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Trump Under Fire Over Putin Congratulations; Trump vs. Stormy; Interview With Senator Richard Blumenthal; What Mueller Wants; Cambridge Analytica Connection with Trump Campaign; Investigators Find Bomb-Making Components in Suspect's Home. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: What Mueller wants. CNN has learned which areas special counsel Robert Mueller wants to focus in on in an interview with President Trump. They include the Trump Tower meeting between the Russians and Donald Trump Jr. and the firing of the FBI director, James Comey. How close is the president to actually sitting down with Mueller?

My pal Putin. President Trump takes to Twitter, defending his congratulatory phone call to Vladimir Putin and praising Russia as a potential partner in peace. Why is Mr. Trump also taking a dig at previous presidents?

Infuriating. CNN has learned that President Trump is fuming over the leak about his call to Putin, and he's said to be seeking the source of the information. But why did he ignore his national security team and congratulate Putin in the first place?

And tweet Stormy. Porn star Stormy Daniels launches a tweetstorm, firing back at critics questioning her motives and insulting her career. Daniels says she never claimed to be a victim. What about the other women whose cases against President Trump are working their way through the courts?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories this hour, including new details of the topics special counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask President Trump about as part of the Russia investigation.

Sources are now telling CNN that there are four areas of interest to Mueller's team. Senator Richard Blumenthal of the Judiciary Committee, he's here. He's standing by to talk about the breaking news, along with our experts and analysts.

First, let's get straight to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, tell our viewers what the new information you're now learning.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are learning for the first time the four main topics that Robert Mueller's team would like to discuss with the president during a potential interview.

And they revolve around the president's own actions, including the president's crafting of a statement aboard Air Force One over the summer to miscast his son's meeting at Trump Tower with Russians in June of 2016, also the circumstances surrounding that specific meeting in June 2016 and what the president knew about it. Did his son tell him about it before and after?

As you know, the president has denied he knew anything about it until more recently. Also, the special counsel has indicated that they want to talk about the firings of James Comey, the former FBI director, and Michael Flynn. A source familiar with the matter says that the special counsel wants to focus predominantly on those firings, but those other two topics, Wolf, is the first we're learning about the interest in terms of a potential interview with Trump and what the special counsel would like to discuss.

Sources familiar with the matter say, Wolf, that the lawyers for Donald Trump have taken these topics, what has been conveyed to them verbally, and they have created a list of dozens of potential questions that could be asked of the president in a potential interview.

And the legal team, Wolf, is looking to add more lawyers to its team, beyond Joe diGenova, which came out this week. We're told that as they enter this new phase, they're looking to bolster the legal team. Now, these are four main topics that have been conveyed as what special counsel Robert Mueller would like to speak about.

But we know his interest goes beyond that. But this is specific to a potential interview with the president. It appears, Wolf, that we are getting close to a decision on that matter. A source says a decision can come very soon, within the coming weeks, of whether that interview will happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Pamela, there's also some breaking news from the White House. The president tweeting just a little while ago, defending his controversial call to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, congratulating him on his election win. What are you learning about this?

BROWN: That's right, Wolf. The president on the defensive today, firing off these tweets, really going on a Twitter tirade, saying: "I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory. In past, Obama called him, also. The fake news media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong. Getting along with Russia and others is a good thing, not a bad thing."

And then, Wolf, the president went on to bash past administrations and their dealings with Russia, saying: "They can help solve problems," they, as in Russia -- "can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming arms race. Bush tried to get along, but didn't have the smarts. Obama and Clinton tried, but didn't have the energy or chemistry. Remember reset? Peace through strength."

So, the president saying there that it's good to have positive relations with Russia, that Russia can help solve some of the world's problems. This comes as we are learning, Wolf, that the president has been seething about this leak to "The Washington Post," that in the briefing materials given to the president before his call with Vladimir Putin, it said in bold capital letters, "Do not congratulate him."

[18:05:06]

And, as we know, Wolf, the president ignored that advice and did congratulate Vladimir Putin. The leak has rattled many people inside the White House. John Kelly, the chief of staff, has vowed to launch an investigation into who is behind this leak, specifically targeting members of the national security team who may be trying to undermine the president.

Only a few people would have been aware of what was actually in the briefing materials, Wolf. And for many, this is reminiscent of what you saw early on in this administration, when there were these leaks that were seen as a way to embarrass the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, excellent reporting. Thanks very much.

Senator Blumenthal standing by. We will get his reaction to these late-breaking developments.

But, first, I want to get more now on the president's defense of his call to Vladimir Putin congratulating the Russian president on his reelection.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us from Capitol Hill.

Manu, there are Republicans now calling out the president for actually congratulating Putin.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, powerful Republicans, Wolf, perplexed at the president's handling of Vladimir Putin. They don't understand why he hasn't called out Putin. They also, certainly, don't agree with the decision to call Putin, congratulating him for elections that were, in their view, not free and certainly not fair.

And they also don't understand why he has not explicitly called out Vladimir Putin on election meddling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU (voice-over): Tonight, Republicans on Capitol Hill sharply criticizing President Trump's phone call with Vladimir Putin.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I haven't heard anybody over in the legislative branch say they thought that was a great idea.

RAJU (on camera): What do you think of it?

CORNYN: I don't think it's a great idea.

RAJU (voice-over): The White House confirmed that the two men did not discuss two serious actions that have been blamed on Russia, the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil and the meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think Putin is a criminal. What he did in Georgia, what he did in Ukraine, what he has done in the Baltics, what he has done in London poisoning people with nerve gas, that's a criminal activity. I wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal.

RAJU: In an interview with MSNBC, the CIA director under former President Obama, John Brennan, questioned why Trump continues to refuse to call out Putin.

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: The Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.

RAJU: Trump has strongly denied that Russia has any compromising information on him. GOP lawmakers were also alarmed that someone close to the president leaked to "The Washington Post" information that Trump's briefing papers carried this warning in all capital letters, "Do not congratulate Putin."

(on camera): Were you OK with the president congratulating Vladimir Putin, but not calling him out on election meddling?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: No, I don't like that he did it. But you know what I like even less? That there's somebody close to him leaking this stuff out. If you don't like the guy, quit. But to be this duplicitous and continue to leak things out, dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever did that ought to be fired immediately. And I think they ought to be prosecuted.

RAJU (voice-over): The pushback came as senators said not enough has been done to deter Russian meddling in this year's midterm elections.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only is this of extreme urgency to the department, but, as you know, we're expending not only extraordinary resources to provide any support at the request of states, but we are prioritizing election efforts.

RAJU: At the same time, questions continue to mount over Cambridge Analytica, a data firm the Trump campaign used in 2016, its alleged ties to Russia and how it accessed private data from 50 million Facebook users. One Senate Republican who hired the firm in his race says he doubts

his campaign benefited from the Facebook breach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had a very limited interaction with them. I doubt it. We made it very clear if there was anything that was either unethical or illegal, it was inappropriate. We don't accept it with anybody on our campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now, Cambridge Analytica has denied those Russian contacts, but congressional officials in both parties do want to hear from some of these Cambridge Analytica officials before their committees talk to them under oath.

And one person also facing growing congressional scrutiny, Wolf, is Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Facebook. Republicans and Democratic lawmakers say he needs to come to Congress, explain exactly what happened here in the breach of some 50 million people's Facebook profile, their private information.

They want to hear from him under oath. The question is, will he agree? And if he doesn't, will they subpoena him, Wolf?

BLITZER: Manu Raju reporting for us up on Capitol Hill, thanks.

Let's get some more on the breaking news. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is joining us. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, what is the special counsel's -- what we have been learning now.

[18:10:03]

You heard Pamela Brown's report about these topics that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, wants to discuss with the president in a face-to-face sit-down interview, if that were to happen.

What does that tell you about the president's potential vulnerability in all of this?

BLUMENTHAL: It tells me, Wolf, that there's a credible case of obstruction of justice against the president of the United States. And every day, by his own actions, the president is making that case even more compelling.

BLITZER: Explain. Why do you say that?

BLUMENTHAL: Those pillars, evidentiary elements of obstruction of justice consisting of those events, the knowledge of the 2016 meeting involving Trump Tower and Kushner and others, as well as his deceptive statement that he crafted, in effect, to cover it up, the firing of Comey, those kinds of areas are exactly the ones that would be involved in a potential obstruction of justice case against the president.

So the fact that Robert Mueller is honing in on those areas tells me that obstruction of justice is very much at the forefront of his investigation.

BLITZER: Is it your sense that that's a bigger problem, obstruction of justice, for the president potentially than collusion?

BLUMENTHAL: There is a saying that has been repeated again and again in this town. The cover-up is worse than the crime.

And, in this instance, I think, not knowing what Robert Mueller has, having no inside information, that the elements of obstruction of justice are clearly present in terms of evidence in this case. And, in fact, what we're seeing is obstruction of justice unfolding in real time, right before our eyes.

The firing of McCabe, other actions that have been taken to intimidate and thwart, as well as stymie and stop this investigation, are building that case for the special counsel. And let me be very blunt and clear. My Republican colleagues have an obligation to stand up and speak out against this potential interference right now.

BLITZER: So if the president were to make the case -- excuse me -- if Mueller were to make the case that the president obstructed justice to Congress, what would happen?

BLUMENTHAL: The report and possible criminal charges could be brought by the grand jury as an indictment. But if the report is made to Congress, there could also be action by the House to impeach. That is a word that is rarely used, but I think that report could lead to serious consequences.

BLITZER: So you think the obstruction of justice allegation is more serious, more credible right now than collusion.

What about money laundering? That's the third area that Mueller supposedly is looking into.

BLUMENTHAL: And money laundering, follow the money, is an essential part of this investigation. Collusion should not be dismissed here as a potential charge, whether it's in a report or an indictment, because there is growing evidence that there was some cooperation or collaboration with the Russians and the Trump campaign.

But the obstruction of justice is tied directly to the president, and money laundering is part and parcel of both obstruction and the collusion, because it provides a motive.

BLITZER: Do you think that now the president's lawyer and the president, presumably, know the topics that Mueller would like to raise in a one-on-one interview with the president, that's resulted in his much more assertive, negative statements that have been coming out, specifically the attacks on Mueller himself?

BLUMENTHAL: The increasing intensity and vehemence of these attacks on the special counsel, for the first time mentioning him by name, I think reflect a growing sense of desperation if the White House.

A circling of wagons, the hiring of new counsel, and some of the increasing attacks all indicate that there is certainly a sense of fear growing in the Oval Office as this investigation comes nearer.

BLITZER: I want to get your reaction to this ABC News report that the FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, who was just fired by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, actually oversaw an investigation into whether Sessions had lied during his congressional testimony.

A source close to Sessions, by the way, says the attorney general wasn't aware of any perjury investigation when he fired McCabe. Does that concern you?

BLUMENTHAL: I'm very concerned about this report that the attorney general knew about the FBI investigation of his potential perjury before our committee.

Our committee, the Judiciary Committee, I think, was misled by him. And, plainly, an FBI investigation was appropriate. And I am very eager to learn what more Jeff Sessions knew when he fired McCabe. I think that is all the more reason for the attorney general to come back to the Judiciary Committee and testify under oath about why he misled and apparently even lied to our committee and what he knew when he fired Andrew McCabe as FBI director.

[18:15:11]

Senator Blumenthal, thanks for coming in.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: There's more news we're following, including Robert Mueller's topics for a potential interview with President Trump. What do they reveal about the special counsel's investigation?

Plus, Stormy Daniels' tweetstorm -- what the porn star is now saying about her case against the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:05]

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, new details of what Robert Mueller, the special counsel, wants to ask President Trump if and when he sits down to be interviewed for the special counsel's Russia investigation.

Let's get some more from our experts and our analysts.

And, Gloria, you have been doing some excellent reporting on this as well. Four specific topics that Mueller has told Trump's lawyers they want to raise in this kind of Q&A.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

well, my colleague Pamela Brown and I are reporting that there are these buckets that the special counsel has let the president's attorneys know that he is interested in. They are the Air Force One statement that miscast that Donald Trump Jr. meeting in Trump Tower, the details of that meeting itself, you know, the circumstances surrounding that Trump Tower meeting that Donald Jr. had with the Russians, and, of course, the firing of James Comey and the firing of General Flynn.

The last two topics, the Flynn and Comey, are the bulk of the questions. But you can imagine -- and then from that, let me just say that the attorneys then kind of extrapolated and are writing their own sort of questions that they think that perhaps their client might be asked as a result of these buckets they have been given.

But you can imagine if you're Donald Trump -- and we have seen him kind of explode over this stuff over the last bunch of days -- these questions really focus on him. He had been told that this investigation was over. If you look at the areas they want to ask about, these very general, vague areas they want to ask about, you understand, as does the president, that this investigation is not about to end and that -- so, it really remains to be seen, Wolf, whether his attorneys, in the end, are going to let him sit down with the special counsel, because this comes as they're negotiating his potential testimony.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an open question, whether he even sits down with him.

These topics, Jeffrey, what does it say to you about the president's potential vulnerability?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it says a lot of bad news and a little good news for Donald Trump. It's bad news because these questions all focus on whether Donald Trump himself obstructed justice.

I mean, that has been the core of the investigation. Remember, the whole issue that prompted the hiring of Robert Mueller was the firing of James Comey, and that remains at the heart of the investigation and Trump is in the prosecutor's sights for that, no question.

It's good news for Trump in at least one way, in that some of the subjects, they're not apparently as interested in. The whole issue of any contacts with Russia, they don't appear to be asking Trump about, collusion. They don't appear to be asking anything about Trump's personal finances, which is something that people have been asking about.

Nothing about his trip to Moscow in 2013 with the salacious allegations in -- you know, from Steele, the Steele dossier. So some areas appear to be of less interest, which is good for Trump. But what Mueller is interested in is deeply problematic for him. BORGER: But we do know there was a subpoena for the Trump

Organization for documents. So that could be a separate area without Donald Trump...

TOOBIN: You're right. And just because they're not asking about a subject doesn't mean they have no interest.

BORGER: Exactly.

TOOBIN: But, still, if you're a prosecutor and you're investigating subject A, you know, person A over subject A, that's what you're going to ask about.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They may already have the answers to a whole bunch of those questions.

TOOBIN: Well, but you're always going to want -- you always want to get the subject on the record, if only to see if they lie about it. And so I would say obstruction does seem to be the focus.

BLITZER: David Swerdlick, the president's shift in tone, naming Mueller, going after him by name, he didn't used to do that, now he's doing that, is it the result of the legal team, the Trump legal team now getting these buckets, as Gloria calls them, of topics?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you can infer that there's this sense that the investigation is getting closer and closer to the president.

And in terms of these areas of questions that Gloria and Pamela are reporting, I think that is something that his lawyers have to be concerned about. You know, they have interviewed a bunch of different people about the Natalia Veselnitskaya meeting with Kushner and Manafort.

They have interviewed a lot of people in the campaign, in the White House about what happened with Comey and Flynn. And so now, if the president winds up talking to special counsel Mueller, they're going to compare his answers with the answers that they have gotten from all these other people to see if there are inconsistencies.

And if you're his legal team, you have to at least be concerned about that.

BLITZER: You know, it was -- we have reported almost a year ago the president tried to fire Mueller, you know, Ron. He didn't do it at the time. His lawyers said they would quit if he tried to do that. But does this right now increase the pressure on him to try again?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think one thing we have learned about President Trump is that he does not accept the unwritten norms or limitations on the exercise of presidential power.

[18:25:05]

In the presidency, as really in all aspects of his life, he has shown that he pushes until someone or something pushes back enough to make him stop. And I think he looks at the Republican congressional reaction to this latest escalation, the tweets attacking Mueller by name, and what he sees is hand-wringing without any action behind it.

And I think he is interpreting that he can pull them further and further along toward that end if he needs to.

Now, for congressional Republicans, the reality is, the last CNN poll in February asked people whether they thought the investigation was a serious matter or an effort to undermine Trump's presidency; 61 percent of Americans said the investigation was a serious matter, something that had to be looked at. And of that 61 percent, 80 percent of them said they now wanted Democrats to control Congress.

To me, that says they don't trust their Republican majority to safeguard this investigation, which they view as something worth investigating. And I think that is a shot across the bow to Republicans who have been privately bemoaning the idea that President Trump might fire the special counsel, but publicly not really doing much to discourage that.

BLITZER: Yes, the breaking news continues next.

We are going to have more on the newly revealed line of questioning that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to use on President Trump.

Also, Stormy Daniels speaking out on Twitter, taking on her critics, insisting she's not a victim. What's the porn star saying tonight about the president of the United States?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The porn star who claims she had a sexual relationship with Donald Trump a decade ago is increasingly speaking out through the president's favorite medium, Twitter.

[18:31:18] Our national correspondent, Sara Sidner, is working the story for us. Sara, we're hearing quite a bit from Stormy Daniels.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are. Stormy Daniels's friends call her a troll slayer on social media, and tonight she has been tweeting up a storm, saying more than ever.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): Stormy Daniels is in the midst of a tweet storm. The porn star, who says she's been silenced by a hush money deal she made with President Trump and his lawyer, was anything but quiet on Twitter Wednesday, firing back at critics who questioned her motives and insulted her career.

"I really question the priorities of someone more worried about the quality of a porn star than a president," she tweeted to someone. STORMY DANIELS, SUING DONALD TRUMP: I am Stormy Daniels.

SIDNER: Daniels, who says she had a consensual sexual relationship with Trump back in 2006, is set to tell her story on "60 Minutes" Sunday. As evidence, her lawyer released this photo of Daniels taking a polygraph test back in 2011, which the polygraph examiner said indicated she was telling the truth about her affair with Trump.

On Twitter, Daniels said she never took money to talk to "60 Minutes" and that she, quote, "never claimed to be a victim." But while Daniels may say she's not a victim of Donald Trump, tonight, her story is intensifying the spotlight on a woman who says she was.

SUMMER ZERVOS, SUING DONALD TRUMP: As I was about to leave, he again kissed me on the lips. This made me feel nervous and embarrassed. This is not what I wanted or expected.

SIDNER: On Tuesday, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump's reality show, "The Apprentice," won the right to move forward with a defamation lawsuit against Trump. In that suit, Zervos says Trump sexually assaulted her in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel after inviting her to have dinner with him alone.

ZERVOS: I pushed his chest to put space between us, and I said, "Come on, man, get real." He repeated my words back to me, "Get real," as he began thrusting his genitals.

SIDNER: Donald Trump responded to her and the other women accusers with this.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication.

SIDNER: Zervos sued for defamation. Trump's lawyer fought back, saying as president, he couldn't be taken to court, but Judge Jennifer Schecter disagreed Tuesday, saying, "The president of the United States has no immunity and is subject to the laws for purely private acts" and that the case can go forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She absolutely can depose President Trump. Look, the message here is that a president can sue and be sued.

SIDNER: The legal challenges involving Trump and the stories of the women who are suing continue to grow. Karen McDougal, a former "Playboy" Playmate, who claims in a lawsuit she had a ten-month sexual relationship with the president, is now also going to court.

In court papers, McDougal says she wants out of a deal she made with American Media, a company run by Trump's close friend, David Pecker. She says she took $150,000 from AMI, which publishes "The National Enquirer," in exchange for the exclusive rights to her story. Her lawyer said the deal was not fair.

PETER STRIS, ATTORNEY FOR KAREN MCDOUGAL: But as far as why now, it's only recently come out through reporting and other sources that there was wholesale collusion between David Pecker's company, Karen's own lawyer, and Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's fixer.

SIDNER: McDougal's lawyer says his client didn't know Cohen, the president's longtime personal attorney, was secretly involved in her deal.

AMI has denied Cohen was part of the deal, and Cohen says he doesn't remember e-mails from the company, according to "The New York Times." Meantime, the president has denied all of the women's allegations.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Where is this guy? Why won't he come and say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he'll --

AVENATTI: Why won't he come and say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because, obviously --

AVENATTI: Wait a minute, let me finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe me, he can't wait to come here and talk about this.

AVENATTI: Can't wait? Can't wait?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:35:07] SIDNER: A federal judge has been assigned to Stormy Daniels' case. Now, the president's attorneys say they are now appealing the Summer Zervos case.

And on the McDougal case, AMI has responded to McDougal's comments on television today, saying, "Ms. Stris' suggestion" -- Mr. Stris, her attorney -- "had suggested that McDougal knew they were never going to publish her alleged story of an extramarital relationship with President Trump. This is not true. At this time," says AMI, "no editorial decision had been made, finalized. When it comes to that, or they'd never told her how her story may be published. The story is more valuable today," AMI says, "than it was two years ago, and our editorial judgments often reflect that value."

AMI has quite a lengthy statement about this that they have just put out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. All right, Sara, thanks to you. Sara Sidner reporting.

Let's dig deeper into all of this. Joining us, our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; and "New Yorker" contributor Ronan Farrow.

Ronan, you've done a lot of reporting on Karen McDougal. You obtained her diary. What are your impressions of why she has decided she wants to speak out publicly now?

RONAN FARROW, "NEW YORKER" CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, she was very reluctant, Wolf, to speak at all. In fact, those documents we obtained weren't a diary. They were notes written in the course of selling this story at the behest of several men around her, who she said urged her, "Tell this yourself in your way, or it will be distorted by others."

And when you look at this complaint, it reflects an argument that she also made to us in our conversations with "The New Yorker." She says this is essentially a matter of the public interest. Her lawyers describe what happened to her as a deliberate effort to distort the marketplace of ideas in this country and perhaps even to influence an election.

Because, remember, this agreement barred her from speaking at all to the press before the election. That is not in dispute. AMI, in this statement they've just released and in other statements, says that an amendment subsequently made after the election allows her to speak. And a lot of this case is going to hinge on AMI saying, she can speak now and Karen McDougal and her attorneys saying, "Yes, but behind closed doors, she's being threatened."

BLITZER: Well, that's an interesting point, Jeffrey, Karen McDougal denied your request for an interview back in June of 2017. But according to her latest filing, American Media Inc. scripted her responses to you. What does that tell you about her legal situation?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is a peculiar situation, because AMI is now saying, "Go ahead and talk." Maybe she should just go ahead and talk. I mean, you know, obviously, this whole agreement was designed to keep her quiet during the presidential election. And she did stay quiet.

Now, apparently, AMI is saying she should go ahead and talk. Maybe the whole issue is moot now if she can just go ahead and talk.

BLITZER: You think it is, though, Ronan? Moot right now?

FARROW: Well, look, all I can say is what Karen McDougal and her representatives say, which is that, behind closed doors, AMI, which has been saying to me and other reporters, "She can talk," is actually in fact, telling her, "You can't talk, and we'll threaten you with legal action if you attempt to do so."

So, which of those readings of the agreement is accurate? I'll leave that to the ongoing proceedings between these two parties.

BLITZER: When you look, Ronan, at the patterns that have emerged involving these three women -- Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and Summer Zervos -- what do you see when you see all of the allegations, the legal issues? What patterns emerge?

FARROW: Look, some of the stories we've heard from women about Donald Trump speak of consensual relationships, like Stormy Daniels' story, like Karen McDougal's story. Some of them, like Summer Zervos, refer to nonconsensual activity.

But what's consistent across these is evidence of a vast, well-oiled machine that these women say was designed to shut them down and to censor these and to do so, in some cases, right before an election, where this might have materially influenced the result.

BLITZER: You know, the -- there's a notion, Jeffrey, catch and kill. You've reported on this.

TOOBIN: Yes.

BLITZER: Explain to our viewers what catch and kill is and what role Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer, someone described as his fixer, has played in this.

TOOBIN: As many people know, "The National Enquirer" and other supermarket tabloids, they pay for stories. They pay people who are subjects of stories. Most respectable news organizations like CNN, they don't do that. But "The National Enquirer" does. What they usually do is they pay person "A" and then write a story with person "A's" comments.

What's catch and kill is you pay person "A," in this case, Karen McDougal, and you say, "We're going to pay you for your story about Donald Trump, but then we're not going to publish. We are going to kill it. We will catch it and kill it."

And when I interviewed David Pecker, who is Mr. Trump's friend and the head of American Media, including "The National Enquirer," he said very explicitly to me, "We did this to help Donald Trump. We paid to silence her, because we wanted to help my friend, Donald Trump."

[18:40:15] One of the stories that Ronan's been doing a lot of reporting on is how extensive that practice was and, you know, how many other women were silenced in this way, the way McDougal clearly was during the campaign.

BLITZER: How extensive is it, Ronan, based on your reporting?

FARROW: You know, one thing I can say for sure is that a wide circle of sources at this company, AMI, which publishes "The National Enquirer," say that this was a de facto process. That they were aware that this was happening and that it was happening specifically to appease Donald Trump and to service this relationship between David Pecker and Donald Trump.

Now, that has become much more relevant since the election. This is the sitting president of the United States, and a lot of those sources expressed concern about the national security implications, because this goes both ways. This is a favor born out of the coziness of this relationship. But it also means that an outside private company has dirt on the president and that potentially, there could be influence there. Leverage there.

BLITZER: You know, Ronan, we know that Stormy Daniels got $130,000. Karen McDougal got $150,000. Do you have any idea how much more money, how much more money was paid to other women, potentially?

FARROW: You know, I'm not going to talk about anything other than what we've reported. We have seen those documents and all of the billing between Karen McDougal and her representatives and the company, and I'll leave it at that. She did get that $150,000.

Although I would note, a whole lot of that was skimmed off the top by multiple parties who were involved in this transaction.

You know, look, a lot of these women, including Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, are quick to say, "We're not victims," but I think that also, they have not profited as richly as many would assume.

TOOBIN: And keep in mind, the money -- the complexity of this scheme. The money for Karen McDougal came from American Media, came from "The National Enquirer" parent company. The money from Stormy Daniels came, at least according to Michael Cohen, from Michael Cohen personally.

So this was an elaborate -- elaborate system to protect Donald Trump in what Ronan and others and I are trying to figure out is just how widely this system operated.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Ronan, you don't have to tell us what you're reporting, but have you been contacted by other women who may have similar stories?

FARROW: Again, I'm going to stick to what's been in print so far. Look, we have multiple people involved in this company and in these transactions saying this was a matter of repeat practice in this world and that there might be implications in terms of the leverage this company has over the president.

TOOBIN: And if you read these forms that these women signed, they look like forms. They don't look like they were written just for these individuals. It looks like something that had been used before and after.

BLITZER: It does. Ronan, thanks very much for coming in. We'll have you back soon.

FARROW: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, thanks to you, as well.

This programming note. Tomorrow night, Anderson Cooper sits down for an exclusive interview with the former Playmate, Karen McDougal. That's tomorrow night, 8 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Much more on the breaking news coming up. What do Robert Mueller's newly-revealed questions for President Trump say about his vulnerability in the special counsel's Russia investigation?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:48:04] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following breaking news. We're getting some new details of the Trump campaign's ties with Cambridge Analytica, the company that's now at the center of the controversy over its use of voter data.

Dana, you've been doing some reporting on this relationship between the Trump campaign and the data firm, Cambridge Analytica. What are you learning?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have obviously been watching the Trump campaign -- at least former officials distance themselves big-time from Cambridge Analytica, especially in the wake of the Facebook controversy that we found out about in the last couple of days. But also, even since yesterday, when they, people, senior officials at Cambridge Analytica were caught on tape through a British documentary bragging about the fact that they were responsible for winning the -- winning Trump the presidency.

But I did a story with Sara Murray and Maeve Reston and Evan Perez about the idea that there were actually real misgivings real-time about Cambridge Analytica throughout the campaign. People in the Trump world were not really that sure about Cambridge Analytica's data. In fact, at one point, they tested it up against the RNC's data, which they ended up going, and it was clear to them that the RNC had better modeling.

And they weren't the only ones that did that. Because before the Trump campaign, this firm, Cambridge Analytica, did work for Ted Cruz's campaign, for Ben Carson's campaign, and officials from all of these campaigns have said that they were really, really dubious about the data, especially this whole notion of what they called psychographic method, which is at the heart of the controversy with this Facebook situation, you know, sort of taking personal information from people, trying to figure out how they're going to vote.

The people inside the Trump campaign thought that this was a joke. Others did, as well. But, despite all of the widespread skepticism about Cambridge Analytica, they still stayed onboard, throughout the Trump campaign. They did different things like polling, but they were still being paid.

Why was that? Well, you can also look at one of the biggest benefactors of Cambridge Analytica, the Mercer family.

[18:50:05] Bob Mercer is an investor. Rebekah Mercer, on the board of Cambridge Analytica, and they also were a huge donor to the Trump campaign and other Republicans, as well.

BLITZER: Very strong reporting from Dana. Good work.

Kaitlan, you are doing some good work on the president, he's angry about the leaks that are coming out of his White House.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. He's furious, because obviously yesterday, he told reporters that he had congratulated Vladimir Putin on his election victory, something "The Washington Post" just hours after that reported that it was strict guidance in his briefing materials provided to him by his national security advisers that he should not congratulate Putin during that call. Now, there was a lot of backlash in Washington to the president congratulating him, especially from Senator John McCain who said he should not be congratulating a dictator on what he said was a sham election. But the president was most furious that it leaked out those were the

briefing materials that were given to him instructing him not to congratulate Putin and he did so anyway. Now it's not clear whether the president read the briefing materials, because as we reported for the last 14 months or so, the president often follows his own path especially during these calls with world leaders. So, we don't know he read that, but he's furious someone leaked that out because clearly, it's national security information, only a small, select group of staffers would even have access to that.

And president has long held belief that people who work for him in his administration, particularly in the national security realm are working actively to undermine his administration.

BLITZER: Good point.

Guys, stick around. There's more news.

The Texas serial bomber in disguise. Tonight in the wake of the suicide, police are trying to figure out his motive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:20] BLITZER: There's breaking news in the Texas serial bombing case. New details of what investigators are now finding in the wake of the suspect's suicide.

CNN's Nick Watt is near Austin for us tonight.

Nick, what's the latest?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, investigators have been in the suspect's house all day and they have found a trove of explosive components. They've also detained and questioned the suspect's roommates, trying to build a picture of who is this young man responsible for this 19-day bombing spree across the heart of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): Tonight, the suspect who took his own life as police closed in on him has been identified as 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt.

CHIEF BRIAN MANLEY, AUSTIN POLICE: As members of the Austin Police Department SWAT team approached the vehicle, the suspect detonated a bomb inside the vehicle, knocking one of our SWAT officers back and one of our SWAT officers fired at the suspect as well.

WATT: According to Austin mayor, police believe this surveillance images taken at a FedEx location days ago show Conditt mailing what they say are packages connected to the bombings. Those images, along with receipts and sales records from that store helped authorities identify Conditt and track down his car found Wednesday night at a hotel just a few miles north of Austin.

MANLEY: We had surveillance teams looking for the suspect. And we ultimately located the vehicle that this suspect was known to be driving and witnesses told us he was driving. And in fact we found that at a hotel right up the road here in Round Rock.

WATT: While the suspect himself may no longer a threat, authorities are concerned about what he may have left behind.

FRED MILANOWSKI, ATF SPECIAL AGENT: We have a reasonable level of certainty that there are no other devices in the public, but we still want the public to be vigilant.

WATT: Officials today searching Austin suburb residence and finding similar explosive components.

MILANOWSKI: There is components in there that makes us believe, have a high degree of certainty, that it is the same components that we have found in all the other devices. There is also some potential home made explosives and so we had to address that. Our biggest concern was to make sure that nobody else gets hurt.

WATT: Conditt's motivation and movements in the last 24 hours are also unknown.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER, AUSTIN, TEXAS: What the law enforcement is telling us is they don't know what the motive was. And that that's one of the questions that hopefully will get answered as the investigation continues. But at this point, we don't know what the motive was.

WATT: As well as whether he worked with anyone else to create at least six known explosives in packages and attached to trip wires. But as more becomes known about the suspect, the sense of relief and shock are hand in hand.

JEFF REEB, NEIGHBOR OF BOMBING SUSPECT'S PARENTS: I was number one hoping they were wrong. Number two, quite surprised. I'm not sure I still believe it, you know, it just doesn't -- it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now, the suspect's stunned relatives also released a statement this afternoon. They say that they are praying for the victims, their relatives, and also for the soul of the bomber -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Watt reporting for us. Thanks very much.

This programming note, coming up tonight, "AC360" has an exclusive interview with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg as he breaks his silence on Cambridge Analytica scandal. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, only here on CNN.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.