whoever says." He revels in doing things that people tell him not to do. Does that include this? I don't know.
But I do think that we should avoid the idea that Donald Trump won't do something because Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch might not like it. I mean, you know, that's not who he believes his constituency to be. He has made his name in politics and in business by zigging when everyone else not only zagged buy says, "Zigging is really, really bad." You know.
BLITZER: You know, Nia, the deputy White House press secretary, Hogan Gidley, told reporters today aboard Air Force One, like to New Hampshire, that it's, quote, "pretty clear there are no conversations or discussions about removing Mr. Mueller."
Given the president's tweets, though, some of the rhetoric from his legal team, some of his lawyers, that's by no means clear at all that there's been no consideration, no discussion at all.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it's not clear at all. Hogan Gidley obviously isn't privy to every conversation that the president is having with everyone in his circle. We already know that at least this past summer, it's something that the president was actively discussing. It was impeded by a White House staffer. So we do know that.
We also know that it's not clear that the president has an easy path to firing Bob Mueller. He needs a person to do it. Rod Rosenstein would be the person to do it. He's come out and said there's no cause to fire Bob Mueller and he would also, whoever that person is would need a reason also. So those are the things, I think, that are kind of the missing pieces as we discuss whether or not he'd fire him and the things that are impeding that action.
BLITZER: So what you're suggesting is if he wants to fire Mueller, first he's going to have to fire Rosenstein.
HENDERSON: Yes, he's going to have to fire Rosenstein. He's going to maybe have to roll back some of the regulations around all this. It's incredibly hard to do that.
But as Chris says, he's done things before, like fire Comey. Easier to fire Comey than it is to fire Mueller but again he's someone who is unpredictable.
CILLIZZA: I'm with Nia 100 percent. This is not something that he just checks a box and it happens. Right? Rosenstein has been quite clear. I guess he could change his mind. He's been quite clear he doesn't think that Mueller should be fired.
I just -- I learned to stop saying, "Donald Trump will never do," fill in the blank. Whether it was win the election, be elected president, say many of the things he said as president. Because it's not just that his views are different. It's that he revels in doing things that people think no one would be willing to do. I think that's a motivation for him to do things in a way that, for every other politician, the idea that this could get you in trouble is something that they would run away from. He runs toward it.
BORGER: And don't forget, negotiations right now are going on behind closed doors about whether the president testifies and how he testifies. If in the end, the president says and his lawyers really don't want him to testify, as we've reported -- if in the end the president says, "I'm not going to testify," then has to be able to make the case politically why he's not testifying.
[17:25:21] And the way he makes that case politically is by saying, "Why would I testify? This is all a bunch of malarkey. And why would I testify before these people who are using evidence that is fake and that it was gotten in a wrong way and was based on fake news like the dossier," et cetera, et cetera. So he's also setting the groundwork for not talking to Mueller.
HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, it's a branding campaign, really. I mean, he brands his opponents. And so he's doing --
BLITZER: This morning he tweeted "a total witch hunt with massive conflicts of interest." Much more right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[17:30:39] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The "Washington Post" with a major report, just posted moments ago. Let me read a couple sentences to our viewers.
"President Trump's legal team is seeking ways to curtail an interview with the special counsel. President Trump's attorneys have provided the special counsel's office with written descriptions that chronicle key moments under investigation in hopes of curtailing the scope of a presidential interview, according to two people familiar with the situation."
Anne Milgram, this is potentially a significant development. It follows what we've been reporting, that the Mueller team had sent over some questions or topics they want to discuss. This looks like the Trump legal team is responding.
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY: Yes, it sounds like what's happened is Mueller sent over a list of "Here are the topics. Here are some areas we want to cover." And by the way, this is highly unusual. But Trump's team, in response to that, has come back and said, "Well, here's the information we have on this topic. Here's what we would say on that topic." Trying to shrink down what the scope of that interview would look like.
And again, it's unusual. It's even unusual for the special counsel to send over a detailed list of areas that they are going to cover, and it is particularly unusual for someone who has been asked to be a witness in the grand jury to come back with a written document saying, "Here's what I can talk about. Here's what I don't have information on."
BLITZER: And Gloria, let me read another sentence from the "Washington Post" story: "Trump's legal team recently shared the documents in an effort to limit any session between the president and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller to a few select topics. The people said the lawyers are worried that Trump, who has a penchant for making erroneous claims, would be vulnerable in an hours-long interview."
That's the real concern that the president's lawyers have.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And they -- look, most of them, if it were perfect, if the world were perfect, Trump wouldn't have to testify at all. Because they know if you sit him down before a special counsel, he can go off and wander and not tell the truth. And they're worried -- they're worried about it.
So what they're trying to do is to avoid that. I mean, I had one source say to me today that "Look, you know, Ronald Reagan did written interrogatories. And maybe we can work it out that way."
What they're clearly trying to do is have the lawyers do the interrogatory, which is strange, and say, "OK, this is what we know. Let's narrow this and maybe try and get Trump down to one or two or three areas where they can narrow his focus" and actually sort of prompt him and help him with how to respond to questions, how to limit his answers to questions, and just get him focused on what to say.
I think this is part of their last-ditch effort to kind of try and say, "OK, maybe we're -- we're not going to say he's never, never, never going to testify, but we have to just make the circumstances so advantageous to us that it won't allow for any kind of mistake by the president." BLITZER: The story, Chris, says Trump has told aides he is champing
at the bit to sit for an interview, according to one person. But his lawyers, who are carefully negotiating the terms of a sit-down recognize the extraordinarily high stakes.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. So a couple ways to read that. One is that's a little bit of spin to say, "He really, really wants to do this, but he just can't."
Or, if you go by what Trump has said publicly about this, which is not anything very recent but relatively recently, he had said, "I really want to do it. I've got nothing to hide," et cetera, et cetera.
The issue is what Gloria hit on. We know from Donald Trump being under oath as a private citizen, he just says stuff that isn't true and just talks and talks and talks. That is not an ideal situation. If you're one of his lawyers, you want to tell him, "Mr. President, let's limit it to three sentences here, and we want to hit this point, this point and this point." But you would have no reassurance based on anything in his life or in his presidency that he would say, "OK, boss. No problem. That's what I'll do." So I think you're seeing some of that.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And we've already seen already, people involved in this investigation get in trouble for lying. Right? And we obviously also saw the same thing with President Clinton, lying about sex under oath. And that's what got him in trouble, eventually impeached.
So you can understand, why with this person in particular, they want to put some guardrails around what he can say, what he will say, because of his penchant for what that article calls erroneous claims. What also might be called flat-out lying.
[17:35:11] CILLIZZA: The problem is you can put guardrails around him, and he can just charge through them.
HENDERSON: As we've seen.
CILLIZZA: I mean, you have -- you have seen from everyone from Reince Priebus to John Kelly to Rex Tillerson, there have been any number of attempts to put guardrails and say, "You can only do these things." And where are we now? He's unbidden; he's finally being himself.
HENDERSON: And he also thinks he's the smartest guy in the room, right, who can sort of outsmart Robert Mueller.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Gloria.
BORGER: I'm not a lawyer. But will this fly? You know, it seems to me it's one thing for your lawyers to say, "OK, here's what we know." But it's another thing for their client to say it. I just think Mueller would look at this and say, "OK, so what?"
BLITZER: Well, let's ask -- Anne's a lawyer. You're former New Jersey attorney general. Go ahead, Anne. MILGRAM: If I could jump in. I mean, what we're talking about here
with this idea of interrogatories and written conversations back and forth. That is not the case in criminal law. That is what you find in civil law.
And so it's important to understand just how extraordinary this type of action by the president's lawyers is. They're trying to essentially stop what the criminal process is, which is that you invite someone in for an interview. If they didn't agree, you would make a decision of whether or not you issued a subpoena or did not issue a subpoena. And so this is really unusual.
In terms of the questioning during an interview, I would be very surprised if the special counsel's office agreed to release significant limits on their ability to ask questions or to follow up on leads that come out of the conversation.
BLITZER: And Gloria, give us --
BORGER: I've been told --
BLITZER: Go ahead.
BORGER: Just one thing. I've been told that the special counsel is very concerned and cares a great deal about the office of the presidency. And that he, you know -- he understands that interviewing a president, or having a president testify before you, is very different from having you or me testify before the grand jury.
So I do think that, in a way, just engaging in this kind of back and forth shows you that the special counsel really does understand that this is -- that this is a special circumstances. I don't think he's going to go as far as the president's lawyers might like. But I do think there, you know, presidents get special treatment. And Reagan got special treatment. Clinton even got special treatment. So Donald Trump would likely get some kind.
MILGRAM: I think that's -- I think that's true to a certain extent, but I think we have to also think about what the Mueller -- what the Mueller report would look like at the end if he does not have the president's version of events.
And so I think if you're the special counsel, you go out of your way to get the president into the room voluntarily. But at the end of the day, I think the special counsel is going to want to hear the president's side of the story.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody stick around. There's more news. A whistleblower comes forward, alleging the data firm hired by Donald Trump's presidential campaign used private information from tens of millions of Facebook users to directly target potential American voters.
Plus, breaking news in the hunt for a killer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHIEF BRIAN MANLEY, AUSTIN POLICE: We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:42:48] BLITZER: There are serious and disturbing new questions tonight about how the Trump campaign was able to take advantage of personal data from millions of Americans. Data it have never gotten its hands on it. Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, has been digging into all of this for us.
Drew, it's truly a tangled web. What are you learning?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It is a tangled web, Wolf. All involves data taken from Facebook users, perhaps unknowingly, for one purpose. To target messages and manipulate voters.
Facebook reeling today and saying it will conduct a forensic audit on the data analytics firm that helped Donald Trump get elected.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The data firm hired by Donald Trump's presidential election campaign used private information from tens of millions of Facebook users to directly target potential American voters.
And according to a whistleblower now coming forward, the entire operation centered around deception: false grassroots support and a strategy that seems to border on electronic brainwashing.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie says the idea to politically weaponize data taken directly from Facebook users came from the former vice president of Cambridge Analytica and former top Trump campaign aide Steve Bannon.
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, WHISTLEBLOWER: He wanted weapons for his culture war. That's what he wanted. And that's -- that -- we -- we offered him a way to accomplish what he wanted to do, which was -- which was change the culture of America.
GRIFFIN: The personal Facebook data came at first from users who were paid to fill out a personality test through an app. What those users did not know was the app allowed researchers to penetrate not only their personal data but then exploited a loophole to access their friends' data, and from that, they built psychological profiles of 50 million Facebook users.
Facebook now says it was misled by university researchers who initially built the app for academic purposes but later formed a company to work with Cambridge Analytica. Listen to how the president of Cambridge Analytica describes its work. ALEXANDER NIX, CEO, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: By having hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans undertake this survey, we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.
GRIFFIN: Cambridge Analytica claims it didn't use any of the Facebook data in the 2016 presidential campaign, but their entire enterprise was funded by the politically-conservative Mercer family
[17:45:00] Mercer family and run with help from Steve Bannon.
And there's a link to Russia.
(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRIFFIN: The scientist behind the data and the app is a Russian- American named Alexander Kogan who also worked with a Russian university, seen here lecturing in St. Petersburg. Kogan is a psychologist at Cambridge University and traveled to Russia several times, according to the whistleblower, Wylie.
Koran wrote an e-mail to colleagues obtained by CNN which denies all wrongdoing, saying he is willing to talk to the FBI.
And I've been asked quite seriously by reporters from the "New York Times" and "The Guardian" if I am a Russian spy. I really tried to explain that one seems just silly.
He wrote, if I am a Russian spy, I am the world's dumbest spy.
Christopher Wylie says it's time for Facebook to come clean and for Bannon and Cambridge Analytica to be outed for potentially trying to brainwash the American electorate.
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, FORMER CONTRACTOR WITH CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: We were looking at, you know, things like drain the swamp. We were looking at imagery of walls and how people engage with that concept. We were looking at, you know, suspicions about the deep state.
We were looking at all kinds of things that, at the time, you know, in 2014, would have sounded slightly fringe or crazy for any political candidate to go on. But what we were finding were, you know, cohorts of Americans who really responded to some of these things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
WYLIE: And this all got fed back to Steve Bannon.
GRIFFIN: Wolf, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is already calling for the head of Cambridge Analytica to be called back to the Committee to testify.
Congressman Adam Schiff also says Facebook needs to be called back too to explain how private user information was provided to these academic researchers with links to Russia.
Facebook's stock tanked today down nearly seven percent, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Drew, thanks for that report.
Coming up, after a fourth bomb explodes in Austin, Texas, police now confirm the fears of residents, saying the sophisticated devices are likely the work of a serial bomber.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER COMBS, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I want to highlight again with this packages. With this tripwire, this changes things. It's more sophisticated. It's not targeted to individuals. We're very concerned that with tripwires, a child could be walking down a sidewalk and hit something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:52:08] BLITZER: We're following breaking news in Austin, Texas right now, where the hunt for a serial bomber is taking on new urgency after alarming details emerged about the latest blast.
CNN's Brian Todd is following the search for us.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, investigators in Austin are offering over $100,000 to anyone who can come forward and help them in this investigation. This case has taken a dramatic turn with the serial bomber now displaying significant skill and a chilling ability to strike fear in anyone, even people simply walking down a street.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Austin is a city on edge as police say they are now on the hunt for what they believe is a serial bomber. The latest blast happened overnight, injuring two men who set off a hidden tripwire, triggering an explosion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got tripwires there in the grass.
TODD (voice-over): Investigators say they see similarities in all four bombs that have exploded in the city since March 2nd. But following Sunday's incident, they now see something even more chilling.
BRIAN MANLEY, CHIEF OF POLICE, AUSTIN, TEXAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: The belief that we are now dealing with someone who is using tripwires shows a higher level of sophistication, a higher level of skill.
TODD (voice-over): Unlike the previous bombs which were stuffed inside packages apparently placed by the bomber at the homes of people of color. Two African-American men were killed and a Hispanic woman was injured.
But police and the FBI say the tripwire bomb overnight did not appear to target anyone specific. It was hidden near a fence in a predominantly White neighborhood, and the two people injured are both White men.
Still, police are not ruling out the possibility that the previous bombings could have been hate crimes. Tonight, a former FBI profiler says the tripwire bomb might have been an attempt to throw investigators off the trail.
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER PROFILER, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Previous victims may have been targeted, and now he wants to put time and distance between the targeted victims and make it appear that he's out just to randomly victimize anyone. So it could be a game-playing technique on the bomber's part.
TODD (voice-over): No matter the motive, investigators say their most urgent concern now is the bomber's change in tactics because the bomb overnight was not easily noticed.
COMBS: We're very concerned that with tripwires, a child could be walking down a sidewalk and hit something.
TODD (voice-over): Overnight, police warned residents using a reverse 911 call system. And today, a school near the site of the bombing was shut down.
According to Mary Ellen O'Toole who profiled the Unabomber for the FBI, the fear of random terror in Austin is exactly what the killer wants. She says she thinks the bomber is most likely a man who is arrogant and reveling in a sense of power.
O'TOOLE: This is someone that appears to be having -- enjoying -- some type of enjoyment over what he is doing, holding the city of Austin in a fixated state of fear. They are scared. They're upset.
TODD (voice-over): And tonight, police are appealing for help from the killer himself.
[17:55:01] MANLEY: We asked him to contact us and gave him phone numbers to contact us at. And, again, we won't understand what the motive might be behind this or the reason behind this until we have an opportunity to talk to the suspect or suspects that are involved.
TODD: And police and FBI officials in Austin are also asking for the public's help, saying they need anyone with surveillance video, other video or images of any suspicious activity to come forward. Police say they have persons of interest in this case, but so far, no suspects, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thanks.
Coming up, breaking news, as he steps up his attacks on the Special Counsel, President Trump hires a former federal prosecutor who claimed the President is being framed by officials in the FBI and the Justice Department.